Category Archives: Nissan

2008 Nissan Frontier 4X2 Nismo (695)

General Info:

Parts – n/a.
Assembly – Smyrna, Tenn. USA
Class:  – Small Pick up Trucks
Cars: – 350Z, Altima, Altima Hybrid, Armada, Frontier, Maxima, Murano,
Pathfinder, Quest, Rogue, Sentra, Titan, Versa and Xterra.

“An Automotive Love Affair”
By Joseph Mavilia       2008 Nissan Frontier 4X2 Nismo

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2008 Nissan Frontier 4X2 Nismo Pick up truck.
My motorcycle riding 13 year old grandson said, “Wow, Cool, I want one of
those.  That would be perfect for hauling my motorcycle.”

Perhaps that is the best testimony for cars of the future.  It is our youth
who will be buying the cars in the coming years.  And it would appear car
makers are playing into the wants and wishes of young people who influence
buying even today before they are old enough to buy one themselves.

Observation:

Letters to the editor about your opinion do matter.  Years ago I sent a
letter to the editor of a Los Angeles area newspaper about my outrage at the
Gestapo tactics in a traffic sting operation in South Pasadena. My neighbor,
a Pasadena police officer got very angry that I referred to the police as
the Gestapo.  I guess that’s the price of giving your opinion.

Handling & Performance:

A road less traveled is the Angeles Crest Highway were I do a lot of my test
driving. It really does highlight the handling characteristics of every car
and since it is on the same road I get a very comparative look at each
vehicle I drive.

Surely the 261 horsepower of this Frontier is more than adequate to pull the
grades comfortably and the handling of pickup trucks just seems to get
better all the time. With 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, limited slip technology
and independent suspension it isn’t like daddy’s pickup. This pickup is more
car-like in handling than a truck so it was a delight on the mountain
roadway. Of course the freeway was even better.

Styling:

Well, the kids loved it. And really so did I. I like the sporty and rugged
look. And interior is very car-like as well, and it shares a lot of features
from the more expensive and rugged Titan.

Fit and Finish:

Better than many, including other Japanese products, well known for their
attention to detail.

Cost:

As equipped (standard) the MSRP is a good value.

Features and Conveniences:

I find the cargo tie down devices included as standard equipment listed as
High Utility Bed Package has a super convenient “channel System” with
adjustable tie down cleats. I’ve used them before on the Titan and recommend
them even if they are not provided as standard equipment on the truck you
eventually buy. And of course the Factory applied spray on bed liner is a
big plus as well.

Recognized Competition:

Nissan Frontier $16-28,000, Chevrolet Colorado $15-27,000, Ford Ranger
$14-24,000, GMC Canyon $15-25,000, Toyota Tacoma $14-26,000, Mazda Truck
$16-27,000, Isuzu Truck $18-28,000, Dodge Dakota $19-31,000, Mitsubishi
Raider $20-28,000.

Good News:

Comfortable seats, great V6 performance, ok pricing and handles the corners
like a pro.

Bad News:

For a 2-wheel drive the fuel economy is not impressive, a bit of a rough
ride from the Nismo version.

Standard Equipment:

4.0 L 261 hp V6 engine, five speed automatic transmission, electronic
locking rear differential, two wheel limited slip, four wheel disc brakes
with ABS, independent front suspension, multi-leaf rear suspension, power
assisted rack and pinion steering, oil pan and fuel skid plates,  fog
lights,  high quality bed package with  utility Trac, 4 adjustable tie down
cleats, spray on bed liner, detachable tailgate, full size spare tire,
reclining bucket seats, eight way driver seat, six speaker audio system,
power windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry, air-conditioner,
illuminated ignition, leather wrapped steering wheel front map lights, trip
computer, fold down front passenger seat, flip up rear seats, under seat
rear storage, 212 V power outlets, 4 cup holders, oversize sunglasses
holder, front center console, airbag system, LA TCH lower anchors and
tethers for children, vehicle security system and tire pressure monitoring
system.

Options:

Technology package includes: Bluetooth capability, six CD MP3 players XM
satellite radio steering wheel audio controls; moon roof, side and curtain
airbag package roof mounted curtain rollover supplemental airbags and
sliding bed extender.
Total options $ 3,105

Gas Stats:

$3.53/ Gal avg. Mar 31, ’08
www.fueleconomy.gov <http://www.fueleconomy.gov>
for more information.

15 City and 20 Highway MPG
www.safercar.gov <http://www.safercar.gov>
or 888-327-4236

Pricing:

MSRP $24,750; with Options $27,855.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
<mailto:joe@atthewheel.com>
Copyright (c) 2008 – An Automotive Love Affair

2008 Nissan Titan 4X4 PRO-4X (689)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2008 Nissan Titan 4X4 PRO-4X full size pick up truck with crew cab. I have been testing a lot of Nissan’s lately and what I come away with is I am impressed with them all.  This full size pick up truck was first introduced in 2004 and I like this size better than the huge Armada for example.

I gave this a complete test and subjected it to virtually every condition you’re likely to encounter. It performed admirably. 2,000 miles in a big loop from LA, California to Oregon, along the Columbia River Gorge through rain, snow, ice, high winds negotiating dirt roads, white out snow conditions and not once felt I needed chains. I found the ease of use of the 4-wheel drive on the fly selector super convenient and in fact necessary in such conditions that changed by the minute.

