ROAD TEST: 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

By Shari Prymak

Despite being the dominant player in the hybrid electric vehicle market, Toyota has been reluctant to dive into full-electric vehicles free of internal combustion. The company believes that hybrids are the superior choice with a more effective overall impact when it comes to reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions. Although pure EVs are off the table for the foreseeable future, Toyota does offer the next best thing, which is plug-in hybrid technology. The RAV4 Prime is the latest model in the Toyota lineup to receive the plug-in option, and it makes a strong case for crossover shoppers to consider going green.

The RAV4 Prime uses the exceptionally well-designed and wildly-popular RAV4 Hybrid as its base. The drivetrain consists of a 4-cylinder gasoline engine and a set of electric motors driving all four wheels. Total system output is a surprisingly robust 302 horsepower, which is 83 more than you get from the regular Hybrid and 98 more than the standard gas model. The Prime is quite a bit heavier than the other models thanks to its extra-large 18.1 kWh lithium ion battery pack, but you would never know it based on the power. The result of that beefy hybrid system is some pretty serious hustle and plenty of passing power for merging onto highways. Toyota quotes a 0-100km/h time of about six seconds, making it the second fastest Toyota model after the high-performance Supra sports car.

As impressive as the power is, the major draw to the Prime is its dedicated electric driving range. With a full charge, the Prime can manage up to 65 km of emissions-free driving before switching to regular hybrid mode. Even with the electric range depleted, the Prime remains smooth and serene with near silent operation and incredible efficiency. Total driving range is around 800km with a fuel economy average of up to 6.0L/100km with a careful right foot, which is phenomenal for a sizable crossover. The Prime can replenish its electric range in about 12 hours when charging on a regular household electric outlet, but that can be cut down to as little as 2.5 hours with a 6.6-kWh level 2 fast charger.

In most other respects, aside from a slightly higher cargo floor to accommodate the batteries, the Prime is no different than any other RAV4 model. It offers plenty of space and comes packed with features and safety technology at every trim level. The pricing is quite aggressive with a starting MSRP of $44,990 for the SE model and topping out at $56,990 for the XSE with Technology Package. Like other electric vehicles, the Prime is eligible for both federal and provincial electric vehicle incentives. That could mean anywhere from $5,000 to $13,000 in combined discounts depending on where you live in the country.

Without question, the RAV4 Prime is easily the most desirable version in the RAV4 family and one of the best electrified vehicles of any kind for under $60,000. Unfortunately, a severely limited battery supply, coupled with the constraints of global manufacturing taking place solely in Japan, mean that the RAV4 Prime is an extremely scarce hot commodity. Availability is slowly trickling its way across Canada, but long waiting lists are expected well into the 2022 calendar year. The no-compromises, do-it-all, electric crossover that consumers have long been waiting for has finally arrived. You just have to be extremely patient if you want one.