RAV


Toyota’s Top Hybrids: Prius and RAV4
by The Car Family
for more reviews go to https://www.motorists.org/tag/the-car-family/
Toyota RAV 4 and the Prius have provided consumers with a nice combination of utility and frugality with both cars offering room for a young family and exceptional fuel mileage. Both vehicles have a lot in common from pricing, to Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrains to class leading fuel mileage in the over 50 mpg for the Prius and 30 for the RAV. Indeed, if you are after economical travel these two are tough to top.

Prius Tourning

Prius Tourning

RAV4 Hybrid

RAV4 Hybrid

Of course, the real reason hybrids are popular is their fuel mileage. However, buyers need to do some math homework with several important variables to consider. First, how much more is the hybrid going to cost over a similar vehicle. The government has a handy site that simplifies this math at fueleconomy.gov.
With that in mind we tested two of the best hybrids from the most successful hybrid company in the world, Toyota. We weren’t disappointed.
Mom’s view: The RAV4 hybrid is easy to drive, park, and use. It can seat five, but is only available in the more expensive trim models. I wasn’t impressed with the RAV’s interior as it just looks and feels dated. I did like the utility tray and storage areas and the easy to use automatic rear hatch. You loose a little cargo area with the hybrid, but still get between 35 to 70 cubic feet of room depending if the rear seat is lowered. Safety wise, the RAV4 top of the line Limited includes antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, full-length airbags, a driver knee airbag, rearview camera, blind-spot warning system and rear cross-traffic alert. An optional Advanced Technology package that includes an 11-speaker JBL premium audio system with a top-down-view parking camera system is also worth considering. We tested the Prius Four Touring model that has a much improved electronics and is loaded with safety features, too, with a blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert and air-bags most everywhere. My only problem with the new Prius was the white, really white, center console, and losing some rear seat leg room due to the placement of the batteries. Otherwise a really great car. My opinion is that the RAV4 is an excellent all-around family vehicle and the Prius, and I hate to write this, a really fun sedan. Both cars have excellent quality scores.

Dad’s view: The RAV 4 hybrid is all wheel drive and is the most fuel efficient vehicle in its class. The ride is excellent and, best of all, aggressive pricing makes it difficult to pass by for bargain hunters. The brakes take a bit to get used to as they are regenerative, but almost all hybrids have a similar feel. The RAV4 has the same system as Lexus NX uses and it shows. This is the best hybrid in its class for cargo and mileage. The ride is smooth and fairly quiet, but can be rough over tax-money deprived roads Driving the hybrid is enjoyable once you get used to the thrust the electric motors provide. All in all the RAV4 is a tidy SUV with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, electric motors front and rear and a continuously variable transmission. The result is 194 horsepower SUV that uses front-wheel drive in normal operation, but automatically engages the electrically driven rear wheels when needed. In other words, a perfect vehicle for readers who want to be prepared for whatever nature throws at them while still being fuel frugal. The Prius is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine aided by a pair of electric motor/generators. Using the console mounted power button maximizes thrust making it easier to pass and merge. In fact, it is addicting. However, the best feature in this new Prius is its improved brakes, suspension and driving dynamics. My choice would be the Prius because it is fun to drive and consistently get 50 plus mpg. With its 11 gallon gas tank full of unleaded a 500 mile trip will cost under $25 and no TSA waiting line.

Young working girls’ view: Neither car is beautiful, but both have an inner beauty and that is reliability. The RAV4 is spacious and honest and doesn’t try to fool you into thinking you are driving a luxury car. I found the Prius too difficult to get into with its lower entry and the unique center gauge placement wasn’t to my taste. The RAV4 hybrid was much easier and, with certain options, was a breeze to park. I would definitely get Toyota Safety Sense that includes collision alert, lane departure warning, pedestrian detection, radar cruise control and more. I really liked the intelligent park assist that can be used for both perpendicular and parallel parking especially living in a parking challenged city. The cargo space is very generous and rear seat room was ample. A perfect SUV for a single or young family who love to travel winter or summer.
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Young working male’s view: Both hybrids are loaded with electronic choices that make option selections difficult. For example, one package includes larger wheels, parking senors, and heated seats. No substitutions allowed. One thing I would get is Toyota’s Entune with the bigger 7-inch screen, smartphone-connected services,and a navigation. Not the best, but much improved, and make sure you get help with the set-up and tie-in with your cell phone. As much as I liked the vastly improved Prius driveability, the RAV just appealed to me more for its usefulness.

RAV4 Interior

RAV4 Interior

Family conference: Loaded with safety features, both priced similarly, the choice between the RAV 4 and Prius Touring hybrids is basically perception. Are you bold enough to make the Prius your daily driver or does the utility of the RAV4 hold sway. Either way they are unique and family friendly.

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Using vehicles to create student interest in math and Language Arts
by National Hall of Fame Teacher Alan Haskvitz
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Haskvitz

Using vehicles is an excellent way to motivate students and to help ready them for real life buying decisions. The following links deal with the various manufactures where students can write for information, obtain pricing information and to harvest compare and contrast data for Common Core related essays.

A listing of all DMV offices.
Finding the office that deals with your state and others can provide information on how old one needs to be to drive as well as the various license fee data that could be used for Common Core math problems. I have used driver manuals to motivate students to read.
http://www.dmv.org/

Data on fuel economy
This federal site would enable students to select a variety of vehicles and there fuel mileage. This could be used for math as well as to provide statistics for an essay on the best or worst type of vehicles in terms of fuel costs.
http://www.fueleconomy.gov/

A link site to manufacturers who sell cars in America
http://search.ezilon.com/united_states/business/automotive/auto_manufacturers/

A listing of vehicle websites worldwide
http://autopedia.com/html/MfgSites.html

National Motorists Association
A great source of information on driving and the law.
http://www.motorists.org/

A listing of car value prices
A good place to find statistics for math problems about the prices of cars and motorcycles.
http://www.nadaguides.com/

Where cars are made by location
Great way to teach geography.
http://www.caranddriver.com/features/a-graphic-representation-of-whats-really-made-in-america-feature

Best 2013 SUVs for Gas Mileage

by The Car Family

For more reviews go to http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/

 First, SUVs by their nature are not fuel frugal. They are heavy and have a significant wind drag. Some manufacturers have even gone so far as to put larger gas tanks in them to provide the illusion that you are getting better mileage because the fuel gauge is slower to move. However, fuel weighs 8.6 pounds per gallon and thus the added weight diminishes mileage as well.

