Popular doesn’t seem like a strong enough term to describe the RAV4. Its worldwide sales numbers have doubled in the last five years. In Canada alone, the RAV4 is far and away the best-selling Toyota model. It became Canada’s top-selling SUV all categories combined two years ago when the hybrid version launched and it maintained this position last year. Not too shabby for a model that was in the fifth year of a six-year cycle.
So imagine the competition’s reaction when Toyota unveiled a brand new RAV4 at the New York Auto Show. It’s built on the new Toyota New Generation Architecture (TNGA) that offers a 57% stiffer structure and an independent multi-link rear suspension.
- Also: 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid: the Ideal Road Tripper
- Also: Redesigned 2019 Toyota RAV4 to be Unveiled in New York
The new 2019 Toyota RAV4 is shorter and lower by 5mm, but 10 mm wider on a wheelbase that is 30 mm longer, along with a wider front and rear track. This means more room for all passengers and their luggage. That includes the hybrid versions whose cargo hold is now as spacious as the other variants, now that the engineers relocated the battery pack under the rear bench.
The new RAV4 offers three distinct versions: Hybrid, Limited and Trail, each with a different grille. The Trail is a tough-looking, all-terrain vehicle with a standard roof rack and larger black plastic mouldings around the wheel wells that make give it a Jeep look. However, Toyota says that it was inspired by its own all-terrain models and surely prefers that we see it as a compact 4Runner. The RAV4’s ground clearance was in fact raised by 1.5 cm and now boasts shorter overhangs.
The Limited is the most luxurious version with a sunroof, multi-adjustable front seats with position memory, a new seven-inch screen and the first digital central rearview mirror. The Hybrid versions stand out with exclusive LED headlights and shiny black mouldings on the front end, fender flares, mirror casings and rocker panels.
When equipped with the sport suspension, the XSE Hybrid is the sportiest RAV4. This is highly unusual for vehicle that is, first and foremost, an environmentally friendly vehicle. It’s also the most dynamic, thanks to a hybrid drivetrain that is simultaneously more powerful and fuel efficient. It comes with an improved version of the 2.5-litre four-cylinder Dynamic Force engine, which is still paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission.
All other versions of the 2019 Toyota RAV4 are powered by their own version of this same 2.5-litre four-cylinder Dynamic Force engine, matched to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. RAV4s come with three different four-wheel drive systems. Not only is there an updated version of the previous 4WD, but you can opt for one that can transmit 50% of the torque to the rear wheels, adjust the distribution as needed, or disconnect completely at constant speed on the highway to reduce fuel consumption, noise and vibrations. It comes standard on the Trail.
Meanwhile, versions equipped with hybrid technology feature AWD-i, which transmits 30% more torque to the rear wheels, still pulled by an electric motor. It is designed to enhance on- or off-road ride by optimizing torque distribution, depending on the driving mode you select.
All versions of the RAV4 also feature the second generation of the enhanced Toyota Safety Sense system (TSS 2.0) and Entune 3.0 with Apple CarPlay connectivity interfaces. And all RAV4s will now be produced in Toyota’s Cambridge and Woodstock, Ontario plants. Gas-powered versions will arrive in the fall, followed by the hybrids in spring 2019.