Toyota RAV 4 AWD VX

Manna from heaven for Toyota buyers

The first Toyota RAV4 was a pioneer — it pretty much created the small SUV niche a quarter-century back and it’s commanded it pretty solidly ever since. Suppose being a Toyota has helped, but it’s always been a bit edgy and different - suppose as a market leader should.

Now this all-new fifth-generation model takes up that quarter century RAV4 mantle of defining the fun SUV niche in what Toyota calls an expressive and angular look. That it clearly is, but I was quite shocked by this gaping, scowling look on first impressions and to be honest, I’m still not sold. Other people argue, as they always must and will, and there is a softer, better grille and bumper version available, should you concur with me...

Shorter, lower, wider and riding on a longer wheelbase in stiffer platform with a lower centre of gravity, this flagship packs the bigger 152kW 243Nm 2.5-litre lump that sips 7.3l/100km at 165 g/km with intelligent variable valve timing and turns 8-speed automatic. ’Drive-on-any-road’ all-wheel drive benefits enhanced dynamic torque vectoring with Rear Driveline Disconnect and Mud and Rock drive modes. Not that it needs those modes — it’s damn good on the dirt all by itself. 

This VX performed impressively as our test figures below suggest and is comfortable and easy to drive while offering a surprising alter-ego in its tarmac repertoire too, but versus some far more modern downsized rivals, the big old four-pot is rough and cumbersome in its operation — you hear it, feel it and sense it and while its straight line agility is strong, we don’t think those fuel claims are very realistic at all — it is thirstier than that.

This ‘edgier’ VX comes impressively stacked with a TFT multi-info and large LCD speedo display as well as the expected infotainment bits and a Panoramic View Monitor plus. Add a Reverse Camera and rear Park Distance Control that all models get, leather seats with lumbar and heating, a leather steering wheel, smart entry, and auto-dimming mirror and wipers, wireless charging and climate control, memory seats, a power tailgate and front PDC.

These cool 19-inch alloys set VX apart and there's more too — Auto High Beam, a Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and all the safety too. That includes a full set of Airbags; ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability, Hill Assist  and Trailer Sway controls plus Toyota Safety Sense with Adaptive Cruise Control, Steering Control Lane Departure Alert, a Blind-Spot Monitor and Pre-Crash System.

That’s a hell of a lot of spec for this side of six hundred grand, but there are a few concerns around some slapdash finishes and quirks, although nothing you would not get on with as you grow familiar.

In all, the new RAV4 is a supremely equipped, well-built, dependable and reliable family 4x4 that performs very well on and off the beaten track. You will also get most of your money back one day too. 

No, its looks won’t make everyone happy and it’s a bit thirsty and thrashy versus Euro rivals that benefit far more modern engine tech, but to the third of people South Africans who buy Toyotas rather than cars, the new RAV4 is manna from heaven. — Michele Lupini

Images — Michele Lupini

Engine: 152kW 283Nm 2495cc petrol I4                
Drive: 8-speed automatic AWD
0-60km/h:                3.91 sec
0-100km/h:              8.35 sec                      
0-160km/h:            20.29sec       
400m:                            15.9 sec @ 144km/h            
80-120km/h:            5.58 sec
120-160km/h:          8.84 sec          
VMax:                      210km/h                               
Fuel:                                7.3 l/100km                         
CO2:                               166 g/km
Warranty/Service:    3y 100K/6 service 90Kkm 
LIST PRICE:              R586K           
RATED:                    79%