2019 Toyota RAV4: looking more SUV than crossover

March 27, 2018

The 2019 Toyota RAV4 would like to be your outdoorsy companion. It wants to be loaded up with a kayak and a mountain bike on its roof, with mud splashed over its chiseled, 4Runner-like and Tacoma-inspired grille and beefy fenders. It wants to show off its newfound extra half-inch of ground clearance by traversing a rutted trail on the way to a camping site.

Well, kind of. That’s probably how Toyota will market its butched-up 2019 RAV4.

MORE: Read our 2019 Toyota RAV4 preview

In reality, the latest RAV4 is more of the same—a five-seat compact crossover with a versatile interior and a lot of safety features for the money that should offer good fuel economy in exchange for modest performance. There’s even a hybrid model, which Toyota promises will be both the efficiency and fun leader of the pack—with fun a relative term when it comes to crossovers.

The 2019 RAV4 that debuted Wednesday at the New York auto show looks nothing like its predecessor, that’s for sure. It’s SUV-inspired, but it’s a smidge shorter than its predecessor at 180.9 inches from head-to-toe. For now, Toyota’s held back interior dimensions, but the automaker says it has eked out extra space for passengers and their gear in the redesigned interior.

A standard 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment perches high on the RAV4’s dash. It looks less well-integrated than some competitors but offers a high degree of features including standard Apple CarPlay. Higher-spec RAV4s see that screen grow to 8.0 inches, while a separate TFT display is available in the instrument cluster. Toyota hasn’t detailed trim levels for the RAV4, but the automaker confirmed that it will offer five grades for the standard model and four versions of the RAV4 Hybrid.

2019 Toyota RAV4

2019 Toyota RAV4

Regardless of what badge is on its tailgate, the RAV4 will come standard with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control when it goes on sale in December.

Under its hood, a 2.5-liter inline-4 shuttles power to the front wheels or, optionally, all four. Toyota hasn’t said just how much power it will offer, but a representative for the automaker told The Car Connection to expect a 15-percent increase over the current model’s 176 horsepower. Translation: at least 200 hp. An 8-speed automatic transmission replaces last year’s 6-speed.

The RAV4 Hybrid will follow in February of 2019. Again, Toyota is mum on powertrain details, but the automaker did say that a continuously variable transmission will be standard and that the hybrid will be the highest-performance RAV4 variant. A RAV4 Hybrid XSE trim level promises better handling thanks to its firmer suspension and sport-tuned steering.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the RAV4 Adventure gets tougher looks that include a unique front fascia, an available contrasting color roof panel, matte black exterior accents, 19-inch alloy wheels, and orange interior cues. What it doesn’t get: any additional off-road capability, although Toyota did say that it will be able to tow more than the standard RAV4. When pressed for why—and how—the RAV4 will have a greater towing capacity, Toyota declined to answer.

Every all-wheel-drive RAV4 now includes a bevy of traction control modes for mucky situations such as mud, sand, and rocky roads. A control knob on the center console lets users pick between the mode best suited to the terrain outside the RAV4.

What’s not included? The inevitable trip to REI to fill it with kayaks and mountain bikes. At least that’s what marketers would like to see.

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