2021 Toyota RAV4, Venza: Two Suits, Same Hybrid Closet

It’s good to have a well-stocked closet with clothes for a night on the town and for hiking with your date.  Even better if your closet is a garage and there are two efficient Toyota’s residing inside.  Get your mid-size hybrid crossover looking like it just rolled off the trail as with the RAV4 or all slicked out for a fast date like the Venza.  Both wear pretty well.

2021 Toyota RAV4 XSE Prime Plug-in

Consider the RAV4 the ruffian of the pair, looking ready for adventure with its square jaw grille, angry LED projector headlamps, hunky fenders, and deeply sculpted D-pillar.  Chiseled bodysides are accentuated by our sporty XSE edition’s black top over red lower body and 19” wheels.  Get intimate to notice the power moonroof and tailgate.  It’s a contemporary look that belies its efficient powertrain. 

It’s what’s between the fenders that matters here.  Lithium ion batteries deliver 42 miles of all-electric range before the 2.5-lliter four-cylinder engine begins consuming fossils.  Fuel economy is rated 94-MPGe full cycle after plugging in or 40/36-MPG in normal hybrid mode.  A combined 302 horsepower helps it clip 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds – quite quick for a hybrid utility.  Use “EV Hold” to preserve the battery for city driving.  An electric motor at the rear enables all-wheel-drive while Trail Mode configures the vehicle for getting to a favorite camping spot.

Moving inside, a large touchscreen with rubberized knobs for tuning and volume sets the tone – as do head-up display, wireless phone charging, navigation, Wi-Fi hotspot, and JBL audio with subwoofer.  Comfy faux leather SofTex seats with red stitching add style, but can be washed down with a rag should things get messy.  They’re also heated and ventilated up front, heated in the rear.  You’ll love fondling the heated steering wheel too.

Of course, we want to practice safe driving with all those we consider dear.  Adaptive cruise control with lane tracing steering, lane keep assist, and forward collision alert with auto brake keep “eyes” ahead.  Blind spot warning, rear cross path detection, digital rearview mirror, and 360-degree birds-eye camera help too.

The RAV4 starts at $26,250, but the plug-in Prime is rarer at just over $38,000.  Our fully-dressed XSE Prime came to, please sit down, $49,578.  If you want an outfit that’s slightly less expensive and decidedly more urban, read on.

2021 Toyota Venza Limited

Button up for the 2021 Toyota Venza Hybrid.  Forms flow from a sleek plastic beak over large grille, narrow LED headlamps, fast rear roofline, and thin wrap-around LED taillamps – all placed over 19” alloy wheels.  You would be hard pressed to tell it shares anything with the RAV4 until you move inside.

The cabin shares basic lay-out with the RAV4, but looks like Louis Vuitton specified the blend of gray and brown upholstery, brown stitching on the faux leather seats, and woodgrain dressing the console and doors.  Little chrome tabs enhance the fine luggage detailing.  Very cool, the panoramic sunroof turns from clear to opaque with the touch of a button.

There’s a lot more tech, too, with wireless phone charging, JBL audio, and head-up display.  Seats are plush and stylish, but are also heated and ventilated up front.  Safety is enhanced by adaptive cruise with lane tracing steering, blind spot warning, lane keep assist, and rear cross path detection with auto brake.  A rearview camera mirror looks rearward.

Unlike the RAV4 that’s available with powertrains ranging from gas to plug-in, the Venza is only available as a regular hybrid.  Beneath the sophisticated bodywork is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine bolstered by lithium ion batteries to generate a combined 219 horsepower.  As expected, fuel economy is excellent at 40/37-MPG city/highway. 

The Venza is a velvety near-luxury crossover with excellent fuel economy and lush style – a Lexus in Toyota clothing.  That’s reflected in the price.  Base models start at a value-packed $32,570, but came to $43,100 for our swanky Limited edition. 

Storm Forward!

Send comments to Casey at AutoCasey@aol.com; follow him on YouTube @AutoCasey.