Test Driving the 2013 Toyota RAV4

2013 Toyota RAV4 limitedsiBy Bill Schaffer

Carefree, Ariz. – Toyota has taken many lumps the last couple of years but the company is working hard to earn back the sterling reputation it has enjoyed the last decade. That reputation for high quality, well-designed vehicles has also helped Toyota to sell their way back into the top position as the world?s largest automaker again selling 9.7 million vehicles worldwide in 2012.

A good product is essential for strong sales, and the Toyota lineup is one of the best in the industry. I?ve not been excited by some of the previous Toyota products, because I thought they sometimes lacked personality or individual character that sets a vehicle apart from the competition. It?s a difficult concept for me to explain. However, that has changed, because all the new products I?ve driven recently have put a sparkle in my eye.

2013 Toyota RAV4 limited rearThe newest Toyota product, the 2013 Toyota RAV4, went on sale in January and it is a clear indication that Toyota?s hard work is paying off with notable new products.

The 2013 Toyota RAV4 is more refined looking with aerodynamic lines, especially in the front end and pm the more pronounced sloping roofline.

The most noticeable change, however, is one that is long overdue ? the spare tire has been moved under the cargo floor cleaning up the rear of the 2013 Toyota RAV4. Since the RAV4 came into the U.S. in 1996, the spare tire was mounted on the rear cargo gate. With its hard cover, the RAV4 was one of the best-looking applications of the outside mount, but the combination of side opening door and outside spare was awkward to use and not as attractive as many of the spare-free liftgates. The new inside spare tire application allowed designers to use a more traditional gate. Not only is the access easier now, but it creates a canopy to protect anyone accessing the cargo area in adverse weather. The lift gate on the 2013 Toyota RAV4 Limited model is also powered and height adjustable to avoid overhead obstacles in a garage.

2013 Toyota RAV4 limited gateAt 38.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row seating and 73.4 cubic feet when the rear seats backs are folded the 2013 Toyota RAV4 has more space than the Chevy Equinox and even the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

2013 Toyota RAV4limited cargoWhere the 2013 Toyota RAV4 shines most is in the all-new interior, which is filled with high quality materials. There?s elegant French stitching on the dash and the soft two-tone seating in the Limited model. That model also has the breathable SofTex material with French stitching on the seats, the center console and door panels. The SofTex has the look, feel and durability of leather, but it?s softer and has only about one percent of the volatile organic compounds that conventional synthetic leathers produce. That means less strange chemical smells and icky film on the windows. SofTex is designed to hold up high family traffic with better spill and wear resistance, plus it weighs about half as much as leather. I love leather seats, but would probably take this material over leather, but leather is not an option on the RAV4. The interior is available in four attractive two-tone color schemes; I especially liked the Terra Cotta and black. 2013 Toyota RAV4 limited interior

The controls are well placed and marked for good driver ergonomics and all the gauges and dash are illuminated by a new crisp blue lighting system. The multiple adjustments of the seats provide a very good and supportive driving position.

The 2013 Toyota RAV4 comes in three trim levels, LE, XLE and Limited with each building on the features of the previous level. As a result, the top-level Limited version is loaded with features like the power liftgate, 19-inch alloy wheels, power moonroof and other convenience and comfort equipment.

The RAV4 is no longer offered with an optional V-6 engine. The standard power on all trim levels is now the 176-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder DOHC with variable valve timing. The engine has Toyota?s new Smart Stop Technology, which shuts the engine down when the vehicle is stopped.

The engine does an adequate job but is a little weak when fully loaded or going up steep hills in the mountains. Zero to 60 mph times are listed at 8.9 seconds and EPA fuel economy is improved to 24 mpg city and 31 mpg highway for the front-wheel drive version.

New for the 2013 Toyota RAV4 is a standard six-speed automatic transmission (replacing the previous four-speed). Front-drive models have a driver-activated Automatic Limited Slip differential that directs power across the front axle and unlike a traditional traction control, allows a slight slippage to maintain momentum in adverse conditions. All-wheel drive (a $1,400 option on all trim levels) is a system that constantly monitors driver actions and transfers the power to the tires with the best traction.

2013 Toyota RAV4 frontAll the 2013 Toyota RAV4 versions have a standard back-up camera, Entune multimedia system with voice activation and full connectivity through Bluetooth?, USB and AUX mini-jack.
The 2013 Toyota RAV4 is a safety segment leader with features like eight airbags and STAR Safety System on all trim levels. The Limited has an available Blind Spot Monitor system with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, which uses the monitor sensors to warn the driver audibly and visually that there is cross traffic approaching.

Pricing for the 2013 Toyota RAV4 starts at $24,145, including the destination charge, for the front-drive LE and goes as high as $29,255 for the AWD Limited. With all the available options and accessories, the Limited can go to just over $33,000.

Kudos for the 2013 Toyota RAV4! It looks great and shows a high level of sophistication. The only criticism I would have is — it could use a little more power. For the average owner it will be perfect, but for a more aggressive driver, or someone who lives at higher elevations, or carries a lot of passengers or cargo, it might feel a bit underpowered. Maybe it is time for Toyota to dabble in turbochargers or perhaps a diesel for the U.S. market.

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