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ELECTRIC SLIDE: 2021 TOYOTA RAV4 PRIME PLUG-IN HYBRID

It hasn’t quite been an easy road for the hybrid vehicle since they first started hitting the streets in the very early years of 2000. Having to forfeit performance for few extra mpg’s at the pump, it’s about time the electrical performance of the hybrid technology started to work in our favor. While most would prefer boosted performance output in their Toyota Camry or Supra, the tale of this story lies behind their best-selling crossover, the new Toyota RAV4.

After its launch in 2019, the RAV4 Hybrid changed the way we viewed hybrids – being the better suited alternative to the standard gasoline player, the hybrid impressed us in both performance and fuel economy. However, kicking it up a nickel, Toyota has introduced their latest creation in the RAV4 lineup with what their calling Prime, and it requires an electrical outlet.

Boosting one-more horsepower than the V-6 Camry, the RAV4 Prime is rated at a combined 302-horsepower. Set up similarly to its standard hybrid variant, its utilizes the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas-burner engine matted to two electric generators at the front and one electric generator at the rear, the system spawns a lot more oomph than the standard RAV4 Hybrid, if you know what we mean.

Weighing nearly 600lbs more the standard hybrid, we couldn’t even tell this family-ute put on a few pounds thanks to its instant electric torque. With the gas and electric components working together like a symphony orchestra, the RAV4 isn’t just quick, its nearly sports car quick with 0-60-mph in 5.5-seconds – that’s German performance SUV territory.

Obviously the RAV4 Prime is no sports car and while it may feature a sporty model name, XSE with red stitching on the interior, paddle shifters on the steering wheel and sport mode that glows the knob red, it’s anything but. It rides and drives like a typical crossover with a modest suspension and dopey steering. Thankfully Toyota has fixed its hybrid brake pedal feel as the pedal feels more normal and responsive to inputs.

On the impressive side however is its plug-in and hybrid attributes. Generating a useful amount of electric range, the RAV4 Prime has the ability to go upwards of 42-miles on a single charge. During our time, we were never able to achieve its maximum full-range as it required over 12-hours of changing from a standard 120-volt outlet. However, with the 35-miles that we contentiously received allocated more than enough EV range for full round trip commute from our suburban home to our downtown office and back before having to plug it in. With the EV battery completely diminished, the Prime works exactly like a traditional hybrid and allocated over 500-miles of range from its gasoline engine. The switch from battery to gas is incredibly seamless; the only downside is going from complete silence to hearing the four-cylinder drone through its continuous variable transmission during heavy acceleration.  On the highway for our 200-mile mpg test, after we drained our 35-EV miles, we averaged nearly 44 miles-to-the-gallon. At the end of our week, we saw a combined total of 43-mpg with mixed driving.

Offered in two trims, SE and XSE, the RAV4 Prime comes with a long list of standard equipment starting at $39,220 – nearly ten grand more than the base model LE hybrid. Tack on another $3345 for the XSE model and it hosts all sort of upgrade like a heads-up display, panoramic sunroof, heated rear seats, ventilated front sheets, 9-inch touch screen display with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto & Amazon Alexa. Oddly enough, the XSE is the only version of the two models that offers quick charging – when plugged into a 240-volt charging port it can take 2.5-hours off its standard charging time.

While the cost may be a little shocking at first, the government’s tax credit is sure to help ease the pain of writing that hefty check. Thanks to its $7500 credit, even the most expensive XSE Prime can cost cheaper than the top spec Hybrid Limited.

Apart from the components under the hood everything remains very RAV4-esk. The interior features pleasant materials with a comfortable setting – the SE model receives cloth seats while the XSE comes with leather. While the Prime isn’t posted as the voyager junkie of the RAV4 Adventure or TRD Off-Road, its all-wheel drive offers a Trail select mode that loosens the stability traction control for a little more agility off the beaten path.

Even though electric cars are no longer the future, they are here in the now; they’re still not quite there for the average consumer. As we all know, our lives don’t revolve around a charging station. The RAV4 Prime offering the best of multiple worlds with functional EV that will last longer than a grocery run and outperform the family Camry TRD truly makes it a compelling vehicle.

VEHICLE SPECIFICATIONS

VEHICLE: 2020 TOYOTA RAV4 PRIME PLUG-IN HYBRID
BASE PRICE: $39,220
AS-TESTED PRICE: $47,610

PERFORMANCE SPECIFICATIONS

ENGINE: 2.5-liter FOUR-CYLINDER HYBRID
HP: 302-COMBINED HORSEPOWER
TRANSMISSION: CVT AUTOMATIC
DRIVETRAIN: ALL-WHEEL DRIVE
MPG: 36 | 40 | 38 (CITY | HIGHWAY | COMBINED)
AS TESTED MPG: 43.7-MPG COMBINED | 44.6-MPG HIGHWAY (200-MILES AT 75-MPH)
FUEL RANGE: 500-MILES | 42-EV MILES
0-60 MPH: ±5.5 SECONDS

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