2019 Toyota RAV4: talking with chief engineer Yoshikazu Saeki

Yoshikazu Saeki has been an engineer with Toyota for more than 30 years, during which time he has taken key roles in the development of Toyota saloon models such as the Avalon and Camry.

More recently, Saeki-san has been closely involved in Toyota’s global expansion, bringing his experience to bear in the development of new technologies, platforms and models. Among these new products is the new fifth-generation Toyota RAV4, for which he took responsibility as chief engineer.

We spoke to Saeki-san during the European launch campaign to discover his ambitions for the new car and understand how these align with those of the original RAV4, launched back in 1994.

What were your ambitions for the new model?

Saeki: “The RAV4 has held a strong market presence since its introduction 25 years ago. It has gained a loyal following the world over, continually evolving to respond to changing customer needs. For the new RAV4 we set out to create a product that appeals to the next generation of customers.”

What were some of the considerations to achieve this?

Saeki: “The first thing we considered was how we could redefine RAV4’s product value. We addressed the fundamental reason for its being and thought about how we could create an SUV that can withstand the test of time – one that can last for the next 25 years.

“It is never easy to create a new concept in such a strictly segmented and increasingly competitive market. We needed to deliver a wow factor to customers, inspiring them with a vehicle that has exceptional presence while highlighting the benefits of owning it. These were the foundations on which we developed the fifth-generation RAV4.”

Do you feel the new model is a clear evolution of the original RAV4?

Saeki: “Since the first-generation model, there have been two overarching views of the RAV4: that its driving performance is suited to any road, and that its user-friendly interior is suited to any situation. It was my mission to evolve these views. This meant the RAV4 should have a strong presence and reliable toughness on any road, while offering a stress-free experience for driver and passengers.

Find out more about the 2019 Toyota RAV4

“At the beginning of the design process we thought about how best to evolve the original concept. This led us to the new concept of Adventure and Refinement. Adventure sends out a simple, strong message that owners can drive anywhere they want, expressing waku-doki – the equivalent of ‘heart-pumping excitement’ in Japanese. Refinement is expressed in a sophisticated design that fits within an urban setting. Combining these contrasting elements enhances the new RAV4’s unique value.”

Are there any other design elements contributing to this feeling?

Saeki: “Yes. Its wide stance, large tyres and raised ground clearance create a strong image, which is further emphasised by the polygon design theme and the vehicle’s multipurpose capabilities. Just looking at the new RAV4 triggers the urge to get in and go somewhere.”

How have you endeavoured to engineer the driving experience?

Saeki: “Where vehicle performance, handling and stability are concerned, we defined the key concept as Confident and Natural, with the driver’s sensibilities at the heart of everything. As a team we put great effort into improving the driving experience by focusing on enhancing tyre-to-ground contact, stable and natural cornering, and smooth, responsive driving.

“We’ve improved performance to meet the demands of any road. Whereas a conventional SUV suspension makes for an uncomfortable, unresponsive ride in off-road conditions, the RAV4 provides saloon-like comfort and an enjoyable ride.”

Learn more: Powertrains and performance of the new Toyota RAV4


  1. Will Toyota bring back the Green colour seen 5 yrs ago and a fav in the states on the Rav4…With diesel now 41p per gallon more than petrol any wonder why Toyota is now market leaders in the UK..

  2. A heated windscreen would be an addition I would appreciate. Other brands are offering this & I hope Toyota will also.

      1. I see some US versions of the new RAV4 have a heated front windscreen, along with ventilated front seats and heated rear seats. If they come from the same factory as ours, why can’t we order a car fitted with them?

  3. Can you answer these questions please, all connected with the DYNAMIC AWD model?
    Will it have FULL leather seats?
    Will it have a dial knob on the centre console for different driving modes, e.g. Sport, ECO, Normal?
    Will it include ‘Trail’ mode?
    Will it have Torque Vectoring AWD?
    Will it have Paddle Shifts?
    Will it have bag hooks in the boot? (I can’t see any on the showroom car I’ve seen).
    Will it have a spare wheel?
    If I pre-order (assuming all the answers are yes), when can I expect delivery?
    When will full brochures be available?

