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.


Audi offers smaller Q3 with full size luxury benefits

2015 Q3 interior
2015 Q3 interior

Audi has been at the top of its game for the past decade, offering some of the finest automobiles on the planet. The company’s interiors are nearly unmatched and the exterior styling always turns heads.
Audi’s dip into the crossover and SUV pool has been as spectacular, so much so it’s now offering a smaller version of the successful Q5, the Q3. It is certainly handsome and well crafted but some may find it a bit pricey and lacking in amenities.
If you compare this to the Q5, it’s a bargain coming in at thousands less. It’s also a lot smaller. It’s three inches shorter in height and 10 inches shorter in length. It comes with a long list of standard equipment that includes a panoramic sunroof, 18-inch wheels, xeon headlights, roof rails, 60/40 split rear bench, leather seats, dual climate zones, Bluetooth connectivity and cruise control. Optionally you can get the MMI Navigation system and a sports package.
Moving up the Prestige Package gives you a lot more standard stuff and enhanced equipment.
My vehicle was a premium with the navi package. What you don’t get are glaring omissions to some, such as touch screen. You get the screen, just not touch enhanced. There is also no home link, which allows you to tie in to your remote garage door system or automated security lights if you have them. I saw some complaints on the web about this but I have neither so no home link isn’t a deal breaker.
What could be an obstacle is the Q3’s compact size. It’s about the same size as a Volkswagen Tiguan (which I think this is based on0. Lexus has the bigger NX200 and there are some other offerings from Mercedes, Infiniti and BMW that fall into this category. Some cost more or about the same for this size.
That’s not to say the Q3 does not offer a great deal. The 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine gives it enough pep for everyday use. It’s not particularly quick, but the engine delivers its power smoothly and effortlessly. There were times when I thought it sounded a bit strained under hard acceleration, but for the most part the noise level is very low, from tires, engine or wind.
It’s handling is good, not great. The ride is certainly comfortable. After spending a week in Charlotte traffic, hitting ever pothole on I-77 this works very well in urban settings.
Like all Audi’s, the Q3 can be had in quattro guise, giving it the ultimate in traction during foul weather.
The most impressive points about this vehicle is the build quality. Few companies are designing and building stuff that looks this good or works this well. The interior is classic Audi. It’s only flaw is the MMI control isn’t in the center console. Its mounted in the center stack. Once you get used to this it’s OK, but why make it different from the other vehicles? There’s wood, metal and leather, the same you would find in the bigger Q5 – albeit in smaller amounts. As usual, Audi has done a great job.
The Q3 can range in price from $35,875 to nearly $50,000 depending on how equipped. My front wheel drive Premium was in the low $40,000s. There is a lot to pick from in that price range from a lot of manufacturers. I think the Q3 is certainly to be considered, especially if you are a fan of Audi.

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XV Crosstrek is one make-sense hybrid

2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek
2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek

Subaru has always been thought of as a quirky car marker since it hit these shores decades ago. I don’t know if that thought is still accurate. Subaru offers a full line of cars that are, well, different, but fit into a variety of lifestyles. The XV Crosstrek offers all the Subaru stuff – all-wheel-drive, boxer engine, continuously variable transmission – but pushes the envelope by adding hybrid technology. It’s useful technology. Instead of bolting a hybrid drive to a small car which should get great gas mileage, the Crosstrek is a roomy crossover. Said hybrid drive allows 33 on the highway and 29 city. That’s an overall average of 31. Just average you say? Remember this is something that can haul five people, stuff in the back, on top and has all wheel drive. Little more impressive don’t you think? The hybrid’s total horsepower output is 160 with 163 pounds-feet of torque. That’s OK because it’s enough to move the vehicle about without much hesitation. It’s not fast – or even quick – but it does do the job. Driving this is like driving most other Subarus. I’m a fan of its all wheel drive system which I especially like using in the rain. It gives the car a stability you feel in an Audi but at far lower a price tag. It’s also unobtrusive. You don’t really notice till there’s a need. What you will notice is the gas mileage. Yep, trips to your local petrol station will be fewer. It’s also good to know this is a partial zero emissions vehicle (PZEV). That means it’s clean enough to drive in California which is saying much. My only gripe with the Crosstrek is the continuously variable transmission (CVT). It’s not just Subaru. I’ve found most of them to be noisy. The five speed manual would be my pick but the art of driving a stick is fading. Automatic transmissions are more efficient and get nearly the same gas mileage. The hybrid touring model comes with many features. Traction control and stability control are standard, as are antilock brakes, seven airbags, premium sound system with HD/Sirius/XM radio, power package, voice controlled navigation and split-folding rear seats. The decked out hybrid will run you into the mid $30,000. The 2.0i premium starts at under $22,000. You can check out stock at your local dealer or build your own at www.subaru.com (then find it at your local dealer). The XV Crosstrek isn’t flashy nor will it make you pine to own one. Once driven it will leave a lasting impression and make you seriously consider owning a Subaru. You would be one of several million that likes the fact they made that choice.









