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First drive: V6 muscle flexes RAV4 appeal

Power-up: Most expensive RAV4 employs the same V6 as seen in Aurion.

RAV4 V6 stands out from the four-pot compact SUV crowd, at least in performance terms


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18 Dec 2007

TOYOTA has launched a V6 version of its compact RAV4 SUV, boasting the highest power output in its class and the best claimed economy for a V6 compact, as well as class-leading towing capacity.

Despite the promising performance, the RAV4 V6 stalled at the start. A fault was discovered in the engine control unit just as the vehicle was going on sale in October. The embarrassing discovery causing a sales freeze until December, while faulty ECUs were replaced in stock vehicles.

Toyota’s product planner Doug Soden, who noticed a hesitation when applying throttle with cruise control activated when driving one of the first production models, found the fault. The algorithm controlling fuel delivery had to be reworked to fix the problem.

All dealer stock vehicles with the faulty ECU were fitted with replacements and new shipments now have the modified ECU.

You would think that a successful company would be targeting a growing market rather than a receding one, but Toyota openly admits that the proportion of six-cylinder petrol V6 sales compared to four-cylinder sales in the compact SUV market are in decline. The petrol V6 peaked with 29 per cent of the market in 2001, and has declined to just 16 per cent in 2006.

Toyota believes the RAV4 V6 will go some way to reverse the trend, offering its blend of performance and economy, augmenting the RAV4 four-cylinder sales to the tune of about 150 units per month.

While a 201kW V6 does not sound like an especially powerful engine in this age of 300kW-plus production cars, in the context of the four-wheel drive segment, it is a significant number. The RAV4 V6 has considerably more power than its V6 compact SUV competitors, and indeed key medium SUV wagons. The Mitsubishi Outlander has 162kW, the Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson 129kW, Mazda Tribute and Ford Escape just 152kW.

The closest in the class to RAV4 V6 outputs is the more overtly high-performance version of the Subaru Forester, the XT, which has a turbocharged horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine that produces 169kW of power and 320Nm of torque.

While the power-to-weight of the Subaru is 8.43kg/kW, the RAV4 V6, while heavier (1655kg versus 1425kg) has a better power-to-weight figure of 8.23kg/kW.

As for medium SUV wagons, RAV4 V6 surpasses the Pathfinder, Pajero and even Toyota’s own Prado V6. As for performance, there is nothing in the mainstream naturally-aspirated SUV class that will out-accelerate RAV4 V6.

Claimed performance puts the RAV4 V6 well ahead of competitors. Toyota says the V6 will sprint from rest to 100km/h in 7.4 seconds and goes on to complete the 400-metre sprint in 15.3 seconds. Top speed is 210km/h.

Despite these startling quick figures - for a compact SUV wagon, at least - when tested to the official ADR81/01 combined cycle, fuel consumption is 10.5 litres per 100km.

Doug Soden says that there is no clear buyer for the RAV4 V6, but generally it was a younger buyer who may look at a wide variety of other niche vehicles.

He says the RAV4 V6 "Appeals to distinct types of buyers: Young, urban singles, couples and families with an active lifestyle". Often in their 20s or 30s, they like the size, versatility and convenience of a compact SUV such as RAV4 V6.

Toyota also hopes the powerful V6 will attract more male buyers.

There are three V6 models, the CV6 at $39,990, the SX6 at $43,990 and ZR6 at $49,990, which makes the V6 variants between $6000-$8000 more expensive than their four-cylinder counterparts.

There is not much to distinguish the V6 from its lesser four-cylinder siblings externally - primarily the chromed grille with V6 badge and dark headlight enclosures. Like the four-cylinder, the V6 is a five-seat configuration only.

There is the option of a third row seat to give seven-occupant capacity in other markets, but it is not offered here.

All models have the 2GR-FE 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V6 with four valves per cylinder, twin overhead camshafts, variable valve timing for inlet and exhaust, roller rockers and an all-alloy block. Engine weight is 163kg, and while the compression ratio is 10.8:1, the V6 runs on standard 91 RON unleaded.

All RAV4 V6s are equipped with an electronically controlled five-speed automatic with manual shift mode. Despite the V6’s athletic performance, Doug Souden says there is very little demand for a manual transmission in global markets - in particular the USA - and while manual transmission is popular in Europe, the V6 petrol is not sold there.

Research suggests that the take-up of manual RAV4 V6s would be very small in Australia anyway, says Mr Soden.

The RAV4 V6 is fitted with the same on-demand four-wheel drive system used in the RAV4 four-cylinder models, which employs an electronically activated clutch in the rear differential to activate the rear axle when slip occurs. A dash button allows the driver to manually override the system to lock torque split 50:50 at speeds up to 40km/h.

Safety equipment levels are high on the V6, with six airbags standard equipment on all models, as is ABS with Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist, Toyota’s stability control system called Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) with steering assist, Traction Control (TRC), Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) and Downhill Assist Control (DAC).

All RAV4 V6 models have air-conditioning with dust filter, power mirrors and windows, height and reach adjustment steering column, cruise control, 17-inch wheels, body-coloured rear spoiler, six-speaker MP3-compatible audio, steering wheel-mounted controls, LED taillights, centre and auto-off headlights and ambient temperature gauge.

Over the entry-level CX6, the SX6 has dual-zone climate control, six-CD multi-changer (instead of a single-CD unit in CV6), leather steering wheel, different seat fabric material, leather gear knob, privacy glass, five-spoke alloy wheels (instead of steel rims), front foglights, wheel-arch flares and roof-rails.

The luxury ZR6 has leather interior, power driver’s seat adjustment and power lumbar adjustment, heated driver’s and front passenger’s seats, and satellite-navigation with four-CD in-dash changer.

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