2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime PHEV: 42 mile EV range/600 total miles! A smash hit!

Sep 07, 2020

For years, the RAV4 2-row crossover has been a top-selling model each month in the USA. It has consistently been one of Toyota’s bestselling vehicles, often by a huge margin. In 2019, the RAV4 wasn’t just the world’s best-selling SUV; it was also the 4th best-selling passenger car overall, selling 535,000 units in North America alone. Toyota’s ground-breaking SUV reached a 10M global sales landmark in February of 2020.

By John Coulter, CURRENT EV CMO  

In its new Prime, Toyota offers a RAV4 green version that employs a hybrid drivetrain relying on a gas engine and electric motors that draw power from a plug and regenerative braking.

Motortrend.com reviewer Kelly Lin: “Toyota's biggest strength is its hybrid technology, and in our SUV-obsessed market, the RAV4 Hybrid has overtaken the Prius as the best-selling hybrid in the brand's lineup. The RAV4 Hybrid boasts several advantages over the standard RAV4, including a smoother powertrain and better fuel economy. Now, Toyota is introducing a plug-in version of the RAV4, one that's more powerful, more fuel efficient, and delivers impressive electric range. That makes the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime the crown jewel of the brand's SUV lineup.”

Its 42-mile EV range, its 600-mile total range and relatively low price tag have made the PHEV an instant smash hit. Demand is intense. At the moment, only a handful are available at California dealerships. Those that arrive in the showroom are instantly snapped up.

Due to “unforeseen battery supply constraints,” fewer than expected RAV4 Primes have gotten to the USA. Toyota hopes to get at least 5,000 to the United States through the end of 2020, with 20,000 more made available in 2021. The few Primes reaching dealerships right now are being sold, in many cases, for a premium. With the demand enormous, dealerships are marking the cars up as much as $5K to $10K, and customers are paying the inflated prices, no questions asked.

There are 2 Prime trims, SE and XSE, both equipped with All-Wheel Drive and a fully-electric hybrid powertrain. Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) system is considered one of the best on the planet. HSD replaces a normal geared transmission with an electromechanical system that uses two separate powerplants – a series of battery-powered electric motors and the car’s gas-driven combustion engine. They can work in tandem to drive the car or be used separately in isolation, depending on driving conditions and/or the driving mode chosen by the driver. Toyota does hybrid powertrains better than anyone else, and it really shows in the RAV4 Prime.

The Japanese automaker has used all the lessons it learned from it Prius hybrid car and applied them to its successful compact-SUV. One has to wonder why it took them so long to do this! They even applied the Prime moniker. No explanation why has been offered. Is it because they “primed” the RAV 4 for electrification? The obvious next step after creating a popular RAV4 PHEV would be stepping up to an all-electric version. Time will tell.

Lithium-ion cells for the Prime’s 18.1-kWh liquid-cooled pack are coming from a newly-formed joint venture between Panasonic and Toyota called Prime Planet Energy & Solutions, Inc. Toyota is considered a pioneer and early leader of fuel-efficient hybrids, but for many years it ignored the transition towards EVs. With the industry in full swing now to pure electrics, that outlook has changed. The automaker has stated it wants to sell 5.5M electric vehicles by 2030. Prime Planet Energy & Solutions, Inc. will be making all the batteries powering those vehicles.

The RAV4 Prime is one of many transition steps that Toyota will take to reach its 2020 5M EV sales goal. Unlike the two previous generations of RAV4s with plugs (one of them was a collaborative effort with Tesla), the 3rd generation 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime is a plug-in hybrid vehicle which sets lots of new standards. The most striking are its 42-mile EPA-Estimated EV Mode Range; a whopping 600-mile EPA-Estimated Total Driving Range; an EPA-Estimated Hybrid Mode MPG city/highway/combined of 40/36/38; and a 94 MPGe EPA rating. Combine these stellar ratings with 3 more facts – the compact SUV comes with scintillating 302 HP; it has what’s considered one of the best drivetrains available in the world; and the base model sells for under $40K – and you’ve got a major winner.

The SE trim starts around $38,100. The XSE trim starts at around $41,425. With a federal tax deduction of $7,500 and a California State Rebate of $1,000, the base SE can be had for under $30K.

Some of the main points that make Prime an exceptional value:

• With its 94MPGe EPA rating, the RAV4 Prime will save you thousands on energy compared to conventionally-powered crossovers in the same size class. Fueleconomy.gov says RAV4 Prime drivers will save $2,500 in fuel costs over 5 years compared to the average new vehicle. Your annual Prime fuel cost for electricity and gasoline will be approximately $750.

• Low maintenance costs. Toyota has designed the PHEV to be VERY inexpensive to maintain. 100K mile maintenance costs for the gas engine are estimated to be as low as $600.

• The RAV4 is a Top Safety Pick. As one of Toyota’s flagship vehicles, with enormous family and young driver popularity, its safety ratings are crucial. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have given the RAV4 good marks for crashworthiness. The IIHS even named it a Top Safety Pick for 2020. Toyota has been an aggressive adopter of driver-assistance and safety features. A prodigious list of RAV 4 Prime’s standard safety features are listed on the RAV4 PRIME page of the CURRENT EV website. Three of the key ones; automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, and standard adaptive cruise control. The plug-in comes with 8 airbags, which include a driver and front passenger Advanced Airbag System, driver and front passenger seat-mounted side airbags, a driver knee airbag, a front passenger seat-cushion airbag, and front and rear side curtain airbags.

