It’s not every year that the best-selling vehicle in the country launches a new generation. Chances are you already see scores of new RAV4s on the road each day. Toyota has opted to make the RAV4 look tougher, which helps make this new generation instantly stand out from the crowd. Beneath the new skin comes an abundance of new technology and features. We got our first opportunity to test the all-new 2019 Toyota RAV4 in late fall, just in time for some outdoor adventure.
With a day trip already planned to the Adirondack High Peaks, the new RAV4 Adventure grade was the ideal trim level. We planned an 4:00AM start to ensure we’d beat the crowds to the summit of both Porter and Cascade mountains, a 6.2 mile round trip. The RAV4 Adventure comes equipped for a more rugged experience with standard roof rails and a new all-wheel-drive system. It also visually stands out with a unique bumper and grille design, larger over-fenders, and 19-inch wheels with black accents. Orange stitching and trim pieces set off the interior of the Adventure grade as well.
The new RAV4 debuts with with the second generation of Toyota Safety Sense, a bundle of active safety features that we were especially thankful for in our predawn departure. The dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, and automatic high beams kept a watchful eye on the road ahead during our two-and-a-half hour drive. We even enjoyed the new road sign assist, which displays relevant signage like speed limits and stop signs, and can provide audible and visual warnings if you aren’t adhering to them. One piece of technology the 2019 RAV4 conspicuously lacks is Android Auto. Apple Car Play is included however, as is a Qi wireless charging pad. This means I was left in the awkward position where my Pixel 3XL could charge, but not provide Google Maps navigation. Android Auto is available as standard on the 2020 RAV4 and other Toyota models, but it feels like a major technological miss to launch their best-selling model without it.
Slightly larger than before, the RAV4 has plenty of room for four adults and cargo. There’s even plenty of cabin storage thanks to shelves in the dashboard similar to those first found on the Highlander. We loved the two-toned interior with orange accents. The materials, textures, and colors really help make the Adventure trim feel unique and more premium than a monotone interior otherwise would. The cabin is also bright and visibility is superb thanks to the RAV4’s large windows. The huge rear window reminded us of some old-school SUVs. It was so good, we only activated the Digital Rearview Mirror to confirm that it worked. We did, however, note quite a bit of wind and tire noise, despite Toyota claiming to have added extra sound deadening and insulation. Perhaps the high-rise roof rails on the Adventure trim are to blame here, but we were expecting a quieter ride overall.
Toyota developed an all-new all-wheel-drive system for the RAV4 Adventure and Limited trims. The Dynamic Torque Vectoring All-Wheel Drive with Rear Driveline Disconnect is capable of routing up to 50% of torque to the rear wheels and distribute power to either the left or right wheel for maximum traction and control. The AWD system can also disconnect the rear driveshaft to operate essentially as a FWD vehicle to improve fuel economy on the highway. While it helped us return a total 30.7 combined MPG during our week of testing, it wasn’t without its problems. On multiple occasions at low speeds, there was audible brief groaning noise as the rear driveline disconnected. The sound wasn’t reproducible when driving the RAV4 in Sport, which engages the AWD system full-time. It’s a worrying sound, and one that Toyota seeks to address with a technical service bulletin.
A new 2.5L four-cylinder engine and 8-speed automatic transmission powers non-hybrid RAV4s. With 203 horsepower, the RAV4 reaches 60 mph is 8.2 seconds. There isn’t an enormous amount of sport in this sport utility vehicle, but the driving experience has improved significantly over the previous version. That doesn’t mean the RAV4 has any character, however. It is an utterly soulless device; a means to an end…which explains why it sells so well. It also explains why I just didn’t connect with it. Yes, it got me to my destination in comfort. Yes, I only stopped for gas once in the entire week. But it failed to summon even a single emotion from me behind the wheel. Personally, for the as-tested price of $39,634, I’d be happy to drive off the lot with a 4Runner SR5 Premium instead. So the RAV4 isn’t for me. But it is for plenty of people, and the all-new RAV4 is markedly improved. With a Hybrid model available and even a TRD Off-Road trim arriving for 2020, there’s likely a RAV4 grade perfectly suited for every driver.
|2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure
|Adventure Grade Weather Package||$1,185|
|Power Tilt/Slide Moonroof||$850|
|Adventure Grade Technology Package||$1,265|
|Entune 3.0 Premium Audio, Navigation & JBL||$1,620|
|Carpet Floor Mats/Cargo Mat||$269|
|As Tested MSRP||$39,634|