Thursday, January 31, 2008

2009 Nissan Murano Review

2009 Nissan Murano

When the first Murano was launched in 2003, as an '04 model, it was an instant hit for Nissan. With its unique and bold styling, it stood prominently in the CUV crowd. One might even go as far as to say that it "laid down many of the ground rules for other manufacturers to follow", which of course they did.

So, after such a good run, and with so many competitors now trading in the CUV marketplace, how does Nissan hope to follow on from such a lineage?

Well, I've just previewed the 2009 Murano, and I must say that they have managed to deal with that problem quite well indeed. The new 2009 Murano, which you can expect to see hitting the dealerships in early '08, is, in many ways, remarkably similar-looking to the current model, at least from a distance.

However, as you get closer, the picture changes quite dramatically. The new Murano boasts even more boldness to the exterior, and just about every panel has been redesigned to project precisely that.

From the completely new front grille look which integrates with the new HID bi-functional projector headlights, one gets the feeling of a vehicle re-birth. Kind of like that famous saying from the Six Million Dollar Man TV show... "We can rebuild him, bigger, better, faster!"

The fenders, which were always a rather prominent feature on the Murano, are now even more, well... prominent! This works extremely well with the sculptured lines on the rocker panels, as it almost pulls your attention inward towards the doors, as if inviting you to climb aboard.

Obviously, Nissan needed to maintain the sporty appearance of the current model, and what with the new exterior lines and the addition of some stylish 18-inch aluminum wheels (20-inch on the LE version), I'd say that they possibly surpassed themselves there.

The overall look to the new Murano is one of a tough, yet agile performer. It sits squarely on the road and one gets a distinct feeling of confidence and capability from simply looking at it.

Of course, the exterior is not the only area that has been given a shake-up. The 2009 Murano is now being built on the new "D" platform, similar to that of the 2007 Altima and Altima Coupe. It also benefits from a revised VQ-Series 24-valve, 3.5-liter DOHC V6, which produces 265 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque.

This is coupled to an advanced "new-generation" Xtronic CVT transmission which features Adaptive Shift Control. This system basically senses driver input and adjusts to suit his/her particular driving style. Naturally, being a CVT transmission, it can't actually change gear ratios as we know it, but revised mapping allows for more-efficient belt movement and therefore, smoother and faster responses.

The 2009 Murano also features an advanced AWD system, and comes standard with Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), and a Traction Control System (TCS). One particular thing which I like about the Nissan system is the fact that the vehicle always starts off in a 50/50 AWD mode. This allows for maximum traction from a standing start, yet then adjusts itself to everyday driving situations, such as highway use, where it becomes a FWD 100:0 split. At other times, it operates anywhere in between those two figures.

We now come to the interior, and straight away I have to say that I was extremely pleased to see that the dash layout has been redesigned. The pod-type look on the current Murano was something which I loathed with a passion. To me, it looked as if they had completely forgotten about it, then at the last moment, bolted in one from another vehicle entirely! The layout on the new Murano is much more pleasing to the eye, as the display is housed in a molded and nicely-flowing design. The illumination on the display is also worthy of mention, as the choice of color adds further to the sporty feel of the vehicle.

The seating has been completely redesigned for '09, and is available in either quality cloth, or double-stitched leather. In the rear, there is a 60/40 fold-flat reclining seat, with an available power-return feature. Also as an option, both front and rear seats are available heated.

The interior of the new Murano now features ambient lighting, a dual-zone HVAC system, and in the rear cargo area, a lift-up cargo organizer. I liked that idea very much, and I'm sure this will appeal to both men and women alike, as it would appear to stop everything from a potted plant to a spare gas can, rolling around.

Another rather nice option available on the '09 Murano is the power-sliding glass moonroof with second-row skylight. This allows plenty of light to enter the cabin area, which certainly adds a feeling of space to the interior.

Naturally, the new Murano comes with plenty of safety features such as six standard air bags, driver and front passenger side-impact supplemental airbags, roof-mounted curtain side-impact and rollover supplemental airbags for front- and rear-seat occupant head protection. It also features front-seat Active Head Restraints, and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS).

Phew! That was a mouthful, eh? You know, with so many companies adding more and more safety features to their new models, especially ones with complicated long-winded names, I can see the day coming when we will have to go back to simply saying "it's fully-loaded", or maybe "fully safety-loaded". After all, these abbreviations, of which many are company-specific, simply overcomplicate a review like this. My suggestion is, if you really want to compare safety features on a model, research the available technical data.

Ok, fair enough, rant over; now we come to my favorite part, which is how the vehicle drives.

