Toyota RAV4 off roading

Toyota RAV4 Off-Roading: An Off Road Trail Guide & Review

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“Toyota RAV4 Off-Roading” is a phrase that sparks interest among adventure seekers. The Toyota RAV4 stands tall in the off-road scene. It’s a best-seller. It’s rugged. It’s the vehicle of choice for those who dare to venture beyond the paved path. The RAV4 TRD, a model in its own right, amplifies this off-road prowess.

So, Can a Toyota RAV4 go off-roading? 

I have found that my RAV4 (2023 XLE) can go off-roading and performs better than I expected. With its robust build, high ground clearance, all-wheel drive system, multi-terrain drive modes, and advanced features the RAV4 is more than capable of tackling off-road trails.

Whether it’s the 2020 Toyota, the 2021 edition, or the latest 2023 Toyota RAV4, each one is a testament to Toyota’s commitment to off-road excellence. This review will take you through the off-roading capabilities of these models, including the RAV4 Hybrid. We’ll share specs, features, and more.

What exterior colors does the RAV4 come in? See a breakdown of all the 2023 RAV4 colors and which trim offers which color.

Understanding the RAV4 Off-Roading Capabilities

The RAV4 TRD is a beast on off-road trails. It’s not just about looks. It’s about performance. The TRD-tuned suspension with enhanced rebound control and red coil springs opens the doors to off-roading for one of the most versatile vehicles.

Multi-Terrain Select

RAV4 multi-terrain select

The RAV4’s Multi-Terrain Select feature is a game-changer for off-roading. It offers four unique modes, each designed to handle different terrains and conditions. Here’s a closer look at each one:

  • Mud & Sand: This mode is perfect for loose, slippery surfaces. It allows for a bit more wheel spin, helping the RAV4 to maintain momentum and avoid getting stuck in soft terrains like mud or sand.
  • Rock & Dirt: When you’re navigating rocky trails or dirt roads, this mode comes into play. It adjusts the RAV4’s throttle and brakes to help maintain control and stability.
  • Snow: For those winter adventures, the Snow mode adjusts the RAV4’s systems for better traction on snowy or icy surfaces. It helps ensure a smooth and safe ride even in cold weather conditions.
  • Normal: For everyday driving or when conditions don’t demand the other modes, Normal mode offers a balance of fuel efficiency and performance.

Each mode in the Multi-Terrain Select feature enhances the RAV4’s off-roading capabilities. They provide tailored performance for various conditions, making the RAV4 a versatile choice for any off-road adventure.

Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD

Power where you need it. That’s what the Dynamic Torque Vectoring All-Wheel Drive (AWD) offers.

This system can send power to the wheels that need it most. When you’re taking a turn, for example, it can send more power to the outer wheels and less to the inner ones. This helps the RAV4 turn more smoothly and maintain better control.

But that’s not all. The system can also send up to 50% of the engine’s power to the rear wheels for better traction. And when AWD isn’t needed, like when you’re cruising on a smooth highway, the system can stop sending power to the rear wheels to save fuel.

In short, the Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD helps the RAV4 handle better, whether you’re off-roading or just driving around town. It gives you the control and confidence to tackle any road condition.

Drive Modes

The RAV4 is versatile. It offers three distinct drive modes. 

  1. SPORT mode for sharper acceleration. 
  2. ECO mode for maximum fuel efficiency. 
  3. NORMAL mode for a balance of economy and performance. 

The RAV4 adapts to your mood.

Multi-Link Rear Suspension

Smooth ride. Confident handling. The multi-link rear suspension of the RAV4 delivers these. It works with the vehicle’s natural body rigidity. It keeps traction steady. It makes off-roading a breeze.

RAV4 off roading on a steep incline

RAV4 TRD Off-Road vs Adventure Trim

When it comes to the Toyota RAV4, two models stand out for off-roading enthusiasts: the Adventure trim and the TRD Off-Road. Both are built for the rugged, yet they offer unique features that set them apart. Let’s delve into the differences, similarities, cost, and performance of these two models.

