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Where the Pavement Ends – Toyota RAV4/Subaru Ascent

Experience life firsthand with the help of these remarkably user-friendly crossover SUVs.

Test Drive: Toyota Rav4

Toyota’s RAV4 is ready for any terrain.

(Photo: Toyota)

Mentioning the Toyota RAV4 – the original car-based crossover SUV – likely conjures up images of the classic suburban runabout. This fifth-generation version, now built on the underpinnings of the midsize Camry sedan, heads off in an entirely different direction, however, with a new model called the Adventure.

It’s much more ready-for-anything attitude starts with its additional ground clearance, now a healthy 8.6 inches. A unique all-wheel-drive system with driver-selectable presets for sans-pavement situations ranging from mud to sand to rocks gives it additional flexibility, though it’s still not designed for tackling the toughest trails.

On the pavement, the RAV4 Adventure offers smooth ride quality and handling that inspires confidence. If you find yourself wishing for a little more oomph than its 203-horsepower four-cylinder engine provides, that’s where the noticeably quicker (and more fuel-efficient) RAV4 Hybrid comes in.

Inside is a quiet, roomy cabin with upgraded materials and comforts, such as a power liftgate. Toyota’s suite of advanced safety systems is also standard. Put it all together and you’ll be ready to tackle your next adventure – even if it’s only a run to the corner store – with an unmatched level of gusto.

Test Drive: Subaru Ascent

Suburu’s Ascent is both roomy and compact.

(Photo: Subaru)

Driving an eight-passenger vehicle often feels as though you’re the captain of a cruise ship, a reality that makes the all-new Subaru Ascent a notable exception.

In my daylong test drive, this new midsize SUV defied common wisdom by feeling like a much smaller vehicle. Contributing to that impression was a suspension that delivered a refined ride quality and nimble handling. The resulting package felt less like a scaled-down full-size SUV and more like a scaled-up compact crossover.

The 260-horsepower turbocharged, horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine gave the Ascent surprisingly lively acceleration. Subaru’s new continuously variable automatic transmission helps, while managing to avoid the downsides of similar designs like an endlessly droning engine sound.

Rounding out the powertrain details is Subaru’s trademark all-wheel-drive, designed to help you navigate bad roads and weather. Figure in the Ascent’s 8.7 inches of ground clearance and you can take the whole clan out exploring what lies beyond the pavement’s end. Add 86.5 cubic feet of cargo room and 5,000-pound towing capacity and you can take lots of toys along for the ride.

Looking for a new ride? Check out more car reviews at AAA.com/TestDrive.

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