Spied: Next-Gen Toyota Rav4 Spotted On The West Coast

It looks like Toyota is working on an updated version of the Rav4 crossover, based on these new spy photos. That makes sense, given that the current Toyota Rav4 is over six years old, and that most of the model's competitors have recently been redesigned.

The current, third-generation Toyota Rav4 was introduced in late 2005 for the 2006 model year. The crossover has received mild changes almost every year since, including a visual revamp and a new four-cylinder engine for the 2009 model year. Yet in the past year, nearly all of the Rav4's competitors -- including the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport -- have been redesigned. That leaves Toyota's entry looking a bit dated in comparison.

Despite the heavy camouflage, it's apparent the updated Toyota Rav4 will adopt a different front-end design that's more in keeping with the rest of the company's lineup. Like the 2012 Camry, 2013 Avalon, and 2012 Corolla, the prototype model spied here has a more pointed fascia with a wide bow-shaped chrome grille. That replaces the rectangular, two-bar design on the current Rav4.

We believe the next Rav4 will be slightly smaller than the current version, and it may lose its third row of seats. The Toyota's optional third row may be handy for drivers who want to carry six friends, but most of the model's key rivals only offer seating for five.

It's tougher to predict what will hide beneath the sheetmetal of the new Rav4. The chassis and powertrain options probably won't change drastically -- the new Toyota Camry, for instance, only received mild mechanical updates in its newest iteration. Currently, the Rav4 has a 2.5-liter inline-four engine with 179 hp, and a 3.5-liter V-6 with 269 hp. Those mills couple to either a four- or five-speed automatic transmission, with front- or all-wheel drive.

The new Rav4 will almost certainly ditch the four- and five-speed transmissions for a more modern and efficient six-speed unit. And given Toyota's prowess with hybrid technology, it's a solid bet that a gas-electric hybrid model will debut at some point. Toyota has built an all-electric version of the Rav4 that uses powertrain components from Tesla Motors, but that vehicle is based on the current Rav4.

The new Toyota Rav4 should launch by the end of 2013.

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