QX50 crossover keeps Infiniti in the game, begs for update

2016 Infiniti QX50
2016 Infiniti QX50

Infiniti has tried hard to get its mojo back.
Introduced the same year as Lexus, the company bolted on the scene with the Q45, a stunning piece that gave Jaguar a serious challenge. It hasn’t had a big sedan that adventurous since, probably because it’s more concerned with trucks and crossovers.
That’s not a big problem since the company’s crossovers and trucks are pretty good.
The QX50 is one of those crossovers. It started as the FX35 back in 2008 and looks pretty much the same. As a 2016 it has gained more backseat room – a generous 4.3 inches – and a few cosmetic changes.
What is carried over is the glorious V6. The engine’s 325 horsepower makes this handsome crossover feel like a sport’s car. Put your foot in the accelerator and you get rewarded with an adrenaline rush. the QX50 scoots. The rear wheel driven vehicle pushes itself around corners with authority. Push a little harder and the QX starts eating up pavement with a quickness. The brakes scrub off speed quickly and the steering is spot on. Infiniti’s knack for building something interesting to drive is in tact.
The ride is surprisingly comfortable considering the vehicle’s sporting prowess. It’s taught, but not jittery. Really rough pavement may upset things, but it never seemed out matched.
The QX50’s star begins to dim once you park. The interior could use a complete redo. The look is still luxury, just not as up to date. Everything feels expensive, but a little dated. The stitching on the leather hood shrouding the gauges is a nice touch.

Understated luxury yet still functional dash
Understated luxury yet still functional dash

The Qx’s best feature isn the engine, which is also its worst. It is powerful, but thirsty. Twenty miles per gallon overall is the best you will get. Even Infiniti says you will spend $3,500 more in fuel over five years than if you bought something similar from another company. Also, the 118 cubic foot trunk doesn’t hold much.
At $34,450, the QX50 isn’t too expensive, if you like the base model. Infiniti offers a bunch of packages to boost your equipment, but that’s not cheap. My test vehicle had technology, premium, premium plus and deluxe touring packages. it also had illuminated kick plates.
All those packages gave the vehicle everything except all-wheel-drive and rear-seat entertainment.
The price jumped as well. With destination, the as-tested price was $43,535. To be fair, that included premium equipment that included navigation, Bose stereo, smart cruise control, 19-inch wheels, wood accents, leather seating surfaces, lane departure warning, adaptive front lighting and Sirius/XM.
There are Acuras, BMWs and Lexi for that price, more or less, and several domestics. The BMW will out drive it and the Acura can haul more stuff. Still, he Infiniti offers a strong engine, good looks and quality craftsmanship. it deserves a very hard look.


Verano gives Buick foot in compact class

2012 Buick Verano

Buick has done a great job in the last few years in transforming its stodgy, old fogey reputation into something that is thoroughly modern and inviting.

It’s latest effort is the Verano, an upscale version of the Chevy Cruze. Let me tell you, I think the company has got it right – mostly.

The Verano doesn’t look like the Cruze but it does share its chassis. The engine is different. It’s a 2.4-liter that’s not offered in the Cruze. The Verano’s shape looks more like a smaller Regal. I’m wondering why Buick didn’t call it the Skyhawk. Wait, I remember the Skyhawk. Good call Buick.

Anyway, the Verano’s interior is a major upgrade over the Cruze which I will stop mentioning after this paragraph. There is a much more upscale feel which it needs to compete with anything like entry level Acuras, Audis, Lexi and a few others. The cabin is, umm, cozy. It’s also well put together. There is the attractive touch screen for the radio and a few other functions. My model came with leather seats and had an array of standard equipment that I found interesting on a car in this price range. That included power leather seats, parking assist, power package, door sill plates, keyless start, Bose stereo, heated steering wheel and Bluetooth with audio streaming. This was the top SL trim level so it only had a few free standing options available.

