Monday, October 27, 2008

New Mazda 2 Review

New Mazda 2

The problem with today’s crop of small cars is that they aren’t actually very small.

There’s nothing wrong with that apart from the fact that they also come with the penalty of weight. On the plus side they are spacious and solid but it comes at a price – namely performance and economy.

If the engine remains small and the load rises then the motor will have to be thrashed to make reasonable progress and fuel economy drops as a result. But Mazda has come up with a cunning plan and by making the all-new 2 as light as a soufflé has managed to retain the peppy nature of the little car mark.

Small cars have their place in life scooting from A to B in a cute and attractive fashion. Congestion and parking problems are part of the daily grind so the ideal small car will be nippy and easy to manoeuvre – which Mazda 2 is.

Two 1.3 litre petrols offer 75PS or 86PS respectively. Then there’s a more sprightly still 1.5 with 103PS on tap and an oil burning 1.4 litre diesel with 68PS but more importantly 160Nm of torque at a lowly 2,000rpm to kick you in the back. Couple this with an aerated sub-1,000kg weight and you have a little car that is ready to dash. The improved performance reflects a change in target audience. The old Mazda2 was driven by more mature citizens who liked its upright stance and practical nature. But that car was never going to appeal to the kids.

New Mazda 2 is designed to appeal to youngsters and comes complete with funky styling, groovy interior and vibrant colour schemes. There's plenty of room inside to take your mates and a decent boot for young people's paraphernalia. There's even a socket for your iPod and overall the car has a fun feel about it that will appeal to buyers. Older customers will have to get with-it or upgrade to a Mazda 3.

Top spec models get steering wheel mounted controls for the trip computer, cruise control and the hi-fi so there’s no need to even take the your hands off the wheel while you are thumping a beat to the latest sounds – big respec...

Young people are also more aware of their carbon footprints and will be delighted by the car’s low emissions and 50mpg fuel consumption. The all-new Mazda 2 represents a positive shift in appeal to a younger more style conscious market. It can't fail to grow in popularity and stature – but thankfully not in weight.

Source: French and Lamming Media

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mazda 3 Road Test

Mazda 3

Mazda doesn’t seem to have that problem and already has two under its corporate belt – the much-loved MX-5 roadster and from the annals of history the stunning RX-7.

The latest Mazda 3 MPS doesn’t look much of an icon? It’s a smart and stylish family hatchback. It’s even won awards and they are richly deserved given its blend of abilities and styling. But an icon? No, not normally.

But then would a normal Mazda 3 out-sprint a sports car, would it hit 60mph in just over six seconds and would it go round bends as if it was on rails?

Three little letters differentiate this particular Mazda 3 from the rest of the range – MPS – and if you have ever driven the Mazda 6 MPS you will have an inkling of what the brand is capable of.

Thing is the 6 comes with more weight, four wheel drive and longer wheel base resulting in a very fast car that is also easy to control. Strip away the pounds, the all wheel drive and some of the length, but retain the mighty 2.3 litre 260 PS turbocharged engine and when you floor the throttle it is all you can do to cling on to the wheel.

Acceleration is truly phenomenal and you can feel the power coming through the steering wheel as the front tyres scrabble for grip. Overtaking is an absolute breeze in just about any gear – even sixth when you are feeling lazy and can’t be bothered to change down.

Now I’m not recommending that anyone drives irresponsibly but it is nice to know that underneath the mild exterior lies a bit of a beast – and that’s how icons are born. There is established competition of course, just look at the Subaru Impreza, for instance. But the clever thing about MPS is that it looks just like a Mazda 3 not a rally car looky likey that isn’t always to everyone’s tastes.

It also benefits from the 3's modern and smart interior – improved slightly by the fitting of bucket sports seats and its practicality; just cop a load of the boot and rear leg room.

If you aren’t content with the wolf in sheepskin look then Mazda does offer a sports aero kit version with lots of sticky on sporty bits and firmer suspension. Not sure the family would approve as the ride suffers a bit in favour of improved handling but it’s there just in case. MPS is designed to be aspirational; to give the range a bit of a kick. If it gains a bit of a reputation as a bad boy then the whole brand benefits.

And that’s the appeal of the Mazda 3 MPS, practical, versatile, yet sporty. A bit of a best kept secret for discerning drivers. Say hello to another Mazda icon.

Source: French and Lamming Media

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

2009 Mazda6 First Look

2009 Mazda6

It's a pretty well established fact that the Mazda6 is going to be updated thisyear, but now we're getting the first official glimpse of it. Using the new styling language that debuted on the Mazda2 subcompact, the 6 gains curves and a few Mazda traditions like a clamshell hood and slightly pontooned fenders. We'll need to see the rest of the vehicle before we form our final judgment, but so far, so good. Mazda also hopes to take the interaction between man and machine deeper than before, in a concept called, “Kizuna”. We suppose it's a little different than the “Ittai Jinbai” (rider and horse) principle behind the MX-5 roadster, but knowing Mazda's dedication to handling, this new 6 should be a fantastic drive.

The new Mazda6 is predicted to ride on the EU-CD platform developed by Volvo and used within the Ford-PAG range, though it will be longer, wider and more rakish than its closest platformmate, the Ford Mondeo. Technically speaking, this means that the Mazda6 will fall into the same category as the Volvo S80/V70/XC60, Land Rover LR2, and Ford S-Max/Galaxy/Mondeo. It will utilize different engines though; expect to see our North American models feature the 2.3-liter MZR inline-four, as well as a new V6 engine, most likely the Ford-derived 3.5-liter unit currently found in the CX-9. European models will also receive a brand new twin-turbocharged 173-hp, 272 lb-ft of torque twin-turbo 2.2-liter diesel engine as well as other small inline-four powerplants. The car will be launched at this year's Frankfurt Motor Show in September.

Seeing as the new Mazda6 won't be arriving until the 2009 model year, it's worth noting that there have been some changes to the regular,2008 model year Mazda6. Equipment levels have been changed around, and some new colors have been added, but the biggest changes to the brand will be the departure of two of its more unique models, namely the 6 SportWagon and its outrageous, high-performance sibling, the Mazdaspeed6. Still, that leaves two models of 6 for people to pony up and buy, the regular Mazda6 sedan and the Mazda6 Sport, the five-door hatchback variant.

