The RAV4 has found huge success in the American market. It's now the best-selling passenger vehicle (second only to half-ton pickup trucks from Ford, Chevy, and Ram). That's a huge claim given the fact that the original RAV4 back 1994 was really the first bona fide mainstream crossover to hit the market. The all-new RAV4 looks unlike the previous four generations, and now the brand has pulled the covers off the RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid version. Sure, it's efficient, but we're gobsmacked over the acceleration numbers.
It'll go from 0-60 mph in 5.8 seconds, tying it with the quick, 301-horsepower Camry XSE V6. The only car it can't beat in the 0-60 sprint is the Toyota Supra sports car. That's pretty impressive for a plug-in hybrid crossover. We have to say we didn't see this coming. The gas-powered RAV4 is a great car, but the one area where it suffers is its tepid engine that gets it to 60 in about 8 seconds (and it sounds like it's really working for every one of those seconds).
It's styled pretty much the same as the regular RAV4, but it gets nice trim features because it will only be offered in sporty SE and XSE trim (versus LE and XLE). Prime badging, a uniquely shaped grille with black chrome, a larger front air dam, and really sporty 19" wheels set it apart from conventional gas-powered RAV4 trims. Those wheels are the biggest available on any RAV4 and fill the wheel wells much better than before. The Prime also gets a unique Supersonic Red paint choice just like the version in the photos. You can also choose two-tone coloring that features a sporty black roof.
In terms of power, the RAV4 Prime has a 176-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and two electric motors for all-wheel drive power. Electric-only range is about 32 miles, which means you should be able to get to and from work all week if you have a short commute and have access to charging at home. The battery is mounted under the RAV4 Prime's floor, so it doesn't intrude on interior space, and it makes the vehicle's center of gravity lower which enhances handling. The vehicle's paddle shifters can adjust the degree of regen braking, much like the current Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
Keep in mind there's already a RAV4 XSE Hybrid, and it's the brand's best-selling hybrid (over the Camry, Avalon, and even the Prius), but that version has far less horsepower than the RAV4 Prime (219 versus 302). If it's overall efficiency you want (41 city / 38 highway EPA), that version should be your choice. But if you want to have the option to run on pure-electric and then drive like a nut when you want to, go with the RAV4 Prime.
In terms of the interior, the RAV4 Prime looks and feels just like the gas-powered trims. The dash-mounted infotainment system is easier to use than the previous generation, and the materials and ergonomics are much-improved. We love the grippy climate control knobs with the inset displays the most, and the steering wheel controls, shift knob, and dash design are better than ever.
We can't wait to drive the RAV4 Prime when it hist the market next summer as a 2021 model. While we won't expect it to handle or accelerate like a sports car, it should outdo most of the mainstream, non-performance crossovers on sale today. Pricing should be a bit higher than the RAV4 gas and hybrid versions, but we don't know the exact details. We should also get more information about charging times, as well. Toyota's doing a lot right these days, and the RAV4 Prime should prove to be another feather in their cap.