Crossover & Midsize

The 2020 Toyota RAV4 Has 1 Loud Weakness

An excellent daily driver has to do three things above everything else, be quiet, comfortable, and easy to drive. With the recent growth of the crossover segment, our commuter car standards are higher than ever. The Toyota RAV4 is the best-selling crossover in the United States, with 448,071 of them finding homes in 2019 alone. Despite this, a new road test from Consumer Reports states that a noisy engine and poor sound insulation could result in consumers turning elsewhere.

The Toyota RAV4 is the king of crossover sales

The Rav4 is Toyota's family crossover, with a favorable safety rating, an efficient engine, and a reasonable price, it is a major seller for the brand.
Toyota RAV4 | Toyota USA

The Toyota RAV4 leads the current crossover craze that’s enveloped the entire auto industry. In 2019, Toyota managed to sell 63,903 more RAV4’s than its closest competitor, the Honda CR-V. Third on the list is the Nissan Rogue, making the Japanese automakers the leaders of U.S. crossover sales. That may come down to brand loyalty and overall vehicle dependability, with Toyota routinely scoring positively in the industry.

The other side of that coin is the price. Although many crossovers now lean toward being luxurious, the RAV4 remains affordable. The RAV4’s $26,050 starting price also means that higher trim levels are also within financial reach. Unfortunately, none of those factors will be enough to retain sales if there are fundamental flaws in the model. 

Under the hood lives an engine that loves to howl

The Rav4 is Toyota's family crossover, with a favorable safety rating, an efficient engine, and a reasonable price, it is a major seller for the brand.
Toyota RAV4 | Raymond Boyd via Getty Images

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There is no greater embarrassment than accelerating your vehicle toward redline, hearing a racket from the engine, and going nowhere. Consumer Reports’ test of the Toyota RAV4 revealed that all of the usable power lives at the top of the powerband. Unreachable torque means that to get the RAV4 moving, you’ll have to max out the accelerator. The road test also stated that the midrange of the powerband felt very weak, which is most likely a consequence of being naturally aspirated. 

Typically, a turbocharged engine will begin to build boost in the lower rev range, giving drivers a decent amount of low-end torque for overtaking and speedy maneuvers. While the naturally aspirated 2.5-liter straight-four that lives under the hood of the RAV4 may be more reliable, it needs to work much harder to develop its power. The result of that extra effort is a racket that permeates through the cabin but doesn’t bring with it the joy of speed.

The eco-friendly hybrid model may be the way to go

The Rav4 is Toyota's family crossover, with a favorable safety rating, an efficient engine, and a reasonable price, it is a major seller for the brand.
Toyota RAV4 | Toyota USA

Out of the 448,071 Toyota RAV4’s that the brand managed to sell in 2019, only 92,525 were hybrid models. While the RAV4 Hybrid utilizes the same engine as the standard RAV4 as its base, the added electric powertrain significantly improves performance. The eco-friendly RAV4 is a half-second quicker to 60 mph than the standard model. 

The RAV4 Hybrid is faster while producing fewer lb-ft of torque than the regular RAV4 thanks to its rapid delivery. The result is also a powertrain that is far quieter since it doesn’t have to rev as high to get moving. While the sound insolation may not improve between models, Consumer Reports states that the RAV4 Hybrid achieves sound levels that are normal for the segment.