In 2017, the Toyota RAV4 made history by selling 408,000 units and displacing its Camry stablemate as the country’s top-selling non-pickup.
Now, the RAV4 gets its first full makeover since 2012. The fifth-generation 2019 RAV is built on an all-new platform and gets a more powerful and more efficient four-cylinder engine.
It’s lighter than before, a little smaller and quieter and more assured underway. Its cabin accommodates four and its cargo hold is one of the roomiest in the segment.
The new RAV borrows styling cues from its truck siblings, especially up front, where burly fenders flank a protuberant grille.
The 2019 RAV4 is available in five trims: LE ($26,650), XLE ($28,395), XLE Premium ($30,595), Adventure ($33,995) and Limited ($34,595).
New, more-rigid platform
The new platform is 57 percent more rigid than its predecessor, enabling more precise suspension tuning. The ride grows more taut and more assured and the suspension stifles the impact of potholes and other road-surface blemishes.
Reductions in noise, harshness and vibration bring new refinement into the cabin.
Body lean and other unwanted motions are well mitigated but the RAV4 is less engaging than key competitors. Steering feel is light, though it firms up during cornering. It’s vague on center but tracks well in its lane.
Cabin design is undistinguished, though our Adventure tester wore eye-popping rubberized orange trim. In upper trims, contrast stitching highlights a padded dashboard and the leather-wrapped steering wheel is an unusual touch in this segment.
Real leather is not available on any trim and the simulated leather on the top trims doesn’t look, feel or smell like the real thing.
There are plenty of hard plastics, especially in the lower trims, but overall materials quality is good, as is fit-and-finish.
There are abundant cabin storage opportunities including handy dash-mounted trays and a deep center console bin.
Inexplicably, door-mounted switches are not illuminated and are essentially invisible in the dark.
The infotainment touchscreen now perches on top of the dash. The system’s user-friendly controls comprise a mix of buttons and on-screen icons. Confusing menus bring a learning curve and the systems and layout are dated.
The system is Apple CarPlay compatible. Climate and audio controls operate independently of the infotainment system, simplifying key functions.
Full driver-assist suite
All 2019 RAVs are equipped with Toyota's driver-assistance suite. It includes adaptive cruise control that works down to 0 mph, automatic emergency braking, drowsy driver detection, automatic high beams, lane-keeping assist and a feature called Line Tracing Assist that helps the RAV track true in its lane.
Significant RAV options include a hands-free liftgate, a surround-view parking camera, a parking sensor system with automatic rear braking, a panoramic sunroof, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, Qi wireless smartphone charging and an 11-speaker JBL sound system.
Lower trims get RAV4's standard AWD system. Standard on the Adventure and available on the Limited is a torque-vectoring system that can direct up to 50 percent of engine torque to the rear wheels, and then distribute it between the rear wheels to improve handling.
More ground clearance
Ground clearance grows a half-inch this year, to 8.4 inches on lower trims and 8.6 on Adventure and Limited. AWD gas models are equipped with driver-selectable Multi-Terrain Select, which alters traction algorithms to suit the conditions. Its five modes are tailored for mud, sand, rocks, dirt and snow.
Powering all RAVs is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 203 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque (increases of 27 and 12, respectively). It’s paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission that, in the interests of economy, shifts deliberately (read slowly).
A Sport mode sharpens throttle responses and shift-timing. At 8.3 seconds, 0-60 acceleration is quick for the class.
Pushed hard, the engine grows buzzy.
The Adventure trim is rated to tow up to 3,500 pounds. The rest are tow-rated to 1,500 lb.
An available hybrid ($27,859) earns 37 mpg ratings and is tow-rated to 1,750 lb.
The all-new RAV4 is more balanced, comfortable and versatile than ever. There’s every reason to think it will once again top the nation’s sales charts.
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2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure
Vehicle base price: $26,650
Trim level base price: $32,900
As tested: $40,263 (includes destination and handling)
Options included heated/ventilated front seats; rain-sensing wipers with de-icing; premium JBL audio system; navigation; Qi-compatible wireless charging; rear cross-traffic alert with automatic braking; moonroof; two-tone exterior paint; wheel locks; door-sill protection; roof rack crossbars; all-weather floor mats and cargo trays
Tow rating: 1,500-3,500 pounds
EPA rating: 28 combined/25 city/33 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified