Tag Archives: Nissan

2022 Subaru Ascent Onyx edition

Biggest Subaru offers three rows, more comfort …

Subaru has this love-all thing going with the environment, and who can blame it. National Parks and dogs are universally loved and tying your sales to either seems a no-brainer. I mean baseball and apple pie had already been tried.

Subie’s latest love is the Ascent, its large SUV, although it’s only moderately large, keeping in mind that its customers likely won’t want to pull a Queen Mary-size trailer to the campgrounds. It’s unique too in that while being only modestly big it can seat up to eight people, the third row being best for short hauls and assuming a second-row bench seat. The tester had second-row captain’s chairs, so could carry seven.

To sexy up its models Subaru has added Onyx editions, which means trim is blacked out, such as the grille, roof rails, wheel well cladding, mirrors, a rear spoiler, and exterior badging. Even the Onyx’s special 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels are black. The effect is somewhat slimming and stealthy. Plus this one was Autumn Green Metallic, which means a somewhat gray green with some sparkle, but a shade that mostly serves as forest camouflage.

Ascent is easily the most comfortable Subaru. I own an Outback and the ride in the longer wheelbase Ascent is light years smoother, not that the Outback is harsh. Handling too is nimble considering this is a 196.8-inch long vehicle. Most large utes feel big and somewhat cumbersome, not the Ascent. A trip out Holy Hill way proved its grip and stability in sweeping turns littered with falling leaves, and its comfort on some questionable rural roads.

Power is another water bottle in Ascent’s backpack. Subie is known for its boxer engines, also known as horizontally-opposed as the pistons move back and forth nearly horizontally like a boxer’s arms. This is the newer 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that pounds out 260 horsepower, enough to gallop up to highway speeds with ease while dispensing only moderate engine drone, something my Outback has aplenty.

Power is linked to the AWD system via a Lineartronic CVT or continuously variable transmission. Subaru and Nissan seem to have figured these out best among the automakers, their purpose being smooth and efficient power that saves fuel. I’ll drone on about that in a bit.

But shifts seem properly stepped and smooth, which creates further comfort for the fam.

Watch Mark’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zV11YraQPI

Inside, the Onyx edition gets all jiggy with fake carbon fiber trim on the dash and doors and figuring you’ll likely be hiking and biking the seats are made of a soft StarTex water-repellant material. It looks a bit like leather but is actually more cushioned and feels softer to the touch, but remains easy to clean.

Seats here are gray with charcoal-colored trim and gray stitching. Dash and doors are black except for the fake carbon fiber trim while door releases are chrome and there’s satin chrome finish by the console shifter. Gloss black trims the center stack and 8-inch touchscreen. A smaller 6.5-inch screen comes in base models.

I like how the touchscreen works, and that there are knobs for volume and tuning. There’s also tri-zone climate controls standard, meaning separate front seat controls, plus a system for the second row occupants.

A $2,200 option package upgrades to that 8-inch screen, which I like better than the massive reflective screen now in Outbacks. Other goodies in the package include a cargo cover, which can be stored under the cargo floor, a voice-activated Tom-Tom navigation system, smartphone integration, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto along with a spectacular panoramic sunroof. I only wish wireless phone charging were part of this gig.

This is the right size of screen, not too big, or too small!

But standard here are heated seats and the heated steering wheel for the Onyx, plus there’s a power hatch and all the safety equipment that Subaru has to offer via its EyeSight system.

That encompasses a lot and it functions efficiently. There’s blind-spot warning, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping and centering, emergency braking, automatic high beams, and steering responsive LED headlights.

I also like the X-mode button on the console that is meant for off-roading. It is basically a hill-descent system to keep the vehicle, which has 8.7 inches of ground clearance, from over accelerating down a steep incline or loose soft or rocky surface. That allows the driver to better maintain control when off road.

Second row seats fold and slide forward for third row access.

