This one had a name. Even the dogs knew it. Say “Toyota” out loud, and even now, they’ll spring out of their basket, and run to the entry door. “Toyota” was their car more than ours. It smelled like dogs, to begin with….
My wife had a colleague in the Logistics department of her company – a French expatriate, who was at the end of his tour of duty in the US and was ready to go back to France. When French expatriates resettle at home, they can bring their personal belongings with them without any tax or import duty, provided they’ve owned what they’re importing for more than six months. And that applies to cars, too.
Being in logistics, our guy knew he could easily find a container to ship a car back home. So he bought a new Toyota RAV4 Limited, almost fully loaded, and drove it for six months. As he was about to load the car in a container, he had some doubts, called Toyota France and asked whether they would help him register the car in France. “No way,” they said. “The US RAV4 is not the same model as the European RAV4, it’s not homologated over here and if you bring it here you’ll be on your own”. Facing the prospect of having to register an American Toyota with the notoriously finicky French “Service des Mines” without the support of the manufacturer, he got cold feet, and sold us the car.
We kept it for 13 years. More than we’ve stayed in any home in our entire married life. And I only sold it because I was tired of it – imagine, the same car for 13 years. There was nothing wrong with the car, except it smelled like dogs, and I’m pretty sure its new owner will be able to add another 100,000 miles to it.
A compact SUV with 4 cylinder 2.5 liter engine, the third generation RAV4 was considered the best of its class when it was launched in 2006 – journalists were impressed by its road manners and its steering – Motortrend even wrote it “felt like a sports car in hiking boots”. Its engine felt strong – stronger than the 2 Liter engine of the Miata rated for the same 167 HP – and the car was very pleasant to drive. It did not isolate you from the road or from the powertrain the way modern SUVs do, it was generally lively and surprisingly agile in emergency avoidance maneuvers.
Being a Toyota, “Toyota” was expected to be well built and reliable, but 2007 was probably a bad time for the car maker (remember, the sudden acceleration syndrome) and we had to go through a few recalls, and even a “recall of the recall”. The fundamentals were rock solid (the body, the paint, the engine, the gearbox, the seats, the interior trim), but the suspension and the tie rods required multiple interventions along the 13 years we lived with this car, and we changed the disk brakes almost as often as the brake pads themselves.
Fuel economy was not stellar – around 22mpg whatever the circumstances, but gas is cheap over here, and we don’t drive that much.
Choosing a replacement was not easy. Logically, I should have replaced “Toyota” with a RAV 4 Hybrid – a choice of reason – but I kept on finding modern SUVs boring and their electronic security nannies insufferable. I still longed for a convertible and wanted what would probably be my last gasoline powered vehicle to be a choice of passion. The practicality of a SUV, an unfiltered feed back, no electronic nannies, a removable top, and a strong personality.
Does it exist? Sure, it does. They’ve been making them in Toledo, OH since 1941…