By Nauman Farooq
The RAV4 nameplate has been around for 22 years, and is now one of the most popular vehicles currently available – in fact, it is the number one selling vehicle in North America, after the pickup truck segment.
The RAV4 has close ties to Canada, too, as Toyota’s manufacturing facility in Woodstock, Ontario has been manufacturing this model for a decade. Opened in 2008, TMMC Woodstock (Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada) employs about 4000 people, whom together with 800 robots, produce a RAV4 off the production line every 60 seconds. The factory runs two shifts, with a full work day being anywhere from 14 to 16 hours.
Count all the labour that goes into each RAV4, and the total build time per vehicle is actually about 18 hours. That is much more laborious than a usual mass produced vehicle (which typically takes between 10 to 12 hours), but Toyota says that the reason behind the extra time is due to the complexity of this vehicle, and the care TMMC puts in to build each vehicle.
I got to tour the TMMC facility in Woodstock, and was very impressed by the factory setup and efficiency of the operation. But what about the new, fifth generation model of the RAV4, what’s that like.
Well, the day Toyota invited me to tour their factory in Woodstock, I also got to drive the 2019 RAV4 – here’s what I think!
Styling: When it comes to RAV4 styling, I liked the first generation model, and nothing else that came after – until now. The 2019 RAV4 looks much more muscular than the outgoing model, and somewhat resembles a smaller 4Runner – which is a good thing. It has nicely sculpted lines, and is available in plenty of interesting colors, and can also be specced with a white roof on the new “Trail” trim.
For those who felt the RAV4 looked too soft, will probably like the new 2019 model – I think the styling will attract lots of buyers, even from competitor brands!
Interior: Step inside and you’d think you’ve gotten in a Lexus rather than a Toyota.
The design, layout, tech, quality, fit and finish is leagues ahead of any RAV4 that has come before, and also far better than most of their competition. Honestly, open the door on the 2019 RAV4 and you’ll just smile, it really is that nice.
Jump in, and the seats are wonderful –comfortable and supportive– and there is plenty of space for adults, front and back – with a good sized trunk; so it is functional, too.
As with most cars these days, the middle of the dashboard has a big infotainment system screen, which depending on trim, will either have a built in navigation system, or one that’ll need to be paired with your phone.
I personally really liked the look and feel of the interior, there are great design touches – such as the climate control knobs, and rubberized door grabs. I also liked that the two models I drove – Trail and Limited – has heated and cooled seats, and a heated steering wheel; this vehicle is built for the Canadian climate.
Powertrain: There will be two powertrain options for the 2019 RAV4, a gas-electric hybrid (which will go on sale around next spring, and will discuss at a later date in detail), and a regular gasoline engine model – which I got to test!
It has a 2.5L, four-cylinder engine that features double over head cams, and variable valve timing with electronically driven intake and exhaust cams. End result is the most powerful naturally aspirated four-cylinder motor found on any current SUV/CUV, pushing out 203 hp (@ 6,600 rpm) and 184 lb-ft of torque (@ 5,000 rpm). Power is routed to either just the front wheels (FWD LE and XLE trim), or all wheels (AWD LE, XLE, Trail, and Limited trim) via an eight-speed automatic transmission. The gear ratios on this transmission are so close, that it feels like a CVT, even though it isn’t one.
Driving Dynamics: As you’d expect, this is not a thrill machine! The RAV4 has never been an extreme type of SUV, its purpose in life has been that of being a soft, daily user friendly vehicle that people would use for school runs, trips to the grocery store, and the office.
It has never been a vehicle you’d go find the most challenging back roads with, or find some truly rugged terrain! The 2019 RAV4 is not much different, but thanks to its drive modes – which includes an off-road mode, and hill decent, it can handle the rough stuff better than most such SUVs, especially if you opt for the Trail trim.
If you feel like exercising all the 203 horses under the hood, than it’ll be best to engage ‘Sport’ mode, which holds each gear longer, but honestly, you’ll try that for 30 seconds, and switch to either the ‘Normal’ or ‘Eco’ setting.
Fuel Economy: In ‘Eco’ mode, you’ll achieve the best fuel economy figures! According to Toyota, the new RAV4 will achieve a city and highway average of 7.8 L/100 km for the FWD model, and 8.3 L/100 km for the AWD models. I didn’t get to conduct my own real-world fuel economy tests on the day I drove the 2019 RAV4, but will hopefully get to do that at a later date.
Pricing: Base price for the 2019 RAV4 is $27,990 (FWD LE) and the top of the line (AWD Limited) model will set you back $40,690. Compared to the 2018 model RAV4, the 2019 model is more expensive, but it gives more in terms of equipment, too.
Verdict: The 2019 Toyota RAV4 has matured into a very nice vehicle. It looks better than before, the interior seems to be lifted out of a much more expensive luxury vehicle, and on the road it is smooth and quiet. Couple that with adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and all the other clever features that are part of the ‘Toyota Safety Sense 2.0’ system, and you’ve got a vehicle that is easy to drive, and easy to live with on a daily basis. While it is not a thrill machine, it will do your everyday chores with ease.
Like all Toyota products, it is also built very well, which means that it’ll last for a very long time; plus you can take pride that it is built by a hard working local team from TMMC in Woodstock, Ontario – which alone is a great reason for considering the new RAV4.