 Furthermore, SUVs are not as safe as minivans in most cases due to their height. Indeed SUVs are involved in more single vehicle accidents. That being said, If you really need a SUV there are some that get reasonable mileage.

 Our strongest recommendation is for what is called a crossover, which means it was built on a passenger car frame. Next, unless you travel frequently in inclement weather, two wheel drive provides better mileage and less maintenance. If you may need to carry six or eight passengers the three row SUVs are obviously your choice, but take the time to see how difficult it is to get into that third row.

 Combining price, mileage and family friendlessness we have come up with our top 15. This is the list of the best SUVs under $50,000 and almost all of them run on regular fuel.

 BMW X1 is a good handling, handy sized SUV that gets 24 mpg city / 33 mpg hwy and has a MSRP of $30,650. If it fits, a best buy for those who want a bit of fun in their daily treks.

 The Buick Encore is a good value, with lots of standard features, this Buick is a quiet ride, very sedate, and offers a rating of 25 mpg city / 33 mpg hwy for a MSRP: $25,010.

The Chevrolet Equinox/ GMC Terrain have excellent cargo space and a host of available safety features. Plenty of poke for a MSRP: $25,800 and 22 mpg city / 32 mpg hwy.

Redone for 2013, the Escape is listed with a MSRP: $22,470 and rated at 22 mpg city / 31 mpg hwy. Ford does not allow us to tests it vehicles so we can’t offer insights into its family usefulness. For the same money or less you can get a none hybrid SUV with better fuel figures.

Basically the same as last year, the 21 mpg city /30 mpg hwy rated Ford Edge is listed at a MSRP: $34,940 and is closely related to the Lincoln MKX. Again, Ford does not allow us to test its vehicles so we can’t offer any opinion. The pricing puts it in the near luxury category. Check Ford’s reliability record first.

The 2013 Honda CR-V has a MSRP: $24,795 and its four-cylinder engine yields a 23 mpg city / 31 mpg hwy average. Sadly, Honda, as Ford, does not allow us to test its products and so we can’t comment on this SUVs usefulness. However, in the past it has been a good value. We do know that the Toyota RAV has been redone and gets the same or better fuel mileage at a slightely lower suggested price.

 We love Hyundai vehicles for their value, warranty, and features and the Tucson is no exception. There are well thought out design ideas everywhere and the base price is $20,245. Be warned that you must come to the dealer having done your homework because there are several models and numerous features. Gas mileage ratings of 22 mpg city/29 mpg hwy

The 2013 Kia Sorento is being built in the USA and is a big seller. Why? Lots of interior room, features, and a MSRP: $26,950 are some, but the 21 mpg city / 30 mpg hwy is just as important.

 Kia’s Sportage has a list price under $20,000 and a 20 mpg city / 27 mpg hwy rating. If you order the turbocharged engine expect less.

Here is a winner with a starting price in the low $20,000 range and the Mazda CX-5 compact crossover segment is rated between 31 – 35 mpg, bettering the hybrids. Lots of options so do your homework and don’t expect V8 performance or towing capability.

 We like the well priced Mitsubishi Outlander Sport with its 25 mpg city / 31 mpg hwy averages and a base price in the law $20,000s. This is an outstanding handling SUV and should be on your consideration list if there is a dealer in your area. Surprisingly nimble.

 Ford’s Escape Hybrid used to be among our favorites, but it is has a totally different feel and pricing from $30,570. For that you get a top ten fuel efficient SUV with a city average of up to 34 mpg and a highway rating about 31. There are a lot of non-hybrids that get have the same mileage rating and have a lower starting price. The Escape is bigger in every way.

 Lexus RX 450 is expensive, but worth it with high resale, excellent reliability and a tremendous number of luxury features for the $46,310 to $47,710 listed price. You can achieve about 32 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway. Easily the best luxury SUV for gas mileage, features, and user ratings. If you want something less costly and with fewere fringes try the Toyota Highland Hybrid with an overall 28 mpg rating and a price range that starts around $39,000. Both of these SUVs come with less expensive non-hybrid versions that average about 22 mpg.

The Mini Countryman isn’t really a SUV in the traditional sense. It is smaller, lighter on its feed, and a lot more fun to drive and park. Prices range from $20,000 to $34,850 and you can easily achieve 30 mpg and more if you can restrain yourself. Yes, all wheel drive is available.
The Nissan Juke is a sporty crossover that looks a bit strange, but that is its charm. As well as a 29 mpg average and a starting price just under $20,000. Very fun to drive and no slouch in terms of performance.

Mazda’s CX-5 lists from $20,995 to $28,595 and you can average 30 mpg in mixed driving without much effort. A good handling machine, as are most Mazdas, this Mazda costs less, handles better and gets superior gas mileage to the Ford Escape hybrid. It does not have the same cargo space. If you are serious about gas mileage, this is the one.

Don’t underestimate the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport and its that can get around 27 mpg in mixed driving. This SUV is both fuel efficient, enjoyable to drive, and a bargain with a starting price under $19,000. Great deals abound.

Also among the most efficient SUVs and another bargain, the Hyundai Tucson with its base engine and starting price of just over $19,000 can get you government gas mileage ratings of 23 City/31 Hwy. A tough crossover, this Hyundai has an excellent warranty and has plenty of features.

Subaru XV Crosstrek lists for $21,995–$24,495 and offers all wheel drive while still getting government ratings of 23 to 33 in city and highway driving. If you want more room and have a can spend a little more money try the Subaru Outback with a combined 26 mpg.

Toyota RAV4 24 miles per gallon city, and 31 mpg on the highway cycle with front-wheel-drive models and a starting price about $24,000. This is an all new vehicle and it is undercuts the Honda CR-V on pricing and beats it on gas mileage. If you don’t test these two back to back you are making a big mistake if you are in the market for a name brand crossover.

There you have it. Our recommendations are simple. The Chevrolet offers the best fuel mileage and interior room for the price. The Mazda products are fun and get excellent gas mileage, and the Lexus RX 450 is the Queen of this list. As for the new BMW X1, it could be your best bet if you watch your options and don’t need the interior space of the larger vehicles on this list. If you need all wheel drive the Subarus are a great choice.

