The RAV4 is the model that started it all in the compact crossover segment some 24 years ago, but along the way, you could say it lost its design luster becoming somewhat of a Camry of SUVs, even though it never lost its sales crown.
Now, with the introduction of the fifth generation model at the New York Auto Show, Toyota is going back to its roots with a more brute interpretation, making it the most interesting-looking RAV4 since the original of the mid-1990s.
A more rugged and sharper exterior
Unlike what we’ve come to expect from German manufacturers and their tiresome evolutionary approach to redesigns these days, you won’t confuse the new RAV4 with the outgoing model that was introduced back in 2013. It has a more a chiseled appearance that was previewed by the FT-AC concept study at last year’s LA Auto Show.
Of course, on the RAV4, most details have been dialed down for mass consumption, but still, the new model looks closer related to, let’s say, the 4Runner TRD than its predecessor. And that’s a good thing. The bolder character lines, angular LED headlamps, robust shoulders with squared off fender openings and an in-your-face grille make for a far more interesting car to look at. It’s not all perfect, as the rear end it’s a bit too busy, yet less distinctive than the front, but you can’t have it all.
Angular lines and plenty of tech inside, including Apple Carplay
The ‘robust’ styling theme continues with the brand-new interior, with the only thing that looks to be carried over being the steering wheel. Like most cars these days, it gets a ‘floating’ infotainment screen sitting on top of the center console. You’ll also find more…fashionable details than before like the chunky gear selector and modern controls for the air-conditioning system and mode select knob.
What will really stands out for a lot of people is the new Entune 3.0 multimedia system that now includes Apple CarPlay as standard alongside hands-free access to Amazon Alexa and WiFi connectivity. What’s missing, though, is support for Android Auto. You get a standard 7-inch touchscreen and an 8-inch screen as an option, with Toyota also adding an all-new available JBL audio system.
What other features are offered?
All RAV4s get eight-airbags and the Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) as standard. The latter includes Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection; Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control; Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist; Automatic High Beam; Lane Tracing Assist and Road Sign Assist.
A little wider and a tad shorter
With the 5th generation RAV4, Toyota has switched from the TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) C Platform that underpins the Prius and C-HR to the TNGA K version that is shared with the Camry and Avalon. That brings some changes to the proportions, as the new RAV4 rides on a 105.9-in. wheelbase that’s 1.2-in longer than before, yet it’s 0.2-in shorter at 180.9-in. It’s also 0.4-in wider at 73.0-in, while height drops by 0.2-in to 66.9-in.
Toyota claims the new unibody chassis is 57 percent more rigid than the outgoing version. Besides being the first TNGA model to get all-wheel drive, the RAV4 is the first Toyota to feature Dynamic Torque Vectoring All-Wheel Drive with Rear Driveline Disconnect that can send 50 percent of engine torque to the rear wheels, plus distribute it to the left or right rear wheel for improved handling. This system will be offered on AWD-equipped Limited gas and Adventure grade models, while lower trim versions will make do without the torque vectoring, and the hybrid will get its own electronically driven AWD-i system.
Tell me about the engine offerings
There are no surprises under the hood, as Toyota has long abandoned the use of V6s in its compact SUV, but at the same time, oddly refuses to adopt a modern turbocharged four – at least at this stage, for the RAV4. As such, the 2019 model soldiers on with a 2.5-liter straight-four paired to an eight-speed automatic and a hybrid variant combining a 2.5-liter straight-four with an electric motor and a CVT. Toyota has yet to release performance figures for either of them, but the hybrid is expected to be more powerful as it will be used on the XSE Hybrid variant that will sport a firmer suspension.
Along with the XSE, the 2019MY RAV4 will offer Limited and Adventure grades. The Limited is your sole choice for a more luxurious take featuring among other things, 19-inch wheels and chrome accents, while the funkier Adventure will be available with an Ice Edge-colored roof paired with one of three exterior colors: Midnight Black Metallic or Blue Flame, and orange interior accents. Each grade will look a bit different in the details.
When will sales start?
The 2019 Toyota RAV will become available in the U.S. and Canada at the end of 2018, with hybrid models to follow right behind in early 2019. For information on pricing, we’ll probably have to wait until the final quarter of the year.
Updated gallery with live images from the NY Auto Show