Toyota RAV4 Sport Mode

Wondering what that “sport” button does on your RAV4? After all, the RAV4 is far from a sports car.

In this article, you’ll learn about sport mode and how it can unlock more power and a sportier feel with the push of a button.

This article will explain how it works, when to use it, how to use it, and whether or not it actually makes a difference.

rav4 driving mode buttons

How It Works

Sport mode has been a feature of every RAV4 model since 2013. It comes standard on all trims.

You can access sport mode using a button in the center console on newer models.

The Toyota RAV4’s SPORT button (2013 to 2024) increases the available power by making the transmission shift at a higher RPM (revolutions per minute). Engines are more powerful at higher RPMs because more fuel is burned at the same amount of time and more power is produced. In newer models (RAV4s made after 2019), you should also feel the steering wheel stiffen slightly.

By turning on sport mode, your vehicle alters certain elements of the transmission lockup and shifting in addition to the throttle response.

When RAV4 sport mode is on, you may notice the following differences:

  • Higher RPMs
  • More engine noise
  • Tighter steering wheel

The increased engine noise and high RPMs may be concerning but don’t worry, it’s not hurting your car.

When To Use It

For drivers who are used to one mode in their vehicle, having options can feel overwhelming. When should you use Sport versus Normal or Eco? 

You should use sport mode when you want a more performance-oriented feel with improved handling. In layman’s terms, this means that the tighter steering gives the driver improved feedback about what the vehicle is doing. Here are a few scenarios when it’s preferable to use Sport Mode rather than Normal Mode.

  • You require quick acceleration
  • You need better control over the vehicle
  • You’re driving at a high elevation
  • You’re driving on mountainous roads with lots of sharp turns

Keep in mind that using sport mode will reduce fuel efficiency. If you’re concerned about fuel efficiency, you should consider one of the other modes available such as ECO mode or NORMAL mode.

There are also some scenarios in which sport mode shouldn’t be used. For example, if you find yourself caught in a snowstorm or driving on ice, do not engage sport mode. There may be too much power, which makes it easier to slip and lose control.

How To Turn It On/Off

Using sport mode is very straightforward!

To turn on sport mode, locate the SPORT button in the center console. Press the button or turn the dial to the right, depending on your model. You can safely switch Sport Mode on and off while driving or when stopped.

To turn off sport mode simply press the SPORT button again (2013-2018 RAV4s) or press the NORMAL button (2019-2024 RAV4s).

Button Selector
Dial Selector

To check whether sport mode is on, check your RAV4’s Multi-Information Display.

When sport mode is on, the display will be highlighted with red accents. You will also see a green “SPORT” indicator light.

These indicators will disappear when sport mode is turned off. The style of this indicator varies depending on your RAV4 model.

sport mode display changes

Does It Actually Make a Difference?

If you’ve yet to purchase a RAV4, you may wonder how useful this feature is. Will you ever use it as a driver, or is it just another useless feature?

Yes, The Toyota RAV4’s sport makes a noticeable difference. As a RAV4 owner, I’ve loved having this feature available, and it does make a difference in my daily driving.

I often use it while accelerating and merging onto highways. However, I’ve found it most useful at high elevations (above 7,000 feet). Sport mode makes a noticeable difference when accelerating or navigating mountainous roads with my RAV4.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes. You may hear more engine noise and feel the steering wheel tighten. This tightening helps to improve handling, giving the driver more feedback.

Yes. Using Sport Mode will decrease fuel efficiency. If you are worried about fuel efficiency, try using a different mode like the ECO Mode or Normal Mode.

Sport Mode is great to use when you need quick acceleration like when merging onto the highway or when driving in mountainous regions.


The RAV4’s sport mode increases power availability by running the engine at higher RPMs. It also stiffens up the steering wheel for a sporty feel.

It’s best used when you need quick access to acceleration, better control over the vehicle, and in mountains.

It can easily be turned on and off with the push of a button or turn of a dial, depending on your RAV4 trim.

If you’re a current RAV4 owner who hasn’t been utilizing sport mode, give it a try! It can be very useful in certain situations.

Do you use sport mode? Let us know in the comments!

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  1. Jim Schuh says:

    The Sport mode also sends power to the rear wheels sooner on AWD models, for better handling in a turn.

  2. Rich Hellams says:

    What can I do to brighten the dim interior dome lights on my 2019 RAV4? All other lighting is fine,

    1. Jonathan Buckley says:

      Hi Rich,

      I just want to make sure we’re on the same page first.

      The dome light is the one above the rear passenger seats. The map lights are above the front driver and passenger seats. Sometimes people get these mixed up.

      Based on that info, is it indeed the dome light that you’re looking to replace?

  3. Recently I used the sport mode in first gear when coming down from mount Washington on my prime. By the time I got to the bottom, I gained 16 EV miles on the battery.

  4. I used the Sport mode will driving the Tail of the Dragon, US 129, NC and TN, a slow jeep pulled over, and a motorcyclist couldn’t lose me, I was mostly in 3rd or 4th gear. The wife told me the tires were screeching I said No! they’re cheering me on.
    Love that RAV4.

    1. RAV4 Resource says:

      Haha, most people wouldn’t drive a RAV4 like this… But I certainly have too and it’s been lots of fun!

  5. Terry Smith says:

    What mode should I use when towing my caravan?

    1. RAV4 Resource says:

      I’d recommend sport mode for towing.

  6. Bitterlich Mark says:

    Good explanation of the three modes, however, do you have the description of these modes applicable to the RAV4 HYBRID SYSTEM?

    1. RAV4 Resource says:

      They all behave similarly across gas vs. hybrid.