2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE Premium l Review

I’d like to thank you all for tuning in once again into my slow but certain descent into the depths the crossover segment. It’s literally one after another, after another, after another, after another, and that’s just in the last month. A white CX-5 was replaced last week by a white Venza and my wife said “wait, is that the same car…”. Occasionally I’ll get an EV, or something with a bit more flair, I even got excited when I got a minivan instead. Next week, you guessed it, its another crossover (but it’s the funky little Venue Denim). It’s not until later this month that the IS 500 F Sport Performance gets here to help cleanse the palette.

But, looking for a bright side, I can deliver some real-world advice on which crossovers are best. Maybe I’ll create a buyer’s guide. In the meantime, I’m going to review this 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE Premium. It’s a plug-in hybrid with a combined output of 302 horsepower. Is this Supersonic Red crossover something a bit more special? Let’s find out.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

Prime Overview

Toyota lists the RAV4, RAV4 Hybrid, and RAV4 Prime as three separate things on their website. The regular ole RAV starts at $26,350 (28/35 MPG), while the Hybrid jumps up to $28,900 (41/38 MPG), and Optimus here starts at a heftier $38,350 (38/94 MPG/MPGe).

There are two trim levels on the Prime, the SE and the XSE that we had access to for a week of thorough(ish) testing.

Interesting note, when I clicked on “build”, Toyota alerted me to the scarcity of the RAV4 Prime and encouraged me to check out the RAV4 Hybrid instead!

2021 RAV4 Prime Availability of RAV4 Prime is currently extremely limited in your area Click below to contact a dealer or explore RAV4 Hybrid.


I literally couldn’t explore the “Build your RAV4 Prime” until I changed my zip code to 90210 vs. my Northern Virginia zip that pre-populated. Strange. As you can see on the window sticker, the Supersonic Red paint with Black Metallic Roof will cost you another $425 bucks. From there, you choose not from packages, but from packages of packages. The website combines Premium Audio, Weather Package, and the Premium Package into the “XSE Premium Package with options”. Ok. That’ll be $5,760, must be Beverly Hills prices. Toyota went to town in the Accessories section and just went “yep, all that” and that gets you to the final price of just under $50,000!

You can spec a top trim Hybrid Limited up into the $40,000s as well. Just got giggles, I searched cars.com to find the most expensive RAV4 Prime in the country, and it’s for sale right near here listed for almost $65,000! I couldn’t find a “view window sticker” button, but I’m assuming that’s some form of “we got no inventory because of the dang microchips” markup. What a world.

On to the rest of the review.


I find it incredibly interesting to see what cars people comment on. I get everything from to Corollas to bright yellow Acura NSXs (and everything in-between) parked outside my house. While I’m sitting out drinking on the adirondack chairs people will stop and chat about whatever happens to be parked for the week. Maybe it was the bright red paint, but this one seemed to get people’s attention. On the first school run one of the teachers said “wow, this looks really sharp”.

And it’s not a bad looking thing. It’s chunky and muscular looking, at least for a plug-in hybrid crossover. It has some interesting details like the little fins on the side of the brake lights. Why is that there, wind-tunnel derived or just “hey this looks cool”? Aside from the two-tone paint the Prime gets some kit to differentiate it from the lesser RAVs including a unique grille, chin spoiler, 19-inch wheels, and a neat vertical LED strips on the front.


The interior is a little flamboyant as well, with red stitching throughout. It generally feels like a $50,000 vehicle thanks to a long list of features and options. The Prime has paddle shifters (natch, almost all crossovers do), some synthetic leather seats, a panoramic glass roof, and some other goodies.

I’m still intrigued to see a real (automatic) shifter sitting up there vs. the new trend of buttons and dials to get things in gear. Then again, we are still only a couple years into the latest 5th generation RAV, so expect that to evolve with the next iteration.

It’s fairly large inside, especially compared to early model RAV4s. Quick trivia, the latest RAV4 is a almost nineteen inches longer than 1995 four-door RAV4. It’s grown up to a pretty roomy thing, with solid back seat legroom and a large-enough 33.5 cu. ft. of space in the back.

From a tech perspective, I’ve been warring with the Qi chargers across various brands of late. If your phone isn’t in just the right spot, it just doesn’t work. This one is actually solid and works well, it was a good size and flat enough to keep the power flowing. Elsewhere it’s about what you would expect, there is a nine-inch touchscreen and the types of multimedia integration you would want to see. It all worked well and I didn’t log many criticism of the interface.


Hey now, this thing is quick! The gas 2.5L gas engine plus the electric motor have a total combined system output of 302 horsepower. That’s a lot more than the 219 horsepower combined that you get in the RAV4 Hybrid. Our friends at Motortrend got a brisk 5.5 seconds to 60 mph, and a quarter-mile time of 14.1 seconds at 98.7 mph. That’s faster than almost all of the hot hatches and sporty 1990s cars that I lusted after back in the day. Motortrend said it’s the 2nd quickest car in the current Toyota lineup behind the Supra, but just ahead of the NASCAR looking TRD Camry.

The “sport” button didn’t really do much, but I liked that it glowed red when you pushed it!

From a 20 mph roll it broke the tires loose on a perfectly dry surface. Thankfully it has standard AWD or it would be a handful of torque steer. The 4300 pound curb weight means that it’s not a sports car, but in the world of hybrid and EV crossovers, that’s not terrible. It’s also possible to (almost) drive with just the gas pedal like a true EV, even in gas model. The HUD display would drop into ECO mode, showing that I was charging, as I let off coming to a stoplight. The engine braking was more pronounced than in a normal gas powered car, but maybe I was looking for that since I’ve been driving a couple of true EVs recently.

It’s got range for days, which ended up meaning that I didn’t really care about the EV aspect. Apparently it’ll go 42 miles on EV-only, which would support quite a few daily commutes. But with a 500 plus mile gas range, I just didn’t see the point.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime
Dual gas/electric flaps for the win


That was the real issue for the Prime, it’s gas engine is so frugal, the EV part was just a nice-to-have. I was averaging close to 40 MPG with just petrol-power, which the RAV4 Hybrid will do as well, and at $10,000 less. So, therein lies the issue with plug-in hybrids. They aren’t great EVs, and that means they’re just more expensive hybrids. This one just happens to be pretty quick!

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2 responses to “2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE Premium l Review”

  1. Joseph Avatar

    I had the 2020 Rav4 and loved it, the only reason I got rid of it is I needed a truck. This might be one I will get for my wife

  2. Don Goodheart Avatar
    Don Goodheart

    Have had my Prime just a little over a month. Love it. Got the Xse without the technology package. Was lucky as I ordered it back in March and I understand that I have only one of the 3 Primes delivered in Florida. Just amazed at how many compliments I get on the two tone red and black combo. I use it around town mostly with the EV only unless I really want the extra power or the charge mode. Have yet to go to a gas station and it’s still 3/4 full. Don’t think I need all the extra bells and whistles of the tech package and I figure that’s one of the reasons I received it before all the others in line — fewer chips with the chip shortage. Thanks for the review.