Hopefully both of these models will make a return on the new Mazda6. The Wagon is a no-brainer internationally, as mid-sized wagons are strong sellers, but there's a question mark as to its success here in North America. We also believe that the Mazdaspeed6 will come back as well; its intriguing blend of turbocharged, all-wheel drive performance gave buyers of Subaru and Audi products a new choice. We'd like to see it return with an updated version of the 2.3-liter DISI turbocharged I-4 engine, but a turbocharged V6 engine or something of the sort would be more than acceptable!

Source: automobile

Sunday, October 19, 2008

2007 Mazda MX-5 Power Retractable Hardtop

2007 Mazda MX-5 Power Retractable Hardtop

While others have added two or more cylinders, more leather and a myriad of electronic eccentricities, the new MX-5 has only 200 additional cubic centimeters of displacement to make it faster, and rather than adding a smorgasbord of three-letter acronyms abbreviating unpronounceable electronic driving aids, has simply engineered everything that was there to work better.

So you could say that I was more than amazed to see the simple little MX-5 get a new electric add-on that at first seemed like heresy to the cars core philosophy. A retractable hardtop roof!? Not only is it a hardtop, but it also folds into the same pocket that the soft top fits into. OK, pretty impressive.Even more impressive is that the entire package only weighs 79 pounds more than the soft top, keeping to the featherweight characteristics of the car intact.

The Power Retractable Hard Top (PRHT) package is available on all MX-5 models except the base SV, at a cost of $2,915, and also includes subtle chrome accents on the grille, headlamps and door handles. Built from composites, the hardtop not only keeps weight to a minimum but provides an interior comfort level equaling that of a sports coupe, as wind and road noise are reduced to subconscious background noises. Operation is simple thanks to a single latch, same as the soft top except that the single latch is where the physical exertion ends in the PRHT. With the simple push of a button the rear tonneau cover raises, the roof folds in two and then flips behind the seats before the rear cover lowers. The whole operation is over in only 12 seconds!

Everything retractable hardtop convertible, from a Cadillac XLR to a Pontiac G6 sacrifices up to 90 percent of the trunk space in order to house a folding roof. However, the engineers at Mazda have magically found a way to fold a two piece hardtop behind the seats without diminishing the modest 5.3 cu-ft trunks storage area. All this while being a vastly smaller car then the aforementioned beasts.

The engineers must have found that the new hardtop package weakened the chassis, as extra strengthening has been used around the rear bulkhead. While minimal, the car handles every bit as good as the soft top. The added bulk in the back has done more than just strengthen though, as it helps create a near perfect weight distribution 52/48. While having a slightly duller feel of the road than that of the earlier generation Miata, the new MX-5 still retains the fun to drive attributes that made its predecessor so popular to begin with.

The beauty of the MX-5 is its useful exhilaration. With a high-powered sports car like an M-Roadster or Porsche, revving past 4th gear turns into a gamble with the authorities. Such capabilities only make them a pleasure to drive on a track, were as the MX-5 is geared towards low-speed, high-performance fun. I tossed the car around, blitzed through the gearbox and had a great time blasting down a number of good roads while still staying legal, or close enough not to lose my license.

The extremely close-ratio 6-speed gearbox and finely tuned suspension make the car perform brilliantly under 70 mph, ideally were you want to have fun on public roads. However, once I began to push past this mark 6th gear started to run out of steam and the suspension geometry didnt allow for stable high-speed cornering. Soft anti-roll bars are the main culprit here, although when the car is pushed to its limits they give the car a predictable feel in the curves, acting as early warning devices when lateral traction is about to go wayward.

Now that were on the subject of oversteer, you might not realize that the worlds best selling roadster isnt only popular amongst back road wannabe F1 pilots and budget oriented sun worshippers, but rather the Miata has long been a favourite with competitive auto crossers and road racers. Tight twisty circuits are the Miatas domain, as most weekend warriors will attest; very few challengers can compete. The good news is that with only a few simple modifications MX-fivery will continue on to be a thorn in the side of much larger, more powerful racers.

After a complete overhaul last year the exterior is more or less unchanged moving into 2007 model, with few modifications made even for the new hardtop version, except for the front of the rear deck being 1.6 inches higher to accommodate the roof. With the older generations often referred to as chick cars, Mazda has toughened up the new models edges a bit, injecting some much needed testosterone into the renamed Miata; or at least the name now includes the alpha-designation that was previously only used outside of North America. But the popularity of the car is so great that well over a year after the redesign and name change; everyone still calls the new one a Miata, no doubt much to the chagrin of Mazda. The result of the changes means that now those who arent in touch with their feminine side can enjoy a good sports car without the embarrassment of being seen in a chick car.

Source: automobile

Sunday, October 12, 2008

2008 MAZDA CX-9

2008 MAZDA CX-9

Wherever you take the CX-9, rest assured there's plenty of room for the whole gang and their gear. Despite the sleek, flowing body that suggests tight quarters, the CX-9 boasts a spacious interior for seven, highlighted by more second-row legroom than in the Enclave, Highlander, Tribeca, or Veracruz, and more third-row legroom and cargo room behind that row than you'll find in the last three. Only the Buick, which dwarfs the other four in length, width, height, and wheelbase, offers more third-row legroom and cargo room aft than the Mazda.

Further, when a weekend run to IKEA is in order, the CX-9 presents 100.7 cubic feet of cargo space with the second- and third-rows folded flat, which equates to an extra ottoman compared with the Highlander (95.4) and an entire bedroom than the Tribeca (74.4). Of course, the CX-9 isn't perfect, delivering the least first- and third-row headroom (the latter a result of the sporty, slanted hatch) and the slightest first-row legroom of the five, but it does get points for providing a second row that slides roughly five inches fore and aft on both sides, leaving ample space for finding the third row (over two feet between the folded second row and the C-pillar). Six-foot adults won't mind the third row for short to medium trips, while kids will love it back there, especially if the CX-9 is equipped with the optional rear-seat entertainment system (not available with a moonroof) that features a nine-inch LCD and 5.1 surround sound with 11 speakers.

