The market is packed with compact SUVs but only one tops the list with all the best features on the market: the Toyota RAV4. In the last four years, the RAV4 has outsold all its rivals like the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Subaru Forester, and Nissan Rogue. With an outstanding fuel economy, well-balanced performance, and unique features, it’s hard to compete.

Toyota first introduce sport mode in its 2013 model and the feature has been included with all new models since.

If you’re wondering what that SPORT button does in your Toyota RAV4, keep reading. This article will explain exactly what the RAV4’s sport mode does and when you should use it.

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How Does Sport Mode Work on the Toyota RAV4?

Sport mode has been a feature of every RAV4 model since 2013. Toyota also includes this feature in some of their other models such as the Highlander, Yaris, and Camry.

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

2021 toyota rav4 sport button location

The Toyota RAV4’s SPORT button (2013 to 2023) 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 Sport Mode

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. Eco mode maximizes fuel efficiency while normal mode combines fuel efficiency with performance for everyday driving conditions.

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 Sport Mode On/Off

Using sport mode is very straightforward!

To turn on sport mode, locate the SPORT button in the center console and press the button. 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 (2019-2023 RAV4s).

2021 Toyota RAV4 Sport Mode Indicator

To check whether sport mode is on, check your dashboard display. When sport mode is on, there will be a light indicating such. This dashboard indicator will disappear when sport mode is turned off. The style of this indicator varies depending on your RAV4 model. It is more prominent on newer RAV4s.

Does Sport Mode 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 the driver, or is it just another feature that Toyota uses to increase the price of their models?

Yes, The Toyota RAV4’s sport makes a huge 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.

The Bottom Line

Sport mode is a feature included in every Toyota RAV4 since 2013. If you’re interested in purchasing a new RAV4, you’ll be able to use sport mode with just the click of a button. Sport mode allows you to accelerate quickly, maintain control over your vehicle, and drive at high elevations or on mountainous roads with ease.

If you’re a current RAV4 owner who hasn’t been utilizing sport mode, give it a try! This feature allows for better handling and a sportier driving experience.

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  • Jonathan Buckley

    Jonathan runs and owns a 2021 Toyota RAV4 LE. He started RAV4 Resource, as well as other automotive websites, to help people understand their vehicles by answering frequently asked questions, addressing common problems, and providing general information to help people get the most out of their vehicle.

  • Brian Jones

    Brian Jones had worked as an ASE Certified Master Technician for several decades before opening his own used car dealership outside of Dallas, Texas. Toyota models, such as the RAV4, Corolla, Camry, Tundra, Highlander and Sienna, continue to be some of the top-selling vehicles at his car dealership. Aside from running the dealership, he also writes for some of the top auto publications, such as Motor1. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling the country with his family and can also be found tinkering around with older pickup trucks.

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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. 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?