What Changed for 2009:
- Freshened exterior design details
- New 4-cylinder engine
- New seat fabric
- Satellite radio available
- New Sport Appearance package with 4-wheel drive (4WD) and V-6 engine
- Active headrests for front seats
- New features and Extra Value option packages for all trim levels
- Four new color choices
In the mid-1990s, Toyota launched the RAV4, a compact SUV that brought a new genre into the automotive mainstream. The RAV4 wasn't the first such smaller and car-based SUV, but its success encouraged other major automakers to develop their own products and soon we had the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Hyundai Santa Fe and so many others. The current RAV4 is the third generation of what now are known as CUVs, or simply \"crossovers.\" While they don't offer the same room as larger, truck-based SUVs, some provide three rows of seating and substantially better fuel economy.
The Toyota RAV4 gets a facelift for the 2009 model year. The cosmetic changes include a new grille, bumpers, fog lamp trim, tail lamp, even a new roof-mounted antenna. There also are cosmetic updates on the inside, including new fabric for the seats. More significant than such cosmetic changes is a new 4-cylinder engine that is both more powerful and more fuel-efficient than the engine it replaces. A V-6 engine is available. The RAV4 is available with either front-wheel drive (FWD) or 4WD.
The RAV4 continues to be available in three trim levels: Base, Sport and Limited. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, cruise control, 6-way adjustable driver's seats and 4-way adjustment for the front passenger's seat, 10 beverage containers, power windows, three power outlets, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, dual glove box, AM/FM/CD audio system with mini-jack port, six airbags, anti-lock brakes, vehicle stability control and tire-pressure monitors. The Sport model gets 18-inch wheels, fender flares, power exterior mirrors, dark charcoal-color seat fabric and a sport-tuned suspension. The Limited model gets a body-color spare tire cover, chrome grille, dual-zone air conditioning, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and an audio system with an in-dash 6-disc CD changer. New for 2009, the RAV4 Limited comes with a Smart Key entry system that allows the driver to open the vehicle simply by carrying the key fob and grasping the door handle.
For 2009, RAV4s with 4WD and V-6 engines can be equipped with an optional Sport Appearance package that includes run-flat tires with no spare on the rear door; color-keyed and heated exterior mirrors with integrated turn signals; stainless-steel exhaust tip; chrome-accented shift knob; chromed interior door handles; 6-CD audio system; one year of satellite radio; and the availability of an exclusive exterior color: Elusive Blue Metallic. Each trim level also offers an Extra Value package that combines several popular stand-alone options but at a reduced price that ranges from $570 for the base model to $2000 for the Limited. Options include a JBL audio system, third-row seat, cargo cover, power moonroof and leather seating. Sport and Limited models can be equipped with a new low-cost navigation option.
For the 2009 model year, the Toyota RAV4 gets a new standard engine: a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder unit with a low-friction design for enhanced performance and fuel economy, Toyota claims. The engine provides 179 hp compared to 166 hp for the former 2.4-liter engine. The new engine is linked to a new 4-speed automatic transmission. The new powertrain is rated at 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway in RAV4s with FWD. Both figures represent a 1-mpg improvement over the less powerful engine. Fuel-economy figures with 4WD are 21 mpg city/27 mpg highway. While the highway number is unchanged, the city figure is a 2-mpg improvement over the lower-capacity engine. Also available is a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that provides 269 hp. This engine links to a 5-speed automatic transmission. This powertrain is rated at 19 mpg city/27 mpg highway with FWD and 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway with 4WD. All RAV4 powertrains receive Ultra Low Emission Vehicle II (ULEV II) certification.
For the 2009 model year, the RAV4 adds active headrests for the front seats to its list of safety features. Active headrests are designed to mitigate whiplash forces should a vehicle be struck from behind. Also new for 2009, Sport and Limited models can be equipped with an integrated backup camera that projects on a portion of the interior rearview mirror. All RAV4s come with 3-point safety belts and adjustable headrests for all seating positions. Front, side and curtain air bags also are standard, as are anti-lock brakes, traction control, and vehicle stability control, all part of the Star Safety System that Toyota builds into all of its utility vehicles.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the 2009 Toyota RAV4 receives 5 stars (the agency's highest rating) in frontal crash testing for the driver and 4 stars for the front passenger, as well as 5-star side-impact scores for both front- and rear-seat occupants. The RAV4 receives 4 stars for rollover resistance. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2008 RAV4 its highest (\"Good\") rating, and the 2009 model should be identical in terms of crash protection.