By on May 6, 2021

2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road

2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road Fast Facts

2.5-liter four-cylinder (203 horsepower @ 6,600 rpm; 184 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm)

Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive

25 city / 32 highway / 27 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

9.5 city, 7.5 highway, 8.6 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

Base Price: $35,280 (U.S) / $39,430 (Canada)

As Tested: $42,567 (U.S.) / $41,421 (Canada)

Prices include $1,120 destination charge in the United States and $1,960 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

If I told you a popular crossover that had good on-road manners got an off-road treatment, you’d probably think those manners would become a bit rougher around the edges.

In the case of the 2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road, you’d be mostly wrong.

Let me be clear from the outset – I had no chance to actually take this rig off-road during my time with it, so I can’t tell you if the TRD treatment turns it into a serious rock-crawler or is more show than go. I can’t tell you how it would stack up with the similar Ford Bronco Sport (especially in Badlands trim), either. I’ve taken the Ford off-road and it’s really good – but the RAV will get an incomplete grade for now.

Instead, this review will focus mostly on how putting an off-road package on a crossover that is meant for on-road family-schlepping affects it.

Which is, thankfully, not much. At least not in a negative way.

2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road

I’m on record as saying the RAV4 drives pretty well on-road, especially in Adventure trim, with a nice balance of engaged sportiness – at least relative to the type of vehicle it is – and comfortable but not too soft ride.

The good news here is that little of that is sacrificed by the off-road package. I didn’t notice much difference, on-road, between this RAV and its stablemates. In a way, the off-road-tuned suspension is to credit for that.

It’s meant to smooth out rough trails with coil springs that are tuned for off-roading, plus re-valved twin-tube shocks that have internal rebound springs. Yet that same tuning also helps tame potholed Chicago streets that barely qualify as “roads”.

2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road

One would think the Falken Wildpeak A/T tires that ride on lighter 18-inch wheels would be cause for compromise, but they work well enough for street driving in this application.

The other active aspect of the TRD package is the use of drive modes for mud and sand, rock and dirt, and snow. Electronic trickery includes hill-start assist control, trailer-sway control, and downhill-assist control.

One notable absence – skid plates. That could limit the RAV4 off-road. Toyota seems to have rectified this for 2021, however. Perhaps that’s because the new-for-2021 Bronco Sport offers them, at least in Badlands trim?

2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road

A 19.0-degree approach angle and 21.0-degree departure angle don’t inspire confidence in terms of just how severe a trail this RAV can tackle.

Again, I had no chance to play with these modes in nature’s sandbox. I will report back if and when I get a chance to drive a TRD RAV4 off the road.

Of course, many off-road packages include plenty of decoration, and this ride is no exception. In this case, it includes available two-tone paint, more-aggressive fender flares, dark gray lower front and rear fascias, standard front LED fog lamps, red interior stitching, TRD badging, and all-weather floor and cargo mats.

2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road

An optional Off-Road Weather Package includes a heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, and rain-sensing wipers. A similarly optional Off-Road Technology Package includes front and rear parking assist with automated braking, digital rearview mirror, wireless cell-phone charger, and cameras that give bird’s-eye and 360-degree views and can operate during low-speed maneuvering.

But wait, there’s more – other off-road bits include mudguards and running boards.

The off-road décor does “butch up” the RAV a bit, and it does so without looking silly – or making you feel silly while driving.

Lest you think I forget about the powertrain, I did not: It’s the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque that you see on other RAV4 trims. It’s mated to an eight-speed automatic and the TRD has all-wheel drive with torque vectoring.

Other available features aside from the off-road stuff include dual-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Toyota SafetySense (pre-collision system, radar cruise control, lane-departure alert with steering alert, lane-tracing assist, automatic high beams, road-sign assist), LED exterior lighting, moonroof, Bluetooth, USB, satellite radio, navigation, and JBL audio.

2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road

I question who this vehicle is for. Let’s assume, for a second, that the off-road dress-up is more than mere cosplay and this RAV4 can play well in the dirt. Who, other than hard-core TRD fans, puts RAV4 first when they think of small crossovers with off-road chops? Don’t most folks think Jeep Trailhawk or Bronco Sport?

Perhaps Toyota sees an opportunity here – the list of compact crossover that can truly frolic in the woods is limited. We’ve mentioned the Jeep(s) – Compass and Cherokee – and the Bronco Sport. Subaru has offerings that can get you down some rough roads, though I’m not certain a Forester can do what Toyota claims this TRD rig can. Obviously, we’ve not yet driven the Outback Wilderness. The RAV4 TRD seems to be a tweener – probably a bit more capable than the Subie and not quite on par with the Jeeps and the Ford. Again, a proper off-road test will settle that.

