By on January 25, 2018

Image: Brian Williams/SpiedBilde

Profitable as home water delivery in the desert, Toyota’s RAV4 compact crossover performs an increasingly important function in the division’s lineup. As passenger car sales fall, vehicles like the RAV4 compete in the most lucrative and hotly contested segment in the auto industry. Some 407,594 Americans took home a RAV4 last year. Five years earlier, that sales figure stood at 171,877.

Given the model’s impact on the company’s fortunes, messing with a good thing could be risky, just as standing still could lead to a drop-off in consumer interest. For the next-generation RAV4, due as a 2019 model, Toyota’s not playing it safe. The model pictured here goes in a styling direction we’ve seen before, though not on a production model.

Image: Brian Williams/SpiedBilde

Take a look at the wheel arches and the outline of the grille. The angle of the rear glass. Ring a bell? It should, as these traits show up in the FT-AC concept SUV put forth by Toyota at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show.

That concept was clearly a peek at the brand’s future design language, a dialect the next RAV4 speaks fluently, albeit without the body cladding. Still, those flush, squared-off arches look primed for a bit of brawny, dark gray plastic, should the trim call for it. Up front, a proper grille returns, replacing the plastic layer cake look of the current generation.

For 2019, the RAV4 ditches its old platform and moves onto Toyota’s modular TNGA architecture, already in use by the midsize Camry. Expect to find the 2018 Camry’s newly refined 2.5-liter four-cylinder under the hood, as well as a hybrid variant. Interior room is a mystery, though few vehicles these days grow smaller in successive iterations.

It’s also possible Toyota will endow the next RAV4 with a bit more off-road capability, at least in certain trims. Having an improved all-wheel drive system on board would not only compliment the newly rugged looks, it would help the RAV4 craft an image that doesn’t invoke soccer games or shopping. (Apologies for the automotive stereotype.)

Expect to see the 2019 RAV4 in the flesh late this year.

[Images: Brian Williams/Spiedbilde]

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25 Comments on “Spied: 2019 Toyota RAV4, a Reborn Breadwinner...”

  • avatar

    Not to dramatic a change from what I can tell under the clothing. However roof pillars continue to enlarge (probably rollover regulation driven but bad for visibility) and looks like another gaping maw for a grill (I don’t know what drives that ubiquitous look).

    For size/look/power I will stay with my 09 V6 AWD and just keep it running even though I would like some of the new electronic situational awareness nannies that are available on newer models.

    • 0 avatar

      Think the grilles are due to pedestrian safety regulations creating high hoodlines and blunt front ends and automakers feeling a grille is the best way to fill all that space

  • avatar

    Who makes the camouflage covers for car companies? Do they do it in-house, or farm it out to some company? A lot of work goes into hiding cars in plain sight.

    • 0 avatar

      Can’t tell you who, but sometimes automakers go to great lengths to disguise their cars, like this spy shot of the 1984 C4 Corvette.

    • 0 avatar

      I would imagine they have people that do this in-house, but I don’t really know. Farming this out would require an NDA with some pretty stiff financial penalties if the contractor violates the terms of the NDA.

  • avatar

    As for an off-road biased version, my guess is that raised suspension, low range and skid plates will not show up on the Rav4. The people who buy Rav4’s nowadays are completely uninterested in such things. The market for rugged small suv’s is extremely small and thoroughly owned by Jeep. People who buy Rav4’s are completely uninterested in such features as pretense. The last non-Jeep suv with any off-road capability, the Suzuki Grand Vitara, met little consumer interest.

    • 0 avatar

      Subaru Forester.
      X Mode
      8.7 inches ground Clearance.
      Yokohama Geolandar Tires.

      Not a Wrangler but much more than a Suzuki sir.

      • 0 avatar

        “but much more than a Suzuki sir.”

        Not really.

        I’d rank it like this:

        typical new Cross-over (rav4, etc)
        IRS Grand Vitara
        IRS Grand Vitara with optional low range t-case
        BOF Vitara
        more serious BOF offroad-oriented SUV (4Runner)

        Subarus simply lack gearing and hardware that will sustain hard use (deep snow, sand, mud). Last summer I yanked a guy in a stick shift crosstrek out of the sand in the OBX with my 4Runner, I smelled his clutch before I saw him

      • 0 avatar
        Pete Zaitcev

        I agree with Mr. Tem. The 2.21 low range is what made GV a real off-roader. The X Mode is welcome for things like diagonal break-over tests, as well as some real life situation, but it’s not a replacement. The X Mode will do no good for those who stop on an incline, or in the sand. I don’t know how much the X Mode version has, but the manual in 2015 had 1:15.335. GV bowed out with 1:24.845.

  • avatar

    This is the central product in the Toyota line at this point. High stakes.

    I suppose it’s too much to dream that with steadily increasing sales it might again be worth it to make a low-volume V6 model?

