Kicks Delivers Value

By Derek Price

Nissan is aiming its smallest crossover, the Kicks, at someone who wants a lot of new-car features without breaking the bank.
Carrying a starting price under $20,000 — a rarity these days, especially for a crossover — the Kicks is one of the best bang-for-the-buck vehicles I’ve driven in the past year.
You can feel its budget-oriented design in some ways, including when you mash the gas pedal and don’t get much of a response, but it punches above its class in other areas.
The 2022 Kicks doesn’t look or feel like a budget car. A redesign last year made its body more contemporary and interior more refined, giving it an air of quality and modernity that the previous iteration lacked.
Sharp headlights, an antagonistic grille and Nissan’s “floating roof” design that cleverly camouflages the C-pillar all give the Kicks a sophisticated look for an affordable car. Inside is more of the same story, where soft materials and tight construction impress for the price.

A redesign last year made the Kicks look more contemporary while keeping its distinctive “floating roof” look.

It has a stunning equipment list for its class, too, including two things that are very unusual in small, affordable crossovers: rear automatic braking and a 360-degree Around View Monitor that shows the car from an overhead perspective when backing up.
My tester, priced under $26,000 with options, included all those features and more. It also came with an excellent Bose sound system, part of the $1,200 Premium Package, that delivered rich, full music in part because of small speakers in the driver’s headrest. Bose says it provides “360 degrees of immersive sound,” and it’s an accurate description.
Every Kicks model, including the base S trim, comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. That cheapest, sub-$20k model also comes with most of the features today’s buyers are looking for, including a 7-inch touchscreen, push-button start, keyless entry and three USB ports to power portable devices.

The Kicks’ cabin is well equipped for the price, including a base model with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on its 7-inch touchscreen.

It skimps in the one area many people don’t care about: the powertrain. A 115-horsepower, four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission are merely adequate, seemingly meant for good gas mileage more than driving enjoyment.
A little more power and a manual transmission could show off the Kicks’ stiff chassis and nicely tuned suspension at their full potential, but alas, I’m not running Nissan for very good reasons. Most buyers don’t care about that enthusiast nonsense like I do.
The good news is that the powertrain does exactly what many buyers are looking for given 2022’s gas prices. The Kicks is rated for an impressive 31 mpg in city driving and 36 on the highway.
Pricing starts at $19,800 for the S grade and tops out at $22,340 for the SR before options.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2022 Nissan Kicks SR CVT ($22,240). Options: Premium package ($1,200), premium paint ($595), carpeted floor and cargo mats ($225), 17-inch black alloy wheels ($495).  Price as tested (including $1,225 destination charge): $25,980
Wheelbase: 103.1 in.
Length: 169.1 in.
Width: 69.3 in.
Height: 63.4 in.
Engine: 1.6-liter four cylinder (122 hp, 114 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Continuously variable
Fuel economy: 31 city, 36 highway

Style: 7
Performance: 5
Price: 10
Handling: 7
Ride: 6
Comfort: 6
Quality: 7
Overall: 7

Why buy it?
It’s a tremendous value for a compact crossover, offering a lot of content and sophistication for the money.

Posted in Nissan

Speed to the Soccer Field

By Derek Price

You need a crossover for your family. You want an eye-catching luxury car, and you lust for a high-speed track machine.
What do you buy? Something like what I’m driving this week, the Jaguar F-PACE SVR.
While the standard F-PACE is more than competent starting around $51,000, with enough modern style and coddling comfort to justify the Jaguar name, the SVR version is an entirely different beast.
It’s powered by a rip-roaring, 550-horsepower, supercharged V8. It’s the kind of engine that seems completely insane to shoehorn into a practical, family-friendly crossover, but that’s just part of the appeal.
It’s nuts. It’s crazy. It doesn’t make any logical sense.
And I completely love it for that.
Driving a 550-horsepower family car is something everyone should do at least once in their life. It looks relatively sedate, especially to people who don’t know much about cars, with the familiar sleek, soap-bar body shape that countless small SUVs have taken in the past decade.
Stomp the gas pedal, though, and everyone within earshot will understand what you’re driving: an insanely fast machine.

The Jaguar F-PACE SVR is a 550-horsepower crossover designed to mix everyday comfort with track-day speed.

Aficionados will notice the little touches that make the SVR version special. Bigger vents and openings keep the powertrain and brakes cool, while tasteful SVR badges stand out to people who know what that means.
In the F-PACE SVR’s case, it means you can go from a standstill to 60 mph in a supercar-like 3.8 seconds. It has a top speed of 178 mph, fast enough to get your kid to soccer practice in the blink of an eye.
More realistically, it’s built for people who want a car they can enjoy every day and occasionally take to the track. It’s actually downright comfortable as a daily driver, without the harsh ride, ear-splitting engine noise and droning exhaust note that can plague some track-focused cars.
Push it hard, though, and it changes personality completely.
The engine has a delicious, bellowing sound through the tailpipes at full throttle, and the shocks seem to get firmer as you drive more aggressively. It does a great job keeping body roll in check, making the roomy crossover feel more like a nimble sports sedan when you toss it around.

