Kickin’ it with the RAV4 Platinum AWD SUV

The hands-free or foot-activated power lift gate concept is not new to the auto industry, but it is to Toyotas in North America. And they’ve debuted it in the 2017 RAV4 Platinum AWD SUV, which has its own way of doing it. With other vehicles, I’ve swiped and waved my foot under the rear bumper area to gain access to the cargo area. So that’s exactly what I did with the Platinum’s kick-type hands-free power liftgate – over and over.

I had the smart key fob with me, which is necessary, but still the liftgate did not open. After a few repetitions of leg exercises in a public parking lot while holding a heavy box, out of frustration I dramatically kicked toward the license plate. It opened. Hence the name “kick-type.” For those who haven’t mastered the art of the kick, the not-so-old fashion way of using the smart key and pushing the button is still available.

During my review of the SUV, which features a full-body colored Blizzard Pearl trim and badging, I was also introduced to the bird’s eye view camera with perimeter scan, overhead 360 degree view in drive and reverse, and curb view. This allows you to see what’s around the car, and allows you to get in and out of small spaces easily. This technology is magical. I can imagine how invaluable this feature is to families with small children who may wander. The feature did require assistance during a period of sleet that left a haze on the camera. I was quick to exit the vehicle to go clear the view.

When it came to the drive performance, my preference between the eco and sport modes was the sport mode for the stiffer and more enthusiastic energy and spirit. But I wasn’t opposed to eco mode for better fuel efficiency.

As expected this top of the line new Platinum offers high levels of standard technology and luxury that include: power moonroof, roof rails, SofTex- trimmed seats, heated front seats, 8-way power driver’s seat, and a frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror. Platinum-specific standard features include a heated steering wheel, foot well ambient lighting, plush floor mats, and “Platinum”-badged door sill protectors. The lower four grades include: LE, XLE, SE, Limited. The Limited and Platinum grades feature 18-inch five-spoke Superchrome alloy wheels with P235/55R18 all-season tires.

The stylish interior of the five-seater appears to be extremely spacious, and it is to a point. I received rave reviews from the back seat, which featured reclining, fold-flat seats. However, the swerved dash in the front is not exactly the right fit for everyone. If you have long legs, one knee may brush up against the protruding part of the swerve.

There is a lot to admire about this SUV, but the most intriguing to me is the ability to lock all doors by touching two small lines on the door handles. I could do so from the front or back doors. I just touched it, felt a little magnetic surge of confirmation, and confidently walked away. It’s a seamless and dignified process that I’ll remember most from this test drive.

Kickin’ it with the RAV4 turned out to be drama free after all.

2017 Toyota RAV4 Platinum AWD SUV MSRP: $36,150; Combined City/Highway: 24.

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