Still hope for the Nissan IDX concept


Call me jaded, but it has been a very long time since I have seen a concept car that had me literally begging the manufacturer to build it. At last Fall’s Tokyo Auto Show, I actually begged Nissan’s global VP of design to build the car. I put my Platinum Visa on the table and told him to take a deposit. I want Nissan to build the iDX NISMO that badly.

The fact that they brought BRE Datsun leader, designer and photographer extraordinaire to the party just sweetened the pot.

The problem is that we haven’t heard much about the iDX since those buggers at R&T actually drove one of the concepts earlier this year.

Peter Brock and iDX designer Peter Beasley

Peter Brock and iDX designer Peter Beasley

There was a story floating around a couple of weeks ago that the project has been shelved, but Matt Campbell at Car Advice spent some time with Nissan VP of product development, Keno Kato, who shot that story down. Sort of.

“That’s a funny story around iDX. Andy [Palmer] said it’s under way, and Pierre Liong, head of product planning in Nissan North America said it’s not so feasible. But Pierre Liong is under me, and Andy is my boss.” Kato told Campbell.

In fact, Kato’s message echos what I was told when he said: “It is under preparation and development. [The project is] 50/50 until some milestone to decide ‘go!’”, however he suggested that by ‘go’ he meant that the car would be further assessed in terms of the profits required, the investment needed and securing the manufacturing sight.”

So, it sounds like there is still hope. If Kato’s thoughts on pricing become reality, then I will happily plunk down my Visa again!

Tom Cruise the racer


Before we started hearing about all of the crazy religious stuff, Tom Cruise seemed like a pretty much normal guy. Except for the whole good looks, fame and getting up close and personal with Rebecca de Mornay on a train thing, but you see my point. He even took some interest in racing cars, before Days of Thunder.

To his credit, Cruise took a pretty smart route to racing, beginning in showroom stock (the American Firehawk series if memory serves correctly) before moving to SCCA GT-3 with a Nissan prepared by Bob Sharp. You might recognize the cars, as this was Paul Newman’s team.

I just came across this video from way back in 1988, as Cruise was racing at Summit Point. It isn’t great quality, but it is worth a watch for all of you celebrity gawkers.

Forsberg drifts at over 100 mph!


Since drifting has appeared on the scene, there has been a bit of a battle going on between old school racer types and the new kids on the block. The old guys say that “drifting ain’t racing”. Funny thing is that the “kids” say the same thing. Drifting is more than racing, it is a display of skill, timing and car preparation. It is an art.

One thing both sides agree on is the reality that drifting isn’t fast. Any time a car is moving sideways, speed is being scrubbed off, not perpetuated. Also, to keep a car sideways for a long arc requires a level of control that just isn’t easy to maintain at really elevated speeds. Unless of course you are Chris Forsberg and the folks at Hoonigan are pointing cameras at you.
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Nissan Heritage Engine Sound Quiz: How well do you know your Datsuns?

datsun sounds

To start your Friday off right, we’ve got a fun quiz from the folks at Nissan. The challenge is to pair up five historic cars from the company’s past to drive by audio clips. Even though I saw all of these machines at Nissan’s Heritage Center near Yokohama, I was only able to correctly identify one of them. I hang my head in shame!
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Toronto teen charged with stunt driving after running 240 km/h on local highway


The Ontario Provincial Police pulled over a black Nissan GT-R on Monday evening after recording it blasting across Toronto’s Highway 407 at a whopping 240 km/h. That works out to 150 mph for our American readers. The limit on that stretch of road is 100 km/h.

The driver was 18 year old Vince Lisi. The young man has been charged with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, stunt driving and failure to surrender driver’s license. Under Ontario’s laws, the fines can up to $10,000. Lisi’s car (Dad’s car?) has been impounded and his license has been seized and suspended for a week.
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Lazy car owners rejoice as Nissan develops self cleaning paint


For years I have managed the Armor All brand’s Facebook page and a message board before that, where I am surrounded by consumers who are passionate about keeping their car clean. Before that, I spent years training car dealership detailers how to properly clean cars. This video is not for any of those people.

This newest innovation from Nissan is aimed at lazy ass drivers who can’t be bothered to clean their car. Chances are, they are the ones who also moan about the price of an oil change. Even still, it is pretty cool tech and if it ever comes to market, you know that people will tick that option box that allows a car to clean itself.

Review: Nissan XTerra

2013 Nissan Xterra‘Kickin’ it old school’ and ‘Keepin’ it real’ are two much abused phrases today, but in the case of the Nissan XTerra, these are absolute truths. The first XTerra saw the light of day as a 2000 model, followed by a second generation bowing in 2005, and that is essentially the same XTerra you will find at a Nissan dealer lot in 2014. So yes, change with the Xterra tends to move at a glacial pace, but you need to understand what the XTerra is about to understand why that is perfectly acceptable.

