Toyota RAV4 (2012-2018). Mini-review

© Toyota-Club.Net
Apr 2013 - Feb 2016

Briefly look at the new RAV4, to critically evaluate its technical.


Toyota RAV4 4th generation, model #XA4#, produced since 12.2012 for all markets except the domestic Japanese. Sales in the post-soviet countries started in March 2013. In October 2015 the first major restyling was performed.


It is doubtful that the basic look of #A40 attracted more fans. The neutral profile with preserved features of the predecessor, ponderous stern with bulging lights, but the front... the victim of Toyota corporate style have to be parked facing to a blind wall.

Design refinements did not injure service performance criticality, but some affected the functionality. Trendy sloping roof forced to pull down the rear seat and together with narrowed "stern" made visibility worse. High window line even further raised to aft. Unpainted plastic along the bottom perimeter - is practical, but unattractive for light-colored cars, doorway threshold overlay by doors and shields seems good. European version disadvantage - bulging spoiler / molding under the front bumper (for US version this garnish, conversely, was firstly recessed into the bumper, so angle of approach is larger and are not so painful consequences of contact with snowdrifts).

Restyled "stormtrooper's helmet" style front end is clearly more fun (especially in white). The balance between painted and black plastic on bumpers was changed, the lower "botox" lip was installed in American model too.


Today inside almost every non-premium Toyota the brand can be unmistakably identified without view to steering wheel - by characteristic eclecticism and feeling of cheapness. Hard to believe that to early-2000s this company created a nice-looking interiors of quality (or apparent quality) materials even for low class models.

Depressive dark lower part (European versions), absolutely incoherent jumble of disparate shapes, hard plastic, rough texture of lower trim panels, traditionally unpleasant to the touch and easily soiled rag upholstery (though artificial leather at top grade also does not delight), easy-to-scar pseudo-carbon trims... But the major design elements - a hefty hollow in the instrument panel and covered with leatherette dashboard ledge (at low grades Toyota was greedy for even oilcloth so stitching simulation was printed on the plastic).

Restyling is mainly manifested in the soft plastic on top of the door (front only), leatherette on the ledge is already at basic grade,replacement of pseudo-carbon by primitive matte (in Europe) or polished (in USA) plastic - it is difficult to say what better.


Driver . Longitudinal adjustment range and space above the head are enough for people no taller than average who like lower position. We usually try to get "command position"... - but without success. First, the seat cushion max height is about 350 mm (instead ideal 400+) - even lower than in RAV4 #A30, and the declared "increasing the vertical adjustment range" means the ability to even more lower seat. Second, the seat cushion height above the road surface is rather small, so the traditional SUV benefits (comfort entrance/exit, good visibility) is minimized. Unpleasant moments - the overhanging front edge of the roof, a modest space above the head, low doorway - you feel every millimeter of the height reducing beside to predecessor. In addition, the longitudinal adjustment range is completely exhausted (cushion lift moves it up and forward, so you have to push the seat back). Not pleased the high window-line and massive instrumental panel. And for some strange reason, the steering wheel was installed even lower than in #A30, so it is almost lying on the driver's laps.

May be Toyota's designers doesn't know? - you can not break the door armrest in the middle with stupid vertical handrail. You can not install the door lock internal handle/lever in the way that customer have to bend hand unnaturally around the handrail to open the door. You can not hide the set of control buttons in the lower part instrument panel and behind the wheel. That fixed armrest and lack of "leather" cover on the steering wheel at low grades - disgustingly petty savings.

It is clear, that RAV4 is entry-level SUV - as for the main North American market. Where it is in the same class and the same price category with Sportage / Tucson etc.

Rear passengers . As expected, the "extraordinary comfort at rear seat" is just advertising. Yes, longitudinal space, wide doorway, the absence of floor tunnel, rather long seat cushion and adjustable backrest - it's good. But it does not compensate low cushion (330 mm) feeling aggravate by high window line. And of course the "shaker" of rear suspension.

