2015 Toyota RAV4 vs. Subaru Forester in snow
John Goreham's picture

Update: Watch the 2015 Toyota RAV4 beat Forester, Cherokee and CR-V in snow

This Toyota video shows what happens when RAV4 takes on the Subaru, Jeep, and Honda in the snow.

Many design elements go into making a vehicle good in the snow. Not all vehicles equipped with all-wheel drive are equal. Tires, the vehicle’s center of gravity, its suspension, its transmission, and many other factors contribute to the overall snow capability. In this video, Toyota takes on the segment all-stars in a head to contest to see which vehicle is the best in the snow.

Rav4 vs. Subaru Forester
The RAV4 does not just beat the Subaru Forester in the acceleration test, it walks away from it, beating the Subie to 50 MPH by two seconds. The braking test has the same result. The RAV4 stops dramatically shorter than the Subaru. The RAV4 dusts the Subie in the lane change maneuver as well.

Jeep Cherokee vs. RAV4
The Jeep Cherokee Latitude deserves congratulations in this test as well. It hangs with the RAV4, and this contest would be easy to call a tie between the RAV4 and Cherokee. Even though the RAV4 beats it in each contest, the Cherokee is so close this test reveals that the there really are two standouts in the compact CUV segment.

UPDATE: March 12, 2015
I felt that the reader comments below were worthy of asking Toyota and AMCI if the video was faked. I submitted my questions based on the comments below. Here are the answers. They are pretty clear, so I have not posted my questions list:

AMCI Testing’s primary role for OEMs is as a competitive-product research company. We tell our clients the unbiased truth about where their vehicle stands relative to the competition. Occasionally these comparisons demonstrate significant advantages, which our clients choose to publicize as AMCI Testing Certified claims for marketing and advertising
• All of the competitors were procured from authorized dealers
• No modifications of any kind were made
• All of the vehicles underwent the identical, simultaneous break-in procedure; these were the only miles on the original-delivery tires
• Multiple runs were conducted on identically prepared surfaces
• The video is an accurate depiction of the performance delivered by each of the vehicles; it is not a depiction of the actual testing as it was conducted

