Prior to the virtual launch of the all-new Toyota RAV4 today, some of us were given the chance to take a short drive with the car. Due to current circumstances, it was not the usual media drive which usually takes a day or more. It was just a few hours with the vehicle to get us familiarised with some of the key features and characteristics. However, we were able to cover a mixture of road conditions and speeds.
So having had to comply with all the new SOP and distancing measures, we set off to get an impression of this SUV imported from Japan. The new RAV4 is in its fifth generation and wears Toyota’s new more dynamic and youthful look. There are a lot of polygon elements used in its design, outside and inside, to give the RAV4 some visual consistency.
At either end of the vehicle, there is distinct visual separation between the top and bottom with trapezoidal lines. At the front, the skid plate and black protective panel give it a more rugged appearance. The same treatment is also applied to the rear. The front headlights are LED with automatic activation and follow-me-home function and daytime running lights. The rear combination lights are also LED and similar in shape to the new Corolla Altis’ but with polygon motifs.
Viewing from the side, one will also notice the wheel arches are squared off, with the rear quarter getting more of the octagon design treatment right up the C-pillar. You will also catch the character lines that run from the bottom of the headlight across the doors to the rear where it mixes with the octagon. This is more apparent in the lighter colours. Overall, the design is not polarising nor controversial.
There are more similarities with the Corolla Altis inside. The obvious ones are the front air vents, steering wheel, and the infotainment system which looks tacked on. Personally, I do appreciate having physical buttons as they are easier to operate while driving, though I am sure there will be comments on the relatively small screen and large bezels (we are in a different smartphone generation now after all).
Different from the Altis are the wider centre console with two cup holders side by side, and more storage shelves with a grippy surface. Surrounding the leather seats is soft-touch material used at major touch and visual points, complemented by trim in a brushed metal finish. Look around and you will notice the polygon elements.
The front seats are supportive while the rear provides a two-step recline. On the driver’s side, the Optitron meters adopted from Lexus offer easy-to-read information. With a variety of features, including the Toyota Safety Sense assistance suite, there are a lot of icons in the display to notice but that will come with familiarity over time. The meters will change tone and colours depending on the selected driving mode. The 7″ multi-info display also lets you scroll through various information and menus with the steering-mounted controls.
Rear legroom is an extra bonus even with the front seats adjusted for tall occupants, while headroom for all is ample. Also ample is the cargo space which is a best-in-class 580 litres. The floorboard in the cargo area is usable on both sides, with one side coated with a waterproof surface to carry wet items. The boot floor can also be lowered to a lower tier to fit bigger items. Additionally, the tailgate can be opened AND closed by triggering a kick sensor under the rear bumper.
The TNGA platform is no longer a stranger and the improvements naturally come with certain expectations. In terms of stability and driving dynamics, the RAV4 performs to expectations. The roadholding is good, with the trailing wishbone rear suspension aiding the RAV4 into corners. Some body roll is obviously present but is well within tolerance for passenger comfort. As this is a fully imported model, the suspension and tyres perhaps may not have been optimised for our wonderful road conditions. The body feels a little bit jumpy at the rear. It however, never felt unstable during the test drive on highways, roundabouts and residential streets which are full of character. The speed sensitive power steering felt sharp and precise, and is light enough for regular use.
The engines in both variants are from the new Dynamic Force family. The 2.5L variant tested also got the new 8-speed Direct Shift automatic, as opposed to the CVT for the 2.0L. Some of the key benefits of this new engine is its ability to optimise heat management and fuel economy. The VVT-iE electric motor timing helps to manage the water pump to ensure the engine is neither too hot nor cold for proper combustion.
Engine power is spread across eight gears for better distribution according to driving needs. Further, the Direct Shift gearbox has all range lockup and a torque converter to enhance performance from lower engine speeds. This aids in improving fuel economy.
On our test drive, we found the gear shifts to be smooth, as expected. Although paddle shifters were available, there was hardly any need to use them. There is however, a slight moment before engine noise translates into momentum for this 2-ton SUV, and it is probably the vehicle working out if you really need full power. There wasn’t any extensive testing on this as the roads were damp, but there were certainly no issues keeping up with traffic or overtaking.
The SUV segment is a different landscape now from when the RAV4 was first introduced. There are many more players and choices. Even in Malaysia, it faces stiff competition no matter which price range it sits in. Like all vehicles, it is not perfect. There are positives and negatives. So ultimately, it is really up to your preference, priority and pocket.
Price: RM215,664.50 (on-the-road without insurance)
Warranty: 5 years with unlimited mileage