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by Jay Traugott
Toyota's popular little crossover is completely redesigned with a more premium look and feel inside and out.
The crossover market is very different today than it was when the first Toyota RAV4 debuted back in 1994. Competition is much fiercer and buyers are more willing to cross-shop brands, so it's vital that Toyota get the new RAV4 right. Based on exterior styling alone, the all-new 2013 RAV4 is a marked improvement over its predecessor's rather mundane design. But don't get your hopes too high for those edgier lines to represent improved performance, because the new RAV4 ditches its fuel-sucking V6 for a more efficient inline-four.
The 2.5-liter four is rated at 176 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque, mated exclusively to a six-speed automatic. Remember, fuel economy is the name of the game these days and Toyota claims this new engine/tranny combo will return 24/31 mpg city/highway for the FWD model and 22/39 mpg for the AWD variant. Another noticeable change current RAV4 owners may notice is that the trademark side-hinged tailgate and attached spare tire are both gone. In their place is a more conventional roof-hinged liftgate, which has an optional one-touch power function with driver-selectable memory height settings.
The spare tire has now been relocated beneath the cargo floor, allowing for increased space and convenience. Like its more sculpted exterior design, the interior is also the recipient of a much-needed styling update. But don't get your artistic hopes up too high; this is still a Toyota here. Calling the dash "driver-centric and asymmetrical," Toyota gave the new RAV4's cabin a more sculpted look with blue illumination. Standard features on all trim levels include a 6.1-inch LCD touchscreen complete with Bluetooth and a backup camera. Pricing will be announced closer to when it arrives in showroom sometime next year.