2017 Toyota RAV4 GXL review: Long-term report one

$32,470 $38,610 Dealer
  • Fuel Economy
    8.5L
  • Engine Power
    132kW
  • CO2 Emissions
    198g
  • ANCAP Rating
    5Stars

It's the second-top selling medium SUV in Australia, so we felt it important to get to know the 2017 Toyota RAV4 GXL a bit better.

It has been twenty-two years since the Toyota RAV4 burst cheerily onto the scene here in Australia. Twenty-two.

Toyota delivered the 250,000th RAV4 earlier this year too, and now that I’ve made you think about both those statistics, you’ll start seeing them everywhere!

Now, you’re probably thinking ‘woah, that seems like a lot, are you sure?’, because that’s precisely what I thought when I added up the data. But yep, the RAV4 has seen 22 Grand Finals (23 if you count that stupid draw fiasco…) by blending in to the Australian family scene as a reliable, sensible, mid-size SUV.

The little Toyota has been somewhat of a quiet achiever these past two decades too, and currently sits in second place, behind the Mazda CX-5, in the year-to-date sales of medium SUVs. In fact, it outsells the Ford Kuga, Honda CR-V, Jeep Cherokee, Renault Koleos and Volkswagen Tiguan – combined!

That being the case, we felt it would be good to get to know Australia’s second-favourite mid-size SUV just a little bit better, and have added a 2017 Toyota RAV4 GXL to our long term fleet.

The current fourth-generation RAV4 was launched in 2013, and received a considerable update late last year. This saw a new look at the front and rear, revised interior and retuned suspension.

Priced from $38,450, the GXL AWD is the middle-child of three in the RAV4 lineup. And unlike many other mid-spec Toyota models (*cough, Kluger…) it has a pretty solid array of equipment available, leaving the luxury appointments as the rationale to move to the range-topping Cruiser.

You score keyless entry and start, satellite navigation, 18-inch alloy wheels and a rear-view camera. But wait, there’s more!

For an extra $2500 you can add an optional technology pack that rolls in a forward-collision warning system, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot and rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic high-beam headlights.

This is what we suggested Toyota needed to do with the Kluger, when we noted the vast gap in equipment between the mid-level GXL and range topping Grande. Not that we’re saying that it was our idea that encouraged Toyota do this for the RAV… but we’ll take any credit you choose to warrant.

Our Glacier White car also features the contrasting ‘Flex-Tone’ trim pack that adds a dark headliner and silver rather than grey plastic highlights to the lower skirts and wheel arches. For context, if you consider the front of the updated fourth-generation RAV4 already looks like a Storm Trooper, our ‘flex-tone’ gives off a bit more of a Captain Phasma vibe.

Nerdly Star Wars references aside, we’re not seeing $1000 worth of value here.

However, even when fully loaded, the GXL is still $3450 shy of the range-topping Cruiser model ($45,400). Up to you on whether the heated leather seats, sunroof, powered boot and better stereo are worth the jump.

Inside, the RAV is big on space and comfort, and has plenty of flexibility with 60:40 split folding rear seats, a low-load lip and a cool ‘cargo hammock’ to help store stuff you don’t want scuffing up the boot’s carpeted floor.

Under the bonnet is a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with 132kW and 233Nm available. Toyota claims that despite this being the most powerful engine in the range (there is also a 110kW/340Nm 2.2-litre turbo-diesel and 107kW/187Nm 2.0-litre petrol), the power is ‘delivered responsibly’ to achieve the claim of 8.5L/100km combined.

We’ll see how that goes.

All of this is sent to the road by way of a six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.

Which leads into our plans for TK-421, or Finn, or whatever silly Star Wars reference nickname I can come up with on the spur of the moment.

There are the obvious assessments of both urban and long-distance touring, where we’ll look at comfort, economy and driving dynamics of the Toyota in each key environment.

The RAV4 will be with us for four months, which will see it run over the summer holidays and Christmas break, so there will be at least one decent road trip thrown at it. I’ve been promising the little person we would visit Tasmania at some point over the school break, so perhaps the RAV might be going on a boat ride.

Loading up the GXL with technology, which includes the Toyota Link mobile application for ‘on-the-fly’ data services and driver information, means this will be a core focus. We’ll go through the infotainment, connectivity and driver assistance tech to see how it works from a functional as well as usability standpoint.

We will look at fuel economy for all driving assessment reports, but this will serve mainly as a ‘real world’ data gathering exercise. Once we have this, we’ll see just how close the day-to-day consumption of the RAV is to Toyota’s claim, and will then see what is needed in terms of driving behaviour to meet, or perhaps exceed that claim.

There will be a specific update on the functionality and practicality of the load area. The RAV4 is pitched as a bit of an adventure machine, so we’ll shove as much adventure as we can in the little guy’s direction.

Finally, we’ll be joining a local 4WD club and attending a couple of runs off the beaten track. Sure, the RAV isn’t exactly what you’d call a hard-core off-roader, but for buyers in this segment wanting to day-trip somewhere more interesting than the carpark, an AWD SUV should afford a modicum of capability.

That’s a bit more than our usual ‘regular-ish’ monthly reports, so we’ll be publishing an update on the 'Trooper every two-to-three weeks.

As always, if there is something you’d like to know or see us pay specific attention too, please let us know in the comments below.

In the meantime, we’ll get cracking on getting to know the little 2017 Toyota RAV4 GXL better, and on coming up with a much more contextually relevant Storm Trooper reference for each update. Red Five, standing by.

Click on the Photos tab for more images by James Ward and Tom Fraser.

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2017 Toyota RAV4 GXL

Price: $38,450 (before options and on-road costs)
Options: Tech pack ($2500), Flex Tone pack ($1000)
Colour: Glacier White
Engine: 132kW/233Nm 2.5-litre petrol
Gearbox: six-speed automatic, AWD
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Date acquired
: October 2016
ODO: 969km
KM since last update: N/A
Fuel economy since last update: N/A