Off-Road Performance of Toyota RAV4 vs. Honda CR-V

April 16th, 2023 by

Automakers design off-road vehicles to easily handle rough terrain and various environments. The Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V are popular choices in the compact SUV segment for balancing off-road capabilities with everyday usability. These two vehicles have similarly evolved, consistently refining their performance features while targeting a wide range of consumers. Let’s take a look at how these two 2023 models compare in terms of the key features that matter most if you’re looking for an off-road-capable SUV.


Toyota RAV4 parked off road looking toward the mountains.

Power is an essential feature of any SUV, and a robust engine is needed to propel an SUV through the most challenging terrains. While horsepower is often the most visible indicator of power, it’s actually torque that makes a difference in off-road performance. This is because torque, which represents the force needed to rotate an object around an axis, is the key contributor to a vehicle’s ability to climb steep inclines and navigate rugged ground. Horsepower focuses more on speed and acceleration, which are less crucial when you leave smooth roads behind.

Comparing the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, it’s evident that the 2023 RAV4 has the upper hand. It boasts an impressive 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, made possible by its 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The 2023 CR-V, on the other hand, has a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine paired with a continuously variable transmission, a setup that produces a more modest 190 horsepower and 179 lb-ft of torque.

Ground Clearance

A vehicle’s ground clearance is the distance between the lowest point of its chassis and the ground. This dictates how well it can navigate over uneven terrain and obstacles without scraping or sustaining damage. Higher ground clearance is essential for an off-road vehicle, allowing it to traverse rocks, ruts, and other obstacles without issue.

The RAV4 also bests the CR-V in this regard. It offers a slightly higher ground clearance of up to 8.6 inches, while the CR-V has 7.8 inches if you go with front-wheel drive and 8.2 inches if you choose all-wheel drive. This difference, while small, can substantially impact the performance and capabilities of these vehicles when you’re venturing off the beaten path.


Another crucial aspect to consider for off-road performance is the drivetrain configuration. Your drivetrain works to send power from your vehicle’s engine to its wheels. The ideal setup for your more adventurous drives is a four-wheel-drive (4WD) system that simultaneously sends power to all four wheels. This gives you maximum traction and stability, which are especially important when driving off the asphalt. Unfortunately, 4WD isn’t available for the RAV4 and CR-V.

Both vehicles offer front-wheel drive as their standard configuration, with all-wheel drive (AWD) available as an upgrade. AWD systems can be an excellent choice for off-roaders, as they provide improved traction and handling on various surfaces. Toyota offers AWD with dynamic torque vectoring, which intelligently distributes power to individual wheels based on factors such as road conditions and traction levels. This sophisticated system provides better handling and control during your off-road adventures around the Tyler, Texas, area, ensuring a more secure driving experience. The CR-V lacks this feature.


Your vehicle’s suspension system keeps your ride smooth and comfortable, even on rugged terrain. It’s a crucial aspect of off-road performance because a well-tuned suspension can absorb impact better and protect your vehicle’s undercarriage, components, and, most importantly, occupants. The Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V utilize an independent MacPherson strut front suspension and a multi-link rear suspension, making them well-equipped to handle off-road driving.

What sets the RAV4 apart is its available TRD-tuned suspension system, which is standard on the TRD Off-Road trim. This specialized system offers further enhancements to the vehicle’s off-road capabilities, incorporating revisions to the shock absorbers and the addition of rebound springs, improving both handling and ride comfort. Honda doesn’t offer a similar option for the CR-V, further solidifying the RAV4’s performance advantage.


In addition to all the features mentioned above, your vehicle’s tires play a crucial role in off-road performance. The right tires provide the grip, traction, and durability required for various landscapes and conditions. The RAV4 is still ahead of the CR-V in this category because of its dedicated off-road trim.

The 2023 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road comes standard with Falken all-terrain tires. These are specifically designed for off-road use, allowing the vehicle to excel in various challenging environments. While you can equip the Honda CR-V with optional all-terrain tires, it lacks a dedicated off-road trim that offers a comprehensive package of performance features like the RAV4.


The jury’s still out on whether a vehicle’s wheelbase is a good indicator of its off-road capabilities. While a shorter wheelbase offers more agility and maneuverability, it can make your SUV susceptible to rollovers. A longer wheelbase, on the other hand, can improve stability and provide a more comfortable ride, but it can make your vehicle more difficult to maneuver in tight spaces. The Toyota RAV4 boasts a wheelbase of 105.9 inches, while the Honda CR-V’s slightly longer wheelbase measures 106.3 inches. In this case, the difference between the two is minimal and unlikely to affect their off-road performance significantly.


In general, the lighter the vehicle, the better its off-road performance. Heavier SUVs tend to be less agile and may struggle to tackle challenging terrain, while lighter ones are typically nimbler off-road. Comparing the curb weights of the latest RAV4 and CR-V, the RAV4 has a slight advantage. Its most lightweight model, the LE, weighs 3,370 pounds, which is lower than the 3,472 pounds of the CR-V LX. However, because the difference is so minor, this may not be an important factor when choosing between the two.

It’s clear that when comparing the off-road capabilities of the 2023 Toyota RAV4 and 2023 Honda CR-V, the RAV4 emerges as the superior choice. Do you agree with our analysis, or do you think there are other factors that we should have included in our comparison? Contact us at Classic Toyota with your thoughts and questions, and we’ll be sure to respond.


Image by Nikhil Prasad Licensed by Unsplash

Posted in Toyota RAV4