AUTO REVIEW: 2021 RAV4 Prime saves energy with style and speed
What’s most amazing about the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime, a sporty plug-in hybrid, isn’t the blazing mileage numbers or the beauty.
It’s vertigo: this thing sprints to 60 mph in just 5.5 seconds. This ranks second in the Toyota lineup only behind the Supra, which reaches 100 km / h in 4 seconds flat. The Prime, for the record, is not a Supra. In fact, it’s not even particularly agile, in part because of a softer suspension and a weight of 4,372 pounds.
The RAV4 Prime aims to reduce the carbon footprint and do it in style. It starts with a true 42-mile range on electricity alone, easily enough to handle runs and short trips. And for those worried about where the next charge is coming from, the Prime’s gasoline engine is ready to go to complete the journey.
The Prime, like the RAV4 Hybrid, has a 2.5-liter inline-4 engine capable of 177 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque. But this compact crossover is also mated to two electric motors and a CVT (continuously variable transmission) up front, and another motor at the rear axle for an extra kick. The battery, stored under the rear seats, is much larger than that of the regular hybrid (18 kWh vs. 1.6 kWh), allowing for a range of 42 miles.
When everything works together, the Prime has a total output of 302 hp, compared to 219 hp in the regular hybrid. On the road, that translates to an incredible 5.5 seconds run at 60 mph and the quarter mile in 14.1 seconds.
But few will call the Athletic Prime. The smoother suspension means a bit of body roll in corners and winding roads. Standard all-wheel drive improves grip and maintains driving comfort when the road gets bumpy. It is towed at 2,500 pounds, more than enough to pull a jet ski or motorcycle.
Two driving modes (EV / HV) allow driving electrically only or with the gasoline engine by adding assistance. Additional modes – Sport, Trail and Eco – allow tweaks for more fun or to save a few bucks.
Juice takes 12 hours from a 120 volt outlet, 4.5 hours from a 240 volt outlet. It is with the standard 3.3kW on-board charger. Upgrade to a higher performance 6.6kW charger and get a full charge in just 2.5 hours when you plug it into a 240 volt outlet.
So what is the net benefit? The EPA estimates 94 mpg-e combined, calculating mileage from a full electric charge and gas operation. Gas-only trips still get 40 mpg in the city, 36 on the highway, and 38 combined.
The Prime benefits from all of the exterior enhancements of the fifth-generation RAV4, including its squarer and more aggressive look. The Prime sports 19-inch wheels, flashing LED traffic lights that circle the headlights, and dual exhausts at the rear. The two-tone schemes are striking: six colors ranging from supersonic red to pearly blizzard complement a glossy black or midnight black roof.
The five-seater cabin offers ample head and leg room, even for tall people. The seats are heated, ventilated and trimmed with a synthetic leather fabric, with decorative stitching, which looks and feels like the real thing. The driver enjoys lumbar support, while the rear seats recline, but not too much.
A 7-inch digital instrument display is flanked by analog gauges. The top-of-the-line XSE features paddle shifters, a moonroof, and ambient lighting. A rear view mirror camera, a panoramic view camera and a head-up display are available in option packs.
A 9-inch infotainment screen sits atop the center console, handy and fairly easy to use. The resolution, however, is not up to par with others on the market. On the plus side, the system is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and an option package ($ 2,435) adds navigation and the premium JBL 11-speaker stereo.
As the battery is located under the rear seats, more cargo space is available. An optional hands-free tailgate accesses 33.5 cubic feet of space behind the second row, 63 with the second row folded (almost flat). There is also a household type power outlet at the rear, for camping or tailgating gear.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Prime good crash test scores, and it comes with adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic braking, pedestrian detection, and lane-keeping assist. Adaptive headlights and parking sensors are optional.
With its cool looks and flashy two-tone colors, people will be speechless at the RAV4 Prime at a red light. But his telling quickness when you walk away might be what they remember.
2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE
MSRP: $ 41,425
As tested: $ 49,800 (includes navigation, premium heated stereo seats and steering wheel, $ 2,435; premium package with power / memory seats, 4-way adjustable passenger seat, panoramic cameras, hand liftgate free, panoramic roof and upgrade on card loader, $ 5,760)
What’s all the excitement? RAV4 Prime turns heads with a sleek two-tone body, surprisingly fast. Oh, and a $ 7,500 hybrid tax credit
Powertrain: 2.5-liter in-line 4-cylinder engine developing 177 horsepower and 165 lb-ft of torque; mated two electric motors and CVT transmission; total power of 302 horsepower
How is the performance? Strong acceleration with 0-60 mph in a quick 5.5 seconds, quarter mile in 14.1. Handling is uneven
Fuel economy: 94 mpg-equivalent with electric / engine use; 40 mpg in the city, 36 on the highway, 38 combined if you never plug it in
Photos courtesy of Toyota / TNS