Friday, October 25, 2013

RAV4's changed look doesn't lessen its appeal

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website – via the “GALLERY: Reviews of new cars” link at

Sacramento, California – Let me start by saying that my wife drives a 2011 Toyota RAV4 … and she absolutely loves it.

But her RAV4 is not the current RAV4, aka the fourth generation introduced for the 2013 model year and carrying on into 2014.

First thing you’re likely to ask upon seeing the latest RAV4: Hey, what happened to the rear-mounted spare tire?

Good question.  The spare is now below the floor inside the rear storage area, in line with what you get in most SUVs.

This was greeted with applause by many SUV devotees who questioned why Toyota would put a spare tire on the back end of a small SUV.  I confess that I was not one of them. I did not think the rear-mounted spare took away from the look of the vehicle in any way.  However, I can understand how you might like an interior-loaded spare when you’re changing a flat tire in the pouring rain.

And you would want a roof over your head while changing said tire in said downpour, right?  Of course, and you get that too in the latest RAV4 – a roof-hinged liftgate replacing the easy opening, side-hinged rear door.

For the record, my wife, who stands 5-2, likes her side-hinged door, as opposed to making a running start and leaping into the air to snare the top of the roof-hinged liftgate.  Different strokes for different folks.  I get it.

Personally, I’m not affected.  But then I’m 6-4.

So, bottom line, these seemingly drastic changes do nothing to detract from the RAV4’s look (which is sleek and attractive) or its cargo-carrying capacity, which remains ample in all configurations.

The interior remains surprisingly roomy for five passengers, and controls are easily understood and managed from the cockpit.  Audio systems on the RAV4 are strong and gutsy.

Then there’s this: The RAV4 is a dream to drive. It’s instantly responsive, quiet and darn-near a small sports car performer when its dodging through heavy traffic.

There’s no six-cylinder power plant, but let me assure you that you don’t need it.  The 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine rated at 176 horsepower in the XLE model tester (which had the additional advantage of all-wheel drive) provided plenty of oomph.  And even sprints from a standing start were brisk and impressive.

My wife is not holding a gun to my head when I tell you that the RAV4 is the near-perfect suburban-dweller’s vehicle.  Your get good ride height to see above the crowd, midsize sedan-like handling, the ability to carry everything from groceries to cinder blocks, an easy-to-step-into floor level, big SUV capabilities in a practical-size package and an affordable price ($25,690 MSRP on the generously-equipped tester).

So, what’s not to like?

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