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Looking Back: The first Toyota Rav4

Looking Back: The first Toyota Rav4

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Published by AutoweekUSA
As the redesigned 2013 Rav4 model hits the streets, we take a look back at the one that started it all.
As the redesigned 2013 Rav4 model hits the streets, we take a look back at the one that started it all.

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Published by: AutoweekUSA on Mar 08, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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wantsto be your sidekick
the burgeoning
ute market
ven the size and scope of America'sburgeoning 4 x4 sport/utility market,it's a wonder why Toyota is takingits time on bringing the RAV 4, itshot new Sidekick competitor, acrossthe Pacific to play ball.Eventually, RAV 4 must make its way tothe United States, for anything the Sidekick(or Geo Tracker) can do, the RAV 4 can doas well, if not better. Which is no coinci-dence, because the RAV 4 was purposelyconceived from day one to outgun the cultSuzuki and all other pretenders to the sub-compact 4x4 sport/ute throne.Suffice to say, RAV 4 (RecreationalActive Vehicle 4-wheel-drive) is no ordi-nary vehicle. Part car, part off-roader, it'smore Rodeo Drive than Camel Trophy. Yes,it has full-time 4x4 (from the JapaneseCamry) and locking differentials, but there'sno low-range transfer case and its peaky 2.0-liter engine is also lifted straight from thefamily Carnry sedan.Off-road purists have already deemedRAV 4 too soft, too much of a posemobile.There again, Toyota is well aware the
4 will rarely, if ever, be used for the seriousrough stuff. Coping with snow or sand willusually be about it, assuming this high-fash-ion sport/ute ever gets to dirty its wheels off-road in the first place, that is.Where RAV 4 does score is in refinement,in ease-of-driving and, yes, affordability (atleast in Japan). The jury's out on whetherthe RAV 4 looks better or worse than theSidekick (or the '89 RAV 4 Tokyo Showprototype), but at least you can say it's dif-ferent. Inside RAV 4, you will definitely getnoticed which, Toyota reckons, is onereason why many people buy these smallsport/utes in the first place.Some might also go for the RAV 4because it offers a lot that is new. Under thehood, its 1998 cc twin-cam 16-valve engine(the Suzuki makes do with a weedier 1590 ccsingle-cam four) is the biggest in the class.RAV 4 gets a sturdy monocoque body
instead of the Sidekick's antiquated body-on-frame chassis. It has all-independent sus-pension (no rigid axles), permanent center-differential all-wheel-drive (the Suzuki's ispart-time) and can offer a four-speed auto-matic as an option. The Sidekick's automat-ic is only a three-speed.The Sidekick does fire back with a largermodel range, offering both short- and long-wheelbase lengths plus open-top versions. A2.0-liter V6 is also being hurried through, adirect response to the RAV 4.
yes, but Toyota already has a
4 in the works for 1995. Aragtop is also on its way, as is a diesel option.For now, all we have is this one three-door RAV 4 powered by Toyota's familiar3s-FE inline four. As in the Camry, Toy-ota's twin-cam is smooth and efficient butdeadly dull. It does the job, but withoutsparkle. Outputs of 133 hp at 6000 rpm plus134 lb ft of torque at 4400 rprn are handy,but for real off-road driving-where low-range lugging counts above all-both curvespeak too high on the rev band.The twin-cam's top-endy nature also meansthat, on-road, pickup can
relatively lethar-gic below 4000 rpm. The trouble is, it's at thatpoint the engine starts to sound strained,although it will rev considerably more.Despite its "big" 2.0-liter engine, RAV 4is not exactly a fireball. Toyota quotes 17.2seconds for the quarter-mile manual versionand 18.2 seconds for the auto. But Toyota'stest car felt slower than that.On the other hand, top-gear cruising issuperb. RAV 4 runs straight and true andneither wind noise nor mechanical din marsits sophisticated feel. It's an effortless, well-honed ground coverer.Equally brilliant is the quick and precisefive-speed manual shifter. The clutch isanother gem. That slickness carries over tothe automatic which combines a sensiblefloor-mounted shift with crisp kickdown.Over roughdirtroads, it's remarkablehow taut the body feels and how adept thesuspension (front MacPherson struts; reartrailing arms, coils, parallel links) is incoping with the many potholes and dips.Such testing terrain leaves the RAV 4 vir-tually unshaken. Those CADICAM comput-ers have come up with a truly rigid 145.5-inch monocoque which, thanks to short

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