Toyota’s RAV4 Hybrid is surprising off-road

It was a setup for an epic failure. My driveway, also known as The Moat, in the spring, pitted against not a truck, not an SUV, but a crossover vehicle. And a hybrid crossover vehicle, at that. I would have bet a week’s wages on The Moat.

Ever since hybrid vehicles hit the streets, I’ve thought there might be a place for them, but that place is not in my garage. Sure, they’re all have all-wheel-drive, because those electric motors front and back run both axles. But right there on the visors on most of those pioneer hybrids, there was a warning against taking them off the paved roads.

I have to admit, I haven’t looked closely at the warnings on the newer ones. Ever since I started reviewing vehicles, I figure if they’re going to let me drive them, they must know I’m going to take them on the dirt. And maybe some mud.

Dirty Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
The amount of mud on this Toyota RAV4 Hybrid speaks to its surprising off-road capability.

But whether hybrids are meant for that or not, how capable are these things, anyway? They do have tons of torque – those electric motors deliver amazing amounts of pound-feet of force. But until a few weeks ago, I really didn’t have a chance to test that out.

Then came the spring storms that blanketed our area with a couple feet of thick, wet snow. Before we had a chance to build any good snowmen, that snow melted away and left a couple feet of thick, wet mud in its place. But I still had to get up my driveway.

To be perfectly honest, I know where the high spots are in my road, and I didn’t chance the depressions in the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid I was driving. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t get to show off its capabilities. I did slide off a particularly slippery spot, into the deeper stuff, but it crawled right out of that hole. I have to say, I was highly impressed.

I don’t know that I’d get one specifically for off-roading, but it’s good to know it can do it if it needs to.