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Dec 052009
 

audi_a3_tdi

Audi has been producing really great vehicles as of late and diesel is gaining more traction in the US market. Buyers are finally realizing that today’s diesel-powered cars are not like those of old. Gone are black plumes of soot coming out of diesel vehicles, now effectively eliminated by urea injection within the exhaust path. So what do you get when you combine the sport Audi A3 and a TDI diesel engine? The 2010 Green Car of the Year award, of course.

2010_green_car_of_the_year_award

Announced at the LA Auto Show, Green Car Journal / GreenCar.com presented the honors to Audi of America President Johan de Nysschen. With an EPA-estimated 42mpg highway fuel economy figure, this is proof yet again that a fun, enjoyable driving experience and fuel efficiency aren’t mutually exclusive.

Congratulations to Audi!

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Dec 032009
 

Daniel Lewis

2010 Suzuki Kizashi

From Suzuki.com – Are you a new car buyer looking for a sporty mid-sized sedan? Are the Acura TSX and Audi A4 on your list? If so, how about a free $100, or maybe a car that you overlooked? From now until January 31st, 2010, if you purchase a 2010 Acura TSX or Audi A4 within ten days of test driving the Suzuki Kizashi, and submit proper documentation within 30 days of purchase, Suzuki will give you $100. This is a great offer in my opinion, a total win-win situation. Have you taken the Kizashi Test-Drive Challenge? If so, we’d love to hear your experience!

We’re so confident you’ll love the Suzuki Kizashi, we’ll give you $100 if you test drive it and still buy an Acura TSX® or Audi A4®.

“The car ran to 60 MPH in 7.8 seconds, and the 1/4 mile in 16 seconds at 88 MPH. This puts it in the same league as the Acura TSX.”
— Road & Track

“Kizashi is easily the most athletic car in its class, and even a few rungs up … We tested the Kizashi against even some cars a few classes up like VW Passat, Acura TSX and Audi A4.”
— Left Lane News

Suzuki is confident that the Kizashi provides a compelling alternative to pricey premium sports sedans. So confident, in fact that we will pay $100 for any qualified buyer of a new 2010 Audi A4 2.0T or 2010 Acura TSX 2.4 if they first test-drive a Kizashi and still decide to purchase the more expensive premium branded sedan.

Through January 31, 2010, simply download the program form from below and take to any Suzuki Dealer and complete the Suzuki Kizashi test drive, purchase a 2010 Acura TSX or Audi A4 within ten days of test driving the Suzuki Kizashi, and submit copies of the proper documentation to the address found on the program form within 30 days of purchase.

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Dec 032009
 

The 2009 edition of the Los Angeles Auto Show kicked off today with a slew of new vehicle launches for the world and North American markets. With the auto industry experiencing a virtual implosion this year, 2010 is shaping up to be a critical year for many makes. Speaking of which, a few brands weren’t in attendance this year, including Nissan, Infiniti (Nissan’s sister brand) and Ferrari. You can bet that they will be at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month.

Here are some of the highlights:

MINI Coupe Concept

MINI Coupe Concept

MINI Coupe Concept (North American debut) – The MINI has always looked a bit stubby and, frankly, a bit too feminine for certainly our tastes. This concept, however, turns things upside down with a sleek roofline that is definitely more appealing for the XY-chromosome set.

Cadillac CTS Coupe

Cadillac CTS Coupe

Cadillac CTS Coupe (world debut) – Caddy takes their performance-oriented sports luxury sedan, chops off two doors and presents a sleek alternative to the 4-door. With that being said, however, we feel GM needs to take this car back to the drawing board as the design execution leaves much to be desired.

la_auto_show_amg_sls

Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG

Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG (North American debut) – An homage to the original SL gullwing Merc, the new SLS AMG is an “affordable” supercar from the German make. They went at this car without McLaren’s involvement. Can’t attest to how it drives, but it looks oh-so-good.

