I’ve owned Toyota vehicles for years and years, starting back with a dorky gold Tercel hatchback I purchased in 1984, my first new car. Indeed, every time I’ve looked at other car manufacturers I’ve felt a tiny bit guilty, though Toyota is the most successful car company in the world and can probably survive without my purchases. My most recent Toyota was a 2007 Highlander, which served my family really well for a decade before I <gasp> switched to a Mazda.
As regular readers know, the Mazda I purchased was the 2017 CX-5 AWD. It’s what’s known as a Compact SUV or “CUV” in the biz. The other car I looked at very closely at the time was the Toyota RAV4, another CUV with quite similar specs and size, though a higher price point. As a result, when Toyota offered me the chance to spend some time behind the wheel of the newly revised “Adventure” edition, I was enthused about the chance. Here’s the RAV4 AWD Adventure I drove, in gleaming “Blue Flame” exterior with the “Ice Edge” two-tone optional finish package:
It’s a bit more edgy in its design than the regular Toyota RAV4’s you see about town, a styling that I thought was quite striking. But it was the color that got all the comments; strangers were saying “wow, that’s quite a blue!” admiringly.
So the exterior is blue and black with some white accents (and the roof is white). But the interior… that’s a completely different story with the orange and black color scheme. Yes, blue and black exterior, orange and black interior. As you can see:
The design is terrific and the shelf unit along the bottom of the dash is quite useful, but the first impression is that you’re ducked into a Subaru without realizing it: This sort of ruggedized interior with the dramatic accent color is one I associate with the small but popular Japanese outdoor car manufacturer.
One feature I really liked, though it worked as poorly as every other one I’ve tried, was the built-in Qi (pronounce it “chee”) wireless charging plate for the latest iPhones and Android phones both. You can see it behind the gearshift in the below photo:
The problem with these charging units is that they’re designed to accommodate the largest of all possible smartphones, and if that’s not what you have, momentum ensures that your phone will slide around as you drive. Meaning that your phone’s on the Qi pad and charging, you take a turn, it’s not, you take another turn, it is, and back and forth. The anti-slip rubber surface is woefully insufficient for the task, at least with my test phones.
Further, the CarPlay USB jack is immediately behind the Qi charging plate, which means that I ended up with a wire draped along the central shift console or jammed into the charging area for my phone: On my Mazda the same “hot” USB plug is actually tucked into the central armrest, which means you can easily hide your phone while still accessing it via CarPlay. I know, pretty nitpicky.
While we’re talking about nitpicky, though, I really like the adaptive cruise control (Toyota calls it Dynamic Radar Cruise Control) but why do you have to turn it on every single time you start your car? Why can’t it remember that you left it on from the previous drive? Ditto the safe follow preference settings. Car quirks, but easily fixed with a software update…
Fortunately the main navigational and entertainment system was great. Toyota’s absolutely mastered the design of this surprisingly complicated control and it was a breeze to use:
Part of what they did right is have eight physical buttons, not just rely on the touch screen interface. This offers a wealth of shortcuts that makes it super efficient to switch to music, maps, apps, phone controls, etc. With JBL speakers, it also sounded splendid, even the Cryptonomicon audio book I was enjoying for much of the test period.
Stepping outside the car, the rear hatch area offered quite a lot of storage. In fact, one of the saving graces of the entire CUV category is that they have a surprising amount of storage and cargo space:
This highlights the rugged (optional) RAV4 all weather floor liners and cargo tray. My opinion? That’s a must add and well worth the $269 it’ll add to your vehicle purchase.
One areas where the RAV4 beat out my CX-5 was legroom. My kids were very happy for the additional legroom:
This is with the driver’s seat basically pushed back all the way: At 6’3″ I’m a pretty tall driver!
Finally, another exterior view from a different angle:
It’s a reasonably fun car to drive, though if you don’t want to feel sluggish off the line, you’ll be in SPORT mode all the time. ECO mode had very slow acceleration, though it offered the best fuel efficiency. And in that regard, the car’s rated for 25/33 and I saw about 30 as average fuel efficiency. Not great, but hey, 5mpg better than my Mazda, and that adds up week after week.
One final note: The rear view mirror is the most complicated I’ve seen on any car. Check out all these buttons:
I had to crack open the Owner’s Manual to find out what they did: The left buttons are for programming garage door opener codes, pretty typical, but those three buttons on the right! At first I thought “hmm… stereo controls? Kind of a weird location to have ’em, but let’s try.” They’re not stereo controls. 🙂
Instead this is the Toyota Digital Rear View Mirror system and the central lever lets you switch between “optical” and “digital” mirror modes. Optical is just a mirror, but digital adds rear view camera, displays icons to convey various information, it’s quite complicated and possibly just a wee bit of overkill from a car complexity perspective. Do you have this on your Toyota? Do you use it, and if so, how’s it working for you?
Nitpicking aside, however, I really enjoyed the RAV4, both the Adventure AWD design and all of the many safety and entertainment features. If you want a car that feels like a Subaru but is built by the Toyota team, this is a solid compromise that will last you for many years of safe and happy driving. I admit, I was a bit sad to step back to my CX-5 after the RAV4!
Disclosure: Toyota loaned me this 2019 Toyota RAV4 AWD Adventure car for a week in return for this writeup. Thanks, Toyota!
2019 Toyota RAV 4 Adventure AWD with 203hp 2.5L 4-cylinder engine and 8-speed automatic transmission. Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 and Entune 3.0 audio system. Base MSRP: $32,900.00. Optional additions: Adventure Grade Weather Package, Premium Audio Package, Adventure Technology Package, Power Moonroof, Two-Tone, Door Sill Protector, Wheel Locks and All Weather Floor Liners. AS DRIVEN: $39,948.00.