BUILDING A TURBOCHARGED TOYOTA RAV4: FROM CONCEPT TO REALITY

Turbochargers have long been the holy grail for automotive enthusiasts, promising an exhilarating boost in power and performance. While most associate turbocharged engines with high-performance sports cars or muscle cars, the allure of turbocharging has transcended vehicle types, captivating even small SUV owners like those who drive the beloved Toyota RAV4.

Despite its natural aspiration design, enhancing an RAV4 with a turbocharger continues to intrigue many enthusiasts seeking an extra punch under the hood. In this exclusive interview with Jeremy Blubaugh, a turbo RAV4 builder extraordinaire, we delve into his journey of transforming a humble SUV into a roaring powerhouse that defies expectations and pushes boundaries in automotive customization.

EXPLORING THE CONCEPT

TURBOCHARGED TOYOTA RAV4

Modifying an RAV4 for turbocharging may seem daunting, but the potential for increased power and performance is undeniable. While it’s not a common choice for enthusiasts to soup up an RAV4, the uniqueness of the idea and the thrill of having more power under the hood can make it a worthwhile project for those looking to stand out.

With advancements in engine technology and enthusiasts already exploring turbocharging options on similar engines like the 2AR and 2GRFE, it’s clear that there is great potential for enhancing the performance of an RAV4 through turbocharging without extensive internal modifications.

As Jeremy highlights, sure generations of engines like the 2GRFE V6 in the 3rd gen RAV4 are robust enough to handle significant increases in power without requiring additional internal modifications. This means that enthusiasts can achieve substantial gains in horsepower without delving into costly alterations within the engine itself.

The fact that MR2 owners are showing interest in swapping engines with features compatible with turbocharging further emphasizes how well-suited these engines are for such upgrades. It’s not just about adding power; it’s about pushing boundaries and exploring new possibilities with a vehicle typically perceived as more practical than performance-oriented.

Jeremy highlights the key components in a v6 RAV4 engine that require upgrading, emphasizing the importance of performance.

These include the fuel system, injectors, pump, fuel pressure regulator, and transmission.

  • Upgrading these components ensures optimal performance and compatibility with the new engine.
  • The fuel system upgrade is crucial for delivering the right fuel to the engine.
  • Upgrading the injectors improves fuel atomization and combustion efficiency.
  • The pump upgrade helps maintain consistent fuel flow to support the higher horsepower of a v6 engine.
  • The fuel pressure regulator upgrade is necessary to ensure proper fuel pressure levels for optimal engine operation.

Since no off-the-shelf turbo kits are available for the RAV4, Jeremy had to work with a fabrication shop to build one. He got help from a local shop, Turn5 Fabrication, to create the hot side and learned how to weld and fabricate the cold side himself using a TIG welder from the Makerspace. Jeremy recommends upgrading the transmission’s valve body and installing a higher-stall torque converter, along with the LevelTen Bulletproof rebuild kit for performance upgrades. The stock automatic U151E F transmission struggles to handle power beyond factory levels.

THE BUILDING PROCESS

TURBOCHARGED TOYOTA RAV4

Turbocharging a Toyota RAV4 is no small feat. It requires extensive custom fabrication and an engine capable of handling the boost. Jeremy tackled this unique project head-on after experiencing an engine failure in his stock RAV4.

The culprit behind the original engine’s demise? Using 0w20 oil as recommended by Toyota. Many builders pushing the limits of these engines learn the hard way that a heavier-weight oil like 0w30 or 0w40 provides better protection under increased stress. Jeremy’s path was clear with a spun bearing – reinforcing the drivetrain to withstand serious power.

Rather than sourcing another 2.5L four-cylinder from the same generation RAV4, Jeremy opted for a junkyard 3.5L V6 from a Toyota Sienna minivan. More robust construction and displacement would better handle the rigours of forced induction.

The show’s star was a 67mm dual ball-bearing billet wheel turbocharger from PSR, essentially a Garrett clone. This mid-range turbo size has proven capable of impressive power gains on other 3.5L V6 applications, although Jeremy admitted it was likely oversized for his specific build goals.

From there, everything was utterly custom – a true manufacture-nothing approach. Jeremy designed and fabricated the turbo’s mid-mount hot and cold sides himself. Then came the integration of an air-to-water intercooler setup using a Forced induction inter chiller to temper incoming air temperatures.

No off-the-shelf kits or OEM turbo components fitted this one-off RAV4 build. Jeremy pushed his fabrication skills to the limits, building every component from scratch to transform his humble crossover into a turbocharged terror.

THE “FINISHED” PRODUCT

TURBOCHARGED TOYOTA RAV4

Is my turbocharged RAV4 build ever really finished? Not a chance! Once you go down the rabbit hole of a project this intense, there’s always something new to upgrade or repair. But stepping back and appreciating how far it’s come is fun.

Jeremy recently had it on the dyno at PRT Performance and it laid down 368 wheel horsepower to all four wheels. Not too shabby for a little crossover! he thinks there might be some parasitic loss through the all-wheel-drive transmission holding it back a bit.

