Toyota RAV4 TRD — Off-road chops are standard

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(May 15, 2022) There was a time when automakers sought to make their truck-based SUVs seem more car-like.  Things have changed over the years — now they seem to want their car-based crossovers to appear more truck-like.  It’s a trend that’s brought us fortified off-roaders such as the Subaru Forester Wilderness, GMC Terrain AT4, Kia Sorento X-Line and  — the subject of this review — the Toyota RAV4 TRD.

The TRD certainly has the looks of a rugged off-roader. In fact, a neighbor said he liked the vibe— "that's the best looking RAV4 I've seen. Those rugged tires really set it off," he offered.
Toyota says the RAV4 TRD Off-Road in addition to its stylish appearance offers "impressive off-road capability" with the comfort, style and safety RAV4 is known for in the segment. "With the RAV4’s first-ever TRD-stamped stainless-steel front skid-plate, the 2021 model benefits from increased resistance against debris found on or off the road."

Other key off-road features include matte-black TRD alloy wheels and TRD-tuned suspension engineered to enhance body control and small-bump isolation. The vehicle’s Falken Wildpeak A/T Trail all-terrain tires — that gained the admiration our neighbor — use a unique tread pattern and compound developed to TRD technical requirements, and their rugged, square-shoulder design helps protect against punctures.

Additionally, the 2022 RAV4 TRD Off-Road affords drivers the ability to take more adventure equipment along, towing up to 3,500 pounds. The vehicle’s interior offers striking red stitching and red trim to further enhance the TRD Off-Road model’s cabin.

We didn't take the opportunity to venture any further than a dirt boat ramp, but we are positive the RAV4 TRD can confidently take the avid fisherman to his rutted dirt-road fishing hole or on most of the dirt and gravel trails in the nation's state and national parks. Can it tackle such venues as found near Moab, Utah? Probably not, those places are still best left to the Jeep Wranglers of the world.

But based on the reaction we got, the TRD package is a hit stylishly standing out in the crowded compact crossover utility segment. And that alone might be worth the cost of admission, which starts at a hefty $38,130.

Like most RAV4's sold for the 2022 model year, the TRD comes with the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine making 203 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. The engine provides adequate performance, but like so many recent Toyota vehicles, we felt it was a bit sluggish considering its 203 horses. For comparison, 0-to-60 performance has been measured at around 8.5 seconds, about average for base engines in segment competitors.

The RAV4 has a well-built interior, with nice layered materials and seams built into the design. It has tactile touches such as rubberized grip surfaces on the interior door pulls and the radio and climate knobs. The optional simulated leather upholstery feels soft and pliable, and the stitching is tidy.

The cabin has a spacious feel  with comfortable seating, and rear-seaters will find ample legroom. There are three audio systems to choose from with the premium option featuring 11 speakers and 800 watts. All have Apple CarPlay, Wi-Fi Connect, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

The 9-inch touchscreen as found in our TRD trim is flanked by easy-to-use volume and tuning knobs for the radio, along with a series of buttons for climate control. Storage spaces abound thanks to the two-tiered dashboard and large center console.

To Toyota's credit many standard safety features are bundled into what Toyota calls its Toyota Safety Sense package. The package includes pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high-beams, lane tracing assist, and road sign assist.

There are six RAV4  trim levels — LE, XLE, XLE Premium, Adventure, TRD Off-Road, and Limited. Toyota also offers a hybrid model that not only produces more horsepower, but is considerably more fuel efficient.

The RAV4 starts at $28,190 including destination charge for the front-drive LE. Prices climb through the trim levels to the TRD Off-Road, which begins at $38,130. Perhaps the sweet spot for many buyers is the XLE Premium at $32,550. It comes with such standard amenities as 19-inch wheels, sunroof, power liftgate and simulated leather upholstery called SofTex.

But if off-roading (in style) is your forte, than the TRD Off-Road would be the best way to go. Our test vehicle with Cavalry Blue paint with white top carried a bottom line of $40,460 with about $2,500 in options.

Now in its fifth generation, the RAV4 continues to be the nation's top-selling crossover, and eclipsing the once-number-one Camry midsize sedan and compact Corolla as Toyota's best-selling nameplate.

 2022 Toyota RAV4 TRD


Base price: $38,130; as driven, $40,460
Engine: 2.5-liter-cylinder
Horsepower: 203 @ 6,600 rpm
Torque: 184 pound-feet @ 5,000 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 105.9 inches
Length: 181.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,680 pounds
Turning circle: 37.4 feet
Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds
Luggage capacity: 37.6 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 69.8 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 14.5 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 25 city, 32 highway, 28 combined
0-60: 8.5 seconds
Also consider: Subaru Forester Wilderness, GMC Terrain AT4, Kia Sorento X-Line

The Good
• Stylish good looks in TRD trim
• Spacious interior
• Outstanding reliability

The Bad
• Lackluster acceleration

The Ugly
• High cost of admission to TRD trim