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2013 Toyota RAV4 First Impressions

Woodstock, Ont. - The introduction of the 4th generation of RAV4 signals a change in how Toyota views its model lineup. The RAV4, which is second only to the Camry in total sales for Toyota, has been almost completely changed for 2013. With that in mind, one of the first items changed was the price sheet. On average more than $1,000 of equipment was added to the standard equipment list without any change in the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP).

There will be three Toyota RAV4 models to choose from in 2013: the LE, XLE and Limited. The LE and XLE will be available as front wheel drive. The XLE and Limited will be available with All Wheel Drive. Power train changes include the addition of a 6-speed automatic; and on the AWD models, Dynamic torque control is used for the first time. These improvements allow the new 176 horsepower inline-4 to do the work of the V6 engine which is no longer available.

It’s got the look
Exterior changes are cutting edge for Toyota and a large departure from the conservative design of the past. Sweeping body lines suggest strong relationships with other Toyota products such as the Highlander. Raised and sculpted headlights and taillights highlight the design rather than draw your eye away as is the case with the Nissan Juke.

Another huge change and innovation in the 2013 Toyota RAV4 is the removal of the full-size spare tire form the rear door. It is now a space-saver spare located underneath the rear cargo area, and is accessed from inside the vehicle. This change allowed the new rear door to become a lift-back styled hatch that can be power actuated on some trim levels.

Interior changes are equally edgy: The driver’s seat, even in the cloth-covered base interior, is comfortable as is the front passenger seat. In the rear, two adults can fit in enough comfort to sit for a couple hours without the need to move about. There is a third seat belt, but if the two adults buy from the XXL rack, the one in the middle had best be from the XS rack.

Due to the sculpted nature of the seatback in the 2013 Toyota RAV4, when you look at the space available for legs and feet, your first thought is that there is no way to get in. I am here to tell you that as one of the XXL occupants, I fit and was truly amazed at the long-distance comfort.

Driving impressions: Change is good
One major concern over driveability in the new 2013 Toyota RAV4 was the elimination of the V6 engine option and the change to a 2.5L four. Toyota pointed to the trend of Honda CR-V and Hyundai Santa Fe, as well as other major competitors, towards the use of more fuel efficient fours. As for driveability, the move to delete the V6 necessitated the change-up to a 6-speed automatic from the previous generation’s 4-speed automatic used with the previous generation’s 4-cylinder engine.

Toyota has not forgotten the enthusiast: In the electronic controls for the dynamic torque control in the 2013 Toyota RAV4, there is a sport setting that alters the feel of the electrically assisted power steering and tightens up the shifting as well as raising the shift point to the red line. There is a lock mode that works at speeds below 40 km/h to deliver power to all four wheels instead of just doing so as required. The default mode is “normal” and it reverts to this whenever the vehicle is shut off and restarted.

Steady cruising and normal driving in town didn’t turn up much difference between the now powertrain combination and the old V6. The only time it was obvious that we were in a four was when getting up to speed on an on-ramp with four adults in the vehicle. It did take a few more seconds to get to the fast lane in the 2013 Toyota RAV4.

Through all this, the engine had a muted, almost powerful sound. The insulation in the engine compartment and the exhaust system kept the motor sounding pleasant. Even when getting ready to shift at redline, the engine in the Toyota RAV4 didn’t make any of those noises that make you think the next thing you’re going to see is a piston with part of a rod attached.

If you are one of those spoiled drivers who need a backup camera, one is available. For the rest of us, the new edgy design means exactly that: The 2013 Toyota RAV4 has edges, and those edges make backing up much easier than in the 3rd generation RAV4. Getting out of a parking space becomes that much easier with the extra glass area, and now that the RAV4 has well-designed edges, getting into the space is more relaxing, as well.
2013 Toyota rav4 AWD LE
toyota rav4 2013
2013 Toyota rav4 AWD LE
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