For a list of all vehicle websites go to http://reacheverychild.com/business/index.html

Toyota Venza: Pretty Practical

by The Car Family

for more reviews go to http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/home/most-reliable-vehicles/

for a list of vehicle websites go to

http://www.reacheverychild.com/business/index.html

This new and very different Toyota has a place in the driveway for those who find the Highlander too tall, the Lexus RX too expensive, and the Sienna too vanny. For a starting price of $26,000 you can order a vehicle that is not only difficult to categorize, but one that is difficult to evaluate. The reason is simple, this is a very large crossover with a Lexus like feel and yet it is noisy and ponderous. Indeed, this was not our favorite Toyota. The huge tires created a steady hum, the very expensive luxury option package was overly complicated and the rear seats did not fold flat and you even had to remove the headrests to get them to fold at all.

The Venza feels big even though it is the same size as a Camry, abeit lower, and is the same width and about the same price as a Highlander. In other words, it is high, wide, and and weights nearly as much as the Highlander. Interestingly, it also has a larger turning radius with the Venza needing a vast 39 ft. to turn, which makes it difficult in tight parking garages. You really need that optional rear view screen when you buy the Venza due to the poor visibility to the back and sides.

2008_10_09_Venza_44-prv

There are two engine choices, the best being the 2.7-liter four-cylinder that provides an ample 182 horsepower with real world gas mileage about 23 mpg. The 3.5-liter V6 makes 268 hp and you can expect about 21 mpg, but if you order the all wheel drive model go with the larger engine. With the 17 plus gallon tank you can easily go over 400 miles on the highway with either engine.

Cargo space is 70 cubic feet while the Highlander gives you 95. What we are tying to say is that the Highlander is more car for the money, and you have the optional third row of seating. However, the Venza is sleeker, lower, and has a much better interior. We think it should appeal to those who find the Camry to common and the Highlander boring. We don’t think it is going to be a big seller, but its looks appealed to a lot of people and they may be enough to justify its success.

Mom’s view: I did not like the poor visibility and the large turning radius. This is not a car for city dwellers who don’t have their own parking spaces. You sit high, but you can’t see the Venza’s front end. The GPS is not the best and we found it difficult to use, and the stereo and the dual-zone HVAC controls require patience to master. The screen is easy to read, but the map symbols are too small and the whole thing is overly complicated.

Driving the Venza, even with the V6, is dull. The brakes are soft, the handling soft, and the acceleration is soft. The road noise from the 20 inch tires is tiring. Essentially, this is a Camry station wagon and yet the Camry is much more responsive. But the Venza interior, ah, the interior. It is lovely. There is a center console that provides for all types of storage and the shifter is high and easy to reach. However, there isn’t much feel to. You can easily carry five adults in comfort and the Venza is loaded with standard equipment. The base model includes 19-inch alloy wheels, auto headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, power driver seat, 60/40 rear seat, auto-dimming rear view mirror, universal garage-door opener, cruise control, trip computer and a stereo with CD changer and auxiliary audio input.

Nevertheless, there is an abundance on options on the Venza that are mostly grouped into packages. I highly recommend the power tailgate and rear view camera. The HID headlamps are above average and the sound system may appeal to some with its 13-speakers and Bluetooth and satellite radio. Those who want to stupefy their children by having them stare at a movie while traveling can order the rear-seat DVD entertainment system.

Safety wise the Venza comes standard with four-wheel anti lock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag and front-seat active head restraints.

The new Venza looks great, but it wasn’t my cup of tea due to its ponderous driving feel and lack of crispness. If you are coming from a SUV you will probably feel right at home.

2008_10_09_Venza_72-thmb

Young working woman’s view: An interesting vehicle and one with appeal in its appearance and utility, the Venza, nevertheless there is a lot that needs more thought. For example, the optional 10.2 inch screen for the flip-down DVD player blocks the rear view mirror. The electric power steering feels disconnected and the Venza requires a very large turning radius. If you use the wireless DVD player the signal can interfere with the stereo radio volume. The middle rear seat needs more padding and the air conditioning/heating ducts are placed so that the steering wheel intercepts the flow. The center console has the transmission shifter mounted near the dash and this leaves lots of room for cupholders, iPods. There is even a special compartment for MP3 players and the like. Despite all the room for storage, there is no handy space for your purse as there was in the early model RX. Indeed, that model remains the best use of interior space of any vehicle we have ever tested.

The noise from the large side mirrors and large tires creates a din at highway speed and the seats aren’t that comfortable for me. I think larger people would enjoy them more. The Venza does not isolate you from the feel of the road although large bumps are clearly felt.

Finally, the Venza, despite its size, does not have a third row of seating. For that you need to go to the Highlander. The good news is that space can be put to good use for hauling practically anything this side of a sofa/chesterfield,couch,davenport and it even enables backseat passengers to recline their seats. There are 70 cubic feet of storage in back and the floor is level when the rear seats are folded down.

I would not buy the Venza for three reasons. First, it has large blind spots and is not easy to park. Secondly, the brakes and steering feel are too soft. Finally, it is attractive inside and out, but the pricing with the options I like push the cost way past that of a RAV 4, which holds more and gets similar fuel mileage.I also think that the speedometer font is too small.

2008_10_09_Venza_79-thmb

Young working male’s view: I just didn’t find the stereo system up to snuff. The controls for the air conditioning and heating could easily be simplified, and you really need to remove the rear headrests and make sure the optional rear seat monitor is up or your limited rear mirror vision is even more limited. The wireless system works well, since I work making some of the lowest priced American open source computers and servers for http://eracks.com/ I wonder why no computer input port?

The large tires look good, but they are going to cost a bundle to replace and they are not quiet riding. Here is my thumbnail about the Venza; stick with the basic model, engine, front wheel drive, skip the options except the automatic rear door closer and rear view camera and drive carefully. It is good looking, handy, and won’t cause you to lose any points off of your driver’s license.

Dad’s view: The Venza and the Saab are two of the few cars that cater to pets. You can order a rear hatch pet ramp for easy loading and unloading, a leash tether for securing pets in the vehicle, a pet booster seat with harness, a first/second row or cargo area pet barrier, pet seatbelt buckles and rear seat zip line-style harnesses as well as waterproof and removable hammock-style seat covers for this Toyota. That says it all about the Venza. A fine suburban commuter for family and man’s best friend. It won’t challenge or offend you. Sort of pretty, but certainly practical.

