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First look: 2015 Nissan Murano keeps concept car lines

Third-gen crossover will have 20 percent better mpg, tuned CVT, lower drag

When Nissan introduced the production version of the third-generation Murano at the New York auto show this year, the crowds were somewhere between surprised and shocked that the undulatory exterior and wacky roof pillars of the concept hadn’t been dulled down in production trim the way most concepts are. The wavy forms down the side and the sloping roof were still there, no doubt terrifying the metal stamping machines at the beast’s Canton, Miss. production plant.

But that exterior contributes as much to the vehicle’s significant improvements as anything else. When it arrives in showrooms in December the Murano will be 130 pounds lighter, 20 percent more fuel efficient and its cd will have dropped by .06 to 0.31. All of those improvements are interrelated.

Nissan said it was able to lower the curb weight through design efficiencies and with the selective use of high-strength steel, particularly in areas beefed up for better side-impact protection. While no 2015 specifictions were released, if you knock off 130 pounds from the current Murano’s heft you get curb weights for the 2015 model that will range from 3693 to 4025 pounds. That’s less than V6-powered competitors like the Ford Edge and Toyota Venza but a little more than four-cylinder competitors like the Hyundai Santa Fe and Ford Escape.

Turns out that sculpted exterior is functional, too. While the basic shape and proportions haven’t changed compared to the Resonance concept that debuted at the 2013 Detroit show, the surface of it has, up to an inch and a half here and there as needed for better laminar airflow. The new head- and taillights, as extreme as the rest of the shapes, help reduce drag, as well. The production model spent three times the number of hours in the wind tunnel compared to the 2014 Murano. That’s what it takes to get from 0.37 to 0.31 cd.

The standard Xtronic CVT transmission – the only one that will be offered – is more efficient, with reduced internal friction, Nissan says. As with the four-cylinder Altima and Rogue, the 2015 Murano CVT will get D-Step Shift logic to provide the illusion that it is a traditional automatic transmission. Faking shifts appears to reassure customers that there is nothing wrong with their trannies, and gives enthusiast drivers something to do going around corners. The D-Step shift algorithms come next to the Versa, Versa Note, Sentra, Altima V6, Pathfinder and Quest. It seems like there’s no going away from CVTs at Nissan.

All the above increases the 2015 Murano’s fuel economy from 20 EPA combined in the current vehicle to an estimated 24 in the coming ride.

That will be with virtually the same 260-hp, 240-lb-ft 3.5-liter V6 engine as before. That front- or all wheel-drive powertrain will provide 0-60 acceleration “in the sixes,” according to Nissan, though specific times have not been released.

Product planners described the new Murano’s interior as “premium social lounge” meant to “enhance the togetherness of front and rear passengers.”

“This is for the older empty nester couple and their friends,” explained senior product planning manager Scott Pak.

The Rogue is for young couples with one kid, the Pathfinder’s for families with two children, and when the kids finally leave the parents get a Murano.  The lounge aspect of that interior will be centered on what Nissan calls its “zero-gravity” seats. These feature three layers of urethane, grippy side bolsters and three (as opposed to the normal two) points of contact and support for your kiester. The front seats can be ordered as climate controlled meaning heating and cooling is available.

What used to be known as the instrument cluster but which is now known as the “drive assist display” is a seven-inch reconfigurable full-color screen. Over on the center console is an eight-inch capacity touch NAV display that helps reduce the number of so-called hard buttons from 25 to 10. It includes the popular pinch and swipe gestures that the kids love so much on their phones.

Safety features include: blind spot warning, cross-traffic alert, moving object detection, forward emergency braking and forward collision warning. Lane departure warning was not included in the new Murano’s options because Nissan said customers were not wanting it as much. (That’s corporatespeak for, “It drove people crazy!”)

Behind the second row of seats there is 7.8 more cubic feet of cargo space, a huge leap in capacity, especially considering that the new Murano is only 2.5 inches longer than the current one.

