Category Archives: Nissan

2005 Nissan 350Z (569)

Overview:

This week I went to the GM roll out of their 2006 line of cars in this 2005 Nissan 350Z. How could it get any better you ask. Well, the Corvette Z06 is a good way to start, but you know what – this Z is really cool. I could own this car.

And if I were true to the profile of older men I would get it in the convertible version. So the wind could blow through what hair I have left. Ok, so I’m not balding, but it is thinner than ever.  

Yellllll-O ! Wow, a press car that draws attention more than RED. Mustard? Well I suppose so, but it is really a great color. This is NOT a boring color. And I don’t think I would tire of it.

A lot of cars look pretty and that’s as far as it goes. But Nissan is confident about its looks and has put a lot of emphasis on the mechanical. It doesn’t show but it gives depth and interest to the car. It keeps impressing you and before you know it you have been seduced and fall in love.

Editorial Comment: Lately there has been a lot of talk about the EPA fuel performance being wrong or over stated. I don’t buy that. From all the cars I test – up to 80 per year I have always found the stated MPG numbers to be fairly accurate.

On this 350Z I found the Highway miles to be better in reality. I got over 26 mpg on the freeway with no town driving and no traffic jams between LA and San Diego.

General Info:

Parts – Japan

Assembly – Japan

Class:  Sports Car

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

Handling & Performance:

wesome! How else can you put it? Riding on rails is the best parallel in how you feel when you pull “G’s” in the mountain turns. Exhillerating describes it. you’re going to love the way this handles. And it is f a a a s t! I appreciated the close ration gear shifting and in the mountains you appreciate more the power at your disposal so you don’t need to shift often. Literally the 287 horsepower allows you to stay in a long 4th gear and still pull the grades. Really a lot of fun.

Traction control and  Vehicle dynamic control is the kind of technology you want for a performance car. It keeps you out of trouble from the typical tendency to “Oversteer” in a sharp corner. Look at the features standard on this Z and you begin to appreciate the price tag. This car is not only great looking it is a sophisticated driver.

Styling:

Wonderful, in my humble opinion. There is a brace in the trunk that is functional and they have made it look pretty but I wish it weren’t needed because it really screws up the storage area. Nice touch with the cross drilled aluminum foot pedals and accents that finishes the sport performance look – but then they knew that.

Fit and Finish:

First cabin.

Cost:

Not bad. It may seem a little pricey for a two seater but take a look at the standard equipment list. That will quickly explain what the extra cost is for. Performance for when you drive on the edge. And on the roads today you are on the edge more often than you care to be.

Conveniences:

Enough.

Consumer Recommendation:

If a “TWO” seat car fits your passion and you travel light – under 25 or over 50 years old – this is a great sports car. I must admit if money were not an issue I would pop for a Cad XLR. Not as much trunk space but for those getaway weekends up the coast to Santa Barbara with your favorite friend who doesn’t play golf … well you know. But since I really don’t want to spend $70,000 for the Cad this stylish 350Z makes a lot of sense.

The Competition:

Nissan 350Z $27-37,000, Toyota Celica $18-22,000, BMW Z4 $35-42,000, Volkswagen GTI $20-22,000, Mazda RX-8 $25-32,000, Infiniti G35 $31-33,000, Porsche Boxster $44-53,000, Mitsubishi Eclipse $19-24,000, Ford Mustang $19-31,000, Chevrolet Corvette $44-65,000, Acura RSX $20-24,000, Audi TT $34-44,000.

Good News:

F a a a s t, fun, fancy, fairly good fuel economy.

Bad News:

A little pricey unless you are performance minded, although it is equipped with “Seal Tight” windows there was a little mis-fit and it whistled. I suspect that is just an adjustment issue.

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter 387 hp V6 engine, continuously variable valve timing, Microfinished crankshaft and camshaft, direct ignition system, electronic drive by wire throttle, 6-speed close ration transmission, carbon fiber reinforced driveshaft, viscous limited slip differentaial, traction control, Vehicle dynamic Control, independent Aluminum multi link suspension, front and rear Stabilizer bars, rear integrated strut tower brace, 4-wheel power vented anti lock disc brake system with electronic brake force distribution, 18 inch aluminum alloy wheels, flush mounted Xenon headlights, rear window wiper, heated power mirrors, 8-way manual adjustable drivers seat, 4-way manual adjustable passenger seat, power windows and locks, climate control, audio system with CD player and 6-speakers, tilt steering , cruise control, trip computer tire pressure monitor system, cross drilled aluminum foot pedals, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, aluminum interior accents, security system with immobilizer, remote keyless entry and dual air bags,

Gas Stats:

20 City and 26 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $31,790.

2005 Nissan Altima SER 4-Door Sedan (563)

Overview:

This week I continued with another Nissan product, the Altima SER 4-door sedan. I took a trip to Lake Tahoe, California and actually Nevada too. I love mountain driving and hadn’t had the opportunity to give it the Crest Test over the San Gabriel mountain chain in Southern California, so Tahoe would have to do.

