Aside from the mega-dollar Lexus LFA and the Scion FR-S, few Toyota products of the last decade can be considered edgy, exciting, or controversial. Ironically, the one unique proposition in Toyota's lineup that departed from mainstream orthodoxy was the RAV4 compact SUV. In a class that has become dominated by smooth, wind-sculpted designs, four-cylinder power, and conventional packaging, the RAV stood out with its angular styling, exterior-mounted spare, and optional V-6 engine.
In our test of a 3.5-liter, V-6-equipped RAV4 in 2011, the cute 'ute ripped from 0-60 in a brisk 6.3 seconds, making it the quickest vehicle in its class. Back when it was first introduced for the 2006 model year, the V-6 accounted for as much as 30 percent of RAV4 sales. That number had since dropped well below 20 percent. The RAV4 has also been falling on the sales charts, trailing rivals including the recently updated, four-cylinder-only Honda CR-V and Ford Escape.
So it doesn't come as a surprise that Toyota has made some significant changes to its redesigned 2013 Toyota RAV4 to keep up with the Joneses. Gone are outgoing model's hot-rod V-6, square-sided styling, and the "Skittles" exterior spare tire cover.
In are attractive if somewhat anonymous styling, and a single engine option -- Toyota's well-worn 2.5-liter four-cylinder that served as the base engine in the previous RAV4, paired with an efficiency-minded six-speed automatic. With 30 mpg the new benchmark for highway fuel economy in the compact SUV class, the 2013 RAV4 delivers 24 city and 31 highway EPA figures for the front-drive model. Under our admittedly leaden feet for a week and a half, the new RAV averaged 22.5 mpg.
Compared to the V-6 we tested, the four-cylinder posted a significantly slower, but class-appropriate 0-60 time of 8.4 seconds. The difference in the quarter-mile time was not quite as gaping, at 16.4 seconds at 85.8 mph versus the V-6's 14.9 seconds at 92.9 mph. The new 2013 RAV4's 0-60 time is identical to the last Honda CR-V we tested, and its quarter-mile time is a mere one-tenth slower, but with a 0.2-mph faster trap speed. Credit the Toyota's extra cog over the Honda's five-speed auto.