Nissan Truck Adds Layouts

Cargazing
By Derek Price

The last time I drove Nissan’s brawny Titan XD pickup, it felt like trying to wrangle a mountain.
If you want a truck that can haul your whole family while pulling geologic features behind it, well, that makes sense.
This time, my big-truck tester felt much more manageable because it didn’t come with the four-door, SUV-like Crew Cab layout. Instead, this one was a King Cab with rear-facing back doors and a smaller back seat that’s useful in a pinch.
The difference between the two is striking. The smaller King Cab felt dramatically easier to maneuver into tight parking spots and drive through city traffic compared to the lumbering Crew Cab.

After only being available in the huge Crew Cab configuration at its launch, Nissan has now added King Cab and Single Cab models as more affordable and maneuverable options in the Titan XD lineup.

The Titan XD has a lot going for it, starting with a solid feeling to the cabin trim, switchgear and overall driving impression that makes it seem like it’s built to last. This truck is new enough — just a couple of years since its introduction — that the jury is still out on its long-term durability, but Nissan offers a vote of confidence with what it calls “America’s Best Truck Warranty.”
The five-year, 100,000-mile policy offers longer protection than most trucks, a strong selling point in a highly competitive and traditionally brand-loyal market for pickups.
My XD tester was outfitted with a Cummins V8 turbo diesel engine, a perfect fit in a truck designed for towing heavy loads. Not only does it have the reputation for durability that comes with the Cummins name, but it also operates surprisingly quietly — as long as you keep the windows rolled up.
The sound-dampening in the Titan works wonders for what sounds like a relatively noisy, uncouth, built-for-work engine from outside the truck.
Inside, it’s shockingly silent, even under heavy acceleration.
The 5.0-liter Cummins diesel V8 makes 310 horsepower and, more importantly, 555 pound-feet of torque.
If you don’t want or need the diesel, a 5.6-liter gasoline V8 is available. Paired with a seven-speed automatic, the gas powerplant delivers 390 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque.
Aside from the capability and confidence that comes from driving a big, purpose-built piece of towing machinery, my favorite part of being behind the wheel of this truck is how the transmission feels and sounds when it shifts. Every gear change is quick, smooth and precise, something very unusual for big trucks. The six-speed Aisin automatic works brilliantly to deliver power to the wheels in a controlled, predictable fashion.

The Titan XD has a straightforward, easy-to-use interior with large, clearly marked buttons and switches. Contrasting stitching and chrome trim gives it an upscale look on top trim levels.

As a relatively fresh truck platform, the Titan XD offers the kinds of tech features contemporary buyers expect. And, predictably, many of them are centered around towing: an integrated trailer brake controller, trailer sway control, and a tow-haul mode with downhill speed control.
One of my favorites is an ingenious system that makes it easier to check that the trailer lights are working correctly without a helper needed. You can use the key fob to activate all the trailer lights in sequence to verify they’re operating.
After rolling out the huge Crew Cab first, in late 2016, Nissan expanded the lineup this year with Single Cab and King Cab variants. It also beefed up the options list with five new packages that let customers change the look and capability of their truck, ranging from towing enhancements to leather and chrome appearance choices.
Pricing starts at $31,590 for a Single Cab model in the base S trim. The King Cab starts at $33,560, while the huge Crew Cab rings up at $36,790 with the gasoline V8.

At A Glance

What was tested?
2017 Nissan Titan XD SV 4WD KC ($46,540). Options: Texas Titan edition ($1,250), SV utility package ($1,120), SV comfort and convenience package ($2,530). Price as tested (including $1,195 destination charge): $52,635
Wheelbase: 139.8 in.
Length: 231 in.
Width: 79.5 in.
Height: 77.2 in.
Engine: 5.0-liter Cummins diesel V8 (310 hp, 555 ft. lbs.)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy: Not rated

RATINGS
Style: 8
Performance: 9
Price: 7
Handling: 5
Ride: 7
Comfort: 8
Quality: 8
Overall: 7

Why buy it?
It’s a solid, capable truck with a long warranty for confidence.

