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Outback vs Highlander vs RAV4



  • Here's our take:
    Twin sisters buy 2 new cars within a month of each other.
    1 buys outback, the other buys Rav.
    Both cars are set up very equal.
    The girls try each others car out this weekend the comments are as follows:
    outback owner I can't get over how much room your car has.
    It seems to be about the same size but the interior is so much roomier. The leather is very comfortable (outback is cloth) mpg is unknown for outback but the owner seems to be happy with over all mpg. this is 2nd outback. she states maybe they should have looked into Toyota, but they had been happy with the outback so they just went ahead and replaced it without looking at any thing else (replacing 1st outback because of accident, totaled it). owner lives in northern IL. so heavy traffic and winter conditions exist.

    Rav owner commets about outback:
    nice car, rides ok, sounds noisier, seems smaller than Rav. seems to feel as though you are lower to the ground when sitting thus having a car view. In reality the outback was a couple of inches higher when using their legs a measuring sticks (very scientific, ha ha)

    Both sisters are very happy for each other in there purchase and I've learned many years ago never do anything but agree when it comes to twins and one of them is your wife.

    Rav owner (my wife) on the way home from holiday reunion states you know the reason I like our Rav better is it fits me.
    I mean I just sit in the car I don't feel like I'm climbing into a truck (higher vehicle) or falling into a car lower vehicle (example vet),
    This is needed because of a serious car motocycle accident where we were broadsided back in 1984. Today she has severe back, leg & neck issues. Heated leather seats are great comfort (first ever for us, but not the last). She loves the swing rear door instead of lift gate. again because of back issues same with stepping into the car over the outback the floor seems to be depressed so problems = pain in the outback. She's 5'2" and the loading height is just perfect. This car of every car we tested won hands down with her. So all that was left was to get the best deal. Absolutely pleased with the overall car.
    As far as the Highlander goes nice vehicle but she didn't want to climb into another truck. mpg was same as 2002 explorer ok but nothing to write home about. hybrid highlander was only an insignificant amount better and the price was nuts, tax advantage was already reduced in half when we were looking to buy. so that was a very definite deal breaker, though for us it was never in the running.
    2002 still runs fine and now our daughter is driving it. Hope to see 125 to 150k on it, shouldn't be a problem.
    so there's the review from the owner of a rav and a twin sister owing a outback and therir comments.
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    You want displacement for towing. Turbo motors are not going to be real good towing, as much as I love Subarus, I'd go with a V6 or greater for towing (or an H6 for that matter) the low end grunt is what you need to get the weight of a boat trailer going.

  • sranger....I was in the same boat re heated leather seats. Then I discovered that for the same money you can get aftermarket heated leather which is better quality and there are more color choices.
  • I am the original owner of a 2003 outback 2.5L 4cyl 165hp. My wife just bought a 2007 Rav4. I haven't tried the Rav offroad yet but my guess is it will out perform the Outback offroad. I think the Outback has a nicer ride and handling the Rav feels more truck like while the Outback is more car (even somewhat sporty). The outback does not have enough ground clearance for any serious offroading however it will handle the normal stuff. The subby has great AWD traction. If you want better offroad performance I'd go with the Rav. If your offroading isn't too extreem the Subby will probably do fine.
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    Haaa you really think the Rav will do well offroad? I highly doubt that. I'd pit an OB v a RAV4 in any offroad contest. I have lots of experience offroading and the Rav4 is not what I'd want there.

  • Ground clearance - RAV4 - 7.5 inches
    Ground clearance - Outback - 8.4 inches!
  • rshollandrsholland Posts: 19,788
    The '07 Rav4 has an on-demand AWD. In the past they had a full-time AWD. All Subies have full-time AWD units, which are better for off road use.

    The only off-road advantage the Rav4 has over the Outback is a better angle of approach and angle of departure.

    A better comparison would be to compare the Rav4 with the Forester, as the Forester has better approach/departure angles than do the Outbacks.

  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 11,982
    I would not have any reservations with taking a Rav4 off-road, as long as there was a Subaru along on the trip to pull me out every time I was stuck.... :P
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • johnvjohnv Posts: 40
    RAV4 Angles: 29/25
    Outback Angles: 18/22
    Forester Angles: 22/21

    RAV has better angles, outback has better clearance.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    Just to complete the trio:

    Ground clearance - Forester - 8.1".

    The turbo actually have only 7.9".

    Subaru offers an OE rear skid plate, too. They're fine for light duties.

  • grahampetersgrahampeters AustraliaPosts: 1,786

    In my experience (quite a lot) the Outback is substantially more competent off road than the RAV4. It is tempting to think that because the RAV4 looks more macho, that it is more competent off road. However, the reverse applies. As noted elsewhere, the rear overhang of the Outback is the chief bugbear particualrly when fitted with a towing hitch. You need to think hard about approach and departure angles, taking washaways on an angle and such like.

