Grandma's holiday helper: 2015 Toyota Rav4 Limited

As a freelance writer working from home, I don't have to do a lot of driving. Until holiday time, that is. There's all the shopping, the visiting, the touring holiday displays that light up the neighborhood, and more.

toyota rav4 

For all that extra driving on my itinerary this past Christmas, I had the pleasure of tooling about in a 2015 Toyota RAV4 Limited AWD SUV, courtesy Toyota and Rocky Mountain Redline. The vehicle the nice Rocky Mountain Redline reps delivered to me was beautifully decked out in a merry holiday color called Barcelona Red Metallic. I couldn't wait to hop in and get on the road to complete my holiday shopping.

toyota rav4

toyota rav4 keyless startThe first thing I couldn't help but notice was the keyless start of the Rav4 Limited. As long as the fob is in the driver's possession, it takes only a push of the start button to start the engine.

The vehicle can be started remotely with a special combination of pushes on the fob, which is great for warming up the car on cold Colorado days and nights. I found that by starting it remotely, the car locks and as soon as you unlock to get in, it shuts off the RAV4 — which makes it nearly impossible for dirty-deed doers to nab the running vehicle.

The Toyota RAV4 included the Entune™ Premium Audio with Navigation and App Suite, which provided all kinds of applications and options for stereo, smartphone, navigational and informational fun.

In other words, there was all this to figure out:

toyota rav4 entune

The touchscreen provided apps with options for all the navigational help I could possibly need. Plus all the music I could fathom listening to — thanks to the hundreds of SiriusXM channels — as I did my holiday shopping. And though it looks a bit overwhelming and complicated, it's relatively user friendly. And when help is needed — especially with the radio or destination options — there's a voice command button that literally talks drivers through the desired function.

The most useful of the features displayed on the screen? The backup camera and assistance (below shows backing out of my driveway).

toyota rav4 backup camera

Happy in my merry red RAV4, I accomplished the last of my gift shopping and my holiday meal grocery shopping — which is always a larger order than my regular grocery store trips, so I appreciated the spacious storage area in the back of the RAV4. The slide cover to protect goods in the back (and keep thieves from seeing holiday gifts that could lead to a smash-and-grab situation) was smart and easy to use.

toyota rav4

I loved the power liftgate on the RAV4. I just pressed a button on the key fob and the gate opened; when I was done loading the groceries, I pressed it again and the gate magically closed, slowly and securely. Especially useful in the crowded parking lots during the holidays was the Rear Cross Traffic Alert that beeped to let me know when I put the SUV in reverse while a line of shoppers wanting my spot waited behind me.

Errands weren't the only driving I did in the snazzy 2015 Toyota RAV4. Jim and I drove about looking at holiday lights and enjoying music on the super sound system — and were nice and cozy while doing so.

The roomy RAV4 was also super for taking our youngest daughter and her boyfriend along with us to the Christmas Eve candlelight service. Our own car is rather small, so it was delightful having plenty of space for the two of them — something my daughter's 6'4" boyfriend appreciated. My daughter noted the rear-seat cupholders (plus the bottle holders in the doors) were cool, and we all loved the seat warmers as temps were sub-zero at the time.

rav4 interior

When my three grandsons last visited, we worried how in the world we'd fit two booster seats and a baby car seat in the back of our little car. It worked, but was quite tight. The RAV4 backseat at four feet wide — plus the included LATCH system for child restraints — makes the RAV4 exactly the vehicle I need next time my grandkiddos come to town. (hint, hint)

At the front of the RAV4 are some nifty features, too.

Rav4 features

From top left:

  • buttons that allow two drivers to set the seat position as they like and return to it with only a push of a button next time they drive (which is particularly nice when there's a foot difference in height between drivers, as is the case with my husband and me);
  • generous cupholders and easily accessible gear shift and parking brake;
  • voice command and easy-to-use Bluetooth command buttons on the right side of the steering wheel (Bluetooth setup seems simple but I didn't do it because I just don't like talking on the phone while driving);
  • dual-zone climate controls that allow different heating/cooling options for driver and passenger — a super feature for those of us experiencing hot flashes... and cold flashes);
  • and stereo controls on the left side of the steering wheel.

Jim and I hadn't had a chance to see our youngest daughter's home decked out for the holidays before Christmas, so we used the opportunity with the RAV4 to drive to Denver and check it out before she took down her decorations. It was an ideal way to see how the RAV4 does on long distances.

Bottom line: We loved it, thanks in large part to the cushy, comfy seats — even for my tall husband, who could stretch full out in the passenger seat. Mostly, though, because of all the helpful applications and options I mentioned above.

toyota rav4

On the way to Denver and back, we got full use of the navigational system. It was pretty cool to just speak our daughter's address and have it set into the system then be guided to her front door by a pleasant (female) voice. The same voice notified us well in advance of stop-and-go or slow traffic ahead. Other useful features I relied on for the extended drive: the Blind Spot Monitor that notified me of vehicles in lanes I may want to change to; the Lane Departure Alert that told me to get the heck back in my lane; the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (something I've long wanted since learning that a ridiculous number of traffic accidents are related to over- or under-inflated tires); and the easy-to-set cruise control.

The day after we went to Denver, Jim and I decided to use my final full day with the Toyota RAV4 to take a Sunday drive. (Remember when people used to take Sunday drives?) Our drive of choice was to the top of Palmer Park in Colorado Springs, which affords a fabulous view of America's Mountain, Pikes Peak.

toyota rav4

The car handled the curves and climb with ease. (And I promise I stopped to take those photos; I did not shoot while driving!) My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the music on our smooth and comfortable ride — our last in the beauty.

Then Monday morning bright and early, the Rocky Mountain Redline folks returned to reclaim their vehicle. I was sad to see the RAV4 go. It had been such a huge help for finishing up my holiday chores. Plus, it just looked pretty darn awesome — and at home — in my driveway.

toyota rav4

The 2015 RAV4 Limited AWD SUV has an MSRP of $29,850 ($33,808 outfitted as my test vehicle). Fuel economy is 22 city and 29 highway. Find all the specs and such at

Disclosure: Toyota offered me the opportunity to test drive this vehicle for free; all opinions and pictures are my own.