by Tony West and Sommer Thornton
Toyota adds a cool new Rav4 SE to its popular lineup that adds spunk and interior flair and spaciousness. Along with a new Hybrid model, the new SE further solidifies the Rav4 as a leader in its segment. With countless new technology and an efficient powertrain with athletic appeal, the SE makes a case as a better choice over Mazda, Honda, and Hyundai crossovers. The cool gas-powered Rav4 line includes a LE, XLE, Limited, and SE. The Hybrid includes a XLE and Limited grade. We reviewed the fully-loaded Rav4 SE with all-wheel drive, a sport-stylish interior, and advanced safety technology.
New for 2016
• The 2016 Rav4 SE is all new for 2016, with a sportier design featuring LED headlights and tail lights and a wider unique grille design.
• An exclusive S-Code paint design combines one of three available colors – Super White, Black Sand Pearl, and Electric Storm Blue over Classic Metallic on the CUVs lower trim.
• Great sport-tuned suspension gives the SE added agility and enhanced handling.
Fresh Aerodynamic Exterior
The 2016 Toyota Rav4 SE looks more like a Highlander, 6 feet wide with a 104 inch wheelbase. The crossover SUV boasts LED daytime running lights, headlights and tail lights. Eighteen-inch machine alloy wheels are standard. The 2016 Rav4 line ushers in refreshed exterior styling that gives the vehicle a sleeker more dynamic stance. It’s great for young professionals, versatile enough for ripping the road and starting a family.
The bolder mesh grille sets off the more chiseled front fascia, bumper and lower grille. The crossover whip also has new rocker panels that sharpen the sides and tie in the restyled front and rear bumper for a more flowing profile. And black heated power outside mirrors have turn signal indicators and a blind spot monitor.
Cool standard features include a height-adjustable power liftgate, moon roof, roof rails, rear spoiler, shark fin antenna and front and rear side skid plate garnish. Privacy glass on the rear, side, quarter and liftgate is also standard on the 2016 Rav4 SE.
The model we reviewed has a cool Black Currant Metal paint job that sets off the blacked-out wheels. Toyota fans commented that the new SE had a fresh more aggressive fun look. It’s also cool that the whip has plenty of cargo space for equipment with 2nd row folded, and roof rails for bikes. The crossover is ready for a fun outing to the beach or a family getaway.
Stylish Interior with Advanced Infotainment
The interior of the 2016 Toyota Rav4 SE is impressive with black SoftTex trimmed seats with orange stitching and adequate legroom. The front passengers have 42 inches of legroom, with 37 inches for the 2nd row and up to 73 inches of cargo space with the 2nd row folded. The driver-focused SE interior has a curved dash that allows for tall passengers to sit comfortably in the front.
The SE model boasts an 8 way adjustable driver’s seat, and passenger 4 way adjustable seat – both heated. The Smart Key system allows for the whip to be unlocked by pressing a button on the door handle outside. And the Rav4 SE has a push button start, power liftgate and dual-zone climate control with air filter.
The sportier SE model has added flair with a black headliner, sport shifter with contrast stitching, and leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters. Reclining and fold-flat 2nd row seats are also standard.
The interior of the SE has available black or black cinnamon colors along with black A&B-pillar covers and Gunmetal Gray trim. Door sill protectors and sport floor mats are also included. The interior of the SE would look great with a cool parchment or deep chocolate color with contrast stitching. The black SoftTex seats with black trim and black mats look drab and aged when it attracts dust. I prefer the cool interior colors of the Mazda CX-3 and the Honda CR-V.
Drivers have a distinct SE instrument panel with red illuminated odometer and speedometer gauges and a standard 4.2 inch TFT multi-information display (MID). The customizable MID shows a clock and outside temp, and can display average fuel economy, eco drive indictor, trip, range, average speed, trip distance timer, steering angle, parking assist, and the tire pressure monitoring system. Warnings, system checks and the Dynamic Torque AWD display also pop up in the multi-info display.
The heated leather steering wheel has controls for the multi-info display, audio, Bluetooth and the voice command.
Storage is okay in the SE, with multiple cup holders and a short center console. And 2 front and one rear 12 volt outlets are standard.
The center stack has a 6 inch hi-resolution touch screen display for Entune Audio Plus Sirius XM Satellite radio, Bluetooth, Siri Eyes Free, advance voice recognition. Navigation with HD traffic, weather, and a backup camera is also available along with an auxiliary port and USB port.
