2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime first drive review: Have your cake and eat it, too

Nancy J. Delong

Gasoline-electric autos do not have to be dull and sluggish. I imply, they can be, but Toyota has confirmed that overall performance and performance are not mutually special. Situation in place: the 2021 RAV4 Prime. This plug-in hybrid SUV is the automaker’s second-quickest model immediately after the Supra sports activities car […]

Gasoline-electric autos do not have to be dull and sluggish. I imply, they can be, but Toyota has confirmed that overall performance and performance are not mutually special. Situation in place: the 2021 RAV4 Prime. This plug-in hybrid SUV is the automaker’s second-quickest model immediately after the Supra sports activities car or truck. With 302 horsepower on tap, it can zip from a standstill to 60 mph in as small as 5.7 seconds, a time that is legitimately swift. And many thanks to sufficient small-conclusion electric torque, it feels even fleeter.

Delivering that strong overall performance is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder motor, an Atkinson-cycle device borrowed from the RAV4 Hybrid but retuned for Prime time. Without having likely way too considerably into the complex weeds, it is really augmented by a trio of electric motor-generators, two in the front transaxle assembly, and a 3rd at the rear. The latter supplies on-demand from customers all-wheel travel by turning the aft tires. Serving as an electron reservoir is an 18.one-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, mounted below the key-cabin ground in a way that does not detract from passenger place. It truly is cooled utilizing air-conditioning refrigerant and is backed by a ten-yr/a hundred and fifty,000-mile warranty. Drivers are additional shielded from repair bills by a different, eight-yr/a hundred,000-mile guarantee that addresses other hybrid components.

That generously sized battery helps present an performance ranking of ninety four miles per gallon equal (MPGe) and an formal electric-only variety of 42 miles. Driving it cautiously and with the climate control off a great part of the time, I managed to coax 45 miles out of the RAV4 Prime whilst managing exclusively on electrons. Truthfully, I anticipated a small much more taking into consideration I was driving fairly conservatively and the situations have been ideal, with temps in the upper 70s. However, Toyota has shipped on its variety promise.

As for performance, managing this motor vehicle about fifty% on energy and then fifty% on gasoline after the battery pack was depleted, I averaged an indicated 45.3 mpg, however that figure is probably deceptive due to the fact authentic-globe overall economy relies upon significantly on the ratio amongst individuals two operating modes. If, for occasion, you travel fifty miles and 42 of them are all electric, the common fuel overall economy is likely to be significantly greater than if you consider a 600-mile highway journey burning fossil fuel the full way. In that use scenario, when operated as a typical hybrid, the RAV4 Prime is rated at a however-remarkable 38 mpg by the EPA.

The occasions, they are a-chargin’

Hook the RAV4 Prime up to an standard one hundred twenty-volt house outlet, and it takes close to twelve several hours to fully replenish the battery pack. Plug it in to a 240-volt line with 16 amps of juice, and that time drops to close to four.5 several hours. However, if that’s not speedy enough, XSE styles with the premium offer (a $3,765 upcharge, which also involves the $815 weather offer and the $one,620 audio offer) can recharge in as small as 2.5 several hours if you have accessibility to a 6.6-kilowatt, 240-volt outlet.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

As public charging stations come to be much more and much more prevalent, it will be less difficult and less difficult to reside with an electric motor vehicle.


Craig Cole/Roadshow

Immediately after depleting the battery for the duration of screening, I discovered a nearby ChargePoint public station. Hooked to a Level 2 outlet managing at 6.6 kW, the motor vehicle attained thirteen miles of EV variety immediately after about 45 minutes of charging, correct in line with Toyota’s 2.5-hour declare.

Inspite of fundamentally inventing the present day hybrid, this is Toyota’s 1st plug-in SUV. There is no shortage of similar crossover SUV styles readily available currently, but they’re largely at the upper conclusion of the market place. There are not way too lots of direct opponents to the RAV4 Prime. Subaru’s Crosstrek is one particular, but it only delivers 17 miles of electric variety. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is one more, with an advertised 22 miles of juice. It truly is conceivable you could possibly cross-shop this Toyota with plug-in versions of the Kia Niro or even the Chrysler Pacifica, but none of these are a ideal match, possibly. Really, this RAV4’s number-one particular rival is the new Ford Escape PHEV, which delivers a bit less electric variety at 37 miles and has close to ninety three less horsepower, but at least it is really a touch much more efficient at a hundred MPGe.

Forceful nevertheless delicate-mannered

Driving the RAV4 Prime purely on energy is a great encounter. It truly is punchy, clean and practically silent. As with other EVs, there is tons of small-conclusion torque, which will make this Toyota leap off the line when you nail the accelerator. Its enthusiasm does wane at greater speeds, but its overall performance is however good, in a position to hit 60 mph in close to 9.2 seconds. Nonetheless, this vehicle’s overall performance shines most when driven as a hybrid. Toss that internal-combustion motor into the mix and this RAV4’s sprinting skills strengthen by leaps and bounds, with its -to-60-mph time dropping by practically 40%.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

Strong and efficient, what much more could you talk to for?


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When navigating corners, the Prime feels like it has a touch much more system roll than the RAV4 TRD I reviewed a short while ago. This is probable due to the fact of its softer trip, which is partly owing to masses of more weight. At about four,three hundred lbs in XSE trim, this motor vehicle is close to 500 lbs heavier than the bulkiest RAV4 Hybrid, many thanks to its significantly bigger battery pack. To accommodate that additional mass, the vehicle’s chassis has been retuned. The steering is gentle to the touch, however it is really not as crisp as in other RAV4s. The Prime is, however, extremely quiet within many thanks to laminated front aspect glass and additional seem deadening, alterations that make for a serene driving encounter. Braking really feel is also praiseworthy. This plug-in SUV’s pedal has good weight to it and is uncomplicated to modulate, with no discernible weirdness when transitioning from regenerative to friction braking.

