Toyota's Rav4 has been regarded as a more than serviceable compact SUV for a number of years.
It has been endowed with most of the Toyota virtues including excellent finish and good reliability.
But it has never been regarded as a little flier, or as an SUV not to be taken lightly at the traffic lights.
That is until now.
Toyota, in their infinite wisdom, decided to re-invent the RAV4 by shoe-horning the 3.5 litre, 201kW, V6 engine from various other products including the Aurion and Kluger, into the RAV4's engine bay.
Needless to say the addition of 75 more kilowatts to the RAV's get up and go department has transformed the SUV, a bit like an intensive course of steroids.
The vehicle on test was the ZR6, the top-of-the-range RAV with leather heated seats, dual climate control airconditioning and most of the top-end features such as sat nav that you would expect to find in a top of the range Toyota. But on this subject it was more than a little bit strange to find it did not have any trip computer.
Fuel usage, range and so on was not available. Could this possibly be due to the fact the 3.5 litre Toyota engine has a voracious thirst for unleaded petrol? That's probably going too far and it could easily be that there simply is not enough room in the engine bay and on the dash for an item standard on even bottom-of-the-range cars from many brands.
Fuel consumption claimed by Toyota is 10.5l/100km on a combined cycle. The test vehicle used 13.3l/100km over 400 or so kilometres. It got an occasional flogging but most of the driving was steady stop/start stuff around town with a fair proportion of freeway motoring. If you are a lead foot, prepare for 15l/100km and to get anything like Toyota's 10.5 claim you will have to be a fairyfoot.
When it comes to sticking the boot in, a RAV4 V6 driver will be amply rewarded. A top speed of 210km/h, and that appears to be a little conservative, a 0-100km/h time of 7.4sec, which is good for a performance car never mind an SUV, and a 0-400m time of 15.3sec should get you to the beach on time.
In these days of escalating fuel prices the question of why, and whether it is a good idea, to make a V6 RAV4 springs to mind. Leaving aside the question of a guilty green conscience, there is ample evidence that Australians love high-performance vehicles, compact SUVs or other types, and that Toyota was perhaps missing out on that top-of-the-range market share.
And after all, Toyota does make the hybrid Prius so beloved by greenies which helps to balance the carbon equation somewhat.
Flooring the throttle results in instant take off, the all-wheel-drive system working faultlessly so there is negligible torque reaction from the front wheels which also refuse to spin.
Torque is spread among the four wheels for the best possible result. Seamless, progressive acceleration, with an increasing amount of induction noise, until the five-speed auto changes up at just below 6000rpm and the whole process starts again.
The auto, although not tiptronic or paddle actuated, can be used as a manual by the driver moving the gear stick around any of the five notches devoted to individual gears.
While this RAV4 never left the pavement, despite having diff lock and downhill descent assist, the manual function of the transmission would be a boon off-road.
On road, there is little to complain about. The ride can be a little choppy but that's the price for compromise suspension, which is capable both on and off the road. There is little body roll and tyres start to protest audibly if the driver forgets this is an SUV and indulges in some overly spirited cornering.
The back seat testers suggested the middle position was not one to be coveted if a long haul was contemplated; but there was ample back seat leg room, a fair amount of luggage space including a covered well where the spare wheel would have been; had it not adorned the rear door.
Age and crankiness of this tester apart, it is difficult to understand how some sat nav systems, notably BMW, appear well thought out and others require hours of instruction manual study to master even the simplest of calculations.
It took forever to find out how to stop the nameless female telling me where to go after someone touched something on the touch screen which activated a previous address, somewhere in Sydney, I think.
At $49,990, the ZR6 is no cheapie but you do get a fair amount of kit for your dollar.
If RAV4s are your fetish and you are sick of mediocre performance, the ZR6 will not disappoint.
2007 Toyota RAV4 V6 ZR6
Body: monocoque 5-door wagon
Engine: 3456cc, all-alloy, quad-cam, dual-VVT-i, 60-degree V6, 4 valves a cylinder, cast-aluminium block, Bore x stroke (mm): 94 x 83, Compression: 10.8:1
Power: 201kW @ 6200rpm
Torque: 333Nm @ 4700rpm
Fuel system: Sequential multi-point electronic port fuel injection. 91 RON ULP, capacity 60 litres, economy 10.5l/100km claimedCO2: 246g/km
Rating: Euro 4
Performacne: Max. speed, 210km/h; 0-100km/h, 7.4sec; 0-400m 15.3sec
Transmission: Electronically controlled, five-speed intelligent automatic with lock-up torque converter, part-time
AWD steering: Rack and pinion, electric power-assisted
Turning circle: 10.6m
Suspension: Front and rear: Independent, barrel-shaped coil springs, low-pressure nitrogen-filled dampers, multi-leaf linear control damper valves Front MacPherson struts, wide-based L-shaped lower arms. Rear, trailing-type double wishbone
Brakes: front, ventilated discs, 296mm, rear, solid discs, 281mm
Safety features: ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA), Traction Control (TRC), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Hill-start Assist.
Wheels: Alloy 7.0J x 17 Tyres 225/65R17 101H, full size spare
Dimensions (MM): 4600 (l), 1855 (w), 1730 (h), 2660 (W'base), 1560 (Front and rear track), ground clearance 200
Angles: Approach 30 degrees, departure 26, break over/ramp over 20
Weights/loads: Kerb weight, 1655kg; gross vehicle mass, 2170kg; cargo capacity, 540kg with seats up; 90-litre under-floor storage
Towing: braked: 1900kg; unbraked 750kg