It happened just the way I thought it was going to (only 23 times faster).
Yep, that's right, I'm not above saying "I told you so".
We went for test drives today:
Dodge Nitro R/T
Toyota RAV4 V6
The Highlander is huge. It's like driving a truck full of your grandmothers couch. It has 100hp more than the Subaru but with 1000 extra pounds to haul around it didn't feel very peppy. It drives a lot like the Camry it's based on, but just much much bigger.
Next up was the RAV4. They didn't have a new V6 AWD so we drove a used 07. (They're close enough to the same car for what I wanted to find out.) It's a nice car. I was alot more comfortable driving it from square 1. It has the same powertrain as the Highlander and is 500 lbs lighter. It was also a Sport model so it felt pretty quick.
So after 90 minutes we'd crossed off one from our list and confirmed another. Not bad in my book.
The Nitro feels very substantial. Big, tall, solid. It's the same weight and power as the Highlander but much more responsive. When you put your foot down it goes. And it makes some beautiful music in the process. The more my wife drove the Nitro the more she seemed to like it. (Secretly, she wants to be a truck driver. Or at least a road-bully.)
We expected the price would be about the same. The RAV4 is cheaper but demand is higher so dealers aren't cutting as much off MSRP. The RAV4 was a Sport model without many widgets, the Nitro was the R/T which gives it a lot of interior amenities.
So there it was: on one side the RAV4 with it's better mileage and greater reliability; on the other side the Nitro with it's additional options and in-your-face style. Substance vs style.
The RAV4 was the 'right' choice.
We bought the Nitro.
Now, move that sedan out of the way before I change lanes over you!