DETROIT — You don’t often think of the Toyota RAV4 as an off-road vehicle. But for the second year in a row, the TRD version of this crossover has been named Compact SUV of Texas.
To be precise, we are talking about the 2021 RAV4 TRD Off-Road. It was powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that made 203 horsepower and a 184 pound-feet of torque at an astoundingly high 5,000 RPM.
It was mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with a dynamic torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system. This combination got 25 mpg in the city, 32 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg combined.
We thought the engine ran a little rough, but that was under duress — in other words, in the mornings headed toward the gym when we had not given it time to warm up. Once it had, the four-cylinder smoothed itself out.
If you want or need a little more oomph, there is a 3.2-liter four-cylinder but we’re not sure that it can be had in this trim line.
Still, this RAV4 had a rugged look. Black cladding framed the wheel openings and there were pronounced roof rails up top.
The interior was dominated by the floating touch infotainment screen atop the dash. The instruments were all digital. The black interior was accented with red stitching. And the cupholder section was also outlined in red. There was also a moonroof.
It was a simple layout. Beneath the screen was a band of controls for the climate and beneath that was a nook that held a 12V plug and a USB jack. The padding for that nook was the wireless charging pad.
There were two more charging USB jacks inside the center console. We had heated and cooled front seats, as well as a heated steering wheel, and automatic high beams.
The RAV4 TRD had several drive modes. There was the traditional eco, normal and sport. Then there was mud/sand, rock, and snow. We tried sport for a while, but not the rest of them. At this writing, it had barely snowed here.
The surround-view camera showed an illustration of the four wheels as it circled the car. Engaged while moving, the camera would show us what the wheels were doing. Trust us, that is important when traversing off-road.
There were two more USB charging jacks in the back seat area. We thought there was also headroom galore back there. There was plenty of hip room and three people could sit in the back seat but not for too long. The floor around the tunnel was a bit short.
Toyota said this RAV4 had the first-ever TRD-stamped stainless-steel front skid-plate, the 2021 model benefits from increased resistance against debris found on or off the road.
Other key off-road features of the vehicle included matte-black TRD alloy wheels and TRD-tuned suspension engineered to enhance body control and small-bump isolation.
The vehicle’s Falken Wildpeak A/T Trail all-terrain tires use a unique tread pattern and compound developed to TRD technical requirements, and their rugged, square-shoulder design helps protect against punctures.
The 2021 RAV4 TRD Off-Road could also tow 3,500 lbs. It had LED headlights and fog lights as well as daytime running lights. Of course, there was Toyota’s suite of safety equipment that included pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitor.
There was a $1,620 premium audio system, as well as a $1,950 off-road technology package that included the bird’s-eye view camera with perimeter scan.
We thought $42,622 for the 2021 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road as tested was not bad.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.