The Truth About Cars » Nissan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 22 May 2015 20:00:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » Nissan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Nissan IDx is Super-Dead, But Parts May Live On in FWD Platform http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/nissan-idx-is-super-dead-but-parts-may-live-on-in-fwd-platform/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/nissan-idx-is-super-dead-but-parts-may-live-on-in-fwd-platform/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 13:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1072786 Nobody at Nissan is talking about IDx. That’s what we learned from Pierre Loing, Vice President of Product Planning for Nissan North America. But, there’s a chance certain styling elements could make their way to other products, or possibly even a front-wheel drive performance option below 370Z. While at the 2016 Nissan Maxima media preview […]

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Nissan IDx Freeflow Concept

Nobody at Nissan is talking about IDx.

That’s what we learned from Pierre Loing, Vice President of Product Planning for Nissan North America. But, there’s a chance certain styling elements could make their way to other products, or possibly even a front-wheel drive performance option below 370Z.

While at the 2016 Nissan Maxima media preview in Nashville, Tennessee, we had a chance to prod Loing on what could be the future of IDx considering its overwhelmingly positive reception in Tokyo and Detroit.

Nissan IDx Freeflow / IDx NISMO

“IDX is an interesting project; a show car that received good reception. But, to go from concept to production, the reality always kicks in,” Loing said about the future of IDx as we saw it revealed in Tokyo.

The reality is auto manufacturers are finding it difficult – or impossible – to build a small, rear-wheel drive performance vehicle and make money. Either a current platform, like that of the 370Z, needs to be shrunk down, or a whole new platform needs to be engineered to serve one niche vehicle.

2016 Nissan 370Z NISMO

Unfortunately, at least for Nissan, the 370Z platform isn’t an option.

“Small, sporty cars are very attractive for consumers but not in huge numbers. To do them properly – in our case – you can’t rely on an existing rear-wheel drive platform, because its dimensions are for a much larger powertrain. So, for us, it would mean developing a different rear-wheel drive platform and then we are bumping into the same obstacles every other automaker has: the volumes of a small, sporty car are not enough to justify the investment,” said Loing.

With the current Z doing quite well, at least in the eyes of Nissan as top-dollar NISMO models make up nearly 20 percent of units sold, going down-market is going against the market. Also, based on Loing’s remarks about size, it doesn’t look like we will be getting a smaller Z car next time around.

But, since it was the IDx’s design garnering the most attention, could it transfer to something else?

“It wouldn’t be the same design because, of course, the proportions are based on a rear-wheel drive platform,” Loing explained. “But that kind of retro 510 inspired design was very well received in Japan and in the U.S. (when Nissan debuted in Tokyo and Detroit), and to some extent in Europe as well. So, yeah, that could be an option – among other ones, it could be an option.

“I think we may still have some room (to add a retro-inspired car). We have a wide lineup.”

And with the new Maxima pumping out 300 horsepower to the front wheels alone, a FWD performance compact is possible.

Renault Megane RS 275

“If you look at the Alliance, Renault has some extremely strong front-wheel drive cars that are very sporty; Megane RenaultSport, for example, holds the front-wheel drive record on the Nurburgring. So, yes, it is possible within the limitations of front-wheel drive today.”

But, is that something Nissan is considering? Loing held his cards close to his vest.

“You will have to come back in a few years to see if it has materialized or not. *laughs* But, we do show cars to test reactions all the time, so those reactions are included in the debate on future global products. Sometimes they will be the deciding factor to go one way or another. Sometimes they won’t.”

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This Is The 2016 Nissan Maxima’s Pumped-In Engine Note http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/this-is-the-2016-nissan-maximas-pumped-in-engine-note/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/this-is-the-2016-nissan-maximas-pumped-in-engine-note/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 12:51:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1072026 Earlier this week, I was able to drive the 2016 Nissan Maxima around the great state of Tennessee and enjoy some of the twistiest roads outside of the Tail of the Dragon. While I can’t share driving impressions just yet, there is one thing I can offer up: the Maxima’s piped-in engine note. Again, thanks to embargoes, […]

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2016 Nissan Maxima Front Three-Quarter

Earlier this week, I was able to drive the 2016 Nissan Maxima around the great state of Tennessee and enjoy some of the twistiest roads outside of the Tail of the Dragon. While I can’t share driving impressions just yet, there is one thing I can offer up: the Maxima’s piped-in engine note.

Again, thanks to embargoes, we can’t tell you much. However, here were the circumstances of the recording: we were cruising at about 35-40 mph while I held my iPhone against a speaker on the passenger side and asked the driver to give it some gas. The system – called Active Sound Enhancement – is similar to that in the new Camaro. Both are provided by Bose in conjunction with Active Noise Cancellation.

If you’d like to know anything other than that, you’ll have to come back on June 3rd for the full review.

 

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Piston Slap: Occam’s Razor Cuts Hardbody Headlight Headaches? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-occams-razor-cuts-hardbody-headlight-headaches/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-occams-razor-cuts-hardbody-headlight-headaches/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 13:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1069498   Robin writes: Hi Sajeev, It’s me again, steady reader, random poster/questioner, with another D21 question. My good old ’94 Nissan D21 is soldiering on, 213,000 and steady on. Of course I don’t ever thrash it which I’m sure makes a difference. But to get to the point: the other day I went out to […]

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My bad. (photo courtesy: imgflip.com)

Robin writes:

Hi Sajeev,

It’s me again, steady reader, random poster/questioner, with another D21 question. My good old ’94 Nissan D21 is soldiering on, 213,000 and steady on. Of course I don’t ever thrash it which I’m sure makes a difference.

But to get to the point: the other day I went out to go to work and presto! No low beams. High beams, check. All signals, markers and brake lights, check. Just no low beams.

Forum surfing ensued, all seemed to point to the switch stalk. I checked fuses. No headlamp fuse? WTF!

unnamed

What the… (photo courtesy: OP)

I’m hoping against hope that it’s something simple and stupid that I’ve overlooked in my attempts to shoot the trouble. And that another Piston Slap reader has a tip.

Because Piston Slap is only run twice a week, Robin beats us to the punch:

Hi Sajeev,

I emailed you not too long ago about my D21’s low beams going out all at one time. Replaced the switch stalk (a common culprit per several forum threads I browsed), scratched my head furiously over the fuse panel, girded my loins for the big $ hit of having someone with a clue troubleshoot the electrics. In the meanwhile, I drove around with my high beams on, undoubtedly pissing off my fellow North Texans.

So this morning I decided to just replace both sealed beams. At worst I’d still be in the same boat but new bulbs. Voila! It was the ultra-rare concurrent low beams burnout phenomenon.

Old Bill from Occam really knew his stuff.

Sajeev answers:

I’m glad to hear you fixed it. Perhaps you also needed that new headlight switch, as it sounds like a multifunctioning switch which are known to misbehave in the oddest ways after 10+ years. Anyone with even a passing interest in Nissan Hardbodies should download this PDF. Yes, it’s for a 1990, but it’s a start.

I looked at page EL-41 and saw nothing fishy about Hardbody headlights: fuses, connectors, grounds, etc as expected. I am stumped as to why your 1994 fuse box doesn’t list a fuse a la the 1990 shop manual. While I think Occam’s Razor applies to the 15A fuses (if you have them!), having both headlights blow out simultaneously is odd but the obvious problem after that. Why?

Bonus! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom: 

Because headlights are a wear item. I’ve said this multiple times before, if your halogen bulbs are 5+ years old and the filament’s shiny finish isn’t chrome-like (it’s tungsten, but you catch my drift) in perfection, they probably need replacement. Hell, I’ve seen a certified pre-owned, two-year-old used car (presumably with thousands of night miles under its belt) need new bulbs so the new owner can see safely at night.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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While You Were Sleeping: Chevrolet Sub-Camaro, Toyota/Honda Best Supplier Customers and Aston Martin’s Crossover http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/sleeping-chevrolet-sub-camaro-toyotahonda-best-supplier-customers-aston-martins-crossover/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/sleeping-chevrolet-sub-camaro-toyotahonda-best-supplier-customers-aston-martins-crossover/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 08:59:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1070074 As I fly down to Nashville to drive Nissan’s latest iteration of their 4DSC (“four-door sports car”) – the Maxima – we will have all the articles you expect on a Monday. Here’s what happened over the weekend. Aston Martin likely to shun Mercedes’ platform for DBX crossover (Automotive News) It seems Aston Martin won’t […]

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2016 Nissan Maxima

As I fly down to Nashville to drive Nissan’s latest iteration of their 4DSC (“four-door sports car”) – the Maxima – we will have all the articles you expect on a Monday.

Here’s what happened over the weekend.

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Buick Regal Tops Among Those Traded-In After One Year Of Ownership http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/buick-regal-tops-among-traded-one-year-ownership/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/buick-regal-tops-among-traded-one-year-ownership/#comments Wed, 06 May 2015 19:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1062954 In a hurry to trade your new Buick Regal for something else? You’re not alone, as the sedan joins a handful of models traded-in after a year of ownership. Per a report by iSeeCars.com, 2.7 percent of vehicles bought new end up on the used lot after being on the road for one year, Forbes […]

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2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-003

In a hurry to trade your new Buick Regal for something else? You’re not alone, as the sedan joins a handful of models traded-in after a year of ownership.

Per a report by iSeeCars.com, 2.7 percent of vehicles bought new end up on the used lot after being on the road for one year, Forbes reports, with trade-in rates as high as 11 percent for a specific model.

The models brought back to the sales lot run the gamut, from $18,000 subcompacts to $45,000 luxury sedans. The Regal tops the list with 10.7 percent of owners exchanging their keys after a year, the Chevrolet Sonic takes second with 8.9 percent, and the BMW X1 at a close third with 7.8 percent. The Dodge Charger, Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan, Chevrolet Cruze and Nissan Frontier also make the list.

As for why the sudden change of heart, quality or the perception of quality played a key role; the aforementioned models were rated poorly by owners surveyed in J.D. Power’s 2014 U.S. Initial Quality Survey. ISeeCars.com CEO Phong Ly says those issues usually involve technology, such as connected-vehicle systems, voice command, and Bluetooth connection, and aren’t so much “problems” as they are difficulties with said technologies.

Those looking for a deal on those models will likely be happy with what they find on the used lot, though. The 2014 Regal with average mileage comes with a price tag 32.2 percent less than new, while the C-Class and Charger lost 31.0 percent and 28.4 percent in new-car value after a year, respectively.

[Photo credit: Alex L. Dykes/The Truth About Cars]

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Junkyard Find: 1985 Nissan Maxima http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/junkyard-find-1985-nissan-maxima/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/junkyard-find-1985-nissan-maxima/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 13:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1061778 A front-wheel-drive Nissan Maxima in the junkyard must have something special to induce me to shoot photographs. We’ve seen this gig-rig ’86 wagon with pleading note to the tow-truck driver and this super-weird ’86 sedan with brake fluid used as coolant and washer fluid in this series so far, and now I’ve found this extremely […]

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14 - 1985 Nissan Maxima Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

A front-wheel-drive Nissan Maxima in the junkyard must have something special to induce me to shoot photographs. We’ve seen this gig-rig ’86 wagon with pleading note to the tow-truck driver and this super-weird ’86 sedan with brake fluid used as coolant and washer fluid in this series so far, and now I’ve found this extremely rare 5-speed-equipped ’85 in a Northern California yard.
08 - 1985 Nissan Maxima Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

The body is pretty dinged up but there’s no rust. Just over 100,000 miles on the clock of this 1985 Nissan Maxima.

10 - 1985 Nissan Maxima Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

By the middle 1980s, almost no luxury-sedan buyers had any use for a manual transmission. You’ll see the occasional BMW or Audi from this era with a 5-speed, but a three-pedal mid-80s Maxima is about as easy to find as a two-headed snake.

01 - 1985 Nissan Maxima Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

Interestingly, this car has a solid-state version of the phonograph-based Voice Annunciator System used in earlier Datsuns. The harness connector is identical to the one on the early-80s units, but the box is full of digital circuitry.

03 - 1985 Nissan Maxima Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

Naturally, I had to buy it.

I haven’t hooked it up to power and a speaker yet, so I don’t know if the voice is the same as the one on the tiny phonograph in the 1982 version.

Ah, the cult of the Talking Nissan.

06 - 1985 Nissan Maxima Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

In addition to being the Turbo Decade, the 1980s was the Cassette Equalizer Decade as well.

In Japan, schmaltz was applied heavily to the ’85 Bluebird ads.