Was it possible to imagine 10-15 years ago, the phrase "Subaru interior size, quality and ergonomics superior the Toyota ones" will cease to be a joke? At least when compared #A40 and Forester S13.


Due to lack of "command position" the front visibility is no more than acceptable (left front pillar some interferes, hood shape conceals a front dimensions, a considerable field of view is obscured by mirror).
Rear visibility can be compared to to unsuccessful in this regard Sportage/Tucson. Rear windows mainly decorate the car exterior but from inside small glass area made it useless. The impressive space of the rear quarters from the side door to loophole of tailgate window can be considered completely blind, despite the formal existence of a tiny and useless glass triangles. Well, at least the door mirrors have the excellent size, and when manoeuvring, can rely on the assistance of rear parking sensors and a rear view camera (available since mid-grade).


Noticeable contrast to previous generations - lifting tailgate instead swing, and lack of a spare wheel on the door (electric door is only available for top-grades, the door glass does not open separately).

But there was a nightmare behind the door. At the vast majority of the markets, #A40 can be equipped whether repair kit or small spare tyre, but general export countries also can be equipped with full-size spare wheel. For rus-market Toyota chosen full-size - itself is good, but - because of the stupid error in the shape of the hollow for spare wheel, it had to be covered with the hefty podium - as a result at least fifty liters of volume lost , the floor is above the door threshold, loading height increased and this cover fits not as tight as usual.

After restyling full-size spare wheel was finally replaced by smaller one (unfortunately the owner has not a spare wheel disk and original spare tyre more), and the floor of the luggage compartment was lowered to a normal level.


In the post-soviet countries was delivered cars in specifications both for Europe and for general export. Since the beginning of production there was next engines:

Engine Displacement, cm3 Bore x Stroke, mm Compression ratio Output, PS Torque, Nm Configuration Drive Trans.
1AD-FTV199886.0 x 86.015.8124 / 3600310 / 1600-2400D-4D DPF 2WD 6-MT
2AD-FTV223186.0 x 96.015.7150 / 3600340 / 2000-2800D-4D / DPF 4WD 6-MT / 6-AT
2AD-FHV223186.0 x 96.015.7150 / 3600340 / 2000-2800D-CAT 4WD 6-AT
3ZR-FE 198780.5 x 97.610.0146 / 6200187 / 3600 DVVT 2WD/4WD6-MT/CVT
3ZR-FAE198780.5 x 97.610.0151 / 6200195 / 4000 DVVT Valvematic4WD 6-MT/CVT
2AR-FE 249490.0 x 98.010.4180 / 6000233 / 4100 DVVT 2WD/4WD6-MT/6-AT

Over time, there were a hybrid version and BMW diesel added.

Engine Displacement, cm3 Bore x Stroke, mm Compression ratio Output, PS Torque, Nm Configuration Drive Trans.
2AR-FXE 249490.0 x 98.012.5160 / 5700213 / 4100 DVVT 2WD/4WDHyb
2WW 199584.0 x 90.016.5143 / 4000320 / 1750 - 2WD6-MT

Additional data:
Valvematic system
ZR series
Toyota AR series engine
Toyota AD series engine

ZR. In production since 2006. There were problems of carbon deposits in the combustion chamber and some oil consumption (not so mass as for ZZ series, but the same story is repeated for almost 20 years). The main problem - Valvematic - controller failures, detaching controller from the control shaft with subsequent engine stall, famous feature of the vacuum pump clatter (non actual for owners of simplified version - 3ZR-FE). Sure, common for all modern engines VVT actuator rattle after start and water pump leaks.
Take it? 2.0 is rather weak for modern SUV with curb weight above 1.5t, it is aggregated with the CVT, some surprises are possible in the future... - if the life loses its meaning without RAV4 , it is better to look at the next version.

