Preview: All-New 2019 Toyota RAV4 – Meet the New Boss

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Toyota’s six-year-old RAV4 design has been beating all but one competitor in sales. Imagine how this all-new RAV4 will do.

Toyota’s outgoing 2018 RAV4 is as old as mainstream vehicle designs get. Yet, it still easily outsells the all-new Honda CR-V and nearly every other compact crossover in the industry’s largest vehicle segment. The all-new 2019 RAV4 has its sights set on regaining the number one spot, and given what Toyota unveiled today at the New York Auto Show we wouldn’t bet against it.

2019 RAV4 – New Drivetrains

Toyota isn’t messing with what works. There are no turbochargers or CVTs for the conventionally powered RAV4 trims. Rather, Toyota will use its new 2.5-liter engine that in the Camry is producing over 200 hp. It will be mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission which will increase fuel economy while delivering a driving feel Toyota owners know and love. There will be two different all-wheel-drive systems depending upon the trim for the conventionally-powered RAV4. One has torque vectoring and leans towards off-road capability. The other is for four-season driving and has the ability to decouple the rear wheels from the drive system in certain situations in order to save fuel.

Toyota’s new 2019 RAV4 Hybrid will have two jobs in the lineup. It is both the sportiest RAV4 and will again have the most power in the lineup, while also having the best fuel economy. Toyota’s RAV4 Hybrid currently outsells every electric vehicle model for sale in the United States, and by our count, is the number two selling green car sold in America after the Prius. Its importance to the Toyota family cannot be overstated. Toyota’s 2019 hybrid system seems evolutionary. One important change is that its novel two-motor system, that has its own motor just to drive the rear wheels, can now deliver more power to the back. Toyota says this will improve off-road capability. We’ve tested the RAV4 Hybrid in deep snow and the AWD system works exceptionally well. The new one will only be better.

Toyota hasn’t yet released its horsepower and fuel economy numbers, but we expect that they will be the best in the industry among the top sellers. Up-powered compact crossovers will still beat the RAV4’s horsepower and torque numbers and they will continue to sell at a fraction of the RAV4’s pace. Subaru just killed off its up-powered Forester XT trim for that very reason. What really matters to mainstream buyers is how the base engines feel and drive. Toyota will match the best based on our driving tests of the same engine in the new Camry.

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2019 RAV4 – Safety

Believe it or not, safety leader Toyota’s current RAV4 doesn’t earn top crash test results on all tests as most of its peers do. According to the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety, Toyota only reinforced the driver’s side of the cabin for safety in a key situation. The lack of structural enhancements led to a Poor score on the important small frontal overlap test. Toyota will be fixing this just in time with the new 2019 RAV4 to retain its Top Safety Pick rating as IIHS updates its requirements. The Toyota New Global Architecture on which the RAV4 is now built has been designed to ace this test and every other one planned by safety groups for the foreseeable future.

Toyota will also introduce its second generation standard Safety Sense portfolio of active safety systems. Pedestrian detection, bicyclist detection, steering assist on the highway, lane keeping assist and many more proven safety systems will now be found on America’s most mainstream vehicle. We regularly test luxury cars costing triple what the RAV costs that still make this level of technology optional.

2019 RAV4 Styling

Toyota has been doing everything possible to make its new models not just more exciting to drive, but also to look at. That can come at a cost in the mainstream segment where many shoppers prefer to see what they have always seen. With the new RAV4 Toyota seems to have avoided any big controversies. One way Toyota has achieved that is by having a few different styles for its new RAV4. As our top of page image clearly shows, there are at least two different front end styles. One looks almost identical to the hugely popular, and top-selling Tacoma. One looks very similar to the top-selling Camry. It is hard to look at these new front ends and see a polarizing element that will push buyers away.

Like its Camry, Toyota’s RAV4 also now sports two-tone paint schemes on many models. Roofs will be available in black and silver offsetting the main body colors. In person, this type of paint has a dramatic visual impact and buyers will likely see it as a premium look.

2019 RAV4 Infotainment

The all-new RAV4 will be among the first Toyota products to offer Apple Car Play integration. For some reason, Toyota started with the company that has the minority of smartphone sales in the U.S., but we suspect Android Auto may follow shortly. The big surprise is Alexa integration. If you don’t yet own a device like Amazon’s Alex we doubt we could convince you it is important. If you do have Alexa in your home you already know exactly why it is important. Toyota’s infotainment is rapidly catching up to the best in the industry.

2019 RAV4 Value

Like all Toyotas, the 2019 RAV4 will continue to be sold with the best included maintenance package in the mainstream market. Toyota will include two years or four service visits in the price of the RAV4. We can’t say for sure how the MSRPs will match up to the competition since Toyota has not yet announced prices, but we can predict where they will fall based on Toyota’s most recent launches. Look for Toyota to continue to offer competitive prices, but more importantly, attractive discounts and financing incentives. Honda says that Toyota now offers triple the incentives on the new Camry than Honda does on the Accord. Given the source, we have no reason to doubt this is true. Our prediction is that the RAV4 will be priced and discounted in a way that is hard for shoppers to ignore. Like all mainstream vehicles, the RAV4’s top trims will rival expensive luxury vehicles for content. For example, the RAV4 now has ventilated front seats available. We just tested a $100K German luxury car that did not have this feature. 

Excellence is the expectation in this category and the outgoing RAV4 generation was questionable in many ways. Yet, the RAV4 is already one of the top-five nameplates for sale in the U.S. including trucks. We expect that the 2019 RAV4 will leap ahead of the compact crossover pack and set new benchmarks. Watch out Nissan Rogue. There is a target on your back.

 

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John Goreham

John Goreham