Road test: Toyota RAV4 Excel AWD
Foreseeing that clean running economy would challenge looks, performance and safety for number-one tick on the average car buyer’s wants list, the boffins at Toyota have spent the past four decades bringing the hybrid concept to market right across their range.
The Japanese company’s big selling RAV4 is the latest offering in their range to offer the benefit of electric power without the need to plug in
It’s all been happening in the booming mid-sized sport utility segment of the market of late, with a fast-growing list of serious offerings competing for the nation’s affection – think Land Rover Evoque, Ford Kuga, Honda CR-V, Renault Kadjar and Mazda CX-5 for starters – but the belief at Toyota is that the hybrid concept gives its products an edge.
With a combined system output of 194 bhp the hybrid is the most powerful version of the RAV4 yet made in Europe.
Opening its offer with a reliable 2.0-litre diesel, the latest RV4 range includes a new 2.4-ltre D-4D diesel engine that gives increased power, torque and efficiency while an improved 2.0-ltre Valvematic petrol engine is mated to the four-wheel drive system.
The hybrid electric CVT has a 2.494 cc displacement. On Toyota hybrids the electric motor is constantly in operation while the petrol engine cuts in and out at any speed, with its computer automatically taking into account driving conditions, driver inputs and other operating considerations to cut in and out at any speed as required to ensure optimum balance between performance and economy. The payback is an 8.4-second 0-62-mph acceleration figure and a 112-mph top speed potential, while fuel consumption is a frugal 55.4-mpg in the urban cycle.
Useful RAV4 features include ‘follow me home’ headlamps whose low-beam can be programmed so that they can stay on for 30-seconds after the car is parked for the night.
A raft of active safety features, billed as Toyota Safety Sense, come as standard on all RAV4 models except the entry-level Active.
With the technological improvements come striking new looks both inside and out. There’s an aggressively styled front end while a crisp, sharp edge to the body lines evokes a hint of sporting pretensions that is fulfilled once you get out on the road.
Cross-country ability is promising too – the rugged looks are far from being a false promise, adding build quality, high comfort levels and generous luggage space to make sense of an investment, ranging from £23,755 to the £33,035 for the fully kitted Excel AWD we tested.
We’ve certainly come a long way since the original RAV4 was launched, back in 1994.