Review: 2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure improves a winning formula
The Toyota RAV4 is one of the original and most successful compact crossovers on the market, and for the 2019 model year it's undergone a complete redesign. This fifth-generation RAV4 is now more capable than before, and we didn’t let a couple of minor downsides keep us from having fun with it.
As with last year’s 2018 RAV4, we drove this new-generation RAV4 at a snow and ice driving adventure in Colorado and then, more recently, as a daily drive for a week. In many ways, this new 2019 model is far better than the previous generation of the crossover. In a few areas, though, the earlier flaws remain.
The all-new 2019 Toyota RAV4 was unveiled at the New York Auto Show early in 2018 before entering the market later in the year. We liked the 2018 model in its Adventure package, though there were some downers to note. For the 2019 model year RAV4 Adventure, Toyota dropped the over-use of mountain-shaped Adventure insignia and improved the all-wheel drive differential for better real-world needs on and off the road.
First and foremost in the new RAV4’s updates is the engine, which is now more powerful than the outgoing four-cylinder. The new model's 2.5-liter engine produces 203 horsepower (151 kW), an improvement of 27 hp (20 kW) over the previous-gen. Despite the added power, efficiency is also improved with the new engine and its new eight-speed automatic transmission. It is a little lighter in weight and has a better aerodynamic profile, which also contribute to its EPA-estimated 30 mpg (7.84 l/100km) combined. For reference, our real-world fuel economy returns after a week of daily driving was 29 mpg (8.1 l/100km). Considering our high altitude and compared to the 2018 model year’s returns (26.5 mpg), that’s a great improvement.
On the exterior, a number of changes are clear. The Adventure model adds a few more detail touches, but the overall look of the 2019 RAV4 is more robust and fitting with the crossover segment on the whole. The pointy front fascia has been replaced with a flatter, wider fascia sporting a larger intake and grille presence for more muscular appeal. This aggressive look is accented by the less rounded rear hatch and stronger lines across the bodywork. A flat roofline promises more interior roominess and ground clearance (8.6 inches/21.8cm) is given more visual attention with narrower wheel well edges and a larger body edge piece.
On the inside there's a bit more room and a somewhat better seating arrangement to add more legroom and headroom. These changes, though slight, are a big deal for a compact and make it far more spacious (in feel) than before. Storage and ergonomics are also improved, with a better dashboard layout for added convenience and the smarter use of cubbies and drink holders throughout. USB plugs for gadgets are better placed too and the cargo area is one of the largest in the segment.
Toyota added its Safety Sense Suite 2.0 as standard equipment, making adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, and forward collision warning with automatic braking the norm in the RAV4. Sadly, Toyota’s infotainment is still the same clunky Entune with outdated graphics and a terrible user interface. Apple CarPlay is now standard in the RAV4, but Android Auto isn’t even an option. Toyota’s proprietary app to replace those has seen little upgrade since its lackluster debut a couple of years ago.
Where the Adventure model really differentiates, as will the TRD Pro offering for the RAV4 (which we haven’t driven yet), is in the drivetrain. The Adventure has an improved AWD system that offers more traction control options for differing situations and more capability. When driving the 2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure in the snow, for example, we found that using Snow mode significantly changed its safety metrics in the slippery conditions. Switching to “Sand” mode, however, improved driving on a frozen lake and kept traction even throughout, for better control. Off the road in dirt and gravel, “Rock” mode was a solid choice for the varied conditions of the High Plains in summer. Learning these modes pays off for RAV4 Adventure owners.
Also improved is the highway ride quality. Where before it was noisy and not very comfortable, the RAV4 is now quieter and more cushy on the highway. That’s a big change for this crossover, which could never, until now, make that claim. Sadly, the change also means that steering inputs are softer and the driver gets less feedback. Which is not what is wanted when off the road or maneuvering in tight situations.
Another point of note with the Adventure model related to towing. While we didn’t attempt to tow anything, the Adventure model’s upgraded drivetrain means that its tow rating is improved from 1,500 lb to 3,500 lb (1,588 kg), when equipped. We would not recommend towing with the RAV4, as its small wheelbase will not likely make for a good pulling experience, but that added weight capability does mean that the Adventure model can handle far more added gear, including a bigger tow-hitch-mounted cargo or toy rack. An important point with a vehicle this size.
Overall, while it has some flaws, we’d give the 2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure high marks for daily use and versatility. If using infotainment beyond just stereo tuning is your thing, though, or if hardcore off-road needs are your expectation, then this Toyota probably isn’t a good fit for you. For most in the compact crossover markets, though, it's a great option. The 2019 RAV4 has a starting price of US$25,650 and the Adventure model starts at $33,050.
Product Page: 2019 Toyota RAV4