A compact crossover rematch
by Luke Vandezande
Several months ago, AutoGuide set a Toyota RAV4 and Mazda CX-5 side-by-side. As you might remember, Mazda won.
It wasn’t long before Toyota launched a letter our way expressing discontent with the result. And rightfully so. The previous verdict came, in part, because the all-wheel drive CX-5 scored more points in driving dynamics than the front-wheel drive RAV4 Toyota lent us for the shootout. Insisting on a rematch, the brand brought AutoGuide a more comparable model equipped with all-wheel drive.
This time around, the two are not only competing on a more level playing field, but the RAV4 actually has an ace up its proverbial sleeve, sporting a more sophisticated all-wheel drive system.
Naturally, and a little cheekily, we found ourselves at the AutoGuide test track, taking the two compact crossovers for back-to-back laps. Silly nonsense? Maybe, but there was only one question to answer: which one of these sporty compact crossovers truly deserves the driving dynamics crown?
SEE ALSO: The Original Mazda CX-5 vs RAV4 Comparison
To recap, both vehicles are equipped with automatic transmissions and 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines. The CX-5 makes a little more power with 184 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque to the RAV4’s 176 hp and 172 lb-ft.
In almost every category, the two are about as close as a UFC pre-fight stare down. For example, the RAV4 is only 53 lbs heavier than the CX-5. On average, the two should be within a single mile per gallon of each other; the CX-5 is rated at an average 26 mpg and the RAV4 at 25.
DOES SOPHISTICATION EQUAL SPEED?
The RAV4 will send power to the rear wheels more readily than the CX-5. Both systems are based on front-wheel drive layouts, but Toyota’s will send power to the back half more readily.
Like many other augmented front-drivers, the CX-5 uses a slip-and-grip approach to governing power distribution. It’s reactive in the CX-5 instead of the RAV4’s proactive approach.
In “sport” mode, the RAV4 sends up to 10 percent of the car’s power to the rear as soon as the steering wheel is turned. That’s important because it means the RAV4 should have a big advantage over the CX-5 while cornering.
If the RAV4 senses understeer, it can send up to 50 percent of the engine’s power to the rear wheels. But the key difference is the ability to have all four wheels powered before entering a turn.
With this impressive technology in its corner, betting on the RAV4 to turn faster laps would seem like a sure thing, but that’ not how things went. It turned out to be a full 1.5 seconds slower than the CX-5.