So that’s what we learned after we spent a day at Nissan’s Arizona proving grounds with a production prototype. Okay, we learned more than that but we can’t tell you. Driving impressions are under embargo till sometime around December. So despite having negotiated the high-speed oval, various rough-road surfaces and the really fun road course with whoop-dee-doos, expansion joints, frost heaves and manhole covers scattered at all the apexes, we can’t tell you whether the coming Murano crossover is really fun to drive or whether it blows. Sorry.

Look for more info in a few months.

– See more at: http://autoweek.com/article/car-news/2015-nissan-murano-updates#sthash.MeXpVZsF.dpuf

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2014 Dodge Journey – Review

The 2014 Dodge Journey is a much better car than its original version, introduced into the heat of the 2009 recession by a soon-to-be-bankrupt Chrysler, and consequently ignored by at least some of the buyers who should have considered it. The Journey, which has the lines of a tall wagon, offers some of the more engaging handling and roadholding in the segment. And its optional third-row seat is one of its greatest advantages, along with smart packaging and a high level of features.

The Journey faces off against the better-known Chevy Equinox, Ford Edge, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Toyota Venza (and perhaps Toyota’s RAV4 as well). It’s larger than a compact crossover, though on the small end of the mid-size utility segment–smaller than Toyota’s now-very-large Highlander, for instance. Its third row offers occasional seating when you need it, without the substantially larger size of a Nissan Pathfinder, for instance.

A couple of years ago, Chrysler gave the Journey a completely new interior, with a more elegant instrument panel, better trim, and soft-touch materials. Under the hood, it got the new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine, along with a large number of improvements that reduced noise, made the ride smoother, and generally upped the quality level substantially. The original Journey just didn’t have the refinement it should have; today’s Journey is one of the better picks among crossovers, even if that remains largely unknown.

The design of the 2014 Journey walks the line between boxy sport-utility vehicles and tall wagons. We appreciate that Dodge has shaken off the same-as-the-other-guy sheetmetal that clothes other crossovers, giving the Journey lines that are refreshingly different, even if they’re no longer necessarily fresh. The look isn’t so different that it’s wacky, but different enough to avoid that same-old-family-vehicle styling rut. Inside, the Journey follows a smooth, swoopy look and simple layout, with large dials and knobs and an LCD touchscreen framed by high-quality materials.

There’s a lot for busy parents to like about the 2014 Journey. Dodge and Chrysler clearly applied some of its long-honed expertise with minivans to this interior, as people and cargo really fit well and there are plenty of smaller spaces for personal items, toys, and accessories. Front seats are what we’d best describe as ‘American-sized’—think wider than some other seats. Back-seat accommodations are among the best you’ll find in any vehicle this size, and the seats are contoured to fit adults; the seatback is adjustable for rake, and the whole bench slides fore and aft a few inches, so it’s easy to get comfortable back there. The rear seat folds fully flat, and under the rearward portion of the cargo floor there’s a huge space vast enough for a couple of laptop bags.

The Journey is offered in an extensive lineup, with AVP (American Value Package), SE, SXT, Limited, and R/T models. Several of the models (the Limited and R/T) get more features for the money in 2014. You’ll need to step up to SXT models to get either the V-6 engine or all-wheel drive. But even with the base model you get power windows, locks and mirrors; air conditioning; cruise control; pushbutton start; a cooled glove box; a telescoping steering wheel; and an AM/FM/CD player. Bluetooth isn’t included on the base model, but it is a $395 option. Seven-passenger seating is available even on the base model, while you’ll also need to get the SXT to get the UConnect media center option. That includes an 8.4-inch touch-screen that at the top of the lineup can combine with a Garmin navigation system that isn’t all that intuitive. Sirius Satellite Radio and TravelLink features are available, along with a premium audio system.

Forget about the Journey if you’re set on the idea of a four-cylinder or top-drawer fuel economy. Their loud, coarse 173-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and four-speed automatic are dawdling and disappointing in nearly every respect. Otherwise you should head straight to one of the V-6 versions, as they’re excellent and refined. Chrysler’s 3.6-liter ‘Pentastar’ V-6 makes 283 horsepower and is hooked up to a six-speed automatic for much better responsiveness. The six-speed automatic can take some of the polish off the package, though: in some versions we’ve driven, the automatic juddered and hesitated before it downshifted.

