Jim Bray's Car & Tech rants - publishing online exclusively since 1995
Toyota RAV4 TRD

Toyota's top selling RAV4 gets an off-road update for 2022

By Jim Bray
June 2, 2022

One of the first "cute utes" has, after decades, shed the "cute" aspect and is apparently upping the "ute" ante to make the vehicle an even more compelling choice for those who eschew asphalt periodically.

It's the RAV4 TRD, which stands traditionally for "Toyota Racing Development," not something one would necessarily connect with a compact ute like the RAV4, but Toyota has a long history of adding TRD trim to a variety of its sporty and non-sporty vehicles. And with varying results of sportiness.

And that's on top of an abundance of other RAV4 trim levels, from entry level to hybrid – 16 of them in all!

Click on the image to open a slideshow.

The RAV4 has been a top seller for the Japanese brand as the marketplace, alas, moves from cars to utility vehicles. Through its successive generations it has matured into an excellent vehicle that – as is typical of Toyotas – may outlive its owners.

My wife and are haven't been immune to its charms, either. Full disclosure: we own a 2013 RAV4, which is early in the previous generation and, while I'd rather be driving something a tad more fun (regular readers know I rant about Mazdas) and in this niche the CX-5 would be my go-to SUV, except that at the time we were shopping we couldn't find one in our price range that wasn't bagged. But my wife wanted a RAV4 anyway, so, we have one and are very happy with it and plan to keep it for many more years. I think my wife wants to be buried in it (fair enough; I want to be buried in my A4 Avant).

And of course, the current generation (this is my first drive of this RAV4 model), ups the features and stuff ante from previous versions, as is the wont of manufacturers.  "The 2022 Toyota RAV4 family is ready to help Canadians explore and do more – with a broad choice of models featuring unique combinations of style, features, and capabilities," said Cyril Dimitris, Vice President, Toyota Canada Inc. "From family drives, to weekend getaways, to epic vacations, the RAV4 delivers the driving fun, comfort, and versatility that help Canadians make the most of modern life – with the safety and efficiency that Canadians demand."

Alas, I think Toyota blew it with this current generation's exterior styling, which goes from cute and cuddly to long and boxy. Unfortunately, it appears that most people don't give a damn what I think because everywhere you turn these current RAV's assault my optic nerve. And that's probably just as well in the grand scheme of things, because it really is an excellent vehicle – and when you're inside it you don't see that exterior.

One thing I love about the current RAV4 is that it comes with an honest to goodness automatic transmission. Okay, I'd rather have a manual, but at least this generation of RAV hasn't been shackled with a damn continuously variable transmission, a "shiftless" system that's all the rage these days as long as you don't enjoy the art of driving and have an audio system loud enough to drown out its whining.

This tranny is an eight speed, which is worse than a six speed but better than a 10 speed (more gears mean more hunting and pecking when you're trying to exploit the power band) and it shifts well. The non-hybrid versions of the RAV4 use that tranny (hybrids are saddled with a damn CVT) to ensure the 2.5L Dynamic Force four-cylinder engine's 203 peak horsepower get to the road.  Toyota says front drive RAV's are rated at 7.9L/100km fuel mileage while the all-wheel-drive ones achieve 8.2L/100km.

The hybrids' 2.5 litre Atkinson cycle engine, and the CVT, are claimed to result in 219 Net Horsepower and a combined city/highway fuel efficiency rating of 6.0L/100km.

That "non-Atkinson" engine is a tad buzzy – it sounds almost as if it has a CVT even though it doesn't – but it isn't enough to be a deal breaker for me. Power is more than adequate and overall, the RAV4 offers a very pleasant driving experience if you aren't looking for SPORTY. If you partake of the Sport mode you may notice that activating it turns the scale on the speedometer red (Toyota's version of red mist?) but in my week behind the wheel I didn't notice a heckuva lot more sportiness than that. In fact, sport mode is pretty much a waste of time. Heck, my wife's 2013 has a better sport mode.

Still, it's pleasant enough.

Standard stuff across the 16 versions includes power-adjustable and heated outside mirrors, variable intermittent windshield wipers, and LED daytime running lights. Most of the iterations now get "one of two" newly-designed projector LED headlamp packages.

Toyota's sample was the Trail AWD version, with the optional TRD off road package added on top. That $5,440 package raises the Trail AWD version's base price from $38,350 to a still reasonable (if any prices are reasonable these days!) $43,790. The Trail model is an all-wheel-drive RAV4 Toyota says is designed for "adventure beyond the pavement." It comes with 19-inch TRAIL alloy wheels, bridge-type roof rails, LED fog lights, a dynamic torque vectoring differential with rear driveline disconnect, and a standard towing package that gives the vehicle a 1,588 kg (3,500 lb) towing capacity.

It also gets you wireless charging for your personal electronics, an aggressive grille, large over-fenders, and special fog lamp surrounds.

Spend that extra five and a half grand and the TRD Off Road package adds an off-road tuned suspension and 18-inch TRD alloy wheels wearing Falken all-terrain tires. It also features an 11-speaker JBL Audio system that's pretty good, and a nine-inch touchscreen display. Oh yeah, you also get such vital stuff as TRD badging, floor mats, and seat decorations. 

The Toyota tries hard to please and it usually succeeds, though I also had issues with its voice recognition. Rather than just jumping to attention when I barked at it, it would invite me to watch a video outlining how to use the system. While this might be handy if I used it before heading out, it's a stupid distraction when you're driving and don't have the time or the inclination to watch a damn video.

Perhaps such a system could merely be made so simple you don't need a virtual teacher aboard?

If I'm driving along and access the voice control, I want it to do what I say, not have it second guess me or offer up something for which I haven't asked.

Methinks in their zeal to be "user friendly and inclusive" they're actually muddying the technology waters.

On the other hand, have you driven a Honda lately?

Fortunately, you can click a virtual button to dismiss the video offer permanently.

All RAV4 models come bundled with connectivity stuff like CarPlay and Android Auto – all the more reason to not pay attention to the road outside – and you can order "Audio Plus with Remote", which will give you Remote Connect, Safety Connect, and Service Connect. Versions that have the Premium Audio Plus with Remote & Nav also get Embedded Navigation with Embedded Traffic and Weather, Destination Assist, and Map Updates.

Then there's the usual set of nannies you have to pay for even if you don't want them: in this case it's Toyota Safety Sense 2.0. Toyota calls it "a bundle of active safety technologies that help extend the driver's awareness and ability to avoid collisions, or mitigate their effect." Or you could just pay attention and hone your driving skills.

You also get Blind Spot Monitor and a back up camera with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (the latter two of which are actually nannies I do think are worthwhile).

RAV4's start with the LE FWD version (starting MSRP: $28,850) and you can option/configure it up from there to the top-line Prime XSE Premium Technology (starting MSRP: $56,990). That's starting to be serious money, though you do get a lot of stuff.

The top line hybrid RAV4 is the Hybrid XSE Technology, which starts at $44,850.

However you slice it and/or configure it, Toyota appears serious about offering a RAV4 for anyone looking in this niche (except folks looking to carve a few curves with wild abandon, it appears), and it's hard to fault that. And while it may be a touch bland, it's hard to argue Toyota's legendary quality and durability, and I would imagine this RAV4 will provide many, many years of service to its multitude of owners.

Hard to fault that, either.

Copyright 2022 Jim Bray

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