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Hi guys and gals,

I realize this is a multi-faceted question, possibly without easy answers, but I'll take any reports of actual experience gratefully.

I recently purchased the 2006 RAV, V-6 4WD, and I'm planning a trip to SW Colorado and S Utah with family in tow, to do some sightseeing, camping, and off-roading. In addition to the basic vehicle, I just put on some nice Pirelli 235/65/R17 A/T (all-terrain) tires, which are supposed to grip beautifully on the highway in wet and dry and be suitable for moderate off-road use as well (no rock-hopping, obviously, with this vehicle). I have noticed already that, even though they give a tiny bit more road noise (as expected) than the highway-terrain OEM tires (Geolandars), they actually cushion bumps in the road much better -- a much "softer" less harsh feel and sound. So, the TINY stuff (the "grain" of the road surface, if you will) is a little harsher, but the big stuff -- bumps and potholes -- are actually a lot smoother, less harsh. Interesting.

The '06 RAV has an official "ground clearance" of 7.5 inches, but I'm convinced this doesn't tell the whole story. I've crawled under my RAV with measuring tape in hand, and MOST undercarriage components are a good 9 to 10 inches above the ground. There is no "pumpkin" rear diff (even in the 4WD) hanging down, and the closest thing to the ground is actually the exhaust pipe -- not exactly a critical drive component (in the unfortunate event of damage). FWIW, the 235/65/17 tires are about 1/2" taller than OEM, which I'm guessing will initially yield about 1/4" greater clearance than standard.

I've purchased (and pretty much consumed) several books grading off-road trails in the region: Utah Byways and Colorado Byways by Tony Huegel, and Moab, UT Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails by Charles A. Wells. (Got these from 4x4 books -- highly recommended.)

Trail ratings in the "off-road" community apparently use a number of different rating systems, with some using a 1-10 scale (for hard-core off roaders), but both the above authors use a "Easy, Moderate, or Difficult" rating for either entire trails (or portions of trails) -- with an occasional "moderately difficult" or "easy but rocky" thrown in. Obviously, both authors give more descriptive detail than the base rating.

I'm convinced my RAV will have NO difficulty with any trail rated Easy. But I would love to try at least a few trails with "moderate" sections (hey, if the going is too rough, I can always turn around or abandon that particular trail). Incredibly, I read stories about individuals successfully going on some rocky and rutted trails in regular passenger cars (i.e. Camry, etc.) with no trouble, so I'm thinking that the rutting, small rocks, and occasional ledging I'll find on a "moderate" trail really shouldn't be too much for the RAV, as long as I'm patient and careful.

As a Florida flatlander, I've been driving around deliberately looking for every deep rut, loose sandy dirt road, grassy knoll, and deep pothole I can find, drive TOO FAST over these (a few curbs, too), and dare the darn thing to bottom out. (The drivers around me probably think I'm drunk.) Hasn't happened yet, seems to be a strong and smooth operator, so I'm hoping I can be just a tiny bit more adventurous than sticking to the well-maintained "easy" dirt roads out in Utah and Colorado.

Reports of anyone's experience -- encouraging or otherwise -- would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks in advance. I realize this is a new vehicle, so there may not be a lot of experience of this type out there yet -- and reports involving the previous RAV won't help that much (though we may be able to extrapolate a result), because that model had a significantly lower ground clearance.

Thanks again....
 

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Simple: DON"T DO IT!!!!

As a flatlander you have no idea what these rocky, ledge-strewn high-altitude trails are like. The easy trails will be enough of a challenge, with plenty of stunning scenery, and even so you will likely run into difficulties here and there. There is NO WAY your RAV4 will make it up even a mile of most "Moderate" trails in Colorado or Utah.

You have too little ground clearance and too little departure angle.

You have no strong skidplates or rocker guards.

Your gearing is way too high (no low range) and you will destroy the exhaust pipe - you will flatten it, and if badly enough you may require a VERY expensive ($1000 plus) tow from a very remote area.

You have too little tire diameter and too little articulation.

Stick to graded gravel and dirt roads for safety. The very best way to see Moab or the San Juans of Colorado is to rent a Jeep Wrangler for a day and prevent costly damage to your trucklet. Your insurance agent will tell you that your RAV4 is NOT insured for "off-highway" use. Most of the trails in the Rockies are off-highway in the extreme, but OTH many of them are numbered county roads. So if you do get in an accident, just tell them it happened 3 miles back on County Road 18. Or better yet, just buy the optional insurance from the rental agency.

