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  • 2013 Toyota RAV4

    Posted on February 15th, 2013 ninarussin

    Compact crossover for active lifestyles

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Toyota RAV4

    In 1994, Toyota engineers combined underpinnings of a Camry with the sheet metal of a compact SUV to produce the first RAV4. The RAV arrived stateside a year later.

    Although America’s love affair with the full-sized SUV would last several years longer, the Recreational Active Vehicle was an instant success. The RAV struck a chord among urbanites with active lifestyles needing the functional versatility of a tall cargo area, but preferring the ride and handling of a passenger car.

    This year, Toyota rolls out the fourth-generation RAV4: a slightly larger and significantly refined vehicle, which remains true to the car’s core mission. The newest RAV comes with fresh styling and a new six-speed automatic transmission that replaces the four-speed unit on the outgoing model.

    A 176-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder block is the only engine option; the V-6 is no longer available. The front-wheel drive version averages 31 miles-per-gallon on the highway. Buyers can also opt for all-wheel drive on all three grades, with a new feature called dynamic torque control that uses steering input and yaw rate to proactively send engine power to the wheels with the best traction.

    Pricing for the base front-wheel drive LE model starts at $23,300, excluding the $845 destination charge. The volume-leading XLE is priced from $24,290, while the upscale Limited grade costs $27,010. All-wheel drive adds $1400.

    A simplified grade strategy includes popular comfort and convenience features in each trim line. XLE buyers can opt to add navigation with Entune concierge service, while the Limited is available with a premium JBL audio system.

    New aero exterior

    2013 Toyota RAV4

    Designers removed the spare tire from the rear door, relocating it under the cargo floor. This enabled them to substitute a liftgate in back, which offers better access from both sides of the vehicle. The disadvantage of a liftgate is that it can be hard for some people to reach. An adjustable height function is available on the Limited model with the power liftgate.

    Engineers added vortex generators similar to those used on the Toyota Prius around the A pillars and in back of the car, as well as a rear mounted spoiler. The new model also sits about an inch lower, lowering the center of gravity for better performance at speed. The 2013 model is slipperier in the wind tunnel, with a .329 coefficient of drag, as compared to .334 on the outgoing model.

    Test drive in Arizona

    2013 Toyota RAV4

    At a recent media event in Carefree, Arizona I had the opportunity to drive the base LE and volume-leading XLE grades on a combination of surface streets and highways. Carefree is located north of Phoenix, and has a slighter higher elevation: about 2500 feet.

    The new transmission makes a huge difference in power and performance. With a four-cylinder engine being the only option, a four-speed transmission would have done a lot of hunting and produced harsh downshifts at wide-open throttle.

    The engine has good power for the open road and commuting around town. A new sport mode keeps the engine revving about 1000 rpm higher than in normal or eco modes, for better throttle response. The sport mode also holds the gears longer during hard acceleration.

    Steering response at low speeds is excellent. One of the advantages of electric power steering is that it enables engineers to achieve an excellent turning radius. The turning circle with the 17-inch standard wheels is 34.7-feet: exceptionally good for a car with a 104.7-inch wheelbase.

    At speed, there’s a slight lag in on center response, which is also typical of EPS systems. It should not present a problem for drivers needing to make quick lane changes or an evasive maneuver.

    2013 Toyota RAV4

    Visibility to the front and sides of the car is good. I had no problems monitoring traffic in adjacent lanes on the highway. The rear glass is small, with the D pillars producing some large blind spots. A backup camera is part of the navigation option package, available on the XLE and Limited. Limited buyers can also add blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic detection.

    A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts in front and a compact wishbone design in the back. The wishbone configuration is minimally intrusive to the cargo area. Engineers enhanced torsional rigidity throughout the chassis and gave the rear suspension a larger stabilizer bar for flatter cornering.

    Four-wheel disc brakes stop the car in a firm, linear manner.

    Spacious interior

    Toyota RAV4 Cargo Bay

    The compact RAV4 seats up to five adults. There is no floor tunnel, and the center console bin in far enough forward to give the middle passenger in the second row decent legroom.

    A new seat design is very comfortable, with good lower lumbar support. I also really like the new steering wheel design, with logically placed audio and information controls. Steering wheel diameter is small enough for women to feel comfortable with.

    Designers did a good job of equipping the interior with bottle holders in all four doors, and enough 12-volt power points for the driver and passengers to plug in cell phone chargers.

    A locking glovebox provides secure storage inside the passenger compartment.

    I was disappointed to not find any air vents for the second-row passengers, especially on the models with dual-zone climate control. That could be a deal breaker in hot southwestern and southern cities.

    The RAV4’s spacious cargo area can hold a variety of luggage, camping equipment, golf bags and groceries. With second-row seats folded flat, the RAV4 meets our bicycle-friendly standards. Both XLE and Limited grades come with standard roof rails. Towing capacity is 1500 pounds: below the ALV minimum standard of 3500 pounds.

    Standard safety

    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 solid, spacious compact crossover with seating for up to five adults, a bicycle-friendly cargo area and good fuel economy. The all-wheel drive option gives the RAV4 better performance on rain and snow-covered roads.

    Dislike: Small rear glass produces large blind spots in the back corners. No rear air vents can make rear seat passengers uncomfortable in hot weather.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Toyota
    Model: RAV4
    Year: 2013
    Base price: $23,300
    As tested: N/A
    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
    Towing: No
    Off-road: No
    Fuel economy: 24/31 mpg city/highway (FWD); 22/29 mpg (AWD)


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