Toyota’s redesigned, all-wheel-drive 2019 RAV4 Hybrid has more power, nicer road manners and substantially better fuel economy than the previously reviewed gas-only RAV4.
The upcharge for the hybrid drive is $800 in each trim level over its non-hybrid counterparts.
Toyota created the compact crossover segment back in 1994 when it introduced the ’95 RAV4. It added – and then scuttled – an all-electric RAV4 in 1997 and launched the first RAV4 hybrid in 2016.
The crossover has grown substantially in both size and sales since its launch and was Toyota’s best-selling U.S. vehicle, with nearly 430,000 sales, in 2018. Hybrid RAV4s, however, accounted for only 11 percent of the volume.
Here are five things to know about the new crossover.
The 2019 RAV4 Hybrid is EPA-rated at 41 mpg in city driving, 33 mpg on the highway and 39 mpg overall. That makes it the most efficient compact crossover available in either two- or four-wheel drive.
Toyota’s hybrid AWD system is responsible. The rear wheels are driven by an electric motor and aren’t mechanically connected to the gas engine. The RAV4 Hybrid’s power-management computer decides when rear traction is needed; otherwise, it saves fuel by diverting all power to the front wheels. There is a button, however, that lets the driver engage the rear wheels in certain circumstances.
The 2019 RAV4 Hybrid is the most powerful RAV4 since Toyota discontinued a V6 engine option in 2012.
Its 2.5 liter, four-cylinder engine is a tuned-down version of the engine used in the standard RAV4. It produces 176 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque. The standard RAV4, in comparison, churns out 206 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque.
But the magic is in the electric portion of the hybrid powertrain.
The RAV4 Hybrid’s gas engine is complemented by a 118-horsepower electric motor that helps drive the front wheels and at peak can produce 149 pound-feet of torque. Then, when needed, there’s a 54-hp rear motor that kicks in 89 pound-feet of torque.
The total hybrid system is rated at 219 horsepower. There’s no combined torque rating because the full power of the gas engine and both electric motors is never used. But the extra torque helps. Toyota says the RAV4 Hybrid can do a 0-60 mph sprint in under 8 seconds. Motor Trend recently clocked one at 7.5 seconds, versus 8.2 seconds for a standard front-wheel drive 2019 RAV4.
LOTS OF CARGO ROOM
The 2019 RAV4 is built on a new platform that allows the rear motor and the battery to be tucked away without infringing on either the passenger space or the cargo capacity.
With 37.5 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 69.8 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded flat, the RAV4 Hybrid trails only the new 2019 Honda CR-V in cargo area. And the Honda, which does not have a hybrid option, gets 25 percent less fuel economy.
HIGHER, BUT LOWER
The RAV4 Hybrid boasts 8.1 inches of ground clearance, up from 7 inches, for the 2018 RAV4 Hybrid.
But because its new platform lowers the mounting points for the engine and transmission, the 2019 hybrid has a lower center of gravity than its predecessor.
The RAV4 Hybrid’s XSE trim (SE stands for sport edition) comes standard with a two-tone color scheme: a glossy metallic black roof over one of four available body colors. Inside it gets two colors as well – the the black synthetic leather upholstery highlighted with bright blue contrast stitching and a blue stripe through the seat backs and bottoms.