Toyota pledges fix after RAV4 Prime screws up infamous "Moose Test"

Toyota will update its new RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid, known as the 2021 RAV4 Prime in the US, boosting the PHEV SUV's stability after worryingly poor results in the "moose test" skid challenge. The evasive maneuver test – which sees vehicles rapidly steer around a suddenly-appearing obstacle – has become infamous for highlighting unstable cars and trucks over the decades, but expectations are fairly high that modern vehicles should be able to satisfy it.

Although known as the "moose test" or "elk test" in Sweden, where rapidly steering around a sudden large animal appearing in the road is a fairly common demand on a vehicle, the stability test is far more broadly applicable. It challenges cars – especially those, like SUVs, with relatively high centers of gravity – to remain balanced even as the forces shift dramatically during aggressive steering.

Most of the time, a combination of chassis balance setup and electronic stability control weigh in to rescue the situation. The new Toyota RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid – which will launch as the 2021 RAV4 Prime in North America – however, doesn't seem to be delivering that combination of reassurance. In tests run by Teknikens Värld, it performed "significantly worse" than the standard RAV4 Hybrid.

The test involves loading the vehicle with weight – to simulate passengers in the rear seats – and then steering aggressively around the course. Even at the relatively slow 42.3 mph, there's no way of getting through the course. Indeed, the rim of the wheel is unsettlingly close to the asphalt.

"The stability system seems to not engage – at all," Teknikens Värld's Linus Pröjtz observes. "The rear end goes out in a skid that doesn't end until I steer against it hard enough."

Toyota Europe, meanwhile, confirmed the test results with their own moose test. In a statement, the automaker insisted that the RAV4 was still safe to drive, and met all of the various safety regulations around the world. That said, Toyota plans to "take steps" to update the SUV so that it can pass the test. That update is expected to be ready in Q1 2021, and will be installed on all new models of the PHEV from that point on. Existing owners will be able to have it installed separately.

"The RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid has successfully passed all development testing and fully meets all safety regulations in force in the market on a worldwide basis. Furthermore, it also complies with Toyota internal standards, which surpass the regulatory requirements in a wide array of testing circumstances. It must also be noted that the RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid is fully equipped with the most advanced version of the Toyota Safety System including a comprehensive range of the latest safety technology, among them a Pre-Collision System, Lane Departure Alert and Vehicle Stability Control.

Following Teknikens Värld's evaluation, we have replicated their Elk test, which includes an extreme obstacle avoidance manoeuvre, and have produced similar results. As a countermeasure, we will now take steps to ensure that RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid can pass Teknikens Värld's Elk test. In the meantime, we would like to reassure our customers that the RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid remains safe to drive.

However, in the spirit of continuous improvement, we will make this upgrade available to all customers who would like it within the first quarter of 2021, and we will introduce the upgrade into mass production shortly afterwards." Toyota Europe

IMAGE: Glenn Lindberg / Teknikens Värld