Differences and Similarities

The Adventure trim and the TRD Off-Road share a common foundation. Both have a 2.5L 4-cyl. engine and All-Wheel Drive (AWD). They also share the same fuel efficiency, with a slight edge for the Adventure trim on highway mileage.

Both the TRD Off-Road and Adventure share interior features such as synthetic leather seats. See our RAV4 leather and SofTex seat guide.

However, the TRD Off-Road stands out with its off-road tuned suspension. It’s designed to handle rough terrains with ease, making it a more specialized off-roading vehicle.

Cost Comparison

The Adventure trim, with a starting MSRP of $34,470, is a more budget-friendly choice. The TRD Off-Road, with its enhanced off-roading features, comes at a higher cost, starting at $37,895.

Performance Comparison

When it comes to performance, both models shine. They offer a smooth and powerful ride, thanks to their 2.5L 4-cyl. engine and AWD. However, the TRD Off-Road, with its off-road tuned suspension, offers a more controlled and stable ride on rough terrains.

Here’s a quick comparison:

RAV4 FeatureRAV4 AdventureRAV4 TRD Off-Road
Starting MSRP$34,470$37,895
Engine2.5L 4-cyl.2.5L 4-cyl.
Off-Road Tuned SuspensionNoYes
Estimated MPG (City/Highway/Combined)25/33/2825/32/28
The above table compares the RAV4 TRD Off-Road and Adventure Trims.

Whether you’re considering the 2020 Toyota, the 2021 Toyota, or the 2023 Toyota RAV4, both the Adventure and TRD Off-Road trims offer a thrilling off-roading experience. The choice comes down to your specific needs and budget. 

2022 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road Review and Trail Test

Off-Roading Performance and Specs

Engine Specifications

The heart of the RAV4, regardless of the trim, is a 2.5L 4-cyl. engine. It’s a powerhouse that delivers the performance you need when you’re off-roading. The base trim and the Hybrid model also share this engine, providing a solid foundation for their off-road capabilities.

Here is a breakdown of the Toyota RAV4 engine specs:

  • Engine Type: The RAV4 comes with two engine types across its trims. Seven trims feature an I4 hybrid engine, while six trims come with an I4 regular unleaded engine.
  • Fuel Type: Both hybrid and gas-only engine trims use unleaded gasoline.
  • Engine Displacement: All RAV4 models have a 2.5 L engine displacement.
  • SAE Net Power: The RAV4’s engine power ranges from 203 to 219 horsepower.
  • Engine Speed at Max Horsepower: The engine reaches its maximum horsepower at an engine speed ranging from 5700 to 6600 rpm.
  • SAE Net Torque: The engine’s torque ranges from 221 to 249.5 N m.

These specifications give the RAV4 its robust performance, making it a capable vehicle for both city driving and off-roading adventures.

Is the RAV4 Hybrid worth it? See a complete guide to determine if the RAV4 Hybrid is worth it for you.

Suspension and Handling

The suspension and handling of a vehicle play a crucial role in its off-roading capabilities. Let’s take a closer look at how the TRD Off-Road, base RAV4, and Hybrid trims compare.

The TRD Off-Road trim stands out with its off-road tuned suspension. This specialized suspension system features red coil springs and twin-tube shocks. It’s designed to provide a higher degree of rebound control, allowing the TRD Off-Road to handle rough and uneven terrains with ease. This means you can tackle those rocky trails and bumpy paths with confidence.

On the other hand, the base RAV4 and the Hybrid model come with a standard suspension system. While it may not be as specialized as the TRD Off-Road, it’s still designed to provide a comfortable and smooth ride. The base RAV4 and Hybrid trims are more than capable of handling light off-roading tasks, such as dirt roads and grassy trails. However, for more challenging off-road conditions, the TRD Off-Road with its off-road tuned suspension would be the more suitable choice.

