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2016 Toyota RAV4 SE AWD

Restyled Toyota RAV4 gets even better …Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Subaru Forester, Honda CR-V, crossover, hybrid

Toyota has restyled its popular RAV4 crossover to give it a sleeker more modern look while maintaining its solid underpinnings.

Like most Toyota offerings, RAV4 doesn’t change much from year to year, it simply remains a good reliable machine that does what you’d expect of a small crossover. The engine remains the same as it has for years, a 2.5-liter I4 with variable valve timing and dual-overhead cam layout.

Price keeps creeping up, but it’s still extremely competitive with its main competition, the likes of Honda’s CR-V, Subaru’s Forester and Ford’s Escape.

rav2Compared with the RAV4 I’d driven three years ago, the 2016 seemed more tightly built and despite the same powerplant, felt as if it had more oomph and the interior was made of nicer materials.

While the 176-horse engine is no race horse in standard or Eco mode (nothing is racy in Eco mode), the metallic black currant (dark red nearly maroon) crossover was lively in Sport mode. You punch a button to engage that, plus there are paddle shifters behind the wheel if you want to use those to impact shift points. But Sport mode holds the gears in the six-speed automatic longer than the normal mode and quickens acceleration. Good to use when entering a highway, for instance. Continue reading 2016 Toyota RAV4 SE AWD

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2014 Toyota Highlander Ltd. Platinum hybrid

New Highlander may threaten Lexus it’s so luxurioustoyo2

Toyota better be careful. It might be cutting into its Lexus sales with its latest Highlander.

Who needs a Lexus when Toyota’s Highlander is so darned luxurious?

First, the styling is sharp for a sport-ute. Everything from the hood creasing to the elongated swept-back lights to the profile make the Highlander look like it’s in motion, even as it sits, all 4,861 lbs. of it, in the driveway. Mine was a handsome silver model, the top-level Limited Platinum version with hybrid power system and all-wheel drive.

Price of admission? $51,761 as delivered, with a base price of $49,790 and an $860 delivery fee, plus a few options. A Lexus will cost you more.

Yet Highlander is pretty much state of the art luxury as it arrives in Limited Platinum trim.

Seats are leather and powered, with both front and second row seats heated. Front seats are cooled too, with three settings, and the thick leather steering wheel is heated to take winter’s chill away quickly. There’s a power rear hatch (more about that later), and a power panoramic sunroof and shade. Continue reading 2014 Toyota Highlander Ltd. Platinum hybrid

2014 Toyota Venza XLE V6 AWD

Venza XLE delivers power, good looks and AWD
Five years have passed since I last drove Toyota’s Venza, a crossover based on its popular Camry sedan.venza1

Not much has changed though, it’s still an attractive, competent crossover. In fact, Venza may be one of the best looking crossovers, simply because it blends the Camry’s sophisticated styling with a smooth execution of the rear hatch that looks more a modern wagon than square SUV. Some folks will take notice of this vehicle in your driveway. I certainly got more questions about its origins than I have for other crossovers.

It probably helped that my Venza was a bright metallic red and the XLE, or mid-level model with a gutsy 268-horse V6 and all-wheel-drive. Mine also was a bit pricey, starting at $35,080 and when you add an $860 delivery charge and $1,850 option package it hit $37,790. But don’t let that scare you off.

You can get into a Venza for $28,760. However, that’s the LE model with front-wheel drive and a more modest 181-horse, 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine. If you require all the bells, whistles and techno goodies you’ll need to move up to the Limited AWD for $40,380. Like the XLE, it packs V6 power.venza-grapevine

While based on the Camry, having the same 109.3-inch wheelbase and 189-inch length, the Venza feels more substantial. It weighs in at just more than 4,000 lbs. and is taller than the Camry too. Plus it rides on 20-inch tires, so it has a more aggressive stance and the steering is moderately heavy compared to the lighter feeling Camry.

Continue reading 2014 Toyota Venza XLE V6 AWD