Toyota’s massively popular RAV4 gets a complete redo for 2019, highlighted by new exterior styling, more claimed off-road abilities, and a supposedly quieter cabin.

The fifth-generation RAV4 was unveiled at the 2018 New York Auto Show

The RAV4 has held down a spot in Toyota’s lineup since the mid-1990s, continuously evolving from a basic car-based SUV to fuel-efficient hybrid models now packed full of standard safety equipment.

The RAV4 is slotted just above the pseudo-SUV Toyota C-HR in the company’s SUV lineup, with nimbler handling and better fuel economy than the trucklike 4Runner or family-friendly Highlander.

2019 Toyota RAV4

What it competes with: Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester.

What it looks like: Conservative exterior styling, not really standing out from the crowded SUV field. The interior, however, has some head-scratching trim designs.

Powertrains: 2.5-liter four cylinder; eight-speed automatic transmission; 2.5-liter, four-cylinder hybrid; continuously variable transmission.

On-sale date: End of 2018 (with hybrid models right behind in early 2019).

2019 Toyota RAV4 SUV front

Outside

Toyota says the new RAV4 is lower and wider than the outgoing model. It has a longer wheelbase and shorter front and rear overhangs to help with off-road adventures.

Inside

Toyota’s leather substitute, called Softex, will again be offered. The orange stitching accents we saw on the Adventure model had a distinctly ’70s vibe.

Standard in-car electronics features include WiFi hands-free access to Amazon Alexa voice assistant, Apple CarPlay compatibility, and a 7-inch touch screen.

Up to five USB ports are available, as is an optional Qi wireless charging and 11-speaker JBL sound system.

Limited models feature an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with two-way lumbar support, a 7-inch infotainment screen, and a rearview mirror camera. The high-tech mirror allows drivers to see a larger field of vision of what’s behind the vehicle, removing head restraints from the display by using a camera behind the vehicle.

Optional equipment includes ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a panoramic moonroof, and a hands-free power liftgate. 

2019 Toyota RAV4 SUV interior

What Drives It

The standard powertrain remains a 2.5-liter four cylinder matched with an eight-speed automatic. The company says that a hybrid version of this engine will be offered, hooked up to a continuously variable transmission. Horsepower and fuel-economy estimates were not disclosed. The last hybrid model we tested returned a stellar 31 mpg overall. Those looking to combine green-minded fuel efficiency with a sporty flair can opt for the new XSE Hybrid trim, which gets special styling inside and out as well as a sport-tuned suspension.

Toyota says the new model will offer a Dynamic Torque Vectoring All-Wheel Drive with Rear Driveline Disconnect system that will “send 50 percent of engine torque to the rear wheels, plus distribute it to the left or right rear wheel for improved handling.” The rear disconnect system is supposed to improve fuel economy when all-wheel drive isn’t needed.

Also new is the Adventure model, which includes special roof rails, fog lights, and other outdoorsy-looking exterior bits to make the RAV4 appear more rugged. It also gets what Toyota calls a Multi-Terrain Select system, allowing drivers to dial in certain settings to get through snow, mud, sand, or rocks. The RAV4 has never been an off-road champ, so we’re not sure what to make of these new rock-hopping claims. 

Safety & Driver-Assist Systems

All models get standard forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control. Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and braking continue to be optional. 

CR’s Take

The RAV4 has always done well in our testing, and it has an enviable reliability history. Past models have delivered easy access, a roomy cabin, and high levels of standard emergency gear. We were put off, however, that in order to get more comfortable seats (including adjustable lumbar), buyers had to get the more expensive trim lines—which still seems to be the case.

Sales of the RAV4 have been skyrocketing of late, and it’s a safe bet that Toyota doesn’t want to mess up a good thing. 

2019 Toyota RAV4 SUV rear

 

Check out CR’s complete coverage of the 2018 New York Auto Show.