I began my journey from the high desert of Acton up to highway 395, which is a shorter distance from Los Angeles than I-5, and the landmarks are great to see. Up the Owens Valley past the Death Valley and Mount Whitney turnoffs, through lovely little towns like Lone Pine, Independence and Bishop. You can take glider rides up around the majestic Mt. Whitney that offer an exhilarating experience. Then continuing past Mammoth Lakes where snow skiing doesn’t get much better. You pass Lake Crowley so famous for trout fishing and June mountain ski resort and Mono Lake with its rich history.  

Finally I reached the last leg which is a short 11 mile drive up the Kingsbury Grade to South Lake Tahoe. This is truly one of the most beautiful lakes in the land. And what about the drive… I almost forgot because it was uneventful and comfortable. This is one capable car and that makes the drive easy and fun as it handles the tight mountain curves. It’s easy to fall in love. Either that or I’m simply “Easy”.

Public Service driving observation: Try not to follow too close for lots of reasons: it will tick off the car in front of you. You will be hard pressed to stop in time when traffic slows quickly. It will not allow you to see debris in the road that can do damage to your car – especially if it causes a blowout.

Handling & Performance:

This is no slouch – 260 horsepower gives you all juice you need in and out of the mountains. And it is a smooth power. Japanese cars just do it with class and without fan-fare. The American love affair with cars goes way back and tradition has always meant loud exhaust that somehow signifies power and performance. Not so folks – it just makes a lot of noise and those days went out in the 70s for good I believe. Today’s cars, even American, don’t have to make noise to be respected for their performance. Ok, Corvette and Viper may be exceptions. In any case you won’t be disappointed by this Altima’s performance.

Styling:

Not my favorite styling wise, but it’s not ugly I-ther.

Fit and Finish:

The Japanese have been unwavering over the past three decades in how well they put their cars together. It is a cultural thing so all cars manufactured in Japan are excellent, in my opinion. I’ve traveled there and watched them work. The Altima is assembled in the US and they too have done a great job. I suspect the Japanese influence must have some affect on the work ethic adopted here. Mercedes Benz (Daimler) is another example of old country meeting new and has unquestionably had a positive affect on Chrysler cars.

Cost:

Well it isn’t cheap but the MSRP tag of $29,200 didn’t surprise me. I often refrain from looking at the price until I’ve tested the car. This is worth the money.

Conveniences:

Nissan products go the extra yard to include a lot of goodies and gadgets with their cars. This is no exception. If you read my review last week on the Infiniti G35 you’ll recall it too was well appointed.

I really liked the addition of the MPG gauge in the instrument cluster. You catch yourself driving better (lighter on the gas pedal) because of it – especially at today’s pump prices.

Consumer Recommendation:

Well, I gotta level with you. If I had my “druthers” I’d be hard pressed to not give the nod to the Infiniti G35 because the cost is very similar. I have to admit the Infiniti “Badge” is a strong tug on my ego. But more than that the G35 included a couple of control features that I like – the VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) and EBD (Electronic Brake force Distribution).

The Competition:

Nissan Altima SER $17-29,000, Ford Taurus $21-24,000, Subaru Legacy $21-29,000, Toyota Camry $18-26,000, Mitsubishi Galant $19-26,000, Mazda 6 $19-27,000, Kia Amanti $25,500, Chrysler Sebring $20-31,000, Honda Accord $16-29,000.

Good News:

Good fuel economy, handles well and lots of power.

Bad News:

Although performance and handling is good Nissan doesn’t block road noise as well as they could.

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter 260 hp V6 engine with continuous variable valve timing control, 5-speed automatic transmission with “Tip Tronic” or manual shift control, 4-wheel power assisted anti-lock disc brake system, Xenon headlights, fog lights, dual power heated mirrors, 3-gaughe cluster for volts, oil pressure and fuel consumption, power sunroof with tilt and slide, sport leather front heated seats, Bose audio system with 6 CD player and speed sensitive volume control, power windows, dual illuminated vanity mirrors, tilt and telescopic steering column, 60/40 split rear fold down seat, remote trunk and hood release, rear and side windows defoggers, center console, 8-way power driver seat with lumbar support, air conditioning, cruise control, leather wrapped steering wheel with control switches, trip computer with outside temperature, auto on/off headlights, power door locks, dual air bags, immobilizer key system, child safety rear door locks and latch system and vehicle security system.

Gas Stats:

20 City and 30 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $29,200.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – USA ?

Class:  – Midsize

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

2005 Nissan Titan 4X4 Crew Cab (539)

Overview:

There are only a few pickup trucks left in my series but I can’t get this 2005 Nissan Titan 4X4 SE Crew Cab out of my mind as being one of the best. What a cool truck. I particularly liked the great visibility and unique mirror system that gives added rear view and that translates into safety.

