Car Review: 2013 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD

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From first glance last year, one could tell there was something special about Toyota’s fourth-generation RAV4. We spent a week driving the 2013 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD in some pretty harsh weather conditions and this SUV knows how to handle snow and sleet.

EXTERIOR

The new RAV4’s design achieves strong proportions while conveying the agile and fun character. Sophisticated and dynamic, the exterior features a progressive silhouette, with a sleek-sloping roofline and an aggressive character line. The RAV4 pursues a modern design with aggressively sculpted front and rear fenders and boldly proportioned taillights that define itsathletic presence. The stance looks stronger and much more in tuned with today’s customers.

In a significant break with its heritage, the RAV4 switches from its side-hinged rear door to a convenient roof-hinged liftgate with a space-saver spare tire will be stored under the cargo floor. Standard on the Limited grade is a one-touch power rear liftgate with driver-selectable memory height settings. As on other recently introduced Toyotas, RAV4 engineers paid special attention to aerodynamics — the most obvious detail being small vortex generators molded into the taillight cases and near the base of the A-pillars. Less obvious are the aerodynamic undertrays beneath the passenger cabin that help smooth and control airflow. From the 17-inch alloy wheels, to the Barcelona red metallic paint, the RAV4 has a skin that is light years ahead of past models when it comes to styling and substance.

INTERIOR

The RAV4 XLE model we tested did not have leather seating, or heated seats, for that matter, but the new cabin was nonetheless very impressive. The new RAV4’s dash panel is driver-centric and asymmetrical, with primary and secondary controls all within easy reach. On the passenger side, the sculpted dash panel creates a sense of airy spaciousness.

The RAV4’s dash panel and gauges all feature Clear Blue illumination, which provides crisp visibility in most ambient light conditions, and a unified, coherent appearance at night. The RAV4 XLE driver and front passenger ride in premium bucket seats with sport bolstering, providing ample support of the lower hips, lower torso and shoulders during cornering. The XLE has premium fabric with French stitching on the seats and portions of the dash panels. All RAV4s feature 60/40 split/fold second-row seats that recline several degrees to enhance passenger comfort. In contrast to the 2013 RAV4’s compact exterior dimensions, the cargo area is deeper, larger and easier to access than in the previous generation, with just over 38.4 cu. ft. of cargo capacity behind the rear seats. With rear seats folded, the RAV4 has a maximum cargo capacity of 73.4 cu. ft. This is a very large area, and you really need to see the back seats folded down to appreciate this space.

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