General Info:

Parts –  n/a

Assembly – Canton, OH USA

Class:  – Standard Pick Up Trucks

Cars: – 350Z, Altima, Altima Hybird, Armada, Frontier, Maxima, Murano, Pathfinder, Quest, Rogue, Sentra, Titan, Versa & Xterra.

Handling & Performance:

This Titan became my friend and I trusted it completely. It was comfortable for me and my passenger. I did all the testing in one week and although I was tired after the trip I know it would have been more harrowing in a lesser vehicle. We found ourselves complementing the Titan often. It has plenty of power but you’ll pay dearly in fuel. It is really bad but I don’t get too excited because that’s expected today for this kind of performance.

Silent running is very noticeable … and it may be the result of their advertised super silent timing chain.

Styling:

I like it a lot. You?

Fit and Finish:

I like it a lot. You?

Cost:

Pricey… but competitive with those listed here.

Consumer Recommendation:

I was equally impressed with my recent test of the Honda Ridgeline. Be sure to put that in your test drives as well. In fact you should test drive all of the listed competitors since the field is relatively small. I think you’ll agree this is a difficult choice to make. I have driven them all and they are all too close to call. I’ve owned Ford’s, Chevy’s and presently I have a Dodge and they’ve all been great trucks.

Recognized Competition:

Nissan Titan $24-39,000, Dodge RAM 1500 $21-40,000, Ford F150 $18-36,000, GMC Sierra 1500 $18-42,000, Chevrolet Silverado 1500 $18-39,000, Toyota Tundra $22-42,000, Honda Ridgeline $28-35,000.

Good News:

They advertise serious off-road performance and I have to agree, roomy crew cab, powerful engine.

Bad News:

Hugely lousy fuel consumption.

Standard Equipment:

5.6 liter 317 hp V8 engine, 5-speed auto transmission, electronically controlled shift on the fly 4WD system, switch on demand Electronic locking rear differential, Rancho off-road performance shocks, independent double wishbone front suspension, solid rear axle with multi-leaf spring suspension, four-wheel ABS disc brakes, 18 inch alloy wheels, heated power mirrors, fog lights, bed mounted driver side lock box, locking tailgate, cargo bed lamp, easygate dampened tailgate, 8-speaker audio with 6 disc in dash CD player, power rear sliding glass, power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, cruise control with leather wrapped tilt steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, air conditioning, 60/40 split fold up rear bench seat, auto headlights, advanced airbag system, Latch system child anchors and tethers, tire pressure monitoring system, vehicle security system with vehicle immobilizer.

Gas Stats:

$2.90/ Gal avg. Feb 6, ‘07

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

12 City and 17 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $33,950.

2008 Nissan Rogue SL 2WD (688)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2008 Nissan Rogue SL 2WD.  And it looks like it should cost a lot more money than it does. Perhaps the pricing was the biggest surprise of all for me. I can’t imagine paying thousands more for its sister the Murano for example.

One has to wonder how cars from the same company can be engineered differently in areas where they should be the same. For example the Quest had a jerky throttle and this Rogue is smooth as silk with a wonderful feel and control. Generally this crossover is more car-like, even though it has a moderately high step up. But it handles well and the 170 hp 4-cylinder engine is well matched to a continuously variable transmission for smooth power delivery.

For me, this Rogue deserves a rating of 9 out of 10 in class.

General Info:

Parts –  n/a

Assembly – Los Angeles, CA USA

Class:  – Special Purpose (SUV)

Cars: – 350Z, Altima, Altima Hybird, Armada, Frontier, Maxima, Murano, Pathfinder, Quest, Rogue, Sentra, Titan, Versa & Xterra.

Observation:

A reminder for those drivers out there who find it difficult to be sensitive to the traffic around them and they select the wrong lane for the speed they are traveling. Consider as you drive down the freeway and you are not passing traffic in the lane to your right, that’s the lane you belong in. And why is it that when you pull up alongside that person who seems to be sleeping they are in fact not sleeping but zoned out as they talk on their cell phone. Keep in mind that will not be legal without a hands free capability in the very near future.

Handling & Performance:

Outstanding handling. I could not imagine how well it handled before I actually tested it on the mountain course over the Crest between the high desert and Los Angeles. It was really exceptional and earns a 10 out of 10 which I believe you would consider to be a fair assessment. You can buy the Rogue with front or all wheel drive. My test vehicle was front drive but if I spent a lot of time in the snow I’d opt for the AWD.

Styling:

It is very much today and mirrors that kind of styling car buyers seem to want at this time. I’m indifferent to its appearance but love how it drives. Kind of like some of the women in my life I should have pursued. Rogue is available in S and SL models. And me, I guess I should have been available in other models too.

Fit and Finish:

Nicely done… 8 out of 10.

Cost:

Outstanding value. SL with all wheel drive is $1,200 more than my test vehicle. The S model is only $19,250 with front wheel drive. The SL has more standard equipment and is offered with options not available for the S. Major SL extras include an $800 moonroof, $1,800 Leather Package that contains a power driver’s seat and heated leather-covered seats.

Consumer Recommendation:

There is no available reliability data on this new entry but it comes from good stock with reliable genes. For the money this is a good value and if in your price range and budget you’ll want to test drive this one.