It boasts the largest interior of any 1/2 –Ton pickup on the market. I like this size a lot. I’ve found little need to use the extra load capability of the Dodge Ram 3500 I own. And the large crew cab is a big advantage over extended cab configurations like my Ram.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – Canton, OH USA

Class:  – Standard Pickup

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

Handling & Performance:

Ease of handling is noticeably better and the ride is smoother than most trucks I tested. It is fast but that means it will suck up the gas and you’ll get tired of refilling that 28 gallon fuel tank.

Styling:

Unique and identifiable. It seems like all trucks have made a point of designing in a specific look for instant identifiability. As you know, I have a keen sense of the obvious, and as I watch the TV commercials it is apparent they want to convey toughness of their product and have done a great job doing just that.

Fit and Finish:

This Nissan is as good as it gets when it comes to being put together well. But on balance, all trucks are better than they have to be. After all, it is a truck and we don’t expect seams to be perfect, for example.

Cost:

Wonderful pricing … for the manufacturers, that is! They make more money on their truck lines than anything else in the fleet, generally. But the serviceability of the truck class can’t be understated and since demand is so great, the prices follow by being higher.

Conveniences:

Very nice standard package, but the options give this a one-two punch, for the money.

Consumer Recommendation:

Unquestionably this is my first choice in Pickup trucks. Drive it and see if you agree it is a standout in the field.

The Competition:

Nissan Titan $23-35,000, GMC Sierra 1500 $18-42,000, Chevrolet Silverdo 1500 $18-40,000, Ford F150 $20-36,000, Toyota Tundra $16-33,000, Dodge Ram 1500 $20-50,000.

Good News:

Japanese reliability confirmed by reputation over the years since they began to compete in the early 1960s.

Bad News:

None that comes to mind except gas is $3.00 a gallon and rising.

Standard Equipment:

5.6 liter 305 hp V8 engine, 5-speed automatic trans, shift of the fly parttime 4-WD with electronic control, 4-wheel limited slip differential, solid rear axle with multi-leaf spring suspension, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, chrome front and rear bumper with step pad, chrome grille and door handles,  dual chrome power heated mirrors, bed side and tailgate caps, locking tailgate, cargo light, bed rope hooks, tow hooks in front, air conditioning, audio system with 8 speakers and 6-disc in dash CD changer, power windows and locks, power sliding back glass, remote keyless entry with remote windows down, cruise control with leather wrapped steering wheel with controls and tilt column, captains chairs, 60/40 rear fold up bench seat, overhead console, dual air bags, anchors and tethers for children, and security / immobilizer system.

Options: Add $8,110. SE Popular package Fosgate 350 watt audio w/ subwoffer, steering wheel audio controls, 8-way power driver seat, power adjust pedals, auto dim rear view mirror, Offroad package with elect locking rear differential, fog lamps, trgged trail tires, special shocks, skid plates for radiator, oil pan and transfer case, side air bag package with driver and passenger side bags, roof mounted side impact rollover curtain supplement air bags, big tow package for increased towing , Class IV hitch with 7-pin wiring harness, extendable tow mirrors, heavy duty battery, trans temp gauge, DVD mobile theatre system – 7” color monitor with wireless headphones, SE Utility bed package: Ulti-track channel system for tiedown, factory applied spray on bedliner, drivers side lockbox, tailgate area illumination with 12 Volt DC outlet, XM Satellite radio and sliding bed extender.

Gas Stats:

14 City and 18 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $30,650 – and $38,760 with options noted.

2004 Nissan 350 Z Roadster (507)

Overview:

This week I drove the wonderful 2004 Nissan 350 Z Roadster. For those who own one, I’m preaching to the choir. You know how great this car is. I happen to love the Porsche Boxster, but this is a hands down winner, especially for the dough.

Love is, in the final analysis, many things. It is giving a taking. But this Z gives much more than it takes. We all spend a lot of time in our automobiles and we, and our cars, are one with the road. We don’t care to share that road with so many other cars, and often we need to simply get away to be able to connect with the car and the road. 

This Roadster is the kind of car you will bond with very quickly. This is perhaps the shortest review I’ve written because you can’t add much to perfection. Decent price in its class, decent fuel economy, great styling, comfortable seats that hug you.

General Info:

Parts –

Assembly – Los Angeles, USA

Class:  – Sports Car

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

Handling & Performance:

Outstanding. Smooth faaaaaaaast and one fun car to drive

Styling:

Outstanding in my humble opinion.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

Good in the company it has chosen to keep. This is a hot car and that will keep the price up.

Consumer Recommendation:

Someone asked if I would buy this over the Boxster and I said, “If you are single, pre children or this is a second or third family car and are looking to put the starch back in your shorts you will enjoy this driving experience.” And I can find a lot to do with the left over $10,000. Perhaps buy gas at the current outrageous prices.

The Competition:

Nissan 350 Z Roadster $35,690, Mazda RX8 $25-27,000, BMW 3-Series $28-44,000, Chevrolet Corvette $44-52,000, Ford Mustang $18-39,000, Audi TT $33-43,000, Infiniti G35 $28-33,000, Toyota Celica $16-24,000, Acura RSX $20-23,000, BMW Z4 $34-41,000, Honda S2000 $32,800, Porsche Boxster $43-60,000, Mitsubishi Eclipse $18-29,000.

