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Should You Buy Subaru Crosstrek Or Toyota RAV4 For Hard Off-Road Abuse?

If you want an adventure vehicle, which is best Subaru Crosstrek or the new Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road? One feature could be the difference for getting away from civilization.

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While most owners never take their SUV off-road, many adventure enthusiasts do. Besides Jeep, Subaru is one of the original small off-road vehicles and Toyota wants to be. Toyota brings the new RAV4 TRD Off-Road model but is it as good as the standard Crosstrek when it comes to extreme off-road adventures? One feature could be the difference for getting away from civilization.

RAV4 TRD Off-Road

Toyota brings the new 2020 RAV4 TRD Off-Road ($33,995) to the party to compete with Subaru. Here’s a quick rundown of the TRD goodies on the RAV4. It comes with 8.6-inch ground clearance (Crosstrek has 8.7-inches) and the TRD Off-Road suspension. It features a Multi-Terrain Select with Mud & Sand mode for beach driving, or Rock & Dirt mode for trails, and Snow mode for wintery conditions. Outside it gets 18x7-inch matte black TRD alloy wheels with Falken Wildpeak A/T Trail all-terrain tires.

What Toyota says

In an interview with Motor Trend, Jack Hollis, Toyota North America's general manager told them the RAV4 TRD Off-Road isn’t any different than the Adventure RAV4. He says, "You know, it's funny because the technical changes are not totally significant. Obviously, there was more attention from the TRD side, but to try to tell you there's a significant amount of difference, there's no way to try to do that.”

And don’t expect the RAV4 to get any significant Pro upgrades, Hollis goes on to say, "The TRD Pros have traditionally been based upon body-on-frame vehicles. So do I think there's any potential for a RAV4 TRD Pro?...that's not our plan right now.” The RAV4 Off-Road is little more than an appearance package. It should allow for a more “comfortable” ride over rough terrain and the tires are puncture resistant. The best way to view the 2020 RAV4 TRD Off-Road is as a more aggressive-looking, highly optioned compact SUV with upgraded suspension and severe winter-rated tires.

Crosstrek adventure

One of Subaru’s core values that sets the Japanese automaker apart from the rest of the family vehicles is their “go-anywhere” attitude. Subaru Crosstrek, around since 2012, is a popular choice with adventure enthusiasts who like its all-wheel-drive capabilities for snow and ice and delivering the family safely to their destination. But one feature sets it apart from the RAV4 TRD OFF-Road.

What is X-MODE?

All Crosstrek models come equipped with the X-MODE extreme off-road system that gives it improved off-pavement capabilities. With a flip of a switch, X-MODE will get you out of a sticky situation. When the wheels begin to slide or slip in sticky slick mud or deep snow, the average all-wheel-drive vehicle will still get stuck. The 2019 Crosstrek with X-MODE changes that and is easy to engage with the push of a switch located on the center console. X-MODE allows you to keep your foot off the brake and let the system do the work, and you can keep your attention on the road.

suvX-MODE is the difference

On rocky and steep trails, when torque is not distributed evenly to all four wheels, or when one wheel comes off the ground, the vehicle can lose traction leaving you stuck. X-MODE will get you out, and won't leave you stranded.

How it works

Crosstrek’s X-MODE reduces accelerator input for increased control of engine output, helping control wheel-spin for better traction while on an off-road trail. When you activate the system, wheel-spin is reduced and grip enhanced by controlling the engine, transmission, AWD system, brakes, and the Vehicle Dynamics Control System (VDC).

For extreme off-road adventures, the 2019 Subaru Crosstrek with X-MODE is the better choice for those wanting to get deep into the high-country and away from civilization.

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Nick (not verified)    May 15, 2019 - 8:44AM

If someone wants to do actual “extreme off-roading” they should be looking at the 4Runner and the- oh wait, Subaru doesn’t have anything for actual extreme off-roading.

Kasun (not verified)    May 15, 2019 - 8:48AM

Between the two if the drive is faster I’d pick the Subaru. If I need to drive slow on a terrain that requires steady power application I’d pick the new RAV4 with TV-AWD with the regular automatic vs the cvt on Subaru.

Anthony (not verified)    May 15, 2019 - 9:46AM

I haven't been in a Crosstrek yet, but I have been in plenty of situations where without proper power, I would have been stuck. My v6 has plenty of power to get out of a lot of stuff. The crosstrek is so underpowered that I would have been stuck multiple times with it. Also, going up the steep hills here in CO, good luck passing anyone. But I may try a subie as my next vehicle because they may be better than the Rav (Forrester or Outback). I love the Rav, but now it is overpriced for what it is. I want a 4runner also, but only a pre 2009 one which will be too old for me by the time I am looking for a vehicle again...Not sure what it will be when I get a new one.

Tim lagos (not verified)    May 15, 2019 - 3:12PM

This article is obviously written by a Subaru fanboy. Before subaru even existed Toyota was already better then jeep for off road. The rav4 is for soccer moms who want to feel safe in the winter. Any real off road enthusiast will buy a 4runner, land cruiser, or a FJ, and those will destroy any Subaru off road.

Eric (not verified)    May 15, 2019 - 3:36PM

"Besides Jeep, Subaru is one of the original small off-road vehicles and Toyota wants to be."

That is ridiculous. Toyota produced the FJ40, one of the toughest four wheel drive vehicles decades before Subaru even thought of making an all wheel drive car. The Toyota Pickup has been an off road legend since 1979. Go to any off road trail, you'll see Toyota Land Cruisers, pickups and 4runners everywhere and not one Subaru. Anything without a real low range shouldn't be considered for "hard off road abuse" in the first place. Traversing a graded forest service road to your favorite hiking trailhead really does not count.

Homer Ogle (not verified)    May 15, 2019 - 4:54PM

I own a 2014 crosstrek I need all wheel drive and I think subaru is the best all wheel drive.but I'm not comparing my subaru to a four wheel drive thats apples and oranges.

ewoah (not verified)    May 15, 2019 - 7:30PM

You forgot to mention the fact that Subaru has Symmetrical All Wheel drive (identical length axles all around) a feature which is impossible to obtain with the Toyota layout (the engine being transversely mounted). With uneven axle lengths, the torque to each wheel is inconsistent, digital traction control or not. Couple that with the Boxer engine having a lower center of gravity, and better low end torque, and the answer is pretty clear which vehicle is better offroad.