AR. In production since 2008. The most unproblematic modern Toyota engine (VVT and pump - do not count), and the main cause of success - relative simplicity of the design.
Take it? Yeah. There are no contraindications as regards reliability, its is aggregated with automatic transmission, provides acceptable thrust-weight ratio and dynamics.

AD. In production since 2006. The most serious and mass defects - high oil consumption, heavy carbon deposits. So standard diesel troubles are the background - injectors, the destruction of the supply pump, clogging of EGR... It is good, that officially supplied to rus-market engines deprived of problems related to the advanced emission control systems, but with D-CAT they feel them fully. It is noteworthy that local rejoice appearing of new Toyota diesel with no idea of their reliability, and not very understanding in in design.
Take it? Nay. Especially abstracting from the question of fuel system and fuel quality outside the capital - serious problems of AD not fixed... If you need only RAV4 - it is better to do without experiments and take the gasoline version, if you need only diesel - should refer to Hyundai / Kia.

Thus, there is single technically optimal version - 2AR-FE. Of course, its fuel consumption seems too big.

However, 2.5 engine has a significant drawback. Front exhaust pipe layout under the engine decreases ground clearance at this point to 160-170 mm. So, on the one hand the installation of a metal undershield below the pipe level will eliminate ground clearance, on the other hand - the inevitable contacts of pipe turn with the surface will not benefit the exhaust manifold. Tellingly, the same engine was installed in #A30 for US market successfully (clearance 190 mm) - there is an exhaust pipe gently routed between the engine and transmission sumps. But so frank slapdash has not been since Camry 30 (2001-2006) with its sagging to the ground exhaust "gut".

By the way, the bottom of #A40 is not flat not only at pipe turn - it is simply the most visible. But the desire to minimize the floor tunnel led to non-optimal routing the whole - pay attention to the front end of the silencer, that limits the ramp breakover angle, touching the ground on the far from extreme surface relief and promising surprises at high curbs.


We do not talk on principle about 2WD versions and mechanical gearboxes.

CVT K111F Installed in previous RAV4. Positive aspects of Toyota (Aisin) CVT have long been known - in comparison with classic AT with the same engine it can achieve slightly better dynamics and lower fuel consumption. And because CVT is not aggregated with powerful engines, is does not break apart immediately after leaving the dealer shop. The grace-part can be considered finished.

Unfortunately, owners of SUV with CVT with very few exceptions are not aware that their transmissions in not so strong or durable as classic AT and compared with usual cars. But if the driver of Avensis for example is not physically able to go for the adventure because of car geometry terrain, the RAV4 ground clearance and four-wheel drive will provoke to real "jeep" cosplay - with the corresponding result. And the saddest result will be for those who bought second hand - though buying of CVT cars after operation in the local conditions is extremely unwise in general.

As for the projected life-time... Problems of wear / scuffing of CVT pulleys ans belt breakage are common for all and at the same mileage (if the power is equal). Conventionally, a car under normal conditions (without often sharp-starting and driving over obstacles at reverse) should operates for 120-150.000 km (but rare more than 200.000 km). But alas, this "SUVs" will be parked in the snowdrifts, climbed on the icy curbs, drown into the dirt etc. - in such hands, a good result can be considered 70.000-100.000 km, although note that irreversible process of pulleys demolition can be started just by one unfortunate start or slipping, hydraulic clutch control can be damaged - by one failure with premature reverse on / off before the full stop.

But Toyota has offered yet another unpleasant defect associated with the "all-wheel drive" CVT. Without going deep into design, note that so-called "transfer" is driven via the flange of front differential case. And the thin-walled flange with internal splines has a tendency to burst - whereupon at least a fluid begins to leak. If do not intervene at this stage, the flange finally breaks and splinters got into gear, can make a real massacre. The main problem is that the differentials were delivered in parts only for automatic and manual gearboxes, but for CVT Toyota offers only as assembly for unrealistic money (~ $17000). "Second hand"? - But the quantity of broken 4WD-CVT is significantly more than quantity of written off to the scrap cars - so that at wild-east real hunt goes hunting for each potential donor. Therefore, a problem at the stage of crack and leak usually solved in the traditional local way - some sleeve pressed over the flange, all traces of leak removed, and the car is immediately sent for resale.

