First Drive: 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime Is Powerful and Luxurious

Plug-in hybrid SUV gives buyers a stepping-stone to taking the full electric leap

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime Plug-In driving

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid gives small-SUV buyers the ability to drive up to 42 miles on electric power. Unlike many hybrids, which are designed with fuel efficiency as the number one concern, performance is part of the RAV4 Prime’s game, too. Toyota claims it is the second-fastest model in its lineup, trailing only the Supra sports car in acceleration.

Consumer Reports members will find our detailed first drive impressions below, including what we like and what we don’t like so far.

The RAV4 Prime builds on the features of the regular RAV4 Hybrid, but brings more performance—with 302 horsepower on board, it’s the most powerful RAV4 ever. Toyota retuned the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, and endowed the Prime with a newly developed, high-capacity lithium-ion battery to power dual electric motors. All-wheel drive comes standard.  

Prices for the RAV4 Prime start at $38,100 for the SE model and top off at $41,425 for the XSE.

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The RAV4 Prime bridges the gap between other small hybrid SUVs, such as the Ford Escape HybridHonda CR-V Hybrid, and the Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid, as well as the fully electric Tesla Model Y.

If you’re a Consumer Reports member, our initial expert assessment of the new RAV4 Prime XSE we rented from Toyota is available to you below. We plan to purchase a RAV4 Prime of our own and put it through more than 50 tests at the CR Auto Test Center, including those that evaluate acceleration, braking, fuel economy, handling, car-seat fit, and controls. CR members will get access to the full road-test results as soon as they’re available.

If you haven’t signed up to become a member yet, click below to access this full article and all of our exclusive ratings and reviews for each vehicle we buy and test. Joining also gives you full access to exclusive ratings for the other products our experts evaluate in several categories, including electronics and home appliances.

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What we rented: 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE
Powertrain: 302-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid; continuously variable transmission; all-wheel drive
MSRP: $41,425
Destination fee: $1,120
Total cost: $42,545

CR’s Take

The RAV4 Prime has an impressive EV-only range of 42 miles, yet owners won’t have to worry about where or when they’ll recharge the battery, since the SUV can operate just like a regular hybrid and be refueled at any gas station.  

But the best aspect of the RAV4 Prime is its much more relaxed driving nature—with plenty of electric power at your disposal, the gasoline engine rarely has to work that hard to move the SUV down the road with alacrity. Not only does the Prime climb hills and merge with traffic easily, but overall cabin noise has been reduced compared with other RAV4s.  

For people who don’t mind spending around $40,000 on a RAV4, the Prime gives owners a vehicle with serious acceleration, a smooth and refined powertrain, and a fairly luxurious and well-equipped cabin. Plus, since it’s a plug-in hybrid, owners can still feel like they are helping the environment. It could be a really good choice for someone who wants to test out the EV waters without having to make the full commitment to EV ownership. 

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