Does opt­ing to do with­out the hy­brid pow­er­train kill the spark?

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - ASH WESTER­MAN

IT’S TAKEN five gen­er­a­tions for Toy­ota to of­fer hy­brid power in what has been the world’s best-sell­ing SUV, and the com­pany is not about to squan­der that ad­van­tage with elit­ist pric­ing for the petrol­elec­tric driv­e­train.

No, you can have the 163kw/221nm hy­brid sys­tem for $3500 more than the ba­sic petrol pow­er­train in the en­trylevel GX grade. Such is the struc­ture of the 11-model RAV4 range, Toy­ota ex­pects 40 per­cent (at least) take-up for the Hy­brid.

But what about non-hy­brid ver­sions of the new RAV4? Does delet­ing the mo­tor and bat­tery kill the spark?

Well, any­one who’s never driven the hy­brid will ini­tially feel pretty con­tent with it, be­cause the 2.0-litre doesn’t feel par­tic­u­larly dif­fer­ent from other con­tenders in this class when you’re just trundling around the sub­urbs.

This re­vised en­gine runs a high 13:1 com­pres­sion ra­tio on the Atkin­son cy­cle, and is up a healthy 20kw on its pre­de­ces­sor. Fur­ther, Toy­ota’s unique ap­proach of mat­ing a con­ven­tional auto first gear with a CVT helps mask – ini­tially, at least – the com­par­a­tive lack of torque and that dron­ing syn­drome to which CVTS are prone.

But 203Nm can only take you so far, metaphor­i­cally speak­ing, and the rel­a­tive lack of torque quickly be­comes ap­par­ent the mo­ment you ask more of the throt­tle pedal, or ven­ture out­side of sub­ur­bia with a few bod­ies on board. You, plus, let’s say one other adult and two early teens will add around 280kg to the RAV4’S pay­load, tak­ing the over­all weight with fuel to some­thing close to 1850kg, and you’ll feel it when try­ing to over­take on in­clines. Wideopen throt­tle and less-than-hushed noise fol­lows. It’s not aw­ful at high revs, but it is a bit fre­netic and not easy on

the ear. More con­cern­ing is the ef­fect on over­tak­ing per­for­mance, where you need to pick your op­por­tu­ni­ties way more ju­di­ciously than when in an SUV with more torque.

At least dy­nam­i­cally, the GLX front­driver claws back points, es­pe­cially on typ­i­cal Aus­tralian B-roads. We were con­sis­tently sur­prised at just how adept this chas­sis set-up is at deal­ing with our lumpy bi­tu­men. No RAV4 in the his­tory of the name­plate has been able to re­tain this sort of com­po­sure. Ev­ery dip, wal­low and rut is dis­pensed with ut­ter dis­dain, the damper tune never heav­ing, or need­ing a sec­ond re­bound stab at re­gain­ing com­po­sure.

But as for trac­tion, that’s a dif­fer­ent story. Granted, our test­ing was in the wet, mas­sively ex­ac­er­bat­ing the dif­fer­ences be­tween the FWD set-up and the hy­brid AWD. But the in­escapable fact is the front­drive car will scrabble and ac­ti­vate its elec­tronic sys­tems at far lower ve­loc­i­ties than the Hy­brid AWD. Sure, the FWD car still re­tains rea­son­able grip lev­els thanks to the ex­cel­lent Bridgeston­e Alenza rub­ber, but if you’re a keen driver who wants to crack on in slip­pery con­di­tions, the FWD set-up de­mands you ease your ex­pec­ta­tions in terms of turn-in and power-down abil­ity.

So, in the wash-up, the petrol GLX does come with a few caveats. For own­ers sim­ply look­ing for their RAV4 to do fairly un­de­mand­ing ur­ban du­ties, it’s not hard to see why a sav­ing of $3500 will look pretty ap­peal­ing. How­ever, for any­one ex­pect­ing a fair bit more real-world per­for­mance and pow­er­train ca­pa­bil­ity – not to men­tion greater ef­fi­ciency – that ex­tra spend will be one of the bet­ter in­vest­ments you’ll make.

Model Toy­ota RAV4 GLX En­gine 1987cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v Max power 127kw @ 6600rpm Max torque 203Nm @ 4800rpm Trans­mis­sion CVT Weight 1545kg (estimated) 0-100km/h 9.8sec (estimated) Fuel econ­omy 6.5L/100km Price $35,640 On sale Now

You’ll miss the Hy­brid’s torque most in the hills, and its ef­fi­ciency when you’re on the servo fore­court

Man­ual-ad­just cloth seats in GLX spec. Safety equip­ment all present, though

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