By: Edward Stephens
Oct 20, 2019
WHEN it comes to producing a new version of a car that has already sold more than nine million models car makers better get it right.
So there’s little doubt the designers and engineers who created the latest, fifth generation, Toyota RAV4 had a few sleepless nights before the job was done.
Over the years this model has become the biggest selling SUV in the world but the newest version bears no resemblance at all to the tiny - by today’s standards - first generation which started it all.
In fact the newcomer is a colossus compared to its predecessors, and that means an abundance of space for both passengers and luggage.
Dramatic styling with a wider body but lower roof and bonnet height and a two-tone colour scheme and black alloy wheels make the new RAV4 a very imposing vehicle that stands out in the car park.
And while both petrol and diesel versions were produced in the past now there is only one power train - a petrol-electric hybrid, although both two and four-wheel-drive versions are available.
The two-wheel-drive version driven here has a 2.5-litre petrol engine and an electric motor which deliver a total of 215bhp, making this newcomer an impressively quick SUV, particularly in mid range acceleration.
It also makes it one of the quietest self-charging hybrids I have driven. So much so that it’s sometimes difficult to be sure when you are motoring on pure electric or on a combination of electric motor and engine.
Certainly the new, fourth generation, self charging system on the RAV4 means you can be running on battery power for long periods even at motorway speeds, and that means better fuel consumption and more relaxed driving.
But when you need power urgently the RAV4 is quick to respond so you’re never caught out at busy junctions or roundabouts.
There is an slight element of body roll on fast corners but the new platform the car is built on gives it dramatically more rigidity ensuring a stable ride and superb handling even with five up and makes long distance motoring enjoyable.
The CVT automatic gearbox is smooth and sophisticated and you can slip the gear shift into sport for more rapid progress or use it manually to give you the flexibility of six gears.
There’s also a choice of three driving modes, with eco, normal and sport available at the touch of a button.
I particularly liked the cabin layout and the use of more tactile, easy grip surfaces on the inside of the door handles and on the oversized air conditioning buttons.
Like most modern SUVs there’s a large touch screen in the centre of the dashboard to activate numerous on-board features as well as for the satellite navigation system and the very effective rear-view reversing camera with its picture overlaid with moving lines to show exactly where you are heading.
Beneath the powered tailgate there’s 590 litres of space with the rear seats upright - 79 litres more than the previous generation - and with the seats folded there is enough room to accommodate a 29-inch mountain bike without removing the wheels. A bonus for a lot of families I know.
And this is a car packed with safety systems including lane departure alert, a pre-collision system, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beam/dipped beam headlights, not to mention a very accurate speed camera warning and distance countdown system.
The creators of the new RAV4 may have suffered from insomnia before its launch but there’s little doubt the new Toyota RAV4 is a comprehensive package set to drive those nine million sales even higher.
Toyota RAV4 Dynamic 2.5 hybrid
Mechanical: 215bhp, 2,487cc, 4cyl petrol engine plus two electric motors driving the front wheels via automatic gearbox
Max speed: 112mph
0-62mph: 8.4 seconds
Combined mpg: 51.2
Insurance group: 27
CO2 emissions: 105g/km
BiK rating: 25%
Warranty: 5yrs/100,000 miles
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