Leading up to the debut of the 2013 Toyota RAV4, details have been scarce but one thing is known - the RAV4 was in desperate need of a makeover.
This will be the RAV4's first redesign since 2005 and it has grown long in the tooth in the meantime, especially mechanically. However this update gives the RAV4 new powertrains to go along with updated styling the brings it into the modern world. This might seem like an overly harsh critique of the previous version, which in truth wasn't a bad compact crossover. But "not bad" doesn't cut it anymore and the RAV4's upgrades make it relevant once more, especially since competitors from Ford and Mazda rearmed for 2013 as well.
Outside, the redesigned RAV4 evokes styling similar to the sub-compact Yaris, combined with elements from the Camry as well. The older RAV4's rugged look has been ditched for a smoother, more streamlined appearance that looks similar in shape to the Nissan Rogue (but with fewer curves).
Thankfully, the new 2013 RAV4 ditches the old four-speed automatic for an update six-speed box. Also gone is the V-6 engine option, which means that the RAV4 joins the Honda CR-V and the Mazda CX-5 among others in the four-cylinder only category. Their rationale (a good one) is that shoppers looking for more power will shop up to the Highlander, so they chose to focuse on fuel economy and efficiency in the smaller RAV4.
The transmission is the biggest mechanical change as the base engine is roughly the same: a 176-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder that puts out 172 pounds-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard, while all-wheel drive is optional. The all-wheel drive system gets three selectable modes, including a lock mode that will help free the RAV4 from sticky situations. Also new are a pair of selectable driving modes, Sport and Eco, each of which does exactly what its name would suggest. Sport sharpens throttle response and steering, while Eco changes inputs to maximize efficiency.
Fuel economy has improved to 24/31 mpg city/highway with FWD, 22/29 mpg city/highway with AWD.
Inside, the new RAV4 offers much more in the realm of standard features including a 6.1-inch LCD that also serves as a display for the now standard backup camera. The RAV4 will be offered across three trim levels: LE, XLE, and Limited. XLE models add dual-zone automatic climate control and steering wheel audio/phone controls, while the Limited gets all the really fun toys with an 8-way power driver's seat with memory, autodimming rearview mirrior, and heated front seats. The best feature of the bunch though is the Limited's standard power liftgate, which features an extremely intuitive system for setting the opening height so the liftgate doesn't hit low ceiling or openings. Simply hold down the power open/close button in the lid at the desired height until four quick beeps are heard and it's all set.
Sitting inside the 2013 RAV4's reconstructed cabin (shown above in Limited trim) was rather pleasant. One of the draws of buying a compact SUV or crossover over a compact sedan is that although they might not be longer or wider, the added height makes the cabin feel more open and this is very much the case in the RAV4. There was plenty of second seat leg and headroom, and the seats are now more comfortable with better materials and cushioning. With the added fuel efficiency, the RAV4 could be a very servicable car for long trips thanks also in part to the added cargo room.
When it comes to safety, RAV4 models offer eight airbags and new safety technology including blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross traffic alerts.
Pricing details were not available at the show, but Toyota did say that the 2013 RAV4 should hit dealerships sometime in January 2013 so we won't be waiting long.