Monday, April 23, 2012

REVIEW: 2012 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV


That’s the initial word that popped into my head when I slid behind the wheel of Nissan’s amazing 2012 Maxima 3.5 SV sedan for the first time. 

2012 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV
I’d always been curious about these sleek, somewhat masculine-looking cars with the rear fender wells that resemble a pair of armor blisters on a battleship. They just looked substantial and intriguing, but I’d never had the opportunity…or the pleasure.

The interior is roomy—as you might expect a four-door sedan to be—but it’s also conveniently comfortable, with everything within easy reach.

Ingress and egress (those are fancy, NASA terms) is very easy, with the generous doors, and the low floor.  It’s got a sunroof and a smooth-running CVT to harness the power of a 290-hp 3.5-liter V-6, and a killer sound system that will allow you to record music direct to a 1-G hard-drive. But enough about all that; anyone can read the brochure.

The 4-Door Sports Car.
This is a fine road car.
This is an exceptional car for a road trip.
This is a car you almost don’t want to stop driving for the night. 

And while 26-mpg might not be the efficiency stratosphere some are seeking, it’s a safe bet the fuel may run out before your stamina behind the wheel does. It's that comfortable to drive.

We drove on the highway for a few hours, taking some of those winding, backroads in Texas, and just let the car find its own groove. It’s very stable at freeway speeds, and still has lots of “oomph” for passing, if needed. 

Visiblity is excellent, the ride is quiet, and the SV features an 8-way power driver’s set, with two memory presets—which makes switching drivers no problem, and adjusting it to your own inner lumbar a snap!

Nissan calls the Maxima “the 4-door sports car.”
I would agree with that boast.

View more photos of the 2012 Nissan Maxima in my pictorial review.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

REVIEW: 2012 Infinity FX35 AWD

Jumbo Shrimp.
Seriously Funny.
Accurate Estimate.
Airline Food.

Oxymorons have become the comparative coin of the realm. We nearly never have a conversation without interjecting one or more into a thought.
Add to this list: Luxury SUV.

You associate luxury with the finer things in life, and in the context of fine automobiles: leather, chrome, power-everything, and all the lagniappe a manufacturer can cram into a model.

Similarly, the acronym, SUV, for Sport-Utility Vehicle, conjures images of ruggedness, agility, and ample capacity for carting around goods or people or both--not necessarily stylishly, but effectively.

The 2012 Infinity FX35 AWD
Infinity has combined its expertise in crafting fine automobiles with its reputation as builder of sturdy vehicles to create an incredibly seductive Luxury-SUV called the FX35 AWD.

This amazing sport-ute combo is as appropriate for a black-tie evening as it is for delivering your small squad of urban commandos to an after school function. Somehow Infinity packed a heapin’ helpin’ of go-anywhere ruggedness into a seductive, shapely package that is a joy to drive, or just sit and stare at as the light plays tricks on its curves.

Here’s the hard-body part: The FX35 AWD boasts a 303hp 3.5-liter V-6 mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission that is an absolute thrill to drive. The rubber meets the road through 21-inch rims sporting low-profile tires. A dual exhaust system followed me around with my own personal soundtrack. 

And did I spy twin air intakes in that engine compartment?

(I will confess that after a few days in a brand-new fleet vehicle with which I am unfamiliar, and just a little gingerly to the touch, I usually find myself longing for the familiar comfort of my own, two-seater drop top. Not so with this loaner—I really did not want to turn it in!)


But the shape…ah, the shape of the FX35 is truly mesmerizing. I found myself taking it to the roof top of a parking garage just to watch the sun come up and illuminate its features.

The view from the cockpit, forward over the provocatively curving hood, framed by beefy front fender swells, is exhilarating. And the sharp, downward taper of the rear deck, blending into a tightly-tucked, electrically-powered hatch lid, is the automotive equivalent of a come-hither look.
Can you tell I fell in love with this vehicle?

It handles like a sports car (I would know) with its speed-sensing steering and all-wheel traction, and it purrs at freeway speeds, gliding effortlessly with a .35 drag coefficient (my drop top has a .34!) 

Leather seats with cheek-warmers, a power sunroof, and a verrry cool 360-degree camera system are the icing on the cake.  The Iridium Blue demo I drove for the week had a sticker price of $52,445 with all its goodies; definitely not an entry-level vehicle. But when you’ve arrived, and you want to arrive in style that will turn heads, and turn you on every time you hit the start button, you can’t beat the FX35 AWD.

I can’t wait to drive the 2013 (hint, hint).

Friday, April 06, 2012

REVIEW: 2012 Infinity G37 Convertible 6MT

You could say Nissan’s juices run in my veins. 
I first learned to drive on a 1969 Datsun 1300 pickup truck my father bought over the phone, sight un-seen. That truck rode rougher than a buckboard—or so I’m told. 

1960 Datsun 1300 Pickup
I never rode in a buckboard, but I took plenty of trips in the Datsun pickup truck over the years, to high school, to college.  It was the vehicle in which I learned to drive. And shift.
Bounced all over the road in that thing.

