Rav4, opinions on capability please


New Member
Hello all.
I've owned a 1997 Rav4 for over a year now and havent had the opportunity to make use of it on the dirt. I'm reading up and learning before I try to do anything much, I dont want to do the wrong thing and gt myself into strife.

Its the 5 door auto, so I certainly dont have any misconceptions that I'm going to be doing any great driving on the dirt - it was more meant so my kid and I could go for some drives and get to the more inaccessable camping sites (that standard cars cant get to). I believe the best I will be doing is some easy beach work and some scrub.

Can anyone tell me their opinions on the Rav4, what I should expect, where I should expect to get it etc? Technical information would be appreciated too, from the drivers point of view, like comments on the "selective 4wd" bit, what this gives me and so on. It was suggested once that I should get some diff locks, but I am not sure whether these apply to my particular rav.

I must admit to being very impressed by the Rav, to the point where I am planning on buying a manual 3 door within a year or two.

Another question (possibly not for this thread, but...) can anyone guide me to where I can find some good quiet camp sites...something like where I can camp near a creek and see no-one for a few days?

Muddy Waters

New Member
Hi Mainsequence,

Not too sure about the specifics on the Rav4, it is like most of the 'softroaders'.

The main problems that I have, which I think are similar in the Rav4 are limited clearance and lack of low range 4WD.

The lack of low range means that you have to use your brakes a lot more than normal. With low range you can go down quite steep descents in first gear without touching the brakes and you have less grunt go uphill. The lack of clearance just means that that there less tracks that we can use :(

We pretty much bought our car for the same reason, but now that we have started getting offroad we love it, so will probably get a 4WD and rig it up for serious offroading.




New Member
I had very little respect for these "soft roaders", till we took the sister-in-laws holden cruise out with us one day.

Obviously it is no match for a well set up 4WD, but it surprised us all with just how far it could go. Careful wheel placement and take your time and I think you will find that you have a vehicle that is good for alot of the general tracks out there.

One of the best mods that you can do to any 4WD is the upgrade to some decent tyres, and this is a mod that you can do on any soft (or hard) roader. Have a look at some of the all-terrain tyre options out there to further improve the capabilities of your RAV.

More importantly, get out there and enjoy this land. :D


New Member
Thanks Muddy, Cam,
We found out the hard way about the clearance on a trip south...I'd like to raise it but its just not feasable at this stage. Low range is a bit of an issue too, but like I say, we didnt get the rav for that kind of work anyway, for now just tracks and camping is what we are after, maybe some beaches. We havent touched any beaches yet because I'm unsure about the rust protection bit, I was going to install the electronic version but some research has cast some doubts on whether it works or not.

I used a few rather choice words to describe the "selective awd" on it, I still havent figured that one out, but a bit more use might be in line.

Tyres are next on the list, I definately wont be skimping on them, I've seen some people put road tyres on Ravs and they not only look horrible, I can imagine it would affect the driving too.

I suppose I should just find a muddy track somewhere and see what the capabilities of the Rav is, and this might also teach me a bit too.

The biggest trouble at the moment is finding places to go. We usually take the dog with us and unfortunately most decent accessable places are either overrun with drunken yobbos or dont allow dogs. I've got some gps software for the pda/laptop so hopefully with a bit more research that will lead me to some decent tracks/spots.

Thanks again


New Member
The one place the Rav, like all soft roaders should excell is the beach/sand. The lighter weight and smaller size should see you embarrass the "big boys". Just let down the tyre pressures and go for it!


New Member
Mate I purchased a 3 door for my daughter and it does Stockton beach easily. only drama is it needs a little more clearance but otherwise performs unreal on the sand!


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New Member
The problems with the Rav have been outlined above- low clearance and lack of low range. it is this lack of low range that will get you in trouble mostly, and it isn't just about descending. You see the two things that make a 4wd useful off road are

Traction and

Traction = grippy tyres, 4 wheels driving (sort of), and low range.

Low range provides a torque multiplication effect equal to the reduction in speed. 1/5 the speed=5 times the torque.

So you see the Rav (and many other softroaders) lack one vital component of the traction equation, and also lack sufficient clearance. Does this mean they cannot be used off-road? No. Are they capable off-road?- they are limited in capability, and this limit should be well understood.

If I were you I would do an AWD course with someone like Getabout Adventures and tell them what you want to do with the vehicle.
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New Member
Oh forgot to comment on selective 4wd

Basically the car determines when it needs 4wd. Anytime sufficient wheel slip occurs, the car will engage 4wd.


Well-Known Member
Hi mainsequence,

Good you are prepared to have a go in a vehicle that is limited in its clearence and having no low range, however there are places where you can go and have a bit of fun.
The main important thing is to not venture off alone always have another vehicle to help you out if you get into bother, some of the terrain we go into we never travel without and of course recovery gear ( beg, borrow or steal ) and of course UHF radio even a decent handheld is better than nothing.

A good place to start is not far out of Melbourne and that is the Toolangi State forest, here you get tracks varing from the easiest to the hardest in Victoria.

In the dry spells like we have had over the last ten years, your RAV could handle into the Wonnangatta valley from the northern end (Rileys track ) and nearer to the big smoke O,Tooles Flat along Donnely's Creek.

I know the problem with the pooch, remember you can take dogs into state parks.

As far as Yobbos , you are really hampered to the limitation of your vehicle, when you get the seroius taste for what is beyond it, and get a serious fourbie and relegate the RAV to being a shopping trolley,you can drive till it is yobbo free.


New Member
Wow, thanks for all the replies.

Thanks for all the advice on limitations too. I dont plan on doing any hard work on it, its mainly going to get me to the easier areas, my confidence isnt all that good for harder stuff anyway, and with a kid and dog in the back I wont be boucing around any nasty tracks :) I've been venturing out a bit more and discovering there are quite a few of the tracks I am after in our area.

I have an XR600 for the nasty stuff anyway, I've been riding for nearly 30 year so I'm happy to leave the Rav at home when I really want to get "lost".

I agree with all the posts regarding clearance and limitations. I think the hardest stuff I will be attempting with this Rav will be beaches and the odd sand track like through the back parts of Rainbow Beach.

Recently we went for a bit of a drive around the Sunshine Coast Hinterland and back to Redcliffe and we were very pleased with how comfortable it was on some of the more eroded roads, though I nearly had an incident with some tool trying to get a mazda hatch up a 4wd only track.

Thanks again, your help has been greatly appreciated.

Edit: Luxter, is this a manual or an auto you got for your daughter? That looks like fun!
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