It’s not really a soft roader because it has a lockable differential to augment its all-wheel drive, so if you put a decent set of off-road tyres on it, you’ll get to some remote places. There’s also 167mm of ground clearance (22cm more than an Aurion) and a 132kW, 233Nm 2.5-litre petrol engine to help you pull your way through the mud.
The RAV4 GXL’s off-road smarts continue with Downhill Assist Control, and that backs up the other safety electronics: ABS, Brake Assist (BA), Electronic Brake-Force Distribution (EBD), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRC), and Hill-start Assist Control (HAC). Seven airbags are fitted as standard.
The engine returns 8.5l/100km (Toyota’s figures, presumably when driving in ECO mode) and emits 198g/km of CO2. You can take control of the 6-speed automatic transmission and move the lever to S mode for sequential changes.
Fitting with the trend of almost every other new automobile, the RAV4 has thick rear pillars and swoopy lines that make it difficult to judge when reversing. Fortunately there is a reversing camera with static guidelines and four sensors on the rear bumper to make sure you don’t run into anything.
The seats are large – almost too large for someone like me who has an aerodynamic body shape. If you’ve been at the pies, though, you will appreciate the RAV4’s seat width. It feels like it’s been engineered for the American market, and this flows through to the soft(ish) suspension that rides very well on NZ’s rough roads, but makes it feel a little like an SUV in the corners.
There are areas of stitched leather on the dashboard that look great, but they don’t feel padded enough. A 6.1-inch colour touchscreen sits in the centre of the dash and you can control audio functions (radio, CD player, USB port, SD card and Bluetooth audio streaming), plus other vehicle settings. Because almost all the functions are accessed through the screen, the dash is relatively free of clutter except for the dual climate control air conditioning. The Bluetooth connectivity extends to email and SMS support, although I didn’t try this feature out. The audio plays out through a six-speaker system that is a little thin when the EQ is flat, but fattens up nicely with a touch of extra bass.
Externally, when you look at the overall RAV4 design it’s coherent, but when you focus in on little aspects, it’s got some unusual details, such as the strong shoulder line which flows around to the rear lights that stand so far proud of the tailgate you could balance a beer can on them.
Load space is usable. There’s 506 litres available with the rear seats up and 1655 litres with the seats folded flat. A useful cargo net is included where you can put things that might ordinarily roll around in the boot. Rear legroom is good, too.
While the RAV4 comes with some off-road abilities, it needs to up its game a little by incorporating some technology that’s becoming standard on its competitors – auto start/stop, for example. You do get a lot more kit in the Limited Edition (if you’re prepared to pay $60,790), such as blind spot monitoring, a flash automated tailgate opening function and satellite navigation. Toyota will undoubtedly have bred a popular 4WD, though. The RAV4 feels big, and it is comfortable, too. There’s more interior space and better fuel economy than the outgoing model, and it has that useful cargo net in the boot.
- Off-road abilities
- Good, but not class-leading
Words and photos: Darren Cottingham