Now Nissan told us at our initial model briefing, that it had made use of several lightweight aluminum suspension components on their new platform. To be honest, we hear this kind of stuff all the time from manufacturers, but I can honestly say that the '09 Murano is one of the few vehicles that I have driven where you could actually feel the effects of that.

The new Murano drives remarkably well, and the suspension soaks up road imperfections with ease. It feels light and maneuverable in the twists and turns, and yet, at the same time, it feels well-planted on the road. To put it plain and simply, the '09 Murano inspires a high level of confidence in ability of the vehicle.

To illustrate that further, during the preview, I spent several hours driving in what can only be described as "horrendous driving conditions". Arizona, which apparently had not seen rain for the previous 3 months, was granted its wish tenfold, because the heavens opened up and the rain came down by the bucket load.

The news constantly reported flash floods and vehicle accidents. In fact, we passed numerous vehicles that had left the roadway. However, it has to be said, that during the entire drive I felt totally secure and at ease with the vehicle, and when you think about it, isn't that what CUV ownership is really all about?

The new Murano range from Nissan will feature three models, the S AWD, the SL AWD, and the top of the line LE AWD. Expect to see these arriving at dealerships early in the New Year. As of yet, no pricing has been announced.

Alfa Romeo 149 Spyshots

Alfa Romeo 149 SpyshotsAlfa Romeo 149 Spyshots

The new Alfa Romeo 149 was caught in camo. The 149 will be based on the Fiat Bravo platform. That corresponds to a bigger 149 than the 147 it replaces.

The 149 is long, measuring some 4.3 metres, which is not far off the old 156. The range of powerplants will include the new 1.4 T-Jet and M-jet family of engines producing 120BHP/89kW and 265BHP/198kW for the GTA version, which should sport a V6 under the hood. A six-speed manual and automatic will be choice gearboxes for customers.

European pricing will be around 20 000 euros for the base model.

Monday, January 28, 2008

2008 Suzuki SX4 Crossover Review

2008 Suzuki SX4 Crossover

Introduced for 2007, the five-door Suzuki SX4 Crossover was Suzuki’s solution to the need for a functional, versatile, feature-packed entry vehicle with a serious dose of attitude. While being the most affordable all-wheel-drive vehicle in America, it was stylish, and very cool. It immediately caught the press’ attention: awards and kudos poured in, including Autobytel’s “Best Kept Secret of 2007” award.

The Suzuki SX4 Crossover is a versatile vehicle that packs a lot of value into a small package. It's currently the cheapest AWD vehicle you can buy, and it's one of the few in its class with available stability control. But it's not perfect, and if you don't need AWD, you may be better satisfied elsewhere. Despite its drawbacks, Suzuki has created a memorable, desirable CUV with the SX4.

The SX4 Crossover was selected as one of five vehicles in the economy priced category for Ward’s AutoWorld “Ward’s Interior of the Year” thanks to its ideal balance of bold and refined elements. A functional and high-tech center panel offers large, circular controls flanked by modern aluminum-colored trim. Instruments and controls seem to float as they are backlit by contemporary, high-tech red lighting, and the ergonomic design of the instrument cluster and dashboard provides -more- clear views of the meters and easy access to the controls for a true driver-oriented cabin. The sporty cockpit theme extends throughout the cabin with a dark interior featuring black cloth for a look both sharp and refined.

The transmission has been tweaked for improved fuel efficiency. A rear spoiler is now available, as are Bluetooth and sport pedals. Three trims are available: base, Convenience, and Touring.

J.D. Power information is not available. The only reported major problem so far is deactivated sensors leading to a low tire pressure warning. No recalls have been issued. Expect average to above average reliability. The basic warranty lasts for three years or 36,000 miles.

The SX4 earned 4 stars in government frontal crash tests and 4.5 stars in side tests. IIHS scores are not available. Anti-lock brakes, front side airbags and full side head airbags come standard. The Touring includes stability and traction control.

The SX4 Crossover exterior expresses a bold attitude that appeals to younger buyers seeking something different from the ordinary small car. In concert with Italian design house Italdesign, and to fuse the vitality of sport utility vehicles with the elegance of passenger cars, Suzuki created a handsome, versatile car that delivers a poise and attitude far beyond the SX4 Crossover’s compact size. The SX4 Crossover’s cool factor was backed up by sharp design and lots of content, so Kelley Blue Book included it in its 2007 list of “Top 10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000.”

The Dodge Caliber costs a bit less and has more cargo space, but lacks ABS, AWD, power accessories and air conditioning. The Kia Rio5 costs over a thousand less and gets up to six more miles per gallon, but lacks ABS, power accessories, AWD and has 30 less hp. The Scion xD has much less cargo room, but gets better fuel mileage.