Recognized Competition:

Nissan Rogue $19-22,000, Saturn Vue $21-29,000, Pontiac Torrent $23-29,000, Mercury Mariner 21-26,000, Ford Escape $19-26,000, Subaru Forester $21-28,000, Jeep Patriot $15-22,000, Mazda CX-7 $24-28,000, Mitsubishi Outlander $20-25,000, Suzuki Grand Vitara $19-25,000, Chevrolet Equinox $23-29,000, Toyota RAV4 $21-27,000, Hyundai Tucson $17-25,000, Honda CR-V $21-28,000, Kia Sportage $16-23,000.

Good News:

Very well priced, great handling, comfortable ride.

Bad News:

Only average fuel economy in class, rear doors are noticeably narrow.

Standard Equipment:

2.5 liter 170 hp four-cylinder engine, continuously variable transmission, four-wheel disc brakes, four-wheel antilock braking system, electronic brake force distribution, front and rear stabilizer bars, independent strut front and MultiLink rear suspension, 17 inch alloy wheels, halogen headlights, manual rear liftgate, rear privacy glass, roof rails, variable intermittent front and rear wipers with washer, six way manual driver seat, 4-way manual front passenger seat, air-conditioning, cruise control with steering wheel mounted controls, tilt steering column, power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, front seat center console, 4-speaker audio system with AM/FM and CD, front airbag system, supplemental side air bags, roof mounted curtain side supplemental airbags, lower anchors and tethers for children, child safety rear door locks, tire pressure monitoring system, vehicle security system, vehicle dynamic control, traction control, and vehicle immobilizer.

Gas Stats:

$2.90/ Gal avg. Feb 6, ‘07

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

22 City and 27 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $20,670.

2008 Nissan Quest 3.5 SE (687)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2008 Nissan Quest 3.5 SE minivan. Not the prettiest girl at the prom but I don’t agree with Merkel that she is flat ugly.

I was a little put off by the jerky throttle and by weeks end I got a bit more accustomed to it. I wish they’d have done better with that. In fact don’t understand what manufactures failed to ask the press to drive cars before they are manufactured for sale.

General Info:

Parts –  n/a

Assembly – Canton, OH USA

Class:  – Mini Van

Cars: – 350Z, Altima, Altima Hybird, Armada, Frontier, Maxima, Murano, Pathfinder, Quest, Rogue, Sentra, Titan, Versa & Xterra.

Opinion:

It is my understanding from posted signs that the diamond lane applies at specified times of the day only, on some freeways around the state of California.  For example on California 14 the diamond lane applies 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Therefore, it is logical that drivers may cross over the double yellow line, as they routinely do, to and from that lane when it is no longer a diamond lane. I wonder if those of us who do interpret the intent of the diamond lane are alone in this belief. What’s your opinion?

Handling & Performance:

The Quest handled the Crest (Angeles Crest Highway) in style. It is impressive at only 235 horsepower. Surely it kept up with the craziest of those selecting that mountainous passage from the desert to the Los Angeles basin as a commuter route.

Styling:

As I said above my design engineer friend feels it is “Ugly” and I don’t buy that. A Scion is what I call Ugly.

Fit and Finish:

Very good (8 out of 10).

Cost:

Considering the vast amount of features that are standard the price of admission starts to look pretty reasonable. The options however add over $2,100 so you’ll push this MSRP up to about $36,000.

Conveniences and comfort:

If you go for the options the major cost adjustment is for the entertainment system that is almost a necessity for the family in my opinion.

Recognized Competition:

Nissan Quest $24-34,000, Buick Terraza $27-31,000, Mercury Monterey $28,595, Ford Freestar $20-30,000, Chrysler Town & Country $23-36,000, Dodge Grand Caravan $22-27,000, Chevrolet Uplander $22-29,000, Toyota Sienna $24-38,000, Hyundai Entourage $24-30,000, Honda Odyssey $26-41,000, Kia Sedona $21-26,000.

Good News:

Lots of Standard Stuff, good driving experience, great family vehicle.

Bad News:

Only Fair fuel economy, Consumer Reports says it has reliability problems.

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter 235 hp V6 engine, 5-speed auto trans, 4-wheel ABS brake assist / brake force distribution braking system, power assisted steering, independent strut front and multi-link rear suspension, front and rear stabilizer bars, 17” alloy wheels, auto halogen headlights with cornering lights, rear bumper step pad, dual power mirrors, dual power sliding doors, power rear liftgate, solar glass, rear privacy glass, variable intermittent wipers, rear window defroster and wiper, roof rack, rear sonar system, fog lights, 8-way power driver and 4-way power heated front passenger seats, leather trimmed interior, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, XM Satellite radio with 10 speaker Bose audio, CD6 with MP3 CD-ROM playback, rear audio controls, audio aux., input jack, dual-zone auto temp control, rear heating & A/C rear controls, cruise control with steering wheel controls, power windows & locks, rear vent windows, remote keyless entry, 2nd & 3rd row reading lights, 10 beverage holders, front row folding center tray, tilt steering column, power adjustable pedals, rear view monitor 7” color screen, Bluetooth hands free phone system, full length overhead console, power moonroof with sky view glass panels, advanced air bag system, front side supplemental air bags, roof mounted curtain side air bags, tire pressure monitoring system, lower anchors and tethers for children and safety locks, engine immobilizer, vehicle security, vehicle dynamic control and traction control.

