2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE. Courtesy photo

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE. Courtesy photo

Car review: 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE

  • Friday, January 22, 2021 2:55pm
  • Life

By Larry Lark, contributor

With each passing year Toyota continues to refine and tweak its gas, hybrid and electric engines. The latest recipient was the 2021 RAV4 Prime XSE AWD SUV.

It is the RAV4’s first-ever plug-in model, adding an additional 42 miles on electric battery alone on a single charge. That is on top of the 450-mile range provided by its 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, Atkinson-cycle engine and hybrid system with EV and HV modes.

RAV4 seats up to five adults, with a generous cargo area behind the second row. The hybrid delivers close to 40 miles per gallon fuel efficiency, with the added benefit of running all-electric around town when owners are in errand mode.

That makes Toyota’s RAV4 green in a large way, without having to sacrifice an iota. RAV4 accelerates from 0-to-60 in 5.7 seconds while delivering 302 horsepower. That makes it the quickest four-door model in the Toyota lineup.

The RAV4 Prime’s passenger space isn’t compromised by the larger lithium-Ion battery, as it is mounted under the floor. The mounting position also gives the RAV4 Prime a low center of gravity and enhanced driving stability.

RAV4 Prime’s enhanced heat pump HVAC system, is based on Prius Prime’s ,and contributes to an increasing EV range, as energy consumption for cabin temperature control can significantly decrease EV driving range.

It also benefits from Electronic On-Demand All-Wheel Drive (AWD), making it a versatile option for families looking for an extra degree of safety, versatility and flexibility. A separate rear-mounted electric motor powers the rear wheels when needed, including proactively on acceleration startup and also in reduced-traction conditions.

The AWD system also reduces understeer during cornering for enhanced steering stability. Off-pavement, AWD enhances hill-climbing performance. A driver-selectable Trail mode makes it possible to get unstuck by braking a spinning wheel and sending torque to the grounding wheel.

Toyota engineered the 2021 RAV4 Prime for the performance-oriented driver and is therefore offering it in the sporty SE and XSE grades. The SE grade is new for the RAV4 Prime, and the XSE is currently exclusive to the RAV4 Hybrid.

The RAV4 Hybrid XSE Prime version stands apart with an available two-tone exterior paint scheme pairing a black roof with select colors, including my tester’s “Supersonic Red” coat of enamel.

A multitude of standard features are highlighted by exclusive 19-inch, two-tone alloy wheels, vertical LED accent lights, paddle shifters, moonroof, SofTex-trimmed seat surfaces, Qi-wireless phone charger. ambient interior lighting, auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink universal transceiver, and Audio Plus with 9-inch touchscreen.

My tester was equipped with a Weather and Premium package ($3,765), which added a long list of creature comforts including a heated steering wheel, heated front and rear outboard seats, rain-sensing wipers, JBL premium audio system, bird’s eye-view camera, panoramic moonroof, foot-activated power lift gate and more.

All Toyota RAV4 models come equipped with standard Toyota Safety Sense suite, which groups a long roster of active-safety technologies and capabilities: Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, full-speed range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Automatic High Beam, Lane Tracing Assist and Road Sign Assist. The XSE Premium Package adds Rear Cross Traffic Braking and front and rear Parking Assist with Automated Braking.

RAV4 is a hard-to-beat compact SUV that is not only environmentally friendly, but delivers all the attributes and goodies buyers in this competitive market niche require.

Base Price: $42,545

Price As Driven: $49,776

Destination charge is included in base price. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturer. List price may vary at local dealerships.


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Rajiv Nagaich is an elder law attorney, author, adjunct law school professor, and retirement planning visionary who has achieved national recognition for his cutting-edge work with retirees and his contributions to the practice of elder law. He is the founder of two firms based in Federal Way: Life Point Law, an elder law and estate planning firm, and AgingOptions, a firm that provides retirement-related education to consumers and professionals.
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