Category Archive:

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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Highway 1 in a 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander

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Mitsubishi has an all-new compact SUV for its 2007 lineup. Though it carries the Outlander name, there is little that the second Outlander shares with the first, other than the Lancer platform. This time, though, Outlander is the launch product for Mitsubishi’s all-new C-segment platform. The result is a more grown-up and sophisticated compact SUV. The first generation did not fare well in the marketplace, selling only 75,000 units between late 2002 and 2005, the new version has more to offer in all areas.

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Sales begin in the United States in November 2006, and AutoPacific and VehicleVoice were invited to be among the early drivers. Using the Hotel Vitale in San Francisco as a home base, Mitsubishi plotted out an entertaining drive route that took us across the Golden Gate Bridge to Highway 1 and up to Bogeda Bay.
Finally, a Competitive Package
Styling has grown up; there is a modern silhouette, better overall proportions, and more attractive styling. The first Outlander looked like a short-but-tall wagon with big bumpers (click here and here for images). The old underwhelming 160HP 2.4L I4 is replaced by a 220HP 3.0L V6 and six-speed automatic (magnesium paddle shifters are optional). There is an improved interior with thoughtful storage and convenience touches and optional jump seats give room for seven in a pinch.
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For the 2007MY, there are several new or updated compact SUVs, including the Jeep Compass (click for VehicleVoice Compass review), Jeep Patriot, Honda CR-V, and Suzuki SX4. Against these products, and solid entries like the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage, the Outlander brings more power, more size, and more features. The new Outlander can better justify having one of the highest MSRPs of the available Compact SUVs.


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The 350Z – Nissan's Cheerleader is Back

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The original 1970 Datsun 240Z had a formula Americans could accept and appreciate. The first generation Z’s were lightweight, well balanced, equipped with a 2.4 liter inline six engine and due to their great handling were often compared to such admirable adversaries as the Porsche 911. First and foremost, they were very affordable giving outstanding bang for the buck (but they were rust buckets).

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As the decades rolled by the Z found itself caught in a downward spiral becoming longer, heavier and less nimble with every new model change. Nissan eventually lost the Z’s pedigree and subsequently it’s huge following. It was ultimately dropped, citing production costs, in 1997.


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2006 Pathfinder – Long Since Grown Up

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Remember the first Pathfinder? The two-door model with the refinement of a skateboard? Well the 2006 Pathfinder has long since grown up. The current (redesigned in 2005) model has come a long way from the earlier testosterone versions. Sitting on the “F-Alpha” family platform like the Xterra, Armada, Frontier and Titan, this new Frontier performs with more comfort and sophistication than any of its predecessors.
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2006 Chevrolet Impala SS – Delivers on its Name

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The 2006 Chevrolet Impala is a complete reskin from its dorky looking predecessor. It now looks very purposeful and almost modern. We have read many criticisms of its freshened styling, but, while not head-turning, the Impala is a huge improvement. The interior is ergonomically friendly and everything falls to hand easily.
So, what are the gripes. In an obvious cost-reduction, the bezel surrounding the console-mounted shifter in the Impala SS does not have P-R-N-D-L or anything else to tell you what gear you are in. The only indicator is on the instrument cluster where there is a LED read out. I don’t remember any car not having the gears shown near the shift lever. Probably saved a buck.

Excitement Reigns Under Full Throttle

In another obvious goof that many buff books have identified and I can confirm, torque steer is wild. Punch the 303-horsepower small-block V8 and things get exciting fast. It’s like you can’t figure out which way the car is going. Unlike many cars having fearsome torque steer (they usually turn hard right), the steering in the Impala SS under power seems almost omni-directional. If it consistently pulled right, you could anticipate it, but the SS seems to be everywhere.
Apparently, this is fixed on the Pontiac Grand Prix GXP with the same powertrain and platform but with larger tires up front. Chevy should spring for this fix. The Impala is a premium priced model and such obvious cost cuts should not be tolerated.
Impala Best Chevy Sedan since the old Impala SS
But, enough nit-picking. The Impala SS is truly the best non-Corvette car we have driven in a long time.


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2007 Hyundai Santa Fe – New, and From Alabama

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Some of us grew up around friends or acquaintances who found adolescence a challenging phase. We’ve all heard stories of the ‘late bloomer’ or wished we had been nicer to the girl down the street who came into her own only after our returning from college.

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Fortunately, the 2007 all-new Hyundai Santa Fe is materialistic and can be wooed with money alone. It doesn’t care to remember the snide remarks or perplexed gawking it drew from its adolescent years. It no longer looks like an overstuffed pork chop with pointy ears. The new Santa Fe has made it through puberty, lost the baby fat and come into its own.


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Chrysler's Pacifica Updated for 2007

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Previewed in addition to the all-new Chrysler Sebring at Chrysler’s “What’s Coming” event at their Chelsea Proving Grounds was an update for Chrysler‘s Pacifica, which is going into its fourth model year. Unlike the Sebring, VehicleVoice and AutoPacific were able to take the Pacifica for a quick spin around part of the DaimlerChrysler Proving Ground test track. The Pacifica update enhances the powertrain, tweaks exterior appearance and finesses the interior a bit, but, as true of most mid-cycle updates, does not provide a reason to buy where one had not already been.

