Monday, April 25, 2011

Goodbye Jeep, Hello RAV4!

After 11 years since its production and 8 years in my care and over 152,000 miles, it was time for the Jeep to go.

So introducing the new dive-, shooting-, kiddie transport- and everything else mobile my new Toyota RAV4.

My first new car, ever. Now I know what they mean by that new car smell.

11 Years worth of technology upgrades and automotive know-how makes this a very smooth and fuel efficient ride. So much so that I calculated I'm going to save $80 a month in gas at current prices. The 4 cylinder engine has plenty of pep and while it is not as quick on acceleration as the Jeep with the straight six, its actually pretty close.

I've already taken it to the dive site and the side opening rear door is perfect for gearing up - unlike the Jeep it does not come crashing back down on my head at awkward moments, such as when both arms are busy. The tanks and gear fit in perfectly.

The interior is quite roomy with everything laid out in a logical fashion, the seats are more comfy and form fitting and the suspension is so much nicer.

In short, its a very impressive vehicle and should be very suitable for everything I need it to do.

I spent quite some time online researching compact SUVs to decide possible worthy successors to the Cherokee.

Now I did try at first to buy American, but was stumped. You see, in the Detroit area they don't advertise the price that you as a consumer will actually be charged for the car. No. Instead it is the employee price plus lease loyalty and all sorts of other discounts that the non-employee doesn't qualify for so figuring out what you will actually be facing when you go to sit down and make a deal is just about impossible.

That is how a Jeep Liberty advertised as a $144/month lease ended up being $286-296 after the test drive and once we sat down to discuss it with the salesman (even with a CDI number I was being given by a friend), and the Jeep Patriot ended up costing even more! Apparently the Patriot's residual value is so bad, you can buy it for just $60/month more than the lease.

As to the Jeep Liberty, I was hoping it would be a worthy successor to the Jeep Cherokee it replaced. The current version doesn't even come close.

The steering was brutally stiff, so much so I wondered if the power steering was defective, the ride extra harsh and pickup seemed much less with as much road noise as the old Jeep. The turning radius was worse as was the overall responsiveness. After 11 years of engineering and IMHO an inferior engine that is all of 2 mpg more fuel efficient than the Cherokee it replaced, not impressive. In addition, the setup and height into the passenger compartment made it very hard for the kids to get up into the back seat - far worse than the Cherokee. If you want truck-like handling that makes it feel like a much larger truck than it is along with feeling every bump on the road in your lumbar region (this is not a good thing), go for it.

The Jeep Patriot was rather intriguing - 4WD, smooth handling, fuel efficiency with a 4 cylinder almost matching the RAV4s, good pickup, a decent layout and a CVT transmission that was capable if very noisy, but the price was ridiculous and a deal breaker. The salesman weren't willing to work things out package wise and couldn't make a 4WD fit our budget requirements. Maybe in three years when this RAV4 lease ends I'll look again at some Patriots coming off lease if they hold up. I expect they'll be going for quite cheap as most of the value of it will have been paid for in the 3 lease years.

Thence we went to Toyota and the experience was completely different.

At the Toyota dealership the advertised price was the actual price on arrival at the dealership. Quite refreshing after the Jeep experience. The sales staff were friendly, not pushy and very helpful in getting cars out to try and answering all my questions, not to mention encouraging me to take my time and thoroughly drive the car to be sure I like it.

So I now have a new RAV4.

Something to be said about the capitalist system when you can get a superior and more refined automobile for less than a demonstrably inferior one. So my first non-American car and so far its been a top rate driving experience.

I'll miss the Jeep but I'm really enjoying my new ride.


Murphy's Law said...

Not the Cherokee! Nooooo!

Oh, the Humanity!

Spikessib said...

Congratulations on the new car. Enjoy!

As far as buying American, 10 years ago I was doing some research and found that to really qualify as American made a car not only needed to be assembled here, but 33% of the parts needed to be made here. At that time there were only two cars that qualified. The Honda Accord assembled in PA and the Toyota Camry assembled in TN. I don't know about SUVs or trucks, but I quit worrying about buying a car with a big three label after finding out that some Japanese cars are actually more American than American cars.

Aaron said...

Thanks for the kind words about the new vehicle.

I agree, I'm not really concerned anymore if the vehicle has a Big 3 label. No one should pay more for less just for a label.

Out of Jeep-owner loyalty I gave Jeep a try first. But, when both quality and driveability is lower and price higher than the Toyota, it was an easy decision.

Over 70% of the RAV4 parts are made in the US or Canada and they're made in Woodstock, Ontario so like most cars today it is a world car and probably more 'American' in this day and age than a Chevy assembled in Mexico with parts made in China.

Not to mention the RAV4 wasn't as far as I can tell made by the UAW nor a recipient of a US taxpayer bail out....