I’d be remiss to not mention the excellent head and legroom in front and row two. Row three is tighter on leg and knee room. Occupants will want to talk nice to row two folks so they will slide their seats forward a bit.

Also a plus for all Subarus is the A-pillar and mirror placement on the doors. There’s a sealed vent window between the two that give better side sightlines than in most SUVs and crossovers, notorious for their monster A-pillar/mirror combos that obstruct side views.

Note too that cargo space is modest behind that third row seat, but wonderful once it is down. So if you need a third row on occasions, but not always, Ascent is a healthy hauler of both people and gear. It also will pull 5,000 pounds, so campers and two-up trailers are no problem.

Two things that could be improved though are interior noise levels and gas mileage. I noticed more road and wind noise in Ascent than in some competing SUVs and crossovers. It wasn’t a racket, just more noticeable than in a few others.

MPG is my bigger concern. I love the outdoors and clean air and national parks and all that as much as the next person. But I managed just 21.7 mpg in a fairly even highway to city mix. EPA says 20 mpg city and 26 highway for Ascent. After driving the marginally smaller Kia Sorento hybrid a week earlier and netting 37.6 mpg I was shocked by the low average here. Subaru needs a hybrid system, and now, for its entire lineup. Hybrids are a stepping stone to cleaner air and better climate, so you’d think would be a major part of Subie’s technology platform. Other brands already are there.

Lecture complete!

Finally there’s price, and here the Ascent continues to impress, as did all its driving characteristics. The Onyx starts at $39,120, including delivery. With its option package it hit $41,320, just a smidge above the average new car price.

Lesser models are more affordable of course. The base, which seats eight, lists at $32,295 while the top-level Touring starts at $45,445.

Ascent is atop Subaru’s lineup in performance, comfort and family utility. Its MPG needs work.

FAST STATS: 2022 Subaru Ascent Onyx

Hits: Roomy, high-value AWD SUV with good power, nimble handling, comfy ride. Big sunroof, heated seats and steering wheel, will seat up to eight. X-mode good for off-roading, soft easy-clean well-formed seats, power hatch, good sightlines and broad range of safety equipment.

Misses: No wireless charging, interior could be quieter. MPG not impressive, could use hybrid system.

Made in: Lafayette, Ind.

Engine: 2.4-liter turbo boxer 4, 260 hp /277 torque

Transmission: Lineartronic CVT automatic

Weight: 4,542 lbs.

Wheelbase: 113.8 in.

Fancy black wheels are part of the Onyx edition.

Length: 196.8 in.

Cargo: 17.6-86.0 cu.ft.

Tow: 5,000 lbs.

MPG: 20/26

MPG: 21.7 (tested)

Base Price: $39,120 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $36,648

Major Options:

Package (cargo cover, panoramic moonroof, STARLINK 8.0 nav, 8-in. high-res touchscreen, smartphone integration, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, voice-activated nav by TomTom), $2,200

Test vehicle: $41,320

Sources: Subaru, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2022 Infiniti QX55 Sensory AWD

New QX55 a fun mix of fashion and luxury …

Mixing fashion and fun in a luxury SUV/crossover is about as commonplace as legislators agreeing on something.

Yet Infiniti has done it with its new QX55 for 2022, and this comes after its launch of the near perfect QX50 for 2021. That SUV/crossover also slots in to the compact to mid-size range, sort of a tweener, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The QX55 rides on the same platform and has an identical wheelbase, but is about 1.5 inches longer than the QX50 with a much more stylish rear end and profile that insinuate fastback and sporty as opposed to square back and utilitarian. Coming or going the QX55 looks as sporty and spiffy as a guy in a black crewneck sweater while donning a tweed blazer with leather elbow patches.

Some vehicles simply look snazzy. This one does. Doesn’t hurt that it was bathed in a brilliant metallic red called Dynamic Sunston, a $900 option. (Wouldn’t it be fun to dream up these color names?) Nor did it hurt that its interior was a creamy soft light gray leather trimmed in charcoal-colored soft finishes for dash and doors.

