2013 Toyota RAV4 Review – Video

Going mainstream helps RAV4 stand out

2013 Toyota RAV4 Review – Video
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Often touted as the vehicle that created the compact crossover segment, consumers care little for history and instead want a product that fits their modern needs and wants; which is why the Toyota RAV4 came to be in the first place.

FAST FACTS

1. Gone is the optional 3.5L V6, leaving only one engine option, a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder making 176 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque.

2. Fuel economy is rated at 24/31 mpg for FWD models and 22/29 mpg for AWD.

3. New Sport and Eco drive modes enhance performance for either better throttle response or improved fuel economy.

4. Pricing starts at $23,300 for the LE, $24,290 for the XLE and $27,010 for the Limited with AWD an extra $1,400 for each.

So with demand for the small soft-roader waning, a fourth-generation RAV4 is here, looking to attract new buyers with more sport and more style, though without a few of the features we’ve come to expect.

SPORTY AND SOPHISTICATED

Dressed to impress, the new RAV4 is cooler than ever with a new front fascia, a lower roofline, sportier alloy wheels and a rear spoiler. Mirroring the sort of swoopy lines that characterize modern competitors like the Hyundai Santa Fe and Mazda CX-5, it’s certain to resonate more clearly with car shoppers looking for a more stylish cute-ute.

With a look unseen on any Toyota products, it comes to a point with angled headlights and an under-biting front bumper. Of course, higher trim levels deliver plenty of chrome detailing, with foglights included with XLE and Limited trims. With the new style come new wheels with 17-inch rollers standard while 18s are fitted to the Limited trim. Optional on LE models and standard on Limited and XLE trims are roof rails to help keep the look sporty though with a premium touch.

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Among one of the bigger changes is the absence of the spare tire mounted on the rear liftgate. Toyota has removed the identifying SUV-inspired detail, and made a much-needed change. Now instead of a side-swinging rear door, it opens upward. What took so long?

As a bonus on the Limited trim, the liftgate is power operated with a programmable height feature. Plus all models get a rear spoiler, completing the more modern look.

GOODBYE V6

Changes are just as significant under the hood, where Toyota has made the bold decision to drop the V6 engine option.

The 2.5-liter 4-cylinder remains producing 176 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque, though it gains a 6-speed automatic transmission, adding two more gears for better acceleration and fuel economy. Helping compensate for the loss of the V6 engine, the RAV4 also gains a Sport mode that improves throttle (as well as steering) response.

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The transmission helps improve fuel economy to 24 mpg city and 31 mpg highway with the front-drive and 22/29 mpg for all-wheel drive equipped models. A strong improvement, those figures aren’t quite best-in-class, coming up short of the Mazda CX-5 and Ford Escape. For added fuel thrift, the RAV4 does gain a new Eco mode, to balance out the Sport mode, dulling throttle response to ensure maximum fuel mileage.

FULL OF GOODNESS

While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, you can’t ignore that for a small, cost effective vehicle, the RAV4 has some real interior appeal.

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Resembling the faces of sports watches, the sleek new dash clusters are cooly illuminated with a blue-colored backgrounds and red needles gauges. That’s just the start of better cabin fashion. Available to the XLE and Limited trims, French stitching gives the dash a more up-scale flavor, while helping to make even the most basic models look modern is a standard 6-inch touchscreen display system which includes a backup camera. A new shift gate panel helps take the cabin another step towards feeling like a car, though the long shifter looks dated already, as does the digital clock, while the carbon-fiber styled accenting material seems out of place in a crossover.

Other cabin standard features include 6-speaker audio system, a USB port with iPod connectivity, handsfree phone capability and music streaming via Bluetooth. Optional to the Limited trim is a better infotainment system with display audio, navigation, Entune, and an 11-speaker JBL audio system with a subwoofer.

Along with making more noise, the 2013 RAV4 also helps drown it out, with improved sound deadening throughout, as well as a new thicker windshield.

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Getting rid of the two-tone seating color scheme, long a part of the RAV4’s pedigree, is the implementation of color-blocking styling, a look often found in high-end sports cars. Color options include black, gray, beige and the most premium-looking of the combinations, a new terra cotta choice (basically clay red and dark gray), solely available on the Limited trim. The Limited seats also used a Softex material, rather than genuine leather, which is now only used on the steering wheel and shifter. Both the LE and XLE trim levels feature fabric-trimmed seats, which look better than before.

Rear seat legroom is actually down by an inch, though slimmer seatbacks mean even taller passengers won’t be wanting for space. They’ll also enjoy a wider armrest with side-by-side cup holders.

One of the biggest changes is the removal of the third-row seating option. With low sales and little demand the change allows for cargo capacity to be increased to 38.4 cu-ft behind the second row and 73.4 cubic feet total.

MORE CAR THAN EVER BEFORE

On the road, the RAV4’s new style with improved aerodynamics makes for reduced wind noise, while a larger rear sway bar helps reduce body roll. Overall the drive is smoother and more energetic.

