It’s the first really interesting RAV4 since the original and the TRD just looks wicked

Modern compact crossovers are some of the most popular types of vehicles nowadays, and one of the nameplates that helped establish this trend is the Toyota RAV4 that debuted in 1994. But ever since the first generation, now seen as a classic of the genre, Toyota has been watering down the RAV4 formula. This trend peaked with the previous-gen model that, in my eyes, was the least desirable RAV4 ever.

The 2020 RAV4 TRD Off-Road is a Special Breed

The 2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road is the Epitome of the Modern Compact Crossover
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Now, however, Toyota has launched an all-new RAV4 that is much cooler, and this coolness is epitomized by the 2020 RAV4 TRD Off-Road revealed at the 2019 Chicago auto show.

With it, Toyota reaffirms the fact that it doesn’t want its new RAV4 to be perceived as one of those sporty high riders designed exclusively to be used on the road.

By presenting this as a “performance” version of the RAV4 in a way, Toyota makes it clear that it can and will go off-road (it’s even mentioned in the name) - few rivals are promoted as having the same qualities, as most are just designed as tall city runabouts for families. But hardly any vehicles in its class come with twin-tube shock absorbers and this much ground clearance. It does look like it’s sitting quite high on its suspension, but it’s a look that really suits the new RAV4.

The 2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road is the Epitome of the Modern Compact Crossover
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Toyota says the TRD Off-Road has suspension as well as wheels and tires that help it drag itself over many off-road obstacles.

The automaker does say the suspension is still good for just driving to the supermarket, but that it can also take you over difficult off-road trails if you want it to.

But, why I think it’s really cool is because Toyota retained all the qualities that buyers appreciated about the RAV4 - decent ride and handling, an emphasis on hybrid powertrains, real off-road capability, and a wide range of available models. This new RAV4 TRD Off-Road now sits at the very top of the hierarchy, and I’m really happy it’s not another pointless raised hatchback with body cladding.

Granted, it probably looks more capable off-road than it actually is, but it’s still probably one of the better off-roaders in its size and price brackets. Its off-road credentials are boosted by its tall ride height, chunky tires that look ready for off-roading, bigger overfenders, and bigger roof rails than the standard model. “TRD Off Road” badging also helps it stand out, and the overall effect is a highly successful one.

The 2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road is the Epitome of the Modern Compact Crossover
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This obviously wouldn’t have been as attractive of a package if the new RAV4 itself wasn’t attractive, but thankfully it is, and the TRD Off Road version builds on it. Plus, to my eyes, this is a more sincere and genuinely useful take on the special edition of a high-riding crossover vehicle, one that will never be as good on-road as a sedan or hatch - why not embrace its loftiness and use it to its advantage for tackling rough ground?

Trying to make something this tall corner flat and drive really well on the road compromises it in all other areas, so this way of making a special RAV4 is, I think, the best (and most honest).

Toyota is really on a roll with nearly everything it puts the TRD badge on. In Chicago, it also showed off the highly capable and very cool looking 2020 Sequoia TRD Pro, that joins the 4Runner, Tundra, and Tacoma in the TRD Pro series of vehicles. This is part of Toyota’s ambition to shift its image from that of an automaker that churns out reliable but kind of dull vehicles, to one whose products are not just practical tools to get a job done, but also ones that tug at buyers’ heartstrings like it hasn’t done for decades.

The 2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road is the Epitome of the Modern Compact Crossover
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2019 Toyota RAV4 Drivetrain And Performance

Fuel Capacity 14.5 gallons
Drivetrain Layout (gas-only) Front-engine, FWD, AWD optional
Engine (gas only) naturally aspirated 2.5-liter Dynamic Force four-cylinder
Horsepower (gas only) 203 horsepower at 6,600 rpm
Torque (gas only) 184 lb-ft at 5,000 rpm
Transmission (gas only) Direct Shift eight-speed automatic
Drivetrain Layout (hybrid) Front-engine, AWD
Engine (hybrid) naturally aspirated 2.5-liter Dynamic Force four-cylinder
Horsepower (hybrid combined net) 219 horsepower
Horsepower (hybrid gas engine) 176 horsepower at 5,700 rpm
Torque (hybrid gas engine) 163 lb-ft at 3,600 rpm
Horsepower (electric motor) 118 horsepower (front), 54 horsepower (rear)
Torque (electric motor) 149 lb-ft (front), 89 lb-ft (rear)
Battery Type (hybrid) Sealed nickel-metal hydride
Transmission (hybrid) Electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (ECVT)
0-to-60 mph (gas only) 8.2 seconds
0-to-60 mph (hybrid) 7.8 seconds
Top Speed 130 mph (est.)

Further Reading

2019 Toyota RAV4 - Driven
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Read our full driven review on the 2019 Toyota RAV4.

2019 Toyota RAV4 Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Read our full review on the 2019 Toyota RAV4.

2019 Toyota RAV4 Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Read our full review on the 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.

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