Toyota builds an SUV for nearly everyone, but there are some key differences between them. Here’s a look at what makes these rides unique in their segment, and why you need a Toyota SUV on your list when you head out for test drives.
Rav4 – The Money Saver
The Rav4 is one of the best-selling vehicles year after year because buyers know what they are doing. The Rav4 is compact enough for every day driving, large enough for real world living, and available with AWD. Inside, the Rav4 seats five adults and hauls all their stuff with 38 cu/ft behind the seats, and 73 cu-ft with the rear seats down. A 2.5-liter four cylinder is the only engine available, and delivers 176 horsepower and a car-like 28 mpg highway. You can option up the Rav4 for real capability too. Most compact crossovers can only tow 1,500 lbs., but optioned with AWD you can safely tow 3,500 lbs. Small on size, but big on safety, the Rav4 earned a full five stars from the NHTSA and the highest “A” rating for headlights and active crash prevention features. The 2016+ models have a revised exterior with an edgy Corolla face and revised instrument cluster. Prior years have the same drivetrain and reliability, so you can’t go wrong with an older one.
Sequoia – The Space King
Toyota commercials show the Sequoia as the ultimate family road tripper, and the advertisements are spot on. With minivan space, three-row seating, and SUV looks, the Sequoia can handle anything. This full-size SUV rivals the Sienna minivan for cargo space. There’s 19 cu-ft in the rear, and the third row seats fold flat into the floor for a whopping 120 cu-ft. The Sequoia seats eight, with passenger comfort and safety high on the list. Toyota’s Safety Sense active safety package is standard, and the IIHS says the Sequoia is statistically one of the safest vehicles on the road, averaging zero fatalities over one million miles driven. While it does weigh over 5,000 lbs., the 381 horsepower 5.7-liter V8 does a good job moving the heft, and with 401 lb-ft of torque it can handle mountain passes and everyday highway passing. When properly optioned, Sequoia can tow up to 7,400 lbs., so this is the one for your lake adventures.
4Runner – The Off-Roader
4Runner is one of those legendary names in off-roading, up there with the best from Land Rover. With either 2WD or 4WD, the 4Runner has adaptive suspension and crawl control for handling any off-road obstacles. This suspension gives the on-road ride a bit of an old-school feeling, with an undeniable truck feel. With extreme capability and high resale value, the 4Runner is basically Toyota’s Wrangler, but with more storage capacity in back. Cargo area holds 47 cu-ft, and 89 cu-ft with the rear seats folded flat. The 4.0-liter V6 is the only engine option since 2010, and it’s a brawny powerhouse with 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft on regular gas. You can run E85 for more power if it’s available in your area. Gas mileage is acceptable for the class at 22 MG highway. Consumer Reports says it’s one of the top 10 vehicles most likely to reach 200,000 miles.
Highlander – The Best Mix
The Toyota Highlander is actually fun and interesting, more like the Highlander movies than the TV series. This is what you should get when you need cargo space, luxury, capability, and value, all in one ride. The cabin is spacious for seven or eight passengers in three rows, there’s 14 cu-ft of space behind the third row, and the interior can reconfigure for up to 83 cu-ft. The handling is surprisingly good, driving more like a Camry than a large SUV. The Highlander remains quiet and composed over bumps and questionable roads, and the steering provides good feedback. There is a 2.7-liter four cylinder, but the 3.5-liter V6 provides 295 horsepower for a good burst of power when accelerating, and drives the front wheels for increased fuel efficiency when cruising. Need even better gas mileage? The hybrid version averages 28 MPG, which is impressive for such a large vehicle. It’s also one of the very few AWD hybrids on the market, so if you need fuel efficiency in New England winters, you’ve just found your next ride.