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There’s no question that the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is a capable, efficient SUV. But do its capabilities extend to off-roading? And for what kind of off-roading is the RAV4 Hybrid best suited?
In this comprehensive guide to off-roading with the RAV4 Hybrid, let’s dive into all these questions. You’ll better understand the best off-roading trim levels and equipment to consider for your next adventure.
Understanding your vehicle’s specifications before off-roading or overlanding can be extremely helpful. Knowing things like the ground clearance, towing capacity or cargo space dimensions can make your adventure more enjoyable. The RAV4 Hybrid is an excellent vehicle choice but is it a desirable choice for off-roading? This guide will answer this question and more.
The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid has several features that make it a good candidate for mild off-roading. Let’s evaluate some features found on LE, XLE, and SE trim levels.
Starting with the On-Demand All-Wheel Drive system, which provides the traction needed when in a slippery situation. This part-time AWD system remains in front-wheel drive (FWD) for maximum efficiency until you need it to send more power to the rear wheels.
Furthermore, the hybrid models offer available Trail mode, which isn’t found on the gas-only RAV4s. This advanced system enhances AWD on low-traction surfaces, like traversing mud or snow. The Trail mode acts like a limited-slip differential but uses braking to limit spinning on the slipping wheel.
It’s also important to consider the ground clearance of the RAV4 Hybrid. The 2023 RAV4 Hybrid offers 8.1″ of ground clearance. Let’s see how that compares with some of the competition:
- Subaru Forester: 8.7″
- Jeep Renegade: 8.0″
- Honda CR-V: 7.8″
So, while not offering as much ground clearance as the Subaru Forester, the RAV4 Hybrid can clear larger obstacles than the Jeep Renegade and the Honda CRV.
It’s also essential to evaluate the approach and departure angle of the RAV4 Hybrid, along with other popular models. The 2023 RAV4 Hybrid has a 19.0-degree angle of approach and a 21.0-degree angle of departure — the same as all RAV4 models except the Prime XSE.
- Subaru Forester: 23.5/25.4
- Jeep Renegade: 21/32.1
- Honda CR-V: 19.3/23.5
While the approach and departure angles of the RAV4 Hybrid are lower than competitors, they’re perfectly acceptable for light off-roading.
Regarding the suspension, the RAV4 Hybrid features an independent MacPherson strut front suspension with a stabilizer bar and a multi-link rear suspension with a stabilizer bar. A sport-tuned suspension upgrade is available for better handling.
Which Trim Is Best?
Toyota introduced the Woodland Edition in 2023, and is available with the new 2024 RAV4 Hybrid models.
Here are a few benefits that the Woodland Edition offers for off-roading adventures.
- TRD-tuned suspension enhances body control and isolates small bumps to smooth out the trails. The coil springs are designed for off-road use, and the twin-tube shocks have internal rebound springs for better body control when encountering big dips and bumps.
- Falken WILDPEAK AT tires on special-edition bronze-colored wheels: These all-terrain wheels and tires are meant for off-roading, allowing for better traction and control.
- Custom all-weather floor and cargo mats: With the added protection inside the SUV, you won’t have to worry about bringing in mud and dirt.
- Black mud guards prevent dirt and road debris from kicking up into the delicate parts of the SUV.
Overlanding has been popular in other parts of the world for many decades but is a recent trend here in the United States. Overlanding is the term used to describe traveling to remote off-road destinations and then camping in the vehicle.
There are several reasons why an RAV4 Hybrid Overland build is a good idea.
- Plenty of storage space
- Interior comfort
- Affordable build
- Off-roading capability
However, there are some aspects to consider before attempting this build. Here are a couple of things to look at first.
- The RAV4 Hybrid gas tank size is 14.5 gallons. Ensure you have enough fuel to get where you are going and back again. Make certain you’re getting a full 14.5 gallons on fill-up before you head out on the trail. Some AV4 Hybrid owners were finding their could only pump 10 gallons. Read our article on Toyota RAV4 Gas Tank Size Explained.
