Toyota's all-new RAV4 marks the fourth-generation of this popular small crossover SUV. The 2013 RAV4 isn't a radical departure from the original concept, but it now displays a dynamic exterior with its new sleek roofline, bold character lines and streamlined silhouette.

The form begins with Halogen projector beam headlights, a low sloping hood, boldly sculpted front and rear fenders, with the arc of the roofline leads rearward to the new prominently-styled taillamps. There's a functional roof spoiler that not only extends the roofline, but also features a brilliant LED center brake light.

In a significant departure from the original RAV4's heritage, the new model moves from a side-hinged rear door to a more convenient roof-hinged liftgate. The rear door-mounted spare has been eliminated and replaced by a space-saver spare that's stored beneath the rear cargo floor.

Starting at $23,300, the 2013 RAV4 is available in three trims: LE, XLE and Limited. All are powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that develops 178 horsepower while generating 172 lb.-ft. of torque, achieving up to 31 miles per gallon on the highway. Motive force is delivered to either the front wheels or to all four wheels with Dynamic Torque Control, via a six-speed automatic with manual shift capability with two driving modes: ECO and Sport. There is no longer a V-6 option.

I was afforded the opportunity to experience seat time in both FWD and AWD versions of the 2013 Toyota RAV4 during the national press preview, spending most of my time in a vehicle in XLE trim in the AWD configuration with a base price of $24,290.

The 2013 Toyota RAV4, while remaining true to the original in terms of concept and purpose, is a vastly improved and much more attractive vehicle entering its fourth generation.

There are those who will complain about the lack of a V-6 powerplant, but in reality, the 2.5-liter four-banger delivers more than enough power, with the advantage of greater fuel economy. The ride quality is extremely stable and the handling characteristics lean to the sporty side of the equation, especially when in the Sport mode. Press the Eco mode button and power output is reined in significantly. Normal mode is, well, normal.

The AWD system incorporates an AWD lock button that allows the driver to lock torque distribution in a fixed, 50/50 ratio (front/rear) at speeds up to 25 mph. The system reverts to Auto mode automatically above 25 mph. Front-wheel drive models feature an Automatic Limited Slip Differential that may be engaged by the driver at low speeds.

As on other recent Toyota vehicles, the engineering team concentrated on improving the aerodynamics by incorporating small vortex generators molded into the taillight cases and near the A-pillar bases. There are also undertrays beneath the passenger cabin that aid in smoothing and controlling underbody airflow.

The 2013 RAV4's interior comes with a more premium appearance, showcasing soft-touch surfaces and accents, along with driver-focused controls. The asymmetrical dash panel is driver-centric with both primary and secondary controls within easy reach, while on the passenger side, a smoothly flowing, scalloped dash panel creates an airy feel to the cabin. The RAV4 features 60/40 split/fold second-row seats that recline, enhancing passenger comfort, along with retractable head restraints that allow for improved driver visibility.

The 2013 RAV4 delivers balanced performance and capability, along with impressive fuel economy, class-leading cargo capacity in a strikingly designed form, with an extensive inventory of standard features and amenities.



VEHICLE TYPE_________________ 5-passenger AWD compact CUV

BASE PRICE___________________ $24,290 (as tested: $26,540)

MOTOR TYPE__________________16-valve DOHC 4-cyl. w/SFI


HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 176 at 6000 rpm

TORQUE (lb.-ft.)________________ 172 at 4100 rpm

TRANSMISSION_________________ 6-speed automatic

OVERALL LENGTH_______________ 179.9 in.

TURNING CIRCLE (curb-to-curb)___ 34.7 ft.

CURB WEIGHT__________________ 3,585 lbs.

FUEL CAPACITY_________________ 15.9 gal.

EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ 22 mpg city, 29 mpg highway