There was no mistaking the purpose and ethos. It was a vehicle made purely for fun, not by driving pleasure but rather being able to take you anywhere. The first generation was even sold as a two-door as well as a convertible. After multiple generations and fierce rivalry with the Honda CR-V, the edges and attitude of the RAV4 have been rounded off to become more utilitarian and family friendly. Fast forward to 2020 with the RAV 4 in its fifth generation, Toyota is trying to bring back some of the fun with this 2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road.
The 2020 RAV4 has two different front fascia to distinguish between the regular model and the more rugged trail version. The standard models use more contemporary styling, while the TRD Off-Road trim is based on the Trail, with more chiseled styling. The front grill is blacked out and larger, accompanied with a pair of smaller grilles housing the fog lights. The chin is garnished with a silver trim piece resembling a skid plate, but is only a painted trim piece. The combination results in a visually aggressive front end.
The TRD Off-Road package fits the RAV4 with a set of blacked out 18-inch TRD alloy wheels, and our tester came in a TRD trim unique Magnetic Grey Metallic with a $540 dollar Ice Edge roof. The roof draws inspiration from Toyota’s heritage of using white roofs on their FJ and Land Cruiser models. Adding to the rugged theme are blacked out wing mirrors and emblems. The differences of the TRD trim are minor but the results are obvious; the TRD Off Road looks ready to take on any terrain.
The interior is a marriage of rugged design with refined materials. The controls, more notably the two main HVAC control knobs and shifter, are large and robust, and the knobs are knurled with textured rubber. The shifter is short and stubby filling your palm with a substantial feel. The dash has a hard edge running across simulating an upright truck like design but rounded off with Softex, contrast stitching and brushed silver highlights for a more contemporary touch. The TRD Off-Road trim adds red stitching to the seats and also red contrasting designs in the cup holder and phone charger cubby. There is also storage space added along the front dash in the passenger side to enhance usability.
Ergonomics of the RAV4 are excellent. The driving position is also sublime; the seats are comfortable and supportive to help eat up the miles on long road trips. What were previously luxury features such as ventilated seats are now available on more mainstream models such as this, to make those summer adventures much more pleasant. Improvement is needed for the passenger side due to an annoyingly high seating position that cannot be height-adjusted. Rear accommodations are is extremely generous, with reclining seats (which cannot be adjusted while seated.
The 2020 RAV4’s cargo space is generous at 1,059 liters behind the rear bench, which increases to 1,977 liters with the 60/40 split folding rear seats folded down. To satisfy any extra cargo needs, the RAV4 also has a towing capacity of 1,500 pounds which increases to an even more impressive 3,500 pounds in the Trail versions. From people carriage to cargo hauling, the current RAV4 can truly do it all.
To further enhance the people carrier experience, the RAV4 is equipped with an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The TRD Off-Road trim adds a slew of tech goodies to aid the road trip experience, including an 11-speaker JBL sound system offering thumping bass and crisp treble. It also includes navigation with weather and traffic, including three map updates over three years. Safety tech includes rear cross traffic alert as well as Toyota’s impressive Safety Sense 2.0 which includes lane tracing assist, lane departure warning, full speed range dynamic cruise control and pre-collision warning.
The RAV4’s handling benefits significantly from using the coveted TNGA platform. This architecture underpins most modern Toyotas. As such, the compact crossover has exceptional handling, with a neutral and responsive nature. This trim equips the RAV4 with off road tuned suspension and all terrain tires. We’re happy to report there are no notable sacrifices on road and the ride on gravel trails is smooth as silk. Despite its off-road credentials, the on road manners are excellent.
All non-Hybrid versions of the RAV4 are powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with dual variable valve timing, pushing 203 horsepower. Power is delivered through an eight speed automatic gear box which is a welcome departure from the previous generation’s CVT. Unfortunately, the drivetrain is not very refined and remains quite loud and raspy even during normal acceleration. Power is more than adequate and the crossover feels torquey, however the lack of refinement takes away from the experience.
The Multi Terrain select system also controls how the Active Torque all-wheel-drive system works to ensure the RAV4 is sure-footed in all conditions. The system also has the ability to disconnect and run as a front-drive vehicle in most conditions, to improve fuel efficiency. Toyota Canada provides ratings of 9.2L/100km city, 7.1L/100km highway, and a combined 8.2L/100km. During our week of testing we were able to average 8.9L/100km in mixed driving, right within the advertised ratings. Those wanting even more efficiency can opt for the Hybrid (reviewed here).
At a base price of $28,090, the RAV4 represents great value with solid bones. This model here, equipped with the $2,820 TRD Off-Road package is as-tested at $42,250. At this price, the RAV4 is well equipped with most of the creature comforts you can think of. However, competition like the Mazda CX-5 Signature (reviewed here) is still cheaper at $41,900. The RAV4 is slightly more expensive than its competitors but does add more character in a sterile category of cars catered to family utility and ease of use.
The 2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road is a welcome change of pace to liven up the compact crossover segment. Even though the TRD Off-Road trim does not add equipment like skid plates or fox shocks, it still gives the RAV4 rugged looks to make it a great adventure companion. With the added features to an already excellent vehicle, the RAV4 is an excellent do-it-all vehicle reminding buyers what “RAV4” originally stood for. This compact crossover has all of the boxes checked, ensuring it will continue to be one of the class leaders.