The SX4 Crossover, now in its sophomore year, features a handsome five-door hatchback design, sophisticated standard all-wheel-drive system, excellent stability and crisp handling characteristics. The eye-catching vehicle combines numerous amenities with capable handling and a long list of safety features to offer a high level of functionality. The 2008 model gets a revised fifth gear ratio on the manual transmission model for improved fuel economy and NVH, new colors and an available rear spoiler. New sport pedals and Bluetooth1 connectivity are available as accessories. Starting at $15,270, the SX4 Crossover is the most affordable.

The SX4 Crossover features a rigid steel unibody and well-managed chassis, fine-tuned in Europe to provide good stability on the highway along with crisp, responsive handling, precise braking and minimal body roll. High body rigidity and reinforced suspension mounts allow the front MacPherson struts and rear torsion beam suspension to work to their full potential. The standard combination of a wide track and a large 16-inch wheel and tire package make the ride even more composed. The SX4 also features large four-wheel disc brakes as standard equipment. The five-door SX4 Crossover also forms the basis for Suzuki’s World Rally Championship (WRC) effort. Trials for the WRC are taking place during the 2007 season with a full schedule in 2008.

Engineered from concept to be all-wheel-drive capable while still delivering dynamic performance, the SX4 Crossover features Suzuki’s Intelligent All-Wheel-Drive system (i-AWD), controlled by an electronic control coupling device mounted in front of the rear differential. The in-console switch allows the driver to choose the mode that best suits the driving situation. The 2WD mode dedicates power to the front wheels for optimum fuel economy in high traction conditions. In AWD Auto mode, up to 50 percent of torque is automatically apportioned to the rear wheels – without driver input – when pronounced front wheel slippage occurs to provide four-wheel traction and help enhance stability. The AWD Lock setting sends between 30 percent and 50 percent of power as needed to the rear wheels for optimum traction in slippery conditions. At speeds above 36 mph, the system switches automatically to AWD Auto mode for smooth cruising.

The SX4 Crossover offers customers an extensive array of standard safety features; notably, ‘peace of mind’ may be the most important. That is one reason why listed it as one of the top ten cars for students. Active safety features include daytime running lights, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). Electronic Stability Program (ESP)2, including traction control is standard on the SX4 Crossover with Touring Package. The ESP system uses a variety of electronic sensors to measure vehicle speed, steering wheel angle and yaw faster than a typical driver. This information is sent to a central controller that can intervene as needed.

Under certain conditions, such as when unintended oversteer or understeer is detected, the system can apply individual brakes and reduce engine torque to help the driver maintain the proper cornering line. Together with the traction control system, ESP helps ensure vehicle stability when cornering, under acceleration, during emergency maneuvers and/or when driving on slippery road surfaces.

Passive safety features include a safety-reinforced body with front and rear crumple zones designed to help absorb impact energy. The unibody structure is designed to direct the impact energy away from the reinforced cabin area. Six airbags are standard on the SX4 Crossover: driver and front passenger advanced frontal airbags and side-impact airbags; and side curtain airbags designed to help provide additional protection for outboard front- and rear-seat passengers. In addition, it is fitted with front three-point seatbelts with pre-tensioners and force limiters, three-point emergency locking retractor rear seat belts, ISO FIX-compliant child seat anchors, LATCH system (Lower Anchor and Tethers for Children) and a high-mounted stop lamp.

The body features a low, rising waistline and triangular-shaped windows forward of the A-pillar, gracing the SX4 Crossover with a sporty wedge shape indicative of its outstanding dynamic performance. The front and rear silver bumper cover plates, black fender flare moldings, roof rails, wide track and strong fender design also add to the appearance of traction and dynamic performance. The exterior dimensions provide outstanding maneuverability for crowded city streets and parking areas. The design is pure Suzuki – exciting, multi-dimensional and playful.

The attractive center stack contains a standard AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with four speakers or a six-disc in-dash CD AM/FM/MP3 audio system with nine speakers, including subwoofer (Touring trim). Both audio systems are XM Satellite Radio-capable. Customers who want the convenience of a fully integrated iPod3 system can purchase an iPod interface from their Suzuki dealers. Once the device is plugged in, it works seamlessly through the radio – or the steering-wheel-integrated controls – and playlists and each song’s information appear on the audio display.

With seating for five, the SX4 Crossover offers both utility and style. The efficient interior dimensions provide comfort for both driver and passengers, and offer generous legroom and shoulder room, even for the rear-seat passengers. The SX4 Crossover’s 90.0 cubic feet of interior space is comparable to that of the Subaru Impreza wagon and Audi A3. The SX4 Crossover also features wide door openings for ease of entry and egress, and theater-style seating for the rear passengers.