2008_10_09_Venza_75-thmb

There are two engine choices, a new 2.7-liter, 182-horsepower inline-four and a 3.5-liter, 268 horsepower V-6. The base engine is adequate, except for those Venza’s with all wheel drive. For that model step-up to the V-6. Towing limits are 2500 pounds for the four-cylinder and 1000 more for the larger powerplant. In either case the six-speed automatic transmission is excellent.

The major drawback to driving the Venza is its handling. It is very vague and the use of large tires does little to improve it cornering, but harshens the ride. The brake feel is adequate, but I would like more action early on when depressing the pedal.

No doubt this is a great grocery getter and the high sitting position, wide doors, and easy entry and exit height make it a natural for both families with young children and older folks. In other words, for those usually not needing to push the speed limit. Other than that this is a great car/wagon/crossover/SUV.

Family conference: The Venza draws a fair amount of attention and is price well. Thus it has the earmarks of another success for Toyota. It does have shortcomings, the worst of which is the lack of visibility and the noise from the engine, tires, and side mirrors. By the way, we all loved the large size of those mirrors and were very willing to turn up the stereo a bit to cancel out the wind noise. The Venza may not be easy to classify, but for many it is going to offer the best combination of fuel mileage, cargo capacity, and reliability. You might also consider the Subaru Forester, the Nissan Murano, and the Ford Edge. Or, Toyota’s own RAV4.

Most Reliable Vehicles

By The Car Family

 

For more reviews go to

http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/home/best-new-cars-for-2008/

For free educational materials go to

http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/index.html

For a list of all vehicle websites go to

 http://www.reacheverychild.com/business/index.html

Gas mileage drastically improves if you are being towed. Other than that there is very little to recommend a vehicle that gets great fuel figures but costs you money at resale due to buyer worries about reliability. Add to that fact that just one problem could erase all the savings in gas over the lifetime of the car. Thus Consumer Reports has supplied their list of the most dependable vehicles. I have never been a fan of Consumer Reports since we followed their ratings for buying several household appliances only to have them require sufficient work. That might not be the fault of Consumer Reports. What might be the problem is that once a company gets a high rating and sales increase they start cutting corners on the tested products.

Here are Consumer Reports top picks and our assessment based on models up to 2007.

Mercedes continues to battle with quality problems in some models as their M Class ranks as the most unreliable vehicle. We find that the best Mercedes product is the E Class, especially with the diesel or Bluetec engine. We also feel that they have made considerable progress the last two years.

Price appears to have little relevance to quality and old myths are shattered when you look at the data that reveals that the Lincoln Zephyr was nearly as reliable as the always reliable ES 350. In fact, if you want to buy a good used car a 1995 Lexus ES is the one to have. Outstanding gas mileage and exceptional reliability. They have oil leaks and thin leather seats but for under $3000 you are probably going to get 300,000 miles.

Ford continues to improve with good rankings for its Fusion and Milan. Indeed, these vehicles performed at the same level as the pricier Camry and Accord. General Motors also did well with good rating for its Buick Lucerne and Cadillac DTS.

One of our frequent best vehicles is the Subaru line and Consumer Reports agreed. All their models did well, but we don’t recommend the racy WRX STi due to its hot rod engine and stiff legged ride. A great car, just not a family car. Outside of the Versa and Sentra we don’t really feel that Nissan has that many quality products and some, such as their large SUVs, gets astonishing low gas mileage and quality marks.

Porsche continues to suffer, according to owners

Porsche continues to have reliability issues. Since this is the only company that refuses to allow us to test its vehicles we have no reason to disagree with the Consumer Reports information. If you buy a Porsche you are buying a possible source of problems that the company’s short warranty may not help you cover.

The Porsche 911 and Carrera, Pontiac Solstice, Mercedes SL and CLK, and V6 powered Ford Mustang all did poorly and the Porsche is easily the most expensive of this list. We feel Mercedes is improving and that the Solstice is very new and probably going through growing pains. The Mustang is priced under $20,000 and we don’t feel its quality is as good as it should be. As for the Porsche, how could a company that has been building essentially the same car for decades continue to have problems? We feel it is the fact that they are profitable and have a loyal following even though there are several cars that costs tens of thousands of dollars less that can perform equally.

Small Cars

As expected the best small cars are the Honda Fit and Civic Hybrid as well as the Toyota Corolla. What we didn’t expect was the high rating of the Toyota Yaris, which we did not like and found very uncomfortable and lacking a quality feel. However, we love the Fit and the Corolla. In this category the Chevrolet Cobalt and Aveo, Nissan Sentra, and Volkswagen Jetta did poorly. The Sentra has been redone and is much better. The Cobalt’s rating surprised us as we found it was a great compact with a spirited ride and spacious interior. Volkswagens continue to be suspect, although we have placed an order for the new Jetta wagon and have our fingers crossed.

The important family sedan segment had the Accord, Fusion, Milan, and Toyota Prius in the top positions. The Accord four cylinder was our choice. We have no idea why anyone orders the V6 version when the four is so frugal and energetic. The Volkswagen Passat didn’t fare well and we don’t recommend it either.

As noted the Lexus ES does well, as did the Zephyr. Add to that the surprising Hyundai Azera and the Acura TSX and TL and you have some great vehicles although the Azera is very softly sprung. However, it is loaded with equipment and looks far more expensive than the Lexus. The Jaguar X Type, Chrysler 300 V8 and Saab 9-3 rated at the bottom. Our experience with the Saab is that the older ones do better than the new ones. After 2002 they seemed to lose their composure. Still, they handle, accelerate, and feel as solid as any sporty sedan. We like them. The large Chrysler has visibility issues and the V8 isn’t needed as the large six does just as well for the family. The Jaguar is an old design and isn’t going to age well anyhow. Nice looking, though.

Luxury Cars

In the luxury field the older Cadillac STS, Mercedes S and CLS and E and the BMW 7 Series and Jaguar S should be avoided. The new models of these are far better, but we always have doubt about BMW products outside of the 3 Series due to the complexity of their electronics and poor fuel mileage. The Jaguar S is another old design and the new Jaguar FX promises to be much better. Winners include the always terrific Lexus LS and Infiniti M. We noticed tire wear problems with the big Infiniti, but the Lexus is perhaps the best luxury family sedan ever made. We bought one of the first ones brought to the US in 1989 and it was a dream. They still are, but beware of the costly prices to replace such items as oxygen sensors. You pay for the Lexus name. We actually bought the same anti-freeze solution at the Toyota dealership for nearly 30 percent less than the Lexus dealer wanted.