Good News:

Fast and furious… fun to drive, beautiful racy lines, decent fuel economy.

Bad News:

The trunk won’t accept a set of golf clubs – it is obvious the designers aren’t golfers, which is really hard to believe for the Japanese who love golf.

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter 287 horsepower V6 engine, continual variable timing, electronic drive by wire throttle, 5-speed automatic trans, traction control, independent suspension, vented 4 wheel ABS disc brakes with power assist and brake force distribution, power soft top, rear wind deflector, 4-way power driver and passenger seats, power windows, locks and mirrors, climate control, audio system with CD player, tilt leather wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, security system with immobilizer, dual front and side air bags and remote keyless entry.

Gas Stats:

18 City and 25 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $35,690.

 

Photo by Patrick Blewett

2004 Nissan Titan ½ ton pickup. (479)

Overview:

This week I tested the 2004 Nissan Titan full size ½ ton pickup with a crew cab that has to be the biggest of any make on the market. In fact it almost looks like the bed was an afterthought and is really esthetically out of balance.

Looks like American domination is ended and I suspect you’ll see foreign car enthusiasts flock to Japanese competitors when they need a truck and presently own another Japanese vehicle. This is a crossroads for the Japanese automakers. If you’re wondering why the Japanese have waited so long to produce a full size pickup truck, you only need to look at the streets in Japan. This Titan would fill the entire street.

I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t feel the usual oscillations of most pickup trucks on cement freeways. Smaller or mid size trucks are the worst, and it is only true when running empty. I didn’t put a load on to see the difference but I figure it would be even smoother. In any case the oscillations begin at 65 mph in the Titan when empty.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – Canton, OH, USA

Class:  – Standard Pickup

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

Handling & Performance:

There is no question this is one big powerful truck. The Japanese have hit the American market with determination and performance and a tough image has been emphasized in this Titan. If it were in a bank it would be the vault.

Styling:

This Titan makes a bold statement in the capability of Japanese trucks. It is a standout looking truck that promises to earn a place of prominence. Obviously they are meeting the American carmakers head on and will tell the American truck buyer what they expect to hear. It too is built “Like a Rock” (Chevrolet), “Ford Tough” or as Dodge says, “Grab life by the Horns” with a Ram Truck.

You’ll be impressed with the rugged look and feel up close and personal and by all indications it will answer the call of all the toughest trucks on American highways and job sites.

Fit and Finish:

Everything is big and bulky and gives the sense of being well put together.

Conveniences:

I like the way the rear bench split seat folds up and away for stowing inside cargo. That will also save the upholstery. There are also a lot of storage slots and cubbyholes.

Cost:

Competitive in the field noted below.

Consumer Recommendation:

Naturally you have to include this in your next truck buying decision. But I see it more as a comfortable family pickup with the short bed. Contractors or truck buyers with a need for serious loads will want the long bed.

The Competition:

Nissan Titan $22-34,000, GMC Sierra 1500 $19-41,000, Chevrolet Silverado 1500 $19-40,000, Ford F150 $21-36,000, Dodge Ram 1500 $19-45,000, Toyota Tundra $16-33,000.

Good News:

Price competitive, solid ride, large crew cab, tough and powerful.

Bad News:

Too soon to know how they hold up to commercial treatment.

Standard Equipment:

5.6 liter 305 horsepower V8, 5-speed auto trans, part time 4-wheel drive, electronic control 4X4 switch activation, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, chrome rear bumper and grille, power mirrors, sliding rear window, air conditioning, audio system with 8 speakers, power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry with remote windows down, cruise control with wheel mounted controls, tilt steering column, cloth seats, front captains chairs, 60/40 split fold up rear bench seat, leather wrapped steering wheel and trans shifter, lockable center console, dual stage air bag system with passenger classification sensor, EBD Electronic Brake Force Distribution with power assist, low tire pressure warning system, Latch system for child safety, security system with immobilizer.

Options: the truck I tested included 8-way power driver seat and adjustable pedals, 6 in dash CD, upgrade steering wheel controls, entertainment center with wireless head phones, Off Road package with 17” Alloy wheels, Rancho shocks, fog lamps, skid plates and Utili-track channel tie down system and factory sprayed on bed liner (Rhino Lining). All that adds $2,900 to the MSRP below.

Gas Stats:

14 City and 18 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $29,800.

2004 Nissan Quest 3.5 SE (470)

Overview:

This week I test drove the 2004 Nissan Quest 3.5 SE Mini Van. The first Quest minivan was introduced in 1993 as a joint venture with Ford Motor Company that also produced the Mercury Villager. A second-generation Quest was sold from 1999 to 2002.

The 2004 Quest is an all-new version including center-mounted gauges, dash-mounted transmission shifter, and second-row seats that fold flat. The new design features a long wheelbase, wide track, and unique “Sky view” glass roof panels.  

