The TRD Toyota RAV4 Makes Sense

Toyota’s crossover defines “mild.” It’s time to bulk up.

TRD Toyota RAV4

TRD stands for Toyota Racing Development, the Japanese automaker’s in-house tuning arm that is preferential in the U.S. to trucks and exemplary off-road aptitude. Having already laid hands on the Tundra, Tacoma, 4Runner and Sequoia, though, the go-fast specialists will go small-ball with what should be next in the lineup, a RAV4 TRD.

This isn’t completely out of left field. Last year Toyota entered a TRD-modified RAV4 in the Rally America series, where driver Ryan Millen and navigator Christine Fate won four of five races. The success has led to a larger campaign schedule this year. Add that to the public reaction to the angry-yet-cute racing crossover put on display at events throughout 2015, and you have a likely source for TRD’s decision.

Toyota General Manager Bill Fay all but announced it during the Chicago Auto Show, but would only say, “You might just find some of that TRD racing magic trickle down to a special production RAV4 model.” This means we don’t know the timeline for its arrival, and the phrase “special production” could signify that it will be a limited-edition gift.

The irony here is that in 1994 the RAV4 inaugurated the crossover craze by combining SUV-like seating position and practicality with car-like build methods and drivability. By stripping every iota of ruggedness out of an SUV’s rugged utility equation, the RAV4 sold like gangbusters to folks who wanted to work out in Curve classes, not behind the wheel. Now, at 22 years of age, it appears the retail RAV4 has decided it needs to hit the gym itself.