Go for the Adventure grade, and you’re sitting pretty, no matter the terrain

It seems like there’s no shortage of “off-road ready” crossovers on the market these days - or at least that’s the impression you might get glancing over all the PR fluff. But while glory shots on top of a mountain might look good, the actual capability of these machines doesn’t always live up to the hype. Fortunately, Toyota can both talk the talk and walk the walk, as I find out firsthand after the Japanese automaker flew me out to Carmel, California for a stint in the new 2019 RAV4.

Ready For Dirt Duty

The 2019 Toyota RAV4 Is A Surprisingly Good Off-Roader
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From the off, the 2019 Toyota RAV4 {looks} like a more capable off-roader.

The styling is a total revamp over the previous model year, with a more upright stance, a Tacoma-esque front fascia, and proportions that give it an air of SUV-ness missing from the last generation. The visual update moves away from the car-like appearance seen before, and overall, we think it looks miles improved over the previous model.

Thankfully, the updates are much more than just skin deep.

For example, the 2019 RAV4 now comes with additional ground clearance, with as much as a half inch added over the outgoing model. All told, the LE and LXE grades get 8.4 inches of clearance, while the XLE grade has 8.6 inches. Comparatively speaking, the new RAV4 very nearly matches the specs on competitors like the Subaru Crosstrek (8.7 inches) and Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk (8.8 inches).

The new exterior also offers improved visibility, both in front and in the sides, all thanks to improvements like lower side view mirror positioning and larger rear-quarter glass.

The RAV4’s overhangs are shorter as well, which helps with the approach and departure angles, rated at 19 degrees and 21 degrees, respectively.
Compare that to the 18-degree approach angle and 29-degree departure angle for the Subaru Crosstrek, or the 32.2-degree approach angle and 23-degree departure angle for the Jeep Cherokee, and the RAV4 isn’t quite as impressive, but still, as you’ll see in the next section, the RAV4 manages to conquer the terrain all the same.

The 2019 Toyota RAV4 Is A Surprisingly Good Off-Roader
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Under the skin, the RAV4’s new TNGA-K platform provides a supple ride on the road, even with the jacked-up suspension stuff.

And that’s important if you plan on doing more than just trail runs.

The powertrains are more powerful this time around as well. We were particularly impressed by the hybrid’s low-end torque, although the gas-only model was also decently muscular when needed. Making the connection in the gas-only model is an eight-speed automatic with a torque converter lock-up feature in the second through eighth gears, while the hybrid uses a CVT.

New for 2019, the RAV4’s AWD system is offered with a new Dynamic Torque Vectoring system, which arrives as standard equipment on the Adventure and Limited gas models. To give you a better handle on how it works, the RAV4 shows how much torque is sent to each individual wheel though the display in the gauge cluster while applying the throttle.

The 2019 Toyota RAV4 Is A Surprisingly Good Off-Roader
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One of the RAV4’s biggest strengths is the wide array of standard tech, which includes a Multi-Terrain Select feature that lets you choose the appropriate traction control profile depending on the surface at hand.

There are settings for mud, sand, rocks, dirt, and snow. There’s also a dedicated Trail Mode for the hybrid.

Further aides include Hill Start Assist Control and Downhill Assist Control, the latter of which will maintain a specified speed on steep grades without any braking input, making it easier to concentrate on your line.

Out of all the models on offer, the Adventure grade is the most off-road ready of the bunch. New for the 2019 model year, the Adventure grade comes with 235/55R19 tires and unique exterior treatments, plus loads of standard off-roader equipment and unique orange interior bits.

What It Feels Like To Drive

During my drive experience in Carmel, Toyota had us take the wheel for an off-road excursion that pitted the 2019 RAV4 against a variety of challenges, including loose dirt surfaces, deep ruts, steep hills, and narrow terrain.

I was immediately impressed by just how easy it was to drive the RAV4 in these conditions.

The tall suspension and body didn’t feel cumbersome at all, and the little crossover was pretty nimble when it came to skipping across the dirt.

The Downhill Assist Control feature was also really nice, and basically turned any descent into a walk in the park.

The visibility was great, and I never had any problem placing the RAV4 where it needed to be.

However, the most impressive part came later in the course, where the 2019 RAV4 had to ascend a steep, rutted incline.

The Toyota rep had us stop about halfway up and feel the hill hold feature kick in. When I got back onto the throttle, I could really feel the torque vectoring system claw its way up the slippery, powdery surface. No fuss, no problem.

The 2019 Toyota RAV4 Is A Surprisingly Good Off-Roader
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Finally, the course was topped by some articulating bumps that kicked a wheel up off the ground. Again, the RAV4 had no problems navigating through the uneven terrain.

Final Thoughts

The 2019 Toyota RAV4 Is A Surprisingly Good Off-Roader
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Overall, I walked away impressed by the RAV4’s capabilities. While I wouldn’t place it at the same level as a truly off-road dedicated vehicle like the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, it’s obvious that the new RAV4 will satisfy all but the most hardcore of off-roader enthusiasts. If your goal is a far-flung trailhead, or that perfect launch spot for the kayaks, or a remote fishing spot, the RAV4 should have what it takes to get you there without any drama whatsoever, especially in the Adventure grade.

Further Reading

2019 Toyota RAV4 - Driven
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Read our full driven review of the 2019 Toyota RAV4.

2016 Toyota RAV4 – Driving Impression And Review
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Read our full driven review of the 2016 Toyota RAV4.

2018 Jeep Wrangler Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Read our full review of the 2018 Jeep Wrangler.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek - Driven
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Read our full driven review of the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek.

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