The Toyota RAV4 compact crossover got a complete makeover for 2019 as it moved into its fifth generation, and is now lower and sleeker-looking than before, with plenty of new technology.
As before, there are regular gasoline models and a hybrid electric version, and it’s still a five-passenger vehicle, since Toyota dropped the third-seat option with the fourth generation that arrived for 2013.
Also still gone is the exterior spare tire that graced the rear of the RAV4 in its first three generations. That was one of the RAV4’s most-distinctive features, but it also had practical value – giving the vehicle an easy-to-access full-size spare. Some of us long-time RAV4 fans miss it.
The 2019 redesign was intended to continue the sales momentum of the RAV4, which two years ago overtook the Camry sedan as Toyota’s best-selling vehicle in the U.S. It also became the overall best-selling vehicle industrywide in the U.S., excluding pickups.
There are five regular gasoline model trim levels for 2019. Prices begin at $25,650 (plus $1,095 freight) for the entry-level LE front-wheel-drive model. Other models are the XLE ($27,450, front drive); XLE Premium ($29,650, front drive); Adventure ($33,050, all-wheel-drive only); and Limited ($33,650, front drive). All-wheel drive can be added to any of the front-drive trims for an additional $1,400.
Gasoline-electric hybrid models come in four trim levels, and all-wheel drive is standard. They are the: LE ($27,850); XLE ($29,650); XSE ($33,850); and Limited ($35,850).
The RAV4’s new exterior styling was intended to give it a bolder, more-athletic look. The body is 57 percent more rigid than before, and ground clearance has been increased by a half-inch to allow for improved off-road ability.
Compared with the previous model, the new version is 0.2 inches shorter, at 180.9 inches long, but has a wheelbase that’s 1.2 inches longer, at 105.9 inches. It’s 0.4 inches wider, and 0.2 inches lower than the fourth generation.
Gasoline models are still powered by a normally aspirated 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine, producing 203 horsepower and 184 foot-pounds of torque. That’s up from the previous model’s 176 horsepower and 172 foot-pounds of torque.
A new eight-speed direct-shift automatic transmission replaced the previous six-speed automatic on the gasoline models.
Even with the power boost, the new RAV4 has better fuel economy than that of the previous generation. EPA ratings are 26 mpg city/35 highway/30 combined for all front-drive gasoline-only trims. Surprisingly, the LE all-wheel-drive model has the best city fuel economy; ratings are 27 city/34 highway/30 combined. Other all-wheel-drive trims are rated at 25/33/28 mpg.
Hybrid models come with a different 2.5-liter engine, with 176 horsepower, and have an electric drive motor and a continuously variable automatic transmission. The electric motor gives the hybrid more start-up power than the gasoline-only models. Total for the system is 219 combined horsepower. All the hybrid models have the same EPA ratings: 41 city/37 highway/39 combined.
The new Adventure model, which has a more-rugged exterior look, is designed for limited off-road driving. It comes with high-rise roof rails and large over-fenders, along with a unique grille and special fog light trim, along with special wheels. It also can tow trailers weighing up to 3,500 pounds, while other RAV4 models are limited to 1,500-pound maximum trailer weight.
Adventure also includes the RAV4’s best all-wheel-drive system, which comes with Dynamic Torque Vectoring with Rear Driveline Disconnect. That system also comes on Limited models with the AWD option, such as the one we tested for this report.
Toyota has moved the outside mirrors lower on the new RAV4’s body for better forward visibility. Visibility to the sides has also been improved, thanks to a lower beltline and larger rear-quarter windows.
For the hybrid, the XSE trim is a new sporty version that comes with piano-black accents on the front end, mirror caps, fender arches and lower rocker panels. There are projector-beam LED headlights on all hybrids.
The XSE hybrid also comes with a two-tone exterior that includes a black roof paired with Blizzard Pearl, Silver Sky Metallic, Magnetic Gray Metallic or Blueprint paint. It has a black interior with Softex upholstery and blue accents.
All gasoline-only models with all-wheel drive come with Multi-Terrain Select, which allows the driver to choose the appropriate driving mode for the current road condition, to maximize traction. Settings are provided for driving through snow, mud, sand or rocks. It’s controlled by a dial or buttons in the center console to the left of the shifter.
The Adventure model can be equipped with an Ice Edge-colored roof paired with one of three exterior colors: Midnight Black Metallic, Blue Flame or Lunar Rock. Seats can be either black or mocha-colored Softex. Orange stitching helps accent the interior.
Other RAV4 exterior colors include Blizzard Pearl ($200 extra, included on our tester), Super White, Ruby Flare Pearl, Silver Sky Metallic, Magnetic Gray Metallic, and Blueprint.
The Limited model comes with 19-inch alloy wheels and chrome accents, a front moon roof, eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with memory and two-way lumbar support, a new seven-inch Multi-Information Display, and the new Digital Display Rearview Mirror. It can be used in conventional mirror format, or with the flip of the switch, it can become the monitor for a high-mounted, wide-angle, high-definition camera at the rear of vehicle.
