There was a time not too long about when a hybrid or plug-in vehicle meant a significant sacrifice in performance and driving fun in exchange for improved fuel economy. You could have one, but you couldn’t have the other. Thanks to advances in technology, that’s changing though and no vehicle represents that better than the just-announced 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime.
In Toyota language “Prime” designates the plug-in hybrid variant, and the RAV4 Prime will sit at the top of a lineup that already includes a gasoline RAV4 and a regular RAV4 Hybrid. And, like the normal RAV4 Hybrid, the Prime will come standard with AWD with a separate electric motor powering the rear wheels.
And with its larger battery pack and plug-in capability, Toyota says that on a full charge RAV4 Prime should be able to 39 miles without even using its 2.5 liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gas engine. Better yet, even with its larger battery pack, Toyota says the RAV4 Prime won’t lose any interior space.
The real story though might not be the RAV4 Prime’s fuel economy or electric driving range—it’s the performance. With the larger battery and re-tuned gas engine, the RAV4 Prime has a total system output of 302 horsepower. That’s a pretty astonishing figure for a four-cylinder hybrid and represents an 83 horsepower jump over the normal RAV4 Hybrid.
With its combination of engine power, electric power and AWD traction, Toyota says the RAV4 Prime will do 0-60 in 5.8 seconds which will make it the second quickest vehicle in Toyota’s lineup behind the Supra.
Elsewhere the RAV4 Prime carries on with the stuff that makes the rest of the RAV4 lineup so popular, with a spacious interior, a lot of standard safety features and presumably the bulletproof reliability that Toyota is known for.
While crossovers and hybrids may be low on the want-list of most enthusiasts, the RAV4 Prime looks to be a pretty big leap and may represent one of the best balances of practicality, performance and fuel economy we’ve seen in a mainstream vehicle.
Pricing hasn’t yet been announced for the RAV4 Prime, but a reasonable guess would be a starting price in the mid $30,000s and working up toward $40,000. It will be on sale in the summer of 2020 as 2021 model.