It’s hard-working but the RAV is a cruiser, not a bruiser, writes Graham Smith The cutey is a lot more mature now
THOUGH SUVs look as if they can handle the bush, few owners believe they will. Most SUVs are bought as family wagons and used to transport the kids to school and pick up the shopping from the supermarket. Rarely, if ever, do they venture beyond the city limits, and when they do it’s usually only as far as a local beach or nearby camping ground.
But Toyota was keen to show its RAV4 really could handle the rough going when it launched its 2006 model in the Flinders Ranges.
THE 2006 RAV4 was a far cry from the cute fun wagon launched in the 1990s. It was bigger in almost every dimension, heavier by 180kg and had grown into a full-sized family wagon with a much more roomy interior. There were six models with three levels of equipment: CV, Cruiser and Cruiser L.
All came with the same 2.4-litre twin-cam four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing boasting peak power of 125kW at 6000 revs, up 5kW, with maximum torque unchanged at 224Nm at 4000 revs.
It offered a choice of a five-speed manual gearbox or four-speed auto, with part-time all-wheel drive.
The system switched seamlessly from two-wheel drive to all-wheel drive, with the only indication being a light on the dash to tell the driver the switch had taken place.
The RAV4 had fully independent suspension at both ends, with MacPherson struts at the front and wishbones at the rear.
All models came with 17-inch alloy wheels, CD sound, tilt-and-reach steering wheel, and heaps of storage compartments and cup holders.
If you stepped up to the Cruiser from the base CV you got dual-zone airconditioning, traction control, hillstart assistance and stability control.
With the Cruiser L you also got leather, a power driver’s seat, and both front seats were heated.
On the lot
PAY $ 19,000-$ 29,500 for a CV, $23,000-$32,000 for a Cruiser or $27,000-$38,000 for a Cruiser L.
In the shop
TOYOTA enjoys a well-earned reputation for quality and reliability, and though recent reports to carsGuide suggest it has slipped a little it is still right up there with the best.
Build quality is good. The interior plastics and other hardware stands up well to normal use.
With any SUV, including the RAV4, it’s important to check for signs not so much of use off-road but of off-road abuse.
It’s possible to drive off the black top without beating your car to death, so check for underbody damage, damage to suspension and driveshafts that suggest an uncaring driver.
Also look for evidence that regular maintenance has been carried out, particularly of oil and filter changes.
In a crash
ALL models had anti-skid brakes with brake-force distribution and active four-wheel drive that endowed the RAV4 with decent active safety.
The Cruiser and Cruiser L offered traction control and stability control.
Add the passive protection of twin airbags on the CV, and side and curtain airbags on the Cruiser and Cruiser L, and the RAV4 scrubbed up pretty well for safety, well enough to