As amusing as a movie is on the go, though, avoid the second and third rows and opt for the driver's seat-the chair of choice. From here, the controls that count are at your beck and call, ready to react with the utmost responsiveness. Sink your spur into the well-calibrated electronic throttle, and the new-for-2008 3.7-liter V-6 shakes the reins on 273 horsepower, a 10-horse boost over the previous 3.5-liter. (If you're wondering why the CX-9 didn't play last year, the 2007 model went on sale after our cut-off date.) More important, torque has risen from 249 to 270 pound-feet, and, at 4250, is now realized 150 rpm earlier. While we still wouldn't mind a tad more low-end grunt, the 3.7 nonetheless behaves in a silky, refined manner, accentuated by a sporty growl from the dual exhaust. Mated to an Aisin six-speed automatic that's as seamless as a rubber glove, the Japan-built Ford-based V-6 scoots the CX-9 from 0 to 60 in 7.8 seconds and through the quarter mile in 16.0 flat at 87.8 mph, placing it ahead of every three-row midsize crossover in this year's field sans the sprightlier Highlander, which recorded 7.3 and 15.7 at 87.7.

Moreover, when full control of the powertrain is desired, the CX-9 offers a slick manumatic feature that, similar to BMW road cars and many race cars, downshifts with a push forward of the gearshift and upshifts with a pull back. Most automakers configure it the opposite way, but we feel Mazda (and BMW) get it right.

Around our 15-mile Lake Arrowhead handling loop, the CX-9 was arguably the most enjoyable sport 'ute to pilot, a reminder that SUVs ought to be exciting to drive. The steering, a Mazda hallmark, didn't disappoint, displaying a solid, on-center feel with zero play off-center and superb, linear response throughout the turning range. For clipping apexes and placing a vehicle within the inch, the CX-9, with its heavenly helm, is first-rate. Naturally, swallowing a set of esses is no fun without a composed chassis, and here, again, the Mazda excels. Based on modified Ford Edge architecture-the two share an engine box, some floor stampings, and basic front MacPherson strut and rear multilink suspension designs-the CX-9 provided a compliant, taut ride as well as best-in-field lateral acceleration (0.77 g) and figure-eight time (28.4 seconds at 0.58 g), testaments to its brilliant tuning. Much credit goes to the CX-9's transparent Active Torque Split all-wheel-drive system that can route up to 50 percent of available torque to the rear wheels depending on wheel speed, steering angle yaw rate, throttle opening, and lateral acceleration, but some due goes to the weight-saving measures, which include extensive use of high- and ultra-high-strength steel in such places as the front and rear frames, B-pillars, and sidesills. At 4633 pounds, the Mazda's no light weight, but compared with the two-row Edge (4511) and the cumbersome Enclave (5077), its dietary tactics are noticeable. Under braking, when fewer pounds equal fewer feet, the midweight Mazda, which slots between the 4268-pound Subaru and the Buick, posted a respectable 60-to-0 distance of 127 feet, a byproduct of four-wheel vented disc brakes and excellent pedal feel.

Firm believers in the best type of crash is the avoidable kind, we appreciate that the Mazda comes standard with an anti-lock brake system, electronic brake-force distribution, traction control, dynamic-stability control, and roll-stability control, which analyzes body-roll rate and wheel speed to determine if a momentary torque reduction and brake application are necessary to maintain the shiny side up. There's even a Blind Spot Monitoring system available for 2008. But should the sublime chassis and electronic aids not prevent the unavoidable, the CX-9 offers ample protection in the form of front, side, and side-curtain airbags as well as seatbelt pretensioners and load limiters. According to NHTSA, the safety net works, as the CX-9 received the highest scores (five stars) for front and side impacts, along with a four-star rollover rating.

If you're taken aback by the thought of a $40,000 Mazda, don't be. Over 50 percent of CX-9 buyers have opted for a $33,950-$35,250 Grand Touring, which, when equipped as was our all-wheel-drive tester with satellite radio, navigation, moonroof, backup camera, power tailgate, Bose audio system, and a towing package, can often touch the $40-grand level. This territory, surprisingly, is not uncommon today among three-row crossovers, evidenced by this year's comparably equipped challengers, which range in price from $37,196 (Veracruz) to $44,245 (Enclave). The beauty of the CX-9 is that for just under 30 large, the core elements can be had in a front-drive $29,995 Sport version ($31,295 with AWD), which, among a few extraneous features, lacks only leather, 20-inch wheels, foglamps, Xenon headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, some chrome exterior bits, and a Smart Card key system compared with the GT. Roughly one-quarter of shoppers have snatched up a Sport-and for good reason. For a bit more luxury, the midlevel $32,210-$33,510 Touring has garnered the remaining quarter and perhaps offers the optimal compromise with standard leather, heated sideview mirrors, and Bluetooth. While all-wheel drive is a $1300 option across the range, front-drive versions still deliver the trademark dynamics, according to Mazda, thanks to special suspension tuning that provides that critical ride, handling, and steering combination.

Manufactured at the Ujina Plant No. 1 near Mazda's global headquarters in Hiroshima, the CX-9 was designed specifically for the North American market. It shows. Not only did Mazda do its research, creating an SUV with the ideal balance of sport, utility, and style, but it built the benchmark of the three-row crossover class. Move the needle like that, in the most important, competitive SUV segment, and you take home the calipers.

Source: trucktrend

Saturday, October 11, 2008

2008 Mazda Tribute Review

2008 Mazda Tribute

The 2008 Mazda Tribute has been redesigned on the outside and inside, although the engines and chassis are the same. Built by Ford with Mazda tweaks, and a fraternal twin to the Ford Escape, the Tribute took model year 2007 off but it's back for 2008 and offers more value than before.

Almost all of the changes to the 2008 Mazda Tribute have been to the exterior styling and the interior. It's much cleaner and better looking than the previous model. It no longer tries to sell itself with cladding and an over-done grille, like the 2006. It's also better looking than its fraternal twin, the Ford Escape, which looks like it's trying to copy the nose of the Nissan Xterra, or at least the front bumper. Our Touring test model came in Redfire Pearl, a metallic maroon red, and we got a number of compliments on the rig's good looks, which doesn't happen every day with your basic small SUV.

