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 PrimeThe 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 PrimeThe 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 PrimeThe 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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Updated EV

2023 Nissan Leaf pricing announced

The Leaf got a mild facelift for 2023.

Nissan

Nissan is nearing the release of the Ariya, its first new EV in several years. Even so, the brand hasn't forgotten about its first mass-market EV, the Leaf. It was an early entrant in the space, and has been an efficient, affordable, commuter car for over a decade. The car got a mild facelift for 2023, with updated wheels and exterior styling accents. Today, Nissan announced pricing for the Leaf, which starts at just under $29,000.

2023 Nissan LeafThe Leaf feels lively, despite middling power numbers.Nissan

The base Leaf comes with a 40-kWh battery capable of delivering a 149-mile range. Its 110-kW electric motor produces 147 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. The Leaf SV Plus features a 60-kWh battery for a range of 212 miles. It comes with a 160-kW motor that makes 214 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. Nissan backs all Leaf models with an eight-year/100,000-mile battery warranty.

ProPilot Assist comes standard for the Leaf SV Plus, and brings a full suite of advanced driver aids that include adaptive cruise control, driver alertness features, and a surround-view monitor. All Leaf models get Nissan Safety Shield 360, which includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warnings, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alerts, automatic high beams, and rear automatic braking.

2023 Nissan LeafThe Leaf SV Plus offers up to 212 miles of range.Nissan

The new Leaf starts at $28,895, which includes a $1,095 destination charge. The Leaf SV Plus starts at $36,895. The 2023 Nissan Leaf is on sale now, and may be eligible for federal tax credits of up to $7,500. Depending on where you live, you may also be able to receive a state tax credit or other incentives.

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Family-friendly three-row SUVs

Three of our favorite three-row SUVs for 2022

The Grand Cherokee L is available with two different powertrain choices.

Jeep

There are more three-row SUVs on sale than ever before, so it can be tough to make a choice between them. You need to balance space, performance, safety, and tech to make your decision, and doing your homework is important. To help you get started down the right path, we've selected three of our favorite three-row family haulers. These are SUVs that bring the latest features and excellent design features to help keep you and your family rolling. Let's get started.

2023 Toyota SequoiaThe Sequoia is all-new for the 2023 model year, and finally stands on level ground with its rivals.Toyota

Toyota Sequoia

Toyota gave the Sequoia a much-needed overhaul for the 2023 model year that brought it up to speed with its competitors. The thirsty V8 and outdated styling are gone, and in their place, Toyota installed a twin-turbo V6 with a hybrid system that produces 437 horsepower and 583 pound-feet of torque. A ten-speed automatic transmission and either rear- or four-wheel drive are available.

The Sequoia’s update brought a new infotainment system with a much more intuitive, fluid interface. It runs on a standard 8-inch or an optional 14-inch touchscreen. Toyota’s new software offers voice controls, standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and much more.

Inside, the Sequioa’s interior feels much more upscale and modern than before, and there’s plenty of room for the entire family and all their gear across its three spacious rows. Starting with the Limited trim, Toyota gives luxurious standard features, including heated and ventilated front seats, a larger touchscreen, a hands-free liftgate, and a heated steering wheel.

2023 Kia TellurideKia updated the ultra-popular Telluride for 2023 with refreshed styling and features.Kia

Kia Telluride

The Kia Telluride is easily one of the best family vehicles from the last ten years, and it offers great value on top of its functional characteristics. Kia updated the SUV for 2022 with a new 10.25-inch infotainment system and a highway driving assistance system.

The Telluride comes with a 3.8-liter V6 that produces 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive. The SUV’s engine may not be the most powerful or thrilling, but it gets the job done and offers refined, smooth operation.

Kia equips the base Telluride with seating for eight, but the optional second-row captain’s chairs reduce capacity to seven. Interior fit and finish, materials, and styling are all far more upscale than the Telluride’s price tag would suggest, making the SUV an excellent family companion for longer road trips.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee LThe Grand Cherokee got a third row for the first time with the new L.Jeep

Jeep Grand Cherokee L

Jeep completely overhauled the Grand Cherokee for 2021 and added a new three-row “L” model shortly after. The new Grand Cherokee L features boxy, muscular styling that works with its stretched profile. Even with a new shape, the SUV is immediately recognizable as a Grand Cherokee.

Jeep offers two engines in the 2022 Grand Cherokee L. The base mill is a 3.6-liter V6 that makes 293 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. A 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is available that produces 357 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. Both come with an eight-speed automatic transmission and the V8 comes standard with four-wheel drive.

The L is more premium inside than most likely expect from a Jeep, but at the top end of the model line it’s deep into luxury territory, both on price and design. The Jeep is just shy of its competitors on interior space, but there’s still plenty of room for up to seven people. Top trims get luxury finishes like leather and woodgrain, and available tech like a rear-seat entertainment system helps keep everyone happy for the long haul.

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