“Driving Me Crazy”: The 2019 Toyota RAV4 XLE Premium

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“The only show where a couple talk cars and life and still love one another.”

Driving Me Crazy automotive review Columnists Laurie and John Wiles.

Our normal routine is to test drive a new model car every week, for a week, but things have been changing with the automotive manufacturers and the size of their “press fleets” — that is, cars set aside for review by automotive journalists — is like the “old grey mare.”  Simply put, it’s not what it used to be.  This has put a crimp in my style because I have been reviewing cars for 30 years.  Then my husband Johnny did something brilliant.  He phoned nearby Pinehurst Toyota, located here, in North Carolina, on U.S. Highway 15-501 in Southern Pines, and asked if we might test-drive a Toyota.


“What model would you like?” Laurie, in the Sales Office, asked helpfully.

“What would you suggest?  What seems to be your bestselling car?” Johnny asked back.

Without missing a beat, Laurie said, “The 2019 Toyota RAV4.”

The 2019 RAV4 is the fifth generation of this model and it’s completely redesigned — in fact, I would go so far as to say it bears little resemblance to the original model launched in 1994. It was the XA10 series which really does not bear any resemblance to its offspring, even though though it was named 1997 Automobile of the Year by Automobile Magazine. I was under-impressed.  They say first impressions last.  I’m here to tell you, that’s not necessarily true — at least not twenty years later, with this dynamic new generation.

Toyota 2019 RAV4 XLE Premium

Often, we describe an elegant, streamlined design body as having a “European-design” or influence.  To be honest, I have never heard anyone describe the “looks” of a car as “Japanese in design.” What I can say about the 2019 Toyota RAV4 is this: the design is solid, almost chiseled, even angular, and at first glance, there is no doubt at all that here is a sturdy, practical vehicle that can take as good as it gets on the road and off.  What’s even more exciting is the quiet ride, substantial second row leg room, sizeable cargo space that’s even “wow!” when you turn down the second row 2/1 seats, and best of all, easy to access, easy to use dashboard controls.  (There are some cars Johnny and I have driven that seem to require a college course to understand how to operate it!).

Now, I’ve read the reviews and Edmunds, for one, says the power from the base power train is lackluster.  Johnny had that take, too, when we first drove the car out of Pinehurst Toyota’s under-construction parking lot — and let me say, this is going to be a magnificent dealer campus once construction is completed at year-end.  But then he put it in sport gear (at the touch of a button) and the Dynamic Force 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine mated to a Direct Shift 8-speed automatic transmission strutted its stuff.  The leather seat, leather-trimmed interior and dash was handsome, the controls and dials were exactly where you’d like them to be, and the front passenger seat was, in my opinion, quite comfortable — and that’s because there’s plenty of headroom in this car and a wider (and much wider than the first generation RAV4) platform.

There are an unprecedented 9 models available in the 2019 RAV4.  That’s a separate topic with me and one we discuss often on our radio show, “Driving Me Crazy”, broadcast every Thursday between 10:00 and 10:30 a.m. on “Westchester on the Level,” hosted by Hezi Aris.  I won’t get into it here, but I will give a quick overview of all nine models:

The LE is the entry model, FWD and available in AWD; the LE Hybrid is just that: the LE with a 2.5-Liter 4-cylinder Hybrid engine, AWD, with Trail and EV Mode select buttons and slightly more horsepower.  The XLE offers more options, has more standard equipment, and here’s where the very important Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert safety systems are included.  My advice?  Don’t leave home without them.  You can never have enough safety monitors in a car and this is where Johnny and I see the industry moving toward, even (and especially) with the inevitability of driverless vehicles (I’m against it!)  The XLE Hybrid and XLE Premium are the next step up — we drove the XLE Premium and it’s everything you could ask for, except for the front passenger seat, which is manual controls.  This said, both front seats are air conditioned or heated, and the second row seats are heated, as well — great for your children, grandchildren, passengers and most especially your dog (be sure your dog is strapped in, just like your kids, with a dog retention seat belt!)  The Adventure model is the RAV4’s off road warrior, and I would love to get behind the wheel of this animal.  It’s got tons of bells and whistles for the Weekend Warrior.  The SXE Hybrid is more sport-tuned with its independent MacPherson strut front suspension, heated outside mirrors (love that!) and beautiful panoramic sunroof.  The Limited and Limited Hybrid are top-of-the line.  Just name one thing the Limited doesn’t have.

