Toyota RAV4 from the back seat.

Our first memory of the RAV4 was from the back seat. This is obviously not what you believe. We’re between 8 and 12 years old and the mother of our best friends took us regularly at school aboard her RAV4 XA10 1999. The Toyota RAV4 was for us a kind of mum’s small city 4×4 ideal for south of France. In fact, it was compact and fun, the pure DNA of a little adventurer.

Has it really changed? What does he really got in the gut? Can we have fun aboard a hybrid car? Is it a SUV? Good frightening questions pressing societal issues.

Today, we take off for Barcelona in Spain to test drive the all-new 2019 RAV4. At this point you’re probably wondering what made us go there to try the two things that you hate the most in the world: a SUV and a hybrid car?

Curiosity.

Is the Toyota RAV4 a gentrified 4×4 or a wild SUV?

From the outside, the new Toyota RAV4 has character, no one can deny it, even the most stubborn Petrolhead. Its minimalist stretched headlights give it an aggressive look. With his wide, angular grille, roof lines, it looks very angry (for a SUV).

When you get near the back of the car, you notice protruding taillights. We can find a clear Volvo XC40 inspiration for the rear and a Ford Edge for the front, and it’s not a fault at all.

From the rear, it seems compact and stocky. The taut lines make it serious, maybe too conventional for a 2019 SUV. Note the integration of an aluminum line that highlights the rear-lights even more and rise above them in the manner of a spoiler. We believe to find the same kind of drawing on the new Supra presented a few weeks ago. A wink that we obviously appreciate.

The hood is long and wide as on an old 4×4. The overall line is harmonious, although it’s very square which probably makes it bigger than it is. Also, we notice beautiful chrome handles, you know that we love well designed handles.

Finally, tuning moment, let’s talk about the rims. Unfortunately they look like Prius wheels and that’s not a compliment. They have just been “SUVified”. Moreover, they seem rather small at first sight, because of the shape and large wheel arches (while they are still 18 inches). Yes the new RAV4 inherits the technology developed for the Prius but why with a design so wild it has rims so bland and not expressive? Designers from Toyota, let go, indulge yourself! And as the French TV ad says “when you dare, dare”.

On the other hand, tires are large and thick, and it’s pretty cool to see real 4×4 tires on a SUV. I’m now wondering, if we got a SUV or a modern 4×4…

2019 Toyota RAV4 : new City King

We went to MontSerrat with Jalil Chaouite from ABC Moteur to try the two-wheel drive version of this new Toyota.

We start and … nothing happens. Always disconcerting not to hear a big engine roar by pressing Start. We’re not used to this. So we start in electric mode in an absolute silence. In town, the two electric motors placed on the front axles drive the car. I obviously understand the interest of technology for short and medium journeys between downtown and peri-urban area. Yeah I’m a typical young European father.

I also notice an incredible turning angle, which makes this small SUV (4.59 m x 1.85 m x 1.7 m) a king of the city. In the middle of the city center, one feels neither its size nor its weight.

Suddenly, I look up at the central mirror and I discover a screen!!

After a few kilometers, the verdict arrived. Firstly, it is very difficult to appreciate the distances with this kind of device. Secondly I noticed that with a fairly present light, even after adjusting the brightness, the glass without the screen’s dye displays both the image of the camera and reflects the image of the mirror. We deal with two images superimposed on a scale and a different angle, as if I see double. So we disabled the device to find a good old mirror.

I think that’s the kind of innovation which could be very useful if the trunk is loaded to the max and the luggage is hiding the rear window, otherwise a classic rearview mirror is much more useful and less tricky. If I could decide I would be focus on the weight: eliminate any unnecessary.

Would all the wild exterior elements of this Toyota RAV4 have tricked us?

On highways and motorways, the RAV4 2WD is flexible, very flexible.

In the curves supported one feels waves that cross the car. Steering wheel comfort is also very flexible and gives very few information, like a real small SUV. The CVT automatic gearbox is for once pretty pleasant, progressive and smooth.

We also noticed air noises at high speed. Aerodynamic mirrors? Glass seals? Excellent question.

Finally, the suspensions seemed very comfortable on big obstacles and terribly stiff on small irregularities … like a real 4×4. Maybe this is the car we tried and not all the 2WD cars.

On board this new RAV4, Toyota is sober, as usual. Edges are highlighted with aluminum like plastics and that’s fancy. Only door handles and air conditioning knobs are more original with rubber like “watch strap” covers. Touch it, it grips well and it’s all sweet. It’s much more pleasant than all the hard plastics we used to see and hate.

A good opportunity to turn off the air conditioning, open the windows and go on stone paths near Barcelona. Off-road time!

All-wheel drive corrects almost everything: Prince of the Forest

Law of the series or not, the 4WD version that we tried seems to have increased serenity feeling. The extra electric motor in the back adds weight to the car and for once it’s beneficial. More stable, more playful and better balanced, we appreciate the torque of the hybrid engine and its rather effective.

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As many hybrid cars today, the sound is surprising. It’s completely the opposite of the Dodge Ram 1500 we tested recently. Petrol engine are turned off and suddenly on at pretty high rpm, it don’t give you any warning, specially when you press harder on the gas. In sport mode (yes there is a sport mode hehe), 2.5L gasoline engine is more in the game, which also makes it more fun for off-road.

From the first hump, we laugh out loud. Not because the car is ridiculous, the opposite: we had just realized that we could laugh aboard this RAV4. From a wise little student of the city, he became a fearless adventurer! The front axle is still a bit blurry but the effect fades off-road. We then kept going with bumps at a shamefully high speed without any problem except being a little heckled by the suspensions (which is totally normal). Smile on my face, I realize that the suspensions were formidable on this ground.

Sliding from turn to corner with only 222cv, gravel descents and muddy passages are enjoyable. I think Toyota has finally released the RAV4 from its cage!

Too bad the ground clearance is so low, with wheel arches so wide, the RAV4 2019 4WD could have been an excellent off-roader. It is still a perfect all-road car even if I’m sure that customers will unfortunately dare not to venture far from the mall.

#FunToDrive score :  62/100

New Toyota RAV4 4WD is a surprising car. At home in town and in the woods, you can easily drive kids at school and go to the mountain for fishing all the day. It’s a playful and balanced car with an amazing turning angle and a terrific adventurer look. I would even go so far as to say the Toyota RAV4 all-wheel drive is fun to drive, but only off-road. Well, the only problem for the RAV4 is highway and country section to go out into the wilderness. In this case, you see all its faults as weight, blurry front axle and noisy hybrid engine, a bit like an oldschool RAV4 XA10 at the time.

#MakeDailyCarWildAgain and Keep it #FunToDrive.

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SUV and Hybrid: the Toyota RAV4 is all you hate... and yet!

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