The four-cylinder base engine has enough power to keep most drivers happy; it's smooth and responsive, with enough for all but the heaviest loads or toughest mountain grades. The larger engine gives the RAV4 the ability to sprint with hot-rod-like authority or pull off astonishingly quick passes. All the while, the RAV4 handles surprisingly well for such a tall, soft-riding vehicle. Base models tend to plow a bit in tight corners, as most front-wheel-drive vehicles do, but the optional Sport models' firmer dampers largely fix that tendency.
Though off-road ability isn't a priority in the RAV4, its four-wheel-drive system is a bit more able than rival crossovers, capable of sending as much as 45 percent of torque to the back at up to 25 mph and including a 50/50 fixed power split in a 4WD Lock mode.