2013 Toyota RAV4 LimitedPosted on August 5th, 2013
Newest Recreational Activity Vehicle delivers the goods
By Nina Russin
When Toyota introduced the first RAV4 almost 20 years ago a male colleague of mine called the compact crossover a ‘chick car.’ He was right. The Recreational Activity Vehicle based on the Camry platform offered women an appealing combination of car-like performance and versatility.
In retrospect, being a chick car wasn’t such a bad thing, since women now account for 50 percent of new car buyers. For that and other reasons, the RAV4 has become one of Toyota’s biggest success stories, selling over 100,000 units of the new model since its January, 2013 introduction.
Power for the fourth-generation RAV4 comes from a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission, offering better power and fuel economy than the outgoing model. A new liftgate design replaces the previous side-hinged tailgate. Other changes include more aggressive exterior styling and aerodynamic enhancements.
Buyers can choose between three trim levels, beginning with the front-wheel drive LE, priced from $23,300. The test car is the upscale front-wheel drive Limited, with a $27,010 base MSRP. Options include an audio, Entune and navigation package ($1660) and blind spot monitoring ($500). Adding the $845 destination charge, final MSRP is $30,015.
Exterior styling had become the RAV4’s Achilles heel. While its functional appearance worked for the original RAV, later models seemed a little stodgy. The newest car changes that with an aerodynamic profile, offset with a rear spoiler.
In addition to making the car sexier, styling changes enabled engineers to insert air vortices at key points around the perimeter to reduce aerodynamic drag. That plus some changes under the chassis boosted the car’s highway fuel economy to 31 mpg according to the EPA. Owners who want to extend their range can utilize an eco setting that modifies the throttle map and shift points.
There are pros and cons to the new liftgate. The biggest advantage is in curbside loading, since drivers have access from either side of the car.
The disadvantage is ease of access to the door, especially for smaller drivers. For those who can afford it, the power liftgate available on the Limited grade has height-adjustable settings.
The other disadvantage is the spare tire. An undersized temporary spare on the new car replaced the full-sized spare formerly mounted on the tailgate. How important this is to the owner depends on the types of road surfaces and weather conditions he or she typically encounters. An undersized spare is fine on dry pavement, but can be a problem on a dirt road or in deep snow.
The newest RAV4 appeals to a slightly older buyer than the original car. This is most evident in the interior: it is quite lavish, with contrast color leather upholstery and the available Enform technology that debuted on Lexus products. I’m not saying that the new RAV is geared towards retirees (although its appeal to empty nesters in undeniable). But its pricing and luxury appointments are clearly more in line with buyers in their mid-40s rather than mid-20s.
The current model is bigger than the outgoing car, translating to more leg and hip room in the second row. Five adults can comfortably ride in the car for an extended road trip.
Designers did a good job of accommodating most needs, certainly enough power outlets, cup and bottle holders. The only fly in the ointment is a lack of vents behind the center console or in the B-pillars. Engineers added devices in the instrument panel to channel air back to the second row. It probably works fine in moderate temperatures, but not the triple digit heat of a Phoenix summer.
Test drive in Phoenix
While driving a car at a media launch is a good way to assess power and performance, it doesn’t really give a good idea of what it’s like to live with the vehicle. Since the RAV4 is a car that’s meant to be lived in, I was happy to have it for the past week, so I could see what it was liked to drive through a variety of urban and rural settings in dry and wet weather, as well as some substantial heat.
I had the chance to utilize the optional navigation system, and appreciated the optional blind spot monitoring in dense freeway traffic. My husband and I took a short weekend trip in the car, which meant loading in some luggage as well as groceries during the week.
What makes the RAV4 a really great car is its user friendliness. No, it’s not the fastest ride on the road, nor is it intended to be. But it has plenty of power for average driving situations, even in eco mode. Steering is pleasantly responsive. Braking is firm and linear.
Inside, the car is quiet and solid. Passengers feel comfortable and protected from the outside world. Looping back to the first two paragraphs of this story, it’s one of the reasons the RAV4 continues to appeal to women.
I wish that the power liftgate was available on less expensive trim levels than the Limited because it has a lot of advantages for buyers with active lifestyles. The most obvious is freeing up both hands to load large items into the car. The biggest advantage for many members of the target market is the optional height adjustment, which can also save some unpleasant encounters with a drooping garage door.
The RAV4 comes with front, side, side curtain, driver’s knee and passenger seat cushion airbags, whiplash resistant front seatbacks, daytime running lamps, tire pressure monitoring, antilock brakes, stability control, rollover sensing and traction control.
Toyota’s factory warranty includes two years of complimentary scheduled maintenance.
Toyota builds the RAV4 at its Woodstock, Ontario Canada assembly plant.
Like: A spacious, solidly built compact crossover vehicle with seating for five passengers and a high level of standard safety features.
Dislike: Height-adjustable liftgate is only available on the Limited grade.
Base price: $23,300
As tested: $30,015
Horsepower: 176 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 172 lbs.-ft. @ 4100 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 8.9 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 24/31 mpg city/highway2013, Best Value 2013, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, performance, pricing, standard safety, Toyota
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