This week I bring you the current best-selling SUV in America, the 2019 Toyota RAV4. Redesigned for 2019, the all-new fifth-generation RAV4 rides on a new platform shared with the Corolla and Camry. It comes with more rugged truck-like looks, a revamped cabin and new features like a new digital rearview mirror. My test model is the Hybrid XSE with all-wheel drive. The Hybrid is also offered as a base model LE HV, XLE HV, or the range topping Limited HV.
The RAV4 is available as a gas-only version as well as a hybrid. After driving both the gasoline Limited AWD model as well as this one, the Hybrid XSE, I prefer the hybrid because you get more horsepower. The 2.5-liter inline-four-cylinder Toyota Hybrid System delivers 219 horsepower (and 163 lb-ft of torque) vs the gas-only model’s 203 and that’s a difference I can really feel. The hybrid offers a far more spirited drive and the acceleration just feels better to me. The gas-electric engine is mated to Toyota’s well-performing ECVT. The hybrid has standard Dynamic Torque All-Wheel-Drive with an electric motor powering the rear wheels. (You can disconnect AWD to improve fuel efficiency.)
Ride and Handling
The new platform is 57% stiffer with a lower center of gravity. The result is an easy and enjoyable ride with a nice, planted turning radius. The XSE comes with a sport-tuned suspension and tauter shocks which gives it a different ride feel from the Limited, along with sportier handling. However, the RAV4 XSE’s driving dynamics do not deliver the sharp, reflexive handling of the Mazda CX-5. I did notice some cabin noise although Toyota says it added some sound deadening material to make it quieter than the previous generation.
The new RAV4 has a new chiseled, chunkier Toyota truck-inspired look. Toyota wanted to make it “brawnier” looking” and I think it succeeded. My tester’s two-tone exterior looks sharp in Blueprint with a midnight black metallic roof and rear spoiler. In the front, a redesigned dark gray metallic hexagon-patterned grille is flanked by LED lo-hi beam headlights with chrome bezels and LED daytime running lights, as well as integrated fog lights with black trim. Piano-black accents across the front end, mirror caps, fender arches, and lower rockers. The XSE comes with unique front and rear bumpers and chrome exhaust tips and rides on 18-inch black alloy wheels. Black paint heated power outside mirrors adorn the side and the door handles feature the touch-sensor lock unlock feature.
The RAV4’s completely redone cabin features soft-touch materials and blue XSE stitching. SofTex-trimmed heated front bucket seats come with improved heating capabilities. The driver’s side is 8-way power adjustable, while the passenger’s seat gets the short end of the straw and is 4-way manually adjustable. You get a push-button start, along with a leather-trimmed tilt/telescopic three-spoke steering wheel with controls that allow you toggle through info on the 7-inch digital driver display and tachometer. Above, a cool new digital rearview mirror is standard on the XSE HV and Limited trims.
There are big changes to the RAV4 dash. It’s overall less slanted and more upright. An upgraded Entune 3.0 Premium Audio 8-inch touchscreen protrudes up from the center dash. This is an improvement over the previous generation’s formerly embedded and slanted one which was more prone to sun glare.
On the center stack you’ll also note the use of rubber around large dual-zone climate A/C knob controls (as well as the anti-slip interior door grip handles.) The center console is wider and houses a new beefier gear shifter. That’s also where you find a standard Automatic Electric Parking Brake and Brake Hold. A drive mode selector offers Sport, ECO, EV, Trail and Normal drive modes. Trail Mode, Hill Start Assist Control, and Trailer Sway Control are standard.
The RAV4 offers a ton of light with a lot of what I call glass “real estate”, along with my favorite feature, the optional $200 panoramic sunroof. The windshield is large and I found myself wishing for wider sun visors.
Thanks to the RAV4’s longer wheelbase there is slightly more rear seat legroom. Back seat passengers also get A/C vents. There are 5 USB ports throughout the cabin.
The new RAV’s new platform gives the RAV4 more than an inch more ground clearance and visibility is great both out the front and the rear window. There is a 60/40 split reclining fold-flat rear seat. The XSE’s standard power height-adjustable liftgate works great and on the faster side. This model has a package with a foot-activated liftgate. You get 37.6 cu. ft. of trunk space with the second-row up, slightly less than the Nissan Rogue (39.3) or Honda CR-V (39.2). The XSE comes with a cargo cover and rear cargo area deckside-mounted storage net, plus a 12-volt in the back.
To like the technology in the RAV4, you have to like Toyota’s Entune system. It’s responsive, but the upgraded 8-inch touchscreen and surrounding area of buttons looks rather busy to me. Graphics could also stand to be updated. Apple Carplay and Amazon Alexa integration are new to the lineup, but still no Android Auto. The screen is also home to a standard integrated backup camera. The XSE adds a panorama view and dynamic gridlines. My 3.0 Entune premium system comes with navigation, voice recognition as well as a JBL 11-speaker JBL audio system. An XSE technology package offers wireless compatible smartphone charging.
A $375 Weather pkg includes rain sensing wipers with de-icer and a heated steering wheel. A $640 Tech Package adds safety features outlined below. The panoramic sunroof is a $200 option. My model has the aforementioned $1,620 Entune Premium Audio system, optional wireless charging, along with $269 floor/cargo mats. The roof rack cross bars are $315 extra.
Safety is a big selling point of any Toyota. Toyota’s latest 2.0 Safety Sense system is standard across the lineup. It now includes Road Sign Assist, which displays road signs on the tachometer, along with:
- Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD)
- Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC)
- Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (LDA w/SA)
- Automatic High Beam (AHB)
- (New) Lane Tracing Assist (LTA)
- (New) Road Sign Assist (RSA)
The XSE Tech Package adds intelligent clearance sonar and rear cross traffic braking.
The RAV4 Hybrid delivers great fuel economy: 40 mpg combined, 38 highway, 41 city.
What You’ll Pay
The RAV4 Hybrid starts from $27,850 and my XSE takes it to $38,214. That’s nearly the same sticker price as the range-topping gasoline-only Limited trim I drove recently.
The 2019 RAV4’s comfort, room and utility along with its robust lineup of standard safety features and brand reliability will keep it a leader in its class. If opting between the gas-only or hybrid RAV4, my vote is the hybrid because of its more spirited powertrain and fuel efficiency.
2019 Toyota RAV4 XSE HV
- What I liked most: Panoramic sunroof, its new more distinctive style, comfortable cabin seats.
- What I would change: Toyota Entune.
- MSRP: $33,700 base price, total MSRP with transportation: $38,214.
- Fuel Economy: 41 city/38 highway/40 combined.
- Official Color: Blueprint.
- Odometer reading when tested: 3,684.
- Weight: 3,755 lbs.
- Final Assembly Location: Aichi, Japan.
- Spare Tire: Temporary spare.
- Length-Width-Height: 180.9” long/ 73” wide/67” high.
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 14.5 gallons with the filler on the driver’s side.
- Towing Capacity: 1,750 lbs.
- 2019 RAV4 in a few words: A much-improved roomy SUV that could still use some technology updates.
- Warranty: 3-year, 36,000 Basic New Vehicle Warranty/5-year, 60,000 Powertrain; 8-year, 100,000 miles, Hybrid Powertrain Warranty/Standard Toyota Care.
- Manufacturer’s website: Toyota