V8-powered Titan still strong

By Derek Price
Automotive Writer

First things first: The Nissan Titan is in need of an update, which is why there’s an all-new version of this pickup coming out for 2016. I can’t wait to drive it.
For now, though, the current generation Titan can still get the job done for certain types of buyers as it reaches the end of its lifespan. People who need a powerful V8 and a brilliantly designed cargo tie-down system for a work truck could be well served by the big Nissan, and they might find some great bargains on dealer lots as the new truck gets ready to launch.

The 2015 Nissan Titan has a rugged, sturdy driving feel and standard V8 engine.

The 2015 Nissan Titan has a rugged, sturdy driving feel and standard V8 engine.

This pickup’s strongest and weakest point is, paradoxically, the same thing: its engine.
The huge, 5.6-liter, 317-horsepower V8 in the Titan remains a muscular performer, allowing for a tow rating of 7,400 pounds even on the base model. It can pull up to 9,500 pounds with the proper equipment and offers a wild, bellowing kick when you stomp on the gas pedal.
Unfortunately, that sense of endless torque comes with a price: a city fuel economy rating of just 13 mpg, or 12 mpg with four-wheel drive. The lack of a smaller, more efficient option under the hood remains this truck’s greatest drawback.
Other things I’m looking forward to seeing improved on the new 2016 Titan include its plastic-laden interior, stiff ride and slightly dated exterior styling.
Yes, those are picky things, but you’ve got to be picky in today’s competitive truck market.
On the flip side, there were several features I loved on my $47,100 test truck in addition to the ample V8 power.
One is Nissan’s Utili-Track system for tying down cargo in the bed. It uses big, strong cleats that can slide along sturdy rails to make it easy to secure cumbersome or odd-shaped cargo. Other trucks are offering similar tie-down systems, but I’m a fan of Nissan’s version because of its simplicity and solid, heavy feel.
Another nice feature is the bedside storage bin Nissan has managed to squeeze behind the rear wheel. This optional, lockable storage compartment is perfect for tossing small tools or gloves into, giving you easy access to frequently used items without having to climb into the bed and unlock a big tool box.

Hard plastic surfaces and an awkward digital screen placement make the Titan’s cabin look a bit dated, but an all-new version coming out for 2016 should fix those picky things.

Hard plastic surfaces and an awkward digital screen placement make the Titan’s cabin look a bit dated, but an all-new version coming out for 2016 should fix those picky things.

With its rugged feel and smart storage options, I love the Titan as a work truck. I’m not as wild about it as a comfortable, drive-around-town truck, though, because of all those picky things that its recently redesigned competitors have improved upon.
If you’re looking for a good value on a V8-powered work truck, the 2015 Titan could make a great choice.
And if you’re looking for the latest and greatest in pickups, mark your calendar to get some seat time at your Nissan dealer later this year. The all-new Titan was unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show recently and will be available in “late 2015,” Nissan says.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2015 Nissan Titan Crew Cab 4×4 SL ($43,860). Options: Utility accessory package ($370), rear bumper step assist ($235), Texas Titan floor mats ($165), Texas Titan package ($1,375). Price as tested (including $1,095 destination charge): $47,100
Wheelbase: 139.8 in.
Length: 224.6 in.
Width: 79.5 in.
Height: 76.3 in.
Engine: 5.6-liter V8 (317 horsepower, 385 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Estimated Mileage: 13 city, 18 highway

RATINGS
Style: 6
Performance: 8
Price: 7
Handling: 5
Ride: 4
Comfort: 5
Quality: 6
Overall: 6

Video Review:
2015 Nissan Titan
bit.ly/2015titan

Why buy it? 
If you need a V8-powered work truck, the Titan can do the job. Its Utili-Track cargo tie downs and standard V8 power make it a capable performer.

