Rav4 XSE HV is Toyota’s Sportiest Compact SUV

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Product Information_FINAL

Chatham, Mass. – Gas/hybrid-electric powertrains have been synonymous with better fuel economy and being kinder to the environment than traditionally powered vehicles since their introduction, but now Toyota combines the added power of two electric motors with the gasoline engine of the new 2019 Rav4 XSE HV to create its best performing compact crossover/sport utility vehicle (CUV/SUV).

America’s best-selling compact SUV was completely redesigned – refreshed – for 2019, with major changes to its looks, its interior, its safety suite and its running gear.

We drove a traditionally powered Rav4 last month which featured most of the changes found in the hybrid version. The XLE all-wheel-drive (AWD) version returned about 30 miles per gallon in a mix of highway, urban and suburban driving. The hybrid, virtually identical in every way, was 10mpg better in our time with it – and we did not do anything unusual to gain that improvement. No wires to plug in, just a “standard” gas tank to fill.

Electricity transforms the performance

In addition to the greater than 30-percent jump in fuel economy, the Rav4 XSE HV proved both in its acceleration and handling it was the better performer of the two and a bit more fun. The traditional Rav4 sports 203 horsepower from its 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, while the hybrid gets 219 from the combination of its gasoline engine and two electric motors output.

The 176-hp internal-combustion engine (ICE) combined with occasional operation exclusively under electric power results in the superior fuel economy. But when the driver needs to get up and go, the added 43 hp provided by the front and rear electric power plants – which deliver all their torque and “oomph” immediately – result in an unexpected quickness.

The rear electric motor also provides the AWD feature for all hybrid Rav4s, a setup which results in weight savings – no mechanical connections between the ICE and the rear wheels versus traditional AWD systems, no driveshaft, for example.

Also unique to the hybrid is an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission which also contributes to its high MPG and outstanding real-world performance.

Living with this Rav4 was not significantly different than living with the previous Rav4, except reducing the number of stops at the Cumberland Farms for fuel. The best-selling four-door compact SUV or CUV in the U.S. offers 37-square-feet of room behind the second seat, a seating area which can easily accommodate two adults without forcing the front occupants to compromise their seating positions.

And the seats they occupy are comfortable, covered in SofTex material and heated. The driver’s has eight-way power adjustment with power-adjustable lumbar support; the front-passenger’s seat has four-way manual adjustment. The rear seats are 60/40 split and reclining, with center armrest with cup holders.

A color eight-inch screen is the center of the comprehensive mult-media system

Multi-media meets multi-needs

This Rav4 included the model line’s most comprehensive multi-media system. Built around an eight-inch color touch screen, the audio coming through 11 JBL speakers (including a rear-mounted subwoofer) can be sourced from AM/FM/SiriusXM/streaming from your mobile device/streaming from apps within the Toyota Entune system/Apple Car Play/Android Auto. In addition, the voice of reason – or at least that of the navigation narrator – comes through the audio system.

Control of the multi-function entertainment conglomerate can be through dash buttons/controls; mobile-device input – either Bluetooth or USB cable connected – or through voice commands. The voice command system works wonderfully; highly intuitive and very perceptive (understanding words and phrases which do not “match” the built-in instructions). Making changes to navigation, radio stations or phone calls – even while driving – are simple, offering convenience without distraction.

Once I had paired my iPhone (simple enough to do without referring to any of the owner’s manuals), the Rav4 asked me if it could download my contact list. I could then access any of the contacts easily and quickly by pushing the voice-command button on the heated steering wheel.

Comprehensive safety features abound

There was one major difference between this Rav4 and the earlier version I sampled: the multi-functional inside rear-view mirror. Toyota dubs it the Digital Mirror and its look is distinguished by six buttons on the bottom of the mirror bezel. The three buttons on the left operate the familiar HomeLink garage-door opener.

The three on the right manipulate the features of the Digital Mirror, a rear-camera system which expands the viewing area provided by a “normal” rear-view mirror. Providing a wider view than the optical mirror, once activated, the Digital Mirror allowed me to view behind the SUV regardless of things blocking the normal line of sight. It takes some getting used to, but enhances safe driving, which begins with seeing and knowing what’s around you.

Toyota proudly claims to offer more standard safety features on the Rav4 than its competitors. I can’t confirm that claim, but as I outlined last month, list is long and comprehensive. It starts with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 including: Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection; Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control; Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist; Automatic High Beam; Lane Tracing Assist and Road Sign Assist. The 2019 RAV4 is equipped with eight airbags, along with a backup camera with projected path, and Toyota’s Star Safety System, which included Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control; Traction Control; Electronic Brake-force Distribution; Brake Assist; Anti-lock Braking System, and Smart Stop Technology. The XSE package adds Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Braking.

The Rav4 XSE HV was easier to live with than it would have been to list all the features which made it so. Its size is a great compromise between room for four adults (there are three seatbelts in the rear, so if the passengers are small enough, five can fit comfortably) and lots of gear/luggage. Fuel economy in all types of driving was outstanding and, thanks to the power of the two electric motors, performance was not compromised. You can have fun driving the Rav4 XSE HV and feel like a responsible citizen – something few other SUVs offer.

The price of entry into the Rav4 XSE HV world is $33,795 (including delivery), while the one we drove stickered at $38,294. The additional funds bought the upgraded multi-media system; additional safety features; a panoramic sunroof; cold-weather package and the XSE Technology Package which includes a wireless charging pad for your smartphone.

Regardless of the version chosen, the Rav4 hybrid offers a lot for the money.

Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.