- The RAV4 Hybrid towing capacity is 1,750 pounds. You don’t want to haul more than what it’s rated for.
Thankfully, the reliability of the RAV4 isn’t in question. If there’s an SUV that will get you where you want to go, it’s the RAV4.
Pros and Cons
Consider these valuable pros and cons as you evaluate whether to use your RAV4 Hybrid off-road.
- More efficiency
- Smoother torque delivery
- Eco-friendly travel
- The higher upfront cost of the vehicle
- Additional equipment may be necessary, further adding to the cost
- More mechanical issues to deal with if something goes wrong
Before you hit the trail in your RAV4 Hybrid, there are some modifications you may consider. These only further enhance the off-road or overlanding experience. They can also increase the capability to make the trip more enjoyable.
For starters, think about under-vehicle protection. You don’t want anything hitting the oil pan or transmission, or you could end up stuck on the trail. Excessive roots or loose stones are a common issue on trails. LP Adventure offers an inexpensive but functional front skid plate.
Jonathan, our content director, also recommends the Prinsu roof rack. He used this rack on his RAV4 and found nothing negative about it. He loves that it can be equipped with all kinds of stuff (water tank, awning, rooftop tent, and even a bottle opener). He compares it to the Slimline rack, which is available on Amazon.
You don’t want to head out overlanding without a tent. Rooftop tents are a great option. Here’s one rooftop tent with superior reviews on Amazon worth considering.
Finally, don’t neglect the benefit of a tire upgrade. These taller, more aggressive Falken WILDPEAK AT tires are the same model from the Woodland Edition. They increase ride height by 6% (0.5″) on 17″ wheels. However, the speedometer reads two mph slower at 65 mph than you are traveling, so keep that in mind.
Jonathan installed Falken Wildpeak AT tires and saw great benefits compared to the original RAV4 tires.
If you’re thinking about camping in your RAV4 Hybrid, check out our article on Sleeping Comfortably in Your RAV4.
Take a look at a few photos of RAV4 Hybrid builds for off-roading and overlanding. These can provide inspiration for your projects.
Thoughts From RAV4 Hybrid Owners
There has been some conversation about whether RAV4 Hybrid owners should take the SUV off-road. Here are some comments from a Reddit post.
User Newprophet says, “It’s a RAV4, so it’s not a rock crawler. It won’t overload anything, you have a transmission cooler. Put some A/T tires on and send it! The skid plates for the TRD will fit on your vehicle if you feel like getting rowdy.”
Yet, user BeerPizzaGaming says, “I would not do anything more than trails with a RAV or Highlander. If you want to do off-roading, then you really want to be in a 4WD, 4 Runner, Tacoma or Tundra.”
A RAV4 World discussion also provided readers with several opinions. Here is one, in particular, worth considering.
User Mikeyppc says, “I had the chance to take my RAV4H to the snow and Yosemite this weekend. While I didn’t do any true off-roading, the vehicle functioned reasonably well in light snow/ice and on unpaved surfaces. It’s certainly fine for reasonably maintained fire roads and average low-traction surfaces.
“The ground clearance and approach/departure angles aren’t bad for a car-based SUV, but there’s not a lot protecting the underbody, so I wouldn’t want to actually bottom it out on anything. A few inches of snow/mud or some light ruts shouldn’t be a huge issue if you have the right tires.”
The consensus is that the RAV4 Hybrid is capable and suitable for various situations. However, you may want to consider something beefier (with 4WD) if you plan to hit any rough or remote territory.
Prepare for Your Next Adventure
You don’t need a gas-powered RAV4 to explore the less traveled path. The hybrid variant may be all that’s required to create fun experiences.
Before heading out on the next trail, ensure the SUV has the necessary equipment. Remember to take some friends along for the drive.