2019 Toyota RAV4

Frank Washington | 11/26/2018, 5:39 p.m.
It was 22 years ago that Toyota’s RAV4 first hit these shores. Now comes the fifth generation of the compact ...

It was 22 years ago that Toyota’s RAV4 first hit these shores. Now comes the fifth generation of the compact sport utility. It was the first such vehicle and it created the market we now know as crossover utility vehicles because if its uni-body construction.

Not only was the RAV4 the first crossover, it is now the best-selling non-pickup truck in the country. In 2017, Toyota sold 408,000 RAV4s. What they’re trying to do with the new RAV4 is make it an all-round vehicle that can handle urban, suburban and the great outdoors driving.

Another way of looking at it is that they want the 2019 RAV4 to be more utility like rather than car like.

To make the 2019 RAV4 look tougher, designers have picked up some design cues from Toyota’s pickup trucks, especially the Tacoma. The front end and grille design was meant to give it an athletic look.

Black cladding around the wheel arches appeared to lift the tires into a higher position much like a pickup truck. The lifted-up body was supposed to make the 2019 RAV4 look more capable. That was the idea.

We were in a convenience store getting our lotto on the drive and an older RAV4 parked next to our test vehicle. The difference was visible immediately. Our RAV4 had a higher hood and a more muscular face. It was just huskier.

Ground clearance was upped by more than a half inch over the model that it replaced. Even though it was higher Toyota said the step-in height remained comfortable. It was easy to get into and out of and the new RAV4 was comfortable.

The front seats were restful; there was plenty of lumbar support. Sight lines were really good especially since Toyota lowered the window belt line, dropped the sideview mirrors farther down on the doors, lowered the dash and added a small triangular window were the side view mirror housing would have been.

The new RAV4’s TNG-K global platform made body rigidity 57 percent stronger. They said the front strut and rear multi-link suspensions enhanced agility. That’s hard to argue with since we did several tight U-turns on the two lane parts of the Pacific Coast Highway near the iconic Bixby Bridge to take photos. It is not a place you want to back up to complete a U-turn.

The new platform was supposed to make the ride smoother and quieter. Indeed, the new RAV4 rode like a typical Toyota. It was smooth and quiet. However, from time to time it did seem like the engine ran like a four-banger of old: a little rough and a little loud. Engineers would do well to add a little more soundproofing to the fire wall and perhaps floorboard.

The global platform allowed engineers to place the powertrain lower in the engine bay and thus, lowered the center of gravity. Of course, high strength steel helped to reduced weight; a new saddle style fuel tank distributed the weight of the fuel evenly sized to side. The previous model had the entire fuel tank on one side of what is now the old RAV4.