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Four frozen states in a 2013 Toyota RAV4

Jeff Glucker January 3, 2014 Reviews, Road Test Reviews, Toyota Reviews 4 Comments

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The jetway is cold. I knew this would be the case yet I’m never quite prepared for just how cold. My breath reminds me of the partly cloudy sky I left behind in the more temperate climate of California. It must be done, however, because it’s the holidays and my family lives in the Northeast. Between my wife and myself, we’re tasked with visiting four states over the course of a just a few days. This includes multiple trips back and forth between a few of the states, which wear names like New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. They do not, sadly, wear names like Anguilla, Costa Rica, or Australia.

Rumbling down the jetway brings us through Logan’s latest terminal which is stocked with more than just a new Sam Adams restaurant and fifteen Dunkin’ Donuts locations. It’s a nice change, and it leads us to our awaiting luggage, which is equally cold thanks to the trip from plane to baggage handler’s cart to sushi restaurant-like automated mover of things.

We’re off to find another automated mover of things, but this one will need to transport myself, my wife, and the luggage to which we’ve recently been reacquainted. It’s waiting for us in the parking lot of the Boston Globe, and it’s wearing Toyota badges. The 2013 Toyota RAV4 will serve as our inter-state shuttle through the cold to our warm families.

I could’ve sworn I was just in California driving something far more Italian

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Walking up to the RAV4, the gray sky and slowly swirling clouds serve to mimic the thoughts running through my mind. I don’t expect to be thrilled by anything that this Toyota has to offer, yet I do feel it’s a fine machine for the task at hand. Speaking of the task at hand, I load our luggage into the now lifting rear door (prior generations opened to the side), slide the key into the ignition, and immediately set the heat on stun.

Our first destination is a small town next door to Manchester, New Hampshire. This means primarily highways, including a blast right through the heart of Boston along route 93 North. All these years later, it’s amazing how much better the Big Dig has made the city with respect to traffic patterns. We emerge from beneath the city to pass by the home of my beloved Boston Celtics before gliding across the Zakim bridge.

It’s an uneventful ride to New Hampshire. There’s no snow on the ground, the temperatures are rising a bit, and the 176-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine pushes the RAV4 along easily enough. The power is sent out to all four wheels through the six-speed automatic gearbox. I’m actually rather surprised that I’m not dealing with a CVT, and I can slide the shift lever over to the SPORT section to manually select gears. This is useful for only one thing… making more noise. There’s not much in terms of a response, but I certainly wasn’t expecting a shove either.

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New Hampshire is an unfortunate blur and we can never stay in one location for long enough. It’s time to point the RAV4 towards Rhode Island and Connecticut. In a twist that’s both a blessing and a curse, we’re doing this at 4:30 in the morning. Those aforementioned rising temperatures have officially gone into hibernation and the cold presses through my jacket, past my skin, and into my very bones. Our many-state shuttle eventually warms up, and small New Hampshire backroads give way to the freeway.

It’s empty. It’s dark. It’s flying by quickly because I’m pushing the RAV4 hard. We have to arrive in Connecticut in time to see my wife’s niece and nephew open their presents.

As my numb hands tingle with the sensation of increased blood flow, I’m disappointed that numbness still continues in the dull steering “feel” sent up from whatever electronics are assisting the power steering system. Our sensations, however, are on full alert. My iPhone is connected by both a USB cable and the Bluetooth system, and I’m singing along to my own music. Since it was too early to brew up a pot of coffee in New Hampshire, I’m letting the musical stylings of Pearl Jam keep me motivated and moving forward. Besides the solid infotainment setup, the interior itself well laid out and, dare I say it, rather stylish in terms of the central dashboard design. A sculpted soft padding runs from door to door, and provides a visual pop to the cabin space. I just wish the seats were as comfortable and supportive as they looked. I’ve sat in worse, but the miles are starting to reveal the lack of bolstering. Additionally, the RAV4 could do with a bit more love in the NVH department. The road noise is louder than expected, but that just means I get to turn up the Pearl Jam.

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The sun begins to shine as our Connecticut waypoint comes into view. The presents aren’t yet opened, the kids are still sleeping, and the RAV4 has gotten us to our next destination. More importantly, there’s coffee brewed and waiting inside the house. The smooth black liquid is nearly magical in what it can do. My head is clear, my mouth forms a smile due to the noise emanating from the all-of-a-sudden quite loud house, and I’m ready to handle photo duty for the morning madness.

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The Christmas calamity dies away, and our next destination comes into focus. We head off to Rhode Island for dinner with more family and check off our fourth state in just a few days of travel. It’s not over yet, however, as the next day brings a new destination. Our final stop is back up to Massachusetts to actually spend a bit of time there. We may have landed there and acquired the keys to our 2013 Toyota RAV4, but we quickly left the state in order to make all-wheel-drive tracks to the Granite State.

This is a whirlwind way to visit our families, but it’s the type of voyage home to which we’ve become accustomed. The Toyota RAV4 serves us well. It’s not perfect, nor is it exciting, but it’s reliable, efficient, and well equipped. It’s hard to find loaded up machine for under $30,000 these days, but the $27,000 price tag on the RAV4 is a pleasant surprise. All it needed was a set of heated seats, because my California backside clearly isn’t ready to handle the cold like it used to. Still, the RAV4 was exactly a joy either. The engine output could be closer to 200 horsepower, a semblance of steering feel would be nice, the road noise was a sad surprise, and the seats could use a bit more cushion for when I’m pushing the compact crossover down the road.

It’s a perfectly adequate machine that does everything … alright. I can’t complain though, because it got my wife and I across four states in a few days time in order to spend the holidays with the ones we love.

[Disclaimer: Toyota loaned me the RAV4 and included a tank of gas. I filled it up a few more times because I probably put around 750 miles on the odometer.]

Images copyright 2014 Redusernab/Jeff Glucker

  • Joe Btfsplk

    Mrs Btfsplk owns a 2011 Rav4 Sport. With AWD and the 3.5L, 270HP V-6, the little hot rod is a hoot to drive. Our dealer lent us a 2013 to use while new brake pads were being fitted and I must say that the lack of power is the first thing I noticed, along with much more engine noise than the V-6. It's roomier inside, but uses cheaper feeling materials. In conclusion, the Rav4 has taken a step backward with the de-contented new model.

  • Van_Sarockin

    Welcome to the baseline SUV. I'll do anything to avoid that soft Hell.

  • BobWellington

    Toyotas just keep getting uglier and uglier.

  • R2D2

    Toyota has done it again. Meet the new "Admiral Ackbar" edition of the RAV 4. All this eyesore needs is gills and a hook in its mouth.

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