Toyota RAV4 History

When the Toyota RAV4 was introduced in 1996, it was the first and only compact crossover on the market, pioneering the small suv market. Today, the RAV4 continues to lead the compact crossover segment, providing consumers with the room, fuel efficiency and now trail ready capability they are looking for. It inspired an arms race of imitators over the years.

Early on, the Rav4 was designed to give consumers a vehicle that provided all the benefits of an SUV, without being that large. In addition to full-time four-wheel drive, Toyota put some time into ensuring a large interior capacity and above average visibility. Its history dates back to 1989 when Toyota released a concept of soon to come "Rav Four". It featured a 2 door model, winch, skid plates and beefy tires. Just 7 years later the Rav4 would be released and go on sale in the US market.

One of the most unique things about the Rav4, and something not many of us know is the name. "Recreational Active Vehicle with 4-wheel-drive" aka Rav4.


1st Generation: 1996 - 2000

The first generation Rav4 held strong in Toyotas line up for 4 years. It shared the same platform as the best selling and popular Corolla.

The first generation Rav4 was offered in both a two and four door model. While the two door model is no longer available, it sure was popular at the time!

In the US, the first generation Rav4 had a straight-four engine that pushed out 120 hp. This was not the most powerful engine on the road, but it was more than enough to get the small SUV up to speed in a hurry.

For those who did not want or need all-wheel drive, the vehicle was also available in a front-wheel drive platform. It was offered with either a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission.

In 1997, the Rav4 got one of its first big breakthroughs when Automobile Magazine named it Automobile of the Year. This is when consumers and other car manufactures stated to take notice, something would forevor shift the small SUV market.

When 1998 rolled around, Toyota excited the market by making some key changes. In addition to a fresh exterior, its engine gained another seven horsepower.

These first 4 years were ground breaking, setting the tone for what is now 20+ years later. This little SUV is often times seen still on the roads today, holding their value, dependability and reliability.


2nd Generation: 2001 - 2005

The second generation Rav4 is here. Despite the success of the first generation model, this vehicle was better in almost every regard. It came with an optional hood scoop, how cool is that!

One of the biggest changes was that Toyota became a bit more serious. It came with a handful of standard features. Such as, anti-lock brakes, air conditioning, and electronic stability control became standard. Additional options were also made available, such as a six speaker CD stereo (huge deal at the time!).

By the time the 2004 model hit, Toyota once again made some changes. The company thought it was time for a styling update as well as a new engine. The previous 2.0L engine was upgraded to a new 2.4L engine. This engine put out 161 horsepower and 162 lb-ft. of torque, making it the most powerful RAV4 to date.


3rd Generation: 2006 - 2012

In 2006, Toyota rolled out the 3rd gen compact suv. With an all new platform, Toyota once again outdid itself.

Although this model was available for six years, Toyota did not keep it the same the entire time. In 2009, it was given a mid-cycle refresh that impressed many consumers spanning a variety of markets. New features were brought to life, including a new four cylinder engine as well as some minor changes to the rear and front end of the vehicle.

Toyota launched a 3.5L V6 option, something we all still miss today. The V6 produced an impressive 269 hp and 246 lb-ft of torque. This powertrain gets almost the same fuel economy as the much less powerful four-cylinder, with 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. Getting four-wheel drive results in a loss of only 1 mpg on the highway. In performance testing, the Rav4 V6 4WD delivered a very quick 0-60-mph time of 7.2 seconds! Beyond that the Rav4 had an optional rear tire mount on the back hatch, a Sport grade and much more. This Rav4 was edgy, fun and left no one hanging.


4th Generation: 2013 - 2018

The fourth generation debuted at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show. From day one, this new generation SUV has been a top seller for Toyota, selling over 400,000 in 2018.

Since hitting dealers in 2013, it has kept pace with the rest of the compact SUV market and continually fought to be better.

While the previous generation Rav4 had a six-cylinder engine, Toyota retired this for the fourth generation. Instead, it went with an all inline four cylinder lineup. Performance remained the same, but gas mileage improved. This is a definite win-win for drivers overall. For those who like some speed behind their shoe, stick with a 2012 Rav4.

Toyota has done an excellent job making changes to the Rav4 when necessary. In 2016 Toyota changed some things up on the exterior making it a bit more appealing and sporty.

In addition to a fresh exterior, the new model featured silver rear and front skid guards. It gave the suv just enough to push it to the front and compete. With this, in 2018 Toyota launched an exclusive Rav4 called an Adventure Grade. It featured a  handful of stylish modifications that gave the fourth generation Rav4 a bit to hold on too.

The real change, however, is the addition of a hybrid Rav4. Toyota is leading the hybrid charge, and you can be rest assured that the Rav4 will continually lead the segment and be a game changer for all hybrid suv's.


5th Generation: 2019 +

Is it fair to say, the one we have been waiting for? For many Toyota enthusiasts and more specifically Toyota off-road enthusiasts this Rav4 meets all the requirements.

The 2019 Rav4 is a completely reengineered, reimagined compact crossover, and it’s likely to (again) become the automaker’s best-selling vehicle. Now built on Toyota's TNGA platform, the 2019 Rav4 will be spacious and offer lots of cargo space. With the new generation, the crossover adds a more modern and competitive interior as well as better differentiation between trims. The Adventure model defines rugged luxury, from road to dirt making your wildest adventures come true. The LE, XLE, Limited and XSE models feature a much different front end and grille from the Adventure model.

A 2.5-liter naturally aspirated I-4 and four-cylinder hybrid is standard pushing 2016hp and 6600rpm. The 2019 offers some cool features that are hard to pass up. Toyota got much more Techy, maybe even took some of the Lexus over to this new Rav4. Apple car play is standard, digital rear view mirror, USB ports, smart key push button start and much more.

The interior has optional heated and cooled seats, heated steering wheel, dual panoramic sunroof, power outlet in the rear, legit rubber floor matts and much much more. It is a comfortable interior overall with an edgy, sporty design. Toyota safety sense 2.0 is standard and it's the real deal. From lane tracing to dynamic cruise control, it will keep you safer than you need to be.

To finish, a couple big new things in 2019 is the ride quality. The Rav4 offers a new 8 speed electronically controlled transmission, 3 different driving modes such as eco and sport, multi-link suspension, and an available multi terrain select system for those who like to get off the road and play.

Stay tuned for more updates on the Toyota Rav4