2013 TOYOTA RAV4 REVIEW
What’s hot: Better value, more space, better drivetrains and better drive.
What’s not: Limited 500kg/550kg max tow ratings on diesels.
X-Factor: New, better, and that Toyota badge? That's a winning combo in any language...
Engine Tested: 2.5 litre petrol four | Power/Torque: 132kW/233Nm
Fuel Consumption listed: 8.5 l/100km | tested: 12.4 l/100km
Vehicle style: Medium SUV
It might surprise you that Toyota’s RAV4 nameplate has been around for 20 years, but the 2013 fourth-generation model is anything but 'old hat'.
A new turbodiesel option, two new petrol fours, more space, new features, and improved efficiency across the range bring the new RAV4 right in line with its fresher medium SUV counterparts.
There's also a sharper focus on chassis dynamics - how it rides and drives - and it shows.
Some may be disappointed that the stonking 3.5 litre petrol V6 option is no more, but a lusty diesel joins the range instead.
The RAV4 now offers a choice of 107kW/187Nm 2.0 litre and 132kW/233Nm 2.5 litre petrol fours, and a 110kW/340Nm 2.2 litre turbodiesel - Australia’s first diesel RAV4.
The more potent 2.5 litre petrol and turbodiese are available in six-speed manual or six-speed conventional auto (adding $2500), but the exclusively front-wheel drive 2.0 litre models get a CVT as the auto option.
Interestingly though, diesel models are limited to a 500kg-auto/550kg-manual maximum tow rating, while the 2.0 litre is capable of 800kg (braked), and the 2.5 litre models match the previous 2.4 litre’s 1500kg (braked) rating.
With nearly 200,000 RAV4s sold in Australia to date, the 2013 model will be tackling the segment-leading Nissan X-Trail and Mazda CX-5 head-on, and fending off the reborn Subaru Forester and Mitsubishi Outlander models.
Toyota invited TMR to be among the first to experience the new RAV4 at its national press launch near Eden, NSW.
The new RAV4 continues Toyota’s recent resurgence in interior design, with edgy styling details being matched by colour and texture variety, even in the lower GX and GXL variants.
Materials feel typically Toyota-tough and the overall fit appears to match, although the varying levels of pseudo carbon fibre detailing are a bit naff.
All major controls are logically laid out, and the steering wheel buttons are particularly large and simple.
Forward visibility has been improved by thinning the A-pillars, but the RAV4’s greatest ergonomic adjustment is the lowered seating position and more upright steering-wheel angle.
Those who prefer a more commanding view can still raise the seat to suit, but a more ‘sporting’ sedan-like position is now available for those so inclined.
GXL and Cruiser variants get better bolstering to the front seats, but the basic GX seats drew no complaints on test.
Rear seat accommodation has been improved by simply using thinner back-sections on the front seats. The result is legroom to challenge any segment rival, and plenty of room for two generously-sized adults.
Also in the rear, child-seat anchorage points have been relocated for easier access, and the two outboard positions now use ISOFIX standard fittings.
The 2013 RAV4 sees the former tailgate-mounted spare wheel move to beneath the cargo floor and the tailgate itself is now top hinged.
This change has resulted in a space-saver spare as standard-fit, although a full-size alloy unit remains a $300 option.
Where fitted, the full-size spare reduces seats-up cargo capacity from 577-506 litres, but a flat load floor is maintained with the rear seats folded.
ON THE ROAD
Our launch experience was limited to the 2.5 litre petrol automatic all-wheel drivetrain. It musters 132kW and 233 Newton metres to the task of hauling the 1605kg GX we had under test.
We have to say it did an impressive job around the hilly roads of the test route with three passengers aboard - there's ample there for the demands of family driving (with seats filled and a load of luggage).
Its six-speed torque-converter auto has a now-typical reluctance to downshift (to improve fuel efficiency), but selecting Sport mode or an instructive prod of the right foot will call the transmission into action.
The result was comfortable overtaking capability on the hilly 100km/h zones on test.
The dash-button activated Sport mode is new to the RAV4, and fitted as standard to all except manual two-wheel drive variants.
When activated, it sharpens throttle response and reduces power steering assistance by 20 percent. It also allows the auto models to explore higher in the rev-range, with throttle 'blips' on downshifts.
In practice, we found it changes things subtly (rather than overtly), but made a useful difference to the character of the engine and transmission for when a bit more dynamism is called for.
The 2013 RAV4’s steering is now electrically assisted, and surprised with its feel and consistent weighting.
The new RAV4’s chassis dynamics are similarly good. The MacPherson strut front/multilink rear setup provides a settled ride over mid-corner bumps and without too much bodyroll.
Ride comfort is also pretty good; overall, the RAV4 surprised with its quite good on-road feel.
OFF THE ROAD
Toyota’s launch program also included some high-speed gravel sections, and a challenging (for RAV4) off-road course.
On the gravel, our opinion of the new RAV’s chassis dynamics was maintained, and it highlighted the benefits of the new model’s Dynamic Torque Control all-wheel drive setup.
Powering out of tight bends, the new system directs up to 50 percent of torque to the rear wheels almost imperceptibly, where the previous model’s front tyres would scrabble for grip momentaritly.
This improvement was also obvious on the technical course when accelerating from rest on a steep incline, enabling a clean, wheelspin-free start.
There's a new hill-start assist function and a centre diff-lock which work quite nicely on low-traction surfaces, and will hold a 50:50 torque split at speeds up to 40km/h.
Also new to RAV4 is hill descent control, though it lacks the finite speed control of some other systems.
Anyone planning to use their RAV4 in similar off-road circumstances will also appreciate the new model’s tough, unpainted plastic skirting around its entire perimeter - a boon also in the battle against anonymous ‘touch parkers’ and carpark pylons too.
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT
Overall, the new RAV4 is a pretty significant step forward.
Every significant area is improved over the seven year-old previous generation, and adds genuine driver appeal with its surprisingly well-sorted steering and chassis. It's also better equipped than ever for dirt excursions.
We look forward to experiencing the 2.0 litre petrol and diesel drivetrains from behind the wheel, but on-paper they look to complete the RAV4 lineup well (aside from the conspicuously low diesel tow-ratings).
And kudos to Toyota for the availability of manual and auto transmissions on each engine option, a flexibility lacking from several of the RAV4’s rivals.
Pricing (excludes on-roads)
- GX manual $28,490 ($500 less than old model)
- GXL manual $32,490 (-$1500)
- GX manual $31,990 ($0 difference)
- GXL manual $35,490 (-$1500)
- Cruiser manual $42,990 ($0 difference)
- GX manual $35,490 (new model)
- GXL manual $38,990 (new)
- Cruiser manual $46,490 (new)