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Discussion Starter #1
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I'm new here and am in the market to buy a CUV, with the RAV4 being my first choice (that beautiful, efficient V6!), followed with a close 2nd by the Subaru Forester.

My intention is to drive the unimproved national forest roads and trails that are abundant here in Southern CA. I'm not into true, off-road rock crawling, but the trails/roads I want to drive have some nasty deep ruts and rocks protruding from the surface.

To make my selection of a vehicle, I've been looking at the aftermarket parts available (suspension kits, skid plates, etc) and am surprised...no...make that VERY surprised - that no USA manufacturer makes a REAL skid plate that covers the entire engine cradle. Before you point to all of the "bull bars" with skid plates out there, I consider those items nothing more than cosmetic. The skid plates do not extend to cover the full engine and tranny, which is what I want to protect! I read in some old posts that a few USA firms were making and/or importing plates, but have since ceased to do so for whatever reasons. Too small a demand?

By comparison, even though the owner base is MUCH smaller, the Forester is offered all kinds of partial and full undercarriage armor from a number of USA manufacturers. Does this indicate that Forester owners more often use their vehicles off-road, as opposed to the majority of RAV owners?

I know that "down unda" the Aussie firms are making skid plates and all other manner of off road RAV goodies...but I do not what to pay more for shipping than for the plate itself. Real good armor is HEAVY.

If any of you can please help me find a solution to this problem, I'll proceed to purchase a RAV-4 instead of a Forester. It's all down to protecting the mechanicals...

Thanks,
Dennis
San Diego, CA
 

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I don't know much about skid plates but if you can't find anyone selling them, maybe you could get them custom made somewhere?
 

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Hi Dennis,

I've done some research on the topic of taking a RAV4 offroad. I've taken mine on several backroads, dirt roads and a few rougher trails. It's great, and some of the features (like DAC - Downhill Assist Control and HSA - Hill Start Assist) have really come in handy.

That being said, unless you want to spend a lotof green getting skid plates and the like custom made, I think a Forester is your best bet.

If you haven't already, check out www.subaruforester.org. There is a thread dedicated to the members' offroad adventures.

I truly believe the RAV is very capable for a CUV, but most people who drive them don't make full use of their capability. So, since there is no demand for off-road accessories, there is no supply.

I checked a local 4x4 shop and they wanted hundreds of dollars to fabricate a skid plate for the RAV.

On the other hand, if you have the skill you could fabricate one yourself.

Just my .02 :cool:
 

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CO Mtn Gal:

Thanks. I'd love to hear more about your off road adventures. How bad were the roads? Did you find the RAV to be adequate in terms of ground clearance? How did it handle over severe bumps...did the suspension ever bottom out? What about power...do you have an I4 or the V6? If I4, was it adequate to get up steep hills?

I'll have to visit a local 4x4 shop and see what they say. Paying "a few hundred" for a bash plate is not excessive, considering the alternative to replacing an oil pan, engine or transmission case...AND towing the vehicle out of the woods as well. The full set of Forester armor (front and rear) costs about $300 for 3/16" thick aluminum. Very reasonable.

Used Foresters cost a lot more than used RAVS, and they don't offer the increadibly fuel-efficient V6 that the RAV does. They have a normal 2.5L 4-cyl, and a 225 hp turbo version that consumes way more gas than the 260 hp RAV V6.

I really do prefer the RAV, it just has poor aftermarket support for the off road crowd...that's what hangs me up.
 

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The RAV is the wrong vehicle, think Jeep. It isn't meant for anything other than dirt roads and it's not a 4X4. Why would such rugged protection plates and so forth be offered for what is essentially a soccer mom mobile/grocery getter?

You can get the real thing in a Jeep for $25K with the new Pentastar V6.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Again, I stated that I'm not looking to crawl over boulders, but am looking to protect the vehicle when it is on rough forest roads and truck trails. Is the RAV not equipped to drive them? Jeeps are great for true off-road, but deliver very poor gas mileage and I should have mentioned this is a concern - as the CUV will be my daily driver as well.