Once Upon a Time, a Long Time Ago, my first car was the original Toyota Land Cruiser, that wondrous, boxy, no-frills off-road tank that was was surefooted in the woods of New Hampshire as it was barreling down West 41st Street on a Friday afternoon (which I did quite often, four decades ago.)  I loved that car and I mourned it when, Abracadabra! Toyota redesigned it past recognition.  With the 2019 RAV4, I’m excited again.  That’s right, Toyota — after 40 years you’re back on track with me.

Wow, I actually get a turn. Thank you, Lambie Poo Pie. I, as the driver of our relatively short excursion, while you were the evaluator, ‘back seat driver’, I mean navigator, and recorder – all very necessary roles for car reviewers.

I am a real believer in safety in the new vehicles and this new RAV 4, as you mentioned, had a very nice array. In Toyota’s write up about the RAV 4, they have a whole section called “Designed for safety”. It’s interesting to me how car companies use different terminology to describe something similar they all have. Toyota has a “Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD). When it first came out, it was something like collision early warning system. The RAV 4’s PCS w/PD detects pedestrians or bicyclists even in low light situations, using wave radar and, get this, ‘a camera capable of shape recognition.’ If you don’t react, the car does. I think that’s great technology. The XLE also has Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (LDA w/SA). Like many cars now it uses visible lane markings to keep you in the lane with audible alerts and visual warnings on the screen. It also will determine if you are taking corrective measures and provides ‘gentle’ corrective steering to keep you in the lane – Cool!

It also has Automatic High Beams (AHB) once your speed is at least 25mph. No more blinding anyone with your high beams, and with the automatic high beams, you are more likely to see that runner, deer, or curve sign ahead of you. Which brings me to another nice feature, Road Sign Assist (RSA), using a forward facing camera, the XLE can detect speed limit signs, stop signs, yield signs, get this, Do Not Enter signs. All are displayed on the Multi Information Display (MID), [also known as the section in the middle of your speedometer reader, but that’s a lot more to say]. I like MID.

Like many cars now, the RAV 4 XLE has a cruise control that is monitoring the cars in front of you for speed and distance. They call it Full-Speed Range, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC). If you are in cruise control and the car in front of you is slowing down, you car will adjust its speed to make sure you stay a safe distance from that car – especially effective when the car in front of you has no brake lights, and yes, you know who you are.

There is also Lane Tracing Assist (LTA), which works with the cruise control, DRCC, to help keep your vehicle centered in its lane.

Last, but certainly not least, the RAV4 has a Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA). Yes, you guessed it, the BSM looks for cars coming up on any potential blind spot area and warns you. When in reverse, the RCTA detects vehicles approaching from either side and warns you audibly and with side mirror indicators.

With the four cylinder engine, you would expect good gas mileage and with 26 city and 35 highway, the 30 mpg average is pretty darn good.

In closing, with the RAV4’s base price of $29,500 and our fully loaded XLE model being only $34,541, I can see why this Toyota is the hottest selling model Toyota is offering today. Great car at a great price. Heck, even half the parts of this Toyota are made in the US or Canada. The Americans and Japanese working together. You gotta’ love America!

Tune in Thursday, June 27th to listen to the Driving Me Crazy Duo John and Laurie Wiles from 10-10:30am. It is this Thursday, June 27th that John and Laurie Wiles, ably assisted by Automotive Reviewer Win Morrow, review the 2019 Toyota RAV4 XLE Premium and reminisce about the makes and models that met their demise… Listen to the broadcast “Live” or “On Demand”. Listeners can call (347) 205-9201 with their question and/or perspective. The Thursday, June 27th broadcast can be heard by way of the Internet. The code for the June 27th broadcast is http://tobtr.com/s/11373639. The code changes every week and all the shows are archived. Please note the broadcast goes “live” at 10am EST sharp  and is archived by 12:15PM


eHezi“Driving Me Crazy”: The 2019 Toyota RAV4 XLE Premium

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