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.

cross@alldaytech.com

Audi Q7 loaded with luxury but showing its age

 

The luxury SUV market has become a very crowded field. There’s hardly a marque that doesn’t have such a vehicle or plan to have such a vehicle within the next couple of years.audi-q7-4.2-tdi-06

There are some really good ones. The Audi Q7 is one of those good ones. Yes, it has its age issues but for those looking for something that offers a tremendous amount of luxury, please, look here.

I was able to sample the diesel version of the Q7. I am a diesel fan, maybe a fanatic. I think I would own one before a hybrid, but that’s a close call. Anyway, my Q7 got an impressive 28 miles to the gallon on the highway and 19 in the city. That’s an overall rating of 22 mpg, which is great considering the Q7’s weight and its ability to carry seven people.

Well, seven might be a stretch. The rear seat is for kids or small adults. Cargo space is very limited if that seat is used. It becomes OK if you fold it out of the way. The rest of the interior is attractive. Luxury abounds in lavish amounts of wood, leather and metal, but the dash can be a bit confusing. There’s also not as much space as one would like for something with this big a footprint.

The Q7 is powered by a 3.0-liter six-cylinder TDI clean diesel that makes 240 horsepower. Seem skimpy? This engine makes an astounding 406 pounds-feet of torque. That’s enough to pull big tree trunk out of the ground if you wanted. It’s also enough to whip around slow traffic when needed. The transmission is a buttery eight speed.

Interior good but a little confusing on the controls
Interior good but a little confusing on the controls

The Q7 is isolated from nearly every type of bad road conditions you can find. The optional adjustable air suspension gives you a cloud-like ride. The Quattro (Audi’s all-wheel-drive) dispenses of treacherous weather with aplomb. The ride might be a tad soft for some so I’d suggest the sport setting for better road feel. I’d like a few more horses for top end, but the available torque is more than enough to compensate.

Driving dynamics are about what you would expect for something this big but about what you could hope for something this big built by Audi. The 2014 Q7 adds LED running lights and standard keyless entry to the Premium package.

My vehicle was the Prestige model which is a $12,000 package that includes 20-inch spoke wheels, four-zone climate control, Bose sound system, navigation and a panoramic sunroof.

The Bose system was replaced by a Bang & Olufsen “advanced sound system” at a cost of $6,300. The mentioned air suspension was $2,600.

A technology package included a side-view camera and adaptive cruise control for $2,400. The S-line package gives you better exterior cosmetics for $2,000.

Throw in a few more packages and destination charges and the $52,900 Q7 clocks in at $81,395. That’s in line with Mercedes, BMW, Infiniti and Lexus, but most of those vehicles are newer. Audi takes care of that with a new Q7 in 2015. For now, this is still something you should consider if you intend to sit in luxury’s lap.

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Acura’s RLX moves company in right direction

2014 Acura RLX
2014 Acura RLX

Acura used to strike fear in the hearts of luxury car makers. This upstart Japanese firm offered two cars which were done so well that others were trying to catch up.

Yes, the entry-level Integra and the “near luxury” Legend were the talk. I mean the talk. Many people wanted them, especially the Legend, a car which was good as anything produced in Germany or England.

Acura lost some of its mojo in 1996 when the Legend was replaced by the RL, a good car but nothing that shook the automotive industry. The company has toyed with the idea of bigger sedan with a V8 but has yet to produce the car and the RL remains the flagship.

Acura may one day do a V8 sedan but for now a third generation RL – the best one yet – is doing the company proud as the flagship.

The exterior is a mix of European and Japanese flavor. There’s some BMW five series in the rear quarters which leads to a very tailored trunk area. The front is a more stylized version of last year’s grille. The LED ringed headlamps add a great deal of flair.

The RLX isn’t a radical departure from the RL in size but there seems to be more interior space. Five will fit comfortably in the somewhat lavishly appointed cabin that features much wood and metal. RL owners could tell the change immediately.

