2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime first drive review: Have your cake and eat it, too

Jeffrey Cuebas

Gasoline-electric automobiles do not have to be monotonous and gradual. I suggest, they can be, but Toyota has proven that overall performance and performance are not mutually exclusive. Circumstance in place: the 2021 RAV4 Key. This plug-in hybrid SUV is the automaker’s next-fastest model just after the Supra athletics automobile. With 302 horsepower on faucet, it can zip from a standstill to sixty mph in as tiny as five.seven seconds, a time that is legitimately swift. And many thanks to sufficient small-finish electric torque, it feels even fleeter.

Offering that robust overall performance is a two.five-liter 4-cylinder engine, an Atkinson-cycle device borrowed from the RAV4 Hybrid but retuned for Key time. Without having likely as well significantly into the specialized weeds, it is augmented by a trio of electric motor-turbines, two in the front transaxle assembly, and a third at the rear. The latter delivers on-demand all-wheel drive by turning the aft tires. Serving as an electron reservoir is an eighteen.1-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, mounted less than the primary-cabin flooring in a way that does not detract from passenger room. It is cooled applying air-conditioning refrigerant and is backed by a 10-year/one hundred fifty,000-mile warranty. Motorists are more shielded from repair service costs by a different, eight-year/a hundred,000-mile promise that covers other hybrid components.

That generously sized battery assists present an performance rating of 94 miles per gallon equal (MPGe) and an official electric-only range of 42 miles. Driving it diligently and with the local climate manage off a good portion of the time, I managed to coax forty five miles out of the RAV4 Key while operating entirely on electrons. Honestly, I expected a tiny extra considering I was driving fairly conservatively and the circumstances have been great, with temps in the higher 70s. Still, Toyota has sent on its range promise.

As for performance, operating this automobile about fifty% on electric power and then fifty% on gasoline the moment the battery pack was depleted, I averaged an indicated forty five.three mpg, though that determine is potentially misleading mainly because genuine-earth economic climate is dependent drastically on the ratio concerning those people two functioning modes. If, for occasion, you drive fifty miles and 42 of them are all electric, the average gasoline economic climate is likely to be much better than if you acquire a 600-mile road excursion burning fossil gasoline the whole way. In that use scenario, when operated as a regular hybrid, the RAV4 Key is rated at a however-extraordinary 38 mpg by the EPA.

The periods, they are a-chargin’

Hook the RAV4 Key up to an common 120-volt house outlet, and it normally takes close to 12 hours to entirely replenish the battery pack. Plug it in to a 240-volt line with 16 amps of juice, and that time drops to close to 4.five hours. Still, if that’s not fast ample, XSE versions with the high quality bundle (a $three,765 upcharge, which also calls for the $815 temperature bundle and the $1,620 audio bundle) can recharge in as tiny as two.five hours if you have accessibility to a 6.6-kilowatt, 240-volt outlet.

As community charging stations develop into extra and extra prevalent, it will be easier and easier to stay with an electric automobile.


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Right after depleting the battery in the course of testing, I identified a nearby ChargePoint public station. Hooked to a Degree two outlet operating at 6.6 kW, the automobile gained thirteen miles of EV range just after about forty five minutes of charging, appropriate in line with Toyota’s two.five-hour claim.

Even with generally inventing the modern day hybrid, this is Toyota’s to start with plug-in SUV. There is no lack of comparable crossover SUV versions accessible now, but they’re mostly at the higher finish of the current market. There are not as well several immediate opponents to the RAV4 Key. Subaru’s Crosstrek is just one, but it only presents 17 miles of electric range. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is another, with an marketed 22 miles of juice. It is conceivable you might cross-shop this Toyota with plug-in variations of the Kia Niro or even the Chrysler Pacifica, but none of these are a great in good shape, either. Definitely, this RAV4’s number-just one rival is the new Ford Escape PHEV, which presents slightly significantly less electric range at 37 miles and has close to ninety three significantly less horsepower, but at minimum it is a touch extra effective at a hundred MPGe.

Forceful still gentle-mannered

Driving the RAV4 Key purely on electric power is a good experience. It is punchy, clean and virtually silent. As with other EVs, you can find tons of small-finish torque, which tends to make this Toyota leap off the line when you nail the accelerator. Its enthusiasm does wane at better speeds, but its overall performance is however good, equipped to hit sixty mph in close to nine.two seconds. Nonetheless, this vehicle’s overall performance shines most when pushed as a hybrid. Toss that interior-combustion engine into the blend and this RAV4’s sprinting qualities enhance by leaps and bounds, with its -to-sixty-mph time dropping by virtually forty%.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

Powerful and effective, what extra could you question for?


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When navigating corners, the Key feels like it has a touch extra overall body roll than the RAV4 TRD I reviewed recently. This is very likely mainly because of its softer journey, which is partly due to masses of excess body weight. At about 4,300 lbs in XSE trim, this automobile is close to 500 lbs heavier than the bulkiest RAV4 Hybrid, many thanks to its much greater battery pack. To accommodate that added mass, the vehicle’s chassis has been retuned. The steering is mild to the touch, though it is not as crisp as in other RAV4s. The Key is, however, really quiet inside many thanks to laminated front side glass and added audio deadening, alterations that make for a serene driving experience. Braking feel is also praiseworthy. This plug-in SUV’s pedal has nice body weight to it and is quick to modulate, with no discernible weirdness when transitioning from regenerative to friction braking.

