2011 Toyota RAV4 Performance
This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.
Reviewers say the 2011 Toyota RAV4 has car-like performance. Its optional V6 engine also pushes it ahead of competitors based on power alone. However, it doesn't provide the most fun driving experience. For more fun on twisty roads, you could upgrade to the Sport model -- but note that it provides a less comfortable ride. For more of an all-arnd driver's SUV, consider the all-new Volkswagen Tiguan.
- "The RAV4 is not as responsive to control inputs as the Honda CR-V or Kia Sorento, but the Toyota does offer a smooth ride that's forgiving enough for commuters who drive on crumbling expressways. Road noise can be an issue at times, but wind noise is well controlled." -- Edmunds
- "One surprise is the RAV4's very firm, most un-car-like ride. Indeed on all but the smoothest paved roads it felt sports car harsh. And we found road noise was quite intrusive." -- Motor Week
- "With four-wheel independent suspension the ride is smooth, though despite its profile it isn't really designed for more than deep snow or muddy two-tracks with ground clearance issues. Cornering falls short of a good sedan's, mainly because it's too tall." -- Washington Examiner
- "Good for a compact SUV, thanks in part to one of the longest wheelbases in the class. Models with 17-inch tires show little impact harshness on sharp bumps and ridges with only mild jitter on washboard surfaces." -- Consumer Guide
Acceleration and Power
The RAV4's four-cylinder base engine jumped from 2.4 to 2.5 liters in 2009, boosting its output to 179 horsepower and making it more appealing to those who found it underpowered in the past. The CR-V's four-cylinder engine, on the other hand, makes 180 horsepower. Reviewers say the RAV4’s four-cylinder makes enough power. However, if you plan on towing, it may be worth opting for the 3.5-liter 269-horsepower V6, which offers plenty of power without much of a fuel economy penalty -- and it only tacks about $2,000 onto the RAV4's price.
The EPA rates the 2011 four-cylinder 2WD model at 22/28 mpg city/highway, and the AWD four-cylinder at 21/27. V6 models net a respectable 19/26 mpg with all-wheel drive and 19/27 with two-wheel drive.
- "Superb power yet great fuel economy from optional V6" -- Edmunds
- "With front-wheel drive, the 4-cylinder engine provides good power from a stop. Highway passing and merging response is also better than expected. The 4-speed automatic transmission is slightly hesitant to downshift for more power. The V6 combines with a responsive transmission to provide impressively strong acceleration." -- Consumer Guide
- "The engine ... was a big surprise. It has a torquey feel for a four-though at 2.5 liters it's big for a four-and accelerating and climbing hills is easier than one would expect." -- Washington Examiner
- "Out on the interstate, the six is a good performer and makes nice sounds when pushed. Otherwise, it is subdued. There is some wind and road noise, but not an unusual amount for this price class." -- MarketWatch
Handling and Braking
Test drivers say the 2011 Toyota RAV4 strikes a good balance of comfort and agility in its handling, making it an able suburban runner. But note that the Sport model sacrifices some comfort for a more aggressive driving experience.
- “Its taut suspension and precise electric-assist steering make daily errands a pleasant (although not particularly interesting) experience." -- Edmunds
- "Ride and handling are at the top of the small-ute class, thanks to an all-new suspension, stiffer chassis and new awd system." -- AutoWeek
- The "electronic power steering is quick and, unlike some electric steering, doesn't feel numb. And the turning radius is tighter, despite the RAV4's larger dimensions." -- MSN
- "Electric power steering is usually an omen for numbness, but Toyota has somehow infused the RAV's motorized rack with real precision." -- Car and Driver
- "RAV4s have responsive steering and fine straight-line stability but display some noseplow and body lean in fast, sharp turns. Sport models' sport suspension is more adept at handling twisty roads. The brakes provide good stopping control and pedal feel." -- Consumer Guide
The Toyota RAV4's optional all-wheel drive system (which Toyota calls four-wheel drive) is great for some rough terrain, but don't assume that it will take you far off road. It's mostly meant for inclement weather, which may be worth it if you live in a snowy climate. All-wheel-drive models tack about $1,400 onto the RAV4's base price.
- “Although relatively capable off the beaten path, the 2011 Toyota RAV4 is meant for a life on pavement.” -- Edmunds
- "This vehicle likely wouldn't be advisable for serious off-roaders, but for steep inclines and some inclement weather situations, it would probably do just fine." -- Atlanta Journal-Constitution
- "The four-wheel-drive system is on-demand, which means you operate in front-wheel-drive until slippage puts all four wheels to work." -- Chicago Tribune