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2013 Toyota RAV4 Review & First Drive

by Brad Leach -

  • OUR VERDICT: 4/5 rating4/5 rating4/5 rating4/5 rating4
  • PRICE RANGE: $28,490 - $49,990*
  • PROS: Nice new looks; spacious interior; lots of technology and kit
  • CONS: diesel towing capacity
  • Safety Rating: 
  • Green Rating: 
  • Fuel Consumption:  9.1L/100km
  • Write your own review

 

Like John Eales leading the Wallabies onto the pitch in a World Cup Rugby final, Toyota’s all-new RAV4 strides into the medium SUV segment facing stronger competition than ever before. And, like the Wallabies, the latest RAV4 comes to the game with an undoubted reputation for excellence, trained hard and is better than ever.

Good enough to lift the sales trophy at the end of the year? We’ll be watching closely. 



Unlike the previous generation Toyota RAV4, stiff competition for the newcomer comes in the form of Mazda’s all-new CX-5 which finished 2012 just a few hundred vehicles shy of the RAV4 in total sales but has been on top in recent months. CX-5 gets a more powerful 2.5-litre petrol engine from next week (the same time as the all-new Toyota RAV4 goes on-sale), within weeks there is an all-new made-in-Germany Ford Kuga and later this year, Nissan storms back with an all-new X-TRAIL.

So the Toyota RAV4 is under siege like never before.

 

Toyota RAV4 Overview


Headlining the all-new Toyota RAV4 is the first diesel model, a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel with 110kW/340Nm (129kW/420Nm from Mazda CX-5’s 2.2-litre turbo-diesel). There are extra variants (now 16) and new model names – entry-grade ‘GX’, mod-spec ‘GXL’ and range-topping ‘Cruiser’.

Diesel models are available in all three grades, however front-wheel-drive models are only available in GX and GXL.

RAV4’s 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engines are also new. Transmissions are a six-speed manual and six-speed automatic except for 2WD models which offer a seven-step CVT automatic with sequential manual mode. 



And all-wheel-drive models score a new Dynamic Torque Control AWD system to sharpen on-road dynamics.

No fourth-generation Toyota RAV4 is more expensive than its predecessor and for some models, the newcomer is $1500 less expensive. The new diesel models start at $35,490 and the entry-level GX with the six-speed automatic transmission ($37,990) undercuts the equivalent Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport diesel automatic by $1480.

This is the all-new Toyota RAV4 lineup:
2WD petrol New Previous Difference
GX $28,490 $28,990 -$500
GXL $32,490 $33,990 -$1500

AWD petrol New Previous Difference
GX $31,990 $31,990 0
GXL $35,490 $36,990 -$1500
Cruiser $42,990 $42,990 0

AWD diesel New
GX $35,490
GXL $38,990
Cruiser $46,990

Automatic transmission (CVT for 2WD, six-speed for the rest) adds $2500

 

Toyota RAV4 Engine


Entry to the all-new Toyota RAV4 lineup is the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder FWD model – the engine familiar from the Corolla Ultima sedan. Code-named the 3ZR-FE the dual VVT-i engine has been recalibrated for the RAV4 and delivers maximum power of 107kW at 6200rpm and peak torque of 187Nm at 3600rpm.

Drive is via either a six-speed manual transmission or the new MultiDrive Sport seven-step CVT with sequential manual mode. Fuel consumption is rated as low as 7.4l/100kms (combined cycle) when mated to the CVT and the 2WD RAV4 offers a towing capacity of 750kgs (unbraked trailer) or 800kgs (braked).

Toyota RAV4 AWD gets a new 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine (the 2AR-FE as used in the Camry) driving through either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Recalibrated for the RAV4, the 2.5-litre is good for 132kW at 6000rpm and peak torque of 233Nm at 4100rpm (114kW/200Nm for the current 2.0-litre petrol Mazda CX-5 but there’s a more powerful 2.5-litre version launching next week). 



The 2.5-litre petrol RAV4 delivers combined cycle fuel consumption of 8.5l/100kms with the six-speed auto and towing capacity is 750kgs (unbraked trailer) or 1500kgs (braked).

But the big news is RAV4’s first diesel – the 2AD-FTV, 2.2-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel which is common in many Toyota vehicles in Europe. Driving through either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission, both with RAV’s new Dynamic Torque Control AWD system, maximum power is 110kW at 3600rpm and peak torque of 340Nm is delivered from 2000 – 2800rpm but 300Nm is available from as low as 1700rpm.

Fuel consumption for the Toyota RAV4 diesel is rated at 5.6l/100kms combined cycle for the auto.

Some may be surprised the RAV4 turbo-diesel’s towing capacity is rated at 550kgs. Toyota says this is the first application of this drivetrain in Australia’s tough conditions so it has taken a conservative initial approach.

 

Toyota RAV4 The Interior


Current Toyota RAV4 owners may be startled by the all-new interior of the latest fourth-generation model. There’s a lot more sophistication in both looks and materials - providing a shift upscale wherever you look. 