The Subaru Forester and Outback "wagon" have both proven themselves extremely capable for 90% of what is called "off roading," save for the most extreme rock crawling where a road does not technically exist. The Forester and RAVs seem to be closely related designs, yet the Forester has tons of aftermarket plates and such available.

Are RAVs simply not capable, or is it RAV owners whom have no interest in pushing the vehicle to what it is designed to handle? I'm trying to figure this one out...
 

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Again, even if you don't want to crawl over boulders, the RAV4 isn't really made for serious off-roading. I'd seriously question whether a Subaru (any Subaru) is up for serious off-roading, even if somebody does sell skid plate kits for them. If you want to go off-road, get a Jeep or FJ Cruiser, not a unibody trucklet.
 

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I can appreciate Turkey Hunts Galore's position. I was in a similar positionw hen i was buying. I wanted a vehicle with reasonable fuel economy that drives well and is comfortable on the road, but is also AWD for the snow and more capable off of paved surfaces. Essentailly, I was looking for a do-all vehicle that is primarily on the road. In my case, the RAV was a good fit because it does really well in the areas that I use it the most. I don't need off road capability 98% of the time. As for the other 2%, well, the RAV is more capable then my previous car becuase of ground clearance, larger tires, and AWD.

I guess the question is this: How rough of trail do you plan to drive on and how often?

There's no do-all vehicle that does everything well. It is just a matter of prioritizing strengths and weaknesses to match your expectations. Jeep Compass/Patriot (same platform) might be a reasonable option if you can stomache a CVT. Supposedly their GEMA 4cyl engines are fairly reliable and both vehicles are available with Jeep's "Trail Rated" certification (higher ground clearance, low range ratio, etc.). The interior feels like it is made out of pringles, but it is substantially cheaper than a RAV...

That all said, the CUV segment of vehicles all have pretty similar shortcomings.
 

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The Subaru has a 25 year history in North America as a very popular and well used vehicle in ski-country. They're all over Vermont / Maine / Colorado. You will find a lot of them on beaches with wind surfers as well. They established their niche as a rugged 4WD station wagon ... and have morphed somewhat into the SUV / CUV category as it is such a large market.

The RAV4 dosen't have that lineage, is a more recent phenom, and wasn't built for serious off roading. Having said that, it is a Toyota, and they are well built. If you're not into boulder jumping with it .. I would think you would do well to either have some custom plates built or pay a few $$ more for Aussie freight. If the Aussies are using them successfully on the type roads you intend to use .. your question on capability is answered.

As far as Toyota construction in general. I have worked in jungle areas of Latin America since 1975 .. and THE vehicle of choice by virtually all farmers. growers, ranchers who rely on very rough roads and terrain - is the Toyoto double cabin 4WD pick up. There are import companies in many countries that are dedicated SOLELY to importing USED 5-10 year old Toyota pick ups, as, with basic maintenance of engine / drive train / suspension they will run forever. Any US made Jeep, Ford or GM product ... is normally turned into a rattling heap within ONE year on those roads.

I am waiting for the 2013 RAV4, V6, 6 speed ... as my replacement for my 2000 Mercedes. It will tow my Shelby Cobra on a trailer, and take me into my offroad shooting areas. Plus be my daily driver. Perfect vehicle.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks for the many comments. Others are getting the "feel" of my thought process here: a Jeep is out of the running because of its poor fuel economy and ill manners for an everyday car. It's down to the Forester or the RAV...I do like the unique features in both of them.

For the Subaru disbelievers out there, why not check out a couple of videos to see just how capable these vehicles can be on a pretty nasty road:



And a WAGON for cryin out loud, complete with alloy rims and street tires - plus a driver that doesn't allow the 1 sec it takes for Subaru's traction lock to stop the spinning wheel:


No, not a Jeep that's raised up 14" with locking diffs, but pretty impressive nonetheless for street-mannered vehicles getting nearly 30 mpg.
 

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My thoughts are that any trail that would require skid plates is beyond the RAVs capability. Put that together with the fact that there are practically none available and I think the answer is plain and simple. For the intended usage I would buy the Suby in a heartbeat and I'm not overly fond of them.
 

