Twenty-two years ago, the Toyota RAV4 made its debut in the U.S., introducing the whole idea of the compact crossover. Today, compact crossovers are the cars of the moment, so the all-new fifth generation of the RAV4 has lots of competition. A fresh design, new hybrid and gas powertrains, and improved all-wheel drive keep the RAV4 at the top of its game.
The redesign gives the RAV4 a more adventurous look. It takes its cues from the Toyota truck lineup with a bold grille, aggressive angles, and an overall rugged appearance. There’s nothing soft or subtle about the new RAV4. It looks like it should be a capable crossover, and it has what it takes to deliver on that first impression.
There’s more than half an inch of additional ground clearance to manage off-road adventures. The LE and LXE have a total of 8.4 inches of ground clearance, while the XLE boasts 8.6 inches. There’s also a longer wheelbase and wider front and rear tracks for improved handling. Even the powertrain placement, which is lower, helps with handling by lowering the vehicle’s center of gravity.
Front-wheel drive is standard on gas trims with the option for all-wheel drive. Select gas trims also feature new dynamic torque vectoring all-wheel drive with rear driveline disconnect.
The system can direct up to 50 percent of torque to the rear wheels and distribute it between the left and right rear wheels to provide optimum handling in challenging conditions. It can also stop the rear-axle driveshaft rotation when all-wheel drive isn’t needed, improving fuel economy.
The hybrid also gets an all-wheel drive upgrade. It continues to have a separate electric motor to power the rear wheels. It’s standard on all hybrid trims, but there’s now 30 percent more torque. A driver-selectable Trail Mode helps when the roads are slick by sending that torque to the wheel with traction rather than the wheel that’s spinning.
Both RAV4 powertrains are more powerful and more efficient. Gas models get a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 203 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. This gets up to an EPA-estimated 27 miles per gallon in the city, 34 on the highway, and 29 combined.
The second powertrain option is a hybrid, which pairs the same engine to an electric motor for 219 combined system horsepower with a continuously variable automatic transmission. It also features new Predictive Efficient Drive, which optimizes battery charging based on driving conditions. It gets an EPA-estimated 41 miles per gallon in the city, 37 on the highway, and 39 combined.
Infotainment features Toyota Entune 3.0 with Wi-Fi connectivity, Amazon Alexa, and Apple CarPlay, but there’s still no Android Auto. A 7-inch touchscreen is standard with the option for a larger 8-inch touchscreen, Sirius XM, navigation, and an 11-speaker JBL audio system.
The RAV4 also gets upgraded safety with the second generation of Toyota Safety Sense standard across the lineup. This includes pre-collision with pedestrian detection, full-speed range-dynamic radar cruise control, lane-departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams, new lane-tracing assist, and new road-sign assist.
A wide range of available safety features are also available. Blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert and rear cross-traffic braking are standard starting with the XLE trim. The Limited gets standard intelligent clearance sonar, which is optional starting with the XLE.
Five gas-powered trims are available starting with the base LE at $25,500. All offer a choice of either front-wheel or all-wheel drive for an extra $1,400 except for the rugged Adventure, which is all-wheel drive only. Sitting at the top of the range is the Limited with a base price of $33,500. The hybrid RAV4 is available in four trims priced from $27,700 to $35,700.
The all-new 2019 Toyota RAV4 gets a staggered delivery schedule with gas models arriving in dealerships first this December. Hybrid models won’t make their first appearance until late March.