Driven: the 2019 Toyota RAV4 is Better in Every Way [Video]

Variety is the name of the game regarding the 2019 Toyota RAV4. It is all-new from the ground up and there should be a flavor for just about every taste. Toyota took direct aim at the Honda CR-V, Chevrolet Equinox and Nissan Rogue. So far, it appears that  they accomplished their mission.

For 2019, the Toyota RAV4 is longer, lower, wider and higher off the ground over its predecessor. The front track is about an inch wider while the rear is nearly two-inches wider. The standard engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 203 horsepower and 184 lbs-feet of torque. It is hooked up to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Non hybrid EPA numbers: 

26 city/34 hwy/29 combined (LE and Limited – FWD)
26 city/33 hwy/29 combined (LE – AWD)
27 city/34 hwy/29 combined (XLE and XLE Premium – FWD)
26 city/33 hwy/29 combined (XLE and XLE Premium – AWD)
24 city /32 hwy/27 combined (Adventure grade and Limited – AWD)

The new platform, a TNGA-K (Toyota New Global Architecture) setup is complemented with the standard Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 standard. This safety system assists with everything from lane departure and radar cruise control to pedestrian safety – and more.

2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure seats. [Photo: TFLcar]
Toyota brought us out to Carmel, California to drive their new 2019 Toyota RAV4. Along the way, we were able to drive back roads, take the off-road-oriented Adventure model and the XSE Hybrid off-road, we went beachside with the Limited FWD and took all three on to the highway. It was just enough for us to get an idea of what Toyota has been up to with this all-new RAV4.

Three things stood out:

The 2019 Toyota RAV4 is much more sophisticated, both in design and engineering. More power, better handling, improved efficiency, better riding and better off-road are all welcome additions.

Pricing is impressive, especially for the hybrid. It’s an $800 premium to get a hybrid over a regular AWD model. You get the hybrid’s electric AWD system as part of that deal. This means, you can get the 2019 Toyota RAV4 LE AWD Hybrid for $27,700. The base LE FWD is $25,500.

2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure [Photo: TFLcar]
It’s damn good looking outside and inside too. Toyota explained that they wanted to look more truck-like externally. The first thing cameraman Matt said when he saw it in person was, “Looks like a 4Runner…” Yep, that’s what they were aiming for. Internally, each vehicle has a bit of a theme. Mixed in with higher quality materials and a more ergonomic layout, colors and materials accented each trim level. Impressive.

  1. The 2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure interior. Orange trim means “Adventure” in Toyota-speak. [Photo: TFLcar]

Considering the fact that the TFL staff likes to spend time off-road, we knew that the 2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure would be the vehicle we would spend more time with.

Photo: TFLcar

It was my favorite.

The 2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure is more than an appearance package. It’s a more capable off-road RAV4 that tows a maximum of 3,500 pounds. Thanks to the bigger wheels, it’s 8.6 inches off the ground. Other (gas) models with smaller wheels are 8.4 inches off the ground.

The available all-new torque-vectoring system (for non-hybrid AWD RAV4s) can switch power from side-to-side and diagonally too. Whatever it takes to find traction. It also can move rear torque to the outside tire during dry-pavement cornering to maximize cornering performance. When not needed, the rear end de-couples to minimize parasitic drag – enhancing economy.

2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure Photo: TFLcar

Working in conjunction with the torque vectoring system, the Multi-Terrain Select system allows the driver to select mud & sand, rock & dirt and snow. It works on mild off-road trails and, we think, it will perform well on our Gold Mine Hill obstacle – in most conditions.  Downhill Assist Control (hill descent control) works with the accelerator, allowing you to speed up your brake-assisted decent.

You can get this same setup with the Limited AWD – without the Adventure’s unique garnishing (wheels, colors and interior design).

The 2019 Toyota RAV4 SXE Hybrid off-road. [Photo: TFLcar]
The 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is a completely different animal. A 2.5-liter gas engine is supplemented by three electric motors.  40 kW motors hooked up to Sealed Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) batteries System Voltage equals a maximum of 650V.

Altogether, there is 219 combined horsepower – which is the most out of any RAV4. That power increase and having an electric motor powering the rear wheels gives the off-the-line performance of a much more powerful engine.