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CO Mtn Gal:

Thanks. I'd love to hear more about your off road adventures. How bad were the roads? Did you find the RAV to be adequate in terms of ground clearance? How did it handle over severe bumps...did the suspension ever bottom out? What about power...do you have an I4 or the V6? If I4, was it adequate to get up steep hills?

I'll have to visit a local 4x4 shop and see what they say. Paying "a few hundred" for a bash plate is not excessive, considering the alternative to replacing an oil pan, engine or transmission case...AND towing the vehicle out of the woods as well. The full set of Forester armor (front and rear) costs about $300 for 3/16" thick aluminum. Very reasonable.

Used Foresters cost a lot more than used RAVS, and they don't offer the increadibly fuel-efficient V6 that the RAV does. They have a normal 2.5L 4-cyl, and a 225 hp turbo version that consumes way more gas than the 260 hp RAV V6.

I really do prefer the RAV, it just has poor aftermarket support for the off road crowd...that's what hangs me up.
Let me clarify, when I said they wanted "several hundred dollars" for a skid plate, I'm talking $900 plus. If it was a matter of a couple hundred I would buy one in a heartbeat :cool:

Most of the roads I have been on have been dirt roads and easy trails. I go by www.traildamage.com and I don't drive anything that's rated higher than a 3 (more because of my lack of experience). The roughest road I've been on thus far was Weston Pass. Most of this pass is graded dirt road, but the west side is another story. Here is a video of the rough parts:

Weston Pass Colorado - YouTube

One of the best things you can do is make sure to have careful tire placement. The RAV has more clearance over the rocker panels, so I always drive my tires over embedded rocks rather than straddle them.

Also, I have th V6, which I would imagine is superior to the I4 in "offroad" conditions. I have never hit the undercarriage of my RAV, but I am very careful and I don't push my RAV's limits.

The RAV is the wrong vehicle, think Jeep. It isn't meant for anything other than dirt roads and it's not a 4X4. Why would such rugged protection plates and so forth be offered for what is essentially a soccer mom mobile/grocery getter?

You can get the real thing in a Jeep for $25K with the new Pentastar V6.
With all due respect, the same can be said for the Subaru Forester and Outback, yet subie owners are constantly taking their cars offroad with success. To me, they are far more "soccer mom/grocery" wagons than the RAV.

Again, even if you don't want to crawl over boulders, the RAV4 isn't really made for serious off-roading. I'd seriously question whether a Subaru (any Subaru) is up for serious off-roading, even if somebody does sell skid plate kits for them. If you want to go off-road, get a Jeep or FJ Cruiser, not a unibody trucklet.
I think the problem boils down to an individual's definition of "off-road."

The RAV's owners' manual has a whole section dedicated to offroad driving and Toyota's website lists the RAV as being built for offroad situations. In this case, I think off-road means dirt roads, forest service roads and easy trails. The RAV is great for these types of surfaces.

Most of you who say that the RAV is not meant for ANY offroading probably define offroading as rock-crawling, river-fording and the like, am I right?

In any case, I intend to make the most of my RAV's abilities and have a blast while doing it :thumbs_up:
 

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Let me clarify, when I said they wanted "several hundred dollars" for a skid plate, I'm talking $900 plus. If it was a matter of a couple hundred I would buy one in a heartbeat :cool:

Most of the roads I have been on have been dirt roads and easy trails. I go by www.traildamage.com and I don't drive anything that's rated higher than a 3 (more because of my lack of experience). The roughest road I've been on thus far was Weston Pass. Most of this pass is graded dirt road, but the west side is another story. Here is a video of the rough parts:

Weston Pass Colorado - YouTube

One of the best things you can do is make sure to have careful tire placement. The RAV has more clearance over the rocker panels, so I always drive my tires over embedded rocks rather than straddle them.

Also, I have th V6, which I would imagine is superior to the I4 in "offroad" conditions. I have never hit the undercarriage of my RAV, but I am very careful and I don't push my RAV's limits.