la_auto_show_lexus_lfa

Lexus LF-A

Lexus LF-A (North American debut) – After what seemed like decades, the LF-A is finally a reality. It looks great on paper and they seemed to have gotten ALMOST everything right. The gripe? A pricetag somewhere between $300,000 and $400,000. Toyota can claim the engine was derived from F1, albeit they never won a single race after spending reported billions. For our money, we would take an Audi R8, a Porsche GT3 RS and a couple of Ducatis. Even after that, you would still have money left over for some other goodies for the same price as the LF-A. Or just buy a Nissan GT-R and buy a decent house with the rest of the money.

Dodge Viper SRT10

Dodge Viper SRT10

Dodge Viper SRT10 (world debut) – Wait, hasn’t this car been out in the market for, like, ever? We’ve heard numerous rumors that Chrysler was trying to spin off the Viper and dump it on an unsuspecting buyer. So why introduce a “new” Viper at this stage in the game?

The LA Auto Show opens to the public on December 4 and remains open through December 13, 2009. For more information, please check out www.laautoshow.com.

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Nov 152009
 

nissan_leaf_leadin

Touted as “the world’s first affordable, zero-emissions car,” the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle made its way Stateside with the kickoff of the Nissan Leaf Tour. This program will travel around the US, touting the advantages of the Yokohama, Japan- / Nashville, Tennessee-based car maker. We had a chance to check out the car up close and personal in a posh setting complete with an open bar and upscale setting in Santa Monica, CA.

nissan_leaf_01

Offering an effective range of 100 miles, the Leaf can be charged up to 80% of its full capacity in under 30 minutes with a quick charger (we have no idea what this charger looks like nor was it on display at the event). Charging at home through a 200V outlet (with which US homes aren’t equipped so a call to an electrician will be required) to full capacity will take approximately 8 hours.

nissan_leaf_04

Two immediate points come to mind. One, this vehicle certainly isn’t designed for rural areas where the distance between, say, home and work is longer than 100 miles. It’s definitely realistic for city dwellers who drive no more than 30 miles a day between home, work and play. Two, any vehicle that forces people to change their driving behavior, such as filling up with fuel at a gas station in 5 minutes, and adapting to an 8-hour charging cycle at home is going to be a tough task.

nissan_leaf_05

The longer term consideration is this – since only about 18% of electricity in the United States is generated through renewable resources, could this and other electrical vehicles truly be considered as “zero emissions”? The electricity has to come from somewhere and it’s not coming from wind, solar or hydroelectric sources for the most part. Sure, ongoing innovations and increases in renewable resources will surely help til the balance in nature’s favor but I believe “zero emissions” is a misnomer at best. At least for now.

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Oct 212009
 


2010_TSX_V6_leadin

 Introduction

Let’s be honest. We can be a jaded bunch at times. Having the privelidge of driving various makes and models of cars goes a long way in not being impressed by a lot of things automotive. But every so often, an unexpected surprise arrives at our doorstep and we find ourselves wondering why a certain manufacturer hadn’t done something earlier. This was certainly the case with the 2010 Acura TSX V6. We’ve had plenty of exposure to the TSX – our Feature Editor Daniel Lewis owns a 2004 edition – and although it is a dependable, well-built car, the 200hp K24 engine in stock trim does not elicity the kind of rise in blood pressure we relish.

The 2010 Acura TX V6, however, is a completely different kind of vehicle. Whereas the inline-4 version is in the same segment as many of the most popular mid-sized 4-door sedans in the market, the addition of the bigger engine elevates the TSX into a completely differentsegment altogether. We’re talking about Audi A4 3.2, BMW 328 and Lexus IS350 territory. So does the V6 have what it takes to compete head to head with these luxury sport sedans?

