The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime in XSE trim with two-tone black and Supersonic Red paint. (Manufacturer photo)

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime in XSE trim with two-tone black and Supersonic Red paint. (Manufacturer photo)

Toyota expands RAV4 family with new 2021 Prime plug-in hybrid

The most powerful RAV4 also has the highest electric-only range of any PHEV SUV on the market.

Toyota tops its RAV4 lineup for 2021 with the addition of a new model, the RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid, available in SE and XSE versions.

The RAV4 Prime compact SUV joins the group as the most powerful RAV4 ever, which is more impressive than it might sound. RAV4 Prime’s combined net horsepower rating is 302, and it goes from 0 to 60 mph in a swift 5.7 seconds.

More to the point for most drivers enthusiastic about plug-in hybrids, the RAV4 Prime can travel up to 42 miles on battery power alone on a single charge. That’s better than any other PHEV SUV on the market, Toyota says. It has a combined MPGe rating of 94 miles, and electronic on-demand all-wheel drive is standard.

Standard features on the SE model include 18-inch wheels, LED headlights with automatic high-beam function, dual zone automatic climate control, fabric upholstery, heated front seats, eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar and four-way power front passenger seat, 60/40 split reclining and fold-flat rear seat, smart key system, five USB ports, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Wi-Fi hotspot, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability, and SiriusXM satellite radio.

The XSE model adds 19-inch wheels, two-tone exterior color, wireless smartphone charging, SofTex synthetic leather upholstery, auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink, and a 9-inch touchscreen infotainment system. It also enables several standalone options not available on the SE, including a 360-degree camera setup, 10-inch color head-up display, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear outboard seats, driver’s seat two-position memory function, and a hands-free power liftgate.

SofTex synthetic leather seats and a 9-inch infotainment touchscreen are special features of the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE model. (Manufacturer photo)

SofTex synthetic leather seats and a 9-inch infotainment touchscreen are special features of the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE model. (Manufacturer photo)

Both models come standard with Toyota’s Safety Sense group that includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, lane keeping assist, and full speed-range dynamic radar cruise control.

Base pricing with a $1,175 destination charge included is $39,425 for the SE and $42,750 for the XSE.

The RAV4 Prime qualifies for a $7,500 electric-vehicle federal tax credit and there may be state and local incentives as well. If you’re able to take advantage of the $7,500 federal tax credit, it lowers the Prime’s cost to about the same as an equivalent RAV4 Hybrid model. In other words, more for the money.

My tester was an XSE model outfitted with options representing the most expensive a RAV4 Prime can get, just a couple of Benjamins below $50,000. The biggest contributor was a $3,765 Premium Package bundling the XSE standalone options plus navigation, panoramic glass roof, and front and rear parking assist with automatic braking.

The second-biggest contributor was a $1,620 Premium Audio package adding an 11-speaker JBL sound system, navigation, and assorted Toyota connection services.

Toyota’s handiwork with exterior styling makes the RAV4 Prime a beauty, especially the XSE with its two-tone paint, glossy black lower front bumper, fenders, mirrors, roof, rocker panels, and rear bumper. My tester’s deeply hued Supersonic Red body paint is an excellent complement to the black accents. It’s an extra-charge ($425) special color.

The Prime’s interior is another complementary creation. Practicality and handsomeness come together in a roomy, eye-appealing, comfortable and quiet environment, with high quality materials and expert workmanship all around. Features and controls are placed in logical, easy-to-use locations, and the infotainment system is pleasant to live with. Good stowage space for small items includes wide door pockets, a fairly large center console bin, cupholders, phone charging pad, and a long narrow tray in the lower dash.

RAV4 Prime’s 42-mile electric-only range is a big deal. You can really get somewhere within 42 miles. Some hybrid battery-only ranges aren’t much more than walking distance. I’m not insulting them. Every mile without gasoline is a good mile.

Toyota has been a pioneer of automotive hybrid technology, and they’re still at it with this new RAV4 Prime and its extended all-electric range – with speedy performance, no less.

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid compact SUV has seating for five passengers. (Manufacturer photo)

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid compact SUV has seating for five passengers. (Manufacturer photo)


Base price, including destination charge: $42,750

Price as driven: $49,776

Mary Lowry is a member of the Motor Press Guild and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. She lives in Snohomish County. Vehicles are provided by automotive manufacturers as a one-week loan for evaluation purposes only. Manufacturers do not control content of the reviews.

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