Top Gear Philippines

Toyota RAV4

It’s quite pricey. At the cash register, the top-of-the-line Toyota RAV4 rings in a cool P2.066 million. But although it costs almost twice as much as a regular compact sedan, it’s easy to see why folks would prefer to just bite the bullet to go all-in for a car like this. Given the chance, I probably would, too. Let’s forget about the ladder-frame, diesel-powered SUVs for a moment, because quite frankly, these have yet to surpass the comfort and finesse offered by unibody vehicles in the RAV4’s class.

Yeah, I love driving my older cars, but there’s something about having the comfort and convenience that a modern SUV like this affords. First off, I can’t help but appreciate the impressive ride height. Flooding is a major concern, anywhere you are in the Philippines. Our unpredictable weather and road conditions can really put a damper on plans if you aren’t prepared. I once had to wait out a flood on my way to Los Baños because my tiny sports car would have drowned in the deluge.

My wife and I sat helplessly at a gasoline station and watched Honda CR-Vs, Nissan X-Trails and Toyota RAV4s wade through the fetid, knee-deep water like it was nothing. A two-hour trip stretched to seven because of some rain. Not good. So, imagine my delight when I learned that the RAV4 would be my long-term test unit over the holidays. Bring it on, global warming. I’m ready for you.

Note that the unit photographed here is the mid-cycle refresh version of the RAV4, and with it comes a revised front-end that is in tune with the brand’s current design image, and it works very well indeed. New are the shiny new alloys shod with 225/65 R17 Yokohama Geolandars that add some bling to the overall package. And let’s not forget the striking Blue Metallic paint job. I spent most of my time up north and folks from there couldn’t help but compliment the flashy hue.

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Under the hood of the RAV4 is a 2.5-liter dual-VVTI mill that generates a very adequate 180hp and 233Nm--perfect for scooting around traffic and for those long highway jaunts fully loaded with passengers and cargo. Again, I always take advantage of these larger cars whenever I get the chance. Loading up a washing machine, a half-horsepower window air-conditioner, a small dresser, and two road bikes was easy, thanks to the fold-flat rear seats that can be configured to make the most out of the cargo and passenger space. There’s so much room in there, you will be fooled into thinking the RAV4 is a much bigger vehicle.

It’s pretty amazing how its relatively compact footprint can pack so much versatility inside. I’ve removed the tonneau cover and cargo net to make way for bulky luggage, but these handy accessories are included in the package. Also worth noting is that even if the floor is a bit high--again, as a result of the ride height--it is still flat all the way through. Legroom is abundant for all passengers.

This is the 4WD variant, and it has a whole host of features that make it legitimate. Drive to all four corners happens full-time, and if you need proof of that, the multi-information panel on the dash can display the power delivery to each wheel in real-time. You can also lock the center differential at the push of a button for when terrain becomes extreme. And then there is hill-descent control. I didn’t have a chance to test these features, though.

My only complaint comes from the 4WD drivetrain. Because of the added unsprung weight, there is a feeling of the RAV4’s wheels "dropping away" from the chassis when you encounter large road imperfections. This isn’t disconcerting, mind you, but it is a trait that I’ve noticed among almost all AWD compact SUVs I’ve put my mitts on. It’s a small price to pay for the surefootedness of this type of drivetrain. When things get slippery, you would want your car to work with you and not against you. But there are 2WD variants that won’t hurt your pocket too much.

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The RAV4 offers very good punch and acceleration, even on the steep grades of Kennon Road. The six-speed automatic transmission works as it should. Just leave it in Drive if you don’t want to think. For a bit more fun, there is a drive-mode selector that you can set to Sport. However, my favorite has to be the Eco button. This dulls throttle response a bit, but is a boon for fuel economy. The wife can appreciate it when we stretch gasoline as far as it can go. Hey, just because fuel is cheap nowadays that doesn’t mean that we should be wasteful. Every new car should be fitted with an economy mode.

During heavy stop-and-go traffic I managed 8km/L. When the road opens up, the RAV4 delivers a respectable 12km/L--and this unit only had less than 1,000km on the clock. With more kilometers under its belt, the figure will improve. It is a brand-new test unit, after all. And if you want to drive even more efficiently, the eco-driving coach is there to help you.

Elsewhere in the car, we like its leather dash accents with genuine stitching; numerous storage spaces and dashboard pocket (the wife adores this); heavy-duty load carrier up top (not a flimsy cosmetic piece); quiet cabin; and the power-adjustable drivers seat. It’s pretty cool knowing that this shares platforms with the upmarket Lexus NX as well.

The reason why the SUV is king is because it’s really the women who are calling the shots. Do you want to score points with the wife? Leave the sports car at home and buy an SUV instead. She will love you more for it. Truth of the matter is, girls like sports cars; real women prefer SUVs. Trust us on this. You’re welcome.

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SPECS: Toyota RAV4 2.5 4x4 Premium

Engine: 2.5-liter DOHC

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Power: 177hp @ 6,000rpm

Torque: 233Nm @ 4,100rpm

Drive Layout: AWD

Seating: 5

Price: P2.066 million

Score: 16/20

 

Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4

Note: This article first appeared in Top Gear Philippines' February 2016 issue.

UPDATE as of May 8, 2018: We wrote about Toyota Motor Philippines' updated price list in response to the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN), as posted online by one of its dealers. The Japanese carmaker updated its website to make those prices officially official. If you want to see the new price list again, click here. Now, given the tricky nature of vehicle pricing, not all of Toyota's prices increased by the same margins. In fact, some of models even became cheaper. If you've been wondering how much you'll need to pay this year for a new Toyota, we'll keep you posted.

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