Styling aside for a moment, the QX55 mostly excels for its nimble and energetic driving coupled with a supple yet responsive ride. These are tough mixes to get just right, but Infiniti manages it.

There’s an alacrity to the handling that makes this Infiniti seem more sport than utility. The turning radius is modest so the SUV/crossover feels more crossover than truck, almost sport sedan. Point the toothy nose toward a turn’s apex and the turn-in is swift and the grip from 20-inch tires and a standard AWD system is dead on.

Power is identical to the QX50 with a high-tech 2.0-liter variable compression turbo I4 (VC-Turbo) kicking out 268 horses and 280 pound-feet of torque. The power is smooth and well managed by the slick shifting CVT. Not all CVTs are this good, but Nissan/Infiniti have pretty well mastered these and they also mildly help gas mileage.

Related Video: Ride along with Mark

But it’s the VC-Turbo that still merits a special mention. Nissan worked on this system for 20 years before perfecting it. No one else has. Variable compression means it can automatically vary the piston’s stroke and thereby change compression as the driver demands more or less power. That makes a more efficient engine, and one may surmise could extend the life of ICE (Internal Combustion Engines).

This efficient VC-Turbo engine is special.

I got 24.1 mpg in a mix heavier on freeway driving and the EPA rates this at 22 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.

Any way you look at this power plant though, it provides oodles of oomph to aid the QX55’s agility and fun-worthiness. One drawback, the engine sounds like it’s working pretty hard under full acceleration, so can thrum more than one might expect in a luxury vehicle. All this is more pronounced in Sport mode than in any of the other three drive modes, engaged via a console toggle. Smartly the QX55’s power chant calms quickly and it cruises in relative silence on the freeway.

Ride also is pleasant, something that often can’t be said for SUVs and larger crossovers. The suspension here takes the edge off crude city bumps and pavement crumbles and in fact there’s a bit of sporty firmness to help the Infiniti feel in tune with the road.

Move inside and the cockpit is impressively quiet with acoustic glass to silence wind and road noise along with enough sound deadening to immediately impress that this is a luxury vehicle. That leather interior makes a good impression too as does the stylish design and trim that confirm the QX’s upscale leanings.

Infiniti gives the QX55 a sharp and stylish interior.

Light gray semi-aniline leather seats are soft and moderately supportive, yet comfy. There’s light gray stitching in the dash and doors plus black open-pore maple trim on both dash and doors with a satin chrome trim encompassing the wood. Gloss black trim surrounds the upper info screen and a flat black finish keeps the console from reflecting sunlight. Gray leather also trims part of the console and center armrest.

Seats are heated and cooled and the info screen simple to use, plus this bad boy offers up a Bose Performance Series stereo with 16 speakers that stimulates the ears. There’s also wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Navigation and traffic update info is included while the radio functions are adjusted on a second lower screen with climate and seat buttons all around it for easy access and functionality.

Adding to the luxury feel is a power tilt/telescope steering wheel, power hatch and sunroof. That hatch is motion-activated so can be opened with the wave of a foot below the bumper.

Plenty of head and legroom here for front and rear seat occupants too. No third-row seat as this isn’t a land yacht, but good storage behind the rear seat at 26.9 cubic feet and more than 54 cubic feet if you fold down the rear seats. Its sister, the QX50 has more cargo room, as it’s boxier, so if you haul a lot the 50 might be your better bet.

Those slanting C-pillars are stylish, but big, so limit rear visibility.

Must mention too that the A-pillars and C-pillars are thick, so can limit outward visibility. Of course there’s a 360-degree camera to help in parking lots, a plus. The top-trim Sensory model that I had also includes smart cruise control and ProPilot Assist, Infiniti’s semi-autonomous driving system. It engages with cruise control only, so doesn’t impede lane construction dodging in town. Smart!