    1. Hi Robert,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      The RAV4 Dynamic AWD:
      – Has full leather seats
      – Has a dial in the centre for different driving modes
      – Has Trail mode
      – Has E-Four all-wheel drive which employs a second, rear-mounted electric motor to power the rear wheels allowing torque to be distributed between all four wheels, improving grip and stability.
      – Does not have paddle shifts, however, it has an S mode which simulates gears
      – We do not have any information about boot hooks, only passenger coat hooks. We would recommend contacting your local Toyota Centre to confirm this.
      – Has a spare alloy wheel

      RAV4 AWD Customer Deliveries will commence from May. The Brochure is available to receive via post or email through the following link: https://www.toyota.co.uk/order-a-brochure?model=new-rav4.


  4. Thank you for the answers, pretty much all yes except some clarification please regarding the brochure you sent me. It doesn’t give any model information, or full specifications and pictures. So would you clarify my question about ALL leather seats? The picture in the brochure shows seats with a material panel in the seat cushion and on the back rest and the caption says it is a Dynamic with Pan roof. So are they not actually FULL leather as you stated, assuming the brochure is correct? Please advise if different or confirm the brochure is correct.
    Surely there is going to be a more comprehensive brochure, when will this be available?


    1. Hi Robert,

      We have double checked this and the Excel grade has full leather seats, whereas the Dynamic grade has synthetic leather Dynamic Sports Seats as standard. In terms of the full brochure, this will be available closer to the start of sales towards the end of March.

      We hope this helps, please do let us know if we can be of any more assistance.


    1. Hi William,

      Thanks for getting in touch. Unfortunately, we are only able to comment on the UK market. We would advise contacting a Toyota Centre in your local region for further clarification.


  5. I just had a test drive in a 2WD Dynamic, as I was seriously considering a Excel AWD with the Panoramic View Monitor (which I’d have to have with an unwanted audio upgrade to get).

    Apart from some equipment that’s not been made available in the UK even at extra cost, the salesman said even the Excel will NOT have wireless phone charging – can this really be true?

    Also, having driven cars with Heads Up Display since 2009, I’m bitterly disappointed that in 2019 the op spec RAV4 doesn’t have this. Some friends recently bought a much cheaper second hand Peugeot which DID have a HUD! This is the hardest part of my decision, as I really hated not having it during the test drive. I’ve been trying to drive with it switch off on my Prius to see if I can can used to being without it, but the answer so far is a resounding NO! Surely this is a safety feature that could easily have been incorporated as Toyota already has the hardware and softer in the Prius? The other car I’m looking at is the Honda CR-V, which again DOES have a HUD. If the RAV4 had one, I wouldn’t even b looking elsewhere.

    1. Hi Pete,

      Thanks for getting in touch and for your interest in the RAV4. It’s great to hear that you’ve had a test drive of the car. Customer feedback is extremely important to us so we appreciate these comments and will pass them on to our Product Team.


  6. Mr Saeki, I have had my Rav4 since June 2019 and when I ordered it was assured it was Apple Iphone compatible, this proved to be false information. The infotainment system is poor and way behind the competition, Gen3 is being fitted to the new CHR and new Rav4 now being produced, when are Toyota going to recall four month old cars (like mine) and update the system with Apple Car Play & Android Auto so that my infotainment system is at the very least as good as the competition? Toyota UK seem to be in the dark so Toyota world wide need to make sure ALL territories are equal?

    1. Hi Duncan,

      Thanks for getting in touch. RAV4 is compatible with iPhone. You can connect your phone to the car via bluetooth to stream music, make calls etc. At this time we have no information regarding retrofit options of Apple CarPlay for RAV4.

      Do you feel the car has been mis-sold to you? If so please do get back in touch.


      1. You may have hit on an interesting issue for modern vehicle engineer. 30 years of experience in mechanical engineering is certainly something comforting.

        But how did they miss CarPlay, in European models? Perhaps experience in other areas is required? If Toyota are so good at Just in Time manufacturing why cannot we order these to the different specs that are available globally? Who makes the decisions on the specifications in the markets and how much does this cost us as consumers?

        The world is changing and its not just mechanical engineers that are going to have to change.

      2. Hi there,

        Thanks for getting in touch. Decisions over specifications will take a variety of factors into account including the demands of each market. In addition, licensing for third party products, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can be complex issues that can take time work out. However, we have now resolved this and are now rolling out Apple CarPlay and Android Auto across our range of cars.

        We appreciate your comments and are constantly working to improve our offering.


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