Two weeks in two of the all-new Toyota RAV models reminded us this is one of the best mid-size SUVs on the planet. Nope we’re not talking the all-wheel-drive RAV4, we’re talking the entry-level two-wheel-drive (2WD) version.
In a word, ‘value’ tips the scales in favour of the 2WD RAV. Starting from $28,490, the 2WD model delivers a whole lot of RAV (that’s $3,500 less than the equivalent all-wheel-drive GX model).
Toyota needs the all-new fourth-generation RAV4 to fire in order to see-off the march of Mazda’s mighty CX-5. And fire it has - racking-up its best sales month in history in May.
The Japanese giant reckons the all-new RAV4 has been designed and equipped to meet the changing needs of Aussie families. For instance, on some weekends one of our Sydney mates uses his Toyota RAV4 AWD to tow his Wave Runners a couple of clicks across the sand-dunes to beautiful Boat Harbour, near Cronulla. That’s it, the only time he uses AWD.
2WD RAV is so good, our mate needs to launch his Wave Runners elsewhere and ride them to Boat Harbour and other families buying AWD mid-size SUVs need to think hard about their use.
Toyota RAV4 2WD Overview
Car Showroom tested the Toyota RAV4 in its two specification grades – entry-level GX and range-topping GXL. Both of our test cars drove via the CVT automatic transmission so the GX was priced at $30,990 and the GXL at $34,990.
Both looked great and enjoyed handy equipment levels. GX models run standard 17-inch steel wheels, six-speaker audio, the new roof-hinged cargo door (RAV previously had a side-opening rear door), cargo net and tonneau cover.
GXL steps-up with 17-inch alloy wheels, reversing camera, upscale audio, sports seats, dual-zone climate control air-con, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry and push-button start.
Toyota RAV4 2WD Engine
Toyota RAV4 2WD is exclusively powered by the 3ZR-FE 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine as fitted to the Corolla Ultima sedan.
With a recalibration to suit the SUV application, the 2.0-litre delivers 107kW of power at 6200rpm and peak torque of 187Nm at 3600rpm.
Our two RAV4 test cars drove through the MultiDrive Sport continuously variable transmission (CVT) with seven-speed sport mode. The automatic is actually the most fuel-efficient with combined-cycle consumption rated at 7.4l/100kms (7.7l/100kms for the six-speed manual).
Towing capacities for the Toyota RAV4 2WD are 750kgs (unbraked trailer) and 800kgs (braked trailer).
Toyota RAV4 2WD The Interior
If you’ve previously owned a Toyota RAV4, you’ll be surprised when you check inside the latest fourth-generation model – even though the new model is 10mm narrower, space is up, materials and finishes are premium and the driving position is much better. The look is sophisticated and the layout is horizontal – to emphasize width – with a curved metal-finish spar neatly framing the instrument binnacle, steering wheel and footwell.
Behind the wheel, the latest Toyota RAV4 feels less ‘SUV’ thanks to 15mm more seat height adjustment and the steering wheel (rake/reach adjustable) has been lowered by 2.3 degrees. So you feel more like a passenger car driver and the eight per-cent narrower A-pillars provide a wider field of forward vision.
That driving position is enhanced in the GXL model thanks to sports seats which offer nice extra support around the hips, lower torso and shoulders.
Instruments are Toyota’s usual conservative design with nice graphics and crisp, blue lighting. And the centre-console gear-lever adopts a nice, new shape.
Rear seat passengers enjoy 41mm extra space thanks to the re-designed front seats, the back seat split-folds 60:40 for cargo versatility, the rear of the seat reclines for extra comfort and the two outer seats have ISOFIX child seat mounts. And there are plenty of storage spaces front and back (always appreciated by family buyers).
Cargo space (rear seat in-place) is 577-litres if you have the space-saver spare wheel or 506-litres if you opt for the full-size spare. Access to the cargo area is improved with the all-new fourth-generation Toyota RAV4 switching to a lighter (doesn’t carry the full-size spare wheel) roof-hinged tailgate in place of the previous side-opening door.
Toyota RAV4 2WD Exterior & Styling
Like the all-new Corolla, RAV4 highlights a new, more aggressive styling direction for Toyota which we really like. And it’s all new, with no recall to previous generation RAVs.
Fourth generation RAV4 is clever too – a larger interior clothed in a smaller exterior package (55mm shorter, 20mm lower and 10mm narrower).
