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October 22, 2013

Review: 2013 Toyota RAV4 4WD

Photos by Ulysses Ang
Compact crossovers started out as a niche, catering to urbanites who wanted a bit more versatility and ruggedness to their ride. Today, it’s one of the most hotly contested segments in the automotive industry and every single car manufacturer has one. However, before everyone else got into the fray, there’s one that successfully weathered the ups and downs, and continues to be sought-after: the Toyota RAV4. Now on its fourth-generation, the RAV4 has undergone its most dramatic transformation yet. But is it a cracker to drive or is its beauty merely skin deep?

Toyota certainly responded to criticisms that plagued the previous model when it comes to its design. The all-new RAV4 is striking to stay the least. From a single glance, it’s downright sporty and sophisticated. As a whole, the RAV4 has less black cladding, giving it a much more upscale look and feel. The decision to move the traditional rear-mounted spare tire to underneath the cargo hold also proves to be a good one giving this compact crossover a more modern rear end. Upfront, the RAV4 features an arrow-shaped face. The headlights, with their complex reflector pattern convey a sense of elegance while the two-tone side mirrors with LED repeaters great a futuristic look.  The roof rails are now purely a 4WD affair (both 2WD variants don’t have them), but overall height is still down versus the previous model making this compact crossover much more adept at tackling low clearance ceilings. Sadly, the RAV4 still rides on 225/65R17 tires which make it look severely under tired; a switch to meaner looking 18’s will definitely do justice on the sporty look.

The RAV4’s winning streak continues inside, where the interior’s younger and sportier. The asymmetrical dashboard design looks odd at first, but it frees up front passenger space while canting all major controls towards the vicinity of the driver for better ergonomics. Driving position is superb and all the controls fall superbly into hand, save for the sound system which would have benefited from physical rather than touchscreen-based controls. The instrument cluster is very simple and straight-forward with Toyota actually skipping the use of electroluminescent gauges and going for cool-blue illumination instead. The numerals are nonetheless easy to read and contain a wealth of information crammed into the on-board computer, but it can wash out in bright light (car park ceiling lights count) resulting in lights which are left on by mistake.

Toyota has also learned to take some risks in choosing materials for the RAV4’s cabin. The oh-so-typical shiny metallic trim is supplement by carbon fiber on the power window switches and shifter console creating a much more unique atmosphere. Kudos too to the leather-like material stitched onto the dashboard which imbues a very “carrozzeria” or bespoke feel. On the flip side, the very same materials don’t wear very well and start to scratch or flake off at about 8,200 clicks on the odometer; otherwise the other parts of the RAV4’s cabin is well-wearing.

In terms of space, the RAV4 is good for five adults and their luggage, but it’s not exactly class leading. There’s good human space in all dimensions and seating positions, but the RAV4 doesn’t have the same generous amount of cubby holes and storage compartments as some of its competition. The luggage compartment, though large, isn’t deep and flat (due to the protruding full-sized spare tire), and this hampers the RAV4’ carrying capacity.

The RAV4 doesn’t win the space race this time around, but it more than makes up for it with good levels of luxury and convenience features. The 4WD variant comes standard with leather seating, a powered driver’s seat, auto-dimming rear view mirror, dual-zone climate control (with pollen filter), and a full-featured multimedia system with Bluetooth hands-free. By most accounts, it’s got the “stuff that matters”, though it’s still odd that a P 1,963,000 crossover still doesn’t come with automatic HID headlamps or rain-sensing wipers as standard equipment.

On the road, the RAV4’s sporty styling is replicated in the way it drives. Though the platform is largely carried over from before, enhanced spring rates and re-tuned shock absorbers mean this crossover is happy tackling mountain roads with ease. Despite the tall driving position, the RAV4 feels planted. Understandably, there’s a good degree of body roll (and understeer), but this crossover feels secure even when going through quick left-right-left maneuvers. However, this crossover’s shockingly susceptible to crosswinds. The steering is a bit on the light side, but provides surprisingly good response because of its quick-ratio steering rack (the RAV4 actually has the tightest turning circle in its class). The ride is also on the firmer side, but not to the level where it can cause discomfort to the passengers. The brakes feel spongy at first, but bite very well late into the pedal stroke. There are a good amount of rattles, wiggles, and odd noises in the cabin too on all but the smoothest of road surfaces.

