2008 Volvo XC90 3.2

Posted: August 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

Volvo is usually synonymous with “fancy station wagon” but they do offer the XC90, which is more SUV than station wagon. Volvo is also known for some nifty features for humans, so what about canines?

I do really wish the XC90 was in my personal price range – it’s a great small SUV with lots of fun features and surprisingly well designed when it comes to keeping crated dogs comfortable!

Width between wheel wells (narrowest part of the vehicle): 44.5″

Cargo depth with all rows up: negligible

Cargo depth with the third row down: 45″ on the floor, 38″ deep at the narrowest point (seat back 17.5″ above floor level)

Cargo depth with all rows down: 74.5″

Interior height (min): 32″ at hatch and for 4″

Interior height (max): 34.5″ at the base of the second row

Hatch dimensions: 32″ tall, 29″ to 42″ wide

(right seat in second row would not fold down for me, but it *is* designed to do so)

MPG city: 14 mpg (AWD)

MPG highway: 20 mpg (AWD)

The Volvo has additional vents on the pillars behind each row of seats, providing a lot of extra ventilation in the back, which is quite handy. While there aren’t any additional outlets or lights in the rear cargo area, this Volvo has a unique split hatch that provides a nice “tailgate” for loading and unloading from the rear of the vehicle and allows the bottom section to be locked while leaving the top 2/3 open for air circulation.

I was amazed when I started measuring the XC90 – it appears sized similarly to the Edge/Equinox/Nitro on the outside, but on the inside you find expansive space! The wheel wells and the folding of the seats, as with most vehicles, are the two biggest barriers to cargo capacity, but the XC90 performs admirably, providing enough space for 2 SUV-style 36″ crates side-by-side behind the second row, something I haven’t seen very frequently!

The one MAJOR drawback, other than the purchase price, is the extremely low gas mileage – 14/20 is much lower than I anticipated for a vehicle that is considered a higher end model!  If gas mileage isn’t a concern, the XC90 would be a top pick for those who travel with multiple medium to large dogs!

 

2008 Dodge Nitro SXT

Posted: August 23, 2012 in Vehicle Reviews
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The Dodge Nitro is a very boxy looking vehicle – does that make it more useful as a dog car than the more common curvy vehicles out there?

[not my picture – found via Google image search]

Yes! The Nitro seems much more suited to cargo than it’s more shapely vehicle cousins. The gas mileage leaves a lot to be desired, but if that’s not a concern for you or you are downsizing from a full-sized truck or other gas guzzler, the Nitro might be a good option.

Width between wheel wells (narrowest part of the vehicle): 43.25″

Cargo depth with all rows up: 34″ on the floor, 26.5″ deep at the narrowest point (seat back 16″ above floor level)

Cargo depth with the second row down: 58.5″

Interior height (max): 35″ at the rear of the second row

Interior Height (min): 30″ at the hatch for 6.5″

Hatch dimensions: 30″ tall, 34.5″ to 42.5″ wide.

MPG city: 15 mpg (this was a 4WD model)

MPG highway: 21 mpg (this was a 4WD model)

This Nitro also included a sliding cargo tray, possibly instead of a 3rd row (?), an extra light in the rear of the cargo area, and tons of tie down points. The seats almost fold flat (similar to the Edge), but unlike the Edge, the back of the seats is plastic coated so you have less risk of snagging or otherwise marring the upholstery.

The Nitro is fairly plastic heavy on the interior and certainly gives off more of a “truck” feel inside, but the dash is pretty flashy, so it’s not all boring!

The width between the wheel wells does preclude standard sized 36″ and larger wire crates from sitting side-by-side in the back, but is large enough to accommodate the corresponding “SUV-style” crates that are only 21″ wide.  The squared off interior also lends itself well to the boxy nature of crates.  The lack of a significant slant on the seat backs in the second row does mean that fitting 24″ long crates side-by-side in the cargo area without folding the seats down is also an option for those with smaller dogs, though it may leave them more vulnerable in a rear-end accident due to the location of the crumple zone.

The Nitro appears to be well designed to accommodate crates for canines, but the gas mileage does give me pause – serious competitors may want to look for a more fuel efficient vehicle for those long drives to trials.

2010 Ford Edge SEL

Posted: August 21, 2012 in Vehicle Reviews
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The Ford Edge seems like a pretty nifty looking crossover – is it as equally nifty when looked at through dog vehicle glasses?

[not my image – found via Google image search]

A typical small crossover, the Edge does not have a 3rd row seating option, but it does offer more interior space than other vehicles in the same category.

