2021 Toyota RAV4 expands SUV lead with EV boost

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For several years, the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V have paced the keen competition at the front of the small, versatile sport utility vehicle pack. Toyota has further expanded its current lead with the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE.

A plug-in hybrid option of the standard five-passenger, the Toyota RAV4 Prime is a small SUV offered in SE and XSE trims. Its 4-cylinder engine combines with a more powerful lithium-ion battery pack and three motors to produce 302 horsepower.

The result is the quickest and most powerful RAV4. It accelerates from 0-to-60 miles per hour in 5.7 seconds. The RAV4 Prime also has a 42-mile all-electric range, a tally that makes using the mode a realistic option. Too many SUVs with electric-only driving options have range limits of less than 20 miles.

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 further expanded its small SUV with its EV boost.
The 2021 Toyota RAV4 further expanded its small SUV with its EV boost.

Besides its improved performance and range, the RAV4 also offers 19-inch wheels and a head-up display for the first time.

2021 Toyota RAV4: Lots of high-end upgrades

The upscale XSE trim takes the offerings of its lower-priced stablemate and substantially upgrades the vehicle inside and outside. Consider the niceties: Auto-dimming rearview mirror, interior ambient lighting, nine-inch touchscreen, paddle shifters, simulated leather upholstery, sunroof (optional on SE), two-tone roof (black) and a wireless charging pad.

Offered only on the XSE trim, the Premium Package expands the SUV into near technology overload. But it’s worth the $3,765 price. Adaptive headlights, digital rearview mirror, driver-seat memory settings, front and rear parking sensors with automatic braking, hands-free liftgate and a quicker hybrid battery recharging capability are also included.

A panoramic sunroof, surround-view parking camera system and ventilated front seats further add to the RAV4’s attractiveness.

Toyota doesn’t leave out anything. The Prime’s bundled Audio Package ($1,620) in the XSE trim a several-item weather accessory list, plus a JBL audio system and a navigation system.

The RAV4 will likely further extend its yearly sales lead over Honda with its hybrid mileage. Using gas only, the SUV averages 38 miles per gallon. The MPGe rating is 94, with Toyota stating a full-charge time of 4.5 hours with a 240-volt system.

Long gone is the RAV4’s boxy appearance, replaced by a bold sharp-edged redesign since 2019. The SUV is further attractive with the XSE trim’s standard and two-tone paint scheme offerings. The exterior also features a large grille and large wheel clearances. It’s a good but odd look since the RAV4 isn’t off-road savvy.

The sharp-angled taillights promote a potential problem if accidentally encountered while lowering the tailgate or retrieving cargo. They could double as self-administered Heimlich maneuver tools.

The only other issues with the RAV4? The backup warning sound is annoying and leather upholstery is not available.

Small issues aside, the 2021 RAV4 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE is the segment’s best-seller for its economy, driving comfort and overall versatility. Its $41,425 MSRP and $49,577 total price warrant a financial pause.

Alas, the tally is substantially eased. The Prime XSE is eligible for a federal tax credit of $7,500. In some states, t may be eligible for High Occupancy Lane (HOV) access as well as local incentives. This pure electric capability pushes the overall range to 600 miles between filling the tank and recharging the battery.

Like any SUV, the RAV4 provides comfort and utilitarian usage. The ride is smooth, except for negotiating freeway driving in strong winds. The SUV platform inherently means slight road shifting and wind rush.

With sales of more than 420,000 in the United States in 2020, the RAV4’s appeal far outweighed its inconveniences. Certainly, Honda noticed.

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