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The affordable crossover boasts great fuel efficiency and genuine off-road capabilities

EMBARGO UNTIL WEDNESDAY, JULY 1, 2020, 4:00 AM PDT

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The 2020 Toyota RAV4 Prime is a plug-in hybrid that will go up to 42 miles on electricty alone before switching over to a conventional fuel saving gas/electric mode.

Since the advent of the Prius back in 2000, Toyota has been leading the industry in hybrid vehicles. The company brought out its first plug-in hybrid in 2012, and has further developed the technology since then. The release of the 2021 RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid next month may be one of the most important milestones yet.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The striking 2020 Toyota RAV4 Prime is an all-whee-drive vehicle because a second electric motor powers the rear wheels.

A plug-in hybrid bridges the gap between a conventional gas-electric hybrid vehicle and an EV. Where a conventional hybrid carries only enough battery power to drive on electricity at low speeds for very short distances, the RAV4 plug-in hybrid can drive at any speed for up to 42 miles on electricity alone. But a plug-in hybrid does not need the extended range (or expense) of a full EV because it's got a gas engine, which gives the plug-in vehicle a range of several hundred miles.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - Available equipment in the roomy interior includes a head-up display, Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 active safety, and a 9-inch touchscreen infotainment interface.

The RAV4 plug-in hybrid is designed around the fact that most people drive less than 42 miles in an average day. The normal rounds of work, shopping, errands, and home again can generally be accomplished without using any gasoline at all, and the recharge time is shorter than a full EV. However, the gasoline engine is available as a backup if you need to make a longer trip. That's how the RAV4 Prime obtains its 94 MPGe (e for equivalent) rating, while getting 40 MPG in city driving on the gas engine.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The front bucket seats in the 2020 Toyota RAV4 are supportive enough for off-road driving and comfortable enough for long trips.

On the road, the 2021 RAV4 Prime is the best RAV4 yet. This SUV feels solid, but nimble, powerful with 302 combined system horsepower, and comfortable. Toyota has worked on their interiors to deliver a quiet and pleasant cabin. Available equipment includes a head-up display, Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 active safety, and a 9-inch touchscreen infotainment interface. There's really nothing to dislike in the RAV4 Prime. This is an SUV you'll enjoy driving every day.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - Three adults can fit comfortable in the rear seats of the 2020 Toyota RAV4 Prime.

The RAV4 name came from "Recreational Activity Vehicle - 4 Wheel Drive." In the 2021 RAV4, the all-wheel-drive comes from an electric motor mounted at the rear axle. This motor contributes 89 pound-feet of torque, which combines with 199 pound-feet from the front-mounted motor and 165 pound-feet from the gas engine to give the 4,300-pound RAV4 Prime impressive acceleration. This SUV will accelerate from 0-60 in just 5.7 seconds. That's about the same as a base Porsche Macan.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The battery pack in the 2020 Toyota RAV4 Prime does not reduce the cargo space in the 2020 Toyota RAV4 Prime.

One last point — the RAV4 Prime may make you eligible for both a federal tax credit and an Oregon rebate. So if the idea of commuting without a gas bill appeals to you, but you also want to be able to hit the slopes in winter or the dispersed camping area this summer, the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime will be arriving at dealerships in July. If it's time to consider a new SUV, this plug-in hybrid should be at the top of your list.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

Base price: $38,100

Price as tested: $41,425

Type: Compact Crossover SUV

Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder with plug-in hybrid electric motors (302 net hp, 165/199/89 lbs-ft)

Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission

EPA estimated mileage: 40/36 (94 MPGe)

Overall length: 180.9 inches

Curb weight: 4,300 pounds

Final assembly: Georgetown, Kentucky


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