Traction and Stability Control Systems

All RAV4 models, including the base and Hybrid, come equipped with Toyota’s advanced traction and stability control systems. These systems help maintain control and stability on various terrains, making off-roading a more confident experience.

Off-Roading Features

While the TRD Off-Road RAV4 offers better off-roading features right off the lot, you can also mod other RAV4 trims to perform well off-road.

All-Terrain Tires

The RAV4 TRD Off-Road comes standard with all-terrain tires. These tires are designed to handle a variety of surfaces, from muddy trails to rocky paths. 

For other RAV4 models, upgrading to all-terrain tires can significantly enhance off-road performance. They provide better traction and durability, making them a worthwhile investment for off-roading enthusiasts.

Skid Plates

The TRD Off-Road model features sturdy skid plates that protect the vehicle’s underbody from potential damage during off-road adventures. 

Aftermarket skid plates are not standard on other RAV4 models but can be installed for added protection. They shield critical components like the engine and transmission from rocks, branches, and other obstacles you might encounter off-road.

Ground Clearance

With a generous ground clearance, the RAV4 TRD Off-Road is well-equipped to handle rough terrains. It can easily navigate over obstacles without the risk of underbody damage. 

The ground clearance of other RAV4 models is slightly lower but is still sufficient for light off-roading. For more serious off-road trails, lift kits are available to increase the vehicle’s height.

How high does the RAV4 sit off the ground? See RAV4 ground clearance specs by year and trim.

Approach, Break-Over, and Departure Angles

The RAV4 TRD Off-Road boasts impressive approach, break-over, and departure angles, allowing it to tackle steep inclines and declines without scraping the front or rear bumper. While other RAV4 models may not have the same angles, they still perform well on moderate inclines. For more challenging terrains, modifications like lift kits and larger tires can improve these angles.

Whether you choose the RAV4 TRD Off-Road or decide to upgrade to another RAV4 model, you’ll have a vehicle that’s ready for adventure. With the right features and modifications, the RAV4 can take you where you want to go, off the beaten path.

Want to know how much cargo space the RAV4 has? See a detailed breakdown of the RAV4 cargo space and dimensions with photos.

Off-Roading in Different Rugged Conditions

The RAV4 can handle modest off-road conditions including the following:

  • Mud and Wet Surfaces
  • Sand and Loose Gravel
  • Snow and Ice
  • Steep Inclines and Rocky Terrain
Off-Roading Review in a 2021 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Mud and Wet Surfaces

The RAV4 is a champ in the mud. Its all-terrain tires and AWD system work together to maintain traction. The vehicle’s high ground clearance helps prevent the underbody from getting stuck. Whether it’s a muddy trail after a rainstorm or a wet grassy field, the RAV4 can handle it.

Sand and Loose Gravel

Driving on sand or loose gravel can be tricky. But not for the RAV4. Its Multi-Terrain Select system has a dedicated mode for such conditions. It adjusts the vehicle’s performance to maintain control and stability. Beach trips or gravel roads, the RAV4 is up for the challenge.

Snow and Ice

Winter conditions are no match for the RAV4. Its Snow mode adjusts the vehicle’s systems for better traction on snowy or icy surfaces. Combined with its AWD system, the RAV4 can confidently navigate through winter landscapes.

Steep Inclines and Rocky Terrain

The RAV4’s impressive approach, break-over, and departure angles come into play on steep inclines and rocky terrain. It can climb and descend hills without scraping the front or rear bumper. However, for very steep or rocky terrains, caution is advised. The RAV4 is capable, but it’s not a dedicated rock crawler.

In different conditions, the RAV4 shows its versatility. It’s a vehicle that’s ready for adventure, no matter the weather or the terrain. Whether you’re exploring a sandy beach, a muddy trail, or a snowy mountain, the RAV4 is a reliable companion.

