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