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RAV4 hardens up

Built tough: New Toyota RAV4 has been engineered for better off-roading ability as well as improved dynamics.

More body strength and better off-road ability critical to latest Toyota compact SUV

25 Feb 2013

TOYOTA developed the fourth-generation RAV4 to be better off-road while also improving its safety and dynamic capabilities on-road.

Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the latest 40 Series model in Eden last week, senior engineer Makoto Arimoto said his experience in helping to create the existing Prado 4x4 in the latter half of last decade convinced him that Toyota’s compact SUV needed to be tougher without being rougher.

Speaking through an interpreter, the four-decade Toyota engineering veteran said it was clear to him after he joined the 40 Series project two years into its development that Prado and RAV4 customers “have common desires” in terms of wanting vehicles that should provide some level of adventure and escape from the everyday.

“We put more effort in 4x4 ability, because customers want to be engaged in 4WD performance,” said Mr Arimoto.

He added increasing body strength and rigidity for safety as well as improved dynamics were further top engineering considerations.

Under development for five years, the latest RAV4 is essentially a rebodied version of the previous model unveiled in 2005 and launched in Australia in February 2006, and keeps the same hard points such as wheelbase length despite sitting lower to the ground.

It was designed chiefly for the North American and Chinese markets that account for the lion’s share of global volume.

Unlike previous RAV4s, a short-wheelbase version sold in markets including Japan and Europe, but not Australia, will not be offered this time around.

What might come as a surprise to some is the revelation that the previous-generation Honda CR-V sold in Australia from early 2007 to late last year served as a benchmark.

“CR-V is the best-seller in many markets, so this was our benchmark,” said Mr Arimoto.

The Honda’s influences are visible in the removal of the spare wheel from the side-hinged tailgate to beneath the luggage area floor, the adoption of a top-hinged tailgate, an increase in rear legroom, and better dry-road traction control performance.

Engineering development and exterior design work was carried out in Japan, though Toyota’s Calty styling studio in California – home base for the current-generation Kluger – provided much of the inspiration for the revamped RAV4’s interior look and feel.

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