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  • 2017 Chicago Auto Show

    Nation’s largest consumer show expands family-friendly activities

    By Nina Russin

    Nissan Midnight Edition

    Nissan Midnight Edition

    Those of us inside the car industry tend to forget the role consumers play in an auto show. In addition to new product introductions, these events are a rare opportunity for those outside the bubble to get up close and personal with cars they are thinking of buying. The driving public is the meat and potatoes of the Chicago Show, held each February at the McCormick Place convention center. In terms of attendance, it is the largest auto show in the United States.

    This year’s show features fun for all members of the family, including those too young to drive: a Lego Batmobile at the Chevrolet booth plus scale replicas of the Y-Wing Starfighter, X-Wing Starfighter, TIE Striker and AT-ACT, all displayed under the Death Star in Nissan’s special Rogue One Star Wars Limited Edition Display appeal to the kid in all of us.

    Nissan Rogue One Star Wars Display

    Nissan Rogue One Star Wars Display

    Those of driving age can get behind the wheel and have some fun at the show’s five indoor test tracks.

    Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz include test tracks as part of their displays: an appeal to millennials who value experience over the written word. Mercedes-Benz’s Iron Schockl is a 45-degree grade, demonstrating the outstanding climbing ability of the G-Class, while Camp Jeep brings off-roading indoors with rock crawls, steep inclines and sandy surfaces. A Ram proving ground includes six stations that demonstrate the trucks’ work capabilities while Toyota enthusiasts can test drive the new RAV4 and Highlander midsize crossover. Read the rest of this entry »

  • First Drive: 2017 Nissan Titan, Armada and Pathfinder

    New truck line-up appeals to buyers with active lifestyles

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Nissan Armada

    2017 Nissan Armada

    Nissan has redesigned its core truck models for 2017, including all new Titan and Armada plus a significant refresh for the Pathfinder. In each case the automaker responded to buyer demands for enhanced active safety technology and more capable off-road performance.

    The 2017 Titan Crew Cab follows on the heels of the diesel-powered XD introduced earlier in the year: a slightly smaller more affordable offering with plenty of towing and payload capacity. There are five trim levels, including the off-road oriented PRO-4X.

    2017 Nissan Armada

    2017 Nissan Armada

    The full-size Armada sport-utility vehicle remains the brand’s flagship, with seating for up to eight passengers. Active safety features include intelligent cruise control with forward emergency braking, lane departure warning, backup collision intervention and an around-view monitor. Pricing starts at $44,000 plus destination for the base SV 2X4 model. The new Armada rolls out this month.

    The Pathfinder, produced at Nissan’s Smyrna, Tennessee assembly plant, competes against the Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot. Changes to the 2017 model include a redesigned exterior, new powertrain featuring a 3.5-liter direct injection V-6 engine, enhanced towing capability and more responsive handling on paved roads. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 Nissan Altima SL

    Refreshed midsize sedan gains in style, safety and fuel economy

    By Nina Russin

    2016 Nissan Altima

    2016 Nissan Altima

    Since first coming on the scene in the early 1990s, the Nissan Altima has been a sporty alternative to the ever popular Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Although the midsize sedan has changed significantly over the past quarter century, it maintains the original strategy of affordability, style and appealing performance.

    For 2016 Nissan significantly refreshed the current model with new exterior styling, a stand-alone sport grade and enhanced active safety features. Fuel economy has also improved to 39 miles-per-gallon on the 2.5-liter model tested.

    With the average transaction price for automobiles reaching $32,000, it’s refreshing to see a fully-loaded premium sedan costing significantly less: $28,570 for the test car equipped with leather upholstery, keyless entry and start, heated zero gravity front seats, Bose premium audio system with satellite radio and Bluetooth streaming audio, heated mirrors and 17-inch alloy rims.

