The Toyota RAV4 was the world’s best-selling SUV in 2019. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be reflected here in the Philippine market. For as long as Toyota’s pick-up-based passenger vehicle (PPV)–the Toyota Fortuner exists, the Toyota RAV4 will never hit mainstream status. This is highlighted by the fact that the Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, and Mazda CX-5 are selling in much higher numbers. Costing as much as P2,244,000 for this top-of-the-line Toyota RAV4 2.5 LTD, is the RAV4’s high price also its hindrance to reaching mainstream status?
On the outside, the Toyota RAV4 is off to a great start. Whereas most crossover SUVs go for a smooth, curvaceous appearance, the RAV4 bucks that trend with a more traditional SUV look. The angular body style is highly reminiscent of the body-on-frame Toyota 4Runner SUV that’s sold in North America. It also helps that this particular unit is dressed in a striking shade of blue. The front fascia is highlighted by a prominent grille that’s flanked by LED headlights. At the back, the slim LED taillights give it a striking appearance at night.
The interior is also pretty striking, opting for a more rugged look compared to its competitors. Occupants will be impressed by the varying textures and surfaces of the RAV4, especially the chunky and rubberized aircon controls. The upper dash and doors are covered in soft-touch plastics and stitching details, though it’s still not as premium as the Mazda CX-5’s plush interior. Unique to this top-trim Toyota RAV4 2.5 LTD variant is a large panoramic sunroof which truly bathes the interior with a lot of light.
If there’s one disappointment about the interior, it would be the infotainment. It’s the same 7-inch unit that’s used in the Camry executive sedan, new Avanza, and a host of other Toyota vehicles. It’s not a great system to use with its convoluted user interface and lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. At least there’s a wireless charging pad.
Rear seat space is one of the best in the class. There are tonnes of legroom and headroom despite the panoramic sunroof’s mechanism slightly eating into the headroom, plus the interior is wide enough to fit three adults without rubbing each other’s elbows. Trunk space is also very generous at 580 liters with the seats up and 1,690 liters with them down.
However, while the Toyota RAV4 2.5 LTD seems to be generously-equipped on paper, the features that were prioritized are quite baffling. For starters, while it comes with the aforementioned giant panoramic sunroof, along with a power-adjustable driver’s seat with memory, this more than P2.2 million RAV4 LTD isn’t equipped with an automatic powered tailgate. Oh, and did I mention that all RAV4 variants only come with manual-folding mirrors? At least it comes with heated seats, which is about as useful as wearing a trench coat in Palawan.
There’s also no form of advanced driver-assist systems such as adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, just to name a few.
Weird priorities aside, the RAV4’s story brightens considerably when you go under the hood. It is fitted with Toyota’s all-new line of Dynamic Force petrol engines. In this case, it’s a 2.5-liter petrol engine that produces 203 hp at 6,600 RPM and 243 Nm of torque from 4,000 to 5,000 RPM. These are pretty strong numbers for a non-turbo engine. This is all mated to a new Direct Shift 8-speed automatic.
As a result of this new engine, the RAV4 is now one of the most powerful in its class. This engine sounds good and pulls strongly at higher RPMs. Whatever the situation, the Toyota RAV4 is never short on overtaking power. The 8-speed it is accompanied to works extremely well, at least for the most part. It is eager to downshift to the correct when you want to overtake, and when you’re simply cruising, the transmission will eagerly upshift to higher gears for better fuel efficiency.
Speaking of fuel efficiency, the significant power gains compared to its predecessor does not come at the expense of fuel economy. As a matter of fact, the all-new RAV4 is one of the most fuel-efficient petrol-powered SUVs in its class. In my entire week’s worth of driving, my average settled at an impressive 11.2 km/l.
Now, I said the transmission works well for the most part because there are very rare occasions when the transmission can be jerky. Whenever you are crawling at a snail’s pace, there are rare times when the transmission simultaneously downshifts the moment you step on the throttle. This will make the RAV4 lurch quite a bit, making it a bit annoying when you’re at crawling speeds.
As for the rest of the package, that powerful engine is mated to a well-tuned chassis. No, it’s not as sporty as a Mazda CX-5, but its TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) platform is certainly more dynamic than the RAV4 it replaces. The perfect word to describe the RAV4’s handling is confidence-inspiring rather than fun. Its steering isn’t the most responsive thing in the world, though there’s more steering feel than before. Ride quality is also good for the most part, but the RAV4 does tend to fidget while driving through smaller bumps. And while road and wind noise is generally okay, most competitors have quieter cabins.
There’s no doubt that the Toyota RAV4, especially this LTD variant, is quite expensive. Admittedly, Toyota Motor Philippines has never made the RAV4 their volume seller, and this will always be the case for as long as the Toyota Fortuner exists. For those who understand the novelty of the all-new RAV4, including its powerful engine and quirky design, this is the best Toyota RAV4 yet that Filipino consumers will ever experience.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★★
Value For Money: ★★★☆☆
Overall: 4.1 out of 5
*Pricing is correct and accurate as of this article’s time of writing.