Off-Road Conditions the RAV4 CAN’T Handle 

The RAV4 is a capable off-roader but it’s not designed for all types of off-road conditions. Here are a couple of examples where the RAV4 might struggle:

Extreme Rock Crawling

Rock crawling involves navigating over very rough and rocky terrains, often with large boulders and steep inclines. This requires a vehicle with very high ground clearance, large tires, and a specialized suspension system. While the RAV4 is capable of handling light to moderate off-roading, extreme rock crawling is beyond its design specifications.

Can a RAV4 TRD Off-Road Rock Crawl?

Deep Water Fording

Crossing deep bodies of water is another off-road condition that the RAV4 isn’t designed for. While it can handle shallow water crossings, attempting to ford deep rivers or flooded areas could lead to water entering the engine, transmission, or other critical components, which can cause serious damage.

It’s always important to know the limits of your vehicle and to off-road responsibly. If you’re planning to take on these types of extreme off-road conditions then a 4-Runner or Jeep might be better suited to meet your needs.

Off-Road Fuel Efficiency

Off-roading is a thrilling adventure, but it can be demanding on your vehicle’s fuel economy. The challenging terrains, the constant changes in speed, and the use of 4WD or AWD systems can lead to higher fuel consumption.

Curious about your RAV4’s fuel efficiency? We’ve got you covered!

RAV4’s Off-Road Fuel Efficiency

The RAV4, however, is designed with fuel efficiency in mind. Even when off-roading, it strives to balance performance and economy. 

Pro Tip: Its engine is engineered for efficiency, and its ECO drive mode can help optimize fuel consumption even in off-road conditions.

In a week of testing, MotorBiscuit reported achieving 30 MPG with the RAV4 TRD, which likely included a mix of city, highway, and off-road driving.

Hybrid for Off-Roading

The RAV4 Hybrid takes it a step further. It combines a gas engine with an electric motor to deliver impressive fuel efficiency, even when off-roading. It’s a great choice for off-road adventures and keeping fuel costs down.

Off-Roading Review and Testimonials

I have found my RAV4 to be easily capable of light off-roading because of its good ground clearance, all-wheel drive system, and multi-terrain modes. See additional review below.

Real-World Experiences

Off-roading in a RAV4 isn’t just about the specs and features. It’s about the real-world experiences of drivers who have taken their RAV4 off the beaten path. Here are some testimonials from RAV4 owners and reviewers:

  1. Road Test Reviews found the RAV4 TRD to perform well off-road, exceeding their expectations. They also noted that the Adventure trim, while less expensive, could probably handle similar terrains.
  2. Car and Driver noted that while the RAV4 TRD’s off-road capabilities aren’t extreme, they’re worthwhile, and its mud-loving side doesn’t bring much in the way of on-road compromises.
  3. CarProUSA appreciated the two-toned looks, TRD-tuned suspension, and new Toyota Multimedia System of the 2023 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road.
  4. Motor Trend found the RAV4 TRD Off-Road to stop from 60 mph in 130 feet, which is on the long side for the segment but otherwise even with other RAV4 models they’ve tested.
  5. The Manual described the RAV4 as comfortable 90% of the time on-road and massively impressive off-road, hitting a sweet spot that true off-roaders have struggled to achieve.

These testimonials provide valuable insights into the RAV4’s off-roading capabilities from those who have experienced it firsthand. They attest to the RAV4’s ability to handle a variety of off-road conditions while still providing a comfortable and enjoyable driving experience.

Accessories for Off-Roading (Mods)

Off Road Accessories or mods will make your RAV4 off-roading experience go a lot smoother. See my top off-road accessory ideas below.

Are you interested in mods and accessory ideas for your RAV4? See the 45 best Toyota RAV4 mods & aftermarket accessories.

All-Terrain Tires

All-terrain tires are designed to handle a variety of surfaces. They provide better traction on off-road terrains like mud, sand, and gravel. Upgrading to all-terrain tires can significantly enhance your RAV4’s off-roading capabilities.

Lift Kit

A lift kit raises the height of your RAV4, increasing its ground clearance. This allows you to navigate over larger obstacles and rougher terrains. It’s a popular upgrade for off-roading enthusiasts.