    A technology package on the test car adds forward collision warning with emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, NissanConnect with navigation, stolen vehicle location and remote start via smartphone. Final MSRP including destination is $32,510. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 Chicago Auto Show

    Year of the truck

    By Nina Russin

    Toyota TRD Pro Tacoma

    Toyota TRD Pro Tacoma

    The Chicago Auto Show held each February at the McCormick Place convention center on the shores of Lake Michigan is epic in every way: it has the biggest show floor and the best consumer attendance of any such show in the US. There’s something for everyone at Chicago, but this year it was the trucks that stole the show. From the world premier of the 2017 Nissan Armada that kicked off the media preview to Ram’s newest Power Wagon, Kia’s new hybrid utility vehicle and Toyota’s TRD Pro Tacoma, automakers unveiled their newest designs for adventurous travel. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 Nissan Maxima SL

    All-new sport sedan adds spice to the daily commute

    By Nina Russin

    2016 Nissan Maxima

    2016 Nissan Maxima

    Performance has always been Nissan’s forte. That continues to be the case for the newest Maxima: a sport sedan capable of giving the best Europe has to offer real competition at a more affordable price.

    Unlike many cars in the segment, the Maxima chassis is front-wheel drive with a continuously variable automatic transmission, both if which might make driving purists wrinkle their noses.

    But it’s hard to argue with its 300 horsepower engine, excellent throttle response, and near perfect front-to-rear weight balance. In other words, don’t judge a book by its cover. Technology changes, often for the better.

    Base price for the redesigned 2016 model starts at $32,410. Final MSRP on the well-loaded SL test car with leather upholstery, a panoramic moonroof, power heated front seats and Bose premium sound system is $37,935 including delivery. Read the rest of this entry »

  • First Drive: 2016 Nissan Altima

    Best-selling midsize sedan undergoes a significant refresh

    By Nina Russin

    With the addition of the new SR model to the 2016 Altima line-up, Nissan is taking dead aim at one of the fastest growing areas of the mid-size sedan segment – sport variants. Among some competitors, the so-called “sport” grades account for nearly 40 percent of total sales. Altima already is one of the sportiest designs in the segment, however the company is taking a more Nissan-like approach, adding a level of true enhanced performance to go with the requisite larger wheels and spoiler.

    2016 Nissan Altima

    Midsize sedans are the meat and potatoes of the car world, comprising the highest volume of sales among passenger cars and second highest of all types of vehicles. It is no small feat that Nissan has been able to hold the number three position behind Japan’s ‘Big Two’ automakers: Toyota and Honda.

    The Altima continues to be Nissan’s best selling model among both passenger cars and trucks. For 2016, the automaker has upped the ante with a significant refresh to the sedan that includes a revised exterior, new center stack, more fuel-efficient powertrain, and a new sport model called the SR.

    Priced from $24,470, the SR costs about $2000 more than the base S model, adding 18-inch wheels with low profile tires, sport-tuned suspension, unique headlamps, a rear spoiler, paddle shifters, fog lamps and a ten-way power driver’s seat. Positioned to compete against the Toyota Camry SE and Honda Accord Sport, Nissan product planners expect the new trim package will conquest young buyers with a combination of styling and value. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Nissan Quest 3.5 LE

    Seven-seat minivan hauls soup to nuts

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Nissan Quest

    2014 Nissan Quest

    It might not be as fast as the GT-R or as sexy as the 370Z, but at times, the Nissan Quest minivan can seem like a gift from God. Our annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year event in mid-October is one of those times, when I find myself doing multiple airport transfers, ferrying bagels and coffee for 130 of my closest friends, schlepping signage, chairs, display stands and PA systems from one spot to the next. Some people call me the program director but I prefer to think of myself as a well-trained Sherpa.

    And the Quest is, so to speak, a yak on steroids, with seating for up to seven passengers, a cavernous cargo bay, power liftgate, 260-horsepower V-6 engine, continuously variable automatic transmission and speed-sensitive power steering that makes the 16-1/2 foot-long vehicle capable of U-turns on two-lane roads.

    The test car is the upscale LE model priced from $42,870. Standard comfort and convenience features include leather upholstery, second-row captain’s chairs, tri-zone climate control, fold-flat second and third-row seats, DVD rear entertainment system, navigation, rearview monitor, around-view monitor, blind spot monitoring, Bluetooth interface, 13-speaker Bose audio system, conversation mirror and six-way power driver’s seat with memory. Adding the optional dual-pane sunroof and destination charges, final MSRP is $45,315. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Nissan Rogue SV FWD

    Active lifestyle crossover now seats up to seven

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Nissan Rogue

    2014 Nissan Rogue

    While the newest Nissan Rogue might not look significantly different than the model it replaces, it is literally a whole new world. Developed jointly with Renault and utilizing a modular architecture, the engineering target was to expand the compact crossover’s reach to a global audience, with better fuel economy and a more spacious, versatile interior.

