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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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Doug Demuro
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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  1. Right on DD,

    The majority of buyers were women and the majority of their  thinking goes as follows;
    “What do I need 2 extra cylinders for?? It’s just going use a lot more gas, plus I don’t need the speeding tickets!”
     I think only @10% of Rav’s were sold as 6 bangers, back then.
    Also, I think Toyota just figured they could offer more passenger room if they could design a smaller engine box since every Rav that rolled off the assembly line would be 4cyl.
    Bottom line: The vast majority of Rav customers, Male or Female, were also skinflints so they just didn’t care to pay for more power.

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