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Ah what tires? Ah traction control on or off? Etc.
I asked Toyota and AMCI and they replied to your question! See above update in the text.
There's been discussion about this video on other sites. The problem with it is simple - they don't actually say that it's a fair and unbiased test. Even assuming that all the cars have their factory issue tires (which is NOT said - so was the Rav a new car with new tires, and the Forester a model year older with tires that already have 20,000 miles on them?) - the actual video shows that in the braking portion, they didn't run the cars on the same surface. At the point where brakes were applied, the Forester is following in the tire tracks of another vehicle. The tracks Rav was following turn off, so now the Rav is in fresh snow - which means that the Rav WILL have better traction and braking.
I asked Toyota and AMCI and they replied to your question! See above update in the text.
All valid concerns. Here is the website of the company that performs these tests: http://www.amcitesting.com/index.html The company offers this if it makes you feel better: "As proof of the unassailable substantiation services we offer, no ‘AMCI Testing-Certified’ competitive claim has ever been retracted due to a legal challenge- a record that spans nearly 30 years."
A fair test or just a test can stand up to a legal test. They need to do the test with the same winter tires on all the vehicles tested except that would be fair but may not help the Toyota Rav .
Call me skeptical. Is this a test of the vehicles capabilities or which comes stock with the best tires for this test? The braking distances between them is what make me believe it was a flawed test. Run the test with the same snow tires on each vehicle and the results will most likely be a lot different. Shame on Toyota.
I think that the tire choice is a valid part of the car's design. The premise is these are the cars you take home. Subaru and other automakers go a little crazy with the advertisements showing cars bursting through snowbanks and driving on unplowed roads. I recently tested the Jeep Cherokee Latitude True North. Its all-season Firestone Destination tires made a huge difference in that vehicle's abilities in snow. That was a decision made by Jeep. They were better than my personal vehicle on Blizzaks (winter tires). Conversely, I tested a Chrysler 200S AWD with all-season tires that were so bad in snow it made the car no better than a 2WD vehicle.
All-season tires are only for 3 seasons. Anyone who wants to be safe on ice and snow will buy a set of 4 winter tires. A one wheel drive car with winter tires will stop way faster then some twit in an AWD car with all-season tires. Have you ever noticed the number of AWD vehicles that crash in snow storms. They think they don't need winter tires but they do to stop faster.
I completely agree with that.
I asked Toyota and AMCI and they replied to your question! See above update in the text. I think using the tires the OEMs sell the cars with is fair, but I do agree that all vehicles run on winter snow and ice should have snow tires.
The stopping distance does not change with different snow tires. Snow tires = traction to accelerate, in fact there is negligible difference between snow tires and all season tires with regards to stopping distance.
I have a '14 Rav LE AWD and let me say it has been confidence inspiring to drive in one of the worst Northeast winters in memory. My biggest complaint with it is the busy ride (with too frequently harsh impact absorption). Getting 24.6 MPG overall in 60/40 city to highway driving.
It appears that AMCI testing knew who was paying for the test. In other words, this was not blind testing, or they would have stated such, so that alone makes it invalid. In a valid test, the testers would have no idea who paid for the test, or whose product they were testing. Also they never stated that the cars were tested with OEM equipment, so they could have been modified. Nothing is said about tires, so perhaps snow tires were put on the RAV4 and summer tires on the others. Nothing was said about tire pressures either, so perhaps the ones on the RAV4 were optimized and the others deoptimized. It makes sense for manufacturers to supply cars with 3 season tires that are quiet, get good gas mileage, and perform decently on warm pavement. Someone with specific needs will buy tires specific to those needs. All my cars have winter tires mounted on their own wheels, so I personally prefer buying a car with tires biased toward warm weather driving, since they will not be on the car during the winter. I would not like the RAV 4 if the tires that gave decent winter performance were noisy and poor handling during the summer. As to no claim being retracted due to a legal challenge. That is meaningless. Any smart company would retract a claim under threat of a legal challenge, before that legal challenge is ever made. As to a legal challenge, suppose Subaru threatened one. AMCI might report that Toyota supplied them with several vehicles, prescribed the method of testing, and then AMCI tested them. They might say that they had nothing to do with choosing tires, tire pressures, or even verifying the condition of the vehicles prior to testing. That was all Toyota's decision, based on their contract with Toyota. So, if Toyota rigged the vehicles, that was not AMCI's problem. They were paid to test and that is all they did. I hope that the other companies get together and research this testing and debunk it. I hope Toyota takes it on the chin, same as Volvo did years ago when it was found they reinforced the roof on the bottom car in the commercial where they had 4 cars placed one one on top of another.
I asked Toyota and AMCI for more details. See above update in the text.
I have worked for a number of carlines and AMCI is legit. The manufacturer knows they have an advantage and they get AMCI to certify it. AMCI is contracted to do the test and certify the result. They are not called to affect the results. I worked for Dodge and they were using AMCI to show the strength of the Caravan that particular time. The advantages shown by the RAV4 accent the six speed transmission advantage, the vehicle stability control and the balance of the car. Subaru kind of takes it on the nose in this one which is ironic because Toyota owns fifteen percent of Subaru.