The grille is black egg-crate, in Mazda's wedge shape that suggests a grin, with a chrome Mazda gullwing logo centered in a chrome strip across the top. The halogen headlights, small and simple trapezoids, complement that shape. Under the nose there's a slim valance, either flat black or flat gray, containing the halogen foglamps that are standard with the Touring and Grand Touring models, and an opening for more air to the radiator.

The seven-spoke alloy wheels are okay, neither eye-catching nor detracting from the overall looks of the SUV. The Tribute's clean sides would be a nice canvas for great looking aftermarket wheels, though. The waistline has been raised by 1.5 inches, making taller doors and a safer cabin. The flares around the wheelwells are just right, and the gratuitous cladding of previous models has been erased. The flat black or flat gray of the plastic valance carries along the rocker panels, and the door handles are body colored. There's no chrome for the sake of the chrome, except for one wide strip over the rear license plate indent, matching the strip over the grille.

The B-pillar slopes back with a small angle to give the side windows some angularity, but there's no attempt at fancy shapes as with, for example, the Honda CR-V, a competitor to the Tribute. This allows a practical sized rear cargo window, for better visibility and safety. The liftgate window opens separately, a nice feature that used to be common but is less so, nowadays. The taillights, like the rest of the Tribute, are no-nonsense: big and blocky enough to be safe, with just enough shape to be handsome.

The rear bumper has a flat shelf having a rubber strip, making climbing up to the roofrack easier; that rack, with crossbars that easily adjust by fingertip knobs, is standard on all models but the Sport. It's little things like this that indicate the thoughtfulness behind any vehicle; you have to pay extra to get the crossbars on most SUV roofracks today, and many of them are a challenge to slide forward or rearward for the size and shape of the load.

The interior of the 2008 Ford Escape has been totally redesigned to be convenient and not confusing, while affording as much comfort as possible for a $20,000 SUV, and that's plenty.

The interior color scheme of our Touring model was two-tone black and cream, on the dash and cloth seats. The material is sturdy and stain-resistant, with a ribbed texture on the cream-colored part in the middle of the seat bottom and seat back. It's nice enough, and we have no complaints about comfort, but we wonder why the Tribute doesn't use the rugged sporty material of the Mazda3.

We drove our Escape into the city to see a pro soccer game, one hour each way, loaded with passengers. Three passengers were in the back seat, one adult, two children; they had enough legroom, even enough kneeroom behind the driver whose seat was slid back, and the elevated seating gave them visibility out the windshield, plus the view out the rear windows is broad and open.

The cabin was quiet enough for easy conversation during the trip, without much road noise from tires nor from the V6.

For the passengers in the rear seat, there are two fixed cupholders on the console between the front seats, a small storage bin, an AC outlet, map pockets on the front seatbacks, and door pockets. There are no reading lights for them, however. The rear doors close easily with a solid notch for the hand.

The rear seats fold easily enough, although not totally flat. The seat bottoms slide forward, and the seatbacks then flop down. We carried a bunch of windsurfing equipment without a problem, including masts that extended between the front seats to the dashboard, and one sailboard that was nine feet long, which obscured vision out the right front window, but still fit. It could have easily been strapped to the roofrack, but we were tired after windsurfing and too lazy.

Everything is at hand and not problematic for the driver. The gauges are clean and easy to read, with a neat tach and speedo, split by small gas and temp gauges. Clean and simple. The center stack contains everything that's needed, with dials for the main controls of the sound system and climate system, and buttons that have simple standard icons and are big enough to see and use. It's a blessed relief, nowadays, to find a panel that isn't unnecessarily challenging. This simplicity makes for a safer vehicle, because the driver's concentration isn't stolen by confusion or problem solving.

The air conditioning is powerful. We drove off on a 100-degree day and the cabin was comfortable within two miles. We recently tested a $60,000 Audi Avanti in Phoenix in July, and its AC system couldn't come close to matching the Tribute's.

Under the center stack, there's a forward tray with a grippy rubber liner, the right size for CDs. The shifter has positions for 1, 2, and D, and a button that turns Overdrive off, for towing (there's an optional towing package). Beside the shifter there's a slot for a pen, and behind it there are two deep fixed cup holders. The center console compartment is a deep box, with a small removable tray and three slots for coins. It's covered with grippy ribbed rubber that works for an armrest. Rubber liners in the cup holders and front bin keep things in place and quiet and are removable for easy cleaning.

The trim for the center console is a hard shiny black plastic, same as on the doors, where again the buttons are simple and all you need: lock and unlock, four windows up and down, rear window locks, and remote mirror adjustment.

The only thing about the interior we found inconvenient was the parking brake release, tucked so low that your chin nearly hits the steering wheel when you stretch for it.

Ford's all-aluminum 3.0-liter V6 Duratec engine has been around for a while, and it still gets the job done. Two hundred horsepower is plenty for the Mazda Tribute, never mind that the Nissan Xterra and Toyota RAV4 have quite a bit more. Although if you tow anything, you might need more than the Tribute offers.

We didn't, not even with our load of people. The Tribute cruised at freeway speeds, even up long grades, without straining. The engine is smooth, quiet, and doesn't fall back on the transmission kicking down a lot. This is almost surprising, given that it's only a four-speed automatic, and that the full 193 pound-feet of engine torque comes at a relatively high 4850 rpm. We often find that cars with four-speed automatics need a fifth gear, but the Tribute's four-speed is adequate, and smooth.

Regrettably, we didn't have the opportunity to drive a Tribute with the 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engine. This is Mazda's bread-and-butter engine, and is well proven. Its 153 horsepower and 152 pound-feet of torque at 4250 rpm might be enough for your needs in the Tribute, although it can only tow 1500 pounds. It gets two more miles per gallon and costs $2000 less.

We have no complaints whatsoever with the ride. We put 272 miles on the Tribute, over familiar terrain that sometimes jags us in other vehicles, but we were able to forget about those bumps driving the Tribute, with its wide track and independent suspension, using MacPherson struts in front and multi-links in the rear. The suspension tuning has been refined for 2008, as well. There's no tipping, wallowing, weaving, shaking, or anything like that.

