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1998 Toyota RAV4 Overview While it's no longer the new kid on the block, Toyota's RAV4 is upgraded for 1998 and is still a head-turner. More than 100,000 RAV4s have been sold in the U.S. since its introduction in 1996. With Toyota's reputation for quality, durability and reliability, it's no surprise that sales of this cute mini-utility continue to grow despite new and upgraded entries in its class. Although it has already made big waves in the small sport-utility segment, Toyota has gussied up the RAV4 for the new year. New are exterior design changes, performance upgrades, safety enhancements and a revised interior. It also shines in four new colors. When it was introduced, industry analysts weren't sure how to categorize the RAV4. Today, this new mini-utility segment is not only more established, but increasingly popular for its fuel-efficiency, compact size, and full-time four-wheel-drive system. In its two-door version, the RAV4 looks like an off-road toy, with an image akin to the Geo Tracker and the Suzuki Sidekick. Removable sunroof panels give it a beachy look. The two-door RAV4 offers a snug cockpit for four. The four-door RAV4 offers a more aerodynamic stance and is comparable to the Kia Sportage and the larger Honda CR-V. It offers some of the versatility of the mainstream compact sport-utilities, but with less room for people and parcels. The four-door model is 16 inches longer and rides on a longer wheelbase than the two-door and offers seatbelt hardware for five people. The RAV4 uses front-drive Camry sedan components and a unibody chassis, which give it a car-like demeanor. Two- and four-wheel-drive variations of the RAV4 are available. The four-wheel-drive models feature a lockable center differential (on manual transmissions) and an available torque-sensing, limited-slip rear differential. Even though the RAV4 lacks a low-range set of gears, its ground clearance (7.5 inches for the four-door, 7.7 for the two-door) is sufficient to make off-road driving feasible. The locking differential gives the RAV4 traction advantages over the all-wheel-drive Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester. The RAV4 has been compared to the Jeep Wrangler, though it cannot compete with the Wrangler in really rough going. There doesn't seem to be a consensus on the RAV4's unique styling, considered everything from cute to ugly duckling to extra-terrestrial. No matter what you call it, Toyota calls it a success.
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