Toyota RAV4 Hybrid 2021 – Review, Specs, Photos

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. Full review and all information about the car – 2021 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.

New Toyota RAV4 Hybrid 2021

The RAV4 Prime will be available in two flavors: SE and XSE. The XSE gets larger 19-inch wheels instead of the 18-inchers on the SE, plus paddle shifters, wireless smartphone charging, and a 9.0-inch touchscreen instead of the SE’s 7.0-inch. So how does it all work? There are three different electric modes. In auto/HV mode, the engine kicks on to deliver extra power when needed, such as when you kick the gas pedal. You can select an EV priority mode to run on electric power only, even when you use the accelerator aggressively. A battery charge mode uses engine power to recharge the battery, adding EV range as you drive. If you use electric power only, acceleration is slower. Toyota estimates a 0-60 mph time of 9.2 seconds in pure EV mode. That’s a far cry from hybrid mode, when Toyota claims it can hit 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, regardless of the charge state. Toyota RAV4 Hybrid 2021 – photos colors and price in this article!

Interior

Inside, the RAV4 prioritizes ergonomics and cubby storage. A useful shelf spans the dash and complements the large center console. The version we tested featured a mix of soft-touch surfaces and nice plastics. The base trim, called LE, is quite spartan and comes with cloth seats, a plasticky steering wheel, and single-zone manual climate control. On the next-step-up XLE, Toyota throws in a few perks, but there’s much more to like on the XLE Premium, including faux-leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and a stitched and padded dashboard and center-console armrest. The RAV4’s rear seats are easy to stow, and they fold to a nearly flat position, opening up the cabin for cargo. We fit 10 of our carry-on suitcases behind the rear seat and 22 with it folded. The Nissan Rogue matched the RAV4 here, but the Subaru Forester beat it by one in each metric. Toyota RAV4 Hybrid 2021 – see the photo in the gallery on our website.

Exterior

If you don’t count pickup trucks, the Toyota RAV4 has been the best-selling vehicle for several years running. Curiously enough, it’s not one of Edmunds’ top-ranked small SUVs, trailing our favorite Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Tucson in a rather disappointing seventh place. Also a bit of a surprise is that we like the RAV4 hybrid quite a bit more than the standard RAV4, and we’ve ranked it fourth among all non-luxury hybrids. For 2021, it’s entirely possible the new RAV4 Prime could make a big impact in the plug-in hybrid category. It’s not your typical plug-in hybrid, though, since it has a definite performance slant that’s new to the RAV4. With more powerful electric motors powering the rear wheels and new lithium-ion batteries, the RAV4 Prime will have an estimated combined output of 302 horsepower. That makes it the most powerful RAV4 ever.

Colors

Toyota has introduced the TRD Off-Road model for 2021, which comes with model-specific 18-inch wheels, all-terrain tires, a TRD-tuned suspension kit with red coil springs, and plenty of TRD logos dotting the interior and exterior. Toyota has added SiriusXM satellite radio and Android Auto compatibility as standard. The XLE model now comes with a power-adjustable driver’s seat, but the sunroof is no longer standard; you’ll need to select the Convenience package if you want it. The mid-range Adventure trim gains a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, but its power liftgate is now optional. And Limited trims get the premium JBL audio system as standard.

Fuel economy

Toyota also equips its AWD system with a rear driveline disconnect function to improve fuel economy. The SUV operates in front-wheel-drive mode until it needs the rear wheels for extra traction. Does it work? The EPA says that you should expect 27 mpg from the TRD Off-Road in combined driving (25 city/32 highway). I came nowhere close to this figure, averaging 23.4 mpg during a full week of driving. Perhaps this is an anomaly. Unlike with most vehicles, where fuel economy lands dead last in terms of owner satisfaction, RAV4 owners place this quality mid-pack, suggesting that widespread unhappiness with gas mileage isn’t a problem.

Horsepower

The RAV4 Hybrid adds a nickel-metal hydride battery and electric motor to the 2.5-liter inline-4 for 219 hp, and uses an electronic continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) to keep the crossover efficient. Compared to the regular RAV4, the RAV4 Hybrid’s 39 mpg combined rating by the EPA is impressive. Compared to just about any other car on the road, the 39 mpg rating is impressive, too. The CVT works to keep the RAV4 Hybrid in low revs; stamp on the accelerator and the Hybrid growls just the same too. The RAV4 Hybrid is available in all-wheel drive only, but it’s not a slick setup like the RAV4 Adventure of TRD Off-Road trims. The RAV4 Hybrid can scramble to find traction and take a second or two too long—we’re not sure off-roaders will consider the hybrid version anyway. Considering the extra weight, the RAV4 doesn’t ride roughly or poorly. It’s just as composed and calm as the RAV4 regular in our tests.

