All the marketing hoocheekoo aside, there is no doubt the 2013 Rav4 is all new. It’s longer, lower and wider than the 2012 model and has all new styling. It has a very pronounced beek which echoes Toyota’s latest styling language, but still keeps traditional RAV4 cues in the rear flanks.
Toyota carries over the 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine but with a slight retune that now nets 176 horsepower. It’ comes only with a six-speed automatic transmission, a manual is no longer offered.
Additionally, if you liked the hot-rod V6 of the previous model, this option has been dropped in favor of a more fuel efficient single engine offering. So much for adventure, but Toyota does say that the V6 was not a popular option enough to keep.
The RAV4 has an all new interior design too. Instead of its pod-like upright design of the past, the dash now has a much more horizontal layout with a standard touch screen display audio system in the center. A soft touch trim pad across its flanks gives a nice upscale feel.
Our XLE model had nice clothe seats which felt both comfortable and offering a tight grip on you when out on the trails. There was more than enough head room for my hat even with the sunroof and the center console seemed perfectly laid out.
Rear seat passengers will enjoy generous space as well as reclining adjustments. They wont however enjoy the lack of rear vents for HVAC, instead depending on a large center vent in the dash to keep them cool.
On the road and around town the new RAV4 offers up a more car like ride than ever before. It’s solid chassis is quiet and handling very neutral on curvy roads. We wanted to find adventure though, so we headed to the outback of the Superstition Mountains to really see if the RAV4 still has its mojo.
Even our front-wheel drive model offered up decent traction on the trails whether it was mild gravel roads or up steep crawls. The suspension takes up rough bumps reasonable well only giving you loud crashes if you are pushing it too hard.
The stability control system does a good job of kicking on to reduce slide on gravel roads, and the anti-lock brakes do better than average slowing the RAV4 on loose surfaces. Overall we were impress with its poise in the back country, above average for car based crossover SUV’s
The RAV4 has console mounted ECO and Sport modes. ECO mode makes the RAV4 feel like you are carrying an extra 500 lbs, but Sport mode gets the transmission shifting more in tune with performance – a nice touch for our romps out on the trail.
Fuel efficiency was also impressive. The EPA rates the RAV4 at 24 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. In our week we averaged 26 mpg combined which is precisely what the window sticker promises.
We were impressed with the RAV4’s overall quality and delivery of as promised functionality. Toyota remains one of the best automakers when it comes to providing a car that doesn’t let you down with strange quirks or build quality gaffes.
So does the RAV4 still have fun and adventure to go with its new found magical powers? I’d say yes. Despite its new larger size and weight it still manages well to get you off the beaten path to places even the RAV4 Genie might worry about getting her shoes dirty.