The space age dash will attract some and repulse others. I rather like it because all controls are very easy to reach. The center-mounted gauges take a little getting used to, but that too is no problem. The changes are not gimmicks but rather they are practical and useful changes, in my opinion.

Mini vans aren’t “Cool” to so many. Just ask around and you get the sense that an SUV is great looking but Mini Vans are for nerds. It must be a true perception because manufacturers like Nissan are changing the look of mini vans to be more SUV like in styling. It wasn’t so different in the 1960’s and 1970’s when the Station Wagon was the only family vehicle available. It was the consumer who invented the Mini Van. They simply bought panel trucks or vans if you prefer, and carpeted them for relative comfort of passengers… yes, the kids. But that was before mandatory seat belts and baby seats. You simply threw the kids in the back of the Pick up or van and were off to the beach, mountains, etc. for the family outing.

General Info:

Parts –  n/a

Assembly – Canton

Class:  – Compact Van

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

Handling & Performance:

Very good because of the special equipment including Multi-link rear suspension and the front and rear stabilizer bars. This model (SE) also comes standard with VDC – Vehicle Dynamic Control and traction control. Many new cars are beginning to push this technology to help prevent Roll Over accidents. In a close call, avoiding another car or other obstacle on the road, you will begin to appreciate these unseen features.

Styling:

This Minivan is indicative of the melding together of the SUV and the Mini Van. Manufacturers are concentrating on this obvious difference between these two vehicle classes. The result is there is less difference in appearance. But the minivan still has my vote for being the best practical design for carrying passengers. And once again, if you don’t expect to get off road, the 2-wheel drive minivan provides the best access with the dual sliding doors.

Fit and Finish:

Don’t you just love the Japanese for their attention to detail? They still have the most well put together cars on the road. That wasn’t always the case.

Conveniences:

Everything about a minivan is convenient, but thoughtful placement of controls is a definite plus for this vehicle. You warm up quickly to the layout and the auto doors would surely be on the top of my list of things to include. My niece bought one without the power doors and at the first opportunity she traded it for one that did come equipped with them.

In my view, this is a must own vehicle for most any family with kids, soccer and little league teams and the like.

Cost:

A little pricey if you opt for the SE, but the S model eliminates some of the SE standard features for about $24,000- and they are all powered by the 240 hp V6.

Consumer Recommendation:

The only one I haven’t tested is the Ford Freestar. My favorites are the Honda Odyssey all around, and for the best price the Kia Sedona is impressive. It’s the new kid on the block and they are being price competitive.

I like the styling on this Quest and found the interior changes were easy to warm up to. I don’t like way out things, but this new approach to instrumentation and position of other controls is thoughtfully done. It is a departure from the norm, but well done.

The Competition:

Nissan Quest $24-32,000, Mazda MPV $22-26,000, Honda Odyssey $24-30,000, Chrysler Voyager $21-24,000, Volkswagen EuroVan $26-28,000, Kia Sedona $20-22,000, Toyota Sienna $23-37,000, Pontiac Montana $23-31,000, Ford Freestar $21-33,000, Oldsmobile Silhouette $28-36,000, Chevrolet Venture $21-33,000, Dodge Caravan $21-32,000, Chrysler Town & Country $23-40,000.

Good News:

Mini Van convenience, SUV like with better gas mileage, new styling, good cargo space even with all the seats up.

Bad News:

There must be something, but I couldn’t find it. I guess having to make the choice will be a lot of work.

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter 240 hp V6 engine, 5-speed auto trans, (EBD) electronic brake force distribution, 4-wheel power ABS disc brakes, VDC) vehicle dynamic control system, traction control, power steering, dual power sliding doors, rear sonar system, sky view roof, power mirrors, roof rack, audio system with 6 CD with steering wheel controls, cruise control, computer information, power sunroof, climate control, rear heating and air conditions, power windows and locks, 8-way power driver seat, 4-way power passenger seat, heated front seats, power adjustable foot pedals, leather, tilt steering, remote keyless entry, Homelink transceiver, dual air bags, 3-row side air bags, tire pressure monitoring system, child door locks and vehicle immobilizer system.

Gas Stats:

18 City and 25 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $32,240.

 

2003 Nissan Frontier 4WD SC V6 Supercharged Pickup (441)

Overview:

This week I tested the 2003 Nissan Frontier 4WD SC V6 Supercharged Crew Cab Pickup. Boy that’s a mouthful, but it is a lot of truck made especially for the kind of trip I made into Mexico.

The venture gives meaning to “Off Road”. But that is where the poor of Mexico live. In general, in fact, we in America seldom get off road. Here in Mexico you spend more time off road than you do on road when it comes to the small towns and villages.

And wouldn’t you know, not a few hours after crossing the border I saw the sister to the one I was driving. It was silver and had Baja California plates that made me think the 5 year 60,000 mile Powertrain warranty will be greatly challenged here in Mexico.