Options: dual screen DVD system with wireless headphones, remote control and rear audio controls – ($2,150.)

Gas Stats:

$2.93/ Gal avg. Feb 4, ‘07

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

16 City and 24 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $34,330.

2008 Nissan Altima Hybrid (686)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2008 Nissan Altima Hybrid. Very nice. And I’m always thrilled when I can travel a long way between gas stops. I love Navigation systems and this one was easy to use. Try using one on a German car like BMW or Mercedes and you’ll know what I mean in contrast to this Nissan version. But Garmin portable Nav systems are even easier.

In the next few weeks I will report on the upscale sister car from Infiniti – the M45 and for a mere $25,000 more you can burn significantly more fuel with 16-21 mpg. I must admit it is sweet.

My son-in-law asked me what was my favorite car of all is. Know what? That is an impossible question to answer because it comes from my place in life. The answer I gave him was: you must first establish where you are. Are you married with children? Do you have an out of doors lifestyle? Will you be towing a boat, horse trailer, motorcycles? Will you need to transport elderly parents or very young children? Once you establish what you’ll be using the vehicle for you can narrow the search way down.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – Smyrna, Tenn. – USA.

Class:  – Midsize

Cars: – 350Z, Altima, Altima Hybrid, Armada, Frontier, Maxima, Murano, Pathfinder, Quest, Rogue, Sentra, Titan, Versa & Xterra.

Handling & Performance:

Well, Nissan says it is the First Hybrid that drives like a Nissan. And you know what? I can’t dispute that claim because it is nearly impossible to detect you are driving a Hybrid. But you are and it’s a good thing. It is encouraging to experience fuel economy without sacrificing performance significantly when you get about 33 mpg. Thanks Nissan for allowing me to fuel less frequently.

Styling:

Nice sedan styling that makes it even more likely you’d forget it is a Hybrid, that makes a case for why do Hybrids have to be funny looking. They don’t. Another is the Honda Hybrids that also look just like other Hondas.

Fit and Finish:

Very good. Just what I expected.

Cost:

A lot for the money.

Conveniences and comfort:

Even without the options it is very well equipped. And I don’t think I’d opt for the expense of the upgrades when I could buy a top of the line Nav system like the Garmin for about $700, and the prices are rapidly coming down. $2,000 for a Nav system built in is just more than you need to spend and the Garmin is better than most standard equipment OEM versions, unless you want the rear view camera.

Consumer Recommendation:

There are a ton of standard equipment goodies which are personal choice items. Consider the cost savings of Nav systems noted above which can be purchased as low as $150.

Recognized Competition:

Nissan Altima Hybrid $25,070, Dodge Avenger $19-25,000, Chrysler Sebring  $19-32,000, Pontiac G6 $18-30,000, Saturn Aura $20-25,000, Subaru Legacy $20-34,000, Hyundai Sonata $18-24,000, Volkswagen Passat $24-38,000, Toyota Camry Hybrid $25,200, Mitsubishi Galant $20-27,000, Toyota Prius $21-23,000, Honda Accord $20-31,000, Mazda 6 $19-28,000, Ford Fusion $18-25,000.

Good News:

Wonderful fuel economy, nice ride, responsive power, regular sedan styling and with a 20 gallon tank you conceivably could travel 700 miles on one tank. Safety equipment is all standard.

Bad News:

Sold in only 8 states in the US in ’07, (reportedly California, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine— so even today you have to question available repair facilities. No mention from Manufacturer so it is a question you will want to ask.

Standard Equipment:

2.5 liter 4 cylinder 158 hp gas engine with net 198 horsepower with hybrid, Electronic variable trans, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes with power assist with Brake force distribution, front & rear stabilizer bars, independent Multi-link rear suspension, dual power mirrors, 16” aluminum alloy wheels, halogen headlights, reclining front bucket seats, intelligent Key with push button ignition, dual zone climate control, power windows and locks, audio system with 6 speakers, cruise control with steering wheel mounted controls, tile and telescopic steering column, speed sensitive variable wipers, dual 12V power outlets, rear center armrest w/ dual cup holders, dual vanity mirrors, airbag system, front side impact air bags, supplemental side curtain air bags, vehicle dynamic control, traction control, child safety rear locks, lower anchor tethers, tire pressure monitoring system, Nissan immobilizer system and vehicle security system.

Options: Technology package including Nav system, XM satellite radio with XM traffic system, rearview monitor, leather appointed seats, heated front seats, 8-way power driver seat with power lumbar  support, rear spoiler, Bluetooth hands free phone system, Bose audio with 6 CD player with 9 speakers, MP3/WMA CD-ROM playback capability, Radio Data System, speed sensitive volume, heated mirrors with turn signals, auto on/off lights, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, steering wheel mounted audio controls and remote keyless entry – ($6,400)

Gas Stats:

$2.99/ Gal avg. – January 28, ‘08

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

35 City and 33 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $25,070 ($32,375 with options.)

2007 Nissan Murano SE AWD SUV (680)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2007 Nissan Murano SE All Wheel Drive Sport Utility. Nissan says this is the world’s first Smooth-UV and I have to agree that is the first thing you notice when you drive it for the first time. It shifts seamlessly smooth.