If you want sportiness the Lexus SC isn’t the answer, but it has exceptional reliability as does the Toyota Solara. We found the chassis on the Solara was too flexible, especially in the convertible, but that was the previous model. The Subaru Impreza WRX is fun and highly rated as is the Honda S2000, the Mitsubishi Eclipse, and the fun MINI Cooper. There is quite a price range here, but if you don’t need the room the MINI is excellent with gas mileage over 30 mpg. Get the Clubman if you have a family for the extra cargo space. The Subaru is the most fun for the buck, though, just make sure it has been maintained. Subarus are expensive to buy parts for and we don’t like their automatic transmission.

In terms of people movers the Nissan Quest fared poorly as did the General Motors trio of the Buick Terraza, Chevrolet Uplander, and Saturn Relay. We were shocked at the General Motors listings as we tested them and found them tight and well made. Perhaps it was too much to try and make a SUV look like a minivan. On the plus side the gas sipping Pontiac Vibe/ Toyota Matrix were superb and so was the Toyota Sienna. A used Sienna is worth considering. We got great gas mileage. The Honda Odyssey van, everyone’s first choice, finished in the middle. The complex engine management program may have been the problem. If you need less room, the cute Scion xB finished among the elite, too. Very economical and a hoot to drive.

SUV Rankings

Crossover SUVs did well as a group with only the very inexpensive Kia Sportage reporting poor ratings. It was also among the least costly in this grouping. Favored crossovers were the Toyota FJ Cruiser and RAV4 as well as the Honda CR-V, Mitsubishi Outland, and versatile Subaru Forester. The FJ has so little side and rear visibility and poor fuel mileage we can’t recommend it. The Outlander is okay, but not the best choice. The RAV4’s gas mileage when tested was over 25 mpg and the all-new Honda CR-V had a great interior. We like the RAV4 and the Subaru Forester. In fact, we like the old Forester better than the new one. They get the best fuel mileage of any all wheel drive family crossover.

Good scores for large SUVs was dominated by the Japanese automakers with the Toyota Highlander, 4Runner, Lexus RX 400 h, Acura MDX, and Honda Pilot all ranking on top. The Lexus is much more expensive than the others and we would recommend the RX 350 instead and save thousands. The Highlander and Pilot are both very good. The fuel mileage on the MDX causes us to place it much lower, although it handles better than the others.

As expected the worst of the SUVs are some of the vehicles we never recommend such as the Land Rover LR3 with the V8, the horrible Hummer H3—all Hummer models are horrible, the lumbering Volkswagen Touareg, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Mercedes R and M Class, Volvo XC 90, Ford Explorer, and Mercury Mountaineer. If there ever was a grouping of vehicles to avoid as lacking any quality traits this is it. Why anyone would consider one is beyond our grasp as they get stinky fuel mileage, handle poorly, and every one has a better choice from the same manufacture.

Hummer Owners Rank them Lowest

Large SUVs, and why anyone in their right mind would need one of these top-heavy burdens on renewable resources escapes us, are lead by the Toyota Land Cruiser, Sequoia, Lexus LX, Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon. The god-awful Hummer H2 performed as expected, at the bottom of the list. We don’t’ think it would matter to a perspective buyer anyhow. Buying one of these Hummers, which are illegal to drive on most residential roads as they exceed the three-ton limit, is for those who need attention and are willing to pay for it. The same can be said for the Ford Excursion and Lincoln Navigator. The Lincoln only beat the Hummer in the race to the bottom of the reliability chart. Of course with all that weight going to the bottom is easy. Think 10 to 12 miles per gallon and a resale value that rivals current presidential approval ratings when you buy in this segment.

Consumer Reports final ratings were for pick-up trucks. These are the cash cows of the industry and their success is important. The Subaru Baja, which is really too small to carry much more than a six foot long rope, the Toyota’s Tundra and Tacoma were joined by the Nissan Frontier V6 as having superior quality ratings. The Baja is handy, but clearly does not belong in this group. The worst were the Nissan Titan, horrible gas mileage, too, and the Ford F-250 diesel, Dodge Dakota, and the wallowing Cadillac Escalade EXT. The latter model drives like a boat with little road feel and a tendency to absorb gasoline faster than the Saudis can produce it.

Two elements emerge from the Consumer Reports study. First, only Toyota has a vehicle line-up that excels in quality and Honda is close behind. Thus the higher resale for these two brands. Secondly, the cost of the vehicle is not indicative of its quality. The Ford Fusion is about $20,000 and does well while the Porsche and Hummer H2 are complained about by their owners who shelled out those big bucks the most per dollar.

Family conference: Our favorites by category are the Honda Fit and Toyota Corolla in the compact class; family sedan class winners are the Toyota Prius, Accord and Ford Fusion; larger sedans would find the Lexus LS in our garage; the MINI Clubman would be our fun to drive vehicle; the Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe would be the handiest to own; and the Lexus 400h and Subaru Forester can carry our family anytime. We don’t recommend large SUVs and feel that pick-ups are not family vehicles and can be very unsafe.

rogue_4.jpgNissan Rogue: Honey, I Shrunk the Murano

By The Car Family

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Our first reaction was decidedly mixed. Did they shrink the Murano? It has the same futuristic look and is even more attractive in darker colors. What it didn’t take us long to discover was the quiet ride, spunky engine, firm ride, and the fact that it didn’t have a spare tire hanging off the rear hatch making it difficult to open and expensive to repair.

The interior has a youthful look with a few helpful twists such as an auxiliary jack for iPods and large HUVA controls. The instrument panel is trendy, but the bright orange light from the gas gauge and the small fonts make them very difficult to read quickly. The tachometer and speedometer are about six inches and the fuel and temperature gauges two inches in diameter and reside in the middle of the instrument cluster and has a strange orange illumination. The seats are firm and need more lumbar and maybe a touch more padding, but overall they felt good to the tush.

The engine is very responsive with its 2.5-liter four-cylinder powerplant producing 170 horses and 175 lb-ft of torque providing a good average of 23 mpg with a 15.9-gallon tank. Only the Honda, Subaru, and Toyota were able to match that and they weren’t as much fun to drive even though they had more usable room inside. It comes with four-wheel anti-lock braking, Electronic Brake force Distribution, Vehicle Dynamic Control and Traction Control to help control your emotional outbursts.