Posted in Nissan

Making the Case for Midsize

By Derek Price
Automotive Writer

Without getting too deep into the psychology behind it, it’s safe to say many people in the pickup truck world assume bigger is better.
If a half-ton truck is good, a one-ton truck is better. If the RockCrusher 1500 is good, the RockCrusher 2500 is better. So goes their logic, at least.
Well, the Chevrolet Colorado is making the case that smaller pickups can be a better fit for many of today’s truck drivers. Like its cousin from GMC, the Canyon, it’s showing a new generation of buyers that there are some big-time advantages to driving a smaller truck.

The 2015 Chevrolet Colorado is the first all-new midsize truck to hit the market in many years. It’s dramatically raising the bar in this segment and winning awards like Motor Trend’s “Truck of the Year” in the process.

The 2015 Chevrolet Colorado is the first all-new midsize truck to hit the market in many years. It’s dramatically raising the bar in this segment and winning awards like Motor Trend’s “Truck of the Year” in the process.

It’s easier to maneuver. It gets better gas mileage. It doesn’t feel so bulky over the road, giving you a more controlled ride than any full-size truck for sale today.
It’s such an eye-opener, in fact, that the folks at Motor Trend magazine shocked the world by naming the 2015 Colorado their “Truck of the Year.” Everyone — and I mean everyone — assumed the Ford F-150 would be a shoo-in for the big award after getting a much-lauded overhaul with a new, advanced aluminum body.
Nope. The prize went to the humble new Chevy instead.
And after driving the Colorado for a week, I see exactly why.
Not only does it have all the advantages of a smaller truck, making me wonder why so many people pay the big bucks for a full-size pickup that burns more fuel and isn’t as enjoyable to drive, but it also can do a lot more work than its “midsize” label would suggest.
With a V6 engine and the towing package, it’s rated to pull up to 7,000 pounds. And with a brilliant lineup of optional storage accessories called GearOn, its bed can be configured to haul all kinds of large, bulky items, including 4-by-8-foot sheets of plywood above the wheelhouses.
In other words, it’s a serious truck that makes the old, trusty Ford Ranger look like a joke.
Granted, the Colorado benefits from some unusually weak competition. The tiny Ranger is long gone now, and both the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma have limped along with only minor changes for many years, making them look like shrines to hard plastic and rough rides at a time when the rest of the automotive industry has moved on to soft-touch materials and more sophisticated suspension dampening.
New, vastly improved versions of the Tacoma and Frontier are reported to be on their way soon, but for now, GM’s midsize twins are in a class by themselves.

The Colorado’s interior and ride quality are lightyears ahead of the competition. Tight construction, some use of soft-touch materials and a modern layout make it the only up-to-date midsize truck on the market — at least for now.

The Colorado’s interior and ride quality are lightyears ahead of the competition. Tight construction, some use of soft-touch materials and a modern layout make it the only up-to-date midsize truck on the market — at least for now.

My Colorado tester was as quiet, comfortable and modern feeling as most crossover vehicles, yet its 4×4 system and 305-horsepower V6 eclipsed the capability of some full-size trucks.
Unfortunately, so did its price. The base Colorado starts around $20,000, but my test vehicle rang up at $36,710, which is $10 grand more than a base Silverado. You can get a crew-cab Silverado for roughly the same price as my well-equipped Colorado tester, but the Silverado would feel stripped down in comparison.
A premium Bose stereo and a navigation system with eight-inch touchscreen made the Colorado feel like a more upscale truck. As for me, I’d much rather drive the midsize Colorado every day than its full-size counterpart. It’s easier to live with.
The Colorado can do the jobs most people need from a truck without the heft and fuel bills of a bigger pickup, which makes for a great combination.
Motor Trend, you’ve made your point.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2015 Chevrolet Colorado 4WD Z71 Crew Short Box ($34,115). Options: Premium Bose audio system ($500), Chevrolet MyLink with Navigation ($495), spray-on bed liner ($475), trailering equipment package ($250). Price as tested (including $875 destination charge): $36,710
Wheelbase: 128.3 in.
Length: 212.7 in.
Width: 74.3 in.
Height: 70.6 in.
Engine: 3.6-liter direct injected V6 (305 horsepower, 269 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Estimated Mileage: 17 city, 24 highway

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

Video Review:
2015 Chevrolet Colorado
bit.ly/2015colorado

Why buy it? 
It’s the obvious standout in the midsize truck category, offering impressive capability in a pickup that’s easier to live with and gets better gas mileage than its full-size counterparts.