Nissan, or Datsun as it was called when it first came to America in the early 1960s, is near, even if not so dear to my heart. Not that my first Datsun was a bad car in the early days because it wasn’t bad. It was good. Not great, but good. Ours was a station wagon for our growing family with kids, dog, cat, bird and all the other stuff families need to have. There were no child car seats or anchors needed on the seats then and seat belts were not mandated yet. But buggy whips were out by then and we were happy to have a small, inexpensive simple car. It had been a long time since Ford gave us the simple and affordable Model A so everyone could have one in the driveway as well as a chicken in every pot. Now the Japanese were making cars affordable again for struggling folks like us.

Well that was truly a simple car and when you started it “Singer” sewing machines came to mind. After the muscle cars I had owned before replete with dual exhaust pipes and 30” glass packs to rumble my arrival, these new Japanese cars seemed as tame as “Pussy Cats”.

Today not only the name has changed from Datsun to Nissan the car is way different and so much more refined. I suspect it still would have evolved even without the name change.

General Info:

Parts –

Assembly – Los Angeles, CA USA

Class:  – Special Purpose

Cars: – 350Z, Altima, Altima Hybird, Armada, Frontier, Maxima, Murano, Pathfinder, Quest, Rogue, Sentra, Titan, Versa & Xterra.

Handling & Performance:

Performance and the early Datsun are words that don’t belong in the same sentence. Not true of this 21st Century Nissan Murano or any of Nissan’s product offerings. I was most impressed with the smooth and powerful acceleration.

Styling:

Nissan has grown up nicely and the pimply snot nosed kid of the 1960s has matured. I suppose the only criticism you can make about today’s automotive designs is characterized by the term CAD for Computer Aided Design. Computers simply don’t have heart so the styling is Robo-Design that is dictated by what the computer says about aerodynamics for maximum efficiency cutting through the air. It also identifies the perfect placement of components and often that tweaks the design in such a way as to make them all look strangely the same, or at the very least they look like they’re related.

Fit and Finish:

Typically Japanese pay greater attention to detail, but I believe American cars have risen to the challenge and you find very little difference in appearance any more. Where American made cars haven’t quite reached the point of equality with the Japanese is in philosophy. The Japanese still design components to last longer. We all need to impress that on American Car Makers. They can do it … I know they can but simply chose not to.

Cost:

Competitive pricing.

Conveniences and comfort:

Well equipped and all is standard.

Recognized Competition:

Nissan Murano $28-32,000, Buick Rendezvous $25-29,000, Kia Rondo $16-20,000, Cadillac SRX $37-44,000, Saturn Outlook $28-32,000, GMC Acadia $29-38,000, Chevrolet TrailBlazer $27-37,000, Subaru Tribeca $30-34,000, Toyota Highlander $27-34,000, Dodge Nitro $20-28,000, Honda Pilot $28-36,000, Mazda CX-7 $24-28,000, Hyundai Santa Fe $21-30,000, Ford Edge $25-32,000, Mitsubishi Endeavor $28-31,000.

Good News:

Nissan has been sold in US a long time (nearly 50 years), handles well, lots of ultra smooth power, good contemporary styling.

Bad News:

Fuel economy only fair.

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter 240 hp V6 engine, Xtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission), manual shift mode, all wheel drive, 4-wheel power vented disc brakes, 4-wheel independent suspension, front and rear stabilizer bars, power R&P steering, 18” Alloy wheels w/ all season tires, dual exhaust, power side view mirrors, audio system with CD and 6 speakers, dual zone climate control, defogger all windows, 7 inch color information display, aluminum trim accents, 10-way power drivers seat, reclining rear seats 60/40 split, rear fold flat seat, remote keyless entry, power windows and door locks, lighted vanity mirrors on sun visors, intermittent wipers, front and side airbags and roof mounted curtain side airbags with rollover sensor, 5 passenger front and rear head restraints, child safety rear door locks, anchors and tethers for children, tire pressure monitoring system, immobilizer security systems, anti lock braking and brake assist and electronic brake force distribution.

Gas Stats:

$3.15/ Gal avg. December 19, ‘07

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

20 City and 24 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $32,590.

2007 Nissan Versa (650)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2007 Nissan Versa 1.8 S HB. And what a nice little car it is. I have always liked Nissan products since owning my first Datsun station wagon in the mid 1960s. Five years earlier I stood at ground zero in Hiroshima, Japan and couldn’t help feel compassion for those who had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor. And it was also a scant 14 years before I stood there that the bomb was dropped.

What they couldn’t do with their war machine they have managed to do economically as they eclipse GM as the largest car manufacturer in the world. Now that’s the American way – turn the other cheek. I thought winning the war means “spoils to the victor” – and we didn’t even start it. Did too, Did not, Did too…  Does that sound familiar?

On the other hand… consider the following story that you may have seen on the internet. https://www.atthewheel.com   and go to “Toyota dominates GM ousted”. I think you will get a kick out of this.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – Mexico

Class:  – Midsize

Cars: – 350Z, Altima, Altima Hybrid, Armada, Frontier, Maxima, Murano, Pathfinder, Quest, Sentra, Titan, Versa and Xterra.

Handling & Performance:

The Crest Test is the ultimate place to separate the men from the boys. But you know what – it is generally the small cars that zip in and around the sharp curves of the Angeles Crest Highway. And although this Nissan gives a good account for itself I have to bend a bit to the thrills of high performance cars like the nearly 500 horsepower Cad I had last week.