    The Highlander (Kluger to us) is probably marginally better off road under most conditions particularly in higher trim levels where the electronics control wheelspin to reduce need for locking diffs. The Subaru has a locking (Torsen) central diff which is very effective provided front or back is getting good griop. The Highlander is slightly more effective with the all round electronics.

    None of these vehicles is suitable for serious off road use but it is doubtful that you could get into too much strife provided you stick to formed road surfaces.

    Driving on soft sand will find out any of these cars and you should approach with caution. Remember that they are Soft Road Vehicles, not Off Road Vehicles.

    If you want to check performance out under varying conditions, make sure you have a serious 4WD with winch and tow ropes and know how to use them.


  • I've recently drove 2007 rav4 (4cylinder), CRV and legacy 2.5i auto on the same day. RAV4 and CRV were wery noisy, especially on the highway. RAV4 felt rough when switching gears. Out of the three, subaru was smoother, quieter inside. I also liked it's interior better than the others. I have not tried the Highlander. It seemed too big, and the salesman told me that it's v-4 version was underpowered.
  • peter78peter78 Posts: 284
    I have driven the Honda Element and then the Rav 4 and I found the 4 cylinder Rav 4 to be lots of fun to drive. I am trying to replace a old Honda and would like a wagon like vehicle with a little bit better mileage than my 2001 Toyota 4Runner. I'll keep the 4Runner for towing and as my second car.

    I also notice the 4 cyl Highlander is running about the same cost as a 4 cyl Rav 4 in the local papers. So, I test drove a 4 cyl Highlander. First thing I notice is how quiet and solid the Highlaner is. The Rav 4 was a good bit louder and much more fun to drive. I could feel the shift points in the Highlander, meaning it was holding the gear more and working harder. Still for the test drive I felt the 4 cyl Highlander was adequate. I would go for a longer drive if I decided to buy. I didn't like the silver trim and the small tack on the Highlander. I did like the hatch in the Highlander, it opens from the roof like my 4Runner, not from the side and it did not have that big tire on the back.

    Still, I am leaning toward the Rav4, but if the Highlander starts dropping even more in price the closer it gets to the new 2008 Highlander, I might be tempted to live with a bigger slower, not quite as fun to drive Highlander.
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    If you pull up to the curb side a lot (e.g. grocery store, Costco), the swing out door on the RAV4 might be a nuisance, as it blocks the curb.

    Basically they designed it for the JDM, and decided not to re-do the latches for the US market to cut costs.

  • andrew17andrew17 Posts: 26
    Dear Outbackboy and Rsholland!
    We have two Toys (V-6, AWD), my neighbor has a Jeep (V-6, AWD), an other friend has the Subaru Outback.

    Please, don't take cross-country neither the Subarus, nor the Toyotas: these were designed for bad weather city SUVs. I had the impression that on steep, rocky terrain, crossing deep trenches under an angle: their frames flexes slightly. -Take a Jeep instead, for the stiffer frame/ suspension: it was designed for cross-country service. (But you will miss the pleasant, obedient city drive!)
    In my mind off-roading is cross-country, nasty, bad terrain.

    Happy motoring, enjoy your cars! =Andrew17
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    Depends on what you mean by steep rocky terrain. This wasn't Engineer Pass out of Ouray, but the Forest Service sign said 4WD only. :P

    See more Car Pictures at
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I think the idea of a stiffer frame is a bit of a myth. A full ladder frame will actually flex more than a unibody will, all other things being equal.

    I jack up the front tire of my Forester, and the rear tire actually comes off the ground. The frame is extremely stiff.

    Note that off road Jeeps will actually disconnect sway bars to increase flex. They drive them up a steep ramp to see how high they can go without taking the other 3 wheels off the ground, i.e. the goal is for it to flex as much as possible and allow for maximum wheel travel to keep the wheels where they can make traction.

    Different goals for different intended audiences.

    What the Jeep offers are skid plates to protect the under body, thicker drive shafts, and locking differentials (as opposed to limited-slip).

    Pic for fun:

  • andrew17andrew17 Posts: 26
    Steve, I agree: if the Forest Service recommends 4wd it is OK to use any of these SUVs. I was referring to cross country driving as driving off the road on hilly terrain.

    The picture showing the red Jeep with one wheel lifted is a static test. If you drive it at 5 mph and cross a trench under an angle and bounce over rocks - you have a dynamic test that really tests your chassis and suspension... - but I see your point, most of us would leave our cars at the last parking area and walk/ climb on our own. (By the way, I like that red car!) =Andrew17
  • andrew17andrew17 Posts: 26
    Dear Ateixeira!
    I can tell that you are a "pro" in this business - I would never dare to try this, or driving through rocks on such a steep terrain - in spite of my good life insurance. I like your truck - what kind of engine do you have in it? Based on the tire type and wear, you take it off road.