The dash has been reworked to be more functional and visually appealing. My car was equipped with the Advance package which gives you everything. There are four other packages but not one stand alone option.

Dual screens share info
Dual screens share info

The dash has an 7-inch screen when displays the navigation while an 8-inch screen directly under it works with the climate and entertainment info. Speaking of entertainment, Krell replaces the already suburb ELS stereo system. I didn’t think that could get any better but I was wrong. This ol’ school company has found new life in the RLX. It ranks with the best original equipment systems offered.

The Advance Package also gives you features such as lane departure warning, collision avoidance, front and rear parking sensors and adaptive cruise control.

The RLX is powered by a familiar V6 that makes 310 horsepower. It delivers very good gas milage (31 on highway and 20 in the city) which now seems to be the big selling point of every car. For those who like to get aggressive, the V6 does offer good acceleration but not top of class. The rear wheel steering allows you to corner with confidence and the rest of the steering is really spot on.

For those who’ve waited, an all wheel drive version with a 370 horsepower hybrid engine is close to release. That may prove to be a very competent sports sedan. No word on cost or other specs.

Driving the RLX is fairly pleasurable. You will notice bumps and thumps from time to time with the 19-inch wheel package but for me it wasn’t that intrusive. I appreciated the firm ride and I could not have asked for a more quite car. The seats were comfortable and the handling was what I expected, good but not stellar.

2014 Acura RLX
2014 Acura RLX

I’m still waiting for Acura to wow me again, to knock me off my feet with something that reminds me of when the company got into the game. This isn’t it, but you will not hear loud complaints. I like the RLX just fine and so far it seems that Acura buyers like it as well. There’s a great deal of competition in the $55,000 range. Looks like the RLX has the goods to hold its own.

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QX56 is spacious, comfortable Infiniti offering

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2013 Infiniti QX56

There are large luxury SUVs and then there’s the Infiniti QX56 which tips the scales on the gigantic side.

There’s probably bigger. Caddy’s Escalade comes in a Suburban length version but somehow this QX56 comes across more massive. You have to step up into this thing and it feels really wide.

Well, it is really wide. It’s also a very well appointed thing, too.

ext3
Family grille adds class to Armada like body

The body is about the size of Nissan’s Armada, which came first. Infiniti added some curvy fenders and its familiar grille and came up with this beast.

Infiniti did a lot more than that. There’s plenty to differentiate the QX from the Armada and I’ll get to most of that.

The interior is one of the most comfortable places I’ve been. Luxury touches abound. The leather seats are butter soft and really gorgeous to look upon. The dash and the majority of the interior is covered, trimmed or touched with wood, leather and metal. Seven adults will find this seating comfortable and easy to access, even the third row.

The front seats are heated, have lumbar support and adjust in several different directions.The leather wrapped steering wheel is heated. The huge moonroof can be opened with a touch. The climate control unit has three independent zones.

Once you have buckled up, push the start button and listen to the faint rumble of a 5.6-liter direct injected V8. I say faint because the cabin is so well isolated you feel the engine more than you hear. Those 400 horses and 417 pounds feet of torque are more than enough to move this big boy with authority. The seven speed transmission can be engaged manually if you like. If not, the automatic mode works just fine. It matches revs with downshifts which makes things go a lot smoother.

Smooth is what you will call the ride, which is surprising considering this is a four wheel drive vehicle. Bumps and thumps are well isolated due in part to the hydraulic body motion control. It isolates the body from bad road surfaces as well as helping the vehicle stay level during cornering. True to the Infiniti hype, the truck does feel more like a sedan.

int1
Seven seating arrangement can be stretched to eight with bench option

You’ll always be reminded this is a truck. The commanding driving position, the towering step up entrance and the panoramic view of the road is not available in any sedan. This is an imposing truck that is relatively easy to drive.

