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3 Ways Toyota Could Improve the RAV4 Prime PHEV And Crush BEV Competition

The Toyota RAV4 Prime is quickly emerging as the hit vehicle for 2021. Here are three simple ways that Toyota could improve upon an already great plug-in vehicle.

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The Toyota RAV4 Prime has become a hugely popular green all-wheel drive crossover. With Consumer Reports suggesting it as an alternative to the Model Y, and with many Tesla owners now also buying RAV4 Primes, some trends and wish-list items are starting to emerge. We have been lucky enough to test the RAV4 Prime, and have been actively participating in multiple online forums for the vehicle. The below three suggestions are our own opinions melded with ideas and suggestions we found from owners.

RAV4 Prime Improvement One: Infotainment
Two years ago, Toyota seemed helplessly behind the curve with regard to infotainment. The Scout navigation app fiasco alone was worthy of a brand boycott. However, for 2020, Toyota made huge leaps forward. The brand added Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and also Alexa. Toyota generally gives us a volume knob, and the RAV4 Prime has one. Also, Toyota doesn’t force us to use a silly remote interface. The touch screen, steering wheel controls, and the voice commands tied to your preferred phone system all work great, as does the optional head up display. However, there is room for improvement, and we’d like to see these implemented as a quick fix, not things that can wait for a future generation change.

The most important step would be to move to wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. This tech is now available on the Hyundai Elantra costing half what the RAV4 Prime does. Next, allow for dual phone use. By that we mean, allow a primary user to connect, but also allow a secondary phone to be connected as well. Next, allow the driver to configure the screen to have half of it show one thing (Google Maps) and the other half another thing (audio). Finally, for the love of Mike, please ditch all Toyota-specific apps. Nobody wants them. N O B O D Y.

Related Story: Toyota RAV4 Prime vs. Tesla Model Y Maintenance Cost Analysis - A Surprising Outcome

Two-Year / 20K Oil Change Interval For All Driving Conditions
One of the best attributes of the RAV4 Prime is that it is nearly maintenance-free. With no accessory belt, no starter, no alternator, no timing belt, no required transmission fluid changes, and regenerative braking to prolong the pad and rotor life, the RAV4 Prime is comparable to a battery-electric vehicle when it comes to reduced maintenance. But oil changes remain the most frequently-required maintenance.

Toyota should do whatever is required to make the minimum required oil change interval of 20,000 miles or 24 months. Use a larger oil reservoir, a better filtration system, an oil quality monitor, a periodic oil warming cycle to purge moisture or all of the above. Find a way to stretch that oil change interval so that owners are not required to visit a mechanic regardless of their driving conditions. Build us a plug-in hybrid with a maintenance interval better than a BEV. We all know that the engine in a PHEV runs a lot less per hour of driving time than a conventional engine. Toyota should be able to do this with ease. Remember, Toyota already has included maintenance for two years. The dealer network can be compensated in some other way by Toyota to make up for the potential loss of business.

Related: Toyota RAV4 Prime Owner Proves This AWD Plug-In Crossover Is All-Weather and All-Road Capable

RAV4 Prime Utility Trim
In terms of utility, the RAV4 Prime is already ahead of the competition like the Honda CR-V Hybrid AWD and Tesla Model Y in many ways. First among these is a compact spare tire on all RAV4 Prime trims. This nod to “utility” is welcomed by all owners. We suggest that Toyota embrace and enhance the RAV4 Prime’s utility abilities and create a specific trim with all the possible utility and soft-roading options included in one package.

Here’s a punch list:
- Start with adding the smaller diameter rims from the SE. Every automaker makes the same dumb mistake. They place the larger diameter wheels on top trims or special editions. The added sidewall of the smaller diameter wheel is better in all situations, but on soft-road adventures, it is a big help.
- Wake up to the reality of better tires. Sure, they might impact the green specs, but with 94 MPGe, the RAV4 Prime has green credibility to spare. Use new-generation all-terrain tires such as the Firestone Destination A/T or Michelin’s all-weather CrossClimate2. These tires are snow-rated, but don’t have the downsides many dedicated winter tires have.
- Add in a small sunroof to this trim. The reason is to leave a large metal roof between the standard cross rails upon which a soft cargo bag can be fitted.
- Throw in all-weather mats and a water-proof cargo mat.
- Fit front and rear dual recovery hoops. Don’t be ridiculous and think these are for RAV4 Prime’s to rescue Jeeps. It is the inverse. Allow the RAV4 Prime to be rescue-ready in case it needs help. And they look cool!
- The current towing rating of the RAV4 Prime is 2,500 pounds. That works, but make the towing package standard.
- Include removable small screen inserts for the tipped-up moonroof and second-row windows. If you camp, you know what these are for.
- Add a “Deep Snow” mode. The idea here is to mimic the Subaru Dual X-Mode and the Toyota crawl control modes. Allow for some wheel-spin when the snow is deep to allow for fun and practical snow-day adventures.
- Add in hill descent control braking. It is already part of some RAV4 trims, but it needs to be on the Prime as well.

What suggestions would you add to the RAV4 Prime to make it an even better vehicle? Please tell us in the comments below.

John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. Following his engineering program, John also completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin

Top of page image by John Goreham. Second image courtesy of James Klafehn and Youtube.

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Gordon Groff (not verified)    December 30, 2020 - 3:45PM

Offer white paint as an option for XSE Premium trims. Also, a HUGE second vote for 18” wheels! I don’t like being forced in 19” wheels to get the trim I want. A big negative for me. Finally, sound reduction for tire noise. Excellent wind and exterior noise control, but tire noise on rougher road surfaces is awful. Wheel well sound absorbing (especially in rear since they’re in the cabin) is a must to make this a truly luxurious ride.

Mark Day (not verified)    December 31, 2020 - 1:49AM

Option of 17" wheels as on 2012 RAV4s. A delete (leaking) sunroof option on all trims. Eliminate Toyota's out-of-control-idiotic oil filter system - go with the smart flow of a simple all-in-one screw on cartridge - yes I just performed a frustrating Toyota oil and filter change. Incidentally, dealers don't follow Toyota's convoluted oil filter change instructions. Toyota: check out Infiniti's auto door locking/unlocking system, it's rational, rather than just yanking on the door handle.

Dan (not verified)    December 31, 2020 - 9:01AM

A remote app that actually works with real functionality. LED lighting inside and out. Folding mirrors. Increased sound deadening. More than one data USB input. Fewer nannies on the entertainment system while moving. Raised roof rails. Improved seat heaters.

Larry Wasik (not verified)    January 2, 2021 - 3:41AM

Allow options for passenger seat for eg. like driver's seat to accomodate even a moderately tall person's needed headroom. I cannot fit so the Rav4 is not an option for me.