    • 0 avatar

      This would step on the toes of the NX unfortunately… which itself is no rocket. Same money can put you in one of the 2.0T German offerings, which will all haul the mail convincingly.

  • avatar

    Larger headlights it looks like. I like that.

  • avatar

    One of my coworkers just bought a 2017 RAV4 Limited Hybrid last summer, and the thing has tons of driver aids, and drives pretty nicely. The only area where Toyota has really dropped the ball is not offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Derp.

    • 0 avatar

      We test drove a RAV4 Limited Hybrid during the shopping process that resulted in our C-Max Energi purchase, and couldn’t get over the disparity between the high price and the extraordinarily cheap-feeling interior.

  • avatar

    I’m slightly surprised that they built over 400,000 RAV4’s for 2017. Those are the numbers that Toyota(and Honda) used to brag about selling Camry’s and Accord’s. I’m not surprised, in that when I was shopping for a 2018 RAV4/CRV class vehicle, Toyota was happy to discount the RAV4 a couple of thousand dollars, whereas the Honda salesman told me all he was offering was a 2017 left-over CRV at full sticker plus a $400 ‘documentation fee’ and $200 mandatory aftermarket upholstery spray crap. After feeding back those terms to the Honda salesman to check if he was serious, I thanked him, walked out, and drove back to Toyota. Keep in mind my 25 retail years with Acura and Honda, and a Honda buying history going back to ’82.

    • 0 avatar

      I test drove a RAV4 hybrid when they were just coming out in 2016 and without me hardly saying anything they took $4,000 off the $36,000 sticker price. I was surprised.

  • avatar

    “Profitable as home water delivery in the desert…” Seriously?

    Also, 407,594 Americans did not take home RAV4s last year. That’s a staggering number, for sure, but not all of those sales took place at retail.

  • avatar

    sort of going back to manly Rav4 as it used to be when 6cyl was in town

  • avatar
    Old Buffalo

    I bought one of those 2017’s and couldn’t be happier with it. We did cross shop it with a CR-V but had the same experience as previously mentioned. The Rav was a good $2,500 cheaper and basically the same vehicle, at least for my purposes. And the RAV showed better depreciation as well as equal reliability.

    This is the 3rd Toyota in our garage. We had a Gen 1 CR-V that didn’t hold up nearly as well as our Toyotas and rusted out like a 71 Vega.

    Our XLE is outfitted with the same package as a CR-V EX plus NAV. Being comfortable, easy to get into and versatile was the most important. Off road stuff not needed. The RAV fit us perfectly. (Newly retired Boomers, BTW)

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Some personality from the RAV4 would be nice. You don’t have to chase Mazda to do this: a return to a simple understated sense of quality and refinement would be fine. The current one may be anvil-reliable, but the cheap interior, road noise, and lack of verve or refinement in any aspect of the driving experience makes it a good used car bet but not something I’d want to take home new.

  • avatar

    I love the RAV4 and I certainly welcome a new one. I love these along with a few other Toyota products, namely the Yaris, Corolla, Camry and the Lexus RX350. These are, for car guys, very important products.

    The reason they are so important for those of us who like cars and like to drive them is that they take some of the guess-work out of defensive driving. Whenever I see any of these vehicles in my proximity I act like I’m a swimmer at the beach and a White shark is in the area. Is the guy driving the Golf going to do something stupid? Maybe, but not likely. Will the person in the Yaris, Corolla, Camry, RAV4 or Lexus RX350 do something utterly dumb? Wrong question! It isn’t ‘if’ they will do something dumb but ‘when’ they will do something dumb. This is surprisingly effective and I think it works because these are vehicles that appeal to people who have zero interest in driving. If you have no interest in it, why take the time to do it well?

    And in case you’re wondering, there isn’t a hint of humour or sarcasm in this post. I honestly treat these vehicles differently in traffic and on countless occasions that has served me well.

    • 0 avatar


      Based on collision insurance claims information (2014-2016) the IIHS data for collision claims/100 insured vehicle years says these vehicles have the highest claim rates. Data like this is what insurers use to set rates along with model repair costs/driver experience and driving record

      Highest overall losses Claim frequency

      Hyundai Genesis 11.4
      Scion FR-S 12.1
      Ford Mustang 2dr 10.3
      Chevrolet Camaro 2dr 10.2
      Subaru BRZ 10.5
      Kia Optima hybrid 10.5
      Mitsubishi Lancer 4WD 10.2
      Dodge Charger 11.4
      Mitsubishi Lancer 11.2

    • 0 avatar

      I disagree.My (Camry driving) wife is quick to point out her 30+ years of accident and ticket free driving. 35 miles a day in very heavy traffic. Yep- real hazard out there she is for sure!

    • 0 avatar

      Have you noted FJ Cruiser drivers? They are likely to be aggressive, in my experience.

  • avatar

    Anything would be an improvement. Test drove a RAV4 Hybrid. I don’t think I’ve ever hated driving a vehicle more.

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