The Journey’s handling is reasonably responsive. Chrysler recently reworked the suspension to include stiffer, better-responding shocks and a lower ride height in front, and it’s honed some of the duller responses the Journey had in its initial model years. The ride quality remains a strong point, with the proper damping and roll control for a family vehicle, but the rather quick steering ratio feels a little out of place.

Safety has been another strong point. The NHTSA awards the Journey four stars overall, while the IIHS calls it a Top Safety Pick.

On Styling
We’re still bullish on the Journey’s stance and details–especially its recently redone cabin.

We like the styling on the 2014 Dodge Journey, and that’s because it finds a balance between tall wagons and boxy family SUVs, without looking like every other crossover on the market. It’s different enough to look unique, but it’s mainstream enough to not look out of place in the segment.

Its square shoulders, crosshair grille and smartly embossed fenders make it look at least a little athletic, especially considering its compact size. While its profile may look a slab-sided, the chiseled sheetmetal and  lipped wheelwells feel refreshing and different in an era of crossovers that typically skew to either the very boxy or incredibly curvaceous ends of the spectrum.

Inside, the Journey follows a smooth, swoopy look and simple layout, with large dials and knobs and an LCD touchscreen framed by high-quality materials. Open the Journey’s door, and a bolt of metallic trim directs you quickly across a more softly sculpted dash, with suave finishes and tight fits. The contoured center stack gets mixed in with round cut-tube gauges and a blocky steering wheel, and it all hangs together, along with a big LCD screen (on some versions) and no-fuss climate controls that ride sidesaddle on that strip of bright trim.

On Performance
The V-6 Journey offers good acceleration and reasonably good handling; we’d skip the four-cylinder entirely.

The Journey isn’t the right answer if you’re looking for top-shelf fuel economy or a four-cylinder engine. It’s a rough, 173-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder with a four-speed automatic that disappoints in virtually every way possible.

With that in mind the V-6 model is both refined and powerful, with the 3.6-liter ‘Pentastar’ V-6 producing 283 hp pushed through a six-speed automatic transmission. That six-speed works well when you’re really pushing the Journey, but we’ve experienced some shuddering in stop-and-go traffic.

The steering is very quick for a family vehicle, and doesn’t deliver the feedback it needs. Ride quality remains a strong point, however, with the proper damping and roll control for a family vehicle; although keep in mind that wheel sizes now range from 17-inch to 19-inchers and those largest wheels don’t soak up the impacts quite as well. In any case, braking is strong, though.

The Journey’s handling is reasonably responsive. The Journey’s suspension loads and unloads confidently, like a lower and leaner vehicle than it is, and there’s none of the excessive bounding or wallowing when you hit a bump mid-corner with some taller crossovers. The ride quality remains a strong point, with the proper damping and roll control for a family vehicle. And while the hydraulic-assist steering system gets it right with weighting, the rather quick steering ratio feels a little out of place.

On Quality
Passengers and cargo will have ample space in the Journey, but it’s the little storage touches that impress us.

Parents will find a lot to like in the 2014 Dodge Journey. There are some obvious minivan-like qualities to the interior–likely pulled from Chrysler’s experience with family hauling vans–and there’s a lot of room for people and cargo. In general, you’ll find the Journey to be an easy-to-drive option for a full-size family.

The cargo hold specs out at a swell 37 cubic feet behind the second row, and a tight 10.7 cubic feet behind the raised third-row seat. Flip everything down behind the front seats, and you can fit a half-dozen flat-screen TVs in the Journey’s 67.6 cubic feet of space.

Front seats are what we’d best describe as ‘American-sized’—think wider than some other seats. Back-seat accommodations are among the best you’ll find in any vehicle this size, and the seats are contoured to fit adults (two of them, or three kids); the seatback is adjustable for rake, and the whole bench slides fore and aft a few inches, so it’s easy to get comfortable back there.

