Trucks & SUVs

Toyota RAV4 Safety Questioned After Failing Moose Test

In my years (OK, decades) of reporting on cars, I’ve never heard of the “moose test.” So if it’s the first time you’re hearing about it, you’re not alone. Now you also know it has something to do with the Toyota RAV4‘s safety. But before we get to that, let’s back up.

There is a Swedish car magazine called Teknikens Varld. It conducts a number of tests on various vehicles, a lot like Consumer Reports does in America. You know, slalom tests, 0-to-60 mph tests, brake distance—things that are commonly done to evaluate a car’s agility and maneuverability.

But Teknikens Varld has a test we don’t perform because we have never heard of it. It’s called the moose test. What it does is load the vehicle down to its maximum GVW. This is the maximum weight that can be added to the vehicle and have it maintain safe driving characteristics according to the manufacturer. 

Basically, this guarantees that if you keep your payload under that figure, you’re golden. You’re good to go. The vehicle will perform as intended. The manufacturer says it can be loaded and still be safe and sane, like those Red Devil fireworks from the Fourth of July that no one was ever injured by. Like that.

So Teknikens Varld loads the vehicle to its maximum safe weight. They make sure the tires are inflated to the recommended pressure for loads. They take the vehicle up to 42 mph, make a hard left turn, then crank the wheel to make a hard right turn. You know, like you’re avoiding a moose in the middle of the road.

Once the wheel is cranked hard right the driver then centers the vehicle so it stays in the lane it’s supposed to be in. That completes the moose test. Fair enough.

Potential Toyota RAV4 Safety Issue

The problem comes when the vehicle, in spite of doing everything the manufacturer says you should be able to do, does not perform in an expected or, shall we say, safe manner. Then, it gets a failing grade. Surprisingly, it happens more than you would think, which raises the question, “Are our modern cars and trucks as safe as we think?” 

One of Teknikens Varld’s most recent tests was with a white Toyota RAV4 crossover. The magazine is so official, it even supplies the license number, which is PEG 23L. Got it? Good. Here’s what the editors had to say after conducting the moose test on the new RAV4.

“The behavior was really bad with strong skid tendencies and the electronic stability control system engaged very late.”

Not good.

One More Try

Credit: Toyota

After that less-than-ideal result, the magazine decided to try the test later in the year. That way, the temperature would be different, and the stars would be aligned in an alternate location relative to the moon. Surely, that was the Toyota RAV4’s only issue, right?

Here’s how it describes the results of the second test:

“The Toyota RAV4 has quick front end reactions when we turn left into the lane. When we turn right it cuts in and the car goes up on two wheels. But the behaviour varies. Sometimes it goes up on two wheels with extreme reactions including severe skid tendencies, other times the car bounces sideways through the moose test and manages, in the midst of this hard to handle behaviour, to ease the worst forces and avoids going up on two wheels. But instead the car becomes willing to skid sideways.

After much effort and great hassle, we manage to reach 68 km/h (42 mph) – a speed that is not approved.”

Failing The Moose Test Again

This conclusion was just not good enough for Teknikens Varld. Or maybe the editors were afraid of a lawsuit from Toyota. In any event they decided to give Toyota the benefit of the doubt and procure another RAV4, this time in blue. They wanted to see if the white RAV4 was an outlier or if the moose test really did expose a RAV4 safety issue.

Again, in their own words, 

“We bring another Toyota RAV4 Hybrid AWD-i to the moose test track, this time a blue one. We fill it to maximum load according to the car’s specification and raise the tire pressure according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. We then perform the test again – with exactly the same result as before. We change drivers. Same result. Which sums it all up – the world’s largest car manufacturer Toyota has once again released a product on the market that fails to perform safe through the moose test.”

For context, the magazine is miffed because it first performed the moose test back in 2007 with a Toyota HiLux pickup. It failed.

When asked for a comment, Toyota told MotorBiscuit, “At Toyota, the safety of our customers is our number one priority, and to ensure their security, we apply strict safety tests during the development of all our products.”