NEW FEATURES AT A GLANCE
– Two new DOHC all-aluminium VVTi engines: 1.8 and 2.0 litres
– 1.8-litre FWD only variant to be sold globally
– 4-wheel disc brakes available as option
– Rear seats can slide or be removed
– Same body size, longer wheelbase
As with the first generation, Toyota again chose the Geneva Motorshow to unveil the next generation of its RAV4 compact sport-utility vehicle (SUV). Unlike the first time, however, the styling was not ‘previewed’ earlier in the form of a concept car and so its unveiling attracted a great deal of attention.
The new RAV4 (RAV stands for Recreational Active Vehicle) maintains the same concept as before, a successful idea which merges conventional car elements with the features of a small off road vehicle. But it has never been intended to be a serious off-roader and designed more as a ‘lifestyle vehicle’.
“Styling has always been a top-priority for the RAV4″, Hiromi Ikehata, the model’s Chief Engineer, told Autoworld. “It was one of the motoring icons of the 1990s and when we worked on the second generation, we took into account current fashion trends.”
Where the first generation started off only with the 3-door version – the 5-door came a year later – both versions in the second generation will be available at launch (this May in Japan, followed by mid-year in Europe). Many of the original styling ideas are retained but the lines are more rounded and there is ‘a more powerful mature individual look’.
The 3-door has a closer resemblance to its predecessor with wraparound rear glass treatment (like the Mercedes M-Class) but the 5-door takes on a ‘bigger’ look with strong character lines along the sides. Dimensionally, both versions are marginally bigger with increases in the wheelbase to get more room inside. The softer edges improve aerodynamics to 0.35 Cd which is no big deal but then again, it does not really matter for such vehicles. Nevertheless, because of the bias towards on-road performance, much attention has been given to stability at higher speeds. In certain European markets like Germany where cruising speeds can be quite high, there are even small flaps installed under each side of the front bumper to increase front end stability.
The original RAV4 was not the first 4WD to have passenger car-type monocoque construction which provides more rigidity because the body and floorpan are welded as a single unit, but it did inspire other carmakers to go the same way with their smaller SUVs. Monocoque construction enables better handling and ride compared to the bigger 4WDs which have their bodies bolted onto a chassis frame so the body tends to move separately during cornering. So in effect, the RAV4 is a car with extra ground clearance and 4WD – a concept which proved so successful that journalists in UK considered the model an “off-road GTI”!
As with all the latest Toyotas, the new RAV4 meets the company’s tough in-house standard known as GOA (Global Outstanding Assessment). This means it satisfies present or near-future accident protection requirements in all countries and additionally, it also offers superior protection against rear-end collisions (which is not presently a safety standard). But as with the first generation, there is still no proper bumper structure provided.
GOA is mainly about ensuring survival of the occupants in an accident and to complement the structural design are many safety devices such as dual front airbags, side impact beams and even whiplash-reducing seat designs for the front seats.