The fourth-generation Toyota RAV4 has made its first public appearance at the ongoing LA Auto Show, all grown up – quite literally, as it’s longer, wider and lower than the previous model. Measuring in at 4.57 metres long and with a wheelbase of 2.66 metres, it also looks significantly more muscular and dynamic, thanks in part to its angular design, a pronounced shoulder line and wheel arches.

For western Europe, powertrain options include a 149 hp 2.0 litre petrol, a 148 hp 2.2 litre diesel and a new 122 hp 2.0 litre diesel. The 2.0 litre diesel comes with FWD; the rest are AWD. Both diesels are driven through a six-speed manual as standard, but the bigger engine can be specified with a six-speed auto. The 2.0 litre petrol is mated to a CVT.

The US gets only one powertrain: the same 176 hp 2.5 litre four-cylinder paired with a six-speed auto. Both FWD and AWD versions are also available. No prices have been released, but we know the compact SUV pioneer should hit markets early next year.

Apart from offering more room, the cabin features a new, more premium-looking dashboard design, soft padding, new colours and trim finishes, and more leather around the instrument panel. The instruments and switchgear are backlit in cool blue. Forward visibility is improved by shifting the A-pillars, which are now thinner, further outwards.

That’s not all where interior revisions are concerned – due to a thinner front seat back, there’s more rear legroom. The rear seats have a larger surface angle, longer cushions and higher side bolsters for more comfort. They’re split 60:40 and can be reclined independently.

Load volume is now 547 litres, with an additional 100 litres in the undertray. The tailgate is now top-hinged (and electrically operated on some versions) and has a lip height of 645 mm, which Toyota proclaims is the lowest in its class.

With retuned suspension, revised electric power steering and an Integrated Dynamic Drive system with Sport mode (which influences steering, throttle and transmission), the RAV4 should drive better than its predecessor. Driving aids such as Downhill and Hill Start Assist are available, with the latter offered on all automatic transmission versions.

The Integrated Dynamic Drive system coordinates the Dynamic Torque Control AWD system, VSC and electric power steering to improve performance, handling and safety. A 4WD Lock button allows torque to be split 50:50 between front and rear wheels at speeds up to 40 km/h.

Safety kit comprises Lane Departure Alert and Blind Spot Monitor; both offered for the first time in the RAV4. There’s a new, high-rigidity, multi-path impact load body and anti-whiplash seats. Seven airbags are fitted as standard, including a driver’s knee airbag and twin-chamber front seat side airbags. Toyota says the car has been engineered for a five-star Euro NCAP rating.