The second disease of many CVTs - premature wear of primary and secondary pulley shaft bearings (similar defect is familiar to the owners of Nissans), and sometimes the "premature" means few tens of thousands of kilometers. And "thanks" to the Toyota spare parts policy this defect becoming a global problem - no aftermarket parts, the bearings have not oem-duplicates, so you have to turn and adjust some suitable size counterparts.

Rem.1 Nissan owners commenting us:

"16.12.2013. Today only few can build normal CVT. Toyota with its Aisin - are only newbies without great merits and in fact copied Jatco technologies. But the rest of the world CVT manufacturers, in fact, also working by Jatco drawings and developments ... And the metal belt in CVT - also the development by Jatco. And now, when all manufacturers are developing their metallic belts, Jatco started production of a new generation CVT, with chain instead belt. Such developments no one have except Jatco..."

Reference. While Jatco is truly the leader of mass CVT production, but note...
- Modern CVT design created and introduced by Europeans (early-1980s).
- Metal push belt - the development of Van Doorne's Transmissie B.V., now a part of Bosch (the world's main producer of CVT push-belts). There are Bosch VDT belts in Jatco CVT installed.
- First Japanese developer and producer of CVT - Subaru (Fuji Heavy Industries) (since the mid-1980s).
- The first Jatco CVT (at that time a part of Nissan) for small car designed on the basis of previous developments FHI (early 1990s).
- The first CVT in "two-liter class" by Jatco / Nissan appeared in 1997, the first "two-liter" CVT by Toyota - in 2000, a large Aisin "CVT plant" launched in 2002, and then Toyota began the active implementation of CVT to many models for domestic market.
- CVT with chain deive - joint development of LuK / Schaeffler - ZF - Audi (since early-2000).

Rem.3 "I have a question about the variator - is in the Toyota Prius the same used.. ... Prius go without CVT replacement to a million kilometers"
Of course, the "continuously variable transmission" of Prius and its family has nothing in common with the discussed CVT.

Something like that (V-belt CVT based on the K110 without torque converter) could be found except in the first generation of hybrid Estima/Alphard.

6-AT U660F - aggregated with diesel engine. The list of U660 weak spots was almost as long as the combined fault list of all the other Toyota / Aisin modern ATs. Firstly, it is due to the high complexity of the new generation - as usually sophisticated equipment traditionally lead to a drop of quality and reliability. The second reason - aggregation with excessively powerful engine (2GR-FE), that often sent AT to repair before 100.000 km mileage. RAV4 diesel no so powerful, but have similar torque - so the load will be comparable. In addition, a relatively narrow operating rpm range of diesel are forcing AT to shift significantly more often than the gasoline engine.

6-AT U760F - is aggregated with a gasoline 2.5 - in this case a relatively modest motor specs allow to rely on a certain long-life of transmission. Moreover, as a development of U660, a new AT got rid of at least part of inherent defects.


Front - classic McPherson, rear - multi-link (it is strange why Japanese prefer to name suspension with longitudinal trailing arm as "double wishbone").

As for reliability, the specific problems was not foreseen - the main problem of previous generation with the same suspension were replacement of rear trailing arms because of silent blocks poor design, and rear wheels alignment adjusting rods replacement.

But a critical problem of the suspension - its excessive stiffness (especially rear). It is not bad for quality highways, but RAV4 primarily is everyday urban SUV - and too uncomfortable for that role.