Posted in Chevrolet

Beetle brings miles of smiles


By Derek Price
Automotive Writer

When it comes to the Volkswagen Beetle, drivers either “get it” or they don’t.
After a week driving the 2015 Beetle Convertible in unseasonably warm weather, I can definitely see what this car is all about: putting a ridiculous, permanently embossed smile on your face.
If the ordinary Beetle is a 10 on the cute-o-meter, the drop-top slug bug is off-the-charts adorable. It’s puppies, rainbows, kittens and Care Bears all mashed together into a rolling piece of nostalgic art, and I can’t help but have a silly grin when I drive one.

The Volkswagen Beetle Convertible can take on a variety of personalities. There’s a cute and playful base model, the efficient TDI diesel and the powerful, sporty R-Line, shown here.

The Volkswagen Beetle Convertible can take on a variety of personalities. There’s a cute and playful base model, the efficient TDI diesel and the powerful, sporty R-Line, shown here.

Granted, this isn’t the most practical car in the world. Its design favors huggable good looks over functionality in some ways, such as its smallish trunk and limited rear-seat legroom. But Volkswagen does add some features to make it more livable, like an extra glove box up front and split-folding rear seats for hauling bigger cargo.
Aside from the endearing, retro-themed body lines, the Beetle Convertible’s best feature is its brilliantly engineered top. It’s thick with heavy insulation that does a good job blocking wind noise at highway speeds, making it nearly as quiet as the hard-top Beetle.
Even better, it can raise and lower electronically in around 10 seconds, making it one of the fastest power convertible tops I’ve ever seen on a car. It can operate at speeds of up to 31 mph, too, which means you can comfortably raise or lower the top any time you’re at a stoplight. Even if the light turns green, you can pull away while the top continues to stow itself into place.
Pricing starts under $26,000, which might seem high for people who remember the original Beetle’s dirt-cheap cost. And my loaded test car rang up around $10,000 more than that, with an out-the-door price of $35,915.
That price includes the kind of performance and luxury that would be unthinkable in original Beetles, though. A touch-screen navigation system, powerful Fender stereo, keyless start, heated leather seats and club-like ambient lighting all combine to make it an upscale, thoroughly modern cabin.

The Beetle’s cabin has the precise, solid feeling that typifies German cars.

The Beetle’s cabin has the precise, solid feeling that typifies German cars.

Because my test car had the R-Line performance package, it came with a 210-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that sent heaping scoops of sweet torque to the front wheels. It’s easily the best performing Beetle I’ve driven, made better by the fact that VW still offers a six-speed manual transmission. It’s a great choice for driving purists.
The R-Line package includes a firmer suspension and a lot of sporty trim bits, too, including revised front and rear bumpers, red brake calipers, gloss black mirror housings and special badges on the fenders.
The base version has a 1.8-liter engine that makes 170 horsepower, and you can also get it with a new TDI diesel engine that’s rated for 41 mpg on the highway.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2015 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 2.0T R-Line with Sound and Navigation ($35,095). Options: None. Price as tested (including $820 destination charge): $35,915
Wheelbase: 100 in.
Length: 168.4 in.
Width: 71.2 in.
Height: 58.0 in.
Engine: 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder (210 horsepower, 207 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Estimated Mileage: 24 city, 32 highway

RATINGS
Style: 10
Performance: 8
Price: 6
Handling: 6
Ride: 7
Comfort: 7
Quality: 8
Overall: 10

Video Review:
2015 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible
bit.ly/2015beetle

Why buy it? 
It’s a cute, fun-to-drive car with impressive German engineering. The sporty suspension and powerful engine in the R-Line performance package make it more exciting.

Posted in Volkswagen

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