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New Engine Launches in Pacifica
The Pacifica sports a new 255HP 4.0L SOHC 24v V6 engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Compared with the outgoing 3.5L, horsepower is only up by about 5HP, but it brings 265 lb-ft of torque to the table and smoother power delivery with extra forward gear. The peak torque increase is 15 lb-ft, but it is available earlier and longer throughout the rev range. Though not simply a larger-bore version of the 3.5L V6, the 4.0L design was started with the 3.5L as a building block. This 4.0L will find its way into other Chrysler products down the road, including the updated minivan due for 2008MY. With the 2007MY, the base Pacifica sticks with the 200HP 3.8L V6, but the 4.0L is standard for most Pacifica trim levels.
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Exterior changes are limited to hood, headlights, and grille. The headlights take on a more sculpted look, the lower portion of the front bumper is revised and the grille was tweaked. The hood is one of three new 2007MY hoods to take on Crossfire-inspired strakes, including Sebring and the all-new, Dodge Durango-based Aspen.
Interior updates include making the new easy-clean YES fabric available and adding more standard safety equipment. All-row side curtain airbags, ESP, and traction control are now standard, and a rear backup camera is a new option.
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Jeep Compass Points Portland to Pacific City, Via Tillamook

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VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents have been fortunate enough to experience some spectacular scenery over the years, driving new vehicles in locations we might never find on our own, and our opportunity with the Jeep Compass was no exception as we explored the Tillamook State Forest in Oregon and drove on the beach alongside the Pacific Ocean. Stephanie Brinley was on the first wave of this event and George Peterson was on the final leg. Comments from both are included.

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We can’t forget the first night’s entertainment for later media waves. Attending our first AAA baseball game in years – the Portland Beavers and the Tucson Sidewinders (Tucson won 7-4) at PGE Park a short walk from The Hotel DeLuxe, our hosts from Jeep brought out the requisite hamburgers, hotdogs, potato salad and beer. Nice ambiance for the journalists and the 500 fans in attendance.
After our rooftop morning presentation, Jeep’s drive route took us from the hotel, through the Tillamook with its breathtaking views, to Pacific City, where we lunched at Pelican Pub & Brewery and enjoyed a view of Haystack Rock, one of the largest sea stacks on the Pacific Coast. The solitary monolith, the third largest in the world, is 235 feet tall. This area of Oregon is also home to the Sand Lake Dunes, where you’ll find a park that welcomes ATV riders and Jeeps. After lunch, it was off to the dunes.
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The route allowed us to experience the Compass in driving conditions from the city to expressways to rural two-lane switchbacks to two-track dirt roads to the sand dunes, with some construction thrown in for good measure. As active-lifestyle oriented Jeep drivers search out unusual terrain for fun, rather than bearing it as an obstacle, it was particularly appropriate to experience the Compass on such a varied drive route. Read on for our driving impressions, or check our New Model Introduction section for an overview of the Compass.
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Hyundai Azera First Impression and Test Drive

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If you were to have ever told me that I would actually feel comfortable peering through Korean glass at the road ahead, I would have laughed and told you that it would only be on the off chance I took an unplanned road trip through Seoul.
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However, when the Hyundai Azera won AutoPacific‘s Vehicle Satisfaction Award as top rated car I broke down and decided to take one home for the night, just to take a closer look. My initial reaction was one of surprise as I walked over to a substantial vehicle with contemporary styling and opened the solid drivers door to a plush, high-grade leather interior. This is a Hyundai? I’m used to bland aesthetics and plastic wheel covers, this car actually had decent lines. I was about to realize how quickly a manufacturer could sneak up on my perceptions. The simple fact was that the Azera, Hyundai’s luxury flagship, was going to introduce me to the tenacity of the Hyundai Motor Company, and their fierce determination in this market segment.


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2007 Lexus GS 450h – Seduced By The "Electric Turbocharger"

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We all know that until gas prices go up to somewhere over $4.50/gallon and stay there for a goodly bit of time, the wonder of gasoline/electric hybrid technology won’t deliver enough in fuel savings to pay off the incremental cost of most systems for the average driver. So the reasons for hybrid interest lie somewhere beyond economy. Honda, purveyors of the Civic Hybrid and the amusing but impractical Insight, decided that the concept of a performance hybrid might have some traction. The company teased us with the concept of a performance-based hybrid in the guise of the Accord Hybrid. But for several reasons, not the least of which was the combo of less-than-earth-shaking acceleration with a $30,000+ price tag, the anodyne hot-rod hybrid Honda has failed to perform in the market. In the case of America’s most popular hybrid vehicle, Toyota’s Prius, the obvious reason for its success and buzz is the car’s distinctive styling that makes the petit five-door hatchback stand out for the crowd. It all but screams “I’m making a statement.” And in the case of the Prius that statement is one of saving the environment.
Beyond the Prius and Insight, hybrids are far less distinctive on the road. Pretty much all that differs the majority of hybrids from their conventionally propelled sister vehicles are wheels, badging and, in one or two cases, a specific grille.

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Invisible Lexus GS 450h Tests Consumer Demand for Distinctive Hybrid Styling
So it is with the latest addition to the Toyota/Lexus lineup of Hybrids. Beyond a set of chrome-trimmed 18-inch wheels, a small “h” on the rear and an even smaller Hybrid badge in its lower-body moldings, the 2007 Lexus GS 450h could pass for the V8-powered GS 430.
Jim Hall, AutoPacific Vice President and VehicleVoice contributor had a recent opportunity to drive a GS 450h during one of his frequent trips to the mother ship in California. Impressed, he coined the term “electric turbocharger” to describe the impact of the Hybrid Synergy Drive on the performance of the GS.


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