North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

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
Z_CNHI News Service
  • Affirmative action ruling challenges colleges seeking diversity

    The U.S. Supreme Court's support of Michigan's ban on race-based affirmative action in university admissions may spur colleges to find new ways to achieve diversity without using racial preferences.

    April 23, 2014

  • A 'wearable robot' helps her walk again

    Science is about facts, numbers, laws and formulas. To be really good at it, you need to spend a lot of time in school. But science is also about something more: dreaming big and helping people.

    April 23, 2014

  • Cuba is running out of condoms

    The newest item on Cuba's list of dwindling commodities is condoms, which are now reportedly in short supply. In response, the Cuban government has approved the sale of expired condoms.

    April 23, 2014

  • The waffle taco's biggest enemy isn't McDonald's. It's consumer habits.

    Gesturing to Taco Bell, Thompson said McDonald's had "not seen an impact relative to the most recent competitor that entered the [breakfast] space," and that new competition would only make McDonald's pursue breakfast more aggressively.

    April 23, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 4.42.47 PM.png VIDEO: Leopard attacks crowd in India

    A leopard caused panic in the city of Chandrapur when it sprung from the roof of a house and charged at rescue workers.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • The top 12 government programs ever

    Which federal programs and policies succeed in being cost-effective and targeting those who need them most? These two tests are obvious: After all, why would we spend taxpayers' money on a program that isn't worth what it costs or helps those who do not need help?

    April 22, 2014

  • In cuffs... 'Warlock' in West Virginia accused of sexual assault

    Police in West Virginia say a man claiming to be a “warlock” used promises of magical spells to lure children into committing sexual acts with him.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Basketball stars may linger on campus a while longer

    The NBA seems serious about raising its minimum age, which could signal the end of the one-and-done era in college basketball.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Cats outsmart the researchers

    I knew a lot had been written about dogs, and I assumed there must be at least a handful of studies on cats. But after weeks of scouring the scientific world for someone - anyone - who studied how cats think, all I was left with was this statement, laughed over the phone to me by one of the world's top animal cognition experts, a Hungarian scientist named Ádám Miklósi.

    April 22, 2014

  • McCain 1 House Republicans are more active on Twitter than Democrats

    Your representative in the House is almost certainly on Twitter. Your senator definitely is. But how are they using the social network? Are Democrats more active than Republicans, or vice versa? Who has the most followers on the Hill?

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo