After last year’s Camry and Avalon surprise, it should come as no shock that Toyota’s keen to expand TRD branding beyond its body-on-frame trucks and SUVs. Frankly, the automaker ran out of BOF vehicles to tune for the trail.
Enter the RAV4, redesigned for 2019 and still no one’s idea of a hardcore off-roader. While that impression may be valid, Toyota’s at least making an effort to turn up the brawn on the family-friendly crossover.
Would this derisively nicknamed “soccer mom-mobile” have any hope of delivering a Uruguayan rugby team to safety after a perilous journey through the Andes? Doubtful, regardless of the impressive (and suggestive) backdrop seen in Toyota’s press images.
Entering the scene as a 2020 model, the RAV4 TRD Off-Road carries the same powertrain seen in other non-hybrid trims — a 2.5-liter inline-four making 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, mated to an eight-speed automatic. Toyota designers added to the model’s newly ornery looks with a generous slathering of black exterior trim. Naturally, the slightly more butch RAV4 Adventure was used as a starting point.
So, what makes this model a TRD, you ask? Well, not the Dynamic Torque Vectoring All-Wheel Drive (found on both the RAV4 Limited and Adventure), nor the 8.6 inches of ground clearance (also shared with the Adventure). These attributes help the vehicle’s mission, but it’s in the legs where TRD DNA can be found.
Peer into the wheels wells and you’ll see red coil springs tuned for off-road travel, matched with re-valved twin-tube shocks featuring new internal rebound springs. New bump stops join the fray, helping the crossover avoid getting too wild in those … adventurous … off-pavement moments. Filling the wells are 18×7-inch matte black TRD alloy wheels shod with Falken Wildpeak A/T Trail all-terrain tires. This meaty rubber is Severe Snow Rated and would have come in handy for your author last week.
For conditions where you’ll actually need four-wheel traction, Toyota’s Multi-Terrain Select offers a choice of drive modes: Mud & Sand, Rock & Dirt, and Snow. Hill Start Assist Control, Trailer Sway Control, and Downhill Assist Control completes the package.
Adding to peace of mind is the same Toyota Safety Sense (TSS 2.0) package found on all RAV4s, joined by blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear cross-traffic braking. Occupants of this vehicle won’t miss its TRD affiliation — indicators pop up everywhere, from the red trim and stitching to the racing arm’s acronym displayed on the SofTex headrests.
Given the suspension and wheel upgrades added to what’s essentially an Adventure-trimmed RAV4, expect the TRD Off-Road version to leapfrog the Limited in price, which currently sits $600 higher than the Adventure at the top of the pricing ladder. A money maker since day one, the RAV4 — which sold 427,170 (!) units last year — will continue to generate boffo profits for Toyota, now even more so.
Official pricing will have to wait until closer to the 2020 model’s on-sale date.