During restyling the chassis "was undergone to significant modifications" and... If our materials were "approved" by Toyota officials, would then suspension "was changed beyond recognition and became very comfortable". But we can say frank - with comparison to previous rumbling cart, the new one (some less rumbling and shod in soft winter tyres) may seem more comfortable, but does not cease to be a cart. Objectively, the presence of improvements can not be denied - there are new rear springs (for 2.0) and shock absorbers, new front struts (for 2.5), implementation of specification for local market (seems like "rough road spec" in other markets), but most of the parts was simply reshuffled.


Toyota did not cut, as Koreans did, full set of safety system system, so all the versions are equipped with ABS + EBD + BA + VSC, at all-wheel drive vehicles combined with DTC + EPS in IDDS... Decipher: anti-skid system, electronic brakeforce distribution, emergency brake assist, stability system, rear-wheel drive connection system, electric power steering, integrated dynamic driving system. Parking brake - archaic mechanical manual.

No critical problems was expected, judging by past experience.
Touted rear-wheel drive activation for active cornering expectedly turned profanation - in practice, the car always shows a sustained propensity to front axle drift.


Electric power steering - common weak spot for small and middle class Toyota cars - installed in the top of the column motor transmits all torque for wheel turning through the wheel steering, grinding along the way intermediate shafts, spline connections pinion / rack pair.

Steering of #A40 is almost similar to the previous generation - when it was a source of a variety of knocks and backlashes. Warranty helped before and then relatively cheap parts - new original rack $500 / duplicate $300, joints $200... However, after all the crazy steps of rus-authorities, it is now impossible to predict whether will remain available new parts in the future. Meanwhile, the official rus-dealer wants $1500 for the same rack. - without new parts you have to remember the concept of "restoration."


All-wheel drive - the classic torque-on-demand Toyota ATC (renamed into DTC): permanent front drive, automatic connection of the rear wheels by multi-plate electromechanical coupling mounted on the rear differential carrier. Its main technical defect (wear of the front bearing) does not change since 1998 - but the bearing replacement is not to difficult (despite the manufacturer formally not provided coupling repair). Some additional information - see here.

Additional control - maximum clutch lock mode, TRC and VSC OFF mode. Differential locks are emulated by using the brake system.

By off-road possibilities components:
- The ground clearance. Average, except the location of exhaust pipe.
- Geometry. Average, except the location of exhaust pipe. Angle of approach of the Euro-version is limited by unnecessary bumper protrusion. Positive - the uncolored bottom perimeter. Dust shield of the engine compartment - unsatisfactory.
- Articulation. Average for the class.
- 4WD type. The most common type of the torque-in-demand, efficiency and endurance - similar to analogues. Mode of forced 4WD pseudo-engagement is available.
- Difflock emulation. Worst in the class traditionally.
- Thrust-weight ratio. Normal, optimal with 2.5 engine.
- Transmission strength. CVT - is excluded. AT - satisfactory.

Efficiency of ATC in simple conditions when traction on both axles is only required without geometry testing - is more or less acceptable. But minimum complexity of the relief cause serious problems because of suspension small articulation and ineffective difflock emulation. Obstacles must be overpass only at speed, not crawling (sure, with risk to damage all hanging under the bottom).


Conventional air conditioner is only in the low-grade, since semi-low grade dual-zone climate control is installed. Dashboard central vents, as it should - closable, rear passengers have not vents (only ducts under the front seats). To believe in the adequacy of the automatic mode of Toyota's climate is somewhat naively, but the rest of the operation is quite efficient.


Normal modern set in all grades - two front airbags, two side airbags, two curtains, driver side knee airbag. EuroNCAP crash test - 32 points (89%) and five stars.


Appearance of such combination meter on the middle class car once again raises questions about the sanity of some Toyota's designers. Analog primitive, blue lights, monochrome mini-display, graphical version of temperature gauge inside the trip-computer... - usually similar meters are installed ing second-class cars of low-end brands.

Restyled meters was really improved, and new large color multidisplay was installed.


