$13,450 - $16,675

2013 Toyota RAV4 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2013 Toyota RAV4 was new.


Performance: 6.2

Although some test drivers note that the 2013 RAV4 isn’t as athletic as SUVs like the Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5, many are still impressed with the new RAV4’s accurate steering and composed handling. Only one engine is offered in the redesigned RAV4, and most test drivers say it has adequate power. Still, some affordable compact SUVs offer more powerful engine options.

  • "The innocuously-placed Sport button below the radio controls firms up the steering, gives the transmission more revs to play with, and improves throttle response, all of which can be felt by mere mortals." -- AutoWeek 
  • "Our first impression of the 2013 Toyota RAV4 can be summed up in one word: Balanced. Our test models felt more dynamic than the Honda CR-V (though a bit less comfortable) but not as sporty as a Ford Escape or Mazda CX-5." -- Kelley Blue Book 
  • "The new RAV4 drives as though Toyota had borrowed a bunch of Mazda engineers and told them to zoom-zoom the entire vehicle." -- Popular Mechanics 
  • "The combination of the updated powertrain and revised suspension (beefier stabilizer bars, revised spring and damping rates, and tweaked struts and bushings) results in a RAV4 that is much more fun to drive than the outgoing model." -- Truck Trend 

Acceleration and Power

While the 2012 RAV4 was available with an optional V6 engine, the 2013 RAV4 has just one powertrain: a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 176 horsepower. A six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard, while all-wheel drive is optional on all trims. The new RAV4 has three drive modes (Eco, Normal and Sport), which alter the RAV4’s throttle response and transmission behavior. The EPA reports that the 2013 RAV4 will get up to 24/31 mpg city/highway, which is comparable to SUVs like the Honda CR-V and GMC Terrain.

Some test drivers miss the outgoing RAV4’s optional V6 engine, but most say that the four-cylinder provides adequate power in most situations. Still, one reviewer notes that competitors like the Chevrolet Equinox and Ford Escape are available with more powerful engine options. The six-speed automatic transmission is new for 2013, and most critics say that it is smooth and responsive.

  • "The 2013 RAV4's liveliness makes up for this, as the direct-injected 2.5-liter inline-4 delivers 176 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque, although the real secret is a smooth yet crisp-shifting six-speed automatic transmission with both Eco and Sport modes." -- Automobile Magazine 
  • "We miss the V6, but the four-cylinder is refined and adequately powerful. The six-speed automatic shifts smoothly and right at the 6,200-rpm redline under full throttle." -- Edmunds 
  • "Still, the RAV should run neck and neck with much of the competition -- unless, of course, the guy next to you at a stoplight is in a Ford Escape with a 240-hp, 2.0-liter EcoBoost I-4 or a 264-hp Chevy Equinox V-6." -- Truck Trend  
  • "The problem is that there's not a lot of grunt in reserve, and with what should be a svelte 3,500 lbs. to lug around, the RAV4 feels a bit pokey." -- Left Lane News

Handling and Braking

Some test drivers say that the new RAV4 isn’t as sporty as SUVs like the Mazda CX-5, but they still appreciate its smooth, balanced handling. The RAV4’s steering will firm up if you put it in Sport mode, and one reviewer writers that the steering is accurate and precise. Still, another says that the ride can be a little harsh with the Limited model’s 18-inch wheels. As a result, he suggests sticking with LE and XLE models.

  • "Altogether this is a more refined and poised Toyota RAV4, though the suspension still seems short on compliance. You can choose 235/55R-18 99H tires for crisper steering if you like, but there's a noticeable amount of harshness that we could feel even on Scottsdale's incredibly smooth asphalt, so we think the 225/65R-17 102H tires are a better deal." -- Automobile Magazine 
  • "Steering is linear and sharp across all modes (Eco, Sport, and normal)." -- AutoWeek 
  • "This doesn't add up to Mazda-style athleticism, but the 2013 RAV4 is well balanced and impressively stable going down the freeway." -- Edmunds 
  • "The RAV4's suspension has received plenty of tuning adjustments, but it's still geared toward smooth running in lieu of sporty handling and road feel." -- Autoblog 

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