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Do you know who’s raving about the 2023 Toyota RAV4 Prime? It seems like everyone. It’s a wildly popular introduction as a plug-in hybrid version of the traditional RAV4. This model is earning nods from industry critics and new customers alike, especially with its stylish personality and comfort features.

But there’s no such thing as a perfect crossover, even for the highly reliable Toyota. And despite all the accolades, there is one glaring setback. Here’s the one clear area of improvement Toyota might look to address next year.

A 2023 Toyota RAV4 Prime parked on display.
2023 Toyota RAV4 Prime | Toyota Media

Edmunds has a lot of praise for the 2023 Toyota RAV4 Prime

When the 2023 Toyota RAV4 Prime rolled out, there were plenty of industry critics and enthusiasts ready to applaud it. It scores big in areas that most consumers consider the most important.

It’s a comfortable five-seater with AWD and two trims that both feel like high-end options, the SE and XSE. And Edmunds certainly didn’t hold back in showering this new crossover with praise, giving it an overall 7.9 out of 10 rating.

Fuel economy is the most impressive, with the RAV4 Prime earning 42 mpg EPA estimates on electric-only driving. The Edmunds team enjoyed its peppy acceleration, especially in achieving highway speeds in a pinch.

The team also highly praised the RAV4 Prime in technology, interior quality, and overall comfort. But there was that one thing they weren’t so keen on applauding.

The one clear area of improvement for the RAV4 Prime

Reviewers expressed disappointment in the Toyota RAV4 Prime’s performance. So, while there’s plenty to love in most all other aspects, there’s a hiccup in the giddy up. And it seems to be the one issue that holds this attractive crossover back.

The Toyota RAV4 Prime’s engine and powertrain, with its 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and three hybrid electric motors, are quite substantial. It has an 18.1 kWh lithium-ion battery pack and a 6.6 kW onboard charging unit.

Altogether, that’s a combined output of roughly 302 horsepower. And in sprint testing, the RAV4 Prime hit 60 mph in just 5.9 seconds. So, when Edmunds expressed its heavy sigh about performance, what did they mean?

Why this one area could change your mind

Edmunds says the RAV4 Prime is lacking any sort of “dynamic athleticism.” And this means there isn’t necessarily a problem with its power. Rather, it’s a question of handling.

In fact, the team calls handling “dismal.” The steering feels vague, making it hard to judge the precise amount of input. Even Car and Driver shared similar sentiments about performance during their team’s RAV4 Prime testing, saying, “don’t expect cornering heroics here.” And there’s a significant body roll problem, too.

Adding insult to injury, the driver assistance features are hyper-sensitive when trying to figure out this crossover’s input and performance. Edmunds said they “freaked out” at the slightest maneuvers. And the brake pedal is soft, so when you try to calm yourself after a frustrating experience, the RAV4 Prime stops in below-average marks. 

Check out the 2023 Toyota RAV4 Prime and see how you feel about it. If you’re like most reviewers, you’ll love the super comfortable ride and quiet aesthetics. You’ll appreciate the robust fuel efficiency and ridiculously generous passenger and cargo spaciousness. You’ll even get a bit of a thrill with the RAV4 Prime’s ability to accel.

But if you’re like those industry critics, you might shake your head at the lackluster handling, disconnected steering feel, and uninspired braking. It’s the one performance flaw everyone seems to agree on, and you might just agree.


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