It is always a joy to drive a well made car from a world manufacturer with a great technical expertise.
The Toyota RAV4 is such a car, superbly engineered, offering just what you want in terms of comfort, ride, performance, looks, and last but not least, low maintenance cost, solidity, longevity and frugality. It is presently in its fourth generation, and comes now with many improvements.
We tell you here more about our driving impressions during this test...
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The new RAV4 2.0 D -4D Manual FWD we drove really looks quite good from any angle, and its fluent body lines will withstand the test of time. We like the roof silhouette, the rear and front end styling, the big wheels. The RAV4 also gives a very "grown up" impression, without however looking massive, and that is a great compliment we can give to any SUV.
The bodywork has also an excellent finish, everything fits flush, the doors and rear hatch open and close smoothly and softly.
Getting into the car, we were quite pleased with the redesigned interior and dashboard and instrument cluster, all the well positioned controls, so it was hardly suprising that we immediately felt quite at home in the car.
We liked the big round speedo dial, the well positioned heater/aicro/ventilation controls, the easy to handle audio and navigation system. The RAV4 is a car you can get fully acquainted with in a mere five minutes, without even touching the owners`manual. And that is were a good car makes friends in a household.
We liked the big round speedometer and the blue-lit instrument cluster. The average consumption was 5,5 litres/100 km.
Smooth engine and driveline
We already mentioned to you, dear reader, that driving a car slowly is a very good way to reveal its qualities. And of course, the RAV4 2.0 D -4D excels in this discipline. The clutch takes up super smoothly, the gearbox changes at crawling speeds without any jerkiness or vibrations, the new 2.0 litre D-4D diesel does take up power without any vibration from 800 rpm onwards. The unit is smooth, frugal and has more than enough power. Starting is not noisy when cold, and it is good to know that the oil pan itself is of a twin tank design which warms the oil more quickly, further improving fuel efficiency and reducing engine noise.
It features also an oil pump which uses an electronically-controlled variable hydraulic pressure system to reduce engine friction and enhance fuel efficiency.
The Toyota RAV4 2.0 D -4D cruises beautifully at the legal speeds, and the engine is almost inaudible. One tends to use the good available torque of maximum 310 Nm of torque from 1,600 to 2,400 rpm, 300 Nm of which is available at only 1,400 rpm. And this shows amply in the very good pulling power through the gears.
As said, the gearbox is very smooth. The 6-speed manual we drove is fitted with a triple cone synchroniser for 1st to 3rd gears, and a double cone synchroniser for 4th gear, reducing the shift force required to give a smoother gear change.
When driven flat out, the RAV4 will accelerate from 0 to 100 in 10,5 seconds, and the top speeds is a good 180 kph.
Maximum power of 124 DIN hp (91 kW) is developed at 3,600 rpm. Needless to say that throughout our test we stayed in the lower rev ranges, where also the engine comes very much into its own.
The high quality of the materials gives a special ambiente to the RAV4 interior
The pleasant driving RAV4 (read more below) was moved rather spiritedly during the test, and this resulted in an average fuel consumption of 5,5 litres/100 km, which is very creditable indeed.
Toyota’s Stop & Start system is smooth and unobtrusive, and it also lowers average fuel consumption. The manufacturer quotes officially 4.9 l/100 km, which results in CO2 emissions of just 127 g/km.
Last but not least, the easy to use cruise control is also an accessory we appreciated (and used) almost constantly.
Fun to drive…
The RAV4 is indeed quite engaging to drive, and Toyota also meant it to be.
In conjunction with a new, more comfortable and more focused driving position, which we appreciated very much, there are retuned front and rear suspension systems.
The Electric Power Steering is revised and there is a newly developed Sport mode for its advanced, all-wheel drive, Integrated Dynamic Drive System.
Of course, our test car has “only” the Front Wheel drive system, but it handled beautifully in long fast curves and showed excellent, unerring straight line stability, even in stronger crosswinds.
The new RAV4 shares the MacPherson strut front and lightweight trailing arm double wishbone rear suspension of its predecessor.
The spring rate of the front suspension has been revised. The increased rigidity of the front suspension member stabilizer bracket promotes a smoother steering feel when cornering.
Contributing to both enhanced steering feel and improved ride comfort, friction in the inner structure of the shock absorber has been reduced, the characteristics of the stabiliser bushes have been optimised, and friction within them reduced through the use of a fluorine coating.