14 - 1985 Nissan Maxima Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1985 Nissan Maxima Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 1985 Nissan Maxima Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1985 Nissan Maxima Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1985 Nissan Maxima Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1985 Nissan Maxima Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1985 Nissan Maxima Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1985 Nissan Maxima Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1985 Nissan Maxima Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1985 Nissan Maxima Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1985 Nissan Maxima Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1985 Nissan Maxima Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1985 Nissan Maxima Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1985 Nissan Maxima Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4×4 Review (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/2015-nissan-pathfinder-4x4-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/2015-nissan-pathfinder-4x4-review-video/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 12:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1049737 Nissan’s path to the modern Pathfinder has been long and wandering. In 1985 the 2-door truck based Pathfinder was the answer to Chevy’s Blazer and Ford’s Bronco. In 1995 Nissan changed absolutely everything and made the Pathfinder a 5-door unibody SUV to compete head-on with Jeep’s successful Grand Cherokee. Nine years later, Nissan started over, […]

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2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Exterior

Nissan’s path to the modern Pathfinder has been long and wandering. In 1985 the 2-door truck based Pathfinder was the answer to Chevy’s Blazer and Ford’s Bronco. In 1995 Nissan changed absolutely everything and made the Pathfinder a 5-door unibody SUV to compete head-on with Jeep’s successful Grand Cherokee. Nine years later, Nissan started over, yet again, with a body-on-frame design to do battle with the myriad of General Motors midsize SUVs choking up suburban expressways. Then, in 2013, Nissan went back to the drawing board for a fourth time with a new mission: build a spacious and well-priced soft-roader to battle the new Explorer and the GM Lambda platform triplets (Acadia, Traverse, Enclave).

Exterior

Before we dive deep into the Pathfinder, we have to identify this breed’s natural habitat, and that means forgetting every Pathfinder that came before. While you’ll still find WD21 Pathfinders climbing rocks, this Pathfinder is more at home on the school run. I mentioned GM’s Lambda CUVs earlier because this Pathfinder is big. Really big. That means the Pathfinder isn’t the most direct competitor to entries like the Kia Sorento that’s more than a foot smaller or even the Toyota Highlander that is 6 inches shorter. The mission of the Sorento and Highlander is to carry 4-5 adults in comfort while providing a third row for children, mothers-in-law or emergencies. The Pathfinder however was intended to carry 7 adults in relative comfort.

Because the new Pathfinder’s mission is people hauling, not rock climbing, you won’t find aggressive approach and departure angles on the nose and rump. Instead, we get slab sides, a variant of Nissan’s truck grille up front and a rather vertical hatch in the back. The overall look is simple and clean but lacks the excitement (yes, I used that word in a CUV review) you’d find in entries like the new Sorento.

2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Third Row Seat-001

Interior

The Pathfinder sports the most combined legroom in this segment (1st row + 2nd row + 3rd row) and combined legroom is important. Other entries claim to have more third row legroom (like the Traverse), but if the other two rows are cramped, you end up sliding those seats back cutting down on the room left in the mother-in-law-row. Looking deeper, the Traverse claims 3.4 inches more 3rd row room but you’ll find that the Chevy’s 1st row is 1 inch smaller and the middle row is 5 inches smaller. This means with the driver’s seat adjusted ideally for me at 6-feet tall (not giving a toss about the folks in the back) I can adjust the second row seat to have 2-3 inches of leg room and have a similar 2-3 inches of legroom in the third row of the Pathfinder as well. I’m a little surprised Nissan chose not to make an 8-passenger version of the Pathfinder because the 3rd row is as accommodating as the Highlander’s 3-seat rear bench. Speaking of the Highlander, you’ll notice upper trims come only with captains chairs in the middle row, meaning passenger number five has to sit in the cramped third row.

The second reason to buy a Pathfinder is for the trick second row seat. If you’re a parent with two or three child seats in the middle row, you’ll appreciate that Nissan designed the 40% section of the bench to contort in a way that allows adults to get in to the third row. While it is possible to get into the back in other 3-row vehicles with a child seat in the middle, it isn’t easy.

2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Second Row Folding Child Seat

Legroom isn’t everything, of course, so Nissan kept the roofline high at the rear of the Pathfinder giving a generous 37.8 inches of 3rd row headroom. If you want this kind of room without a Nissan logo on the hood, you’ll be looking at full-size SUVs. I am talking Suburban-sized since the Tahoe actually offers 6 inches less total legroom than the Pathfinder. If you need something bigger than that, you’re in Blue Bird bus territory.

The Pathfinder’s generous legroom comes at a price: the small cargo area. Admittedly, the 16 cubic feet of space behind the last row is 1 more than you get in the Tahoe, but it’s 8 less than the Traverse and 23 less than the Suburban. So, while the Pathfinder is as accommodating as a Suburban for 7 adults, you can’t fit 7 suitcases in the back.

Also on the down side is a cabin that’s starting to show its age. The seats are class leading in terms of comfort, but the cabin is full of hard plastics. I’m not one to bash hard plastics off-hand, but casting the primary dashboard touch points out of hard plastic is unusual in this segment and it makes entries like the Durango, Sorento and Enclave look and feel more premium.

2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Interior Infotainment.CR2

Infotainment

Although the Pathfinder isn’t that old, the base “S” trim gets you a 6-speaker audio system and in-dash 6-CD changer … and that’s it. No Bluetooth, no AUX input and no USB/iPod interface. If you want those, you have to step up to the $32,990 SV trim which includes a 7-inch infotainment LCD. Although I dislike the stripper trim concept, you should know the SV is still about $2,000 less than a comparable Highlander. (Keep in mind Toyota’s base model lacks a V6.) SL Tech trims get an 8-inch infotainment display and the same 13-speaker Bose sound system as the Infiniti QX60. At $38,090, it’s also the cheapest way to get navigation. Any way you slice it, however, Nissan’s infotainment options are a step behind the new entries like the Sorento, Highlander, Durango and 2016 Pilot.

On the up-side, Nissan’s touchscreen infotainment system was one of my favorites last decade, so in terms of functionality it fares quite well. GM’s Lambda SUVs all get small infotainment screens set low in the dashboard due to the age of the platforms and, interestingly, a Traverse with navigation is just $250 less. On the down-side, the Pathfinder is at least five years behind the rest, especially compared to Toyota and Chrysler’s latest systems. GM’s refreshed infotainment options in the Lambda CUVs operate on a smaller 6.5-inch screen but look more modern.

2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 AWD control

Drivetrain

Under the hood lies Nissan’s ubiquitous 3.5-liter V6 tuned to 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque, 5 hp and 8 lb-ft less than the same engine in the QX60. In addition to being down a few ponies compared to its luxury cousin, it’s also the least powerful in its class. As you would expect from Nissan, power is sent to the front wheels via a CVT, but this one has been revised to handle a 5,000 lb tow rating. The new transmission uses a steel chain instead of a steel belt for durability, but importantly the ratios stay more-or-less unchanged. Nissan’s reps confirmed the transmission is the primary reason for the QX60 and Pathfinder’s different tow ratings.

If towing with a FWD crossover doesn’t sound like fun, $1,690 buys you AWD. The system normally defaults to FWD mode for improved fuel economy but as a (small) nod to the Pathfinder’s history, the system has a lock mode mechanically connecting the front and rear differentials so power flows 50:50 (front:rear). Unlike more traditional transfer case setups, the clutch-pack allows a small amount of slip so the system can be used on dry pavement without binding. Leaving the AWD system in “Auto” keeps power to the front unless fairly significant slippage occurs (in order to improve fuel economy).

2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Gauges

Drive

The Pathfinder is loosely based on Nissan’s D-Platform which underpins the Altima, Murano and the last generation Maxima. One thing all those vehicles have in common is being light for their category and that’s true of the Pathfinder as well. At 4,317 lbs in FWD trim and topping out at 4,506 in AWD trim, that’s about the same weight as Toyota’s Highlander V6 and 300-500 lbs lighter than a comparable GM crossover. The weight reduction and other efficiency differences pay dividends with real world fuel economy in the AWD model coming in around 21.5 MPG in mixed driving. That’s around 11 percent better than the Traverse, 15 percent better than the Enclave and 18 percent better than the Tahoe on my same fuel economy route. While a few MPG doesn’t sound like much, at this end of the scale it equates to $450 lower annual fuel bills vs the Buick.

The comparatively light curb weight and CVT compensate for the lower torque numbers and allowed our tester to scoot to 60 in 7.1 seconds. While not the fastest in the pack, this is better than the majority of three row crossovers on the market. This is despite the CVT’s final drive ratio being tuned toward fuel economy. The CVT’s main benefit is it allows the engine to hang out at the peak of its power band for maximum acceleration. For 2015, Nissan programmed the CVT to imitate a traditional stepped automatic when in “D.” Not surprisingly this results in lower performance because it negates the major benefit of a CVT in the first place and actually causes a 2/10th longer run to 60 (7.3 seconds) than when the transmission is in “L” and ditches the imitation shifts.

2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Exterior Hitch Receiver

Everything has a trade off and so it is with the Pathfinder. The CVT’s low ratio isn’t terribly low at 13.5:1 (low gear and final drive), this doesn’t compare all that well with the lower 15.2:1 that you find in the Ford Explorer and higher overall than basically all the competition. This tall starting ratio conspires with the soft springs and compliant sway bars to make the Pathfinder feel about 1,000 lbs heavier on the road. In the stop-light races, most of the competition will beat the Pathfinder to 30 mph because of that ratio choice. Past 30, the Pathfinder picks up steam and may win the race overall, but in the real world that 0-30 time is more important.

More than most new cars, we have to separate lateral grip from handling “feel” when discussing this Nissan. Why? Because the Pathfinder actually road-holds as well as a Mazda CX-9 according to most publications (TTAC doesn’t have access to a skidpad) but the feeling is night and day different. Steering turn-in is lazy. Soft springs that give one of the best rides in the segment make body roll excessive. There’s plenty of pitch and dive when accelerating and braking. This is the prefect example of numbers not giving you the complete picture. The Pathfinder is faster than almost all of the competition, it stops from 60 mph in a short 125 feet and pulls lateral Gs like a Mazda crossover. Get behind the wheel however and the Pathfinder feels enormous.

2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Exterior-007

Towing with a CVT is an unusual experience to say the least. I attached a 5,000 trailer and gave it a whirl. As expected, the tall starting ratio in the transmission makes for sluggish starts, but when I started climbing hills things went just fine. Like Chrysler’s 8-speed automatic, the ability to find an “ideal” ratio for the moment is what saves the Pathfinder here. Sure, you hear plenty of the 3.5-liter V6 in the cabin when the engine is revving its nuts off, but it feels peppier on a 15 percent grade than a GMC Acadia with the same trailer.

With the Pathfinder, Nissan has created one of the best crossovers on paper. It has legroom to spare, the highest fuel economy among its direct competition, and delivers great acceleration, braking and handling numbers, but it looses something by the time you add it all up and drive one yourself. Perhaps the toll to be paid for checking every box the crossover shopper wants is engagement. The Pathfinder is a crossover I have recommended and will continue to recommend if you want an honest to goodness usable third row and great fuel economy. It also remains one of the better buys in this segment thanks to its low starting price and aggressive equipment bundles. Unfortunately, if driving pleasure, interior refinement, or modern infotainment are higher on your shopping list, there are better options.

Nissan provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as testesd

0-30: 2.7 Seconds

0-60: 7.1 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.24 Seconds @ 93 MPH

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Dispatches do Brasil: Renault Re-Invents Itself in Latin America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/dispatches-brasil-renault-re-invents-latin-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/dispatches-brasil-renault-re-invents-latin-america/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 16:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1053257 Among the first to come to Brazil when the market was opened up again in the 1990s – after a hiatus of almost 50 years when this country closed itself off to the world – Renault has seemingly reached a limit in Brazil. Its market participation has hovered around 6 percent for years. Now, hungry for […]

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Renault Logan

Renault Logan

Among the first to come to Brazil when the market was opened up again in the 1990s – after a hiatus of almost 50 years when this country closed itself off to the world – Renault has seemingly reached a limit in Brazil. Its market participation has hovered around 6 percent for years. Now, hungry for more, the French company is showing its new plans that will deeply affect their operations in Latin America at large and shake up their manufacturing base in South America, most especially Mercosur (namely Brazil and Argentina).

When their Ayrton Senna factory was opened in São José dos Pinhais in Paraná state, their line was in tune to what they produced in Europe. They offered the Clio, Kangoo, Mégane and Scénic. With an emphasis on safety, even the lowly Clio offered dual frontal airbags. At that time, the relative parity between the Brazilian real and American dollar allowed them to import systems such as the aforementioned airbags on the cheap. The minivan Scénic offered space for five, a large trunk, modular seating and became a favorite for families. The Mégane and Kangoo meanwhile suffered at the hands of more established competition and never made a dent in Volkswagen Golf, Fiat Stilo or Ford Focus sales. The Fiat Doblò passenger and commercial versions plus the Uno-based Fiat Fiorino conspired to keep the Kangoo down.

In the Brazilian market, reception was mixed. At the entry level, the Clio had lukewarm success. The majority of compact level car buyers are not exactly flush with money, so buying a new entry into that market was seen as a risky proposition. The Scénic and other minivans slowly, but surely, decimated the station wagons then available on the market. Together with Citroën minivans, Renault owned that market. As it became a favorite, the prices of this type of car rose above the rest of the competition and became expensive to buy.

