When the RAV4 landed, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. In a world of unified corporate identity the RAv4 goes off script with a look all to its own. While the old RAV sold on mini-truck looks, the new one is undisguised crossover. The new nose has grown on me slightly since I recorded the video above, but I still find the look a little awkward. Since I was scolded for wearing striped pants with a striped shirt the week I tested the RAV4, feel free take my style opinion with a grain of salt as you click through the jump.
If you want to know why Jaguar and Lexus are introducing compact crossover concepts at the Frankfurt Auto Show this week, all you have to do is check the sales data. Crossover sales are soaring, particularly compacts. Last month, Toyota’s RAV4 was up 50% year to year, and the CR-V at Honda had its best sales month yet. Car sales in general are good in the United States right now, with overall August sales up 17%, but sales of smaller crossovers have doubled that and then some at 36%. Crossovers have gained market share for 10 straight months and now take just over a quarter of the total market, on a pace to sell about 4 million units this year. Overall crossover sales are up about 2% from last year, with compacts making most of that difference. As recently as 2007, crossovers only made up 15% of U.S. light vehicle sales. Pickup trucks are usually seen as America’s favorite vehicles, but in August crossovers outsold pickups by almost a 2 to 1 margin. (Read More…)
Between the A+ report card from Consumer Reports and a last-crossover-standing result for the IIHS small overlap test, even Tommy Callahan could sell somebody a Subaru Forester. “Here comes the meat wagon WEEE-OOO WEEE-OOO and the medic gets out and says, ‘Oh my God’. New guy’s around the corner puking his guts out – all because you wanted to buy a RAV4.”
Factor in some much-improved fuel economy from a continuously variable transmission, and the sales figures are like spank-tra-vision to Subie execs: up by a third year-to-date. Holy shnikes! Is this the year the lovable approach hiking shoe crosses-over from niche product to all-round segment leader? Let’s go camping. (Read More…)
Last week I wrote an article called A Deer In The Headlights about my parents hitting a deer a few days prior. In the story, I talked about the impact and reported that the RAV4 they were driving caught fire as they were being pulled out. Fortunately the good men and women of the Monroe, WA Fire Department arrived on the scene and, in short order, got things under control before the entire car melted down. (Read More…)
The deer emerged from the forest and leapt into the roadway in a sudden swift movement. The sights and sounds of the busy two lane highway assailed the animal’s senses and drove it towards panic. In the opposite lane a car flashed by at close to 60 mph and the noise of its passing echoed off of the thick brush behind the animal. With threats from ahead and behind, the animal pivoted and fled up the roadway, running headlong into the white RAV4 which, despite the driver’s best efforts, was still traveling somewhere north of 50 mph when it struck the animal. (Read More…)
It was the end of the line for the orange creamsicle Fiat 500e dubbed Zippy Zappy. She and I covered some 675 miles together during our seven-say odyssey (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, click over to Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6 before coming back to the saga, I promise we’ll wait for you.) As I ended my afternoon commute by rolling silently through my forest, I looked down at the power gauge. 33% left. It had been a hot day so I had the A/C on, cruise control set to 74 MPH and Toby Keith was blaring on the radio. My range anxiety was gone. But had some EV mystique been lost in the process?
Day six brought a typical Northern California morning: it was 41 degrees, foggy and raining in my forest. But because I was driving an electric vehicle, a squirrel greeted me at the doorstep to thank me for saving his home and a group of hummingbirds dried my charging cable with their tiny wings so I wouldn’t electrocute myself as I unplugged. Then I woke up. But it was still 41. And foggy. And raining.
Day five in our week-long look at living with an EV started once again with a full battery. If you’re just checking in, catch up by going to Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4 before coming back to the saga, I promise we’ll wait for you. Since I’m still afflicted with religion, and because the Episcopal denomination despises change, my Sundays have taken me to the same church, the same building and the same pew for over 33 years. It also means driving 22 miles each way because finding something closer would involve change.
With California’s Zero Emissions Vehicle mandate looming it is only a matter of time till we see an EV from each of the major players in the California market. Nissan has the Leaf, BMW has the Active E, GM has the Volt and Honda electrified a Fit and Ford has electrified everything that isn’t nailed down. That brings us to the elephant in the room: Toyota. To give us some insight into Toyota’s CARB (California Air Resources Board) compliance plans and to see the fruits of the unlikely Toyota/Tesla marriage, Toyota flew us to sunny Southern California to sample the 2013 RAV4 EV.
Of course, the vehicle I caught wasn’t anything earth-shattering, just a prototype of Toyota’s first-ever EV for the American market. And here in California, where electric RAV4s have been running around since 1997, this prototype didn’t exactly bring traffic to a halt. Still, it’s a reminder that even EV skeptics like Toyota are already dipping a toe in the battery-powered market… if only as a “compliance exercise.” Plus, it’s more evidence that my employers should give me more time to get away from the computer and drive around unfamiliar places. Obviously these prototypes want me to find them…