All things considered, this truck performed wonderfully here in the rugged country dirt roads and even smoothed out the otherwise poorly paved highways.

General Info:

Parts – N/A

Assembly – Smyrna, TN, USA

Class:  – SUV Special Purpose Vehicle

Cars: – 350Z, Altima, Frontier, Maxima, Murano, Pathfinder, Sentra & Xterra.

 

Proverbs 14:31

I was thrilled to see Toyota is building a plant not 3 miles from this building site half way between Tecate and Tijuana. Thrilled because it’s about time we began to shore up the border communities of Mexico. As much as we think America is a better place to live it has more to do with the economy. If we did more of what Toyota is doing less would go to countries like China and south of the border would flourish. Bravo Toyota. Thanks.

Handling & Performance:

I’ve been off road for fun, but this was business and the erosion ruts were deep and wide and it was a big help to have the assurance I could handle anything Mexico could throw at me. 4-wheel high was great for the terrain and getting labor, materials and tools to the building site was a delight. I wasn’t impressed with the gas mileage however. But there were a few times the Supercharger gave a boost to safe driving. Big buses and trucks in Mexico are more ominous than in the US.

Styling:

Rough and tumble is the image all truck manufacturers are trying to portray. That is true of this Frontier that was restyled in 2001, after its introduction in 1999. Nissan produces state of the art designs that are the sign of the time and very different from the cars and trucks they produced in the early 1960’s when I bought my first “Datsun”.

           

2001 redesigned.                                                                              2000 Old design.

Fit and Finish:

Outstanding for a truck. It is a very comfortable ride in part because it is relatively quiet and well screwed together.

Conveniences:

More than a truck should have. It is almost undignified for a workhorse to be so well endowed. But it didn’t have a tape player. CD is the thing these days, but tapes are still in huge supply.

Cost:

Competitive with all in its class. Equipped the way mine was pushes the price up the almost $27,000 and if you add leather, upgraded stereo and vehicle security you can push the price up to over $29,000.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you don’t need all the bells and whistles you can keep the cost way down. But in any case this is the top dog of the competition in my view.

The Competition:

Nissan Frontier $13-27,000, Chevrolet S10 $15-24,000, Dodge Dakota $16-26,000, Ford Ranger $14-25,000, GMC Sonoma $15-25,000, Toyota Tacoma $12-22,000.

Good News:

Comfortable ride, supercharged and attractive.

Bad News:

Poor fuel consumption, side rails look cool but are appendages in my view, long turning radius in the 4-WD models, no cassette player, 4-cylinder version is way under powered so you will likely opt for the V6.

Standard Equipment:

3.3 liter V6 210 hp Supercharged engine, 5000 lb towing capacity, limited slip differential, Power front disc with rear drum ABS brakes, auto trans, independent front and solid rear axle suspension, 2-speed transfer case with auto locking hubs, 74 ft 6 inch double wall cargo bed with locking quick release removable tailgate, 17 inch alloy wheels, fog lights and cargo light, tubular roof rack and step rails, air conditioning stereo with 6 CD player, remote keyless entry, cruise control and tilt leather wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, compass and temp display, brushed aluminum interior trim, center console with 3 DC power outlets, 4-door crew cab, power mirrors, 8-way power driver seat, 5 passenger seating, dual air bags, 3 child seat anchors, skid plates for engine and 19.4 gallon fuel tank.

Gas Stats:

15 City and 18 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $26,939.

2003 Nissan Murano SE 2 WD (440)

Overview:

This week I tested the all-new 2003 Nissan Murano SE 2 WD. But they are also available in an AWD (All wheel drive) version. But don’t buy it for its off road prowess. There is no low gear for serious off road use.

I like its quick steering and generally this fun to drive car has the comfort and convenience of the finest SUV’s on the market. It doesn’t have a 3rd row seat available so if you need to tote more than 5 people you’ll want to look elsewhere. Better yet, with the gas prices what they are likely to reach, buy this and when lots of people must be transported, let them drive their Suburban that gets about 7 miles per gallon.

The name Murano is taken from a popular Italian sculpted glass. It is said this SUV was designed primarily for the North American market. But then what isn’t? I’ve been told that about 90% of Porsche’s, for example, are sold in the US of A and most of those are sold in the Los Angeles area. Correct my sources if you have better information. However, I quote that because when in Germany I don’t recall seeing one Porsche. I saw some Corvettes. Just goes to show you that the grass is greener on the other side of the Atlantic – no matter what side you’re on.

General Info:

Parts –  N/A

Assembly – Los Angeles

Class:  – SUV Special Purpose Vehicle

Cars: – 350Z, Altima, Frontier, Maxima, Murano, Pathfinder, Sentra & Xterra.

Handling & Performance:

This is truly a road car. It is not meant for off road but it is well suited for the highway. It is totally comfortable and well behaved. The powerful 245 horsepower V6 is mated to a really impressive smooth shifting and responsive automatic transmission. It is referred to as a CVT for Continuously Variable Transmission. The 4-wheel vented ABS brakes are superb. I just like the way this new entry into the SUV world handles itself. It is sure footed and gives you a sense of security.