Rent a stock Wrangler for easy trails, or a fully modified rig so you can go on the harder trails without worrying that you will get into big trouble:

http://www.moabadventurecenter.com/transportation/car.php

http://www.moab-utah.com/jeep/jeep.html

You may not beleive me now, but once you see these trails you will understand that you need to stick to graded roads.

Here's what you really need for those trails:



John Davies
Spokane WA
 
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Well, there either isn't much interest (doubtful) in this topic, or I posted in the wrong forum (more likely).

Thank you, Quickdtoo, for the link to the similar discussion which already took place. The general consensus from that thread seems to be that this vehicle has been engineered for more robust off-road performance than its predecessor (the 4.2).

Thank you also, John, for your input. I wanted to put your reply in perspective, so I looked at your other posts, and I was highly entertained by this remark by you:

"But I'm a risk averse Old Fart, and you will probably tell me to mind my own business."

It's also clear that you are the proud owner-operator of a much MORE robust off-road machine (NICE Lexus, dude!!) than any RAV, and it is also generally good and wise advise to be over-equipped and over-engineered for whatever tasks are at hand, and clearly the RAV, even in its current beefed-up state, is still among entry-level contenders.

I realize I'm possibly looking for more information than is actually available, because the vehicle is so new, and just different enough from the 4.2 version that previous reviews, etc. won't apply. I wish I could read that Australian review, which is not available online (nor, for that matter, on my local newsstand).

I will GENERALLY take your kind advice, John, and stick to the "easy" rated trails with the RAV. Sorry, no way I'm going to rent a car for those, even if it means some minor damage to my new treasure. I bought this car to use it, and I anticipate many such trips in the future, so keeping it showroom-new is not important to me. And where it may be possible to at least test its mettle on a few rockier "moderate" spurs, I'll at least survey it and try it. You may be right, but if I manage a complete "moderate" spur (to destination) with no difficulties, I promise you'll hear about it!

Just for fun, I've been doing crazy things: going over curbs, medians, things I'd never dream of in a regular car, and not so much as a whimper from the RAV "with hiking boots" as my wife likes to call the Pirelli A/Ts. I've also been looking at a LOT of other SUVs on the road, and almost all of them have the "pumpkin differential" hanging at BY FAR the lowest point under the vehicle of any components, actually lower (even on "higher clearance" trucks and SUVs) than the RAVs, which is apparently a new design. So I'm convinced that traditional "ground clearance" standards don't apply 100% to the 4.3 RAV. In other words, one vehicle's 8 inches may not equal another vehicle's 8 inches.

None of this means that I'm anxious to go driving over sharp rocks out in the middle of nowhere, but I drove up an unimproved, rutted dirt road to the top of the Nevado de Toluca (an extinct volcano in Mexico) 24 years ago in a '74(?) Plymouth Scamp -- yes, I bottomed out many times, but no damage -- the shelf road was so narrow, I had a friend sitting on the hood telling me which way to go so we wouldn't fall off the mountain. My wife, pregnant with our firstborn, was not amused (yeah, she was with us, and by some miracle, she's still with me). I promised her that I would take fewer risks in our jaunt this summer. So, I may end up staying conservative the entire time, who knows? And you are definitely right, that the scenery will be stunning enough without trying the difficult trails -- I was in the Moab area about 20 years ago, and I fell in love with the area, but haven't been back since, can't wait to see it again!!

Anyway (sorry for the off-topic diversion), any more discussion on my ideas here will be well-appreciated, and thanks very much for your input. Also, if you know of particularly beautiful places to photograph in Utah and SW Colorado, I'd love to hear of it. I have a photography site, to give you an idea of what kind of things I like to shoot:

www.robertsmithphotography.net

Being there and traveling through is more important to me than the photography, though, so places don't have to be post-card beautiful for me to enjoy them.
 

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I put the Rav on ramps last week when I changed my oil. The muffler, tailpipe and the fuel tank stand out as the most vulnerable points, everything else is pretty much out of harm's way in comparison.

The muffler/tailpipe not being too much of worry compared to the fuel tank, I would love for Toyota to offer a fuel tank shield, even a plastic one that would protect it some from limbs/rocks and such from hitting it and possibly penetrating it.

I ruined a tire on my previous ride just exactly that way, a limb popped up when one of the rear tires rolled over it and it went right thru the spare with a surprising Woosh!! The fuel tank is metal, which is a pleasant surprise, plastic tanks seem to be real common in the last several years.
 

