1 Feb 2006
TOYOTA'S third-generation RAV4 showed that the series grew up.
Its two predecessors were instrumental in building the small SUV segment in Australia and attracted a steady stream of customers enchanted by its compact dimensions, rugged good looks, mild off-road ability and Toyota reliability.
There was no three-door in the third-generation model’s line-up and Australia also missed out on the US market's V6 version at launch.
But small SUV shoppers benefited from the RAV4's extra space, strength and equipment, which came at minimal extra cost.
However, some might not have been so welcoming of the fact that Toyota dispensed with a full-time all-wheel drivetrain in favour of a part-time system for the RAV4.
There was an AWD Lock button however, which could be used to manually override the system at speeds under 40km/h.
Apart from an extra 5kW of peak power – thanks to a plastic inlet manifold, drive-by-wire throttle, reduced friction and increased breathing efficiency – the revised 2.4-litre 2AZ-FE four-cylinder engine also met Euro IV emissions standards and offered slightly lower fuel consumption.
Its vital statistics were 125kW at 6000rpm and an unchanged 224Nm of torque at 4000rpm, along with 9.1L/100km (manual – auto 9.6L/100km) average fuel economy.
Built on an all-new monocoque chassis 76 per cent more rigid than before and featuring wider 1560mm wheel tracks and a 170mm-longer (2600mm) wheelbase, the new RAV was 130mm longer overall at 4600mm, 80mm wider (to be widest in its class) and had a 20 per cent larger interior that was 30mm wider, 10mm higher and 130mm longer.
There was also 1100mm (up 230mm) between rear wheel arches thanks to angled suspension struts, and the 35 per cent larger (540-litre) cargo area was complimented by 20 storage locations, partly thanks to the continuation of RAV4’s side-hinged tailgate-mounted spare wheel.
The stiffer body was claimed to bring improvements to safety, durability, NVH and the performance of RAV4’s all-new trailing-type double wishbone independent rear suspension with diagonal dampers and the front MacPherson struts, which were reinforced by a substantial front cross-member.
Other changes to the all-coil suspension included multi-leaf linear control damper valves at both ends and a 10mm-higher improved ground clearance of 200mm, while the electric power steering (a first for a Toyota 4WD) featured new steering geometry.
In late 2007 Toyota released the first V6-powered RAV4 in Australia.
Motivated by the same 2GR-FE 3.5-litre all-alloy quad-cam engine with dual variable valve timing as found in the Tarago V6, Aurion and Kluger II, the RAV4 V6 produced 201kW of power and 333Nm of torque.
Three models were offered – the CV6, SX6 and ZR6. Electronic stability control was standard for all RAV4 V6 models, as were six airbags.
The CV6 came with air-conditioning, cruise control, a single-CD sound system, five-speed automatic transmission and 17-inch steel wheels.
Stepping up to the SX6 added alloy wheels, climate-control, a six-stack CD player, sunroof, foglights, roof-rails and tinted windows.
The range-topping ZR6 RAV4 got a power driver’s seat with lumbar support with heating function, leather trim and satellite-navigation.
In late 2008 Toyota rolled out revised versions of the third-generation RAV4, with standard fitment ESC stability control and active front seat head restraints becoming standard across all models.
Some grades gained more equipment like a driver’s knee airbag, climate control air-conditioning and automatic headlights.
Visual changes ran to new headlights, fog lights, grille bumpers and tail-lights, fresh colours, the inclusion of built-in turn indicators in the exterior rear-view mirrors, and small instrumentation improvements.
In April 2010 a front-drive entry-level RAV4 emerged with similar equipment to the equivalent AWD model grade, but there were no Cruiser L or V6 versions of the front-drive RAV.