Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Infiniti

There may be five different nameplates in Infiniti’s current lineup but, for all intents and purposes, Infiniti is a three-vehicle brand, as the EX and FX crossovers as well as the different variants of the G provide the bulk of Nissan’s luxury division’s sales. With the new and completely redesigned 2011 model year M luxury sedan, Infiniti is once again hoping to compete with the established segment leaders and to steal some of Germany’s thunder, a feat it never managed with the previous-generation M as well as the now very much forgotten larger Q sedan.

While the previous-generation M was an able performer performer from a driving dynamics standpoint, it suffered from bland and uninspired styling, a core issue that the new model confronts head-on. Borrowing cues from the softer-edged G, the new M is all about styling that is almost organic in nature with flowing and curved lines that allow the new car to stand out and be noticed.

Getting behind the wheel for an initial test drive, I found the same story applies inside the cabin. Whereas the previous-generation car was outfitted with a largely black plastic interior that did not accurately reflect the brand’s luxury credentials, the new one offers tasteful genuine ash as well as aluminum trim on its dashboard and console. While BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz have developed single-controller setups (iDrive, MMI, Comand) to access their car’s various systems, Infiniti has gone old school by way of a myriad of single buttons as an interface. Getting aquainted with the location of the various controls was relatively straightforward with the exception of a most puzzling feature, which is called the Forest Air climate control system and its breeze mode, designed to emulate a natural breeze by randomly varying the air flow through the cabin – it proved to be more annoying than refreshing.

The new M comes as the 37 or M56, depending on the choice of engines, and the all-wheel-drive system is available on both models. While the 5.6-litre, V8 delivers major power in the form of 420 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque, the 3.7L V6 proves to be more than adequate with its 330 h.p. and 270 lb-ft of torque. Indeed, the car of choice for most buyers will be the V6 engine matched with the all-wheel-drive system.

 

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Making Your “Short List”

  1. Analyze the type of driving you do (city, country, highway, commuting, weekend tours, shopping trips), and the distance you travel in a typical year.
  2. Determine the usual number of passengers in your car.
  3. Familiarize yourself with cars and options available; read car ads and articles in auto magazines and consumer publications.
  4. Decide on the price range that you can reasonably afford.
  5. Narrow your list down to three or four models and thoroughly examine each one, both on the lot and on the road.
  6. Ask your insurance agent about your choices. What are the differences in insurance costs?

 

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Engines

The standard engine for a given model will usually be powerful enough for highway driving with moderate loads. However, if you drive on hilly roads, tow a trailer, or equip the car with air conditioning and powerful enough for highway driving with moderate loads. However, if you drive on hilly roads, tow a trailer, or equip the car with air conditioning and power windows and seats, you will probably need a bigger engine. Although a smaller engine is generally cheaper to buy, run, and maintain, if it doesn’t have the power to match the car’s size and weight, it may prove costlier in the long term than a larger engine which doesn’t strain under its load.

The diesel engine usually lasts many thousands of kilometers longer than a gasoline engine, but can be more expensive to maintain. Unlike the gasoline engine, the diesel has no ignition system or carburetor. Instead, diesel fuel is injected at high pressure into combustion chambers above the cylinders. There the mixture is so compressed that its heat ignites the fuel. A diesel engine will give slightly better fuel economy than a gasoline engine of comparable size.

On the minus side, you will pay more for the diesel-powered model of car than for the gasoline model. Because diesels are hard to start in cold weather, you will need a block heater. In fact, a diesel won’t start at all at – 15 degree C (-5 degree F) unless you have installed a block heater and a battery warmer, kept it in a heated garage, or added a fuel conditioner when you filled up. Compared to gasoline engines, most diesels tend to accelerate more sluggishly and idle more noisily. Although it’s a little cheaper than gasoline, diesel fuel may be hard to find in remote areas.

The turbocharged engine can deliver more power on demand than an engine of the same size with no turbocharger – and without sacrificing much fuel economy. Exhaust gases – normally wasted – are recycled to spin a turbine connected to a compressor. The compressor pumps extra fuel and air into the cylinders at very high pressure to boost the engine’s power, particularly when you accelerate or drive at high speeds. At one time found only in high priced sports car, turbocharged engines are now available in many regular automobiles.

Front-wheel drive. Because the weight of its engine is over the traction wheels, and because it is pulled by its front wheels rather than being pushed by its rear wheels, a car with front-wheel drive handles better than one with rear-wheel drive, particularly around curves and on slippery roads.

 

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Better Driving

Station wagons, which account for some ten percent of North American car sales each year, are more versatile than sedans or hardtops. Their large cargo space can be enlarged even more by folding down the rear seat. But the seat and tailgate often rattle, while the interior may be noisy and hard to heat and cool evenly. Station wagons cost more to buy and operate than sedans, but have a slower rate of depreciation.

Hatchbacks combine sedan advantages with sedan advantages with station wagon convenience. A rear door, hinged at the roof, gives wide-open access to the cargo area, which expands when the rear seat is folded down. If you sometimes need extra cargo room but seldom require the seating capacity of a station wagon, a hatchback is a good choice.

Vans, which were once strictly commercial vehicles, have become popular as family transportation. Their cavernous interiors can be fitted with two or three bench seats to accommodate up to nine people, or left open to haul cargo. However, vans are more difficult to park and maneuver than cars, and more expensive to operate. New “minivans” seek to combine large-vehicle cargo space and small-car economy.

