Category Archive:

2007 Detroit Auto Show: QX56 Goes to Doctor 90210

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My family is sort of schizophrenic when it comes to vehicles. Among others, our garage includes a MINI Cooper S and a Ford Expedition. As the primary driver of the Cooper, you can easily guess how I feel about the Expedition. While I sometimes appreciate it’s utility, vehicles this big should be used for hauling vegetables, not people. When I drive it, I often gaze in wonder at its expanse of empty seats, ready to reduce my passenger miles per gallon. Yet I understand that I am clearly (still) in the minority. The US has a lot of full size SUVs with happy drivers on the road.

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…Of course I’m excited about the assignment of covering the 2008 refresh of the gargantuan QX56 for VehicleVoice.


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Automobile Magazine All-Star Awards

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Automobile Magazine, hot on the heels of Autobytel, has just released their “2007 All-Stars Awards.” Just as with the Autobytel Editors’ Choice Awards, this is an award that you wonder what the validity is. Unlike the AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Awards and Ideal Vehicle Awards released each summer, Automobile‘s award does not factor consumer input into the equation. In fact, AutoPacific’s awards are purely based on consumer ratings. Automobile‘s award reflects their own opinion. Not all bad, but when reviewing the results, it is wise to remember that these folks are enthusiast-biased to the max.
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Automobile Magazine Announces Its 2007 All-Star Awards
November 29, 2006
Each year, the editors and bureau chiefs of Automobile Magazine convene to test, evaluate, and debate the performance, significance, and pure enthusiast appeal of the cars that have made the biggest impact.
“This year, we increased the number of All-Stars from six to 10, which reflects just how brilliantly the industry is doing at providing enthusiasts with even more choice,” said Gavin Conway, editor-in-chief of Automobile Magazine. “As always, the hard part was deciding what to leave out of our constellation of All-Stars. In the end, these cars are what any connoisseur would have in their ‘dream garage.”
The 2007 Automobile Magazine All-Stars are:
* All-Star: Aston Martin V8 Vantage—This car could just about make the cut for its sensational looks alone, but it also offers a sublime driving experience and a truly inspirational engine.
* All-Star: BMW 3-Series—Remains one of the most complete cars on sale today, from its driving dynamics, quality of build, and the sheer pleasure of ownership it offers.
* All-Star: Chevrolet Corvette Z06—A friendly daily-driver that’ll leave Ferraris and Lamborghinis for dead, the Vette is an all-American hero.
* All-Star: Chrysler 300C—This one is a classic American: big V-8, rear-wheel drive, and a unique style that absolutely charms. Practical to own, too.
* All-Star: Honda Ridgeline—A clear winner with its unibody construction that gives a tight, rattle-free ride; Honda quality; and its very clever underbed trunk. [VehicleVoice note: Ridgeline had a sweep of all three AutoPacific awards for 2006… Vehicle Satisfaction Award, Ideal Vehicle Award and Motorist’s Choice Award]
* All-Star: Infiniti G35—Thanks to its superbly balanced chassis, terrific grip, and a punchy powertrain, this car challenges the dominance of BMW’s 3-series.
* All-Star: Lotus Elise—An undiluted driving machine that deftly combines light weight, electrifying performance, and near-telepathic chassis response.
* All-Star: Mazda3—Terrific to drive, stylish, spacious, and capable of 155 mph in turbo guise, this proves that small cars can aspire to greatness.
* All-Star: Mercedes-Benz S-Class—One of the best-built luxury cars on sale at any price, its features technology that truly makes life easier and safer.
* All-Star: Porsche Cayman—With an extra-stiff structure, Porsche engineers were able to deliver stability, grip, ride, and composure that are just about unmatched.
Criteria and Evaluation
The Automobile Magazine All-Stars are chosen by its staff, its worldwide bureau chiefs, and its contributors, following an intensive test drive of the year’s most innovative and important new cars. Vehicles considered for the All-Stars awards combine the following traits:
* Redefines an existing category or creates a new market segment
* Provides excellent value and performance for the money
* Exhibits an exceptional design
* Offers pure driving enjoyment


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Good Bye Ol' Paint – Infiniti M45 Off Lease

Unlike many media/analysts, AutoPacific and VehicleVoice staffers actually have their own cars. We actually go to dealerships and buy them just like normal folks.
Two years ago just as the lease was coming due on my 2003 Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer I was driving through the local auto mall and rolled past the Infiniti dealership where they were having a fire sale on out-of-production first generation M45s. You remember the 1st M45. It was a Nissan Cedric/Gloria/Cima with “sporty” cues like a fast greenhouse and frameless door windows. The M45 had been put in the Infiniti lineup as a stopgap between the fading-fast I30 and the already faded Q45. Only a short-term proposition, Infiniti did what it could to differentiate the car and make it an “Infiniti” – did a pretty good job.