Are you interested in lifting your RAV4? See everything you need to know about Toyota RAV4 lift kits and which is the best kit for you.

Mud Guards

Mudguards, also known as splash guards, protect your vehicle from mud, stones, and other debris that can be kicked up by the tires. They’re especially useful in off-roading conditions, helping to keep your RAV4 clean and prevent damage to the bodywork.

Roof Rack

A roof rack is a must for off-roading adventures. It provides extra storage space for your gear. Whether it’s camping equipment or extra supplies, a roof rack has you covered.

Are you interested in freeing up some cargo space in your RAV4? See the 5 best RAV4 roof rack and cross bars.

All-Weather Floor Mats

Off-roading can get messy. All-weather floor mats protect your RAV4’s interior. They’re easy to clean and durable, perfect for off-road use.

Skid Plates

If your RAV4 doesn’t already have them, consider adding skid plates. They protect the underbody from damage. They’re a shield against rocks, branches, and rough terrain.

Off-Road Lights

Off-road lights are a great addition for night-time adventures. They provide extra illumination, helping you navigate through dark trails.

Recovery Equipment

A recovery kit is essential for off-roading. It includes tools like a winch, tow straps, and a shovel. It’s your lifeline in case you get stuck.

Off-roading is more than just a drive. It’s an adventure. And with the right accessories, your RAV4 is ready for anything.

Maintenance and Care for Off-Roading

The more workload you add to your RAV4 the more care you should give your vehicle. For example, a lot of off-roading or towing should lead you to do oil changes more often. See maintenance more maintenance tips below.

check oil level on the dipstick

Regular Check-Ups

Off-roading can be tough on your RAV4. Regular check-ups are crucial. Keep an eye on the tires, brakes, and suspension. Make sure they’re in good shape before and after each off-road adventure.

Washing and Cleaning

Off-roading can get messy. Mud, dust, and debris can accumulate on your RAV4. Regular cleaning is important. It keeps your vehicle looking good and helps prevent rust and damage.

Check Fluids

Your RAV4’s fluids are its lifeblood. Regularly check and top up the engine oil, coolant, and brake fluid. Remember, a well-lubricated vehicle is a happy vehicle.


Your tires are your connection to the ground. Keep them in top shape. Regularly check their pressure and tread depth. Rotate them regularly for even wear.


The underbody takes a lot of hits during off-roading. Regularly inspect it for damage. Look for dents in the skid plates or leaks from the engine or transmission.

Off-roading is fun, but it requires responsibility. Proper maintenance and care will ensure your RAV4 is always ready for the next adventure.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Toyota RAV4 good for off-roading?

Absolutely! The RAV4, especially the TRD Off-Road and Adventure trims, are designed with off-roading in mind. They come with features like Multi-Terrain Select, Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD, and all-terrain tires that enhance their off-road capabilities.

Can the RAV4 handle extreme off-road conditions?

While the RAV4 is capable of handling a variety of off-road conditions, it’s not designed for extreme off-roading like rock crawling or deep water fording. It’s perfect for light to moderate off-roading like dirt trails, grassy fields, and snowy paths.

What accessories should I get for off-roading in my RAV4?

Some useful accessories for off-roading include all-terrain tires, a lift kit, skid plates, a roof rack, all-weather floor mats, off-road lights, mudguards, and recovery equipment. These can enhance your off-roading experience and protect your vehicle.

How should I maintain my RAV4 after off-roading?

After off-roading, it’s important to clean your RAV4 thoroughly, especially the underbody. Check the tires, brakes, and suspension for any damage. Also, check and top up the engine oil, coolant, and brake fluid as needed.

Does off-roading affect the RAV4’s fuel efficiency?

Yes, off-roading can lead to higher fuel consumption due to factors like increased resistance and the use of 4WD or AWD systems. However, the RAV4 is designed with fuel efficiency in mind, and the Hybrid model offers even better fuel economy.

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