Behind the Wheel

Tested to Brooklyn and back, the 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is road trip-ready but not perfect

People keep their personal distance as they enjoy a spring afternoon in Brooklyn Bridge Park on April 28, 2020 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The idea of driving to Brooklyn, New York, wasn't an appealing one. Even when there isn't a global pandemic with a hot zone in the heart of the Empire State, it's still a long drive from Ohio. Coming back the same day ensures that nearly 20 hours will be spent on the road.

Armed with some Lysol wipes, a paper face mask, and a document that says that I'm essential under the federal government's Cybersecurity and Information Security Agency's guidelines, I climb behind the wheel of a 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid to begin the journey.

2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid The RAV4's interior is filled with high-tech features, especially in its top-level trim.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

My destination was the Micro Center store in Brooklyn. The I.T. company that I work for has been running a coalition of 3D printers to make important Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for first responders, health care professionals, and anyone at risk of contracting the coronavirus. To keep over 40 printers running, they need to be supplied with a steady stream of filament.

Local stock is non-existent. Early that week I had visited three different stores in Ohio and Michigan and purchased whatever remaining stock they had left. It wasn't enough. After searching nationwide, the Brooklyn store seemed to have a decent amount in stock. So, we ordered it and I went there to get it.

When reaching out to automakers to provide a vehicle capable of bringing the stockpile back (it wouldn't fit in my daily driver), there were a few things I had on my punch list. I wanted something fuel efficient. It's 1,100 miles roundtrip and I was paying out-of-pocket for fill-ups. Additionally, I wanted to spend the least amount of time handling a grubby fuel filler as much as I could.

2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid The RAV4 Hybrid only gets 300 miles out of a tank of gas.Photo by Chad Kirchner

It needed to have safety technology. Every RAV4 comes with the company's advanced suite of safety technology, including full-stop adaptive cruise control, lane centering, and lane departure warning. I didn't plan on driving drowsy but having a good backup safety system in case I make a mistake is welcome.

It also needed to be comfortable. I hadn't spent a lot of hours at once behind the wheel of a RAV4 before, so I wasn't sure what to expect there. But the seats in my Limited trim level tester were leather, power adjustable, and were both heated and cooled.

The infotainment system also supported Apple CarPlay, so I could use Waze and have my music and podcasts in easy reach.

Driving during a pandemic is a bit different than driving normally. There's still a considerable amount of truck traffic on the roads, many with Amazon logos, but other traffic is extremely light. There are enough people sending traffic updates to Waze so I know where the local constabulary is hiding, but I don't run into heavy traffic either on the way there or back.

Pennsylvania felt like a ghost town. Rest areas were seemingly abandoned, with even the vending machines empty. New Jersey felt a bit more normal, aside from the increased mask usage. I was surprised to stop at a Wawa and see attendants still pumping gas for people.

As I inched closer to the Holland Tunnel, which is how Waze wanted me to enter the city, I started seeing more signs about how if you're coming in from New York you need to quarantine yourself. The weather was beautiful but that didn't stop the apprehension from rising about entering the city that has seen so many infections and so many deaths.

Also, it seemed odd to me to cross into Manhattan and then down to Brooklyn. I've only been on the island during normal times, and traffic is usually at a standstill at best. But as I entered the tunnel that takes traffic deep below the Hudson River, traffic continued to flow. Coming out on the other side I was shocked with how little traffic there was.

2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Micro center Brooklyn The streets o the way to Brooklyn were filled with mainly truck traffic.Photo by Chad Kirchner

My route took me right by the World Trade Center, and while there were traffic and people about, it was a mere fraction of what there normally is. It appeared to me that most of the area's 8 million people were taking the order to stay inside seriously.

Entering Brooklyn took me down some side streets, where cars of all types were parked with considerable amounts of dirt and grime on them. A newer Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 looked like an abandoned barn find, clearly not having been touched since the beginning of the pandemic. It exemplified the experience of being in New York – I didn't feel like I was in "Planet of the Apes" – but without everyone out and about it felt very different.

Standing in line to get my order from Micro Center is when everything felt truly normal. Yes, we were in masks and the parking lot was virtually empty, but folks in line were chatting and being friendly. I struck up a conversation with a gentleman who was talking about how his son had been 3D printing some projects at home that had been wreaking havoc with his home appliances.

