The RAV4 Adventure model is new for 2018, offering extra ground clearance and bigger tires to enhance off-highway capability. (Manufacturer photo)

The RAV4 Adventure model is new for 2018, offering extra ground clearance and bigger tires to enhance off-highway capability. (Manufacturer photo)

Tale of Two Toyota SUVs: one big, one small, both long-lived

Unassuming compact RAV4 and burly 4Runner appeal to diverse buyers.

An unassuming compact crossover and an unabashedly burly SUV were driven recently. Both have been around for a long time and both are from Toyota, so I’ve paired them.

Toyota RAV4

The Toyota RAV4 was the first compact crossover, but there was no such thing as a crossover when it was introduced.

When the RAV4 started production for the U.S. market in 1995, it was considered a compact SUV. Then someone invented the word “crossover” for SUV-type vehicles with unibody car construction rather than body-on-frame truck construction like previous SUVs. So RAV4 became a crossover.

For 2018, there’s a new Adventure model in the RAV4 lineup, and the base LE trim is now available in a hybrid version.

My tester was the RAV4 Adventure with all-wheel drive. It’s a blend of the popularly equipped XLE trim and the sporty-looking SE trim, with a touch of extra off-road ability thrown in.

The Adventure’s ground clearance, 6.5 inches, is higher than the other trims, and its tires are bigger (235/55R18). The tires are wrapped around five-spoke black alloy wheels positioned below fender flares that are larger than those of the other trims. A matte-black patch in the center of the hood also distinguishes the Adventure model.

While these extra touches on the RAV4 Adventure won’t fill serious off-roaders with awe, even drivers who never wander off pavement will benefit from them in rain and snow.

Interior features exclusive to the RAV4 Adventure include accents that look like carbon fiber, and all-weather floor and cargo mats with “RAV4 Adventure” logo badging. A 120V/100W outlet in the cargo area is handy for powering air compressors or other equipment.

The Adventure is powered by the same 176-horsepower four-cylinder engine, paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, used on the other gas-powered RAV4 models.

Adventure’s standard equipment list covers the basics, but those who are fond of modern technology will want the optional Power Premium package adding an inclusive multimedia bundle, a power liftgate, upgraded audio system and more.

The Toyota RAV4 has been hugely popular for a long time and for good reason. Its compact size makes it fuel efficient and easily maneuvered. Yet there’s abundant room and flexibility inside the cabin for passengers as well as cargo. Toyota’s reputation for reliability gives it an edge.

This Adventure trim might not sell in impressive numbers, but it definitely gives the RAV4 some flare. It became the envy of all the other RAV4 trims by turning many heads during the test week.


Base price, including destination charge: $29,395

Price as driven: $32,990

Toyota 4Runner

The RAV4 is a newcomer compared to the Toyota 4Runner, which has been around since the 1980s. It’s a bona fide SUV, a body-on-frame truck with an SUV-looking shell.

Serious off-road capability is the 4Runner’s heart and soul. That doesn’t keep non-offroaders from buying it but they pay steeply for the decision to appear off-roady. There’s the initial pricey sticker to contend with, followed by the ongoing fuel economy ratings of 17 mpg city, 20 mpg highway, and 18 mpg combined.

The 4Runner’s styling hasn’t changed in years, and before that it didn’t change much. Criticism has been leveled against 4Runner for this styling steadfastness, mostly by car critics who wouldn’t want one anyway. This is a vehicle whose market is limited by definition due to its targeted usage, and whose buyers find 4Runner’s classic look one of its main attractions.

For 2018, there’s a new Wilderness Package available for the SR5, SR5 Premium, Toyota Racing Development (TRD) Off-Road and TRD Off-Road Premium grades. The package equips 4Runner with roof rack crossbars, all-weather floor liners and a cargo tray. The TRD Enhancement Package, available for the TRD grades, adds TRD 17-inch matte gray alloy wheels and a TRD-stamped aluminum front skid plate.

A vehicle as rugged as this one could be forgiven for having a rough ride and noisy interior, but the 4Runner has neither. Even at highway speeds it is civilized and quiet inside.

The 2018 4Runner looked right at home on my rural Snohomish County acreage, and I felt right at home driving it. In fact I loved it. I tried to fight off the guilt of getting lower fuel economy ratings than are acceptable in my social circle, but as Emily Dickinson wrote, the heart wants what it wants.


Base price, including destination charge: $40,490

Price as driven: $42,690

Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.

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