Cathy's Car Corner on SmartFemHave you ever tried to drive and chew gum at the same time?  Well, I combined both this week when I took the 2013 Toyota RAV4 to the Wrigley Mansion in Phoenix, Arizona.  Yes, Wrigley, as in chewing gum, Catalina Island and the legendary Wrigley Field!

It was the new look of the RAV4 Toyota sitting pretty  in front of the 81 year old mansion  that was almost as breathtaking as the views from the upstairs rooms.  The Wrigley Mansion was built in 1932 by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. to be one of their five homes. The Mansion sits atop a 100 foot knoll with beautiful views of the mountains, the city of Phoenix and Wrigley’s other guilty architectural pleasure, the Biltmore Hotel.  This was their 17,000 square foot winter cottage, built for his wife Ada, for their fiftieth wedding anniversary.

Rav4BiltmoreEtc024The 2013 RAV4 was built for a budget conscience family, one needing a crossover in the price range of $23,000 to $27,000. It appeared Mr. Wrigley didn’t even have a budget as the mansion has 24 rooms and 12 bathrooms.  I was fascinated by the interior of the mansion as well as the RAV4. The Wrigley foyer, especially the tile, was magnificent and looked new as did the RAV4’s interior, which includes French stitching.  I’m told that much of the tile work was shipped to Phoenix from Wrigley’s own factory in Catalina, California and hauled by mule the last ten miles up the steep hill to the site.  I couldn’t help but visualize how easy that would have been in the RAV4, with enhanced vehicle stability and traction control, with an anti-lock brake system, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist and smart stop technology. So where was the Toyota then?

Coincidentally around the same year that Mr. Wrigley was acquiring property and printing gum wrappers the Toyoda (original spelling) family was getting busy themselves.  WRIGLEY MansionJust one year after Mr. Wrigley completed “the winter cottage,” Mr. Toyoda, who owned a very successful Automatic Loom Works company (textile machinery) in Japan, traveled to Europe and the USA to research and hopefully, develop gasoline powered engines. The latest World War required companies to diversify their manufactured goods in order to survive and it’s easy to say the rest is automotive history.

Kiichiro_Toyoda_ImageIt was later in their history, that the spelling of Toyoda was changed to Toyota. The Japanese philosophy “Kaizen” which focuses on “continuous improvement” is evident in how they improve their cars year after year.  For example, the 2013 RAV4 has child safety seat features that include LATCH, also lower anchors on the outboard rear seats and tether anchors on all second-row seating.  Additional protection includes eight (8) standard airbags; which is an improvement from last year’s model.  The mansion, which is also experiencing enhancements, is a perfect venue for weddings, business meetings or quiet romantic dinners for two.

The Wrigley’s had five homes. The RAV4 has three trim levels LE, XLE and Limited models.  The cottage was actually just a place to stop on their way to Catalina Island, another of their fabulous homes.  The RAV4 may not have its own island but in many ways it’s an island onto itself.  The RAV4 made some changes in 2013 that customers asked for, such as hiding the spare tire, making the lift gate adjustable for all heights that opens from top to bottom, not side to side.  Simple changes like that have made the 2013 RAV4 one of the most affordable and desirable crossovers in its class, much like the restaurant at the mansion.

Rav 4 Biltmore Etc 036In 1992 Geordie Hormel, one of the heirs to the Hormel meat packing family purchased the mansion in fear that it was fall into disrepair. It was the goal of Mr. Hormel and his wife to keep this cottage as a Southwest treasure and maintain the elegance and history of the Wrigley family.  Mr. Hormel (Geordie) was a familiar face for years at the mansion playing piano during Sunday Brunch and welcoming guests. Geordie died in 2006, but his memories and philanthropic print are everywhere including the “lounge” named in his honor. Geordie loved music so I’m sure he would have appreciated the sound system in the RAV4 limited model with display audio, GPS navigation and Entune, which includes 11JBL GreenEdge speakers in seven locations.

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General Manager Ben Sinon and Chef Stephan Germanaud

When visiting Arizona, you must meet the Wrigley Mansion’s General Manager, Ben Sinon and Chef Stephan Germanaud.   Ben has the good looks and personality to make you think you saw him on Bay Watch and if Stephan’s cooking doesn’t melt your heart, his French accent will.

Chef Stephan Germanaud let me watch him in the kitchen where he prepared a sampling of some of his favorite dishes.  It didn’t take me long to ask if he would pose for me by the RAV4. I used the excuse that I wanted him near the RAV4 steering wheel, as it had French stitching, and he graciously agreed.

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Posing with the 2013 Toyota Rav4

General Manager Ben Sinon comes from quite a background in the hospitality industry as well as acting, music, athletics and 8-years with Donovan’s in San Diego.   Sinon, only 32-years old, shares GM responsibilities and panache with James Beard award- winning Christopher Gross, Wrigley Mansion CEO and Sommelier /owner Paola Embry.  What Ben has acquired in working for Christopher and Paola is unparalleled to anyone in this field.  His true desire is to continue his Sommelier education and grow with both Christopher and Paola’s tutelage, makes Ben an up and coming name in the business.

It isn’t every day that I get to drive my test car to one of my favorite landmarks in Arizona.  I think that the Wrigley Mansion is a “must see” destination no matter where you come from.  I think the 2013 Toyota RAV4 is a crossover that would have been an asset to the Wrigley’s and Hormel’s; it surely has been for Toyota.

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