Width between wheel wells (narrowest part of the vehicle): 42″

Cargo depth with all rows up: 34.5″ on the floor, 27″ deep at the narrowest point (seat back 20.5″ above floor level)

Cargo depth with the second row down: 60″

Hatch dimensions: 31″ tall, 32″ to 48″ wide

MPG city: 18 mpg (this was a 2WD model)

MPG highway: 25 mpg (this was a 2WD model)

The Edge has extra lights in the cargo area and rear facing air vents on the console between the front two seats; both features appreciated when using a vehicle for dog toting!

Unlike the Equinox, which is very similarly sized inside but is larger outside and has several features that make the interior harder to use for crated animals, the Edge provides a wider space between wheel wells and slightly longer interior cargo space with the second row folded. The second row is slightly angled when folded, but less angled than many other vehicles we’ve looked at.  The hatch opening *is* smaller than other similarly sized vehicles in some dimensions, but should still be functional given its size at the widest point. Folded crates are likely much easier to fit through the hatch than pre-assembled crates.

The wider space between the wheel wells does open up the possibility of larger crates sitting side-by-side, but you will need SUV-style crates if you hope to fit 36″ or 42″ long crates into the space.

Overall, the Edge is a decent option in this class, but I highly recommend trying your crates in the vehicle before jumping to conclusions as it does have some drawbacks that may make certain crating setups more difficult.

I keep seeing ads about the Chevy Equinox being more spacious inside than other mid-sized SUVs, but the curvy profile has always made me wonder if the interior design gets in the way of functionality as a dog vehicle.

A closer inspection identifies a vehicle with a surprisingly small interior for a vehicle that appears so much larger.  Unfortunately, it also reveals yet another vehicle with seats that do not fold flat, this time not with a slight angle but an actual “step up” between the back of the second row and the cargo area, complicating its use when crates are involved.

Width between wheel wells (narrowest part of the vehicle): 37.5″

Cargo depth with both rows up: 34″ on the floor, 23″ deep at the narrowest point (seat back 19″ above floor level)

Cargo depth with the second row down: 54.5″

Interior height (max): 35.25″ at the rear of the second row

Interior Height (min): 31.75″ at the hatch

Hatch dimensions: 31.75″ tall, 36.5″ to 43.5″ wide.

MPG city: 17 mpg (this was a 2WD model)

MPG highway: 24 mpg (this was a 2WD model)

The Equinox lacks any additional vents and outlets in the rear cargo area, but it does include two cargo anchor points and a light above the cargo area.

The interior of the Equinox did compare well with other vehicles in the same range, but the actual usability of the vehicle is impeded by several dimensions and the gas mileage is quite low for a with these dimensions. The width between the wheel wells (just 37.5″!) makes fitting crates larger than 18″ wide side by side impossible and the depth from the rear hatch to the back of the front seats with the second row down is actually a few inches shorter than what we measured in the Ford Escape! I was quite surprised by the measurements given all the hype.

The smaller rear cargo area width and depth puts the Equinox more into the small crossover/hatchback category as far as dog toting ability goes – the interior space will only allow for the use of small crates or larger crates set up perpendicular to the vehicle.

2006 Ford Escape

Posted: July 30, 2012 in Vehicle Reviews
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A number of people have mentioned the Ford Escape as a possible option as a good “dog car” for those people wanting 4wd as an option. I’m usually an import girl, but I couldn’t *not* check it out when I saw it on the lot. How does it compare to other small SUVs?

(not my photo, found via Google Image search)

Well, it has similar dimensions to most of the smaller SUVs out there, and the seats DO fold flat (yay!), but overall it seemed a lot lower quality inside when compared to similar imports. Lots of plastic, the carpeting in the back cargo area was very cheap feeling and not well secured, and the dash seemed very light on any bells and whistles. It struck me much more as a basic, no frills vehicle, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing when you’re looking for something that can stand up to use as a dog hauler.

Width between wheel wells (narrowest part of the vehicle): 40.5″

Cargo depth with both rows up: 32.75″ on the floor, 23″ deep at the narrowest point (seat back 20″ above floor level)

Cargo depth with the second row down: 57.5″

Hatch dimensions: 34″ tall, 37.75″ to 47.75″ wide.

MPG city: 22 mpg (this was a 2WD model)

MPG highway: 26 mpg (this was a 2WD model)

The Escape, for all of its workhorse styling, does have some nice features. The glass in the hatch opens independently, allowing you to increase air circulation in the vehicle even with the hatch locked. There is a small light above the cargo area which is great for late night or early morning packing and unpacking. The seats did fold flat as I mentioned earlier *and* they were very easy to fold – no complicated series of handles and latches here!

