First Look: 2013 Toyota RAV4

Toyota revealed the all-new 2013 RAV4 at the Los Angeles Auto Show this morning. The 2013 RAV4 will go on sale at the beginning of next year.

All New Look

Gone is the gawky look of the third-generation RAV4; in its place is a cleaner design more in line with Toyota's current portfolio. That's not to say that the new RAV4 is prettier than the outgoing model, but the overall aesthetic is more coherent and generally inoffensive. It will look quite familiar to Japanese and European Toyota buyers, as the 2013 RAV4 recalls the recently-released Auris hatchback sold overseas.

The most controversial aspect of the redesigned crossover is the front end: it looks as though Toyota tried to butch-up the Camry's nose, but instead come away with a face that looks sort of like an Angry Birds character with an overbite. The Toyota emblem sits front and center on a triangular-shaped, body-color plastic piece in the middle of a slim black grille; the fake rubber skid plate comes about halfway up the front fascia in an attempt to make this soft roader look more trail-ready. The projector-beam headlights carry over a shape as seen on the Camry and 2013 Avalon and come with LED daytime running lights. Foglights and heated exterior mirrors with turn signal repeaters are standard on the XLE and Limited models.

Around back, Toyota has cribbed from the Mitsubishi's book; the RAV4's high-set taillights and square hatch are almost carbon copies for the Outlander's, although the Toyota doesn't get LED taillights and has slightly more surface detailing than the Mitsubishi. For the first time ever, the RAV4 will use a roof-hinged liftgate and in-floor-stored space-saver spare instead of a side-hinged rear door with mounted spare.

In profile, the RAV4 is all about evolution over revolution: the daylight opening is almost identical to the current car's, the biggest different being a sloping glass line from aft of the B-pillar to the D-pillar that is reminiscent of the 2013 Ford Escape. There is a more pronounced shoulder line, which helps break up body mass between the windows and the standard 17-inch wheels. (18-inch wheels are available on the top-spec Limited only.)

Compared with the outgoing RAV4, the 2013 model is marginally shorter (by two inches), ever-so-slightly wider (by 1.1 inches), and a touch shorter (by just 0.9 inches). Despite the slight size reduction, Toyota has managed to increase cargo space by 1.2 cu ft or 0.4 cu ft with the second row seats up or down, respectively. There is no longer an available third row of seating. The 2013 RAV4's 38.4/73.4 cu ft of cargo space is the most of any vehicle in its class.

A New, Yet Familiar Cabin

Anyone who has been in the current RAV4 will find themselves right at home in the 2013 RAV4. The new car is a clear evolution of the same theme, from the high-mounted audio controls, to the climate control "shelf," to the large circular speedometer. A 6.1-inch LCD Multi-Information Display (MID) touchscreen is now standard on all RAV4 models, along with a backup camera and Bluetooth connectivity. XLE- and Limited-grade vehicles add the option of navigation and Toyota's Entune infotainment system; an 11-speaker JBL sound system is option on Limited models. The steering wheel from the Camry and Avalon makes an appearance in the RAV4, as well; there are steering-wheel-mounted controls for the audio system, Bluetooth handsfree, and the MID. Toyota claims that the Clear Blue illumination on the gauges and center stack will provide crisp and clear visibility for the controls.

Also new for 2013 is the availability of a blind spot monitor system (BSM) for the RAV4 Limited. The BSM system also includes rear cross traffic alert, to detect an oncoming vehicle when the car is in reverse.

Goodbye V-6

Toyota will again offer the RAV4 in three trim levels; however, they are now more in line with the rest of the brand building in ascending order from LE to XLE to Limited. Gone is the range-topping 3.5-liter V-6 engine and its five-speed automatic; also missing from the spec sheet is the old four-speed auto. The only powertrain is the 2.5-liter I-4 from last year rated at 176 hp (down two) and 172 lb-ft of torque; the four-cylinder is paired with a new six-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional.

Compared to the rest of the class, the I-4 is one of the most powerful base engines, trailing the Honda CR-V's 2.4-liter by four hp and matching the Kia Sportage's 2.4-liter. However, the 2013 RAV4 is down by anywhere from two hp (from the Ford Escape 1.6 EcoBoost) to 84 hp (from the Kia Sportage Turbo) when compared to the competition's strongest engines since it doesn't offer an optional engine upgrade.

The RAV4 makes up for the lack of extra power by adding extra miles -the front-wheel drive RAV4 will achieve 24/31 mpg city/highway, the second-best mpg rating of any automatic-equipped compact crossover. Only the Mazda CX-5 tops the RAV4 in frugality: it is rated at 26/35 mpg with a manual or 26/32 or 25/31 mpg with an automatic (front- or all-wheel drive). All-wheel drive RAV4s are rated at 22/29 mpg.

Ready for Off Road

All-wheel drive-equipped RAV4s now use a Dynamic Torque Control system with three modes - auto, lock, and sport. Auto does exactly what the name says: torque is sent to the wheels with grip automatically, and power is only sent rearward when it is needed. Sport mode can provide up to 50 percent of the torque to the rear wheels under acceleration and cornering, as well as during traction loss. The new six-speed automatic also has a sport mode which will sharpen shift action and timing, quicken throttle response, and add weight to the electric power steering assist.

Lock mode will be interesting for those who want to take their RAV4s for more than a little light off-roading. At speeds below 25 mph, torque is split 50/50 between the front and rear axles to aid in finding traction in sandy or muddy conditions.

Ready Next Year

Pricing has not been announced yet for the 2013 Toyota RAV4, but the 2012 RAV4 starts at $23,495 including destination. A fully-loaded all-wheel-drive 2012 RAV4 Limited I-4 rings in at $30,985. The 2013 RAV4 goes on sale at the beginning of 2013.

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larry/rego park
Wow! It only took Toyota some 7 years (between models) to eliminate the V-6, the full size spare tire, the third row seating, lower the ground clearance, lose hp from the 4 cylinder, and, from the photos, substantially compromise what used to be among the best sight lines in the industry. No wonder they kept it under wraps like a national security secret! Unless this new vehicle rates fabulously in a test drive, there seems to be little to recommend it for purchase.
John Hand
Oh, forgot to mention, my oldest son purchased a Mazda CX-5 and loves it.
John Hand
Toyota is taking a fine SUV and eliminating its best features. We have a 2008 RAV sports edition with the 18 inch wheels, FIVE 18 inch wheels. What that means is, we have more space under the rear floor for storage, and we can rotate five wheels. If we have a flat on the road, say in the middle of Monument Valley at five on a Saturday afternoon, we can put on A FULL SIZE SPARE and keep going. Having to open the door sideways has NEVER been a problem. Besides, that spare on the outside looks cool. Its my wife's SUV and she wouldn't go for the V-6 (Big mistake I feel) but it still runs pretty strong. The V-6 would pull this SUV to 60 in the six second range and still get better MPG on the highway than the four. So now I guess Toyota is also dropping the V-6 from the lineup. Looks like we won't be trading our RAV for a new one.

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