A Subaru and Toyota that looks very Mazda

As we know from my previous post, Car Manufacturers in Love, Subaru and Toyota have a stake in each other.  They have shared some tech and R&D in the past but not until 2011 have they ever conspired to design a car from the ground up. The names of these cars are still up in the air,  for our purposes we will settle on Subaru BRZ and Toyota GT-86 (Probably going to be a Scion to us in the States).

It is an odd move for Subaru to go with a RWD car in the States as they have built a company on their bulletproof Symmetrical AWD system. According to them, everyone knows they can make a great AWD car, now they want to throw their hat into the RWD ring. I guess I can’t argue. Toyota, on the other hand, is not so stuck on AWD but they are conversely dedicated to FWD in both their Toyota and Scion brands. What it comes down to for both Subaru and Toyota is this car will be a small step in opposite directions from their roots but a big step closer to each other.

With the demise of the Mazda RX-8, I have two concerns. Is there a market for both a nearly identical Subaru and Toyota? Is there a market for even one of them? Time will tell, but I sure do think that the 2 new cars look like a softened Mazda RX-8. Good move or not…voice your opinion in the Comment section below.

Subaru BRZ

Toyota GT-86

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Posted in Auto News, Subaru, Toyota

Nissan GT-R vs. Porsche GT3

I know, another Nissan post but I guess I’m addicted. This is an easy one so just watch the video below. It is a Head to Head of the Nissan GT-R vs. The Porsche GT3 from our friends at Torque.tv and StreetFire.net. All I have to say is “AWD rules!” For a bit more info, check out my earlier post on the GT-R here.

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Posted in Nissan

Nissan 370Z is a Gift

What more can be said than what has already been. We have not seen the fully unveiled 370Z except in the official Nissan released pictures. We will see the true production sports car, rumored to be around 350 hp, in November ’08 at the Los Angeles Auto Show. I will defer to my elder, MotorAuthority.com, who has acquired the scoop about the gossip of the upcoming 370Z. Check it out here!  Also, Electronic Arts will be releasing their new Need for Speed generation, Undercover, with the 370z as the expected star. You will be able to buy the game on November 18th. Check out the video below!

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Posted in Auto News, Nissan

’09 Nissan Maxima – Torque Steer?

 I am sure you have seen the newly redesigned Nissan Maxima for the “09 model year, if not in person than online. If you have ever driven a previous Maxima this decade you may have realized that, frankly, the exterior styling meshes too closely with the Nissan Altima and began losing sales quickly. Consequently, the ’08 model year sold less in the whole year than the ’09 model has in the first 2 months after the release. Two months…really? Main reason is, in my opinion, it is no longer a Nissan Altima 3.5 SE. The Maxima has gone back to its roots of a 4 Door Sports Car leaving behind its family sedan styling.

2009 Nissan Maxima

The new Maxima has borrowed many attributes from its siblings under the Infiniti nameplate. Interior refinement and design is directly from the new ’09 Infiniti EX, FX and G; as a result it is superior to anything Nissan has ever done previous. Buttons, nobs, plastics, cloth and leather are great complementing the easy to use computer functions and navigation interface. Enough of that, lets discuss what we are really here for, performance!

You read the title, “Torque Steer,” and there is a reason for that…it is virtually gone! If you ever drove the last gen Maxima, the 3.5L engine would torque you right or left when you stomp on the throttle. It was necessary to hold on for dear life to keep the car on the straight and narrow. Bad news is that nearly every front drive car with reasonable horse power and torque suffers from this disease. I have had plenty of time behind the wheel of the Altima 2.5L 4 cyl and even that 175 hp engine can torque the car to either side when hard on the gas. So what happens when you throw a 290 hp V6 in the new Maxima? Nothing! That’s right, torque steer is virtually eliminated! Get on a straight road, take your hands off the wheel, put your foot to the floor and beauty begins. Dead straight all the way even in this front drive beast. It took Nissan many man hours to figure this out as they are one of the first manufacturers to perfect this even with a near 300 hp engine.

The transmission is the same in all Maximas, a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Now you purists in the sports car realm might balk at the lack of a 6 speed close ratio transmission but trust me when I say this CVT is stellar. Since there are no gears in a CVT, just smooth power delivery, there is no shift shock or hunting for gears up hills (cue the Altima commercials a few years back of the woman trying to apply her lipstick). Nissan has perfectly mated the CVT to their award winning VQ series V6 power-plant. This CVT is not Nissan’s normal CVT like what they use in the Versa but is now sport tuned with manual mode, sport drive mode and available paddle shifters. The sport mode is going to hold the RPMs up near red line when pushing the car hard. This is naturally assisting performance by squeezing all available juice out of the V6. If you use the manual mode in your Maxima, you may be surprised to know that the sport mode allows the car to pull 0 to 60 times quicker than shifting it yourself with the the manual mode. This is the best example I can give of how well this CVT is mated to these 290 hp.

