2008 Toyota RAV4


$5,341 - $6,986

2008 Toyota RAV4 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2008 Toyota RAV4 was new.


Performance: 7.9

As noted in our Performance Overview, the 2008 Toyota RAV4 ranks near the top of its class for performance, thanks in large part to an optional V6 engine that pushes it ahead of competitors. Its smooth, comfortable ride and optional all-wheel drive also get positive reviews.

  • "Toyota engineers have achieved their objective of car-like driving dynamics in a practical SUV package." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Even with its boffo V6, the 2008 Toyota RAV4 still isn't the most involving crossover to drive. As such, driving enthusiasts might prefer a Mazda CX-7 or Saturn Vue Red Line." -- Edmunds
  • "Toyota's RAV4 has always been a pleasure to drive. Now, the larger V-6 engine provides RAV4 with a performance edge when compared to its compact SUV competitors." -- Chicago Daily Herald
  • "The RAV4 feels stable and substantial on the highway, while handling tight curves and crowded parking lots nimbly." -- U.S. News' Rick Newman
  • Motor Week: "One surprise is the RAV4's very firm, most un-car-like ride. Indeed on all but the smoothest paved roads it felt sports car harsh. And we found road noise was quite intrusive."
  • "Warning: If you're looking for 0-60 times and skidpad read outs, you've come to the wrong place, my friend. The 2006 Toyota RAV4 is about performance in the classic sense just as much as George Steinbrenner is about losing with class." -- Autobytel

Acceleration and Power

The RAV4's four-cylinder base engine is adequate enough, but reviewers really love the optional V6. Fuel economy is also especially good for the RAV4's size. The four-cylinder model has an EPA-estimated economy of 21 miles per gallon in the city and 27 miles per gallon on highway.

  • "With the 4-cylinder, RAV4 feels sluggish from stop, just adequate around town, and taxed in hilly terrain. We recommend the V6, which is impressively strong in any situation." -- Consumer Guide
  • "In terms of horsepower, the Toyota RAV4 packs quite a wallop and will knock the Honda CR-V down a few rungs." -- NewCars.com
  • "Although the four-cylinder engine's additional power is offset by the new RAV4's increased size and weight, the V6 puts it in a new class." -- The Auto Channel
  • "The available 269-hp 3.5-liter V6 engine makes RAV4 one of the most powerful vehicle[s] in its segment." -- Truck Trend
  • "People who need the extra power, especially to pull a trailer, should go for the V-6. But if you can get by with the four-cylinder, it's cheaper to buy and to operate." -- Forth Worth Star-Telegram
  • "If we were to buy a RAV4, it would have to come with the optional V6. ...  The four-cylinder is a reasonable choice for most buyers, as it provides adequate power for day-to-day driving, but when equipped with this engine, the RAV doesn't fare as well against its competitors that offer similar power, gas mileage and space." -- Edmunds

Handling and Braking

Across the board, reviews describe the 2008 Toyota RAV4 as taut and agile, yet with a surprisingly comfortable ride for an SUV. The Sport model sacrifices some comfort for more aggressive handling.

  • "Ride and handling are at the top of the small-ute class, thanks to an all-new suspension, stiffer chassis and new awd system." -- AutoWeek
  • "The RAV is not as athletic as the Mazda CX-7 or Honda CR-V, but in trade, the Toyota offers a smooth ride that's forgiving enough for commuters who drive on crumbling expressways." -- Edmunds
  • "With their similar turning radiuses, the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4 likely handle approximately the same into and out of tight spots." -- NewCars.com
  • The "electronic power steering is quick and, unlike some electric steering, doesn't feel numb. And the turning radius is tighter, despite the RAV4's larger dimensions." -- MSN
  • "Electric power steering is usually an omen for numbness, but Toyota has somehow infused the RAV's motorized rack with real precision." -- Car and Driver
  • "The RAV4 is nimbler than ever, due to the steering rack's direct mounting to the frame, and its reflexes are especially striking in the nimble Sport version, where the RAV4 feels like a sports car in hiking boots." -- Motor Trend

All-Wheel Drive

Reviews say the 2008 Toyota RAV4 has a well-engineered all-wheel drive system. However, they also warn against assuming the all-wheel drive will take you far off road.

  • "The other big news for the new model year is the addition of Toyota's Active Drive System -- which integrates all-wheel drive, stability, and traction control, and electric power steering systems into a single, mutually complementary system." -- The Car Connection
  • "Those equipped with all-wheel drive feature an ingenious -- but non-gnarly -- on-demand system that incorporates an electromagnetic coupling at the rear differential rather than a center diff to apportion torque among the four wheels." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "A brainy all-wheel-drive system -- with just 7.5 inches of ground clearance, the RAV is for all weather, not all terrain -- helps here." -- Car and Driver
  • "The awd features a switch to lock in the maximum rear torque flow of 45 percent, useful when stuck in mud or snow." -- AutoWeek
  • "The available four-wheel-drive system operates in front-drive mode for optimum fuel-efficiency until a situation (such as quick acceleration from a stop or while driving on slippery roads) demands four-wheel drive, at which point up to 45 percent of the torque is transferred to the rear wheels." -- Edmunds
  • "This vehicle likely wouldn't be advisable for serious off-roaders, but for steep inclines and some inclement weather situations, it would probably do just fine." -- Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • "The four-wheel-drive system is on-demand, which means you operate in front-wheel-drive until slippage puts all four wheels to work." -- Chicago Tribune

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