Road Test: 2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure AWD

The original Toyota RAV4 arrived in the United States 22 years ago, creating an entirely new segment of comfortable, useful compact crossovers that have become the hottest segment today.

With the all-new fifth-generation, the 2019 Toyota RAV4 brings its A-game, with improved handling, superb comfort, and lead fuel efficiency. And with the Adventure grade that we spent a week with, it can tackle more than the average crossover and looks tougher doing it too.

Design

Toyota designers drew inspiration from their tough Toyota trucks, particularly the front-end and grille design, to create an athletic, chiseled look.

The wheel arches emphasize the lifted-up body, drawing attention to the RAV4s capability. Ground clearance is increased to 8.6 inches. Black-finish lower body protection further emphasizes the lifted-up look, yet it retains a comfortable step-in height.

The side mirrors are lower on the doors for increased forward visibility around the A-pillar. Side visibility is increased thanks to a lowered beltline and the redesigned and enlarged rear-quarter glass.

The 2019 RAV4 105.9-inch wheelbase grows 1.2 inches over the previous model, adding more rear seat legroom. Overall length comes in at 180.9 inches (181.5 inches on Adventure grade).

RAV4’s TNGA-K platform allows for lower engine placement and thus a lower center of gravity. Using high-strength steel has reduced weight in the upper body, also helping to shift the center of gravity lower.

Toyota says a new saddle-style fuel tank distributes the weight of the fuel evenly side-to-side. The previous model had the entire tank on one side of the vehicle.

The inside is all about refinement and detail. The dash layout is modern and uncomplicated yet packed with the latest tech and some thoughtful surprises. We love the orange stitching, dash parts, and splashes of color everywhere.

The instrument panel’s horizontal layout has a slimmer profile and a lower position than before to enhance forward visibility and make entry/exit easier.

A thoughtful mix of interior materials looks and feels like it came out of something much more expensive. There’s a true feeling of quality and pride by the designers of the RAV4.

Front and rear seats are more supportive and more comfortable. The two-level front heated seats provide more heat in the center of the back and thighs than in other areas. The seats are ventilated too, a rarity in this segment.

The door and center console elbow rests are very comfortable on long drives. The standard Electronic Parking Brake frees up space on the console and works automatically, which helps take the load off the transmission. At the base of the center stack is a Qi wireless charging tray which fits today’s massive phones.

At night, blue LEDs illuminate areas of the cabin to provide indirect mood lighting.

All knobs and buttons are easy to use while in motion or wearing gloves.

In the back, the rear seat door open angle is larger. Seat comfort is superb and legroom is great for three adults. Air conditioning vents for the rear seat area are new and appreciated.

Carrying capability was another strong point for Toyota engineers, so the cargo area is more than 2.50 inches longer, and the side surfaces have been shaped for maximum usage. Side pockets behind the wheel wells provide extra storage.

The cargo area deck offers two height levels and a plastic side for carrying wet or dirty items.

Powertrain

Power and efficiency make a leap in the 2019 RAV4 thanks to the new Dynamic Force 2.5L 4-cylinder engine paired to an 8-speed Direct-Shift Automatic Transmission. Power output is rated 203 horsepower, a nice bump that can be felt from behind the wheel.

Handling is crisper, the ride is quieter, and the overall feel is more solid in every way possible.

Three drive modes: Eco, Normal, and Sport all affect how the RAV4 handles and changes the throttle and transmission mapping. Eco kicks on the Eco Heat/Cool setting, which we also didn’t mind activating in the other drive modes because it doesn’t seem to really affect how comfortable the cabin feels.

Fuel economy is rated 25 mpg city, 33 highway, 28 combined for the AWD drivetrain; we averaged 31 mpg in mixed driving. The Adventure model has active grille shutters to help improve fuel economy at highway speeds by reducing drag.

Our RAV4 Adventure features a new Dynamic Torque Vectoring All-Wheel Drive with Rear Driveline Disconnect system. It can direct up to 50 percent of engine torque to the rear wheels, as well as distribute it to the left or right rear wheel to enhance handling on or off road.

When AWD isn’t required, like on a sunny day on the highway, the RAV4 can achieve better fuel economy thanks to the Rear Driveline Disconnect system. The system uses the world’s first ratchet-type dog clutches to stop the rear-axle driveshaft’s rotation, helping to significantly reduce energy loss.

Also standard on all AWD-equipped gas RAV4 crossovers is Multi-Terrain Select. It gives drivers the ability to maximize traction when driving through mud, sand, rocks, dirt and snow. The system is easy to use thanks to control buttons or a control dial (depending on the grade) on the center console.

Using the Multi-Information Display (MID) shows torque allocation and slip control, which fluctuates depending on driving and road conditions.

RAV4 also comes with Hill Start Assist Control (HAC), Trailer Sway Control (TSC), and Downhill Assist Control (DAC).

Safety and Tech

The new platform forms the foundation for exemplary collision protection, but more important is the suite of standard driver-assist technologies designed to help prevent collisions, or mitigate their impacts.

Toyota Safety Sense (TSS 2.0) is the latest iteration and includes Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD), Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC), Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (LDA w/SA), Automatic High Beam (AHB), Lane Tracing Assist (LTA), and Road Sign Assist (RSA).

Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) and Rear Cross Traffic Braking (RCTB) system is standard on XLE grade and above, and Intelligent Clearance Sonar (ICS) is available too.

All systems that we were able to evaluate worked beautifully. The Lane Trace Assist is a fantastic technology that makes long drives at highway speeds much easier and less stressful.

Entune 3.0 is standard and includes almost everything possible, including Wi-Fi Connect powered by Verizon, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple CarPlay. Android Auto should be coming in 2020 or 2021.

We tested the Entune 3.0 Premium Audio system with 8″ touchscreen and embedded dynamic navigation, and found it worked very well. It was fast, fluid, and the JBL audio system is fantastic! It features 11 speakers in nine locations at 800 watts.

One of our favorites, a Digital Rearview Mirror also debuts on the RAV4 for the first time in a Toyota vehicle in North America. The display is a conventional rearview mirror when off, but with the flip of a switch, becomes a wide-angle view using an HD camera on the tailgate. At night, the image is brightened and glare from headlights and other light sources is eliminated to reduce eye fatigue.

Summary Scorecard (1-10)
Ride and Handling 10
Braking 10
Powertrain and Fuel Economy 9
Noise 8
Headlights 8
Interior Fit and Finish 10
Seating 10
Visibility 8
Gauges and Controls 10
Infotainment 10
Crash-Avoidance 10
Total Score 94


Make: Toyota
Model: RAV4
Trim Level: Adventure AWD
Engine: 2.5L 4-Cylinder
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic
Options: Adventure Grade Weather Pkg, Moonroof, Tech Pkg, Entune 3.0 w/ Nav, Preferred Owner Portfolio, Carpet Floor mats

Base Price: $32,900
As-Tested Price: $39,634

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