2006-2012 Toyota RAV4: fuel economy, problems, specs, photos

Overall rating:5 Star Rating: Recommended
Updated: March 5, 2018
2011 Toyota RAV4
2011 Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4 is one of the best compact SUVs on the used car market. It offers a practical interior, decent cargo space and agile handling.

The 2006-2012 Toyota RAV4 comes with either front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive and only an automatic transmission. The RAV4's on-demand 4WD system is not designed for off-roading, but should give you more control in adverse weather.

The third-row seating option is available, but is rare. A used Toyota RAV4 is reliable, but there are some issues to watch out for; read below.

2011 Toyota RAV4
2011 Toyota RAV4 interior. Click for larger photo
Toyota RAV4 engine
2011 Toyota RAV4 2.5L engine has a long-lasting timing chain, there is no timing belt to worry about.

Engine: The 2006-2008 4-cylinder RAV4 models have the 166-hp 2.4L DOHC (2AZ-FE) engine. Starting from 2009 model year, the 179-hp 2.5L 4-cylinder (2AR-FE) became the base engine.
The optional 269-hp 3.5L V6 makes the V6 RAV4 one of the fastest Toyota vehicles.
All three engines are very reliable and all three have a timing chain; there is no timing belt.

Fuel Economy: The 4-cylinder Toyota RAV4 has one of the best gas mileage ratings for a non-hybrid SUV with all-wheel drive.
The 2006-2008 2.4L 4-cylinder AWD Toyota RAV4 gets 20 mpg city and 25 mpg highway (11.8/9.4 L/100 km).
The 2009-2012 2.5L 4-cylinder AWD RAV4 is rated at 21/27 mpg (11.2/8.7 L/100 km).
With mostly highway driving, the 2009 AWD 4-cylinder RAV4 can go for up to 413 miles (665 km) on a 15.9-gallon (60 L) tank.

Mechanical: The RAV4 has four-wheel independent suspension with MacPherson struts in the front and trailing double wishbone in the rear. The power steering is electrically assisted.  Four-wheel-disc brakes are standard. FWD models come with a standard limited slip differential.

4WD: The RAV4 all-wheel drive system has an electronic controlled coupling to distribute torque between the front and rear wheels. It allows the RAV4 to switch from FWD to 4WD automatically and seamlessly when needed. We drove the 4WD RAV4 in various snowy and icy conditions, and with winter tires it felt secure. All V6 RAV4 models as well as all 4-cylinder models with a third-row seat come standard with Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) and Downhill Assist Control (DAC).

2011 Toyota RAV4 second-row seat
The 60/40 split second-row seat reclines, slides forward or backward or folds down for extra cargo space.
Toyota RAV4 seats folded
Rear seats fold flat
2011 Toyota RAV4 cargo compartment
Toyota RAV4 offers 73 cu. ft. of cargo space and an under-floor storage compartment.

Interior: Inside, the RAV4 is comfortable with more rear seat space than in some larger SUVs. Controls and gauges are simple and user-friendly. The steering tilts and telescopes. Front cup holders are illuminated. The 60/40 split second-row seat reclines, slides forward or backward or folds down for extra cargo space. There is a large storage under the trunk cover. A roof rack is optional.

Driving experience: On the road, the RAV4 feels more like a tall car than an SUV. It handles easily and feels very agile. The ride is comfortable; road imperfections are nicely absorbed. The electrical steering is light and responsive. The turning radius is small. The visibility is very good in the front; rear pillars are thick but large side mirrors help make up for that.

Safety: Anti-lock Brakes (ABS), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) with Traction Control (TRAC) are standard. In the government frontal crash tests, the 2006-2010 Toyota RAV4 received five stars for the driver and four stars for the front passenger. In the side-impact crash test, the RAV4 got five stars for both the driver and the rear seat passenger.

Pros: Fuel economy (4-cylinder model), reliability, comfortable ride and car-like handling, decent cargo space, plenty of storage areas, small turning radius.

Cons: Front seats lack support on long trips, no manual transmission available, rear gate opens toward the curb.

Similar cars:

Overall: Toyota RAV4 is a great choice if you need a practical, easy to drive SUV with good fuel economy. Unless you really need extra power, we recommend a 4-cylinder model, as it is better on gas and easier to maintain. The RAV4 is reliable and with good care it shouldn't have too many problems in the long run.

