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2013 Toyota RAV4 review: New RAV4 suffers death by a thousand squeaks

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The Good The 2013 Toyota RAV4 is a strong performer at city and highway speeds thanks to a well-balanced 2.5-liter engine. The Limited trim level's convenience features make the RAV4 easy to live with. Optional tech upgrades add JBL audio and thoughtful safety features.

The Bad Toyota's Entune infotainment system isn't as feature-stocked or well-organized as others in this class. The 6.1-inch screen is a glare magnet. Our tester's dashboard squeaked annoyingly over every bump.

The Bottom Line The 2013 Toyota RAV4 Limited is a fine choice and a good value, but its infotainment and its convenience technology are not the best in this crowded class.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.7 Overall
  • Cabin tech 7
  • Performance tech 6
  • Design 7

Review Sections

"That creaking coming from the dashboard is annoying," said my passenger during a spin in the 2013 Toyota RAV4 Limited. "It makes me feel like it's poorly made."

The constant squeak coming from a champagne-colored accent panel had been bothering me too, but I hadn't said anything about it. I was largely enjoying the RAV4, impressed by its driving characteristics.

"Maybe it's just cold right now. Maybe it's just a one-off thing," I defended. "Could be any of a dozen reasons. Cars are quirky like that."

"Yeah, dude," my passenger seemed to agree, "I guess so, but this isn't a car; it's a Toyota."

I immediately knew what he meant. I was raised in a Toyota family and have come to expect a high level of fit, finish, and reliability from the brand's vehicles. The Camry, Corolla, and RAV4 may not be the most exciting cars to drive, but hundreds of thousands of miles of experience have taught me that they're well built. A squeaking dashboard on a brand-new RAV4 worried me. By the end of the week, the squeaking and creaking was all that I could hear.

Interior and amenities
Despite that infernal dashboard panel, the rest of the RAV4's interior seemed well sorted out. The cabin was a comfortable place to be, with a seating position that offered a commanding view of the road ahead and, thanks to an open greenhouse, around the vehicle. Despite the squeaking, I'm sure that this is a vehicle that will stand the test of time.

Our RAV4 was a top-tier Limited model that goes beyond the entry LE trim with interior enhancements such as dual-zone climate controls, autodimming rearview mirror, heated front bucket seats, and SofTex trim for all seats and door trim -- SofTex being a nice and modern way of saying leatherette. Our two-tone black and terra-cotta interior color scheme maybe wouldn't be my first choice, but the contrasting colors did add a bit of visual interest to the cabin. Styling, as they say, is subjective.

RAV4 interior

The two-tone SofTex interior was certainly visually interesting.

Josh Miller/CNET

Meanwhile, the exterior styling distinguishes the Limited from the lesser with color-keyed heated, powered outside mirrors with turn signal indicators; a silver-trimmed lower grille opening; enlarged, 18-inch alloy wheels; roof rails; and fog lamps.

I'm a fan of the new RAV4's profile, which arches up from the windshield to maximize front-row headroom (even when equipped with the optional sunroof), but drops dramatically toward the rear of the vehicle, which helps the crossover avoid the "bubble butt" that most of the class is plagued with. A standard integrated spoiler completes the sporty look. I am a bit sad to see the RAV4's characteristic rear-mounted spare tire and side-hinged rear gate go, but the new design permits a traditional liftgate, which requires less space when opening.

In the case of our Limited model, that liftgate is motorized, raising and lowering at the touch of a button. The motorized hatch's opening angle is adjustable, so drivers who park in low-ceilinged garages need not worry about dinging their paint. The system also features jam protection, which stops and reverses the motion when the liftgate is obstructed. Other convenience features at this trim level include an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat with memory function, Smart Key keyless entry and start system, and automatic headlamps.

Dashboard tech powered by Entune
Once you've settled on the 2013 RAV4 Limited, there are only two more option choices available. One is a power train option (which we'll get back to shortly). The other is to choose your cabin tech options package. Three packages are available, adding Entune with Navigation, JBL premium audio, and a selection of active safety options at each tier.

The Display Audio system is standard and features a small 6.1-inch color touch screen on the center stack, which serves as the driver's interaction point with the infotainment options and with the rearview camera that is also added with this package. I found the screen to be a bit low-resolution and highly subject to glare, which at times made viewing it difficult.

RAV4 Display Audio

The 6.1-inch LCD's resolution didn't impress us. Neither did its low contrast and high glare.

Josh Miller/CNET

Our optional Entune upgrade adds Entune (naturally), navigation, and the ability to interface with a smartphone running the Entune app to bring features such as Bing destination search and Pandora and iHeartRadio streaming to the dashboard, placing these features under a menu called Apps. What's odd is that navigation is also tucked in this Apps menu.

This navigation option isn't an app, it's a traditional navigation system with locally stored maps, address entry, and destination search. It doesn't require the Entune app to function like the rest of the features under the App menu, but by placing navigation there, Toyota makes viewing the map a three-tap affair, rather than a single button press as in most other infotainment systems.

The Display Audio system redeems itself with a good array of available audio sources, including Bluetooth A2DP, CD with MP3 playback, USB for iPod and MP3 mass storage, SiriusXM satellite radio, AM/FM terrestrial radio with HD Radio decoding, 3.5mm analog auxiliary input, and the aforementioned Entune audio-streaming apps.

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