Growing Up – Toyota’s RAV4 Continues to Mature
By Chris Randazzo
The cute little Toyota RAV4 is no more. No, no – Toyota didn’t discontinue their best-selling vehicle. But what was once described as a “cute-ute”, the loveable RAV4 is now more tough than cute as Toyota has redesigned it for 2019.
The all-new RAV4 remains a five-passenger crossover and is slotted above the subcompact C-HR and below the Highlander and features styling cues that are more inline with the 4Runner, with it’s hard creases and edges taking over the previous RAV4’s soft smooth lines.
Available in five different trim levels, the RAV4, which stands for Recreational Active Vehicle, sports a chunky, squarish look, in a way demonstrating that the RAV4 is all-new. Go with the Adventure trim (as the tester is), and the RAV4 gets some exterior cladding making me wonder if the designers have been hanging out with the folks from Subaru a bit much. The RAV4s good looks makes it fit in with the attractive crowd it competes in, which includes the likes of the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5 and the Ford Escape.
The cabin of the new RAV4 is quite impressive. Base LEs, XLE and XLE Premium get 7-inch touchscreens while the Adventure and the Limited get 8-inch touchscreens. All RAV4s are Apple CarPlay ready. The controls and switches are easy to use – and big – so using them with gloves on shouldn’t be an issue. The thick steering wheel is perfectly sized and there is a good solid feel to the shifter, both of which assist in a better driving experience.
With no third-row seat to contend with, space for the five passengers becomes the RAV4’s biggest asset. Driver and passenger have plenty of room up front, and in the back a pair of adults will have nothing to complain about on short trips thanks to a reclining second-row seat. Sure – squeeze three in the back, and things get a little too close for comfort – but if that is going to be a common occurrence, a mid-size SUV would better suited.
Powering all RAV4s is an all-new 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine. Rated at 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, this new engine makes 27 more horses and 12 more lb-ft of torque than the previous model’s engine – which was the same size. Not only that, fuel economy gets a boost – to 26 city / 35 highway (from 24/31) for front-wheel drive models. My All-Wheel Drive RAV4 Adventure is rated at 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. All RAV4s use an eight-speed automatic trans axle.
It should be noted that the Adventure trim level is not just cosmetics. Besides the cool cladding and 19-inch wheels, it also gets an upgraded all-wheel-drive system that includes torque-vectoring technology. This can disconnect the rear axle at times, allowing the torque to be independently distributed to the left or right rear wheels depending on driving condition. The Adventure trim level is also rated to tow up to 3,500 pounds, while all other RAV4 trim levels can only pull 1,500 pounds.
As a utility vehicle, Toyota has done their homework by giving the RAV4 a large cargo bay and a low load floor. There is about 38 cubic feet of storage behind the rear sear, but when folded down (its folds nearly flat), that jumps to nearly 70 cubic feet.
In my time with the new RAV4 I discovered it to be quite an enjoyable vehicle. It looks great, feels solid, and it’s fairly roomy for its size. It is even fun to drive and sure appears to be quite practical. The RAV4 has come a long way from being a little ‘cute-ute’ and has turned into fully functional crossover SUV – topped off with Toyota reliability.
By The Numbers:
2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure AWD
Base Price: $32,900.00
Price as Tested: $37,949.00
Layout: front-engine / all-wheel drive
Engine: 2.5 liter 4-cylinder
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Horsepower: 203 horsepower
Torque: 184 ft/lbs
EPA Fuel Economy: 25 city / 33 highway mpg
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