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Motor Trend (USA) - - Contents - Alisa Prid­dle

The Toy­ota RAV4 is what the in­dus­try calls a cat­e­gory killer. Which means Toy­ota sells a ton of them, and the com­pe­ti­tion (even if it feels it has a bet­ter ve­hi­cle) can’t seem to top­ple the king.

The out­go­ing fourth­gen­er­a­tion RAV4 lacked the piz­zazz of sev­eral other small crossovers. De­spite 11 trim lev­els to choose from, they all looked fairly alike. De­spite this anonymity, the old RAV4 was the best-sell­ing pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cle (not count­ing pick­ups) in Amer­ica last year.

Bad news for the com­pe­ti­tion: The fifth-gen­er­a­tion RAV4 has upped its game.

For starters, it does look dif­fer­ent, as ev­i­denced by the three trim lev­els mak­ing their world de­but at the 2018 New York auto show; there will be nine in to­tal: five with a gaso­line en­gine and four hy­brids. For 2019, the RAV4 is racier and sportier with a more pro­nounced front end an­gled slightly—but not so far as to wear the shar­knose moniker. The front end fea­tures new grilles, an­gu­lar LED head­lights, and squared­off wheel arches (think Lexus), and in back the new RAV4 has a spoiler, LED tail­lamps, and dual ex­haust. The side mir­ror moves from the A-pil­lar to the door to im­prove vis­i­bil­ity.

But the big changes are un­der the sheet­metal. The RAV4 moves from Toy­ota’s com­pact plat­form shared with other small cars to the much-touted TNGA (Toy­ota New Global Ar­chi­tec­ture) and shifts from the com­pact to the mid­size plat­form along­side the Camry and Avalon.

The switch gives the RAV4 a 105.9-inch wheel­base (up 1.2 inches), a wider track, and a half inch more ground clear­ance. Over­all length shrinks by 2.6 inches. The re­sult is a more planted stance. Bonus: The new ar­chi­tec­ture makes it pos­si­ble to of­fer 19-inch wheels on top trims.

The out­go­ing 2.5-liter I-4 has been re­placed with Toy­ota’s all-new Dy­namic Force 2.5-liter I-4 with di­rect and port in­jec­tion and VVT-IE. In the Camry it gen­er­ates 203 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, so ex­pect sim­i­lar num­bers here. The six-speed au­to­matic is re­placed with an eight-speed.

For the hy­brid mod­els, the gas en­gine and elec­tric mo­tors pair with an up­dated CVT. In the Camry Hy­brid it gen­er­ates a com­bined 208 hp.

No up­mar­ket turbo-fours or V-6s are planned. The ar­chi­tec­ture can ac­com­mo­date plug-in hy­brids and full EVS, but those are not in the ini­tial plans.

TNGA’S lighter, stiffer plat­form was de­signed to pro­vide bet­ter han­dling. The uni­body chas­sis is 57 per­cent more rigid. Of­fi­cials are not say­ing how much lighter it is. But if TNGA can make a dowdy Prius feel fun, imag­ine the pos­si­bil­i­ties with a RAV4.

RAV4 be­comes the first ve­hi­cle on TNGA to get all­wheel drive and the first Toy­ota name­plate to get Dy­namic Torque Vec­tor­ing AWD with Drive­shaft Dis­con­nect. It is

THE BEST-SELL­ING CROSS­OVER IN AMER­ICA JUST GOT BET­TER

stan­dard on the Lim­ited and Ad­ven­ture AWD gas-pow­ered trim lev­els—send­ing up to 50 per­cent of power to the rear wheels and di­rect­ing power to in­di­vid­ual wheels when needed. Drive­shaft Dis­con­nect stops power from go­ing to the rear when not needed, mak­ing it a more fuel-ef­fi­cient front­driver. Lower trim lev­els get an AWD sys­tem with­out torque vec­tor­ing, and the hy­brids have the up­dated AWD-I sys­tem.

In ad­di­tion to Nor­mal, Eco, and Sport modes, Mul­titer­rain Se­lect pro­vides trac­tion in snow, mud, sand, rocks, or dirt. The RAV4 has stan­dard hill-as­cent con­trol, and with torque vec­tor­ing, it has down­hill as­sist, as well.

For the 2019 model year the RAV4 has fewer trim lev­els, but they are more dif­fer­en­ti­ated to ap­peal to ei­ther the ur­ban­ite or the out­door ad­ven­turer.

The XSE Hy­brid is the sporty new en­try, promis­ing to be fastest off the line while re­tain­ing best-in-class fuel econ­omy. We await the specs and a test car to prove those claims. Black ac­cents on the lower rockers, front end, mir­ror caps, foglamps, and wheel arches give it a meaner look, and it is the only trim to get a sport-tuned sus­pen­sion with firmer shocks and springs. Mov­ing the bat­tery un­der the rear seat gives the cargo area a flat floor and seg­ment-lead­ing cargo ca­pac­ity.

The Ad­ven­ture trim adopts Ta­coma cues, in­clud­ing the pro­nounced lower lip and fog­light de­sign, to lure buy­ers off-road. It has beefier roof rails, in­creased tow­ing ca­pac­ity (no num­bers yet), ex­clu­sive 19-inch wheels, and a “lu­nar green” color ex­clu­sive to the RAV4 for its first year.

Head­room is am­ple, even in the sec­ond row; there was no ap­petite to bring back a thirdrow op­tion. The new RAV4 has space for your phone, wire­less charg­ing, and five USB ports. A 7.0-inch in­fo­tain­ment screen is stan­dard with En­tune 3.0; up­graded sys­tems have an 8.0-inch screen, satel­lite ra­dio, nav­i­ga­tion, and a 7.0-inch clus­ter dis­play. The RAV4 joins the new Avalon in of­fer­ing Ap­ple Carplay, but as Toy­ota is still feud­ing with Google over third-party app data shar­ing, there’s no An­droid Auto. It does have Alexa con­nec­tiv­ity, Wi-fi, and the first dig­i­tal rearview mir­ror in a Toy­ota sold in North Amer­ica.

Toy­ota Safety Sense 2.0 adds au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing with night­time pedes­trian and day­time cy­clist de­tec­tion, plus lane keep as­sist with Lane Trac­ing As­sist to keep the ve­hi­cle cen­tered. An­other fea­ture reads signs to feed in­for­ma­tion such as speed lim­its to the driver dis­play. The man­ual parking brake lever has been re­placed by a stan­dard elec­tric parking brake. The sys­tem also en­ables dy­namic stop­ping at speed.

With the de­ci­sion to drop Plat­inum, the Lim­ited is now the high-end trim. The other trims to say good night are the SE gas-pow­ered trim and the SE hy­brid, which is re­placed by the up­graded XSE.

The RAV4 was de­signed and en­gi­neered in Ja­pan. Pro­duc­tion for this gen­er­a­tion will be split be­tween Wood­stock, On­tario, and the nearby Cam­bridge plant. Ad­di­tional units can back­fill from plants in Ja­pan.

The gas RAV4 goes on sale at the end of this year, with the hy­brid fol­low­ing in early 2019. Pric­ing has not been re­leased but is not ex­pected to in­crease much over the cur­rent start­ing sticker of $25,505.

SCORCH­ING The fifth-gen Toy­ota RAV4 was un­veiled at the New York auto show with some hot in­te­rior color choices. The Ad­ven­ture trim (pic­tured) fea­tures black leather with splashes of orange. The XSE Hy­brid, mean­while, has a black in­te­rior with blue high­lights.

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