This vehicle is also easy to love. My test vehicle included a theater package with video screens in the middle seat headrests and heated second row seats. The technology package featured blind spot warning, lane departure warning and prevention, forward collision warning, intelligent brake assist, distance control, intelligent cruise control and adaptive front lighting with auto leveling. The deluxe touring package included a 15-speaker digital Bose stereo system, hydraulic body motion control, climate controlled front seats, headlight washers and upgraded leather seats. The standard 20-inch wheel package was upgraded to 22-inch, 9-spoke alloy wheels with all-season tires.

With destination, my as-tested price came to $78,140. Costly, but luxury vehicles don’t come cheap these days. This vehicle is also aimed at the well-heeled crowd. They should like it a great deal.

 

cross@alldaytech.com

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LS 460 F-Sport good addition to Lexus stable

2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport
2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport

When Lexus introduced the LS in 1989 as a 1990, the rules of the automotive industry changed.

It was undeniably smooth, uncompromisingly crafted and an unqualified hit. Yes, the Japanese could go a step above Acura and purposely compete with the big dogs.

Twenty-four years later Lexus may have lost a little luster int he public’s eye, but it’s never lost it’s passion to craft fine automobiles. The 2013 LS seems to have reinvigorated that passion. This LS may not be as ground braking as the first, but it is a far better car.

The new design is still evolutionary, but I find the new lines striking. It’s sleek and slender with hits of muscle. Some have scoffed at the new corporate face but I like it very much, especially this F-Sport, new for LS. This face says I mean business. The unique wheels are also part of the package.

The interior makes greater strides toward perfection. There is a 12-inch screen in the center stack which provides touch screen selection for climate, entertainment and other functions. A centrally located mouse can be used if you don’t want to touch the screen.

2013_Lexus_LS_460_F_SPORT_Interior_001
F-Sport gets black interior

The gauge cluster is the familiar electroluminescent gauges with the floating needles. The F-Sport has aluminum trim which accents the total black interior. The heated steering wheel is wood, wrapped in leather.

The LS has always been comfortable and still is. The F-Sports seats are more tuned for sports than comfort but still provide pleasurable seating. Leg, hip and headroom is plentiful and appreciated. It’s more quiet, better built and, well, just better than the car it replaces. That’s saying a great deal.

The F-Sport package also includes aluminum pedals, Brembo brakes, unique scuff plates, paddle shifters and a sport-tuned air suspension.

It does not, however, add engine upgrades. One has to be satisfied with the 4.6-liter 32-valve V8 engine which makes 386 horsepower and 367 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s enough to propel this 4,233 pound sedan to 60 miles per hour in 5.4 seconds. Certainly not slow, but maybe down the road Lexus with add a bit more under the hood.

Driving this F-Sport is a rewarding experience. May not be any faster than a regular LS, but it will bite into a corner more and it seems much more planted to the road. There’s some feedback to the driver which makes you think this car may think it’s an actual sports car. Click the suspension into sport + and you may think you are driving a sport car. The eight speed finds its gears faster and the suspension tightens up. Well.

The luxury touches are here as well. The LS has a good ride and is as quiet as any large sedan on the market. My test car was loaded with a ton of options. My favorite is the 450 watt Mark Levinson Reference Surround Audio with 19 speakers. It has less than 0.1 of total harmonic distortion. That’s better than many home theatre systems.

The LS 460 F-Sport can run with higher priced cars. Its price. With almost every option available you are looking at $86,000 and well worth the money.

This may be the LS some have been waiting to see.

 

cross@alldaytech.com

 

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2013 Escalade offers luxury; new model prepped

I didn’t know Cadillac still made an Escalade so imagine my delight when rolled up for review at alldaytech.com.

2012_cadillac_escalade_4dr-suv_premium_fq_oem_2_500
2013 Cadillac Escalade

Yes, the Escalade was once the luxury item to have. Athletes, actors, rappers and anyone who wanted to be seen as chic drove an Escalade. It wasn’t the first, but it eventually snatched the premium SUV title from Lincoln’s Navigator (it’s still around).

