Plug-in hybrid crossovers make a lot of sense, but most mainstream automakers have avoided them. That's changing today as Toyota has used the Los Angeles Auto Show to introduce the 2021 RAV4 Prime.
Set to go on sale next summer, the RAV4 Prime takes everything that was good about the standard model and improves it. As a result, the crossover is the most powerful, most fuel-efficient and quickest RAV4 ever created.
In order to achieve these seemingly conflicting goals of performance and fuel efficiency, Toyota gave the model a plug-in hybrid powertrain. It’s loosely based on the one in the RAV4 Hybrid, but it features more powerful electric motors and a high-capacity lithium-ion battery pack. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine has also been retuned to produce 176 HP (131 kW / 178 PS) and 168 lb-ft (228 Nm) of torque.
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Fast and frugal
Like the RAV4 Hybrid, the RAV4 Prime has an electronically controlled all-wheel drive system which uses a rear-mounted motor to power the rear wheels. Toyota didn’t say how powerful the motor is, but the RAV4 Prime has a combined output of 302 HP (225 kW / 306 PS). That’s 83 hp (62 kW / 84 PS) more than the RAV4 Hybrid, and the extra power enables the crossover to run from 0-60 mph (0-96 km/h) in just 5.8 seconds.
The impressive numbers don’t end there, as the RAV4 Prime has an estimated electric-only range of 39 miles (63 km). Toyota says that’s the longest range of any PHEV crossover on the market and it’s only 8 miles (13 km) less than the Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid. Furthermore, the model has an estimated combined fuel economy rating of 90 MPGe.
Thankfully, practicality hasn’t been sacrificed. As Toyota noted, the battery pack is mounted under the floor and this means interior space isn’t compromised. It also helps to lower the center of gravity and improve stability.
The 2021 RAV4 Prime will be offered exclusively in SE and XSE trims. The SE features a unique grille, an aerodynamic front spoiler and piano black accents and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Moving into the cabin, drivers will a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats and an 8-inch infotainment system with Amazon Alexa, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. Other standard features include an 8-way power driver’s seat, a power liftgate, a Blind Spot Monitor and a 7-inch multi-information display in the instrument cluster.
If that isn’t luxurious enough, buyers can opt for the Weather & Moonroof Package. It adds a moonroof, a heated steering wheel and heated second row seats. Other additions include rain-sensing wipers and a windshield wiper de-icer.
The XSE is the more stylish of the two, sporting a two-tone exterior with a contrasting black roof, vertical LED daytime running lights and larger 19-inch alloy wheels. The latter are exclusive to the model and are the largest wheels ever fitted on a hybrid RAV4.
The interior has an upscale vibe as there’s synthetic leather seats, ambient lighting and a moonroof. Toyota also installs a wireless smartphone charger, a larger 9-inch infotainment system and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated garage door opener.
Last but not least, there are paddle shifters which are a first for the RAV4. While they typically feel gimmicky in crossovers, Toyota said drivers can downshift to increase regenerative braking.
An available Premium Package ups the ante by adding ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel and a panoramic moonroof. Other additions include heated second row seats, a head-up display and a digital rear-view mirror. Rounding out the highlights are a power passenger seat, a Bird’s Eye View Monitor and a JBL premium audio system.
Besides the aforementioned equipment, the SE and XSE come equipped with the Toyota Safety Sense suite of driver assist systems. It includes automatic high beam headlights, adaptive cruise control and a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection. The suite also features lane departure alert with steering assist, lane tracing assist (lane centering) and road sign assist.
This, then, is everything we need to know about the latest and greatest addition to the RAV4 range – bar the pricing, of course, which should be revealed closer to launch.