In terms of all-wheel drive systems, the RAV4 is the first Toyota to be offered with Dynamic Torque Control which automatically sends power to the wheels that need traction the most. It’s largely a carryover of the Active Torque Control found in the previous RAV4, but the shift moves from simple foul weather stability to enhanced handling. The system does prove its mettle and is largely transparent to the driver, but there’s a ‘Lock’ mode that can split the torque 50/50 to help the RAV4 dig its way out of sandy or muddy situations. Unfortunately, this all-wheel drive won’t exactly translate to better off-roading since the RAV4 does drop ground clearance to 160 mm. In comparison, the previous RAV4 has 190 mm while the new Subaru Forester (or XV for that matter) has 220 mm.

Providing the zip in the RAV4 is the very same 2.5-liter VVT-i engine found in the Camry. Producing 176 horsepower and 233 Nm of torque, it’s smooth and quiet with excellent low speed pick up and mid-range grunt. Despite being down in power and torque to some of its rivals, the RAV4 can easily hold out on its down with excellent gearing from its 6-speed automatic. It doesn’t have any paddle shifters, but the transmission is well-mated to the engine and provides power almost instantaneously when the accelerator’s depressed. The engine rarely makes its presence felt in the cabin thanks to excellent sound insulation, but when it does, the sound it makes isn’t exactly sporty. Despite all the improvement to theoretically improve fuel economy, the RAV4 ekes out a sub-par 6.32 km/L city, 11.45 km/L highway figure.

If it’s Toyota’s objective to create a fun-to-drive crossover, then it’s definitely job done with the all-new RAV4. It’s as if they called on Subaru or even Mazda engineers to inject a bit more character into their compact crossover. It’s, by no means, perfect, but at least it’s got sharp looks and improved driving dynamics to finally put it back into contention. Of course, these improvements come at a price: the RAV4 is certainly the most expensive 4WD-equipped compact crossover. Still, it’s nice to see that the pioneer in the compact crossover segment continues to set the trend, and in some ways, this makes it a standout.

2013 Toyota RAV4 4WD
Ownership 2.5 4WD
Year Introduced 2013
Vehicle Classification Compact Crossover
The Basics
Body Type 5-door Crossover
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/AWD
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.5
Aspiration NA
Layout / # of Cylinders Inline 4
BHP @ rpm 176 @ 6,000
Nm @ rpm 233 @ 4,100
Fuel / Min. Octane Unleaded / 93~
Transmission 6 AT
Cruise Control Yes
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,570
Width (mm) 1,845
Height (mm) 1,680
Wheelbase (mm) 2,680
Curb Weight (kg) 1,433
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Double Wishbone
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Tires 225/65R17
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 6
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes
Exterior Features
Headlights Halogen
Fog Lamps Front
Auto Lights No
Auto Wipers No
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjustment Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment Manual
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes
Climate Control Yes
Audio System Stereo
No. of Speakers 6
Steering Wheel Controls Yes


  1. hi sir, would you recommend this all wheel drive rav 4 or the subaru forester xt? considering the price are quite close. thank you for your suggestion sir.

    1. I would still pick the Forester XT over the RAV4 4WD. Better bang for the buck IMHO.

  2. what a pity toyota...mazda and hyundai great job...

  3. hi Ulysses, my sport mode ba ung RAV4 natin? thanks

    1. Sport mode is equipped to all Toyota 4th gen RAV4

  4. hi Ulysses, my sport mode ba ung RAV4 natin? thanks

    1. Do you mean a "Sport" mode for the automatic transmission? No.

  5. hi Ulysses, the latest Rav4 was launched in Jan2013, will there be a refreshed model this year, planning to buy soon. Many thanks

    1. Globally, they're indicating a late 2015 refresh window at the earliest.

    2. Noted with thanks

  6. hi Ulysses, the latest Rav4 was launched in Jan2013, will there be a refreshed model this year, planning to buy soon. Many thanks

  7. hi ulysses, i understand the 2015 2.5L rav4 is out. looking forward to your review on it

  8. how many type does the toyota rav4 2013 has? thank you.. like there is limited,cruiser.. what else?

  9. How much does it cost


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