Competes with: Head on with the 2020 Ford Escape PHEV, due in the spring
Looks like: The sportier trim levels of the 2020 RAV4 rather than the more aggressive off-road Adventure and TRD models
Powertrain: A 176-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and two electric motors for a total system output of 302 hp; standard electronic all-wheel drive
Hits dealerships: Summer 2020
Toyota’s RAV4 compact SUV was fully redesigned for 2019 and has added variations for different buyers. Along with gasoline and greener hybrid RAV4s, there also are more aggressive Adventure and TRD Off-Road versions with more off-road capability. Now, at the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show, Toyota will be plugging an even greener version, the 2021 RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid, and here’s the kicker: It also will be the performance RAV4, with 302 total horsepower — nearly 50% more than the gasoline models.
Related: More 2019 L.A. Auto Show Coverage
To emphasize that point, the RAV4 Prime (a name borrowed from the Prius PHEV, not from Amazon) will include a sport-tuned suspension and be offered only in the sportier XSE trim grade that currently is exclusive to the RAV4 Hybrid, as well as in a sporty SE trim level that is new for the Prime. That means no plug-in for the lower trim levels; pricing for the Prime has not yet been announced.
Toyota is estimating a 5.8-second 0-60-mph time versus 7.8 seconds for the regular hybrid, which with 219 system horsepower is the second-most powerful RAV4. The conventional gasoline RAV4 powertrain puts out 203 hp.
Meanwhile, Toyota estimates that the RAV4 Prime will be capable of a generous 39 miles of electric-only driving on a charge, though it does not have an EPA rating yet. Toyota estimates fuel economy at 90 mpg-equivalent for the Prime; the RAV4 Hybrid without a plug is EPA-rated at 41/38/40 mpg city-highway/combined.
The Prime will compete with a plug-in hybrid version of the redesigned 2020 Ford Escape compact SUV. It is expected in the spring, though details of the Escape PHEV have not yet been released.
Under the Hood
The 2021 RAV4 Prime uses a revised version of the regular hybrid’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle gas engine. It puts out the same 176 hp but adds 5 pounds-feet of torque for a total of 168, and the peak is at lower rpm. More powerful electric motors boost the total system output to 302 hp. They are pulling juice from a new lithium-ion battery, though Toyota has not specified its capacity. It did say that the more powerful battery is mounted under the floor in a way that preserves interior space, while the added weight there lowers the Prime’s center of gravity relative to other RAV4s. With one motor mounted on the rear axle, an electronic all-wheel-drive system is standard — the same system as the RAV4 Hybrid.
Optional paddle shifters will allow the driver to increase the regenerative braking strength in steps. And on Primes with optional navigation, predictive technology will optimize hybrid battery charging and discharging based on road conditions and the driver’s patterns.
The Prime XSE picks up the sportier look and features of the Hybrid XSE, including 19-inch alloy wheels new to RAV4 hybrids and the two-tone offering that pairs a black roof with the other paint colors. The new SE will include 18-inch alloy wheels, its own grille design, and lower front spoiler and piano-black exterior accents.
The new Prime SE trim level will include heated front seats, a power driver’s seat, 7-inch instrument display and 8-inch multimedia touchscreen. An option package will include a moonroof, plus a heated steering wheel and rear seats.
The Prime XSE includes RAV4’s first-ever paddle shifters, a moonroof, vinyl upholstery, wireless charging, ambient lighting and a 9-inch touchscreen. A Premium Package adds navigation, a panoramic moonroof, JBL premium audio, perforated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel and rear seats, power liftgate, a 360-degree camera system and RAV4’s first head-up display.
Like all RAV4s, the Prime will have a standard bundle of safety and driver assist tech that includes a front collision system with automatic braking and pedestrian detection, full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist with lane centering and automatic high beams. Both Prime trim levels also include a blind spot monitor, and an XSE Premium Package will add reverse cross-traffic automatic braking and front and rear parking assist with automatic braking.
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