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Nissan Juke kicks up fun with NISMO model

Nissan’s Juke seems to be a hit. I’ve seen many them running about town with various types of drivers from young to middle aged.

This was in the regular fun version. My first experience in the Juke came in NISMO trim, which the company introduced at the Chicago Auto show back in January.

2013 Nissan Juke NISMO
2013 Nissan Juke NISMO

If Juke owners are happy with regular, wait till they sample the extra crispy version. This thing is a blast.

The NISMO (Nissan’s tuner division) gets a host of upgrades over the Juke. The turbocharged engine has been massaged to put out 197 horsepower – not bad for a 1.6-liter engine. To handle the boost in power, the spoiler, suspension and tires have been upgraded. The summer tires are mounted to 18-inch spoke wheels while the ground clearance has been lowered. The exterior gets a aero body kit to help reduce drag coefficient.

I’m also liking those ruby red outside mirrors. Great touch.

The interior is all black and grippy. The seats have the same covers featured in the 370Z. A red line has been added at 12 o’clock on the Alcantra leather covered steering so the drive always knows the direction the wheels are pointing. The six-speed shift knob is leather with red stitching and has a leather boot. The tachometer is in bright red which stares at you like a one-eyed bandit.

The NISMO changes are certainly more than cosmetic. Owners happily talk about their Juke’s handling capabilities. This NISMO version must be better. It really likes corners – eats ‘em up. Those summer tires and revised suspension are a great combination. The torque vectoring all wheel drive system also comes into play. It shifts power from side to side as well as front to back as needed.

I was surprised at the comfortable ride. Well, comfortable for what it is. I was expecting unbearable and what I got was pleasant. Nissan says this is a sport crossover and I’ll have to agree.

Shift lever gets leather hboot
Shift lever gets leather boot

The Juke’s interior is an interesting mix of futuristic and simplistic. I like the I-CON system which allows you to select the Juke’s mood. You can give it a boost if you feel frisky or be environmentally conscience by selecting the eco mode. You can even control the climate.

The optional navigation package with backup camera and the kicking Rockford Fosgate stereo were plusses.

If you are looking for room (and if you picked this vehicle you were not) there’s plenty for  passenger and driver. The back seat is listed for three, may hold two and would be most comfortable for one. It does fold so you can throw stuff back there when there are no passengers.

The looks? You will either love them or hate them. It’s cute but muscular at the same time. The stubby length makes it look fast sitting still. It’s not quite as iconic as a VW Beetle, but Nissan has certainly given us something different to look upon.

There’s nothing else on the road like this. Nissan will tell you that was its point. Point well taken.





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Honda’s CR-V gains refinement, quieter ride


Is the Honda CR-V the perfect replacement for a minivan?

That depends on how much room you need. It’s big enough to carry a family of five and their stuff, but, again, it depends on how big the family is and how much stuff it has.

2012 Honda Civic CR-V

As a single adult the CR-V is almost too big, which isn’t a bad thing considering the good fuel economy.

How good? The CR-V gets 23 in the city and 31 on the highway, which I think puts it near the top of the pack for non hybrid compact crossovers. The 2.4-cylinder engine is virtually unchanged as is the transmission. The engine’s output is 185 horsepower with 163 pounds-feet of torque. While horsepower is OK, I’d like a little more torque. Acceleration is good, but I wonder how good this suspension would be with more giddy-up. If you want a four-cylinder, fine, but that’s all you can get. Chevy’s Equinox and last year’s Toyota RAV-4 offer V6 options. The CR-V gets no engine option, not even a turbo.

