Toyota RAV4 slimmed down, simplified for 2013 makeover
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Editor's note: An earlier version of this story included a chart with incorrect year-to-date U.S. sales data for the RAV4.
LOS ANGELES -- The Toyota RAV4, the first compact crossover to arrive in the United States, is getting slimmed down, simplified and enhanced fuel economy for the 2013 model year as the automaker strives to gain more ground in a booming segment.
After its debut in 1996, the RAV4 quickly established itself as a strong seller. Other automakers have improved the family crossover recipe in recent years and passed Toyota even as overall compact crossover demand continues to rise.
For the 2013 RAV4 redesign unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show today, Toyota has kept the same wheelbase, but has reduced its overall length by two inches, while adding an inch of width and losing some height.
Under the hood, the RAV4 offers only the carryover 176-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine; the optional V-6 engine offered on the previous generation has been deleted from the lineup.
Another deletion: the optional third row of seats.
The take rate on the third-row seats was less than 5 percent, said Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Toyota was the last manufacturer in the segment offering a V-6, and few buyers, except for some in mountainous regions, wanted the engine, Lentz said.
"Given the average life cycle of a product, those options would have been limited at the beginning and almost nonexistent by the end. There is no sense developing options that have very small take rates," Lentz said.
With sales of 145,103 through October this year, the RAV4 has a long way to go to catch the rival Honda CR-V, with sales of 233,586; the Ford Escape, with sales of 219,907, and the Chevrolet Equinox, 182,249.
The CR-V was redesigned for the 2012 model year and the Escape for 2013.
Overall, sales of compact crossovers have jumped 17 percent this year to 1.37 million units -- outpacing the market's overall gain of 14 percent, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
Toyota aims to boost deliveries next year of the RAV4 by 18 percent.
The U.S. sales goal for the 2013 RAV4 model is 200,000 units next year, up from about 170,000 in 2012, Bill Fay, group vice president of U.S. sales for Toyota, said at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
"Primary competitors are everybody in that small SUV segment," notably the CR-V, Escape and Mazda CX-5, Fay said. "I'm not so sure there's going to be a V-6 left in that segment," as competitors move away from larger engines, he also said.
Toyota has moved the RAV4’s spare tire from the rear door to under the cargo area - allowing the rear door to become a liftback instead of a side-hinged door.
U.S. sales of the RAV4 have jumped 36 percent this year through October. Toyota has accelerated output of the crossover at a plant in Woodstock, Ontario, after a slowdown last year related to Japan's earthquake and tsunami.
Toyota has made other powertrain changes to enhance the RAV4's fuel economy -- a key consideration for U.S. consumers these days.
Previously, the RAV4's base engine was combined with a four-speed automatic. The 2013 model will have a six-speed automatic gearbox with sequential-shift gating. Both fifth and sixth gears are set as overdrives.
Fuel economy ratings are 24 mpg city/31 highway for the front-wheel-drive version, and 22 mpg city/29 highway in all-wheel drive, not counting the efficiency gains achieved in eco mode.
That's an improvement over the 22 mpg city/28 highway on the current two-wheel-drive model and 21 mpg city/27 highway on the 2012 four-wheel-drive model.
Awd models will come with Toyota's Dynamic Torque Control system, which automatically shifts from fwd to awd when accelerating or when sensors detect wheel slippage, according to Toyota.
But the Dynamic Torque Control system also comes with a "lock" mode for muddy or sandy conditions under 25 mph, sending up to 50 percent of engine power to the rear wheels.
Toyota moved the RAV4's spare tire from the rear door to under the cargo area. That allows the rear door to become a liftback, instead of a side-hinged door. The lift back will have an adjustable lift height for those with short garage ceilings.
Standard features will include 17-inch wheels, privacy glass, daytime running lights, cruise control, backup camera, power side mirrors, power door locks, power windows, split folding second-row seats, tilt/telescope steering column, a 6.1-inch center console video monitor and steering wheel controls for audio and Bluetooth.
The fourth generation, 2013 RAV4 goes on sale in early 2013. Pricing will be announced later.
Bloomberg contributed to this report
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