2013 Toyota RAV4 has a redesigned exterior, with
its spare tire moved from the rear door to a new
home under the cargo floor.
all crossovers these days.
the polo grounds of Malibu to the campgrounds of Maine,
nearly a fifth of all vehicles sold in the U.S. last
year resided somewhere in this netherworld between a car
and an SUV.
the stakes were high for Toyota’s overdue redesign of
the RAV4, a pioneer of the segment in the mid-1990s that
had grown stale in comparison with competitors. Often
resembling small sport utility vehicles, crossovers are
truck-like vehicles built on front-drive car platforms.
2013 RAV4 is rolling into dealerships now. Although it’s
plenty functional and more sporty than past Toyotas, it
can’t match the rapidly improving sophistication of
such vehicles as the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape.
the RAV4, as with other models, Toyota is looking to
shed its reputation for boring vehicles by injecting
more dynamic performance and styling. But the execution
in the RAV4 is hit-and-miss.
emphasis on both sport and utility at times comes at the
expense of comfort and refinement. And the guts of the
RAV4 — the engine and transmission — are only
slightly improved. The four-cylinder engine remains
unchanged, and a six-cylinder option is gone. A new
six-speed automatic transmission is more fuel efficient
but hardly sporty.
RAV4’s handling feels more athletic, with
communicative steering and surprisingly stiff suspension
for a grocery getter. That’s an upgrade compared with
the numb feel of many past Toyotas. But the RAV4
overdoes it, making the ride too harsh.
vehicle’s styling, inside and out, also falls short of
the mark that Toyota has set for itself. The exterior
improves on the forgettable presence of the previous
model, but the sharply angled taillights and odd nose
and grille of the new RAV4 make it seem more down-market
and utilitarian than Toyota intended. One wise change
was swapping out the old side-hinged rear door setup for
one that swings up.
interior is functional enough. Firm seats with thick
side bolsters hold you comfortably in place. There are
myriad storage cubbies, pockets and compartments
throughout the cabin. The rear seats fold flat and can
easily swallow a mountain bike without removing its
wheels. But buyers will find competing cabins more
hospitable and polished.
the hood is the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine from
the outgoing model, now making 176 horsepower and 172
pound-feet of torque. An all-wheel-drive RAV4 will do
zero to 60 mph in 9.1 seconds, according to Edmunds.com.
has unfortunately ditched the previous RAV4’s
available V-6 engine, which distinguished it from many
competitors by offering an impressive 269 horsepower and
meaningful towing capacity.
big mechanical change is the RAV4’s new six-speed
automatic transmission replacing the antiquated
four-speed gearbox of yore. The extra speeds give a nice
bump to the RAV4’s fuel economy ratings.
models have estimates of 24 mpg in the city and 31 mpg
on the highway, while all-wheel-drive RAV4’s are rated
at 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg highway, according to
Environmental Protection Agency ratings. In 340 miles of
mixed driving, we averaged 23 mpg in an AWD RAV4.
the transmission seemed to constantly hunt for the best
gear, and the shifts seemed delayed at times. This was
mitigated somewhat by the RAV4’s Sport driving mode,
which also sharpened throttle response, though likely at
the expense of gas mileage.
base RAV4 LE starts at $24,145, including the
destination charge. This buys you power everything; a
6-inch color display for the stereo and backup camera;
stability and traction control; and eight air bags. The
XLE trim we tested is just $990 more and includes a moon
roof, 17-inch alloy wheels and dual-zone climate
control. Options including all-wheel-drive and a package
that includes touch-screen navigation, Sirius satellite
radio and Bluetooth pushed the as-tested price up to
$27,565, still competitive in the segment.
the top of the lineup is the Limited model, which comes
with features such as heated leather seats and a power
automaker expects to sell at least 200,000 copies in
2013. Given that it sold 175,000 of the outdated model
in 2012, Toyota probably will hit its goal with the new
the crossover segment continues to grow, with almost
every automaker offering one. In 2012, crossovers made
up 18.5 percent of all vehicle sales in the U.S., up
from 8 percent a decade earlier, according to
Edmunds.com. In the same period, market share of
traditional truck-based SUVs fell to 6 percent of sales
from 13.5 percent.
increased competition and sales has pushed the levels of
refinement in crossovers well beyond where they were in
the 1990s, when Toyota helped define the segment with
the first RAV4. Current versions of the Ford Escape,
Honda CR-V and Chevy Equinox have set a high bar for
others to match.
changes to the new model only make the RAV4 relevant,
not dominant. It’s functional and more fun, but at the
cost of comfort. So in an era when crossovers have
become the first choice for many families, Toyota still
has some catching up to do.
type: 4-door, 5-passenger compact crossover SUV
2.5-liter four cylinder engine, front-wheel-drive or
to 60 mph: 9.1 seconds for the AWD model, according to
fuel economy: FWD: 24/31 mpg city/highway; AWD: 22/29
as tested: $27,565
Crisp handling, practical cabin
Harsh ride; interior is outclassed by peers
Angeles Times’ take: A sportier Toyota that puts
function before form
prices include destination charges.