You can also argue that the Escalade is the vehicle that put Caddy on its current path. It was now hip to drive a Cadillac, which inspired the company to turn out more hip vehicles.

It’s not that the current Escalade is a dinosaur, there’s so much more competition. Every   luxury brand has a big, comfy premium SUV. The Caddy is unchanged from last year while others have been updated or radically changed.

There are still many reasons to buy an Escalade. It’s certainly still iconic. Nothing looks like an Escalade. That big shield of a grille put the b in bling. The body has a few of the character lines of the some of Caddy’s current lineup but it essentially a Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon.

The interior is certainly more high end that its sister trucks. Leather, wood and premium knobs and switches help make this upscale. The gauge cluster is a bit dated, but still tasteful. The leather is soft and the wood is real.

There’s a huge amount of room for driver and second row passengers. The big seats are comfortable on long trips, offering the kind of comfort you expect. The third row of seats is cramped even for kids. If you need the space for storage, the seats have to come out.

2012_cadillac_escalade_4dr-suv_platinum-edition_i_oem_1_500
Interior a little dated but still elegant.

Performance specs for the Escalade are not bad. The 6.2-liter V8 makes 403 horsepower and 417 pounds-feet of torque. Zero to sixty is in the high six-second range but you pay a price with poor fuel economy. The Escalade gets 14 mil city and 18 mpg highway.

The ride is smooth and controlled. The standard magnetic ride control really soaks up bumps but balances that with solid cornering and handling, It’s no sport’s sedan but this big truck is no slouch.

My test model was a premium, one step up from the luxury model. There is a long list of standard equipment but the premium distinguishes itself from the luxury model by making rear seat entertainment, retractable running boards and body colored trim, painted wheels and dual exhaust tips.

At $72,670, this SUV offers a lot. Lexus, Mercedes, Infinity and Porsche offer more modern beasts, but Caddy isn’t worried. There will be no 2014 Escalade but a new one debuts in 2015 sometime next year. That’s going to be a very interesting year for big trucks.

 

cross@alldaytech.com

 

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Stealthy Maxima still Nissan’s top offering

Nissan Maxima

I once thought Nissan should drop the Maxima. What’s the point? The Altima is nearly the same size, is cheaper and is nearly identical in look.

So I thought.

I changed my mind when I drove a Maxima recently. The Altima is a very good family sedan. The Maxima is a nearly great four door sports car.

Nissan still markets the Maxima as such. The 4DSC stickers are still on the rear windows, nearly hidden though. I guess to keep the car’s stealth demeanor.

Once you press the gas pedal the stealth attitude disappears. The Maxima snaps to life with brisk take off and just a hint of torque steer. The steering is light and precise and the chassis seems willing to take whatever you want to give.

Take it on the highway and the car is whisper quiet. It will eat up a great deal of pavement quickly. You can get to 60 mph in a scant 6.2 seconds, which will just about dust every entry level luxury sedan out there. Those 290 horses are ready to run. Find stretches of road which switch from straight to curvy and the Maxima will put a big grin on your face. Braking, steering, accelerating – the Maxima does all this adroitly while delivering 19 mpg in the city and 26 on the highway.

Not bad for something that passes itself off as a near luxury sedan. Heck, It would be easy to throw the Maxima into the Infiniti mix were it not for the delicious G37. It’s about the size of a Maxima but is built better, is driven by its rear wheels and has a longer warranty.

This may be the Maxima’s biggest problem – its identity. What is it, really? Should it be an Infiniti or should it stay Nissan’s top offering? It certainly seems it could handle both.

OK, back to reality. This is a Nissan, no question. Infiniti has what it needs. Nissan needs this comely sedan, if nothing else to remind us why so many people bought Nissans in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Maxima’s and Z cars gave the company its heritage as well as those fuel-frugal Sentras. The Maxima is fine where it is.

