The all-new 2019 Toyota RAV4 finally makes its debut at the 2018 New York International Auto Show, marking the model’s entry into its fifth generation (XA50). The new RAV4 represents a significant evolution from its predecessor, and it all begins with what’s under the bonnet.

Two engines will be available in the new RAV4 for North America, both 2.5 litre Dynamic Force units. The first is a conventional petrol model that is mated to a Direct Shift eight-speed automatic transmission, while the other is a hybrid (Toyota Hybrid System II or THS II) paired with an electronically-controlled continuously-variable transmission (ECVT). Other markets such as Australia and the United Kingdom will also get the option of a 2.0 litre engine, with a choice of manual or automatic transmissions.

Models with all-wheel drive can be fitted with Dynamic Torque Vectoring All-Wheel Drive with Rear Driveline Disconnect, which sends 50% of engine torque to the rear wheels, plus distribute it to the left or right wheels where required. When AWD isn’t required (like on highways), better fuel economy is achieved by using ratchet-type dog clutches on both the front and rear wheel shafts to stop the driveshaft’s rotations, sending drive only to the front wheels.

This new AWD system is one of three available for the RAV4, with the other two being a non-Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD system and All-Wheel Drive with Intelligence (AWD-i) for RAV4 Hybrid models. For the last item, the electric motor will be able to send 30% more power to the rear wheels than the current model.

Like the Camry and C-HR, the RAV4 is now underpinned by the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA). The chassis continues to feature multi-link suspension in the rear, which is claimed to provide better ride and handling, as well as improved NVH.

Toyota says the unibody chassis is 57% more rigid than the outgoing model, and results in revisions to the vehicle’s dimensions as well. The new RAV4 is now measures 4,595 mm long (-5 mm), 1,854 mm wide (+10 mm) and 1,699 mm tall (-5 mm). The biggest gain is in terms of wheelbase, which now spans 2,689 mm, a 30 mm improvement from the previous model. Lastly, ground clearance now stands at 165 mm (+ 13 mm).

These new figures are accompanied by a complete design overhaul, with the new SUV mimicking the FT-AC concept from last year’s Los Angeles Auto Show. The front face features a Tacoma-esque grille, flanked by a pair of slender and more angular headlamps. Just below them are the framed fog lamps, followed by the lower intake and a more subtle skid plate.

The rugged look continues down the sides of SUV, with plastic body cladding applied to the lower sections. Moving towards the rear, there’s now a steeply-raked C-pillar, which create a “wedge look” around the sharper taillights. The C-pillars sport a thin black strip to simulate a “floating roof” look, and also requires a raked windscreen to be fitted.

This severe transformation extends to the interior as well, which is now more elegant in its execution. A large touchscreen dominates the dashboard, here and is available in seven- and eight-inch units depending on the chosen audio system – Entune 3.0, Entune 3.0 Audio Plus and Entune 3.0 Premium Audio.

The air-con vents are positioned beneath the centre screen, followed by controls for the climate control switchgear. The latter is positioned a lot more upright than the angled approach of the previous car, and features a larger digital screen as well.

At the centre console is where you’ll find the gear lever along with the drive mode selector, which is reminiscent of that found on Lexus models. An electronic parking brake displaces the previous handbrake, and the cupholders have been moved back closer to the front armrest.

But wait, there’s more as the driver now has access to not just a new steering festooned with buttons, but also a seven-inch multi-info display in the instrument cluster. The RAV4 also comes with what Toyota calls a Digital Display Rearview Mirror, where with a flip of a switch, drivers have an increased field of vision coming through the rearview mirror.

Other available equipment for the RAV4 include ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, panoramic sunroof, hands-free power liftgate, Qi wireless charger and an 11-speaker JBL audio system with 800 watts of power.

On the safety side of things, the RAV4 comes standard with eight airbags, plus the usual array of systems. Also standard is the Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) 2.0 suite, which includes the following systems: Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD), Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC), Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (LDA w/SA), Automatic High Beam (AHB), along with two new ones, Lane Tracing Assist (LTA) and Road Sign Assist (RSA).

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