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First drive: RAV4 to drive Toyota sales push

Great expectations: Toyota expects to dominate the booming SUV segment with the expanded RAV4 range.

Revitalised RAV4 compact SUV leads 2013 market charge by Toyota

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Toyota logo19 Feb 2013

TOYOTA has launched arguably its most important vehicle of the year in Australia – the fourth-generation RAV4 – as it seeks to regain top spot in the fast-growing compact SUV market segment.

The overall market leader is targeting record sales of more than 220,000 this year, despite a slow start in January, and RAV4 will be critical to its aspirations as it competes in a segment that was up 22.0 per cent last year.

A much-expanded RAV4 range will be tasked with turning the tables on the Nissan X-Trail and Mazda CX-5, which both jumped significantly last year to the top of the table.

Toyota Australia is well-placed to forge a new sales record this year with the new Corolla in the vital small-car segment and a revised HiLux dominating the ute market.

Kicking off at $500 less than before at $28,490 plus on-road costs for the base front-wheel-drive manual, some prices have fallen by up to $1500, despite an increase in standard features.

However, choosing an automatic RAV4 now adds $2500 – which in some cases is a $500 slug over the equivalent superseded version.

Following Honda’s lead with the latest CR-V, all front-drive RAV4s have less power and torque than before, making do with a 107kW/187Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine – the first of this size in a RAV4 since 2003 – instead of the previous 125kW/224Nm 2.4-litre unit.

On the other hand, the 2.4-litre unit has been replaced in all-wheel-drive petrol models by a larger yet more efficient 132kW/233Nm 2.5-litre four-cylinder unit similar to that in the latest Camry.

Toyota has replaced the old four-speed automatic in four-cylinder models with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with seven preset ratio steps in FWD versions, or a six-speed torque-converter auto in AWD models.

The manual gearbox now has six speeds instead of five.

The introduction of a diesel-powered RAV4 GX AWD from $35,490 with the manual – the first diesel RAV4 offered in Australia – should provide additional pain for competitors.

The diesel models nudge the new 40 Series range to 16 models (up from 13 previously), topping out at $48,990 for the Cruiser AWD diesel.

For the time being at least, there is no 3.5-litre V6 petrol offered in the new 40 Series range.

Other new-to-RAV4 developments include a sport mode that alters the steering, throttle and CVT settings in FWD models, an improved AWD system complete with an electronic diff lock, hill-start assist, and blind-spot monitor availability.

Overall vision is said be improved while the vision-impeding spare wheel placement on the side-hinged back door is replaced by a conventional lift-up tailgate (now powered on the Cruiser flagship), with the spare now located below the cargo floor.

Cabin insulation in AWD versions has been improved by a new acoustic windscreen with insulation film between two layers of glass.

More informative instrumentation, ‘eco’ mode and driving indicators for the CVT, seatbelt warnings for the rear seats, daytime running lights and parking sensor availability, and the option of rain-sensing wipers, a reversing camera and keyless entry/start on some models are also fresh to the series.

Toyota has changed the model walk to designations seemingly out of the 1970s, so GX replaces CV, GXL steps in for Cruiser, and Cruiser is confusingly now the old Cruiser L.

Based on the same platform that underpins the latest Corolla, the fourth RAV4 since 1994 continues with the monocoque construction of its predecessors, but is lighter, lower, narrower and more aerodynamic, with a lower centre of gravity and more spacious interior.

It is 55mm shorter at 4570mm long, 10mm narrower at 1845mm wide and 15mm lower at 1715mm high (with roof rails), and rides on an identical 2660mm wheelbase, with a 10mm wider track (to 1570mm) front and rear.

Working with a theme of “Strong Athlete”, Toyota’s designers strove to sever visual connections with the 30 Series RAV4, adding more aggressively sculptured mudguards and large tail-light assemblies to help infuse the SUV with more personality.

The nose treatment contains the company’s new ‘Under Priority’ grille and bumper-mounted air intake, along with its ‘Keen Look’ headlight style complete with LED daytime lights.

A tapering rear, horizontal tail-lights and new tailgate presentation help improve airflow.

As Toyota seeks a more youthful image, three of the nine colours are new – bronze, green and blue.

Achieving a higher quality and roomier cabin finish was deemed critical, with a more driver-focussed environment and feeling of space (aided by the dashboard’s horizontal themes).

New larger front seats were designed, with improved adjustment range for the driver’s seat and steering wheel, along with clearer (and now blue-illuminated) instrumentation and slimmer A-pillars for better vision.

Thinner front backrests add 41mm to rear legroom and Toyota worked to improve rear cushion comfort and support.

The cargo area is deeper, easier to access and larger at 577 litres, but that drops to 506 litres if a full-sized spare is ordered (at an extra $300).