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I live in Colorado and have no plans to take my RAV4 off-road because of the obvious limitations. I'm guessing the RAV4 will be a little expensive to fix. We get some flash floods out here and I have been on trails that are very difficult / impossible to drive on with a little mud after an afternoon downpour. I've seen guys get stuck in rigs with 12" or more lift kits and 38" tires. I had a '85 Toyota pickup that was great for that stuff. Never 4 wheel alone, good luck!!
 

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RavRob said:
The '06 RAV has an official "ground clearance" of 7.5 inches, but I'm convinced this doesn't tell the whole story.
The car settles when loaded. Don't forget the independent suspension.
RavRob said:
I read stories about individuals successfully going on some rocky and rutted trails in regular passenger cars (i.e. Camry, etc.) with no trouble, so I'm thinking that the rutting, small rocks, and occasional ledging I'll find on a "moderate" trail really shouldn't be too much for the RAV, as long as I'm patient and careful.
I off-roaded with the Neon club. It can be done, but, fankly, it's no fun. Folks in my group were regularly hitting something. Two guys punctured fuel tanks. I escaped with just a fist-shaped dent in the cross-member. Also, any little brook is a big deal to cross.

The other thread which Quickdtoo mentioned has a link to some of my pics.

I did not seriously out with RAV yet, but my rule with the RAV for now - stay the heck away from boulders. Everything else is fine (except fording deeper than 30cm, due to unclear situation with diff breathers). So far I only pin-striped the poor thing at some plants badly, but didn't get stuck. I'm going to get more adventurous over time.

One last thing: Do not go alone, stick with a group.
 
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sooperedd said:
I live in Colorado and have no plans to take my RAV4 off-road because of the obvious limitations. I'm guessing the RAV4 will be a little expensive to fix. We get some flash floods out here and I have been on trails that are very difficult / impossible to drive on with a little mud after an afternoon downpour. I've seen guys get stuck in rigs with 12" or more lift kits and 38" tires. I had a '85 Toyota pickup that was great for that stuff. Never 4 wheel alone, good luck!!
Thanks. I agree about dealing with the weather, and I will avoid driving in mud at all costs. From everything I've read, Utah backroads are impossible to drive on when wet also, even with 4WD -- but the good news there is they dry quickly (maybe a couple hours). The CO backroads actually scare me a bit more, and I plan on being especially conservative in CO. There'll be plenty to enjoy without pushing my luck.
 

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GO FOR IT! Mud is no problem in mine but then again If I just paid 30g's for it I wouldn't be tearin' the $#!t out of it.

Take your time. Use your head. Have a good spare and some tire inflator on hand.

I took the 4.3 off road on a test drive and it did very well. I pushed it pretty hard and no troubles at all. It was more than just gravel roads so I think you will be fine if you don't go too hard core. A buddy is always a good idea cause its going to be a long walk with everyone mad at you for getting them stranded.

Have fun. Respect the vehicle and it will bring you home.

Later. M.
 

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Well, I still think it's foolish and you risk seriously trashing your vehicle, but what the heck, go for it and write us up a good report with pics.

Drive slow and safe, don't be afraid to get out and scout the next curve on foot, and take along the necessary recovery/ survival stuff, esp if you are travelling in hot weather. Be _real_ careful of the steep descents out of the passes - an experienced off-roading couple in a Wrangler went over a 900 foot cliff last summer going into Telluride.

Above all, have fun. It is truly spectacular country.

John Davies
Spokane WA
 
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John E Davies said:
Well, I still think it's foolish and you risk seriously trashing your vehicle, but what the heck, go for it and write us up a good report with pics.

Drive slow and safe, don't be afraid to get out and scout the next curve on foot, and take along the necessary recovery/ survival stuff, esp if you are travelling in hot weather. Be _real_ careful of the steep descents out of the passes - an experienced off-roading couple in a Wrangler went over a 900 foot cliff last summer going into Telluride.

Above all, have fun. It is truly spectacular country.

John Davies
Spokane WA
Thank you, and I promise I'll exercise plenty of caution. I don't need to be on any mission to "prove" the limits of this vehicle's capability or my own, for that matter. I also realize the youthful experience I survived in Mexico was probably ill-advised. Fortunately, my wife will be with me, and she will not tolerate anything she deems unsafe.

I've read about some of those trails around Telluride, and they are definitely not on my agenda, equipped as I am. How awful for the victims, family and friends of those whose lives were lost. A sobering thought, indeed.

