Toyota has given its best-selling vehicle – the RAV4 small SUV – a complete redesign it believes will make the top seller even better.
Last year, sales of the popular SUV surged 15.7 percent, surpassing 407,000 units, according to Audodata Corp. Industry wide, it was the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. that wasn’t a pickup truck.
It also knocked the perennially top-selling Camry sedan off its podium, a move illustrative of the growing consumer preference for larger vehicles. In 2017, light trucks – which includes pickups, SUVs and crossovers – represented 63.2 percent of the U.S. market.
“In order to continue the sales momentum they need to bring their A-game,” said Dave Sullivan, an analyst with industry consulting firm Auto Pacific. The new RAV4 will help them sell more units this and they are planning capacity for even more.
The all-new fifth generation RAV4 delivers on Toyota’s promise to make adventure accessible. At the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show, the company showed off the FT-AC, an off-road concept meant to invoke a sense of escape. This new RAV4 is a spitting image of that aspirational design.
The new RAV4 has the same athletic, muscular appearance. Its hood is boxier and the grille is meaner than the current model. Even standing still, the SUV looks capable of wandering off the grid.
It’s grown in size. The wheelbase is 1.2 inches longer than the previous version. Wider front and rear tracks give it a nearly half-inch wider stance. There is more elbow and legroom in the rear for passengers. The seats fold at a 60/40 split making way for large adventure-esque equipment like surfboards, suitcases and camping gear.
For handling rugged terrain and a comfortable ride, the 2019 RAV4 has special rear suspension.
There are two powertrains available: a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to an 8-speed transmission and 2.5-liter 4-cylinder hybrid engine with continuously variable transmission that improves fuel efficiency.
A new model joins the fifth generation RAV4 lineup: the XSE Hybrid. The new RAV4 XSE Hybrid is the best-handling RAV4 of the bunch, according to Toyota.
This trim gets black accents throughout, which includes the roof for a color blocked exterior. The black top pairs with classic Toyota Blizzard Pearl, Silver Sky Metallic, Magnetic Gray Metallic or newbie Blueprint.
The interior is mono spec. It comes with black pleather – or Softex – with blue accents.
“The RAV4 XSE is Toyota's secret weapon,” Sullivan said. “There's nothing like it in the segment and if fuel prices were to go up, they have it in their back pocket.”
RAV4 Adventure can also get a fashion forward look with a white top paired with Midnight Black Metallic or Blue Flame, both new to the color palette. The lighter top is accented with standard high-rise roof rails, oversized fenders – a carryover design from the FT-AC – bigger fog lamps and special wheels. Its overall appearance is a bit tougher.
The Adventure grade interior can either be water resistant Softex in black or a mud-hiding Mocha, a new option for the RAV4.
The top-shelf Premium Limited RAV4 gets 19-inch wheels and a fully upgraded interior experience. There is a front-row moonroof and a 7-inch infotainment display. The traditional rearview mirror can quickly be digitized by swapping to a feed coming from a high, rear-mounted camera. The digital display gives the driver an increased field of vision.
There is also an available hand-free liftgate that activates by a wave of the foot under the rear bumper.
For overflow storage, the center console is bigger and there is an accompanying tray for smaller items. The passenger side dash features a tray perfect for cell phones, sunglasses or snacks.
Every model gets the Toyota Entune 3.0 audio touchscreen system. An upgrade increases the screen size to 8 inches and improves the navigation program. An all-new JBL sound system is optional.
Up to five USB ports can be added and there is an optional wireless device charging tray that sits in the front of the center console.
Toyota’s advanced safety technology package – Toyota Safety Sense – is standard on all models. The newest system includes pre-collision and pedestrian detection, which includes alerts, brake assist and automatic emergency braking, if needed. There is adaptive cruise control on the freeways or highways, lane departure alerts with active steering assist, automatic high beam, lane tracing assist, which detects lane markings or the path of a preceding vehicle, and the capability to identify certain stop or yield signs.
Toyota will build the 2019 RAV4 on its new global architecture. The redesigned SUV will go on sale in the winter this year, with hybrid models to follow in early 2019.
Toyota has not announced fuel efficiency estimate or pricing.