Undeniably, Renault and other French makes suffered a perception problem. While most think their engines are robust and can take the pressure, suspension systems were and remain under suspicion in the eyes of Brazilian consumers. So, despite placing rather high in consumer satisfaction surveys, Renaults take a hit at re-sale time.

Brazilian Clio

Brazilian Clio

Over the years the American dollar and euro appreciated against the Brazilian real and growing sales plateaued. Renault’s reaction was to cheapen their offerings. Soon, the Clio lost its airbags, losing its appeal to the better off buyers that seemed to favor it over the VW Gol or Fiat Uno. When it was re-designed, it kept the previous car’s internal design. A new Scénic was launched in Europe, but citing cost complications, Renault chose to keep building the old one. Renault also tried to gain market penetration by locally building and selling a Mégane sedan and station wagon. Inevitably, Renault’s line became outmoded and nothing on offer in Europe was sold here.

Of course, errors in reading the market collaborated to their downfall. In the early 2000s, Renault was challenging Ford for fourth place in the Brazilian market. Ford reacted by launching the EcoSport and new Fiesta, new engines, and soon saw the distance between it and Renault grow. Besides the cheapening and non-updating of the line, beginner errors abounded. In Brazil, the Scénic was a solid middle class car, even higher middle class, and not the cheap and cheerful family transportation pod it was in Europe. As such, Brazilian dealers clamored for black and silver Scénics while the French continued offering it in purple, red and other colors the middle class rejected. The Clio, besides keeping the same interiors forever, never changed wheel cover designs or had new versions launched (tricks in which the traditional Brazilian Big Four – Fiat, GM, Volkswagen and Ford – are experts).

In the late 2000s, Renault re-made itself in Brazil. The Scénic was gone. The Kangoo was now only a commercial vehicle. The Clio soldiered on unmolested and seemingly only existed so Renault could keep a foot in the entry-level market. A solution was found though and it was the result of the deepening of the synergies and integration within the scope of the global Renault-Nissan Alliance.

Renault underwent the so-called “Dacia-lization” (Dacia being a Romanian company that Renault uses as its low-cost brand in Europe). The Logan, Sandero and eventually the Duster were launched. In spite of the insipid design, the cars used a Renault-Dacia version of a modern Nissan platform. The Logan family’s claim to fame and a space in the market was that it offered a lot of space for modest prices. Size-wise similar to Focus and Toyota Corolla type cars (sometimes even bigger, trunks tended to be larger), but priced similarly to smaller cars like Gol or Fiat Siena, they appealed to a more rational buyer. After a few years, with the launch of the Duster CUV, Renault was again encroaching on Ford and distancing itself from the Asian brands that were finally “acclimatizing” (by offering compact cars similar to market favorites) to Brazil and had been threatening Renault’s (by then traditional) fifth place in Brazilian sales rankings.

Nov-Ford-Ka-SEL-2015 (3)

As the 2000s became the 2010s, Renault was again under assault. Competition grew. Everybody copied their idea of a larger cars for more modest prices. Fiat launched a bigger Palio and a Grand Siena. Volkswagen do Brasil got into the compact sedan market again with its Voyage. Ford brought the new Fiesta and conjured up the highly competitive new Ka. GM came strong based off of its GM Korea know-how and re-invented themselves in Brazil, becoming the leader of in-car mobile electronics. Toyota got serious in Brazil and the Etios family has been gaining ground, horrible design notwithstanding, based on modern mechanics and a good ride. Hyundai’s HB20 has done the opposite: it has conquered image conscious consumers due to the success of it fluidic design language, in spite of the bad ride. All these companies and cars offered up new technologies and engines, bringing more fuel economy to buyers, extra gadgets and crept up on the Logan family’s cost benefit advantage.

Reacting, Renault has launched a re-designed Logan and Sandero. Though the new designs have been well-accepted and increased sales, this growth has been deemed insufficient. Both Hyundai and Toyota routinely sell more than Renault on a monthly basis and could soon take fifth place in overall sales. As such, Renault studied its South American operations and has cooked up a plan.

Renault Oroch Concept

Renault Oroch Concept

An “un-Dacia-lization” of sorts seems to be in place. Logan and Sandero production is being moved to Argentina. The company is investing heavily in their ancient Santa Isabela factory in that country. Duster production will be kept in Brazil and soon the Oroch pickup (based on the Duster and rumored to be a 1 ton pickup) will be launched. From what the press has been able to piece together, both Duster and Moroch will be produced off of the current platform and updates will be infrequent, following the age-old strategy of competing on price and, also, space. The Duster is larger than EcoSport and the recently launched Jeep Renegade, Honda HR-V and Peugeot 2008. The Moroch will dwarf the current Fiat Strada (new, larger version of which has been seen tooling around the factory), VW Saveiro and the old-as-the-hills, barely competitive Chevrolet Montana.

The Moroch however is an indication of the deepening of the CUV event horizon presciently seen by our recently departed Derek Kreindler. Renault is going all-CUV-in. The Renault Captur, a current Clio-based mini CUV is a foregone conclusion. Renault is not even hiding it anymore and it has been seen around the factory in Paraná and on highway tests. This lends credence to the thesis Renault is re-inventing itself. The new Brazilian Clio, the same again as the Euro Clio, should also appear soon, albeit placed in a category above the current Brazilian Clio’s status. Suppliers also say Renault is quoting prices for a sedan version of the Clio (non-existent in Europe) and indicative of the soon to come demise of its midsize sedan offering, the Fluence. Informed journalists in Brazil have stated that the Espace, Renault’s large (and former) minivan, which has turned into a sort of a CUV, is slated to be introduced in Brazil in 2016 as a locally-produced offering.

The current Brazilian Clio is also on its last days. Though reports are conflicting, either a version of Nissan’s own low-cost brand Datsun Go will be built here in Brazil, or a version of the concept recently shown in world Auto Shows by Nissan called the Sway (supposedly an early version of a substitute for the March/Micra line), could gain a Renault badge and come strong in the lower echelons of the Brazilian market.

Meanwhile, in Argentina, besides the heavy modernizing investments at the local plant and the responsibility of building the Logan family, current cars will remain in production. And very interestingly, the new Frontier/Navara pickup that will used by Mercedes Benz to offer its own global midsize pickup (compact PU for Americans) will also gain a Renault badge for sale, initially, all over Latin America. Internally called the Raptur, this will be Renault’s first incursion into the traditional midsize pickup market. It is an important step and will allow Renault to compete in an important market spanning the entirety of Latin America. Coming soon (reports say early 2016) you could soon take your pick and buy your midsize pickup in your preferred flavor – Nissan, Mercedes or Renault – as they will all be built side-by-side at the Argentinian factory.

The next few years will be very important for Renault in Latin America. It will keep and modernize entry-level cars. It will continue offering competitively priced compact cars that offer a bit more and are the bulk of the Brazilian market. It will make new tries, with new product, to gain a presence in upper middle-class garages by “Euro-pizing” its Brazilian production. It will sell CUVs for all pockets. Pickups, small and large will further broaden Renault’s Latin American presence.

If this will be enough to keep Toyota and Hyundai at bay remains to be seen. However, it seems if they will be offering cars, CUVs and trucks, the market wants. Sounds like a plan.

Brazilian Clio Ayrton Senna Factory Hyundai HB20 Nissan Frontier Renault Oroch Concept Santa Isabela Factory Renault Logan Renault Captur European Clio Renault Fluence Renault Kangoo Express Toyota Etios

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A Nine Year Quest, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying about Looking Cool and Love the Van http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/nine-year-quest-learned-stop-worrying-looking-cool-love-van/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/nine-year-quest-learned-stop-worrying-looking-cool-love-van/#comments Sat, 18 Apr 2015 13:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1047201 (If you have some time this weekend, this contribution, from our reader Robert, will be worth that time — JB) “I will NEVER drive a minivan.” Thus ended the first hostile negotiation serious discussion with my wife about our next vehicle purchase. The story so far: It was the summer of 2005. Our family truckster […]

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image03

(If you have some time this weekend, this contribution, from our reader Robert, will be worth that time — JB)

“I will NEVER drive a minivan.” Thus ended the first hostile negotiation serious discussion with my wife about our next vehicle purchase.

The story so far: It was the summer of 2005. Our family truckster (a 1995 Toyota 4Runner SR5) was doing a fine job hauling mom and the first born around town during the week, plus me, the dog, and the cubic yard of gear required to travel with a one year old child on our frequent weekend trips to the Texas hill country. Anything I wanted to bring had to survive on the roof.

The 4Runner had been a masterpiece of engineering, form, and function to us. But even with Toyota’s legendary reliability, after 10 years and 135k on the clock, her many trouble-free miles were running out. A starter here, a radiator there, and stranding my wife and infant son on the side of the road with electrical gremlins made its replacement eminent. Contemplating the addition of another child with our already tight space requirements made it a matter of practicality. Her preference for large SUVs and my deep seated frugality made it, um, interesting.

“A Sequoia or Armada will work.”

Gas had just hit an all time high of $2.50 a gallon. (Heh.) With her staying home to raise our son, the rising cost of gas, the nontrivial price premium big SUVs command over minivans, and our already meager budget – there was no way we could swing that. Round 1 was a draw.

One peaceful (read: not discussing the car situation) Saturday afternoon we were watching broadcast TV at home. (Cable? Those frills cost money! Nor caller ID, call waiting or smartphones. I had the neighbors convinced that “Suburban Amish” was a thing). This ad came on:

“Hm. If I ever did drive a minivan, it would have to be that one.” Did she just say that in her outside voice?

Truth be told I didn’t want to drive a minivan either, but the Quest really did seem to be something different, daring even with the swept back look and unconventional styling. Every other van out there just looked like a box; at least they were trying. I was already a Nissan fan, having put enough miles on 3 Hardbody trucks to make it all the way to the moon and most of the trip back. Finding out it shared much DNA with the Maxima, my top pick for “what would I drive if I didn’t need a truck” made it almost, dare I say it, kind of cool.

August 22, 2005: I’m rushing to get to work, but she stops me at the door and hands me an odd looking book with a frilly cloth cover, tied with a satin sash. I stare at it, dumbfounded. “Its a new baby book. We’re going to need it.” OH! SQUEEEEEEE!! We hold each other tightly in wordless celebration. I break the silence – “Thats great news! We’re buying a van today.” She looks at the ground and offers one last muted protest. “Sequoia?” “Baby, the Quest is the best.”

A quick search on AutoTrader found a used base model with the right miles for the right price. The only drawback – it was 90 minutes away in Angleton. I called the dealer to make sure they still had it and we hit the road. In keeping with the long standing tradition of auto dealers everywhere, of course the van wasn’t there. They assured me they had a similar one that I would like, they just needed to get it from their other store across town. Well, we did come all this way…

We grab lunch to kill time and return to find the other van really does exist. She approaches to inspect it… I watch from a safe distance. It’s actually much nicer than the one we originally came for, a well optioned 2005 grey on grey SL with heated leather seats, panoramic sunroof, 6 CD changer with Bose sound, and a power sliding door. It was fresh off a one year lease with all of 4,722 miles. She briefly looks around the driver’s seat, glances at the second row, up at all the sunroofs (there are 5), then looking not quite at the van but not quite at me either she gives half a nod to no one in particular. The signal. It’s a done deal. A few hours later we bid the 4Runner farewell and start the long drive home, full of optimism about our growing family and the adventures we will have in our new chariot.

Delivering the goods

This van is big. Vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big compared to the 4Runner. The greenhouse is enormous; visibility is almost completely unobstructed.

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Almost…The D pillars are pretty big, but the rear window is so wide you hardly notice they’re there. The third row headrests are visible in the rearview mirror but adjusting them all the way down helps a lot. The side mirrors are large which is a good thing; you’re going to need them when cutting through rush hour traffic. There is no trace of the vehicle visible out the front glass, which takes some getting used to if you’re accustomed to seeing the hood of your truck at all times.

The second row seats have more legroom than the front. The third row seats have almost as much as the second row, and you can walk right to them between the captain’s chairs. Seven Texas-sized adults can ride in comfort. Fold the third row down and you have an enormous cargo area that will swallow two 50” flatscreens in one bite, or a sheet of plywood if you don’t mind some of it hanging out the back. The second row seats move forward a few inches to make even more room.

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With the third row up there is a huge well in the floor behind the seat backs.

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Nissan’s ubiquitous 3.5L VQ engine delivers MAD MAXIMA POWAH! It’s just silly how strong it is off the line. Per Wikipedia, the engine is good for 240 hp and 242 lb-ft of torque that will get you to 60 mph in 8.8 seconds. Practical application: if you need to cross ALL the lanes of FM1488 to get to the Whataburger thats only 100 feet up the road from the stoplight because somebody forgot to pee before you left the Renaissance Festival, you can do that with authority and a satisfying roar from the engine. Of course it helps if nobody else at the light knows they are racing. Stomp the throttle from a roll below 10 mph and the tires spin. 80 mph is effortless, and you’ll get there without even noticing if you’re not careful. Fortunately my unassuming mom mobile has been invisible to law enforcement; I hoon it around with impunity. EPA estimated mileage is 18-24 MPG, but I always got 19 in mixed driving.

