Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Infiniti G37 Offers Excellent Value and Luxury

If you like a vehicle that's got plenty of power, is packed with luxury features and comes in an assortment of trim packages, you certainly will love the 2010 Infiniti G37. 

However, you're probably expecting it to be saddled with a monstrous sticker price, right?

Wrong, my friend. The G37 is one of the most affordable luxury cars on the market. 

The G37 comes in sedan, coupe and convertible body types, with four trim levels. 

Our tester was the sedan. 

Infiniti updated the G37 for the most recent model year with a few cosmetic changes, such as a larger grille, tapered bumper inlets with fog lights, a larger rear bumper and redesigned alloy wheels. 

Those changes are nice, but thankfully they didn't mess with what's under the hood.

The G37 is powered by a delightful 3.7-liter, 328-horsepower V-6 engine that's linked to a seven-speed automatic transmission. 
If you like, you can choose the Sport 6MT trim, which has a six-speed manual, or the G37x, which has all-wheel drive. The tester had the Journey trim, one step above the base level.

Fuel economy is rated at 17-18 mpg city, 25-26 on the highway. But in a week of mostly highway driving, the tester actually did better than that, coming in at right around 27 mpg.

To attain that kind of mileage, we admittedly had to drive rather conservatively, which was difficult given the temptation to really mash the gas with such a superb driver's car.

But the few times we did try to have a little fun with it, the G37 was a willing participant, nimbly handling curves and eagerly accelerating to move us quickly out of the slow lane.

Inside, you'll find such fine standard features as six-speaker sound system with MP3 jack and eight-way power leather seats. 
You can pick from a dandy set of options that includes an 11-speaker Bose stereo, moonroof, dual-zone climate control and heated front seats. 
Drivers can also take advantage of the touch-screen navigation system and XM NavTraffic, which features real-time traffic and weather information. 

Safety features are more than adequate, including antilock brakes, six airbags and an electronic stability system. And the best safety feature is probably the Intelligent Cruise Control, which will automatically slow the car if you start getting too close to the vehicle in front of you. When a safe space cushion is restored, it takes you back to your cruising speed.

The G37 really scores points when you look at the value it presents, offering luxury and performance for a price that starts around $34,000 and tops out at about $55,000.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Nissan Cube Says It's Hip to be Square

It surely is a different kind of vehicle, and that might not sit well with everyone, but for those who do like the 2010 Nissan Cube, standing apart from the crowd is probably a large part of the appeal.
The Cube is dominated by its large asymmetrical windows. It's one of many unusual features that customers in the U.S. have been introduced to; the Cube has been on sale in Nissan's home market of Japan for more than 10 years.

Count among its competitors the Scion xB, Honda Element and Kia Soul.  

This category has found some success because it offers the versatility of an SUV but with much better gas mileage, much easier maneuverability and a much lower sticker price.

The Cube comes with a 60/40 fold-flat, three-position sliding rear seat.

Plus the Cube is a very tall vehicle, which provides great headroom and adds to the feeling of roominess. 

The quirkiest feature is the dash-topping shag rug, which really has no function except to draw odd stares and questions. But it sure helps make the Cube memorable.  
Bungee cords attached to the doors can hold small items in place and there are knobs protruding from the center stack and doors on which you can hang things.
The 1.8L 4-cylinder, 122-horsepower engine does not offer an abundance of power, but it's perfectly adequate for a good, versatile, practical car, which means you aren't going to be doing much racing. There's a six-speed manual transmission or Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). 
With that CVT, the Cube achieves fuel economy of 28 mpg city, 30 highway, which is pretty good.
The Cube ranges in price from a shade under $14,000 to around $19,000 for the Krom model, the highest trim level.
So with this model, Nissan, with apologies to Huey Lewis and The News, is clearly saying it's hip to be square.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Whitacre Stepping Down as GM Boss

General Motors Chief Executive Officer Ed Whitacre announced today that he will resign from his post on Sept. 1.
Whitacre, a former CEO of AT&T, has led the automaker in its successful emergence from bankruptcy protection, which it filed for last year.
Whitacre's successor at GM will be Daniel Akerson, a managing director of Carlyle Group and the head of the firm's global buyout unit.
Akerson has helped lead companies such as General Instrument, MCI, Nextel and XO Communications in his work as a private-equity official. 