We drove our AWD Limited tester throughout the hills of Scottsdale, Arizona and it fared well in the semi-mountainous terrain but it was also clear that the RAV4 is less of an off-road vehicle than ever before. If the style doesn’t communicate the message enough, the fact that ground clearance has been reduced by over an inch certainly will.

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Instead, it’s best left on the beaten path, with an Eco mode for your daily commute and a Sport mode for long freeway stretches and twisty hills. The Sport mode really is one of the highlights and it’s a convenience feature RAV4 owners might have not realized they were missing. It’s all about quicker shifts as well as improved throttle response, not to mention more reactive steering. On all-wheel drive models, the assistance of Dynamic Torque Control offers 10 percent more power to the rear wheels and combats understeer affording better balance to the vehicle.

An all-new AWD system is included with three drive modes: Auto, Lock and Sport. The auto mode is essentially a front-drive setting that adds power to the rear once slip is detected. In the case you do find yourself in the mud or snow, a Lock mode will engage the rear axle with up to 50 percent of the power being set to the rear wheels at speeds of up to 25 mph. Finally, when in the car’s Sport mode, up to 50 percent of the torque can be sent to the rear wheels at any speed, helping improve cornering.

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New driving aids have also been introduced like the (standard) one-touch three-blink turn signal for easier lane changes as well as the option of a Blind Spot Monitor indicator on outside mirrors in the Limited trim. Also, in the airbag department, is a driver knee airbag which curbs the impact to the driver’s legs in case of a collision.

Those looking for functionality in the towing department, the RAV retains the 1,500 lb towing capability of its 4-cylidner predecessor, though without the V6 engine, those looking for more, will have to look elsewhere.

THE VERDICT

Once a leader in the crossover segment, the RAV4 has slipped away from setting the trend but looks to regain its former status with this fourth generation model.

Moving further from the SUV by dropping its V6, third row and visible rear spare tire, it’s less unique in the segment. Seemingly a bad thing, it’s a response to consumer demand and does make for a more pleasing product.

In place of those features is more space, better driving dynamics and a style that’s so attractive you wouldn’t expect it from Toyota. Combine that with some new tech, a vastly improved interior and the quality we’ve come to expect from the Japanese auto giant over the years and the 2013 RAV4 is poised to compete at the top of its class.

LOVE IT
  • More standard equipment
  • Better ride quality
  • Selectable drive modes
  • Upward lift gate
LEAVE IT
  • Fuel economy could be better
  • Passable engine performance
  • Still some questionable interior components

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  • wtdash

    I’m glad I got my ’07 RAV4 w/the V6 (only 1 less mpg vs. the 4, but 0-60 in <7secs). The only upgrade I see is the new tailgate. Based on CR, none of the infotainment displays are much good in any of the new cars, so my old school dials and buttons put function over form.

    Plus, it looks like a CR-V…IMHO.

    Happy Holidays!

  • $25384626

    Infotainment displays are good in many cars, the problem is the brain of some drivers, and it can’t be fixed with a software update.

  • wtdash

    I would consider CR’s testers experts…if they don’t like ‘em/find fault, I’ll believe it….but yes there are those that fall into the PICNIC category – problem in chair, not in computer.  :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jerry-WimerJr/100000916577538 Jerry WimerJr

    The front end looks like this is a cross of a Murano with a CR-V (NOT GOOD), and the interior, that’s far worse..  The dash doesn’t even look like it belongs in the same car with the doors (look at where the dash ends and the doors / windows are..).

    It may sell well, but it won’t be because the styling is great.

  • 370roadster

    WOW… couldn’t disagree with you more.  Dropping the V6 makes this just like any other run of the mill crossovers. Don’t like the interior, more plastic… the old version had to much as well.

    No V6… no buyer here!  the 4cyl is just too tortoiselike

  • Moose5832

    I test drove the previous 2012 edition of the RAV4 and was very disappointed; the new revised model does seem to be a step in the right direction.  The old version drove like a truck, lots of engine and road noise, unrefined road manners, and stark interior.  The only thing I was impressed with was the short turning radius.  I own a 2013 Mazda CX-5, Touring Package, 2WD model.  It’s hands down a superior crossover to the Toyota RAV4, CX-5s come basically loaded with options including a standard backup camera; which there was no mention of on the new 2013 RAV4.  I average about 28.5 mpg around town in stop and go traffic and on the highway from Denver, CO to Washington, DC (with a full load cargo, running the AC, and driving at 70 to 75 miles per hour, I still averaged 34.2 on the highway on my 1,700 mile cross country trip.  The new 2013 Toyota RAV4 still comes up short with the fierce competition in the small crossover segment.   