Styling:

Well, you be the judge. I think is sports wild lines and the overall design leaves you with poor visibility. I also didn’t like how the rear hatch opens. When you lift up the hatch shifting cargo will likely fall at your feet. I suggest they put a lip that folds up when the hatch is opened. I’m indifferent about the broad smiling grillwork, but I happen to like the windshield treatment. The sloping line gives plenty of useful dash area. You could server a sizable buffet on the surface.

Fit and Finish:

I love the Japanese and their strong work ethic. I toured some manufacturing facilities, in particular aircraft plants, in the Kobe area of Japan and got a sense of the special concern every employee had to do the best job possible. They are proud people. But perhaps more important is the attitude of Japanese companies who enjoy mutual loyalty with their employees.

Conveniences:

Yes. Check out the list below. Generally for the dough the standard features are great. Options are all non-essential in my view. Sunroofs are a waste of time, extra power for the passenger seat is unnecessary and who needs memory seat, pedals and mirror settings – Really!

Cost:

Enough already. Really, it’s enough and not really too much either.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you don’t need the third row seat this is a great addition to the SUV line up. These are truly Cross Over vehicles. Not a Van, Not a Car, Not a Jeep, but they will give you the benefits of all three to a greater or lesser degree.

The Competition:

Nissan Murano $28-31,000, Acura MDX $36-42,000, Audi all road quatro $40-41,000, BMW X5 $40-67,000, Buick Rendezvous $26-29,000, Honda Pilot $27-33,000, Lexus RX 300 $35-37,000, Mercedes Benz M-Class $37-66,000, Subaru Outback $19-32,000, Toyota Highlander $24-31,000, Volvo XC90 $33-40,000.

Good News:

Not half bad gas stats, but then it is a 2 WD, comfy and roomy, solid ride and smooth on the highway, lots of power and terribly responsive when you need some thrust for passing, handy storage compartment under cargo area floor.

Bad News:

Poor rear visibility, opening rear hatch reminds me of flying. Careful while opening the compartments as items may have shifted in flight.

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter V6 245 hp engine, Xtronic CVT auto trans, electronic distributed 4-wheel ABS power vented disc brakes, 4-wheel independent suspension, power steering, 6 spoke 18 inch alloy wheels, power mirrors, Halogen fog lights, Audio system with CD player, cruise control, tilt steering wheel with controls for radio and cruise, climate control, aluminum interior trim, cloth seats, 8-way power driver seat, 4-way manual passenger seat, reclining rear seats, fold flat rear seats for expanded cargo area, remote keyless entry, power windows and locks, Homelink transceiver, rear wiper and defroster, side impact airbags front and rear, child safety rear locks and anchors and tethers and security system.

Gas Stats:

20 City and 25 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $28,999.

2003 Nissan 350Z (429)

Overview:

This week’s ride promises to be a huge success for Nissan in the form of the newly designed “Z”, the 350 Z – and it is wonderful.

Trust me, if you are a sports car nut, you have to go test drive one. The reason I like it so much is not because I’m nuts but I do go crazy over outstanding performance. And for the money this is a winner.

Part of my interest in the 350Z is the overall revival of Nissan beginning with its change in management. Carlos Ghosn started with Nissan in June 1999 and in 2001 he became its President and CEO. One man “can” make a difference and by all indications this guy has made noticeable adjustments and turned huge losses into profits.

General Info:

Parts –  n/a

Assembly – Los Angeles

Class:  – Sports Car

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

2002 Lexus SC 430 @ about $58,000.

Handling & Performance:

When you have a love for cars it has a lot to do with how they handle. This 350Z is a wonderful driving experience. My engineer friend, Merkel, gave it a test drive and came to the same conclusions – “Acceleration, handling and brakes are impressive”. I also agree with him that the transmission is slow to shift and even the “Tiptronic” feature only holds it in a particular gear. When you shift it is as slow as it is in Drive mode, where I preferred to operate. I also feel the 6-speed manual transmission would be a mistake for the average driver.

Styling:

Well, Merkel and I didn’t agree on the styling. I like it and he felt it is chopped up with contrasting vertical and horizontal design things like the door handles. Aesthetically and from a technical design standpoint he is probably 100% correct. But perhaps the departure from conventional thinking is what is so appealing to me.

Fit and Finish:

Excellent for the most part but I wish they had done something with the seat belts to keep them from knocking against the doorframe – annoying. Yes, I do wear my seat belt, but I don’t always have a passenger. Merkel felt the seats were uncomfortable but I didn’t get that sense at all, but then I didn’t take this Touring model on a long trip. I guess I was preoccupied with “enjoying the ride”.

Conveniences:

Wow, what a list of standard equipment. This Z was equipped with more than I needed, but most of it is related to performance enhancers you only find on more pricey sports cars. My 6 foot 4 inch friend Norm sat in the car and was fine with the legroom. He usually has a problem with cars accommodating his rather tall frame.