Nissan is going to resurrect the Datsun brand soon, but they’re not going to be selling any stateside just yet. They’re having too much fun selling Nissans in all shapes and sizes.

Which leads to a pop quiz:

Poetry in Motion:
The 2012 G37 Convertible

What has a satellite receiver, resin-coated pistons, a 12-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, power-tilt and telescoping steering column with synchronized instrument cluster, power retractable hard-top roof, and an analog clock? 

Oh, and it runs like a scalded dog.

The 2012 Infinity G37 Convertible 6MT is the latest mechanical alchemy to blend all of the above into a sleek and sexy coupe that commands the road effortlessly. Hyperbole aside, there’s no better way to celebrate Springtime in Texas than in a quality drop-top coupe from Infinity.
Command and Control Center

The automobile is not without its shortcomings…but more about that later. Infinity has built-in features and amenities—like the heated seats, Bose headrest speakers, and a navigation/entertainment/information nerve center—that beg you to fill the tank and find a winding road to fulfill your wanderlust.

And then there’s the curb appeal of the G37 Convertible…when you can find one sitting still long enough to admire.  The G37 has a beautifully-sculpted skin that oozes sex appeal, and shrugs off headwinds, cross-winds, and any other kind of friction that would deter it from your appointed rounds.  

Not a MicroSoft button
The G37 Convertible’s road stance is beefy, brawny, and sleekly muscular. My favorite part of the day was firing-up the engine for the first time, and listening to the throatiness of the twin exhausts, rumbling through cold converters and resonators before they achieved their running pitch.

A 3.7-liter V-6 has plenty of pep to quickly propel you down the road—and that’s when the real joy of driving the G37 kicks in: It purrs at freeway speeds, and grabs a lane and keeps it like those old Tigerpaw commercials back in the day. 
This is a fun car to drive about in, and turn heads, too!

Nissan's Transformer

Okay, full-disclosure dictates I mention a couple of shortcomings I am sure Nissan can smooth out: The three-piece solid retractable-roof looks cool when it’s up, and tucks away seamlessly when it’s down. In between, it’s like seeing one of the Transformers rearing-up in your rearview mirror… and whether it’s up or down, things rattle back there like a bag of canes.

You'll have to pack light...

Secondly, there is NO trunk space if the top is down. 
Oh, there’s room for a couple of umbrellas, and a can of chili, but this is not the car you’re going to be able to drive across Texas in, if you expect to take more than a day’s worth of clothes.  And you want them to be unwrinkled. 

The other surprising thing about this car—that’s a pretty stiff six-speed tranny and clutch for such a delightfully dapper looking car. 
It takes a little getting used to, and after a week, the calf and thigh muscles in my left leg were more pronounced than in my right leg.

The Infinity G37 Convertible is a beautiful automobile, all in all. 
My ’69 Datsun would be jealous.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Longing for Simpler Times

My grandparents used to say they longed for a simpler time. 
The Waltons television series was a good example of the simpler times to which they referred, even though those times included the uncertainties following The Great Depression and the anxieties of the Second World War.

My parents moved away from what is now the 5th-most populous metropolitan region in the country, nearly two decades before it reached that dubious distinction, because they thought things were getting too crowded, too complex. Now a visit here lasting more than a few days is an exercise in their patience with the rest of modern society.

This week I finally realized what the past two generations of elders had been talking about.

My bride has never been a nagger. 
She’s not shy about asking me to do things, and knows just how far she can press a point about meeting a deadline on a list of things to do. Which only makes me love her that much more.  The past few months have been quite busy, too, so when things-to-do begin to pile up, she’s got the most-deft touch in spurring me onward.

Not so the electronic prompts in our lives.
It takes two alarm settings to rouse me these days, timed ten minutes apart.

I have differently-themed chimes on my smartphone for various alerts about e-mails, Tweets, text messages and voice mails. And when a partner in an on-line game makes a play, there’s a tone for that, too. 

I also have customized ring tones for various individuals in my life, but that’s a separate thesis for another post.

Earlier this week I received an e-mail from a fitness group I have joined at work. We’re wearing electronic sensors that count our steps, whether walking or running, and they automatically transmit our progress to a receiver set up in the office, silently—insidiously—uploading our daily, if not hourly progress.

The e-mail told me I wasn’t doing enough.

I get up each morning at 2:30am, and try to arrive at the studio by 4am for a 5am show start. The show now runs five hours long, after which I am engaged in various projects from writing and taping stories for the rest of the day, or arranging for new programming on the station, working with the Sales and Continuity Departments. I walk all over that station, including the new facility that’s under construction.

And I get an e-mail from a machine that I’m not doing enough.

"Objects on screen are closer than we'd like.
Please pick up after yourself..."
The vehicle I am testing this week features a sonar-camera system that displays a 360-degree view of what’s nearby. Tonight as I pulled into the garage, sensor alarms went off as they "saw" items adjudged to be too close for the vehicle’s comfort. 

I turned on the camera system to view the display…and the vehicle told me what I have long suspected: I have junky garage.

I long for the simpler times, too.