On the freeway this allows you to punch in a speed and let the crossover do most of the lane watching and slow-traffic avoidance. You MUST keep hands on the wheel though or it’ll let you know you’ve been negligent. I really like this system compared to most.

Is that logo on the monster grille big enough for ya?

All the other usual safety systems are here too and all trims come with blind-spot warning and forward emergency braking.

Three trims are offered, all with AWD. The Luxe starts at $47,525, while the mid-level Essential is $52,625 and adds leather seats and the spectacular Bose 16-speaker system. This top Sensory model loads on all the goodies and that smart cruise and ProPilot system at $58,075, including delivery.

Style is uppermost in the Infiniti designers’ minds.

With only a couple minor options the tested QX55 settled at $60,250. That’s competitive with the likes of BMW’s X4, the Mercedes-Benz GLC, Land Rover Evoque and equally sporty and fun Alfa Romeo Stelvio.

I fawned over the QX50, but this QX55 is way sportier looking and driving. Can I have one of each?

FAST STATS: 2022 Infiniti QX55 Sensory AWD

Hits: Sporty styling and handling, good power, nice ride plus AWD. Luxurious, quiet interior, comfy heated/cooled seats, Bose premium stereo, 4 drive modes, easy climate buttons, power hatch, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, sunroof and lane departure only engages with smart cruise control

Misses: Big A- and C-pillars limit visibility and Sport makes engine noisier than expected in luxury crossover.

Made in: Mexico

Engine: 2.0-liter VC turbo I4, 265 hp /280 torque

Transmission: CVT automatic

Weight: 4,065 lbs.

Wheelbase: 110.2 in.

Length: 186.3 in.

Cargo: 26.9-54.1 cu.ft.

MPG: 22/28

MPG: 24.1 (tested)

Base Price: $58,075 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $55,374 (KBB Fair Purchase Price)

Major Options:

Exclusive paint, $900

Lighting package (welcome lighting, illuminated kick plate), $925

Cargo package (reversible cargo mat, cargo blocks, console net, cargo net, rear bumper protection film), $350

Test vehicle: $60,250

Sources: Infiniti, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2020 Honda CR-V Touring

New CR-V worth the wait …

Seven years had passed since my last test of Honda’s hot-selling CR-V, its small sport-ute, but the wait was worth it.

I felt the 2013 model had fallen a bit behind the curve in the small ute market, but be assured Honda is back atop its game with the 2020 model. Mine was an Aegean blue metallic Touring model with all-wheel drive. That’s the top-level CR-V and it was fully equipped, so much so that there were no options. Continue reading 2020 Honda CR-V Touring

2020 Zoomie Awards

Savage names his top 14 vehicles of the year …

After a four year hiatus (I should be well rested), Zoomie is back.

What’s a Zoomie?

It’s my annual (at least for 26 straight years) award of the top vehicle I’ve driven in the past year. I name one top dog and a lot of little pups to highlight the great cars and trucks I’ve driven in the past 12 months.

And I’ll state right here what I’ve been saying since 1990. My intent is to select a vehicle for the masses, but one with styling flair, something that’s fun to drive, yet also delivers value, an everyman’s car of the year. So don’t be expecting a Tesla or Ferrari here! Continue reading 2020 Zoomie Awards

Die-cast: TSM’s 1971 BRE Datsun 510

A special BRE Datsun driven by John Morton . . .1971 BRE Datsun 510

In the early 1970s Trans-Am racing was a big deal, even among the small sedan makers, like Datsun, which is what Nissan was known as in the U.S. at that time.

A lot of folks will think of the pony or muscle car racers, the Mustangs, Camaros and Cudas, but Alfa Romeo was big in the under 2.0-liter (U-2) class and Datsun dominated the class in 1971 and ’72 when it had become the Trans-Am 2.5 Challenge.