    Good job - convincing evidence! Enjoy your SUV: Andrew17
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    I used to do some more difficult stuff with a Jeep club back in the mid-70's when I had a CJ-5. Nothing too extreme and I never learned how to read a line out on the trail.

    Mostly I learned that the more off-road worthy your rig it, the farther away from the asphalt you wind up getting stuck. :shades:
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 11,982
    Hahaha! That's about right! There are at least a couple clubs up here that do group outings and adhere to a "tread lightly" mentality. They have certain trails that they use and require stringent adhesion to their bylaws. As they go out in groups, even when folks do get stuck, there is always somebody there to assist with the extraction. Obviously, each of the rigs have their own strengths and weaknesses depending on the conditions, so the hodge-podge collection of vehicles and drivers comes in handy!

    I have never gone, but I will be bringing up an old '76 F250 Ranger this spring so I hope to maybe get that thing off the road beds now and again.
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • paisanpaisan Posts: 21,181
    I used to be fairly active with a bunch of Isuzu guys who would have outtings to the Uwharrie National Forest in NC. The Feds actually have trails setup for offroading and it's great. We had a blast. I may buy back my Trooper from my dad and use it exclusively for offroading.

  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    That's not mine, though my dad did own a Cherokee or two back in the day.

    I was just trying to show that off road vehicles are set up quite differently, and that flex/travel is actually a good thing in that scenario.

    Our vehicles are not set up that way. They're meant to handle speed bumps, pot holes, and a foot of snow, sure, but not boulder hopping. Our sway bars remain firmly connected. :)

    Fact is, we would not be happy with the compromises necessary to make our vehicles ideally suited for that sort of task.
  • herzogtum71herzogtum71 Posts: 470
    The salesman doesn't want you to spend 20K when he might convince you to spend 30K. The posts from 4-cylinder owners in this forum indicate that the overwhelming majority of us are happy with the performance, and fuel economy will be on par with the RAV, CRV and Legacy. Try driving one yourself and see what you think.
  • etbull1etbull1 Posts: 15
    I am looking at both vehicles, but have not been able to find a RAV4 w/3rd row locally. I have seen the highlander w/3rd row and would like to know how the RAVs third row compares.
  • derekgaddyderekgaddy Posts: 32
    The Highlander 3rd row is tight - I can't imagine a 3rd row in the RAV4.
  • I'm curious how either the Outback or Rav4 will fare in the snow. Can either of these use chains without destroying themselves (subaru warns against chains, the dealer says they will work)? How do the traction controls compare (one forum here claimed the Rav4 will kill most of its engine power if one wheel slips.

    The '08 subie 2.5i outback I drove did well handling left wheels on asphalt and right wheels on gravel. But its engine was gutless for passing.
    The 2.5 XT is supposed to be a lot more responsive, but (no samples to drive) I'm concerned it will have the typical Subaru no-torque response (like the WRX I drove a year or two ago which was fine if one likes hi-rev turbo "rush" but sluggish otherwise).
    Any comments on the turbo's characteristics?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    You can use low profile Z-chains on a Subaru, but I would not use regular chains.

    You may not need them - VTD AWD is very capable.

    The original WRX had a 2.0l turbo, they now use a 2.5l which has less lag. Besides the 25% extra displacement there is also AVCS valve control, so it makes more torque sooner.

    I think either one will do fine. OB probably has more clearance but isn't as good on the approach/departure angles. I'd give the nod to Subaru on the AWD system.
  • cbmortoncbmorton Posts: 252
    This is my second winter with my RAV4. The only circumstance I can imagine it wanting to "kill" engine power would be if one wheel was spinning wildly and had no traction at all. In normal driving it works like just about any other traction control system, reducing power just enough to moderate wheelspin. For those circumstances where you actually do want wheelspin, it can be defeated.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 11,982
    I suppose I have to wonder about your expectation for passing. I have not found my '08 Outback to be gutless in any way. I drove several small, steeply graded, winding roads with it during the first 3000 miles and it did quite well at passing: 199 in Northern California; 101 (coastal highway) in Oregon; 207, 50, and others in the Lake Tahoe area; numerous back roads criss-crossing Oregon and Washington. Never a problem - if I wanted to pass, I did it - even with a big wind block on the roof (lost about 5 mpg because of it) and hauling a full load (at, or maybe *slightly* over the 900# payload capacity :blush: ).

    Then again, were I to spend a few miles in an XT, I might feel otherwise. :D
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
This discussion has been closed.