The handling is steady, tight and nimble around town. One of the few new mechanical features is electric power rack-and-pinion steering, which helps make the Tribute easy to parallel park. The front fenders are more squared off than before, making it easier to see the front corners when parking; and good visibility with no blind spots out the back is another virtue. There's a tight enough turning radius, which we tested once to catch a parking space on the opposite side of the street.

In terms of brakes, Mazda has taken a technological step backwards. The previous model had four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, but the '08 Tribute uses drum brakes in the rear. It's disappointing, and apparently a cost-cutting move. It might be an issue if you tow.

The tradeoff is that, despite a decrease in the price of the Tribute by about $650, there's more safety equipment, and it's significant. Electronic stability control, rollover control and traction control, a tire pressure monitor, side front airbags and full-length airbag curtains all come standard. None of these things were standard on the 2006.

You can't go wrong with the 2008 Mazda Tribute. For the price, it offers all you can expect from a small SUV, with excellent engineering and mechanical execution. Both the four-cylinder and V6 engines are proven, and gas mileage is good. The four-speed automatic transmission is smooth. The suspension offers a tight and comfortable ride, and the handling is nimble and steady. The interior has been carefully redesigned to be comfortable, with good headroom and legroom in the rear, and the instrumentation is intelligent and easy to understand and operate. Maybe best of all, the price is lower than in 2006, while offering all the latest standard safety features.

Source: automotive

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

2008 Nissan Pathfinder

2008 Nissan Pathfinder

Never the shy one, the Nissan Pathfinder bounds into 2008 with freshened styling, a subtly but substantially revised cabin, and technology upgrades such as a backup camera and hard-drive music storage.

All of which pale in comparison to the real headliner: The Pathfinder gets its first V8 engine option for 2008, a 5.6-liter from the Titan full-size pickup with 310 horsepower and more torque than GM's 6-liter or Dodge and Jeep's Hemi.

The Pathfinder was winning SUV comparison evaluations long before SUV became a household word, and this heavily updated fourth-generation version merely puts it in a bigger, seven-seat house. Built like a truck and unstoppable by most reasonable endeavors (Baja, anyone?) the Pathfinder is a capable mid-size SUV for those who require a genuine truck, compete rather than watch, yet still want some degree of style and comfort during the week.

If your off-road driving consists of graded dirt roads, you desire all-wheel drive for bad weather, or tow something as light as personal watercraft, Nissan's Murano might be better. But if your path has tree stumps, rocks, ruts, mud or all of the above, your boat or RV weighs a couple of tons, or you like your Xterra but want more luxury, the Pathfinder may fit.

However, don't let the truck talk fool you. Thanks to independent rear suspension and large tires, the Pathfinder rides well and the rack-and-pinion steering works precisely and turns tighter than many mid-size sedans. Also, the Pathfinder doesn't require a climb to get into and will fit easily in garages and standard parking spaces.

The mid-size SUV market isn't as huge as it once was, but many of the contenders, such as the Chevy TrailBlazer, Dodge Durango, Mercedes ML-Class, Mitsubishi Montero, and Toyota 4Runner, can't offer the mechanical combinations, nor in some cases the aggressive styling, that the Pathfinder does.

Only astute observers will notice the 2008 Nissan Pathfinder snout is two inches longer than the 2007 models, though faithful will notice the smoother tailgate, new wheel styles and side moldings, and near total absence of superfluous character lines. The large fender arches are integral with the sheetmetal and set off by indentations around their periphery to promote the muscular attitude.

The cleaner nose job sweeping into the front arches reminds of a Dodge Nitro, but Pathfinder's minimal overhangs, angular edges, semi-concealed rear door handles and vertical hatch maintain its roots as a genuine off-road worthy four-wheel drive.

Side steps (purposely left off the SE Off-Road) are well-integrated and allow easier entry/exit for shorter occupants without dirtying trouser cuffs of taller riders, the roof rack mounts are open at the ends for hand-holds and securing of cargo (the non-skid surface on rear bumper and side steps helps, too), and the aft-angled rear doors simplify access to the third-row seats.

Stylish wheels have always been a part of Pathfinder and the wheels on our example were no different, with machined spokes and painted backgrounds, all clear-coated.

Just a few mid-size SUVs remain with a combination of a truck-style frame and independent rear suspension (IRS), but not many can compete with the Pathfinder when the going gets rough: The Mitsubishi Montero doesn't offer a V8 and the V-6 can't match Nissan's; the Ford Explorer is not the trail-exploring tool the Pathfinder is, and its engines can't match Nissan's. Look underneath a Pathfinder and you'll find steel, and lots of it: a fully boxed frame essentially a smaller-dimension version of that employed by the Titan and Armada full-sizes, steel suspension arms, plenty of bracing, and all the important bits tucked up out of harm's way. Despite a V8 underhood there is still sufficient space for do-it-yourself maintenance or quick belt replacement. The Toyota 4Runner is among the few vehicles that can compete with the Pathfinder off road. Others include the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Land Rover LR3.

Since it's based on a truck and not a minivan, the mid-size Pathfinder won't have the room of the minivan. But inch-by-inch it's an efficient layout. Third-row room is more comfortable than the numbers suggest and better than many longer three-row SUVs such as the Jeep Commander that use a solid rear axle. And unlike the sloping hatch of many crossovers, the Pathfinder's upright hatch doesn't impinge on cargo room and sheds snow and ice much better.

Jump into a 2008 Pathfinder and you may well do a double-take: perforated heated leather front seats, mercurial-looking pewter console trim, and a central control area that appears capable of landing an aircraft. Check the window sticker. Repeat aloud, incredulity permitted, "This is a Pathfinder?"

Alright, so the basics are much the same as last year, it's just got new style to impress the eyes and offers more without adding confusion. Little changes in edges here and materials there make a synergistic improvement, suggesting Nissan got top dollar for its development buck.

Interior room is typical of a mid-size SUV, with legroom diminishing as you head rearward.

Front seats provide support and a good view all around, though a few may complain about the thick pillar just behind the driver's door. A tilt steering wheel complements adjustable pedals for a wide range of driver positions and sizes. Steering column stalks are nicely positioned and damped and logically laid out.