The handling is surprisingly good for something this large and heavy (204.1 inches long, 77.6 inches wide, 70 inches tall, 5,732 lbs). My driving style varies from spirited to aggressive, but I’ve never been able to unsettle it more than just getting the back end to step out a few degrees on hard corner exits, and even that takes a lot of effort. The steering has very little play; small inputs are faithfully translated into minor course adjustments. On the highway it tracks straight with very little effort needed to keep it between the ditches. The disc brakes front and back have always felt adequate for normal driving; the whoa matches the go.

It’s certainly the most luxurious vehicle we’ve owned so far. The leather seats are comfortable on long road trips, although at 6’ I wish they would go back another inch. The heated front seats provide welcome relief for my chronic back pain; I run them year round. My only complaint is the two heater settings are “is this thing on?” and “the seat is melting”, forcing me to toggle between high and off to maintain a comfortable temperature. The multi panel sunroof cheers up the otherwise drab greyness of the interior. Kids love the airplane-style overhead lights and vents.

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The Details

In addition to the pleasing big ticket items above, the van is endowed with some extremely well conceived and executed features that are a joy to use.

There is a strip of grocery bag hangers on the back of the third row seats. This is a killer feature. There are other knobs that things can hang on or be tied to.

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There is a map holder molded into the steering column. This is extremely handy if you still use old school written directions like me.

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There is a large hook within the driver’s reach on the passenger seat base. Our salesman said it was a purse hanger. Well, It’s a handy place to anchor a grocery bag or really anything else you don’t want sliding around on the floor. And slide it will; there is no center console separating the driver and passenger footwells.

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The Bose speakers sounded great then, and they still sound great 9 years later. I feed it a steady diet of ’80s heavy metal turned up to 11 when it’s just the boys and I.

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Rounding out the family friendly bona fides, there are little storage bins and compartments everywhere. I keep them full of band aids, water bottles, gummy worms, kids’ allergy medicine, and Red Bull (for me of course).

Things that make you go hmmm

It also has some things that are just different for the sake of being different and make no damn sense at all.

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The speedometer sits in the middle of the dash above the center stack instead of directly in front of the driver. What. The. Hell? This foolishness easily doubles the amount of time it takes to glance down and across at the speedometer and back at the road. Backseat drivers love it. This conversation, in perpetuity: “You’re speeding.” (low grumble) “I like the way I’m driving better than the way you’re not.” Nissan abandoned this foolishness before the end of the model run, so make sure you get a 2007 or later if you like your road speed like you like your browser history – private.

The front cup holders feel like an afterthought. They’re too low to comfortably reach while driving; your beverage is sitting nearly on the floor. I have to bend a little to the side to reach them. They’re also fragile and easily stepped on by children. Mine haven’t closed properly for years.

Finally, the third row seat stowing procedure is complicated, strenuous, and a little dangerous:

Remove the third row headrests and store them in a bag that hangs in the back corner.
Remove the bag and put it…somewhere.
Fold the seat forward and down to the flat position.
Reach as far forward as you possibly can and pull with all your might on a nylon strap to lift the seat all the way back up and over until it drops into the well with enough force to crush a small child. I’m 6′, 245 lbs and I struggle with this. I can’t imagine the target demographic Quest driver has an easy time with this.
Hang the stupid bag back up.

Most of the time I just leave the headrests and bag at home and reinstall them when I have passengers. If I like them.

Heading out to the highway

Beauty is skin deep, but cheap parts and assembly are to the bone.

For our first 5 years of Questdom, the van was used as a light commuter for my wife and as our weekend road trip hauler. During that time it accumulated squeaks, leaks, and rattles in much the same way that Toyotas don’t. That must be what the SL badge on the back stands for, or possibly, Sticky Leather.

There are several plastic splash shields under the engine compartment. I can’t tell you how many because I’ve never seen them all at the same time, but I’ve counted at least four that pushed their eject button somewhere out on the Texas highways. I know the scraping sound they make so well that I can hear a Quest coming from blocks away. Sometimes they drop onto a tire and make a terrific burning smell as they melt and splatter molten plastic all over the brake rotor. The van sits very low, especially the nose, and the suspension bottoms easily which I’m sure exacerbates the problem. I used to replace them, but the van just drops them like a bad habit so I don’t bother anymore. It seems to get along just fine without them.

The liftgate button also likes to disappear – into the body moulding. The first several times I dutifully fished it back out and reinstalled, only to have it happen again after a few more pushes. Closing it manually is a safer bet anyway, because every time you use the button there is a good chance the liftgate will stop a few inches before closing and open right back up, beeping a warning like you did something wrong. It likes to pull the opposite trick too, raising a few inches, beeping, and then suddenly closing. When it does you will be tempted to grab the handle and try to pull it back up. Don’t, because when you miss the handle and instead rip the painted plastic cover off it is expensive to put it back on.

“Daddy, it’s raining on me.” The multi panel moonroofs leak during anything harder than a sprinkle. When I finally felt like doing something about it, the roof was already rusted through in places around the glass. Oops. The power sunroof is a chronic leaker as well, dripping water right onto my lap while driving. This can be temporarily remedied by standing up through the sunroof and cleaning the drain lines with a pipe cleaner; I keep a pair in the glove box at all times. The moisture gives the electronics a sense of adventure and mischief, opening the sunroof unbidden when you least expect it and then closing just as mysteriously a few minutes later. I keep waiting for this to happen inside a car wash. To round out the wet weather fun, the left sliding door rattles and squeaks constantly when it rains, but not when it’s dry, and never the right side. Figure that one out.

The moonroof panels have a nifty pull-out shade for when you want protection from the sun. In Houston we call that “daytime.” One day the shade went slack and we heard something round and heavy roll across the roof and down into the side of the body. It never retracted again. Dropping the roof just to estimate the real repair cost is north of $500 at the dealer.

Despite all the little issues, the core strengths of hauling lots of people and lots of stuff (sometimes both!) still shine through. Shortly after buying the Quest I got promoted, which meant I could afford TWICE THE DEBT!! Recently retired from motocross, I no longer needed a truck. I traded my beloved but ailing T100 4×4 on a gently used G35 sedan. The following weekend we realized a backyard playset would make the perfect gift for the first born’s second birthday. I had my doubts about the Quest’s ability to haul several hundred pounds of “some assembly required” backyard fun, but it didn’t break a sweat. Over the years it served quite well as a light truck and cargo hauler. We added a trailer hitch and took the in-laws on vacation with us to South Padre Island, hauling 4 adults, 2 children, and a 4×8 trailer with ease. Life with the van is good!

Victim of changes

August 12, 2012: I’m driving the van back to Houston from Angleton once again. All the hope and optimism from before is gone. Leaving the Brazoria County courthouse, I’m struck by the irony of the judge’s parting words. “I’m glad the two of you worked this out.” I assume he meant to show his gratitude for us settling outside of a trial. This is obviously some strange use of the phrase “worked this out” that I wasn’t previously aware of.

The children, and the Quest, are now my sole responsibility and mode of transportation.

Survival mode

Adapting to life as a single dad while maintaining a demanding career and preparing to move out of a rundown house, the Quest proved itself to be a welcome shelter from the world when I needed one.

I spent a lot of the first year completely exhausted. Fortunately, the Quest is easy to sleep in. The third row is wide enough to curl up on for a quick nap. Need some legroom? Lean the third row back, fold a second row seat down and put your feet up. Want to lay all the way down? Fold the third row and move the second row all the way up and stretch out. Missed a meal? A small Lunchable fits perfectly in the coin tray.

The Bose sound system has plenty of punch if you need a sustained cathartic blast of Iron Maiden or Judas Priest. Still need more stress relief? Flog the mighty 3.5L V6 with reckless abandon on your commute, and stuff it into a freeway turnaround so hard that the back end starts to kick out when you exit at twice the posted speed; even drivers of full sized domestic pickup trucks will give you wide berth.

The Quest continued serving light truck duty while preparing our old house for sale, which suffered from years of deferred maintenance. Tile, paint, fence boards, landscaping, no job was too big. The play set it had hauled home for us new in a box, it hauled once more to the dump after I methodically cut it down with a circular saw. Little pieces of my my sons’ childhood and innocence tumbled down into the landfill with it.

Alas, operating the van during this transitional period wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Days before its inspection was due the check engine light came on. The code indicated catalytic converter replacement, a several thousand dollar repair. I did not have two extra nickels to rub together, so I dumped the biggest bottle of fuel system cleaner I could find into a tank of super unleaded and whipped it like a rented mule for 300 miles. I reset the CEL, and it never came back on.

In the year that followed, I replaced the rear wheel bearings, one CV joint, and the odometer/fuel gauge. One unlucky morning I was attempting my Tokyo Drift freeway turnaround maneuver. At the point of the corner exit where I was expecting an upshift, the transmission slipped instead and the engine soared way past the redline. Before I could back off the throttle, it lost all power with a loud bang. CRAP! I pondered the very expensive options while I limped it to the nearest shop at its new top speed of 20 mph, the engine shaking like a wet dog. Slipped timing chain and bent valves? Did a catalytic converter finally collapse? I was relieved to find it had only popped off a vacuum line downwind from the mass air flow meter; a mercifully cheap fix. Still, there was no denying the van was getting expensive to operate and that I had kept it well past its expiration date.

New beginnings

In June 2013, the Quest brought the boys to see their new home for the first time where we would restart our life in Sugar Land. After years of chronic back pain I did not want my children riding dirt bikes, but my brother had other plans. Waiting for us in the garage was the 1991 Yamaha PW50 that all 3 of his boys learned to ride on, restored and ready for mine. How can I say no to that? We quickly outgrew the little Pee Wee, and got tired of sharing it. Fortunately the Quest is a damn good mini bike hauler.

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Dont try this with your RX 350! That’s a Honda CRF50 and CRF70, with the second row seats in place, and the liftgate will still close. You can even use the second row seat brackets to anchor tiedowns, and there’s room for plenty of gear and a ramp down the middle.

Like any addict, part of my mind is constantly whispering to me “Go ahead, Robert. You can ride just a little bit, it won’t hurt you.” Come to think of it, I do need something to follow the boys around on so I can coach them on proper riding techniques.

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450 KTM FTW!
A trailer with 3 dirt bikes and gear starts to stress the van a bit. Fuel economy drops to about 15 MPG. The low ground clearance makes hauling a trailer over rough ground a dangerous proposition; I’ve bottomed out the hitch several times. The modest grade of my driveway grinds metal into concrete every single time I back in or pull out, leaving glacial striations for future archaeologists to ponder. This is not the best application for the van, but you can get by with it.

Conclusion

I’ve gotten years of use and enjoyment out of this van, albeit tempered by the frustrations of the chronic problem areas and rapidly increasing operating costs. It was the right vehicle at the right time; it’s been the right vehicle for a long time now. I’m a proud member of the He-Man Minivan Lovers Club. I still stand by my decision to buy it, and given the same set of circumstances I’d buy it again. But circumstances change, and I will never be back at that place in my life. As good as it has been to own it, nothing lasts forever. Any day now it could need something that costs more than I could sell it for. If I loved it, I could afford repairs that make no financial sense, but I don’t love it. I respect it, it has been a faithful and dependable part of my life for 9 years now, but in my mind it will always be her car. I’m reminded of her every time I sit down and turn the key, and I’ve grown weary of that.

Is my quest, and my Quest, finally coming to an end? I think… yes, and soon.

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Crapwagon Outtake: Squeeze My Lemon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/crapwagon-outtake-squeeze-lemon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/crapwagon-outtake-squeeze-lemon/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 12:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1044594 Apologies to Messrs Johnson and, to a lesser extent, Plant for the title. We continue our journey through the wasteland of the automotive internet with another car that fills my imaginary garage–that fantasy world where there are no orthodontist’s bills. I distinctly remember when the Z32 started hitting the enthusiast magazines in 1989, around the […]

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Apologies to Messrs Johnson and, to a lesser extent, Plant for the title.

We continue our journey through the wasteland of the automotive internet with another car that fills my imaginary garage–that fantasy world where there are no orthodontist’s bills.

I distinctly remember when the Z32 started hitting the enthusiast magazines in 1989, around the same time as another iconic Japanese sports car was filling the same pages. It didn’t hurt that my dad was a long-time Z owner–and occasional president of the local Z club–and a regional Nissan marketing executive lived two blocks away. The 1990 300ZX was right up there in my preteen automotive poster dreamworld with the usual suspects from Maranello, Stuttgart, and Sant’Agata. Dad ended up with a non-turbo version, in middle-aged-guy-appropriate deep cherry red, that he ended up trading before the 60k timing belt service was due.