Honda does offer a lot of other things in the CR-V. The ride quality is excellent and the handling is, well, Honda. You can push the little crossover a bit and get some pleasant feedback. It never balks or protests. It stays planted in the corners and doesn’t show a lot of body roll.

Road noise has been diminished from last year’s model. It was quiet on the highway and even in the city. Fit and finish is what you would expect, while the new rounded styling is appealing.

My test model was an EX-L equipped with a rear seat entertainment system, The “L” stands for leather and it was fairly soft. I was a bit disappointed with the stereo system. It was supposed to be about 328 watts but It sounded as if it needed a subwoofer. Much to my surprise it had a subwoofer. Either an amp was out or something wasn’t connected.

Well done interior has good fit, finish

Everything else seemed to work well. The EX also gets heated seats, nicer wheels, sunroof, bluetooth, iPod connectivity and power everything. Honda likes these all or nothing packages. I like the company’s strategy because it usually bundles the right things.

One other quibble. If you go for the rear-seat system (which has a very small screen) you can’t get a factory navigation system. You can add a Tom-Tom, which, I’m told, will allow you to recoup your investment at trade in because of the low cost.

What is the CR-V’s cost. EX-L with dvd and destination is $28,775. That’s for the front wheel drive model. Add a little more than a grand to step up to the all wheel drive model.

I like this CR-V. It’s up against some stiff competition from Toyota, Chevy/GMC and Hyundai. All of those guys have product that’s about as good and in some cases cheaper. Honda may still have an edge on quality but Toyota has always been there and Chevy and Hyundai aren’t far behind.

Still, this CR-V does much more right than wrong. I can live without a bigger engine and the navigation/dvd thing isn’t such a hard choice. I do like this CR-V – a great deal.


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Kia’s Sorento becoming first choice for shoppers

2012 Kia Sorento

Kia’s Sorento is building a reputation as a great alternative to better-known crossovers from its bigger competitors.

The company is also proving that better-known isn’t always better.

The Sorento does everything about right. Ride comfort is good, Handling, good. Driving dynamics? Surprisingly good. Maybe because it’s between small and midsize. It’s bigger than a Toyota RAV4 and Honda’s CRV. It’s also a tad less expensive than both.

The Sorento is a smartly-sized crossover that can easily hold five people in great comfort and seven in relative comfort, depending on the size of those last two people. The third row is best for children but adults shouldn’t complain too much. It’s interior is nicely done, thanks to a great makeover last year. The front seats are ventilated and stain resistant if you get the cloth.

The biggest intro on the 2012 is the direct injection four-cylinder engine. At 191 horses, it’s far better than the base and it gets better gas mileage. You can average 32 mpg on the highway but still have better passing power and less noise when you hit the gas.

On the highway the Sorento is quite and feels quick. The six-speed transmission is nearly flawless and the ride is comfortable without being cushy. Some may find it too firm but I think it’s a nice balance. It also feels well planted in curves. There’s a touch of body roll, but not more than you’d expect in a crossover.

The Sorento does not disappoint in town, either. Twenty-two miles per gallon isn’t hybrid territory but it’s far better than larger crossovers and the tweener size lets you park in regular spaces.

The Sorento EX also feels rock solid. The doors shut with a thunk. The switches and knobs feel upscale and the interior has caught up its Japanese competitors. Even the entertainment system has some thump.

My test car started at $25,950 but had lots of goodies, many of which were included in a package. The engine, panoramic sunroof, leather interior, navigation and backup camera were nice touches. Throw that in with standard equipment such as traction control, ABS, air, satellite radio (Sirius),  Bluetooth, iPod connectivity and six-speed transmission and the Sorento EX was nearly loaded. It was also nearly $30,000.

Years ago most would scoff at such a price for a KIA, but no one’s laughing now. Kia is becoming a lot of folks first choice on shopping lists from compacts to SUVs. The 2013 is already available – and even better than this. If you are looking for a better deal, the 2012 maybe your ticket.Видеоглазок R02 (GSM) (медный)оптимизация сайта под googleseo оптимизация сайтаплиты перекрытия размерыавто германия сайтыпосуда с керамическим покрытиемou acheter un vibromasseurвидеоглазок в дверькакой купить видеорегистратор отзывы

Explorer Takes Ford To Familiar Territory

Back in the day Ford sold a gazillion Explorers. It threatened to top the F-150 pickup as the best selling truck a couple of times. It seemed that every business, every family wanted one.

