The time of cleaner energy has come, and car buyers are actively trying to firstly, lower their carbon footprint, and secondly, save fuel in an increasingly expensive time. We attended the launch of the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, which was initially launched in 2021, now tweeked for 2022. For 2022, the RAV4 Hybrid line-up has been revised, with a new two-grade strategy comprising the familiar GX-R and VX. With the adoption of the new higher-tier grades (versus the outgoing GX), the accompanying specification levels (and visual drama) have been amplified too.
The Rav4 is an attractive SUV, with lots of angular creases and a bold front-end that gives it real presence. The GX-R has a large trapezoidal grille, with two parallel crossbars, with wide set fog lamps that frame a blue-hued Toyota insignia, whereas the top model VX, has a unique front grille with vertically mounted fog lamp bezels. I really like the look of the Rav4, which wasn’t the case when the shape initially changed, I preferred the previous gen, but it now appeals to me immensely.
To me it has a universal appeal to men and women, and it has a strong and assured look about it.
So we reviewed two variants, and we can unpack the features for the GX-R first- The GX-R features LED headlamps and daytime running lights, aforementioned fog lamps, roof rails, rear spoiler and new smoked 18″ alloy wheels. Convenience specification is ample with auto air-conditioning, rain-sensing wipers, smart entry, a touchscreen infotainment system (with CarPlay and Android Auto functionality), five USB ports, a wireless charger, reverse camera, rear park distance control (PDC) and cruise control. Both seat heating and ventilation are on offer, as well as power seat adjustment for the driver.
The VX variant which I preferred is further bolstered with power-seat adjustment for the front passenger with driver memory function (while foregoing seat ventilation), front and rear park distance control, auto high-beam functionality and auto-fold operation for the exterior mirrors. A highlight of the VX model is the panoramic view monitor which is newly joined by a digital rear-view mirror. The digital rear-view mirror uses rear-facing cameras to project a wide angle image onto the mirror surface. This function is user selectable, allowing the driver to toggle between traditional and camera views, at the touch of a button. This feature was very interesting, and very cool as well.
Both models feature a semi-digital instrument cluster, which incorporates a broad spectrum MultiInformation Display (MID). Dedicated screens are provided to monitor eco driving performance (including an EV-mode usage infographic) and E-FOUR operation, alongside the usual MID parameters.
All RAV4 models (petrol models included) now boast LED interior illumination, an upgrade from three to five USB ports (with dedicated charging outlets) and two 12-volt accessory connectors.
The GX-R models come equipped with a full suite of driver aids; ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Control, Trailer Sway Control (TSC), Hill Start Assist and Downhill Assist Control (DAC). The VX grade adds Toyota Safety Sense (TSS), which encompasses Pre-Crash, radar cruise control, lane trace assist, blind-spot monitoring (BSM) and rear cross traffic alert (RCTA).
A full complement of airbags is present, including side and curtain variants, as well as an anti-theft system.
Hybrid E-FOUR Power
So here we come to the crux of the matter, which is the hybrid technology. All RAV4 Hybrid models employ Toyota’s 4th-generation hybrid system which in RAV4 E-FOUR execution combines a 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle 4-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor (on the front axle) while adding a rear-mounted electric motor (MGR).
The power units are coupled to a CVT transmission, which is probably one of the best of these that I have driven. They can tend to become whiney, when they change down into what it thinks is the ideal rev range. This one does that way more seldom. This is strange as my own car is a Nissan X-Trail, which has a 2.5L engine, and has a CVT that continuously is changing down, which is very annoying.
The electric motor is connected to a two-stage gear reduction mechanism, which utilise a parallel shaft to reduce gear engagement losses. This results in highly responsive power distribution between the front and rear wheels. The electric E-Four system automatically optimises the torque distribution ratio according to driving conditions, which can vary between 100% in the front, to a 20/80 front-rear split.
When turning, the power distribution is controlled to be more ‘rear-wheel drive-like’, which helps inspire driver confidence and adds to superb steering feel. For driving in slippery conditions, an Auto LSD/Trail Assist mode can be used to improve traction. Enhanced acceleration, traction, driving stability and regenerative braking performance are some of the E-FOUR benefits.
Drive Mode Select allows the driver to tailor vehicle dynamics to usage conditions (Eco/Normal/Power) which in turn are joined by EV-mode and Trail Assist switches, for condition-specific operation. I found the power enough in Normal mode, but you have the Sporty mode as well. This was done at Highveld, so if it performs well there in the thinner air, you have no problem.
In terms of performance figures, the A25A-FXS engine delivers 131 kW and 221 Nm of Torque in pure ICE trim. The electric motors pitch in 88 and 40 kW respectively (front/rear) with the complimentary torque numbers registering at 202 and 121 Nm. The total system is rated at 163 kW, while top speed is specified as 180 km/h.
Fuel efficiency remains one of the key hybrid credentials, with the RAV4 E-FOUR Hybrid being no exception. A combined cycle figure of 4.8 l/100 kilometers certainly validates this statement. A 55 litre fuel tank allows a theoretical range of 1145 km on a single tank. This for me is the best asset of this SUV, as in these expensive times, with fuel being ridiculously dear, everyone is looking to save on fuel costs. E-FOUR models can tow up to 1000kg braked and 750kg un-braked.
Some nice new colours are available, with the GX-R models offered in five exterior colours; Graphite Grey, Cinnabar Red, Urban Khaki, Tidal Blue (new) and Attitude Black. VX models in turn can be ordered in a total of nine hues, including Pearl White, Chromium Silver and Moonlight Ocean metallic. My fav is the Pearl White.
Both grades are equipped with leather-trimmed interiors, with a choice between Black and Orchid Brown on the GX-R and an option of Black or Beige in VX guise.
In-line with market trends and product line-up rationalisation, the previously offered GX models have been deleted from the RAV4 line-up (with the addition of Corolla Cross), leaving GX-R and VX in both conventional petrol and hybrid configuration. To me the price of the VX hybrid and the GX-R hybrid are very good.
RAV4 2.0 GX-R CVT AWD – R 606,600
RAV4 2.5 GX-R CVT Hybrid E-Four – R 644,100
RAV4 2.0 VX CVT 2WD – R 617,000
RAV4 2.5 VX AT AWD – R 702,300
RAV4 2.5 VX CVT Hybrid E-Four – R 723,200
A six-services or 90 000 km service plan is standard with service Intervals pegged at 15 000 km / 12- months. Toyota’s standard 3-year/100 000 km warranty is included and hybrid customers have the additional peace of mind of an 8-year / 195 000 km Hybrid battery warranty. Piece of mind is paramount with total Toyota dealer footprint at 220 outlets currently.