ON THE ROAD
THE V6 engine adds a new dimension to the all-wheel-drive RAV4. With power to spare, it encourages you to have more fun. It is better equipped for towing and everyday driving, and pulls away from the lights like a sports sedan.
Though it is a reasonably good package, a few flaws spoil the experience.
The biggest letdown is the automatic transmission, which could be better tuned.
Also, unlike almost every other auto on sale, the RAV4’s does not feature a sequential manual shift mode. You can use the T-bar to select fourth, third or second, but the changes are quite slow.
That’s a shame, because the RAV4 really does feel quite sporty on gravel.
The RAV4 V6 would be a treat with a manual gearbox, but it probably wouldn’t sell all that well.
The other problem with the test car was a gearbox-related noise. At 60km/h to 80km/h there was a gentle whine that, once noticed, became particularly annoying.
When it comes to handling, the RAV4 is good for a crossover wagon. It is relatively agile and handled the country loop well.
It feels especially good compared to the Kluger, which wallowed and wobbled along the same section of road.
The pay-off for the fairly sharp handling is a ride that is a little firm, but it’s not bad.
The RAV4 V6 handled some mild off-road work easily, though it is no rock-hopper.
But it is never lacking when it comes to punch. It has plenty of go off the line and the engine is strong higher up in the rev range.
A lot of drivers will appreciate the extra urge when it comes to pulling out and overtaking, something that is a bit more of an ordeal in a four-cylinder RAV4.
The interior of the test car was quite plain. Grey and black plastics don’t help, especially as the seats are dark as well, and the control panel and instruments are conservative.
Standard cruise control is helpful, but otherwise this car feels a bit cheap considering it costs $40,000.
There is no trip computer with fuel use or distance-to-empty reading, you get steel wheels instead of alloys, and there are no parking cameras. The RAV4’s heavy sidehinged tailgate is also quite cumbersome.
THE BOTTOM LINE
THE V6 adds punch to an already competent package, as long as you don’t mind the firm ride.