Toyota RAV4

Toyota’s SUV pioneer keeps on leading

As you will read in the separate story below, the first Toyota RAV4 was a pioneer — it established the small SUV niche a quarter-century back and it has made it its own ever since. Of course, being a Toyota has helped, but RAV4 has always been a bit edgy and different – as any market leader should be.

Now this all-new fifth-generation model takes RAV4 to the next level to once again re-define the fun SUV niche in an expressive and angular look – and it’s growing on us!

This particular GX-R is especially cool – its naval hues, subtler grille treatment and cool alloys set it apart as much as they complement the newcomer’s shorter, lower, wider stance and longer wheelbase. Inside, this one’s military grey ‘Orchid Brown’ art-leather trim offset by orange touches reminds me of a prototype aircraft.  GX-R also has a Black option, while GX models get black fabric trim, and VX offers Black or Ivory leather.

RAV4 comes in two, more responsive and fuel-efficient variable valve timing four-cylinder Dynamic Force petrol engines — a 127kW 203Nm 2-litre good for 6.5 l/100km and 147g/km CO2 and this 152kW 243Nm 2.5-litre that sips 7.3 l/100km at 165g/km. Transmission choices include a base 6-speed manual and this 10-step Shiftmatic CVT in the 2-litre, or an 8-speed automatic transmission in the 2.5-litre.

We found the middle of the road 2-litre to be lithe and responsive on the road – in part of course thanks to the fifth RAV4 also benefiting a stiffer platform and lower centre of gravity, latest all-wheel drive technology, dynamic torque vectoring. Rear Driveline Disconnect further manages torque distribution between the rear wheels for stable performance and accurate cornering, response, whatever the driving conditions. 

AWD Integrated Management automatically adjusts different vehicle systems – steering assist, brake and throttle control, shift pattern and drive torque distribution — to ‘Mud & Sand’ and ‘Rock & Dirt’ drive modes. Not that it needs all those modes — it’s damn good on the dirt, all by itself. 

Top end RAV4 VXs come impressively stacked with a TFT multi-info and large LCD speedo displays, 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.

There's more — Auto High Beam, a Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and all the safety too, from a full set of Airbags, ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability, Hill Assist and Trailer Sway controls to Toyota Safety Sense with Adaptive Cruise Control, Steering Control Lane Departure Alert, a Blind-Spot Monitor and even a Pre-Crash System.

All RAV4s carry a 6-services/90 000 km service plan with 12-month/15 000km intervals and a 3-year/100 000km Warranty, with all those regular Toyota plusses, of course.

That’s more than adequate for a five-hundred grand car – RAV4 is a supremely equipped, well-built, dependable and reliable. A family 4x4 that performs as well on the beaten track as it does off it, you will also get most of your money back one day too. Little wonder that third of South Africans buy Toyotas rather than just cars… — Michele Lupini

Images — Dylan McKay

Engine: 127kW 203Nm 2-litrecc petrol I4                
Drive: CVT AWD
0-60km/h:                4.31 sec
0-100km/h:              8.87 sec                      
0-160km/h:            21.59sec       
400m:                            16.2 sec @ 141km/h            
80-120km/h:            5.92 sec
120-160km/h:          8.77 sec          
VMax:                      200km/h                               
Fuel:                                6.7 l/100km                         
CO2:                               153g/km
Warranty/Service:    3y 100K/6 service 90Kkm 
LIST PRICE:              R531K           
RATED:                    7

Toyota RAV4 Pricing
2.0 GX MT 2WD – R436K
2.0 GX CVT 2WD – R447K
2.0 VX CVT 2WD – R528K
2.0 GX-R CVT AWD – R531K
2.5 VX 8AT AWD – R604K

Toyota’s RAV4 has a special history of its own

The original Toyota RAV4 hit South Africa in 1995. That was an interesting time for us – and a few other people too – it was my first ever car launch, I arrived early and sat down beside a chap who reminded me a bit of Mister Bean. We got chatting and it turned out it was Dr. Johann van Zyl, who had just joined Toyota as its new marketing boss. We both agreed that we had big jobs at hand…

Anyway, the Toyota RAV4 was soon hugely popular, scoring a 53% market share in the small SUV segment. A 400mm longer four-door came in March 1995 and by 1998, more equipment, improved safety and refinement were added along with an all-new look.  

Longer, wider and roomier but heavier, RAV4 still came in two and four-door variants with a side-opening tailgate, five-speed manual or four-speed automatic gearboxes turning all-wheel drive with viscous-coupled centre differential and powered by either a 110kW 2-litre petrol or a 2-litre D-4D common rail turbodiesel.

The third generation grew another 130mm longer in 2006 in four-door only, but in short or long wheelbases of a new 76% stiffer monocoque to improve safety, durability and noise levels. Also new was double wishbone independent rear suspension and electrically assisted-steering, plus a wide range of petrol and diesel engines and manual or automatic gearboxes.

The fourth-generation RAV4 went on sale in March 2013. It was 205mm longer again without the spare wheel carrier on the tailgate or the side-hung tailgate in an all-new shape with a wider body, longer wheelbase, and an increased 547 litres luggage capacity, plus an even broader engine line-up. 

RAV4 improved again in 2016 and the new fifth generation one arrived earlier this year and while not all RAV4s are all-wheel-drive these days, RAV4 stands for ‘Recreational Activity Vehicle: 4-wheel drive – a car that has carved a special niche for itself over the years.

And Doctor van Zyl? Well he progressed through the Toyota ranks at meteoric pace and soon ran SA’s biggest carmaker before taking over Africa and then adding Europe to his portfolio. Today the doctor is Senior Managing Officer of Toyota Motor Corporation – the first African in charge.

We are also still around, a quarter century later – we trust you still enjoy what we do and look forward to doing so for a long time – and many more RAV4 generations to come… - Michele Lupini