Cars were simply modified street cars, but Datsun put a lot of cash into the class sponsoring Brock Racing Enterprises (BRE) headed by Pete Brock, a noted sports car designer. The red, white and blue BRE Datsun 510’s soon became synonymous with success. Now TSM Models comes out with a high-value 1/18 scale version, available through Replicarz.1971 BRE Datsun 510

The History

Brock’s small team of racers and mechanics won six of the 10 races in 1971 and driver John Morton was the Trans-Am 2.5 champion, although in somewhat odd fashion, not that Morton and the Datsun weren’t dominant in most races. He set many fast laps and was often on the pole. Continue reading Die-cast: TSM’s 1971 BRE Datsun 510

2016 Honda HR-V 2WD EX-L w/Nav

Honda’s new HR-V just another solid little utehonda2

Honda makes many fine cars that perform well, get good gas mileage and are reliable and its new small personal-sized crossover, the HR-V fits that mold.

But Honda, like Toyota before it, seems to have neglected styling in pursuit of its other laudable attributes. So the HR-V, like its name, seems uninspired. It’s another small ute/crossover box, not cute, not edgy, not imaginative and not even a name to remember.

While Toyota has come out of its styling doldrums one can hope Honda won’t be slumbering much longer. Because at its core, as with most Hondas, the HR-V is a solid little people mover. Its economical, gets good gas mileage, has a pleasant ride and comfortable seats.

If anything Honda has put more effort into the crossover’s interior space, than anything. The cargo room under its hatch is spacious and much deeper than in last week’s much more stylish Mazda CX-3. Both rear seats fold flat in one quick easy motion. Some little utes, and mid-size ones for that matter, require you to pull the bottom seat cushion forward first before lowering the seat back. Some require you to take out the headrests first. Humbug! Continue reading 2016 Honda HR-V 2WD EX-L w/Nav

Die-cast: Spark 1:43 DeltaWing 12 Hours of Sebring

Spark delivers uniquely shaped DeltaWing racer

Every once in a while a new shape surprises the racing world. In the late 1950s and early ‘60s it was the rear-engined F1 racer that eventually took the Indianapolis 500 by storm. In the 1970s it was the 6-wheeled Tyrrell F1 racer. Today it’s the DeltaWing.delta1

This shiny silver racer features a triangular shape with two wheels close together in its needle-like nose and a wider rear-end complete with a vertical wing, so a delta wing shape. Spark Models now brings the shape to an eye-catching 1:43 diecast model that will stand out in any racecar collection.

The History

DeltaWing, the racer, started on the drawing board of designer Ben Bowlby back in 2009 and originally was a proposed chassis for IndyCar, which was looking to revamp its racecar package. While it didn’t fly among the upper brass there, likely because it wasn’t a fully open-wheeled racer, it did gain support in the racing world.

Ostensibly the DeltaWing’s design is aimed at cutting drag so it is faster in a straight line and also more fuel efficient, plus reducing weight for better fuel economy. Its nose is thin with the front wheels creating just a 2-foot wide track, while the rear tires’ track is about 5 ½-feet wide. You’d think the car would be unsteady, but it’s not and turns crisply into turns.

delta2Major IndyCar team owner Chip Ganassi funded the DeltaWing project and Dan Gurney’s noted All-American Racers built it to be entered as an experimental racer at the 24 Hours of LeMans in 2012. Nissan provided the engine, originally a 1.6-liter turbo I4. At LeMans it qualified 29th out of 50+ cars and was running well before being involved in an accident with another racer. Continue reading Die-cast: Spark 1:43 DeltaWing 12 Hours of Sebring

2013 Nissan Leaf SL

All-electric Nissan Leaf fun, functional and easy to recharge

I’ve driven my first all-electric car, Nissan’s latest Leaf, and I can assure you that if electric cars are to be our future, driving enthusiasts will still have fun behind the wheel.