On that drive a motorcycle rider in front of me (after I let him pass) pulled up his visor, waved me up beside him and gave what I call the ultimate compliment on the handling of the Cadillac STS V. In short he felt that was “Some Kind of Car” – I thanked him and agree enthusiastically. On the other hand it averaged 15 miles per gallon – tops.

Styling:

Proletariat transportation and proud to be an American… driving a Nissan. Ahh soooo. The trunk / hatch back lid is a little odd shaped but I was able to get a full size golf bag in with only slight difficulty. One more average size bag would fit but cramped.

Fit and Finish:

Good

Cost:

Hey you’ll be the judge at the end of the day but this is a lot of commuter car for the money. But so is the rest of the field noted below. This is in the top few of that list in my opinion including Chevy Aveo, Ford Focus but I haven’t tested the Honda Fit so that may well Fit (no pun intended) into the top few.

Conveniences and comfort:

Good… not excessive but it has the basics plus for a great price. It did not come with cruise control which is more than a convenience if you do any highway driving.

Recognized Competition:

Nissan Versa $13-15,000, Suzuki Aerio SX $15-17,000, Toyota Yaris $11-14,000, Chevrolet Aveo $12-14,000, Honda Fit $14-16,000, Ford Focus $14-17,000, Suzuki Reno $14-16,000, Kia Rio5 $13,750.

Good News:

At 4 bucks a gallon of gas I just love to see the stats on fuel economy rated highest of any Nissan, Versa is roomy and good snappy performance to keep up with traffic without a strain, even in the mountains.

Bad News:

Light weight. I noticed a bit of squealing on the curves but it did hold the line on the Crest Test and a little boring in the styling.

Standard Equipment:

1.8 liter 4-cylinder 122 horsepower engine, 4-speed auto trans, independent front strut suspension with stabilizer bar, torsion beam rear suspension with stabilizer bar, power assist front disc and rear drum brake system, electric power steering, 13.2 gal fuel tank, tachometer, 15” steel wheels and full covers, power mirrors, multi reflector halogen headlights, rear window defroster, 4-way adjustable driver seat, audio system with CD player, 60/40 split fold down rear seat, cargo cover, air conditioning, tilt steering column, intermittent wipers, immobilizer anti theft system, child safety rear locks, lower anchors and tethers, and tire pressure monitoring system. Options that came with this model: Splash guards front and rear, Power package including power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, door armrest pad, rear door pockets, glove compartment light, anti lock braking system, electronic brake force distribution and Brake assist that would adda $1,200 to the price noted below.

Gas Stats:

$3.43/ Gal avg. May 5, ‘07

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

28 City and 35 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $13,250.

2007 Nissan Sentra 2.0 S (629)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2007 Nissan Sentra 2.0 S 5-seat 4-door sedan. It is classed as a Mid-size car. My first impression was it is a Small car, but it does seat 5 and 4 quite comfortably with a decent size trunk. Yes, I think I could take a few folks to the airport with baggage.

I really found nothing lacking that I couldn’t live without on a daily basis. But then I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s when cars were much more basic. We were thrilled to be able to drive and pleasantly surprised to get to our destination with only a few stops for gas, add a quart of oil, change a tire or add water to the radiator. Prom night Norm and I ended up pushing the “not so old” 1950 Ford convertible, we borrowed for the special event, to the gas station to see why it wouldn’t start. It was always something but we took in stride because we didn’t know any better. We were lucky to have any bucket of bolts. Most were held together with bailing wire and chewing gum as we would lovingly and descriptively quip.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – Mexico

Class:  – Midsize

Cars: – 350Z, Altima, Armada, Frontier, Maxima, Murano, Pathfinder, Quest, Sentra, Titan,               Versa and Xterra.

Public Service:

The Crest (highway 2) over the San Gabriel Mountains is an alternate route from the northern desert communities to the northern San Gabriel Valley in the greater LA basin.

It is an interesting and starkly beautiful journey. And for those who drive it often they may know there are 188 turns from Aliso Canyon Rd to the end at Foothill Blvd in La Canada .

The speed limits are 55 mph from highway 14 up Angeles Forest Highway to the junction to the Crest Highway and 45 mph from there to Foothill Blvd. , in La Canada . These are well posted limits and if traffic keeps close to those limits everyone completes the trek safely and as fast as you can expect to get from one side to the other. Drive safely and enjoy the drive.

Ok, 188 turns is your trivia for the week.

Handling & Performance:

This commuter / family sedan passed the Crest Test with flying colors. I found I could stay in 5th gear (6-speed manual transmission) over most of the ride of about 36 miles. That from a 2.0 liter engine. Pretty impressive, eh?

Styling:

Ok, so it’s not the best looking girl at the dance but the girl next door gets more exciting as the years go by. You get a lot more for your investment in a no nonsense low maintenance relationship with your car.

Fit and Finish:

Very good, especially considering the price.

Cost:

It doesn’t get much better for a great commuter that is also a great family sedan.

Conveniences and comfort:

It has it all. However I have become accustomed to XM radio that would add $300 plus the required Rockford Fosgate Audio Package for another $750, which includes 6-in dash CD Auto-changer, satellite radio control and MP3/WMA CD ROM playback Capability.

