We’ve tested a variety of models of the new Toyota RAV4, and it’s shown to be a versatile platform starting as a handsome and practical small SUV, all the way up to a stormingly quick 302-horsepower RAV4 Prime, and many models in between.
Since the new RAV was introduced, we’ve seen a huge increase in outdoorsy trim models from a bunch of manufacturers, including the Subaru Forester and Outback Wilderness models, and the Honda Passport TrailSport. Some, like the Subies have an impressive amount of off-road updates, while others like the Honda are more show than go.
So, we figured it was time to test the RAV4 TRD Off-Road, and find out, is it a player or a poser?
Well, the TRD Off-Road starts off with the automotive equivalent of Pendleton shirt and 5 days of stubble on its face. It’s rugged.
From the front, the RAV makes a bold first impression with unique items including a split-bar front upper grille, and TRD-stamped stainless steel front skid plate. The LED headlights feature a cool arrow-like signature daytime running lights, while blacking out much of the trim gives a serious look.
The profile continues the off-road swagger with blacked-out over fenders, chunky-looking matte TRD-specific 18-inch alloys and equally chunky looking Falken Wildpeak all-terrain tires. Blacked out mirrors and a tall roof rack adds to the look. We really like the Calvary Blue color on our tester, but added to the white roof, we got a few Smurf comments. Hey, don’t mess with Tracker Smurf!
At the rear, LED taillights give a wide, horizontal look, while a darked-out lower fascia and twin exhaust pipes dial up the sportiness. As part of the Off-Road Package you get blacked out lettering that is the perfect finishing touch.
On the inside, Toyota has upped the ante from the standard RAV4 rugged interior to make it feel extra special. Step inside and you’ll see SofTex (faux leather to you!) seats with tasty red stitching including embossed TRD logos in the front headrests, red accents around the cupholders and wireless charging bay, and TRD logo all-weather rubber floor mats. We like how all the key switchgear is oversize is easy to actuate, even with gloves on.
Those seats are not only snazzy, they’re comfortable, too. The fronts on our tester having a standard 8-way power adjustable driver seat with lumbar, and a very upscale optional heated and ventilated feature for driver and passenger. On those chilly mornings, you’ll also appreciate our tester’s optional heated leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Look beyond that sporty wheel and you’ll see the optional gauge package, which includes a digital speedometer and instrumentation flanked by an analog tachometer, coolant temperature and fuel gauges. It’s not a full-on digital display but still looks highly legible and clean.
On the center of the dash is the available 12.3-in. infotainment display that’s large and clear, flanked by knobs for both volume and tuning. Yay! There are a few auxiliary buttons on the sides of the screen for toggling through screens etc., and those are a little hard to see, especially at night.
With our tester’s capable 4WD system, you get a unique center console with a beefy shift lever, circular Multi-Terrain Select control, pushbuttons for drive modes, and Electric Parking Brake and automatic Brake Hold * controls. Tucked conveniently behind all the switchgear is a handy tray for wireless smartphone charging.
Another cool option on RAV was the digital rearview mirror. Flip it one way, and you’ve got a traditional rearview mirror. But flip the lever the other way and a tailgate mounted camera gives you a projection on the mirror. It’s a clever idea that gives you a wider aspect view, better resolution in the dark, and no worries about anything in the cabin that might impede your view. Cool!
Tech to Tackle Trying Terrain
Driving the TRD Off-Road has a few subtle differences from its RAV4 siblings. Power is provided by the same 2.5-liter four cylinder, that pumps out a respectable 203 horsepower and 184 b.-ft of torque. With a smooth 8-speed automatic, the RAV feels lively in Sport mode, and it’s easy to hustle along. The powerband feels wide, and you don’t have to wring it out to get respectable performance. We even saw high 20’s mpg on the freeway –impressive for a relatively tall, blocky, 4WD vehicle!
Interestingly, the things that make the TRD Off-Road more capable away from the pavement also make it a nicer place on-road. Off-road springs and shocks provide a smoother ride, especially combined with the all-terrain tires which seem to have more cushion. Helping make up for the less grippy off-road tires, a torque-vectoring AWD system helps you handle the twisty bits.
Since this isn’t a sports sedan, we’re fine with the cushy ride trade-off. And we’d guess that very same tuning will make for a capable off-road machine. Most RAV4’s are quite good at the muddy stuff already, so add in the Multi-Terrain Select with mud & sand, rock & dirt, snow, and normal drive modes, plus Downhill Assist Control and you’re wearing a tech tool belt to handle whatever Mother Nature throws your way.
Is the Off-Road On The Money?
Well, that depends on your priorities. There’s a wide range of RAV4 models. You can get into a nicely equipped front-drive LE model for just $27,575. For a stylish, capable and tough SUV, that’s great value.
A tester like our RAV4 TRD Off-Road is further up the food chain, and starts at $36,465. Ours was tastefully equipped with the Off-Road Weather Package ($1,015), The Off-Road Technology Package ($1,265) and the Smurf-inspired two-tone paint ($500). Add in $1,215 for destination, and we rang the bell at $40,460.
For competitors, we’d look at the Subaru Forester Wilderness as another capable off-road equipped vehicle. At $34,165 it’s notably less expensive. The Subaru Outback Wilderness is another great choice, and at $39,965 it’s a close competitor pricewise.
Of course, any serious off-roader would want to consider the Jeep Cherokee. We’d estimate a comparable model would be over $40k. We think the RAV4 hits a sweet spot that’s a bit more capable than the Subie’s, but less all-out trucky than the Jeep.
The 2022 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road looks great, is well-built, and adds off-road capability and on-road civility. That’s a win-win SUV to us!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.