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2013 Toyota RAV4 Debut

To go forward, the newest RAV4 takes a step back.


2013 Toyota RAV4 Research Click to hide

What's New

Usually, the mantra for those planning a new car model generation is simple: Add more. More power. More space. More features. More of everything. If there wasn't enough of something, add more; if there was too much, you were wrong, just add more anyhow.

Which is what's so interesting, and slightly puzzling, about the 2013 Toyota RAV4. When the previous generation vehicle came out, it startled the crossover world by offering up a V-6 engine and a third row of seats, all in what was once a "compact" crossover. But the combination sold like crazy, and even spawned a few imitators.

But the newest, fourth-generation of Toyota's RAV4, the vehicle that literally invented the whole idea of a crossover, takes a step back, in a way. Want that V-6 engine? Tough. It's gone. Need an extra row of seats, no matter how cramped the third row may be? Then get a 2012 RAV4 while you can, because the newest one doesn't offer a third row. Instead, there's seating for five, a four-cylinder engine connected to a six-speed automatic transmission, refreshed styling inside and out, and a host of other features that will surely keep the RAV4 faithful coming back.

And if they want a V-6 and three rows of seats, hey, Toyota'd be happy to show them a Highlander.

Who It's For

The 2013 Toyota RAV4 goes after the same people it's always sought: young, entry-level buyers who want a roomy interior, decent fuel economy, good cargo space, and a lot of standard and optional features to customize their ride. In other words, the same people who buy Honda CR-Vs. And Kia Sorentos. And Hyundai Santa Fes, Nissan Rogues, Chevy Equinoxes, Dodge Journeys, Subaru Foresters…

See what you started, Toyota?

Key Features

Few things in life are guaranteed. However, unless the 2013 Toyota RAV4 is made from cardboard, has cement in its shock absorbers, and is literally powered by mice in one of those little exercise wheels, it's pretty much guaranteed to be a sales success. Among the features driving it to success are:
  • Class-leading cargo capacity of 38.4 cu.-ft. behind the second row of seats.
  • A Sport Mode, which makes for quicker shifts from the transmission, and firmer steering feel.
  • Dynamic Torque Control all-wheel drive, which sends power to the rear wheels under acceleration, or when a computer senses the front wheels slipping.
  • A Lock and Sport mode on the all-wheel drive system, which help the RAV4 get through sandy or muddy surfaces under 25 mph, or enhance handling, respectively.

What We Think

Now that we've seen the 2013 Toyota RAV4 in person, a few things are pretty obvious. First, while Toyota has dropped the V-6 and third row--both of which were standout features on the previous model--this is hardly a "back to basics" vehicle. Quite the contrary, in fact. Take the interior, for example. The stitched-look segment on the dash is actually stitched and padded material. OK, fine, it's probably not actually leather, but it's still a nice touch, and one that will surely give potential buyers a nice little "oooh" experience when they first sit down. Second, there's a surprising amount of room in the rear seat. A six-foot driver and six-foot passenger can easily be accommodated, thanks to the reclining rear seatbacks. In person, the 2013 Toyota RAV4 is better looking than you'd imagine. OK, fine, it's no barn burner, but it loses much of the ungainliness of the previous vehicle in favor of a sleeker profile. It's clear from the roofline, for example, that accommodating third-row headroom wasn't a consideration for the new RAV4's designers.

Few things in life are guaranteed. However, it's pretty clear from our first look here at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show that there's little to prevent the new RAV4 from continuing its sales success. We'll find out for certain when the new RAV4 goes on sale early next year.

Back to Auto Show Coverage: Los Angeles 2012

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