I did a quick search for such an event, and found one involving a volunteer firefighter from Telluride and his brother. Don't know if that's the one to which you referred. Hit very close to home for me, as my family was saved by firefighters from Rico and Cortez after an accident which landed us in the middle of the Delores River in 95. (I can hear you now - "Don't go anywhere, ever, in anything!") My life was spared, but I certainly don't think I'm immune to bad things which can happen. Believe me when I say that my sense of caution has increased considerably since that close call.

I have tremendous respect and love for the rugged land, and I'm hoping that this car will let me get at least a LITTLE bit closer to it than a "regular" car. Hmmm, maybe yes, maybe no, according to who's saying. I guess if it only eases the bumps on the dirt roads, and the 4WD gives me a bit more security here and there, it should be worth it -- and maybe a more convenient access to some nice backroads hiking trailheads. It's certainly not all about the vehicle; even the more-capable Jeep didn't save those who lost their lives due to unpredictable conditions and human error.

I will definitely document our travels, and will post a link to pics, etc. when I get back.

Thanks again to you and everyone who has encouraged and warned me.
 

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I have the 4X4 Aussie test of the RAV4 but we only have the 4cyl version in Aus. They gave it a big thumps up and rated the model with traction control a little higher. You can pm me if you want more info.
 

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I say go out there and beat the hell out of it. I really love my new RAV and I treat it like it's my baby. Though, sometimes I miss my trade in vehicle (a beat up 94' S-10). I could do just about anything in it and not care. I could drive over things, into things--people could brush up against it, sit on the hood. I didn't care. There was no point on babying it. Now, I find myself worried that someone is going to fling their door open and hit my RAV or concerned that if I park in certain spots at the grocery store that someone might slam a grocery cart into my beautiful flint mica. I'm concerned about it's looks and it's resale value...and not having to put extra money into it to fix damages. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy shinnin' up my RAV and looking at it--I'm proud of the way my car looks and runs.

Anyway, if you take your RAV off road (and I don't mean down a dry dirt road or across your suburban back yard), something inside of me is envious, because you're doing something that I just don't have the courage to do. :thumbs_up:
 
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You should not have any problem as long as you aren’t pounding along at too high a speed. All RAV4s (Even the larger 06) have very good power to weight ratios (especially with the V6) so a low gear isn’t really needed unless you are doing silly things in real slippery or steep conditions. (OK, I admit it, I have taken my RAV up steep snow covered trailed where you could not see the rocks) . Just don't go down trails you are not certain you can get back up. I regularly take my 2004 on trails here in Arizona that are marked ‘4 X 4’ only and 'Difficult" in the guidebooks and have not had any trouble. Just stay on pavement if there is a chance of flooding or deep mud. Those are what will really get you stuck and in trouble. As for the ground clearance, I have seen Saturn coups at the top of some of these trails, with four large passengers, so patience is generally more important than clearance on any semi-regularly graded road. Good all terrain tires really make the difference traction wise. Rule of thumb, if the road looks to banged up to walk up comfortably don’t try driving it in a RAV. With the hill decent controller on the 06 it is even safer.
 

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I took mine off road today and had a blast, my kids thought the RAV was going to flip over backwards going up one dirt hill and flip over frontwards going back down. I used the 4x4 lock for most of it and DAC for the steep hill (the DAC probably didn't do anything because it was not a long hill and I was only going 2). The traction light came on once near the bottom of a hill and the brake assist kicked in very heavily at the same point. One of the hills was sand and small rock covered and the 4x4 worked flawlessly, I could feel it working to find the best traction and it found it every time. There were very deep ruts on one path that I thought might cause some grief so I put the RAV up on the sides of the ruts and was very pleased with the tire traction that did not allow the RAV to drop back into the ruts. I had to turn around at the end of the rut trail and the RAV backed up over them with no problem. I did not go over a stream 'cause it was just banked to steep although I was pleased with the amount of entry and exit angle that the RAV has. The stream would have killed an FJ. I have not done anything like this before and absolutely loved it. I had a funny feeling in my tummy after (no, seriously). I will do it again and take some pictures next time.

Thanks in advance for not posting safety issues directed to me.
 

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herk said:
I took mine off road today and had a blast, my kids thought the RAV was going to flip over backwards going up one dirt hill and flip over frontwards going back down.
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Got any pics? Pictures are worth a thousand words.

BTW moderate sand is very forgiving if you don't get bogged down. It's the big solid rocks you have to be really wary of. Deep sand or solid rock will rip off your evaporitive emission canister. Or a deep puddle will, for that matter ;)

John Davies
Spokane WA
 
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