Practical rear 60/40 split-folding seats allow for stowage of longer items. The second-row seats also can tumble forward for maximum cargo carrying ability. Luggage room is 16 cubic feet and increases to 43 cubic feet with the rear seats folded forward. Additionally, there are many discreet storage compartments located throughout the cabin, and all the doors feature large pockets and bottle holders for added convenience.

2008 Volkswagen Jetta 2.5 SE

2008 Volkswagen Jetta 2.5 SE

VW Jetta is a great car. It's small car. It seems when people think about compacts, the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Ford Focus immediately come to mind. So, too, should the Jetta, if for no other reason than it sports one of the best chassis when compared with its heavy-hitting competition. The ride is the best we've encountered in this class, and it is smooth, both on the expressway and in the city. It's a confident handler, too. Steering is direct with a nice weight to it, and the car is surefooted around corners with an acceptable amount of roll.

The interior sets the standard, too, with great build quality and nice materials throughout. The Japanese competition just doesn't hold a candle to it.

We're not entirely thrilled about the inline - five, however. Throttle response is poor, and power is rather disappointing. Stand on the gas pedal and not all that much happens, even at the power peak. Overall, it's a coarse engine that only gingerly pulls you along. Thankfully, the manual gearbox is slick and a joy to use, making getting to the power a bit more satisfying.

New Volkswagen Jetta with a better engine, this would be the cream of the small - car crop.


Welcome Fisker Karma

Fisker Karma

Hybrid super saloon that's set to take on Porsche and Aston Martin.

Here’s a supercar that will ease your conscience. Called the Karma, the eco-friendly machine was unveiled at the Detroit Motor Show by US maker Fisker Automotive.

The Aston Martin Rapide rival is on sale late next year, and uses a rear-wheel-drive, plug-in hybrid system. It’s capable of travelling 50 miles on its battery packs alone.

On longer trips, a small-capacity petrol engine fires up, producing power for the electric motors. This extends the range to 620 miles. Fisker claims the Karma can return around 100mpg, yet sprint from 0-60mph in less than six seconds and hit a 125mph top speed.

The highly sophisticated powertrain, called Q-Drive, has been developed by Quantum Technologies – the firm responsible for GM’s groundbreaking Chevrolet Volt.

To give the best possible balance and handling, the battery is located low and in the middle of the car. The swooping bodywork has been designed by Henrik Fisker, who penned the stunning Aston Martin DB9. However, it’s also a little reminiscent of the Maserati GranTurismo, with a massive slatted grille, angular headlamps and a long, sleek bonnet.

Even though the four-door coupé is no taller than a Porsche 911, it can carry four adults in comfort. Under the skin is an all-new lightweight platform honed by ex-BMW engineering guru Thomas Fritz.

The Karma will cost from around $80,000 (£40,000).

Friday, January 25, 2008

2010 Ford Mustang Spy Shots

ford mustang spy shotsford mustang spy shots
Brenda Priddy's man about the D-town happened upon yet another caravan of anti-spy photographer clad 2010 Ford Mustang test units, and this time he managed to sidle up alongside for an interior shot of the next-gen pony car. Full spy report from the Brenda's quick-to-snap shooter after the jump, and a blown-up picture of the interior can be found there as well.

Interior and More....

There have been a caravan of Mustangs out and about lately, and our man-about-Detroit had orders to get interior shots. But it wasn't as easy as it may seem:

All the cars were being driven.
The sun was in an awful spot.
And the interior is covered nearly as good as the exterior!

But these are the first interior shots of the 2009 Mustang - and enthusiasts will likely be magnifying every detail.
In addition - our shooter caught some revealing glances at both the headlamps and taillights.
Source: jalopnik

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Suzuki Presents Cars on Geneva Motor Show

Suzuki Kizashi

Today, Suzuki announced what are the cars which will be on display at their stand at the Geneva Motor Show. The main attraction will be the Suzuki A-Star Concept, which debuted at the New Delhi show, at the beginning of this month. The A-Star, which was developed by Suzuki Japan and Maruti Suzuki India, will be the producer’s offer in the small car class.

Also on display will be the impressive Suzuki Kizashi Concept and the Kizashi 2, which debuted at Frankfurt and at the Tokyo Motor Show. These concepts show Suzuki’s vision on the future of sports cars. Sport lovers will also get to see the Suzuki SX4 WRC racing car, which will be Suzuki’s first shot at the World Rally Championship.

We’ll also get to see the Suzuki Splash, aimed at small families and which will go on sale this March. So, a lot of cool cars from Suzuki and we’ll be there, at Geneva, to report for you, between 6 and 16 March.

Source: autounleashed

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