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Duelling Diesels: RAV4 Cruiser versus Outlander Aspire

RAV4 OutlanderIt’s been a dual diesel duel over the last week, between the revamped Mitsubishi Outlander Aspire 7 seater diesel up against Toyota’s new diesel entrant to the SUV competition, the venerable RAV4, with Cruiser AWD nomenclature. Both have undergone a substantial exterior reskin whilst the Outlander has received a moderate tickle to the interior. The RAV4 has gone a little further but it’s the under bonnet makeover that’s of most interest.
Mitsubishi has supplied its soft roader with an oil burner for some time now; Toyota has kept their diesels more for their Landcruiser and Prado range in a non-commercial sense. With diesel’s economic benefit being more widely appreciated along with the extra torque compared to petrol being part of that RAV4 frontfactor, Toyota has finally lobbed an engine powered by dinosaur juice into the vehicle that kickstarted the soft roader revolution.
Both have a 2.2L capacity engine with identical power and almost identical revs, 110kw at 3500rpm vs 3600rpm (Mitsubishi/Toyota), the Mitsi twisting out 360Nm of torque from 1500rpm to 2750rpm and the Toyota 340Nm (2800rpm) via an auto gearbox, in this case a Constantly Variable Transmission (CVT) for the Outlander and a traditionally slick self shifter for Toyota. Both have six ratios programmed in with the Outlander receiving Outlander frontF1 style paddles behind the tiller and the RAV a “traditional” gear lever change. Both are All Wheel Drive (no transfer case for low ratio dedicated off road work) and have a form of hill descent control plus an ECO mode to gauge how gently (or not) you’ve been driving and the RAV gets a Sports mode RAV4 profiletoo. The Outlander and the RAV have an electronic lock system, allowing a change between a torque split (torque directed between front or rear) drive or a locked AWD setup. There’s a better measure of refinement on the Toyota though, with less engine chatter intruding into the cabin plus the Outlander had some vibration Outlander profileand shudder at low speeds at around 1500rpm. There’s a touch less lag on the Toyota as well, when the go pedal is depressed.
On the road both are well behaved, tracking truly on the straight. When asked to change direction both do so without fuss, with the RAV’s electronic assist to the steering somewhat without feel on centre but loads up on either side. The Mitsubishi offers a more even feel all the way through. Ridewise the Outlander was a touch harder; although supple enough on a flat road there was a little less give than the RAV, especially on humps’n’bumps. The front end would also “crash” over bigger speedbumps, with a seemingly shorter suspension travel feeling as if they would pull out. The Toyota, with a slightly more plush ride, would have tyre squeal and understeer more when pushed into a hard cornering situation; possibly to Outlander seatingdo with its slightly different wheel and tyre configuration, RAV4 seats17 inch rims with 225/65 tyres as opposed to the Aspire’s 18/225/55s, which also may account for the slightly less level of rebound. The stop pedal on each on each was smooth and well weighted on the feel.
Both come with a 60L tank; somewhat strangely, the Toyota seemed LESS economical than the Outlander, even with a mere 50kg weight impost with the RAV reaching a quarter tank used first with similar distance and driving styles covered. Both came with keyless entry and start plus electronic tailgates. Operated via the remote fob, the Toyota’s seemed more successful in reading the signal, with both having a switch in the tailgate and Mitsubishi one on the dash. As expected, both had beepers to warn of gate up, gate down motions.
RAV4 bootThe interior of both is comfy, with the RAV’s seating a little more padded and supportive; the Outlander’s give you a sitting on rather than in impression. The Aspire has the extra row of seats with the simple “pull strap” to raise or lower but has lost the tumble fold and roll middle seats. The Cruiser has a five seat setup, a touch compromised by the RAV’s ten centimetre shorter overall length although, oddly the wheelbase is just a centimetre less. There’s well over 400L of cargo space for each with the rear seats (not including the third row in the Outlander) up plus Outlander booteach have a cargo blind. Overall width is a winner to the Toyota, by just 45mm but the Outlander feels a wider cabin although the RAV has a sunroof. Both dashes are easy to read, with a logical layout whilst taking slightly different routes with the placement of the Start/Stop button. The Mitsi’s is to the lower right of the steering wheel and the RAV to the upper left….neither are clearly visible to the driver. Toyota wrap the centre console and door trim in a carbon firbre look and some handsomely stitched leather on the centre dash. Outlander gets a tastefully contrasting wood trim (doors) RAV4 dashand pianoblack highlight (centre dash) and both get heated seating. A minor ergonomic issue with the Aspire was the placement of the interior door handle, feeling as if it should be an inch or two higher. Both came with touchscreens for the satnav/entertainment system and steering wheel controls; the Mitsubishi won out with a more user friendly control system and, more importantly, did NOT have the utterly intrusive voice system saying a driver was over the limit…especially when the GPS was a bit lost. The sound from the audio system in each was Outlander dashwonderful, with the Aspire copping a Rockford Fosgate setup, although the Toyota’s bass was a little more defined. Naturally, connectivity is not an issue with USB/Bluetooth and Auxiliary ports available, with the RAV proffering two USBs, one in the head unit and one below.
It’s the exterior where these two have a more clearly defined delineation: the RAV cops the new angular family design brief, with the sharper, pointier nose and headlight cluster, LED running Outlander rearlights and a slightly less rounded rear than before. The Outlander has the now, more familiar, rounded and slightly bulbous look; it’s one that is slowly growing on me. There’s the familiar rubber touchpad for the keyless entry on the Aspire with the Cruiser getting a touch sensor embedded in the door handle plus has a nifty “blind spot” sensor with each exterior mirror lighting up a graphic if another vehicle appear to be in a tricky position to see.
Pressed to find a clear winner here, I can’t; both have their pluses and RAV4 rearminuses enough to cancel each other out. And that’s great news for prospective buyers that aren’t brand locked. Both are competitively priced, the RAV starting at $48490 (auto) plus on roads and metallic paint whilst the Outlander starts at $45490 plus on roads and metallic ($495 + the electric tailgate, sound system and a couple of other items are a $5500 option) which, on dollars only, would have the Toyota only just ahead.
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  1. Mark Newman says:

    If the Rav is now sold @ $48000 it has to be close to the price of the prado a few years ago and just as big

    May 22nd, 2013 at 12:57 pm

  2. Michael Adam says:

    The Rav has a very restricted towing capacity (500kg) at present. Outlander has a 2000kg towing capacity and more importantly has a ball pin capacity of 200kg which puts it in a class of its own in this level of vehicle.

    May 22nd, 2013 at 6:09 pm

  3. Wil says:

    I know this review seemed to be more focussed on their engines, but seriously, the Oulander is the ugliest car on the road. Thats why Mitsubishi are almost giving them away. Who designed it?

    May 23rd, 2013 at 10:16 am

  4. Bryan Doherty says:

    What is the towing capacity of the Aspire as the RAV4 is close to useless if you intend towing a camper trailer or even a box trailer full of rubbish.
    Thanks Michael, query is answered. RAV4 = 550kg braked…

    May 23rd, 2013 at 10:44 pm