The CVT works well, but would really just like to accelerate. When it senses you want more power it reacts aggressively, but that is better than some of the Lexus transmissions where they appear to be second guessing your desires even with their seven and eight speed gearing.

We had the optional all wheel drive feature and it worked very well. The Rogue starts in all wheel drive and switches to front wheel drive until future notice. You don’t have to ask, the Rogue takes command of the situation.

There is plenty of competition in this price range and they all offer a lot for similar money in the from of the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV, Subaru Forester, and overpriced and premium fuel devouring BMW X3 being among them. So why consider the Rogue? Well, it is more fun to drive, has excellent visibility, and just begs to be toyed with. And, it is filled with little surprises like a huge glove compartment, a lot of little storage areas, and a

On the negative side is has less cargo space and probably won’t retain its value as well. However, we think you are probably going to get a great deal on these as Nissan strives promote its Rogue.

Mom’s view: I like the seating position and the front and side visibility. On all SUVs and minivans I want a rear view camera option, but there wasn’t one on this model. As such rear visibility is very limited. The seats were firm and there needs to be both a tilt and telescoping option on the steering column as I could not find an accommodating position as the steering wheel has a very bus like angle. The brakes were very good, the acceleration sprightly and well mannered, and the rear hatch easy to open. The interior lighting was great, but the front headlights were dismal and there needs to be better lighting in the rear cargo area where there is none.

Interior materials are bleak and I expect that the seat fabric, as that on the Versa, is going to harvest dog hair at a terrific rate. The controls are easy to reach, but the Nissan radio with its unique FM/AM push button selection needs to be mastered before setting out. The heater and air-conditioning is average in quickness to change the cabin’s temperature and the horn is well below average in sound level. There is plenty of storage with a large and well thought out glove compartment.

This is a crossover vehicle that is related to the Sentra sedan. We like the Sentra, but we like the Rogue more. The electric steering is very good in town and the Rogue, contrary to its name, always feels domesticated. The ride is remarkable for such a short wheelbase vehicle. It is the among the best of all compact SUVs, although it does not handle real offroading the way a Subaru Forester does and can’t perform up to those with six cylinder engines.

With pricing starting in the $20,000 range you need to take a look at the new Saturn Vue, the Mazda CX-7, the Ford Edge, and the Honda and Toyota products. All of the competitors offer more room, but only the Acura RDX is friskier. Indeed, if you want to save considerably and don’t need the room the Suzuki SX4 is priced around $15,000 a truly cute ute.

Safety wise the Nissan Rogue comes with antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability and traction control, front seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints.

I found myself liking the Rogue more each day I drove it. The 37.4 ft. turning radius is fine, the 3300 pounder felt trim and eager to please with good brakes. Only the sometimes confused CV transmission would jar my concentration, but it was worth it when it came to fill the tank. I was able to better 25 mpg easily on the highway. Maybe I bit youthful in the looks department, but in the top category of crossover utes moving in with the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V while patiently awaiting the residing king/queen of this segment, the Subaru Forester which has undergone a makeover. Nevertheless, the Rogue is good value.

Dad’s view: Nissan has the strangest collection of vehicles of any manufacture and can’t seem to get its styling department to concentrate while the engineers produce one of the best six cylinder engines anywhere. They have some of the worst vehicles for gas mileage from the god awful gas swilling Titan pick-up and Armanda SUV that can both deliver single digit fuel mileage in traffic, to the Xterra and Pathfinder which seem to contradict each other as they offer nearly the same power and utility while the Xterra is priced over $6000 less and has just has a tad less room and luxury. Than there is the new 2009 Murano that has been rendered nearly obsolete at birth by the Rogue unless you need more of everything for several thousand dollars more. To this strange mix add the really terrific Versa, Sentra, and 350Z and the underrated Maxima and Quest minivan and useful Frontier pick-up all of which get exemplary fuel mileage and are user friendly and well priced.

That being said, the Rogue is clearly to be placed in the latter category. It is a winner, but as the Versa, may have a tough time catching the eye of the public. And, unlike the Versa, it needs to have a sharper price point to be competitive. As it now stands the Rogue is in the base Honda CR-V’s cost range and, although it is much more responsive and fun, doesn’t have the proven resale or room of the Honda. If Nissan priced its entry level price $17,500 it would be unbeatable.

The four cylinder 170-horsepower four-cylinder engine has plenty of spunk and offsets its sometimes noisy behavior by providing excellent fuel mileage. The CVT gets your attention and is not as smooth behaving at the one in the Versa or the Altima. Nevertheless, the fuel mileage and passing ability are very good. We had the all wheel drive model that might be needed if you’re driving experience is marred by frequently snow, but we feel that the front wheel drive model is the better performer. As might be expected, the all wheel drive gets slightly less fuel mileage at 21/26 mpg and 0 to 60 times reside just south of ten seconds.

Car like is the best way to describe the feel of the Rogue on the road. The electric steering is well muted and the suspension levels most all road surfaces without a disruption. The seating position feels very high due to the fast sloping hood and low dash. The seat adjustments aren’t that easy to reach, but the electric side mirror knob is as are the window controls. There is a fair amount of noise in the cockpit, especially in windy and rainy weather. The wipers aren’t large enough to clear the top and side of the windshield and the defrost could be quicker to heat. The tailgate is very, very easy to lift. The best in the business. However, the liftover is high, probably due to the eight inches plus road clearance that the Rogue has to accommodate those determined to go offroad or traverse unplowed roads. It does not corner as well as the very snappy Acura RDX, but it costs a lot less. Overall, this is an ideal combination of commuter car and adventure mobile.

Young working male’s view: This is perhaps the best SUV that Nissan has ever produced. It gets good gas mileage, has a nice ride, can hold four adults in comfort, and is nimble. The rear seats are fixed, which does not allow them to be slid back for more legroom and there isn’t much cargo room with less than 30 cubic feet behind the back seat. The headlights are average, I would go with SL model and the Premium package with its optional xenon units and you can utilize your SmartKey with keyless entry, upscale sound system, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and Bluetooth and an auxiliary port for iPods.

Frankly, the looks of the Rogue attract a lot of female interest. In fact, none of my male friends found it appealing at all. Call them the Xterra crowd, unruly and always short of gas money. I didn’t mind the Rogue’s road abilities, but the backseat is strictly for two adults and the steering needs a bit more heft at speed. This Nissan wouldn’t be my first choice in a crossover, the Subaru holds my attention better, but it is a good one.

