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First Drive: 2014 Nissan Rogue

Affordable, stylish, comfortable.

by on Nov.01, 2013

Nissan strives for segment design leadership with the launch of the 2014 Rogue.

Compact crossovers have become one of the U.S. market’s hottest segments right now. And as sales surge, a growing number of manufacturers are competing for buyers attention with new or restyled offerings.  Over the last year or so we’ve seen major remakes of the Toyota RAV4, the Honda CRV and the Ford Escape, to name a few.

Now, Nissan is weighing in with a redesigned version of the Rogue targeting a broad cross section of consumers, from older, empty nesters to young buyers just starting families.

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The second-largest Japanese maker is taking an unusual approach, however, launching a new 2014 Nissan Rogue while maintaining the old model as the budget-priced Nissan Rogue Select. Whether that strategy will work remains to be seen, especially if Nissan hopes to get buyers to shell out the several thousand additional dollars it takes to get into the newer model.


First Drive: 2013 Nissan Pathfinder

Switch to crossover design yields plenty of advantages, few sacrifices.

by on Nov.01, 2012

The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder adopts a lighter, more fuel-efficient crossover platform that can still handle moderately rough trails.

Admittedly late to the party, can Nissan regain its place in a radically changed sport-utility market? That’s the big question the maker faces as it rolls out an all-new version of the long-running Pathfinder.

The new model is more than just a face-lift, in fact, more than the usual redesign.  The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder evolves from a classic, truck-based body-on-frame ute to a car-like unibody-based crossover.  The move has significant advantages, shaving about 500 pounds of mass to deliver a more nimble ride and fuel economy.

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But it also raises the possibility that classic SUV buyers might turn up their noses.  On the other hand, the market for classic, truck-like utes has all but vanished, so the bigger question is whether Nissan can regain the buyers who’ve migrated to competing products, such as the latest-generation Ford Explorer, that previously made the SUV to CUV migration.


New Nissan Sylphy World Car Hints at Next Sentra

Whatever you call it, Nissan has very big plans for its new "world sedan."

by on Apr.23, 2012

Nissan rolls out a "new world sedan," the Sylphy to most global markets and the Sentra in the U.S.

You might want to take a close look at the new Nissan Sylphy making its debut at Auto China 2012 this week.  Sure, it’s an unfamiliar name – to Americans, anyway – but what you see is what you’ll soon be getting pretty much everywhere in the world, whether it’s called Sylphy or Sentra.

The debut of what Nissan officials are calling their “new global sedan” was the highlight of their news conference at the Beijing Motor Show and underscores the aggressive tact the maker is taking as it pushes forward with a goal to gain a hefty 10% of the global automotive market.

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The next-generation, 2013 Nissan Sentra, for Americans, is a significant shift in strategy, at least from a styling approach.  The Sentra has been the dull and largely ignored fraternal twin to the more striking – and expensive – Nissan Altima, that model also getting a complete redesign for 2013.


First Look: Nissan Juke-R

Dubbed the “ultimate compact crossover,” Super Juke gets a GT-R powertrain.

by on Oct.07, 2011

Nissan will squeeze a GT-R drivetrain into a heavily modified Juke.

Practical? Check.  Affordable? Check.  High-performance? We’ll get back to you.

While the little Nissan Juke crossover might be reasonably peppy in its modest class it’s not exactly a supercar.  Well, not until the automaker decided to see what would happen if it tried to squeeze the same 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-6 found in the GT-R under the hood of the Juke.

Now, says the Japanese maker, it has created the “ultimate compact crossover,” a concept it is calling the Nissan Juke-R

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Though final figures aren’t available for Nissan’s “Super Juke,” expect something short of the stock 2012 GT-R’s 530 horsepower and 448 lb-ft of torque.  More likely, the pony count will be capped at 480, which is still a significant bump up from the 188 hp and 177 lb-ft made by the crossover’s stock 1.8-liter inline-four.

That’s expected to let the Juke R top 60 in under four seconds and hit a peak 170 mph – which would exceed the numbers of a Porsche Boxster.


Nissan’s North American Plants Outproducing Toyota, Honda

Maker admits needing more capacity in U.S., Mexico.

by on Jul.20, 2011

The first truck rolls off the line at Nissan's Canton, Mississippi plant in 2003.

Its sales may lag well behind industry giant Toyota, but Nissan North America is now out-producing the transplant operations run by its rival.

In fact, Nissan’s four assembly lines in the U.S. and Mexico turned out more cars, trucks and crossovers than any other transplant network during the first half of 2011 – and will likely need to undergo a major expansion in the near future, company officials tell

Through the end of June, Nissan produced 565,730 vehicles at those four North American plants.  Significantly, that was a 9.1% increase over year-earlier levels despite the interruptions caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that tattered much of the automotive supplier network based in Northeast Japan.

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Toyota saw production fall 28% during the first half, to 555,972 vehicles, while third-ranked Honda’s North American production network reported a 20.8% drop, to 516,603 cars, trucks and crossovers.

“They did a lot better job” at Nissan overcoming the parts shortages that were created by the March disaster, says Aaron Bragman, automotive analyst with the consulting firm IHS.


First Drive: 2011 Nissan Murano

A comfortable highway cruiser with nimble urban moves.

by on Jul.08, 2011

The Nissan Murano is one of the most distinctive offerings in the midsize CUV segment.

