Text and photos by Kap Maceda Aguila
TOYOTA Motor Philippines (TMP) continues to beef up its portfolio of sport-utility vehicles with the introduction of the all-new Toyota RAV4. Unveiled at the Bonifacio High Street Amphitheater in Taguig City on Feb. 8, the fifth generation of the compact SUV first seen in 1994 comes at a time when the global appetite for the ute continues to drive sales (one in every three vehicles sold worldwide is an SUV).
Meanwhile, TMP first vice president Ma. Cristina Fe N. Arevalo shared in a speech during the launch program that, as of the close of last year, commercial vehicle sales in the country accounted for almost 70% of total auto sales. In the Philippines, one in four vehicles sold in 2018 was an SUV (which belongs in the commercial vehicle segment).
Standing for “Recreational Activity Vehicle: 4-wheel drive,” the latest iteration of the RAV4 available in three variants locally is nonetheless bereft of an all-wheel drive option. But it is expected to appeal to car buyers familiar with the nameplate — and/or attracted to its new styling, which has been described as having an attention-grabbing “visual flair.”
Utilizing the so-called Toyota New Global Architecture gives the RAV4 improved agility, stability, and visibility, according to a TMP statement. The platform also leads to a lower center of gravity and a more rigid body.
“The wait is finally over,” declared TMP president Satoru Suzuki, who added that the RAV4 is “designed to defy expectations” while staying true to its “proud heritage as the world’s bestselling SUV.”
The RAV4 now touts a “lower belt line, repositioned outer mirrors now mounted on the door, and thinner, low-set instrument panel that has sleek horizontal lines flowing into the door panels [in aid of] driving visibility,” reported TMP.
Supplanting the RAV4’s old 2.5-liter dual VVTi engine is a similar-displacement yet newer proprietary Dynamic Force Engine with dual variable valve timing intelligent system controlled by an electric motor. This promises heightened performance for less fuel consumption. Horsepower output has grown to 203hp from 177hp, and torque climbs to 243Nm from 233Nm. Drivers can access the grunt through a familiar direct-shift eight-speed automatic transmission, which now features a multi-plate lock-up clutch “that provides a wider lock up range allowing shifting and acceleration to be smoother and faster.”
Toyota said the transmission allows more power and torque when accelerating from standstill while “suppressing engine speeds at high speed cruising for a quieter cabin.”
Ranged against the entry-level Toyota Rush and the popular Toyota Fortuner SUV, TMP marketing officer for product planning Jovie M. Roqueza said in an interview with BusinessWorld that the RAV4 occupies a niche market.
“From a pricing point of the view, the one that clearly overlaps with the RAV4 is the Fortuner,” he shared. “We’re trying to cultivate the market for the RAV4 [as what] we’re seeing is that Fortuner buyers are ones with the big families. They have small children, and they want the practicality of a diesel. But we still feel that there are customers [who lean] more towards the emotional, [who] want the active lifestyle, [who] want the performance of a gasoline car, and these are the customers that we are appealing to with the RAV4.”
The five-seat model is well appointed with new technology and more upscale accoutrements — niceties that Mr. Roqueza insisted are appreciated by the vehicle’s target market. “All the small details that our customers appreciate, such as wireless charging, panoramic moonroof — these are exclusive to the RAV4. We don’t have these in any of our other SUVs.”
This primary target market, he continued, is composed of “young, tech-savvy people… a growing market that [the company can] continue to tap in the future as our economy continues to improve.”
The new RAV4 comes in six standard colors: white pearl, red mica metallic, silver metallic, gray metallic, Urban Khaki and cyan metallic. Three new colors are available on special order (with a three-month wait): super white, Attitude Black and dark blue mica metallic. Variants and pricing are as follows: LE (P1.638 million), XLE (P1.870 million) and LTD (P2.188 million).