The XTerra is based off of the Nissan Frontier pick up truck, the way every car company did its SUV’s before the crossover existed. In appearance, the XTerra is upright, purposeful, and most of all, dead serious. With an imposing front fascia, knobby tires, over the top roof rack and sharply sculpted fender flares, the XTerra in stock form almost looks as if it do duty as a Dakar Rally support vehicle. Backing up that persona are roof mounted off-road lights, roof mounted air dam gear basket, rear side bumper steps and a front tow hook. From the outside, the XTerra puts the ‘U’ in Utility, and the overall look is classic SUV, looks terrific, and oozes character in a growing sea of wishy-washy crossovers. Put another way, this is not a vehicle you will spot your typical suburban housewife flitting between Starbuck’s and her mani/pedi appointment.

2013 Nissan XterraClimb inside, and the utility theme continues. There is nothing superfluous or fancy to be found here. No nod whatsoever to style. In fact, the XTerra’s dashboard and controls are so simple compared to its contemporaries it is almost shocking. To some, the minimalism shown here may be extreme, bordering on the austere, but pause here for a moment, and look again. Acres of unforgiving hard plastic and a lack of gimmicks all add up to an interior that is ready to be beaten up. The XTerra’s cabin was designed to be abused. Yet for as primitive the XTerra’s interior appears, all the tech features one would expect to find on a current SUV are accounted for.

All XTerra’s share the same engine, a 4.0L V-6, rated at 261hp. You can order your XTerra as a 4×2 or 4×4. Rear-wheel drive only XTerra’s are only available with a five-speed automatic. Go for the 4×4 (honestly, if you are committing to this car, why wouldn’t you?), and you have a choice of a six-speed manual or the automatic. Our 4×4 was fitted with the automatic. Acceleration was more than adequate, and no doubt offers enough grunt in difficult off-road situations. And the XTerra should shine off-road. I know, because I have driven both am XTerra and the Frontier on which it is based at IMPA’s Test Days off-road course, set up and designed by Land Rover, the benchmark of all off-roaders. Trust me, the XTerra has the chops it takes for some brutal off-roading. And it’s fun too.

That’s important to keep in mind, because around town, the XTerra, while fully capable, never lets you forget you are essentially driving a truck ready for severe off-roading. If you’re OK with that, no problem. But if you are contemplating an XTerra, knowing full well you will never subject it to anything harsher than a dirt road, you should really ask yourself if you are willing to live with the compromises an SUV with such impressive off-road capabilities comes with. And if your answer is yes, then my next question is who are you trying to impress? There are simply too many other alternatives offering the space and utility of an XTerra that are much easier to live with on a daily basis. Buying an XTerra with the intent of never taking it off-road makes as much sense as buying a Nissan GT-R and never intending to exceed the speed limit.

2013 Nissan XterraThe XTerra is available in three trim levels: base X, S, and top-spec PRO-4X. Our test car was the PRO-4X. Standard equipment backs up the off-road ability with features such as Bilstein shocks, Hill Descent Control, Hill Start Assist and OWL rugged trail tires. Other standard features include navigation, Rockford Fosgate premium audio, SiriusXM satellite radio, iPod connectivity, Bluetooth, RearView Monitor, First Aid Kit, and multiple 12V DC outlets. Fitted with only a couple accessories, our XTerra rings in at a respectable $31,925USD, including destination charges.

The XTerra is impressive in that it has remained true to its mission since day one as a no-frills, no-nonsense, go-anywhere SUV. That type of vehicle is quickly becoming extinct. Toyota announced that 2014 will be the FJ’s last year, and that pretty much leaves the XTerra and Jeep Wrangler, not to mention stripped versions of the Toyota 4Runner as the last of their kind. Is it the SUV for everyone? No, and it was never intended to be. And to those who own XTerra’s and never ventured further than a dirt path, you owe it to yourself to find a local off-road club and discover all the fun you’ve been missing. You’ll thank me later.

Review: 2013 Nissan Pathfinder

IMG_1732The mid-1980’s saw the rise of the mid-size off-road capable sport utility vehicle, able to tackle rough terrain while carrying a family of four and their gear. It was a great idea. Credit the Jeep Cherokee, followed by the Toyota 4Runner, and then, in 1986, the Nissan Pathfinder. The recipe? Very simple. Take a Nissan Hardbody pickup truck, extend the wheelbase and add a permanent cab. Whammo, instant Pathfinder. Within a couple years the Pathfinder would become a four door, and added all the luxury features you could dream of. But at the heart of it, the Pathfinder was a truck, with serious off-road cred.