The Escape definitely doesn’t have the bells and whistles of other similar vehicles, but it’ll certainly get the job done! With the second row of seats up, you should be able to fit smaller crates in the cargo area, and with that row down, the cargo space is quite flexible and generous for a small vehicle. The distance between the wheel wells does mean putting two larger crates side by side might not be possible (most 36″ crates are 24″ wide with SUV-style crates still being 21″ wide), however. Overall, this is a decent option for those with only a few larger dogs or a larger number of smaller dogs if you don’t need the more high-end interior styling found in some other small SUVs.

I emailed CPS this afternoon to ask a few questions and they’ve replied with some great new info I thought Four Paw Drive readers would appreciate. My questions are bolded, their answers follow.

Will you be testing other restraint methods (i.e. crates, dog transport boxes, cargo dividers, pet car seats, etc.)? If so, any idea of the timeline for those? 

Yes, we are working on all classes of travel products – as funding permits.  We are currently expanding on the pilot study.  We are test planning for a more comprehensive harness study and completing the crate study.  We are working to become a nationally recognized oversight organization for the pet product industry.

How much does it cost to run a study like this pilot one you just released data from?

The cost of each study depends on the amount of products tested and the type of tests performed.  Our founder spent well over $10,000.00 on the pilot study alone.  Dynamic tests are typically well over $1000.00 – $1500.00 each, and when you add the development and construction costs of the specially designed, weighted and instrumented crash test dog, the testing expenses add up quickly.  Hence the importance of funding to further our mission.

Consumers typically think that the pet product manufacturers would assist with funding studies like these, however, that is simply not the case.  CPS is independent of the pet product industry and cannot accept funding from them – since it could be construed as and indication of bias.  CPS is looking to pet product consumers, special interest foundations, animal welfare, travel safety organizations and consumer safety organizations to help fund the mission.  CPS is in a critical fundraising mode and will be launching some funding campaigns in the near future. 

(There’s a new Crash Test Doggies campaign on Indiegogo that started today for example.)

Can pet owners help in other ways in addition to donations? If so, how?  

Absolutely!  CPS welcomes the help in getting the word out about the mission.  Tweet, Facebook and Share!  The more people talking about our work, the more funding we’ll get and the more research we can complete.  If you own a pet, and believe in the CPS cause – you’re a part of this mission.  We will be working to engage volunteers in the near future.

They’ve also offered to set up a phone meeting between myself and the founder if I’d like to learn more and ask more questions, so loyal readers, what would you like to know about CPS and their work?!

A new organization, The Center for Pet Safety, has released data and videos from its pilot study on pet vehicle restraints today. The results are far from encouraging unfortunately. Of the four harnesses they tested, in both dynamic and static tests, not a single one restrained the canine crash dummy without injury. Three of the four tested harnesses are manufactured by companies that claim their products ARE tested in some way, too!

The CPS did not release the names of the companies whose restraints were tested and they do a good job of obscuring identifiable parts of the harnesses during the tests recorded on video, but of course there is certainly speculation about which harnesses are involved in the study.

Watching the four videos on CPS’s website about the pilot study does underline some common failure points:

  • If a dog is secured with clips or clasps, those often break first. In one video, the clip remained in place, but the D ring attaching it to the harness broke free almost immediately.
  • The front design of the harness is important to prevent neck and chest injuries. One harness almost decapitated the dummy when it slid upward during the crash simulation!
  • Adjustment points can allow the fit to shift during a crash. Another harness tightened across the dummy’s chest during the simulation, possibly causing additional injuries.
  • The amount of slack in the tether system used can allow too much forward motion. Several harnesses allowed the dummy to come in contact with the front seat, which could mean injuries for both dog and humans in the front seat!

I have always suspected that most crash testing is designed to ensure that the dog doesn’t become a flying projectile vs. actually preventing injury to the dog as well and, unfortunately, these tests seem to confirm that suspicion.

I did contact CPS to obtain the full report, and they have given me permission to share it with my readers here at Four Paw Drive. The document can be found here: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0BzMqXthoTWqPYUdiYXctNF9zeGc

I’m so happy to see The Center for Pet Safety working on studies of this nature, even if the results are disturbing. Perhaps having an independent assessment group will encourage various pet product manufacturers to improve their products so that they can keep both people and their pets safer in accidents.

If you agree, please consider donating to the cause! CPS is a non-profit organization and they need donations to continue studying various forms of pet restraint. To donate, please visit: http://centerforpetsafety.org/donate-today/ – they even take vehicle donations!

Note: Several of our facebook fans have already contacted well known companies about their involvement (or lack thereof) in this study; it will be interesting to see how the companies respond to these inquiries. If you do the same, please share any details you’re able to obtain with everyone here on the blog and/or on facebook! Well informed is well prepared!