Toyota RAV4 Trail Mode (Full Guide): Everything You Need to Know

toyota rav4 trail mode

If you have a RAV4 Hybrid or Prime, you might have noticed a “TRAIL” button near the gear shifter. But how should you use this driving mode? In this article, we’ll show you how to use trail mode to make your off-road trips better. We’ll explain what trail mode is, when to use it, how to use it, and more, so you can become an expert in just a few minutes!

What is trail mode?

Trail mode is a system that controls the AWD, brake, and drive force control systems together to help the car drive on bumpy roads like a dirt trail. Trail Mode on the Toyota RAV4 improves the AWD system in situations with low traction, like snow and mud. It uses the open differential and braking system to move power from the wheel that’s slipping to the wheel with traction. With Trail Mode, the auto-limited slip feature is also turned on, which allows better throttle and shift control for improved traction. Trail Mode isn’t available in all models. If you want this feature, make sure you buy a model that has it.

Video Credit: Ben Weber/Youtube

When to Use It

New RAV4 drivers often don’t know when Trail Mode is most useful. Trail Mode is meant to be used solely on uneven, rugged paths, such as a rocky, dirt forest trail.

Here are some tips for when you’re using Trail Mode.

It should only be used on bumpy, rough roads RAV4 Trail Mode is meant for drives off the beaten path. Unless there’s a clear need for it, I recommend sticking to Normal Mode. Even in situations that you might think are more dangerous than usual—like in the rain—it’s not the right choice. While it won’t hurt to use trail mode, the traction and stability control of normal mode will do a better job than trail mode. The RAV4 also has Eco Mode, EV Mode, and Sport Mode, which are worth learning how to use.

It shouldn’t be turned on for long periods Trail Mode isn’t meant for long periods. When operating your Toyota RAV4, the standard mode of driving should be Normal Mode. The other four modes have specific uses, and they can be helpful when used correctly. If you turn Trail Mode on when driving on a dirt road, remember to turn it off when you get back on asphalt. Luckily, you can turn the feature on and off with the press of a button. This will return your car’s functions to normal and make sure the brake and drive control systems are working normally.

It may cause you to feel increased vibrations in the vehicle Don’t worry if you feel your car vibrate a bit more than usual with Trail Mode. Your vehicle is increasing traction with extra power, and you’ll probably feel this power in the way it drives. It’s temporary and not something to worry about.

It may prompt more engine noise Similarly, the vehicle might make more noise from the engine compartment than usual. While this can be worrying for drivers who think that noise means there’s something wrong with the vehicle, Trail Mode uses the brake and drive force control systems to generate the power that’s needed for certain terrains. The noise is a result of Trail Mode being activated, and it should stop once you turn off the feature.

How to Turn It ON/OFF

toyota rav4 trail mode

It’s easy for drivers to use Trail Mode once they’re in the driver’s seat. To switch the Trail Mode on or off in your RAV4, press the “TRAIL” button that’s located to the left of the gear selector. Rav4 trail mode button This will let you use the feature. The tricky part is figuring out when you should use it.


If you often drive in situations with low traction, you might need a vehicle that can handle these conditions. Only newer RAV4 models have Trail Mode. Trail mode is available on the 2019–2024 Hybrid and Prime trim levels of the Toyota RAV4. RAV4 models that only use gasoline do not have Trail Mode.

Once you buy a vehicle with Trail Mode, you might be worried about learning how to use it most effectively. The next section explains everything you need to know about using Trail Mode in your new RAV4.

Expert Tips & Guides

Ready to explore the trails? I bet you’re thrilled (and you should be), but let me share some tips to ensure your safety based on my own experiences.

I’ve likely spent more time on the trails with my RAV4 than most RAV4 owners. I’ve not only navigated numerous dirt forest roads in Pennsylvania, but I also took my RAV4 to the mountains of Colorado and Utah for the summer of 2022. I’m a fan of exploration, so I spent a lot of time on dirt and rocky roads in some of the biggest mountains in the Western USA. toyota rav4 with mountains in background Make sure you understand your RAV4’s capabilities (ground clearance, traction, etc.) before you hit the trails. Also, know how challenging the trail can get and if there’s a chance for you to turn around.

toyota rav4 trail mode

Most of the trails I drove my RAV4 on were just right. I knew which rough trails to steer clear of and generally didn’t face any issues by doing some basic research before setting out. There was only one instance when I was on a rough trail where turning back wasn’t an option. I ended up scraping my RAV4 quite hard in some ruts and almost got stuck (but everything worked out fine in the end).

Using your RAV4’s trail mode feature is excellent, but it can be stressful, risky, and could harm your vehicle if you exceed its capabilities. Stay safe and enjoy the exploration!


Trail mode on the RAV4 fine-tunes the AWD system for better performance in situations with low traction. It’s best used on bumpy, rough roads. This driving mode should only be used for short durations. When using it, you may notice increased vibrations and engine noise, which is entirely normal. It can be easily activated and deactivated using a button located near the gear shifter on 2019–2024 Hybrid and Prime RAV4s. It’s not available on any other models.

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