2013 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD
2013 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD
2013 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

The fourth-generation Toyota RAV4 has abandoned any pretensions of off-road prowess for a more pavement-friendly compact ute design characterized by sportier, more aggressive styling, improved fuel economy, better handling, improved maneuverability, and easier access to the cabin and cargo area.

Like other manufacturers of small utes, Toyota finally realized they needed to revise their design to the real-life uses of the RAV4 (commuting to work, trips to the mall) versus the perceived uses (climbing the Rubicon trail, fording the Kokanee river).

However, the dramatic changes to the RAV4 didn’t come without a few sacrifices: last year’s awesome 269-hp 3.5L V6 engine with its superior 1,590 kg (3,500 lb) towing capacity and class-leading acceleration was dropped without even a press release – along with the accompanying Downhill Assist Control and Hill-Start Assist Control.

Also thrown out with the V6 was the optional third row seat. Yes, we often complained that it was only big enough for small children, but in retrospect, we think it’s quite likely that some parents were happy to have those extra two seats when their children’s friends and relatives needed a ride to the park or school.

Whew! Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I can get to the review!

The only engine available for 2013 is a slightly less powerful 176-hp version of last year’s 2.5L four-cylinder engine coupled to a new six-speed automatic transmission with ECO and Sport modes (replacing the previous four-speed automatic). This combination provides a 0 to 100 km/h time of 9.0 seconds (Consumer Reports), more than a second faster than with last year’s 2.5L four-cylinder/four-speed auto combination.

2013 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD2013 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD
013 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD. Click image to enlarge

As well, Toyota claims the four-cylinder powertrain offers an average six percent improvement in fuel economy over last year’s four-banger. According to the EPA, 2013 RAV4 AWD fuel consumption ratings are 10.7 city/8.1 hwy. That’s better than the 2013 Ford Escape 4WD 2.0T (11.2 city/8.4 hwy) and the Subaru Forester AWD (11.2 city/8.7 hwy), but not quite as good as the Mazda CX-5 2.0-litre (9.4 city/7.6 hwy), Honda CRV 4WD (10.7 city/7.8 hwy), and Ford Escape 4WD 1.6T (10.7 city/7.8 hwy). Our onboard fuel consumption readout was showing an average of 10.6 L/100 km after a week of ruthless driving.

Though the 2.5L four is not the powerhouse that the optional 3.5L V6 was, it has all the power you need for daily commuting. Acceleration from a standing start is prompt and throttle tip-in is not too sensitive. Acceleration on to the freeway is brisk enough to keep you ahead of looming semi-trailers and when cruising at 100 km/h on a level freeway, the engine is comfortably revving at just 2,000 rpm in sixth gear.

New for 2013, the standard six-speed automatic transmission shifts quickly and smartly at lower speeds, but at higher speeds, we found that it slides from gear to gear in effort to dampen any shift abruptness. This works, but it feels and sounds a bit strange. Should you wish to shift manually, the automatic transmission can be shifted sequentially using the floor shift lever but there are no shift paddles behind the steering wheel.

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