America’s Best-selling SUV Gets Better
When you have something really, really good going, the last thing you want to do is overthink the next step. Toyota must have been in this dilemma when they realized the RAV4 needed to be updated, but exactly what should be touched on the best-selling SUV in America? What Toyota did was to sharpen the exterior styling, went all-out on suspension and ride improvements, and doubled down on efficiency. Introducing the all-new 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid AWD.
First introduced in 2016, the second generation 2019 RAV4 Hybrid AWD joins the all-new 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid sedan, along with hybrid versions of the Prius, Avalon, Camry and Highlander, making Toyota the best at offering the widest selection of hybrid vehicles.
Smooth, Steady, Efficient Performance
The all-new 2019 RAV4 Hybrid AWD is powered by Toyota’s hybrid system of a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, non-turbocharged engine. When combined with twin electric motors, there is a total of 219 horsepower and 163 pounds-feet of torque in the gas-electric system. Power is sent to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) with driving modes of Eco, Power, Sport and EV. For off-roading, there is a Trail mode and Trailer Sway Control when towing.
The Toyota Hybrid System automatically switches between the electric drive mode, combined electric motor and gasoline engine and gasoline-only engine power. Fuel economy, aided by active grille shutters, for the 2019 RAV4 Hybrid AWD is EPA rated at 41 mpg city/37 highway/39 combined. In 545 miles of negotiating Southern California freeways, we averaged 42.2 mpg—a very satisfying number for a 3,755-pound, all-wheel drive compact crossover.
Running on regular unleaded, the hybrid system was smooth, with the CVT being programmed to err on the side of fuel efficiency. For more spirited performance, opt for the driver-selectable Power mode setting and watch the speedometer turn to red. The Power mode is the place to be for peppy and spirited driving. Otherwise, Eco was more than adequate for cruising along at-or-above highways speeds.
The nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) battery is charged when applying the brakes or coasting. The regenerative charging system converts kinetic energy into electric energy and stores it in the battery. This process can be viewed on a dash gauge where you can watch the power flow into and out of the battery and engine.
When driving a hybrid, I like the option to select the EV mode, especially around town, forcing the car to run solely on electric power. The RAV4 Hybrid has this option, but the driving range in pure electric mode is very short, and even the slightest accelerator pressure kicks-in the gasoline engine. So, driving silently with zero tailpipe emissions will be a very short proposition.
Where the RAV4 Hybrid shines is letting the computer find the most fuel-efficient way to combine electricity and gasoline. The system is sensitive to even the slightest fluctuation in road inclines and declines, more than the driver can feel. There is a green EV icon on the gauge cluster that goes on and off as the RAV4 Hybrid system imperceptibly knows it is time to save gasoline by using electricity.
The electronically controlled brake system incorporates regenerative control and power-assisted, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and electronic brake force distribution. The stops were straight and consistent, and produced a satisfying regenerative whirring when stopping.
Hitting the Road
Taking 7.5 seconds to 60 mph is more than adequate for all the freeway challenges we encountered in Southern California. Believe me, there are a myriad of challenges. The CVT was smooth and never left us feeling like an eight-speed automatic would have been a better option. The freeway ride was stable and smooth, with road imperfections well moderated. Wind noise was non-existent.
The Dunlop Grandtrek 225/60R tires, on five-spoke black painted 18-inch alloy rims, offered a quiet ride and good grip. Taking to the mountains for some cornering fun revealed a balanced design with little body lean, except when pushing too hard. The lesson: slow down!
Boxier Outside with Comfort Inside
Toyota sharpened the edges and lines on the 2019 RAV4 Hybrid, leaving behind the more rounded styling of the previous year. It sits a bit taller and boxier than in the past, with the grille following the design cues of Toyota’s trucks. Clean Fleet Report’s RAV4 Hybrid was an eye-catching Blizzard Pearl White with a Midnight Black Metallic roof, blacked-out wheels, black trim and a color-keyed shark fin antenna on the roof. The more aggressive look of the all-new RAV4 Hybrid with the hexagon-hatched grille, swept-back LED projector headlights and integrated fog lights cuts a striking pose. Hybrid badging is subtle with the blue Toyota logo on the power liftgate, and a script “Hybrid” on the front fenders.