Materials appear well-crafted and chosen, with easy-clean surfaces on the indented door panels. The shifter would feel at home in an expensive luxury car, though we would prefer the shifter on the left side of the console rather than the far side. The driver faces gauges that include oil pressure and volts, the better for keeping tabs on things when four wheeling. The central screen displays images from the rearview camera whenever you shift into Reverse, a feature that's available even if you don't order the optional navigation system. Two gloveboxes are provided, and one of them locks.

A bank of white-on-black switchgear for audio and climate falls mid-pack for intuitiveness (non-navi models have two adjacent Back buttons) yet is quickly mastered. In a system more manufacturers should consider, radio stations are memorized in three lettered groups and not by AM, FM, or XM, so you can mix and match bands as you choose. That's much better for switching among your favorites.

The second row seats three, with only a modest bulge in the center floor and scalloped front seatbacks for more knee room. With full roll-down windows and overhead AC ducting (controlled from front or back, driver's choice) there's no claustrophobia, partial recline improves comfort, and third row riders have a good view and their own vents. Every rear seat has an adjustable headrest that keeps a low profile and, unless there's a center passenger, the view through the well-swept deep rear window is preserved for the driver. Each section of the middle row folds individually, and a simple latch pull pops the outer seats forward for third row access.

The third row is split 50/50 and raised or dropped with one touch from the cargo area. You can put small adults back there because of the low floor line, or if you want the skis indoors, fold the left side seats and sit on the right.

Cargo space is moderate when all three rows are up but expands exponentially as seatbacks drop. There are small netted pockets to the left and in the hatch (along with the first aid kit), a full-width grocery net, room for some small gear or your personal effects under the floor, a rubberized deck material for fast clean-up, and tie-down points in the floor, sides, and roof to restrain anything you load. A side benefit of the independent rear suspension is a load floor just 30 inches from the ground, and the hatch glass can be opened separately for tossing lighter stuff in.

The invigorating drive that characterized the first Pathfinders remains, it's just been refined without giving up the performance the Pathfinder-faithful crave, both on trail and on highway.

Nissan's 4-liter V6 is a proven performer and award winner, similar to the engine used in the 350Z, G37, and every moderate-size Nissan and Infiniti sedan. Properly tuned for truck use by favoring torque over horsepower, it makes 266 hp and 288 pound-feet of torque here, about the same as some domestic V8s, and is more than capable of propelling the Pathfinder with verve, smoothness, efficiency (bearing in mind these are 2.5-ton trucks, on big tires, etc.) and noise only when you get on it.

However, for the first time in a Pathfinder you can now get a V8, and Nissan figures a fifth of Pathfinder owners will tow or want to make the power statement. This is a walk softly and carry a big stick kind of statement.

Stolen right from the Titan and Armada, the 5.6-liter V8 purrs quietly in the background until the reins are let go and all 310 hp and 388 pound-feet of torque come on line. These numbers obliterate most in the mid-size frame-and-body SUV class and any with IRS, and with the five-speed automatic ideally matched the Pathfinder goes quickly, right now. Of course there is a penalty with EPA numbers of 12/18 mpg City/Highway for a 4WD V8, but those use the new-for-2008 methodology and our example bettered 17 mpg in mixed use. For a 5,000-pound four-wheel-drive, that's quite competitive.

Genuine 4WD SUVs don't typically deliver the utmost in cornering prowess because the required responses and tires are often contradictory to off-highway traction. Just because a Pathfinder has the same 50/50 weight distribution of a BMW doesn't mean it changes directions like one; conversely, if a BMW tried to follow a Pathfinder down a rocky trail, it would soon come to a grinding halt. However, trail tuning and four-wheel drive do often deliver a surprisingly soft ride on pavement (relative to the truck-based design and aggressive tire tread), especially on pot-holed, frost-heaved or otherwise neglected roads. Body/frame isolation is good, much like that of a Toyota Sequoia or Lexus LX470, and big tires equal big sidewalls, so small impacts like lane-divider dots tend to imperceptibility.

A V8 lifts the tow rating from the V6's 6,000 pounds to 7,000, which we didn't get to use. We did manage to fully load one and found the rear suspension touched the bump stops a bit earlier, as expected, yet composure remained stable and not one of the passengers complained about the ride.

The steering wheel is answered promptly and thick anti-roll bars minimize body roll (lean) without limiting the axle articulation desired for off-road use; there are vehicles that use more sophisticated devices for the best of both worlds but they cost much, much more than a Pathfinder and frequently will get no farther down the trail. If you've ever driven a softly sprung French car, many designed for also-marginal roads, you'll feel right at home.

Brakes respond equally well, and hitting them hard will produce some nose-dive typical of well-sprung SUVs; repeated heavy braking produced no fade even with a full load on board.

The 2008 Nissan Pathfinder builds on a good thing, bringing more amenities, cleaner style inside and out, and offers a testosterone-laden V8 for power freaks and routine trailer pullers. If you need a capable seven-seat mid-size utility able to go beyond most drivers' requests, it deserves consideration.

Whale test drove the Pathfinder V8 in rural Wisconsin and not-so-rural Southern California.Tom Lankard contributed to this report.

Source: newcartestdrive

Sunday, October 5, 2008

2009 BMW Z4 Review

2009 BMW Z4

The new 2008 2009 BMW Z4 Series will amaze you with its sophisticated features. The car comes standard with impressive technology and the stuff that dreams are made of: an engine that is nothing less than a work of art, encased in a brilliantly-designed aluminum Spaceframe. The car is a two-seater sports car in the tradition of the legendary BMW cars of the twentieth century, a classic based on the essential principles of car design, made with the best engineering on earth and the finest technology available. As such, we have carefully prepared our 2008 2009 BMW Z4 Series review for you so you can experience a car that is the very embodiment of a passionate love for mobility. We also understand that people buying a new car will be looking for where to get the best 2008 2009 BMW Z4 price, so we have put together information on that as well.

