Fifteen years ago the original RAV4 created a new market segment for compact, fun-to-drive SUVs. Now it is ready to raise the bar higher with improved performance, lower emissions and even better fuel economy. Thanks to new and revised powertrains with Toyota Optimal Drive technology, the 2009 RAV4 becomes an even stronger proposition for owners looking for quality, driving pleasure and keen cost-of-ownership performance.

TOYOTA OPTIMAL DRIVE 2.2-litre D-4D 150 ENGINE Matched to a six-speed manual gearbox, the 2.2-litre D-4D engine benefits from significant revisions to bring about a 10 per cent power upgrade to 148bhp (150 DIN hp), while at the same time recording segment-leading CO2 emissions of 154g/km, making RAV4 the first AWD model in its class to dip below the 160g/km mark. This figure is better even than the lowest figures for two-wheel drive diesel versions of the Volkswagen Tiguan and Ford Kuga. Torque performance is also stronger with the maximum increased from 310 to 340Nm.

Fuel economy is also best-in-class with an official 48.7mpg in combined cycle driving - 10 per cent better than its closest competitor, the 2.0 TDi 4motion Volkswagen Tiguan, which musters 44.1mpg.

Power (bhp/DIN hp) 134/136 148/150 +10%
Torque (Nm) 310 340 +10%
CO2 (g/km) 173 154 -11%
Combined cycle fuel consumption (mpg) 42.8 48.7 +14%

TOYOTA OPTIMAL DRIVE 2.2-litre D-CAT 150 ENGINE For the first time RAV4 is offered with a diesel engine equipped with an automatic transmission. Toyota's new 2.2-litre D-4D 150 D-CAT engine joins the range, offered exclusively with a new six-speed automatic transmission and in SR trim. Also featured in the new Avensis range, this engine produces 148bhp (150 DIN hp) and 340Nm of torque, generated between 2,000 and 2,800rpm.

It provides a strong balance of performance with economy and efficiency, giving 39.2mpg and 189g/km in combined cycle driving. Thanks to Toyota's D-CAT clean diesel system with the DPNR four-way catalyst, the engine achieves exceptionally low combined NOx and particulates emissions.

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NEW SIX-SPEED AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION The 2.2 D-4D 150 engine is equipped with a new six-speed automatic transmission that has a fast, smooth shift response. It comes with a selectable sport mode for a more aggressive shift pattern using AI-SHIFT Control (artificial intelligence-shift).

The driver can also opt for sequential manual shifts. Shifting the shift lever into M mode allows gears to be changed using the shift lever or paddle shifts on the steering wheel. This new six-speed Sports Direct Shift gives a more direct feel and provides a lock-up function on second to sixth gears to provide as wide a gear range ratio as possible. The result is a sporty drive like that of a manual system.

Sports Direct Shift also adds more driving fun with a "blipping" feature. This is achieved by controlling the injected volume of diesel and hydraulically controlling the clutch, and contributes to extremely fast downshift times.

As on Multidrive S (see above), the paddle shifts can be used to temporarily override the automatic mode, and control logic adapts shifts to suit up and downhill driving.

TOYOTA OPTIMAL DRIVE 2.0-litre VALVEMATIC ENGINE For 2009 RAV4 is offered with a new 2.0-litre Valvematic petrol engine, designed and engineered with Toyota Optimal Drive technology to achieve an exceptional combination of performance, fuel economy and low emissions.

In all respects it marks improvements over the 2.0 VVT-i unit previously featured in the range. As well as offering more power and torque, it emits significantly less CO2 and returns 20 per cent better fuel consumption in combined cycle driving.

In line with market demand, the engine will be offered in AWD versions exclusively with Multidrive S, Toyota's new continuously variable transmission that was first introduced in new Avensis.

Power (bhp/DIN hp) 150/152 156/158 +4%
Torque (Nm) 194 198 +2%
CO2 (g/km) 212 177 -16%
Combined cycle fuel consumption (mpg) 31.4 37.7 +20%

The reduction in CO2 emissions attracts a much lower VED road tax banding and, for company car drivers, a fall in Benefit-in-Kind tax rating from 31 to 24 per cent. Together with better fuel economy, these give RAV4 even lower ownership costs.

