These SUVs are among the first with PHEV technology, and won’t be the last.
The Toyota RAV4 Prime is being marketed as a performance vehicle with a twist.
The Ford Escape PHEV is about best-in-class fuel economy.
We can’t talk about hybrids and not bring up Toyota. They are about 25 years deep into it and will go down in automotive history as the brand that made the term and the concept mainstream. That being said, never has Toyota pushed the performance envelope with hybrid tech. In fact, it’s been everything but. Now, though, with their Prime plug-in hybrid technology, they’ve gone all but mad.
This was Toyota’s headline following the reveal of their latest RAV4 at last year’s LA Auto Show: “Toyota Revs Up Lineup with New 302-Horsepower RAV4 Prime.” Revs? 302-horsepower? And this was followed by: “The Most Powerful and Quickest RAV4 Ever.” And “The Most Fuel-Efficient RAV4 Ever.” What gives? As far as we’re concerned, this is the beginning of Toyota’s line of extremely potent and efficient vehicles which will kill in every segment in which they compete. Imagine, a 302-horsepower AWD Camry Prime – sign us up. Won’t be long for a Venza Prime either, we think.
All this to say that Toyota will, at first, launch its PHEV technology as a performance feature. As well, the Toyota RAV4 needs no introduction as it is the best-selling small SUV in the country, and one of the best-selling vehicles in the country period.
The Ford Escape needs no detailed introduction either. It’s was a class-leader for years and it’s been freshly completely overhauled, and it’s doing fine for the Blue Oval. The final iteration of the Escape, that is unless they decide on an Escape ST, is the anticipated PHEV. Unlike Toyota however, the Escape PHEV was truly and solely conceived to achieve incredible fuel efficiency.
The Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape are members of an incredibly busy segment. However, there are very few hybrids currently on offer, and fewer PHEVs still and that’s only if we stretch the segment to include the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. While there are small electrified SUVs from mainstream brands on the way from FCA for example, the two members in this comparison test are on their own at the moment.
What is the pricing and when will they be available?
The 2020 Ford Escape PHEV is available at this very moment. Canadian pricing starts at $37,549 for the SE Plug-In Hybrid, $40,549 for the SEL, and $43,649 for the Titanium. In the US, the base SE PHEV retails for $33,040, while the others are priced at $35,620 and $38,835 respectively.
As for the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime, pricing is set at $44,990 for the base SE version, $51,590 for the XSE trim and $56,990 for the XSE Technology in Canada. In the US, the RAV4 Prime starts at $38,100 for the SE and $41,425 for the XSE.
Things get interesting in Canada where the incentives come into play. The RAV4 Prime gets the full $5,000 IZEV discount from the federal government while the Escape PHEV only gets $2,500. In certain provinces like Quebec and BC, the rebates are even more significant with the RAV4 Prime getting a total of $13,000 and $6,500 off. In other words, the Escape PHEV is less expensive than the RAV4 Prime, but not by much once you factor in rebates.
Which Has The More Efficient Powertrains?
As noted before, the Toyota RAV4 Prime is meant to do it all. The Prime is based on the Hybrid’s 2.5-litre 4-cylinder Atkinson-cycle engine however the hybrid is further boosted by the more powerful motor-generators and new high-capacity 18.1-kWh Lithium-Ion battery increase system output to 302-horsepower, from 219.
Part of the setup is an electric motor on the rear axle that has no physical link to the front. This second motor is standard on all RAV4 Hybrid and Prime thus all are AWD. Performance is plentiful with a 0-100 km/h time of only 6.2 seconds (0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds). Fun fact: This makes the RAV4 Prime the second fastest accelerating Toyota after the GR Supra. The combined fuel consumption rating of 2.6Le/100km, or 90 MPGe. The battery-only range is 68 kilometers, or 42 miles.
The 2020 Ford Escape PHEV is different in that it is FWD only, contrary to the Hybrid version, which will prove to be an obstacle for much of Canada and the Northern regions of the US. It too is powered by an Atkinson-cycle 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine and it, with the associated electric motor, produces a total system output of 221-horsepower.
Ford does not share a sprint time but the important data is that the Escape PHEV is rated at a very impressive 2.3Le/100km, or 100 MPGe. The 14.4-kWh battery-only range is rated at least 48 kilometers in Canada, or 37 miles in the US. Ford does give charging times though. On a household 110-volt Level 1 charger, a full charge will require between 10 and 11 hours. Using a 240-volt Level 2 charger, charge time drops to roughly 3.5 hours.
Which is better equipped?
In the US, the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime SE will feature heated front seats, 8-way power driver’s seat, 7-inch driver information display, power liftgate, an 8-inch touchscreen display with Amazon Alexa, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. A blind spot monitor will also be included. We assume that the Canadian Prime SE will be similarly equipped.
In Canada, the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime SE offers standard heated front and rear seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, blind spot monitoring, heated steering wheel, and a manual tailgate. It also gets dual-zone climate controls.
The American 2020 Ford Escape SE PHEV includes a 10-way power driver’s seat, 6.5-inch driver information display, a manual liftgate, an 8-inch touchscreen with SYNC 3, SiriusXM, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. A blind-spot monitor, lane-keeping assist will also be included.
Specification-wise, they are somewhat similar. The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime gets a bit more features to justify its higher price.
Check out the full 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime versions with their respective features for Canada.
What About Style?
We won’t lie: The new Ford Escape is anything but exciting to look at. We think this is due mostly to the fact the Escape is Ford’s new “car”. The Escape’s soft lines and most character-less features are meant to go unnoticed, or nearly. Essentially, if you want a real SUV from Ford, consider the upcoming Bronco or the Explorer.
As for Toyota, they’ve gone in the other direction. The current RAV4 is the most expressive ever with boxy flares, tall and flat lines and if you dare, you can accessorize with TRD gear. The RAV4 Prime has a big mean grin (for a RAV4) with a large front splitter, vertical LED lamps, and available 19-inch wheels and two-tone exterior paint schemes. Without a doubt, the RAV4 is more attractive and emotionally charged…
How important are these vehicles for their respective brands?
In their most basic forms, the Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape are absolutely crucial for their respective brands.
The RAV4 is especially critical for Toyota as it is its best-selling unit on the continent. The RAV4 hybrid has proven to be so desirable that wait-times are not unheard of. As for the RAV4 Prime, it shouldn’t be quite as popular as the hybrid if mostly because of the price. It is the product line’s flagship, however.
Ford’s bread and butter vehicle is the F-150. The weight on the Escape’s shoulders is nowhere near as great as it is for the RAV4 however the PHEV version, which replaces the ill-fated and relatively unpopular Fusion Energi will serve to bridge a gap with many other vehicles in Ford’s lineup and the soon to arrive Mustang Mach-E SUV. This job will be shared with the expected Mustang Mach 1 as well.
Our Thoughts On The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime vs 2020 Ford Escape PHEV
The Ford Escape PHEV should do well in the southern states and on the coasts but the moment the snow-belt comes into play, and Canada, despite being less expensive, buyers looking for an electrified compact SUV will be better served by the regular Escape hybrid or by a Toyota RAV4. In the US, the Honda CR-V hybrid also offers AWD.
The Toyota RAV4 remains the better compact SUV in the segment, with or without electrification.