Entune Audio Plus with Connective Navigation includes Bing, Facebook Places, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable, Pandora, and Yelp, real-time traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports and stocks. A bangin 11 speaker Entune Premium Audio system has Integrated Navigation and AppSuite that adds a 7 inch touchscreen with split screen capabilities for HD predicative traffic, Doppler weather overlay, and Gracenotes album cover software.
The interior of the Rav4 SE is fresh, but could use a style makeover because the center stack is the same as nearly every other Toyota vehicle. And while there’s plenty of legroom, low center console makes it awkward for someone with long arms.
My big issue with the interior is that the Rav4 beeps several times for silly reasons. Toyota is known for obsessing over safety enhancements, a trait that continues to be a distraction for drivers. The Rav4 for instance, beeps as soon as I sit in the car, why? Then the car beeps when I turn off the engine, repeatedly alerting me – I guess to hurry and gather my ish and get the hell out. The Rav4 SE then beeps for safety features like the Lane Departure Alert, blind spot monitor, park assist, and other warnings, which is fine. The problem is beep is the same tone and sometimes overlap creating a big distraction the entire time I’m in the car.
Sport-tuned Performance w/ Efficiency and Safety Tech
The Rav4 SE’s best attribute is its balanced performance that’s efficient with an athletic edge. The SE has a standard 2.5 liter 4 cylinder engine with dual-variable valve timing with intelligence and direct injection. The engine achieves a combined EPA of 25 mpg’s (22 mpg city/ 25 mpg highway), 176 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 172 lb-ft of torque at 4,100 rpm. The 4 cylinder engine is matched to a 6 speed automatic transmission.
All-wheel drive is standard with the Toyota Rav4 SE and features Dynamic Torque Control that can adjust torque distribution from 100:50 to 50:50 in a millisecond by calculating steering speed and angle, throttle angle and yaw rate. The AWD button fixes torque distribution at 50:50 at speeds up to about 25 mph to help maximize grip for slippery road conditions and off-pavement driving.
The SE also boasts vehicle speed sensitive rack-and-pinion electric power steering provides precision feel and quick response. Macpherson strut front suspension and double wishbone rear suspension help the Rav4 absorb bumps and maintain comfort in rough terrain. Sport-tuned front and rear shock absorbers still feel jerky and weak over winter road craters in Chicago. And the body, composed mainly of high-strength steel swayed a lot in the Chicago wind. Yet sport-tuned suspension and the resilient body adds agility at high speeds.
The Rav4 SE also has an eco-drive mode and sport mode button. In Eco mode, the Rav4 optimizes powertrain to maximize efficiency. In sport mode, the Rav4 has a more aggressive acceleration with sharper shift timing, throttle response, and steering. Sport mode working with Dynamic Torque AWD gives the whip sporty agility and more responsive braking. Power-assisted ventilated front and solid disc brakes are standard on the SE Rav4
Safety technology has improved in the Rav4 SE with the addition of the Advance Tech Package. The Star Safety System is standard in the SE and includes ABS, EBD, enhanced vehicle stability control, Traction Control and Smart Stop Technology- that saves a ton of gas.
The 2016 Toyota Rav4 SE also has a blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, tire pressure monitoring system and Hill Start Assist. The $3k Advanced Technology Package adds a Bird’s Eye View Camera with Perimeter Scan, Front and Rear Parking sonar, Toyota Safety Sense, Auto High Beams, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and AppSuite, and the 11 Speaker Entune Audio System.
The Pre-Collision System includes the cool Lane Departure Alert, Forward Collision Warning and automatic emergency braking. These systems use sensors to warn the driver if they sway from their lane, and in an impending front collision, and will brake the Rav4 SE if necessary.
The Bird’s Eye View Camera with Perimeter Scan uses 4 cameras to project a panoramic view of the whip’s surroundings on the 7 inch display. A live 360 degree view of the car is projected thanks to Perimeter scan, helping the driver park effortlessly.
The Rav4 SE starts at $30,665 compared to $24k for the base model. The fully loaded SE costs $34k with add-ons. Compared to other whips in its crossover segment, $34k is a bit pricey for decent performance and a stylish interior with comparable infotainment.
Toyota should give the Rav4 SE even more standard features to compete with the Mazda CX-3 and the Honda CR-V that have a fresher looking interior layout. Safety features also need to be fine-tuned along with jerky shocks and that annoying beep.
Otherwise, the SE is an impressive CUV that will surely outlast its competitors and possibly have a higher safety rating and resale value.