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RAV4 revs up adventure

By Rory Daley
Observer writer

Friday, July 05, 2019

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The Toyota RAV4 is considered the father of the compact crossover sport utility vehicle when it hit showroom floors in 1994. Since then, the segment has been saturated by rival manufacturers following in the vehicle's footsteps.

For 2020, the RAV4 veers off the product path direction others thought it may be heading, and goes straight for the brand's long-standing, off-road heritage.

The first step down that path is its appearance. Gone are the futuristic curves from the previous generations. It's all angles creating a sharper more purposeful visage, especially bolstered by a front fascia that many Toyota aficionados will recognise as inspired by the US-only Tacoma pickup truck. It's a rough and ready look and the unpainted lower body cladding and fender flares add to this effect.

Approach the RAV4 and the interior lights softly come on. Keyless entry makes sliding into the comfortable front seats from which all the major controls are within easy reach. However, most are automated, so it's just a matter of setting them once. For example, drivers can be prompted in the display to automatically roll up all four windows at once, making vehicle operation just that bit easier.

The cabin has the ability to feel cosy, but has plenty of space for passengers. There are soft-touch materials at all key contact points. For a SUV, storage solutions are aplenty and the trunk can swallow more than the average family would need. More space can be created by dropping the rear seats.

The infotainment screen dominates the dash, offering multiple connectivity options and methods for interaction. The screen itself responds to touch, and there are several large, hard buttons for direct function access, such as steering wheel mounted buttons, and limited voice controls. Those not connected, have plenty of USB ports to charge their devices. Modern touches like the availability of wireless charging in the centre console adds an upmarket feel to the vehicle.

The RAV4 delivers a smooth ride in a refined cabin. It can do the daily commute with ease, puttering around with little impact on occupants. In ECO and NORMAL modes, there's plenty of low-end power to cut through traffic or to maintain steady highway speed. Those willing to push a bit more will find there's way more acceleration on hand from the two-litre engine. The combination of 170bhp, 150lb/ft and the transmission plays nice in a wide variety of conditions all the way up to triple digit speeds, especially when put into SPORT mode. At that point, the Toyota can hustle along Jamaica's crumbling road network without upsetting the passengers too much.

The real meat of the RAV4 is its all-wheel drive option while many rivals may be optimised through on-road performance, the Toyota exhibits little aversion to the occasional off-road excursion. Select one of the modes on Toyota's Multi-Terrain Management system and the only true roadblocks to any such adventure is driver skill and courage.

For the off-road adventure seekers who still use their vehicle as the family's daily transport, the 2020 RAV4 can fulfil both roles perfectly.


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