The 2013 Toyota RAV4 has shuffled its powertrain and seating, but change doesn't just come from within. The RAV4's appealing new body is the latest in a string of new Toyotas (like the Avalon sedan) that have taken some interesting styling turns.
This time, the RAV4 drops the last trace of any SUV realness it once had--the tailgate-mounted spare tire--and fairs in a new set of cues that aren't shy about borrowing from Toyota's best-looking crossover, the Venza. The RAV4 has a real underbite, and the nose has the same sharp corners and taut fender lines. The usual kick to the rear roof pillar rests on a muscular shoulder so pronounced, it could have come from a Volvo. It's not entirely a win--pointy taillamps sit high like the ones on a Scion xD--but it's a long way down the runway from the amorphous, anodyne first-gen RAV4.
The cockpit flips through some classic 1980s Toyota catalogs. The gauges have a Tercel-like simplicity, and the gimbaled vents are pure, early MR2. Look right, and the big LCD screen and pushbutton start on high-end models are plainly trimmed--not flanked by wide planks of silver-painted plastic. Top models even sport two-tone, stitched and padded upholstery across the midline, in what looks like the most tasteful cabin in the segment in photos, but renders a little differently in person, where the actual materials are more obviously a lower-cost way to dress up the design.