Stick Shift: 2018 Toyota RAV4 Adventure

As I got my first look at the new 2018 Toyota RAV4, I couldn’t help but do a double take. At once it’s clear that the Adventure badges on the sides and back are communicating that this isn’t your run-of-the-mill RAV4. For starters, there’s a thick matte black stripe running from the nose back. Facial features retain their pinched, bird-like arrangement, but the headlight bezels are trimmed in black, and so are the fog lamps. Black also are a set of aggressive 18” wheels that frankly, look really great! The side skirts and wheel wells are black with metal accent trim. More visually impactful still are the functional looking front and rear undercarriage guards with the same handsome metal treatment. There’s even a small spoiler and functional roof rake. Inspection completed, it’s easy to see that this is a RAV4 that’s following a different set of rules.

These exterior add-ons are only the start of the many exciting changes you get with the Adventure package. The ride height has been adjusted up an additional 0.5 inches, bringing total ground clearance to 6.5 inches. Still not enough for any serious off-road excursions, but every centimeter counts when you’re on the trials. All of this mixes together to deliver a distinctively more exciting, though still not completely cohesive looking RAV4. Visibility continues to suffer with that high belt line that swoops up even higher after the rear door. Another odd design quirk that just won’t go away are the taillights that jut out, almost to the point of creating a shelf, making them a chunky addition to an already bulging rear end. Still, with the Adventure package, the exterior gets a much needed update given that its basic shape goes back to 2013, with only a minor refresh in 2015.

The interior is spacious for a small SUV, but the finish falls a little behind the competition in terms of polish. The use of plastics and other low-quality materials borders on too generous. The adventure package does add a leather wrapped shift knob and accent panels in a kinda faux carbon fiber, metallic looking, snake skin something or other material. It’s a little hard to pin down. The back seat is roomy and control layout is intuitive. A no frills 4-cylinder will make acceleration a considerable weak spot in the Toyota RAV4. Adventure or not. I also wish this sportier special edition would’ve tightened up the steering, as it remains numb and lifeless as ever.

Everything in, the 2018 Toyota RAV4 has always offered lots of value, moderate good looks, an interior with space to comfortably fit four adults and the dependability to grow old with the family. The Adventure package injects some necessary excitement, especially on the outside. I do wish they would’ve included some performance enhancements to make for an overall better driving experience, but from where I’m standing, the RAV4 is only getting better and better.

Price as tested: $30,980.00

By: Brandon Randall 

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