P2,188,000. If that amount of money sounds a lot for a five-seat compact crossover, then, by all means, turn around, close this window, and walk away from this review. The range-topping 2019 RAV4 LTD isn’t the car that you’re looking for.
The RAV4 has a reputation that precedes its name. When asked about what they know about the Toyota crossover, a lot of my non-motoring media friends drop a common conclusion that it’s pricey, impractical, and a gas guzzler. But more importantly, they all agree that it’s a resounding status symbol of the youth of the ‘90s. Owning a RAV4 in that era was as cool as having a portable CD player or a mobile phone in 1996.
For those who stayed, read along to know more about the all-new Toyota RAV4 – the fifth-generation of its name and, dare I say it, the best RAV4 yet. Yes, even if it isn’t running on all fours.
I received the 2019 RAV4 media unit at night and even without proper lighting, there’s one thing that instantly popped out of my head: I may have adored the previous generation RAV4 too much. The new Cyan Metallic color supersedes the youthful glow of its predecessor, plus the integration of Toyota’s new design language into the crossover’s face definitely works in my book. The LED daytime running lights add extra appeal to the tough-looking fascia. In short, the all-new RAV4 looks way better than before.
While the front is downright good-looking, the rear-end isn’t as zealous. Don’t get me wrong, I like it, but I just feel like the macho aura is a bit unmatched by the angular rear. But then again, LED taillights, satin chrome finished accents, and twin silver exhaust finishers, combined with the black panoramic moonroof, 18-inch aluminum wheels, and piano black dividers by the A and C pillars – what’s not to love? The only setback is that a two-tone variant isn’t available locally.
With the RAV4 growing its wheelbase length by more than one inch, it’s now closer to the size of the Fortuner midsize SUV, which, by the way, has the same width. You can just imagine the amount of interior space inside the RAV4.
As the range-topper, the RAV4 LTD gets all the goodies you could think of in a Toyota. It has an 8-way power-adjustable driver seat with lumbar support, soft leather seats and door trims, and the aforementioned panoramic moonroof that extends up to the reclinable second-row backrests. The quality of the materials used is top-notch, almost crossing the boundaries of Lexus premium vehicles.
Since the RAV4 is a five-seater, you could expect plenty of room inside its cabin. Doors have a wide aperture for easy ingress and egress. Three six-footers would be able to sit comfortably in the second row without any qualms (it has rear A/C vents), while the cargo area is ample enough to accommodate a child stroller, several duffle bags, and few more spots for groceries. With its rear backrests folded almost flat to the floor and flat lip, the cargo area opens up for virtually any kind of cargo.
The commendable interior space is partnered with sensible storage spaces for all occupants, especially the lit, rubber-padded cubbyholes at the left side of the driver and in front of the shotgun passenger. The latter allows storage of up to three gadgets.
Ride comfort in paved thoroughfares is as pleasant as when in imperfect roads, but it leans towards borderline sporty, which is a good thing. NVH insulation can be greatly improved, though, as road, engine, and wind noises start creeping in as early as 60 to 70 km/h. The sun visors are also ridiculously small, which could be a problem if you sit low and you’re driving towards the sun.
The 2019 RAV4 somehow makes up for its hefty price tag with its tech offering. It has a keyless entry system, push start ignition, automatic windows on all fours, dual-zone air conditioning that works, and speed-sensing door locks. In addition, the power-adjustable driver seat has two memory slots. My personal favorite would be the brake hold function that’s partnered with the electronic parking brakes. It’s such a bliss to use in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
The LTD exclusively gets a wireless charging pad in front of the gear lever, which is bigger than what my iPhone XS Max requires. It just needs a little refinement, though, as a little bump on the road would disrupt the charging. Nevertheless, wireless charging totally makes sense in the RAV4 as the touchscreen infotainment does’t have Apple CarPlay, so optimal smartphone pairing would be via Bluetooth. Handsfree calls are clear and the six-speaker setup sounds decent, but not the best.
With all these things intact inside the RAV4, there are a few things that I wish was available in the range-topping LTD. Toyota could have added adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist systems, especially when you factor in the price tag and what its greatest rival, the Honda CR-V, could offer. Also, the range-topper has front-seat heaters, which aren’t really necessary in a tropical country like the Philippines.
As a Toyota, the RAV4 has been given abundant safety and security features that are standard in its range. Seven airbags are available in the cabin, while hill climb assist, seatbelt reminders, ABS with EBD, and tire pressure monitors complete the list.
The higher LTD and XLE variants get a reverse parking camera and an eight-eye proximity sensor system. At its price, though, the RAV4 doesn’t have forward collision mitigation and blind spot monitors – features that are present in other nameplates in the compact crossover segment.
Driving & Handling
Under the RAV4’s hood resides a 2.5-Liter naturally-aspirated Dual VVT-i DOHC gasoline engine that sends 203 horsepower and 243 Nm of torque to the front wheels, and that’s standard throughout the lineup. So yes, there’s no all-wheel-variant of the RAV4 this time around, which is the very thing that literally defines the small ute’s name. There’s a good reason for this: Per Toyota, less than 1% of the RAV4’s buyers opt for the AWD variant. Well, with simple economics of supply versus demand, it does make sense to not sell the AWD variant in the Philippines.
Beyond the absence of an AWD RAV4, the crossover fared well with its average driving dynamics. The engine was totally okay for the most part. It wasn’t tiresome to drive in traffic, while fast-paced stints on the highway didn’t leave me wanting. What needed improvement, however, was the eight-speed transmission. Upshifts and downshifts slack a bit; there’s a noticeable delay in acknowledging accelerator inputs, even when in Sport mode. Opening up the throttle would need a second for the engine to breathe and deliver, but once it did, it went without qualms.
The RAV’s saving grace would be its handling. It’s stable and composed on the highway, while a few bits on winding roads wasn’t a hard task either, albeit, body roll was felt especially at speeds. Driving visibility wasn’t impeded even when driving at the lowest seating position. For its size, it felt nimble and fun to drive.
Remember what I’ve said about the RAV4’s reputation as a gas guzzler? That’s a thing of the past now as the car registered impressive fuel efficiency numbers during my test runs. An hour in heavy city traffic read 8.6 km/L, while faster paces at around 60 km/h recorded 13.5 km/L. Flat highway drives with the cruise control nailed at 90 km/h clocked in 20.5 km/L. These are stellar numbers by RAV4 standard, mind you.
Price is still the RAV4’s curse even with its heavy artillery on tech features. At P2,188,000 for the LTD range-topper, its Honda rival has inched the Toyota crossover in one way or another, while still being more affordable by tens of thousands of pesos and running on the highly-coveted diesel. Although, you can opt for the lower LE variant for an almost P500,000 price cut. That, of course, will mean fewer toys and niceties inside the cabin.
But then again, I wouldn’t blame anyone who’s going to buy one soon because really, a RAV4 is a RAV4. With its slew of tech offerings, good driving dynamics, superior exterior design, and (thankfully) newfound fuel-efficiency, the Toyota RAV4 is a solid vehicle choice for those who can afford it – and that’s what being a status symbol is all about.