Crossing over, in style

Crossing over,  in style

The lowdown on the hottest rides in town



By George Kuruvilla

Published: Fri 22 Feb 2013, 12:30 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 8:35 PM

The pioneer of the crossover SUV, the Toyota RAV4, gets a makeover and new power-parts for 2013

Over many months, we have reviewed much-fancied cars that require us to win lotteries or liquidate trust funds in order to purchase the said cars. So this week, instead of fuelling dreams or making you feel less accomplished, we decided to review the 2013 Toyota RAV4, which is a fair fit for most budgets.

DESIGN & AESTHETICS

The first RAV4, a stubby looking SUV debuted in 1994. It pioneered the crossover SUV segment and paved the way for many other manufacturers. As of today, Toyota has sold over 4.5 million units in over 150 countries, and the affi-nity for the segment only seems to be growing. However, compelling offerings like the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape 
has seen its sales figures diminish, and so seven years since the conception of the last generation vehicle, Toyota has given the 2013 RAV4 a much needed overhaul, both on the inside and out.

The RAV4 was never the fashionista’s choice. The 2013 model is a little more engaging to look at, yet retains the quirky-but-safe styling seen on most Toyotas these days. It shows its aerodynamic traits with some obvious detailing like the pointy front end and the clearly raked windshield and A-pillar. Some details are less obvious, like the vortex generators (small fins) moulded into the taillight cases and on the A-pillars; they aid aerodynamic efficiency.

The headlamp cluster houses halogen based lamps, which mimic HID xenon lamps seen on more expensive cars. The yellow light it projects doesn’t look particularly dainty when paired with the bluish light from the 4-spot LED lamps. The lower end of the bumper has been blacked out to give it an aggressive stance, and sprinkles of aluminium trims on the bumper and the grille also help give it some character.

The rear end, in our opinion, is a bit generic looking; the lamps have this 3D effect that looks haphazard and, in all probability, will be hidden away in their adverts. All models get 5-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels that accentuate some 
measure of sportiness (except the base model, which runs on steel wheels).

In essence, the RAV4 has made a move in the right direction in terms of styling, drawing on par with its contemporaries — but is in no way spearheading a new design transition.

With its smart access, you don’t have to get the key out of your pocket or purse to unlock or lock doors. Touch the button on the handle and you can climb into a cabin that now borders cars in the premium segment.

The design of the 3-spoke multi-function steering wheel, with its aluminium accent, has been taken directly from a chapter of the book of Lexus. There is hand-stitched soft-leather grade material across the dash that gives it an upmarket feel and plenty of aluminium-like and faux carbon-fibre trims on the door handles and centre console. The carbon-fibre trim is evidently far from being the complex carbon compound it is supposed to be, but adds another texture to the interior.

The interiors on all models get the fabric seats, except the top-model — which, by default, gets the imitation leather called Softex by Toyota. The seats are supportive and comfortable, but are nothing to write home about. The rear cabin is surprisingly roomy for even 6-foot tall frames, but falls short of shoulder room, especially when accommodating three adults. The top-spec model gets an 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat with a memory function.

We like the interiors for their use of space and sparse sense of luxury, but 
if we were to nit-pick, the area under 
the centre console looks a little drab... even industrial.

POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE

The new RAV4 borrows the mechanical bits from the new generation Camry. The 2.4-litre has been replaced by the new 2.5-litre inline-4 engine that puts out 176 horses at 6,100 rpm. Though the maximum torque output of 234 Nm might seem a little underwhelming for a crossover SUV, the 6-speed automatic transmission works well in keeping the engine in the torque band. Toyota claim that the new SUV with its new engine is 10 per cent faster in terms of acceleration and five per cent more fuel efficient. It has sufficient oomph for the city, and do the highways effortlessly.

The RAV4 handles like a car; it’s comparable to some sports cars even, thanks to the dynamic torque control system. The steering feel is direct, it’s quick to turn in and mid-corner stability is good and drama-free. With respect to each car and their segments, this might be the best handling car Toyota made. The ride can get a little busy, mainly due to stiffsprung suspension, but for the way it handles, it must be forgiven.

This soft-roader isn’t a rock stomper, neither is it meant for anything more than a washboard dirt road. The AWD transfers most of the torque, up to 100 per cent to the front wheels especially on the highways, and distributes up to 50 per cent to the rear, when required. There is a differential lock that you can engage if you get yourself into a tricky situation in sand or mud.

The Eco mode modifies throttle 
sensitivity and air conditioning output for increased fuel economy.

For spirited drives, you can choose to activate Sport Mode, which modulates throttle response, suspension tuning and steering feel.

Being the eco-wagon it is, customers bank on its fuel economy. With a claimed figure of 8.5 l/100km on a mixed cycle and 60-litre tank, you could do a Dubai-Muscat trip on a single tank and still be left with a few kilometers to loaf around the streets of Oman.

FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY

The forte of the RAV4 has always been its versatility, and the new model really improves those qualities of functionality, cargo space and features.

The 6.1-inch screen perched on the centre console displays a navigation screen, which, mind you, is only available on the 4x4 VXR model. We wished it were more user-friendly. The screen also doubles as view from the backup camera, which again, is only available on the top-spec model.

The stereo system is a company-specified 6-speaker system. You get the regular DVD and MP3 compatibility, a USB port, auxiliary input and Bluetooth connectivity. Neither will the output blow your mind, nor the clarity stir your soul, but it works well enough.

Toyota needs to get an award for their air-conditioning skills. The dual zone climate control system will give you the chills, literally — a blessing for the eight summer months in the UAE.

The RAV4 is a champion in its segment for cargo capacity. You get 1,087 litres of space for your luggage and if you fold down the rear seats, you get up to 2,076 litres of space — a little playground.

The other major change is the deletion of the swinging rear door, which used to have the full-size spare wheel mounted on it. Instead, the RAV4 has been equipped with power-operated liftgate and a space-saver tyre, which goes under the floor of the cargo bay.

VERDICT

The 2013 Toyota RAV4 is the motoring chef’s recipe for rational and purposeful motoring. It drives like a car, and acts like an SUV, but with all of its functionality and limited-but-available off-road capability; in the process, it justifies every dirham you invest. To back Toyota’s unfailing reliability, the new RAV4 also comes with a 5-year or unlimited km warranty. What’s not to like!


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