The 300hp twin-turbo was mind-blowing back then–of course, minivans had around 150hp rather than the 283 in my T&C. Corvette and 944 Turbo performance from the same place that serviced Mom’s Sentra? That’s why I can’t believe this yellow example on eBay has only fifteen thousand miles on the odometer. Who wouldn’t want to drive this halfway across the continent?

The color probably doesn’t help. But otherwise (save for the Nissan hamburger logo that shouldn’t be on the between-headlamp panel on a ’90) this looks just like the cars I drooled over in the local showroom as a kid. $29k might be a stretch, too. But there are so few left that are this clean that I can imagine someone will pull the trigger.

 

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Nissan Considering Hybrid Variant Of Rogue For US Market http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/nissan-considering-hybrid-variant-rogue-us-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/nissan-considering-hybrid-variant-rogue-us-market/#comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 13:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1044746 Known as the X-Trail or Qashqai in Japan and other global markets, the Nissan Rogue could soon come in hybrid form for the U.S. market. Automotive News reports the X-Trail Hybrid could be rebadged as a Rogue Hybrid, both crossovers using a single-motor, dual-clutch hybrid system; the X-Trail Hybrid is expected to hold 40 percent […]

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Known as the X-Trail or Qashqai in Japan and other global markets, the Nissan Rogue could soon come in hybrid form for the U.S. market.

Automotive News reports the X-Trail Hybrid could be rebadged as a Rogue Hybrid, both crossovers using a single-motor, dual-clutch hybrid system; the X-Trail Hybrid is expected to hold 40 percent of overall X-Trail sales after it goes on sale in Japan this May.

Though Nissan didn’t mention whether it had plans to sell the hybrid overseas, the crossover’s engineer, Nobusuke Toukura, said the company was thinking about a Rogue hybrid model for the United States, citing increasing consumer demand for hybrids and stricter emissions rules over the next five years.

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Rogue Surge: Nissan’s Small CUV Continues Rise Toward The Top Of The Crossover Heap http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/rogue-surge-nissans-small-cuv-continues-rise-toward-top-crossover-heap/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/rogue-surge-nissans-small-cuv-continues-rise-toward-top-crossover-heap/#comments Thu, 09 Apr 2015 15:38:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1041513 In smashing its all-time record set just seven months ago by 6000 units, the Nissan Rogue became America’s second-best-selling utility vehicle in March 2015. Year-over-year, U.S. sales of the Rogue jumped 41% to 27,418 in March. Rogue volume is up 28% to 64,486 through the first-quarter of 2015, making the Rogue America’s fifth-best-selling utility vehicle […]

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2014 Nissan RogueIn smashing its all-time record set just seven months ago by 6000 units, the Nissan Rogue became America’s second-best-selling utility vehicle in March 2015.

Year-over-year, U.S. sales of the Rogue jumped 41% to 27,418 in March. Rogue volume is up 28% to 64,486 through the first-quarter of 2015, making the Rogue America’s fifth-best-selling utility vehicle this year, on par with its position at this stage last year and one position north of its year-end ranking in 2014.

But the Rogue, somewhat unusual because it’s available with a third row of seating, has quickly narrowed the gap. At this point in 2014, the Rogue trailed the top-selling utility vehicle in the U.S., Ford’s Escape, by 20,857 units. In 2015, the Rogue trails the top-selling Honda CR-V by fewer than 8700 units.

best selling SUVs chartMoreover, the Rogue’s March tally was second-best among SUVs and crossovers and only 200 units shy of the CR-V, which sat atop the leaderboard for the seventh consecutive month. In a utility vehicle sector which produced a 7% year-over-year improvement in the month of March, the CR-V and Escape both lost sales and market share and combined for a 6% decline.

(Note: “Rogue” is an all-encompassing term that includes both the first and second-generation small crossovers. In a sense, this is not terribly different compared with the overlap of any car: the Toyota Camry over the course of last fall and winter; the Ford F-150 right now. However, the fact that Nissan markets both the Rogue and Rogue Select isn’t just a perfectly timed production overlap to keep inventory levels high in the short-term. The Rogue’s presence is Nissan’s medium-term plan. Nissan doesn’t break down the totals of Rogue new and old, but a translation of inventory results from Cars.com suggests 32% of the Rogue’s sales tally is Rogue Select-derived.)

2014 Nissan Rogue SelectThe Rogue’s year-over-year increase was the nameplate’s eighth consecutive and the 14th in the last 16 months. On an annual basis, the Rogue has always posted improved sales, rising 165% between its first full year (2008) to 199,199 U.S. sales in 2014.

But the Nissan is competing in an increasingly challenging market, one in which the typically better-selling CR-V, Escape, Toyota RAV4, and Chevrolet Equinox all set U.S. sales records in 2014, as well. And as part of the Nissan lineup, the Rogue has its detractors. In a discussion with reporters at the New York International Auto Show that ended with John Mendel saying, “”This is probably the last interview that PR is going to let me do,” the Honda senior VP went off on Nissan’s increasingly impressive sales numbers. “They want to juice their business by 28 to 30 percent fleet every month. That’s their business but then don’t compare it to individual customers who pay their own money for individual cars.”

The Nissan brand has outsold the Honda brand in each of 2015’s first three months. The Detroit News quotes a Nissan spokesman, David Reuter, who denied the 28-30% figure and offered up 17% as the more realistic number. Regardless, Mendel’s insistence that, “I don’t really give a damn about Nissan,” may include slightly too much protest to be completely believable.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Nissan NP300 Will Span Renault, Mercedes Variants, Argentinian Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/nissan-np300-will-span-renault-mercedes-variants-argentinian-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/nissan-np300-will-span-renault-mercedes-variants-argentinian-plant/#comments Wed, 08 Apr 2015 14:22:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1039921 Nissan’s new Navara pickup will spawn variants for both Renault and Mercedes-Benz, with the three trucks likely to be built at a new plant in Argentina. The new trucks are said to be based on the all-new D23 trucks, which will form the basis for the new global Navara pickup. While the D23 will also […]

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Nissan’s new Navara pickup will spawn variants for both Renault and Mercedes-Benz, with the three trucks likely to be built at a new plant in Argentina.

The new trucks are said to be based on the all-new D23 trucks, which will form the basis for the new global Navara pickup. While the D23 will also play a part in the development of our next-generation Frontier, the architecture will require substantial re-working to be compliant with our FMVSS regulations. As it stands now, the D23 would not come close to passing U.S. crash tests, making it unlikely that we’ll see the M-B pickups on our shores.

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Nissan Making Automatic Braking Standard On JDM Models By Fall http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/nissan-making-automatic-braking-standard-jdm-models-fall/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/nissan-making-automatic-braking-standard-jdm-models-fall/#comments Wed, 08 Apr 2015 12:00:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1039569 Nissan announced Tuesday that it will make automatic braking standard on all of its mass-market models in its home market of Japan. Reuters reports the first model to receive the now-standard feature will be the X-Trail Hybrid, which will hit showrooms May 13 with a starting price of ¥2.8 million ($23,423 USD); Nissan expects to […]

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Nissan announced Tuesday that it will make automatic braking standard on all of its mass-market models in its home market of Japan.

Reuters reports the first model to receive the now-standard feature will be the X-Trail Hybrid, which will hit showrooms May 13 with a starting price of ¥2.8 million ($23,423 USD); Nissan expects to sell 3,500 per month.

The move to make the feature standard is a step towards the automaker’s goal of autonomous vehicles, the first phase of which is set to be carried out in Japan next year.

While automatic braking is available in Nissan’s home market offerings, it hasn’t yet decided if it plans to offer the feature elsewhere.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Nissan Pathfinder http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/capsule-review-2015-nissan-pathfinder/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/capsule-review-2015-nissan-pathfinder/#comments Sat, 04 Apr 2015 13:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1037369 Before you read this road test of the 2015 Nissan Pathfinder, I must write that it isn’t as comprehensive as I want it to be, even though I put well over 1,000 miles on it. There was supposed to be a road trip from San Jose to Lake Arrowhead with at least three other people […]

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Before you read this road test of the 2015 Nissan Pathfinder, I must write that it isn’t as comprehensive as I want it to be, even though I put well over 1,000 miles on it. There was supposed to be a road trip from San Jose to Lake Arrowhead with at least three other people on board. They were supposed to critique the car’s features, evaluate the interior comfort during the trip, and simulate the amount of stress that most families would put on a seven-passenger crossover. It wasn’t meant to be, though, with all three bailing out with various reasons, from studying to the CPA exam (a very valid excuse) to needing to visit family (again, a valid excuse) to saying they would come if the destination was changed to Santa Barbara (not a valid excuse and grounds for a passive-aggressive e-mail).

Such an experience was supposed to make up for the fact that actual, live families would potentially read this review of the Pathfinder and seriously regard what I, a childless, flip-flops-wearing, Gran Turismo-playing millennial, wrote about their possible next family car. “Oh, he actually carted around 4 full-size adults for over 1,000 miles rather than using it alone on his daily commute,” they would think, “This test really simulated family use. He probably even yelled at the back seat passengers to turn their music down.” Unfortunately, I never got my chance. Instead, the long trip consisted of tuning into Christian rock stations throughout the Central Valley while trying to find an alternative rock station, until I got to Pasadena, where I began loudly complaining to myself about traffic in Southern California.

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But enough about Southern California traffic (and I could really go on), I must discuss the history Pathfinder nameplate. In 1985, Nissan debuted the Pathfinder, which was intended to compete with the Jeep Cherokee and Toyota 4Runner, though it was only available with two doors at launch. It was a very capable vehicle off-road and was built on a truck platform. It eventually gained two extra doors as well as a third seat in later generations while retaining the off-road capability of the original. The last-generation Pathfinder was even available with a V-8. But it became difficult to market as a family vehicle due to its body-on-frame construction, which didn’t help its fuel economy and limited interior space.

Other car platform-based seven-passenger family crossovers like the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Mazda CX-9 were taking away sales from truck-based SUVs like the Pathfinder. The Pathfinder needed to be significantly updated for better fuel economy and better internal packaging for the needs of most families, many of whom didn’t need the extensive off-road and towing capabilities of the old Pathfinder.

As a result, my 2015 Pathfinder 4×4 test car is completely different from the old Pathfinder. It’s based on the same platform as the Murano and Altima. It handles better than the old truck-based Pathfinder and gets significantly better fuel economy largely due to its much lower weight. Its door handles aren’t on the C-pillar. The exterior design is a lot cleaner and a lot more rounded. The interior is a much nicer place to be and has more space to move around in. The transmission is continuously variable rather than having actual gears. The competition is now vehicles like the Pilot and Highlander rather than the 4Runner and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

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Since I spent well over 1,000 miles in the driver’s seat, I’m going to first focus on comfort. As potential Pathfinder buyers will be spending a good deal of time behind the wheel, driving the kids to numerous activities like fencing and jai alai (kids really need to stand out for those college apps) and taking long road trips (jai alai tournaments are perhaps very few and far between), I can definitively write that the front driver’s seat of the Pathfinder is a satisfying place. There’s no other way I could have lasted six hours straight driving back from San Bernardino to San Jose without a long pause. Some sections of highways I drove on were very bumpy, yet the Pathfinder’s ride soaked up the bumps and didn’t provide a jarring experience. During the trip, I didn’t find out myself shifting around in the seat after 300 miles like I would in other cars. When I arrived home, I didn’t feel stiff and felt I had the energy to do things.

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The back seat isn’t such a bad place either. There’s an easily accessible 120V power outlet for plugging in a laptop or other equipment and the second row can also control its temperature. It’s possible to recline the seats and relax. I wouldn’t recommend the second row for people well above six feet since there wouldn’t be enough legroom for them. Meanwhile, the third seat is strictly for two people who haven’t hit their growth spurt. Anyone above 5 feet and 5 inches would have a rough time sitting in the third seat after 90 minutes. Extra legroom can be derived by moving up the middle row, but then adults in the middle row would lose plenty of legroom and become uncomfortable too. All passengers in the back have their own air vents, so there’ll little question of keeping cool during the summer.

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When it comes to cargo capacity, with the third row up, there’s enough room for two large suitcases and one airplane carry-on bag. There is some extra space for miscellaneous objects below the trunk which can accommodate two small backpacks. With the third row folded down, the cargo capacity substantially increases, making the Pathfinder a good match for four to five person road trips. The middle row folds down too, so the car can fit long surfboards and bikes inside rather than affixing them to the roof or an attachment to the tow hitch. Furthermore, the spare tire is mounted underneath the car behind the tow hitch, not impeding the interior cargo space.

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To move all 4,500 pounds of the car, Nissan equipped the Pathfinder with the 3.5-liter V-6 which makes 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque, which is right in line with the V-6 options of the Pilot, Highlander, Kia Sorento, and Santa Fe. Unlike the competition, the Pathfinder’s V-6 is pared to a CVT, which helps considerably with the fuel economy numbers. The powertrain had no problem keeping up the very fast traffic on Interstate 5, with the car traveling between 75 and 80 miles an hour for two hours straight. Even from a stoplight, fully loaded the car doesn’t have trouble getting places.

