I'm an automobile aficionado. I love reading car reviews and pouring over comparative specs. But at the moment I'm (almost) overdosing on a question my wife and I are pondering:
Which vehicle would best meet our needs, wants, and desires? A 2019 Subaru Forester or a 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid?
We know we want a smaller SUV to replace our semi-beloved 2014 Toyota Highlander. I say "semi," because we now are a three-car family, with Laurel mostly driving her truly-beloved Chevy Volt, and me mostly driving my truly-beloved VW GTI.
Both of those cars are much more pleasant to drive than the Highlander, which seems weirdly large to us given what we're used to driving-- even though it is classed as a mid-sized SUV. Also, the 2014 Highlander has exactly zero of the driver assist features we've come to depend on in the Volt and GTI.
Like blind spot warnings, rear cross-traffic alerts, dynamic cruise control, and such. And since the Chevy Volt has been discontinued by GM, when our lease is up we lean toward returning the car rather than purchasing it, which would leave Laurel driving the Highlander replacement.
Our first plan was to get a 2019 Subaru Forester, a compact SUV with lots of safety features. We'd merely planned to test drive one last Saturday at Capitol Subaru here in Salem, Oregon.
But after a test drive and extensive conversing with a knowledgeable salesperson, Matt Trexler, we ended up putting down a $500 deposit on a Forester that needed to be built for us in Japan, since there was precisely one white Touring model available in the Northwest, and the chance was slim that a Washington dealer that had the car would be willing to part with it.
Plus, we wanted to add some factory accessories that this car didn't have. The photo above roughly shows what the Forester we ordered would look like.
Not all that exciting, but I like the look. The boxiness of the Forester puts it out of the modern crossover mainstream. On the positive side, I really liked the feeling of openness and visibility from inside the car produced by the large windows.
So we were all set to join the Cult of Subaru that has a whole lot of members in Oregon. Half the cars in the LifeSource Natural Foods parking lot seem to be Subarus some days, with the rest being Prius'es. And trailheads also are a notorious gathering place for Subarus.
Then came yesterday's Super Bowl.
Per usual, I watched the recorded football game and fast-forwarded through the commercials. Later in the evening, Laurel and I perused the commercials and halftime show -- both of which were more boring than previous Super Bowls.
A Toyota ad did catch Laurel's eye though. It showed the 2019 RAV4. Me, I don't find the redesign of the RAV4 to be all that attractive. A hybrid is shown above. The front end doesn't seem to go with the rest of the car, though I'm sure plenty of people would disagree.
I was familiar with the car, but since Laurel seemed to like the Forester as much as I did, I failed to mention to her that a Hybrid version of the 2019 RAV4 was scheduled for release in late March, with models farmed out to reviewers in late 2018.
Thus now we're pondering the pros and cons of switching our deposit to a RAV4 -- which would be easy, since the Capitol Auto Group sells both Subarus and Toyotas. Today Laurel drove a 2019 gas model, and liked it. But she also liked the Forester. So we're trying to decide if we know enough about the RAV4 to jump over to it.
I'm undecided, in large part because the RAV4 hybrid isn't available yet. We've watched several lengthy videos of people (OK, men; women rarely seem to be car reviewers) discussing the pros and cons of the 2019 RAV4 Hybrid. Mostly pros, since the redesign seems generally well done.
Aside from the front end, in my totally personal opinion.
Laurel and I aren't geeky or mechanical enough to fully grasp the differences between the Forester and RAV4 all wheel drive systems.
Naturally the Subaru salesman touted symmetrical all wheel drive. And a neighbor who also is considering getting a Forester is impressed with the X Drive option on new Subarus, which adds extra oomph to the AWD system when you're in really deep snow or mud.
Maybe someone will read this blog post who has some amazingly perceptive comment on the differences between the 2019 Forester and RAV4 Hybrid that will sway us in one car direction or the other. We like the better gas mileage with the RAV$ Hybrid, plus the extra horsepower it offers.
However, the Forester has a few extra safety features, along with that Subaru cult feeling that I like. There's a reason you see so many old Subarus: they're dependable, well-made, and practical.
Compared to my VW GTI, which is the most enjoyable car to drive I've ever owned, neither a Forester or RAV4 Hybrid is going to be a similar joy to throw into curves and zip around town in.
But that isn't what we're looking for in a Highlander replacement. We live in rural south Salem, where the roads can be icy/snowy in winter at times, so safety and traction are important to us.
Either the Forester or RAV4 Hybrid should meet that need, especially with winter tires -- which I'm a big believer in. With winter tires on my GTI, I feel much more comfortable that I'd be with all season tires on a SUV. That's how big a difference winter tires make on snow and ice.
However, an all wheel drive system AND winter tires make for an even better combo, for sure.
I should note that our best option probably is to wait for the release of the RAV4 Hybrid while keeping our deposit on a new Forester.
We need to check with Capitol Subaru to see if this will be possible. I suspect that it would be, given that Capitol Subaru almost surely could sell the Touring model we've ordered with little problem if we decided to switch to a RAV4 after it is released.
We're leaning toward the RAV4 Hybrid, since it has considerably higher mileage (no EPA rating yet), looks more interesting, and should function just fine in the all wheel drive department.