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2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime Plug-In Hybrid - Review by Larry Nutson +VIDEO

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2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime
Performance plus efficiency

By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

Back in the Spring in this year of the pandemic I drove Toyota’s 2020 RAV4. In closing out my review I wrote “a bit more excitement is coming in the form of the 302-horspeower Toyota RAV4 Prime, a 2021 model that will arrive in summer 2020. It’ll be the most powerful and quickest RAV4 ever while also being the most fuel-efficient.”

Well, it’s here and I just drove it.

Toyota says the RAV4 Prime can do 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds and says it’s the quickest four-door model in the Toyota lineup.

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It’s the first-ever RAV4 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). Specific tuning of the regular RAV4 Hybrid’s 177hp 2.5L 4-cylinder paired with more-powerful motor-generators provides a total system output of 302hp. With a newly developed high-capacity Lithium-Ion battery and a booster converter, the 2021 RAV4 Prime PHEV yields an 83hp jump in total system output over the RAV4 Hybrid and has the most horsepower in its segment.

An electronically controlled CVT drives the front wheels and a separate rear-mounted electric motor powers the rear wheels for all-wheel drive performance when needed.

There’s an estimated 42 miles of pure-electric driving range. The EPA rating is an estimated 94 MPGe. EPA fuel economy ratings are 40mpg city and 36mpg highway. Center console mounted drive mode controls allow for gas engine only operation to save battery charge, for example for in-city use.

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The 5-seat RAV4 Prime is plenty roomy with 33.4cuft behind the rear seat and 63.1cuft with the rear seat folded. The battery is mounted under the floor so that cargo space is not compromised. There’s 8.1in of ground clearance for deep snow or occasional off-road driving. A Trail mode can be engaged making it possible to get unstuck by braking a spinning wheel and sending torque to the grounded wheel.

Two well-equipped trims are offered: the sporty SE priced at $38,100 and the sportier XSE priced at $41,425, plus $1,120 for shipping and handling. Of note, RAV4 Prime customers also may qualify for an $7,500 federal tax credit as well as various state incentives. Look at:

I drove the XSE trim equipped with the Weather with Audio and Premium Package which added $5,760.

The RAV4 Prime is equipped for the performance driver. With a sport-tuned suspension plus the all-wheel drive (AWD) system driving dynamics are very well balanced. The AWD helps to reduce understeer in corners. There’s a decent level of fun in this SUV.

The 302hp gives you plenty of go-power with AWD helping to launch cleanly. Selectable drive modes provide for normal, economy and sport driving. There’s a lot of performance packed into this hybrid.

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Both trims are nicely equipped. If you want leather seating the XSE is the only choice. Plus, it has the unique two-tone paint scheme with the black roof. Also, the optional navigation can only be had on the XSE. However, both trims have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability to use your mobile phone mapping.

Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 suite of advanced driver-assist safety (ADAS) equipment is standard. The XSE Premium Package adds rear cross-traffic braking and front and rear parking assist with automated braking.

A number of premium features are available including head-up display, JBL premium audio, heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, heated outboard rear seats, digital rearview mirror, kick-type hands-free power rear hatch, and a 360-degree view camera.

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What’s nice about the RAV4 Prime is both trims provide the same level of performance and then it’s left to the customer to add features as they wish.

More information and details on the RAV4 Prime PHEV can be found at

I charged the RAV4 Prime's battery at a free public charging station near my home adding about 26 miles of range in about 2 hours. The battery can be fully charged in about 12 hours by plugging the charging cable into a standard household outlet. (120V 12A) When using a public charging station (240V), RAV4 Prime can be fully charged in as little as 4 hours and 30 minutes (16A), or 2 hours and 30 minutes with the 6.6 kW onboard charger on Prime XSE (32A).

In around-town stop and go driving, regenerative braking works well to restore charge. City-type driving brings out the strength of a hybrid and delivers the lowest overall fuel consumption due to a high percentage of electric driving.

The ideal set-up is to have your own 240v charger at home so the battery can conveniently be charged. One of the hurdles in electrified vehicle ownership impacts those who live in multi-unit dwellings and the need to provide charging ability in large garage complexes or for those who park on the street. The planners are working on solutions.

© 2020 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy