Back in 1994 Toyota took a bold step forward by introducing the first cross-over utility vehicle (CUV) into the South African market. My recollections of the 1st RAV4 are a mixture of hazy moments of wishing so much that I owned one of those cheeky and spunky vehicles that a number of my girl friends owned. Unfortunately, driving that 3-door wonder never happened back in the day.
Since then, Toyota distributes the RAV4 in over 150 countries and over three generations they have sold more than 4.5 million units since the launch. Currently in South Africa we currently have more than 15 vehicles that claim to be a “compact SUV”.
Needless to say, when the invitation to the 4th generation RAV4 floated into my inbox, I nabbed the launch! Finally I was to drive a RAV!
Glenn Crompton, Vice President of Marketing, is upbeat about the newcomer: “Now in its fourth iteration, Toyota has put its superior experience to good use in the all-new 2013 RAV4. It has evolved both stylistically and dynamically; not only does it sport dramatic lines and a more mature interior, but it also offers a more engaging driving experience i.e. it blends all the best bits from its predecessors and adds a pleasing quality twist to proceedings while retaining the original model’s commitment to fun.”
The new generation RAV4 comes in three variants. A 2.0-litre valvematic petrol 2 wheel drive with a 6-speed manual engine or Multidrive CVT box, a 2.2-litre D-4D diesel 6-speed manual and a 2.5-litre VVT-i petrol engine mated to a 6-speed automatic gearbox.
If you recall, the original RAV was pretty much, in my mind, a ladies car. The new RAV, however, according to the communications team at Toyota SA, is also targeting the male market. Family men who have active lifestyles are ambitious and outdoorsy is what the new RAV4 is all about.
The RAV4 is noticeably enveloped by the underpinnings of Toyota’s new design language. The rear view definitely sees a big change. The trademark spare wheel that was located on the rear tailgate has been relocated to inside the boot creating a far more sophisticated appearance to the vehicle. The boot entry and access is lower than the previous generation and makes for easy lifting of heavy objects at a far more accessible level.
The tailgate is now top-hinged which also transfers into weight reduction and more packing space in the boot due to the new curved door design.
Overall the new model is lower, wider and longer. The front grille is fairly narrow, with chrome trim. Toyotas new “Keen Look” (feline-eyed) headlamps incorporate LED Daytime Running Lights.
Overall, the new RAV4 is more muscular looking with a definite air of sophistication and class.
The ergonomics of the interior are pretty faultless. They are sophisticated and emulate a cockpit type feel. Plenty of soft padding is found on the instrument panel. The cabin is spacious and accommodating. Newly shaped seatbacks make for a really comfortable ride. Toyotas design team has, in addition, added high quality materials to the finishes and the mixture of silver, leather and metallic, blend well and are most pleasing to the eye. I really enjoy the cool, blue back-lighting on the instrument panel.
With fuel prices soaring out of control and the ever pressing environmental issues we face, it is reassuring to hear that this new generation RAV4 has reduced the vehicles CO2 emissions by 11% in both petrol and diesel variants.
On the road and on gravel, the RAV4 delivers. Its Integrated Dynamic Drive System handles most anything that is thrown at it. On launch we drove on road and off-road in dry and wet conditions, thanks to the four seasons a day in the Eastern Cape! When we went off-road in the Outeniqua mountain pass on gravel and through slippery mud conditions we couldn’t phase her one bit. She just throws herself around corners with the utmost of ease.
The bottom line is the new Rav4 is fun to drive and yet never waivers in the confidence department.