2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime makes an impressive debut at the L.A. Auto Show

Expanding its premium Prime trim line to the recently-introduced fifth generation of its popular utility vehicle, Toyota used the Los Angeles Auto Show to reveal what it says will be the most powerful and quickest—yet also the most fuel-efficient—RAV4 yet: the Prime. With an estimated 302 total horsepower, the 2021 RAV4 Prime’s hybrid drivetrain promises to deliver a sporty 0–60 mph time of just 5.8 seconds while still being able to conserve fuel to the tune of a 90 MPGe rating.

Toyota is hoping to expand on the success of the RAV4 Hybrid, the model on which the RAV4 Prime is based. Sales of the RAV4 Hybrid are up 72 percent over last year, making it the best selling hybrid vehicle in North America, surpassing even Toyota’s flagship hybrid, the Prius.

The performance improvements for the RAV4 Prime are thanks to a more powerful motor-generator, a higher capacity lithium-ion battery pack, and a new booster-converter added to a re-tuned version of the RAV4 Hybrid’s 2.5-liter, four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle combustion engine, giving the powertrain an increase of 83 hp over the standard battery-assisted RAV4. The 302 total horsepower is a significant bump over the 269 hp that was available in the V-6-powered RAV4 on sale from 2006–12, what had previously been the most sporting version of Toyota’s compact SUV. Fuel efficiency has been improved with the implementation of the automaker’s enhanced heat pump HVAC system, borrowed from the Prius Prime, said to decrease energy consumption for HVAC needs.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

To augment that power, the bigger battery pack has been mounted under the vehicle floor for a low center of gravity, along with better handling and stability. Toyota’s Electronic On-Demand All-Wheel Drive adds a second electric motor, this one for the rear axle, for added power in poor-traction conditions. The AWD system is also calibrated to reduce understeer and improve handling while on pavement, while at the same time enhancing hill-climbing and off-road ability. A selectable Trail mode uses the brakes to keep wheels from spinning while sending torque to the wheel with actual traction. Optional paddle “shifters” give the feeling of downshifting as its regenerative braking can be controlled in steps.

SE models come with piano-black exterior accents, 18-inch painted and machined aluminum wheels, a new front grille and lip spoiler, and a painted rear diffuser. Standard equipment includes heated front seats with the driver getting eight-way power adjustments, a seven-inch information display, blind spot monitoring, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob with red accent stitching, a power rear liftgate, and an audio system with an eight-inch touch screen and compatibility with Amazon Alexa, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay. 

The XSE trim, exclusive to the RAV4 Prime, comes with a two-tone paint scheme incorporating a black roof, 19-inch two-tone aluminum wheels, and vertical LED accent lights. The paddle shifters are standard on the XSE, as is a moonroof, while auto-leveling and steering-linked corner lighting come with the optional adaptive front lighting system. The interior also features synthetic leather SofTex upholstery, wireless cellphone charging, ambient lighting, auto-dimming mirror with integrated garage door opener and a nine-inch touch screen for the standard Audio Plus system, the largest infotainment screen yet on a RAV4. Premium Audio, with dynamic navigation and JBL speakers, is optional.

Both models of the RAV4 Prime are available with Toyota’s Predictive Efficient Drive. Linked to the optional nav system, PED reads the upcoming roads and, combined with driver behavior patterns, it optimizes battery management for ideal charging and discharging to the driving conditions.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

Advanced driver assists, standard on all RAV4 models, are part of version 2.0 of Toyota Safety Sense and include a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams, lane tracing assist, and road sign assist. The XSE Premium trim package adds rear cross traffic braking and front and rear parking assist with automated braking to the ADAS package.

As with all Toyota hybrids, starting with the 2020 model year, the RAV4 Prime will come with a battery warranty that has been extended from eight years and 100,000 miles to 10 years and 150,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Sales begin next summer. No pricing details have been released yet.

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