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The Top Gear car review:Toyota RAV4
What is it like on the road?
Have you recently trapped under the bonnet a trombonist with a vendetta? Ah no, it’s just the Toyota hybrid system being driven aggressively. You’re assailed by crazed oscillations of revs and pitch. Your every right-foot twitch is audibly relayed to your whole audience in the car.
The RAV4 might have a largely new 2.5-litre engine, but at wide throttle it sounds old and coarse and sends vibrations through the steering wheel.
So turn up the radio, and change your driving style. Keeping smooth reduces the flailing undulations – and of course will further eke out your fuel. And to be fair, at times when you do want acceleration, pure performance isn’t an issue. Actual acceleration response is quite progressive and crisp.
The chassis provides mostly gravy too. Direction changes are accurate and progressive, the car gaining yaw and roll quite precisely, thanks to a reasonably alert steering setup and the new platform’s low centre of gravity.
No surprise that at the limit all RAV4s understeer, the front-drive one doggedly. Its steering is too light for our taste, mind, as it’s been set up for Asia and the Americas.
The ride’s really very good: supple and quiet in its reactions to bumps. Yet the damping stops short of being floaty, so the driver doesn’t lose confidence and the passengers don’t lose their stomachs.
The number of driver-assist systems seems generous, and most, including the all-speed radar cruise, work well enough.
But don’t expect much of the level-two motorway steering setup. It supplies only very light corrective torque to the wheel. Then if you do stray anywhere near the white lines, instead of flashing a little dash light or vibrating the steering, it annoys everyone with a piercing beep-beep like the one my fridge makes if you leave its door open.
Off road in the 4WD one, the subtle traction control of the electric drive motors helps find surprising grip. You can use steering-column paddles to invoke a little extra engine braking downhill, and ground clearance isn’t bad. On gravel tracks, the supple suspension makes matters remarkably tolerable.