One look and you know it: the 2008 2009 BMW Z4 is a car that you will never forget. From the long, sweeping lines and the bold curve of the wheel shoulders to the subtle tilt of rear end, with its visor-like tail lights and dual exhaust pipes of polished steel, any 2008 2009 Z4 review will communicate a statement of manufacturing perfection and timeless design. The body form is pure roadster: Long nose, close to the road, an elegantly purist cockpit. But there are hints of a classic racing car, as well: the simple “Engine Start” button beside the three-spoke leather-covered steering wheel, for starters, and more. The design of the 2008 2009 BMW Z4 Series is a tribute to the essence of the sports car. And with a host of 2008 2009 BMW Z4 accessories to make your car even better, who could ask for anything more?

2.5L displacement double overhead cam (DOHC)
inline 6 cylinder configuration gas engine
24 valves variable valve timing
184 hp @ 6000 rpm 175 ft-lbs. @ 3500 rpm
premium unleaded fuel
5-speed manual transmission rear wheel drive
Exterior Features
alloy rims 16 x 7 in. rims
P225/50VR16 tires run flat tires
variable intermittent wipers manual convertible roof
glass rear window rear defogger
Safety Features and Ratings
ventilated front disc / solid rear disc brakes 4-wheel ABS
emergency braking assist traction control
stability control front side-mounted airbags
passenger airbag deactivation switch front seatbelt pretensioners
child seat anchors 2 front headrests
engine immobilizer daytime running lights
Front Seats
2 person total seating capacity sport front seats
vinyl upholstery
Power Features
remote power door locks power windows
1 one-touch power windows power mirrors
electric power steering tilt and telescopic steering wheel
front cupholders remote trunk release
front door pockets front seatback storage
air conditioning interior active charcoal air filter
front reading lights leather-wrapped steering wheel
front floor mats
Source: allautoreviews

Saturday, October 4, 2008

2009 Lexus GX 470 Review

2009 Lexus GX 470

The 2009 Lexus GX 470 is largely unchanged. GX 470 is a midsize SUV that uses traditional truck-type construction. It has a 263-hp 4.7-liter V8 engine and a 5-speed automatic transmission. Maximum towing capacity is 6500 lb. All-wheel drive is standard and includes a low-range gear for off-roading. A 3rd-row split-folding seat is available for up to eight-passenger capacity. Available safety features include ABS, traction control, antiskid system, curtain side airbags, and front side airbags. Hill ascent and descent control are standard. The suspension is self-leveling and adjustable for height. The GX has automatic shock absorber control with four driver-selectable modes. Optional is Lexus' Kinetic Dynamic Suspension, which can temporarily "release" the anti-roll bars as needed to improve off-road suspension travel. Among other options are DVD entertainment and a navigation system with rearview camera.

4.7-liter V8 engine, 5-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive, 2-speed transfer case, traction control, limited-slip center differential.

Dual front airbags, front side airbags, front and 2nd-row curtain side airbags w/rollover deployment, antilock 4-wheel disc brakes, brake assist, antiskid system, hill ascent/descent control, tire-pressure monitor, daytime running lights.

Front air conditioning w/dual-zone automatic climate controls, interior air filter, power tilt/telescopic wood/leather-wrapped steering wheel w/radio controls, cruise control, leather upholstery, heated front bucket seats, 10-way power driver seat w/lumbar adjustment, 6-way power passenger seat, center console, memory system (driver seat, mirrors, steering wheel), 2nd-row split folding rear seat, wood interior trim, heated power mirrors w/tilt-down back-up aid and automatic day/night, power windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry, power sunroof, AM/FM radio w/in-dash 6-disc CD/MP3 changer, digital-media player connection, tachometer, trip computer, altimeter, barometer, rain-sensing wipers, automatic day/night rearview mirror, compass, outside-temperature indicator, universal garage door opener, illuminated visor mirrors, cargo cover, rear defogger, intermittent rear wiper/washer, automatic headlights, floormats.

Theft-deterrent system, rear privacy glass, running boards, fog lights, roof rack.

Height-adjustable suspension w/adjustable shock absorbers and load-leveling, full-size spare tire, 265/65SR17 tires, alloy wheels.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tests a vehicle's worthiness in front- and side-impact collisions and rates its resistance to rollovers. Front-impact crash-test numbers indicate the chance of serious injury: 5 = 10% or less; 4 = 10-20%; 3 = 20-35%; 2 = 35-45%; 1 = More than 45%. Side-impact crash-test numbers indicate: 5 = 5% or less; 4 = 6-10%; 3 = 11-20%; 2 = 21-25%; 1 = More than 26%. Rollover resistance numbers indicate the chance for rollover when the vehicle leaves the roadway: 5 = Less than 10%; 4 = 10-20%; 3 = 20-30%; 2 = 30-40%; 1 = More than 40%.

Manufacturers may periodically offer additional coverage as a purchase incentive. There offers are not reflected on this chart. The federal government requires two other warranties. The Exhaust Emission Warranty covers corrosion-related parts for 2 years/24,000 miles, plus 8 years/80,000 miles on the catalytic converter and any on-board diagnostic device. The Passenger Restraint Warranty covers seat belts and airbags for 5 years/50,000 miles.

Source: consumerguideauto

Thursday, October 2, 2008

2009 Ford Taurus X Review

2009 Ford Taurus X

In a time when an upscale trim level means flashy gadgetry and glossy chrome, Ford has opted to take its cues from the past and give the Ford Taurus X a trim that is both elegant and practical. The Eddie Bauer Edition of the 2009 Ford Taurus X stands out from the crowd with a sophisticated two-tone paintjob, 18-inch aluminum wheels, leather-trimmed seating, and dual-zone automatic climate control. Most of these additions, other than the paintjob, can be added singly to the two other trims as well. But even for these high-end features, the Taurus X ends up being a bit underwhelming in terms of overall design. The profile seems to revert back to the past, rather than move forward in style. This four-door seven-passenger SUV resembles a wagon more than sport utility. Also, the lackluster exterior on the base model blends in with every other standard SUV on the market. There have been recent rumors that the Taurus X is on its final days, and it would be no wonder with this mediocre model.