Consumer Recommendation:

Cars that have too big a spread in price range scare me. I don’t like to think that much on what I will have to pay extra for. Like a restaurant menu, the more there is to choose from the more difficult the buying decision. You gotta wonder what you get for the lower end price.

There are three models to choose from: entry 2.0, midrange 2.0S and top of the line 2.0SL ranging from $14,750 to $18,400.

You can see from the list of competitors you have many choices. (Sounds like the next words should be… “we thank you for choosing CBS”). I’ve driven all listed and have to say it would be a toss up decision for me. The newest kid on the block is the Hyundai, of course, so I would expect I’d be able to strike a better deal than more established brands.

Recognized Competition:

Nissan Sentra $15-18,000, MINI Cooper $18-26,000, Mitsubishi Lancer $15-35,000, Dodge Caliber $14-20,000, Hyundai Elantra $13-17,000, Ford Focus $13-18,000, Chevrolet Cobalt $13-20,000, Toyota Corolla $14-15,000, Volkswagen Rabbit $15-17,000, Mazda3 $14-20,000, Honda Civic $15-25,000, Subaru Impreza $18-33,000.

Good News:

Wonderfully refreshing fuel economy, it’s a buyers market in a huge sea of auto producers so you win.

Bad News:

I made no negative notes, either because I couldn’t find any or they just weren’t annoying enough to mention.

Standard Equipment:

2.0 liter 140 hp inline 4-cylinder engine, 6-speed manual transmission, torsion beam rear suspension with stabilizer bar, independent front strut suspension, front stabilizer bar, power assisted vented front disc and rear drum brakes, power steering, power mirrors, halogen headlights, air conditioning, power windows and locks, 6-speaker audio with CD player and speed sensitive volume, 60/40 split fold flat rear seats, tilt steering column, 6-way adjustable driver’s seat, intermittent wipers, center console, rear defroster, remote fuel filler door and trunk release, trip computer with o/s temp etc., steering wheel mounted audio controls, remote keyless entry, front and side airbags with roof mounted curtain side airbags, immobilizer system, child rear door locks and tire pressure monitoring system.

Gas Stats:

$2.37/ Gal avg. Nov 06

28 City and 34 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $15,650.

2006 Nissan Quest 3.5 SE Mini Van (592)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2006 Nissan Quest 3.5 SE Mini Van. Targeted toward women buyers it is progressive in design and has that SUV look about it. That’s important because the competition is the very popular Sport Utility. Nissan expects 80% of buyers will be a woman.

The space age look they sought has been achieved in my opinion. But it’s all functional and controls are comfortably arranged.  

Driving Observations: Here are a few driving habits many of us display that we hate in others.

1.      Pull in front of traffic and then slow down.

2.      Vary speed like a Yo Yo for no apparent reason.

3.      Treat highway as a private slalom coarse for amusement.

4.      Driving slower than other traffic in your lane of travel forcing others to pass on the   right.

5.      Being inattentive – reading, putting on make up speaking on the cell phone.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – Canton , Ohio USA

Class:  – Compact Van

Cars: – 350Z, Altima, Armada, Frontier, Maxima, Murano, Pathfinder, Quest, Sentra, Titan     and Xterra.

Handling & Performance:

0-60 speed is a big surprise at about 8 seconds. That’s really fast for a Mini Van.

Styling:

Perhaps the bravest design of the interior – primarily in the control panel – Nissan stands alone.

Fit and Finish:

I’ve heard some negative comments about the quality issues of how well it is fitted together but I don’t buy it. I found it to be well assembled.

Cost:

If you go for all the options you will come dangerously close to $40,000. At that price it is hard to conceive there is anything else you could add to this well appointed vehicle. The best bang for the buck has to come from Kia Sedona. That’s a MUST test drive for serious buyers.

Conveniences:

There is a rearview camera with a video display on the dash. Although it is interesting it surely would take time to get accustomed to using it. If it prevented you from backing over the kids and their toys it would surely be worth the expense. The stow-and-go seats are the hot ticket and just what the doctor ordered for the active family. The power sliding doors continue to be a favorite for me.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you can’t really think of a good reason to have an SUV, go for the Mini Van. It will be more economical to operate and that translates into a sound family buying decision. You’ll likely never need the 4-wheel drive feature so characteristic of the SUV. The competition is made up of such great vans that I would suggest you test drive them all. If cost is of particular importance I really like the KIA Sedona. It is really busting into the market and continues to be the most cost competitive of the segment.

Top Recognized Competition:

Nissan Quest $24-34,000, Ford Freestar $20-30,000, Honda Odyssey $25-39,000, Mazda MPV $22-29,000, Toyota Sienna $24-38,000, Chrysler Town & Country $21-36,000, KIA Sedona $23-26,000.

Good News:

Innovative design, powerful, roomy with great high tech control devices.

Bad News:

Questionable use of color.

