Review: 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE AWD

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Contributing Author: Anne Fleming

This 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime is…well, prime, in so many ways – especially for those interested in a quicker, more responsive hybrid experience. Its athletic appearance is easy on the eyes and the plug-in hybrid powertrain gives you the best of both worlds. Overall, there’s a lot to love about Toyota’s standout SUV.


$49,831 as tested


The drivetrain has All-Wheel Drive delivering power to all wheels for safer, confident handling in inclement conditions or on any terrain. The transmission is Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) and delivers a smoother and sleeker driving performance, as there are no gears shifting.

The engine is a 2.5L 4-cylinder, Plug-in Hybrid System with EV and HV modes and combines for a powerful 302 net horsepower. We experienced plenty of get-up in this 5-seater SUV. Handling is quite responsive on any terrain. Braking is exceptional, too. We found the steering of this RAV4 model to be responsive and reactive to the hand. Acceleration was smooth in both the EV and the gas; there will be variations, however, depending upon how one drives.

Fuel Economy:

The RAV4 Prime XSE plug-in hybrid has an EPA-estimated 94 MPG equivalent in combined city and highway. This 2021 model also has an all-electric driving range of 42 miles. Buyers will save approximately $3,500 dollars in fuel over five years of ownership.

The Car:

The new 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE AWD is a breakout model. Specifically, from the outside in. No longer a boxy, in-line SUV, it’s quite the contrary. The Prime’s athletic, rugged, and contoured exterior gives it a transformed look from its predecessors. Taking a page from the tried and true Prius, Toyota is looking to expand its demographics by incorporating a new design language and adding enhanced technology to elevate the experience.

The Prime delivers 40+ miles of electric power, exclusively. To charge the battery with a 240-volt charger takes about 4.5 hours, on average. If you only have a 120-volt charger, it will take about 12 hours to complete. This is something that the owner will make part of their weekly (or as needed) practice, just like going to the gas station.

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE AWD comes with a 6.6 kW onboard charger which is housed in the trunk of the vehicle. To charge the vehicle, plug the charging gun into the passenger side, lock it in, and the green light will go on. Note the charging port is on the passenger side, and the gas tank is on the driver’s side, per normal.

This vehicle qualifies for up to $7,500 in federal tax credits as a plug-in hybrid. Talk to your car dealership and an accountant regarding specifics, as well as full deductions. Some states may offer additional incentives.

The towing capacity of the XSE is 2,500 pounds. Furthermore, this trim line includes a full spare tire. Keep this in mind, as most 2021 and 2022 new vehicles do not have this feature. Rather, some have the bubble tire. Having a full tire serves as a plus and benefit.


The list of safety equipment is pretty extensive including a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Full-Speed Range Dynamic Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Lane Tracing Assist, Automatic High Beams, Road Sign Assist, LED Projector Headlights, Vertical LED Accent Lights.

Other features: Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, Eight (8) Airbags, Star Safety System, Anti-Theft System with Alarm, LATCH Lower Anchor and Tether for Children, Smart Key System on all Doors, Push Button Start.

Safety Connect and Remote Connect come with a One (1) Year Subscription. Service Connect comes with a 10-Year Trial and connects customers with dealers.


From a technology standpoint, there is so much to take in. Let’s get started:

Bird’s Eye View Camera, Blindspot Monitor with Rear-Traffic Alert, Power Liftgate, 19” Five-Spoke Alloy Wheels with gloss paint that are unique to this Mode, Panoramic Glass Roof, 9” Touchscreen, 11 JBL Speaker with Subwoofer and amplifier for an outstanding sound system, Hands-free Bluetooth, USB Media Port, 4 USB Charge Ports, Wireless Smartphone Charging.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay Compatible, Sirius XM® Radio with Three-Month All Access Trial, Dual Zone Auto A/C with Rear Vents for customized temperature and comfort, SoftTex-Trimmed Seats with Sporty Red Accents and Stitching, Heated and Ventilated Front Seats, Lumbar on Driver’s side to assist with Posture and Comfort, 8-Way Adjustable Power Driver’s Seat, Adjustable Passenger, too – a real plus. Steering wheel with Paddle Shifters. Auto-Dimming, Heated Exterior, and Rearview Mirrors with HomeLink Universal Transceiver.

10” Color Heads-Up Display with Speedometer/Navigation/Hybrid System Indicator. Wi-Fi Connect with 2GB and a 3-Month Trial. Destination Assist comes with a 1-Year Trial. Weather package included.

Aesthetics & Styling:

The Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE exterior is a modern, two-tone beauty that denotes a combination of muscle and great hybrid performance. Accented with chrome and high gloss, this new plug-in hybrid is strapping.

The interior is just as modern with rear-splitting seats and striking red accents. What is refreshing to experience, are the vast window cut-outs in the back and sides of the vehicle that eliminate blind spots. The XSE has 33 cubic feet of packing space behind the back seats and can expand to 63 plus cubic ft. once those seats are folded flush – no problem road tripping with this vehicle. The power outlet in the cargo/trunk area is something to note; it’s a 1500-watt outlet – which is quite versatile and powerful for those with campers, or who need more functionality for electronics.

Also well-designed are the dash and console. Air vents are well-placed, allowing driver and passengers alike to get their fair share of heat and/or A/C distribution.

Note that the rear liftgate has a jam protector. Mudguards are included in the XSE, as well as carpet floor mats. Roof rack crossbar adds to the distinctive styling.


Three-Year, 36,000 Mile Bumper to Bumper Warranty. Five-Year, 60,000 Mile Powertrain Warranty.

Anne Fleming began reviewing cars years ago. After a disempowering car buying visit made her realize how undervalued women’s voices were in the automotive world, she started a platform for women to rate their car dealership experience and make their voices heard.

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