The fifth-generation Toyota RAV4 has received an enthusiastic welcome from the local market. Is this more rugged variant the one to get?
Third: that’s where the new Toyota RAV4 placed on the list of best-selling passenger cars in South Africa one month after its release, with Naamsa sales figures indicating 839 units left showroom floors in April. It’s quite a feat when you consider the RAV4 outsold its larger, body-on-frame brother (816 Fortuners were retailed).
The local RAV4 line-up comprises five derivatives, two of which are equipped with an all-wheel-drive setup: the top-of-the-range 2,5 VX automatic (tested recently) and this 2,0-litre variant.
Sporting model-specific items such as an enlarged version of the RAV’s refreshed grille – replete with bespoke horizontal louvres spanning its angular design – a more prominent bash-plate and extra body cladding, the RAV4 2,0 GX-R AWD CVT looks decidedly more rugged than the sleeker figures cut by its GX and VX stablemates. The Urban Khaki hue of our test unit received compliments aplenty from testers.
Step inside and it is evident the GX-R derivative is aimed at the young at heart. Compared to the business-like dark leather trim of the 2,5 VX, this model featured a lighter shade of the same material, which makes the already-large cabin feel even more spacious. The orange contrast trims on the facia and seat stitching might not be to everyone’s liking but we did prefer it to the brown plastic highlights in the VX. The front pews feature heating and cooling functionality, with one tester describing these seats as possibly the most comfortable he’s sat on.
A highlight of the cabin is the chunky climate control knobs which are a pleasure to use and feel appealingly robust. The same, however, cannot be said of the small buttons placed on the steering wheel. Luckily, the volume knob is sited near to the driver and, although much more compact than the items controlling the air-conditioning, it features a similar design. The touchscreen infotainment system is simply designed, although some of its virtual buttons are a touch too small.
Like the free-revving 2,5-litre RAV4 we tested, the GX-R’s 2,0-litre petrol mill goes about its business without the help of forced induction and churns out 127 kW and 203 N.m of torque. Coupled to a 10-step continuously variable transmission, the RAV4’s four-cylinder engine does sound strained at high revs. However, drive the vehicle sedately and the revs remain within the lower half of the range and so minimising noise intrusion.
As expected, performance figures of this variant can’t quite match those of its more powerful 2,5-litre sibling. That said, the 0-100 km/h sprint was just 0,53 seconds adrift and, certainly at sea level, the 2,0-litre doesn’t feel bereft of power. If you live at the Reef, though, make sure to take the 2,0-litre for an extended test drive to gauge its responsiveness.
Continuing the impressive drivetrain showing, our test vehicle used just 6,90 L/100 km on our mixed fuel route, while its average braking time of 2,88 seconds is truly excellent for an SUV.
Like before, CAR’s testers commented favourably on the RAV4’s TNGA platform’s ability to serve up a sophisticated overall driving experience, but there were some grumbles about low-speed absorbency in rutted urban environments, where the RAV4 doesn’t quite match the polish of something like a Volkswagen Tiguan or Kia Sportage.
This RAV4 feels like a more sensible buy than the 2,5-litre automatic we tested previously. However, it’s not without its faults; our main concerns are still that the RAV4’s European rivals sport forced-induction engines (and often better torque-converter or dual-clutch transmissions than this CVT) that make them a real pleasure to drive in the cut-and-thrust of daily motoring. Conversely, buyers of a RAV4 may feel assured their vehicle should be reliable in the long run.
Priced at almost R70 000 below the top-spec VX derivative – but equipped with every possible spec item buyers of midsize SUVs could want – the GX-R is a more appealing proposition. Until we get our hands on lowlier RAV4 derivatives, it’s our choice in the current line-up and also places above the Subaru Forester and Nissan X-Trail.
ROAD TEST SCORE
See Full Toyota RAV4 price and specs here