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  7. 2021 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road

Exterior view of the 2021 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road

The end of every year follows a certain pattern. Friends and families gather and raise their champagne glasses in a toast to the New Year. Whether they say it out loud or not, many people also make a resolution for how they're going to change themselves going forward. Some set their minds to going back to school. Many decide to change careers.

Judging by Toyota's current lineup, we're guessing its New Year's resolution at the end of 2019 was to build more fun and exciting vehicles for the 2020 model year. After a decades-long hiatus, the Supra is back. Toyota's performance division, Toyota Racing Development, has finally applied its expertise (as well as upgraded suspension hardware, cat-back exhaust systems and other racy components) to the Camry and Avalon sedans. It also broadened its range of high-performance trucks and SUVs.

The Sequoia finally receives the TRD Pro treatment that its 4Runner, Tacoma and Tundra cousins have been getting for years. For the first time ever, there is now also a TRD version of the RAV4. The 2020 RAV4 TRD Off-Road has a starting price of $35,280** and comes equipped with a variety of features designed to make it just as capable in the rough as it is comfortable on the road. I learned more about it behind the wheel of a press loaner that had been loaded up with comfort and tech options to an as-tested price of $42,095*.


2021 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road Exterior

Exterior view of the 2021 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road

When Toyota introduced the fifth-generation RAV4 as a 2019 model, it was easy to see that the newest version of its best-selling vehicle was more chiseled and rugged. The TRD Off-Road package amplifies its rough and tough appearance by adding standard LED fog lights and black fender flares and rocker panel trim pieces.

When it's time to leave paved roads and take the RAV4 into its intended environment, its matte black 18-inch TRD wheels and 225/60 Falken Wildpeak all-terrain tires are ready for action. If you look behind their unique tread pattern developed to TRD's specifications, you'll see red coil springs that Toyota's performance specialists tuned for off-roading. They tweaked the twin-tube shocks by re-valving them and installing new springs that improve their rebound control. TRD even went as far as putting in new bump stops to give the wheels as much upward travel room as possible when the suspension compresses.

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2021 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road Interior

Interior view of the 2021 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road

The interior has some adventure-themed touches of its own. A set of rubber all-weather mats line the floors and cargo area. The inner sides of the door handles have a grippy, tread-like texture. The rings around the large volume and tuning knobs have a similar feel to them.

Toyota balanced that ruggedness with plenty of infotainment tech and creature comforts. When it picked options for my RAV4 tester, it chose...all of them. The TRD Off-Road Weather Package added a heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats and rain-sensing wipers. Thanks to the Technology Package, I was surrounded by a multitude of safety features (which I'll cover further down in this review). The last major option took my media vehicle's infotainment tech to the next level. Its two main components were an 11-speaker JBL audio system and navigation displayed on an eight-inch touchscreen. Like all other 2020 RAV4 models, the TRD Off-Road's infotainment setup is now compatible with Android Auto, in addition to Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa.

Despite the fact that the RAV4 is one of Toyota's smaller crossovers, it's surprisingly roomy in the back seat. Headroom and legroom were not an issue. The cargo area was roomy, too. It easily swallowed a $250 trip to the grocery store that resulted in more than half a dozen bags of food and snacks and several large jugs of milk, water, juice and soda.

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2021 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road Performance

View of the engine block of the 2021 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road

 

All RAV4 TRD Off-Roads get down roads and up trails with the help of a naturally aspirated "Dynamic Force" 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. That sends its 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Unladen, the RAV4 is capable of returning fuel economy figures of 25 city, 32 highway and 27 combined mpg**; I put 334 miles on my press vehicle and averaged 27.8 mpg. When hooked up to a trailer, the RAV4 can pull up to 3,500 pounds.

The RAV4's all-wheel drive system contributes to those fuel economy figures by routing engine power through the front axle as much as possible and engaging the rear axle when more traction is needed. The Multi-Terrain Select strategically applies that power so that the RAV4 can get over a variety of surfaces, whether that's snow, mud and sand or rock and dirt. I used the last setting and the RAV4's 8.6 inches of ground clearance to turn a rough open lot near Austin, Texas's Zilker Park into an impromptu playground. When the sun went down and it was time to go home, all I had to do was press a button to put the RAV4 back in its road-friendly Normal mode.

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2021 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road Safety

View of the safety features of the 2021 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road

In terms of safety features, all RAV4s start at an impressively high baseline. The Star Safety System includes basics such as anti-lock brakes and traction and stability control. Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 is more advanced and adds Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist and more.

My test vehicle's optional TRD Off-Road Technology Package could help me park, give me an overhead view of the RAV4 and even display a perimeter scan of my surroundings. The most useful bit of tech in the entire bundle (aside from the wireless charging pad) was the digital rearview mirror, which gave me a look at what was behind me completely unobstructed by the RAV4's second-row headrests or rear pillars. 

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2021 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road Overall

Exterior view of the 2021 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road

New Year's resolutions may not be something that automotive companies make, but that doesn't change the fact that Toyota offers a variety of interesting and purpose-built machines for 2020. The first-ever RAV4 TRD Off-Road is an attractive and spacious rig with rugged looks and the hardware and tech to back them up. Head over to an AutoNation Toyota dealership to take it for a test drive.

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Derek Shiekhi | Feb 24, 2021


2021 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road Specs

Layout

4-door, 5-passenger, AWD

Engine/Transmission

2.5L I4, 203 hp, 184 lb-ft
Eight-speed automatic

Mileage

25/32 mpg (city/hwy)

NHTSA Safety Rating

★ ★ ★ ★ ★   


AutoNation Drive Test Drive Review: ★ ★ ★ ★


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*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

**Based on EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending on specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.