First Impressions

2010_TSX_V6_leadin2

Whereas the previous generation TSX possessed bodylines unlike any in sister brand Honda’s line up – although it was known as the Honda (Euro) Accord on the Continent – the current generation’s design bear closer resemblance to the very popular Accord. Dimensions have increased as well, providing a much more spacious cabin than the previous generation. Leg room, shoulder room and head room all have gone up, coming close to the dimensions of the previous generation Acura TL.

  • The interior space seems cavernous by the previous generation TSX standards and fit two 6+ footers in the front quite comfortably with decent leg room left for rear passengers

2010_TSX_V6_interior1

  • The dash, instrument cluster and center console were constructed of quality materials; fit and finish was excellent and really on-par with those of Audi, a make that’s well known for their excellent interior finishing
  • One of the biggest changes is the steering wheel – gone is what seemed like a 380mm unit in the previous generation TSX; the new steering wheel is smaller – probably about a 350mm from what we could tell – thick and solid, really communicating a very sporty vibe

2010_TSX_V6_interior2

  • Our tester, with the optional technology package, offered virtually every in-car convenience known to man – satellite radio, satellite-based traffic routing & information, Bluetooth hands-free calling, Bluetooth A2DP stereo output (so that you can play tunes directly from your iPhone without using a cable) and more
  • The short-side to all that technology is that you have a pretty steep learning curve involved in figuring out the controls – there is a button practically for every control, making especially the center console look more like the Kennedy Space Center
  • We did appreciate the matte, slightly textured finish on all the buttons – great tacticle feedback – but wondered if that finish would wear off with use
  • We would have appreciated a keyless entry and start system to elevate the level of convenience – and frankly, a car at $38,760 should come with one
  • The sound system is GREAT – as Feature Editor Daniel Lewis noted; unlike TSX’s of the past, the new generation seems to have gotten it perfect according to him
  • Speaking of the sound system, we appreciate having the thin strip of LED-based radio and temp control information that is separated from the navigation screen; not having to switch back and forth between the navi and radio just to figure out which song is playing is a great idea

Driving Impressions

2010_TSX_V6_engine1

The TSX’s 3.5L SOHC V6 is silky smooth even under wide open throttle conditions. Stoplights are disposed with ease with a stab of the throttle, eliciting an acceleration that is quick but not abrupt nor harsh. Even with the right foot buried deep under the dash, there wasn’t any noticeable torque steer or drama through front wheel hop. We surprised more than a few drivers with quick getways and passing speed. Perhaps they should have taken greater notice of the discrete V6 badging out back.

It’s safe to say that the addition of the V6 has completely changed the character of the TSX. Whereas we would have viewed it as the now-defunct RSX’s 4-door brother in the past, the bigger engine changes things completely. Smaller displacement Honda / Acura engines have been traditionally known for their high-revving nature, producing horsepower figures that belie their displacement, but the weak link has always been torque. But with an available 254lb-ft of torque on tap, the TSX doesn’t need to rev very high to attain the level of acceleration to put smiles on our faces.

The 5-speed automatic transmission with sequential shifting is a perfect compliment to the V6. Although we have never been big fans of automatic slushboxes with wanna-be manual shifting, the TSX’s unit does an admirable job with quick shifts and engagement, even blipping the throttle on downshifts. The paddles on the steering wheel reminded us of those found in DSG-equipped Audis with its feel and design. Imitation, in this case, was a great call to make.

Taking the V6 around bends and corners was pretty eventless. Although it is a front-wheel drive car, we never noticed any significant understeer that took us outside of where the steering wheel was pointed. We suspect that most TSX V6 owners will never take their cars to the limit, but it’s certainly reassuring that there is a margin of error built into the car.

odometer

On the fuel economy end of things – sure to come up when you consider the large difference in displacement between the standard 4 cylinder engine and our TSX V6 – we achieved a combined average of 21.8mpg, which is slightly above the EPA estimate 21mpg. When we took our lead foot off the throttle and practiced smooth acceleration with minimal braking , however, we were able to generate 30.8mpg on freeway-only driving. Even a V6 can be quite the gas miser when driven efficiently.