Sports cars and coupes, with seats for two although “2+2″ coupes can carry two children as well as two adults) and little space for cargo, are not practical family transportation. They appeal mostly to car buffs.

Convertibles may have room for four or more people. (A roadster is a two-passenger convertible.) Although the folding top provides an open-air feeling unmatched even by a sunroof, it may prove too drafty and noisy at expressway speeds. Convertibles can be less safe than sedans and hardtops in some kinds of accidents, and are more vulnerable to thieves and vandals.

 

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Buying a Car: Which Automobile to Choose?

Station wagons, which account for some ten percent of North American car sales each year, are more versatile than sedans or hardtops. Their large cargo space can be enlarged even more by folding down the rear seat. But the seat and tailgate often rattle, while the interior may be noisy and hard to heat and cool evenly. Station wagons cost more to buy and operate than sedans, but have a slower rate of depreciation.

Hatchbacks combine sedan advantages with station wagon convenience. A rear door, hinged at the roof, gives wide-open access to the cargo area, which expands when the rear seat is folded down. If you sometimes need extra cargo room but seldom require the seating capacity of a station wagon, a hatchback is a good choice.

Vans, which were once strictly commercial vehicles, have become popular as family transportation. Their cavernous interiors can be fitted with two or three bench seats to accommodate up to nine people, or left open to haul cargo. However, vans are more difficult to park and maneuver than cars, and more expensive to operate. New “mini-vans” seek to combine large-vehicle cargo space and small-car economy.

Sports cars and coupes, with seats for two although “2+2″ coupes can carry two children as well as two adults) and little space for cargo, are not practical family transportation. They appeal mostly to car buffs.

Convertibles may have room for four or more people. (A roadster is a two-passenger convertible). Although the folding top provides an open-air feeling unmatched even by a sunroof, it may prove too drafty and noisy at expressway speeds. Convertibles can be less safe than sedans and hardtops in some kinds of accidents, and are more vulnerable to thieves and vandals.

 

 

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Size Up the Right Car

Interior and Trunk Capacity:

MINICOMPACT: 4 passengers; less than 2.4 m3 (85 ft3)

Advantages: Excellent for city driving; maneuverable; easy to park. Lowest fuel consumption of any type of car; some models claim 4.8 L/100 km (59 mpg) with diesel engine and manual transmission.

Disadvantages: Poor passenger protection in a collision. Highway performance only fair due to small engine. Back seat cramped for adults on long trips. Limited trunk space. Fewest available options.

SUBCOMPACT: 4 passengers; 2.4-2.8 m3 (85-100 ft3)

Advantages: Advantages of minicompact plus added trunk space and back seat legroom. Low insurance rates, depreciation, and annual maintenance costs. Excellent fuel economy, especially with diesel.

Disadvantages: Many minicompact disadvantages. Can be noisy and cramped for four passengers on long trips. Lack of power for towing, although some manufacturers offer optional larger engine. Few options.

COMPACT: 4-5 passengers; 2.8-3.1 m3 (100-110 ft3)

Advantages: Many advantages of smaller cars, but less road noise and more available options, including better highway performance with larger engines. Good all-round car for small family.

Disadvantages: Fair protection in a collision. Insufficient power for towing larger trailer. Limited passenger legroom. Headroom sometimes sacrificed for style. Harsher ride than larger cars.

MIDSIZE: 5-6 passengers; 3.1-3.4 m3 (110-120 ft3)

Advantages: Good compromise between large car and compact. Wide choice of engine sizes and options. More luggage and passenger space, less noise than smaller cars. Fair fuel economy.

Disadvantages: Higher initial cost than for smaller cars. Mediocre fuel economy on models with large engines and power options. Higher maintenance costs. Somewhat harder to maneuver and park.

FULL-SIZE: 6 passengers; 3.4 m3 (120 ft3) or more

Advantages: Generally best highway performance and passenger protection in collisions. Best size for towing trailers. Most options available and largest passenger and cargo space for an automobile.

Disadvantages: Higher fuel, insurance, and upkeep costs than for smaller models. Limited maneuverability, even with power steering and brakes. Requires large parking space. Highest depreciation.

VAN: 5-9 passengers; 3.4-4.5 m3 (120-220 ft3)

Advantages: Most cargo and passenger space; can be converted to a recreational vehicle complete with beds, stove, and sink. Good for towing trailers. Fair fuel economy with smaller engine.

Disadvantages: Full-size vans difficult to park and maneuver because of size. Poor fuel economy with larger engines. Difficult to heat and cool evenly. Mini-vans sacrifice cargo room for ease of handling.

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Buying a New Car: Body Style

The size and body style of the vehicle you pick should be determined by the number of passengers and the amount of cargo you normally carry, how much comfort you want, and how far you will drive in a year.

Sedans, both two- and four-door models, tend to resist drafts and rattles better than other body types because of their roof-to-floor pillars. A two-door sedan is usually less expensive and slightly quieter than one with four doors, but some people may find it a struggle getting in and out of the rear seat. Because children can accidentally open rear doors, many four-door sedans now have “child-proof” rear-door locks, which cannot be opened from the inside. As a rule, a sedan costs less initially than a hardtop, but depreciates a little faster.

Hardtops have no pillars to obstruct side vision. Their sleek, open look may increase the resale value, but hardtops can be noisier than sedans, have less headroom and knee-room in the rear, any may provide less protection in some accidents.

 

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