Then came the problems. Somehow, Firestone tires were beginning to blowout on Explorers — only on Explorers it seemed. There were a few more mechanical problems — and many lawsuits — and sales began to slide. The Explorer was also getting long in the tooth. Most manufacturers had either caught up or passed Ford.

That’s the past. There is an all-new Explorer which is fresh in its appearance and approach. It may not regain the sales mojo it had in the early ‘90s but it certainly has its swagger back.

Let’s start with the styling. The Explorer is a fresh sheet of paper design. It’s clean and uncluttered, looking far more modern than the stodgy design it replaces. There is a hint of Land Rover (Ford once owned the luxury mark) in the grill and around the C-pillar.

There are also many changes under this body, unibody that is. The Explorer is no longer truck based. I believe this platform is based on the Flex, which is more car-like. This, along with a retuned and tweaked suspension gives the Explorer a more subtle ride. Also new is the engine. It’s a 290 horsepower V6 which offers nearly the power of the old V8 but fuel efficiency of a V6. It’s smooth, quiet and powerful. You lose some towing capacity but very few people were towing anything that was really heavy with an Explorer. Those that need something more torquey can move up to the Expedition.

The four wheel drive system is now selectable with a dial. I didn’t use it but a in the north told me it handled winter like a champ. Snow was the Explorer’s friend. Ice didn’t seem as nasty either, he said.

On the road the Explorer is what you would expect from a modern design. There’s hardly any wind or tire noise which makes the cabin inviting. The handling is much better and the steering felt right. Brakes? Fine. Acceleration? Good. Ride quality? Smooth without being pillowy.

Problems? Well, yes. The drive train and suspension are first rate. Even the fit and finish is really, really good, as well as the interior styling. The problem sits in the middle of the dash and is the thing called MyFordTouch. It’s what you get when you go for the upgraded infotainment system. Inventive it is, problem free it ain’t. I’ve sampled this system in many Ford’s and never had the problems of which some other journalists have complained. Until the Explorer. The radio froze on a station and wouldn’t move, nor would it play. After pushing every button I touched the portion of the screen with the artist information and it worked again. It worked so well it wouldn’t turn off — even when I switched off the vehicle. I restarted the vehicle and turned it off. Radio off, no problem.

Or so I thought. The center stack wouldn’t illuminate the next day. Nothing. OK, it’s time to call someone. Maybe the system reads minds because something started downloading and it worked again, and without a problem for the rest of the loan.

That experience aside, I like the Explorer a bunch. There’s much more room with the third row of seats. You can outfit it with just about anything you want. Mine was the XLT model with almost every box checked on the wish list. That will cost you close to $43,000 but it seems worth every cent.

There’s much competition still. GM has the Acadia and Enclave. Toyota’s 4Runner is bigger and Hyundai and Kia are in the mix now. Even Dodge has fired back with a new Durango. The Explorer is now ready to fight it out with these and others.


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MKX Is Bright Spot In Lincoln Line

This is the Lincoln MKX, not the Ford Edge.

You may have guessed that by the larger grill and the slightly different shade of red. These cars are essentially twins. As always, Lincoln does upscale versions of Ford product.

Lots of people question this. Why pay more for the same vehicle just because it has a few more toys. Don’t we always pay more for essentially the same vehicle with a few more toys?

Sure we do, But Lincoln isn’t just giving a copy as it has in the past. Like it’s lower sibling Fords, Lincoln’s now have a distinct family profile, That big, kinda bulldozer (Lincoln says “winged”) grill  is on every car, crossover and SUV. I like it. A bit bold for some tastes, but I like it.

