Toyota RAV4 Prime – The vehicle I wanted 4 years ago

When I was shopping for a car over 4 years ago, I had a few requirements including CarPlay and being a plugin hybrid. The plugin hybrid would have been perfect for my needs, but had to have around 40-50 miles of electric range.

Unfortunately I was unable to get a plugin hybrid, but I wouldn’t budge on having CarPlay. At the time, I had a Toyota Highlander and would have jumped at another Toyota, but Toyota dragged their heals on putting CarPlay in their vehicles, so I settled on the Subaru Impreza and was reasonably happy with it. However, as time went on, there were a few things that started getting on my nerves about it. The first was that it was too low to the ground. This, of course, was entirely my fault for making the decision to get a sportier car. The second was some low speed shifting issues that the dealer said were normal, Third was the local dealer; one of the service people was rude and lied to me. There are limited choices for Subaru dealers in close proximity to where I live. The fourth and most annoying problem was the infotainment system and CarPlay. I found that CarPlay wouldn’t always start and required me to reboot the system. I wasn’t the only person that had problems with the system as Subaru settled a class action lawsuit for the issues with it; I walked away with $350 which seems pretty significant for an issue that didn’t physically affect me. On various forums, people have argued that the infotainment system problems aren’t a big deal and that people don’t buy cars just for the infotainment system. Well, I’m not most people! CarPlay and the infotainment system were probably the biggest reasons I went with a Subaru instead of another Toyota.

In August, I wrote about looking for a new car. As much as I wanted to keep my Subaru for as long as I kept my Highlander (14 years), the annoyances I listed above especially the infotainment system, pushed me to long for a new car. My driving habits back when I was looking for the Impreza were pretty similar to before the pandemic whereby a plugin hybrid with 40-50 mile range would be ideal for me. I wouldn’t have range anxiety and could go on longer trips without having to plan charging stops. The RAV4 Prime fit the bill and I searched and searched for months to get one at a reasonable price. Most dealers wanted significantly above MSRP and those that didn’t had no idea when they would be getting what I wanted. However, I didn’t let that deter me.

On Black Friday, I got an alert from cars.com that I had setup and quickly sent an email to the dealer that was 90 miles away. Based on my communications with other dealers, I wasn’t holding my breath, but when I flat out refused his first price, he came down to a reasonable number. I made all the arrangements, packed the family in the car and made the drive up to the dealer. As one last middle finger to me, when I started the Impreza I could not get any volume out of the infotainment system. Luckily my wife was able to futz with it and get sound out of it again!

I’ve now had the vehicle for 5 weeks and driven it in a mix of electric and hybrid modes and like most new car owners, I’m generally pleased with it. Driving electric is amazing as it is quiet and the acceleration is unbelievable, so much so that the Toyota app has told me that I have aggressive acceleration as I’m not even aware that I’m pressing the pedal that hard!

Four years ago, I wanted a compact SUV (similar to my Highlander), plugin hybrid, and CarPlay. I finally have all that in my RAV4 Prime; I would not have thought twice about buying this vehicle if it was out back then.

Time, of course, will tell if I made the right decision and if there are any major problems with it.

Searching for a new car

Several years ago I was in the market for a new car. I really wanted a PHEV (plugin hybrid electric vehicle) as most of my driving is around town, but I’d have the flexibility to go on longer trips. At the time there weren’t many choices that interested me. I test drove an Audi A3 e-tron and while it was a nice little car, it didn’t have CarPlay. After Apple introduced CarPlay, I knew that I had to have it on my next vehicle as I never wanted to update the maps in the navigation again and with annual iOS updates, I knew that I’d get tweaks to the system every year which I’ve come to expect.

I continued my car search and was looking for either a compact SUV or a hatchback/wagon/5 door that had OK gas mileage, some technology and of course, CarPlay. My options were quite limited and I found the 2017 Subaru Impreza. At the time, Toyota wasn’t onboard with CarPlay, so I’d have to leave Toyota. On paper, it had everything I wanted (except PHEV). The price was right and I purchased one right when a local dealer got it. While the car isn’t a sports car, I enjoy using the paddle shifters sometimes and the car has performed OK. It was the first model year on a new platform and has had some problems (6 recalls at the last count). The car has enough room to go camping (I’ve downsized our camping equipment and am strategic about what we bring) and we’ve used it on a few road trips. I went from a Toyota Highlander to the Impreza, so I lost a bit of room.

