Crossover & Midsize

Resist the Lexus SUV and Get a Toyota RAV4 Prime Instead

Luxury SUVs are status symbols. But they come at a cost. Shakespeare said, “What’s in a name? A luxurious SUV by any other name is still luxurious.” OK, we might be paraphrasing there. But a Toyota RAV4 Prime offers luxuriousness without the Lexus sticker price. Plus, the RAV4 Prime is a plug-in hybrid, making a better type of status statement in our increasingly eco-conscious world.

Luxury SUV alternatives

Several budget-friendly SUVs can be as opulent as luxury SUVs. In fact, the Toyota RAV4 Prime appears on a recent MotorTrend list of mainstream SUVs that are cheaper alternatives to pricey SUVs. MT says if you’re considering an Audi Q5 Plug-in Hybrid, you should think about the RAV4 Prime.

Nearly as quick as an Audi Q5, the RAV4 Prime boasts a 0-to-60 mph split that’s only 0.4 seconds slower than the Audi’s. That’s thanks largely to the Toyota’s gas engine and dual electric motors producing 302 hp. Plus, the RAV4 Prime’s top-of-the-line trim still starts at $10,000 less than the Q5. 

Other alternatives MotorTrend suggests are the Mazda CX-5 over the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, the Kia Telluride rather than the Cadillac XT6, and the Hyundai Palisade instead of the Lincoln Aviator. And though the redesigned Acura MDX has drawn considerable hype, the Mazda CX-9 is still a strong choice.

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime at a glance

RELATED: Does the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Have a Panoramic Sunroof?

Though the Toyota RAV4 Prime offers only two trim levels, the Prime SE and the Prime XSE, this crossover has plenty to offer. Both models pack a 2.5-liter four-cylinder plug-in hybrid engine that boasts a 2,500-pound towing capacity and an EPA-estimated 94 MPGe, Toyota claims. The 18.1-kWh battery has a 42-mile range and a 3.3-kW onboard charger that can juice it up in as little as 4.5 hours via a 240-volt outlet. Rounding out the exterior: The RAV4 Prime SE wears 18-inch sport alloy wheels, while the XSE rides on 19-inch wheels.

Both models can carry five passengers, and front riders get heated seats. And both provide the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of advanced safety features and driver assists, plus the Star Safety System. The manufacturer also includes a free one-year subscription to Safety Connect, which comes with emergency assistance and a stolen vehicle locator.

Both have a dual-zone automatic climate control system with rear-seat vents, but the XSE adds front center vent flow controls. The SE backup camera has a projected path, while the XSE’s backup cam gives you dynamic gridlines.

The main difference between the two trims is the infotainment system. The SE has a slightly smaller touchscreen — 8.0 inches versus the XSE’s 9.0 inches — and the XSE offers more connected services, including Remote Connect.

However, both trims come with the all-important Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa integration. They also throw in a USB media port, four USB charge ports, Bluetooth, SiriusXM, and a three-month All Access trial subscription.

The Toyota RAV4 Prime offers a luxe experience without the high price

Though both Toyota RAV4 Prime trims come standard with some pretty high-end touches, you can also upgrade further through four packages that won’t send the price through the (moon)roof. The SE model only has one package available, the SE Prime Weather and Moonroof package. It offers a heated, leather-trimmed steering wheel and a one-touch open/close moon roof, along with a few other perks.

The three XSE packages include the XSE Prime Weather package, similar to the SE package; a Premium Audio and Dynamic Navigation package; and an XSE Premium package. The XSE’s audio-and-navigation package boasts an 11-speaker JBL sound system including a subwoofer and amplifier, plus a one-year trial of Destination Assist. And the XSE Premium package is the fully loaded, luxurious one. Perks include heated and ventilated front seats, a Smart Key System on all doors, a 6.6-kW onboard charger, and a height-adjustable, foot-activated power liftgate.

Owning a luxurious SUV doesn’t have to cost you the proverbial arm and a leg. You can get most of the swag that comes with a Lexus for less in a Toyota RAV4 Prime. Sure, you have to sacrifice the luxury badge. But being smart spender is cool, too.