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All-new Toyota RAV4 to Remain Toyota’s Top Seller?

What better place to experience Toyota’s all-new RAV4 than in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California?  Staging out of the Carmel Valley Ranch, Toyota gave journalists and analysts the chance to drive the all-new RAV4.  As Toyota’s top-seller in 2017 with about 400,000 units sold, Toyota cannot afford to make a mistake that would damage its sales potential.  The RAV4 started the XSUV (crossover SUV) category in 1996.  The 2019 version is the fifth generation of RAV4.

TNGA-K Platform:  From a product standpoint the all-new RAV4 is a significant upgrade to its predecessor.  Riding on Toyota’s new TNGA-K (Toyota New Global Architecture) platform, the RAV4 rides and handles very well.  The body is tight and the ride is quiet – at least in the top-of-the-line models we were driving.  The styling moves from milquetoast to bordering on bad ass like the most recent Tacoma pickup.  Toyota’s designers paid special attention to outward visibility to give the sense of confidence and spaciousness.  Maybe the rearward visibility could be better, but that is a minor niggle.  The all-new RAV4 rides on a longer wheelbase and the interior benefits by having more passenger and cargo room.  Ingress/egress is easy and ergonomics are top-notch.

Good Ergonomics:  With the battle of the center stack so critical to all manufacturers these days, Toyota has done a good job making the displays bright and crisp and easy to understand and use.  Driving off in an Adventure model, the heated steering wheel was on.  Couldn’t figure out hot to turn it off until one of the car wranglers helping with the event pointed out it was next to the steering column by your left knee completely out of sight.  Funny, one of the first images of the cockpit I took clearly shows the button.  Just can’t see it from the driver’s seat. The RAV4 comes with Apple CarPlay standard, but Android Auto is not available.

Off-Road Capable:  While it is an XSUV (crossover SUV), the all-new RAV4 isn’t a less capable soft-roader like some of its competition.  It is competent on road and off-road.  As crossover SUVs have taken the market by storm over the past several years, manufacturers are beefing up their off-road capability.  Most will never be driven aggressively off-road, but the new entries can take on moderate to challenging off-road tasks.  A product generation ago, an XSUV-maker would always avoid anything more challenging than a smooth logging road to demonstrate all wheel drive.  Now they are stepping up the demonstrations of XSUV capabilities.  These recent off-road courses are not Jeep Rubicon-ready type of runs, but they do put the vehicles through its off-road paces.  Toyota laid out a nicely challenging off-road course on the Carmel Valley Ranch property and the RAV4 ate it up with little problem.

Powertrains:  There are two powertrains for the RAV4 – a 2.5L “Dynamic Force” 4-cylinder with  203-horsepower.  Paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission, this powertrain achieves 29mpg combined fuel economy.  A hybrid powertrain will be available in March 2019 with 213-horsepower achieving 39mpg combined.  The hybrid has a CVT transmission.  RAV4 is standard with front wheel drive, but torque-vectoring all wheel drive is available on the gasoline models.  The hybrid all wheel drive system uses a separate rear-mounted electric motor to drive ist rear wheels.  The hybrid model is priced $2,200 higher than the gasoline model in comparable trim levels.  So, at today’s fuel prices, it would take almost 75,000 miles for the hybrid to pay off financially.

Fully Featured:  RAV4 is an econo-box XSUV no more.  Now you can get practically every driver assist feature and comfort and convenience feature available on the all-new RAV4.  While the RAV4 comes standard with Toyota’s Safety Sense suite of features plus Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa connectivity, many more features can be added.  While we won’t go into those here, you begin with a base price RAV4 at $25,500 and can end up with a price of nearly $40,000!  Who woulda thunk?  Still, for what you get it does not seem outrageous.

RAV4 versus Competition:  The big dogs in this competition are the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue and Ford Escape.   CR-V and Rogue are also their brand’s top sellers.  RAV4 competes very well from a product and price standpoint with these competitors.  Escape is due for complete update in 2019 so expect the fight for supremacy to continue to be vicious.

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