The F-PACE has a modern, technology-focused interior with minimalist design.

Gigantic two-piece brakes, a tight steering feel and a brilliantly tuned adaptive suspension all work in concert to make the monster power on tap seem balanced, not overkill.
Inside, the F-PACE is thoroughly modern. That may be a disappointment for those of us seasoned enough to appreciate the wood-paneled splendor of an old Jaguar, the kind of car you want to sit inside with your Labrador and smoking jacket.
This Jag, like all its contemporary siblings, is a better fit for a sport coat and Maltipoo. It’s new, fresh, cool and sophisticated inside, all about tech-oriented creature comforts with a relaxing, minimalist look.
Overall, it’s really nicely done.
What does it cost? The F-PACE SVR starts at $84,600 before upgrades. My tester rang up over $96,000 after checking the option boxes, including more than $4,500 for a premium paint finish.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2021 Jaguar F-PACE SVR ($84,600). Options: Hot climate pack ($2,110), SVO ultra-metallic paint ($4,550), 22-inch wheels ($1,200), head-up display ($1,010), Meridian surround sound ($800), gloss black roof rails ($360), rear privacy glass ($200), adaptive surface response ($150), additional power sockets ($99).  Price as tested (including $1,150 destination charge): $96,229
Wheelbase: 113.1 in.
Length: 187.5 in.
Width: 85.6 in.
Height: 65.7 in.
Engine: 5.0-liter supercharged V8 (550 hp, 516 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 15 city, 22 highway

Style: 8
Performance: 10
Price: 5
Handling: 10
Ride: 8
Comfort: 9
Quality: 8
Overall: 9

Why buy it?
It’s a no-compromise family vehicle for people who want speed, style, luxury and practicality.

Posted in Jaguar

All-Powerful Titan

By Derek Price

Truck marketers seem to love bragging rights.
In the Nissan Titan’s case, that means boasting about an important figure: the most standard horsepower of any light-duty truck for sale today.
The Titan’s 5.6-liter Endurance V8 makes 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque, enough to top the base engines from its rivals at Ford, Chevrolet, GMC, Ram and Toyota.
Unfortunately, that boast can easily be flipped to a downside for anyone who wants a different engine. The one and only option in the Titan is a V8 paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission, a stark contrast to the slew of powertrains available in American-brand trucks and the better fuel efficiency from the fresh Toyota Tundra.
For people who need that rumbling V8 power, the Titan offers a lot of truck for the money, especially in its base configuration at around $40,000.

The Nissan Titan has only one engine available, and it’s a beast: a 5.7-liter, 400-horsepower V8.

It can tow up to 9,660 pounds, which is not as much as its rivals but more than enough for most owners.
It also comes with an exhaustive list of safety features at no extra charge, including Nissan Safety Shield 360 with automatic rear braking and Intelligent Forward Collision Warning.
Peace of mind comes from what Nissan calls America’s Best Truck Warranty. It includes bumper-to-bumper coverage for five years or 100,000 miles, a major selling point.
After its 2020 redesign, the Titan’s driving feel became much more quiet and refined than before. The cabin has roomy and incredibly comfortable front seats, but the space in back is a bit more compact than competitors.
From the driver’s seat, the Titan feels like it’s trying to combine several extremes: the power and utility of a commercial truck, the silky smoothness of a luxury car and the heart-thumping acceleration of a muscle car. Without any cargo to pull, it really does feel like a Mustang with a pickup bed.

The Titan’s cabin is available with a nine-inch touchscreen that runs Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for simple smartphone connectivity.

While the standard suspension is better for highway driving, my tester came with the PRO-4X suspension designed for off-roading. It uses Bilstein mono-tube shocks that deliver a stiffer ride, but it’s still compliant and quiet enough for daily driving. I actually liked the stiffer ride because it gave the truck a fun, surprisingly sporty ride for a pickup.
Offering only a V8 engine has an obvious downside: gas mileage.
The federal government rates the Titan at 21 mpg on the highway and 16 in city driving. My PRO-4X tester drops both those numbers by 1 mpg.
For the most part, the Titan rolls into 2022 unchanged from last year. Some content changes make the SV King Cab a better value, adding a number of standard features that were optional in 2021, including a nine-inch touchscreen, dual-zone climate control and heated front seats.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2022 Nissan Titan Pro-4X 4×4 Crew Cab ($51,200). Options: Pro-4X Utility Package ($2,190), Pro-4X Convenience Package ($3,390), Pro-4X Moonroof Package ($1,490), rugged step boards ($1,050), illuminated kick plate ($350), tow mirrors ($910).  Price as tested (including $1,695 destination charge): $62,275
Wheelbase: 139.8 in.
Length: 229.5 in.
Width: 80.7 in.
Height: 77.2 in.
Engine: 5.6-liter Endurance V8 (400 hp, 413 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 15 city, 20 highway

Style: 9
Performance: 10
Price: 5
Handling: 6
Ride: 7
Comfort: 7
Quality: 7
Overall: 7

Why buy it?
For people who need or want a traditional V8 engine, the Titan offers compelling performance.

Posted in Nissan