Technical specifications

The 2021 RAV4 uses a 203-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive remains standard, but Toyota now offers a choice of all-wheel-drive systems, dependent on trim. The Adventure model we drove was equipped with an all-wheel-drive system that can disconnect the rear axle when needed to improve fuel economy. At our test track, the RAV4 proved to be quicker than its predecessor: We recorded a 60-mph time of 8.0 seconds with the 2021 model and 8.3 seconds with the 2021. The dutiful four-cylinder can be noisy, especially during highway-passing attempts, and the transmission on our test vehicle seemed to stumble when called upon for a downshift. The RAV4 Hybrid—reviewed separately—snapped off an even quicker 7.4-second 60-mph time in our hands. The RAV4 feels solid and stable when cruising the interstate and holds its own when pitched into a twisty section of road, but it doesn’t inspire the same confidence as our segment favorite, the Mazda CX-5.

Price

LE: $27,070; XLE: $28,365; XLE Premium: $31,070; Adventure: $34,175; Limited: $35,600; TRD Off-Road: $36,400. It’s hard for us to resist the cool new TRD Off-Road, but we’d practice restraint and choose the mid-range XLE Premium. It provides plenty of standard equipment that the LE and XLE don’t offer, such as 19-inch wheels, a power liftgate, dual-zone automatic climate control, faux-leather upholstery, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Toyota makes its suite of driver-assistance features standard across the lineup, so there’s not much reason to go with a pricier trim—unless, of course, you really want ventilated seats.

Safety

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given the RAV4 a five-star rating, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named it a Top Safety Pick+. The RAV4 lineup boasts an array of standard driver assists. Buyers also can add blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross-traffic alert, but those features cost extra on the base model. Key safety features include: Standard automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection; Standard lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist; Standard adaptive cruise control.

Motors

The reason why boils down to two points. The RAV4 Prime’s battery is significantly bigger, and that gives this small SUV an estimated all-electric range of 42 miles. That’s a truly useful number that will cover most daily commutes — especially when you know you can safely run it to zero and let the gasoline engine seamlessly keep the party moving. On top of that, the RAV4 Prime has bigger electric motors that make it significantly quicker than any other RAV4. Or just about any other small SUV for that matter. Even with 302 horsepower, the RAV4 Prime isn’t particularly fun to drive. But it is a compelling plug-in hybrid that delivers exceptional economy and practicality.

Configurations

It’s counterintuitive to think of a RAV4 as sporty, but Toyota intended this variant to focus heavily on performance. The automaker claims the RAV4 Prime is its second-quickest vehicle, just behind the Supra. Under the sheetmetal, the RAV4 Prime has a lot in common with the RAV4 Hybrid. It uses the Hybrid’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine, tuned to a slightly higher output. A new lithium-ion battery pack, booster/converter, and more powerful motor-generators give the Prime 83 more horsepower overall compared to the regular RAV4 Hybrid. Total system output is 302 hp, much more juice than you think a small mainstream crossover would need. The Prime is also significantly heavier, though, weighing around 4,300 pounds in top XSE trim.

Review

Lower trims come with a 7.0-inch touchscreen, but an 8.0-incher can be had starting at the XLE level. The infotainment system includes a 4G LTE mobile hotspot and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. A JBL premium audio system, navigation, and a wireless charging pad for a smartphone are optional. If you opt for a trim level without nav, don’t fret. All other models come with Scout GPS Link, which allows compatible smartphones to display a map and turn-by-turn directions to the dashtop screen.

Release date

The starting price of the Prime will be $39,220, including the $1,120 destination fee. That’s for the SE model, which includes heated front seats, a power driver’s seat, and a power hatch. XSE versions of the Prime start at $42,545 and get a two-toned roof and black machined-alloy wheels, plus paddle shifters, Qi wireless charging, ambient inside lighting, and exterior LED accents. Infotainment systems are a point of differentiation. The SE comes with an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, while the XSE version has a 9.0-inch Audio Plus version. Both systems have Amazon Alexa integration and compatibility with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Video

Toyota also estimates the RAV4 Prime will reach 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, making it the second-quickest vehicle in the lineup behind the GR Supra. To accompany the power, the Prime will feature a sport-tuned suspension and unique styling flourishes. In more pragmatic news, it should return 39 miles of electric range on a full charge. When it arrives in dealerships this summer, the RAV4 Prime will be offered in SE and XSE trims and feature a two-tone paint scheme with a black roof. With any luck, we’ll have more information and driving impressions before that happens, so check back here.

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