With all due respect, the same can be said for the Subaru Forester and Outback, yet subie owners are constantly taking their cars offroad with success. To me, they are far more "soccer mom/grocery" wagons than the RAV.



I think the problem boils down to an individual's definition of "off-road."

The RAV's owners' manual has a whole section dedicated to offroad driving and Toyota's website lists the RAV as being built for offroad situations. In this case, I think off-road means dirt roads, forest service roads and easy trails. The RAV is great for these types of surfaces.

Most of you who say that the RAV is not meant for ANY offroading probably define offroading as rock-crawling, river-fording and the like, am I right?

In any case, I intend to make the most of my RAV's abilities and have a blast while doing it :thumbs_up:
I've done a similar stretch of terrain in my Rav4 as shown in that Weston Pass Colorado video. I would say I was pushing my personal limits as I was doing it with my buddy, very lightly loaded (<500 lbs.). As for the limits of the Rav4, I think if I had made a mistake, the Rav4 would have been much less forgiving compared to a more robust off-road platform like the Subaru's, FJ, etc. Good luck.

09 I4, 2wd
 

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I've done a similar trail like the weston pass with a vw golf, no problem ;-)
 

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I've done a similar trail like the weston pass with a vw golf, no problem ;-)
Exactly. When I was 16 and learning to drive, I took a Ford Escort down all manner of old mining roads that are still used for hunting camp access. That was way worse than what's shown in the 'off-roading demonstration' videos. So yeah - I don't consider driving on a badly-rutted dirt road to be off-roading. Maybe I'm just more cautious today, but I wouldn't do a whole lot more with the RAV4 than what I did with that Escort. That's not to say that I don't appreciate the RAV4's ability to handle deeper snow than what any low passenger car could, but I still recognize its limits.
 

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With all due respect, the same can be said for the Subaru Forester and Outback, yet subie owners are constantly taking their cars offroad with success. To me, they are far more "soccer mom/grocery" wagons than the RAV.
But you are disregarding the fact that Subys have full time four wheel drive. The RAV does not.
 

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But you are disregarding the fact that Subys have full time four wheel drive. The RAV does not.
True, but this would really only pose a problem in mud, sand, etc. MOST of the "offroading" the subie owners do can in fact be done with ease in a RAV4. I'm not doubting the subie's superiority in certain conditions, that's why I suggested the OP look real hard at the Forester.

My point is that the RAV does have SOME capability beyond poor weather driving, it's just most owners don't recognize this :cool:
 

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But you are disregarding the fact that Subys have full time four wheel drive. The RAV does not.
It would be hard to conclude the 4.3 RAV4 doesn't have full time 4WD in any real world acceleration conditions. (Let's leave the concocted 2 mph roller ads out.) It's activation is so instantaneous you'd never be able to tell it wasn't on full time. When a bad ABS sensor disabled mine I could spin the front wheels at will on dry pavement at any speed below 30 mph. With 4WD working I can't get wheel spin on dry, wet or dirt roads, just rocket acceleration. Even on a slush covered parking lot I scared myself with how quickly I shot off across the lot. The 4WD Lock button is not required to produce any of these results.

And all I can say for folks that think they need skid plates for their RAV4, or Subaru for that matter, is they must not care much about their vehicles or how much they get beat up. By the time you're banging skid plates you've already bashed :eek: :eek: something else.
 
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And all I can say for folks that think they need skid plates for their RAV4, or Subaru for that matter, is they must not care much about their vehicles or how much they get beat up. By the time you're banging skid plates you've already bashed :eek: :eek: something else.
I completely agree. If you are driving trails that require skid plates, then you are on the wrong trail.

I mostly like to drive very scenic back roads and easy trails that have a few bumps and dips. I have no intention of doing damage to my RAV :cool:
 

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Most of you who say that the RAV is not meant for ANY offroading probably define offroading as rock-crawling, river-fording and the like, am I right?

In any case, I intend to make the most of my RAV's abilities and have a blast while doing it :thumbs_up:
:thumbup: Sounds like a blast!

Sent from my Evo3D using AutoGuide.
 
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