The RAV4 was originally based on the Corolla platform, and was offered in both two and four-door versions. In the US, a 2.0L straight-4 producing 120hp (89kW) was offered. Both Front wheel drive and Four-wheel drive were available, and the RAV4 could be had with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. In 1998, the RAV4 was slightly restyled on the front and rear fascias, and a soft-top two-door was made available exclusively in the US market. Horsepower was increased slightly to 127. In 1999, the two-door hardtop was dropped from the American lineup, leaving the 4-door and soft-top models.
One interesting version, the RAV4 EV, was an all-electric 'zero-emission' model offered for sale in small quantities in California. These models came with a 60,000-mile (97,000km) battery warranty, and the vehicles still command high prices on the used-car market. One sold in 2006 on eBay for over US$50,000.
A significant criticism of the gasoline-powered first generation RAV4s, often called '4.1s', was that they were underpowered, and had relatively poor fuel economy via their 3SFE engines that were designed for earlier Camrys and 1987-1989 Toyota Celica GT, 1990-1993 S-R and Z-R, as well as 1994-1999 SS-I. Later generations of RAV4s, the so-called '4.2s' and '4.3s', have addressed this concern.
The second generation RAV4 went on sale in the middle of 2000, and came in base Edge and upmarket Cruiser models (model designations may vary according to market), in both 3- and 5-door configurations. The main differentiation between the two models was in appearance. Edge models came with unpainted grey bumpers and side cladding, mirrors, and door handles, and featured steel rims. Cruiser models gained body-coloured (painted) bumpers and moldings, mirrors, and door handles, alloy wheels, and ABS brakes. All models came equipped with a brand-new 2.0 litre 4-cylinder engine featuring VVT (variable valve timing), resulting in improved power and torque, as well as fuel consumption. Permanent all-wheel-drive was a feature. Options were ABS brakes (on the Edge), and air conditioning (on all models).