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2011 Infiniti QX56: No Longer Just For Oil Sheiks

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Crossovers are all the rage these days.  What’s not to like?  Car-like handling, decent fuel economy, room for the kids?  One trend I’ve noticed in crossovers is the move towards limited visibility.  Beltlines have gotten so high that kids have trouble seeing out of the windows and backing up requires an extensive use of all three mirrors and a NASA satellite to see what lurks behind you.  And if you don’t have a back-up camera you can pretty much count on hitting something at some point in time.  Well, how refreshing the 2011 QX56 was to drive.  The QX56 isn’t a car-based crossover.  It is Infiniti’s truck-based answer to the Escalade.  Based on the Nissan Patrol, which has been a huge sales hit in the Middle East because of its rugged construction and reliability, the QX56 can shuttle you around in the same comforts as a cash-stuffed Saudi oil mogul.  With 20 MPG on the highway, you won’t need to personally know a sheik either.


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Nissan LEAF – Finally, a High Volume EV

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Nissan is poised to launch a full electric vehicle, LEAF (Leading, Environmentally friendly, Affordable, Family car), in the United States that it plans to sell in very high volumes. Does the product stand up to its high volume plans?
Styling Just Short of Weird Nissan North America Director of Product Planning, Mark Perry responded to a question concerning the styling of the new Nissan LEAF as “unusual without being weird. Our stylists wanted a distinctive car but not one that was so weird looking it would put off people.” Finally, a company admits that people driving an alternative fuel vehicle want to be noticed. They want for their friends and neighbors to give them credit for being on the cutting edge, being environmentally conscious and taking an innovative risk.
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Huge Pricing Incentives to Stimulate Sales Offsetting the risk is the price of the LEAF. Starting at around $32,500, early buyers qualify for a government tax credit of $7,500. If you lease the LEAF (more on that later), the tax credit goes to the lessor and effectively becomes a cap cost reduction. If you buy the LEAF, you get your tax credit the next time you file your income taxes. If you live in any one of several states, you get a tax rebate. In California, for instance, you get a $5,000 rebate – they’ll send you a check in the mail. If you are lucky enough to live in Fresno, you can get another $4,000. That brings the price of the down to around $16,000 – about the price of an equipped Versa. You end up getting the battery system, navigation system, etc essentially for FREE.


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2011 Nissan Juke: The Juke Ain't No Joke

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When the Nissan Juke was unveiled on the Internet, blogs, Twitter, and even Nissan Fan Boys used words such as “Aztek” to describe it. In pictures, many might revile the Juke as unique, busy, or even downright ugly. On paper one might write the Juke off as being too small or “econobox-like” because it is based on Nissan’s B-Platform and measures up to be smaller than Ford’s 2011 Fiesta sedan. We recently spent a day with the new Juke, just outside of beautiful Vancouver, to try to figure out if it is the new ‘joke’ of B-segment vehicles.


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Bourbon, Bluegrass and THE BOOK – Driving the 2011 Infiniti QX56

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The King is DEAD, long live the King. Very appropriate for the all new Infiniti QX56 being launched in the USA later this year. But first, we have to set the stage for the review itself – not the vehicle. Infiniti hosted small groups of journalists at the 21C Museum Hotel in Louisville. The hotel itself was worth the trip. Quirky, quaint with 42 plastic red penguins to entertain the guests. Penguins with bibs at dinner. Penguins with a shower cap in the tub. The “museum” part of the hotel’s title relates to the art on display – all by artists alive today and produced during the 21st Century. When an artist dies, their works are removed to a private gallery in the owners’ quarters on the 4th floor of the hotel. Oh, yeah, THE BOOK – found in the bar with a plain cover is worth the price of a martini.
The great drive in the QX56 through bourbon country and horse country from Louisville to Frankfort (Kentucky’s capital) was picturesque and the roads were great. Not much traffic. Rolling hills. Perfect for the large sport ute. Major surprise, however, was that the historic mile-after-mile of white fences Kentucky horse country is known for has transformed into creosote black fences… lower cost and longer life. The drive through northern Kentucky is highly recommended. Hopefully you have more than a stock rentacar. Don’t forget to stop at Choctaw Jim’s general store in Campbellsburg. They make a mean peanut and jelly sandwich with peanut butter bread. Yum. The only blemish is that the authentic American Indian artifacts mostly are made in China.
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Intiniti QX56 Formidable Competitor in Premium Luxury SUV Class Now, about the second generation Infiniti QX56. As you probably know, the first generation QX is based on the Titan pickup and assembled at Nissan’s Canton, Mississippi assembly plant. The new QX is based on the Japanese market Nissan Patrol and produced in Japan.


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2010 Nissan Maxima Wins AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Luxury Mid-Size Car

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Nis_10_Maxima.jpgThe Nissan Maxima has a long history of success in AutoPacific’s research, scoring class-winning VSA wins in 2004, 2005, and 2007. This year’s Maxima took the segment crown back again, with the 2010 Maxima winning top honors in the Luxury Mid-Size Car segment. The Maxima was particularly highly rated with respect to driver’s seat comfort, exterior and interior styling, power/acceleration and being fun to drive.
While seemingly minor changes, Nissan moved Bluetooth and XM satellite radio to standard equipment for 2010MY, as well as upgrading from an aux jack to a USB port for MP3 players, the end result brought Maxima back to the top.
Once again, the Maxima shines!
For a complete list of winners and description of the Awards, click here.


