The RAV4 has always ploughed itself a straight and sturdy furrow through the middle of the vast, varied and seemingly endless fields of the mid-size SUV class. The previous generation released by Toyota back in 2013 was no exception. It may have come in for criticism in some quarters for lacking the ride comfort and precise handling epitomised by several of its rival family 4x4s, but in essence the RAV4 has never been geared towards exploring the boundaries of SUV luxury and performance and has always retained a distinct taste of traditional ruggedness. Truth be told, at a shade under £23,000 at base price, we’d have been hard pushed to find anything else delivering parallel levels of practicality, mechanical refinement and bullet-proof Japanese build quality as on the RAV4.
Now, 20 years on from the launch of the first generation model, Toyota are unveiling the latest incarnation of their ever popular RAV4 at the New York International Auto Show.
For the first time ever, the new RAV4 will harness the power of hybrid technology, combining a 2.5-litre petrol engine and an electric motor plus a smaller unit mated to the rear axle to deliver electronic all-wheel drive. Despite never being the mightiest brute amongst its contemporaries, the new RAV4 can lug up to 1,650kg with ease thanks to an enhanced towing capacity.
With a new generation comes a refresh, albeit a conservative one, of the RAV4’s exterior design. At the front, only the narrower V-shaped grill is indicative of any major revamp in the wardrobe department although the full LED headlights that flank it are a first for this model. To the side, a new rocker panel creates a more flowing look, whilst it is fair to say that the rear remains the RAV4’s least flattering angle with the angular aesthetic retained despite minor tinkering with the headlamp and bumper layout.
On-board, the cabin adopts a new instrument configuration and a full colour touch screen into which Toyota’s new 360-degree Panoramic View Monitor has been integrated. Also earmarked for the new Avensis and Auris models due this summer, Toyota’s Pre-Collision System, Lane Departure Alert, Automatic High Beam and Road Sign Assist safety features are all incorporated into the new RAV4, in addition to an enhanced Adaptive Cruise Control facility.