Conclusion

There’s really not much to say. The 2010 TSX V6 handily beat our expectations and solidly convinced us that something good is going on at Acura. When stacked against its primary rivals from Europe, we feel it stands up pretty darn well. Sure, Audi might edge ahead slightly in brand cache, but Acura is honestly darn close. Putting product against product, the TSX V6 represents a pretty convincing argument and we consider it a legitimate contender for your purchase and ownership consideration.

Sourcebox

Acura
A Division of Honda American Motor Co., Inc.
700 Van Ness Ave.
Torrance, CA 90501-2746
(800) 862-2872

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Oct 212009
 

Honda CR-Z Concept 2009

Honda CR-Z Concept 2009 Interior

Here’s some news that will have Honda enthusiasts jumping for joy – the Honda CR-Z will launch at the 2010 North American International Auto Show in January 2010, following the debut of the CR-Z Concept 2009 in Tokyo today.  The CR-Z, positioned as a “stylish, sporty hybrid coupe,” will join the Insight and the Civic Hybrid in the Honda hybrid line-up.

Surely, the name alone will remind many of the classic Honda CRX of yesteryears. Much like the CRX, the CR-Z will be a 2-seater hatchback, but whether the new car will match the fun & performance of the old platform is up to anyone’s guess. Here’s our fingers crossed that this is indeed the case.

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Oct 182009
 

370z_leadin001 
Introduction

Although the very last letter of the alphabet, the letter “Z” is certainly not the last when it comes to automotive performance. The Z car has long held the imagination and fancy of car enthusiasts for countless years. Launched in 1969 as the Datsun 240Z (S30 chassis), it introduced Americans to the notion of the affordable sports car and never looked back.

After the demise of the 300ZX with the venerable VG30DETT turbocharged engine, the Z went away for a while. But things were set in motion to bring the it back thanks to, of all people, a Brazilian-born French-Lebanese CEO of French car company Renault. Yes, Renault (in case you’ve been living under a rock for a while, the French car maker has a cross share-holding alliance with Nissan). The fifth generation Z, dubbed the 350Z, was launched in 2002 to wide acclaim. Just one look at cars on the road will immediately reveal the public’s uptake of the Z.

With the 2009 370Z (the nonclementure referring to the displacement of the 3.7L V6), Nissan aims to up the ante established by the 350Z. Although there are few changes visible at first glance, there’s much to see and explore once in the driver’s seat. Our 370Z with Sport Package is really the enthusiast’s models with no bells and whistles but that suited us just fine. We wanted the unadulterated Z experience and we got it in spades with our “Monterey Blue” tester.

First Impressions

370z_leadin01

The basic body lines of the previous Z carry over to the new version – the sloping roofline, high beltline and basic form – but every dimension under the sheetmetal skin has been revised. Wheelbase, width and track have all been improved for the better. There is also a reduction in overall height by 0.7 inches. Even interior cargo room has been improved, due to the elimination of that hideous integrated rear strut bar seen in the previous model.

The front fasica takes a little bit of getting used to as it immediately reminded us of a catfish. But surely enough, you quickly get used to the unique look of the front end and revel in what Nissan engineers have done for the interior.

  • Whereas the previous generation 350Z’s stock seats left very little head room for 6′ and taller occupants, the 370Z seemed more accomodating to those north of 72-inches

nissan_370z_interior01

  • The interior design and materials really belie the affordability of the 370Z, with fit and finish that is really top notch (Touring model w/ navigation shown above)
  • Whereas the 350Z’s interior felt more plastic, the 370Z steps it up a notch with a softer and more luxurious vibe throughout the cabin – but don’t get us wrong – modernity definitely does not mean the 370Z has gone soft

370z_gauges

  • The upper center column gauges have been redesigned for an integrated look, whereas the 350Z left you feeling as if they were an afterthought
  • The instrument cluster features a large tachometer placed prominently in the middle as all sports cars should have

