The Toyota RAV4 will always have a special place in my heart, because it was my first-ever official review vehicle. Back then, in 2015, we were a family of five with a bun in the oven, so we could all just about squeeze into that vehicle for a trip to our OB/GYN in Downtown Atlanta.
Four years later, our family has grown by two, and the RAV4 has grown a bit as well, at least under the hood. The 2019 model still has the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, but now it delivers 203 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque versus the 2015 model’s 176 horses and 172 pound-feet.
You see a difference on the outside, too. The new RAV4 is an inch longer and an inch wider, and it sits almost two inches higher than previous RAV4s, but the clearance is also higher, so they haven’t expanded the cabin; they’ve just shifted it upward a tad.
The RAV4 cabin interior is roughly the same size as before, but they took an inch or so from the front head and leg room and shifted it to the back seat, which was a good move in my opinion. You’ve got plenty all around for four adults. There are three safety belts in the back for when you’re hauling kids.
You have larger wheel options with the 2019 RAV4, and those look good. The Limited AWD version we drove had 19-inch alloys, which look nice with the higher-riding SUV.
One criticism that fits nicely right here is that this new RAV4 has a tub-style floor, which means the driver is dropping their left foot really low to the ground while having to lift their right foot higher than normal to exit the vehicle. I’m not an engineer, but I think that was an unnecessary development. This week, I’m driving the 2020 Sienna minivan, which sits about as high, but it has the relatively low doorway clearance and makes for easier entering and exiting.
Performance-wise, this new RAV4 is a champ. Having just recently stepped out of the smaller C-HR, which felt slow, the RAV4 feels much quicker while just as nimble. We took it for a couple of laps around what we call our local race track, where we can push hard into corners and over hills while maintaining the speed limit, and we were impressed with this SUV. It handled better in sport mode than most sedans would do. All the while, you’re getting between 25 and 33 miles per gallon, which is decent.
The copy we reviewed was in the Limited trim level, plus it was packed with loads of optional technology, and I think this blurs the luxury line. I really don’t see how this vehicle is still a Toyota and not a Lexus.
One of my favorite bits of technology is the Bird’s Eye View Camera. When reversing, one half of the eight-inch display shows an animated top-down view of the RAV4, and cameras mounted around the vehicle work together to simulate, as the name suggests, a bird’s-eye view as if there’s one camera mounted on a 20-foot pole above you. It’s pretty incredible. On the other half of the display, you still get the now-standard back-up camera as well, so between the two views you’re getting a lot of good safety information.
Another great piece of technology on the RAV4 we reviewed, and one I’d like to see on more vehicles, is the forward camera view that activates when you’re parking and nosing up to a wall or other barrier object.
A kid-favorite feature is the optional glass roof. The screen pulls all the way back, and the front half pops up and slides back. If they were old enough to ride up front, they might also enjoy the vented seats. I did.
A basic new RAV4 will cost you about $25K. The one we tested was closer to $40K. If you’re brave enough to buy used, you can get a loaded 2015 model in most markets for well under $20K. Four-year-old RAV4s are just getting started, and if you buy them from a Toyota dealership, you’re likely getting it as a Toyota Certified Used Vehicle (TCUV). That means you’re covered head to toe for 12 months or 12,000 miles (whichever comes first), you get a free year of roadside assistance, and your powertrain is covered for the next seven years or until the odometer reaches 100,000 miles. Incidentally, Toyota offers this TCUV program on their vehicles up to six years old.
[Danny Harrison is a veteran journalist who cut his teeth in the newspaper industry in 1995. He is the public relations specialist for a bustling municipality just south of Atlanta, but he still enjoys writing news features and reviews in his personal time. He is an active member of the Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association. He and his wife have five children, all of whom fancy themselves to be automobile critics.]