Then, in 2000, things got a little strange at Nissan. The Xterra made its debut. The Xterra was a modern incarnation of the original Pathfinder, which had moved upmarket. Still, I wondered why Nissan needed two seriously capable SUV’s of similar size, in addition to the full-size Armada fighting for buyers. My answer came in the form of the all-new, fourth generation Pathfinder. It is not only all new, it is a different kind of vehicle. No longer a proper SUV, the Pathfinder is now a bona fide crossover. Purists and car geeks, you have my permission to sob at the Pathfinder’s transformation. I liken it to people who consider themselves Elton John fans. On the one side, you have fans who prefer ‘Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting’, and on the other, weepy 1990’s bland ballads. I can’t even think of a song title, they all sound the same. But, that is the case with the Pathfinder-same name, but now speaking directly to an entirely different audience.

Remember, this is a business, and Nissan wants to appeal to as many people as possible. And turning the Pathfinder into a crossover has proven an overnight sales success. Last year, Nissan sold two Pathfinders for every one XTerra. This year? The XTerra sales are flat, but Nissan now sells FIVE Pathfinders for every single Xterra. Sure, the Pathfinder traded in its mojo in order to become kid tested, and mom approved, but Nissan is laughing all the way to the bank.

The Pathfinder now rides upon a platform shared with the Altima and Murano. So, any resemblance to Pathfinders of the past are long gone. Nissan even abandoned the Pathfinder’s trademark rear door handles integrated into the door pillar. What we’re left with is a fairly attractive, unoffensive and utterly forgettable shape. If not for the Nissan grill treatment, it would be impossible for most people to identify what kind of vehicle they are looking at. Our test car, finished in a somber Dark Slate did not help matters. The Pathfinder virtually disappeared in crowded parking lots.

IMG_1741While the original Pathfinder’s cabin offered all the luxury and refinement of an abandoned cabin in the woods, the current Pathfinder is quite the opposite. Three rows of seating, plenty of space make for a versatile and easy to live with interior for families. Fit and finish are impeccable, quality of materials are excellent, and despite offering all the latest technology, the Pathfinder is simple and intuitive to use. However, I cannot help but think whoever at Nissan ordered this particular Pathfinder was feeling down that day. Complimenting the Dark Slate exterior was a Charcoal interior. With no sunroof, and privacy glass surrounding most of the car, the Pathfinder’s interior was, like the exterior, rather somber and serious. White stitching on the comfortable leather seats, faux wood trim and silver trim help to break up the monotony, but the overriding feeling is sitting in the dark.

The new Pathfinder is available with a 3.5L V-6, rated at 260hp, paired to a Continuously Variable Transmission. Buyers can choose either front wheel or all-wheel drive. Our test car was equipped with all-wheel drive. Acceleration from a start was a little lethargic, but then the car seemed to wake up and go. Most people agree that Nissan makes the best CVT’s in the business, and I am one of them. That said, it’s like a restaurant in your town saying they make the best liverwurst. With the Pathfinder’s engine wailing uphill, droning endlessly until quieting down, I am gritting my teeth, knowing damn well you used to be able to buy a Pathfinder with a manual transmission. But that’s me. In the real world, most people either won’t notice or care. Fuel economy figures from the EPA show 19/25 MPG City/Highway. Not bad for a an all-wheel drive car of this size. And Nissan’s argument for putting in a CVT. Around town, the Pathfinder has enough torque the motor boating effect inherent of CVT’s is a non-issue. For a seven passenger crossover, the ride is obviously geared toward comfort, and the Pathfinder proves itself to be a very smooth cruiser. Finally, our Pathfinder had a towing limit of 5,000lbs, which is pretty generous for a crossover.

The Pathfinder can be had in S, SV, SL and Platinum trim levels. Our test car was an all-wheel drive SL. Standard features included 18″ alloys, power driver and passenger front seats, front and rear heated leather seats, push button ignition, three-zone auto climate control, six speaker audio with SiriusXM satellite radio, Bluetooth, 7″ color monitor, RearView Monitor, rear sonar, power lift gate and fog lights. Adding some minor accessories like splash guards, roof rail cross bars, floor mats and the Trailer Tow Package, our Pathfinder rings in at $37,945USD, including destination charges.

IMG_1735As I conclude my review of the Pathfinder, it is with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I am a car guy, and I get emotional about cars. Nissan took the fabled Pathfinder name and applied it to a car that bears absolutely no resemblance to its ancestors. In other words, they sold out. On the other hand, they had no choice but to sell out. The Pathfinder as we knew it had become a dinosaur, and was becoming irrelevant. The Xterra remains for those who demand a true SUV ready tackle anything, and the Murano crossover, stylish as it is, does not offer the practicality  and utility offered by the latest Pathfinder. Yes, at the expense of personality and character, the Pathfinder suffered greatly at the hands of Nissan during this transformation, but in doing so, has found itself a new and larger buyer base. And remember, Nissan is in the business of selling as many cars as they can.