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2010 Nissan cube Wins AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award

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Nis_10_Cube.jpgFunky First Timer – cube Wins VSA First time out of the box, the funky cute Nissan cube (with a small “c”) wins AutoPacific’s 2010 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Compact Cars. The cube is a tour de force in packaging winning its class in ease of getting in and out, seating capacity, flexible seating and, possibly most important in this class, cupholder design and size. cube beats some serious competition – Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen New Beetle, Kia Forte, Honda Civic. It doesn’t win by sheer force of winning numerous categories. It wins by having very respectable ratings in all.
The cube is a pleasure to drive if you are just loafing around town. It turns heads and mostly gets thumbs up from other drivers. The buyers run the gamut from GenY through Boomers. GenY buyers are looking for cool transportation that doesn’t cost much and can carry their buddies and some stuff. Boomers are looking for an affordable small vehicle that is easy to live with, easy to get into and out of and can carry adults in the rear seat. When you exit a cube, you usually have a smile on your face.
cube is a FLOATER One of our analysts calls it FLOATING. This is when you just go out for a relaxing drive on the weekend with no particular place or time in mind. cube is perfect for that. It’s a perfect FLOATER.
For a complete list of winners and description of the Awards, click here.


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Autopacific Announces 2010 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards

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AutoPacVSAlogo10.jpgNational Survey Reveals Cadillac as Top Premium Brand, Buick as Top Popular Brand, Ford Motor Company Has Most Awards with Seven, Suzuki Kizashi as Top Car and Lincoln MKT as Top Truck
TUSTIN, Calif. (May 20, 2010) — AutoPacific today announced its 14th Annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards (VSA) to help consumers make informed vehicle purchase decisions.
“While the auto industry is showing signs of improvement, more than ever before, manufacturers need to be able to differentiate themselves. Proof of satisfied customers is as good as gold,” says George Peterson, president of AutoPacific. “We’ve found that more than 25% of new car buyers are positively influenced by owner-based awards like the VSA when deciding on a new car or truck.”
AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award is an industry benchmark for measuring how satisfied an owner is with his/her new car or light truck. This study by the Southern California-based automotive research firm summarizes the results of over 42,000 new vehicle owners.
“Vehicles that score highest in the Vehicle Satisfaction Awards are delivering value and satisfaction across a wide range of attributes,” says Peterson. “The winners perform well in 48 separate categories that objectively measure the ownership experience.”


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WOW! $25,000 For an EV? Here Comes Nissan LEAF!

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Nissan has today announced U.S. LEAF pricing. On the eve of the New York show, they have successfully caused a near-unanimous “WOW” across the industry with an amazingly low price for high-technology system. Profit per vehicle is not something automakers are happy to talk about in any situation, but the expectation is that Nissan may not make any profit on the LEAF for many, many years. Still, the combination of an affordable price and the years of deep legwork Nissan has done in preparing consumers and communities for the product, the LEAF is the biggest step yet in advancing the cause of electric vehicles. What does this mean for the success of LEAF? Here’s my first reaction…
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Pricing Summary
$32,380 ($25,280 after $7500 Federal tax credit)
$349/month for 36-month lease (Nissan takes the credit to enable that price)
$2200–AeroVironment home-charging dock and installation (also eligible for tax credit)
$99 Registration fee, refundable (www.nissanusa.com)


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PickupTrucks.com and AutoPacific Announce the Most Significant Trucks of the Decade

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PickupTucks.com and AutoPacific have taken a look at all the new trucks sold in the past 10 years and made their picks for the most significant trucks of the decade. The trucks that made the list introduced cutting edge technologies and pushed the segment into new territory.
“Despite the economic challenges of the past two years, it’s hard not to look back at the last ten years without calling it the decade of the pickup truck,” said PickupTrucks.com editor Mike Levine. “Sales of full-size pickups hit 2.56 million units in 2004 and Ford’s F-Series trucks remain the nation’s best-selling vehicles, 33 years in a row.”
Though there are many trucks that had a significant impact in the last decade, it’s clear that the 2009 Ford F-150 earned the title of “Most Significant”.
“On balance, we thought the 2009 Ford F-150 was the most significant pickup of the last decade,” said Jim Hossack, vice president of consulting for AutoPacific. “It sells in high volume, owners like it and its body, chassis and powertrain are all first rate. Features abound, and there are more models, series and options than can be counted. It’s a good looking truck and suitable for the widest possible range of tasks and uses.”
After the jump are those trucks deemed most significant, in no particular order.


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2010 Nissan 370Z: The Family is Here

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370Z: Second Generation Continues Purist Roots
With the 370Z Roadster on sale this month, Nissan’s 370Z full family has arrived. The latest coupe went on sale in January 2009, followed by an on-road track car in the NISMO 370Z in June 2009. This summer, we found time for all three.
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370Z should be Nissan’s personality distilled, affordable and practical, but edgey and at home in Everyman’s garage. Good thing for them, Nissan successfully refined without sacrificing its edge or rough-and-ready nature. If you didn’t like the 350Z, you’re not going to like 370Z. If you did, there’s only more to love.
The new car is easy to pick as a modern Z. Against the 2003-09MY car, proportions have been adjusted and it lost a few inches. The new car takes cues of today’s Nissan family in its lights, and the convertible top looks more of a piece than the 350Z. There’s more power under the hood, always nice, but less weight being carried around, even better. Weight was lost with the shrinking of the Z, but also with selective use of aluminum (including hood and doors).
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