We Took A Toyota RAV4 Off-Roading In Vegas’ Valley Of Fire And That’s How Men Are Made
The extent of my knowledge on the Toyota RAV4 prior to my trip to Las Vegas this past month was minimal at best. A couple of hot moms from my town growing up drove the RAV, but I was always more focused on them being hot moms than their modes of transportation. But one thing I’ve learned in 27 years on this planet is never judge a book by its cover, never judge a porn by its thumbnail, and never judge a car you’ve never driven.
So when the fine folks at Toyota invited me down to Sin City to test the capabilities of the RAV4 in Vegas’ Valley of Fire, I was as open-minded as a swinging couple. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have my initial questions. Was it really possible for the car that Mrs. Perkins drove when I was growing up to handle the rugged, rocky terrain of Vegas’ oldest state park? Let’s do some homework.
RAV4 has been the cornerstone of Toyota’s automotive lineup since 1994 and it was the first compact crossover sport utility vehicle (SUV) on the market. The RAV is now in its fourth generation and has evolved to a point where the RAV4 Rally will compete in the Rally America Championship, driven by Ryan Millen, son of off-road legend Rod Millen. But we’ll discuss him in a bit.
Driving the sleek maroon RAV4 from the SLS Hotel to the Valley of Fire was an absolute dream. Partly because New York City doesn’t grant me the opportunity to drive a car often, but mostly because the RAVs comfort, handling, and giddy up, were impeccable. At one point on Interstate 15, I was told to slow down a bit. I scoffed and looked at the speedometer. It read 91 mph. I was under the impression I was driving no faster than 70. RAV, you sneaky little devil, you.
When we initially arrived at the Valley of Fire, conversation stopped. We were all engulfed in its beauty and vastness. 42,000 acres of red sandstone formations formed from shifting sand dunes during the age of dinosaurs elevated into the blue Vegas skies. It made perfect sense why the Valley of Fire set the stage for a number of Hollywood movies, including Total Recall, Star Trek Generations and Transformers. If you looked closely at the RAV, you could see a little nervous perspiration trickling down its headlights.
But one thing I learned that day was that the RAV4 is a gamer. The path began smooth and sandy, giving the RAV a little time to build up some confidence, but suddenly turned narrow, uneven, and treacherous. The RAV remained cool, calm and collected, and while Coolio’s Gangster’s Paradise blasted through the SiriusXM radio and ice cold air blasted through the vents, my faith in the RAV grew stronger than the Las Vegas sun. After two hours of beasting the challenging terrain, we headed back to the base.
As we neared our destination, Toyota unveiled a surprise for us. In front of us stood a modified 2015 Toyota RAV4 LE, or Rally RAV, which will compete at various rally races, including some of the 2015 Rally America 2WD-Open Class season.
The vehicle was an absolute beast. With a double-overhead cam engine that pushes 176-horsepower and 172-pounds of torque and special BFGoodrich all-terrain DOT 215/75R15 tires, its the kind of whip that looks like its moving even when the keys are out of the ignition.
The driver of this savage of a vehicle: Ryan Millen. The California native has certainly left his stamp on racing, from racing MTEG Stadium races at 9-years-old, to winning the 2014 Baja 1000 in a Toyota Tundra TRD Pro. Great racer, better guy.
“I’ve driven just about everything Toyota has to offer,” Millen said. “And I’ve been very impressed with the RAV4’s tight, compact body and smooth handling.”
Ry, I’m right there with you buddy. Granted, the RAV4 I was driving didn’t have over 500 pounds of stock weight removed and a custom roll cage, but otherwise, I am you and you are me.
And if you win the 2015 Rally America, WHICH I FULLY EXPECT, I plan to be right there holding the trophy with you, brother.