Common problems: The RAV4 common problems are mostly minor. There is a notable amount of complaints about leaking water pump (part of the engine cooling system). Replacing the water pump in a 4-cylinder engine could cost from $400 to $650. Judging by the Consumer Reports ratings, some of the 2006-2008 RAV4 were affected. A clunking or knocking noise when turning the steering wheel left or right could be caused by a worn intermediate steering shaft. The repair is not very expensive.

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Failed ignition coils are quite common too. When replacing a failed ignition coil, it's a good idea to change all the spark plugs too.
According to the service bulletin T-SB-0041-13, the brief knock / rattle noise from the 1AR-FE and 2AR-FE engine can be caused by a faulty camshaft timing gear assembly (VVT gear). To correct the problem, the gear must be replaced. The bulletin quotes 2.4 hours labor.

What to look for when buying a used Toyota RAV4: During a test drive, watch out for a whining or humming noises from the drivetrain. This would indicate a problem. Watch for knocking, clunking or rattling noise from the steering when driving over small bumps or rough road. When the car is parked, try to shake the steering left and right; there should be no clunking noises. Check for leaks. Check the engine oil level; low oil level could be an indication that the engine burns oil. If any of the warning lights come on after the engine is started, this indicates a problem. Some of the issues causing the "Check Engine" light to come on could be quite expensive to repair. For example, some of the issues with an evaporative system could require a replacement of the charcoal canister; which is a few hundred dollar repair. Read more what to look for when buying a used car. Before buying a used RAV4, have it inspected by your mechanic.
Guides for used car buyers:

Maintenance: Change engine oil regularly. Toyota recommends using 5W-20 or 0W-20 oil for the 4-cylinder engine and 5W-30 oil for the V6. Keep the engine coolant and other fluids clean and topped up. When adding or changing transmission fluid, make sure to use only the recommended type; wrong transmission fluid type can cause problems. In 4WD models you also have the transfer case oil and the rear differential oil that need to be changed in recommended intervals. The US Toyota Owners website offers a lot of information on maintenance and ownership, including how-to videos, owner's manuals and more. To check a maintenance schedule for a Canadian vehicle, visit Toyota.ca website and follow For Owners > Service Your Vehicle > Maintenance Menu.
You might also be interested:

Safety Recalls - NHTSA - check for recalls.
Transport Canada - Motor Vehicle Safety Recalls - check for recalls in Canada.
Toyota Owners - maintenance schedules, electronic owner's manual and how-to videos.

2011 Toyota RAV4 specifications

Dimensions (4WD model):
Overall length:
Overall width:
with over fender:
without over fender:
Overall height:
Ground clearance
181.9 in (4620 mm)

73.0 in (1855 mm)
71.5 in (1815 mm)
68.7 in (1745 mm)
104.7 in (2660 mm)
7.5 in (190 mm)

Seating Capacity:


Cargo Volume (5-seat model):

Behind Front Seats:
Behind Rear Seat:

73.2 cu. ft.
35.9 cu. ft.

Towing Capacity:

4-cylinder model:
V6 model:

1500 lb. (680 kg)
3500 lb. (1587 kg)

Turning circle:

4-cylinder model:
V6 model:

37.4 ft (11.4 m)
39.4 ft (12.0 m)


4-cylinder models:

V6 models:

2.5-Liter, 4-Cylinder, DOHC, 16-Valve,
Dual Variable Valve Timing w/intelligence (Dual VVT-i),
179 hp @ 6000 rpm, 172 lb. ft. @ 4000 rpm

3.5-Liter, V6, DOHC, 24-Valve,
Dual Variable Valve Timing w/intelligence (Dual VVT-i),
269 hp @ 6200 rpm, 246 lb. ft. @ 4700 rpm
EPA Estimated Fuel Economy:

2WD 2.5L 4-cylinder engine:

2WD 3.5L V6 engine:

4WD 2.5L 4-cylinder engine:

4WD 3.5L V6 engine:

city: 22 mpg (10.7 L/100 km)
hwy: 28 mpg (8.4 L/100 km)

city: 19 mpg (12.4 L/100 km)
hwy: 27 mpg (8.7 L/100 km)

city: 21 mpg (11.2 L/100 km)
hwy: 27 mpg (8.7 L/100 km)

city: 19 mpg (12.4 L/100 km)
hwy: 26 mpg (9.0 L/100 km)

Recommended Fuel: Regular unleaded

Fuel Tank Capacity:

15.9 US gal (60 liters)

Oil capacity:
Oil change, with filter:
2.5 L 4−cylinder (2AR−FE) engine:
3.5 L V6 (2GR−FE) engine:

4.7 qt. (4.4 L)
6.4 qt. (6.1 L)