Posted in Nissan

A Crossover On A Diet

Cargazing
By Derek Price

When I think of Cadillac, there’s one concept that never comes to mind: light weight.
Yet that’s exactly what the classic American luxury brand is focusing on as it designs vehicles for a new generation of upscale buyers, people more interested in Earth-friendly fuel economy and sporty handling than the fuel-guzzling barges their parents and grandparents bought.
The latest example is the XT5, an all-new crossover that replaces the good but not exceptional SRX.
The XT5 is 278 pounds lighter than its predecessor, despite offering more leg room inside and a more substantial presence at the curb, something that helps its fuel economy. Cadillac also likes to brag that the XT5 is 100 pounds lighter than the impressive Audi Q5 and a whopping 650 pounds lighter than the Mercedes-Benz GLE.
The result is a vehicle that has a more snappy, crisp driving feel than the SRX, although without quite as much snappiness as I’d hoped.

With wheels pushed closer to the corners and a sleek, sloping roofline, the all-new Cadillac XT5 has the looks to back up its sportier driving feel.

While the XT5 is competent in corners, and certainly an improvement over the old SRX, I never felt like it wanted to be pushed hard. It seems to moan and groan about it rather than yell “wheee!” like the best crossovers in this class do.
Even its seat belts feel squeamish about cornering. When you pull enough G-forces in a turn, just at the point things start to get fun, the active safety system yanks the seat belts tight around your body because it apparently thinks you’re going to die.
And that’s a shame, because this new chassis feels like it has the potential to be spectacular. If it came with GM’s sophisticated magnetic ride control, or maybe a high-performance V package, it could cross into the territory of the truly extraordinary.
As it is, it’s a dramatic improvement over its forebears and a compelling vehicle to cross-shop against the pricey European and Japanese luxury brands.
I liked a lot of things about my XT5 tester: the looks, cabin, acceleration and a seemingly endless list of high-tech bells and whistles.
I even like its CUE digital interface, something other critics frequently target. To me, the CUE touchscreen system seemed to work very quickly, looked beautiful and was easy to learn and understand.

Authentic materials in natural colors make the XT5’s cabin feel warm and inviting. It’s designed to look clean and simple for a relaxing, calming impression.

I didn’t find it as frustrating to use as Lexus’ next-generation system, for example, which makes you operate it with a touchpad as if your 2017 luxury car was a 1997 black plastic laptop.
Inside, the cabin is as finely crafted as any of the competition — not that there are any slouches in this highly competitive class. It has a clean, simple look that almost evokes Scandinavian minimalism, but with natural colors and textures that beg you to touch them.
Given Cadillac’s goal to make its crossover feel sportier, the decision for its new engine makes perfect sense. It utilizes the same delicious 3.6-liter V6 that powers the ATS and CTS sports sedans.
The result is an engine that revs quickly and bellows beautifully out the tailpipes when you ask it to exert itself. It makes 310 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque, numbers that until recently would be associated with truck-like V8 engines. Yet its quick response and smooth, syrupy power delivery feel about as un-truck-like as you can get.
It feels less like an SUV and more like a sports sedan, which is exactly what Cadillac thinks the next generation of buyers will be looking for.
Pricing starts at $40,390 and ranges up to $63,890 for the Platinum trim.

At A Glance

What was tested?
2017 Cadillac XT5 Platinum ($62,895). Options: Driver assistance package ($2,340). Price as tested (including $995 destination charge): $66,230
Wheelbase: 112.5 in.
Length: 189.5 in.
Width: 75 in.
Height: 66 in.
Engine: 3.6-liter V6 (310 hp, 271 ft. lbs.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 19 city, 27 highway

RATINGS

Style: 9
Performance: 7
Price: 7
Handling: 5
Ride: 6
Comfort: 8
Quality: 9
Overall: 8

Why buy it?
It has an all-new design with impressive looks, performance and technology. It feels like a sportier, more upmarket product than the outgoing SRX it replaces in Cadillac’s rapidly improving lineup.

