TREND INTAKE This month’s hot metal WE SAY Words from our editors
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.