The first version of this article was wrote in the spring of the 2013th, the last "fat year", when the price of the optimal grade was about $47000 (with pre-war exchage rate). In the conditions changed by kremlin insane will, major manufacturers started phenomenal dumping for the retention of the market part - and in the beginning of 2016 Toyota sell similar post-restyling version for only $22000, which is significantly cheaper than even US price ($27000). However, the cost in local soft currency grew up too beyond psychologically important threshold.

But still try to choose the optimal version. From paper price list, cut off the right of the six columns in the configuration table - so-called Safety Sense - adaptive cruise control, warning about the lane intersection, automatic braking before an obstacle, traffic sign recognition, adaptive head light.

Once more cut off the right column. The car disposes of 18-inch wheels, losing blind spot monitoring system, front parking sensors, reverse driving assistant, HDD-navigation, heated rear seats, pseudo-leather upholstery, electric seats, Smart Entry&Start, as well as the 360 view cameras. It's a pity? Alas, in this class (and especially today) cars of the right column goes mainly through the pages of magazines and in video test drives, while in real life we are surrounded by much closer to the basic grade vehicles.

Therefore the right grade is now seems more or less reasonable. Although with a difficult choice - whether 8 percent surcharge for 2.5 with quality motor and traditional AT instead 2.0 CVT makes sense? In our opinion - absolutely yeah, but 2.0 CVT fans can shift to another column to the left, throwing LED-headlights, steering wheel heater, power tailgate, heated windshield, injectors and rear parking sensors.


Carefully guarded by Toyota schedule of compulsory service at every 10.000 km deserves only obscene epithets due to loss of time and finances. Sure we do not advise to drive 15-20.000 km between services - motor oil should be replaced every 8-10.000 km, but the rest of the work can wait.

Additional, but extremely necessary for RAV4 item - autocasco - is much more expensive than for korean analogs.


Make reservation - it may seem that the author considers RAV4 worst in its class. Not at all - under no circumstances we do not recommend Chevrolet Captiva, Opel Antara, SsangYong etc due to technical reasons. But we have long ceased to forgive with fanatical devotion all the shortcomings of Toyota and do not have any corporate commitments so we can be fairly unprejudiced.

- Off-road abilities primarily? Then, in principle, forget about Toyota light SUVs - the first and last successful in this regard car was RAV4 #A10 (1st generation). The company has wide model range of real SUVs (HiLux, LC Prado, LC, American market "elephants"t) and do not need to improve pseudo-off-road of light cars.

- Diesel SUV? - No doubts - Hyundai / Kia only - the best modern diesels (specs and reliability). Other properties of HMC are also not bad in comparison to RAV4 exactly: stiff suspension - as Toyota, geometry - as Toyota, 4WD - more effective, interiors quality - better...).

Frankly, the whole crossover class at 2013-2015 can be closed by several iconic models: Relatively: primitive / affordability - Duster, reliability / design / affordability - Sportage 2.0, dynamics / driveability - CX-5 2.5, reliability / capacity / benefit - Sorento 2.2, off-road / capacity / comfort - Forester 2.5, off-road / comfort / premium - Freelander 2.2.

It can be said about some unique advantages of Pajero Sport and Murano, but what unique have many japanese crossovers... in the presence of analogs more favorable - practical - reliable - active driving - off-road - comfortable - premium? Exemplary ergonomics and driveability of VAG cars and all major reliability problems? Why look for the positive in Korando, if you just need to once and for all abandon even the thought to purchase it? If exist today at least one reasonable argument in favor of CR-V?

RAV4 is in this series, without any exceptional advantages over classmates - middling, not the most profitable (during purchase, and during maintenance). Actually, its best part - the brand and reputation.

Once again - the legendary reliability of Japan cars - thing of the past 1990s, modern Toyota - is a mix of structural defects, strangeness of design, cheapness of materials, strangeness of ergonomics, mediocre specs and unjustified overpayment for the brand. But, unfortunately, when it comes to TOYOTA - many local citizens simply refuse the rational perception.