Not your typical hybrid. If you don’t think the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime sounds exciting, we don’t blame you. It’s the plug-in hybrid version of one of the country’s most popular mainstream crossovers – what else could it be but boring?

But the RAV4 Prime is here to shake things up. Unlike most plug-ins, it's faster than its gas-powered sibling. In fact, the RAV4 Prime is the fastest RAV4 on the market, and the second fastest car in Toyota’s lineup.

Yes, you read that right. After the newly revived Toyota Supra, the RAV4 Prime is the fastest car the automaker sells. That’s thanks to a large 18.1-kWh battery and a pair of electric motors, which combine with a 2.5-liter engine for a total of 302 horsepower.

The 0-60 mph sprint takes just 5.7 seconds, which is impressive for a heavy crossover. Equally impressive is an EPA-rated electric range of 42 miles, which can be recharged in just a few hours at home.

Better looks, worse space. We already liked the looks of the latest Toyota RAV4, and the RAV4 Prime only improves. A gloss-black bumper cleans up the grille area, and XSE models can wear a contrasting roof color.

Unfortunately, the RAV4 Prime’s newly fashionable roofline cuts into interior space. Tall drivers may feel cramped, especially with the available moonroof. Seat bottoms are thinner than we’d like, too.

The extra plug-in hybrid equipment comes at the cost of some cargo capacity. The conventional RAV4 can fit more than 37 cubic feet behind the seats, while the RAV4 Prime has to settle for 33.5, or 69.8 with the seats folded. That’s not bad by most standards, but it falls short of popular competitors like the Honda CR-V.


Toyota RAV4 Prime

Safe and swanky. As a relatively new model, the RAV4 Prime gets the latest and greatest in safety features. Every model comes with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and lane keeping assist.

The plug-in doesn’t skimp on luxury, either. RAV4 Prime models get exclusive red stitching on either fabric or leatherette seats, with an impressive kit of standard features like heated seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and no fewer than five USB ports.

These features are included because the RAV4 Prime is only sold in two trims: SE and XSE. Those are the highest rungs of the conventional RAV4 lineup, and the RAV4 Prime feels correspondingly luxurious. In particular, the interior benefits from soft-touch surfaces.

Paying a premium. The downside of the limited trim options is that the RAV4 Prime wears an equally luxurious price tag. The SE trim just squeaks in under $40,000, while the XSE is $3,325 more. That puts the RAV4 Prime in dangerous territory, competing against the likes of the BMW X3.

The RAV4 Prime’s saving grace is its efficiency. The EPA estimates that it gets 94 MPGe combined, putting it among the most efficient cars on the road. The RAV4 Prime has few competitors in this arena – most plug-in crossovers (like the Kia Niro or Subaru Crosstrek) are significantly smaller.

This makes the RAV4 Prime a departure for Toyota in more ways than one. This is a plug-in that prioritizes performance, and also one that aims for luxury credentials rather than mainstream popularity. In the RAV4 Prime’s favor, the financial is blow is softened by tax incentives and long-term fuel efficiency.

Final thoughts. The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime isn't an ordinary RAV4, and we’re glad for it. It loses out on cargo space, but it gets a powertrain that’s astonishingly quick and just as thrifty in return. If you can afford the price of entry, there’s nothing else like it on the road.

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