BEV versus PHEV.

When the Toyota RAV4 Prime, a plug-in hybrid with impressive electric-only range, first debuted in November of 2019, it was billed as powerful as well as efficient. Do you know what else was pretty powerful and efficient? The Toyota RAV EV.

To be more specific, since the Japanese automaker actually made two different generations of the RAV4 EV – the first ran from 1997–2003 which was followed by a second generation from 2012 to 2014 – we're talking about a 2013 example here.

The second generation of RAV4 EV employed a Tesla electric drivetrain. Yup, the battery, inverter, motors, and assorted other bits came from the California company with a reputation for making quick cars. So, that got us thinking: which of these RAV4 crossovers would win in a quarter-mile drag race?

There's only one way to answer that question, so we got a hold of the vehicles in question and lined them up beside each other on the straightaway of the North Carolina Center for Automotive Research (NCCAR) track.

To make things interesting, we decided to stage two races: one using only battery power and another with the full fury of the RAV4 Prime hybrid powertrain unleashed. We figured if the RAV4 EV beat the Prime in the first contest, it would have a shot of redemption in the second.

The RAV4 EV generates a modest 154 horsepower and a somewhat-less-modest 270 pound-feet of torque (in Sport mode), relying on its front wheels only to put that power down. The new RAV4 Prime, however, has a 40 kW electric motor on its rear axle to complement the 134 kW motor powering the front wheels. This layout would make all the difference.

When the green flag drops, the two Toyotas are given the full battery-powered beans. Unfortunately, the pavement is wet and the front-wheel-drive RAV4 EV, with no heavy motor over its main drive axle to help with traction, starts spinning while the Prime begins to scoot down the track. As they cross the finish line, the EV acquits itself, its front bumper having caught up with the rear of the Prime. Had conditions been dry, we're pretty sure the result would have been different.

It goes without saying, then, that the second race belonged solely to the Prime. As we like to remind you, it is the second quickest vehicle in the entire Toyota lineup, with only the new Supra able to best it. It's nice to know too that, for those of us who don't like burning gas, we can still get plenty of performance in electric-only mode.

We have a soft spot in our hearts for the RAV4 EV, even if it's not quite the barn- (and gas-) burner the RAV4 Prime is today. And, we can only hope Toyota considers revisiting an all-electric RAV4. If and when it does, we'll have some more races to stage.