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2021 Toyota RAV4: Choosing the Right Trim

Toyota’s hot-selling RAV4 crossover is also one of the best-selling SUVs on the market, and it’s easy to see why. The RAV4 combines a feature-filled interior with cutting-edge safety systems, all wrapped in expressive styling far removed from previous RAV4 designs.

Although priced slightly higher than a comparably equipped AWD Subaru Forester, the RAV4’s pricing is on par with most other competitors. Unlike the Honda CR-V, Toyota provides many option choices and more trims, allowing buyers to customize their RAV4.

2021 Toyota RAV4 LE (starting at $26,150)

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 LE is the most basic of the RAV4 models. Yet, it comes equipped with must-have essentials such as pre-collision avoidance with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning with lane tracing assist, auto high-beam headlights, and adaptive cruise control. This grouping of driver assists is part of the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 system, and it comes standard on every RAV4.

Like every gas-powered RAV4, the LE is motivated by a 203-horsepower, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine teamed to an 8-speed automatic that, thankfully, is not a CVT.

Even if you don’t check off the option for blind-spot monitoring or the numerous dealer-installed accessories, you’ll still get a well-equipped vehicle. Standard fare includes power windows, power door locks, power side mirrors, LED headlights, 17-inch wheels with styled covers, rear privacy glass, rear wiper/washer, manual air conditioning, a 60/40 split-bench back seat, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, and sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors.

In the audio and infotainment arena, the RAV4 includes a 6-speaker radio with a 7-inch touchscreen capable of connecting to Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa. The system also includes Bluetooth music streaming capability and SiriusXM satellite radio. Also included is a rear backup camera.

Assuming full MSRP with destination charge, a 2021 Toyota RAV4 LE sells for $27,325. On a 60-month loan at 3%, the monthly payment would around $490 a month.  Find a Toyota RAV4 LE for sale

2021 Toyota RAV4 LE includes:

  • Dynamic Radar Cruise Control – the system allows the driver to set and maintain a safe distance between the RAV4 and the vehicle ahead. DRCC can even slow the RAV4 and then speed up again as traffic ebbs and flows.
  • Automatic high-beam headlights – in dimly lit situations, the RAV4’s auto high beams monitor oncoming traffic to determine when the high beams need dimming. Once cleared, the high beams are reactivated for maximum illumination.
  • Smartphone app integration – The RAV4’s standard audio allows connection with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, or Amazon Alexa, allowing you to stream music, access navigation, read and respond to text messages, and interface with apps such as Pandora and Spotify.
  • Rear backup camera – This helpful tool — which is now federally mandated on new cars — allows the driver to see behind the vehicle when placed in reverse. It even includes guidelines to help determine the exact proximity to cars or curbs.

2021 Toyota RAV4 XLE Premium ($30,150)

Two steps above the RAV4 LE is the RAV4 XLE Premium. This model sits square in the middle of the RAV4 lineup, offering more standard and optional equipment than the base LE while still keeping the price tag in the $30,000 range.

The XLE Premium scores big in its standard equipment roster, riding on 19-inch wheels and equipped with fog lights and color-keyed heated outside mirrors with integrated turn signals. Up top, a one-touch power glass moonroof lets in sun and air, while around back a height-adjustable power liftgate aids with loading.

Other standard features include Smart Key proximity key entry, dual-zone automatic climate control with rear-seat vents, SofTex faux leather seating surfaces, and an 8-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar support.

Ironically, almost every RAV4 competitor includes heated front seats at this price point, but on the Premium you’ll have to pay an additional $1,075 as part of the Weather Package upgrade.

Rounding out the XLE Premiums standard bag of goodies is a leather-wrapped steering wheel, sun visors with sliding extensions, five USB ports, two 12-volt outlets, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and an idle start/stop cut-off system the driver can deactivate.

The Premium trim opens the door to several upgrades. Among them are the aforementioned heated front seats, an 11-speaker JBL audio system, front and rear parking assistant with automatic braking, rain-sensing wipers, two-person driver’s seat memory, a heated steering wheel, and a wireless charging pad.

Using the same formula as we did with the LE trim, a loan for an XLE Premium at 3% for 60 months would add about $75 to the monthly payment, or roughly $565 a month before options.  Find a Toyota RAV4 XLE Premium for sale

2021 Toyota RAV4 XLE Premium includes:

  • Smart Key – simply approach the vehicle with the fob on your person, touch the front door handles or rear hatch, and the vehicle will unlock. Once inside, a push of a button is all that’s needed to start the RAV4.
  • Dual-zone auto climate control – allows the driver and passenger to set their preferred area temperature. Also included with this system are rear-seat vents.
  • Power liftgate – the height-adjustable power rear liftgate can be activated with a push of a button, making loading and unloading much more manageable.
  • One-touch power moonroof – allows sun or air into the car or can be set to a vent position to minimize wind buffeting when the rear windows are down.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Adventure ($33,255)

As Toyota’s answer to the Subaru Outback and Jeep Cherokee, the Adventure trim is a significant departure from most RAV4 siblings. It is intended to provide a bit more off-road ability while still achieving all the requirements of an urban compact SUV.

