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New Toyota RAV4 still an icon

2006-03-31 14:14

First introduced in 1994, the RAV4 immediately captured the imagination of vehicle buyers as a "new wave" vehicle from Toyota.

Now an international motoring icon, the RAV4 provided the impetus for the creation of an entirely new segment in the global motor vehicle market. Its unique blend of off-road capability, excellent on-highway performance and rugged looks set the benchmark for this type of vehicle.

Now in its third generation, the RAV4 formula for success remains unchanged. Active, sporty, and with a youthful outlook on life, best describe the RAV4 customer.

The RAV4 offers a crossover between sophisticated boulevard cruiser and weekend adventurer in a small SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) package. In Europe the RAV4 is the undisputed class leader with over 600 000 sold since introduction through the third quarter of 2005. Its market share is as high as 25% in this hotly contested SUV market.

"In developing the new RAV4 we had to explore the features perceived as essential in an SUV," says Michihiko Sato, Chief Engineer for the RAV4 development team. "SUVs attract buyers because they offer an out of the ordinary motoring experience.

The latest generation RAV4 had to follow the trend setting original model in its ability to offer extraordinary flair in the ownership experience.

The first two generations of the RAV4 provided extensive experience in a new market sector and were a valuable source of RAV 'DNA' that we have been able to use as the core of this latest generation model to create a vehicle that will offer a superb ownership and driving experience."

First shown to the world at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 2005, the latest generation RAV4 is a completely new model with a high level of specification.

Five-door only

The latest model is available in 5-door form with permanent four-wheel drive. At introduction two models offering a choice between manual and automatic transmission will be available in South Africa.

Both share the same high 'VX' specification level. They differ only in transmission with a choice of either 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic. An expansion of the range to five models during 2006 is planned.

This third generation RAV4 offers advanced technology, an increase in interior space, a high level of space utility, and premium specification and quality.

Styling cues are drawn through from previous generations with a rugged, modern exterior appearance for this new model. Its launch in South Africa coincides with its sales debut in Europe to bring a new element of model currency to South African buyers.

Under the skin

The 2,0 litre engine with 112 kW @ 6 000 r/min and 194 m of torque at 4 000 r/min is carried over from the previous model but is linked to an all-new high-tech drive train. Toyota's new Integrated Active Drive System provides new levels of sophistication and active safety for the RAV4.

Linked to a five-speed manual transmission or four-speed automatic transmission this combination is good for a top speed of 185 km/h (175 km/h A/T) and 0-100 km/h acceleration of 10,6 seconds (12,0 A/T). Toyota engineers have achieved a combined cycle fuel consumption of less than 10 litres per 100km in tests in Europe. 

Both on- and off-road safety and performance are enhanced by the Integrated Active Drive System. This introduces VSC+ to the small SUV segment ? a world first for Toyota. In most vehicles the anti-lock braking (ABS), traction control (TRC), and vehicle stability control contribute to advanced vehicle control.

Toyota's VSC+ adds electronic power steering to the mix and integrates all of the electronic functions, together with the Active Torque Control 4WD system, via a high-sped CAN communications interface.

The real time interaction of all of these systems allows for exceptional levels of vehicle control corresponding to driver inputs and vehicle behaviour resulting in enhanced running, turning, and stopping performance in all driving conditions.

The Active Torque Control 4WD system constantly monitors and controls torque transfer between the front and rear wheels. This allows the vehicle to continuously and seamlessly switch between front wheel drive and 4-wheel drive modes to optimise driving stability and under all conditions and to maximise fuel economy.

With this system the centre differential conventionally found in this type of vehicle is dispensed with. In its place is a computer controlled electromagnetic coupling, a new development from Toyota.

Electronic sensors monitor throttle opening, engine torque and speed, gear selection, vehicle speed and steering angle. Using inputs from these sensors the Active Torque Control system selects one of three control modes to switch torque from front wheel drive to all-wheel drive.

