2024 Toyota RAV4 Review – When Toyota launched its GR Performance sub-brand with the new Supra in 2019, the Japanese auto giant set a clear mission to transform itself once again into an exciting brand.
This mission has so far been a huge success with the GR Supra and GR Yaris enthusiastic admiration, and the upcoming GR 86 Coupe is poised to continue this tradition.
While these cars are actually exciting they aren’t what we would call “practical,” so we decided to take a look at what a real GR performance version of the Toyota RAV4 would look like.
Smashing the look of the GR RAV4:
Our rendering of the RAV4 GR closely follows the classic ‘Look GR’ seen on the YARIS GR and the look-oriented GR Sport package option available on the C-HR small SUV.
When drawing the front, our designers opted for a large and spacious grille at the front to allow adequate cooling for a more powerful engine and drivetrain.
This area is surrounded by a set of deep cut side pods that not only show off a more menacing appearance but also the home’s LED fog lights as a practical touch.
The RAV4 has been highly praised, including by Auto Chase, for the ingenious driving dynamics common to Toyota models based on the TNGA platform, but the SUV’s high-ride characteristics still let it down in the corners.
For this reason, we moderately lowered the ride height and added larger rims wrapped in low-profile adhesive tires to enhance the road feel and reduce body roll.
With more power on board we also expect the tires to grow a little wider to 245mm at the front and rear to provide an added edge in corners.
What is under the hood of the GR RAV4?
As previously mentioned, the current RAV4 is something surprisingly fast underfoot and this is especially true when choosing a hybrid.
Hybrid RAV4 equipped with a 2.5L four-cylinder petrol engine paired with two front electric motors produces about 160kW in the current form, or 163kW if you add in a modest third engine in the rear fitted to all wheel drive models.
In order to escalate this up a notch we see two viable options for the RAV4, we’ll start with the first and the most logical: horny boots in a tuned-up version of the beef hybrid drivetrain found in a large Kluger SUV.
The Kluger uses the same 2.5L four-cylinder engine paired with a more powerful hybrid system that steps power up to 184kW with a torque figure not specifically mentioned by Toyota.
Unlike the RAV4, the third engine at the rear is very powerful in the Kluger, and 40kW/121Nm can be added to the mix in a split second, which should enhance the driving dynamics and make it more effective on slippery roads.
To be competitive in this space the RAV4 would need to make at least 210kW/380Nm, with featured competitors such as the Volkswagen Tiguan R which is set to produce a healthy 235kW/420Nm from a two-liter turbocharged petrol four-cylinder.
But what about the option of a Kluger 3.5L V6 that makes 218kW/350Nm mechanical all wheel drive? Well it might be possible, given the common platform, but a drive this size could be too big to fit in a little RAV4.
In a smaller hybrid chassis a Kluger or V6 drivetrain that would make the RAV4 a lot faster but perhaps not fast enough to be worthy of the GR badge, enter the fancier twin Lexus NX 450h+.
Armed with a 2.5L four-cylinder engine paired with a plug-in hybrid system instead of a conventional self-charging hybrid system as in the RAV4, the NX 450h+ steps power very little to the rumored 231kW.
Power is sent to the CVT transmission before reaching all four wheels through a combination of the gasoline engine and electric motors. The SUV is even equipped with a flexible torque vectoring system that can transfer power to each axle on the fly.
The powertrain is not only very beefy but also provides up to 75km of electric-only range (WLTP), allowing most to complete their daily commute without using a drop of gasoline.
Or, Toyota could play bat running and simply drop a turbocharged 1.6-liter petrol three-cylinder from a 200kW Yaris GR into the RAV4 engine bay.
Will Toyota actually make the RAV4 GR?
The short answer is that it seems unlikely – but Toyota also hasn’t ruled out either.
In an interview with Motor Trim magazine earlier this month, Bob Carter, executive vice president of sales for Toyota North America, said the GR will focus on cars, not SUVs.
“I don’t want to eliminate anything, but at first it does. The importance of exhilarating driving. When you go into an SUV you have a higher center of gravity and it’s just not favorable,” said Mr. Carter.
“Nothing off the table, but at first you can expect it to be a car based on the car. There is still a market for that.”
So, for now at least, we may not see the RAV4 GR but it’s important to note Toyota hasn’t said no and with the success of the RAV4 in Australia and around the world it would make sense to extend the range to appeal to new buyers.