SANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA The prelaunch buzz about the 2006 Toyota RAV4 was that the original cute-ute was growing into a bigger brute-ute. Sure enough, the all-new sport-utility vehicle is more than fourteen inches longer and 400 pounds heavier than the SUV it replaces, and it's available for the first time with a V-6. But it still drives small, which is a good thing. And while some of the spunk was dialed out when Toyota went mainstream to double annual sales, the RAV4 remains the sports car of the small sport-ute set.
Back in 1996, of course, the RAV4 was the only small, car-based SUV on the planet. But it didn't take long for rival automakers to jump on the cute-ute bandwagon, and the bubbly but undersized RAV4 couldn't measure up to the bigger Honda CR-V and the V-6-powered domestics. So you didn't have to be a product-planning genius to realize that some serious bulking up was in order.
The new RAV4 rides on a wheelbase that's 6.7 inches longer than the old one. This allows for ample second-row legroom, not to mention space for optional third-row seating. (To be honest, though, this is useful only for bragging rights and torturing badly behaved teenagers.... Read full article