2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE AWD Review by David Colman + VIDEO
This might just be the perfect 21st century SUV
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
The RAV4 PRIME is the best version yet of Toyota's most popular SUV. Hybrid architecture has matured so fully that high performance and ultra fuel efficiency can coexist in the same attractive package. Gone are the days when you had to trade decent acceleration for sterling economy. Now both assets define the RAV4 PRIME, which not only generates 302hp and a 0-60mph time of 5.7 seconds, but also records 38MPG in overall driving, and 94MPGe in electric-only mode. The EPA rewards those mileage numbers with a perfect score of 10 out of 10 on the government's Fuel Economy and Greenhouse Gas Rating Scale.
To achieve this double knockout punch Toyota has installed a 2.5 liter "Dynamic Force" inline 4 under the hood that produces 177hp and 165lb.-ft. of torque. This efficient but underpowered gas fed motor receives a monumental boost of both horsepower and torque from the addition of a pair of electric motors which are installed fore and aft in the RAV4's chassis. The front electric produces 179hp and 199lb.-ft. of torque the instant you mat the accelerator pedal. The rear electric adds its own infusion of 53hp and 89lb.-ft. of torque. In concert with the gas engine up front, this trio of energy sources churns out 302 combined horsepower, and enough instantaneous surge to propel the RAV4 PRIME to acceleration levels previously unimaginable in a compact SUV. And best of all, it's affordable. The base price on our test vehicle was $41,425. And you can expect the government to reimburse you $7,000 thanks to the Federal Tax Credit program for which the RAV4 PRIME qualifies.
We should point out, however, that our test example carried a higher buy-in price of $49,577 thanks in large measure to the additional cost of the $3,765 Premium Package which combines a wide variety of assets in one bundle. For those of you planning to plug this RAV4 into wall receptacles for recharging, the Premium Package will prove well worth the extra investment in the long run because it upgrades the on-board battery charger from 3.3kW to 6,6kW. That upgrade allows you to recharge the PRIME's Lithium Ion 355.2v battery in just 2.5 hours on a 240v charger. Compare that recharge time to the 4.5 hours it takes to refresh the 3.3kW standard charger at 240v. A full battery charge should allow you to run the RAV4 PRIME up to 42 miles on electric power alone.
Of course, the Premium Package includes a wide variety of other features in addition to the onboard charger upgrade. One of the more innovative features included is the first digital rearview mirror I have encountered. This utilizes a wide angle rear facing camera which provides crystal clear information about what's behind you. At first I thought this mirror was designed for use while driving but I quickly disabused myself of that notion. While you can use the digital mirror while driving, it presents a bewildering series of reflections and double images that will instantly confuse you into thinking you've had one drink too many. I quickly discovered it can be flipped off and used as a regular rear view mirror, saving its digital capacity for stationary use only.
The RAV4's electronically controlled, continuously variable transmission (eCVT) is well suited to this SUV's performance characteristics. Although it's equipped with sequential shift mode paddles at the steering wheel, you really don't need to rely on them for maximizing performance, since the electric motor's rheostat-like torque infusion is so persuasive. But you can utilize the paddles to "downshift," thereby increasing your regenerative braking force and upping battery charge. For a 4,300lb. SUV, the RAV4 PRIME handles with surprising precision, thanks in part to its quick steering (just 2.65 turns lock to lock), and a set of satisfyingly adhesive (TW 280) Yokohama Avid GT radials (235/45R19) mounted on PRIME model-specific 5-spoke alloy rims. The interior of the RAV4's cabin is both airy and spacious, with 33.5 cubic feet of storage available with all seats up, and 69.8 cubic feet with the rear seats flat. The RAV4 PRIME will tow 2500lbs.
The 2021 RAV4 PRIME is a breakthrough vehicle in many ways. If you equip it with the Premium Package and the $1,620 Premium Audio Package this slick SUV operates like a luxury sedan, with all the niceties you would expect from a vehicle based on the same TGNA platform as the Corolla and Camry sedans. But with the addition of twin electric motors and all wheel drive, the RAV4 PRIME enters another realm altogether. Add Plug In home chargeability, and you've got yourself the basic blueprint for the perfect 21st century SUV.
2021 TYOTA RAV4 PRIME XSE AWD
ENGINE: 2.5 liter inline 4 plus front and rear electric motors
HORSEPOWER: 302combined hp
TORQUE: 165lb.-ft. (gas only)
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 38MPG Combined/94MPGe
PRICE AS TESTED: $49,577
HYPES: Stellar Performance AND E-conomy
GRIPES: Front Seat Squabs Too Short
STAR RATING: 9 Stars out of 10