REVIEW | A rave and a rant about the 2019 Toyota RAV4
Brenwin Naidu tests Toyota's latest medium-sized SUV
When was the last time you took yourself on a date? Not my intention to go all Eat, Pray, Love on you as you read this with your morning coffee. But self-courting is a fine practice and a recommended way to get back in touch with what matters most. Which is your emotional welfare, of course.
So it was that I snuck out of the office in a loud, bubble gum-shaded Toyota RAV4, on a midday mission to stoke the romantic fires that exist between me, myself and I. Obviously, the outing would have to be tied in with some actual work, lest HR corner me and inquire about my whereabouts between noon and 3pm on the Wednesday in question.
Consider this a colourful study of the latest sport-utility vehicle from the top-selling brand in SA. As I pulled up at The Wing Republic in Braamfontein, the double-takes from patrons affirmed what I already thought about those looks. The new RAV4 is striking, particularly in the dazzling blue hue worn by our tester.
Still not entirely sold on the rear though, which looks like a facsimile of Volkswagen Tiguan. Albeit one that got totally lost in translation.
But how about that scowling face? Almost puts me in mind of a previous-generation Mini Countryman. Disgruntlement is a look that works well on most cars.
But the angry countenance appears to betray the performance… Which could be described as more passive-aggressive than anything. Let me explain. You mash your foot through the floorboards. The increase in pace is marginal – totally eclipsed by the painful din of the flaccid powertrain combination.
Which, in the case of our 2.0 GX-R AWD (R516,100) tester was a naturally aspirated four-cylinder paired with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Not the best gearbox format out there, you will have read about and probably experienced. A six-speed manual with two-wheel drive can be had instead.
The quoted output of 127kW and 203Nm looks reasonable on paper, but in the real world, scored low for tractability and overtaking punch. Your other option is the 2.5-litre engine, coupled with a conventional eight-speed automatic gearbox, with 152kW and 243Nm, plus all-wheel drive.
It does the job slightly better, of course, but probably not as good as if some turbocharging were added to the mix. Also, this is only available in top-range VX specification, requiring substantially more outlay, from R586,586. And customers have no hope of a diesel offering.
Life in the extreme left lane afforded a chance to ponder on the other aspects of the latest RAV4. The interior is decidedly interesting, with its contoured seats and chunky fixtures. Not long ago I spent time behind the wheel of that earlier-mentioned, grander VX version, doing duty in the Ignition TV test fleet. After basking in its caramel interior, I may have quipped that the model evinced more than a hint of Lexus aspirations, with its improved textures and bounty of kit.
That sentiment has changed somewhat after this stint in the middle-range GX-R, which appeared a smidgen more urban-adventurer in its make-up. My attention was drawn to certain plastics of a disappointingly coarse nature.
In summary, the new Toyota RAV4 is a mixed bag. It looks striking, even if the jury is out on that rump. And while some cabin elements cheapen the concoction, the lounge is a pleasant place from occupants' perspectives. We need zestier engine offerings to mirror that daring exterior persona.
The actuaries at Toyota might counter that their rationale in this area was just fine, and that we should look to the sales figures for proof of that. But one could also highlight certain contenders in competitor ranges that bring the fizz to match their assertive faces.