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Latest and Greatest Plug-In Hybrids: Ford Escape vs Toyota RAV4 Prime

Chris Kaiser

Efficiency marches on with new plug-in hybrids versions of two popular crossovers. We explore how the Toyota RAV4 Prime and Ford Escape PHEV compare.

Half Measures

Slowly, but steadily, the transportation sector is transitioning away from fossil fuels. Hybrids powertrains are being offered across more and more model lines as of late and most notably within the hyper-popular crossover segment. Given the surprising success of their recent RAV4 hybrid, Toyota decided to do one better and develop a plug-in version for even greater electric range. But the RAV4 Prime gives buyers a whole lot more than just emissions free driving, as we’ll explore below.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime - toyota.com

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime – toyota.com  |  Shop Toyota RAV4 Hybrids on Carsforsale.com

And Toyota isn’t the only car company who felt the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV needed some competition. Ford is also releasing a plug-in hybrid version of their compact crossover, the Escape, as part of their wider push into electrification alongside the new hybrid F-150 and the Mustang Mach-E.

2020 Ford Escape - ford.com

2020 Ford Escape – ford.com  |  Shop Ford Escape Hybrids on Carsforsale.com

Given the Escape PHEV and the RAV4 Prime will both be hitting dealerships later this summer, we thought it’s a good time to see how they compare.

Two Distinct Flavors

The Escape and RAV4 Prime PHEVs share superficial similarities, but they end up as distinctly different options in both style and substance.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime charger port - toyota.com
2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime charger port - toyota.com

Both vehicles start with 2.5-liter inline 4-cylinder engines. On its own, the Escape’s engine makes 168hp and 155lb.-ft. of torque. Once paired with an electric motor using a 14.4kW battery, the Escape PHEV makes 221hp, and come in FWD form only.

2020 Ford Escape charger port - ford.com
2020 Ford Escape charger port - ford.com

The RAV4 Prime’s 2.5-liter starts out making 176hp and 163lb.-ft. of torque. Adding in a trio of electric motors and an 18.1kWh battery pack, it jumps up to an impressive 302hp, and comes exclusively in AWD.

Getting There, and How Quickly

2020 Ford Escape - ford.com
2020 Ford Escape - ford.com

The RAV4 Prime’s higher horsepower rating translates to a truly impressive 0-60 time of 5.7 seconds (Note that, excepting luxury options like the Porsche Macan, we don’t usually even mention 0-60 times when discussing crossovers). That time makes the RAV4 Prime the second fastest Toyota you can buy, right after the Supra (3.9 seconds 0-60). The Escape PHEV keeps things much more in line with its hybrid stereotype, clocking in at roughly 9 seconds to get up to 60mph.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime - toyota.com
2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime - toyota.com

You might imagine that the RAV4 Prime takes an efficiency hit for this boost in output, but the numbers here are actually quite close. The Escape boasts an all-electric range of 37 miles, a combined 100MPGe, and a full range of 530 miles on a full charge and full tank of gas. The RAV4 Prime will get a slightly better 42 miles of full electric range, 94MPGe combined, and a maximum range of 600 miles.

Cost/Benefit Balancing Act

Before we talk about their individual price-points, it’s important to remember both vehicles will be eligible for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500. But the actual amount of the credit is tied directly to the vehicle’s battery capacity. This puts the Escape’s credit at an estimated $4,600 based on its 14.4kWh battery and the RAV4 Prime’s credit, with its 18.1kWh battery, falling somewhere around $6,000.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime - toyota.com
2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime - toyota.com

The Escape PHEV and RAV4 Prime also differ when it comes to sticker prices, with the Toyota commanding a higher premium than its domestic competition. The Escape SE trim starts at $33,040, the SEL at $35,620, and the highest trim Titanium at $38,825. The RAV4 Prime starts at roughly where the Escape leaves off with an initial price of $38,100 for the SE trim and tops out at $41,425 for the XSE.

2020 Ford Escape Titanium - ford.com
2020 Ford Escape Titanium - ford.com

Adding in the tax credits evens the game a bit, with RAV4 Prime XSE around $35,425 and the Escape Titanium around $34,425. With that said, the Ford Escape PHEV’s base price point makes getting into a PHEV more affordable than ever.

Conclusions – Testing Brand Loyalty

Given range anxiety, the lingering stigma of a boring driving experience, and price premiums, the adoption of electric vehicles has lagged. But, as companies like Toyota and Ford begin to offer more affordable and fun options for consumers, the balance appears to be shifting in favor of boarder electrification. Not only are plug-in hybrids a critical bridge technology to a cleaner transportation fleet, they’re now proving to be as economical and enjoyable too.

2020 Ford Escape - ford.com

2020 Ford Escape – ford.com  |  Shop Ford Escape Hybrids on Carsforsale.com

Choosing between the Escape PHEV and the RAV4 Prime mostly comes down to price versus punch. The zippier RAV4 Prime looks to be a hit well beyond Prius devotees. Meanwhile, it appears Ford put all the fun into the fully electrified Mustang Mach-E and forgot to save some for the Escape PHEV, with its strongest selling point being its low entry price.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime - toyota.com

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime – toyota.com  |  Shop Toyota RAV4 Hybrids on Carsforsale.com

Whichever one you choose, these new plug-in hybrids will vastly reduce your visits to the pump (and the money you spend there) and your tailpipe emissions.

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Chris Kaiser
Chris Kaiser

Chris’ greatest passions include topiary, spelunking, and pushing aging compact cars well past 200,000 miles on cross-country road trips. His taste in cars runs from the classic and esoteric to the deeply practical with an abiding affection for VW Things, old Studebakers, and all things hybrid-crossover.

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