My car shopping experience
I am a retired engineer, and have been driving full sized American pickups for many years, mostly 4wd, and decided to buy a new smaller SUV for the times we don't need the truck. I considered the possibility that I might want to use the vehicle on occasion to tow a boat or small trailer, but that would be a relatively minor issue since I have a full sized V8 truck for long or rough trips. After some research I narrowed it down to the CR-V, RAV4, Escape, Tiguan, or several Subaru models.
Here in central Oregon we have the Cascade range and Mt. Hood, and there is a lot of snow. Subarus are everywhere you look. Our closest friends have a 2011 Forester and love it even though they have already had a blown head gasket, blown AC compressor, ongoing electrical problems, etc. I have another good friend who had the timing belt go in his almost new outback. Horror stories abound. Servicing the very complicated AWD system is expensive and good mechanics are hard to find. Subaru is the only AWD system that requires you to buy 4 new tires if you have catastrophic damage to one.
There has to be a very good reason people put up with all this. My opinion is that this is the best AWD system, but you only need it if you drive through deep UNPLOWED snow or have to climb steep, rutted, muddy roads. If you don't know how to drive in these conditions the car will still get stuck. Personally I don't need to do this badly enough to put up with all the rest. That being said, "subies" are a cult, and it is easy to drink the kool-aid and join. I would bet that at least 75% of Subarus never get into situations that require their specific attributes and a FWD system with traction control is more than adequate and much less expensive to buy and maintain.
I actually did almost drink the stuff a couple of months ago. I was all set to order the new Crosstrek, and could get one custom order in 4 wks for $500 under MSRP. This is a comfortable hatchback Impreza raised up to 8.5" clearance, same attack/departure angles as the Forester. I decided to put it off a few weeks because I didn't want to move the cash right then, and when I went back to the dealer they said 4 months and $3K OVER MSRP for this one we have in stock. I decided to take it for a test drive and was impressed with the new 2.0 engine and the CVT. I think it has enough power, in spite of what most reviewers have said, but look at what I decided to buy instead, the V6 RAV4. I might have bought that car except it had the low end seats and they were not comfortable at all.
I crossed Subaru off the list, then looked at the Tiguan and Escape. Both are turbos, and I just don't want those maintenance issues. I went to Honda and fell in love with the CR-V. On the test drive I went into a marked 25 banked corner at 50, with the salesman just a bit wide-eyed but cool. I punched out of the corner, and the CR-V traction control did its job amazingly well with no torque steer at all. Without it I'm sure the tires would have made noise and maybe fishtailed a bit. I wanted to buy it right then, but there was still the issue that maybe I could tow something with the vehicle I bought. I decided to go look at the RAV4 first.
I had researched cars online and purchased the pricing guide from Consumer Reports, so I knew exactly how much I should pay. I found only 2 V6 Ltd cars with nav within 100 miles, so I went to look at the closest one, which was just up the road from the Honda dealer. The other one is 100 miles away. When I got to the dealership it was a gleaming modern structure that looked more suitable for Mercedes than toyota, and I just didn't feel comfortable, as opposed to the more casual laid-back environment of the Honda dealer. The salesman was friendly and helpful but would not give me a price other than the sticker. When I pushed him to give me a price he went into the glass cube where the finance guys sit and came back with a piece of paper with all the financing options to pay the MSRP even though I told him I was paying cash.
I drove the car and loved the power and comfortable ride. If I want to be bounced around I will take the truck. I considered the 26 mpg claim vs the 30 mpg for the CR-V and decided I would never use the CR-V's ECO mode that limits valve timing and mixture to reduce power anyway, so I would likely never see 30. I doubt I will ever see 26 with the RAV4 but hopefully it will surprise me. It is a lot better than the 15 I get with my Silverado. The Silverado has a 350 Vortec V8 that has almost exactly the same horsepower as the RAV4 3.5 V6! (and it is about twice the weight)
So I left the dealership and went home to talk things over with my wife and let her have some say. She agreed the RAV4 was a better choice. I went to the dealership web page, found the car, and used their messaging system to tell the internet sales guy that I was happy with the way the first guy treated me but I got the feeling he did not have the authority to give me a price. I wrote that I was interested but was not coming back without a firm price. First thing Sunday morning the guy called and we agreed on a price $250 above what Consumer Reports said was the best deal I was likely to find. In truth it was the ONLY deal I was likely to find without driving 100 miles for one other.
Final Analysis: Many Subaru owners drank the kool-aid. If I lived in Vermont I would buy one for sure but if the road is not plowed here once or twice a year I will wait or take the big truck. The CR-V is a sweet, sexy ride that handles exceptionally well and does everything but haul a trailer over 1500 lbs. I understand they are rated to haul twice that in Europe where people do not sue each other as much. The V6 RAV4 is too powerful for lots of people who might buy one. I suspect that is part of the reason they are doing away with it. 0-60 in the sixes and 140 mph is not really a utility vehicle. I'm sure glad I got mine before they are all gone.
I hope this will be helpful to others who are shopping the latest crop of new small SUV's. I appreciate what I have learned from this forum and it helped me to decide on the RAV4. I just wish I could have bought it from the Honda dealer.
2012 V6 4WD Ltd.
if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.