Greg Hill takes the 2019 Toyota RAV4 for a first drive.
Toyota RAV4 is a thoroughbred in the highly competitive medium-SUV class. Its bloodline in Australia began back in 1994 and now moves into a fifth generation with an impressive all-new vehicle.
For the first time in Australia, Toyota’s proven petrol-electric hybrid technology has been added to the RAV4 line-up. Eleven variants showcase Toyota’s sophisticated drivelines and safety features in a stylish body that has a distinctive, robust SUV appearance.
This release is an interesting model mix, with four equipment grades and the option of six hybrid variants in front-wheel-drive (FWD) and electric all-wheel-drive (AWD) form.
This is a similar system to the Camry hybrid with minor tweaking to suit the SUV requirements and a third electric motor to drive the rear wheels in the AWD version.
The petrol line-up comprises four FWD versions powered by a 2.0-litre engine that’s new to RAV4 but shared with the Corolla (once again tuned slightly differently). The range-topping Edge grade employs an all-new 2.5-litre petrol engine, an eight-speed automatic and traditional mechanical AWD drive-line system.
RAV4’s new TNGA platform – which also underpins the Corolla, Camry and C-HR – provides a solid foundation for improved driving dynamics and impressive ride comfort, while a longer wheelbase and extra width create more useable cabin space, particularly for rear-seat occupants. The luggage compartment is also one of the most spacious in the class. Seating up to five, the RAV4’s redesigned seats provide good comfort and support. For the driver, the all-new layout is very clean and simple with easy-to-read instrumentation and logically positioned switches.
Despite the new RAV4’s adventurous image, Toyota expects 2WD variants to account for 70 per cent of sales, with the mid-spec GXL and Cruiser grades being the most popular, and at least 40 per cent of buyers opting for a hybrid.
Prices start from a competitive $30,640 plus on-road costs for the GX petrol 2WD manual through to $47,140 plus on-road costs for the AWD Edge. In equivalent spec levels the Hybrid system adds $2500 and the electric AWD another $3000.
Each grade is relatively well equipped for its position in the line-up, there is an impressive suite of safety features standard across the range, and build quality is good, particularly the premium soft-touch trim materials in the high-level variants. RAV4 will get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto later in the year as a no-cost retro-fit.
Judging from a brief drive in each configuration, over a variety of road conditions between Adelaide and McLaren Vale, the AWD Hybrid proved the most impressive. Our first stint was in the 2.5-litre Edge, which, although not class leading, handled stop/start traffic with ease and cruised comfortably. The 2.0-litre did a respectable job but, naturally, had to work harder on hills, with a noticeable increase in engine and CVT (continuously variable transmission) noise.
Not only is the hybrid a greener option with lower fuel consumption and emissions, it is also the most powerful and the quietest. The electric motor adds more punch down low with the petrol and electric combining to provide brisk performance and seamless transition between the two.
The benefits of AWD were quite noticeable on dirt roads where the FWD version moved around more and felt a touch nervous when compared to the stability and surefootedness of the AWD. A short stint of off-road driving in the AWD Hybrid demonstrated it is quite a capable vehicle, but we will need to wait for a more comprehensive test drive to make a call on its outright ability.