2013 Toyota RAV4 at the 2012 L.A. Auto Show

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  • Competes with: Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson
  • Looks like: RAV4 loses its rear-mounted spare tire and gets more athletic styling
  • Drivetrain: 176-hp, 2.5 liter four-cylinder and a new six-speed automatic; the V-6 has been discontinued
  • Hits dealerships: Early next year

The fourth generation of Toyota’s compact crossover met the press today at the 2012 L.A. Auto Show. More athletic styling, a new transmission and a host of additional convenience features are the big news for 2013.

A more sloping roofline, sweeping headlamps, pronounced side character lines and sculpted front and rear bumpers combine for a more athletic look. Also new is the arrangement of the spare tire and cargo door. The tire moves from the door to underneath the cargo floor, and the door now uses a roof-hinged liftgate instead of the previous side-hinge setup.

More 2012 L.A. Auto Show Coverage

The 2013 model’s four-cylinder is a carryover: The 2.5-liter makes 176 horsepower. Toyota retired the RAV4’s V-6. Also gone is the four-speed automatic; a new six-speed takes its place. Two- and all-wheel-drive versions are available, with the former getting an EPA-estimated 24/31 mpg city/highway. The previous version was rated at 22/28 mpg with the four-speed automatic. Toyota says a new Eco mode helps promote more efficient driving and enhances fuel efficiency. 

The new Sport mode alters shift timing and steering and throttle responses for a sportier feel, Toyota says. The Dynamic Toque Control all-wheel-drive system sends power to the rear wheels when cornering to improve handling. It offers three modes: Auto, Lock and Sport. In Auto, power goes to the front wheels, and all-wheel drive is switched on automatically when needed. Lock mode acts as a full-time all-wheel-drive system and delivers power to all four wheels in low-speed driving. Sport mode provides “nearly instantaneous torque transfers between the front and rear wheels to help enhance cornering performance,” Toyota said in a statement.

LE, XLE and Limited models round out the trim levels for 2013. Standard on all RAV4s are a backup camera and a 6.1-inch touch-screen for displaying audio info. Standard on the Limited grade is a one-touch power liftgate with driver-selectable memory height settings. XLE and Limited models also get dual-zone automatic climate control, integrated fog lights, power moonroof with sliding sunshade and heated outside mirrors with turn-signal indicators. A blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert systems are new options.

All RAV4s feature a 60/40-split second row; seats recline but don’t slide. A third-row option is no longer available. Toyota says the cargo area is larger, deeper and easier to access compared with the previous generation. The 2013 RAV4 offers 38.4 cubic feet of space with the seats up and 73.3 cubic feet with the seats folded. The outgoing model offered just a touch less—73 cubic feet of cargo space.

No word yet on pricing. The 2013 RAV4 goes on sale early next year.

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News Editor Jennifer Geiger joined the automotive industry in 2003, much to the delight of her Corvette-obsessed dad. Jennifer is an expert reviewer, certified car-seat technician and mom of three. She wears a lot of hats — many of them while driving a minivan. Email Jennifer Geiger

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