Toyota’s 3ZR-FE 2.0-litre dual-VVT-i twin-cam four-cylinder petrol engine produces 107kW of power at 6200rpm and 187Nm of torque at 3600rpm.

It returns 7.7 litres per 100km with the manual gearbox and 7.4L/100km with the auto, providing carbon dioxide emissions figures of 179 grams per kilometre and 173g/km respectively.

Towing capacity is 800kg with a braked trailer and 750kg without.

Toyota says the CVT has been specially tuned for greater driver involvement compared to similar transmissions that focus solely on attaining high fuel economy.

An electronic limited slip differential feature on FWD models, using the stability and traction control system, keep the front wheels from spinning in slippery conditions.

The ABS brakes have Brake Assist and Electronic Brake-force Distribution as standard.

The 2AR-FE 2.5-litre engine in AWD models delivers 132kW at 6000rpm and 233Nm at 4100rpm.

Toyota claims the six-speed torque-converter auto helps this engine achieve an 11.5 per cent fuel saving compared to the old 2.4 (and 5.5 per cent if choosing the six-speed manual), with the average combined figures being 8.6L/100km (auto: 8.5) and 200g/km (auto: 198).

Towing capacity for the bigger engine is 1500kg (braked trailer) and 750kg (unbraked).

Toyota’s 2AD-FTV 2.2-litre turbo-diesel – a long-serving engine in Europe – produces 110kW at 3600rpm and 340Nm from 2000 to 2800rpm, while averaging 5.6L/100km and 149g/km with the six-speed manual (6.5L/100km and 172g/km with the torque-converter auto).

With the 2.5-litre petrol and 2.2 turbo-diesel models, the AWD set-up is set to 90 per cent front and 10 per cent rear, but traction losses send up to 50 per cent of torque rearwards.

Unlike before, the AWD system can also be active on dry roads via a new Dynamic Torque Control feature that works with the RAV4’s stability and traction control devices to improve cornering capability and braking, while an AWD Lock function is available up to 40km/h.

The ESC system can also help the driver get out of a potential crash situation by applying torque resistance via the revised electric power steering system, or gently braking individual wheels.

Suspension is via MacPherson struts up front and a double-wishbone arrangement in the rear, with attention paid to increased rigidity and improved damping characteristics for better body control, steering manoeuvrability and a more stable ride.

Weight varies from 1485kg (down 5kg) for the FWD manual to 1630kg (up about 80kg) for the AWD auto petrol, with the diesel equivalent being 35kg heavier again.

To better quell noise, vibration and harshness, Toyota has fitted a new transmission-tunnel silencer, and fitted more insulation material on the floor, dash panel, roof, doors and rear quarter panel.

Toyota expects a five-star ANCAP safety score.

The RAV4 has disc brakes all round (296x28mm ventilated with floating callipers up front and 281x12mm solid units in the rear) and seven airbags (front, front-side, full curtain and driver’s knee).

The GX FWD model comes with rear parking sensors, cruise control, auto headlights, steering wheel controls for audio, multi-function display and Bluetooth telephone/audio streaming, tilt/telescopic steering wheel adjustment, luggage cover, roof rails, rear spoiler, 17-inch steel wheels with low-resistance tyres and a space-saver spare wheel.

GX AWD adds the larger engine and a centre diff lock.

GXL specification adds dual-zone air-con, rain-sensing wipers, alarm, keyless entry, fancier cabin trim, part-leather upholstery, sports heated front seats with power adjustability for the driver, retractable door mirrors, alloy wheels, privacy glass and a reversing camera.

Stepping up to the Cruiser brings satellite navigation, a powered tailgate, high-intensity discharge headlights with washers, a sunroof and a blind-spot monitor.

Capped-price servicing continues, at no more than $170 per visit, with 10,000km intervals for the first three years or up to 60,000km.

Since the landmark RAV4 series surfaced in 1993, Toyota has sold more than 4.5 million over three generations in more than 150 countries.

To the end of January, nearly 198,000 have found homes in Australia – putting it ahead of the Subaru Forester (172,629), Honda CR-V (137,319) and Nissan X-Trail (129,444).

2013 Toyota RAV4 pricing*
GX FWD petrol$28,490 (-$500)
GX FWD petrol (a)$30,990
GXL FWD petrol$32,490 (-$1500)
GXL FWD petrol (a)$34,990 (-$1000)
GX AWD petrol$31,990
GX AWD petrol (a)$34,490 (-$500)
GXL AWD petrol $35,490 (-$1500)
GXL AWD petrol (a)$37,990 (-$1000)
Cruiser AWD petrol$42,990
Cruiser AWD petrol (a)$45,490 (-$500)
GX AWD diesel $35,490
GX AWD diesel (a)$37,990
GXL AWD diesel$38,990
GXL AWD diesel (a)$41,490
Cruiser AWD diesel$46,490
Cruiser AWD diesel (a)$48,990
*Plus on-road costs

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