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2013 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD Review
By Carey Russ

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2013 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD


2013 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD

With the debut of its fourth generation for 2013, Toyota's RAV4, its smallest crossover SUV and the original "sport cute", is now all grown up. Gone are the soft, pudgy lines and old-days external spare tire mounted on the tailgate. Welcome crisp new styling, better use of interior space and a better interior, an upgraded drivetrain, and improved comfort and driving qualities from the chassis and suspension.

Sitting on the same 104.9-inch wheelbase as the previous RAV4, the new one is an inch or so lower, two inches shorter, 0.4 inches narrower but with a 0.4-inch increase in both front and rear track, and loses 1.2 inches of ground clearance, now 6.3 inches. Weight is up by 75 pounds for front-wheel drive models, but only 56 for all-wheel drive examples thanks to a new AWD system.

Inside, the RAV4 is still a five-seater. There's an inch or so less headroom, a non-issue for anyone under 6-plus feet, balanced by more front legroom, if a bit less at the rear. Shoulder and front hip room grow slightly, and cargo volume grows even more, to 73.4 cubic feet with the second row down (an increase of 0.4 cft and a class best) or 38.4 cft behind the second row -- a useful two cubic-foot increase.

Under the hood sits Toyota's latest 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, with maximum 176 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque. It's matched to a new six-speed automatic transmission for improvements in both acceleration and fuel economy. "Eco" and "Sport" buttons on the dash change throttle response and other drivetrain parameters for further improvements in fuel economy or performance, respectively. Front-wheel drive is the standard specification. For all-wheel drive, the Integrated Dynamic Drive System coordinates the new Dynamic Torque Control 4WD, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), and Electric Power Steering (EPS) systems to optimize control and safety. The V6 found in the previous generation is history.

Trim levels are traditional Toyota LE, XLE, and Limited. All, even the LE, have a "Display Audio" touchscreen control for the audio system, auxiliary jack,USB, and iPod® connectivity, a backup camera, soft-touch interior accents, filtration air conditioning, a noise-reducing acoustic glass windshield, and a tilt- and telescope-adjustable steering wheel with audio, information system, and Bluetooth® phone controls. Looking for manual roll-up windows? Not here. Going up in spec from the LE brings fancier trim and more features, but even the LE is a well-equipped and comfortable vehicle.

I had the opportunity to try all versions of the new RAV4, plus an older model at the press launch earlier in the year. No, the LE is not as fancy as the Limited, and the seats aren't quite as good. That's to be expected. The XLE is the happy medium, and as such is expected to be the volume seller. In any trim, the new RAV is a significant improvement over its predecessor.

This week's test car is an all-wheel drive XLE with all of the factory options. Meaning the "Display Audio with Navigation and Entune®" package of nav system, SiriusXM radio, voice recognition, and the Entune suite of convenience and entertainment options that operate off of your smartphone. It's a comfortable and conveniently-sized vehicle with plenty of interior room for young families or active singles and couples. It's quick and confident on the road, with a reasonable appetite for unleaded regular. EPA ratings are 22 mpg city, 29 highway. I got a 23 mpg overall average, seeing high twenties and even low thirties on the highway. And I never missed the V6.

APPEARANCE: Neat trick - the newest RAV4 looks bigger even though it's fractionally smaller. So it has more presence on the road, with no detriment to easy parking or fitting into a small garage. It also has a completely different style than any previous RAV4, or any other Toyota. The search for better fuel economy impacts exterior styling, in a good way here. The rounded front has a distinctive two-piece, vee-shaped grille flanked by complex headlights. The dished hood shows sharp character lines, while underneath what might have been a faux skid plate a decade or two ago is the front of the aerodynamic undertray. The arched roofline and gently-tapering passenger cabin are also "concessions" to degreased aero drag that just happen to improve the looks. Strong shoulder lines rise and become more angular toward the rear and end in massive taillights. Small fins -- "vortex generators --on the taillights and windshield pillars inboard of the mirrors offer further aero enhancement, ditto the rear window and visor spoiler design. One of the few concessions to SUV tradition is wraparound lower cladding.

