It's been a long time coming but Toyota has finally delivered a diesel version of its popular RAV4 sports wagon. Priced from $35,490 the diesel is $3500 more than the equivalent petrol model. As such, it will probably account for only a small number of sales but we could be wrong?
The new RAV4 comes in two and four-wheel drive, with a choice of three engines, three transmissions and three trim levels: GX, GXL and top of the range Cruiser. Our test vehicle is the mid range, all-wheel drive diesel GXL priced at $38,990 with the optional $2500 auto fitted which brings the price to $41,490 before on-road costs.
Standard equipment includes Bluetooth, 6-speaker CD audio, roof rails, a rear spoiler, a cargo net and privacy screen, with a rear seat that reclines and is split 60/40. Steel wheels are standard and all-wheel drive models get a sound-deadening windscreen.
Our GXL adds 17-inch alloys, a reversing camera, computer screen, sporty seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers, power-retractable exterior mirrors, keyless smart entry and push-button ignition.
The 2.2-litre common-rail turbo-diesel pumps out 110kW of power and 340Nm of torque from 2000 revs. The two-wheel drive petrol models gets a CVT, but in this case it's paired with a traditional six-speed auto with the facility to change gears manually.
Fuel consumption from the 60-litre tank is rated at 6.5 litres/100km for the auto. The auto can tow a 500kg load (manual 550kg). Toyota has announced that the braked tow rating of all RAV4 diesels will be upgraded to 1000kg from July 2013 production, but this figure still lags behind the 1500kg rating carried by 2.5 litre petrol models, and well behind most of its rivals.
Explore the 2013 Toyota RAV4 range
Like the new Toyota Corolla, the styling is edgier and attractive, but it looks suspiciously like a Mitsubishi Challenger from the back. Nothing like one to drive though, with sharper driving dynamics that include a new all-wheel drive system and selectable Sport mode on most models. It's 55mm shorter too, after the relocation of the spare from the door to a position underneath the rear.
RAV4 scores a full five stars for crash safety from the Australian NCAP organisation. Seven airbags, stability and traction control, anti-skid brakes, tilt-and-telescopic steering column and cruise control are all standard equipment, while automatic AWD models get downhill assist to help manage slippery descents.
It's early days yet but our initial impression is favourable. It's a delight to drive, comfy and roomy inside and the torquey diesel provides plenty of oomph, particularly in the low to mid range where you want it.
During normal driving the wagon remains predominantly front wheel drive to reduce fuel consumption. When things get slippery the all-wheel drive system pushes power to the rear wheels for sure footed, four-paw grip.
Sport mode contributes to better handling and a more dynamic, sporting drive by decreasing power-steering assistance to give the driver a more direct feel. It also sharpens throttle response and adapts the control logic for the automatic and CVT gearboxes to allow for more responsive gearshifts.
It's too early to report on the long-term fuel consumption -- we'll be back in the near future to tell you about that -- but it's sure to be better than a petrol model.
So far so good. It's been quite a while since we last drove a RAV4, but this one feels like a keeper.