The Verano’s 2.4-liter engine is coupled to a six-speed transmission. The transmission shifts quietly and works well with the engine, but I’d like some more power. The 180 horsepower with 171 pounds-feet of torque feels a bit weak in this car. Zero to 60 miles per hour is about 9.0 seconds which is not quick. You will get 21 miles to the gallon in the city and 32 on the highway which is about average in this class.

Interior is quiet and well appointed

The ride was smooth and comfortable while the cabin was really, really quiet. This is what one would expect from a Buick and it’s what the company gave. Handling is good but doesn’t inspire enthusiasm. Buick is taking care of that on the 2013 version with a turbo engine and (I hope) an upgraded suspension. Until then, this does nicely.

My biggest complaint is the interior volume. I had a 6’ 5” friend get in the passenger seat and he was surprised at the leg room. So was I until I noticed to get that room he his seat was touching the seat cushion of the back seat. No one could sit back there if he was in front. Not a problem if you only have three riding and the driver is 5’ 5” like me.

The rear seat seemed a bit more cramped than the car it’s based on but that car doesn’t get the comfy leather seats with all the padding.

That’s not to say I don’t like the Verano, I really do. It’s a well-built small car that will give the owner a Buick experience without breaking the bank. The LS version is $25,965.

With Crystal Red paint ($325) and destination ($885) the as-tested price was $27,175.

Not bad, but you can get a Regal for about the same price with less equipment. Outfit a Regal like the LS Verano and you are above 30 grand.

If you don’t need the space, the Verano is a good place to start looking for your next car. Buick has upped its game and everyone’s noticing – even its competitors.





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Cruze Proves To Be Happy Ride For Chevy

Chevy Cruze

Hybrids are the hot thing in the auto industry but they are not so quietly being upstaged by a group of gas-powered compacts that get great mileage at cheaper prices.

Chevrolet enters the fray with the Cruze, a compact with near midsize accommodations and hybrid-like fuel economy.

Well, at least according to Chevy. The Cruze Echo is rated at 28 miles per gallon in the city and 42 on the highway.
I spent a week with this model and my overall mileage was near 30, but not the claimed 33 mpg. That was according to the on-board full economy tracker.

What I averaged was 27 mpg overall with an observed high of 34. Not bad, but no where close to the claimed numbers.
I’ll take the blame. Maybe I didn’t reset the computer or just wasn’t paying attention. Everyone else seems to be glowing over the Cruze’s miserly gas consumption.

There’s so much else for me to like about the Cruze. It’s one of the better-built Chevys offered. Didn’t see much in the way of flaws. The interior is one of the best for this sized class. The dash has a tailored look while the switchgear felt substantial.
There’s a host of standard equipment included at such a modest price. The stuff we’ve come to expect is here – ABS, traction control, air, air bags, power windows and mirrors – as well as premium features as XM radio, stability control, turn by turn navigation, keyless entry 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth, usb interface and driver info center.

The news under the hood is a 1.4-liter, four-cylinder turbo engine that makes 138 horsepower and 148 pounds-feet of torque. This makes the Cruze feel a bit spirited, especially with the six-speed manual. The stick feels good in the hand and can be navigated easily. It is geared to give you the best mileage possible so the gears feel a bit tall. You can launch the thing with authority. The traction control will kick in because the tires will spin.

Once launched I found the car to be best suited for the non-aggressive driver. Those all-season tires howl at the first hint of sporty driving. The suspension feels a bit feeble as well. The ride was about what I suspected, meaning comfortable and compliant. Bumpy roads were a bit more of a problem but not anything to complain about.

With that said, the Cruze is something to consider. Great gas mileage, good looks, polished interior and comfortable size make this a well sorted car. It’s not perfect but what is? There’s much competition in the field with Corollas, Civics, Sentras and Elantras and the Ford Focus, but the Cruze is made well enough to distinguish itself from the rest of the pack. I’d say Chevy is going to have smooth sailing with this one.



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