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Off-roading in Sedona in the 2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD. Photo: Bill Rapai/Axios

Last week in Sedona, Arizona, we spent time trail-driving in Toyota's new 2020 RAV4 TRD off-road model.

Why it matters: I don't always get to try out a vehicle's full capability during a short press loan. This was a rare opportunity to get off the beaten highway.

The big picture: The RAV4, America's top-selling crossover, is the latest Toyota model to get its TRD (Toyota Racing Development) package inspired by the brand's off-road and desert racing history.

Details: With an 8.6-inch ground clearance, its suspension, wheels and tires are engineered specifically for trail driving.

  • A knob on the center console lets the driver choose between terrains: Mud & Sand, Rock & Dirt, or Snow.
  • But even in normal highway driving, the RAV4 was comfortable and smooth — a great family hauler with tons of cargo space.
  • The TRD package includes a helpful 360° bird's-eye view camera in low-speed drive and reverse to ensure you don't clip a rock — or a curb.
  • And I adored the RAV4's two-tone "Lunar Rock/Ice Edge" matte paint job.
  • The TRD off-road model starts at $35,180; our test model was priced at $42,902.

In Sedona, we explored several trails, carefully crawling over red rock shelf on Schnebly Road until the trail got more challenging.

  • Later we kicked up some dirt on the dusty trails in the Coconino National Forest, terrain that seemed more suited to the RAV4's capability.

The bottom line: I spent $12 on an "ultimate" car wash at the end of the week, but it was worth every penny. Sometimes, it's still fun to drive.

Go deeper: The climate war over cars intensifies

Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.

Obama stumps for McAuliffe, urges Virginians not "to go back to the chaos"

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama framed a Nov. 2 gubernatorial race as a bellwether for the Democratic Party and the country, telling a crowd at a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe on Saturday that "I believe you, right here in Virginia, are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we're not going to indulge in our worst instincts."

Why it matters: With just over a week to go before Election Day in the Commonwealth, McAuliffe is bringing out the big guns. The 44th president appeared on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University to urge supporters to get to the polls.