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Toyota RAV4 Vs Subaru Forester Off Road (TRD & Wilderness)

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Struggling to choose between the RAV4 and the Forester for your off-road adventures? Both Toyota & Subaru SUVs have a lot to offer, but which one will truly rise to the occasion when the going gets tough?

In this meticulously detailed, comprehensive comparison, we’ll leave no stone unturned as we examine every aspect of these two popular off-roading vehicles.

So, if you’re an off-road aficionado or just someone who likes to escape the city once in a while, this guide is for you! Sit tight and hold on, as we embark on this exhilarating journey!

Rav4 Vs Forester Vehicle Specifications

Before diving headfirst into off-road capabilities, let’s examine the foundational aspects of these two SUVs—the engine specifications, transmission, and drivetrain systems.

Engine specifications and performance

1. Toyota engine options

The RAV4 offers a variety of engine options, providing drivers with the flexibility to choose the perfect combination of power and efficiency:

  • 2.5-liter inline-4 engine
    • 203 horsepower
    • 184 lb-ft of torque
    • Offers a balance of power and fuel efficiency for everyday driving and off-road adventures.
  • 2.5-liter hybrid engine
    • 219 net system horsepower
    • Better fuel economy than the standard engine without sacrificing power.
    • Slightly improved off-road capability due to the instant torque provided by the electric motor.
  • 2.5-liter plug-in hybrid engine
    • 302 net system horsepower
    • The most powerful option, providing excellent off-road performance.
    • Improved fuel efficiency, especially for short trips where the electric-only range can be utilized.

2. Subaru engine options

Unlike the RAV4, the Forester comes with only one engine choice, which may limit its appeal for some drivers:

  • 2.5-liter flat-4 engine
    • 182 horsepower
    • 176 lb-ft of torque
    • While providing enough power for most off-road scenarios, it may leave some drivers wanting more muscle.

Transmission and drivetrain systems

1. RAV4’s transmission and AWD system

The RAV4 is equipped with an 8-speed automatic transmission, which is known for its smooth shifts and quick response. The available AWD system on the RAV4 includes:

  • Dynamic Torque Vectoring All-Wheel Drive (TV-AWD)
    • Can send up to 50% of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels.
    • Distributes torque between the left and right rear wheels as needed.
    • Enhances handling and traction on various terrains.

2. Forester’s transmission and Symmetrical AWD system

The Forester comes with a Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), which is designed for fuel efficiency and smooth acceleration. The AWD system featured on the Forester includes:

  • Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive
    • Standard on all Forester models.
    • Provides excellent traction and stability on a variety of terrains.

Rav4 Vs Forester Ground clearance and approach/departure angles

Off-road geometry is critical for navigating challenging terrains without damaging the vehicle. Here’s how the RAV4 and Forester compare:

VehicleGround ClearanceApproach AngleDeparture Angle
Toyota RAV48.4 inches19 degrees21 degrees
Subaru Forester8.7 inches23.6 degrees24.6 degrees

1. RAV4’s off-road geometry

The Toyota RAV4’s ground clearance of 8.4 inches and approach/departure angles of 19/21 degrees allow it to traverse various obstacles, such as rocks, logs, and uneven terrain, with less risk of damaging the undercarriage.

However, it falls slightly short compared to the Forester.

2. Forester’s off-road geometry

The Forester boasts a higher ground clearance of 8.7 inches and approach/departure angles of 23.6/24.6 degrees, providing it with a slight edge in off-road geometry over the RAV4.

This advantage can make a significant difference in navigating more challenging off-road conditions.

Off-Road Features and Technologies

With the foundational specs covered, let’s delve into the off-road features and technologies that distinguish these two SUVs.

Toyota RAV4 off-road features

1. Multi-Terrain Select system

The RAV4’s Multi-Terrain Select system lets you optimize the vehicle’s performance for various off-road conditions, including:

  • Mud and Sand
    • Maximizes traction in slippery conditions.
    • Adjusts throttle and brake control to maintain momentum.
  • Rock and Dirt
    • Provides enhanced traction on rocky or loose surfaces.
    • Modifies engine throttle and transmission shift points for optimal control.
  • Snow
    • Prioritizes stability and grip on snowy or icy surfaces.
    • Adjusts throttle response and transmission shift points for a smoother driving experience.

