The XA50 (5th gen) Rav4, Rav4 Hybrid, and Rav4 Prime are some of the most popular vehicles on the road. And with its latest iteration, there's been a lot more emphasis on off-road with packages like the trail/adventure and TRD Off-Road trims coming out. Toyota even went as far as to develop a special torque vectoring rear differential for the off-road gasoline models. We wanted to go ahead and build a hybrid with off-road capability in mind, to this date, Toyota has only released sportier and more luxurious trims of the Hybrid and Prime, but no off-road variant.
The hybrid is our favourite configuration as it gets over 30% better fuel economy than the gasoline variant and is about 0.6 to 0.8 seconds faster from 0-60 compared to the 2.5 gas engine. The Prime is the fastest by far but lead times for the prime exceeded a year even prior to the chip shortage and pandemic. Lead times in 2022 for primes are up to 2 years now and dealers have been marking up vehicles as much as $20000. The MSRP of the 2021 RAV4 hybrid was under $35000 CAD. At the time, the price difference between the XLE RAV4 hybrid and XLE gasoline was only about $2000 and the difference in power, residual value, and fuel economy made the hybrid a no-brainer.
Suspension and Footwork
We started off our build with addressing the footwork, with a mild lift and oversized Falken Wildpeak AT3W all terrain tires. The most popular size we saw for the XA50 chassis for overlanding/off-roading was 245/65-17 (29.5" tire) which fits with no lift and no modifications using the factory 17" wheels. Since we were running aftermarket wheels and planning to lift, we went one size bigger to a 245/70-17 Falken AT3W (30.5") tire. The tire size ultimately gives the car maximum ground clearance beyond what a lift alone can do. These tires are also 3PMSF winter rated so they will stay on the crossover year-round. We don't plan on running a dedicated winter tire on this car for the lower mainland climate. These tires are quiet and are not a huge compromise in terms of ride comfort compared to stock. Tire diameter increases by approximately 7% so the speedometer, odometer, and fuel consumption will be off. We found overall fuel economy to decrease by about 10-15% getting a corrected average of about 7.2 to 7.5L/100km city (31-32MPG), still far better than a stock 2.5 gasoline RAV4.
According to Eibach, the lift springs (#E30-82-088-01-22) will lift the hybrid models 1.5" in the front and 1.2" in the rear. Due to the battery packs and electrical motors, the hybrid model does weigh more than the normal gasoline version. So the gas version will see a greater lift with the same springs (1.7" f, 1.6" r). Eibach has not published lift specs for prime models but the difference should be even less as the prime weighs 200-250lbs more than the hybrid.
We went with a spring lift rather than a body/chassis lift as the stiffer springs does address one of the RAV4's main faults which is handling. Despite now having a higher center of gravity, the car still corners more confidently rather than swaying left and right with significant secondary motions. In our opinion, the stock RAV4 suspension setup made for one of the worst handling and least sporty crossovers in class compared to rivals like the Subaru Forester and Honda CRV. The "sport" suspension offered on the XSE models is not much of an improvement either and the car is still clumsy when cornering aggressively.
The stiffer springs however do impact ride negatively as the ride is noticeably harsher over potholes and speed bumps with the factory shocks. A longer travel shock absorber may help with this but down-travel is limited causing the car to skip over certain impacts. When off-roading however, we found the car to glide over rutted forest service roads fairly confidently and comfortably when enough speed was achieved.
We paired the larger tires with the Black Rhino Boxer wheel in 17x8 +40. These are a lightweight wheel at just 20 lbs per corner which helps to offset the weight difference gained from the larger tires. However, the +40 offset on the RAV4 is a bit high and would cause some inner liner rubbing on full lock, so we added a 20mm bolt on spacer to make it an effective 17x8 +20. This sits approximately 28mm wider than stock with 2mm more inner wheel clearance. However going up from a 225 to a 245 width tire does further reduce inner and outer clearance.
Despite going up more than 2" in overall tire diameter, the front spring perches are set very high so there is still a lot of clearance between the top of the tire and the spring support. Previous generations of RAV4 did see this as an issue when going with a larger tire but based on our measurements, even a 31.5" tire with the correct offsets and widths should clear. We did remove the front mudflaps as the lower offset did cause some rubbing against that, it's a few clips and takes less than 10 minutes to remove.
All-in-all, the extra height from the tires and springs gives us about an extra 2 to 2.5" of ground clearance. A non-hybrid RAV4 will see even more clearance gained. This all helps with approach, departure, breakover, and overall just helps reduce the risk of damage of your brand new SUV and simply looks badass! Follow along as we continue to develop on this build and explore new trails in our 2021 RAV4 Hybrid XLE!
Contact us if you're looking to upgrade your crossover today!