Crossovers and SUVs continue to become more car-like and mainstream with every model year, but for 2018 Toyota lends its RAV4 compact crossover a touch of ruggedness with a new Trail trim level.
Inspired by the active lifestyle movement, the RAV4 Trail boasts larger fender flares around black 18-inch wheels, lower body guards, raised ride height for added ground clearance and black headlight and fog light surrounds. Inside, Trail models get unique trim panels, leather-trimmed shifter, a power outlet in the cargo area, sill protectors and all-weather floor and cargo mats.
The RAV4 Trail also comes standard with AWD and a towing preparation package consisting of a larger radiator and supplemental engine oil and transmission fluid coolers.
Like most other RAV4 models, the Trail uses a 2.5L four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and generating 176 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque. There's also a hybrid powertrain that mates its engine with an electric motor and a continuously variable automatic transmission to make 194 hp. Where the gas-only models can be had with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive, the hybrid is AWD-only.
Fuel consumption estimates are 10.7/8.4 L/100 km (city/highway) for a gasoline AWD model, figures that fall well behind those for one of Toyota's closest competitors, the Honda CR-V, whose 1.5L turbo engine makes it one of the most efficient vehicles in its class. But Toyota actually occupies the number one spot for small crossover efficiency thanks to the RAV4's hybrid option, whose ratings are 6.9/7.8 L/100 km.
Trim levels include LE, XLE, SE and Limited in gas-powered models, and LE+, SE and Limited with the hybrid powertrain. Basic kit once again includes a backup camera, 6.1-inch infotainment touchscreen, Bluetooth, automatic headlights and a wiper de-icer. Also standard is Toyota's Safety Sense-P active safety suite, which comprises pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic high beams, radar cruise control and lane departure alert with steering assist.
Popular upgrades include things like an eight-way power driver's seat, heated steering wheel, bird's-eye view parking camera, navigation, electric steering wheel adjustment, power tailgate and a sunroof.
It's no secret why the RAV4 is perennially popular in Canada: this is a nicely scaled vehicle that packs a useful interior into a manageable footprint. A low cargo load floor is accessed through a proper top-hinged tailgate that replaced a side-hinged door in a 2016 redesign; the RAV4 also looks better now that the spare tire lives under the cargo floor rather than hung off the tailgate.