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It’s funny to think that the RAV4 started life as a delightfully oddball three-door on-road off-roader. Funnier still considering the latest iteration - the model’s fourth, which debuts at the LA motor show - is not that odd at all. It’s disappointingly straightforward.

Luckily, there’s some good news. The superb ride’s always been the RAV4’s redeeming feature, and Toyota’s been focusing on making it even better. The bodyshell’s been made stiffer, the front and rear suspension system’s been retuned, it’s revised the slightly light electric power steering, and there’s a new Dynamic Drive System with a Sport mode.

In short, DDS juggles information from the RAV4’s 4WD (that is if you spec 4WD - there’s still a 2WD on offer), stability control and electric power steering systems to tighten up performance, send more torque to the rear axle, sharpen up the throttle response and let the engine rev more. In long, it’s quite complicated…

It continuously monitors and controls the torque transfer between the front and rear wheels with an electromagnetically controlled coupling positioned in front of the rear differential. Front to rear torque distribution can vary from 100:0 to 50:50, with front-wheel drive (100:0) automatically engaged under normal driving conditions to help improve fuel consumption.

Backing up the ride-height’s off-road aspirations, you can also spec downhill assist and hill start assist controls (standard on autos). The former automatically regulates gear selection, engine speed and the individual wheel braking capabilities of the ABS system so you don’t skid. There’s also a 4WD lock button for off-road driving, which locks torque distribution in a fixed, 50/50 ratio at speeds up to 40 km/h.

Design wise, though, it’s still pretty grey. To usher in its relative middle age, the body’s 205mm longer, 30m wider and 25mm lower than its predecessor. The all-new exterior also gets the trinketry of other Toyotas, like the “Under Priority” snout design (trapezoidal lower opening in the front bumper, and a smaller upper grille running full width between the new headlamps) with LED daytime running lights.

You get more space inside too. Along with the overall size, its wheelbase has grown by 100mm, allowing rear seat knee-room to be increased by 41mm to 591mm. Edge of the seat stuff, this. Literally.

Engines? There’s a 151hp 2.0-litre petrol, new 124hp 2.0-litre diesel, and a powerful 150hp 2.2-litre diesel engine. Across the range, Toyota’s managed to whittle emissions down by 12 per cent, and the new 2.0-litre diesel with stop/start only puffs out 127 g/km.

So, lots of technical innovation, but would you prefer it if the RAV4 was a bit more… interesting? Like, say, the original?

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