The very first RAV4 made its way to consumers more than two decades ago, combining SUV capabilities with passenger-car handling, fuel economy and drivability. Today’s all-new 5th-generation RAV4 doesn’t fall far from its ancestral tree.
That combination has proved to be a winning mix over 22 years, putting Toyota’s RAV4 at the top of the market segment, both in Canada and in North America as a whole, with 1,900 units sold every day in Canada and the US.
Despite being the top-selling non-pickup in North America, with more than 50,000 sales in Canada alone for 2017, Toyota decided to break the RAV4 mould and build something different, while keeping many of its consumer-approved features.
As it has been since the plant’s opening in 2008, the past-generation RAV4 was built in Ontario, at the Woodstock Toyota Motor Manufacturing Plant, with the Corolla built just down the road in Cambridge. Recently, the Woodstock plant began production of the new RAV4 – turning the plant over in just 4 days to set up the production line for this new model, while Cambridge is being converted to produce RAV4s as well.
Given that the new model is based on the common Toyota “K” platform, the switch was a relatively easy one. With several common components and parts, Toyota was able to keep many of their components the same, maintaining a positive relationship with suppliers during the shift.
The Corolla plant just down the road will come on board producing the new RAV4 in early February of 2019.
At first glance, the 2019 Toyota RAV4 looks radically different – yet look at it from the front, and the familiarity sets in, with features similar to the compact Tacoma pickup. The front grille design was actually inspired by Tacoma’s, which also led to a noticeable increase in road/ground clearance.
So, if it looks like a truck and it stands like a truck, it must be a truck, right? Toyota’s engineers were able to harness the feeling of riding tall-er. And with the introduction of a Trail model/version, it may also behave like a truck, should you choose to do some light off-roading. The increased ground clearance, Hill Start Assist, Downhill Assist Control and Multi-Terrain Select (dial) all contribute to truck-like behaviours. And its 1,588-kg towing capacity doesn’t hurt it either.
So, the 2019 RAV4 has many features of Toyota’s truck line-up, both inside and outside, but what else does it do for us? Math. Well, geometry, specifically.
The RAV4’s 3-dimensional geometric shapes, including two octagons that intersect at a 90-degree angle in the front and its body panels that appear chiselled along each side, create a look of enhanced utility and athleticism – and bring the vehicle away from the soft curvy shapes of past RAV4s.
That grille we mentioned earlier takes on a trapezoidal shape that conveys a stable stance, while its forward lean, away from the body, makes the vehicle look and feel wider as well.
The narrow, long headlights add further dimension with their polygonal shape, and the Bi-LED parabola headlamps (standard on RAV4 gasoline models) add sharpness with their line-illumination to the front of the vehicle.
Moving to the rear of the RAV4, it is much like a mirror of the front. in that trapezoids shape the license plate panel and work their way out to the rear lights and down into the rear bumper and tire area, meeting the chiseled body panels along the sides that we spoke of earlier. All these changes to RAV4’s outer shell emphasize a new character and move the brand away from the utilitarian boxy shapes of past generations.
Interior and under the skin
Inside, there are noticeable differences, and there are some hidden improvements from past versions, as well. The first noticeable change is in the hard surfaces of the instrument panel. The hard plastics of previous generations have been replaced by Soft Touch Monofoam and machine-sewn stitching.
Under the skin, on the integrated body/frame, Toyota has introduced stiffer, more ridged high-strength steel in the main cabin/roll-cage area. To reduce added weight from doing so, the RAV4 incorporates aluminum hood, hatch and fenders. Not only does Toyota weld those components together, they are also fixed by a structural adhesive – glue – as a type of body bonder.
With improved comforts inside – a comfortable cabin, soft touch IP, Apple CarPlay and Toyota’s award-winning safety features coming standard on all models – the RAV4 offers most of what a typical customer wants in a vehicle. It’s smart, it’s safe, and it provides many options for customization.
Despite all the changes and improvements, Toyota exhibits a continued commitment to improving fuel efficiency, improving emissions ratings, and to reducing its carbon footprint. And keeping production here in (Ontario) Canada, is a big plus for our economy, as well.