For Ryan Millen, pushing a Toyota to its limit and beyond is just another day at the office. A pilot for the better part of 20 years, he recently won the 2014 edition of the grueling Baja 1000 race behind the wheel of a heavily-modified Tundra pickup.
Millen’s next adventure sounds a little bit like a Top Gear challenge. Starting this summer, he will compete in the 2015 season of Rally America behind the wheel of a family-friendly RAV4 crossover. That’s right, the same one your neighbor uses to drive her kids to soccer practice.
The rally car started life as a base-model 2015 RAV4 LE but, with the help of his team, Millen removed about 500 pounds from the crossover by completely gutting the interior. The door panels, the rear bench and the headliner are gone, the front doors are fitted with Plexiglas windows and the LE’s cloth-upholstered front seats have been replaced by a pair of lightweight bucket seats. A full roll cage protects the occupants if the crossover ends up with the wheels facing the sky.
The RAV4 LE’s 17-inch steelies have been tossed out and replaced by a set of black 15-inch alloys wrapped by BFGoodrich all-terrain tires. Additionally, the crossover has gained TEIN suspension components on both axles that stiffen the ride and make it sit noticeably lower than a stock RAV4.
Surprisingly, Toyota has not made any mechanical modifications and the rally car is powered by a stock RAV4-sourced 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 176 horsepower and 172 foot-pounds of torque. The crossover was built to compete in the 2WD-Open Class so it is fitted with a six-speed automatic transmission that spins the front wheels only.
The Toyota RAV4 is scheduled to make its competition debut at the Idaho Rally that will kick off on June 13th. The crossover will have to fend off competition from an eclectic selection of cars including Ford Fiestas and Subaru WRXs.