The only transmission available with the Hybrid is the Electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT) with sequential shift mode. It does the job, but it still forces the engine to moan a bit. Still, not many will complain, especially with the MPGs. The EPA estimated fuel economy is 41 mpg city 37 mpg highway and 39 mpg combined.

A real “plus” is the off-road ability of the new hybrid. The one-touch “Trail Mode” system allows the electrically activated rear end (there is no driveshaft connecting it with the gas engine) to add power to the wheel that has traction. It works well.

Driving the 2019 Toyota RAV4

The off-road drive was a bit too short (and not very challenging) to find the limits of the Adventure and XSE Hybrid. Both were capable of more and the TFL crew is already chomping at the bit to truly challenge the vehicles. Still, we had enough on-road experience with both to get a feel for their strengths and weaknesses.

The 2019 Toyota RAV4 XSE hybrid is a unique hybrid-only trim. [Photo: Toyota]

The Hybrid

Off the line, the hybrid absolutely hauls. Part of its quickness comes from the electrically powered rear wheels. There is no lag and 100-percent of the torque is immediately available. Stoplight to stoplight, it’s downright quick. It’s not as numble around the corners and there is a bit of lean. Steering is very light, which would be an issue, if this were a performance sedan. As is it, the artificial-feeling lightness of the steering is no big deal.

The Blue Flame RAV4 was on display, but unavailable to drive. Photo: TFLcar

Gas

The Adventure model was slightly more enjoyable to drive on all surfaces. Sure, there is a bit of tire noise that enters the cabin, but the engine’s satisfying growl and overall playfulness shines through. It likes to be revved (maximum horsepower is way up at 6,600 rpm) and the shifts are somewhat sporty. Power is good and ride comfort is a step above the older model.

Once again, the steering feels artificial and over-boosted.

As day-to-day commuters, both the gas and hybrid fill the void nicely. Easily matching the Honda CR-V (although the CR-V is quieter) and beating the Nissan Rogue altogether. You can tell that Toyota wasn’t fooling around on this car.

Prices for the base model (2019 Toyota RAV4 LE) front-wheel drive (FWD) start at $25,500.

2019 Toyota RAV4 Gas pricing: 

  • LE FWD: $25,500
  • LE AWD: $26,900
  • XLE FWD: $27,300
  • XLE AWD: $28,700
  • XLE Premium FWD: $29,500
  • XLE Premium AWD: $30,900
  • Adventure AWD: $32,900
  • Limited FWD: $33,500
  • Limited AWD: $34,900
The RAV4 XSE Hybrid off-road. It’s quick – even on dirt. Photo: TFLcar

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid models pricing – (hybrids come standard with AWD):

  • LE AWD: $27,700
  • XLE AWD: $29,500
  • XSE AWD: $33,700
  • Limited AWD: $35,700

After spending a full day driving every RAV4 I could get my hands on, I came away impressed. Still, there are a few issues:

  • The RAV4 Adventure needs dedicated skid plates. It’s marketed and built to go into the rough, so it needs a little bit of protection when the going gets too rough.
  • The steering is very disconnected. At the very least, if it were firm, it would impart a more sporty/fun feel.
  • Yes, Apple CarPlay is (finally) available. Unfortunately, Toyota and Android Auto have yet to make things work.
  • I kinda miss the 4X4 Lock button. Still, the new technologically smart off-road system is superior.
  • The aesthetics of iPad-looking display is unpopular for a lot of consumers.

Minor complaints aside, I am truly looking forward to my next drive in the new RAV4. I just said, “looking forward to my next drive in a RAV4?” Seriously, I can’t remember the last time I said that out loud.

2019 RAV4 Package Options

Package LE XLE Premium XSE HV Adventure Limited
Adv. Tech $865 $1,265 $640 $1,265 $1,025
Blind Spot w/ RCTA $590
Convenience Pkg $1,295
Weather Prep Pkg $485* $1,075 $375 $1,185 $1,015
Entune Audio Plus $1,040
Entune Audio Plus w/ JBL $1,620
Prem Audio w/ Nav & JBL $1,620 $1,620 $580
AFS Headlamps $415
Moonroof $850
Panoramic Moonroof $200
Tonneau Cover $90
Two-tone roof $500

*AWD and Hybrid only

 

 

 

 

Nathan Adlen
Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.