The factory RAV4 AWD puts out around 200 wheel horsepower, so he has gained 168 wheel horses with the turbo setup. Based on the stock 269 crank horsepower rating, the turbo motor could make around 450 horsepower at the crank. It’s pretty insane for a vehicle like this!

But he is still working on it. Once he finds the limitations of this unassuming little automatic transmission, He’ll look for a more robust, faster unit to handle even more power, a built-in manual box or a heavy-duty performance automatic.

The journey is half the fun with a build like this. he can’t wait to see what other challenges and breakthroughs are in store as he continues pushing this rally-bred crossover to its limits! Stay tuned for more madness.

PROS AND CONS OF BUILDING A TURBOCHARGED TOYOTA RAV4

Turbocharging an engine can be a game-changer for car enthusiasts seeking an adrenaline rush. It’s essential to weigh the pros and cons before implementing such a modification.

Pros:

  1. Significant Horsepower Increase: Turbocharging is renowned for unlocking a substantial boost in horsepower, transforming even the most modest engines into high-performance powerhouses.
  2. Smaller Engine Displacement, Bigger Power: By forcing more air into the combustion chambers, turbochargers allow smaller engines to generate power levels typically associated with larger, naturally aspirated counterparts. This translates to improved acceleration and overall driving dynamics.

Cons:

  1. Turbo Lag: While the power surge is exhilarating, turbochargers can suffer from a phenomenon known as “turbo lag,” where there’s a noticeable delay between pressing the accelerator and the turbo kicking in. This can make low-end responsiveness somewhat sluggish.
  2. Increased Wear and Tear: The added stress on the engine components can lead to accelerated wear, potentially reducing the overall lifespan of the engine if not properly maintained and tuned.
  3. Reduced Fuel Efficiency: Pursuing power often comes at the cost of fuel economy, as turbochargers demand more fuel to generate impressive power outputs.
  4. Costly Modifications: Turbocharging is rarely a simple bolt-on process. It may require additional modifications, such as upgraded fuel systems, intercoolers, and reinforced engine internals, which can quickly escalate the overall cost.

Jeremy, a RAV4 owner, embraced the turbocharged lifestyle wholeheartedly. “In my opinion, fuel economy thoughts went out the window, as do normal factory functionality when modifying a vehicle to operate with double the factory power,” he remarked, acknowledging the trade-offs involved.

FUTURE PLANS AND POSSIBILITIES

TURBOCHARGED TOYOTA RAV4

Modifying a vehicle like the Toyota RAV4 to have much more power raises some critical considerations for the long term. With significant performance upgrades, there could be higher maintenance costs and more mechanical issues. Since this kind of extreme RAV4 tuning is rare, there is little existing experience to draw from.

You also have to think about resale value. Will it be more challenging to find a buyer for a heavily modified RAV4 when it’s time to sell it someday? You need to carefully weigh these factors before pouring money into such an extensive project.

The owner, Jeremy, seems unconcerned about any long-term downsides. As he puts it: “I love the wolf in sheep’s clothing vibe. It’s the grocery-getter daily driver that no one suspects. Especially de-badged, no one even knows what it is! Most people have no clue it’s even a Toyota RAV4.”

So, what are his plans for making this sleeper RAV4 even more outrageous? Jeremy says, “I’m shooting for +400 wheel horsepower on 93 octane gas. With those numbers, I will be close to hitting my goal of running an 11-second 1/4 mile. Then the plan is to install larger 875cc injectors and an aftermarket piggyback ECU and push the transmission to its breaking point.”

  • As for any thoughts of selling his extreme creation someday, Jeremy clarifies: “I’ll never sell it.” This over-the-top RAV4 is a labor of love he plans to keep forever.

GETTING STARTED WITH YOUR BUILD

Starting your own turbocharged RAV4 build is an exciting project that requires careful planning and financial preparation. Jeremy advises that having DIY skills and creativity can save costs in the long run, as paying for a custom kit from a shop can be very expensive.

The expenses for such a project can vary greatly, with Jeremy mentioning that savings of up to $4k are possible, but his build costs much more due to additional custom features. Setting aside a substantial amount of money is essential, especially if relying on professional help for design, fabrication, and installation.

Remember, investing in high-quality parts and skilled labor might mean spending beyond initial estimates – something Jeremy humorously hints at not disclosing to his significant other. So, before embarking on this endeavor, ensure you have a solid plan and sufficient funds for the ultimate turbocharged RAV4 experience.

CONCLUSION

Jeremy’s journey of transforming his RAV4 into a unique off-road machine is truly inspiring and showcases the endless possibilities for customization. For those seeking more inspiration or wanting to delve deeper into the Turbo Build process, Jeremy’s Instagram Page and YouTube channel are valuable resources to explore. The Turbo Build playlist on YouTube provides a detailed account of the entire transformation, making it an engaging watch for anyone interested in car modifications.