Is Toyota Really Making a Hardcore 4×4 TRD-Pro RAV4?

Source: Toyota
Source: Toyota

While I was busy taking notes and photos at the Toyota booth at the Chicago Auto Show last week, distractedly watching leggy women with furry Russian hats, poofy vests, and skin-tight pants remove the shroud covering the all-new Toyota Tacoma TRD-Pro, someone said something that resonated. Maybe it was all the lattes the guys over at the Mazda booth had been feeding me earlier, but I could have sworn that Toyota Vice President and General Manager Bill Fay just told us they were looking into making a TRD-Pro RAV4.

“You might not be aware of our latest addition to the Toyota racing family,” the boisterous exec said. “I’d like to introduce Ryan Millen… and his 2016 RAV4 SE Rally. As you know … the compact SUV segment is one of the hottest in the industry … and we felt the need to add some heat of our own. Last year was our first shake down year … and Ryan won 4 out of 5 races.”

Toyota then showed us a some clips of the young rally driver and his fiancee navigator blast across mountainous trails. What made it extra badass was that the vehicle was simply an SE model, which is front-wheel drive and sports a very basic four-cylinder engine. After the hype video and all the rally noise had subsided, Fay got back on the mic.

“Not bad …especially considering that this RAV4 features a stock engine and automatic transmission,” he said. “Be on the lookout for the RAV4 Rally team as it will make its stop at several North American events throughout the year. Who knows … in the future … you just might find some of that TRD racing magic trickle down to a special production RAV4. That would be awesome!”

In my mind I was trying to picture what a TRD-Pro RAV4 would even look like. After diving onto Toyota’s media site to make sure I had not misheard this last part, I realized that maybe it wasn’t the caffeine talking after all. Then I got really excited.

Neither Toyota nor members of Millen’s team have made any powertrain modifications to the RAV4 seen in this video. It’s a ballsy rally car that happens to be powered by a stock, naturally aspirated RAV4 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. This means it only has about 176 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque on a good day, and that it remains front-wheel drive and mated to a cookie-cutter automatic transmission makes this team all the more peculiar. But nevertheless, this little crossover still competed in the 2WD-Open Class and won almost all of the races.

Even though modifications were safety, communications, traction, and convenience focused, Millen and his loving navigator got the pistons pumping back at the TRD lab, where a group of engineers were watching what their little guinea pig would do in the real world, and that is where things go dark.

For as exciting as a beastly little TRD-PRO RAV4 could be, it’s not really a truck guy’s kind of car — it’s more intended for urban Millennial use. But with TRD-PRO versions of everything selling out before they even reach sales floors, the demand for limited versions of extreme prowess is certainly a hot ticket right now. Which might actually give reason for Toyota’s push for this one.

If you haven’t priced a TRD-Pro Tacoma, Tundra, or 4Runner recently, you might want to prepare yourself for a bit of sticker shock. These trucks are pretty pricey, so having a more affordable, yet still capable smaller version of the 4Runner TRD-Pro might be just the ticket Toyota needs in order to squeeze out a few more sales. Also, Toyota has done a pretty stellar job at working with third parties in the development of the exclusive add-ons that make these trucks possible, so further supporting these relationships will only pay off stronger for them in the long run.

So what are we dying to see on a TRD-Pro RAV4 if it ever goes into production? Well, it would have to sport an all-wheel drive setup, and in true TRD-Pro tradition we would love to see some fatty tire options with different wheels, a lift in ride height, and maybe even a locking differential. It also would be cool to find a performance exhaust, intake, and bully bar up front in order to bring it all together for the final victory lap.

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