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).
Whenever you buy a performance car, there’s generally an intent to test its limits. There’s a winding country road by your house, but you likely will have to avoid cyclists, motorcyclists, residents mad about the broken speed limits and loud engine noise, as well as police officers ready to write a ticket. Highways are much rougher than they used to be (at least in California), so verifying the top speed of your Porsche down a freeway late at night might be a hairy proposition with the uneven road surfaces and random potholes. Consequently, your new performance car will be sitting in the garage most of the time, only taken out on days when the sun is shining and traffic is at a minimum. Eventually, a performance car owner will resolve to take his or her car to a track day and see what the car can do.
If you look at the numbers, sales of the Murano are on fire with a 72% sales jump in January of 2015 vs 2014 thanks to the new model. Looking more closely however, you’ll see that there was practically nowhere to go but up as the Murano barely outsold the now-dead Venza. Putting that in perspective, Nissan’s compact Rogue is the 6th best-selling SUV in America and the Murano is 26 rungs lower on the sales ladder. Nissan sells more Rogues in 6 days than Muranos in an entire month. Rather than killing the model as Toyota did with the Venza, Nissan decided to re-invent the formerly bland soft-roader into a flagship crossover. This actually makes sense, because it helps keep the mid-sized 5-seat CUV from being the awkward “middle child” between the 7-seat Rogue and the 7-seat Pathfinder. Does the all-new and all-curvy Murano have what it takes to compete with the Edge, Grand Cherokee or even the RX 350?
The accepted hagiography of the Ford empire involves the firesale of all of Ford’s various brands in the aftermath of the financial crisis, with only the Blue Oval and the Lincoln Motor Company sticking around for the ride. But that’s not quite accurate.
Mongolia. The name evokes images of vast, sweeping plains, burning deserts, high mountains and deep, crystal clear lakes. Born to the horse and with restlessness is in their blood, the wanderlust of the Mongolian people fits the greatness of their land. History tells us that under the Khans, they once swept across the entirety of Asia conquering every kingdom that dared to stand in their way and stopping only when Kublai-Khan died and his empire fractured into four separate, competing kingdoms. Today, hemmed in by Russia and China, the country has become a cultural backwater, but the spirit of the people and their connection to the land remains as intense as ever. Given all that, what you are about to see makes perfect sense. (Read More…)
The folks at Jeep have known for some time that high volume on-road models have to be part of the mix to keep low volume off-road models viable. From the 1946 Willys Station Wagon and the original Wagoneer, to the Grand Cherokee and the Compass, Jeep has been on a steady march towards the word no Wrangler owner wants to hear: “crossover”. Their plan is to replace the off-road capable Liberty and compete with the RAV4, CR-V and 20 other small crossovers with one vehicle: the 2014 Cherokee.
With two ambitious (and contradictory) missions and unconventional looks, the Cherokee has turned into one of the most polarizing cars in recent memory. It is therefore no surprise the Cherokee has been getting mixed reviews. USA Today called it “unstoppable fun” while Consumer Reports called it “half baked” with a “choppy ride and clumsy handling.” Our own Derek Kreindler came away disappointed with its on-road performance at the launch event, though he had praise for the Cherokee’s off-road capabilities. What should we make of the glowing reviews, and the equally loud dissenting voices?
With Toyota serving as the market leader in body-on-frame trucks (the Tacoma, Tundra, 4Runner and now departed FJ Cruiser), taking aim at the off-road segment seems like a logical next step for their TRD aftermarket division. The new TRD Pro lineup, shown above, clearly apes the styling cues of the Ford Raptor, and is evidence that Toyota is not going to let the Blue Oval have that market all to itself
The TRD Pro trucks won’t get any engine upgrades, but every truck in the lineup gets TRD Bilstein shocks with a remote reservoir, TRD-tuned front springs, a front skid plate, and unique grille with a large Toyota badge in the center. All three of the vehicles will have lifted front ends, with the Tundra and Tacoma getting a 2 inch raise while the 4Runner makes do with 1.5.
The Tundra will get 18 inch wheels, with the 4Runner getting 17 inchers and the Tacoma sporting 16″ wheels. Each vehicle will get an upgraded interior with TRD parts, with the 4Runner sports an extra inch of wheel travel and the Tacoma gets a TRD exhaust.
I would normally start a car review with an item of trivia or history about the vehicle under review, or about the segment in general. This time I’m going to start by talking about the elephant in the room: the 2014 4Runner SR5/Trail front end. Yikes! I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but when the attractive new 2014 Tundra pulled away revealing the 2014 4Runner, I was reminded of a woman I worked with in 1998. Drawn in by the promise of eternal good looks, she had her eyebrows surgically removed and lines tattooed on her face. The only problem was the tattoo artist (accidentally?) gave her a permanently surprised “eyebrows”. Oops. Perhaps the 4Runner also regrets going under the knife and that’s why the fog lamp slits make it look like it’s crying. What say the best and brightest? Click through the jump and sound off in the comment section.
Land Rover and Jeep are the original go-anywhere brands and the brands most resistant to losing sight of their hard-core mission. Unfortunately this focus can’t shelter them from the need to meet evermore stringent emissions and fuel economy standards. What’s an iconic sub-brand like Range Rover to do? Dress up a small cross over in high-fashion bling for the urban set. This presents today’s question: does the Evoque dilute the off-road brand or is it an extension into uncharted waters?
Toyota trucks have long been the staple of practical truck shoppers, young shoppers looking for a cooler first ride, off-roaders and just about every rebel militia. What’s a company like Toyota do to keep sales of the 8-year-old truck going? Special editions of course. Despite the higher profits, Toyota decided to skip the “freedom fighter” edition with bench seating for 8 in the bed and a .50 caliber machine gun on the roof in favor of an off-the-rack off-roader. Thus the Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Edition was born. In case you are wondering, T|X stands for Tacoma Xtreme. You know, because it is way cooler to spell extreme without an “e.”