—Rugged, handsome look. Roomy. Lively. Stable handling. Decent fuel economy.Cons
—Rather high climb up. Overly loud seat-belt buzzer. Big outside mirror partly blocks vision in turns.Bottom Line
—Adroitly designed compact SUV is easy to live with.
I had never driven an SUV painted Army Green. But such things as the 2024 Toyota RAV4
TRD Off-Road I drove had this color, and its 18-inch matte black TRD alloy wheels with big tires, higher ground clearance, black dual exhaust outlets and rather aggressive styling came together to make it look at first glance like a U.S. Army vehicle.
However, this is no such vehicle. Once underway, this RAV4—one of a variety of the long-popular RAV4 models—is a comfortable, high-quality, quiet and practical SUV. Introduced several decades ago and redesigned along the way, it long has been a top seller in its market segment.
The RAV4 TRD Off-Road is 180.9 inches long, 67.2 inches high and 73 inches wide.
Rivals include the Honda CR-V and Kia Sportage.
The $38,095 (without options) RAV4 TRD Off-Road is among a variety of long-popular RAV4 models, including a hybrid. A bunch of options (several over $1,000) and a delivery charge rose my test vehicle’s sticker price to $44,644. For example, the TRD Off-Road Premium Audio package is $1,390. A $640 option package contains compatible wireless smartphone charging. And my test RAV4’s black chrome exhaust tips, which really should be standard, cost an extra $199.
However, standard was Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD with multi-terrain assist and a TRD-tuned suspension. Also standard was a power sunroof with a sun shade along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
My test RAV4 TRD Off-Road had a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 203 horsepower and 184 pound/feet of torque. It provided lively in-town acceleration and good 65-75 m.p.h. freeway passing punch. The engine works with a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission, which can be manually shifted.
However, the four-cylinder sounds a little buzzy when you put your foot down hard. A 3-liter four-cylinder would provide faster acceleration and be quieter under hard acceleration, although estimated fuel economy likely would suffer.
Estimated fuel economy is 25 miles per gallon in the city and 32 on highways. Only 87-octane is needed to till the 14.5-gallon tank.
There’s comfortable room for four tall occupants, with nicely sculpted front seats, although five fit if the center rear occupant doesn’t mind a stiff seat section. The TRD Off-Road has a power seat, but the front passenger seat, which sits rather high, only slides backwards and forwards. There are plenty of storage areas, and Installing child seats should be relatively easy.
The cargo area has a low, wide opening to allow such things as easy grocery loading or quick loading/unloading at airports. The cargo hatch opens quickly and smoothly on hydraulic struts. Rear seat backs fold forward and sit flat to greatly increase the cargo area, which measures 37 cubic feet with seat backs up and 69.8 cubic feet when they’re lowered.
While the optional 12.3-inch color LCD-Info display was easy to use, drivers with short arms may find it too far away to be easily reached. No matter what size driver, the right-hand outside mirror, although providing good rear vision, partly blocks driver visibility when taking right-hand turns. The mirrors can be pushed back in the direction of the vehicle’s rear to prevent such things as parking lot damage.
Dashboard controls are easy to use, especially the rubber-covered ones for the sound system and dual-zone automatic climate controls. However the exceptionally loud fasten seat belt reminder buzzer is annoying.
Steering is firm, but quick and accurate, and the brake pedal has a reassuring linear feel. My test RAV4 TRD Off-Road was not a sports SUV, but it remained firmly planted when negotiating curves at above-average speeds, especially in driver selectable “Sport” mode. There’s a bit of body lean when put in “Normal” mode, used for most driving, but no tire squeal or alarming body sway in this mode. Stopping power should keep most drivers out of trouble in sudden-stop situations.
The ride is smooth in “Normal” and “Eco” modes without being bouncy.
There’s a traditional large speedometer and tachometer and various vehicle information is displayed near the speedometer area. For in stance, put the RAV4 in “Normal” driving mode and the word “Normal” appears along with the drawing of a car near the speedometer, which is accompanied by a digital readout. Also displayed are current fuel economy and distance to empty.
The “Sport” mode is suitable for crisp handling when, say, on twisty or mountains roads. It alerts the steering to feel firmer and acceleration to be a bit quicker. It doesn’t cause the ride to be too firm.The “Eco” mode is said to improve fuel economy, although it didn’t affect acceleration much. There’s also an indicator that shows driving range with remaining fuel and distance to empty. “Normal” mode is best for general use.
A console knob also can be turned right or left to better allow this RAV4 to better handle, mud, sand, rocks, dirt and snow, besides allowing downhill assist.
However, the RAV4 TRD Off-Road is not a “go-anywhere” off-roader. It’s best kept in “Normal” mode for mostly driving on regular roads.
This is essentially a family vehicle, so standard items include a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, range dynamic cruise control, lane departure alert, road sign assist, 8 air bags, backup camera with dynamic guidelines, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert and the downhill assist.
Want more? How about front/rear parking assist with automatic braking, wireless smartphone charging, and a heated leather-trimmed steering wheel with perforated and heated and ventilated front seats?
The 2024 RAV4 lineup needs a model such as the TRD Off-Road to liven it up.