The available packages allow you to make this a more sports oriented car with upgrades like 19 in alloys and sport tuned suspension or a premium luxury cruiser with amenities like climate controlled seats which heat and cool (yes air cooled perforated leather seats) as well as a hard drive based navigation system with hard drive space left to rip your own music. For a car of this stature starting at a price of $29,290 is reasonable but ticking off all the boxes can reach $40,000 quickly. Lets face it though, in a similarity equipt Infiniti, BMW, or Acura you can easily pay a $10,000 – $15,000 premium. Not bad for a 4 Door Sports Car with the handling to match. Be on the lookout for the 2010 Maxima clean diesel and lets all cross our collective fingers for an AWD model.

Update: As of 2012, no diesels in the near future for any of Nissan’s USA models.  Don’t think its a big enough market for diesels in the States.

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Posted in Nissan

Ford Initial Quality

Ford Logo

I will be honest with you; Ford has never been my favorite brand. I do place Ford on the top of my favorite list for domestic car makers and I believe they will stay at the top of that list. The past month has been different in Ford’s garage with shouts of Initial Quality being equal with Toyota and Honda for the first quarter of 2008. This may be blown out of proportion by Ford but can you blame them? At this point in the market, I would grasp onto any favorable news and scream it from the hilltops! With all domestic car makers loosing big time and crying relentlessly about it, the time has finally come that quality has gone up as production quotas drop.

The initial quality survey was conducted by an independent research firm. Bad news was that they were hired by Ford to conduct the survey. The real test is not initial quality but long term quality and the history of the vehicles over the preceding years. Lets think this through, what can the first three months of a cars life tell you? It’s hardly enough to even require an oil change.

Ford has improved in one area that is noticeable to all, design. Save the likes of the Focus, the sharper design of the fleet does impress me for a domestic line. When Ford publicized its new designs on the Mustang in 2005 and Edge in 2006, it began the turn around for Fords image. Now there are a few Fords I wouldn’t mind rollin’ in. 

I sincerely hope that Ford has improved their quality and that it lasts longer than the first three months of a cars life. If they can keep costs down and deliver a good vehicle, they could have a winning combination. I am rooting for U.S. cars and someday hope they will be another option for my garage.

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Posted in Auto News, Ford

2008 Subaru WRX STI Rally

Subaru WRX STI Rally

It’s about time all the Subaru tech in the new WRX STI was put to good use! I don’t mean to imply that we, the consumers, should consider ourselves useless to Subaru. On the contrary, without us buying their Imprezas and Outbacks in such large numbers, they would not have to money to sink into the fun specimens like this WRX STI World Rally Car. If you are still questioning Subaru’s reasoning for offering only a 5 door hatchback version for the STI, check out my article from last month, Subaru WRX STI – Love it or Else. With the intro of the new 2008 Rally version, I know I have my fingers crossed for our beloved Subaru World Rally Team. I also would not mind seeing Travis Pastrana jump one again! 

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Posted in Subaru

Ford Focus Coupe

Ford Focus CoupeFollow me here…Ford has some good vehicles that have debuted in the last 2 or 3 years. They have been a bit more inspired, and even attractive to a point, than the old Taurus, Contour and Escort. However, Ford made a huge mistake with their new release of the 2009 Focus Coupe. Aside from the fact that they debuted it on American Idol (which I have no problem with and yes I watch Idol) it is a sadly styled vehicle.

I think this new coupe takes them a step backwards closer to the 1986 Ford Escort 2 door hatch that my mother owned. This new coupe is far from on par with the more attractive Edge and Fusion models as of late. Main issue lies around the fact that Ford is still using the original Focus platform from the launch of the Focus in 1999. This may not bother you if you already realize that many platforms that automakers use can last for years. The cost to develop a new platform is hefty so they keep the same design and make subtle changes through its life.

Now the bad news - Ford has had a newer and better platform for the Focus since 2005. Where is it? On nearly every continent other than North America. The international version of the Focus has been very popular since its inception; it’s arguably even more popular than here in the U.S. Unfortunately we are stuck with the U.S. platform for at least the next 3 – 4 years.

What does this means to you? Ford can’t even offer its best vehicles to the U.S. market where it began over a century ago, 1903. Come on Ford, treat us right and give us the Ford Kuga too!

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Posted in Ford
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Jon Labbe

Jon Labbe

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