Under the hood, buyers can expect a 263 horsepower 3.5L Duratec V6. As this is the only engine option, some consumers might turn to models with a wider selection. Also, only available is a six-speed automatic transmission with overdrive. However, buyers can customize the model with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. But, expect a noticeable price to be attached to the AWD addition. Because of the moderate engine choice, buyers will get improved fuel economy with 17 city MPG and 24 highway MPG (FWD models only) and 15 city MPG and 22 highway MPG (AWD models only). Nevertheless, the Taurus X simply cannot compete with the fuel efficiency of the hybrid vehicles on the market. There has been talk of the Ford Taurus X being fitted with hybrid technology, but with the gossip of a possible discontinuation it doesn't seem likely.

Inside, the Ford Taurus X is stocked with a number of useful features like command seating, an MP3 audio input jack, four 12-volt power outlets, power windows, locks and mirrors, and grocery bag hooks in the rear cargo area. The MP3 input jack allows drivers to sync their music player with the Taurus X's audio system, while the grocery bag hooks prevent sacks from spilling over while in transit. Command seating is a particularly valuable addition to the Taurus X in that it seats the driver and passenger at a higher level than in most SUVs, allowing for unobstructed views of the road.

Overall, the 2009 Ford Taurus X has some advantageous additions, but the general package is a bit unimpressive. Buyers looking for an introduction into the SUV market will find that the Taurus X certainly has the basics, but those that want the extra premium features will need to take a look at other SUVs. But, with a base price of $27,575, the Ford Taurus X could prove to be a big seller for those on a budget.

Source: carseek

2008 BMW X6

2008 BMW X6

Crossover vehicles are perhaps the fastest growing segment of the automotive market. Typically, this marries an SUV body to a car-based platform. What if the reverse were true? Welcome to the new 2008 BMW X6.

The X6 is officially labeled as a Sport Activity Coupe, a pretty sleek 4-door coupe at that.

It sits atop a modified X5 platform and is lower, wider and longer than the X5. Now BMW will likely give me grief for referring to the X5 as an SUV platform and it really is not in the truest sense of the term, but its as close as you are likely to get from this manufacturer.

An aggressively portioned front end flows back towards a chopped roofline and back over a sharply angled fastback rear window. The rear section is a delightful visual element not seen in this class of vehicle. BMW is taking a bold departure from the status quo, but its unique vision of automotive design clearly differentiates it from many other luxury manufacturers reluctant to boldly go where no car has gone before.

In North America the X6 will be offered with two power plants: a 3.0L twin-turbocharged engine producing 300 hp and a 4.4L V8, also twin-turbo charged, that cranks out a heady 400 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque. European buyers will likely choose between the two diesel options available to them.
2008 BMW X6My tester was the x-Drive35i. It comes with BMW’s fabulous x-Drive system standard – it shuttles torque between the front and rear axles as traction permits. A secondary system is then able to split the torque between the left and right rear wheels. It not only alters the torque distribution on acceleration, it also looks after the vehicle when it decelerates – as such it becomes the first line of stability control.

As you enter the vehicle you realize that you are taking a significant step up to get into what appears to be a car-like cabin. Sure enough, the interior feel of the X6 is more like a 6 Series than the X5. The cabin is pure BMW, everything falls logically to hand and the overall feel is like that of a tailored leather glove – it fits just right with no excess and it looks marvelous.

Looking rearward through the rearview mirror reveals a tiny sliver of a rear window, which is, perhaps, the biggest vice of the steeply sloped rear glass. Another telling sign that you’re in a coupe is the seat mounted console located in the rear seat. This limits seating to four, but it does give the rear passengers the feeling one finds in an upscale coupe. The sloping roofline, however, does cut down on headroom for taller riders.

The X6’s 3.0L inline six with its twin turbochargers is one of the sweetest motors ever produced. The small turbochargers split the six cylinders – the front three blow one turbo, the back three the other. This arrangement provides power without the turbo lag found in lesser engines. It’s good enough to cause sweaty palms and a decent adrenaline rush in spite of the 2,220 kilos it’s forced to move. My speed trap tests returned 0-100 km/h figure in the range seven-second range, which is more than respectable, but less than neck-snapping.

For those looking to eat chunks of pavement you will want to graduate to the big 4.4L twin turbocharged model. While it adds an extra 170-kilos to the X6, extra the grunt drops the 0-100-km/h time down to 5.6 seconds. I guess that’s why BMW call it a Sports Activity Coupe.

Handling is another surprise. This steering response is seriously fast and will have the driver looking for slalom cones to navigate. The vehicle accepts steering input without fuss and given the lower centre of gravity and some truly massive tires, the X6’s feet stay firmly planted on the tarmac, even when driven to the limit.

Without track access, I can only say that real world driving experience in the more benign 3.0L model is, well, blissful. A firm ride is what most expect, and the X6 does not disappoint. The optional active suspension system (called Adaptive Drive) is responsible for the negligible body roll and tighter turns. You can firm things up more with the sport setting.

Interior appointments include a multi-function sports steering wheel with paddle shifters, heated leather sports seats, a power glass sunroof, 2 levels of BMW premium audio system, on-board vehicle computer and parking assist warning sensors. Optional equipment includes 20-way power adjustable front seats, rear seat mounted 8-inch video screen with two wireless headphones (plays DVD’s or accepts aux inputs), 4 zone individual climate controls, windshield projected heads up display (V8 only) and depending on a slew of available packages, rear mounted camera, DVD based Nav system and soft close (assisted) doors.

Were there any beefs? Seating in a traditional coupe usually means you sit closer to the floor pan with your legs out in front. In a conventional utility vehicle, you’re up higher and your legs drop down to the pedals on the floor at a sharper angle, with your foot bent back. The upright position in the X6 caused my shins to complain after about an hour or so behind the wheel.

Furthermore, BMW bills the six-cylinder engine as being fuel-efficient; the best I could squeeze out of it was 14.5L/100km. However, buyers in this class of vehicle really aren’t making choices with fuel consumption charts in mind.

Potential buyers will also have to remember they are foregoing the storage and cargo room of a typical SUV. BMW rates the cargo room with the rear seat in place at 570 litres – folding down the 60/40-split seats bumps the number to 1,450 litres.

The entire package is truly impressive and offers something that may have been hinted at by other manufacturers, but has not been executed as effectively.

All the individuality, luxury and performance will set you back $63,900 for the xDrive35i. The V8-powered x-Drive50i adds an extra $14,200.

Source: autoreviewsonline

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