A common complaint about the Pathfinder is its continuously variable transmission. For 2015, the CVT in the Pathfinder received “D-Step Shift Logic” which makes the CVT feel like a traditional transmission. During my time, I had no problems with it. The only thing I noticed involving the CVT occurred when driving on a particularly hilly section of highway (the Grapevine section of Interstate 5). The CVT was constantly trying to find the right planetary gear to climb up the hill, acting like a seven or eight-speed automatic transmission. Despite that, the transmission was still maintaining a constant speed of 65 mph, and didn’t have a problem with how much throttle I gave the car. However, the CVT didn’t have that issue when driving up the mountains to go to Lake Arrowhead, perhaps because of the lower speeds with the winding roads.

However, the fuel economy of the Pathfinder was exceptional, considering mine had four-wheel-drive and can seat seven people. Granted, the Pathfinder carried two people at most, and a majority of the miles I drove were on the highway in two-wheel-drive mode, with air conditioning off some of the time, but the Pathfinder managed a little bit over 25 miles per gallon, which is on the upper end of the EPA estimate of 19 city and 26 highway. The CVT definitely helped in achieving than figure.

As for utilizing the four-wheel-drive system on the car, I didn’t have a chance to do so. Unfortunately, no snow fell around Lake Arrowhead, and though taking the Pathfinder to my local off-road vehicle park was thought about, I didn’t think Nissan intended the current Pathfinder to face obstacle that even some current Jeeps have some difficulty completing. Nonetheless, Nissan’s intuitive 4WD system has 2WD, automatic, and 4WD lock modes as well as hill start assist and hill descent control. All of those features may come in handy when driving in snow or climbing and descending steep dirt or gravel roads.

My test car was the SL 4×4 model which had leather seats, a power passenger seat, power lumbar support, power liftgate, rear SONAR, a blind sport warning system, and a remote engine start system, useful for warming up the car in cold weather. Mine also had the SL Tech Package, which included navigation, a Bose sound system, the Around View monitor, and a tow hitch receiver with the trailer harness. With the $860 destination charge, the MSRP came to $40,850. Considering the amount of equipment on the Pathfinder, I think it’s very well-priced and the MSRP is very similar to other seven-passenger crossovers with a similar level of equipment as my Pathfinder test vehicle such as the Pilot Touring trim and the Highlander Limited model.

In the end, the Pathfinder should be on most families’ shopping lists. Those families who don’t want a minivan and are only willing to consider either a Honda Pilot or Toyota Highlander are missing out on a very nice interior, much cleaner and classier outside styling, and many, many features for the price. After over 1,200 miles with it, I can write the Pathfinder is an excellent vehicle for driving long distances. What I can’t write is whether four millennials can tough out 1,200 miles as passengers in a Pathfinder, which in hindsight, is for the best. Otherwise I’d be writing this review with a hoarse voice.

Satish Kondapavulur is a writer for Clunkerture, where about a fifth of the articles are about old cars and where his one-time LeMons racing dreams came to an end once he realized it was impossible to run a Ferrari Mondial. He’s still proud and amazed of the fuel economy numbers he achieved with the Pathfinder.

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New York 2015: Nissan Maxima Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/new-york-2015-nissan-maxima-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/new-york-2015-nissan-maxima-revealed/#comments Thu, 02 Apr 2015 17:36:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1037537 Months after making its debut during a Super Bowl ad, Nissan is showing us the rest of the 2016 Maxima. While the full-size sedan is an endangered species in America (half the segment winds up in fleet sales), Nissan is making a good effort at keeping the Maxima fresh. The Maxima loses 82 lbs, but […]

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2016 Nissan Maxima

Months after making its debut during a Super Bowl ad, Nissan is showing us the rest of the 2016 Maxima.

While the full-size sedan is an endangered species in America (half the segment winds up in fleet sales), Nissan is making a good effort at keeping the Maxima fresh. The Maxima loses 82 lbs, but the only drivetrain is a 300-horsepower V6 mated to a CVT. So much for the 4DSC.

 

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Bark’s Bites: The Good, The Not-As-Good, and The Ugly: Part Three http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/barks-bites-good-not-good-ugly-part-three/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/barks-bites-good-not-good-ugly-part-three/#comments Thu, 02 Apr 2015 11:30:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1033673 In today’s installment, we’ll examine the lineups of the big Japanese three: Nissan, Honda, and Toyota, as well as their luxury variants. I should have said this in the first installment, but never let it be said that I am above admitting mistakes, so let me say it now: I never had plans to comment […]

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In today’s installment, we’ll examine the lineups of the big Japanese three: Nissan, Honda, and Toyota, as well as their luxury variants. I should have said this in the first installment, but never let it be said that I am above admitting mistakes, so let me say it now: I never had plans to comment on every single model from every single manufacturer—just the ones that stand out to me in some way, or ones that I have about which I might have a contrary opinion. If I don’t mention a model, it’s likely because I haven’t driven it, or I don’t have an opinion about it that is in any way meaningful or insightful.

Since we’ve already established the format in the first and second installments of this series, let’s just jump right into it, shall we?

NISSAN

The Good:

Nissan continues to own the B segment in the States with the Versa and Versa Note. It’s spacious (as people reminded me when I reviewed the Rogue Select recently), it’s inexpensive, gets good gas mileage, and it has a decent reliability record. What else do you expect at this price point?

The Leaf is really much better to drive than you’d expect, and I totally dig the quirky looks of it. Since I spend a fair amount of time in Atlanta, I’ve gotten pretty used to the idea of the Leaf, and I’d definitely consider leasing one if I lived there due to the massive tax subsidies available. If you don’t live somewhere that the Focus EV  or Spark EV is available, and you’re not prepared to go Full Tesla, then the Leaf is for you.

The Not-As-Good:

I’ve always loved the Z. There was a time, when the 370Z was launched in 2009, that only an idiot would consider anything but the Z in this price range. But this iteration is getting a bit long in the tooth, and the pony cars have caught and surpassed it. The version you really want is the Sport trim, and with an MSRP of around $34K, can you really make a case for it over a Mustang GT? I don’t think so.

The Altima isn’t bad. It’s competent. It’s adequate. I could go to thesaurus.com and find some other words to describe just how ambivalent I am about it, but I think you’ve got the point by now. It’s not as good as the Mazda6, the Fusion, the Accord, or the Camry, and it’s probably better than the Malibu and the Sonata. I think that means it fits here. I certainly never pick one on purpose on rental row, but I don’t get upset if it’s all that’s available.

The GT-R has served its purpose for Nissan, despite what our former EIC had to say about it all those years ago. It’s been a good halo car. It’s had a few refreshes over the years so that it doesn’t seem as old as it actually is. I just don’t dig it. It seems like it’s the dream car of teenagers and twentysomethings, but by the time they grow up enough to buy one, they’ve also grown up enough to move on to either the 991 or the Viper/Corvette. Nevertheless, it is a technological marvel, and Nissan should be commended for being the only Japanese automaker to currently have a genuine supercar in the lineup.

The Ugly:

I’m just gonna go ahead and leave INFINITI here. The brand needs a complete reboot—or a complete execution. They have exactly one car in the top 100 in 2015 YTD sales—the Q50 sneaks in at #96—and their naming convention is so odd that I have no problem admitting that I have no idea what car people are talking about anymore when they mention an Infiniti. It would have been nice of Johan de Nysschen to turn the lights out when he left.

The Rogue Select goes here, too. I haven’t driven a newer Rogue yet, so I’ll reserve judgment.

Sometimes I forget that Nissan makes the Sentra. I find it to be the least attractive, least compelling vehicle of anything in the C segment. Where the Altima is knocking on the door of the Camry for top-seller in its segment, the Sentra languishes behind not only the Corolla, but also the Civic, the Cruze, and the Focus. I can’t imagine why anybody buys this car.

HONDA

The Good:

The Accord…what can you say? It’s the Accord. It’s the Ohio State of cars—it might have its haters, but it’s consistently good every single year. It’s the last of it’s kind to keep offering a two-door variant. It’s a good car. I got nothin’ else.

The MDX/Pilot. I might be one of the few people who’s towed a race car with a Pilot across the country. It always demonstrated great gas mileage, a comfortable ride, enough storage space for eight wheels and tires and tools, and it was reliable as the sun. No complaints here.

The Fit—it’s #fitforyou! I think it’s too expensive for what it is, and I wouldn’t even consider buying one over something like, oh, I don’t know, a FIESTA ST, but it suits the needs of lots of people perfectly. In all seriousness, it really is pretty good. Why no performance variant though?

In the most competitive segment in today’s marketplace, Honda has a clear winner—the CR-V. It’s pretty hard to believe that it outsells both the Civic and the Accord, but it does. Welcome to 2015! The CR-V has a long tradition of being a reliable, smart decision—nobody will mock you at the PTA meeting for buying one. With the small CUV becoming the new mid-size sedan, it makes sense that the CR-V is as popular as it is.

The Not-As-Good:

What the hell has happened to the Civic? It’s too big, it’s too bloated, it’s too boring. I respect Honda’s decision to react quickly in regards to the Civic after the relative disaster of the 2012 Civic, but for those of us who remember what the Civic (specifically the SI) used to be, the modern Civic is just okay. I can guarantee you that Toretto’s gang wouldn’t be using Civics to rob semis anymore.

The Ugly:

The Crosstour. No, I mean, it’s literally ugly. I know it’s just an Accord, but what can I say—I’m superficial.

If there was ever a car that needed to be completely re-imagined, it’s the CR-Z. Poorly conceived, poorly designed, and poorly executed. It’s neither economical nor sporty—so what would you say ya do here, CR-Z?  It’s a travesty.

But, to me, the ugliest part about Honda is that the company has completely abandoned its enthusiast base. The company that used to make the Integra Type-R and the S2000 feels like just another appliance maker now. You can feel it when you’re in a Honda store, as I often am. There’s no passion, there’s no excitement. The showrooms feel like mausoleums. You know what Honda needs? A Fit SI. Get the kids excited about the brand again. Create some future Honda enthusiasts.

TOYOTA

The Good:

Maybe there’s something in the water around here, because I used to hate the Camry and everything that it stood for. After a few dozen track laps in a four-cylinder SE, I kinda like it. Of all the mid-sizers, the Camry is definitely to most rewarding to drive. It wouldn’t be my first pick in the segment, but it would definitely be in my top three. That’s good enough to get it up here.

The IS350 is the one car that has a legitimate potential claim to the throne that the 3-Series has owned for decades. I was fortunate enough to drive the F-Sport variant from San Diego to Beverly Hills last October, and it’s hard to think of a car that I would have rather made the trip in. If you don’t like the new 3-Series, the IS might just be for you.

Do you know how you  know you’ve made it as a mom at my son’s school? You have a Swagger Wagon. The Sienna is the top choice of non-working women everywhere. Unfortunately, it can slide into the high $30K range pretty quickly once you start optioning it up into AWD V6 trim.

I struggle with where I should place the RX. It’s been wildly successful (has any platform ever made into as many top sellers as the Camry?). It’s overpriced. It’s largely loved by people who hate cars. But…it’s virtually unkillable. I see RX 300s everywhere, still effortlessly plugging along, well into six figures of life. By that measurement, it belongs in the “Good” category.

The Not-As-Good

The Corolla…well, it’s just a Corolla. I personally can’t get excited about it, but is it a good car? It’s not a bad one. That means it goes here.

I got the chance to go to the launch of the Highlander last year, and it’s pretty Highlanderish. I said this at the time: “This new Highlander will do nothing to keep satisfied Highlander drivers from buying another one, and will do a lot to convince happy owners of competitors to take a look. That is, assuming, they can get past that ugly grille.” That’s still true. It’s not great. It’s not terrible. It goes here.

The Avalon is boring, yes, but in the segment of full-sized FWD sedans, you could do worse…well, you couldn’t do much worse. But you could buy a Taurus. That would be worse.

The Ugly:

The Yaris just needs to be discontinued—it’s not competitive in any way, shape, or form. It’s truly amazing to see how well the Camry and Corolla sell, and yet the Yaris just languishes. It goes to show that the Toyota name only goes so far.

Guess what? I don’t like the FR-S, either. But this gives me a great opportunity to reply to those who questioned my placement of the BRZ in the “Ugly” category.

  • The BRZ/FR-S has plenty of competitors, most obviously the EcoBoost Mustang, the MX-5, GTI, Focus ST, WRX…pretty much any performance-oriented vehicle under $30k is a real-world competitor of the Toyaburu twins. It doesn’t have to be a rear-wheel drive coupe to be cross-shopped with them.
  • Yes, I think the BRZ is underpowered, but that’s not my main complaint with it. Remember, I owned an RX-8. I am the proud lessee of a Fiesta ST. Cars can still be low-powered and fun—this just isn’t one of them.
  • Between the two models, they’ll be lucky to sell 20k of them this year. It’s not destined to be with us for much longer.

