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The 2020 RAV4 moves fast…off dealership lots. Toyota is on track to sell more than 430,000 of the fifth-generation of its compact crossover this year, once again making it the best-selling non-pickup truck on the market.
 
But at the Los Angeles Auto Show last November, Toyota made it clear it intends to push this particular pedal all the way to the metal. Jack Hollis, group vice president and general manager of the Toyota Division, unveiled the all-new 2021 RAV4 Prime — the first-ever plug-in hybrid version of the vehicle that in many ways set the stage for the current SUV/crossover craze when it was first introduced in 1994.


 
“It has 302 horsepower,” said Hollis. “Let me say that again: 302 horsepower! That is 83 more than the current RAV4 Hybrid, that was the quickest RAV in the line-up. We project the RAV4 Prime will accelerate from 0-60 miles per hour in just 5.8 seconds. Consider the bar raised.”
 
The RAV4 Prime isn’t just remarkably quick, it’s also amazingly efficient. It can be driven nearly 40 miles solely on its battery in a single charge, enough to cover many drivers’ daily commutes. Factor in its gas engine and the RAV4 Prime is expected to achieve a manufacturer-estimated 90 combined MPGe.


 
For comparison’s sake, the 2006-2012 RAV4 — when fitted with the optional 269-horsepower V6 gasoline engine — was half a second slower. And its combined fuel economy was only 21 mpg.
 
Simply put, the RAV4 Prime is the proverbial “have your cake and eat it, too” vehicle.

How Did They Do It?
 
Toyota engineers started with the same Toyota Hybrid System II that powers the 2020 RAV4 Hybrid with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle gas engine that can generate 176 horsepower. But the RAV4 Prime’s version has been tuned to achieve maximum torque of 169 lb.-ft. at 2,800 rpm compared with the RAV4 Hybrid’s 163 lb.-ft. at 3,600-5,200 rpm. Combine that with more powerful electric motor-generators and the RAV4 Prime has what it takes to deliver a real kick in the backside.


 
Perhaps that’s why, for the first time ever, this RAV4 comes with optional paddle shifters normally found only on performance cars.
 
Fittingly, the RAV4 Prime will be offered in the sporty SE and XSE grades, combining robust performance with premium comfort and style. Among its many features are All-Wheel Drive with Intelligence as well as the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 grouping of active-safety technologies and capabilities. Heading the list of available features is Color Head-Up Display, a first for any RAV4.
 
The initial shipment of production units will arrive at Toyota dealerships next summer.
 
Reducing Carbon Emissions
 
The RAV4 Prime is part of Toyota’s larger plan to increase its hybrid sales mix from 9 percent in 2018 to more than 25 percent in 2025. That’s in direct response to the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050 announced four years ago, which includes a commitment to reduce the company’s global average C02 emissions from vehicles by 90 percent from its 2010 levels.


 
As such, it should come as no surprise that the RAV4 Prime was joined at the Los Angeles Auto Show by the 2021 Mirai, the second generation of Toyota’s hydrogen fuel cell sedan that made its world debut at the Tokyo Motor Show last October.
 
“We believe it is our job to provide customers with options to reduce their environmental impact,” said Hollis. “In the end, customers will decide what they want to drive. Together we will create a cleaner world.”


 

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