Behind the Wheel

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime Review: The RAV4 you should be buying but probably can't get

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime is a big step ahead for the RAV4 brand.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

The Toyota RAV4 is not a great SUV. It is perfect suitable and serviceable as a daily driver-slash-mommy hauler. That doesn't make it great. If it were great, its seats would be more comfortable, its engine would be more powerful, and less road noise would be passed into the cabin. Oh, and that terrible grinding noise that the RAV4 Hybrid makes when it's running in EV mode would be changed to something that doesn't sound like the car is malfunctioning.

That being said, there are some excellent things about the RAV4. It has a long list of standard features, including safety technology, that puts most other automakers with entries in the compact SUV category to shame. The RAV is fuel-efficient in every variant and comes with gobs of cargo space. It's also insanely reliable.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime The RAV4 Prime has a few distinguishing exterior features but is mostly the same as the traditional RAV4.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Toyota now makes the SUV in three variants: the gasoline-only RAV4, the traditional hybrid RAV4 Hybrid, and the RAV4 Prime, a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). The RAV4 Prime is designed to be the company's most fuel-efficient and also highest-performing RAV4. It achieves said goal in spades.

The2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor that generate a combined 302 horsepower. That's 99 more horsepower than the RAV4 and 83 more than the RAV4 Hybrid. Sure, the RAV4 Prime is heavier due to its 18.1-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, but that stored up power waiting for the touch of the accelerator makes the RAV4 Prime downright peppy off the line.

It delivers 42 miles of all-electric range and 600 miles of overall range. This is good for 94 MPGe and 38 mpg (when running as a traditional hybrid). It is nearly as fuel-efficient as the Ford Escape PHEV, the leader in the segment.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime The RAV4 Prime is a plug-in hybrid, which means it runs on both gasoline and battery power.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

That all-electric range means that the RAV4 Prime runs its internal combustion engine less often. That's a good thing. It means less engine noise is passed onto the cabin. It also makes the drive experience more fun (a feature vehicles in the segment are frequently lacking), even when using the SUV as a more traditional hybrid and eschewing the plug-in feature, which limits the amount of time it can run on all-electric mode.

But at its core, the RAV4 Prime can't escape its roots. Toyota hasn't changed the interior of the RAV4 much with the Prime model. It contains the same hardy surfaces and rubberized elements that make the RAV4 so livable for families. There's isn't much in the way of cheapness-for-the-sake-of-lightweighting like what is in the Prius, and that's a good thing.

However, the seats remain uncomfortable and the 8-inch infotainment touch screen is starting to look outdated compared to what the competition offers. There's likely a fix coming for this, perhaps for the 2023 model year as the RAV4 nears its generational midpoint.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime The RAV4's interior isn't as plush as what you'll find in Nissans and Mazdas.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

But, most people won't be as fixated on the interior as they are on the drive. And, the drive is splendid - genuinely enjoyable. I just wish for the $40,000-ish price tag it was nicer to be in while driving.

But don't worry about the price. You provably can't buy one anyway. Due to battery production constraints, the supply of the RAV4 Prime is VERY limited. However, if you do find one available, and you're in the market for the RAV4, do take it for a spin. You'll probably be surprised with how much you like it.

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Electric vehicle production

GM outlines huge investment in new EV production

The $7 billion number is GM's largest single investment to date.

General Motors

Automakers are not shy about their plans to electrify their vehicle lineups. In fact, it's just the opposite, as most can't wait to release a media kit that sings the virtues of moving toward electrification and outlines their commitments to investing billions to make the move a reality. General Motors has been more active than most, building new facilities and revamping existing factories to handle new-age EV manufacturing. Today, the auto giant announced a further investment to build a new plant and overhaul the Orion Township facility in Michigan. The move creates thousands of jobs and positions GM as an early powerhouse in the EV race.

GM EV investment. GM says its new and existing facilities will create and retain thousands of jobs.General Motors

The $7 billion investment is slated for four Michigan manufacturing facilities. GM says the move will create 4,000 new jobs and retain 1,000 existing positions, and notes that the amount represents the single largest investment in company history. A new Ultium Cells battery plant in Lansing is part of the deal, along with the conversion of the GM assembly planting Orion Township. Orion will eventually house production of the upcoming Chevrolet Silverado EV and the electric GMC Sierra, making it the second of GM's facilities dedicated to building electric pickup trucks.

The Orion and Ultium Cells Lansing facilities will help GM boost its total full-size electric truck production to 600,000 units per year when both Factory Zero and Orion are in full swing. Though Ford sells more full-size trucks than Chevy or GMC individually, GM notes that the two combined move more trucks per year than The Blue Oval. The two plants join General Motors' existing EV-ready facilities that include Factory Zero in Detroit-Hamtramck, Spring Hill Assemble in Tennessee, CAMI in Ontario, and the Ramos Arizpe Assembly facility in Mexico.

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New full-size SUVtoyota

Toyota teases new SUV that could be updated Sequoia

The teaser image gives zero detail on the new SUV.

Toyota

Toyota recently retook the title of world’s largest automaker and has its sights set on refreshing some of its oldest models. The Tundra full-size pickup truck got the treatment late last year, and now we’re seeing teases of a new SUV from the auto giant. The image, released yesterday, is likely of a new Sequoia, which is based on the Tundra and is equally as overdue for a refresh.

2022 Toyota Sequoia If the tease is of a new Sequoia, it will replace the 15-year-old current-generation model.Toyota

After 15 years or so on sale in its current form, the Sequoia is old enough to earn a learner’s permit of its own at this point. All of its competitors offer newer and more intuitive technology, a larger variety of advanced safety gear, and more efficient powertrains. In the teaser, we can see a sharply chiseled rear quarter panel and shapely tail lights, but not much else. If it is a Sequoia, the styling marks a significant shift in the SUV’s outward appearance.

The shadowy image is the only tidbit Toyota has shared so far, but we can draw some information from the recently released Toyota Tundra pickup truck, with which the Sequoia typically shares a platform and powertrain elements. The all-new 2022 Tundra dropped the 5.7-liter V8 that powered it for years, in favor of a pair of twin-turbo V6 engines, one of which is a hybrid. That means we could see a new Sequoia with the same engines, delivering up to 479 horsepower.

2022 Toyota Sequoia We're likely to see a TRD off-road oriented model.Toyota

The new full-size SUV will likely also get some of the tech updates that Toyota bestowed upon the new Tundra. That could mean up to a 14-inch infotainment touchscreen with a new, more intuitive user interface and over-the-air updates. Refreshed safety features are almost certainly on the list of Sequoia changes as well.

Toyota hasn’t nailed down an official reveal date or any other information for the new SUV, but has said that more details are coming soon.

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