2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

The entire driving experience has been elevated with improved dynamics and an impressive powertrain.
The entire driving experience has been elevated with improved dynamics and an impressive powertrain.

by Nelson Chong | November 2, 2021


“Electrifying Performance and Efficiently powered” is a bold statement which headlines the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime according to Toyota. The statement is then followed up with claims of being “sporty, versatile and connected”. Such adjectives are usually reserved for performance oriented vehicles. The RAV4 is without a doubt versatile, but sporty and connected is definitely up for debate.

The RAV4 is built for the sporty to conquer the outdoors, but I am hard pressed to believe the RAV4 can be sporty and connected. The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime is not an ordinary RAV4 with a simple four-banger under the hood; it’s the first ever plug-in hybrid model. We set out to find out why Toyota is making such bold claims for the RAV4 Prime.

The Prime indicates the use of a plug-in hybrid system producing the most power ever in a RAV4. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor produces 302 combined horsepower. With the instant torque of the electric motor, power delivery is instant and silky smooth. It’s an eerie feeling to have so much passing power on the highway in a RAV4. There is ample power to thunder down the highway and immediate electrical response to zip around tight city streets.

The level of refinement as you ease into the throttle surpasses any gas model in Toyota or even Lexus’ current lineup, but the road and wind noise quickly reminds you it’s still a Toyota as it gets up to speed. Even in standard hybrid mode, the gasoline engine is quiet with smooth transitions; harshness is only felt when demanding full power. The powertrain of the RAV4 Prime is special; I sincerely hope it will be applied into more vehicles.

Historically, the more power, the more frequent the visits to the gas station. However, the RAV4 Prime has a combined range of up to 979 kilometers on a full tank of gasoline combined with a full charge. Driving around like a regular hybrid, we were seeing 5.5L/100km. The 68-kilometer EV-only range on a full charge is plenty for most Canadians’ typical commutes, with the only variable being charging time. On a regular 110V outlet, we saw an 80% recharge in eight hours.

The ride of the RAV4 Prime is surprisingly better than expected. As with other RAV4 models, there is a substantial amount of float, as if the shocks are under-damped. Despite this, the Prime takes corners and ramps with confidence. This is thanks to the excellent steering in the RAV4, just like other vehicles on the TNGA platform.

From the outside, there is not much that is unique to the Rav4 Prime. The front end gets a new bumper with a more sophisticated design; the honey chrome grille is blacked out with a smaller opening and highlighted with a chrome surround. The bumper hangs lower with a silver lip giving the RAV4 more presence. Our tester is the XSE model fitted with 19-inch wheels with a brushed finish, painted in the Prime-exclusive Supersonic Red colour scheme.

The RAV4 Prime also gives off a more upscale vibe with all the usual black plastic trims converted to a piano black finish and contrasted with subtle use of chrome. Its overall look reminds me of its big brother, the extremely successful Highlander Hybrid. The Prime is the model to get for those that want a more premium and sophisticated look.

The cabin is designed to be more refined and premium as well, with the full Softex treatment inside. Red stitching adds detail to the all black theme, and the seats have a sporty design with great support. It is plush and supportive to keep you comfortable on long trips. The dashboard is finished in Softex material with red stitching to match. This is one of the best interiors Toyota makes, simple with large tactile controls for key functions such as HVAC. The steering wheel-mounted buttons are not convoluted, either.

The gauge cluster is a large seven-inch colour TFT screen for trip information, efficiency data or navigation. Infotainment is the standard Toyota affair which is beginning to feel dated, but it does the job effectively. With both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility through a nine-inch touchscreen, I don’t blame Toyota for not spending too much time updating their infotainment as long as it’s simple and easy to use.

Remote Connect is a great suite of services including remote climate start, charge management, charging station locator. It’s a one year trial, but Toyota’s app also allows further connection with your RAV4 to lock and unlock, remote start and further driving details regarding your usage of the vehicle. Service connect keeps you up to date on all the maintenance needs on your cell phone. These are all great touches which improve the ownership experience for those who are tech-savvy.

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime starts at $44,990. Our tester is the XSE model at $51,590, with the optional Premium Technology Package for $5,400. The package includes a panoramic sunroof, paddle shifters, heads up display, JBL 11-speaker audio and more. It’s an important package to elevate the driving experience. Total as tested price of comes in at a hefty $57,245, but as of now there aren’t really any real rivals. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is one of the few with a starting price of $43,998, however the EV range and overall quality are a serious downgrade from the Prime.

The RAV4 has always been a great vehicle with excellent utility, but was fun only because it took people places that were fun. However with this new model, the entire driving experience has been elevated with improved dynamics and an impressive powertrain. The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime is by far the best car out of today’s Toyota showrooms. If you are looking for a plug-in hybrid SUV, the RAV4 Prime is the gold standard.

See Also:

First Drive: 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

2022 Toyota Prius Prime

2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Vehicle Specs
Engine Size
Horsepower (at RPM)
Torque (lb-ft.)
Fuel Efficiency (L/100km, City/Highway/Combined)
Observed Fuel Efficiency (L/100km)
Cargo Capacity (in L)
Base Price (CAD)
As-Tested Price (CAD)
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About Nelson Chong

Staff Writer

A father, husband, and photographer, Nelson is a genuine car nut through and through. When not out and about testing the latest in the industry, he can be found behind the lens or the wheel of one of his Japanese icons.

Current Toys: ’04 S2000, ’18 Civic Type R, ’23 Model Y