The RAV4 arrived in the US in the mid-1990s, as one of the pioneers among compact SUVs. In the ensuing two decades, the RAV4 has grown steadily larger and more capable. A fifth-generation RAV4, based on Toyota's versatile TNGA platform, was introduced in 2019. Toyota offers the RAV4 in five models, plus four Hybrid versions. The base RAV4 LE starts at $25,850 and ranges up to the $36,630 Limited Hybrid. Other models in the lineup include the XLE ($27,145), XLE Premium ($29,850), Adventure ($32,955), XSE Hybrid ($34,050) and TRD Off-Road ($35,180). Note that the base prices referenced are for 2020 model year vehicles.
We tested a 2019 RAV4 Limited AWD, but the prices shown are for an equivalent model year 2020 vehicle. The RAV4 Limited MSRP is $35,780, but our test vehicle also had the Advanced Technology Package, Cold Weather Package, and Dual Panoramic Moonroof (combined total: $2,240), body side moldings ($209), and carpet mat package ($269). The total MSRP including the delivery fee ($1,120) added up to $39,618.
As the top RAV4 model, the Limited is loaded with standard equipment such as LED headlights, fog lights, power liftgate (foot activated), bird's eye view camera (360 deg. surround), 8-way power driver's seat, heated/ventilated front and heated rear seats, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, 8.0 in. touchscreen display, JBL 11-speaker audio system, navigation, Apple CarPlay, and Qi wireless smartphone charging. Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) active safety technologies include pre-collision pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, dynamic radar cruise control, vehicle stability control, ABS, and blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert.
A new 2.5L inline-4 powers the RAV4 via an 8-speed automatic. The all-aluminum inline-4 has dual overhead cams, variable valve timing (VVT-iE and VVT-i), direct and port fuel injection. All this technology yields an impressive 203-hp @ 6,600 RPM and 184 lb.-ft. @ 5,000 RPM, a substantial 27-hp and 8 lb.-ft. increase over the 2.5L engine in the previous RAV4. Taking advantage of the eight available ratios from the automatic, first gear is an exceptionally short 5.250:1, while overdrive ratios in seventh (0.808:1) and eighth (0.673:1) gears are optimized for fuel efficiency. A 3.177:1 final drive ratio sends power to all four wheels. The EPA fuel consumption estimates are 25/33 MPG (city/hwy.) for the AWD Limited. Opting for a front-wheel drive RAV4 improves the EPA estimates to 26/35 MPG (city/hwy.). We averaged 26 MPG in mixed urban and highway driving in the tested AWD RAV4 Limited.
The AWD system usually drives the front wheels, or all four wheels on demand with up to 50% torque sent to the rear axle. The electronically-controlled AWD system disconnects the rear axle for reduced fuel consumption when maximum traction is not required. The AWD uses torque vectoring to individually direct power to each wheel.
An all-independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts and stabilizer bar in front, and a wishbone-type multi-link layout with coil springs, dampers and stabilizer bar. The electric power-assist rack-and-pinion steering system is geared for 2.65 turns lock-to-lock. Brakes are all-disc with 12.0 in. dia. front rotors and 11.1 in. dia. rear rotors. All models except the RAV4 LE are equipped with aluminum alloy wheels: 17 in. or 19 in. diameter. The Limited gets the larger wheels shod with P235/55R19 all-season Yokohama Avid GT tires. Curb weight ranges from 3,370 lbs. (LE FWD) to 3,620 lbs. (Limited AWD). Although the 2019 RAV4 Limited is longer and wider than the previous model, curb weight is actually 10 lbs. lower. Towing capacity is restricted to only 1,500 lbs., except the RAV4 Adventure which is rated at 3,500 lbs.
Along with the new vehicle platform, the RAV4 also gets a redesigned interior. The instrument cluster consists of a backlit LCD central speedometer, flanked by a tachometer to the left; smaller fuel level and coolant temperatures gauges are on the right. Integrated within the leather-wrapped steering wheel are buttons for audio, phone, cruise control, and lane departure warning. An 8-in. touchscreen display sit prominently upright on the dashboard. Toyota wisely added knobs for audio volume and tuning, along with buttons for other frequently used functions. The climate controls use large knobs for temperature adjustments and smaller buttons for other settings. On the center console is a multi-mode knob to switch between Eco, Normal, Sport and Snow; additional terrain settings for mud, rock and descent control are available.
The Softex (synthetic leather) front seats offer excellent comfort, but not much lateral support. Front headroom is adequate for occupants up to 5'-10"; the optional sunroof cuts almost 2" from available headroom. Rear seat headroom is identical to the front seats. Ample rear legroom coupled with excellent seat comfort are sure to please back seat passengers. However, the center rear position is only suitable for short trips due to the rigid seatback.
Toyota chassis engineers prioritized a comfortable ride but optimized damping for excellent body control. The wider track and longer wheelbase of the new platform contribute to a calmer ride than the previous RAV4, but the attention to spring and damper settings are likely the most significant factors. The chassis is tuned for moderate understeer and body roll, similar to other compact SUVs in its class. Steering turn-in response feels delayed as the chassis settles in going around a curve or highway onramp. Decent steering feel and moderate assist provide reassuring stability on the highway. Excellent chassis tuning ensures superb stability at 80 MPH, even over patched road surfaces and potholes, all of which the RAV4 handles with ease.
The increased power and torque from the new engine, coupled with the wide ratio 8-speed automatic moves the RAV4 with decent acceleration from a stop. Midrange passing performance is also impressive, as the extra horsepower is harnessed effectively by the smooth-shifting transmission. At full throttle, we noticed that the 2.5L gets noisy like large displacement inline fours. Since the AWD system transfer torque to the rear axle automatically, torque steer was nonexistent. Braking performance from the all-disc system is reassuring, with a progressive actuation but slightly spongy pedal feel.
Toyota's redesign of the RAV4 has certainly been successful, as it is currently the best-selling model in the lineup by a wide margin over the popular Camry. Owners of the previous generation RAV4 will likely find this RAV4 superior in nearly every objective criteria. The RAV4 Limited equipped similarly to our test vehicle approaches $40K, close to some German compact SUVs. We think the RAV4 in the more affordable XLE or XLE Premium trim are a better value for most RAV4 customers.