370Z_Fuel_Gauge

  •  If there’s one complaint we can make about the 370’s interior is the new fuel and water temp gauge – rather than simple and functiona needle indicators, they have been replaced by a row of dots that light up to indicate respective parameters; they’re hard to see in bright sunlight and the only thing detracting from a great instrument cluster

Driving Impressions

As with pretty much all Nissans these days, starting the 370Z requires just a simple push of the start button. Doing so brings the VQ37DE to life – thankfully, Nissan has decided to tone down the rather annoying exhaust note from the previous generation Z. The sound the muscular V6 produces is nothing unlike the infamous RB26DETT in the previous generation Nissan GT-Rs, reminding you of the Nissan’s sporting heritage. It’s a good indication of things to come, especially considering the 332bhp and 270ft-lbs of torque on tap for your right foot.

370z_engine2

Acceleration from a dead stop is impressive. It pulls solidly through every gear, in a relentless pursuit of the 7500RPM rev limit. And having that aforementioned tachometer smack dab in front of you, with a built-in shift light, makes things easier. It’s quite a feat that such a large engine just loves to rev all day long, but it does suffer from some excessive vibration and noise at higher RPMs. This is a characteristic carried over from the 350Z / VQ35DE. We wish that Nissan would do a better job of isolating these two minor details – if they can manage to do so, the VQ would truly become the benchmark in production sports car engines.

What will quickly become a benchmark is the new SynchroRev-equipped 6-speed transmission. The 370Z’s transmission feels much more refined than its predecessor’s. Throw in the new rev-matching technology that basically eliminates any need for heel-tose downshifting, even the most amateur of performance drivers can shift like a professional. The SynchroRev system just does not let ANY downshift perform or sound incorrectly. Even while humming around in a parking lot, the 2nd to 1st downshift was match perfectly, quickly putting the revs right where it needs to be. We fancy ourselves as pretty good drivers, but this system is 100% accurate whereas we would be 70% accurate on a very good day. The 370Z owner is going to be very well served by this awesome technology, even more so if he intends to track his Z on occasion.

The chassis and suspension carry on this fine-tuned level of performance by offering just the right about of stiffness without being too harsh. Blasting down rough city streets without worries of bouncing around and hitting our head on the headliner is a sure sign that Nissan got it right. Point it toward the apex of a corner and the Z telepathically guides you to it, aided by the standard limited slip differential and massive, gummy Bridgestone tires. Although there is some tendency toward throttle-induced oversteer, as most rear wheel drive sports cars tend to have, it’s very controllable and certainly easy to either power through it or pull back the reins. Quite simply, it’s an amazingly fun car to drive.

Braking for the 2009-and-up models are courtesy of the typical sliding caliper set-up or the multi-piston set up found on our base 370Z with the Sport package. From what we could tell, Nissan has potentially lowered costs by moving away from the Brembo-based braking package to an unbranded package made by Akebono, but this certainly has not hurt braking performance.

Conclusion

The Nissan 370Z delivered miles and miles of smiles and thrills for us. It’s such a great package out of the box that we feel it’s the closest thing anyone can come to the GT-R without paying GT-R prices. Sure, it may be impractical for some people considering it holds only 2 people, but the 370Z isn’t a car for someone who’s looking for practicality. It’s truly a car for those looking for performance, fun and an outlandishly high satisfaction of ownership. At a tad over $32,000 for our Z with the Sport package, it’s a steal and offers everything a car lover wants. And there’s such a huge level of aftermarket suppot, upping the ante in performance is easily within reach.

Buy a Nissan Cube for your commute. Own a 370Z for everything else.

Now… how can we get one from Nissan for a long term test…?

Sourcebox

Nissan North America
P.O. Box 685003
Franklin TN 37068-5003
(800) NISSAN-1

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