The most noticeable difference between the LE, XLE, and Limited is the Adventure’s exterior appearance. Its front-end styling strongly resembles Toyota’s pickup trucks, bolstered by oversized wheel arch moldings and handsome 18-inch off-road wheels and tires. The Adventure also gets a unique color palette, including two-tone paint treatments with a gray roof.

The interior styling is more rugged, with a patterned seat design, orange stitching on the seats and a dash pad, and orange accents throughout.

Standard equipment includes heated outside mirrors, Smart Key proximity key entry with push-button start, raised black roof rails, active grille shutter and aerodynamic underbody panels, dual-zone automatic climate control, digital speedometer with a 7-inch multi-information display screen, 8-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar support, a 12-volt outlet in the cargo bay, 8-in touchscreen, backup camera with dynamic guidelines, blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert, and auto on/off headlights.

Mechanically, the Adventure comes standard with a specially designed all-wheel-drive system tailored for off-road use. The Dynamic Torque Vectoring system can send torque directly to whichever rear wheel has the best grip. In contrast, the Rear Driveline Disconnect disables the system for better fuel economy when AWD isn’t needed. The system has a two-mode rotary selector positioned next to the shift lever for snow, mud & sand, or rock & dirt. It also includes a downhill assist button. The Adventure’s tow rating is set at 3,500 pounds, 2,000 pounds more than a standard RAV4.

Options for the Adventure are limited to two packages that include heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a power liftgate, and a power sunroof. Sorry audio fans, no JBL or navigation here. Oh, and no memory seat option, either. To get JBL, navigation, and parking sensors, you’ll need to move to the more expensive TRD Off-Road trim.

At $34,430, the RAV4 Adventure’s monthly payment would come in at about $620, or about $55 more than an XLE Premium. Find a Toyota RAV4 Adventure for sale

2021 Toyota RAV4 Adventure includes:

  • Dynamic Torque Vectoring – senses rear-wheel slippage and mechanically moves power to the wheel with the best traction.
  • Multi-Terrain Selector – allows the driver to better adjust power distribution and throttle response depending on conditions on the ground.
  • Extended roof rails – allows for carrying heavy loads on top of the roof or special adapters for bikes, kayaks, and skies.
  • Blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert – alerts the driver when a vehicle is approaching or driving in the vehicle’s blind spot. Rear cross-traffic alert monitors the vehicle’s rear and alerts when cross-traffic is coming from either side when in reverse.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Limited ($34,680)

The most luxurious of the RAV4 line is the Limited, which comes with Lexus-like levels of equipment and options, though not the same levels of quiet or engine refinement. Unlike every other top-line competitor, the RAV4 Limited does not offer genuine leather seating, only a very good imitation called SofTex.

The RAV4 Limited builds off the XLE Premium, adding features such as an 8-way power driver’s seat with 2-position memory, heated front seats, Smart Key keyless entry with push-button start, height-adjustable power rear liftgate, digital rearview mirror camera, and blue illumination in the front console, cup holders and footwells.

Also included in the Limited’s price is an 11-speaker JBL audio system with a powered subwoofer, 8-in touchscreen with navigation, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and front and rear park assist with automatic braking.

Options for the Limited include a panoramic glass moonroof, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, rain-sensing wipers, bird’s-eye view 360-degree camera, a foot-activated power liftgate, and a wireless smartphone charging pad.

With no options added, a Limited with destination would list for just shy of $35,900. A 60-month loan at 3% financing would yield a $644 monthly payment or about $80 a month over the XLE Premium. Find a Toyota RAV4 Limited for sale

2021 Toyota RAV4 Limited includes:

  • Digital rearview mirror – uses a rear-mounted camera to project a digital image onto a rearview mirror screen. The system gives a much clearer picture of what’s behind the vehicle, particularly helpful if people or cargo are blocking the view out.
  • JBL Audio – with 11-speakers including a powered subwoofer, this system is a music lover’s dream come true.
  • Navigation – useful on long trips cross country or just a quick run to the nearest Starbucks, onboard navigation uses GPS, not cell-phone towers, to safely get you anywhere in the continental US.
  • Hands-free power liftgate – useful for when your arms are filled, or you need to open the liftgate from a distance (like when it’s raining outside).

Joe Tralongo
Joe Tralongo is a longtime contributor who started in the industry writing competitive comparison books for a number of manufacturers, before moving on in 2002 to become a freelance automotive journalist. He’s well regarded for his keen eye for detail, as well as his ability to translate complex mechanical terminology into user-friendly explanations. Joe has worked for a number of outlets as... Read More about Joe Tralongo

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