2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime Extends Plug-In Electrification Beyond the Prius

Mike Quincy

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The new 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime was introduced today at the 2019 LA Auto Show. “Prime” is Toyota-speak for plug-in hybrid. The current RAV4 hybrid is among the most competitive compact SUVs in CR’s ratings, delivering an outstanding 37 mpg overall, but this new plug-in version runs on electricity for longer and more often.

The RAV4 Prime comes with all the key advanced safety features that are standard on all RAV4s.

Toyota expects the new plug-in Prime to arrive at dealerships in the summer of 2020.

CR’s Take

The regular RAV4 hybrid is a highly competitive compact SUV, scoring well in CR’s ratings. Adding some guilt-free all-electric miles to the cruising range and reportedly quicker acceleration brings more spice to the stew. We’ll be especially interested to see what kind of fuel economy the Prime delivers when the EV reserves are used up—that is, when it reverts to regular hybrid operation. When we tested a Toyota Prius Prime, we saw a 2 mpg drop compared with the regular Prius when the Prius Prime ran dry of EV miles.  

Outside

The 2021 RAV4 Prime will be available in SE and XSE trim lines. The SE comes with 18-inch wheels and distinct exterior styling. The XSE adds two-tone exterior paint, 19-inch wheels, and LED accent lights. XSE buyers can also get adaptive front headlights. But other than a discreet charging port, there isn’t much to distinguish the Prime from garden-variety RAV4s. 

Inside

The SE’s interior comes with standard heated front seats, an eight-way power driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment, and an 8-inch infotainment screen. Other thoughtful touches include a power liftgate, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. Available options include a moonroof (standard on the XSE), heated steering wheel, and heated rear outboard seats. XSE models get synthetic leather seats and wireless smartphone charging, among other features. Optional equipment includes an upgraded audio system and navigation. And Toyota says that because the RAV4 Prime’s larger lithium-ion battery is mounted under the floor, interior space doesn’t take a hit. 

What Drives It

Toyota claims that the new 302-hp RAV4 Prime will go from 0 to 60 mph in just under 6 seconds. By comparison, our tested all-wheel-drive nonhybrid RAV4 took 8.3 seconds to go from 0 to 60 mph; the regular hybrid was half a second quicker. Fuel economy is 27 mpg overall for the standard model and 37 mpg for the hybrid—which is impressive for an AWD SUV.

The RAV4 Prime’s engine remains the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder, hooked up to a continuously variable transmission. The RAV4 Prime enjoys an 83-hp boost in total output over the regular RAV4 hybrid. It can travel around 39 miles on all-electric motivation.  

Safety & Driver Assist Systems

All RAV4s come standard with forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, and road sign recognition. Blind spot warning is standard in the RAV4 Prime. 



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