In 1996, the Toyota RAV4 became the first compact crossover SUV to reach our shores. The new car filled a niche and has enjoyed solid sales figures every year since, despite competition from the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Ford Escape and Hyundai Santa Fe, among others. That feat is even more impressive when you consider that the RAV4 hasn’t had a true redesign since 2006.
Enter the 2013 RAV4, a brand-new car with brand-new dimensions, styling and features. It’s an inch longer and wider and sits one inch closer to the ground.
The spare tire was moved from the tailgate to the underbody, but the RAV4 still leads its class in cargo capacity with 73.0 cubic feet. The third-row seat, which Toyota found to be an increasingly unpopular add-on, is no longer available.
The same goes for the 3.5-liter V-6 engine, leaving buyers with the 2.5-liter inline four. The RAV4’s only engine is rated at 178 horsepower (hp) at 170 lb.-ft. of torque, which is more than adequate for the car’s size.
Toyota retuned the suspension and added dynamic driving control as well as uphill assistance, which helps the RAV4 start smoothly on an incline, and downhill assistance, which changes the gear and engine mode and adjusts the braking at each wheel to maintain control on steep declines.
The 2013’s exterior is a radical departure from its predecessors’ boxy, utilitarian designs. The new RAV4 cuts a wedge-like figure and features a sleek front grille-and-headlight stack that could fit on some sedans. The liftgate can be upgraded to a powered model that can be adjusted to open to a lower height.
The restyled cabin continues the trend toward a more car-like experience with stylish, soft-touch materials, a sleek-looking dashboard and available push-button ignition.
The base LE edition comes equipped with a rearview camera as well as Bluetooth connectivity and a USB jack. The XLE trim adds Toyota’s Entune smartphone hookup, dual-zone climate control and upgraded upholstery; the Limited’s list includes the upgraded tailgate and ignition, as well as a powered driver seat and imitation leather upholstery.
Pricing is not available as of this writing, but the new RAV4s are scheduled to roll into showrooms in early January. (Pricing was released after this article published in Business Fleet magazine and can be found here.)
Stay tuned to Business Fleet as we cover the highly anticipated return of the RAV4 EV, which is expected later in the year.