Young working woman’s view: Looking like a shrunk Murano, the Rogue is one of the more poorly named vehicles this side of the Ford Taurus. You can order it as a S with or without all wheel drive and the SL with the same drivertrain choices. Standard equipment is what you would expect with 16-inch steel wheels, cruise control, a tilt steering wheel, air-conditioning, power mirrors and doors, and a four-speaker stereo with a CD player and auxiliary audio jack. I recommend this model. If you want to upgrade harvest yourself a SL with larger tires, alloy wheels, tinted windows and various doodads.

There is plenty to appreciate here, but there are some areas that need to be addressed. For example, how about good rear seat cupholders, a padded area for your sunglasses, a place to put your purse, and a rear cargo light? I also have no idea why they don’t place the gas filler door on the driver’s side. It is so much easier to park near the “pump” and who wants to have to walk around a car to fill in cold weather?

There could be a better use of the space in the spare tire area, a better jack, a longer slide for the front seats for those that are tall, side molding to protect from the SUV drivers and passengers who are so upset about their plummeting resale rates that they slam their doors open, and the reflective glare in the side view mirrors from the interior bright pieces in sunny weather. On the plus, but easily missed side, are the red night lighting, including the overhead console, the perfect rear seat height for placing a baby in its seat, the cargo organizer, the hidden middle rear seat safety belt that doesn’t hang down like on some models, a keyless entry system that saves hunting for keys (By the way, there is a key in the unit should the battery die.) and a rear hatch that practically opens and closes itself.

If the Rogue had a larger rear storage area I would consider it, as this is one useful Nissan. But with two large dogs to tote around and a high jump up level it isn’t right. On the other hand, my friends treated it with affection once they rode in it.

Is it better than the competition? Well, not having driven the new Subaru Forester, I would say that it is as good as the rest save the RAV4 with the V6 which gets nearly the same fuel mileage with an engine that produces almost 100 more horsepower. On the down side the RAV has the rear mounted spare tire I deplore.

Family conference: Having a Versa and Rogue in your garage would be a swell pair for a family into utility and saving money. They are perfectly matched and the Rogue is as much SUV as you are ever going to need unless you are into towing or need a third seat. We enjoyed our time with this Nissan, but are worried that many potential buyers are going to ignore it because of the cargo space and pricing. Nevertheless, this is among the very best crossover utes and Rogue in name only.

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2008 Gas Versus Hybrid Toyota Highlander Shoot-Out

There is simply no comparison between the 2008 Toyota Highlander and the previous model. The new Highlander is bigger in every dimension from horsepower to interior space without any loss in fuel mileage. The good news is that Toyota infused this SUV with a larger engine, smoother ride and an available third row of seats that is more habitable . The bad news is that the new version is not as nimble and much more isolated from road feel. And, yes, more expensive with the hybrid starting around $34,000 and the gas version priced at $27, 300.

To better provide potential consumers a realistic comparison we drove a 2008 Highlander Hybrid that was a preproduction model. That means that it was close to the real version, but lacked all of the features such as a sophisticated stereo and leather seating. The other vehicle was a loaded Highlander with all wheel drive. The only real exterior differences are the taillights and grill; the interior is identical save for some hybrid monitoring instrumentation.

Both vehicles use the new 270 horsepower, 3,5 liter, V6 engine to good advantage. The hybrid has a continuously variable transmission and the gas powered version a five speed automatic. The extra power from the hybrid’s battery pack makes it much faster and quicker reacting thanks to the electric motors that are rated at 167 horsepower and 247 pound feet of torque. In reality the hybrid Highlander accelerators quicker than a V8 and with a very linear flow of power thanks to the transmission. It would take a Porsche SUV to keep pace, but that wouldn’t be for long as these German heavyweights suck gas nearly twice as fast the Toyota, and premium is highly recommended.

In real life use we seldom got over 23 mpg highway driving at a constant speed in Toyota’s gas version and our best with they hybrid was 25 in city driving. This is a heavy SUV now. The maximum cargo capacity has increased from about 81 cubic feet to over 94 in the 2008 model. There are also a host of features and options from the power lift gate, to Bluetooth, to an auxiliary MP3 input port, to a backup camera, to a key recognition fob. There is also a 5000-pound towing capacity package available.

The hybrid’s gas/electric power train makes 270 horsepower from a 3.3-liter V-6 engine. All hybrids have a continuously variable automatic transmission and four-wheel drive. The hybrid has an EV mode that allows it to travel at slow speeds for about five miles on just the battery. We had a pre-production model that didn’t appear to want to go any distance without the engine running. Indeed, our mileage for this early model was far less than the Hybrid Synergy Drive system’s 31 mpg in the city and 27 mpg government findings. After a few hundred miles of mixed driving the hybrid got about ten percent healthier fuel mileage. You can probably get 24 mpg with the hybrid.

What is most dramatic is the exterior appearance of the Highlander hybrid. No longer the dowdy, nearly invisible SUV, the new model is sharper looking with large slab sides.

The Highlander stands taller on 19-inch rims, has 7.3 inches of ground clearance, and is about 4 inches longer and 3 inches wider. Standard features on the hybrid include leather-trimmed seats, a power rear door, AM/FM/six-disc in-dash CD changer, 19-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps and a third-row bench seat. If you order the optional GPS you can get the highly recommended backup camera monitor with a 3.5-inch screen.


Mom’s view: I must be getting conservative in my old age, but I like the feel of the old Highlander better. It had a handiness that I liked, was very unfussy to park, and was easier to get in and out of. On the other hand, this review is a comparison of the new Highlander hybrid and the non-electric assist model.

My first impression about the hybrid was that it rides quieter and has more features. The hybrid is quite quiet and the steering feel is wighted well. Side winds do affect both models as there are large flat sides on both models without any defense against parking lot dings or wind blasts. The brakes have a supple feel and the ride is plush, not unlike other SUVs in this market segment. The Ford Edge has a crisper feel, the General Motors Acacia a more responsive feel, and the Dodge Durango just feels old. Honda’s Pilot is still a player in this field. Outside of the Highlander none of the competition offers a hybrid, except the smaller Ford/Mercury Escape.

Safety wise the Highlander offers antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, side-impact airbags for the front seats, a knee airbag for the driver, active head restraints and an electronic stability system. A hill-start assist that keeps a vehicle from rolling back on a steep hill and a downhill assist feature that controls the downhill speeds on slick roads are also part of the Highlander’s safety array. Overall, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Highlander its highest ratings, but the passenger side crash rating was not as high.