It ended up being a long day when I arrived back home, having left the house at 6am and returning just after midnight. But it was a successful trip. I wish I could've enjoyed New York longer, but the reason why everything is easy to get to is the same reason why I need to leave.

2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid cargo space The supply of filament easy fit in the SUV's rear cargo area.Photo by Chad Kirchner

The RAV4 was a capable companion. The driver assist systems help relieve some of the stress, but I do wish the lane centering was actually a bit more aggressive. It's not as good as Tesla's Autopilot or Nissan's ProPilot Assist, but it's a good backup to have on a long trip.

I averaged 32.9 mpg for the journey. While I was expecting and hoping for better, my speeds averaged higher than they normally would for this trip, so it's okay. The biggest disappointment is the size of the fuel tank. A full tank only registered a bit over 300 miles on the trip computer.

The seats ended up being surprisingly supportive and comfortable on the trip. I didn't want to immediately do the trip again, but I felt like I could have. So, for road trips the RAV4 is pretty solid.

More importantly, though, the team was restocked so we can continue printing. While the need isn't a great today as it was, places are still requesting more and we want to make sure we provide what they need, free of charge.

Editor's Note: Kirchner has returned home safely and soundly to Ohio and is not exhibiting any symptoms commonly attributed to COVID-19.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The Aston Martin DBS Superleggera 007 Edition is just one of the new models the company rolled out this year.

Photo courtesy of Aston Martin

An expanded partnership between Aston Martin Lagonda and Mercedes-Benz will limit the beleaguered British automaker's risk and provide for a more tech-heavy future.

Tobias Moers, Chief Executive Officer of Aston Martin Lagonda, spent more than 25 years in senior roles at Diamler AG, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz AG, prior to assuming the role in August 2020. "Today's expansion of our partnership with Mercedes-Benz AG is a critical step towards achieving our goals for Aston Martin. The capabilities of Mercedes-Benz AG technology will be fundamental to ensure our future products remain competitive and will allow us to invest efficiently in the areas that truly differentiate our products," he said in a statement regarding the news.

Mercedes already has a strategic partnership with Aston Martin. The new agreement allows the German automaker to become a more heavily invested long-term partner, supplier, and shareholder through a number of initiatives. These initiatives will effect everything from product development and technology offerings to fiscal stability.

Mercedes has given Aston Martin new financing. It is comprised of:

  • £125 million in new ordinary shares
  • £259 million equivalent in new second lien notes which mature in 2026 with detachable warrants incorporated representing 5.0% of the fully diluted issued share capital of Aston Martin following the proposed Mercedes-Benz AG share issuances
  • £840 million equivalent of first lien notes, which mature in 2025 and a refinanced revolving credit facility of £87 million maturing in 2025
This financing allows Aston Martin to repay a loan it took out as part of the U.K. Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme. It also allows for working capital and capital expenditures to pay commissions and fees. Mercedes-Benz will then own up to 20 percent of Aston Martin.
In addition to financial stability, the partnership will give Aston Martin access to powertrain architecture for conventional, hybrid, and electric vehicles currently on the market and future-oriented electric/electronic architecture. This will enable profit launches through 2027 and lower the cost and risk occurred when Aston Martin was faced with developing those technologies on its own.

Aston Martin is targeting 10,000 units of sale each year with $2 billion in revenue by 2024-2025, according to the announcement.

J.P. Morgan and Barclays were instrumental in helping put Goethe the agreement.

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The Center for Creative Education in Palm Beach County, Florida, was one of the recipients of grant money.

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

Non-profit programs with a focus on science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM), as well as the environment, were recipients of a number of grants totaling $700,000 from the American Honda Foundation, the charitable arm of American Honda Motor Co. The 12 recipients from the spring and summer grant cycle come from six states.

"A key focus of the American Honda Foundation is to support the success of young people and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers," said Alexandra Warnier, executive director of the American Honda Foundation. "We commend the Foundation's grant recipients on their incredible efforts to provide students with experiential STEAM learning opportunities."