Posted in Cadillac

Nissan Slices Rogue

Cargazing
By Derek Price

Crossover vehicles are so popular right now that car companies are apparently dumping them into a food processor to slice and dice them into tiny segments.
The latest sliver? Nissan has chopped its fast-selling Rogue into a new variant, the Rogue Sport.
Just looking at the two in pictures, I struggle to tell the difference. They both have Nissan’s familiar crossover face and the slightly rakish roofline that’s so in vogue right now.
Pull out your measuring tape, though, and the differences become clear. The Sport’s wheelbase is about 2 inches shorter, and its overall length is over a foot shorter than the ordinary Rogue, Nissan’s top-selling vehicle.
That means there are some drawbacks but also some advantages.
On the plus side, the Rogue Sport is more maneuverable and easier to whip into tight parking spaces than the bigger Rogue. It feels like a good fit for urban drivers, singles or young couples who don’t need the extra cargo space and heft that bigger crossovers often require.
On the other hand, you lose some of the attributes that make the Rogue so popular and versatile: its third-row seat and ample cargo area.
In the Rogue, putting the third-row seat in place means you’re left with a paltry 9.4 cubic feet of cargo space. But at least you have the option to fold that back seat down to expand the volume to a generous 32 cubic feet. Fold both the second and third rows flat, and you’re left with an SUV-like 70 cubic feet of space for hauling your stuff.
In comparison, the Rogue Sport has 22.9 cubic feet with the second-row seat up and 61.1 with it stowed away.

A new variant of the Rogue, called the Rogue Sport, is more than a foot shorter in length than the popular Nissan.

Power is similarly chopped for the Rogue Sport, all the way down to 141 horsepower compared to 170 in its bigger cousin. You can definitely feel the difference when you step on the gas pedal, but you won’t see a huge benefit at the pump.
The Rogue Sport gets a government rating of 25 mpg in the city and 32 on the highway, just a 1-mpg improvement over the Rogue. Given the 20-percent power deficit, I’d hope for better numbers than that.
As a whole, though, it checks a lot of the boxes that contemporary buyers are looking for: sporty styling, more versatility than a small sedan, good gas mileage and well-designed technology for safety and connecting smartphones.
It comes standard with Siri EyesFree, and a suite of advanced safety features — adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and prevention, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection — can be added for an extra charge. Those cost a total of $570 as part of the Platinum package on my SL-grade tester.

Nissan’s “gliding wing” design gives the Rogue Sport’s cabin a symmetrical, roomy appearance.

On the outside, the Rogue Sport looks every bit an athletic, sophisticated crossover. It may be visually overreaching, though, given its four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission are anything but sporty.
Inside, it feels more spacious than its compact dimensions would suggest. Nissan’s designers use what they call a “gliding wing” motif to give it a symmetrical, visually cohesive look that makes it feel roomy and modern from the front seats.
Pricing starts at $21,420 for the Rouge Sport, which is $2,400 less than the bigger Rogue.

At A Glance

What was tested?
2017 Nissan Rogue Sport SL AWD ($27,420). Options: SL Premium Package ($2,280), Platinum Package ($570). Price as tested (including $835 destination charge): $31,240
Wheelbase: 104.2 in.
Length: 172.4 in.
Width: 72.3 in.
Height: 63.3 in.
Engine: 2.0-liter inline four cylinder (141 hp, 147 ft. lbs.)
Transmission: Xtronic CVT
Fuel economy: 25 city, 32 highway

RATINGS
Style: 7
Performance: 6
Price: 8
Handling: 7
Ride: 6
Comfort: 6
Quality: 7
Overall: 6

Why buy it?
It’s a more maneuverable, city-friendly version of Nissan’s most popular vehicle, the Rogue.

Posted in Nissan

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