Press-Republican

Z_CNHI News Service

December 2, 2013

RAV4 gets upgrade as small SUV's popularity grows

During the press launch of the new RAV4 earlier this year, Toyota officials said they forecast sales of their redesigned small utility would surpass the 200,000 mark.

Guess what? If present trends continue, they will not only reach their lofty goal but surpass it. Not bad for the compact SUV segment competing with the likes of Honda's CRV, KIA's Sportage, the Nissan Rogue and Ford Escape.

Hedging their bet, Toyota throws in two years or 25,000 miles of scheduled maintenance for the RAV4, making the compact utility more attractive than most of its competition. The coverage is included in the purchase for all three trim levels available - LE, XLE and Limited - with base prices ranging from $22,300 to $27,010, respectively.

Big changes for this fourth generation RAV4 year include a more fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine powering a new six-speed transmission. The previous V6 engine is gone, along with the exterior rear spare tire, a long-time component of the RAV4 look.

During a week of city and interstate travel, the XLE model handled all sorts of driving conditions with ease. The tuned 2.5-liter engine performed like a six cylinder with ample power for passing on interstates, although it was strained going up steep grades.

Fuel consumption was on target with EPA estimates - a rare occurrence with a lot of four-cylinder engines. Sport mode delivers a more spirited driving experience, while Eco mode slows gearing and overall performance for better fuel economy.

Road noise was minimal under power due in part to a new acoustic windshield filled with special materials between two glass panes. A backup camera is standard along with a 6.1-inch touch screen for climate, audio and navigation controls.

I found the navigation system lacking in functionality and audio prompts compared with previous Toyota systems. A reduced screen size and display also hinder its operation.  

Interior materials are soft touch, and the layout of instruments is intuitive for driver controls. Redundant steering wheel controls are large and straight-forward as are knobs and switches surrounding the gauge clusters and center console.   

Seating for five is comfortable for such a small utility vehicle. It feels larger with generous legroom and headroom. While no third row seat is offered, the rear seats fold flat for more than 73 cubic feet of storage, enough for four sets of golf clubs and luggage with room to spare.

An available power lift gate opens up this year replacing the unpopular side mount door that opened toward the curb.

Minor sheet metal tweaks include a raised hood, a sloping roofline and wedge-styled rear quarter panels with an integrated rear spoiler.

Overall the 2013 RAV4 handles better than its predecessor and is a sensible purchase for a compact sport utility vehicle.

Len Ingrassia is an automotive columnist. Contact him at lenscarcorner@ptd.net

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Z_CNHI News Service
  • Screen shot 2014-04-18 at 4.44.15 PM.png Paint, doodle and sketch: 3 apps for art lovers

    In the absence of a palette of watercolors and a sketchpad, these three apps can fill in as your art supplies of choice.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Smartphone kill switches are coming

    Smartphones need kill switches. It's a relatively easy solution to the pricey (and irritating) problem of smartphone theft. But who would have thought that the big carriers would team up with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung and lots of other manufacturers to voluntarily begin adding the technology by July 2015? The cooperative spirit! It makes so much sense!

    April 18, 2014

  • Why do wolves howl?

    Of all the myths that dog the wolf, none is more widely accepted than the idea that wolves howl at the moon. Images of wolves with their heads upturned, singing at the night sky, are as unquestioned as a goldfish's three-second memory or a dog's color-blindness (both also myths).

    April 18, 2014

  • Biggest student loan profits come from grad students

    This week, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal government would earn roughly $127 billion from student lending during the next 10 years.

    April 18, 2014

  • quake.jpg Pennsylvania won’t take action following Ohio ruling on quakes, fracking

    Pennsylvania officials plan no action despite new Ohio rules on drilling that affect a seismically active area near the state line.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Warren's populist pitch on student loans is off key

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren's populist rhetoric pumps up students about their loan burdens, but she conveniently neglects to mention the real problem - the exorbitant cost of college - much less how she's benefitted from those high prices.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • VIDEO: Boston bomb scare defendant appears in court

    The man accused of carrying a backpack containing a rice cooker near the Boston Marathon finish line on the anniversary of the bombings was arraigned Wednesday. He's being held on $100,000 bail.

    April 17, 2014

  • Consumer spending on health care jumps as Affordable Care Act takes hold

    Nancy Beigel has known since September that she would need hernia surgery. She couldn't afford it on her $11,000 yearly income until she became eligible for Medicaid in January through President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

    April 17, 2014

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Golf turns into snooze-fest without celebrities like Tiger and Phil

    The Masters lumbered on last week without two of pro golf's biggest names, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, and fans changed the channel. The PGA needs someone with star power if it's going to lure people back to the game.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • The case for separate beds

    The other night I slept on a twin bed in the guest room of the house I share with my husband and our two kids.
    It was the best night's sleep I've had in years.

    April 17, 2014

Videos: Editor Picks