2013 TOYOTA RAV 4 –redesigned family favorite is back

The new generation 2013 Toyota RAV4 has one major change right off the bat and that is the elimination of its traditional big spare-tire carrier on the back. Do not fear, there is a spare tire – albeit temporary one lying beneath the cargo floor.

And how much sleeker and better the new RAV4 looks now! The front is and more aggressive set off creased fenders and a roof line slopes down to the rear. The protruding rear tail lights are now a prominent styling feature.

There is a much more convenient top-hinged tailgate rather than the side-hinged door of old that was such drawback in crowded parking lots and garages. The overall effect is a sharper, more contemporary modern SUV. More good news is the fact that the 2013 RAV4 costs $1,000-$1,500 less than the previous model, is more economical and larger on the inside.

The 2013 RAV4 comes in two FWD models – LE and XLE – and three AWD trims – LE, XLE and Limited. Mechanically there is a major change there is now only one four cylinder engine available and no thirsty V6 option. However the RAV4 does come in front- or all-wheel-drive (AWD) configurations. There is also an all-new six-speed automatic transmission as standard issue.

The 2.5-litre four-cylinder is a carryover unit that produces 176 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque, which is adequate enough and more fuel efficient by around half a liter per kilometer and provided a margin increase in speed by a full second in the 0-100 km/h dash.

The entry level LE trim pricing begins at $23,790. The as-tested AWD Limited retails for $34,835 which includes the Technology Package. The tested Limited does include niceties such as fog lights, 18” wheels and some bright work which class it up.

Our tester was an upper mid-range 2013 AWD XLE model with 17 inch alloy wheels, Dual Zone climate control, AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio system with six speakers and 6.1” display system with Bluetooth capability and USB jack. Options included the Navigation package ($1,170) that added Voice recognition controls, integrated XM Satellite radio and Navigation display. BASE MRSP was $29,200 plus options, AC tax, environmental fees, freight tend PDI for a total price of $32,140.

The interior benefits from significant changes with a new wrap around drivers cockpit and dash design that places the most often used and viewed primary information and controls straight ahead of the driver and keeps the audio and HVAC in a high center position in the dash.

The front seats are roomy and although not heated as standard (This is an option) offer good comfort.

The larger cabin also means that rear seat passengers gain more head and shoulder room and the ability to squeeze in third center passenger out back Toyota claims best-in-class cargo space of 1,078 litres with the second seat in place and 2,090 with it folded down. The redesign also results in a lower rear cargo floor and sill to enable things to be lifted in and out much easier.

On the road the 2013 Toyota RAV4 performs well and proved to be a comfortable and refined family vehicle. Both ride quality and handling have improved significantly with tuned springs, shocks and bushings. The 2013 Toyota RAV4’s 4-cylinder is plenty powerful, being well matched to the transmission’s gearing. From a standstill, acceleration is lively and full on;
The electric power steering is light at low speeds and makes the RAV4 easy to park in congested areas and feels safe and confident on the highways with its speed sensitive weighting. Also impressive is the improved braking.

If you must go trail riding or take gravel road note the all-wheel-drive system has been upgraded and it too has three modes. In “automatic,” it sends all of the available torque to the front wheels. If slippage occurs, it can divert as much as 50 per cent to the rears. In lock mode, it goes to 50/50 until speeds reach a predetermined rate. In sport mode, at least 10 per cent of the power goes to the rear wheels at all times. The new six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and is tuned for fuel economy.

In summing up the RAV4 continues to be a well-made, well-finished, top-quality vehicle promising years and hundreds of thousands of kilometres of trouble-free use Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 8.7 city/6.4 highway (FWD). Autoreview by Veeno Dewan

Base price: $23,790; as tested, $32,140