In back, folding the seats forward takes an extra step—you slide the middle portion of the outboard cushions up and forward first—but the reward is that you get a lower, flatter load floor as well as that better contouring. There are also many thoughtful solutions for storing odds and ends, and keeping some of them out of sight. For instance, the cushion of the passenger seat flips up to reveal a bin underneath, while below the rearward portion of the cargo floor there’s a huge space vast enough for a couple of laptop bags.

On Safety
The Journey’s crash-test scores have been good, and it offers a few safety options we like to see.

Every Journey comes standard with dual front, side, and curtain airbags; stability and traction control; active head restraints; and four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock control. Integrated child booster seats are also offered for the second row. And we recommend the optional rearview camera and parking sensors.

It rates well with both of the agency that crash test cars rate their safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has named the Journey a Top Safety Pick in previous model years, as it’s earned top ‘good’ ratings for frontal, side, and rear impacts as well as roof strength. That designation will likely carry over for the 2014 model year. And the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Journey an overall rating of four stars, with a five-star individual score for side-impact protection.

On Features
With excellent entertainment and connectivity features, the Journey outpoints some of its newer competition.

There are currently six Journey models available–the American Value Package (AVP), SE, SXT, Crew, RT, and Limited–but you’ll have to look at the SXT or higher if you want all-wheel drive or the V-6.

You’ll also need to get the SXT, at minimum, to get the UConnect media center, an option that we appreciated for its ability to easily control a wide range of devices ranging from iPhones to SD cards (it even quickly indexed one with 16 GB of music). The system includes an 8.4-inch touch-screen that at the top of the lineup can combine with a Garmin navigation system that isn’t all that intuitive. Sirius Satellite Radio and TravelLink features are available, along with the premium audio system, and a DVD entertainment system for backseat passengers is also optional.

Crew and R/T models added features last year, for better value, while prices on the R/T actually dropped by $1,000. The Limited model is new for 2014, and slotted just below the R/T, with standard UConnect, leather, and the 19-inch wheels. But even with the base model you get power windows, locks and mirrors; air conditioning; cruise control; pushbutton start; a cooled glove box; a telescoping steering wheel; and an AM/FM/CD player. A USB port is also included, although it’s tucked away in the center console. Bluetooth isn’t included on the base model, but it is a $395 option. Seven-passenger seating is available on any of the models.

Step into higher-trim Journeys and you’ll add features like premium sound; keyless entry; leather seating; and hide-away cargo bins under the seats. SXT models can be optioned with UConnect and a power sunroof for 2013, but with the Journey Crew you get remote start, automatic climate control, leather steering-wheel trim, and in-seat storage. At the top R/T level you add appearance upgrades like red accent stitching, satin-carbon aluminum wheels, and a six-speaker, 368-watt premium audio system.

On Green
Average fuel economy is understandable with the V-6 Journey–but less forgivable with the four-cylinder version.

The 2014 Dodge Journey isn’t the most fuel-efficient way to get into a crossover. However, it lands pretty squarely around average for the segment, and its V-6 option does reasonably well on the highway.

The V-6 versions have somewhat lower numbers, but they’re directly competitive with other V-6 crossovers, and we’ve seen good numbers in real-world driving, with results that meet or beat the Journey’s 17-mpg city, 25 highway EPA ratings. Over about 700 miles of driving—across Michigan, and including a mix of freeway driving, family-hauling, and suburban side trips—we averaged 24 mpg. That’s not far from what we’ve seen in four-cylinder crossovers this size in that kind of driving, and those models’ powertrains aren’t as satisfying as this V-6.

Technically, the base four-cylinder engine and four-speed automatic transmission produce the best mileage ratings in the lineup–an EPA-rated 19/26 mpg. That’s lower than most other four-cylinder crossovers, and not at all impressive.

As read on: http://www.thecarconnection.com/overview/dodge_journey_2014?fbfanpage