MKX interior is nicely finished, spacious

What the MKX offers is copious amounts of luxury. The vehicle has been reworked from exterior to interior.The dash has leather (which is becoming very popular in some cars) as well as on all the seats which are very comfortable. Mechanics are raising, lowering, sliding and moving about everything in the vehicle. Wood, aluminum, and other expensive materials line the cabin. The center stack has a few soft-touch switches but is dominated by a touch-screen by which the user controls MyLincoln Touch. This is the Sync system which has been enhanced to control telematics, audio and climate settings. The dash is a mix of analog and digital which allows you to select certain gauges and view certain functions.
The MKX has 309 horsepower with 280 pounds-feet of torque. This makes the car a bit on the athletic side. What saps some power is the slow to shift six-speed transmission. It’s not like that all the time, just in spots. Like most other Ford derived cars, the MKX is also a tad heavy. Still, you’ve got enough power to pass and zip through traffic at highway speeds with no problem.

Be careful, the MKX doesn’t drive as much as it floats. It’s not the old barge-type Lincoln feel, but it is soft and cushy. My all-wheel drive version did track straight and handle curvy roads well, but I wouldn’t call it sporty. It gets the job done nicely, however.
Now if you got the base vehicle you would be satisfied. It’s stocked with everything you want and possibly need. That’s already over $40,000 for the AWD version. Add a premium, elite or limited package and you will push the upper 40s with ease. I believe I was given the elite, which gave me panoramic sunroof, THX certified sound system, 20-inch wheels, blind spot warning system and a 10 gig music storage system. That’s on top of the Sirius satellite radio, Bluetooth and iPod interface which is a smattering of the standard equipment.

Certainly, the Edge can offer much of this at a lower price, as well as a few other crossovers. The Lincoln is more stylish and with the revamped body and interior is as upscale as some higher priced crossovers. Yes, there are several that cost more. I’d say  Lincoln got it right. There are few misses but the hits stack is much higher than the misses. Nice going, Lincoln.


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Acura ZDX Is A Bit Odd But Fun to Drive

The first thing I noticed about Acura’s ZDX is what everyone else seems to notice – this is one sharp car. Literally.

The architectural look to current Acura’s for me is stunning. I love the shield-faced noses that have taken over as the corporate face.
Most of the people who approached me about the ZDX commented on its looks first, then asked what it was. Most guessed it was expensive but thought it cost about $10,000 more than sticker.

Yes, it’s expensive. My test vehicle clocked in at more than $50,000, but so can a new Ford Explorer if you load it with options. The ZDX is certainly loaded with options and luxury. Leather stitching on the dash and center console is fabulous. The ridiculously supple heated leather seats are Lazy-Boy recliner comfortable, yet supportive. The audiophile sound system belongs in a a pricey custom designer home.

So what is this ZDX? Acura counts it as a crossover. It actually owes as much to a coupe (yes it has four doors) as an SUV. The shape is reminiscent of Honda’s Crosstour, except this is a rear drive vehicle. It’s based on the larger MDX, minus the third row of seats. The rear seats of the ZDX are not as roomy as in the MDX but regular-sized adults should find them comfortable. Rear cargo space is  56 cubic feet. That’s not too generous but OK.

The rest of the interior is so nicely done, so rich feeling, there’s not a lot else to complain about. The center stack of the dash goes piano black when not in use. Every switch, knob or dial feels expertly crafted.
Driving the RDX is easy. The Super Handling All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system inspires confidence on twisty roads. Don’t be confused: The ZDX is a sporty car, not a sports car. There is a difference.

Yet, the ZDX does handle curves and twists with an athletic attitude not found in many crossovers. Steering, handling and braking are good for any car, great for a crossover. The ride is smoother than you would think and quiet. Tire noise can intrude into the cabin but that depends on your road surface. Bumps and jolts are handled without drama.

The engine is a 3.7-liter V6 that makes 300 horsepower and 270 pounds-feet of torque. At around 4,500 pounds, that’s enough to make acceleration so-so. Engine noise is never troublesome and the six-speed transmission is buttery, at least on the way up. Downshifts are not always such. You should average 16 miles per gallon in the city and about 23 on the highway. Again, not spectacular but not bad for this much horsepower.

If you are thinking the ZDX is more a styling exercise than a useable vehicle that depends on your intended use. It has limited towing capacity (1,500 pounds), limited seating (four comfortably) and will set you back up to $55,000.

If you are looking for something that has impeccable build quality, good driving dynamics and something made by one of the best car companies on earth, the ZDX will not seem like a stretch. It’s a handsome car, especially in the deep burgundy hue and viewed from the rear. I doubt you will see many of these but when you do you will do a second take.

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