Road test: is the petrol Toyota RAV4 Adventure as good as the Hybrid?
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The inherent theme with sibling rivalries is jealousy. And, it tends to be a one-way street.
The first child comes, enjoys an undivided stream of parental attention before getting abruptly kicked to the kerb as the new kid comes along. All their favourite toys become hand-me-downs, all future Christmas gifts become shared, and a smoldering hatred is born.
The petrol-based Toyota RAV4’s honeymoon as the ‘favourite child’ lasted longer than most. Through the nineties and all the way through the noughties it was always the favoured option over its diesel-fueled cousins.
But, this year the new Hybrid came along. And the hierarchy has changed.
The whole all-new RAV4 range has been touted as a success, but it’s the Hybrid line-up in particular that’s prompted action. Domestic sales have been spectacular, with anyone ordering one today expected to wait until at least March next year.
Meanwhile, the somewhat forgotten petrol remains readily available. And leading the line-up is this; the RAV4 Adventure.
Following a $1000 increase in price, the Hybrid Limited now shares top-of-the-range status with the outdoors-orientated and equally priced $48,990 Adventure — a model visually underlined by chunkier facial features and 19in wheels.
Naturally the Adventure comes with Toyota’s full suite of safety tech, including lane-tracing and adaptive cruise control. It gets the same 9-speaker JBL sound system and power tailgate as in the Limited, but adds heated and cooled front seats and eye-popping orange highlights all over the cabin. Because ... how else will you know you’re sitting in an adventure-seeker’s vehicle?
These features underline a commodious, well-furnished interior. Materials are excellent for the price-point, with a handy 580L boot capacity backed up by ample head and knee-room for rear-mounted passengers.
It's got to be stressed here that Toyota's efforts to improve their interiors are now baring proper fruit.
There are some odd quirks with the RAV4, like the rugged 'look how tough I am' chunky rubber inserts lining the inside of the door grabs. And yes, the infotainment system (identical to that of our Corolla long-termer from the beginning of the year) doesn't come with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto (yet) and is also disappointingly low resolution.
But beyond those points, the RAV4's cabin — no matter the level of spec — is a vast improvement over what it used to be like. It now makes this one of the nicest SUVs out there to sit in.
A quick tip of the hat too to the rear windscreen wiper, which offers a quick sweep of the glass when the driver engages reverse in wet conditions. Very thoughtful.
The Hybrid’s high-tech powertrain is swapped here for a model-specific 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. It makes 152kW/243Nm — a 25kW/40Nm boost over the standard 2-litre and 11kW less than the hybrid.
The other mechanical switch-up in the Adventure is its all-wheel drive system. The model gains hill descent and Dynamic Torque Vectoring; the latter making use of two clutches to divvy power between the right and left-hand sides of the vehicle in off-road or wet-weather applications.
And, when you’ve ditched the gravel to smash out a cappuccino and avo toast, the system’s ‘ratchet-type’ dog clutch declutches the rear driveline in order to save fuel. It’s something that Toyota claims as a world first, and is entirely controlled by a mode selector next to the gear lever.
Given the name and supporting mechanical changes, it wouldn’t be remiss to assume that the Adventure would be significantly better off-road. And this led us to a rain-sodden farm out Kumeu way.
It certainly feels more confident on these sketchy surfaces than a lot of other SUVs in its class. But, don’t think that the Adventure is some kind of all-conquering mountain beast. Granted, you can just about feel the torque vectoring chopping and changing between each corner of the car. But, it’s relatively minor.
When the going gets particularly tough, it feels a little let down by its Yokohama 235/55 tyres. They’re specific to the Adventure grade, but don’t quite offer the grip and stability on the rough stuff that I’d hoped for.
Realistically though, the Adventure is more likely to spend its days navigating the urban jungle with occasional excursions on gravel trails to the beach or bach.
It’s nothing new of course to say that the RAV4 handles roads in a very competent, car-like fashion. We said as much last month with our review of the Hybrid. However, there are a few minor differences between the two.
The Adventure comes paired with a traditional 8-speed automatic, as opposed to the Hybrid’s CVT. It makes for a much more predictable driving experience. The flip-side of this is the engine.
The Adventure’s 2.5-litre naturally makes much more noise than the hybrid. Power feels much more tangible, and fuel economy during our test sat at a respectable 9L/100km combined. But, this is all countered by the lack of a turbo.
Toyota have been steely in their resistance to turbocharging cars like the Corolla and Camry. But while the naturally aspirated 2.0-litre prodding the Corolla along is adequate, the RAV4’s N/A 2.5-litre doesn’t push any envelopes. It’s a competent cruiser, but under load it’s quite loud and strained.
Given that the RAV4 is still cheaper than almost all mainstream rivals, it’s still not a deal breaker. It’s a spacious, handsome, well bolted together SUV with a few off-roading tricks lurking up its sleeve.
But, without a turbo, I’ll be taking the Hybrid instead.
2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure
Pros: Rugged looks, versatile cabin, not a huge step up in price
Cons: Hybrid makes more sense, infotainment system