Cost:

Well priced for what you get – but many will find the cost high for a two seater.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you’re in the market for a two seater sports car you might want to look beyond the recognized competition noted below and test drive the Lexus SC 430 at roughly $60,000. Then when you test-drive the Z, you will really be impressed.

The Competition:

Nissan 350Z $26-34,000, Acura RSX $20-23,000, Audi TT $33-39,000, BMW Z3 $31-38,000, Ford Mustang $18-38,000, Mitsubishi Eclipse $18-28,000, Toyota Celica $17-22,000, VW GTI $19-22,000.

Good News:

Unique styling, well priced, fantastic performance.

Bad News:

Unique styling, well priced, fantastic performance.

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter 287 horsepower V6 engine, 5-speed automatic trans, continuously variable valve timing control system, traction control, vehicle dynamic control, limited slip differential, carbon fiber reinforced drive shaft, electronic throttle, stabilizer bars, integrated strut tower brace, 4-wheel abs power disc brakes, electronic brake force distribution, 18 inch aluminum alloy wheels, rear window wiper (no washer), leather, 4-way power heated driver seat, 2-way power heated passenger seat, power windows, locks and heated mirrors, climate control, Bose audio with 6 in dash CD player with 7 speakers, cruise control, Homelink transceiver, trip computer, leather wrapped tilt steering wheel, security system with immobilizer system, remote keyless entry, dual air bags, tire pressure monitor and real aluminum interior accents.

Gas Stats:

20 City and 26 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $34,000.

1969 Nissan Xterra (416)

Overview:

This week I revisited the Nissan Xterra that I tested two years ago when it had just hit the market. Well back then the 3.3 liter V6 was a 170 hp engine and to make things worse I tested it in mile high Denver, Colorado and 8,000 foot Evergreen.

My racing buddy Price Cobb joined me on a jaunt to the high plains of Nebraska. He made the observation that I passed on to Nissan for their consideration. “Why didn’t they put the Maxima engine in the Xterra so it wouldn’t be such a dog”?  Price didn’t say dog… that was my interpretation.

Well, perhaps they listened because this version comes with a turbocharger that generates 210 horsepower out of the same 3.3 liters, which makes a world of difference. Granted, I didn’t drive this years model at 5-8,000 feet, but the extra 40 horses eliminates the sluggish performance.

I can’t imagine any class vehicle that has been so popular over the years. We Americans are a rugged people descended from pioneers who carved a life out of a very hostile country only a hundred years ago. It’s in our genes to be on the move and to get off the beaten path on occasion. The SUV satisfies our wanderlust nature.

Handling & Performance:

Generally consistent with other SUV’s in its class. I, like most of the car buying public, enjoy driving a 4X4 partly because it gives the impression of “Go anywhere, do anything” kind of driving ability and fun. On a recent Elk hunting trip I tested the Jeep Liberty and was very impressed. These two, in fact all the competition listed here are very similar in statistics. All others do better in gas mileage and power when Xterra is not turbocharged. Although it sits higher than all others, it has the best ground clearance and I didn’t feel it was more top heavy.

Styling:

They all look great and it’s easy to see why so many people buy them. Xterra sits higher than others and has more ground clearance and has that more rugged “Outback” look. I like its unique styling.

Fit and Finish:

Better than the roll out version because it has sales appeal and thus the newer models get more attention to detail.

Conveniences:

There are a lot of gadgets and goodies on the one I tested and the price acknowledges them with a hefty price tag of nearly $29,000.

Cost:

More pricey than when it was introduced and that is the case with the Jeep Liberty new for 2002.

Recommendation:

Look at all the competition. There isn’t a lot in the class and my guess is you’ll be as impressed with the new kid on the block – Jeep Liberty. It’s priced the best right now and I’d snap one up before any price increases sure to happen just like this popular Xterra in just two short years.

The Competition:

Ford Escape $18-24,000, Isuzu Rodeo $18-32,000, Jeep Liberty $16-23,000, Land Rover Freelander $25-32,000, Mazda Tribute $18-24,000.

Good News:

Much improved power with turbo, better finish work, unique styling.

Bad News:

More pricey than original offering, poorer mileage and smaller interior space than competition.

Standard Equipment:

charged V6 210 horsepower engine, auto trans, power 4-wheel ABS front disc and rear drum braking system, 2 speed 4X4 transfer case, engine and fuel tank skid plates, power steering, double wishbone front suspension with stabilizer bars front and rear, 5,000 lb towing capacity, 19.4 gal fuel tank, tubular roof rack with gear basket, 17” wheels, fog lights, tow hook, radio with in-dash 6 CD player, tilt leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, air conditioning, first aid kit, power windows, door locks and mirrors, auxiliary 12 volt outlets, tie-down hooks, cruise control, center console, rear defrost and wiper, dual air bags, security system, remote keyless entry, child safety locks.

Gas Stats:

15 City and 18 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $28,675.