2019 Toyota RAV4 – Hawaii Cars

2019 Toyota RAV4

Cute no more


One of Toyota’s most popular models has been given a completely new look and attitude. In fact, any resemblance between it and the previous generation RAV4 is nonexistent.

The original RAV4 — one of the first compact utility vehicles on the market — was more cute than rugged. But over two decades and four successive generations it has grown in size and strength to become a capable all-weather hauler alongside players such as the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Nissan Rogue.

For the 2019 model year, the RAV4 takes on a brawnier persona, with a front end influenced by the tough-nut 4Runner, but more pleasing to the eye. The rest of the bodywork veers away from the previous slab-sided appearance for more creases and angles along the fenders, door panels and the rear roof pillar. The result is a design that shifts from introverted to appealing.

The RAV4 now appears larger, and its measurements somewhat back that up. A 1.2-inch gain in distance between the front and rear wheels — which enhances rear-seat legroom — is the key difference. The redesign results in wider rear-door openings for easier entry/exit plus a cargo floor that has increased by 2.5 inches.

The passenger compartment now has a richer look, especially the dashboard and control panel that carries over the exterior’s angular theme. The upright touchscreen might seem out of place, but these days almost every automaker has succumb to this trend. At least there are knobs for adjusting the audio and ventilation controls.

The RAV4 is constructed on a new platform that, according to Toyota, is lighter and 57 percent more rigid. Along with corresponding suspension changes plus added insulation, the aim was to improve overall ride and steering agility and to reduce cabin noise. As well, the drivetrain is position lower in the RAV4, thus lowering the center of gravity.

The new RAV4 arrives with an equally new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers significantly more punch. It’s rated at 203 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. That’s a gain of 27 horsepower 12 pound-feet.

An equally new eight-speed automatic transmission directs power to the front, or all four wheels.

Arriving in spring is a new RAV4 hybrid companion that uses a modified version of the gasoline engine plus two electric motors for a combined output of 219 horsepower (a gain of 25). As before, it’s linked to a continuously variable transmission.

The hybrid’s fuel economy is estimated at a 39 mpg — combined city/highway — which betters the non-hybrid RAV4 by 10 mpg.

Front-wheel-drive is standard for the RAV4 LE ($26,550, including destination charges) and XLE trims, while all-wheel drive is optional. The system has a “Lock” mode that applies half the powertrain’s torque equally to both rear wheels as long as you’re driving below 25 mph.

For the Adventure Limited and XSE hybrid trim levels, a different all-wheel-drive system sends half the engine power to the rear wheels and can direct all of it to either outside wheel when the RAV4 is turning — called torque-vectoring — for claimed increases in stability. The system also uncouples the rear wheels under normal driving situations to help reduce fuel consumption.

The Adventure is new to the RAV4 lineup and has special high-rise cargo rails mounted to an Ice Edge (silver) roof. There’s also added bodyside cladding, a slightly higher ride height, unique grille and blacked-out wheels. Inside, the Adventure’s bright orange trim is unnecessarily over the top.

The XSE hybrid is positioned as the sportiest RAV4. Toyota firmed up the suspension, installed hybrid-specific wheels and trim and painted the roof black.

All RAV4s get a full suite of active-safety technologies, except for a digital rearview mirror (camera) that’s installed in premium models and provides a wider, unobstructed field of vision.

With much edgier styling, greater functionality and increased levels of technology, the 2019 RAV4 will continue as a star performer in a versatile utility-vehicle lineup. Certainly helping the cause is a more aggressive image. Cute, no more.

What you should know: 2019 Toyota RAV4

Type: Four-door, front- /all-wheel-drive compact utility vehicle

Engines: (h.p.): 2.5-liter DOHC I-4, (203)
2.5-liter DOHC I-4 with electric assist (219 net)

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic; continuously variable (hybrid)

Market position: The RAV4 ranks in the top tier of compact utility vehicles alongside the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Chevrolet Equinox and Ford Escape. It’s also one of the few in its class to provide a hybrid option.

• Restyled model undergoes a seismic shift in styling.
• Slightly roomier interior provides increased cargo space.
• Large-ish four-cylinder engine makes sufficient power without turbocharging, yet still hauls down decent fuel economy.
• Hybrid model is the sportiest and the most fuel-efficient.
• Rearview camera should become a standard safety item for all vehicles.

Active safety: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic backup alert (opt.); active cruise control (std.); emergency braking (std.); pedestrian detection (std.)

MPG (city/hwy): 26/34 (FWD); Base price (incl. destination) $26,550


Ford Escape
Base price: $24,950
Three engine picks and four trim levels means you can get exactly what you want.

Nissan Rogue
Base price: $25,800
Comfortable seating for five and a roomy cabin make it an ideal travel companion.

Volkswagen Tiguan
Base price: $25,300
Large size, lively turbo I-4 engine plus optional third-row seat are pluses.