The interior is clean and basic, and well-equipped with features such as push button start/stop, one-touch power windows and a power tilt and slide moonroof. The gauges are large and well placed for ease of viewing, with white numbers on a black background. The driver seat is eight-way power adjustable, with the passenger getting four-way manual adjustments. The XSE package came with black SofTex-trimmed heated front seats, with blue topstitching and fabric inserts. SofTex is a synthetic leather seat material designed for wear, easy cleaning and resisting spills, and uses a manufacturing process that is more environmentally sensitive than conventional synthetic leather.
One very nice feature is the rear view mirror can be switched into rear-facing, digital camera. This view takes a bit of acclimation, but once familiar with it, the view is wider than the standard mirror.
The upscale look to the interior is pleasant on the eyes and to the touch. The split and reclining 60/40 rear seats fold flat, separated by a center armrest with cup holders. Rear seat leg and headroom is good for two adults, three on a short stint. The storage space, with the rear seat in the up position, can handle four on a long road trip. The standard roof rack can handle a storage pod and the RAV4 Hybrid can tow up-to 1,750 pounds for a small camping trailer. And remember, all this versatility and utility comes along with 40+ mpg.
There are cubbies, cup holders (eight to be exact), with storage shelves under the dash for all the small stuff that commonly bangs around on the floor. The blue ambient lighting in the storage areas and front cup holders, is a nice touch. The rear passengers get air vents and two USB ports. There is even a power port in the far rear cargo area. Perfect for tailgating.
The leather trimmed, tilt and telescopic three-spoke heated steering wheel has controls for audio, hands-free Bluetooth telephone operation, and cruise control. The centerpiece of the RAV4 Hybrid is the 8.0-inch touchscreen that rises from the dash. Here you will find controls for the JBL premium audio system of AM/FM/HD radio, with Siri Eyes Free and Apple CarPlay. There are two USB ports and a 12V/120W up front, and Toyota’s Safety Connect that includes Wi-Fi by Verizon with a six-month trial. For those long, fuel-efficient road trips, having Wi-Fi for multiple devises will keep the backseat passengers happy—and quiet.
A big thank you to Toyota for having volume and channel selection knobs, and large wheels to control the automatic climate control.
Safety and Convenience
The 2019 RAV4 Hybrid AWD comes with Toyota’s Star Safety System, plus active and passive safety features including eight air bags, a tire pressure monitoring system, collapsible steering column, anti-theft alarm and engine immobilizer, and a rear view camera.
Convenience features include exterior puddle lamps, rain-sensitive windshield wipers with deicing, Homelink, Qi-compatible wireless smartphone charging and power exterior mirrors.
Pricing and Warranties
The 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid AWD comes in three trim levels, with these base prices.
Clean Fleet Report’s RAV4 Hybrid AWD XSE had a base MSRP of $33,700 and options of $2,535 for a total of $36,535. Pricing excludes the $1,045 delivery and processing fee. The 2019 RAV4 Hybrid comes with these warranties:
- Hybrid Components Eight years/100,000 miles
- Powertrain Five years/60,000 miles
- Basic Three years/36,000 miles
- Maintenance Plan Two years/25,000 miles
- Anti-perforation Five years/Unlimited miles
- Roadside Assistance Two years/25,000 miles
Observations: 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid AWD XSE
Built in Canada, the all-new 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid checks off many boxes on a must-have list when looking at a compact crossover:
- Economy: check
- Style: check
- Seating for five adults: check
- Toyota quality: check.
There are more, but the best way to see if the 2019 RAV4 Hybrid fits your lifestyle is to visit your Toyota dealer. Make an appointment with one of their factory-trained hybrid specialists and take the RAV4 Hybrid Hybrid out for a lengthy test drive.
So, what do you do when you have the best-selling SUV, in America? How about making it better: check.
Whatever you end up buying, Happy Driving!
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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