Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Changing of the Gears

It has finally happened.  The service of my BLUE RAV4 has finally come to an end, and with it another chapter in my life.  When I bought that reliable machine largely on impulse on the eve of summer in 2000, I never expected it would be a faithful companion for almost 13 years.  Indeed, it was the first car I ever owned that I kept longer than a few years, and it was the first that I bought new.  (I might add that it was only the second car out of the four I'd owned that I wasn't forced to get rid of after it died a horrible death.)  It was also the first that wasn't a tiny, 3-cylinder "kei" car.  The BLUE RAV4 wasn't just a tool to be used; in many ways, it became part of my personality, a veritable knight's steed.  I had it for a full decade before it needed any kind of major repair, and if it weren't for the fact that it was starting to nickel and dime me to death with various, small problems, I might have kept it for another decade or more.

I'm surprised that I don't feel more regret at its passing.  In fact, when I left it at the car shop and drove home in my new Blue Wish, I didn't feel anything at all.  The BLUE RAV4 just vanished from my life and from my thoughts.  I suppose I was just excited at the prospect of having a new machine after so many years, but it was almost disturbing to me how utterly dispassionate I was about the whole thing.  Now that I've had the Blue Wish for a week, however, I'm going through the inevitable comparisons.  This is how they shape up:



  1. Since it was an SUV with big, sturdy wheels, I didn't have to worry about where I drove it.  I could take it on those torn-up, little country roads, or even on places where there really wasn't a road to speak of, without a second thought.  On the other hand, the Blue Wish has a lower ground clearance and airdams, which means I have to be more careful.
  2. It had lots of little pouches and compartments all over inside, which meant I could keep a supply of handy survival gear without it getting in the way.
  3. It had two additional 12v electric sockets besides the one for the cigarette lighter.  That was convenient for using the carvac.  It also helped when I had two teens with cell phones that always seemed to need recharging.
  4. Its turn radius was the tightest of any compact SUV on the market, which still probably wasn't saying much.  Even so, its steering was very responsive, meaning it could be quite maneuverable.  The RAV4 was reported to be too top heavy and to have a high risk of rolling, but I still managed to do a sort of bootlegger reverse in it once (an extremely stupid stunt I fortunately never tried again).  I also managed to bend the hell out of the steering mechanism, which was the second major repair it needed.
  5. Because it was heavy and well armored, it earned me an insurance discount.
  6. Its metallic blue paint was MY COLOR!!!!!!!!!!
  1. Its gas mileage wasn't quite as bad as that of a full-sized truck or SUV, but...
  2. Those big tires were awfully expensive.
  3. It was kind of noisy inside.
  4. Visibility could be rather limited, especially to the rear.  Backing up was always a problem.
  5. The extra mirror in the front was handy for seeing how close I was to the edge of a road or a rail, etc., but it was often a nuisance when I had to try to give my car a quick wash at a gas station.  A lot of automated car wash machines do NOT like those extra mirrors.
  6. The brakes had some kind of flaw that would sometimes make them go "k-k-k-k-" when engaged.  When that happened, the brake response became a little sluggish.  It came and went, and mechanics could never figure out what was causing it, so it never got fixed.
  7. It was really heavy, which could be a serious problem if I had to climb a hill that had lots of rainwater or a bit of snow on it.  The fact that I hadn't gotten the 4wd version made it worse.

The Blue Wish

  1. It's a newer model with more advanced equipment.  The engine in particular is more efficient, more powerful, and cleaner.
  2. As a sport model, it's built for speed.  It has a "sport mode" that increases the engine power and changes the gear ratio to optimize acceleration.  It also has a funky "manual mode" for its automatic transmission; I can shift gears manually (though with an autoclutch) using F1-style flippers on the steering wheel.  That can give me even better acceleration...or allow me to shift down quickly in response to the environment.
  3. On the other hand, when the engine is in "eco mode", which reduces the engine power and adjusts the automatic transmission for efficiency, the gas mileage becomes even better.
  4. The steering doesn't allow the same "cut and thrust" maneuvering I could get with the RAV4, but it has an active stabilizing system which gives smoother handling.  The body and bumpers also have an aerodynamic design which uses airflow to help improve control, especially at speed.  It also has a nice, low center of gravity.  I can corner much quicker with this machine.
  5. The GPS navigation/multimedia and ETC (electronic toll collection) systems are built in rather than added on, so the whole dashboard has a much neater look and arrangement.  (Plus, the navigation monitor doesn't block the air conditioning vents like it did on my RAV4.)
  6. The GPS navigation system can interface with my smartphone via Bluetooth.  That means I can program the destination directly from an internet search.  (It has an option for direct wireless internet using Toyota's G-Book service, but that would cost extra.)  It also allows hands-free phone use while I'm driving.
  7. LOVE that back guide monitor!!!!!
  8. I have a feeling I'm going to love the pollen shield in the ventilating system, too.
  9. It has better all-around visibility.
  10. The smart key system will take a bit of getting used to, but it is nice.
  11. I have scads of cargo space plus a folding extra seat in the back, which are both very good to have when having to transport gear and students for the music club!
  1. Although it's about the same width as the RAV4, it's at least a foot longer.  Maneuvering on those twisty, narrow country roads is more difficult.  So is parking.
  2. The sharply-sloping nose and protruding airdam in the front can't be seen from the driver's seat.  That means that figuring out how much space there is between me and an object in front of me is not easy.  It is taking a bit to get myself into parking spaces properly.
  3. The ground clearance is pretty low, especially because of the front and rear airdams.
  4. The interior design is nice and roomy, but stowage space is a bit lacking, especially in the back (middle?) seat.  I've had to buy and mount a number of holders to maintain the level of equipment I'm used to.
  5. The "blue" paint is what they call "metallic satin blue", and it's actually more of a pale purple.  It's NOT my color...though it looks pretty cool.  I just wish it were a bit less pale.  I'm not a pale sort.
Well, anyway...I've come into a new chapter, and it'll be exciting to figure it all out.


  • Congrats on the new ride. The temptation to make a pun about your Wish being granted is overwhelming...

    By Anonymous The Intrepid Adventurer, at 9:23 PM  

  • Wow. Big change. Well that's what life is.

    I feel honored to have seen your BLUE RAV 4 - a piece of Moody Minstrel lore that will surely be featured by some famous auction house one day, selling for a fortune.

    The Wish seems like a very good replacement that should serve you well a very long time. May you enjoy all its new features and utility.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 7:18 PM  

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