2024 Toyota RAV4 Prime vs. 2024 Toyota bZ4X

Michael Bettencourt
July 12, 2024
If you're wondering whether the 2024 Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid (PHEV) or the all-electric bZ4X is the better value for loyal Toyota buyers looking to plug in their next new SUV, check out this page.
Toyota RAV4 Prime vs Toyota bZ4X

Plug-In Hybrid vs Full Electric

My neighbors down the street that have three Toyotas are fans of the Japanese brand, and always ask more questions than usual whenever a Toyota or Lexus arrives in my driveway for testing. After sampling two similarly-sized plug-in Toyota SUVs back-to-back recently, I had them in mind when considering whether the 2024 Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid (PHEV) or the all-electric bZ4X is the better value for loyal Toyota buyers looking to plug in their next new SUV.

But, it’s not folks buying Toyotas outright, but those who will lease their Toyota that will derive the best value for these two vehicles. Not only have there been some screaming lease deals on the bZ4X – especially in the first half of 2024 – but as of right now, leasing is the only way either of these plug-in SUVs is eligible for the federal $7,500 federal EV rebate. And it’s these rebates – which dealers can now apply at the time of purchase – along with some stacked state rebates and some Toyota incentive money – that have resulted in some truly bargain lease prices for the bZ, even with less than $2,000 down.

At those rates, it becomes much easier to justify the relatively limited range and relatively slow DC quick charging of the bZ4X compared to BEV rivals like the Tesla Model Y and Hyundai Ioniq 5. Plus, there have been notable improvements for 2024 that make Toyota’s only all-electric model more appealing to EV owners – even if it’s still far from class-leading in key areas.

Toyota bZ4X vs RAV4 Prime

The Toyota RAV4 Prime is much closer to the front of the pack when it comes to competing against other five-seat plug-in hybrid SUVs. Unfortunately for RAV4 Prime consumers, deals have been much more limited. When it was first launched in 2021, when supply for many vehicles was limited, and the RAV4 Prime became a poster child for electrified vehicles whose demand far outstripped supply. That reputation has continued. Now, with battery and chip supply issues easing, the RAV4 Prime has become, by far, Toyota’s top-selling plug-in vehicle.

Toyota’s actions still clearly indicate it is a reluctant plug-in vehicle producer, so being the best-selling plug-in Toyota doesn’t mean the company has boosted production of the RAV4 Prime (as it has for the RAV4 Hybrid). All North American RAV4 Primes still come from Japan in relatively small numbers, just like the bZ4X. Regular RAV4 Hybrids are now built at Toyota’s Georgetown, KY plant, with other hybrid and gas-only RAV4s coming from its Cambridge, ON (Canada) factory.

High demand for limited-production vehicles is never a good scenario for consumer discounts, EV or otherwise. This therefore leads to relatively higher prices for the RAV4 Prime, with proportionally fewer discounts – especially when compared to nearly identical-looking RAV4 Hybrid and less efficient gas-only RAV4s. Lease, and the federal $7,500 incentive brings the base RAV4 Prime SE (at a starting MSRP of $43,690) much closer to the price of a similarly equipped RAV4 Hybrid SE (starting MSRP of $34,420).

The RAV4 Prime’s mid-to-high $40s price range lines up closely to the current MSRPs of the all-electric bZ4X line. The RAV4 and bZ4X also share a $1,350 delivery fee.

Would You Like Your RAV4 Mostly Gas-Free, or Totally Gas-Free?

The question essentially becomes: would you like your RAV4 EV mostly gas-free, or totally (and with a different name)?

The bZ4X is offered in front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive variants, with power and range figures that vary slightly depending on the configuration. The base XLE with front-drive has a starting MSRP of $43,070, which provides the most EPA-estimated range of the bunch at 252 miles, but the least power, at 201 hp, and 196 lb-ft of torque. The Limited FWD model adds equipment such as a heated steering wheel, cooled and heated front seats, an automatic parking system, an available black roof and an available phone-as-key function for a starting MSRP of $47,180, but its extra weight and larger wheels (20s versus 18s) also brings the EPA-estimated range down to 236 miles.

There’s also a unique foot-and-leg radiant heating system for the driver’s floor that curiously is not available on the bZ4X’s development twin, the Subaru Solterra. I’m sure this is nice in the winter, but I’d likely give it up (at least in the summer) for a rear wiper, or an actual volume knob, neither of which came on the top Limited model I drove.

2024 RAV4 Prime: Plug-In Hybrid

For the RAV4 Prime, there’s still a gasoline engine and traditional transmission involved, so the available space for a battery is much less, as is its EV range. The Prime’s 42 miles of EPA-estimated all-electric range is near the top of its PHEV class – though you’ll dip into its gas-powered 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine if you’d like to sample all 302 available horses via the standard all-wheel drive system.

The RAV4 Prime’s battery is a 18.1-kWh pack that can be trickle-charged via a common 110-volt outlet using the supplied cable, where the onboard 6.6-kW charger can fully recharge it in about 12 hours. (Toyota recommends a dedicated GFI 15-amp outlet, however.)  A proper Level 2 hard-wired charging station for the wall is the safest and quickest way to charge the RAV4 Prime, which will take only 2.5 hours in ideal conditions. Unlike its Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV rival, or its bZ4X sibling, there’s no Level 3 DC quick charging available for the RAV4 Prime.

2024 bZ4X: Fully Electric Toyota

Opt for all-wheel drive in the all-electric bZ4X, and power from the two motors is increased to 214 hp overall, with 124 lb-ft of torque from each drive motor, or 248 lb-ft total. Though these power figures are on the low end of EV output in this class, the bZ4X Limited AWD I drove felt sprightly around town and in all but the most high-speed passing maneuvers.

