New wheels

Yesterday we went to the local Toyota dealer and put down a deposit for a RAV 4 Edge hybrid .

A replacement for our faithful 2004 Camry had been mooted for quite some time, especially as bits kept on having to be replaced, and a kind of intermittent groan from the passenger side under the dashboard became more frequent. Our garage had been able to fix this when it first became apparent. Unfortunately it un-fixed itself, and became quite distracting. A proper fix would have involved taking off the dashboard, and would have cost $2,000-odd. Anyway, the old girl gave us sterling service for 16 years, and still drives well. A new set of tyres is unfortunately required, the old ones being unroadworthy, but at least we won’t have to re-register it — the rego only expires in May, 2022.

This actually fits in (fingers crossed) with the availability of the new car, which we won’t get our hands on until March or April. RAV 4s have been extreme popular of late, with hybrids especially requiring long wait times. According to one report, the Cruiser (previously the top model) has a waiting time of up to 14 months. (The local dealership quoted us eight months to get hold of one, against three for the Edge.) Why the delay? Apparently there is a worldwide shortage of semiconductors, with which modern cars are replete. Covid has apparently also gummed up supply chains in various ways. Demand really took off as well during the various lockdowns; when international travel became impossible (and remains problematic), people decided to travel within Victoria. All this, and a desire to get it done, meant we were ready to sign on the dotted line for one of the new model. Time is money!

We only drove a couple of cars yesterday. The first was a hybrid Camry, which felt very smooth and quiet. Then we hopped in a RAV 4 Cruiser, really just to compare and contrast. We both liked it a lot. It is a very easy car to sit in and figure out what does what — something that all the tests I have read say. It is a medium size SUV, with the increased height giving a better view of the traffic. RAV 4s have a very similar drivetrain to the Camry, being both mild hybrids. As drivers of these vehicles know, the switching between the electric motor and the petrol engine is very unobtrusive. The RAV 4 is actually a shorter car than the Camry, which is now approaching 5 metres in length. But the SUV body allows you to chuck a fair bit more gear in the back. The Edge is also AWD, which wasn’t on our list, but will give driving in rain more secure feeling. This feature is doubtless the majority of the price increase over the Cruiser. The rest goes on a new front bumper, and what could be a rather busy trim, featuring an orange stripe. (We only saw this on the large screen at the dealership, and in a brochure — none of our model has landed in Australia yet.) Apart from an extra 3KW of grunt, the Edge is basically the same vehicle as the one we drove, which had plenty of urge. All those people chasing one can’t be wrong!

The mild hybrid was a bit of a compromise from a plug-in hybrid or a full EV. The last we rejected on grounds of range anxiety. A recent trip to Daylesford revealed only one charger in the main drag — being hogged by a Tesla both times we passed. OK, the infrastructure is improving, but what do we do in the meantime? Also, Toyota doesn’t make a plug-in hybrid or an EV, and that was the make we were inclined towards. To date, we have, jointly and severally, owned five Toyotas — one each of the Camry, Celica, Corolla, Crown, and the GT. These have all been extremely reliable. The local dealer is also only a tram ride away, a consideration for getting the thing serviced. The cost of dealer servicing is generally usurious, but the RAV 4 only needs servicing every 12 months, and the first five services will cost $200 each. If services are carried out at a dealer, the five year warranty becomes extended to seven years. (This is nice to have, but I don’t expect we will need it. When I bought the GT I shelled out for a three year extended warranty, which I’m happy to say was a complete waste of money.)

The damage to the GT has been fixed for quite a while now (the repairer replaced the bonnet, and resprayed the driver’s side front guard). I still haven’t been reimbursed for the the excess I paid on my comprehensive insurance to have these repairs done. However, someone from our insurance company rang me on Friday and told me that they had obtained the monies from the transport company’s insurer. I will believe it when I see it, but it is definitely looking hopeful.

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