Toyota promised in early October that the RAV4 would gain a plug-in hybrid option and, alas, here it is. Inheriting a suffix from the automaker's other plug-in offering, the Prius Prime, this is the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime, a surprisingly quick and supremely fuel-efficient crossover for a post-Ford Mustang Mach-E world where environmentally conscious family SUVs need not be boring.
I never liked the idiom "have your cake and eat it too" (what's the point of having a dessert you can't eat?) but RAV4 Prime owners will look forward to doing so every day of the week. That's because Toyota's latest plug-in is the quickest, most powerful RAV4 ever made but also the most fuel-efficient. Projected to get 90 MPGe, the 302-horsepower PHEV will sprint from zero to 60 miles per hour in a brisk 5.8 seconds—the quickest accelerating new Toyota this side of the Supra.
Yes, according to Toyota, a plug-in compact crossover is officially the second quickest car it makes. That's quicker than the 86, quicker than the Camry TRD, and quicker, in fact, than a base model Porsche Macan. It does this while running on regular-grade gas, to boot. What a world we live in.
When the plug-in RAV4 isn't drag racing Porsches, it'll travel up to 39 miles on electricity alone, the furthest of any plug-in hybrid SUV on sale today.
Under the hood lies a differently tuned version of the 2.5-liter four-cylinder from the regular RAV4 Hybrid. It now makes five more pound-feet of torque—168 over the Hybrid's 163. The Prime also features electric AWD that, like the RAV4 Hybrid and Prius AWD-e, uses a separate electric motor dedicated to powering the rear axle. Utilizing a new lithium-ion battery, the Prime boasts 83 more combined horsepower than the Hybrid with a grand total of 302. Toyota says the floor-mounted battery contributes to a lower center of gravity and hasn't affected interior space.
Going on sale summer 2020, the RAV4 Prime will be available in either SE or XSE trim. The XSE adds the option of that two-tone, black-roof color scheme, 19-inch wheels, LED accent front lights, the first paddle-shifters ever fitted to a RAV4, the biggest touchscreen ever fitted to a RAV4 (nine inches), the option of the RAV4's first color heads-up display, and a myriad of other convenience goodies too numerous to list here one-by-one. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will, thankfully, come standard on both trims.