American Honda Foundation, Two-Bit Circus Foundation The Two-Bit Circus Foundation received a grant to enhance teaching surrounding critical thinking.Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

Grant recipients for the first half of the Foundation's fiscal year include:

  • CEC Stuyvesant Cove, Inc. (dba Solar One): Through the organization's Green Design Lab program and curriculum, students, teachers and custodial staff in the New York City school system learn about environmental STEM subjects and work together to design and implement feasible, creative ways to reduce their school and community's environmental footprint. This is part of the City's overall plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Center for Creative Education: The Center for Creative Education's teaching artists collaborate with kindergarten through third grade classroom teachers in Palm Beach County, Fla., to deliver curriculum that integrates the arts such as painting, dancing, music and drama into content areas such as science, language arts, and math. This teaching approach boosts student engagement and long-term memory gains, with students achieving at higher rates than non-participating peers attending the same public schools.
  • Elementary Institute of Science: The organization's STEP-2-STEM program provides access to high-quality STEM learning activities for students attending 11 Title I elementary schools in the San Diego, Calif. area. The program promotes early exposure to subjects such as biology, computer science, chemistry and engineering to help build strong foundations for STEM learning in later grades.
  • Imagine Science: In an effort to narrow the opportunity gap for underserved youth, Imagine Science is a collaboration between four major youth service organizations: Boys & Girls Clubs, Girls Inc., National 4-H Council, and Y-USA. Youth in participating Imagine Science communities benefit from hands-on STEM activities integrated into an array of one-time or multi-week youth development programs in hopes of inspiring the next generation of scientific thinkers and problem solvers.
  • Jones Valley Teaching Farm: Using food, farming and the culinary arts, instructors deliver experiential lessons that align with academic standards in math, science, social studies and English language arts. Teaching Farms on school campuses in Birmingham, Ala., provide an environment where Pre-K through 12th grade students can learn, create, and grow a healthy future for themselves and their community.
  • Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired: Teens and younger kids who are blind or have low vision are mentored by blind STEM professionals and gain new exposure to the sciences through year-round science enrichment activities. During the summer STEM camp at Enchanted Hills Camp for the Blind in Napa, Calif., participants focus on general science exploration, computer coding and environmental science. These programs help blind students gain interest, experience and confidence that increase academic and career success.
  • Reality Changers: With a focus on building academic performance, leadership and soft skills, Reality Changers recruits 8th through 11th grade students from underrepresented backgrounds and sets them on a path to become first-generation college graduates and agents of change in their communities. Students who achieve at least a 3.5 GPA are eligible for Academic Connections, a three-week summer residential program at University of California, San Diego (UCSD), where they attend STEM classes taught by UCSD faculty and earn college credits.
  • Rocking the Boat, Inc.: Students from the South Bronx, N.Y., work together to build wooden boats, learn to row and sail, and restore local urban waterways, revitalizing their community while creating better lives for themselves. The program helps students develop self-confidence, set goals and gain the skills necessary to achieve them.
  • SIFMA (Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association) Foundation for Investor Education: Through its flagship financial literacy program, The Stock Market Game, SIFMA is working to address declining math test scores and encourage financial education across the state of Massachusetts. Students in fourth through 12th grades receive hypothetical funds to purchase stocks, bonds and mutual funds, while studying current events to assess the impact on the market and their own portfolios.
  • Two-Bit Circus Foundation: Providing support to teachers in the Lynwood Unified School District in California, the Foundation offers virtual STEM and STEAM trainings, kits and other resources to engage students through remote learning. Each project is standards-aligned and designed to teach, inspire and call on students' creativity and critical thinking skills.
  • Urban Teachers: Operating in Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and Dallas, Urban Teachers is a national teacher development program that recruits and prepares effective educators for children in urban schools. This four-year program equips novice educators with the tools and knowledge to empower children through learning and to stay in the teaching profession. A key priority for the organization is preparing Black and Latinx educators who draw on their own backgrounds and experiences to accelerate academic and life outcomes of urban children.
  • Women's Audio Mission: With a mission to change the face of sound by addressing the underrepresentation of women in creative technology careers, Women's Audio Mission's Girls on the Mic program uses music and media to inspire and engage more than 2,500 underserved girls ages 11 to 18 from Title I schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. Afterschool sessions are held five days a week to introduce girls to careers in sound engineering. Students learn critical thinking and problem-solving skills by completing STEM projects like developing and recording podcasts, building small synthesizers and creating interactive music using coding apps.

Since its establishment in 1984, the American Honda Foundation has awarded more than $43 million to organizations serving over 118 million people across the U.S. To learn more about the Foundation's grant application process, visit www.honda.com/community/applying-for-a-grant.

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