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Remember When the RAV4 Was the Fastest Toyota?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro November 2016

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.

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.

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Used 2006 Toyota RAV4 4WD
Used 2006 Toyota RAV4
$6,871
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Used 2006 Toyota RAV4 2WD
Used 2006 Toyota RAV4
$7,994
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Used 2006 Toyota RAV4 2WD
Used 2006 Toyota RAV4
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Remember When the RAV4 Was the Fastest Toyota? - Autotrader