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2021 has been the year of the EVs for me, having had time in the all-electric Ford Mustang Mach-E and the Volkswagen ID.4, and my range anxiety concerns were quickly put to rest. With those experiences under my belt, I was excited to try out the all-new RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), as Toyota may have found the perfect transition vehicle for those still showing trepidation over EVs.

I get many consumers are naturally skeptical of EVs. The average consumer will complain about rising gas prices but won’t consider an electric vehicle or even a hybrid. Range anxiety is cited as an example for consumer skepticism. The trepidation surrounding today’s EVs is real and understandable to a certain extent. Plus, many drivers don’t realize how few miles they truly drive per day, thus negating the overhanging concern of range anxiety.

That being said, recharging an EV is tedious, and the nation’s infrastructure remains inconsistent for certain parts of the country. Which is why a vehicle that has all-electric capability with gasoline range has the potential to change minds. So, here are five reasons, why the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime is an excellent transition vehicle.

Surprising power

There are not too many PHEVs on the road today. But truth be told, PHEVs such as the RAV4 Prime are a great way for the consumer to slowly integrate into electrification. First, it still has a gasoline engine, so you never technically have to plug in the the RAV4 Prime. You just won’t get maximum fuel efficiency if you don’t.

As for the power plant, the RAV4 Prime has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with an electric motor assist. The standard RAV4 without the electric motor feels underpowered, but with the electric motor assist, the output is impressive.

The RAV4 Prime is rated at 302 horsepower and 168 pound-feet of torque. I was surprised to see the lower torque rating as this SUV feels spunky. It’s definitely punchier than the standard RAV4 or the hybrid version. 302 horses is an impressive number for a vehicle this size and certainly the electrification helps improve the overall performance of the RAV4 Prime.

In fact, according to testing, the RAV4 Prime is the second fastest vehicle in the Toyota fleet — behind the Supra (!!) — with a 0-60 mph time of 5.7 seconds.

RAV4 Prime ride quality

If you’ve driven any of the previous years of the RAV4, you may have left feeling uninspired and unimpressed. The RAV4 is a top seller for Toyota, and in this segment, there are so many competitors. But honestly, the entire segment just often feels blah. The RAV4 Prime immediately made me pay attention.

In addition to the spunky performance, it also has a comfortable and quiet interior. With a continuously variable transmission (CVT), I was concerned about noise from the engine, as generally I dislike CVTs. However, the CVT in the RAV4 Prime does a great job and does not have any noticeable cabin noise. And that’s a good thing.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

Fuel economy

You can’t talk about a PHEV without discussing the fuel economy. The number one reason to consider the RAV4 Prime is the fuel economy. It can go about 42 miles on a single electric charge. This means for running errands or for city drivers with smaller commutes, you will rarely have to hit the dead dinosaur juice.

But if you need to go on longer trips, the transition from EV mode to hybrid/ICE mode is seamless. The RAV4 Prime, with a full charge on the EV motor has a 94 MPGe in combined city and highway driving. On gasoline it has a 38 MPG combined average. So fewer trips to the gas station is a plus.

Plus, Toyota says that on a standard 120-volt household outlet, the Prime will full charge in 12 hours. Sure that’s an excessive time, but if you have a 240-volt out, that recharge time drops to only 4.5 hours. Meaning, every night, the RAV4 Prime can plug in, recharge and keep you from using as much gasoline.

RAV4 Prime looks the part

In the past, the RAV4 has felt adequate but uninspiring. The 2021 RAV4 Prime has a more impressive feeling inside and out. While the exterior looks are similar to the gas-only version, the subtle differences are just enough to grab attention and have personality.

It’s the inside that makes it more memorable. The RAV4 Prime feels more luxurious and seems to have updated and upgraded the materials. Also, one of the knocks against hybrids is their lack of cargo room, but that’s not the case here since the battery is mounted to the undercarriage instead of in the cargo area.

There’s 33.5 cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seat. And fold those seats flat it expands to 63.2 cubic feet. For a hybrid in this segment, that’s an impressive amount of room.

Best of all worlds

Toyota offers the RAV4 in three iterations now: gas-only, hybrid and PHEV. I’ve experienced all three versions in the last couple years, and I can tell you the RAV4 Prime is the best of the three offerings from Toyota in this segment.

For those who are unsure about EVs or skeptical about hybrids, the RAV4 stands primed and ready (see what I did there?). It is ideal as a daily driver and one that will be fun to drive and produce far fewer trips to the gas station. Plus, it will be a great primer (okay I’ll stop with the puns) as we tiptoe toward the electrification of vehicles.

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Jimmy Dinsmore

Jimmy is News Editor for PickupTruckTalk with an expertise in new vehicles. He is also a Ford Mustang historian having authored the book Mustang by Design (available on Amazon). His second book, about the history of Ford's F-Series truck comes out next year.

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