• The vehicle has many features you won’t find in any EV, including Tesla’s Model Y. (See the list on the RAV4 PRIME page of the CURRENT EV website.)

• The car will get many commuters to the office (and home) without using a drop of gasoline. With most owners charging their RAV4 Prime at night, they’ll start off each morning with 42 miles. Consider Prime’s all-EV range of 42 miles a sweet spot similar to what owners of the discontinued Chevrolet Volt experienced; many Volt drivers reported using almost no gas during their entire ownership. This continues to be the case with drivers still operating Volts.

• In Hybrid or Auto modes, the car sprints to 60MPH in under 6 seconds, which is fast for a crossover. Believe it or not, the 2021 RAV4 Prime is speedier than every other car in the current Toyota lineup, except for the Supra! For an SUV, that’s amazing.

• Following extensive test drives, multiple reviewers are saying the RAV4 Prime’s EV miles match up to what’s promised by Toyota, and sometimes exceed it. Finding out that your PHEV exceeds both the manufacturer’s range ratings and EPA-tested range ratings is a major bonus!

• The car comes standard with AWD. The rear wheels use their own electric motor; a technology that Toyota has pioneered and perfected to be one of the best in the automotive industry. The e-motor on the rear axle (there are a total of 3 on the vehicle), is part of the PHEV’s standard All Wheel Drive system, which accurately shifts power across all four wheels to ensure optimal traction, handling and performance. The AWD system reduces understeer during cornering to create enhanced steering stability. Off-pavement, when the car is in Trail Mode, AWD enhances hill-climbing performance by braking any spinning wheels and sending torque to the grounding wheel.

• Cargo space is exceptional; a Car and Driver test drive team was able to load in 10 carry-on sized suitcases behind the second row and 22 carry-ons with the rear seat folded.

• For passengers who love bringing along their devices for the ride – tablets and phones – there are 5 USB ports – one USB media port in the front storage tray, and 4 additional USB charge ports (2 in the front center console, and 2 rear-seat ports on the back of the center console). That’s a lot, compared to many new cars that have just one USB port.

• Warranty and maintenance coverage is considered excellent. All RAV4s come with a comprehensive warranty matching what’s provided by rivals Honda and Nissan, but the RAV4 e-models come with a lengthy protection plan for their hybrid components. Hybrid Systems are covered for 96 months/100,000 miles. Hybrid Batteries are covered for 120 months/150,000 miles. Far from the norm, Toyota's complimentary scheduled maintenance policy stretches for two years or 25,000 miles.

• Toyota cars, especially the RAV4, have one of the longest industry legacies of reliability, durability and quality.

Prime SE comes standard with heated front seats, an 8-way power driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment, blind-spot monitoring, a leather-covered steering wheel and shift knob, a power tailgate, a 7.0 inch multi-information display, an 8.0 inch touchscreen infotainment system which includes Apple CarPlay integration for your iPhone, Android Auto for compatible Android devices, Amazon Alexa compatibility, and SiriusXM (a 3-month All Access trial is included).

XSE models include a power moonroof, 19-inch alloy wheels, wireless phone charging, ambient lighting, vertical exterior LED lighting accents, black roof, SofTex upholstery, chrome inside handles, and an auto-dimming mirror with integrated garage door opener.

Using a normal 120V outlet, the car’s 3.3-kilowatt onboard charger takes around 12 hours to fully charge the car’s lithium-ion battery. Connecting the car to a 240 volt charger brings the time down to 4.5 hours. Reducing charging time even further can be accomplished with the purchase of the XSE trim’s $3,765 Premium Package, which includes the installation of a 6.6kW onboard charger, supplying a charging time of just 2.5 hours.

Motor1.com reviewers say: “You can’t go wrong with any RAV4, really – it’s a very solid crossover all-around. But the Toyota RAV4 Prime is unquestionably the best of the bunch. It’s the most powerful, offers the most range, charges relatively quickly, and, even in the base SE trim, still has a lot of features – not to mention it’s just very nice to drive. The RAV4 Prime is definitely the one to get.”

Quoting TorqueNews.com reviewer John Goreham: “The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE plug-in hybrid vehicle is impressive on so many levels it is hard to know where to begin.”

Thedrive.com reviewer William Clavey says: “It’s called the RAV4 Prime, and it's fair to say it's the model's ultimate form; a plug-in hybrid compact CUV that offers 40 mpg and can –somehow – outrun a Subaru WRX in the quarter mile. Customers recognize what Toyota's offering here, too. Demand for the RAV4 Prime is already so intense that dealers in certain states have tried slapping $10,000 markups on it, shenanigans you'd more expect to find surrounding high-hype cars like the new Supra. How’s that for market domination?”

CURRENT EV believes the 2021 RAV4 Prime will be a popular model for the rest of 2020 and long into next year.