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2005 Toyota RAV4 Test Drive Review

The 2005 Toyota RAV4 blends refined driving characteristics with a capable layout, so you'll be ready regardless of where your weekend adventures take you.

7.5 /10
Overall Score

The RAV4 is a step in a different direction for the SUV segment. There are many large truck-based SUVs that boast large engines and plenty of seats, but these large vehicles do not suit everyone. Not only are these vehicles quite thirsty, but they are often simply too large for city dwellers. More practically, they are just more vehicle than many drivers need.

The “R-A-V” in RAV4 stands for “Recreation Activity Vehicle,” and it speaks to the nature of the plucky Toyota ‘ute. the RAV4 has the space and capability for weekend adventures, and yet, it has a comfortable ride for the weekday commute. 2005 marks the final year of the second-generation Toyota RAV4, as it will soon be replaced by an all-new fourth-generation model in 2006. The RAV4 competes with the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape as mini-SUVs.

Look and Feel

8/ 10

The RAV4 wears its purpose on its sleeve. It has an upright greenhouse and an easily accessible rear-mounted spare contributing to its solid ground clearance. And yet it wears soft features, like the upbeat headlights that almost look surprised. The roof rails and available top-mounted rear spoiler contribute to the sporty appearance of the RAV4.

The cabin of the RAV4 also conveys this fun-loving nature, with a layout that is both sporty and functional. The three-dial gauge cluster with white dials and the three-spoke steering wheel both feel very sports-car-inspired, while the upright center console and tall shift handle speak to its more rugged side.

More than that, the build quality of this cabin is fantastic. As much attention has been paid to the stitching, panel gaps, materials as you're likely to find in a Toyota Camry or the Avalon flagship sedan.

There is only one trim for the RAV4, and it's qualified by different powertrains. The RAV4 comes standard with silver-styled steel wheels, cloth seat trim, an AM/FM radio, air conditioning, power windows and locks, a CD player, and a height-adjustable driver’s seat.

There is an available “L” package, which adds tinted windows, body-color bumpers with fog lights, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. You can also select leather upholstery. An available Sport Package adds a unique mesh grille and sport pedals.


6/ 10

The 2005 Toyota RAV4 is powered by a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine. It makes 161 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque. This engine can be mated to either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission, routing power to the front wheels (FWD) or available 4-wheel drive (4WD).

Though Toyota calls it 4WD, it is really more of an all-wheel-drive (AWD) system in that it lacks a low-range transfer case. It will provide added traction in the snow and other inclement road conditions… just don’t try to take it off-roading.

Though it is the only engine option, the 2.4-liter makes solid power for a vehicle this size. It is refined and doesn’t put up a fuss in most driving scenarios. The RAV4 also steers and handles like a car, so while it can venture off the beaten path when called upon, it is truly at home on the pavement.

Form and Function

7/ 10

The RAV4 has a fantastic, straightforward cabin layout. Radio and climate controls are packed closely up in the dash, providing more cabin room for tray and cubbies. It needs this optimized design, as the cabin of the RAV4 is not particularly large. Legroom might be tight for backseat passengers if the front-row occupant ahead of them needs to slide their seat back. Thankfully, the tall cabin design means that no occupant needs to worry about the headroom.

The RAV4 provides 29.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat. This number grows to 68.3 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seat folded, which is pretty robust for a vehicle this size, though the Honda CR-V bests it in both categories, with 33.5 and 72 cubic feet, respectively.

Tech Level

7/ 10

The RAV4 comes standard with an AM/FM stereo with CD player and 6 speakers. The optional L upgrade package adds steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, but no entertainment improvements. However, an 8-speaker JBL premium audio system is a standalone option and includes a 6-disc CD changer.


8/ 10

The RAV4 earns strong safety scores for front- and side-impact testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It comes standard with dual front airbags, while seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags are optional. The front passenger seat has an occupancy sensor tied to the front passenger airbag.

The RAV4 comes standard with antilock brakes and stability control, as well as vehicle stability control, which is an important consideration in taller vehicles.


9/ 10

Base MSRP for the 2005 Toyota RAV4 is $19,050. Adding an automatic transmission brings the price to $20,100 while adding 4WD to the manual model brings the price to $20,450. The combination of automatic transmission and 4WD costs $21,500. This undercuts the price of the Honda CR-V, which costs between $20,000 and $25,500.

The FWD version of the RAV4 returns fuel economy of 21 mpg city, 27 highway, 23 combined, regardless of transmission selected. For the 4WD version, the automatic version returns 20 mpg city, 24 highway, and 22 combined, while the manual version returns 19 mpg city, 25 highway, 21 combined.

Updated by George Kennedy

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