2012 Toyota RAV4

By September 10, 2012
2012 Toyota RAV4

An all-electric model joins the 2012 Toyota RAV4 lineup.

Otherwise, the RAV4 lineup carries over unchanged for the 2012 model year. This third-generation compact SUV has been around since the 2006 model year. A fourth-generation RAV is slated to debut as a 2013 model.

The 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV is an all-electric version borne of a partnership between the Japanese automaker and Silicon Valley startup Tesla, which developed the electric powertrain to shoehorn into the existing RAV4 architecture. This variant sports a 115 kW electric motor connected to a lithium ion battery pack. RAV4 EV is distinguished by special interior and exterior trim. RAV4 EV seats five: A third row is not available.

Power output is equivalent to a mere 154 horsepower, but Toyota claims the RAV4 EV is the fastest and most powerful electric vehicle on the market. Peak torque is more impressive, at 218 pound-feet in Normal mode, and 273 pound-feet in Sport mode.

As with any electric vehicle, the range of the RAV4 EV varies on driving patterns and use of the climate control system. Toyota estimates the RAV4 EV is good for about 100 miles of real world driving. Three climate control modes put varying levels of demand on the battery. In Normal mode, the climate control system works the same as in any other car, but it uses the most juice. The Eco Hi setting is the most efficient, and Eco Lo is in-between. The display on the instrument cluster will recalculate range as the driver toggles through the various climate control settings.

Charge time for the RAV4 EV varies from decent to excruciating, depending on the system. The recommended 40-amp, 240-volt fast charger will juice the RAV4 EV up in about five hours, while a normal 120-volt household outlet can take as long as 52 hours.

Only 2,600 units of the RAV4 EV will be produced over the next three years, all of which will be on sale solely in California. It's not cheap, either; the RAV4 EV retails for $49,800. Toyota says the cost to the buyer will be closer to $40,000 after federal and California tax credits. Add $1,595 for the 240-volt fast-charging system with standard insulation (meaning, if your wiring is up-to-date).

All variants of the 2012 RAV4 boast a roomy and comfortable interior, although some materials aren't up to par with competitors. Still, the RAV4 excels at convenience and ease of use. Getting in and out of the driver's seat is easy. It can move lots of people or lots of gear, and it comes standard with a long list of safety equipment. We prefer the five-passenger configuration; for seven, we'd prefer a bigger vehicle.

The standard RAV4 is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 179 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. We found it smooth and stable underway. The power feels wimpy, however, especially paired to the dated standard 4-speed automatic. Fuel economy is mediocre at 22/28 mpg City/Highway on front-wheel-drive models, and 21/27 mpg with all-wheel drive.

The 3.5-liter V6 packs more oomph with 269 horsepower and 246 pound-feet of torque, along with a 5-speed automatic transmission. EPA-estimated fuel economy is a respectable 19/27 mpg with front-wheel drive and 19/26 with AWD.

The 2012 RAV4 carries on as a versatile yet dated utility that seats up to seven with plentiful cargo space. The 2012 RAV4 competes with the Honda CR-V, which has been recently refreshed, along with the Kia Sorento, Dodge Journey, and Chevrolet Equinox.

Model Lineup

The 2012 Toyota RAV4 comes in Base ($21,500), Sport ($24,350) and Limited ($25,330) trim levels, all of which come standard with front-wheel drive, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, and a four-speed automatic transmission. A 269-hp, 3.5-liter V6 with 5-speed automatic is optional on all models, as is full-time all-wheel drive, which includes an automatic limited-slip differential. The RAV4 EV ($49,800) is available in a single trim level and is powered by a 115 kW motor and Lithium Ion battery pack. All models seat five; gas-powered models offer an optional third row ($1,090) that can set two more passengers for a total of seven.

RAV4 comes standard with air conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, 60/40-split second-row seat, Bluetooth connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, auxiliary audio jack and USB port, power windows, power mirrors, power door locks. Standard wheels are 16-inch steel, with optional 17-inch wheels in steel or alloy. The Upgrade Value package ($1,145) includes upgraded upholstery, a roof rack, rear privacy glass, a sunroof, a cargo cover and alloy wheels.

RAV4 Sport gets upgraded upholstery, rear privacy glass, a sport-tuned suspension, foglamps and 18-inch alloy wheels. Models with the V6 also include automatic headlamps. The Appearance package ($1,482) adds chrome-look interior accents, run-flat tires, heated power outside mirrors with turn signal indicators and different tailgate design. The Enhancement Value package adds a roof rack and sunroof.

RAV4 Limited upgrades with dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, keyless ignition/entry, a cargo cover, automatic headlamps, heated mirrors, a hard-shell spare tire cover and a roof rack. But it lacks the Sport's sports suspension and comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels.

The Premium package available on the Sport ($2,835) and Limited adds leather upholstery, an eight-way power driver seat and heated front seats. On the Limited only, the Premium Plus Value package ($1,650) adds a sunroof to these items, while the Navigation Value package ($1,175) includes a navigation system with touchscreen and Toyota's Entune system, which includes real-time information (traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports scores) and access to applications such as Open Table restaurant reservations and Pandora audio streaming. A towing package is also available on V6 models.

The RAV4 EV comes with off-white fabric upholstery, six-way adjustable driver-seat, heated front seats, 60/40 split reclining rear seats with folding center arm rest, a, 8-inch touchscreen with unique display for EV functions, Toyota's Entune interface, an audio system with satellite radio, Bluetooth audio streaming and USB port, unique exterior features and 17-inch wheels with low rolling resistance tires. Note the charging system is not included; Toyota recommends a 240-volt fast-charging system ($1,595, if your wiring is up-to-date).

Safety features on all RAV4s include antilock disc brakes, stability control, traction control, whiplash-reducing front headrests, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Vehicles equipped with the V6 and/or the optional third-row seats also come with hill-start assist and hill-descent control. Rearview camera is optional.