RETURN OF THE 2WD RAV4 In response to the growing market for 2WD SUVs, Toyota is reintroducing a front-wheel drive version of RAV4. Powered by the 2.0-litre Valvematic engine, matched to a new six-speed manual transmission, it will be available exclusively in XT-R trim.

Power and torque match performance in the AWD version, but emissions and fuel economy improve slightly, to 174g/km and 38.2mpg (combined) respectively.

MULTIDRIVE S TRANSMISSION Multidrive S is Toyota's new, advanced continuously variable transmission, fitted as standard to the RAV4 XT-R 2.0-litre Valvematic AWD model.

Where conventional automatic and manual transmissions use multiple sets of gears and a clutch to achieve different gear ratios, Multidrive S delivers an infinite number of ratios using two cone-shaped pulleys and a high-strength, V-shaped steel belt. With this arrangement, it changes ratios smoothly and seamlessly.

The system is CO2 and fuel-efficient and offers powerful driving performance. Because of its stepless variation of gear ratios, it can maintain the ideal ratio to keep the engine with its optimal power range. Its operation is also incredibly smooth and refined.

Using a Sport button next to the gearshift, the driver can choose a more responsive and power-maximising mode for the system. And for even more active driving, Multidrive S has a sequential manual seven-speed mode. This lets the driver select gears using the shift lever, or paddle shifts mounted on the steering wheel.

The paddle shifts can be used to temporarily override the automatic D mode. For example, when preparing to overtake. Pressing the + paddle again for more than one second returns the transmission to automatic mode; this also happens automatically once the car returns to a constant driving speed for a specified period of time, or when it comes to a complete stop.

Multidrive S has a control logic that recognises when the car is being driven up or downhill and selects the appropriate gear ratios. This reduces the amount of shifting when driving uphill and makes best use of engine braking when travelling downhill.

NEW SIX-SPEED MANUAL TRANSMISSION RAV4's new six-speed manual transmission, deployed in the 2.0 Valvematic 2WD model, has a wider gear ratio range than the previous five-speed gearbox, reducing engine speeds and thus giving better fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions. Reducing friction and drag in the transaxle has also improved fuel economy, with the addition of an oil separator to reduce the amount of oil stir and the specification of low-friction bearings and low viscosity oil.

Much engineering effort was invested in improving the shift feel in the new gearbox, making it one of the smoothest in the compact SUV segment. Although the transmission has an extra gear, it is extremely compact.

REFRESHED DESIGN AND SPECIFICATIONS RAV4 also gains a series of styling changes inside and out for 2009. The new model range can be distinguished by a new front bumper, grille and headlamp design, turn indicator lights incorporated into the door mirrors, integrated front foglamps, restyled rear light clusters and new-design split-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels.

The SR model gains an extra dash of chrome above the rear number plate and new 18-inch five-spoke alloys.

New equipment specifications put the emphasis on premium features. All models in the RAV4 range are fitted with:

  • Dual-zone climate control air conditioning
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Automatic wipers and headlights
  • Six-CD changer
  • Aux-in socket
  • Electric heated, retractable door mirrors
  • Electrochromic auto-dimming rear-view mirror

The XT-R AWD and SR models are further enhanced with:

  • Leather upholstery
  • Smart Entry and Start
  • Heated front seats
  • Electrically adjustable driver's seat

The SR model is additionally fitted with smoked glass headlamp covers, wheelarch overfenders, paddle shift controls for the automatic transmission and a reversing camera with a display screen integrated in the rear-view mirror.

The range of options includes Toyota's new premium HDD touch-screen navigation system, which includes a hard drive for storing digital music files and a rear parking camera. A Protection Pack, including parking sensors, and a Style Pack are also available.

PRICES, VED AND INSURANCE Full model range pricing and VED bands are given in the table below. Insurance groups are due to be announced in June.

XT-R Toyota Optimal Drive 2.0 Valvematic 6MT 2WD £18,995 H
XT-R Toyota Optimal Drive 2.0 Valvematic MDS AWD £22,395 I
XT-R Toyota Optimal Drive 2.2 D-4D 150 6MT AWD £22,795 G
SR Toyota Optimal Drive 2.2 D-CAT 150 6AT AWD £25,295 J