The New RAV4 has Grown Up in Size and Sophistication
Toyota's RAV4 was an innovator when it came on the scene in 1995 as a 1996 model. It was small, perky and, while appearing
|Toyota's RAV4 was an innovator when it came on the scene in 1995 as a 1996 model, and now with its stretched platform and robust V6 engine, it innovates once again. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press) |
Jeep-like, was more conducive to inner-city commuting than scaling rocky goat trails. Young urban women loved it, and so did older folks looking for an alternative to the venerable economy car. The second-generation RAV was a little more sophisticated, and due to its bolder styling was more appealing to guys. It was efficient too; among Canada's most fuel friendly SUVs.
The past behind us, not all that much has changed with the 2006 RAV4. Its target customer has aged a little, now has a family and tends to carry around more stuff than ever before, but what they're looking for in a vehicle is much the same... only larger. So, that in mind, when you're looking into your rearview mirror as an all-new RAV pulls up behind you, and it won't take very long for it to do so, you could be forgiven for not immediately noticing that it's new
|The RAV4's target customer has aged a little, since the first and then second-generation (shown) versions came out, and now has a family and tends to carry around more stuff than ever before. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)|
at all. When redesigning it, Toyota realized that its customers liked the old RAV4, one of the most attractive in its segment, so why mess with success? The SUV keeps a similar grille to the outgoing model, what always looked to me like a really close cousin to the grille on the old Lexus IS 300, and its vertically stacked headlamp clusters aren't that different from the 2005 RAV at first glance. Even the lower front fascia looks more or less the same.
Again, when pulling up behind one, the 2006 model features the same basic layout as the outgoing RAV4. The door handle on the left, hinges on the right, blacked out rear glass partially covered by an outboard full-size spare tire, and under the door handle, even the Toyota logo, "RAV4" insignia, and license plate cutout are more or less identically placed. Only the rear door handle has been
|When looking at the all-new RAV4 from front or rear, it doesn't appear all that different than the outgoing model. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press) |
changed from a flush-mounted pull-up handle to a more conventional oval grip that's easier to grasp, but only owners of the old model or particularly detail oriented journalists will notice it, so to most everyone else, the overall design looks the same.
But when pulling up beside one to pass, or more likely being passed by one on the highway, it's an altogether different animal. Gone are the European-inspired lines that paid homage to BMW's X5 in scaled down form, replaced by an all-new, quite original shape. And as it's going by, you'll probably notice how much longer it is than the old one. You might even catch sight of two rows of kids waving at you as they pass by, although
|From side-view the 2006 RAV4 is an entirely different beast than the old RAV, especially noticeable by its overall length, and its uniquely shaped taillights. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press) |
the windows are rather deeply tinted and the RAV will probably be going at such a speedy clip that you'll be lucky to make out its exterior colour, let alone anything going on inside.
That RAV4 passing you, of course, probably wouldn't be a base 2.4-litre four-cylinder model. Sure it offers more power than the previous RAV, but at 166-horsepower compared to 161, not that much, and given that the new model weighs significantly more, by about 250 kilos (550 pounds) in base trim, and features the same 165 lb-ft of torque as the old RAV, plus is no longer available with a five-speed manual transmission, it doesn't break out into a gallop with quite the same enthusiasm. Rather it has been designated the fuel friendly family hauler, where its V6 sibling is an out and out hotrod.