Competes with: Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Nissan Rogue
Looks like: Honey, I shrunk the 4Runner
Drivetrains: 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder, optional hybrid variant; eight-speed automatic transmission; front- or all-wheel drive
Hits dealerships: Late 2018 (gas), early 2019 (hybrid)
Toyota has some big news from the 2018 New York International Auto Show: the arrival of the all-new 2019 RAV4 SUV, one of America’s most popular vehicles (next to pickup trucks) — and one that was more than ready for a redesign. The new model switches to a new platform: the Toyota New Global Architecture platform, which enabled the automaker to change a few key dimensions. But the most obvious surprise will be how it looks — almost exactly like the FT-AC concept that Toyota showed at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show.
It’s been toned down a little bit, but not much — and who suspected when we saw the rugged baby 4Runner concept that this was going to become Toyota’s mainstream model? Few, if any, among us at Cars.com.
The styling is a complete departure from the soft lines of the current RAV4, instead adopting the rugged, chunky, fender-flared look of the bigger rear-wheel-drive 4Runner SUV. A much more angular front bumper, grille and headlights sweeps back into plastic-clad fender flares, culminating in a linear design to the taillights and rear hatch.
The roof is a separate floating affair, as is the style these days, and can be had in contrasting colors depending on the trim of the RAV4 you’ve selected and whether or not you’ve gone for the hybrid model. The new RAV4 is longer (in wheelbase, not overall), lower and wider than the outgoing one, but the overhangs have been reduced for the front and rear bumpers.
A new XSE Hybrid sporty model is added to the lineup, as well, with a greater emphasis on dynamics without sacrificing fuel economy — it comes with a retuned sport suspension that makes it the quickest, best-handling model in the RAV4 family, according to Toyota. It can be identified by its contrast-color roof and Softex faux leather interior with blue accents. For those wishing for a more off-road style, the RAV4 Adventure trim butches things up a bit with black trim pieces, a different grille and an interior in either black or mocha with orange trim.
Inside, a much more horizontal look is found in the cabin, with a multimedia system perched tablet-style on the center console. The console itself is wider and deeper, and can hold more stuff, according to Toyota. Front and backseat room has been improved, both in width between passengers and legroom.
The multimedia system is Toyota’s latest Entune 3.0, with a standard 7-inch touchscreen display that includes Amazon Alexa connectivity and Apple CarPlay as standard (no mention of Android Auto). Upgrading to Entune 3.0 Audio Plus brings Sirius XM satellite radio and an 8-inch display, while Premium Audio adds satellite navigation.
Up to five USB ports can be had in the new RAV4, as well as a Qi wireless charging pad for those devices that support it. A new 11-speaker, 800-watt JBL premium audio system is also available.
Under the Hood
The standard powertrain in the RAV4 is a 2.5-liter “Dynamic Force” four-cylinder engine, for which Toyota neglected to provide any horsepower or torque numbers — merely saying it will be more powerful than the outgoing model. It is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission driving either the front or all four wheels.
A hybrid is also part of the plan, again with promised better efficiency and power, but without specifications. A new all-wheel-drive system joins the lineup, bringing the total up to three different setups. The optional all-wheel-drive system on gas-engine models is joined by one for hybrid systems — but the news is a new Dynamic Torque Vectoring all-wheel-drive system with Rear Driveline Disconnect, which you can get on the Limited and Adventure gas-engine models. Up to 50 percent of engine torque can be sent to the rear wheels, or conversely, those rear wheels can be disconnected completely when not needed for improved fuel economy and vibration performance.
The new RAV4 will include the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 package as standard on all models, including a significant number of safety features that are still optional on even some premium luxury vehicles. The TSS 2.0 system includes a forward collision warning system with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, full-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure warning with steering assist, automatic high beams, lane detection and lane keep assist (what Toyota calls “Lane Tracing Assist”), and new road sign assist that identifies road signs and can warn the driver with alerts depending on sign type.
This equipment comes atop the Toyota Star Safety System, which includes the typical stability control, ABS and other basic technologies. Optional systems include blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a 360-degree bird’s-eye camera system, parking sensors and rear cross-traffic automatic braking system. A backup camera and electronic parking brake are standard.
Look for the new RAV4 to start hitting showrooms in late 2018, with the hybrid model to follow in early 2019.