Certainly, there’s no Honda CR-V with an HPD off-road package.

2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road

Well, whoever the buyer is, he or she won’t have to sacrifice the best parts of the RAV4 in order to hit the old dusty trail. Though this RAV might not be as capable off-road as its targeted competition.

It may seem silly to offer a TRD package on a crossover that most peg as a vehicle for soccer parents, but to its credit, Toyota seems to have put a real effort in, as opposed to tossing on some badging and calling it a day. A bit more tweaking might be needed for true off-road chops, but this trim doesn’t lead to much on-road sacrifice.

That makes for a country critter that remains at home in the city.

[Images © 2021 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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33 Comments on “2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road Review – Dressed for the Country, Fine in the City...”


  • avatar
    jack4x

    “I question who this vehicle is for.”

    I do too. It looks like the TRD Off-Road trim of the 4Runner starts at just over $40K, making the $42.5K price of this thing seem ridiculous by comparison.

  • avatar
    wjtinfwb

    $42.5k is pretty steep coin for a RAV4, “butch” looking or not. Excluding the Bronco Sport and Cherokee Trailhawk, none of thee look suitable for anything more than a muddy trail and I’d imagine that’s where 99% of their owners will use them. If I needed off-road capability and had 40k to spend, I’d be looking at a 4Runner or similar vs. the RAV4

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    43 large for this ugly thing? Oh, hell no.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Another way to consider this: If the non-TRD RAV4 is, say, 90% as capable off-road as the TRD version, is the TRD package worth it?

    Either way, I don’t even need AWD, and no $42k CUV is worth that money unless you’re getting something really impressive in return.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    I wouldn’t look twice at this on a rental lot.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Toyota is sure proud of this little 203hp CUV. There’s a good selection of crossovers in the $42K price category. I would think very carefully about my needs before buying this one

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Again with the Cement Slurry Gray? Yes it was unique for about a day.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      The Cement Slurry Gray is also offered on Chrysler Dodge and Ram models, as they call it Destroyer Gray.
      It also bears a resemblance to an old Earl Scheib basic $29.99 color.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      No, it’s “Gray Primer Clearcoat”, and IMO, one of the worst colors to ever be put on a car. Destroyer Gray, or whatever, it just makes this, or any other vehicle, uglier.

  • avatar
    redapple

    “”Subaru has offerings that can get you down some rough roads, though I’m not certain a Forester can do what Toyota claims this TRD rig can. “”

    Well. Subaru has the most highly rated 4WD system outside of Land Rover.

    2- What is the GROUND CLEARANCE ? Forester> almost 9 inches.

    3- No tow hook / eyelet anchor receiver. Major Fail. (Forester yes)

    4- Start Stop Defeat???????

    5- Forester has semi skid plates covering engine bay.

    6- This RAV 4 is as% ugly. Plastic arch frames are joke worthy. Ever been behind one at a stop light? Worlds smallest rear brake lamp. A post stamp could cover it -literally.

    7- Tiny useless running boards. Jeez.

    8- Stuck on dash tablet. Barf.

    9- I could go on but who cares. Bye. Hard PASS!

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      “Well. Subaru has the most highly rated 4WD system”

      this is not longer a fact. Only WRX Sti has decent AWD.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdMEJI_4Whg
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPBnhfh9HoM <– come on, subaru

      and it is not doing any better than a Camry here

      • 0 avatar
        eng_alvarado90

        The point still stands in favor of the Subaru. Symmetrical AWD provides traction to any wheel with decent traction acting like a locking differential and that’s shown on the videos.

        Toyota on the other hand, doesn’t mention anything about LSD anywhere, it’s just a butched up Adventure (which is actually pretty nice on road and average off-road. The only letdown I can think about the Subaru is the tire selection from factory, which can be easily solved at your local tire shop.

        Just wondering why there are no videos about the Rav4… hold on, there you go: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQCEYavlIhs
        I don’t know Rick, torque vectoring is more like SW trickery…

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          Doesn’t Subaru mostly have on-demand awd now? Like everyone else. They used to have viscous couplings, as well as some other mechanical full time awd setups, but I don’t think most of their vehicles do anymore. The STI no doubt excepted. As for LSDs, I doubt any of them are mechanical. Electronic trickeries attempted passed off as viable substitutes, is something everyone has.

