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2019 Toyota RAV4 First Look Review: Appealing To The Masses

First Look / 9 Comments

Has the RAV4 finally become not boring? Certainly appears so.

For years, it was the Camry sedan that brought customers in droves to Toyota dealerships. However, times change and today the crossover rules while the sedan has been pushed aside. When it came time for Toyota to completely redesign its long-running and hot-selling RAV4 crossover, it knew it had to get everything right. The competition is tougher than ever, but Toyota also wanted to expand the RAV4's appeal. In short, it had to become more manly as part of an effort to lure more male buyers. Has the all-new 2019 Toyota RAV4 accomplished this?

Let's find out. The fifth-generation RAV4 could not look more different than the model is replaces, which lacked emotion. It was the refrigerator of crossovers, if you will, and yet it was still the best-selling passenger vehicle in the US last year, if you don't count pickup trucks. But just look at the redesigned RAV4; it actually looks far more SUV-ish. The all-new sheetmetal is quite a dramatic departure from before, with styling directly inspired by last year's FT-AC Concept. We'd describe the new look as rugged. Note the more aggressive grille, fog light surrounds and wheel designs. The wheel arches have been angled off and are further augmented with black trim.

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From the side, notice the creases beginning on the front doors and continuing through the rear doors to the C-pillar. The rear end continues this chiseled theme which, overall, works very well. At first glance, one could easily mistake the new RAV4 for a Jeep, save for the brand emblem. The 2019 RAV4 comes in three distinct trim levels: Adventure, Limited and XSE Hybrid. Interesting fact: the hybrid is the sportiest of the three when it comes to driving experience. More on that shortly. Riding on Toyota's highly regarded TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) platform, which also underpins the latest Camry, the RAV4 previously rode on a compact car platform.

The change gives the RAV4 an additional 1.2 inches of wheelbase, slightly higher ground clearance, and a wider track. The wheels have also been shoved to the corners, enabling overall length to actually drop by 2.6 inches. That's not a bad thing because the 2019 RAV4 now has a firmer, more powerful stance. Remember, more male buyers wanted. Helping to give it extra presence are available 19-inch wheels on higher level trims. Under the hood, the RAV4 comes standard with an all-new Dynamic Force 2.5-liter inline-four with direct and port injection and VVT-iE. This engine is also standard in the Camry, where it develops 203 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque.

Toyota has not released output figures just yet, but expect similar numbers. The old six-speed automatic transmission has been replaced by a new eight-speed gearbox. There are no turbo fours or V6s offered, but Toyota is adamant the new inline-four has class-leading output. For those who want not only improved fuel economy but also a sportier driving experience, there's the XSE Hybrid. It starts with the same inline-four engine, but it's connected to a hybrid system, called Toyota Hybrid System II. Official EPA figures have yet to be released. Once again, Toyota is confident the XSE Hybrid will have class-leading efficiency. One rumor claims it will achieve a 600-mile range.

The new RAV4 is also the first TNGA vehicle to receive optional (standard on Adventure and Limited trims) all-wheel drive. It's actually a pretty trick system called Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD with Driveshaft Disconnect. It sends up to 50 percent of engine torque to the rear wheels when needed, and can properly distribute that power to the left or right rear wheel for even better handling. The rear driveline disconnect feature allows for the AWD to be disabled when it's not needed, with power instead going to the front wheels only, thus improving fuel efficiency. There are two other AWD systems available on lower trim levels: AWD-i on the hybrid, and the non-dynamic torque vectoring system for the straight up gasoline-engined RAV4s.

As previously mentioned, XSE Hybrid promises to offer the sportiest driving experience of the three. Yes, really. Toyota went above and beyond here, equipping the XSE Hybrid with a sport-tuned suspension with tauter shock absorbers and springs. Toyota also wisely moved the battery to under the rear seat, which removed the cargo area "hump", thus creating a flat floor and class-leading cargo capacity. Some very much welcomed styling highlights the XSE Hybrid's sportier nature, such as standard two-tone exterior paint with black accents on the lower rocker panels, mirror caps, fog lamps, front end, and wheel arches. Those interested in off-roading, the RAV4 Adventure is for you.

It comes standard with high-rise roof rails, large over-fenders and those 19-inch wheels for a more outdoorsy look inspired by the Tacoma pickup. It also has a Multi-Terrain Select system that gives drivers the ability to maximize traction when driving through snow, mud, sand or rocks. A simple dial located in the center console controls those settings. Anyone seeking a more luxurious and refined experience will seek the RAV4 Limited. It also features those 19-inch wheels, but also comes with chrome accents, leather upholstery with contrasting stitching, 8-way power-adjustable driver's seat with 2-way lumbar, a 7-inch multi-information display, and optional ventilated front seats and a panoramic roof.

All RAV4s are equipped with Toyota's Entune 3.0 multimedia system located in a 7-inch touchscreen on top of the center stack. An 8-inch screen is optional. Both Apply CarPlay (no Android Auto?) and WiFi are also standard fare. There are a total of 11 speakers connected to the JBL sound system. The new interior is without question a step above the previous model. Everywhere you look you get the immediate sense of high quality materials and splendid fit and finish throughout. Ergonomics have been improved, and head room increases for second-row occupants. The third-row option has been eliminated. Toyota claims increased towing capacity as well, though no figure has been given. The outgoing RAV4 was capable of 3,500 pounds.

Standard safety includes eight airbags, pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, and the new lane tracing assist. Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 adds automatic emergency braking with nighttime pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection, along with lane keep assist with Lane Tracing Assist. The manual parking is replaced by an electronic parking brake with full-speed dynamic stopping. Toyota has not announced 2019 RAV4 pricing, but don't expect a big increase over the outgoing model, so figure a base price around $25,500. Gasoline-powered RAV4s will go on sale at the end of this year while the hybrid will hit the market in early 2019.