Spacious interior a plus for Maxima

It’s still a looker. The wide body and sculpted fenders make the car look fast. The interior is tasteful and offers luxury car touches. The top Maxima, the SV, starts at $34,450. There is a plethora of standard equipment, including the venerable 3.5-liter V6, but my test car was loaded to the gills with extra stuff. The Monitor package gives you a lovely 7-inch color touch screen with a backup camera and iPod connectivity. The Sports package adds the 19-inch smoke grey wheels, firmer suspension, rear bucket seats, driver’s side seat memory, heated leather steering wheel, paddle shifters and heated leather seats. The Sport Technology package adds voice activated navigation and XM radio with data services.

Throw all that into your calculator and you get an as-tested price of $40,055. You can get into many entry level cars from almost every big luxury name plate at that price. True, but that’s not stopping the Maxima from being worth this cash if that’s what you are looking for.

 cross@alldaytech

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Genesis R-Spec Sedan Is Special Indeed

Genesis R-Spec at Charleston Place hotel

Charleston, SC — My, how the fallen have become mighty. Hyundai’s also-ran status from the ‘90s has quickly turned into try to keep up with us in this century.

The company has turned out one success after another and isn’t slowing down. Even with new product in the pipeline it has had time to revise and refine offerings that are barely in mid-life status.

Yep, the Genesis — a luxury sedan that competes with cars far more expensive — has been tweaked. It’s also added a new model, the R-Spec, which adds revs and speed to a classy sedan.

There are now three Genesis Sedan models. There’s the base 3.8-liter V6 model that has three trim levels. There are two V8s: A 4.6 liter which is a carry-over from last year. The 5.0-liter has 429 horses and a revised suspension for a sportier feel.

All Genesis sedans get a slight facelift. The front grill and bumper are revised and the bumper gets new chrome treatment. The headlamps are more squinty with daytime running lights and LED accents. The outside mirrors are more elegant and have a motorized fold feature.

The rear is more square and elegant, looking very BMWish. The taillights are combination units and the rear bumper is stubbier with integrated dual exhaust tips.d Both 17-inch and 19-inch wheels are new as well.

It’s the R-Spec that got my attention. Hyundai has crafted a 5.0-liter engine that’s smooth and responsive, yet can return 16 city and 25 miles p

er gallon on the highway. Impressive for a 429 horsepower engine with 376 pounds-feet of torque. Hyundai achieves this in par

Spacious and luxurious interior is inviting

t by direct injection which it uses in all it’s engines. This beauty can scoot to 60 in 5.1 seconds, according to Hyundai.

I don’t doubt that claim. Riding around Charleston over hill and dale (and lots and lots of bridges) was exhilarating. A light tap of the gas and the car whisks off without much drama. The transmission slices through its eight (8) gears with precision and authority. The Shiftronic feature allows you pick your own gears. Kick downs seemed drama free and the cabin was absent of all noise.

Handling of the R-Spec is far much more aggressive than the 4.6 I also drove. It gets a lightweight 19 mm hollow-type rear stabilizer bar and higher front and rear spring rates. The shocks have been upgraded to Sachs ASDs that give a 25-30 percentage higher damping rate. This reduces body roll, increases stability, improves front and rear balance and allows faster turn-ins.

Does all that make this a sports car? Depends on who’s sport’s car you compare it with. I don’t think it’s quite an Audi or a BMW, but it’s more aggressive than the aging Lexus GS and ES sedans and maybe the Infiniti M sedan. It is certainly sporty on challenging roads. Steering, braking and handling never seem to come undone.

What this car has all over those is that it’s close enough in performance but nowhere near the price. The R-Spec cost $47,350. That includes destination and everything else. There’s no optional equipment. If the company has left out something major I didn’t notice.

People who buy the Genesis may first go after it for the bargain that it is but will quickly realize that Hyundai has got it right. It’s not just the price, it’s the performance. The Genesis sedan deserves its own second channel much like Acura and Lexus but the cost would be a lot for the company and would probably erase the price advantage it has over the competition.

That said, get one of these before the company realizes it can raise the price by thousands and still sell many them.

cross@alldaytech.com

 

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