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Toyota RAV4 – Original SUV Trendsetter

Toyota RAV4 – Original SUV Trendsetter

Mountain Bikes & SUVs – The Toyota RAV4, seen by some as the original SUV trendsetter, has just got better with every incarnation. The new 2.2 D-4D GX AWD pairs a familiar engine with modern, sleek styling.

Words: Stephen Smith

Pictures: Stephen Smith and Supplied

12To me, mountain bikes and SUVs go together like samp and beans, Zuma and Gupta, and Americans and wars in the name of freedom. It’s logical – the places you want to ride your mountain bike should be at the end of a long, dusty road or a muddy track, so you need an SUV to get there. You also need that big boot to fit all the paraphernalia that mountain bikers ‘need’ – the nylon, the cleats, the little sachets of liquid energy and all those little carbon bits that save a few grams for a few thousand rand.

There is another link between the two. Mountain-biking magazines are always claiming that mountain biking is ‘the fastest growing sport in the world’, while every SUV press release I read claims that the SUV segment is growing faster than any other. These both make sense, as modern man strives to get out of the rat race we find ourselves hemmed in by.

Cynics might claim that there is another link between the MTB and the SUV, and that’s the poser. So many people buy mountain bikes and don’t ride them, or just ride them around the ’burbs – the only dirt the bikes touch drifts down on them in the garage. Then there are the guys who spend tens of thousands of rand on a bike and occasionally pedal along a dirt road, leaving the single track for the braver or fitter.

Likewise, many SUVs are bought to look the part rather than act it, which is one of the reasons why the two-wheel-drive versions sell so well. Take the Toyota RAV4 for example. Some say that it started the SUV trend back in the ’90s, with cute 4×4 looks and middling 4×4 ability. It was immensely popular, a trend that every new generation has followed or even improved upon. And today when we drive the RAV4, we experience a vehicle that is so refined, so comfortable and so sensible it’s hard to fault. As a 4×4 it is no great shakes, but certain models do have permanent all-wheel drive, as well as a lockable differential for additional traction. Let’s put it this way – if you’re a mountain biker, the RAV4 will take you to any race you care to attempt.

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In terms of the engine range there are no surprises. Toyota has retained the engines from the previous models, which means a 2.2-litre turbodiesel that produces 110kW and 340Nm, as well as two petrol models – a 107kW 2-litre and a 132kW 2.5-litre. The 2-litre is available only with front-wheel drive, with either a six-speed manual or CVT gearbox. The 2.2 D-4D GX has a six-speed manual and is front-wheel drive only, while the more luxurious VX model gets permanent all-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic gearbox, as does the 2.5-litre petrol.

While the engines are familiar, the style of the RAV is not. Toyota has come a long way over recent years in their design, inside and out. The RAV4 has grown up under this new design direction, becoming a modern, sleek and stylish SUV that appeals to a far broader target market than before, from youngsters to oldsters but probably not hipsters. The interior is really nicely done, filled with straight lines, which makes for a modern, uncluttered feel. The materials used have been improved, and it’s subtly noticeable.

The controls are well incorporated into the design for easy use. A touch screen controls most functions, but there are separate controls for the aircon. I was surprised to notice a lack of cruise control and sat-nav, which is cheeky in a car of this price and probably wouldn’t be the case with many other brands.

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Which model you choose depends on your needs – if you’re the kind of person who buys a mountain bike and uses it on mountains, go for the 2.2 D-4D GX. If you’re more of the type who buys a mountain bike and rides it to the Mugg and Bean, go with the entry-level model in the knowledge that you will still be very, very happy with your decision.

Despite the recent Nene-inspired price increases, the RAV4 still offers good value, particularly the 2-litre petrol model priced at R334 300, while the diesel models command heftier price tags and start at R418 100. But because it’s a Toyota, factor in the excellent resale value, while a 5-year/90 000km service plan and 3-year/100 000km warranty are standard

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Fact file

  • Name: Toyota RAV4 2.2 D-4D GX AWD
  • Body type: Compact crossover
  • Engine capacity: 2.2-litre turbodiesel
  • Power output: 110kW
  • Torque: 340Nm
  • Gearbox: 6-speed automatic
  • Price: R418 100

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