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2019 Toyota RAV4 Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 8.0

The redesigned 2019 Toyota RAV4 is more powerful than the previous generation, and it's a great daily driver. It's not the sportiest SUV in the class, but the RAV4 delivers decent power and acceleration, though the engine can be too loud at times. This Toyota rides smoothly, handles with composure, and does OK in light off-road situations. It also gets some of the highest fuel economy ratings in the class.

  • Being naturally aspirated, the four-cylinder engine delivers predictable and deliberate power across its rev range, with no hesitation and great in-gear passing performance. … Actual acceleration is about on par with rival crossovers: plenty to bomb past slow-moving traffic or hustle up a hill. Most of the time the eight-speed automatic's smooth shifts allow it to fade into the background, which is a good thing. … The engine and transmission are actually very satisfying to drive overall, but the former is loud. It sounds rough and gravelly under even moderate acceleration, and is definitely louder and harsher on the ear than the hushed nature of some rival crossovers' engines." -- CNET
  • "The suspension offered a pleasant balance of comfort and handling ability." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Regardless of which setup you choose, the RAV4 rides and steers far better than it ever has. As in other new Toyota products that use the company's new family of architectures, the RAV4 has a solid and satisfying feel, with a nicely weighted steering rack and controlled body motions. The ride is firm but compliant, and damping keeps impacts from intruding on the cabin." -- Car and Driver

Acceleration and Power

The RAV4 features a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 203 horsepower. It's mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Aside from noticeable engine noise in certain situations, this powertrain gets the job done admirably. It delivers adequate power and acceleration for most driving situations, though this SUV is not as quick as some rivals that feature turbocharged engines. The transmission performs smoothly.

According to Toyota estimates, the RAV4 earns 26 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. Few class rivals can match the RAV4's gas mileage. Speaking of fuel efficiency, there's also a RAV4 Hybrid, which we cover in a separate review.

  • The base engine is Toyota's new 2.5-liter four-cylinder shared with the Camry, producing a class-leading 203 horsepower. With 184 pound-feet of torque, it definitely doesn't have the low-end response of its turbocharged competitors, and the engine itself was surprisingly shrill when driven with authority up the various hills surrounding our first drive route around Monterey, Calif. … Yet, for this segment, the RAV4's acceleration is more than sufficient, while the also-new eight-speed automatic functions in a more traditional manner than Honda and Subaru's CVTs." -- Autoblog
  • "In routine driving, the RAV4's acceleration feels natural and linear, though deeper prods of the accelerator pedal don't result in much more additional thrust. The transmission is more convincingly well-rounded, shifting smoothly and downshifting promptly to help mask the engine's meager torque at low revs. Likewise, the gearbox's grade logic attentively holds gears longer on ascents to avoid annoying gear-hunting." -- Edmunds
  • "Most compact SUV buyers will be happy with the engine's power, and the transmission does a fine job most of the time. When driving more enthusiastically, you might discover that the 8-speed automatic is eager to upshift, suggesting that this transmission has been tuned to optimize fuel economy." -- Kelley Blue Book

Handling and Braking

The new RAV4 steers and handles better than models from the previous generation. It's easy to drive, and while it doesn't match the sporty feel of the Mazda CX-5, the RAV4 is fairly sharp on winding roads. Ride quality skews toward firm, but it's not unpleasant, and most road imperfections are absorbed easily. Front-wheel drive comes standard. All-wheel drive is available.

The redesigned RAV4 offers a couple more inches of ground clearance than the outgoing model, making it more suitable for venturing off the pavement. It still isn't an off-road dynamo like a Jeep, but this Toyota isn't worthless when the pavement ends.

You can choose between three modes (Sport, Eco, and Normal) that alter driving dynamics. All-wheel-drive models come with a terrain selection feature that lets you choose between Mud and Sand, Rock and Dirt, and Snow modes.

  • "This new suspension has better handling and reduced body roll. That makes the 2019 RAV4 feel sharper and more precise, a huge difference from the previous generation. The ride is still comfortable, but not as marshmallow soft as the previous generation. This change modernizes the RAV4's ride and handling, making it feel fresh and crisp without leaning too much toward the sporty side of the equation." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Once safely positioned behind the wheel, we found the 2019 RAV4 to be a comfortable ride with secure handling. Steering is actually better than we were expecting, with good weight and quick response. Body roll is well managed." -- Left Lane News
  • "Quick steering and tidy body control allow the new RAV4 to pivot at turn-in more eagerly than before. Steering effort is on the light side overall, which is great at slow speeds. But driver confidence at higher speeds would be better served by a bit more weight to the helm. While we still prefer the Mazda CX-5's sporty dynamics, the RAV4's reflexes are indeed brighter than before. It's a pleasant handler overall." -- Edmunds
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