It’s hard to refute the benefits of buying a 2021 Toyota RAV4. It’s one of the most popular crossovers on the market, having earned millions of buyers over its quarter-century production run and showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, the newest 2021 RAV4 is so full of technology and luxury features. It challenges more expensive SUVs that aren’t even in its compact category. If you’re in the market for a vehicle that delivers optimal safety and plenty of space for passengers and cargo, take a closer look at the RAV4. Buyers can pick from a rainbow of 17 different exterior paint colors, including two-tone styles that highlight the RAV4’s distinctive roofline.
It’s a playful little crossover that doesn’t fail to take safety extremely seriously in true Toyota fashion. It earns an IIHS Top Safety Pick for 2021 and features plenty of high technology driver-assistive systems to help keep everyone out of harm’s way. Add an astounding 11 trims to choose from – including an environmentally-friendly hybrid – and it’s a wonder buyers choose anything else.
The array of 11 different RAV4 trims might, at first glance, seem a bit overwhelming, but breaking them down reveals a methodical lineup designed for a variety of buyers. Most trims are available in both gas-powered and hybrid versions, and two of the trims are designed specifically for adventure and off-roading activities.
The story begins with the value-focused LE. The entry trim features plenty of standard equipment and a low starting price for budget seekers. You’ll find standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as a full suite of driver-assist safety technology on the RAV4 LE. Called Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, it includes sensor and camera-powered technologies that support drivers with helpful alerts to potential road hazards.
The XLE adds about $1,000 to the MSRP and includes 17-inch wheels, fog lights, and additional driver-assist systems, including a Blind Spot Monitor and a Rear Cross-Traffic Alert. Dual-zone automatic climate control is also part of the XLE’s list of standard equipment. The XLE Premium adds 19-inch wheels, Sof-Tex seating surfaces, and a power moonroof.
The Adventure and TRD Off-Road trims aren’t offered with a hybrid powertrain. Instead, they’re geared toward more rugged performance. The Adventure includes 19-inch wheels, Honda’s Torque Vectoring all-wheel drive system, and a deck-mounted power outlet that comes in handy when camping. Choose the TRD Off-Road, and you’ll get all-wheel drive and the legendary TRD suspension system.
If luxury is the goal, look no further than the RAV4 Limited. This fully-loaded trim manages to keep the price tag relatively low while still offering standard connected navigation, a premium 11-speaker JBL audio system, and a power driver’s seat with memory. An available Bird’s Eye View Camera gives drivers a 360-degree view of the area around the vehicle for help with maneuvering in tight spaces.
The RAV4 Hybrid lineup mirrors the gas-powered one at the entry end and deviates as the price and list of features go up. The LE Hybrid offers estimated fuel economy ratings of 41 MPG in the city and 38 MPG on the highway, along with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, LED daytime running lights, and all-wheel drive with a Multi-Information Display monitor.
The XLE Hybrid features automatic on/off LED headlights, automatic high beams, and fog lights, along with a Smart Key System for the front doors and the tailgate. It also includes dual-zone automatic climate control in the cabin. Upgrade to the XLE Premium Hybrid, and the seats receive SofTex surfaces. Also included is a power moonroof and upsized 18-inch wheels.
Next up, the XSE Hybrid adds a few more luxury touches, as well as some exterior customizations unique to the trim. These include 5-spoke 18-inch wheels and two-tone exterior paint. Toyota adds a sport-tuned suspension for a performance-oriented ride, as well as SofTex seating surfaces for a touch of luxury in the cabin.
The luxurious Limited Hybrid dresses the RAV4 with chrome-finished wheels and features all-wheel drive and a Multi-Information Display monitor, as well as Toyota’s Premium audio system with the upgraded JBL stereo and connectivity with smartphones and Amazon Alexa smart devices. The highest RAV4 Hybrid trim stays under $40,000 starting, making it a practical choice for buyers who don’t want to compromise on luxury features.
Two powertrains comprise the 2021 RAV4’s lineup: a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder gas-powered engine and a hybrid setup that also includes a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with selectable drive modes and a companion electric motor that’s responsible for significantly increasing fuel economy without drastically cutting into performance.
The traditional gas motor is a Dual Overhead Cam engine with direct fuel injection and variable valve timing. This technology combines to optimize power output while constantly adjusting to deliver equally optimal fuel economy. Three drive modes – Sport, Eco, and Normal – let drivers dial in specific driving capabilities. The 2.5-liter gas engine outputs 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, resulting in an average fuel economy rating of 30 MPG combined. Surprisingly, that number stays the same even when all-wheel drive is added. Highway fuel economy is the sweet spot for this powertrain, with the front-wheel drive RAV4 achieving 35 MPG and the all-wheel drive setup delivering 34 MPG.
Hybrid buyers will enjoy 219 horsepower (176 horsepower from the gas engine and front and rear horsepower ratings of 118 and 54, respectively). The hybrid powertrain achieves 176 lb-ft of combined torque, splitting power between the front and rear in a similar ratio. The resulting average fuel economy rating of 40 MPG combined is the reward for a slight decrease in output.
Both powertrains feature a dual-injection fuel delivery system (direct and port-injection) that sends gas to the cylinders more efficiently and faster than other engines with direct fuel injection. The system is paired with ETCS-i, an electronic throttle control system with intelligence. It’s a complex system designed to constantly monitor the accelerator pedal, cruise control, traction control, and more to adapt the throttle response in real-time to current inputs.
One of the best parts of choosing a RAV4 is the standard suite of driver-assistive safety technology found across the entire trim range. It’s not common for an automaker to offer these systems on a value-priced vehicle, but Toyota bucks the trend and opts for making its compact crossover as safe as possible.
Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (TSS 2.0) features Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Lane Tracing Assist, Automatic High Beams, Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and Road Sign Assist. Breaking it down, these systems all use camera, radar, and sensor technology to monitor for potential hazards and mitigate collisions or other driving challenges.
Road Sign Assist is especially helpful for drivers navigating areas with constantly changing speed limits. The system can actually read signs and notify drivers when their speed exceeds posted limits. It’s a great example of how these smart technologies lend an extra set of eyes so drivers can focus on the road ahead.
The LE, XLE, and XLE Premium trims (both gas and hybrid) receive a standard 7-inch infotainment touchscreen with a six-speaker sound system and smartphone integration technology, and the XLE Premium gets four extra USB charge ports. All other trims feature a larger 8-inch screen, with the Limited receiving the high-end JBL 11-speaker audio system.
Exclusive to the RAV4 Limited is the available Limited Grade Advanced Technology Package. It features a Smart Key System for the doors and tailgate, a height-adjustable hands-free power tailgate that includes jam protection, a Bird’s Eye View 360-degree overhead view Camera, and wireless smartphone charging.