As I mentioned earlier, CarPlay was a requirement for me and I’ve written about it before. Unfortunately, the infotainment system in the car has been the biggest disappointment for me. Early on, CarPlay wouldn’t always start and required me to figure out how to reboot the system which sometimes doesn’t work. There have been a number of software updates each requiring me to take it to the dealer. It has gotten better, but there are still times when the system won’t boot or I have to reset it. There has even been a class action lawsuit about the system. Some people on various forums ask if others bought the car just because of the infotainment system or they are overreacting; I actually did purchase the car because of the infotainment system and would have looked elsewhere.

Other than the infotainment system, the car has functioned adequately; my new car excitement has worn off and it is just a car. I’ve had an issue with low speed shifting, but the dealer says that it isn’t a problem. With only a few Subaru dealers in San Diego, taking it to another one for service isn’t a feasible option to get a second opinion.

The car still serves its purpose and has pretty low mileage on it, but right before the world got turned upside down this year, I saw that Toyota was coming out with a PHEV RAV4. After reading about it, I knew that this is the car I would have purchased if it had been out a few years earlier. The waiting game began once I had my heart set on replacing my car!

As I’ve written about before, dealers are charging huge markups and supply is limited on the RAV4 Prime, so I wait. I’d really like to get this vehicle before the federal tax credit runs out because it will be a lot less attractive at $7,500 (+ local incentives) more.

Supply and Demand or …

For a number of reasons, I’ve decided to get a new car. I’ve settled on the Toyota RAV4 Prime as it is really the vehicle I wanted 5 years ago when I was searching for a car. The car is a plugin hybrid (PHEV) which means that most of my driving will be on electric (42 miles on electric). With my newly installed solar, I won’t be paying extra for the electricity (I’ve already paid for it and factored in this car when sizing the system).

The problem now is that the car is in such high demand and Toyota is going to make less than 5000 this model year. While the vehicles are starting to show up according to reports on forums, dealers in Southern California have decided that a $10,000 markup is the way to go. I’ve read that in other regions (Southern California including San Diego is considered the LA region) such as the northwest and east coast, people are getting the cars at MSRP which is reasonable.

Every dealer I’ve communicated with in San Diego and LA is adding the markup no matter the trim. That number is ubiquitous across the board. On one forum that I posted this to, someone suggested that I look at an article on the FTC’s website. The article says that while dealers can charge what they want for a vehicle, they basically have to come to their pricing on their own independently of other dealers. Given that they all (of the ones I’ve contacted) are charging the exact same amount over MSRP, did they come to this conclusion on their own or did they come to the pricing together as a region? One salesman speculates that it is regional. However, there are some people on RAV4 forums who are talking about different markups; I’m not sure of their regions.

Is what the dealers doing legal? I have no idea. Is it right? In my opinion, no and it goes into the feeling that many people have that car dealers are not the most honest people. Going into a dealership makes me cringe and this just reinforces it.

I guess I’ll be waiting awhile for the vehicle I want; hopefully I can get it before the federal tax credit runs out.

Rebooting the Subaru Impreza 2017 Infotainment System

A few months ago in my post about a year with my 2017 Subaru Impreza, I mentioned that sometimes CarPlay doesn’t start. This is annoying and I thought the problems were gone with the recents updates. However, last Saturday it didn’t start again and I actually needed the navigation to get somewhere. I had read that opening and closing the door 3 times would reboot the car, but it didn’t work. I could wait 10 minutes, but I had to leave. That left me without navigation but luckily my son was able to use an iPad connected to my hotspot to navigate.

After this episode, I started looking for the real answer to rebooting the infotainment system. I searched and searched and found on a forum (can’t find the reference right now) that if you press and hold the power button for the radio until it shuts off and then for another 10 seconds, the unit restarts. I found this hard to believe, but went out to my car and tried it out. It actually worked! Now I had a potential workaround the next time I had a problem.

Yesterday I plugged in my phone as normal and CarPlay didn’t start. I pushed and held the power button to reset the unit. Once it was up again, I reconnected my phone and presto, it worked! This definitely should be documented somewhere as it is extremely convenient. Let’s hope that a software update doesn’t remove this functionality.