The 2013 Toyota RAV4 is redesigned for the first time since 2006, and for the fourth time since the automaker created the crossover SUV class with the original 1996 RAV4*. What’s new? In addition to a complete redesign inside, outside, and underneath, the 2013 RAV4 is equipped with a more fuel-efficient powertrain, driving modes that calibrate the powertrain to one of three settings, a roomier interior, and new safety technologies. The RAV4 also offers a more sophisticated optional all-wheel-drive system this year.
What’s gone? The optional 3.5-liter V-6 engine, which provided a whole bunch of extra horsepower and torque in exchange for a small penalty at the gas pump, is history. Toyota has canceled the Sport model, too, which looked good and handled better. The spare tire is moved from the RAV4’s tailgate, which facilitates inclusion of a top-hinged rear liftgate. Finally, the third-row seat option is dropped this year, which is unlikely to make anyone unhappy as it offered enough room only for children, who would whine loudly and continually about their utter lack of outward visibility.
We borrowed a 2013 Toyota RAV4 Limited with front-wheel drive to find out whether the new RAV4 has what it takes to compete against heavy-hitters like the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, and Volkswagen Tiguan. After a week of schlepping a family of four all around metropolitan Los Angeles, this long-time RAV4 fan finds the new version of the SUV less satisfying than expected.