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New Lease Chosen for Most Horsepower for the Buck
Frankly, I didn’t like the way the car looked, but the price was too good to pass up. Turns out I have gotten into the mode of leasing vehicles based on horsepower per lease payment dollar. The 340 horsepower for the M45 made the discounted lease they were offering a real deal.
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The M45 was the 1st sedan I had personally had for ten years. The previous five two-year leases had been SUVs – one Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo and four Ford Expeditions. Just could not bring myself to get sixth SUV for this iteration.
On the upside, the Infiniti was very, very fast. The V8 sounded outstanding at full roar. Handling was OK. The seats with temperature controls interfering with your inboard thigh were among the most uncomfortable in the industry for few years. They were shared with the G35 and FX and thankfully they have been replaced by better seats for its most recent cars.


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Infiniti QX56 – Wins Motorist's Choice Luxury Utility

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AutoPacific take on the Win by Infiniti QX56 – The Infiniti QX56 is the overall winner of the inaugural Motorist’s Choice Award®. It also handily won the award for the Luxury Utility Vehicle class. Unique styling, luxurious interior, and powerful V8 engine combine to give the QX56 its win. Comfortable, easy to live with and distinctive, QX56 is the top Motorist’s Choice.
IntelliChoice Analysis – Having the Infiniti QX56 sit on top of the inaugural Motorist’s Choice award table gives visibility into the exact reason that we felt such a survey could be helpul for people considering a new vehicle. Here we have a vehicle that delights it’s owners and delivers great 5 year Cost of Ownership as an extra reward. The 2WD model is projected to deliver a cost of just $56,117; over $2700 less than it’s competitive set.


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Motorist's Choice Awards – a New Benchmark Rating Automotive Excellence

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INTELLICHOICE.COM AND AUTOPACIFIC TEAM UP TO ANNOUNCE FIRST ANNUAL MOTORIST’S CHOICE AWARDS
– Awards Recognize Vehicles with Highest Driver Satisfaction and Lowest Cost of Ownership –
– Infiniti QX56 Wins Highest Rating Among All Classes/Vehicle Models –
AutoPacific, the industry source for automotive owner satisfaction ratings and IntelliChoice.com, the online source for automotive ownership cost and value analysis, today announced the results of the newly established Motorist’s Choice Awards for the 2006 vehicle model year.
IntelliChoice.com and AutoPacific created the Motorist’s Choice Awards to determine the vehicles that delivered both the highest satisfaction and lowest cost of ownership. The collaboration between the two respected firms, who have each been authorities on the U.S. car market for the last 20 years, takes selected owner satisfaction data from AutoPacific’s surveys of new car and light truck buyers and combines it with IntelliChoice.com’s rating methodology to create a new measurement that speaks to both the hearts and minds of car buyers.
“While the economic analysis of car ownership remains very important—it can save or cost you thousands of dollars over the life of the vehicle—it is also important to recognize owner satisfaction as another significant influencer in vehicle purchases,” said James Bell, publisher of IntelliChoice.com. “These are the two key benchmarks we think car buyers should be most attuned to.”
“Ratings of owners’ satisfaction with their new car and truck illustrates how well the vehicle is satisfying the emotional and practical needs of the driver. Satisfaction is more than simply how well a product is screwed together and there are many more dimensions to the equation. Combining AutoPacific’s satisfaction results with the value analysis from IntelliChoice provides the car buyer with an outstanding benchmark to use when selecting a new vehicle,” said George Peterson, President of AutoPacific.
WINNERS
For the inaugural awards, IntelliChoice.com and AutoPacific identified 29 winning models by segment and class. The top-ranked vehicles in their respective categories are:
o Cars: Lexus LS430
o Trucks: Chevrolet Avalanche 1500 (2WD)
o SUV/Crossover: Infiniti QX56
o Minivans/Wagons: Audi A6 4.2 Quattro
In terms of overall rankings, the Infiniti QX56 SUV scored highest in both driver satisfaction and lowest cost of ownership, followed closely by the Lexus LS430 sedan.


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Infiniti FX45: Everything you Want, Nothing you Need

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If Nissan’s Xterra is a tough, rugged, and capable off-road, dust and dirt-gobbling machine providing owners with everything they need and nothing they don’t. Xterra’s pavement-pounding antithesis is the Infiniti FX.

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I’m now convinced that Japanese is the new German in the automotive kingdom and the Infiniti FX is a testament to that fact. Fit, finish, gaps, ride, handling, and performance; the infiniti FX has it wired. Introduced in January 2003 and given a minor facelift for ‘06 the FX is more fun and fashionable than most SUV’s, but then again it’s not technically an SUV.


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2007 Infiniti G35 Introduced in the Big Apple

Evolutionary Improvements to Award-Winning Model
The G35 joined Infiniti‘s lineup for the 2003 model year and, after a relatively short four-year run, gets an overhaul for the 2007MY. On sale in November, Infiniti revealed the new sedan alongside the all-new Nissan Altima, and VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents were on hand for the reveal. When the G35 was introduced, it won Motor Trend magazine’s car of the year award and was a finalist for North American Car of the Year (beaten by the MINI Cooper). It also made Car and Driver‘s 10Best list two years running (January 2003 and 2004). It didn’t make the Automobile Magazine All-Stars list or Edmunds.com’s Most Wanted for 2003, but Edmunds readers did vote it in as their most wanted sedan under $35,000 for 2003MY. With the evolutionary nature of the new sedan, we wonder if it will receive similar accolades. It should in any case continue to win hearts of buyers, as its overall goodness is improved though not re-invented.