2. TRD Off-Road trim

The RAV4 TRD Off-Road trim is specifically designed for off-roading enthusiasts, featuring:

  • TRD-tuned suspension
    • Improved shock absorbers and springs for better off-road performance and handling.
    • Enhanced ride comfort on rough terrain.
  • TRD Off-Road exclusive wheels
    • 18-inch matte-black TRD alloy wheels with all-terrain tires.
    • Designed for better grip and control on a variety of surfaces.

Subaru Forester off-road features

1. X-Mode technology

The Forester’s X-Mode technology optimizes engine output, transmission, and other vehicle systems to improve off-road performance in various conditions:

  • Normal X-Mode
    • Enhances traction and stability on slippery surfaces or steep inclines.
    • Automatically adjusts throttle, transmission, and AWD settings to maintain control.
  • Deep Snow/Mud X-Mode
    • Available on select trims.
    • Optimizes throttle, transmission, and AWD for maximum traction in deep snow or mud.
    • Minimizes wheel spin and maintains momentum in challenging conditions.

2. Forester Wilderness edition

The Forester Wilderness edition is designed for off-road enthusiasts who want even more capability, offering:

  • Raised suspension
    • Increased ground clearance to 9.2 inches.
    • Improved approach/departure angles for navigating tougher obstacles.
  • Wilderness-exclusive wheels and tires
    • 17-inch matte-black alloy wheels with all-terrain tires.
    • Designed for improved grip and performance on various surfaces.

Traction and Stability Control

Traction and stability control systems are essential for maintaining control and safety while off-roading.

Toyota RAV4 traction and stability systems

The RAV4 is equipped with an array of systems to keep you safe and in control when you’re tackling challenging terrain. You’ll find:

  • Vehicle Stability Control (VSC)
    • This nifty feature helps keep the RAV4 on its intended path by adjusting brake force and engine power when it detects wheel slippage.
    • It’s like having a guardian angel watching over you, making sure you don’t lose control in tricky situations.
  • Traction Control (TRAC)
    • When the going gets slippery, TRAC kicks in to prevent wheel spin by reducing engine power or applying brake force to individual wheels.
    • It’s kind of like having an extra set of hands on the wheel, ensuring you maintain grip and stay on track.

Subaru Forester traction and stability systems

The Forester, being the off-road warrior that it is, comes with its own set of stability and traction control systems to keep you safe and sound:

  • Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC)
    • VDC is the Forester’s secret weapon against losing control on challenging terrain. It senses when you’re straying from your intended path and steps in to adjust engine power and apply individual brakes to keep you on track.
    • Think of it as a co-pilot, always ready to lend a hand when you need it most.
  • Traction Control System (TCS)
    • Like the RAV4, the Forester features a TCS that helps you maintain traction by reducing engine power or applying brakes to individual wheels when it detects wheel slip.
    • It’s like having your very own off-road sidekick, ensuring you stay in control no matter the conditions.

Interior Comfort and Functionality

While off-road capabilities are essential, it’s also important to consider how comfortable and functional the vehicle is for those long drives into the wilderness. Let’s see how the RAV4 and Forester stack up.

Toyota RAV4 interior features

The RAV4’s interior is designed to keep you comfortable and entertained on your off-road excursions:

  • Spacious seating
    • You and your passengers will appreciate the ample headroom and legroom, making even the longest journeys more enjoyable.
  • Intuitive infotainment system
    • The RAV4’s infotainment system is a breeze to use, featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, as well as an available 8-inch touchscreen display.

Subaru Forester interior features

The Forester’s cabin is packed with features to make your off-road adventures as comfortable as possible:

  • Roomy interior
    • The Forester offers generous headroom and legroom, ensuring that everyone stays comfy, even on those bumpy off-road trails.
  • User-friendly infotainment system
    • With the Forester’s easy-to-use infotainment system, you’ll enjoy Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, as well as an available 8-inch touchscreen display.

Exterior Styling and Utility

While it may seem like a minor detail, the exterior styling and utility of your off-road vehicle can make a significant difference in your overall enjoyment and experience. Let’s compare the RAV4 and Forester in this department.

Toyota RAV4 exterior design and utility

The RAV4’s rugged and stylish exterior is sure to turn heads, but it’s also designed for practicality:

  • Bold, aggressive styling
    • The RAV4’s sharp lines and muscular stance make it stand out from the crowd, whether you’re cruising down the highway or tearing up dirt trails.
  • Functional roof rails
    • The RAV4’s standard roof rails are perfect for hauling extra gear on your off-road adventures. Just strap on a cargo box or bike rack, and you’re good to go!

