Last year saw some momentous changes in the U.S. automotive market, perhaps most notably the surge in demand for SUVs, CUVs and other light trucks. And nowhere was that more apparent than at Toyota where the compact RAV4 toppled the brand’s long-time sales leader, the Camry sedan.
So, Toyota will have a lot riding on what it plans to introduce at the New York International Auto Show later this month, the first complete makeover of the RAV4 since the 2013 model-year. The Japanese giant is counting on the crossover to help it gain even more momentum at a time when there seems to be no end in sight to the light-truck boom.
Toyota isn’t saying much about the fifth-generation, 2019 crossover, other than to note it will make its debut at New York’s Javits convention center on the morning of March 28, but some details can be gleaned from a teaser image and inside sources.
Though there’s some curve to the hood and a steep rake to the rear glass, the overall silhouette of the next-generation Toyota RAV4 suggests that designers have opted for a slightly more traditional, ute-like shape than the radical crossover styles that we’ve been seeing in recent years.. That’s actually no surprise. This more conservative approach has been reshaping what many automakers seem to be going for, apparently in a bid to give their CUVs a more rugged and reliable, go-anywhere appearance.
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That said, the 2019 Toyota RAV4 is set to become the latest model in the maker’s portfolio to migrate to the Toyota New Global Architecture which was introduced on the latest-generation Prius hybrid. It’s now used for the Camry sedan and the smaller C-HR crossover, as well.
One of the big questions surrounds the sort of powertrain options Toyota will offer on the next-generation RAV4. It currently offers two options: a 2.5-liter inline-four making 176 horsepower, as well as a hybrid package that musters up 34 mpg in the City, 30 on the Highway. Toyota has not yet embraced the switch to turbo power for smaller models, but with even Honda now moving in that direction, perhaps we could be in for a surprise.
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But improving fuel economy is all but certainly going to be central to Toyota’s pitch for the new model and that should include both conventional gas and hybrid offerings. The switch to the TNGA platform will help, in part, by reducing the crossover’s overall mass.
What’s clear is that the RAV4 has real drawing power in a crowded segment. Even with the launch of an all-new Honda CR-V for 2017, the already aging RAV4 managed to stay number one in the segment last year – while becoming the fourth best-selling vehicle overall in the U.S. market. In fact, RAV4 sales set a record in 2017 of more than 400,000, compared to 377,000 for the Honda crossover – though Toyota has been pushing a lot of RAVs into rental and other fleets while Honda focuses almost exclusively on the retail side of the business.
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But whatever the business strategy, the new RAV4 will have to deliver and you can expect to see Toyota offer a more attractive package for 2019 that will likely include more safety and comfort features, as well as improved fuel economy.