2019 Toyota RAV4 XSE AWD Hybrid: more sport, more utility

It’s been 22 years since Toyota launched its compact SUV – the RAV4.

Much has changed since then. Compacts have actually grown in size and now include the word “crossover.” The market continues to grow, and Toyota continues to refine, with its fifth-generation model.

The RAV4 is Toyota’s best-selling vehicle in the U.S., and the best-selling non-pickup truck in the country. It has doubled its sales volume over the last five years.

My tester, the 2019 RAV4 XSE AWD hybrid, will no doubt continue that trend.

Powered by a 2.5-liter DOHC, four-cylinder engine, the new AWD version employs a standard, separate rear-mounted electric motor to power the rear wheels when needed. It increases total torque to the rear wheels by 30 percent compared to the previous system, and comes with A driver-selectable Trail Mode that helps make it possible to get unstuck, by braking a spinning wheel and sending torque to the wheel with traction.

RAV4 seats up to five adults with a generous cargo area behind the split/fold second-row seats. Best of all, the hybrid delivered just below 40 miles per gallon in a week’s worth of city and highway driving — hard to beat.

It can be argued RAV4 is, in essence, disrupting the segment it created. It is bringing more sport and more utility back while enhancing the agile handling, everyday comfort that has made RAV4 the segment leader it is now. All told, the 2019 RAV4 is designed to tackle urban, suburban and great outdoor adventures with equal aplomb. The look is tougher, and there’s greater capability, yet the ride is smoother and quieter, with new comfort touches inside.

Let’s start with quiet. It is strikingly impressive. Sound-damping and soundproofing materials have been optimized throughout the vehicle, with a particular focus on minimizing noise in the frequencies that interfere with conversation in the cabin.

Holes and gaps between parts have also been filled in with sound-damping material, for an even greater reduction in road noise intrusion. As one example, the floor silencer pad is now one large piece, and its surface area is increased from 60 percent coverage to 92 percent.

My golf buddies noticed. And I was able to listen in rapt attention as one of them held court on all our nation’s woes on a recent outing to Shuksan Golf Course in Bellingham. Maybe I could have enjoyed a little less sound proofing. 🙂

XSE ramps up the RAV4’s sport quotient with 18-inch, five-spoke black-paint alloy wheels, integrated fog lights, low-profile roof rails and a power lift-gate. Other goodies include intelligent clearance sonar with rear cross-traffic braking, panoramic moon roof, wireless smartphone charging and more.

Creature comforts are everywhere. My personal favorites were navigation, JBL premium audio sound with 11 speakers including a subwoofer, and Entune 3.0 multimedia, which added Wi-Fi Connect, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant capability, and Apple CarPlay compatibility.

And, of course, there’s the next generation of Toyota SafetySense, a suite of safety features highlighted by a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control, lane-trace assist, and road-sign assist.

Base Price: $34,795

Price As Driven: $37,899

Base price includes destination charge. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturer. List price may vary at local dealerships.

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