When the Toyota RAV4 came out back in the 1990s, it was considered a "cute ute." Ads featured a rather abstract painting that appeared to represent a human head and all the thoughts swirling about within - including a photo of the "cute ute" itself, climbing toward the top of the cerebrum (or at least where the cerebrum would normally be).

For better or worse, the new Toyota RAV4 has evolved, inside and out.

Compared with its early incarnations, the 2008 Toyota RAV4 (meaning "Recreational Active Vehicle [with] 4 [wheel drive]") is definitely sleeker and more modern looking. The body was completely redesigned in 2006 and its old Corolla platform was replaced and updated. This redesign has resulted in a more than 20% increase in passenger and cargo space - although the roof that slopes downward toward the rear of the vehicle does shave off a bit of headroom for rear-seat occupants.

As without, the interior within produces some mixed reaction. The "two-tier dash" is described by some as a prop from 1950s science-fiction, and at least one reviewer panned it as a "horizontal gash running the width of the car." Nonetheless, most test drivers appreciated the Toyota RAV4's interior decor.

Where the Toyota RAV4 shines however is out on the road - but only if it is equipped with the 3.5 liter V-6. The base model comes with a 2.4-liter four-banger that is at best lackluster. Chained to an antiquated four-speed automatic, this engine provides sluggish acceleration and is not particularly athletic on hilly highways. To add insult to injury, the base engine gets a disappointing 20 miles per gallon in town and 25 on the open road.

The larger engine is the product of more advanced engineering; for virtually the same cost in fuel, the V-6 puts out nearly 270 horses and almost 250 pound-feet of low-end torque as well as five-speed transmission - making for performance that one reviewer praises as "sparkling."

The Toyota's road manners are likewise praiseworthy; with exceptionally responsive steering, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and rollover resistance and crash-protection that is well above average (the RAV4 earned superior scores in both government and insurance industry crash tests), it is small wonder that the Toyota RAV4 enjoys the largest market share among "soccer moms."

Read more about the Toyota RAV4's performance and quality over at TheCarConnection.com's full review.

source:http://www.toyotamonitor.com/review/1014209_2008-toyota-rav4-review

Toyota RAV4 Review Video