It's not every day I find myself in a RAV4. Among Toyota's top-selling vehicles, this is one I haven't had the pleasure of meeting. Painted Pacific Blue Metallic, this top-of-the-line Limited model is fitted with the 3.5-liter V-6, all-wheel drive, and looks like an unassuming family schlepper. Would it be appropriate to dub it a sleeper?

Anyway, let's get rolling. Crikey, how do I adjust the side mirrors on this thing? (*A minute or two later*) Ah, the side mirror toggle is down on the center console between the auxiliary audio jack and the parking brake. Why is the traction-control switch next to the seat-warmer buttons? I really should be paying more attention to the drive than to my trivial attempt at critiquing the interior. If only I weren't stuck in another Los Angeles traffic jam. Drat. Hands up if you didn't see that coming...

(*An hour and 20 miles later*)

I'm getting tired. Since this particular RAV4 has no USB input, I can't listen to my own tunes, and the local radio is starting to get old. Worst of all, the freeway monotony seems to have dulled my mental processes. I'm languishing away, ensnared in a motorcade bind that I'd rather not be a part of...oh, good, traffic is clearing up. I'll just push my right foot farther down into the footwell...

That's when I was re-introduced to what the V-6 and all-wheel drive can do. It's no secret that power can be addictive, regardless of vehicle packaging, and the RAV4 V-6's performance did manage to turn heads back in 2006 (the current generation's first model year). Save for the Audi Q5 3.2 (270 hp) and BMW X3 xDrive35i (300 hp), no other small crossover can trump the RAV4's 269 horsepower. And even then, the Toyota CUV doesn't have much company: Only the Acura RDX (240 hp), Kia Sportage SX (260 hp), Mazda CX-7 s (244 hp), and Mercedes-Benz GLK350 (268 hp) are within striking distance.