          Audi Quattros are mostly on-demand as well, these days. Have been for quite some time, outside of certain performance and upmarket models.

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            Subaru used to have 3-4 different AWD setups. They still do. STi, Manual and CVTs – all have a different setup. And yes, CVTs are now just plain regular AWD, not different from others. W/hat is different is when they turn on the special mode. X-something. Mazda is doing same thing. And in that mode the system becomes good off road/snow but it is not full time capable.

  • avatar
    gasser

    The price of these “not really off road” styling exercises has really bumped up into luxury vehicle pricing. This is darn close to what the lower end Mercedes SUVs cost in their current real world prices around here (I.e. $2-$3K off sticker isn’t unusual, and I’ve seen heftier discounts.) IDK about BMW and Audi, but I got a Mercedes GLC 2019 and my son got a Lexus NX 2020 for way under list.

  • avatar
    Rick Astley

    When did mushroom be an acceptable car color?

    Toyota has certainly championed the single stage enamel style paint comeback and doubled-down on it.

    It looks horrific in pretty much every application from this to the baby-puke green they advertise as “army green” so Americans can feel their jeans swell in nationalistic pride at having gone into battle with their Toyota.

  • avatar
    EX35

    How does the RAV4 still not have a turbo or v6? Who pays $40k for a NA 4cyl buzz box?

    • 0 avatar
      JD-Shifty

      people who don’t like repair bills and gas bills?

      • 0 avatar
        EX35

        Who buys a modern car these days and doesn’t have an extended warranty? You would be literally insane to expose yourself to the risk of current repair costs. Just today I was at the dealer getting an oil change and I overheard the service advisor telling some poor sap both cats were bad and it would cost $4100 to repair. Insanity. That’s literally twice the cost of my factory 8 year extended warranty.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Me, but I bought the unicorn.

        • 0 avatar
          4runner

          Honestly, I have owned all types of vehicles I have never gotten my money back from a manufacturer extended warranty plan. The Ford Ranger was a close call though. I have routinely driven vehicles pass 200,000 miles with few if any issues. Again, the Ford Ranger had issues at around 100,000 miles. A Pontiac Grand Am had issues at 150,000 miles. My 4Runner had 262K before I sold it – no major repairs. My outback has 120K – no major repairs.

          Maybe this is a Jeep thing or a Euro thing?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      The 3rd generation offered a V6 from 2005-12.

      V6 engines are dying off.

  • avatar
    Mike-NB2

    RAV4s are as common as mosquitos where I live and I can say with reasonable certainty that the usual RAV4 buyer around here wouldn’t be the slightest bit interested in this package. Now if they had an autopilot that you could program in the pharmacy, the doctor’s office and the grandkids then THAT would sell well. The average age of a RAV4 owner around here must be north of 70. And those under 70 are probably wishing they were older.

  • avatar

    I think I saw article about this SUV yesterday here in TTAC. Am I hallucinating?

  • avatar
    nrd515

    This thing gets a hard pass for ugliness and price. Like several other vehicles lately, the price is just insane.

  • avatar
    guy922

    The Rav4 is not even Toyota’s most premium SUV/Crossover offering…..I know this would obviously still be a higher trim level, but still. Seems really high for what you get. I rented a ’20 Rav4 XLE last winter for a trip I had to take on short notice. It was a decent effort, but I realized on that trip from CO to Tennessee, that the Rav4 is not what you get because you are looking for a premium experience. It is still fairly basic transport that wont offend mainstream buyers. Those looking for more substance would be better off starting at the 4Runner or beyond.

    When I had that rental for ten days, by the end of the trip, I couldn’t help but feel like the interior was a tad on the chintzy side compared to what I (used to) expect from Toyota. Cheap and tacky fabrics and hard plastics galore. I also wasn’t impressed with the seat comfort. No Matter what I did, I never felt like I found the “right” position. Felt like I had virtually no thigh support either. I did enjoy the cargo space though. Was able to bring a sideboard back with me that I hadn’t planned on.

    To each their own. If you must have one, please spend some time with it before committing. Personally though, even as a Toyota person, it’s not for me. But then again, I’m in that minority demographic that still likes their sedans. The Avalon is far more compelling to me personally of their current offerings than the Rav4.

    I’m sure though, that the Rav4 is great for the right customers. I just don’t happen to be part of the audience for it. Looking back though, the Rav4 has always been the one that never appealed to me out of their lineup. But they sell many and they serve their owners well. Just not my cup of tea. Couldn’t justify blowing $42k on one thats for sure! I’d go for a Sienna before the Rav4, perosnally speaking.

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