  • The 'Start-off' control ensures adequate traction and acceleration from standstill. Torque split is 55:45.
  • 'Normal control' allows the system to switch from 4-wheel drive to front wheel drive (100:0) to optimise traction and fuel consumption. The torque distribution in this mode can vary from 55:45 to 100:0.
  • 'Cornering control' increases cornering stability by monitoring the appropriate yaw rate that should be applied to the car.

    The driver has the option to lock the torque distribution in the ratio of 55:45 by activating the 4WD LOCK switch.

    Other standard control systems are hill-start assist control (HAC), which prevents the vehicle from rolling back when pulling off on a steep incline, and down-hill assist control (DAC), which assists the driver by controlling the wheel speed during steep descents (this last feature is fitted exclusively to the automatic transmission model).

    Both front and rear suspensions have been revised for more compliance and improved comfort, particularly on bumpy roads. Steering precision and feel is enhanced by the use of electronic power steering. Despite an increase in length the new RAV4 boasts a tighter turning circle and will now turn in just 5,1 metres.


    Interior quality, the level of specification, and passenger comfort are all improved while clever packaging creates more interior space with greater flexibility.

    Toyota's Easy Flat system is used in the RAV4 to allow the rear 60:40 split seats to fold down to form a flat floor area. Seat cushions and headrests do not need to be removed and just a pull on a single lever is needed to accomplish this.

    The new RAV4 is 145mm longer than the previous model with an increase of 70mm in the wheelbase. The vehicle is also 80mm wider.

    This allows for improved passenger comfort with the couple distance between the front and rear seats increased by 55mm. The increased width allows the front seats to set further apart for improved shoulder space.

    Headroom is also increased with 3,5mm extra for front seat passengers and a significant increase of 27,5mm for rear seat occupants. Revisions to the rear suspension allow for a more compact installation that improves the rear utility space.

    Improvements can be seen and experienced throughout this new RAV4 package. External rear view mirrors are now heated and have a retract feature for parking in close spaces. An intermittent rain sensing wiper system automatically activates the windscreen wipers when rain is detected (windscreen wipers must be switched to automatic to activate).

    The cloth seat trim of earlier models is replaced with full leather trim and a six speaker audio system with radio and 6-CD shuttle is fitted as standard equipment. Tilt and telescopic adjustment is provided for the steering wheel.

    A lockable glove box with built in cooler is a standard fitting as is an electrochromatic rear view mirror. An automatic air-conditioner with climate control and separate controls for right and left seats is fitted. The AC system includes a pollen removal mode.

    The front seat passenger benefits from a larger vanity mirror in the sun visor. Lighting for the vanity mirror is improved by moving the source of the illumination from around the mirror into the roof lining above the sun visor. The driver's seat has electronic adjustment and seat heating is provided for both front seats.


    The safety specification includes seven airbags. Dual stage front airbags, side airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags, and a knee airbag for the driver make up this number. The passenger side front airbag can be deactivated.

    A 'smart entry' and push button start system provide for convenient access to the vehicle. This system provides keyless access and starting for the new RAV4.

    Sensors mounted on the exterior and interior of the vehicle identify the unique entry code for the vehicle when the key holder is in close proximity to the vehicle (within 1 metre) allowing keyless access.

    Once in the vehicle the driver starts the vehicle by simply pressing the start button whilst depressing the clutch (manual model) or brake (automatic). This action activates the central locking. The engine is switched off by pressing the stop button.

    This action will also unlock the doors. Anti-theft protection includes an immobiliser with unique key code and a vehicle alarm.

    Manual headlight level adjustment is provided for with a dash mounted control. An automatic setting on the headlight switch provides for the automatic activation of the headlights when ambient light decreases to a pre-determined level.

    Cruise control is fitted as standard on the RAV4 automatic. This option is not available on the manual transmission model. A dealer fitted option that is available on both the manual and automatic models is a proprietary Toyota 'Turn-By-Turn' navigation system.

    The new RAV4 raises the bar in the small SUV segment with its abundance of luxury and technology enhancements together with its up to the minute styling and increased space utilisation.



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