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter 240 hp V6 engine, 5-speed auto trans, 4-wheel power assist disc brakes with ABS and EBD Electronic Brake force Distribution, VDC Vehicle Dynamic Control system, TCS Traction Control System, power rack and pinion steering, dual power sliding doors and power rear liftgate, auto halogen headlights, fog lights rear sonar (sensing) system, roof rack and side rails, power heated mirrors, sound system with 6 in dash CD player, rear audio controls with wireless headphone capability, cruise control, rearview camera with 7” color monitor, power sliding sunroof dual zone climate control, rear heating and air conditioning system with rear controls, power front windows and rear vent windows, power door locks, 8-way drover and 4-way passenger heated seats, power adjustable foot pedals, leather front and second row seats, tilt steering column with leather wrapped wheel, remote keyless entry, front and side air bags, tire pressure monitor system, child safety rear door locks, immobilizer system and security system. If that isn’t enough here’s a few options: XM Satellite radio $350, DVD entertainment system with two 7 inch color display screens, remote control, two wireless headphones $1,900, Michelin PAX system package for run flat tires on 19” alloy wheels $850 and Navigation system for $1,800.

Gas Stats:

18 City and 25 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $33,500.

2005 Nissan Armada SE 4X4 SUV (574)

Overview:

This week I found myself in North Carolina to test-drive the Nissan Armada SE 4X4 SUV. Ok, so I would also be carrying 4 sets of golf clubs to Pinehurst – site of the 2005 US Open. And yes Richard, we had to play #2 even though it was yet another “Surcharge”. And no it wasn’t worth the extra $150 even if it didn’t add frustration to round of golf.

Its notoriety is simply due to the domed greens – yes the very ones that made John Daly walk off the course in ’98 or ’99. The course was not in very good condition and they should have paid me to play it. #4 on the other hand is a beautiful course and #7 was OK too. We got rained out of playing #8, but by then my body was sore and tired.  

Well aside from the difficult golf everyone seemed to enjoy the ride in this SUV. Charlotte airport is about 112 miles from Pinehurst so we had some time to pick on this Armada if we wanted to. The name is appropriate since if felt like you were aboard a Spanish warship from the fleet. This has got to be one of the most substantial feelings of all the competition. Everyone aboard liked the ride as much as me. Anchors a-weigh.

Public Service: Well, last week I said that when driving, keep your head down and follow through. Although it is good golf advice and I did a pretty good job of taking that advice the long straight drives didn’t reflect on my score all that much. I did much better driving the Armada no matter what Richard says.

Handling & Performance:

I felt dwarfed, as did “too tall” Norm. But in spite of its massive size and feel it was amazingly stable and off course you could see the road great. If you have to tote a lot of stuff and passengers this is the hot ticket. We carried 4 hombres with luggage and large golf bags in travel cases. That puppy was loaded down and handled like a champ. The 305 horsepower engine helped a lot in that department. But the 8 cylinders sucked up gas like it was cheap and plentiful. It gets no better than 18 mpg on the highway and that translates to piss poor performance from that point of view.

Styling:

The Armada has sharp angular design touches that you either like or hate. Me? Oh I like it. But then I like the look of a Mack Truck too. Yep, everything is very oversized on this Armada. After the overall look the first thing you notice is the huge door handles. If you like dainty look at the Lexus. I gotta believe this will be embraced more by men – just a guess.

Fit and Finish:

When components are so large you hardly notice how they all fit together. That’s a good thing. But I did look and all the lines are straight and true. But that didn’t surprise me – Japanese manufacturers are very particular about how their products are pieced together.

Cost:

Wow! Close to $40 grand. Well, everything else is big too, so why not the price. So brace yourself at the pump where the cost continues.

Conveniences:

The list of features is very complete and more than I need and in some cases more than I want. I subscribe to the KISS principle.

Consumer Recommendation:

If money for gas is no object and you need a lot of space to carry up to 8 and haul a few tons, and you like the macho bulky feeling this is a great choice. H2 would be a similar choice and the H3 is right in there too. I’m testing the H3 now and will let you know in the next few weeks.

The Competition:

Nissan Armada SE $34-42,000, Ford Expedition $33-45,000, Toyota Land Cruiser $56,000, Lincoln Navigator $49-55,000, Hummer H2 $53,000, GMC Yukon XL $38-43,000, GMC Yukon $35-40,000, Lexus LX 470 $66,995, Cadillac Escalade $54-70,000, GMC Yukon Denali $50-52,000, Chevrolet Suburban $37-43,000, Infiniti QX56 $50-53,000, Land Rover LR3 $38-53,000.

Good News:

Very roomy and comfortable, tow rating of up to 6,000 pounds and seats up to 8.

Bad News:

Gas guzzler with 28 gallon fuel tank to allow you to get from gas station to gas station,

Standard Equipment:

5.6 liter 305 hp V8 engine, 5-speed auto trans, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, all mode 4-wheel drive system, Oil pan skid plate, front and rear stabilizer bars, 18” alloy wheels, heated power mirrors, roof rack, running boards, liftgate with opening glass, seating for 8, AM/FM with 6-in dash CD audio system with 8 speakers, rear audio controls, steering wheel controls for audio and cruise control, climate control independent front and rear, power drivers 8-way seat with adjustable pedals, fold down passenger seat and fold flat 2nd and 3rd row seats, large lockable center console storage, 3 row overhead console with compass and temperature display, 6 overhead dome lights, 6 tie down anchor points, remote keyless entry system, power windows and locks, manual rear flip out quarter windows, extender visors, speed sensitive variable intermittent wipers front and rear, rear proximity sensors, supplemental roof mounted curtain airbags with side impact and rollover protection for all three rows, advanced air bag system, anchors and tethers for children and rear door locks, dynamic control system, tire pressure monitoring system and vehicle security and immobilizer systems.

Gas Stats:

13 City and 18 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $36,400.