The Toyota RAV4 features several different drive modes including Normal Mode, Trail Mode, Eco Mode, EV Mode, Sport Mode, Snow Mode, and more.

RAV4 Trail Mode helps the driver manage traction when driving off-road on muddy, rutted, soft, snowy, or uneven terrain.

If you’ve never had a vehicle that allows you to use Trail Mode, here’s the ultimate guide so you can use your Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and Prime to its greatest potential.

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What is Trail Mode on the Toyota RAV4?

Trail mode is a system that performs integrated control for the AWD, brake, and drive force control systems to assist the drive power on bumpy roads such as a dirt trail.

Trail Mode on the Toyota RAV4 helps to enhance the AWD system in low-traction situations, such as snow and mud. It uses the open differential and braking system to send power from the slipping wheel to the wheel with traction between the left and right sides of the vehicle.

With Trail Mode, the auto limited slip feature is also activated, allowing an enhanced throttle and shift control to enable better traction.

Check out this helpful demonstration video:

Trail Mode is not available in all models. If this is a feature that you’re interested in, make sure you purchase a model that has it.

Which RAV4 Trims Have Trail Mode?

If you often drive in low-traction situations, you may require a vehicle to meet these needs. Only newer RAV4 models have Trail Mode.

Trail mode is available on the 2019-2023 Hybrid and Prime trim levels of the Toyota RAV4.

Gasoline-only RAV4 models do not have Trail Mode.

Once you purchase a vehicle with Trail Mode, you may worry about learning how to use it most effectively. The next section details everything you need to know about using Trail Mode in your new RAV4.

How Do You Turn Trail Mode On/Off?

It’s easy for drivers to access Trail Mode once behind the wheel.

To turn Trail Mode off/on in your RAV4, press the “TRAIL” button that’s located to the left of the gear selector.

rav4 trail mode button

This will allow you to utilize the feature. The learning curve comes when deducing when you should use it.

When Should You Use Trail Mode? (Helpful Tips)

New RAV4 drivers often aren’t sure when Trail Mode is most helpful.

Trail Mode should only be used on bumpy, rough roads like a dirt forest with rocks.

Here are some helpful tips for when you’re using Trail Mode.

  • It should only be used on bumpy, rough roads

RAV4 Trail Mode is only intended for off-the-beaten-path drives. Unless there’s a clear use for it, I suggest sticking to Normal Mode. Even in scenarios that you may consider more treacherous than normal — for instance in the rain — it isn’t the right move. While it shouldn’t hurt to use trail mode, the traction and stability control of Normal Mode is going to do a better job than Trail Mode.

The RAV4 also features Eco Mode, EV Mode, and Sport Mode which are worth learning how to use as well.

  • It shouldn’t be turned on for long periods

Trail Mode isn’t intended for long periods. When driving your Toyota RAV4, the default driving mode should be Normal Mode. The other four modes have purposes, and they can be useful when they’re used as intended. If you turn Trail Mode on when driving on a dirt road, don’t forget to turn it back off when you reach asphalt again. Fortunately, you can turn the feature on and off at the touch of a button. This will return your car’s functions to normal and ensure the brake and drive control systems are operating normally.

  • It may cause you to feel increased vibrations in the vehicle

Don’t fret if you feel your car vibrate a bit more than usual with Trail Mode. Your vehicle is increasing traction with additional power, and you’ll likely feel this power in the way it drives. It’s temporary and not cause for concern.

  • It may prompt more engine noise

Similarly, the vehicle may generate more noise from the engine compartment than typical. While this can be alarming for drivers who assume that noise means something is wrong with the vehicle, Trail Mode uses the brake and drive force control systems to generate the power that’s necessary for certain terrains. The noise is a result of Trail Mode being activated, and it should cease once you turn off the feature.

Final Thoughts

As a driver, you can enhance your experience by understanding the various available drive modes. The RAV4’s Trail Mode is just one option that allows you to enhance your driving experience.If you’re interested in learning more about the RAV4 driving modes mentioned in this article, check out the following articles:

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Visit my shop to see the most popular modifications and accessories for the Toyota RAV4.

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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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