Up-front there’s the new ‘face’ of Toyota – ‘Under Priority’ grille design and piercing ‘Keen Look’ headlights with LED DRLs and aggressive detailing.
That aggression continues to the side with prominent character lines and wheel-arches plus a sleek, sloping roofline. A prominent belt-line and blacked-out B and C pillars emphasize the long glasshouse.
At the rear, removal of the externally-mounted spare wheel enabled Toyota’s designers to lighten things up – not only with the top-hinged rear door but also with a nicely tapering shape for the rear bodywork.
Aerodynamic cues are evident in vortex generators near the base of the A-pillars and in the tail-lights; less evident in the underbody cover.
Toyota RAV4 2WD On The Road
As our two Toyota RAV4s were fitted with the K11 CVT automatic transmission, they scored the new ‘Sport’ mode driving dynamics setting which reduces power steering assistance for firmer feel and sharpens throttle response and CVT response. There’s also a seven-speed manual mode.
Also impressively improved are the refinement levels in the all-new Toyota RAV4. 2WD models miss-out on the two-layer acoustic windscreen fitted to AWD models but do get the new, thicker transmission tunnel silencer.
Underneath, the latest Toyota RAV4 is 10mm wider in track (1570mm) and this combines with a chassis tune designed to flatten the ride and enhance steering feel. Then, for the 2WD models as tested, there’s an Auto LSD (limited slip differential) which uses the traction control system to apply the brakes and minimize differences in wheel speed between the two rear wheels when one breaks traction (handy on road and off-road on surfaces like sand).
So over our high-speed mountain roads test loop, the Toyota RAV4 2WD - in ‘M’ mode for sequential manual gear changes and in ‘Sport’ mode for enhanced steering feel and throttle response – was surprisingly competent. Of the myriad improvements we suspect existing RAV4 owners will most notice the flatter cornering stance.
Around town, on the school run, the Toyota RAV4 was staggeringly efficient. Consider this: it’s a mid-size SUV yet the turning circle is a mere 10.3-metres – that’s maneuverability with a capital ‘M.
Toyota RAV4 2WD Challenges
Toyota says one of the aims of its new CVT automatic transmission was to reduce ‘flaring’ under hard acceleration. This has been achieved but, like every other CVT, the exhaust note when pressing-on in auto is not a highlight of the driving experience.
Toyota RAV4 2WD Verdict
Looking at RAVs over the generations the bottom line is there isn’t one where Toyota has missed the mark. The same applies to the all-new fourth-generation model and it certainly applies to the 2WD variants.
Fact is requirements of SUV buyers have changed markedly. The ‘great off-road adventure’ still has allure, but for many these vehicles do school runs during the week and sports carnivals on the weekend – so all that four-wheel-drive hardware is superfluous and fuel-consuming.
What isn’t superfluous is the practicality which the Toyota RAV4 2WD offers these sorts of buyers. That’s the spacious interior which can handle a few knocks, the spacious cargo area for school bags and netball equipment and a roof large enough with racks strong enough to take the surf skis to the beach for the weekend’s junior surf carnival.
Try doing that in a Corolla.
Here at CarShowroom we meet the families-with-kids criteria and all things considered these are the Toyota RAV4s we would buy. Narrowing it further, if you can stretch to the GXL with those sports seats and reversing camera…well it gets our vote.
Toyota RAV4 2WD The Competition
Mazda CX-5 is a cracker, no doubt about it. And priced at $27,880 (Maxx) and $33,620 (Maxx Sport), Mazda has the 2WD models pin-sharp in the pricing department. It’s horses-for-course with these two – for example we didn’t get the micrometers out, but we suspect the RAV4 may be marginally ahead in interior space but we prefer the sportier driving dynamics of the Mazda.
Similarly we’ve got big wraps on the latest Honda CR-V. In 2WD, the CR-V VTi at $27,490 and VTi Nav at $31,790 are great buys.
We’ve done quite a lot of driving in Mitsubishi Outlanders lately (review coming). Much better in the latest model guise, the Outlander isn’t the lowest-priced vehicle in this league ($28,990 2WD ES and $34,990 2WD LS) but you get the impression it can handle the rough stuff with aplomb.
Nissan X-TRAIL is one of our favourites and, like the RAV4 and CX-5, you’re getting a lot of car for the coin. X-TRAIL 2WD ST will set you back $28,490 and the ST-L is $35,190.