Flying in under the radar at the 2019 Los Angeles Motor Show was an unassuming Toyota RAV4. It was painted in a deep red metallic with only a few exterior cues to indicate any change over the rote yet very competent new range of Japanese crossovers.
Called the RAV4 Prime, its name doesn’t necessarily evoke much of a response. Toyota has, in the past, used this moniker for their plug-in hybrid vehicles, most notably in the case of the Prius. Here, this RAV4 also boasts the same general powertrain configuration, except that it now yields considerably more oomph.
Power. That’s the heart of the matter with the RAV4 Prime. To be specific, Toyota quotes peak combined output at an impressive 225kW, making this the fastest and most potent RAV4 Toyota has ever produced. Until now, that title was held by a 3rd-generation variant that boasted a 3.5-litre 2GR-FE naturally aspirated engine with 200kW.
In contrast, with this new range-topping RAV4 Prime, which is expected to hit US showrooms in mid-2021, Toyota has paired a 131kW 2.5-litre naturally aspirated Atkinson-cycle petrol engine to two electric motors, one of which is placed on the rear axle for on-demand all-wheel drive with no mechanical link to the combustion engine up front.
These motors are fed by a bank of high capacity lithium-ion batteries packaged below the floor as to not compromise the crossover’s cargo space and practicality levels while lowering its centre of gravity for better roadholding. Speaking of which, Toyota has apparently engineered the RAV4 Prime with the driving enthusiast in mind, perhaps translating to a sports tuned suspension and a generally sharper response.
Unfortunately, Toyota has yet to disclose exactly how much torque the PHEV powertrain produces but quotes the 0-96km/h (0-60mph) dash to be dispensed in an impressive 5.8 seconds, making it roughly as quick off the line as the Volkswagen Golf R and the second-fastest accelerating new Toyota behind the Supra.
Thanks to its dual-motor hybrid tech and optimised energy recuperation system, this added performance also arrives without sacrificing fuel economy or emissions as the Prime is expected achieve an EPA combined consumption rate of 90MPG, translating to roughly 2.61-litres/100km, meaning it’s actually more efficient than the RAV4 Hybrid.
Additionally, the company expects its batteries to be able to power the Prime for up to 62km without invoking the combustion engine, one of most generous electric-only ranges of any PHEV on the market if proved true in the real world.
The rest of the Prime is par for the course for the XA50 5th-generation RAV4, with the cabin and interior fitments matching the existing range. In its top-end XSE spec for the US market (pictured), it comes as standard with a two-tone paint finish, 19-inch wheels, directionally adaptive self-levelling LED headlights, glass moonroof, wireless smartphone charging, and a 9-speaker JBL audio system.