Since it debuted in 1996, the RAV4 has stood the test of time delivering a civilized and enjoyable ride. Of course, never to rest on its laurels, Toyota has totally overhauled its best-selling vehicle in the United States for 2019.
Under the hood of the compact SUV resides a 2.5-liter inline-4-cylinder engine that doles out an adequate 203 horsepower. That 6-speed auto gear box, a mainstay for all these years? It is history and now replaced by an 8-speed for even, seamless shifts and substantial fuel savings.
The independent MacPherson strut front and double-wishbone rear suspension does a particularly good job of soaking bumps and potholes with skill and sure-footedness in this front-wheel or all-wheel-drive ride.
Also, the good ole column-mounted steering is now a thing of the past and has been swapped with a rack-mounted system. This makes it almost effortless to steer the vehicle at higher speeds or pull confidently into a spot in the parking lot at your grocery store. In short, you get a firm on-center feel.
Though no speed demon by any means, brakes are potent, fade-resistant and have a strong, assuring pedal touch. Want to save on gas? Well, switch on to eco from normal mode. And, look for a RAV4 hybrid (219 hp) in March, we are told.
Sporting a rakish, brawnier stance with a low roofline, the bold fascia shows off multi-LED headlights with chrome bezels and LED daytime running lights. Essentially, wheelbase sees an uptick translating into more head, leg and shoulder room.
It’s not just top-notch, but also a well thought-out and elegant cabin with fine materials and craftsmanship. Take for example the touches of brushed metallic silver finish as you slide behind the three-spoke leather tilt/telescopic steering wheel.
And, there is ample space for the tots, as well as sufficient freedom for the 6-footers, too. Fold the 60/40-split second row seat down and you get substantial cargo space. The six-way adjustable driver and four-way front passenger seats are comfortable and supportive.
We counted eight total cup/bottle holders, open bin atop the glove box, a sizeable center console, and more for storage. It is optional, but if you like airiness in a ride, go for the panoramic sunroof, a first for the RAV4.
Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag and driver knee airbag are standard along with side-impact door beams, four-wheel antilock brakes, electronic brake distribution and brake assist, vehicle stability and traction control, and rearview camera. Also included at no cost is Toyota Safety Sense 2.0.
If you need to seat five in comfort in a roomy and safe vehicle, equipped with a responsive power train, the RAV4 should be at the top of your list. Offered in LE, Adventure (this one’s for all you off-roaders who truly like to go places!), XLE, XLE Premium and Limited trims, the hot-seller is priced just right.
Besides, the superb ride comes with Toyota’s solid reputation for reliability and durability.
RAV4 (XLE PREMIUM)
Wheelbase: 105.9 inches
Length: 180.9 inches
Height: 67 inches
Width: 73 inches
Fuel capacity: 14.5 gallons
City: 26 mpg
Highway: 30 mpg
Weight: 3,380 pounds
Base price: $29,500
Web site: WesleyChapelToyota.com
Test drive the RAV4 and all other Toyota models at Wesley Chapel Toyota, 5300 Eagleston Blvd., Wesley Chapel. For more information, call the dealership at (813) 973-8888.
Published December 19, 2018