The new RAV4 also comes with a standard backup camera and electronic parking brake.
Optional features include ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and a panoramic moon roof. There is also an available hands-free power liftgate, which opens by waving a foot below the rear bumper (with the key fob at hand).
All RAV4 models come with the latest Toyota Safety Sense features. They include the Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection; adaptive cruise control; Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist; Forward Collision Warning with Automatic Emergency Braking; Automatic High Beams; Lane Tracing Assist, which recognizes white or yellow lane markings to keep the vehicle centered in its lane, or when the marker lines are absent, it can follow the route of the vehicle in front; and Road Sign Assist, which identifies Stop, Yield, Do Not Enter and Speed Limit signs and gives alerts audibly and on the Multi-Information Display.
Eight air bags are standard, as is the Toyota Star Safety System, which includes Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Electronic Brake-force Distribution with Brake Assist, four-wheel antilock disc brakes and the Smart Stop technology.
Options include the Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Bird’s Eye View Camera, Intelligent Clearance Sonar, and Rear Cross Traffic Braking.
In addition, every RAV4 has the Entune 3.0 multimedia including Wi-Fi, hands-free access to Amazon Alexa, and Apple CarPlay compatibility.
The standard audio system has a seven-inch touch screen on top of the center stack. Entune Audio Plus upgrades to an eight-inch touch screen and satellite radio, while Entune Premium Audio adds navigation.
There are up to five USB ports front and rear, and an available wireless charging tray for smartphones at the front of the center console.
Extras on our tester included the Limited Grade Weather Package ($1,015), which added a heated steering wheel, perforated heated and ventilated front bucket seats, rear outboard reclining passenger heated seating with perforated inserts, and rain-sensing variable intermittent windshield wipers with de-icer.
We also had the Limited Grade Advanced Technology Package ($1,025), with Smart Key System on all doors and liftgate; height-adjustable foot-activated power liftgate with jam protection; Bird's Eye View Camera with Perimeter Scan, Overhead 360 degree view in drive and reverse, and curb view; and Qi-compatible wireless smartphone charging with charge indicator light.
Other options on our vehicle included the Entune 3.0 Premium Audio/Navigation/JBL system ($580), including 11 speakers; the Panoramic Sunroof with front tilt/slide Moon Roof ($200); and carpeted floor and cargo mats ($269).
The ride is surprisingly smooth and quiet, much more so than that of previous generations. The front seats were quite comfortable, even on a long drive. Outboard rear passengers had adequate leg and knee room as long as the front seats weren’t fully back on their tracks; the middle rear position is best left to a child.
We also enjoyed the boost in power with the new 2.5-liter engine, and we had plenty of zip for some mountain grades and passing on two-lane country roads. In some limited off-road driving, the all-wheel drive worked perfectly through some mud and sand, with no hint of getting us stuck.
Total sticker price for our fully equipped 2019 RAV4 Limited AWD was $39,629, including freight and options.
The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.
2019 Toyota RAV4
The package: Compact, all-wheel-drive, four-door, five-passenger, gasoline only or gasoline/electric hybrid crossover utility vehicle.
Highlights: Completely restyled and upgraded for 2019, the RAV4 enters its fifth generation. The new generation also has hybrid versions. For 2019, a new off-road oriented gasoline trim, the Adventure AWD, was added to the lineup.
Negatives: No V-6 engine offered for extra power; no third-row seat available.
Overall length: 180.9 inches (gasoline and hybrid, except Adventure model); 181.5 inches (Adventure).
Curb weight range: 3,370-3,615 pounds (gasoline); 3,710-3,800 pounds (hybrid).
Engine/motor: 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder (gasoline models); 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder gasoline engine, plus electric drive motor (hybrid).
Transmission: Six-speed automatic (gasoline); continuously variable automatic (hybrid).
Power/torque: 203 HP./184 foot-pounds (gasoline); 176 HP./163 foot-pounds (gasoline engine alone, hybrid), total combined 219 HP., gasoline engine plus electric motor (hybrid).
Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.
Cargo volume: 37.6 cubic feet (behind rear seat).
Towing capacity: 1,500 pounds (all but Adventure); 3,500 pounds (Adventure).
Electronic stability control: Standard.
Side air bags: Front seat-mounted, both rows side-curtain.
EPA fuel economy: 26 mpg city/35 highway/30 combined (2WD, gasoline); 27/34/30 combined (LE AWD; 25/33/28 (other AWD, except hybrid); 41/37/39 (hybrid).
Fuel capacity/type: 14.5 gallons (all models, including hybrids)/unleaded regular.
Base price range: $25,650-$35,050, plus $1,095 freight (gasoline models); $27,850-$35,850 (hybrid).
Price as tested: $39,629, including freight and options (Limited AWD).
On the Road rating: 9.2 (of a possible 10).
Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.