A comfy and versatile interior

Inside the RAV4 Key, you can find not much to get excited about, and that’s a good thing. Just like the non-plug-in model, this Toyota’s cabin is just one of the better offerings in this section, currently being attractively developed and made of high-quality components. My XSE tester is more gussied up with crimson stitching on the doorway panels, dashboard and somewhere else, as well as the seats are protected in SofTex imitation leather-based, which not only feels nice but tends to make a convincing argument that cow hides are not necessary.

As in extra run-of-the-mill RAV4s, the Prime’s rear seat is generously portioned and fairly comfy, with good help, as well as a good deal of room for knees and noggins. A pair of two.1-amp USB-A ports serve riders relegated to the again, though the automobile is equipped with a whole of five such stores, as well as XSE versions aspect Qi wi-fi charging, so nobody’s cell phone has to go without the need of juice.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

This Toyota’s infotainment program is quite middling, but the significant monitor is crystal clear, bright and quick to achieve.


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When it is time to make an Ikea run for a load of marginal high-quality, affordably priced, flat-packed furnishings, the RAV4 Key tends to make an great schlepper. It presents 33.five cubic toes of hauling room driving the next-row seat, a determine that grows to a claimed sixty three.two when the backrests are dropped. These figures are slightly driving what the normal RAV4 and its hybrid counterpart offer you. They both equally max out at sixty nine.eight cubes. All in, the Key however presents a handful of extra cubic toes of room than the Escape plug-in.

Even though you can find a good deal to like about the Prime’s interior, a handful of items could be improved. The chicklet-like local climate manage buttons are simply just as well small to effortlessly manipulate while driving, and some of the switches on the steering wheel feel extremely inexpensive. 

Engineering bonanza

On that be aware, I am not likely to more bludgeon a deceased equine, but as I’ve mentioned several periods prior to, I are inclined to discover Toyota’s multimedia offerings to be unattractive and illogical, and that’s regretably however true in the RAV4 Key XSE. But it is not all undesirable information.

This infotainment program is at minimum fast, and the pill-design nine-inch monitor it is splashed across is enormous and quick to achieve, as it is mounted higher on the dashboard. Decrease-finish SE versions aspect an eight-incher. With all that show genuine estate, Apple CarPlay (which, together with Android Car and Amazon Alexa compatibility will come normal) is tremendous quick to use, showing up nice and large.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

The RAV4 Key presents a good deal of functions and features. 


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If you however will need extra screens in your lifestyle, do not fret, mainly because all Key versions aspect a reconfigurable seven-inch show nestled in the gauge cluster. It is crystal clear and quick ample to cycle as a result of the a variety of menus for items like gasoline economic climate and the excursion odometer. If that’s not ample, XSE versions can even be equipped with a 10-inch coloration head-up show, which projects related driving details onto the windshield. This product is bundled with the $three,765 high quality bundle, which also gets you the aforementioned 6.6-kW charger, ventilated front seats and an amazing digital rearview mirror. The latter functions still another monitor driving the glass exactly where a online video feed from the reversing digital camera is exhibited to present a much broader area of look at driving the automobile.

That bundle also contains a 360-degree digital camera program, which can be handy for sure parking situations — in concept at minimum. For some explanation, this aspect, and even the RAV4’s normal reversing digital camera, are appallingly undesirable, tremendous gritty and difficult to see on the infotainment monitor. This is notably odd mainly because the digital rearview mirror, which is accessible on XSE versions, seems to be good, delivering a crystal clear, crisp picture.

When it will come to innovative driver aids, Toyota Safety Sense two. is normal tools on the RAV4 Key, bringing items like automatic crisis braking and road-signal recognition to the table. Lane-retaining support is incorporated, as well, and operates fairly nicely, even if it feels a bit tender-handed. It won’t lock you into the center of the lane fairly as strongly as competing units do, resulting in extra wandering. You also get adaptive cruise manage, though it is somewhat middling. On the highway, it is good, seamlessly altering automobile speed to match surrounding automobiles, but in quit-and-go targeted visitors it can be quite jerky.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

Like other users of the RAV4 household, the Key model is fairly handsome. 


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Pounds and (prevalent) perception

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime is slated to commence arriving at dealerships in all fifty states later this month. Preserving items very simple, it will be available in two trims: SE and XSE. My leading-shelf tester arrived equipped with all 3 accessible solutions packages, items that inflate its price tag to appropriate close to $forty nine,000 like $1,120 in shipping fees. That is a steep price to pay out for what is a mainstream compact crossover SUV, however, that determine does not contain any potential discounts. The RAV4 Key may well be qualified for up to $seven,500 in federal tax credits, as well as other discounts available by particular person states. Of study course, you can conserve a large chunk of change by finding an SE model. They kick off appropriate close to $39,195. That is however a bit pricier than Ford’s entry-level Escape plug-in hybrid, which commences at about 35 grand, but the RAV4 does have extra electric power and a nicer interior, plus  Toyota enjoys a better popularity for lengthy-expression high-quality and resale value.

Punchy and effective, the Key is effortlessly my choose of present-day RAV4 litter. The addition of a plug-in hybrid powertrain has made a good SUV even better. If you can control the upcharge, this is the RAV4 to get.

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