Subaru Forester exterior design and utility

The Forester’s exterior is not only eye-catching but also practical for all your off-road escapades:

  • Rugged, yet refined styling
    • The Forester combines a tough, off-road-ready appearance with a touch of sophistication, making it an attractive choice for both city streets and rocky trails.
  • Versatile roof rails
    • Like the RAV4, the Forester comes standard with roof rails, allowing you to carry extra cargo or equipment for your off-road journeys.

Safety Features

When you’re tackling challenging terrain, safety features can provide an extra layer of protection and peace of mind. Here’s how the RAV4 and Forester compare in terms of safety offerings.

Toyota RAV4 safety features

The RAV4 is loaded with safety features to keep you and your passengers protected on and off the road:

  • Toyota Safety Sense 2.0
  • Eight airbags
    • In the event of a collision, the RAV4’s eight airbags work together to cushion the impact and protect occupants.

Subaru Forester safety features

The Forester also boasts a wealth of safety features to keep you secure during your off-road adventures:

  • EyeSight Driver Assist Technology
    • Subaru’s advanced safety suite includes features like Pre-Collision Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, and more.
  • Seven airbags
    • While the Forester has one fewer airbag than the RAV4, it still provides excellent protection for passengers in the event of a crash.

Fuel Efficiency

Fuel efficiency may not be the first thing on your mind when you’re shopping for an off-road vehicle, but it’s still an important factor to consider. Let’s see how the RAV4 and Forester measure up.

VehicleCity MPGHighway MPGCombined MPG
Toyota RAV4273530
RAV4 Hybrid413840
RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid94 MPGeN/AN/A
Subaru Forester263329

Toyota RAV4 fuel efficiency

As shown in the table above, the RAV4 offers impressive fuel efficiency, especially with the hybrid and plug-in hybrid options. This means you can venture further off the beaten path without worrying too much about finding a gas station.

Subaru Forester fuel efficiency

While the Forester’s fuel efficiency is slightly lower than the RAV4’s, it’s still respectable for an off-road vehicle. However, the lack of hybrid options may be a downside for some drivers.

Price and Value

Finally, let’s consider the price and overall value of these two off-road contenders. Of course, you can get car deals at a certain time of the year or if there are special Forester offers or Rav4 deals.

VehicleBase MSRPTop Trim MSRP
Toyota RAV4$27,975$37,195
Subaru Forester$26,495$36,795

Rav4 Price

The RAV4’s base price is slightly higher than the Forester’s, but it offers a variety of trims and options, including hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants. The top-of-the-line RAV4 TRD Off-Road trim starts at $37,195, providing a well-rounded package for off-road enthusiasts.

Forester price

The Forester’s base price is more budget-friendly than the RAV4’s, starting at $27,975. The top trim, the Forester Wilderness, starts at $36,795, offering excellent off-road capabilities without breaking the bank.

The Forester price will vary based on available offers, sale, and even inventory of the car at your local dealership.

Toyota RAV4 vs. Subaru Forester Off-Road: The Final Verdict

After thoroughly comparing these two off-road contenders, it’s time to reach a conclusion. Both the RAV4 and the Forester have their strengths and weaknesses, but which one is the better choice for off-road enthusiasts?

Pros and cons of the Toyota RAV4


  • Strong performance with the Adventure and TRD Off-Road trims
  • Multi-Terrain Select system enhances off-road capabilities
  • Impressive fuel efficiency, especially with hybrid and plug-in hybrid options
  • Bold, aggressive styling


  • Slightly less ground clearance and off-road geometry compared to the Forester
  • Higher base price

Pros and cons of the Subaru Forester


  • Superior ground clearance and off-road geometry
  • X-Mode technology improves off-road performance
  • Comfortable, roomy interior
  • Rugged yet refined exterior styling
  • Lower base price


  • No hybrid options available
  • Slightly lower fuel efficiency compared to the RAV4

Final thoughts

Ultimately, the choice between the RAV4 and the Forester will come down to your personal preferences and priorities not just the car rankings or advice in this article or in other places online. Both vehicles offer excellent off-road capabilities and a range of features that make them suitable for outdoor enthusiasts.

If you value fuel efficiency, bold styling, and the availability of hybrid options, the RAV4 might be the better choice for you. On the other hand, if you prioritize ground clearance, off-road geometry, and a more budget-friendly price point, the Forester could be your ideal off-road companion.

No matter which vehicle you choose, you’re sure to have a blast tackling off-road trails and exploring the great outdoors. Happy adventuring!