GM Posts an Impressive Profit

General Motors reported a second quarter profit of $1.33 billion on Thursday, continuing to show strong signs of recovery after its bankruptcy last year. 
In the first quarter of this year, GM posted earnings of $865 million.
GM said it is planning an initial public offering of shares, which would provide it with funds to help return $43.3 billion in government bailout money.
GM said revenue in the second quarter was $33.2 billion, a 5.3 percent gain over the first quarter. Sales rose in each region globally except Europe.
Strong sales in the U.S. were led by models such as the Chevrolet Equinox crossover and Buick LaCrosse premium sedan.
GM is preparing to launch later this year the Chevrolet Cruze, a small, fuel-efficient sedan on which the company is pinning hopes of large sales.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Accords, Civics Recalled

Honda today announced a recall of the Accord and Civic models to fix an ignition switch that might let the key be taken out even if the transmission isn't in park.
Honda, which has had two prior recalls because of the problem, said this recall affects 384,220 vehicles and includes 2003 model year Accord and Civics and 2003-2004 versions of the Honda Element wagon. Honda said the problem could result in a car rolling away, which could cause an accident. 
For more information, owners can visit www.recalls.honda.com or call Honda at (800) 999-1009 and choose option 4.

Infiniti EX 35 Handles Like a Champ

The 2010 Infiniti EX35 is one of the best crossovers on the market when it comes to performance driving.
A key reason for the popularity of crossovers is their ability to handle well; better than the traditional SUVs that spawned their creation.
But among the good-handling crossovers, the EX might be the best. With that characteristic, it is easy to see a connection between this vehicle and the other fun-to-drive cars in the Infiniti lineup. Infiniti says the EX's front mid-ship platform balances its weight, resulting in responsive steering and the ability to handle curves sharply.
The EX drives nimbly, thanks in part to the 3.5L V-6 engine, which is linked to a five-speed automatic transmission. The impressive 297 horsepower and 253 pounds-feet of torque provide plenty of thrills, but there is some high-level thinking that this vehicle does too. It can adjust to your unique driving method and make the modifications to achieve the highest level of performance.
Also, you can put the transmission in manual mode if you wish.
The EX offers fuel economy that's adequate: 17 mpg city, 24 highway, according to EPA.
In combined driving, I got about 22 mpg.
The EX is available in both rear-wheel and all-wheel drive, but with the latter, under normal conditions all of the vehicle's power is sent to the rear wheels. The power is only distributed to all wheels when needed.
But this isn't just some performance machine that has ordinary looks.
Infiniti is a luxury brand, and the EX represents that nicely on the interior.
The fit and finish are wonderful, and the quality and appearance of the materials and the design of the lines are terrific -- highly refined, but not at all pretentious.The driver surely will appreciate that all the controls are within easy reach and are easily identifiable, even though there are a lot of buttons and knobs.
The layout of the instrument panel is intuitive. Plus the seating, windows and steering position have memory, allowing you to get all your settings just like you like them, then capture them so that, if you're like Goldilocks and you want everything just right, you'll have it.
The back seat is a bit cramped, especially when it comes to headroom, thanks to the sloping roofline design. If you haul passengers frequently, and especially if they are adults, this might not be the ideal vehicle for you.
One really cool option offered by Infiniti on the EX is the around view monitor system, which is standard if you get navigation. There are four cameras -- up front, on each side and in the rear -- that allow you to see a top view of the vehicle when you are backing into or inching forward in a parking space. So you can not only see forward and behind, but also how close things are to you on the sides.
Plus, you'll hear beeps whenever you get too close to something in front or in the rear.
Think of it as a very enhanced version of the backup camera that has become common on many vehicles today.
The navigation system is linked to XM satellite radio's traffic service, which shows you where the congestion is on the roads and other hazards to avoid.
There is also an iPod jack, Bluetooth capability and pushbutton keyless ignition.