Similar measures have been adopted for the rear suspension system. The spring rate has been revised, and the diameter of the stabiliser bars increased to optimise the front/rear distribution of roll rigidity. The rear shock absorber and stabiliser bushes benefit from the same revisions as those made to the front suspension.
Of course, safety is also important. Not only are the brakes excellent, our test car was equipped with a “Blind Spot” Monitor system
The Blind Spot Monitor system notifies drivers of a vehicle travelling in an adjacent lane in their blind spot by illuminating the relevant indicator mounted in the outer door mirror surface.
The system uses radar sensors mounted on both sides of the rear of the new RAV4, which monitor the blind area of the driver. If the turn signal lamp switch is in operation, the indicator will flash at fixed intervals to alert the driver.
The RAV4 is also quite silent: noise has been reduced by the adoption of an acoustic windscreen which features an additional layer of acoustic film to reduce noise transmission. The aerodynamic shaping of the door mirrors also further reduces wind noise.
Various measures have been also been adopted to reduce the transmission of vibration to the cabin. Body panels that generate noise have been identified and fitted with vibration damping materials, front and rear suspension mounting points have been stiffened, and the shape of the steering knuckles optimised to improve the vibration characteristics of the front suspension and reduce road noise. The results are very convincing indeed.
Revised Electric Power Steering
The new RAV4 steers with precision. Indeed, both the installation and the ECU control of the Electric Power Steering (EPS) have been revised to combine a more comfortable driving position with improved steering precision and feel.
We liked the rear view camera...
The steering column has been tilted downward by 1 degree, and the installation angle of the new steering wheel has been changed from 27.6 to 25.3 degrees, moving it closer to the driver.
The Electronic Control Unit (ECU) and EPS have been integrated to reduce vehicle weight, and the adoption of a resin-coat intermediate shaft and revised software compliance has improved steering precision and feel.
The RAV4’s standard equipment package is further enhanced by a range of innovative, comfort and convenience enhancing features, including a Smart Entry & Start System, dual-zone air conditioning, new seat heaters, automatic tailgate operation, the Toyota Touch advanced multimedia system with USB/iPod connectivity and a rear camera, and the Toyota Touch & Go navigation systems.
The enhanced materials add to driving comfort...
We appreciated the automatic tailgate operation, which really comes in very handy once you get used to it. The system incorporates a memory function which automatically retains any selected opening height, so useful when your garage has a lower ceiling!
We liked the rear view camera and of course the Toyota Touch advanced multimedia system, which made selecting your favourite radio station a breeze. It incorporates AM/FM radio with an optional DAB/DAB+/DMB receiver, a CD/MP3 player, Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity with a music streaming facility, and a USB port for the connection of portable music players, with the facility to display iPod album cover art, no less!
Roomy and practical
The RAV4 I a good car to live with. The rear legroom is immense, the front to rear seat distance has increased up to a best-in-class 970 mm. This, allied to a new, thinner front seatback design, makes indeed for generous rear seat accommodation…
The 60:40 split folding rear seats themselves have been made more comfortable, benefitting from a rise in cushion surface angle of 2 degrees and revised side bolsters for improved support.
The rear seats can be folded down almost flush with the load space floor without the need to remove any seat cushions or headrests.
The length of the load space has increased to 1,025 mm, raising luggage capacity to 547 litres. Undertray storage has also increased by 51 litres from 49 to 100 litres (for versions equipped with a tyre repair kit).
The tapered rear end contributes to the excellent Cx value of 0,31...
The all-new interior design focuses also on higher quality finishes. The leading edge of the upper dashboard horizontal beam is trimmed with a metallic finish, whilst the lower beam takes the form of a sweeping, soft padded, synthetic leather clad panel, matched by identical treatment to the upper door panels.
Silver painted trim accents highlight the driver’s instruments, air vents, centre console instruments and gear lever, and both door switch panels and the transmission tunnel are finished with simulated carbon-fibre panels.
All instrument and switchgear back-lighting is now a Clear Blue colour; a crisp, cool after-dark illumination which brings sophistication and a powerful visual consistency to the new interior. We liked it very much!
As a conclusion, we appreciated the RAV4 for its comfort, driving pleasure, roominess, solidity and frugality. It is the car which “invented” four model generations ago the compact SUV segment, and it certainly still makes its mark!
Hans Knol ten Bensel