Johannesburg - Visiting a friend recently at a braai one of the guests arrived in a Toyota RAV4. Not just any RAV4, but one of the first generation two-door short wheel base versions first seen here in the mid ‘90s, the one that had people sit up and take notice of its cute shape and funky attitude.
Much has happened since then and the Toyota RAV4 is all grown up and is now a premium SUV within the Toyota stable boasting two electric motors in hybrid variants.
Toyota is focussing a lot of attention on hybrid drivetrains and the RAV4 is currently pretty much currently at the forefront of this technology.
The front wheel drive 2.5 Hybrid GX introduced last year has been discontinued (thanks in part for the demand for the Corolla Cross Hybrid) so new to the range are the GX-R and VX E-Four versions.
Toyota describes the RAV4’s system as follows:
“All RAV4 Hybrid models employ Toyota's 4th-generation hybrid system which combines a 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle 4-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor (on the front axle) while adding a rear-mounted electric motor (MGR). The power units are coupled to a CVT transmission. This provides the vehicle with new energy credentials and also adds on-demand AWD to the powertrain matrix.
The electric motor is connected to a two-stage gear reduction mechanism, which utilises a parallel shaft to reduce gear engagement losses. The electric E-Four system automatically optimises the torque distribution ratio according to driving conditions, which can vary between 100% in the front, to a 20/80 front-rear split.
When turning, the power distribution is controlled to be more 'rear-wheel drive-like'. For driving in slippery conditions, an Auto LSD/Trail Assist mode can be used to improve traction. Enhanced acceleration, traction, driving stability and regenerative braking performance are some of the E-FOUR benefits.
Drive Mode Select allows the driver to tailor vehicle dynamics to usage conditions (Eco/Normal/Power) which in turn are joined by EV-mode and Trail Assist switches, for condition-specific operation.
“In terms of performance figures, the A25A-FXS engine delivers 131kW and 221Nm of torque in pure ICE trim. The electric motors pitch in 88 and 40kW respectively (front/rear) with the complimentary torque numbers registering at 202 and 121Nm. The total system is rated at 163kW, while top speed is specified as 180km/h.”
So, there you have it and personally, I believe that especially in South Africa, hybrid technology at this stage makes a lot more sense than full electric propulsion.
The interior is a far cry from the original with a high quality look and feel, premium surfaces, an integrated infotainment system, five USB ports, two 12V connectors, seat heating and ventilation.
We drove with one of the Toyota product specialists in the GX-R in the passenger seats and as a tall man there was ample space for him behind me with my seat set to the optimum driving position.
He also advised us to test the all-wheel drive system and under spirited cornering you definitely can feel how it keeps the car solidly planted. Switching between the different driving modes there’s also a noticeable difference between them but interestingly, in this class of vehicle , the challenge is to use as little fuel as possible, which for many will take a paradigm shift.
The shift between electric front or rear motor and ICE is completely seamless and in this application the CVT gearbox is well suited.
Driving around suburbia the E-Four potters around easily between the various drive options and we’d like to have it on test longer to see whether the claimed combined figure of 4.8l/100km is reachable or the 5.8l/100km we managed is more the norm.
Heading towards Cullinan on the open road giving it a bit of right foot we averaged just over 6l/100km and I reckon with more gentle targeted driving that would be less, which considering the size of the RAV4 is still respectable.
It’s able to tow a 750kg unbraked trailer and 1000kg braked which is perfect for family long hauls but will obviously have an effect on consumption.
It’s loaded with driver aids including ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Control, Trailer Sway Control (TSC), Hill Start Assist and Downhill Assist Control (DAC). The VX grade adds Toyota Safety Sense (TSS), which encompasses Pre-Crash, radar cruise control, lane trace assist, blind-spot monitoring (BSM) and rear cross traffic alert (RCTA).
The RAV4 has been with us for a long time and with the launch of the Toyota Corolla Cross saw buyers head off towards that option and it will be interesting to see how the introduction of the two hybrid models affects sales, keeping in mind that the Toyota RAV4 is essentially a more premium option.
It comes with a six-services or 90 000km service plan with service Intervals pegged at 15 000km/12-months and a three-year/100 000km warranty. Hybrid customers get an additional eight-year/195 000km Hybrid battery warranty.
Toyota RAV4 Pricing (March 2022)
RAV4 2.0 GX-R CVT AWD - R 606 600
RAV4 2.5 GX-R CVT Hybrid E-Four - R 644 100
RAV4 2.0 VX CVT 2WD - R 617 000
RAV4 2.5 VX AT AWD - R 702 300
RAV4 2.5 VX CVT Hybrid E-Four - R 723 200