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Car Q&A with Jim MacPherson

On the Road Car Life

cars.com On the Road Weekly Publication

10:44 AM EDT, July 6, 2011

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Jim Q_A

Q: My wife and I are looking to purchase a 2010 RAV 4 V6. However, we have concerns about the gas mileage after reading various blogs indicating people were getting between 15 and 18 mpg while paying "close attention" to their driving habits. Is there is any credibility to this?  Also, the vehicle we are interested in has been on the lot for almost a year. Are there any ill effects we should be concerned about?

A: You raise two interesting issues.

First, fuel economy in the RAV4: I’ve had the 4-cylinder and V-6 versions for review, getting 20.3 mpg in each. Both of these cars were front-wheel drive vehicles.

Subtract one or two miles per gallon if you go the all-wheel- drive route.

The RAV4 is a very good vehicle. For better gasoline mileage you might want to consider the Ford Escape Hybrid; I managed 29 mpg in that vehicle with all-wheel drive. However, the Escape is an older design and does not perform to the standards of the RAV4.

As for the age of the vehicle, I would not worry about a car that had sat on the lot for several months. I've seen cars that have sat around for more than a year and then delivered perfectly acceptable service.

Good luck.

Q:  In regards to your June 1 column (“Teaching Automotive Technicians"):  Were all competitors allowed the same two-and-a-half day pre-competition benefit of practicing on the equipment they knew would be in the test?

A: All of the teams knew the car that would be bugged, a 2011 Ford Mustang V-6, but none of them knew what the bugs would be. Each team had the opportunity to review the car and its systems before the contest. Whether all of them took advantage of this, I do not know.

Q:  I am driving a 1999 Camry with 126,000 miles and think it is time to buy a more economical car. I desperately want a Honda Civic but after visiting two Honda dealers and finding very little stock, I am wondering what the long term effect of the Japan crisis will be. The prices are firm. Do you think when production starts again the prices will rise or will there be incentives and sales again?

A: While we still don't know how long it will take Japanese auto companies to regain their full production capability, the best guess now is at least six months. It could be longer.

That means many Japanese cars, including the new 2012 Civic, will be in short supply. This will encourage dealers to hold out for top dollar. In all fairness, they do this in part because they have to.

There is some debate as to what will happen when plants in Japan recover. Some people are guessing that these manufacturers will offer attractive incentives to regain the business they that they are losing. These companies have certainly done this in the past. Toyota, for example, sold the first Lexus cars at a significant discount to direct competitors to buy market share for the brand. As a result, most industry observers believe that they sold every one of these cars at a loss. Several Japanese auto companies certainly have the resources to do this. Will they? I don't know, but we’ll find out when production returns to normal.