COMFORT: At XLE level, the new RAV4 has everything you really need and most features you might want as standard equipment. Handsome, functional design, space, good seat comfort, and useful storage spaces handle the basics. The Display Audio touchscreen-controlled audio system handles basic wants, with the Navigation and Entune option taking care of most of the rest. Yes, the upper parts of the dash and doors are textured hard plastic, but here it looks good, not cheap. Brushed-matte silver accents brighten without causing glare, and the stitched leatherette on the lower part of the dash is a pleasant, and upscale-looking, surprise. The manually-adjustable bolstered front bucket seats offer good support and comfort, and the driver's has cushion height adjustment. The steering wheel is adjustable for both tilt and reach, and the spokes have controls for audio, information display, and Bluetooth systems. Useful cabin storage includes bottle holders in the doors, an open tray above the large, non-locking glove box, and both open and covered storage on the console. A tilt-and-slide sunroof is standard. The rear seat is spacious and comfortable for the car's size, and a near-flat floor makes the center position reasonable, at least for a small passenger. Not only does the 60/40 split seatback flop forward for extra cargo capacity, with flaps that cover the juncture of the passenger and cargo areas, each back section has adjustable angle for comfort preference. Or headroom if the occupant is extra tall. Fold the rear seat, and the cargo area is nearly five and a half feet long. Under the load floor is the space-saver spare and some storage space.

SAFETY: Safety equipment is as expected in a Toyota today. The Star Safety System™combines VSC, traction control, antilock brakes (four-wheel discs), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), brake assist (BA), and Smart Stop Technology (SST). There are eight airbags in every new RAV4, dual front and front-seat side, driver's knee, front passenger seat cushion, and full-length roll-sensing side curtains. The front seats are designed to decrease damage from whiplash. The RAV4's unibody structure uses high-strength steel for strength, rigidity, and protection with decreased weight

RIDE AND HANDLING: The 2013 RAV4's fully-independent MacPherson strut front, double-wishbone rear suspension has been optimized for a supple, comfortable ride and surprisingly good handling characteristics. It's no sports car, being higher and heavier, but it is enjoyable to drive. The electrically-assisted power steering is proof that such doesn't have to be as numb as a video game controller, and the four-wheel antilock disc brakes do their job well. A back-to-back comparison with the previous generation at the launch left no doubt about the improvement.

PERFORMANCE: Toyota's 2AR-FE aluminum alloy, dual overhead cam inline four is works very well here, and with reasonable fuel economy. Maximum horsepower is 176, at 6000 rpm, with maximum torque 172 lb-ft at 4100 rpm. VVT-i variable cam timing and lift control on both the intake and exhaust cams help fatten up low-end torque and reduce emissions, while a new six-speed automatic transmission further improves both low-speed acceleration, good for city traffic and highway merges, and fuel economy. Besides the normal shift and engine-management programming, there are also Eco and Sport modes, accessed by buttons on the dash. Eco decreases throttle response and reduces settings on the climate control system in pursuit of fuel economy. Sport increases throttle sensitivity and reduces steering assist. Default is best most of the time, with Eco good in steady-state driving, especially on surface streets. Sport is useful when quickest acceleration is required, such as on short highway onramps, or when climbing hills. At a 23mpg overall average, fuel economy is reasonable for the RAV4's size, weight, and purpose.

CONCLUSIONS: The 2013 Toyota RAV4 combines style and substance


2013 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD

Base Price			$ 25,690
Price As Tested			$ 27,709
Engine Type			DOHC 16-valve inline 4-cylinder with
				 dual VVT-i variable valve management
Engine Size			2.5 liters / 152 cu. in.
Horsepower			176 @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			172 @ 4100 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length		104.7 in. / 179.9 in.
Curb Weight			3585 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		20.4
Fuel Capacity			15.9 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				225/65R17 102H m+s Dunlop Grand Trek
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc, ABS standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent double wishbone
Ground Clearance		6.3 inches
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				  automatic all-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		22 / 29 / 23
0 to 60 mph				8.5  sec
Towing Capacity				1500 lbs.

Display Audio with Navigation and Entune	$ 1,030
Carpet Floor Mats				$   129
Delivery and Processing				$   860