2013 Toyota RAV4
The 1995 Toyota RAV4 was a real game changer as the first small SUV to use a car-like unitized chassis. Its success prompted numerous other compact crossovers including the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape. But, as they became more popular, the RAV4 faded. It just didn’t evolve enough to stay ahead of rivals. Well, Toyota is out to change that for 2013 with an all new RAV4. So, let’s see if we can now rave about the RAV.
The first change you’ll see in the 2013 Toyota RAV4 is one you can’t see, anymore at least. The spare tire that used to be mounted on the “love-it-or-hate-it” side swinging rear door is no more. In its place is a more conventional lift-gate with the spare tire moved inside, under the cargo floor.
It’s part of a whole new, if more conventional look that is sleeker and more athletic than previous RAVs. The expressive front end leads to a more steeply raked windshield; while roof rails on XLE models progress to a large hatch-mounted spoiler. Tail lights jut out from the rear fenders and the concave lines of the rear hatch give a very modern look. XLE’s come equipped with 18-inch alloys, but even the base 17-inch steel wheels with hubcaps look pretty sharp.
Not surprisingly, aerodynamics are greatly improved over the last RAV thanks to the slicker shape, new underbody covers, and front “aero” corners. Exterior dimensions are all down a bit from last year, mostly due to the removal of the outside spare; except for wheelbase which remains at 104.7-inches.
And while it’s doubtful many RAV owners will venture off pavement, with the optional all-wheel drive system, it performs well in slop and snow. AWD includes an electronic locking center diff for true 50/50 torque split at speeds up to 25 miles-per-hour; and can help dial back under-steer at any speed, thanks to new dynamic torque control.
The MacPherson strut front suspension and trailing arm double wishbone rear do a good job of soaking up bumps. And when back on dry pavement, a larger stabilizer bar helps reduce roll. Combined with fairly responsive electric steering, the RAV has a more solid, if not necessarily sportier, ride than before.
It’s also delivers a very quiet driving environment, and you can now tailor the driving experience to your liking with ECO and Sport modes. ECO dials back the a/c and throttle response, while Sport boosts throttle response, changes both when and how quickly the transmission shifts, and makes steering feel more direct.
The sole engine is a carryover 2.5-liter I4 rated at 176-horsepower and 172 lb-ft. of torque. The V-6 is no more. The automatic transmission however, is upgraded from an antiquated 4-gears to 6, contributing to both a peppier feel and a 7-8 percent rise in fuel economy.
Indeed, Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 22–City, 29-Highway, and 25-Combined with all-wheel-drive, while front drivers rate 24-City, 31-Highway, and 26-Combined, all on regular grade gas.
The redesigned interior is where the new RAV4 makes its biggest strides. Replacing the drab living space of before is a good blend of both sporty feel and increased refinement; with a wide, soft-touch dash splitting the comfort and work zones, and lending an almost cockpit feel.
Front seats are wide and much more comfortable than before. And even though exterior size is a bit smaller, everything is roomier inside, most noticeably in the back seat where legroom now rivals many mid-sizers, and in the cargo area where you’ll find 38.4 cubic feet of space with the seats up. Fold them, which is easier than before, and it expands to a class best 73.4 cubic-ft.
A back-up camera is standard, while blind spot monitoring can be added to Limited models, which come with a power rear lift-gate. Also standard are 8-airbags, including one for the driver’s knees.
Prices are up, but just barely so, and still a strong point. Trim levels have also been simplified to make the buying process easier, and that process begins at $24,145 for a base LE model. A mid-level XLE will cost you $25,135 and the loaded up Limited stickers for $27,855. All-wheel-drive can be added to any model for an additional 14-hundred bucks.
Change always has the potential to be good or bad. Well, in the RAV4’s case it is good and much needed. Buyers looking at the new RAV4 will find a roomier, more comfortable, more efficient, and yes, better looking compact crossover. That’s why we picked the 2013 Toyota RAV4 as our MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Best Small Utility of the year. Just one more reason that there’s plenty to rave about the new RAV4!
Engine: 2.5-liter I4
Torque: 172 lb-ft.
EPA: 22 mpg city/ 29 mpg highway