That being said, it’s a commendable effort. All they needed to do to make it good was offer an F Sport FR-S, or something. I’m hardly the first person on the internet to suggest a turbocharged version. Just a mild boost in power—maybe 260 HP—would be perfect.

N/A:

I’d really love to tell you what I think about the RC, but I haven’t driven one. Sad face.

 

All righty—one more installment to go. We’ll cover the Big Three next. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mercedes-Benz Truck Will Be Based On Nissan Navara http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/mercedes-benz-truck-will-be-based-on-nissan-navara/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/mercedes-benz-truck-will-be-based-on-nissan-navara/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 20:26:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1033881 A report in the Wall Street Journal is claiming that Mercedes-Benz’s newest pickup won’t be a home grown effort. The German auto maker is planning on expanding on its alliance with partner Renault-Nissan by using one of their existing pickups as the basis for the Benz. Per the WSJ The talks, which are at an advanced stage, […]

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A report in the Wall Street Journal is claiming that Mercedes-Benz’s newest pickup won’t be a home grown effort. The German auto maker is planning on expanding on its alliance with partner Renault-Nissan by using one of their existing pickups as the basis for the Benz.

Per the WSJ

The talks, which are at an advanced stage, involve using the basic architecture of Nissan’s Navara pickup truck for the new vehicle and producing it in Nissan factories, the people said. Nissan was not immediately available for comment. The Navara is called the Frontier in some markets.

“The details are still being worked out,” one of the people said.

Mercedes-Benz would use the Navara framework, but would provide “everything with which the customer comes in contact,” the person added. That would include the powertrain, the interior, the design and other elements.

While the Navara will provide the basis for the next Nissan Frontier, the two will *not* be similar vehicles. The Frontier, like the Toyota Tacoma, will be a specific vehicle for the NAFTA zone, while the Navara will be aimed at world markets. This further bolsters the notion that the Mercedes truck not only won’t make it to America, but is being built without the U.S. market in mind. Ex post facto regulatory hurdles, as well as the Chicken Tax would likely complicate any efforts to bring it to our market, to the point where it would be economically unfeasible.

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Rental Review: 2015 Nissan Altima 2.5 CVT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/rental-review-2015-nissan-altima/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/rental-review-2015-nissan-altima/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 19:30:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1031561 Well, it’s well into 2015, and time for another Nissan Altima review. My Casamigos hampered research tells me TTAC has done a review of the Altima every year since 2006, except for 2011. Go ahead, search for Nissan Altima, I’ll wait. You are the B&B and you’ll probably find the review I missed. It looks […]

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Well, it’s well into 2015, and time for another Nissan Altima review. My Casamigos hampered research tells me TTAC has done a review of the Altima every year since 2006, except for 2011. Go ahead, search for Nissan Altima, I’ll wait. You are the B&B and you’ll probably find the review I missed.

It looks like I was the first one this year to lose rental car roulette.

I spent 2013 in the Middle East. My default vehicle was a capable and reliable Toyota Fortuner, but those in a lesser position were saddled with a CVT equipped Altima. On an outing where I didn’t drive because I was hammered, looking to enjoy local culture, we usually took a Nissan of questionable maintenance.

Out of the gate, I loathe this car. I know hormonal teenage One Direction fans amped on Diet Mountain Dew more capable of making a decision than the Nissan CVT transmission.

IMG_0647

This is my opening mindset before I spent an hour in line at the Dollar Counter at Houston’s William F. Hobby Airport to get my reserved full size car.

I was told I could take any car along line “M.” I surveyed my choices, a gray Nissan Altima, a black Nissan Altima and a white Nissan Altima. Apparently Dollar Rent A Car does not read TTAC or they would realize that it is a midsized car.

Dear reader, I share this with you to place you in my state of mind when I climbed into the Altima. Yes, I allowed emotions and previous experience to cloud my analysis of this car. My neutral journalistic aspirations could use some training, but my integrity is fully intact.

I left Dollar’s parking lot en route to my hotel in 20 miles away. My first observation is the lack of a USB port. Petty yes, but a Chevrolet Sonic rental comes with Bluetooth and USB.

Once in motion, the CVT transmission did not disappoint. It was the same rev-happy, indecisive collection of rubber bands I remembered. I took stock of the interior. The seats are terrible, flat and hard; I fiddled with the controls for most of the trip. I suspect that was mostly the mileage. I would bet there was more than one occasion that the window had been left open during a rainstorm.

At dinner, I parked in front of a Chevy Malibu. Visually, the dimensions aren’t that far off. The Malibu is marketed as a full-sized car in some rental fleets, so I may have been judgmental. My mood improved with some calories and on the return I tried the “S” setting on the transmission. Nissan should re-label this “T” for tolerable. It ‘s not sporty, but seems to be more agreeable.

IMG_0629

Interfaces aside, the stereo is not bad and capable of annoying the next car at a stoplight with a Foo Fighters tune.

Before dawn I was back in the Altima, in a better mindset. I knew the secret to the transmission was “S” and the seats were bad. Maybe I had been a bit harsh on the old gal.

Nope. I was still right. Not quite hormonal fans of One Direction, but certainty hormonal teenage level. Freeway on ramps are an absolute conflict of perception and reality. The engine is revving for all its worth giving indications of what should be a neck-snapping launch. The reality is more 80’s Hyundai speed for the on ramp and a “please have mercy on me” merger.

For all of its sound and fury, the Altima’s sensation of speed was like an 80’s VW diesel. The numbers tell me this car hits 60 a gnat’s hair under 8 seconds. That makes it quicker than a Camry base and places it on par with an entry level Accord. So I have to logically conclude this is my flawed perception, due in large part to the transmission and the noises from the engine. Which ads credence to this car being better than I will admit.

The obvious advantage of the CVT transmission is the fuel economy, for which I am ashamed to say I cannot give a solid observation. I was in Houston for a very rainy race and the racecar’s fuel consumption was half of what was planned, so my tank was filled at the track in an effort to empty the team’s transfer tank. Driving 20 miles from the airport to the hotel, then another 18 to the track barely moved the gas gauge. After the tank was overfilled, I drove over 20 miles to dinner, 20 back to the hotel,  then almost another 20 back to the rental car counter. This did not deviate the needle from the “F” on the gauge. So that was almost 60 miles, with a probably “sticky” fuel gauge, but at any rate, I cannot complain about the MPG. In fact, its pretty impressive.

So for all of my venom, I honestly cannot call this a bad car. As I get farther from my time with the Altima I am forced to judge it on merits rather than impressions and it stacks up better than I would have admitted last weekend. But there is a reason it was all that was left in Dollar’s lot. It is simply an uninspiring car, long in the tooth, due for a refresh and the folks at Nissan have gotten lazy with the needed upgrades to keep it competitive with Honda and Toyota.

If you are looking for a capable comfortable sedan, and your waistline has expanded a bit since you graduated, you’d be very happy in an Altima. If you spend a lot of time in rush hour traffic, the transmission would undoubtedly yield superior returns on MPG. It’s not expensive, but not cheap. My internet search produced consistant prices of $23,5 for the 2.5 base, but a limited selection at most dealers in the Atlanta metro.

But you are the B&B. You willingly operate old slant 6 Darts, and Ford Flex’s. You are discriminating consumers and deserve better. You know Kia and Hyundai offer a superior product for less and you enjoy vehicles with at least some impression of a personality and dare I say, soul. While I cannot call Altima a bad car, I am comfortable saying that if you have bothered to read this far, then the Nissan Altima not the car for you, and that includes as a rental.

Christian “Mental” Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. He is a graduate of Panoz Racing School, still loves cartoons and once exceeded the speed of sound. Married to the most patient woman in the world; he has three dogs, a Philosophy degree and an actual Yamaha Vino scooter, so this wasn’t his first CVT transmission. Follow him on Twiiter, Instagram and Vine at M3ntalward

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Nissan Qashqai Points The Way For Next Jeep Compass, Patriot http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/nissan-qashqai-points-way-next-jeep-compass-patriot/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/nissan-qashqai-points-way-next-jeep-compass-patriot/#comments Tue, 24 Mar 2015 14:15:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1028057 With the arrival of the Jeep Renegade, the Compass and Patriot twins – awkwardly slotted above the Renegade in size, but lower in price – are officially overdue for a replacement. The Jeep twins have more in common with the Dodge Caliber than anything else in the brand’s lineup, and will be replaced with a […]

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With the arrival of the Jeep Renegade, the Compass and Patriot twins – awkwardly slotted above the Renegade in size, but lower in price – are officially overdue for a replacement. The Jeep twins have more in common with the Dodge Caliber than anything else in the brand’s lineup, and will be replaced with a single, all-new model.

Reports in auto media out of the United Kingdom have talked up the replacement CUV and how it will be positioned against the Nissan Qashqai. Nissan’s CUV, which has been wildly popular in Europe (some even credit it for kicking off the CUV trend on the continent, and rescuing Nissan from irrelevance in that market) has never been sold here, largely because the Rogue made it redundant.

At nearly a foot shorter than the current Rogue, the Qashqai would be awkwardly positioned between the Juke and the Rogue. But in Europe, it’s just right, nestled between those two vehicles in a market where a smaller footprint is actively desired. Since the Qashqai is about the size of a Compass or a Patriot, give or take an inch or two in each dimension, the new CUV will stay close in size to the current Jeep twins. Our Rogue, known as the X-Trail, is considered to be a full size larger, and comes with three row seating. Meanwhile, the Qashqai and its upcoming rival are considered to be the standard size CUV, the same way American buyers consider the Rogue and Cherokee to be an acceptable size.

There will also be a Fiat variant, similar to the shared platform of the Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X. Expect a Trail Rated model to accompany the rest of the lineup, which will likely be similar to the rest of the Jeep models, with several trim variants increasing in content and price point. For Jeep, this will be a crucial product. Roughly three quarters of Jeep sales originate in North America, and FCA is keen to increase the brand’s reach in world markets. Currently, the EU makes up about 8 percent of Jeep sales – the replacement for the Compass/CUV will be just as important as the Renegade – and probably more important than the Cherokee – at increasing that figure.

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NHTSA Investigating 2014 Nissan Airbag Software Recall http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/nhtsa-investigating-2014-nissan-airbag-software-recall/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/nhtsa-investigating-2014-nissan-airbag-software-recall/#comments Tue, 24 Mar 2015 10:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1028185 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into Nissan’s March 2014 airbag software recall to determine its effectiveness. The Detroit News reports the recall — involving the vehicle’s occupant classification system finding the front passenger seat empty when the seat is occupied by an adult; thus, shutting off the passenger-side airbag — affected 989,701 […]

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2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into Nissan’s March 2014 airbag software recall to determine its effectiveness.

The Detroit News reports the recall — involving the vehicle’s occupant classification system finding the front passenger seat empty when the seat is occupied by an adult; thus, shutting off the passenger-side airbag — affected 989,701 of the following Nissan and Infiniti models:

  • 2013-2014 Altima
  • 2013-2014 Leaf
  • 2013-2014 Pathfinder
  • 2013-2014 Sentra
  • 2013 NV200
  • 2013 JX35
  • 2014 Q50
  • 2014 QX60

The NHTSA’s review of the recall comes after 124 complaints about the problem persisting, even after multiple attempts to rectify the issue. The agency will determine if a new recall is needed.

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Piston Slap: Avoiding Brutal CVT Step Gears? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-avoiding-brutal-cvt-step-gears/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-avoiding-brutal-cvt-step-gears/#comments Wed, 18 Mar 2015 12:04:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1019698   TTAC commentator Raincoaster writes: Hi Sajeev, I currently drive a 2011 Honda Fit(Manual) and I’m mildly interested in a CVT for my next car purchase. I have never driven one, and one thing that gives me pause is all the “fake gears” that they set them up with. I understand that this is to […]

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A path too Brutalist? (photo courtesy: flickrhivemind.net/Tags/architectute,concrete)

TTAC commentator Raincoaster writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I currently drive a 2011 Honda Fit(Manual) and I’m mildly interested in a CVT for my next car purchase. I have never driven one, and one thing that gives me pause is all the “fake gears” that they set them up with. I understand that this is to make them drive in a manner familiar to traditional automatic transmissions, but this seems unnecessary and possibly inefficient to me. Are there any cars/companies that don’t fake it and just let the engine/trans cook up the best ratio at any given time? I’d like to test drive something like that to see how it feels.

A second and 2 part question. I work a 40 day on, 40 off shift and while working, my car (2011 Fit) sits. Is this bad and is there anything I should do for preparation or upon first start up? This also got me wondering about cars on dealer lots, do they periodically start sitting inventory?

-Raincoaster

Sajeev answers:

A 40-day stagnation period has been discussed, here’s the first example. Your only concern is having an older battery: newer cars in many geographic locations are rough on 3-5 year old batteries, so be ready for a dead battery that won’t come back from a jump start. Hopefully there’s an open parts store or a Wal-Mart nearby when that happens.