If this testing is legitimate, then AMCI should have no trouble publishing the details of the test. In other words: 1. From whom and at what mileage each vehicle was purchased. 2. How each vehicle was prepared and by whom (AMCI, Toyota, or the dealer from whom they were purchased.) For example did AMCI test a random RAV4 off a lot, or one that was tweaked by Toyota in preparation for the test? 3. This is the most important. Is AMCI willing to attest that nobody involved in the testing at any level know that Toyota was paying for the test? If anyone knew, then the test is meaningless.
Did the Update at the end help at all? It seems like AMCI answered these questions.
Randy Brooks, please tell us how you know "AMCI is legit." Are you guessing, the same as you are by saying the 6 spd automatic is an advantage? The Forester is 0.3 seconds faster to 60 according to Consumer Reports (8.7 versus 9.0 sec) and the Forester gets better gas mileage 26 mpg overall in Consumer Report testing versus 24 for the Rav4. The EPA also rates the Forester considerably better in fuel economy. The engines are very similar in displacement, torque, and horsepower. The Subaru is further disadvantaged by being a full time all wheel drive, while Toyota prides itself as being front wheel drive and more fuel efficient until there is slippage. I would say the facts point to a superior CVT transmission in the Forester, particular since the 2013 model with the old transmission (but mostly everything else the same) was slower and more thirsty.
The forester we owned was a piece of junk. It burned more oil then it held in the oil pan. From day one it burned oil that the dealer said was "normal" and suby backed them up. It also had a horrific timing chain rattle thanks to a hydraulic tensioner that failed on day 3, was replaced and failed agian a week later never to be fixed again. Dealer said rattle when starting was.....you guessed it....normal. We bought the forester with the LEMON money from our outback re-purchase thanks to the 70mph frame shake that affected 3-4 model years and maybe more. The car would shake itself to death when you hit 70 on the freeway. They tried and tried to fix bot just made it worse as the steering got stiffer and stiffer with each repair. It felt like I was driving a big rig. No more subies for this guy........ Oh and suby supports LGBT but NOT NRA, screw that!!!!!!
Having worked with Subarus I can notice that the Traction control was not deactivated on the Subaru. With the Traction Control active, it will limit acceleration when it detects wheel spin. This means you can have your throttle at 100% and it will not give you 100% acceleration until wheel spin has been controlled. Further more it activates brakes on individual tires until they are all spinning at the same speed. when you deactivate the Traction Control (as is instructed to do so in snow driving in the manual) the engine management system of the Traction Control is deactivated. As with any low friction surface you do not want to lose momentum so deactivating the Traction Control is necessary to keep forward movement. snow, mud and sand dune driving) This Subaru is obviously not accelerating due to loss of traction and Traction Control not being deactivated. We can deduct one of two possible scenarios. 1 the Toyota's Traction control was deactivated and the Subaru was not. Or Toyota's traction control was not deactivated and is a system that does not incorporate some kind of engine and throttle management to control loss of traction.
I'd like to think AMCI didn't cheat and turn the traction control off on the Toyota to gain advantage. In my testing of cars I do notice a pretty big difference in the sensitivity of traction and stability control from vehicle to vehicle. All of them are getting better. I just had a 2015 Impreza and in the snow it would literally leap off the line and even do some tail-out action with traction control ON. I didn't notice it retarding spark at all. I have not tested a Forester, but with more snow coming this weekend I'd love to see one show up. The new Outback was the biggest surprise for me all year. Awesome. Much better than the two I owned.
So, the RAV4 comes with better all season tires. Until ALL vehicles are shod with the same tires, this is a tire test and nothing but a tire test. Anyone drawing anything from this, other than the performance of the different rubber, is making a HUUUGE assumption. Any test, to be valid, must control for variability. This test, if to be a comment on respective AWD systems, and braking ability, did not control for variability (tires), this was a tire test, full stop.
It seems there are just Jealous Toyota haters here. The updates posted above are pretty clear. Rav4 kicks the Subaru's butt.
The problem with this test... no, the problem of Subaru really, is that they put pathetic tires on the Forester. With equivalent tires the Forester likely would have done better than the other two. As it stands this is more a test of the tires than the vehicles. Understood this is a test of the vehicle as delivered, but it gives the implication that the RAV4 is actually a better vehicle... which it might or might not be. No way to tell because this is more a test of the tires not the actual cars.
Interesting given that Consumers Reports also did winter testing last year and their results were exactly the opposite: the Forester handled and stopped best in the snow, the CR-V was midpack, and the RAV4 was worst staying on the snowy road (would frequently plow in turns). CU is known to be objective and sticklers for testing accuracy.
I own a 2016 Rav 4 with less than 2000 miles. The all-seasons on my RAV suck. I will have to put on snow tires to get through the snow safely next season for sure. They are borderline now brand new, which is concerning. OEM tires = garbage on ANY brand.
No argument here. All-season tires are a big trade-off in winter. I just mounted Blizzaks DM-V2s on my 16 Forester today! Can't wait to try them out.
This is completely contradictory to Consumer Reports testing of the CR-V, Rav4, Forester. Are you kidding me, who the heck can you believe? At least the CR testing - they used the same tires on each vehicle.