A comfortable and versatile inside

Inside the RAV4 Prime, there is not significantly to get energized about, and that’s a great factor. Just like the non-plug-in model, this Toyota’s cabin is one particular of the much better offerings in this section, getting attractively created and created of quality materials. My XSE tester is additional gussied up with red stitching on the door panels, dashboard and elsewhere, in addition the seats are coated in SofTex imitation leather, which not only feels good but will make a convincing argument that cow hides are not required.

As in much more run-of-the-mill RAV4s, the Prime’s rear seat is generously portioned and fairly comfortable, with great aid, in addition lots of place for knees and noggins. A pair of 2.one-amp USB-A ports serve riders relegated to the again, however the motor vehicle is equipped with a total of five these kinds of retailers, in addition XSE styles feature Qi wi-fi charging, so nobody’s cellular phone has to go devoid of juice.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

This Toyota’s infotainment process is really middling, but the significant screen is very clear, bright and uncomplicated to attain.


Craig Cole/Roadshow

When it is really time to make an Ikea run for a load of marginal quality, affordably priced, flat-packed household furniture, the RAV4 Prime will make an excellent schlepper. It delivers 33.5 cubic feet of hauling place behind the second-row seat, a figure that grows to a claimed sixty three.2 when the backrests are dropped. These figures are a bit behind what the standard RAV4 and its hybrid counterpart provide. They both of those max out at 69.eight cubes. All in, the Prime however delivers a couple of much more cubic feet of place than the Escape plug-in.

When there is lots to like about the Prime’s inside, a couple of factors could be enhanced. The chicklet-like climate control buttons are basically way too modest to conveniently manipulate whilst driving, and some of the switches on the steering wheel really feel incredibly low-priced. 

Technological innovation bonanza

On that take note, I am not likely to additional bludgeon a deceased equine, but as I have talked about lots of occasions prior to, I have a tendency to obtain Toyota’s multimedia offerings to be unattractive and illogical, and that’s regrettably however accurate in the RAV4 Prime XSE. But it is really not all lousy news.

This infotainment process is at least speedy, and the pill-type 9-inch screen it is really splashed across is huge and uncomplicated to attain, as it is really mounted significant on the dashboard. Reduce-conclusion SE styles feature an eight-incher. With all that display screen authentic estate, Apple CarPlay (which, together with Android Car and Amazon Alexa compatibility will come standard) is super uncomplicated to use, exhibiting up good and major.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

The RAV4 Prime delivers lots of characteristics and facilities. 


Craig Cole/Roadshow

If you however require much more screens in your lifetime, do not fret, due to the fact all Prime styles feature a reconfigurable 7-inch display screen nestled in the gauge cluster. It truly is very clear and uncomplicated enough to cycle through the a variety of menus for factors like fuel overall economy and the journey odometer. If that’s not enough, XSE styles can even be equipped with a ten-inch color head-up display screen, which assignments applicable driving facts onto the windshield. This item is bundled with the $3,765 premium offer, which also will get you the aforementioned 6.6-kW charger, ventilated front seats and an magnificent digital rearview mirror. The latter characteristics nevertheless one more screen behind the glass where by a video clip feed from the reversing camera is exhibited to present a significantly broader discipline of see behind the motor vehicle.

That offer also features a 360-diploma camera process, which can be handy for selected parking situations — in idea at least. For some motive, this feature, and even the RAV4’s standard reversing camera, are appallingly lousy, super gritty and tricky to see on the infotainment screen. This is particularly unusual due to the fact the digital rearview mirror, which is readily available on XSE styles, seems great, offering a very clear, crisp graphic.

When it will come to highly developed driver aids, Toyota Security Perception 2. is standard products on the RAV4 Prime, bringing factors like computerized emergency braking and highway-indication recognition to the table. Lane-preserving aid is bundled, way too, and works fairly perfectly, even if it feels a bit smooth-handed. It does not lock you into the middle of the lane fairly as strongly as competing programs do, ensuing in much more wandering. You also get adaptive cruise control, however it is really alternatively middling. On the freeway, it is really great, seamlessly altering motor vehicle speed to match encompassing autos, but in halt-and-go targeted traffic it can be really jerky.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

Like other associates of the RAV4 relatives, the Prime model is fairly handsome. 


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Dollars and (prevalent) perception

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime is slated to begin arriving at dealerships in all fifty states later on this month. Retaining factors straightforward, it will be supplied in two trims: SE and XSE. My major-shelf tester arrived equipped with all three readily available options offers, factors that inflate its price tag tag to correct close to $49,000 which include $one,one hundred twenty in delivery service fees. That is a steep price tag to spend for what is a mainstream compact crossover SUV, however, that figure does not include any likely bargains. The RAV4 Prime could be eligible for up to $7,500 in federal tax credits, in addition other bargains supplied by individual states. Of program, you can conserve a major chunk of adjust by getting an SE model. They kick off correct close to $39,195. That is however a bit pricier than Ford’s entry-amount Escape plug-in hybrid, which begins at approximately 35 grand, but the RAV4 does have much more power and a nicer inside, plus  Toyota enjoys a much better reputation for extensive-phrase quality and resale price.

Punchy and efficient, the Prime is conveniently my decide of today’s RAV4 litter. The addition of a plug-in hybrid powertrain has created a great SUV even much better. If you can control the upcharge, this is the RAV4 to get.

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