I also like the traditional, non-stepped CVT as witnessed by my 2014 Mirage road test.  The Mirage lacks flappy paddles and fake gears, but has a manual “low” for steep hills or maybe autocrossing in a serious sleeper. Add that with the fuel economy benefits, these CVTs are worth considering over auto-erratic slushboxes.

As I mentioned in the review, compared to the slow upshifts and the borderline-unsafe delays on WOT downshifts of modern 6-8 speed automatics (considering decades of performance oriented designs, both from the factory and the aftermarket) a stepless CVT is okay.  But public adoption sans fake gears is unlikely, Nissan’s D-step redesign is proof of that. Hopefully you, me, and threads like this mean that CVT step gears become a fad like motorized seatbelts.

Speaking of steps, I’m side-steppin’ your query.  Aside from the Mitsubishi, I don’t know which new CVTs run without steps. I assume Toyota hybrids stay stepless, as people are okay with a Hybrid being different.  This is why Piston Slap only succeeds with the Best and Brightest in play. So off to you!

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Junkyard Find: 1989 Nissan Pulsar NX http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/junkyard-find-1989-nissan-pulsar-nx/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/junkyard-find-1989-nissan-pulsar-nx/#comments Tue, 17 Mar 2015 13:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1022657 The Nissan Pulsar NX was a weird little two-seater sold in the US market for the 1983 through 1990 model years. Now, the coolest thing about the Pulsar NX was the Sportbak wagon-conversion option, available on the second-gen version, but I have yet to see a Sportbak in a junkyard. So far in this series, […]

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04 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinThe Nissan Pulsar NX was a weird little two-seater sold in the US market for the 1983 through 1990 model years. Now, the coolest thing about the Pulsar NX was the Sportbak wagon-conversion option, available on the second-gen version, but I have yet to see a Sportbak in a junkyard. So far in this series, I’ve photographed this ’83, this ’87, and now today’s ’89.
15 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinThis being a California car, it’s not a bit rusty. Maybe it wouldn’t pass the smog test, maybe it broke something costing more than a few hundred bucks to fix, maybe it picked up too many San Francisco parking tickets, or maybe it just plain wore out.
09 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee MartinOver 200,000 miles.


Someone please explain: why is 1980s nostalgia big these days?

01 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 02 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 03 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 04 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 05 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 06 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 07 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 08 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 09 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 10 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 11 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 12 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 13 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 14 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 15 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin 16 - 1989 Nissan Pulsar Down On the Junkyard - Picture By Murilee Martin

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Is Infiniti Getting Back To Normal? Two Whole Consecutive Months Of YOY U.S. Sales Growth http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/infiniti-getting-back-normal-two-whole-consecutive-months-yoy-u-s-sales-growth/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/infiniti-getting-back-normal-two-whole-consecutive-months-yoy-u-s-sales-growth/#comments Mon, 16 Mar 2015 16:35:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1023305 Infiniti USA reported a 20% year-over-year February 2015 sales improvement, a gain of nearly 2000 sales during a period which saw Cadillac, Buick, Jaguar, and Lincoln sales decrease. Among premium brands, only Land Rover (up 23%), and Lexus (up 22%) posted greater February gains than Infiniti. In fact, Infiniti’s February improvement was the second consecutive […]

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Infiniti-Q50-drivingInfiniti USA reported a 20% year-over-year February 2015 sales improvement, a gain of nearly 2000 sales during a period which saw Cadillac, Buick, Jaguar, and Lincoln sales decrease. Among premium brands, only Land Rover (up 23%), and Lexus (up 22%) posted greater February gains than Infiniti.

In fact, Infiniti’s February improvement was the second consecutive for Nissan’s upmarket brand – Infiniti sales rose 7% in the first month of 2015 – a meaningful statistic given the way 2014 ended. Second-half sales last year slid 10%.

Moreover, it marked the best February ever for the brand: 27% better than February 2013, 26% better than February 2012, 28% better than February 2011, 66% better than February 2010.

Speaking of February 2012, that was the last time Infiniti outsold Audi in America, at least until last month. On an annual basis, Infiniti was typically the greater generator of U.S. sales volume until 2011. But while Infiniti sales fell 14% between 2005 and 2014 (the latter being just the fifth-best year of the last decade for Infiniti USA), Audi volume more than doubled during the same period. The chart below displays the gradual Infiniti market share decline and the Audi market share upswing.

Infiniti Audi USA market share sales chartNevertheless, February was an especially strong month for Infiniti, a brand which still operates with a relatively small lineup. Setting aside the forgotten QX50 (only 177 February sales), mostly ignored Q60, Q70, and QX70 (formerly the G coupe, M sedan. and FX crossover), reveals 85% of Infiniti’s February sales were collected by just two sedans and two utility vehicles.

By way of comparison only, 68% Audi USA’s February sales volume was produced by its two top cars and two top utility vehicles. In other words, while many luxury brands have more than a handful of products that sell well, Infiniti currently produces the overwhelming majority of its sales with a small portfolio: the Infiniti G sedan-turned-Q40, the Q40’s Q50 successor, the Pathfinder-based QX60, and the Navigator-fighting QX80.

And in their respective classes, those vehicles aren’t unpopular. Q50 volume is up 6% this year to 6615 units, just behind the Lexus IS (which trails the BMW 3-Series/4-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class) but ahead of the Acura TLX; well ahead of the Cadillac ATS and Audi A4.

The Q40 is tasked with tangling a newer crop of entry-level contenders. With 2672 sales so far this year, it’s well back of the Mercedes-Benz CLA and Audi A3 (5097 and 4662 sales, respectively, year-to-date) but it’s outselling cars like the Volvo S60, Lexus CT, and Acura ILX.

2013 Infiniti JX35, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of InfinitiThe QX80 doesn’t sell like the Escalade or Mercedes-Benz GL, but with 2831 year-to-date sales, it’s more than 1000 units ahead of the Lincoln Navigator, sales of which doubled in early 2015. The QX60 sells less than half as often as the all-conquering Lexus RX and trails the Acura MDX by 3372 sales heading into March, but it’s only 898 sales back of Mercedes-Benz’s M-Class and well ahead of lower-tier players like the Range Rover Sport, Lincoln MKX, Audi Q7, Land Rover LR4, and Volkswagen Touareg.

Put it this way: Infiniti is capable of building vehicles people want. But they need to build more of them if the brand is going to be a major player in the United States. Indeed, they need to build more of them if Infiniti is going to be what Infiniti once was. A rival for the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5-Series, and Audi A6 that actually generated any consumer attention would be a big help.

But the Mercedes-Benz GLA-related QX30 is more likely the vehicle that will provide Infiniti’s next big push. Don’t think for a minute that being late to the compact luxury crossover party will cause undue harm, as it’s become obvious that the Mercedes-Benz GLA and Audi Q3 are clearly capable of stealing sales from the established BMW X1. Perhaps the QX30 can do the same.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Rental Car Review: 2015 Nissan Rogue Select http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/rental-car-review-2015-nissan-rogue-select/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/rental-car-review-2015-nissan-rogue-select/#comments Sat, 14 Mar 2015 13:40:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1020361 Back when I was a kid in the 90s, the word “select” seemed to mean something. Our town of 30,000 had one select soccer team which entertained over a hundred kids at tryouts every year for fifteen coveted spots.  We had one select baseball team—a team that was so good that a future major leaguer got cut from it. […]

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Back when I was a kid in the 90s, the word “select” seemed to mean something. Our town of 30,000 had one select soccer team which entertained over a hundred kids at tryouts every year for fifteen coveted spots.  We had one select baseball team—a team that was so good that a future major leaguer got cut from it. To be considered “select” was to among the most elite of the elite. You had to be, you know…selected.

Well, nowadays, “select” soccer teams are limited to the number of kids whose parents can afford to write a check for the uniform.  My little suburb now has five entries into the regional select soccer league, and there are multiple other leagues that have sprung up, as well. Anybody who wants to be “select,” or more to the point, anybody whose parents want to say that they had a kid on the “select” soccer or basketball or baseball team, can do so.

Therefore, it makes sense that in today’s “You’re all winners!” society that the worst vehicle that ever I’ve had the misfortune to drive is called “Select.” To be more specific, it’s called the Nissan Rogue Select.

For the 2014 model year, Nissan introduced a new version of its compact CUV, the Rogue. However, as is prone to happen when new models are released, the Rogue’s MSRP crept into the mid-twenties, leaving Nissan without a player in the fleet and entry-level crossover market.

Never fear. The tooling already existed for Nissan to continue cranking out the old version of the Rogue with limited content—we’ll call this the “Malibu” Classic approach.  It’s difficult to know how successful this has been from a sales perspective, as Nissan fails to separate the Select from the regular Rogue in its sales reporting. However, on the fine Nebraska winter day when I was given a brand-new Rogue Select with less than 1K on the clock as an “upgrade,” the Select was abundantly available at the rental car counter.

It’s at this point in most of the buff book reviews that they talk about the glorious locale that the OEM has selected for the press preview. Well, for my glamorous trip, I was going to drive from Omaha, Nebraska to Des Moines, Iowa on I-80 East, and then back again on I-80 West. It’s straight. It’s relatively flat. It’s 117 miles. There are no lights. There are barely any exits. There’s a whole lot of nothing. And when you think about what most people who would consider purchasing a Rogue Select plan to do with it, it’s a perfect proving ground.

Since I have no desire to hurt anybody at Nissan’s feelings, we’ll use the POP (Positive-Opportunity-Positive) method of reviewing the Rogue Select.

 

Positive:

At no point did I feel like the Select was going to break down. It provided reliable transportation.

The gas mileage was not horrific. Although my trip was 100% highway miles, which should have returned around 28 MPG according to the EPA, I averaged 24.2 MPG.

Ummm…give me a second. I’m sure I can think of something else. Hmmm. Okay, I’ve got nothing. Let’s move on to the Opportunity part.

Opportunity:

The visibility was horrible. The A pillar is positioned so that the Rogue Select manages to do something I hadn’t previously experienced in a car—it has a forward blind spot. Parking became an adventure.

It took me a solid two minutes of looking to find the side mirror adjusting knob. It wasn’t near the mirrors, or on the center console, or near the power windows. Nope, it was right above the hood release.

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The stereo sounded somewhat like two tin cans tied together with string. Each adjustment I made to the EQ made it worse. It was unable to figure out how to read my iPhone 5S, either via USB or Bluetooth. I got this message every time that I tried to use it.

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Luckily, though, you’ll drown out the stereo every time you use the accelerator—and not in a good way. The Select protests vehemently any time the go pedal is used in aggression, and the tire noise on the highway is downright offensive.

There was no seating position that I could find over the course of four hours that was even remotely comfortable. There was a large hump in the middle of the seat back that forced my 5’9″ frame into a sort of contortionist pose. I was either too far back for my legs or too close for my arms, no matter what I did.

The CVT had real problems with things like “hills.” At the slightest hint of an incline, the CVT lurched, forcing the engine to whine and complain up to about 4500 RPM.

The cargo area was insufficient for a 27″ suitcase.

In theory, it was AWD, but the button that was smartly situated right below the Power Windows adjuster did absolutely nothing when I pushed it. I’m sure that this could be remedied by reading the owner’s manual, but its function was in no way intuitive.

The “Frosted Steel” color of the exterior was just plain offensive. I hadn’t seen a car company ruin “Blue” up until this point. I have now.

These wheel covers are the automotive equivalent of Dick Van Dyke’s British accent in “Mary Poppins.” In other words, nobody is fooled.

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The back seat was barely any roomier than you’d find in another Nissan offering—the Versa. I sat in the back for a second, just to check it out, and immediately I wanted to get out. Fine for children, but adults will get claustrophobic in a hurry.

You’d think a car this lame would at least have an awesome price, right? Nope. A 2015 Rogue Select, configured exactly like this one, will run you $23,255. Do you know what else you could get for $23,255? You’re about a grand away from a Chevrolet Equinox, which is light years away from this thing. Heck, you’re only a couple of hundred bucks away from a Honda CR-V. You could buy this E-Class Wagon two and a half times! Oops, wrong site. But you catch my drift, yo. For as terrible as this vehicle is, you’re not saving nearly enough money to make it worth the suffering.

Positive:

Oh, man, I have to come up with another positive now? Well, it did have a USB port. Although it proved to be completely useless for actually reading my iPhone, it did prove to be suitable for charging it. No, wait, I’ve got another one. The steering wheel buttons were intuitive and functioned well. Whew.

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It would be one thing if the Rogue Select were only available for fleet/rental usage, but Nissan actually has the nerve to sell this thing as a retail unit to the general public. If you could get one for $18K, I could maybe see a purpose for it as a Kia Soul fighter. However, at $20K and above, it’s just light years behind its competition, and literally a model year or two behind, as well. The only thing this car should be selected for is a Buy Here Pay Here lot in about three years.

It’s the worst new car value in today’s marketplace, period.

 

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