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The sedan shown in New York is production form rather concept, like the Infiniti Coupe Concept in Detroit this past January. The Coupe Concept previewed the styling updates to both coupe and sedan, though the coupe is not scheduled to arrive until spring 2007 and a production version has not been shown. While striking, styling is evolutionary compared with the current design. We haven’t had a chance to drive it yet, but we’ve been told that the updates result in a significant improvement in handling. The updated G35 gets more dramatic curves in the hood and a more aggressive lower fascia. The overall shape of the rear taillights is similar, but tweaked, and the headlights and grille take on a shape more like the M35/45.
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Nissan GT-R On Its Way to Dealerships – Out of Video Games

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Nissan GT-R Comes to the States
Video racing games and word-of-mouth have elevated prior generations of the Nissan Skyline GT-R to iconic status, though the entry has not yet been offered in the States. This finally changes with the new GT-R. Though Nissan looked long and hard at bringing the GT-R to the States through the Infiniti channel, tradition won out. At the 2006 New York auto show, Nissan announced the 2009 Nissan GT-R will arrive in North American Nissan dealers in spring 2008. A concept version was shown at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show. AutoPacific and VehicleVoice correspondents were there to see it, and here’s how it looked on Nissan’s home-turf stand.

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GT-R Was Almost an Infiniti
Before the announcement, speculation reported the car as both a Nissan and an Infiniti. The primary benefit for putting the car in the hands of Infiniti dealers was the luxury brand experience and that Infiniti dealers are better-equipped to deal with customers looking for a relatively expensive, high-end sports car. Nissan has the 350Z, which comes with a base price just above $40,000 when the convertible is selected. The production GT-R is likely to play in a price range closer to Chevrolet Corvette and Dodge Viper.
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Based on the same platform that spawned the Nissan 350Z, Infiniti G35, and Infiniti FX SUV, the GT-R promises to capable of taking on the likes of the Lexus SC430 and Cadillac XLR. Styling is distinct from the G35/Skyline to help enable dramatically different positioning.
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Consumer Reports Top Ten Picks of the Year

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Every April, Consumer Reports publishes its Annual Auto Issue. This is the most widely read issue of Consumer Reports by far. There is information not only on new cars and trucks, but also on cars that have been in operation for years. VehicleVoice survey research and AutoPacific survey and focus group research concludes that Consumer Reports can have a significant impact on what cars and trucks an American driver may select. When asked what information sources a person uses when deciding what car to look at, Consumer Reports is often the first source mentioned.

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Consumer Reports has gone beyond simply reporting the results of the surveys of its subscribers. Now they weigh in editorially and even select a Top Ten. But those vehicles are those discussed in Consumer Reports’ press releases. When you delve deeper into the April 2006 issue itself, there are many more vehicles worthy of attention. But, first for the Top Ten, as determined by Consumer Reports:

Best Sedan Less Than $20,000: Honda Civic

Best Sedan $20,000 to $30,000: Honda Accord

Best Sedan $30,000 to $40,000: Acura TL

Best Luxury Sedan: Infiniti M35

Best SUV Less Than $30,000: Subaru Forester

Best SUV More Than $30,000: Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Best Pickup Truck: Honda Ridgeline

Best Minivan: Honda Odyssey

Best Green Car: Toyota Prius

Most Fun to Drive: Subaru Impreza WRX-STi

Yes, you are right. There are no American cars or trucks in the list. There are no European cars in the list. There are no Korean cars in the list. Japanese brands swept the 2006 Consumer Reports Top Ten. And of those Japanese brands, Honda (including Acura) got five of the Top Ten positions. This is the first time that Japanese brand vehicles have swept these awards.

There is consolation, of course, that the Hondas are at least assembled in the USA.

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Motorweek 2006 Driver's Choice Awards

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Motorweek, the PBS-oriented car show, announced the winners of its 2006 Driver’s Choice Awards at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show. It will be interesting to see how these winners correspond to the owner awards from VehicleVoice and AutoPacific. The surveys for the annual AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award are in the field during the 1st Quarter 2006 and winners will be announced in early May.
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Their winners include:
Best of the Year: Honda Civic
Best Small Car: Honda Civic
Best Family Sedan: Hyundai Sonata
Best Minivan: Honda Odyssey
Best Convertible: Pontiac Solstice
Best Luxury Sedan: Infiniti M-Series
Best Sports Sedan: BMW 3-Series
Best Performance Car: Ford Mustang
Best Small Sport Utility Vehicle: Toyota RAV4 (guess they didn’t measure it… Mid-Size SUV now)
Best Family Sport Utility Vehicle: Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer
Best Pickup Truck: Ford F-150
Best Eco-Friendly: Toyota Highlander Hybrid
Best Dream Machine: Chevrolet Corvette ZO6, Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe, Ferrari F430
Special Category: Most Jane Car: BMW 3-Series


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