In a recent quick drive of the 2016 Toyota RAV4 we got an education on what’s new for 2016 in addition to some new perspective on pricing and value for this class that really opened our eyes.

The 2016 Toyota RAV4 got a healthy update in styling with a new face that comes across as far more aggressive than before. It’s higher profile make the RAV look more butch and masculine we’re told. In any case it certainly gets your attention.

Our SE had optioned the new for 2016 two-tone paint scheme for $600 dollars. It definitely raises the bar on the premium look and presentation as do the SE trim grade’s 18-alloy wheels with black painted inserts.

Behind those wheels is what Toyota calls a sport suspension and the SE also gets its own unique front fascia with its own grille treatment framed by LED headlights that looks more premium than the standards. At the rear, new LED tail lamps also join the club.

Optioned on our RAV4 SE were also a number of accessories like a mudguard for $129, paint protection film at $395, roof rack cross bars for $395 and wheel locks for $65.

The cabin was well lined with the top-end trims and accessories as well. Here we had a rich thick and creamy looking two-tone color scheme with seats upholstered with not leather but a vinyl Toyota calls SofTex.

They were heated up front, only the driver getting power adjustments. They were comfortable however up front, but the rear seat passengers will have a lower than comfortable seating position in spite of the sliding and recline adjustments.

The rear seats do fold down in a 60/40 split as do most all in this class for a load floor nearly flat. And under the floor is a temporary spare tire instead of a can of fix-a-flat – always a bonus.

16-Toyota-RAV4-5Options continued inside with the Advanced Technology Package for $3,010 dollars. This included not only the top line Entune audio and navigation system with JBL sound, all manner of connectivity and applications but also a full array of driver assistance and crash prevention aids. There’s still no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto however.

The screen displays the new for 2016 Birds Eye View camera suite well, the on-the road driver assistance features all working well – though we didn’t test the crash avoidance features of automatic emergency braking.

Also added to our tester was a remote start option of $499, an interior lighting package for $185 and all weather floor mats for $239. Even in 2016 Toyota still makes you pay for floor mats.

16-Toyota-RAV4-1In stepping up to the SE one would expect some sport. Under the hood however is the same 2.5 liter four cylinder engine you find in the base Toyota RAV4 with its 176 horsepower. It does however come with a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and a healthy sport mode.

In driving however the sport mode really only changes the shift points, allowing the engine to rev more noisy and for longer periods of time. Actual power delivery really isn’t all that different and the transmission doesn’t respond all that quickly to the paddle inputs.

In a short driving slalom I also found that the sport suspension really doesn’t feel that sporty. There is still a pronounced level of body roll and tire scrub from its less than sticky tires. In summary, the RAV4 still feels heavy and lethargic compared to competitors.

16-Toyota-RAV4-10And that gets us to the rub. At a total price of $37,022 including destination, our tester really pales in comparison to competitors like the Ford Escape with their top level EcoBoost or the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport with its top turbocharged engine both of which offer around 240 horsepower.

These and other competitors offer a good deal more of a sporting drive character as well, not to mention real leather interiors that have more features like heated and ventilated seats, a panoramic sunroof, and better connectivity for your money.

And to stay in the family brand, for $37,000 you can get into the Lexus NX which has a turbocharged engine and the Lexus customer experience, better quality inside and out, and a driving experience much more fun.