4 Nisan 2011 Pazartesi

Test drive: 2012 Nissan NV


Monday April 4, 2011
2012 Nissan NV2500A couple of weeks back, Dale Wickell, our Guide to Trucks, sent me off on a most fascinating assignment -- test-drive Nissan's new NV commercial van.
I have some experience with Nissan commercial vehicles, having taken a road trip through Mexico in a Nissan Urvan. I remember at first being surprised at how stripped down the Urvan was, but by the end of my trip, after two weeks and 2,000 kilometers, I had gained a deep respect for the Urvan's simplicity and ruggedness. Clearly, Nissan had done more than slap a new badge on the Japanese-market Caravan; rather, they had done their homework and built the ideal van for the Mexican market.
Nissan has taken the same approach with the NV. Despite having a full portfolio of commercial vehicles, including vans ranging in size from the tiny Clipper Rio to the giant Interstar, Nissan decided none were suited to the US. Instead, they spent a lot of time and money on customer research, and the result is what you see in the photo above: The NV1500, NV2500 and NV3500 series of vans, designed specifically for American (and Canadian) owner-operators. Is this the van for us? Find out in my 2012 Nissan NV test drive. -- Aaron Gold
Photo © Aaron Gold

Porsche to take on Camry, Accord with new base-model Panamera

Friday April 1, 2011
2013 Porsche Panamera VIn the wake of the success of the entry-level 2011 Panamera V6, Porsche has decided to launch an even less expensive version of their four-door sports sedan. The new Panamera V (for "Value") will be priced at $34,995, just $3,000 more than a top-of-the-line Toyota Camry.
"Mid-size, mid-priced sedans are one of the fastest-growing segments in the North American auto market," explains Porsche representative Ferdinand Ferry. "We feel we can grow our market share by offering Porsche prestige at a price that is competitive with mid-size offerings from Honda and Toyota."
The Panamera V will be powered by a Volkswagen-sourced 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, similar to the one found in the Volkswagen GTI, coupled to a 6-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. Other mechanical changes include a simplified live-axle rear suspension and front disc/rear drum brakes. Externally, the Panamera V is distinguished from pricier Panameras by black bumpers, mirrors and door handles and steel wheels with full-width plastic covers.
Inside, the Panamera V gets cloth upholstery, manually-adjustable seats and steering column, and a two-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo. Power windows and cruise control will be available as part of an $895 Value Deluxe Preferred Package, but buyers who want air conditioning will have to step up to the $75,350 Panamera V6.
If the Panamera V is successful, Porsche plans to follow up with "V" versions of the Cayenne and 911. Porsche is also reportedly considering a sub-$25,000 front-wheel-drive compact sedan based on the mid-engine Cayman.
The Panamera V is scheduled to arrive in Porsche dealerships on April 1st, 2012. -- Aaron Gold
Photo © Porsche

Elantra MPG... or not

Thursday March 31, 2011
The other day, I asked you to predict the fuel economy on our Elantra road trip, and we'd see who came the closest.
I was going to post the results today, but... well, there's been a problem.
It seems that the Elantra's trip computer automatically resets the average MPG when you fuel up. It would have been great if I had figured this out BEFORE I stopped for gas just 50 miles shy of our destination. But I didn't.
Worse yet, I can't tell you what the fuel economy was just before our fuel stop, because I had the display set to Distance to Empty.
Sigh. Sorry 'bout that.
I can tell you that as we left the hilliest sections behind, our fuel economy was in the mid-30s, and for the last section of the trip -- flat as a board, with speed limits dropping fro 75 to 55 -- the Elantra was nearing 42 MPG.
I can also tell you that the 2011 Elantra is a lovely car to take on a long trip. It's quiet, the seats are comfy, and the ride is smooth. Even for a Hyundai fan like me, it's hard to believe you can get a car this nice for $15,550. (The car I'm driving, an automatic GLS with the Preferred Package, iPod cable and floor mats, lists for $18,445.)
Anyway -- let's try again, shall we? I'm driving home next Monday. I always seem to get better fuel economy on the ride home; the hills are a bit more gentle. You can stick by your old guess or post a comment with a new one, and I'll try my best not to screw up this time! -- Aaron Gold

Test drive: 2011 Kia Optima

Wednesday March 30, 2011
2011 Kia Optima
My admiration for Korean cars is no secret, and it seems that whenever I say something nice about a Hyundai, someone is bound to tell me I'm blind, lacking competence, on Hyundai's payroll, et cetera. I can understand why; lots of car owners still remember when Hyundais were... well... crap.
But writing a positive review of a Kia -- now, that's an entirely different kettle of wax. Or is that ball of fish...? Whatever. See, as of two or three years ago, most Kias did have a pretty high crap factor. But while Hyundai has made a slower transition, Kia -- which, by the way, is owned by Hyundai -- has been whipped into shape in a relatively short time. The 2010 Soul and 2010 Forte were pretty huge leaps, but the 2011 Optima? This thing has to be seen to be believed.
Unfortunately, you can't exactly see it right now, at least not the 2.4 liter version I drove -- I'm still working on editing and posting the photos. (I do have photos of the fancier Optima 2.0T.) But I can tell you why this car is so fantastic -- and I shall do so in my