By on November 20, 2019


It seems the automotive industry has learned that the instant torque and potency potential afforded by electric motors can be a selling feature all its own, relegating the usual save-the-planet messaging to the back burner. Even the traditionally staid and sensible Toyota is getting in on the game.

Not just Toyota, but even the RAV4 — a compact and newly revamped crossover most often associated with placid nuclear families boasting at least one parent who works for the public sector. Toyota is eager to tell you that an upcoming variant, revealed this week at the L.A. Auto Show, will get you to 60 mph quicker than any RAV4 that came before.

And it’ll do so without using gas.

The Prime name should be no stranger to readers — it’s been applied to the plug-in hybrid version of the long-running Prius for years. Now it comes to RAV4. Going on sale this coming summer, the 2021 RAV4 Prime takes the existing hybrid model and bumps up the electrification, adding a larger underfloor battery pack, more powerful motors fore and aft, and a heat pump HVAC system to reduce battery draw and boost range.

An Atkinson-cycle 2.5-liter carries over from the lesser model; it’s good for 176 horsepower and 163 lb-ft of torque.


Put together, the system ups power over the regular RAV4 Hybrid by 83 horsepower, with a combined output of 302 hp. Zero to 60 mph is said to pass in 5.8 seconds, which is two seconds quicker than the Hybrid, and half a second quicker than the previous fastest RAV4 (the previous-gen V6 model). In comparison, the Hybrid generates a combined 219 hp and 206 lb-ft. A base gas model? 203 hp and 184 lb-ft.

It’s easy to see the marketing aspect of electrification.

With the battery pack topped up, Toyota claims a significant all-electric driving range of 39 miles — a figure that could cover the majority of urban commutes. Regardless whether you remembered to plug it in or not, a loss of front-wheel traction will trigger the rear motor, bringing the rear wheels online. As you saw with Lincoln’s new Corsair Grand Touring, eAWD is growing in popularity. In this case, it’s merely borrowed from the Hybrid and beefed up.


Boasting ample power, the equivalent of 90 mpg, and a price tag that’s TBD, the RAV4 Prime will be offered in two trims: SE and XSE, both offering the same content and sport-minded interior/exterior flair you’ll find on non-Prime models. Wheels are 18-inch on the SE, while the loftier trim dons 19-inchers. You won’t want for options, either, but you probably could have guessed that.

Niceties aside, the powertrain is the star or the show here, and it’s one that could spark worry in the minds of rivals as Toyota pushes forward with its broad hybridization agenda.


[Images: Toyota]

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13 Comments on “2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime: Power Comes First, Gas-free Driving Second...”

  • avatar

    “..….boasting at least one parent who works for the public sector….”.

    Not getting that.

  • avatar

    I miss my old V6 Sport. I’d still be driving one if it was offered.

  • avatar

    Unless Toyota prices it too high, of the extra battery and beefed up rear driveline robs to much space/utility, this thing has got to check pretty much every contemporary “must have” out there. Talk about tour-de-pragmatic-force solution to the green-but-suv era.

  • avatar

    Well done. This wasn’t how I expected Toyota to evolve its hybrid platform, but it’s great. I hope they put it in both the Camry and the Highlander (the 2020 hybrid version of which is anemic for its size, with just 240 system horsepower).

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed, not sure why they didnt put this system in the new Highlander Hybrid. The new 2020 HH is pathetically underpowered by modern CUV standards. The odd thing is that the outgoing 2019 HH is actually fast, capable, and pretty efficient overall. I still cant figure out why Toyota would underpower the newer version to the degree that they did – but up the power in the Rav4 Hybrid?

      • 0 avatar

        This system will be expensive and probably wouldn’t work in the base HiHy for cost reasons, but it ought to be standard in the Platinum and Limited versions.

        I own a 2016 HiHy Platinum, which I like a lot more than I expected to, and absolutely wouldn’t want a 2020.

      • 0 avatar

        The “overpowering” part is easy to the point of being almost baked in, once you decide to provide enough battery for a meaningful all-electric range as a plugin. It’s this plugin part which drives the rest of the design. And, on average, Rav4s are more common in denser environments where 39 miles may be “enough”, than the more suburban, longer-trip-typical Highlander.

  • avatar

    Sign me up….

  • avatar
    Greg Hamilton

    I have had a Rav4 Hybrid for more than three years and it has been completely trouble free. Although not very fast by this blog’s standards the electric motors do provide quite a bit of low end torque needed for New York city traffic driving. This new model probably has a lithium ion battery instead of the heavier but more reliable NiMH battery mine does. This would also explain the more advanced thermal management needed for lithium ion. I’d like to take it for a test drive when it’s available. Smart move on Toyota’s part.

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