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Every workplace has the slackers, the gossipers, the over achievers, and the goody-two-shoes. But what is a workplace without the people that make it fun to come into office. For Toyota, those people must be in in the TRD department. Toyota Racing Development. Over the last couple of years, they have been spicing things up – first it was the TRD Pro Series. Then boredom set in and they tackled the TRD Camry and TRD Avalon. Now, they’ve set their eyes on the RAV4 and gave it an attitude adjustment.

At the end of the previous 4th generation RAV4, Toyota released a prelude as to what we could expect out of this current 5th-gen with the RAV4 Adventure. Setting limitless boundaries for those thrill-seeking adventure junkies, the Adventure model was accentually developed to cover all the bases of a more robust, all-terrain go-getting crossover. But clearly, the TRD division had other assortments.

The TRD Off-Road is basically an Adventure without the training boots. Already featuring a hearty style – the bumpers, grille and fenders have been bartered to assimilate a more rugged demeanor. By swapping out the glitzy 19-inch alloys for 18-inch matte-black wheels wrapped in rigid, all-terrain rubber and upgrading the suspension to a rally-inspired, TRD off-road suspension, there is a hardy personality behind his burly persona.

The fundamentals of the Adventure served as a good starting point when it came to making the TRD Off-Road more, uhh, off-roady. Aside from the top-trimmed Limited, the Adventure, came with Toyota’s new Dynamic Torque Vectoring All-Wheel Drive system and Multi-Terrain Select Modes. With three modes to sort from: Rock & Dirt, Mud & Sand, and Snow, this system works in a unique fashion different from standard all-wheel drive systems that can operate each wheel on its own merit by supplying and relieving power to each separate wheel as power application is deemed necessary. Upgrading the suspension by using rally driver, Ryan Millen’s TRD engineered RAV4, upgrades such as the off-road red-color coil springs, re-valve shocks, and an internal rebound spring changes its entire integrity. Both on and off-road, it is as smooth as a middle-aged woman’s face after Botox. Despite vague steering feel, handling on dirt roads as we tackle corners gives an inclination that we too could be rally stage drivers as body control feels well managed with limited lean. While the Adventure and TRD Off-Road feature the same numbers when it comes to off-road digits, 8.6-inch ground clearance and 19/21-degree approach/departure angles, the new bump stops in the suspension allocate more wheel travel when it comes to off-road articulation. This little enhancement makes all the difference when it comes to the application of maximizing traction.

The RAV4 features two forms of performance, a hybrid variant, or the naturally aspirated ways of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder. The only way to have the TRD Off-Road is through the hands of its 203-horsepower N.A. performer. Nestled at just over 3600lbs, it takes every bit of 8-seconds to scuttle towards 60-mph utilizing all of its 184 lb-ft of torque. Struggling to find its way through 8-forward gears, the transmission maintains composure right up to the point we need it to do its job. However, sliding into manual mode and we were pleasantly fond of the responsiveness within our exchanges. The various drive modes between Eco, Sport, and Normal can sort out some of the headaches we found with the transmission, but it’s not like we can drive in Sport mode all the time… or can we? Despite staying in Normal mode for the duration of our involvement, fuel economy came close to hitting the targeted EPA rated 27-mpg combined with our results coming in at 26- mpg.

Relaxing with nearly every option selected, our TRD Off-Road’s interior featured a enduring set of rubberized all-weather floor mates, rugged leather interior trimmed seats with unique embroidered stamped patterns and TRD logo heads rests with a spruce of red accents throughout. Its handsome interior is suitably comfortable with pleasant use of soft touch materials and complementary styling. However, seeing that our tester was reaching the limits of $43,000 for a compact crossover, it is rather disappointing to see that the passenger seat does not feature an option to be power adjustable or heated rear seats. Full of technology on the other hand, there is a long list of features from the power lift tailgate, heated steering wheel, 360-degree view camera and standard Toyota Safety Sense system – the TRD Off-Road covers all the bases when it comes to staying current in these modern times.

Servicing a journey with a more confident behavior, the RAV4 TRD Off-Road leads to a more lucrative antic. However, featuring a starting at $35,180 and finalizing our sample with an as-tested price of $42,902… that world is hard argue against the abilities of the original off-road performing Toyota 4Runner starting at $36,120.


Model: 2020 TOYOTA RAV4
Base Price: $25,950
Starting Trim Price: $35,180
As Tested: $42,902


Horsepower/Torque: 203-HORSEPOWER / 184 LB-FT TORQUE
Transmission: 8-SPEED AUTOMATIC
Fuel Economy: EPA RATED: 25-CITY / 32-HWY / 27-COMBINED
Fuel Range: 375 MILES
0-60 MPH: ±8.0 SECONDS



  1. Toting that kayak around, even! I think I agree with the key takeaway here. For pure rugged adventure, the 4Runner might be a better (and more capable) bang for the buck.

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