New RAV4 rolls down memory lane

The 2015 Toyota RAV4 Limited. (BudWells photo)

The 2015 Toyota RAV4 Limited. (BudWells photo)

Toyota provided me with a 2015 RAV4 all-wheel-drive crossover for a drive to Sterling and a final editorial meeting with J. Howard Crooks.

Well, it wasn’t actually an editorial session; it was a memorial service at Chaney-Reager Funeral Home for Crooks, a longtime Sterling newspaperman who died Dec. 28.

As I drove the RAV4 compact down I-76, I got to thinking about an editorial meeting we did put together at the Sterling Journal-Advocate 50 years ago.

The bells ringing on the Associated Press teletype machine early in the afternoon of Friday, June 4, 1965, alerted us to “something big” in the news world. Four employes of the Farmers State Bank at Big Springs, Neb., had been shot execution-style in a robbery; only one, Franklin Kjeldgaard, survived.

Bob Petteys, the Sterling paper’s publisher, was out of town. Our editorial team, consisting of Crooks, Bob Sheldon, Don Miles and me, gathered to discuss one issue – The J-A’s area of coverage extended northeast to Julesburg; could we stretch that 10 miles farther, across the state line to Big Springs. For a tragedy of this consequence, of course we could, we decided, and within 15 minutes the four of us squeezed into the company’s Mercury Comet and headed up U.S. 138.

On our arrival, and with the killer still at large, the little town was abuzz with fear and trepidation. Only FBI agents were gaining admittance to the bank; I got in, though, by virtue of my appearance. Like most of the FBI reps, I was wearing dark pants, short-sleeved buttoned-up white dress shirt and narrow black necktie (and close-cropped hair), and walked in where the investigation was ongoing. Crooks and I had bylined stories in the next day’s edition of the J-A.

By Sunday, June 6, Duane Earl Pope had been arrested and charged with the crime. He had graduated from McPherson, Kan., College, on Thursday and driven to the bank the next morning. Testimony indicated he ordered the employes to lie face down on the floor, where he shot them in the back and in the neck. He was convicted and today remains in federal prison in Lincoln.

For Crooks, Sheldon, Miles and me, it is something we have talked of when we’ve seen each other through the years.

As for the new Toyota RAV4, it was third best seller in the country among SUVs and crossovers in the past year, falling behind rivals Honda CR-V and Ford Escape.

A sharply finished exterior is attractive for the RAV4, though turns somewhat awkward-looking at the back with an extended spoiler and bumped-out ridge below. The fact its spare tire has been removed from the tailgate helps appearance and also allows use of a liftgate. The liftgate opens to a huge 38-cubic-feet cargo area and a flat load floor, very handy.

Aided by the easy-driving 200-mile round-trip to Sterling, the RAV4 averaged a commendable 26.2 miles per gallon of regular unleaded fuel.

It’s not a powerful engine, the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder with 176 horsepower and 172 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Push of a sport-mode button tightens steering and increases throttle response and shift points, and downshifts will “blip” the throttle for smoothness in the changes of gear.

The ride of the RAV4 Limited model, with its 18-inch wheels, turns harsh occasionally from rough roads. The RAV4’s overall length of 179.9 inches is sandwiched between the Escape’s 178.1 and CRV’s 179.4 and the longer Jeep Cherokee’s 182-inch length.

An easy-to-use Entune touch-screen audio system with navigation boosted sticker price of the RAV4 to $33,808. It included USB port with iPod connectivity, voice recognition, hands-free phone capability, music streaming via Bluetooth, HD radio and Doppler weather. Among a safety technology package are blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic and lane-departure alert and auto high beam. Backup camera was also a feature. Heated front seats are trimmed in leather-like softex material.

Here are the specifications for the 2015 Toyota RAV4 Limited:

  • Capacity 5-passenger compact crossover
  • Wheelbase 104.7 inches
  • Length 179.9 inches
  • Width 72.6 inches
  • Height 67.1 inches
  • Curb Weight 3,585 pounds
  • Track 61.4 front and rear
  • Ground Clearance 6.3 inches
  • Turn Circle 36.8 feet
  • Drivetrain All-wheel-drive
  • Engine2.5-liter 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower/Torque 176/172
  • Transmission 6-speed automatic
  • Steering electric power
  • Suspension front strut, double-wishbone rear
  • Fuel mileage estimate 22/29
  • Fuel mileage average 26.2
  • Fuel Tank 15.9 gallons, regular unleaded
  • Wheels 18-inch
  • Tires Toyo Open Country 235/55R18
  • Cargo Volume 38.4 cubic feet
  • Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles basic, 5/60,000 powertrain

Competitors Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5, Jeep Cherokee, GMC Terrain, Volkswagen Tiguan

Assembly Plant Tahara, Aichi, Japan

Parts Content N.A.

Base Price of Lowest Model $24,500; Base Price of Review Model $29,850; Destination Charge $885; Sticker Price $33,808.