There’s also more space – the front to rear seat couple distance has been lengthened to 972mm and thinner backs for the front seats deliver an extra 41mm for rear seat passengers.

Up-front, there’s a more driver-focused cockpit with a lower angle for the rake/reach adjustable steering wheel, an extra 15mm in set height adjustment and, in GXL and Cruiser models, more supportive sports front seats. As well, the new A-pillars are eight per-cent thinner in cross-sections for better visibility.

Toyota’s usual crisp instrumentation is there with ‘Clear Blue’ illumination and the dashboard gets a horizontal layout with nice metal highlights. 



The 60:40 split-fold rear seat has larger cushions, more recline angle and improved bolstering for better support.

Out back, there’s more cargo space and access is easier thanks to the new top-hinged tailgate (electronic control on Cruiser variant). With the rear seat in place, RAV4 delivers luggage capacity of 577-litres with the space saver spare wheel located underneath, or if you opt for the larger full-size spare (a $300 option) that diminishes just slightly to 506-litres.

 

Toyota RAV4 Exterior & Styling


According to Toyota RAV4 chief engineer, Makoto Arimoto, while the second and third generation RAV designs were evolutions of the original, the all-new fourth generation model represents a dramatic redesign. So while RAV retains some cues to its heritage, it’s instantly recognizable as one of the new generation of Toyota designs with some links to the excellent looks of the latest Corolla.

“We set ‘Strong Athlete’ as the overall concept for the new RAV4 – powerful, youthful, dependable,” explained Mr Arimoto, who visited Australia for the national media launch. 



Most noticeable is the piercing front-end with sharp headlights, LED DRLs and a black resin finish under the front bumper which also displays a protective skirt (also in the wheelarches for off-road protection).

The side view features prominent sculpturing for the fenders, blacked-out B and C-pillars to add some length, a rising beltline and tapered rear bodywork.

Relocation of the spare wheel underneath has allowed a one-piece top-hinged tailgate and the bulbous, high-mounted rear lights are cues from the Corolla.

GX models will normally ride on 17-inch steel wheels (as required by many fleet operators) but you can option the 17-inch alloys which are standard on all other RAV4s.

 

Toyota RAV4 On The Road


Toyota sent us to picturesque Merimbula on the NSW South Coast for a mixture of highway and bush track driving in a selection of the all-new RAV4 models. We tried the range-topping Cruiser model with the 2.4-litre petrol engine and a turbo-diesel in GXL grade.

There’s a lot of sophisticated electronic technology under the all-new RAV4 as we discovered in some severe ascents and descents in the bush – all made very easy thanks to downhill control and excellent wheel articulation. Like previous generation RAVs, the all-new model certainly possesses more off-road prowess than some more sealed road-biased rivals so if you’re thinking about that trip to the wilderness, RAV has some advantages. 



On-road there’s the expected Toyota RAV4 competency and refinement. The new six-speed manual transmission has obvious advantages over the previous five-speeder – the wider gear spread providing much better responsiveness for overtaking and when pressing-on hard in the twisty stuff.

Speaking of high-speed cornering and direct comparisons to the Mazda CX-5…well the RAV isn’t quite as ‘sporty’ in its dynamics as you’d expect with its MacPherson strut front/trailing arm double wishbone rear suspension configured for heavier duty off-road work. But there’s no doubt the all-new RAV is a step-up from its predecessor with nice turn-in and balance (albeit with a tad more body roll than the CX-5).

We did like RAV’s new turbo-diesel – lots of torque across the range and low noise levels.

 

Toyota RAV4 Challenges


We listened intently while Toyota product planning chief Mark Dobson rationalized the RAV4 diesel’s towing capacity…nevertheless it’s still a curly one for buyers in this league.

 

Toyota RAV4 Verdict


Toyota’s all-new RAV4 succeeds because it’s so…well, RAV actually. The RAV has been a perennial sales winner for Toyota so the new model continues the trend rather than jettisoning 20 years of success.
 


And Toyota being Toyota, the newcomer arrives updated, improved, fully-loaded, sharply priced and now with a diesel option – all of which RAV4 needs given the ramped-up competition in this tough segment.

We like the looks (still RAV but thoroughly modern), we like the stylish and practical interior, we like the technology and we like the driving dynamics.

 

Toyota RAV4 The Competition


Mazda CX-5 is a Car Showroom favourite in this league and next week we’ll be driving the new, more powerful CX-5 with a 2.5-litre petrol engine. Run a micrometer over the interior dimensions and the all-new RAV4 may be a smidge larger for both passengers and cargo but the CX-5 is handsomely styled and Mazda’s SkyActive technology brings superb drivelines and chassis to the equation. 



A new arrival is Mitsubishi’s latest Outlander – an all-round better car than its predecessor, offering 2.0-litre and 2.4-litre petrol engines and a 2.2-litre turbo diesel. Outlander starts at $28,990 but doesn’t match RAV4 or CX-5 for interior refinement.

Also new is the latest Honda CR-V. We like the looks of the CRV, its handy interior and usual Honda quality. And the $27,490 starting price is certainly enticing. No diesel CRV at the moment.

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