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Remember When the RAV4 Was the Fastest Toyota?

What was the fastest Toyota product in the mid-2000s? Think about it for a second, and maybe you’ll guess the Celica. Nope, that wasn’t it. The Matrix XRS? Nope, that wasn’t it, either. The Supra? Nope — it was gone by the mid-1990s. But if you guessed the RAV4, you’re right on the money. Also, you probably read the title.

Though it may be difficult to believe, the third-generation Toyota RAV4 was the fastest Toyota on the market beginning with its 2006 debut and for several years afterwards. Not the base-level 4-cylinder model, of course, but the V6 version — or, as I call it, the Toyota RAV4 GT. See the used Toyota RAV4 models for sale near you

Here’s how this happened: When the RAV4 first came out in 1996, it was a tiny little SUV that really only needed a 4-cylinder. It was the same story when the RAV4 was redesigned in 2001. But then, in 2006, when Toyota came out with the third-generation RAV4, it had grown juuuuuust enough for Toyota to decide it should offer a V6.

And rather than put in some puny little V6 they’d have to develop specifically for smaller models like the RAV4, they went for the V6 that powered most Toyota vehicles — including the Avalon full-size sedan, the Sienna minivan, and the Highlander midsize crossover. The result was a compact SUV with 270 horsepower and a 0-to-60 time of something like 6.5 seconds. And it was a real sleeper: Even if you happened to know the V6-powered RAV4 was unusually fast, you’d have to notice the small "V6" badge on the outside to know you were looking at the hot-rod version.

Eventually, the RAV4 gave up the "fastest Toyota" title — but not because Toyota offered up something even faster. Instead, the automaker decided to kill the V6 engine when the RAV4 was redesigned for 2013 — probably because most buyers didn’t really need their small SUV to accelerate like a sports car. Find a used Toyota RAV4 for sale

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