The 2017 Toyota RAV-4 AWD, Good and Bad

I know it’s not just me; every time I look at the front grill design of the 2017 Toyota RAV-4 in white (uh, “blizzard pearl”) I see the headgear of a Stormtrooper from the Star Wars universe. I kid you not, check this photo out:

2017 toyota rav-4 awd platinum

I don’t want to say that the Toyota design team might have spent one too many late nights catching up on the Star Wars saga, but the similarities are sufficiently distinctive that I’ve actually read other people’s comments about the “stormtrooper car”. Go figure!

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the RAV-4, because this is the second time I’ve reviewed this particular car from Toyota (last time it was a 2016 RAV-4). The previous was the hybrid, which definitely added to the pricetag but did offer considerably better fuel efficiency than the AWD 2017 model I’ve been driving for the last week. Major changes between 2016 and 2017? All models now have pre-collision braking, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beam headlights as standard equipment, and the Platinum model — what I test drove — is new for the 2017 model year.

I’ll start by saying that the RAV-4 is a classic modern Toyota vehicle. The company doesn’t take chances or do anything bold or cutting edge in its vehicles, and that makes it a safe, comfortable ride. If you’ve driven one Toyota, you’ll know the entire dashboard layout and how to work with the entertainment / navigation system too. Nothing wrong with that, but it does produce a certain level of ennui versus a car that’s more oriented around the driving experience itself.

2017 toyota rav-4 platinum awd dash layout

One innovation for the Platinum version is the two-tone leather, both with the seats and the dashboard. Note also the brushed metal finish on the door armrests and center console: At first I thought it was cosmetic damage to the vehicle. At 6’2″ tall, I also found the vehicle a bit cozy for me, more in terms of the seat and driver’s space feeling narrow than the legroom with the seat pushed back.

Also note in the above photo the use of an old school hand lever for the parking brake. This was weirdly retro and felt out of place in the top-end model of the RAV-4 series, compared to a foot pedal or, more modern yet, a simple on/off switch for the brake. (Actually, a lot of cars are now using automatic parking brakes that sense when you startup and drive to disengage automatically and the angle of the vehicle to engage automatically if you’re on a hill or slope).

While we’re talking about the dashboard, I did like the entertainment system design in the RAV-4 Platinum:

2017 toyota rav4 entertainment system

I still want the HOME button to take me to a full-screen map view as an option, but at least the two pane view was functional. Look at the very top too: There are three tiny seatbelt icons. In fact, the 2017 RAV-4 is the first vehicle I’ve seen where there are seatbelt sensors on the back seats too.

Which leads to one of my complaints, actually. Just about every car gives you the grace period of starting to drive before it beeps to remind you to buckle up, but the RAV-4 starts complaining immediately upon starting up the vehicle. Trivial, but it remained annoying for the entire week I drove the vehicle. Then there’s the issue of the automatic high beam headlights, which were quite annoying. The concept is great, that the car senses when other vehicles are near and flips to non-high beam. The implementation, however, left a lot to be desired and many times I found myself cringing as my car kept the high beams on even as I pulled up to a vehicle in front of me or another vehicle was heading towards me. Turns out it’s a tricky thing to get right!

Overall, though, the interior design definitely leans towards luxury in the Platinum edition:

comfortable two-tone interior, 2017 toyota rav4 platinum

Keep in mind it’s a compact SUV, but my guess is that the vast majority of owners will cringe at driving a dozen feet on dirt and gravel, let along actually going offroad with this vehicle. So perhaps the luxury finish, stitched leather on the armrest and similar details are just the realization that SUV and compact SUV buyers are just suburban commuters after all.

The gauge design suggests the same, and Toyota retains the design element of a tachometer that shows RPM even though the car is completely automatic with its 6-speed automatic transmission:

dashboard gauge design, 2017 toyota rav4

Notice here the fuel efficiency: without any particular effort on my part, it averaged just under 27 mpg, which is decent for a vehicle this size. Would it be nice to see 36.6 mpg? Most definitely. But 26.6 is still better than being in the teens…

There’s some good attention to details in other areas too, notably including the hanging pole slots on the side for the cargo net optional addition:

rear compartment cover slots detail, toyota rav4

Overall, I really enjoyed a chance to put the 2017 Toyota RAV-4 Platinum AWD through its paces. There’s nothing really standout about the vehicle, from its acceptable, but not exciting handling and performance to its comfortable, but a wee bit narrow drivers area and passenger area. The annoyances like the seatbelt warning beep and the poor performance of the automatic high beams was balanced by other features like the fact that touching either rear door’s door handle would unlock the car (super helpful for parents who might have a kid in hand). If you’re looking for a safe and reliable compact SUV, this should be on your short list.

AS DRIVEN: 2017 Toyota RAV-4 Platinum AWD SUV in Blizzard Pearl. 2.5L DOHC 4-cylinder engine (178hp at 5000 rpm) with 6-speed automatic transmission. Standard platinum configuration plus: special color, tonneau cover, paint protection film, roof rack cross bars, rear bumper protector, first aid kit, mudguard, shift knob, remote start, glass breakage sensor and wheel locks. Yes, that’s a lot of options! Price as configured: $39,666.00.

Disclosure: Toyota loaned me the 2017 Toyota RAV-4 Platinum AWD for the purposes of this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

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