Nissan joined the crossover game with the Murano in 2002, and since then, the Murano has spawned smaller clones such as the Rogue and the Juke urban ute in Nissan’s lineup.

The Murano was last redesigned in 2009, and for 2011 the big news is the addition of the CrossCabriolet convertible and the SV trim level.

The SV essentially slots between the base S and the mid-level SL, providing a touch of luxury without increasing the sticker price too much.

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Just a touch of luxury, though, since our SV all-wheel-drive tester still had cloth seats and did not offer a navigation system, which is only available on SL and LE models.

What the SV offers over the S is a moonroof, roof rails, fog lights, an 8-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar, a wireless cell phone link, an alarm system, a rearview camera, and satellite radio.


First Look: 2012 Nissan Versa sedan

by on Apr.20, 2011

Nissan brings the new Versa sedan to the Big Apple.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  Or in Nissan’s case, the hatchback or the sedan?

The maker has set off a bit of confusion by splitting the launch of its updated subcompact line-up between the Shanghai Motor Show, earlier this week, and a separate Wednesday news conference at the New York Auto Show.

For American motorists, it turns out, the four-door model shown in New York, and badged Nissan Versa, will be the update they’ll be seeing later this year at U.S. dealerships.  But that will be followed by a 5-door based on the Nissan Tiida unveiled in China, it turns out.

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Nissan sees the upcoming update as a chance for it to redefine how it competes in the small car market – moving away from the classic econobox and into something more stylish, roomy and well-equipped, noted Carlos Tavares, CEO of Nissan Americas, during a Big Apple news conference.

The 2012 Versa should also play well with those focusing on fuel economy, the new model getting a roughly 5 mile per gallon bump, to 30 mpg City, 37 Highway, according to the EPA, and 33 on the Combined scale.


New Nissan Tiida to Return as 2012 Versa

More stylish look for maker’s smallest American offering.

by on Apr.20, 2011

The 2012 Nissan Tiida will reappear in the U.S. as the next Nissan Versa.

If you want to get an early look at what to expect from Nissan when it updates its smallest American offering you can wait for this week’s New York Auto Show or turn your attention to China, where it’s already on display.

True, the car showcased at the Shanghai Motor Show carries the unfamiliar Tiida badge used in Asia, but the more stylish remake of the subcompact will soon show up here with the familiar Versa nameplate.

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The 2012 Tiida is designed to minimize the econobox look, with a more sculptured shape that includes a rounded roof line flowing into the rear hatch, and updated headlamps that reach well into the front fenders.

Nissan describes the updated design as “premium and agile styling,” and said the key goals were to give the Tiida a “fluid and brisk” appearance.


First Drive: 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet

Answering the unasked question.

by on Mar.22, 2011

The 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet reaches showrooms next month.

Is it a stroke of genius or the answer to a question no one asked?  That’s what I was left wondering after getting my first close-up look at the new Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet.

There’ve been plenty of innovations in the convertible world, in recent years, notably the introduction of the fold-away hardtop, which operates like some magical metal origami.  But the Nissan CC, as many are bound to call it, goes in a distinctly different direction.

Unless your definition stretches to include the awkward, ungainly and largely unloved Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible, Nissan has come up with the world’s first crossover convertible.  The Murano CrossCabriolet is certainly distinctive, and it fills a niche that nobody else has yet targeted.  But whether that matters was the other question I set out to answer during a day of driving through the Nashville countryside near the Japanese maker’s U.S. headquarters.

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Nissan has a history of doing things differently, dating back to the days when it stamped “Datsun” on the back of its product.  The original Murano itself was a significant addition to the then-emerging crossover-utility vehicle segment.  Where other makers played it safe, making their car-based CUVs look like conventional sport-utility vehicles, Nissan opted for a sleekly rounded shape that was more sports car than sport-ute.


First Drive: 2011 Nissan Quest

A serious new entry – and that’s no joke.

by on Dec.13, 2010

Nissan completely redesigns the Quest for 2011.

Minivans just don’t get no respect, as Rodney Dangerfield might have expressed it.  Not only do the people movers take their regular hits from the likes of Letterman and Leno, but they’ve seem demand steadily shrink, in recent years.  Yet, in an auto industry where diminished expectations have become the rule the minivan still musters enough volume – nearly 600,000 units annually – to convince a fair number of manufacturers to keep pumping them out.

Nissan, for one, which will be launching an all-new version of the Quest for 2011, the well-equipped, comfortable, and functional remake set to reach U.S. showrooms right at the beginning of the New Year.

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Coming up with a way to add a little sex appeal to the exterior design of any minivan has been a chore for industry stylists for the better part of three decades.  The problem is that the van’s classic boxy shape is dictated by the vehicle’s functionality.  Complicating matters is the sliding door, which has vexed more than one talented design team.

But with the 2011 Nissan Quest, designers  have given it the old college try.  Head on, they have succeeded in giving the front of the new Quest a distinctive face and an overall appealing shape in front of the A-pillar.

The gash along the side for the sliding door, seemingly a defining minivan characteristic, has been offset with character lines, and the rear hatch — another black hole for traditional minivan design — has been given some distinctive sculpting thanks to a rounded spoiler that serves as an eye-catching detail when when the rear liftgate is raised.  Another notable detail is the wraparound rear window panel.