I will take pictures of the SUV soon, but I first saw her white 2008 Toyota 4Runner (Urban Runner trimline) when she picked me up from the airport in Wichita. At that point, this good-sized SUV only had slightly over 400 miles on the odometer.
I thought the interior seemed pretty roomy and trendy, with new technological perks and so forth, but I immediately started to wonder why she'd be willing to spend more on fuel when she needs to send my sister Natasha off to college next year (and my youngest sister Mimi off in the fall of '13.)
She said she doesn't drive "at all" (really, not as much as a daily commuter who works well away from home) so at about 5,000-6,000 miles a year, the fuel costs shouldn't put quite a dent into her pocketbook.
Costs and Incentives
As for the cost of the whole vehicle, the incentives and bonuses for buying the SUV were unparalleled. Fuel prices caused dealerships to have their lots JAMMED with unsold SUVs (and others traded in for hybrids and any other fuel-efficient vehicle.) Maintenance, cleaning, insurance, and other costs of simply keeping a vehicle on the lot have been unsettling dealers everywhere. Therefore, it was better (in these times) to cut their losses and not worry about profits from any SUV sale.
This caused them to cut their price for Mom's new SUV by $5,000 (from ~$37,000 to ~$32,000) and have her pay with ZERO INTEREST for the next five years. (She expects to entirely have it paid off in five years. At $450 a month though, after a $5,000 down payment, that could have been better spent on a college fund for both of my sisters.)
None of these incentives would've existed for more fuel-efficient vehicles, and certainly not hybrids, which are now the hottest commodities on the automotive market. Mom believes their initial cost would've been higher, and she might be right, but who knows how well the fuel savings would've offset that.
She also doesn't like small cars. (and I think weighs as much as Mimi now. She isn't wide at all so she COULD fit comfortably in one.) That's why I let her know about the Ford Escape. She thought that still would've been too small...
I didn't mention the environment to her so I don't know her POV on that yet, but if I remember to, I will ask tomorrow.
The mileage for the new SUV is 16/21 city/highway but with the air-conditioner on at highway speeds, the average appeared to be 18. Our dashboard shows the average MPG for the moment, the range remaining (how many miles until we need another fill-up,) and other statistics we couldn't have seen in models significantly older than these.
The Toyota 4Runner Urban Runner is our second vehicle with a GPS navigation system, but we couldn't get it to work (at least while I was in it) because the graphic would only keep showing a blue SD Card coming out of the bottom of the GPS device and a red "X" slashing it. If we took the card out, it would show the card being inserted into the GPS device. Apparently the "TomTom" navigation device is giving us an annoying Catch-22. Therefore, I set up an appointment for Mom to bring in the SUV for service at her dealership on Tuesday at 10:30. It's still pretty new so the fresh warranty ought to cover all of the servicing.