    The smaller sibling to the Pathfinder now seats up to seven passengers if buyers opt for available third-row seating. It is available with front or all-wheel driver. All three trim levels are equipped with a 170-horsepower four-cylinder engine and continuously variable automatic transmission that averages 28 miles per gallon on the front wheel drive model according to the EPA.

    The newest Rogue has a slightly longer wheelbase than the 2008 model it replaces and is about an inch taller. By pushing the wheels to the corners of the car, engineers made the interior significantly roomier. All but the driver’s seat fold flat, making the Rogue a good choice for buyers with active lifestyles who carry a lot of gear and might occasionally spend the night at the trailhead before a race.

    Designers borrowed the same zero gravity seating technology used in the newest Altima to eliminate pressure points, making the car more comfortable on long road trips.

    The SV grade sits in the middle of three trim levels, priced from $24,490 excluding the $860 delivery charge. Options on the front-wheel drive test car include the third row of seating, NissanConnect with apps and voice-activated navigation, satellite radio with real-time traffic updates, power liftgate, around-view monitor, heated outside mirrors, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and run flat tires. Final MSRP is $28,135. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Nissan 370Z Touring

    Sports car stays true to its roots

    By Nina Russin

    Nissan 370Z Coupe

    Nissan 370Z Coupe

    When Nissan introduced the 240Z to the US market in 1969, the idea was to offer driving enthusiasts a serious yet affordable sports car. Although the 240Z’s 150-horsepower engine might not sound like much by today’s standards, it provided ample power for the lightweight chassis. Paired with a four-speed manual transmission, the original Z accelerated from zero-to-sixty in about eight seconds, and cost the buyer about $3,500.

    Over the past forty years, the Z has evolved into a much faster and frankly more expensive car. But compared to its German competitors, the $35,000 Z is still a bargain. And it’s also that serious, with a 332-horsepower V-6 engine and six-speed manual gearbox. A rev-blipping feature enhances the driving skills of whoever might be behind the wheel. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is in the five-second range.

    After a major refresh for the 2013 model year, the 2014 model remains basically unchanged with the exception of the NISMO. The coupe’s fastback profile harkens back to that of the iconic 240.

    Convenience features on the upscale Touring grade tested include keyless entry and start, xenon headlamps, satellite radio, automatic climate control, eight-way power driver’s seat, heated seats, aluminum pedals and heated exterior mirrors.

    A sport package on the test car adds nineteen-inch forged aluminum wheels and low profile tires, bigger brakes, sport shocks and a rear spoiler. The optional navigation package includes a seven-inch color monitor with rearview camera, USB port with iPod interface, Bluetooth streaming audio, real-time traffic and weather updates.

    Final MSRP including the $790 destination charge is $41,460. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Nissan 370Z Touring Coupe

    Sports-coupe favorite gets a price cut

    By Bob Golfen

    2014 Nissan 370Z Coupe

    2014 Nissan 370Z Coupe

    The Nissan 370Z is one of the best sports-car deals out there, quick and agile and with just enough warts to remind you that it is a Nissan after all and not some fancier, pricier brand.

    The big news for 2014: the 370Z coupe has become an even better deal with a price drop of $3,130 for the Base coupe, which now starts at a reasonable $29,990 for the stickshift car, plus $790 shipping.  The luxurious Touring coupe drops $2,550 to $36,270, plus shipping.

    The roadster versions of the 370Z Base and Touring remain in the low $40,000s, same as for 2013. The NISMO Z tuner performance version, which has added new body and interior features for 2014, retains its starting price of $43,000. The NISMO Z comes only as a coupe.This latest generation of the Z raised the bar for the popular Japanese sports car, with more performance and a much-improved interior for the sporty two seater.  The styling remains controversial, some seeing it as bulky and unattractive.  To my eye, the look is properly muscular with a modern twist, its angular forms melded into the traditional style of a long-hood sportster.

    The Touring coupe tested here includes a suite of luxury and convenience add-ons.  The price of the test car jumped with the addition of the desirable Sports and Navigation System packages, hitting a bottom line of $41,460, which is not cheap but still a lot of sophisticated sports car for the money. Read the rest of this entry »