A metallic slate Leaf, like I tested this summer.
A metallic slate Leaf, like I tested this summer.

Contrary to many perceptions the car isn’t slow, it isn’t cumbersome in any way and topping off the battery pack is as easy as plugging in your sweeper at home. In fact, the Leaf was enjoyable, earning praise from everyone who rode in it, even the driver.

First, put hybrids out of your mind when you think of the Leaf. This is 100% electric with an 80kw AC synchronous motor that generates 107 hp. Sure, that sounds flimsy, but it’s not. Electric motors generate monster torque from the get-go. Press the accelerator and the Leaf leaps to life, unless you put it in ECO mode. Don’t unless you need to extend your range a few miles in an emergency.

Linked up with what Nissan calls a 1-speed automatic transmission, basically a CVT as in so many other Nissan models these days, the power is delivered in one smooooth shot that keeps the mid-size Leaf (it rides on a 106.3-inch wheelbase similar to a Mazda CX-5 sport-ute like I drove last week, or a Chevy Cruze if you’re looking for something more mass market) moving relatively quickly.

This is not some Dinky or Tootsie toy car that feels like it’ll break if you hit a big pothole. It feels like a solid mid-size hatchback that’ll go the distance with its occupants cloaked in quiet comfort. Now that distance IS limited because Leaf, being Only electric, has a limited range. Driving it mid-summer (cold weather will further limit its lithium ion battery’s ability to hold a charge) I saw a 103-mile range after a full charge twice. Other days I had 98, 93 and 88 miles of range. Continue reading 2013 Nissan Leaf SL

2013 Nissan Sentra SL

Sharp new Nissan Sentra has its mojo back

A few years back Nissan’s Sentra lost its way. For years it had been right up there with Toyota’s Corolla and Honda’s Civic as a premier entry level sedan, great for young families.

sentra1But then it started to look like a cheap little car, inside and out. Worse yet, it drove like one, maybe a step or two up from a Suzuki. Then Hyundai and Kia came into the market and leapfrogged right over Sentra with their entry-level cars.

Nissan’s restyled 2013 Sentra aims to put a stop to that, and it certainly should make a dent in the segment, likely gaining Nissan a chunk of market share. The reason is way more than skin deep, although the skin looks decidedly more attractive and upscale than its preceding models. There’s chrome around windows and along the sides and on the trunk. The taillights look sporty like other Nissan models.

No, with this one you won’t be singled out in your elementary school kid’s parking lot as the parent who couldn’t afford a nice car. This looks sharp, and its interior is equally impressive. Continue reading 2013 Nissan Sentra SL

2013 Nissan Pathfinder SL AWD

No longer truck-based, Pathfinder a softer, more civilized crossover

            Back in the day, which wasn’t long ago, Nissan’s Pathfinder was a sport-utility truck that was truck tough and set for off-roading and hauling gear.path1

Today, like many of us as we age, it has gotten a little softer and is tailored now more for comfort. Oh, it can haul and is available with all-wheel-drive, but you are not going to take this off road. In fact, with its remodel for 2013 it is pure crossover, leaning toward minivan. That’s because it’s no longer truck-based, instead riding on the Nissan Altima sedan’s platform.

The silver test vehicle, a pre-production model, was the almost upper end SL model, so begins at $36,070 and with just a trailer towing package at $400 and the $780 delivery charge ended up at $37,250. You can spend less if you opt for the entry-level S model with front-wheel drive. It begins at $28,650 and bumping up to an AWD model moves you to $30,250. There’s a mid-level SV with cloth seats and then the SL, plus a Platinum edition 4×4 model at $41,150.

If mall cruising and hauling a family is your main purpose, the Tennessee-made Pathfinder is accommodating. Its interior is spacious, like a minivan, with oodles of head and legroom in the first two rows of seats, plus a third row is standard and folds easily into the rear floor to boost cargo room. Continue reading 2013 Nissan Pathfinder SL AWD