Toyota is a global player in the car industry and a pioneer in hybrid technology and they actually created the SUV with the original RAV4 which was launched in 1994.
Today, the RAV4 remains one of the most popular vehicles of its type and it is on sale in 180 countries around the globe. Looking at its history and with the arrival of the latest version, it becomes the fifth generation model.
There may be an air of disappointment, especially in the Irish market, as there will be no diesel versions, in fact only some countries will be able to obtain a petrol engine as the march of the hybrid rolls on and I would not be at all surprised if given, time no petrol variant is offered.
When the original model took to the roads and tracks it enjoyed a lack of competition. That, of course, if no longer the case, this market is a crowded one and no manufacturer can not afford to have at least one SUV in their range.
There has been a decided swing from buyers to the SUV at the expense of MPVs and dare I say, more conventional modes of transport. The SUV is a vehicle of many roles and is a popular choice with the family and the business user.
The new model will only be offered as a hybrid in two or four wheel drive and on a personal level, I fail to see why anyone should buy a two wheel drive version of an SUV. There is of course a price difference in comparison to a vehicle with four wheel drive and in fairness,you still get most of the benefits such as the elevated driving position.
Right at the core of the newcomer is a brand new platform, boasting a low centre of gravity, increased body rigidity, both of which play an important part in handling and comfort. I was able to put the new RAV4 to the test over a variety of roads in Spain and the opportunity came to explore its off road credibility over a modest off road course. A Trail button on the mode selector is the one to choose when taking off road.
I did notice a marked difference in handling/ road holding between 2WD and 4WD, the latter with much better cornering ability. Let’s be honest, few who buy a vehicle like the RAV4 ever experience its full potential with regard to off road driving.
The new RAV4 delivers step changes in power, responsiveness and efficiency with best in class economy and emission levels. The new 2.5 litre Hybrid Dynamic Force engine also achieves world class thermal efficiency and the self charging hybrid power train, emissions are as low as 102g/km. Performance is average for this type of vehicle with rest to 100kph (62mph) coming up in just proud of eight seconds and top speed is 180kph (112mph.) It is certainly not sports like, but for most who take the RAV4 route, they will not be disappointed.
There are numerous key features; the new model offers more interior space than the fourth generation model and when it comes to load space, 580 litres with the rear seats in place, 79 litres more than the outgoing model. For greater load carrying ability the rear seats (60/40) can be folded.
Style is key for many and Toyota has gone for an angular, eye-catching design. It is lower, wider and has improved ground clearance, the latter very useful should you decide to tackle some tough terrain.
Another key area where the Toyota designers and engineers have paid an important role is with the quality of finish in the cabin, I would describe it as premium and this is true throughout the model range. Right away a RAV4 owner will identify the spacious cabin.
With a new self charging power train, the new 2.5 litre petrol engine offers 215bhp in front wheel drive form and 219bhp in four wheel drive form. I had the opportunity to try both and my choice remains firmly with the four wheel drive, mainly due to better road holding.
Another reason why I favour four wheel drive, is that it offers additional safety in wintry or simply wet roads. This brings me to safety and in this respect, Toyota comes up with a full package, their new Safety Sense System, this now in its second generation and includes upgraded versions of the pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, intelligent adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, road sign assist and auto high beam. Joining the array of safety aids lane tracing assist which provides driving support.
All models come equipped as standard with the new safety aids, this is very welcome as keeping driver and passengers safe is paramount.
We are in the age of connection, again Toyota has this covered and during this year they will role out connected services. This will eventually include, last mile guidance, send to car navigation, find my car, driving analytics and a service reminder.
For those who like entertainment on the move a JBL sound system with nine speakers is offered. Being a global player various grades or trim levels will be offered, e.g. in Northern Ireland, a choice of four. Four trim levels also in the Republic of Ireland, Aura, Luna, Sol and Sport.
Just look around as you drive in town or city and on country roads the number of SUVs, it is truly amazing, I know fashion trends come and go, but with the SUV they are here for the long haul and Toyota has come up with a winner and five generations on the RAV4 has matured to become something just that little bit special.