If you opt for the technology package, you'll additionally get lane departure warning, which uses sensors to give you a beep to tell you that you are veering over your line.
That system worked a little too well for me, being activated with even the slightest line encroachment, so I just pushed the button to turn it off.
But if you're driving while sleepy, which of course isn't such a good idea, it's a nice feature because it will assist your alertness.
The tech package also includes distance control assist, intelligent cruise control and intelligent brake assist, all designed to prevent crashes by notifying the driver if he or she is getting too close to something, and in some cases it will activate the brakes.
The EX starts at a little more than $34,000 and ranges to a little more than $40,000 when nicely equipped.

Chrysler Showing Signs of Improvement

A year after emerging from bankruptcy protection, Chrysler is stanching its losses and seeing demand for its cars and trucks rise. But it's far from healthy, and its CEO says the company has more tough work ahead.
Chrysler Group LLC said Monday that growing car and truck sales helped it narrow its second-quarter loss to $172 million, compared with a first-quarter loss of $197 million.
The U.S. and Canada are Chrysler's primary markets, and both have seen higher demand for cars and trucks since a recession-driven slump last year. Chrysler's revenues rose 8.2 percent to $10.5 billion compared with the first quarter, largely because of a jump in sales. But many of those sales were to rental-car, government and corporate fleets, which are less profitable than sales to individual buyers.
Chrysler was in bankruptcy protection for much of the second quarter last year. Since leaving Chapter 11 last June, it has been run by Italian automaker Fiat SpA.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Big Car or Crossover, the Acura ZDX is a Nice Piece of Work

How many entrants does it take to create a new category of vehicles?

Hard to say, but one might sense that a category is emerging with the recent introduction of the 2010 Acura ZDX.

This category is part crossover, part sedan, which is kind of weird because crossovers are part SUV, part sedan, too.

But when you look at the ZDX, especially from a distance, it really looks like a car, and actually more like a coupe than a sedan. 

Come closer, though, and you'll see this machine is bigger and taller than a sedan or coupe.

The ZDX shares an Acura platform with the popular MDX SUV (or crossover).

But it also looks a bit like a recent product from its sister brand, the Honda Accord Crosstour. 

Also sharing this big, bulky but sporty, part car, part crossover look is the BMW X5.

The ZDX, which seats five, is powered by a 300-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 engine that is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. 

Fuel economy is pegged at 16 mpg city, 23 highway by the EPA. Acura says ZDX's towing capacity is 1,500 pounds.

During a weeklong test drive, the ZDX got around 19 mpg in combined city and highway driving. 

The ZDX has a slew of safety features, such as side curtain airbags, electronic stability system and active front head restraints.
As an option, you can include adaptive cruise control, which automatically maintains a space cushion with the car in front of you. Also, a collision mitigation braking system alerts the driver when a collision is looming and puts on the brakes.

Since this is an Acura, you can bet there are some cool convenience and style features too.

For instance, you can get a tech package that features a navigation system that has real time traffic updates and weather data, or another package gives LED ambient lighting and ventilated front seats.

The ZDX has a beautiful panoramic glass sunroof, a power liftgate an sits on 19-inch aluminum wheels.

For your interior comfort and enjoyment, behold the standard dual-zone climate control, six-CD stereo and XM Satellite Radio.

But not only functional, the dashboard of the ZDX is attractively laid out, with modern looking controls that aren't overwhelming.

Acura says the ZDX offers 55.8 cubic feet of cargo volume.

During the weeklong test drive, plenty of passers-by took a few extra seconds to peek at the ZDX, and with good reason. It's unusual not just because of its atypical car/crossover design, but it also has a nice flair of elegance.

Its sleekness is beautifully accompanied by its muscularity.

The ZDX starts at around $46,000 and ranges close to $50,000.

If you want to stand out from the crowd, check out the ZDX. It might be beginning to define its own category of vehicle.