It’s hard what to make of the RAV4. What first started as Toyota’s sole crossover in the late 1990’s has now become the middle child in the Japanese automaker’s growing SUV family. It’s been forced to swagger up, now becoming the Camry of Toyota’s SUV line-up when it isn’t even carrying enough trimmings to be considered dapper. And now, for the first time ever, its price point has breached the psychological two-million mark for this top-range 4WD. Is Toyota losing its mind or is it finally giving the often-ignored RAV4 the attention it deserves?
Well, that entirely depends on where you’re coming from. The 2016 refresh of the RAV4 does add some much needed youth, particularly to the front-end. Though some won’t be happy with the more rounded front-end, it does perfectly align it with the carmaker’s new “Under Priority and Keen Look” design language. From some angles, it bear a resemblance to the C-HR Concept and for that, it's been complimented more than once for looking way more futuristic. The use of LEDs in its lighting elements also helps convey this feeling, especially at the back where it hollows out, creating a sci-fi-esque signature at light. And while it’s easy to fall in love with the new color palette selection including this new lovely shade of Blue Metallic, it’s still not all win for the RAV4. The main sticking point is the pedestrian-looking wheel and tire package. 17-inch alloy rims in 2016? Come on.
The 2016 model is less changed inside with only detail improvements for better wear-and-tear. As before, the asymmetrical dashboard design continues with all the controls and switchgear placed around the driver’s area; thus giving the RAV4 more interior space, particularly for the front passenger. Gone is the scratch-prone faux carbon fiber and in its place are well-wearing plastic pieces. Another thing that has bitten the dust is the old instrument cluster, now replaced with an easily-legible one that integrates a fancy looking animated LCD display. Though the Eco Indicator is incomprehensible (it looks like its displaying Klingon characters most of the time), it’s a welcome change for 2016.
As with the pre-facelift, the leather quality is quite good (the seats now have contrasting white stitching) and the plastics are the same ones found in the Camry, so it’s impossible to complain about them. However, if there’s one noticeable problem, it’s the oddly placed controls. It wasn’t noticeable before because it was more of a barebones model, but now that it’s got more tech than ever before? Get ready to be confused. For example, off-roading controls are normally centralized in one area, but in the RAV4, it’s on both sides of the dashboard partially blocked by the steering wheel. The stability control override? It’s to the right of the dash clock. The drive mode selector? It’s in the same area where you chuck your wallet and mobile phone. The parking sensor override? Well, that used to be a physical button, but now, it’s buried as a sub-menu in the multi-information display.
The odd sense of ergonomics largely ruins what’s otherwise a commendable interior with good room for five adults and luggage. Again, it’s not class leading, but at least no one will complain. There’s also a good amount of storage and luggage space. Sadly, the cargo area is hampered by a net tray which is good for storing loose objects like umbrellas but a bane when trying to maximize the cargo as it can’t be stored without eating space.
As previously mentioned, the RAV4 now breaks the P 2-million mark (P 2,066,000 to be exact), representing a P 103,000 price jump from before. The additional premium though doesn’t address the rather short list of standard equipment. For 2016, you get: automatic LED headlights with DRLs, LED taillights, shark’s fin antenna, downhill assist control, front proximity sensors, AVT-based navigation system, and the drive mode selector. These are on top of what’s already standard in the pre-facelift models like dual zone climate control, leather seating, a powered driver’s seat, and an auto-dimming rear view mirror. That’s it—no fancy turbocharged engine, fancy idle start/stop, or voice-activated infotainment for you.
Now, before dismissing the RAV4 experience to be all dull and lacking in luxury features, the driving manners have, surprisingly, withstood the test of time. It doesn’t feel as agile or sporty as the Mazda CX-5 or Subaru Forester, but considering this platform is about a decade old already, it’s still pretty good on the road. At low to medium speeds, it’s quiet with the most intrusive noise coming from the low rolling resistance tires. Apart from that, the drivetrain noise, road noise, and wind noise are all kept at hushed levels. On curvier settings, it begins to exhibit body roll and understeer, but nothing to indicate lack of confidence. In fact, one thing you can say is that the RAV4 feels stable on just about any sort of surface, however, the light electric steering combined with the stiffened shock absorbers do require minute steering corrections whenever you hit crosswinds or small road undulations such as concrete joints. The brakes are the RAV4’s weakest part with an initially spongy feel. It only bites very late into the pedal stroke. In addition, the AVT navigation system is an annoying source of rattle at any speed.
Under the hood, the RAV4 shares the same engine found in the Camry. For 2016, the 2AR-FE engine sees a slight four horsepower bump (up to 180 horsepower) while keeping the same 233 Nm of torque figure. It’s largely unobtrusive and smooth, clearly tuned more for everyday usability and cruising since it sounds coarse at higher RPMs. Like before, this engine is mated solely to a 6-speed automatic which is well-suited to the engine providing necessary down- or upshifts quickly. New for this update is a drive mode selector with three modes: Normal, Eco, and Power. Operated by the driver via dash buttons, it changes the throttle sensitivity and transmission mapping to a preset profile. It sounds like a gimmick, but it works. With an average speed of 13 km/h (heavy city traffic), the RAV4 does 6.13 km/L with the Eco mode on and just 5.81 km/L in Normal mode; the resulting in a five percent improvement. On the flipside, it does make the driving feel way more lethargic—as if you cut 30 or so horsepower.
Given the sky-high price tag of this 4WD model, Toyota isn’t really expecting people to flock to showrooms to buy this model; that’s the job of the mid- and low-entry variants (Active+ and Active respectively), the FJ Cruiser, and of course, the Fortuner. However, for those who’re settled on getting Toyota’s compact crossover, 2016 looks to be the most convincing package yet. It may not be as sporty or well-equipped as the competition, but the improved looks and slightly better driving dynamics do their part to inject the it with a bit more personality. The middle child is finally standing out.
2016 Toyota RAV4 4WD Premium
|Ownership||2016 Toyota RAV4 4WD Premium|
|Year Introduced||2013 (Refreshed: 2016)|
|Vehicle Classification||Compact Crossover|
|Body Type||5-door Crossover|
|Engine / Drive||F/AWD|
|Under the Hood|
|Aspiration||Normally Aspirated, EFI|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||180 @ 6,000|
|Nm @ rpm||233 @ 4,100|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 91~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,760|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Independent, Double Wishbone|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Rear Brakes||Solid Disc|
|Tires||Yokohama Geolandar G91 Blue Earth 2225/65 R 17 H (f & r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Parking Sensors||Yes, Front and Rear|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front and Rear|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Seating Adjustment||Electric (driver)|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|Climate Control||Yes, Dual|
|No. of Speakers||6|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|