Since there is an optional third seat side curtain airbags are provided for all three rows of seats. Of vital interest to all SUV buyers is an improved vehicle stability control unit as all SUVs are top heavy and much more likely to roll over. That is why we always recommend a minivan as it is safer, gets better fuel mileage, and is easier to handle. Toyota has done its best to make this a safe vehicle including active headrests for the driver and front passenger with active whiplash protection.

Another valuable feature that I have found difficult to live without is the

Smart Start and Entry keyless access. All you need is to have the key fob with you. The car instantly recognizes the fob, unlocks the door at a touch, and makes starting as simple as pushing the ignition button near your right knee. It’s not longer necessary to search for the key in your purse or pocket.

An advocated option is for the rearview camera because visibility to the rear is very limited. The new side view mirrors are quite good, but the best view is over the sharply descending hood where you can easily judge where the Highlander’s front bumper ends. This is very valuable in parking lots that simply have a white line to delineate the end of one parking space and the start of the next. If you want a quick test on who can drive a vehicle and those who aim their ride just check a parking lot and notice how many SUVs have their noses stuck into the parking space belonging to the vehicle in front of them. Most bad drivers park their vehicles based on where the other car is parking. The good forward visibility in the Highlander makes good parking easier, but the high ridge on the hood does limit the view somewhat.

However, without the rear view camera backing out of any space is a slow procedure.

Toyota has taken a handy Highlander, listened to the input of buyers, and created what they wanted in the form of a larger, more feature laden SUV. The problem with this method is that it always produces a past tense vehicle. What a buyer wants when gas is $2 a gallon is different than when gas is $4. The Highlander is a better vehicle than its predecessor, but the gas mileage should be improved and a rethink about the door arm rests that make it difficult to reach the window switches.

I was not impressed with the largeness of the model. However, I really liked the responsiveness of the hybrid version. Here was a powerful and very fuel friendly full-sized SUV that is exhilarating to drive. I highly recommend you go down to your Toyota dealership and drive both versions and ponder this list beforehand. First, does your driving necessitate the back-up camera? Secondly, are you willing to pay the extra for all wheel drive? Next, do you drive enough to justify the extra cost of the hybrid version and its many extra features? Finally, do you require this large a vehicle? The RAV4 is a terrific SUV that gets excellent fuel mileage, has a good-sized cargo bay, and only the spare tire handing off the rear hatch prevent it from making it the best of its breed and it costs less.

Dad’s view: Much more of a looker, the Highlander is notable for its performance and lack of outside noise. There is little doubt that this SUV has gone through a significant testing program designed to reduce vibration and din. Even the usual source of wind noise, the side view mirror, has been significantly redesigned to smooth out the passing air. These are ample sized mirrors, too. Unlike the horrible mirrors on the Hummer H2 these are both useful and classy.

A much more sophisticated interior greets the customer and has a Lexus-like feel and look. The controls are easy to read, reach, and use. The seats are all comfortable, although those in the optional third row of seating are stiff. Interestingly, the second row of seats are captain’s chairs. This reduces comfortable seating capacity by one, but Toyota’s Center Stow seat can be used as a third seat. The captain’s chairs even have a track so that they can be slid forward to allow third row occupants more foot room.

If you need the extra seating the third row provides on a regular basis get the Toyota Sienna, which is being offered at handsome prices. In the Highlander this flat, two-person bench is adequate, but mainly for children. It is easy to raise or lower using levers that are simple to use.

One of the highlights of the interior is a concave mirror mounted on the ceiling of the Highlander so that the driver can quickly keep track of what is occurring in the rear seats.

Driving both the Highlander gas and hybrid versions of the Highlander one is struck by how familiar they feel. Here is truly the generic SUV. The ride is absorbent and the interior space more than generous. Even with 55 more horsepower than the previous model, the Highlander’s new 270 horsepower 3.5 liter V6 is smoother than potent, although the fuel economy is rated about 19 mpg; we managed to get 20 mpg for an all wheel drive version. The electronically controlled five-speed transmission is the only one available whether or not you order the front-wheel drive or a full-time 4-wheel drive version.

Young working woman’s view: The pricing on the Highlander is quite dramatic. The base model starts around $27,500 and the loaded Hybrid Limited all wheel drive model is priced over $40,000. In between there is a Sport Model and a Limited. These are all minor issues as the basics of the Highlander are essentially the same. It has a powerful engine, an abundance of room, and a need to order options to make it handy for a woman. Those options start with the power lift gate. Without it the tailgate is heavy to pull down and difficult to reach if you are less than 5’3”. The back up camera is a must and you need the GPS option to see it as without you have just a tiny screen as a monitor. If you order the GPS you must also order the JBL audio upgrade. The 19-inch rims and tires offer superior riding and handling and are also options. In other words, the Highlander has crept into Lexus RX territory in terms of pricing. I have known the Lexus RX and the Highlander is no Lexus. Give me more spark and a more loveable interior.

College going male’s view: Too big, too bland, and expensive are my feelings. The RAV4 is much more tidy, is more fun to drive, and is easy to cut through traffic in. In other words, the Highlander continues to be a family oriented SUV for those who like to blend in and can’t bare the fact that the Sienna is superior for family purposes. On the plus side is that this is a much-improved Highlander. The dash is vastly improved, the cupholders very handy, and the instrument readouts clear and attractive. The seats are first rate and the turning radius short enough to make mall parking easy. As for hybrid versus gas, I would go with the hybrid. For the extra money you are going to get a very fast SUV that gets good fuel mileage for what it is, especially in commuting situations. I think you’ll get the extra money you have to pay for the hybrid back at resale, too.

Family conference: If you don’t need the extra room and don’t mind the bland styling get a deal on a 2007 model. However, there is a great deal of improvement in the 2008 models. As for ordering the more loaded hybrid version, it is worth it if you need those extra features. The small improvement in fuel mileage isn’t that great and you have to be aware of additional maintenance costs. Our recommendation is stay with the base version, but if you don’t need the third row of seats the RAV 4 is much more nimble, very fuel efficient, and quicker on its feet. The RAV 4 and the Subaru Forester are good vehicles in the smaller crossover category.

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Real life gas mileage about various hybrids

http://www.greenhybrid.com/compare/mileage/honda-civicii.html

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