Tuesday, December 9, 2008

2007 Acura RDX

2007 Acura RDX - At the RDX’s debut in mid-2006, Acura defined the compact crossover as an “entry premium CUV” designed to appeal to “high-energy urbanites” who enjoy a “24/7 lifestyle.”

We weren’t quite sure what that marketing rebop meant, but if it has anything to do with 3 a.m. drag racing on Wilshire Boulevard, you could do worse. With a turbo­charged and intercooled (a first for any U.S. Honda vehicle) 2.3-liter, i-VTEC four providing power (240 horses at 6000 rpm, 260 pound-feet of torque at 4500 rpm), the RDX can scoot to 60 mph in less than 6.5 seconds, which is quicker than the other major players in this class (BMW X3, Land Rover LR2), as well as a good many cars.

Moreover, the RDX has moves to go with its muscle. We judged its handling as deft as the BMW’s in a shootout with the X3 and the LR2 [“Attack of the Flying Cicada Killers,” July 2007], and it has impressed all of our drivers with its zealous responses—with one reservation.

But we’ve gotten a bit ahead of our narrative.

Our long-term test subject arrived at the C/D offices on July 13, 2007, with its 18-gallon tank full of premium fuel and 75 miles on its odometer. Acura classifies vehicles equipped with major options such as a nav system as separate models, and that’s true of the RDX, which is offered in standard and Tech-package trims. The two levels are mechanically identical, with the 2.3-liter turbo and Acura’s SH-AWD system, which delivers extra thrust to one or the other of the rear wheels in hard cornering to enhance handling. The system normally delivers 90 percent of engine output to the front wheels but can send as much as 70 percent to the rear wheels.

The basic RDX is nicely equipped, with the amenities one expects in an entry-luxury CUV: a power sunroof; leather-trimmed seats, heated up front; a good audio system with an in-dash six-CD changer and XM radio; power windows and locks; heated power mirrors; anti-lock brakes; stability control; and front, side, and curtain airbags. Its 2007 MSRP was $33,665; it’s $34,455 for 2009.

The Tech package adds a nav system with voice recognition and real-time traffic info; a rearview camera; hands-free wireless phone interface; dual-zone climate controls; upgraded 10-speaker AM/FM audio with a six-slot CD/DVD-audio changer; an owner-programmable auxiliary-info display; and steering-wheel controls for the phone, the voice recognition, and the info display. It was priced at $37,165 in 2007 ($37,755 for 2009).

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

2007 Infiniti G35 Sport 6MT

2007 Infiniti G35 Sport 6MT - When Infiniti’s second-generation G35 arrived at our office for a short visit in the summer of 2006, it did not take long for the staff to begin lobbying for a long-term test car. Compared with the outgoing model, the 2007 G35 was dynamically superior, quicker, and easier on the eyes. In a road test in October 2006, we raised the big question: “Is this new G35 better than a 3-series?” The answer was no. In face-offs against the 3-series, the newest G was twice a runner-up. But would putting one through a 40,000-mile trial with a jury of lead-footed editors change our minds?

We ordered a G35 Sport 6MT dressed in Garnet Ember (that’s red) and upholstered in black leather. We opted for the Sport model, the only G sedan with a manual transmission. The base Sport cost $32,965 back in April 2007. Our inner glutton insisted we add the $2350 Premium package (including a sunroof, Bose stereo, heated front seats, and Bluetooth phone integration) and the $2100 Navigation package, bringing the cost to a hale and hearty $37,415. Still, that’s only $220 more than the base price of our long-term 2006 BMW 330i.

When the G35 arrived, it was thrown in among some serious long-term stablemates—an Audi S8, a Porsche Boxster S, and a Volkswagen GTI. For a while, our long-term 330i inhabited the sign-out slot directly below the G35’s on the office car board, so comparisons were inevitable.

The G drew early fire for its engine NVH and a stubborn shifter linked to a trigger-fast clutch takeup. That takeup is so on-off—going from disengaged to engaged amounts to maybe half an inch of total pedal travel—drivers were consistently stalling the vehicle. But its ride, looks, and raw power—306 horses—were much praised. For 2008, Infiniti addressed the clutch, transmission, and NVH issues, but we have to say that they are still par to the BMW’s birdie.

During the first 10,000 miles, the Infiniti left its home in Ann Arbor on trips to Virginia and Kentucky. Nearly everyone had kind words for the 16-way adjustable driver’s seat and the excellent shape, size, texture, and placement of the steering wheel. One staffer described the angle as “formula car–like.”

Another editor noted, “The drivetrain is a little buzzy, and the clackety gas pedal belies this car’s lack of final polish, but I really, really like this car. There isn’t a compromise to the ride and handling—the ride is stellar and the handling superb. The G35 is no 3-series, but it’s close enough.” That theme was repeated in the car’s logbook by other editors.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

2009 Honda Pilot vs. Ford Flex, Chevy Traverse, Hyundai Veracruz, Mazda CX-9, Toyota Highlander

2009 Honda Pilot vs. Ford Flex, Chevy Traverse, Hyundai Veracruz, Mazda CX-9, Toyota Highlander - Beat of a different Drummond: We compare six family haulers and, amazingly, drown none of them.

November 2008

When we last visited Michigan’s Drummond Island [“Mud Puppies,” February 2008], we compared nine Lilliput SUVs and quickly found ourselves in over our heads. Which is to say, we sank a Jeep Liberty. See, the island—a short ferry ride from the eastern tip of the state’s Upper Peninsula—is a 25-mile-long series of limestone bowls (which hold water) and cedar swamps (ditto) surrounded by Lake Huron (ditto times a million). Drummond Island, thou art thine own soggy enemy.

This time, we asked Drummond Island Resort’s driving expert, Craig Hoffman, to sketch out a somewhat drier 16-mile loop, two-thirds of which comprised twisty, smooth pavement and one-third of which bumped through the resort’s private off-road facility. On any off-roader’s scale of difficulty, these private trails (notice we said “private” twice?) hover wholly in Wally Cox territory yet still represent pretty much the worst that any owner would throw at his investment. Along this route, we then ran the vehicles back-to-back until the local bowling alley’s neon “BEER” sign lit up.


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