Toyota says this bZ AWD model can do a 0-60 sprint in 6.5 seconds, with a half-second slower 7.1 time for front-drive models – both much better than expected thanks to the instant availability of all its available power.

Perhaps strangely, the bZ4X offers two slightly different battery sizes from two different battery makers. Front-drive models are all equipped with a 71.4-kWh battery from Panasonic, while all-wheel drive models such as my tester feature a slightly larger 72.8-kWh battery from Chinese battery powerhouse CATL.

This latter battery has been the cause of much derision towards the bZ4X amongst EV enthusiasts, as it was originally listed as having a max DC charging speed of 100 kW, which is at the back of the class. That speed was well also below the 150 kW listed as the top charging speed of the base Panasonic battery. Plus, Toyota said the bZ4X might not be able to Level 3 DC quick charge at temperatures below -4 degrees Fahrenheit.

bZ4X Charging Speeds

Now, both battery versions are listed as having maximum DC charge speeds of 150 kW. But, while quick-charging this bZ tester in late-June heat, and in almost ideal battery charging conditions, the quickest charging speed I saw was just 72 kW, even when starting the session at 15 percent charge. And though Toyota has updated the bZ4X’s screen for 2024 to show its state-of-charge percentage, the screen sadly doesn’t show the speed at which you’re charging. On other EVs, this is the first indicator of whether there’s a problem, or a slow charger.

When I first plugged the bZ4X into a Shell 180 kW max DC charger, juice began flowing at 69 kW, which I figured would ramp up in a few seconds or minutes, as usual. But when charging speeds leveled out right around 70, I then thought it might be because of there was another EV charging next to me (some chargers will split the maximum output of a charger between two plugs, halving their performance).

But even when the EV next to me pulled away, the rate of recharging stayed stable, at low 70-ish kW speeds. So I unplugged the bZ4X after 20 minutes at just over 35 percent; it had estimated 45 minutes to go from 15 to 80 percent charged, or from 15 to 100 percent in 90 minutes. Both estimates were very optimistic, given the actual charging speed I experienced.

It’s impossible to tell from this test if these speeds – roughly half the vehicle’s stated maximum– was because of the chargers, or the CATL battery, or if the battery thermal management system needs more work. Toyota claims battery management has been upgraded for 2024, but one wonders how well the bZ4X will charge in cold weather. While there are no warnings from Toyota about quick charging in sub-zero temperatures, nor talk of limiting the bZ to one quick charge per 24-hour period, it will be very interesting to try this same test in the middle of winter. Hopefully the 2024 additions of a heat exchanger and heating adjustment valve for the battery will improve charging performance in the cold.

Interior: RAV4 Prime vs bZ4X

Size-wise, the RAV4 Prime and bZ4X are very similar, with the bZ being four inches longer overall, with the Prime being a couple inches taller, with roughly six more cubic feet of cargo space.

Not surprisingly, the all-electric bZ4X feels much more futuristic to drive. It may not have the outright power of the RAV4 Prime, but its instant torque and its near-silent delivery make the RAV4 Prime’s hybrid system seem crude by comparison. Which it is – the gas engine in the RAV4 is not only loud, but it sounds like it wants to take off at inopportune times, thanks to the Prime’s continuously-variable transmission (CVT).

That’s one thing with Toyota’s hybrids: they’re really efficient, but they’re loud when the gas engine kicks in – which thankfully is not that often in the RAV4 Prime. Plug it in at home, and you can do a lot of daily driving without ever using gasoline. All of which makes it very surprising to read that some plug-in hybrid owners don’t bother to plug in their vehicles often. If you’re not going to plug in your Prime, it’s a waste to purchase one in the first place, especially when there’s a much cheaper and more widely-available hybrid RAV4.

While the RAV4 Prime’s interior has many features, stylistically, it looks like any other well-optioned RAV4, outside of some additional battery gauges. The bZ4X, on the other hand, has a unique no-binnacle set-up, with a flat screen positioned closer to the windshield that you look at above the steering wheel, instead of looking through it.

The push-and-rotate shifter in the console of the bZ4X also lends to this tech-friendly aesthetic, and it’s surrounded by buttons that offer features such as a subdued one-pedal drive mode, a handy 360-degree camera function, an X-mode button to lock power to both axles (motors) and the auto parking feature, among others.

Which Plug-In Toyota Is Right for Me?

There’s not one vehicle that works best for everyone, and the question of the RAV4 Prime PHEV versus the all-electric bZ4X is also a question of where you live and your own personal charging situation.

I personally wouldn’t buy or lease a bZ4X if I didn’t have my own parking spot and a Level 2 charger at home, especially in a place with real winters, because quick-charging it is not something you’ll want to do often in this vehicle.

There’s also the very real option of other quicker-charging BEVs with much more range. If Toyota takes away its eye-popping deals on the bZ4X for the second half of this year, then the choice between these two vehicles becomes much simpler to make.

The Toyota RAV4 Prime offers the most flexibility for the most buyers, offering easy road-tripping ability over longer distances, as well as dirt-cheap and whisper-quiet all-electric commuting for many people.

But there is some appeal to not seeing yourself coming and going 10 times in every mall parking lot, and in the bZ’s more-distinctive and arguably more-attractive shape. And at less than $200/month or thereabouts, the bZ4X is a great “starter EV” for folks not yet interested in deep-diving into the EV nitty-gritty.