As for the Pathfinder faithful who want go-anywhere capability with a luxurious interior to boot? Well, the XTerra is all business and no frills. The Toyota 4Runner Limited offers all the luxury and capability of the Pathfinders of yore, and now owns that market. Nissan, are you listening?

Review: 2013 Nissan Sentra

IMG_1746Wow, for a moment I thought Nissan forgot they built a Sentra. The last Sentra hung around for a staggering six years, which is virtually unheard of in the hotly contested compact car market. The outgoing car, with its Lego-like styling and crude interior was hopelessly outdated. So, it was with great relief Nissan finally put the old girl out of its misery and delivered a completely redesigned Sentra. The car deserves that much, as it basically carried Nissan through the 1980’s alongside the completely forgettable Stanza.

To say that Nissan has taken the Sentra’s styling in a new direction does not even come close. The upright, tight edges of the outgoing car are gone, and will not be missed. Instead, we have a car with flowing, organic curves, not a harsh edge to be found. Our test car, fitted with attractive 17″ alloys and finished in Amethyst Gray and a ‘just right’ amount of chrome trim give the Sentra an upscale air that belies its price. Nissan aired a TV commercial where a junior executive is mistaken for someone far more important in a similar Sentra, and after seeing the car in person, I can believe it. No, it does not stand out, nor will it turn heads, but for the price of admission, you simply will not find another car that exudes this level of class and sophistication.

IMG_1754The austere cabin of the 2012 Nissan Sentra The Garage tested is also a distant memory. Nissan carried the Junior Executive theme inside, with features available only on high-end luxury cars ten years ago present and accounted for, and then some. Leather, and a pleasing mix of silver trim, chrome, and wood tone trim conspire to provide one of the most opulent cabins in its class. The contrasting beige and grey dashboard also add to the sense this is no ordinary compact. The quality of materials, fit and finish are excellent. Our feature-laden Sentra had easy to read gauges, and intuitive controls. As opulent our Sentra was, even more impressive was the amount of interior room. Front and rear, passengers had a surprising amount of room. The Sentra also boasts an enormous trunk.

In the engine room, all Sentras share the same engine, in this case a 1.8L four rated at 130hp, which is actually down on power from last year’s car. While that sounds like a step backward, it is Nissan’s attempt to bring the Sentra closer in line with the competition’s fuel economy ratings. In this case, the EPA rates the Sentra at a frugal 30/39 MPG city/highway. The base model Sentra can be had with a six-speed manual transmission, but all other models come standard with a Continuously Variable Transmission, a hallmark of Nissan passenger cars. Nissan makes the best in the business, but the mission of the CVT is to deliver optimum fuel economy, not driving pleasure. The new Sentra is no exception. Around town, the car gets around fine, but on highway on ramps, acceleration is lazy, and under full throttle, the inevitable motor boating effect is present. As elegant as the exterior and interior design are, under full throttle the Sentra is not. The ride is comfortable, and at cruising speeds, the Sentra is quiet and composed. The Sentra makes no promises of being a fun or engaging car to drive, just an easy car to live with. Driving enthusiasts, look elsewhere.

IMG_1750The Sentra is available in several trim levels to suit taste and budget. Our test car was the top-spec SL, with a starting price of $$19,760USD. For that, standard equipment includes dual zone auto climate control, push button start, six speaker audio with SiriusXM satellite radio, Bluetooth, LED tail lamps, LED headlight accents, LED lighting on side mirrors and fog lights. Our test car added the Premium Package, which includes a power moonroof, auto dimming rearview mirror and an eight speaker Bose audio system. The Navigation Package adds, well, Navigation with NavWeather and NavTraffic, a rearview camera, and hands-free text messaging assistant. Finally, the Leather package adds, um, leather seats, front heated seats, and oddly, rear disc brakes. Including destination, our Sentra rings in at a very respectable $23,655.

Will it set your heart afire? No. That’s the job of the Sentra SE-R, and we are waiting to see if such a  car will return. Long neglected by Nissan, the Sentra is back, and this is easily the best looking one yet, with a slick interior to match. In terms of style, comfort and features, the Sentra is tough to beat. Add an exceptionally roomy cabin and generous trunk space, and you have a winner. Most buyers won’t care that it is a bit on the slow side, or a bit soft in cornering. Nissan knows its buyer, and on that front has exceeded all expectations. It is simply the best Sentra of all time.

15 Seconds With: 2013 Nissan Titan Crew Cab


“Dad, have you noticed how friendly people are around here? People keep waving at you.”

My kid’s observation was spot on, the people of Bancroft are friendly, but this was different than what we have experienced on other visits to the home of the Rally of the Tall Pines. In this case, every single thumbs up, wave or smile came from the driver of a traditional domestic pickup. Cottage Country is also pick-up country and the locals loved the Titan.