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Sunday Drive: Toyota RAV4 TRD – Can a refined crossover embrace the dirt?

By Craig and Deanne Conover - Daily Herald | Jun 8, 2024
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The 2024 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road.
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Inside the 2024 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road.
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Inside the 2024 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road.
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Inside the 2024 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road.
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Inside the 2024 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road.
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The 2024 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road.

After having various opportunities over the years to enjoy the Toyota RAV4, we have come the conclusion -- along with many others -- that it has carved a niche for itself as the quintessential suburban SUV. Comfortable, reliable and fuel-efficient, it's an awesome choice for families on the go.

But what if one craves a hint of adventure beyond the dreaded school pickup line? Enter the 2024 RAV4 TRD Off-Road, a variant that injects some off-road capability into the ever-familiar RAV4 formula.

This begs the question: Can a manufacturer credibly meld off-road prowess with everyday comfort in a single vehicle? We spent a week behind the wheel of the 2024 RAV4 TRD Off-Road to find out, figuring that if anyone could, it would be Toyota with quite the line of luxury and off-road prowess behind them.

Aesthetics: Rugged refinement

The TRD Off-Road doesn't stray far from the RAV4's recognizable silhouette. However, subtle visual cues hint at its adventurous spirit. Black 18-inch TRD wheels with Falken Wildpeak all-terrain tires set the tone.

Gloss black accents adorned the grille, fenders and badges, and a matte black hood added a touch of unique purpose. While not a full-fledged off-road beast, the TRD Off-Road had a rugged sophistication that set it apart from its tamer, urban-dwelling brethren.

Interior: Familiar comfort with off-road touches

Getting inside the RAV4 TRD Off-Road found us content with the familiar layout and quality materials we have found in other RAV4 trims. The seats were comfortable and supportive, offering ample leg and headroom for us and anyone sitting in the rear seat.

The infotainment system, while not the most cutting-edge, was still very user-friendly, integrated seamlessly with our phones using Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and came with a 10.5-inch multimedia touch screen display.

However, the TRD treatment added a few more uniquely distinctive touches. TRD logos adorned the headrests and floor mats, and a unique gauge cluster displayed a compass and inclinometer -- helpful tools when navigating any off-road trails.

Overall, the interior prioritized comfort and functionality, striking what we agreed was a good balance between everyday use and weekend adventures.

Performance: A capable compromise

The TRD Off-Road shares the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine found in other RAV4 models, producing 203 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. While we found that acceleration wasn't neck-snapping, it was sufficient for daily commutes and highway cruising.

The eight-speed automatic transmission shifted smoothly, and the standard all-wheel-drive system provided confidence in any weather conditions that we encountered during our weeklong test drive.

However, the true star of the TRD Off-Road show is its off-road capability. Ground clearance is increased by 0.8 inches compared to the standard RAV4, providing a bit more breathing room on uneven terrain. At almost an inch, it can really make a difference.

More importantly, the TRD features Toyota's Multi-Terrain Select system. This allowed us to choose between different drive modes optimized for mud and sand, rock and dirt, or snow -- this is a feature typically reserved for more hardcore off-roaders.

We were able to take the RAV4 TRD Off-Road on a light off-roading excursion, tackling dusty trails and rocky inclines. The all-wheel-drive system and Falken tires impressed, providing good traction and control.

The Multi-Terrain Select system proved its worth, with the "Rock and Dirt" mode confidently navigating loose gravel and uneven surfaces. While not a rock crawler, the TRD Off-Road proved surprisingly capable for casual off-road exploration.

Compromises and considerations

Of course, there are compromises when attempting to blend on-road comfort with off-road capability. The aforementioned engine, while adequate, might leave those seeking a more spirited driving experience wanting. Additionally, the TRD's off-road tires contributed to slightly more road noise when compared to the standard RAV4.

Fuel efficiency was pretty good with the Toyota. The TRD Off-Road achieves an EPA-estimated 25 mpg city and 35 mpg highway, slightly lower than the standard RAV4, and we were able to achieve a combined 29 mpg for the week.

However, for those prioritizing off-road capability, these compromises are likely acceptable trade-offs.

Safety features abound

Toyota prioritizes safety in all its vehicles, and the RAV4 TRD Off-Road is no exception. It comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+, a suite of advanced driver-assistance systems that includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, and adaptive cruise control. This comprehensive suite of features provides peace of mind on both paved roads and off-road trails.

The verdict: A well-rounded mobile adventure

The 2024 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road isn't a hardcore off-road conqueror, nor is it a stripped-down utilitarian vehicle. Instead, it occupies a unique space, offering a blend of everyday comfort, on-road capability, and a surprising amount of fun injected into the blend. The RAV4 would be a great addition to any growing family, or be the perfect fit for empty nesters like us.

Base price: $38,095

Destination charge: $1,350

Price as driven: $41,725

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