First Drive: 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Mainstay of brand's line-up only getting better with age.

by on Nov.20, 2018

The 2019 Toyota RAV4 will be offered in a variety of versions, including the new Hybrid.

The Toyota RAV4 has been around for more than two decades but its recent performance has been nothing short of spectacular as its sales have doubled in the past five years, which is most impressive for a vehicle in various iterations has been around for more than 20 years.

However, the competition is intense. Toyota’s market share it can rightfully claim it created in the segment is under siege from rivals from North America, Europe and Asia.

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But Toyota isn’t sitting still either. With the 2019 RAV4, it is substantially changing the character of compact utility vehicle with more power, a new exterior look and an impressive hybrid version that Toyota expects to account for significant sales volume that is quite likely to surpass that of the Prius.

The 2019 RAV4 Hybrid delivers more power and comes with all-wheel-drive. It also has a spacious interior that isn’t compromised by the nickel-metal hydride battery pack and all-new suspension layout that gives the vehicle a more pleasing ride and more sensitive handling.

(Toyota plugs in for performance with new RAV4. Click Here for the story.)

The new RAV4 hybrid is expected to comprise 25% of all sales, up from 11% with the prior generation..

In fact, I found the 2019 RAV4 Hybrid with the revised suspension easily managed various kinds of pavement and the narrow roads, hills and curves found along the coast of Central California without the slightest sign of hesitation.

The solid suspension and surprisingly nimble driving dynamics are matched by responsive steering and excellent stopping power, which is enhanced by the regenerative braking. In addition, for the very first time ever, according to Toyota representatives, one of the company’s hybrids has been equipped with a setting calibrated for driving on rocky, rutted off-road trails.

Toyota has offered hybrid versions of the RAV4 in years past but with only modest success.

The 2019 RAV4 Hybrid, though, represents a major league improvement over the previous hybrid versions of the RAV4, which always seemed to be an afterthought.

Equipped with the hybrid powertrain, the RAV4’s 219 horsepower output is available quickly. Since the RAV4 Hybrid XLE I drove weighed only 3,755 pounds, the power-to-weight ratio meant it moved out in traffic from a standing start quite swiftly. In contrast to earlier versions of the of Toyota hybrids system the 2019 RAV4 Hybrid delivers its power smoothly without the hesitation that seemed to have been a constant feature of the automaker’s hybrid technology going all the way back to the 1990s.

The 2019 model migrates to a new 2.5-liter inline-four for both conventional and hybrid models.

In the 2019 RAV4 Hybrid, the 2.5-liter engine and the Toyota Hybrid System II are teamed with an electronically-controlled continuously-variable transmission that smooths out the shift points even the RAV4 is climbing or descending a hill.

The gasoline engine the RAV4 Hybrid is also quite sophisticated combining direct and secondary port injectors, high-speed combustion, intelligent variable valve-timing and ultra-low internal friction yield a maximum thermal efficiency to deliver both power and fuel efficiency, which come in at 41 miles per gallon in the city, 37 mpg on the highway for a combined rating of 37 mpg, making it a good prospect for long-distance commuters.

(Click Here to find out if the RAV4 remake could be Toyota’s biggest intro in years.)

The off-road feature seems to change the character 2019 RAV4 Hybrid giving it more confidence and even a bit of SUV swagger that should help increase the vehicle’s overall appeal. In fact, Toyota’s designers have equipped the 2019 RAV4 Hybrid with a grille that is adapted from Toyota’s sporty trucks such as the sporty Tacoma to highlight its improved off-road capability.

Besides the more rugged front fascia with integrated grille shutters, the exterior of the RAV4 Hybrid is sleeker and smoother, giving the vehicle a more contemporary appearance. The 17-inch wheel and LED headlamps and running lights complete the contemporary look.

No more "soft-roader," the 2019 Toyota RAV4 can handle a reasonable bit of off-roading.

On the inside, the RAV4 Hybrid is more spacious thanks to 105.9-inch wheel base and the additional shoulder and head room.  A moon roof is optional on the hybrid.

The 2019 RAV4 Hybrid also is updated with new technology.

Every RAV4 Hybrid is equipped with the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which includes a suite of driver assistance features such pre-collision warning with pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection, lane departure alert with steering assist and road edge detection, automatic high beams, full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control and road sign assist capable of reading speed limit signs and lane tracing assist, Star Safety System – includes Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control and Traction Control.

There is also smart stop technology, eight airbags – including driver and driver knee airbag; front passenger seat cushion airbag; and front and rear side curtain airbags

In addition, to smart key, power windows and map lights every 2019 RAV4 model is equipped with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant capability and Entune 3.0 Audio, a comprehensive system that includes six speakers, 7-inch touch screen, AM/FM, Scout GPS Link Compatible. Siri Eyes Free, Apple CarPlay Compatible, auxiliary port, USB media, hands-free phone capability, advanced voice recognition and music streaming via Bluetooth.

In addition, Toyota Connected Services available on the RAV4 Hybrid include Safety Connect.

The new RAV4 shares the same "TNGA" platform as the latest Prius and next-gen Corolla.

Toyota also has made a point of bringing the price of the hybrid down to the point where it will cost about $800 more than the comparable RAV4 with a gasoline engine, making the hybrids fuel-economy more attractive, I am sure, for certain buyers. For example, the RAV4 XLE with a gasoline engines costs $28,700, compared with the $29,700 for the hybrid version. The destination charge for each vehicle is $1,045.

(Is Toyota next to start paring back its passenger car line-up? Click Here for more.)

In the past, the RAV4 Hybrid was easy to overlook, but the 2019 RAV4 Hybrid promises to be very hard to miss.

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