  • Stymiebimi

    The new Rav4 is poorly made….wind noise road noise is more noticeable on this model . The steel has been shaved down again to save money, meaning it will dent and ding easier. the front bumper is huge, while the back bumper is tiny…it uses cheap plastic on the body sides and wheel wells which will, over time turn discolored. Right now almost all Rav`s that come off the line are needing repairs, right now I hear almost if not all Rav4`s made do not have a properly functioning rear hatch, meaning the hatch will close, but may not open or may never close at all because poor engineering cause the appropriate parts to not line up…ok Toyota PR person(Michael Jenkins), start swearing at me for posting the truth about a cheap//poorly made /not thought out vehicle. This is another thing that Toyota does…they hire people to search the internet for anyone saying bad things about their product and to shout them down/insult the poster, go ahead check it out, anywhere there is a bad review there will be a hired verbal assassin to try to make that person look like they don`t know what they are talking about…but I know what I`m talking about as I work in Toyota`s engineering department for the Rav4.

  • Sperrymatcals

     Or maybe you work for Honda or some other envious company?????
    You comments post zero truth.

    Finally a RAV4 version that makes sense and is pleasing to the eye with a ton of new modern amenities.
    Nice!

  • Jetlee6666

     The problem is too much driver fuck’ here fuck’ there..hehe..the only things they know is this big world is only FUCKING..

  • Thomas

    You’re a guy on a keyboard.   I’m an astronaut.

  • Agapito

    I love my Rav4 13′ for my family its better than any orher small Suv … go get something else u guy that are no happy with this one .i.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=580296360 Doug Miller

    We own a 2011 RAV4, and traded in an ’07 RAV 4 on this one. Lots of cargo space and get up and go. Yes, it’s a 3.5L V6. As retirees, we drive to Florida each October, returning in April. We’re loaded up, cooler, suitcases, golf clubs and .. well you know what a 5+ month vacation does to the luggage pile. We were all set to buy another RAV4 in 2015 or 16. Not now. Toyota has blown it big time. Ever tried doing 120 kph on a US freeway, loaded with 300 kilos of gear and 2 adults? It takes a V6 to pull it off, and still have some guts left in the engine. Speaking of being loaded up, have you ever changed a tire and had to unload most of your stuff just to get at the spare? Ever done it in the rain? I guarantee you, your stuff is gonna get wet, along with yourself. We got rear ended in our ’07 at 55kph. I can attest to the amount of force that rear mounted spare tire took, saving us from even more serious damage or injury. Now Toyota, for some ridiculous reason, has taken away the full sized spare and replaced it with a ‘temporary use’ tire. Brilliant? Not. Those tires have caused more inconvenience and injury than you can imagine. Your vehicle is now crippled, forcing you to limp to the nearest tire shop. Oh ya, 3 am Sunday night, in the rain, and you’re going to get what, where and when? One more advantage of that rear mounted spare. The storage space under the cargo area where the ‘donut’ now resides held one huge amount of tool boxes, golf supplies etal that go south with us. Not a tidy pile of loose items I’d like floating around in the revamped cargo space. 
    Nor am I impressed with the supposed fuel mileage of the V4. I’ve been sending in fuel mileage reports to our salesman since we got our 2011. The latest trip, from FL to MB was 3244 km, 27.17 mpg or 11.56L/100 km. Not bad when I’m doing 120 kph most of the way. Before we hit the hills and winds of South Dakota, I was averaging 29.91 mpg, or 7.86L/100 km, at those same speeds. Toyota: You have completely gutted the RAV4, turning it into an urban variation of a gutless SUV unsuited for freeway travel and cross country trips. What replaces it, the Highlander? Too big, too gas hungry and not as nimble on urban or suburban roads. This excursion away from a mid sized, viable SUV just below the Highlander and is going to cost Toyota sales. It has cost them our next sale, and I doubt we’re alone. 2013 RAV4? You’re OUT!
    (These are the km and litres, most converted from USG.)
    KM 3244 Miles 2015.7
    Litres 280.7 IMP Gal. 74.15

  • Wayne

    My wife & I just bought a 2013 Rav4 XLE 2WD. No road noise, no tire noise, no cheap plastic trim & the lift gate opens without a flaw!! The only nit picking would be the electric assist steering: sometimes road feel other times not. We test drove the Sportage, CX5 & the very overly expensive Escape. Quality, fit & finish are top notch on the RAV4. Oh yeah, need I mention I’ve always owned Chrysler products in the past?! This Toyota is light years ahead of any other manufacturer in quality. 3250km & nothing to report.

  • Robert

    Bought a 2013 Rav4 XLE AWD. Very nice vehicle inside and out. However they did miss the mark when it came to std options on this vehicle. They gave us std heated seats and an overhead roof skylight nice, but left off Auto on and off head lights and auto rear view mirror adjustor for night driving. Both these items I consider to be a must safety wise and far more important then the Skylight and heated seats. Numerous other safety items that could have been added as std rather then the previous mentioned. Other then that a damn nice car.