Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sport Utility.....

I love to go Outside®. Of course, both of you, my loyal readers, know this. The first world problem of the ages for folks like me is how to get myself (and all my toys) Outside®. That problem compounds when you begin to have children and insist on taking them Outside® too. Oh, there's a dog in the mix. Almost forgot about that.

Getting Outside® with the kids.

For our needs, we had narrowed the field down to a midsize SUV or a minivan. The SUV probably would have been a Toyota Highlander (admitted Toyota fanboy that I am) or that hot new Pilot that I was raving about a few weeks ago. Things that were dismissed early on were things like a Sportsmobile Ford van or Suburban. These things are just too big since we have to balance this vehicle between the daily business of toddler transport and the occasional use that we're discussing here. (If I'm being honest, that Sportsmobile was never an option anyway.)

So basically I was facing the decision between the social stigma of the minivan or the or the extra capability of the SUV. Of course when you phrase it that way there's not really much of a debate. The truth is, though, that minivans have so much more space than a midsize SUV. They even have more space than most full-size SUVs. And when you throw the dog in the mix we really don't have enough space in that midsize SUV for everybody. Thus, the debate becomes more complicated. At this point you may be saying it may be bigger but it's still got to get where you want to go Outside® and a minivan may not get you there. That may be true but to refute that I'd like to paint a little picture for you.

My other car is a Land Cruiser. That's definitely SUV you want to have if you want to get where you need to go and take a lot of stuff there. I can't carry as much as a half ton pickup but it can go a lot more places. All too often I've headed out for some trailhead in some remote location only to be greeted with huge potholes and all kinds of rough road along the way. At this point in the journey I congratulate myself on having an SUV capable of getting where I want to go. Those potholes and stream crossings and stuff pose no problem whatsoever. When at last I pull into the trailhead and find the last available spot next to......a Prius.

So that Prius with its five and a half inches of ground clearance got to the same Trailhead as me at the cost of only 35 or 40 miles per gallon instead of 12 miles per gallon. Of course they clearly didn't look as good doing it, nor did they bring as much stuff along with them, but I guess they feel like they need to offset their carbon footprint or something.

So an honest accounting shows that having something with less ground clearance than an SUV will get me to 95% of the places that I want to go, especially seeing that I'm dragging small children along and they won't be able to go too far into the backcountry. And I can bring that up to 96% or 97% if I'm willing to live with a little bit of ground scraping along the way. I'm not by the way.

So a minivan it is, BUT, I will do this on my terms. There are a few requirements that will need to be met before this van is acceptable. The first one, all-wheel-drive, eliminated most of the field. I was really only seriously considering the Honda Odyssey or the Toyota Sienna, but the Odyssey has two inches less ground clearance and the Sienna comes in all-wheel-drive. That made the choice pretty simple. Also, if you do your research you will find that the Sienna ages better than the Odyssey. (And if you're looking for a used one, for the love of all that is holy, google "pax" and read up.)

Now, of course, we need to get all our stuff Outside® with us. We gotta have a hitch for the bike rack and possibly towing in the future. The SkyBox will go on the roof rack and someday I hope to buy longer load bars so I can fit a boat or a couple more bikes up top. The hitch is easy I've already installed 3 of those, now four. All this weight is going cause problems unless we can get some extra stability. The extra stability I addressed with Airlift air Springs. In my opinion the springs improve the van's handling in ways I hadn't expected, even when unloaded. I ran it for the whole trip at 20 psi, even though 30 is the max. I had planned on going up to the max somewhere along the way, but never got around to it. 20 psi is what I run it at under normal around-town driving.It's probably not meant for that, but as I said, I think it handles so much better.

Hitch. Non-optional equipment.

AirLift 1000 suspension enhancement. Also non-optional.

It's all set up now. The only thing I will add later is a Yakima Timberline Rack with some 70 inch load bars. Probably next year.

The only negative I have is about the in-dash navigation. How is it that a nav system from 2013 does not work as well as an old Garmin from 2004? The touches are less responsive, it takes a long time to think between selections, and can't navigate forest roads, logging roads, or other little used roads of the like (even though they are displayed on the map). Of course, this last consideration is a BIG negative given my use case. It's also a pain that you can't search destinations while underway. I understand the reasons behind this, but it also means that my wife can't search for the next rest stop as we fly down the freeway. I hate to say it, but I may actually need to keep a Garmin in there on road trips. Toyota needs to figure this out.

All in all, it's working great, and hopefully it will live up to its Toyota badge.

See you Outside®.