nissan


Nissan Pathfinder: Affable and Affordable
by
The Car Family
for more reviews go to
http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/

Sometimes a car simply amazes you and that is the way it was with the new Pathfinder. Nissan has made this seven passenger SUV into a well mannered, fun, and versatile vehicle capable of handling most any terrain and with enough options to satisfy any taste. Perhaps, best of all, the Pathfinder starts around $30,000 (US). In other words Nissan has priced the this gentle giant under the cost of many mid-sized sedans.
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The Pathfinder is a radical departure from older generations and provides ample evidence that Nissan knows how to produce a seven passenger SUV that can match luxury brands in quality and performance. The unibody constructed Pathfinder offers ample cargo space, an upscale interior, and spry performance. Indeed, this Nissan is a joy to drive. It has excellent acceleration, good braking, is easy to park and offers superior value. The Pathfinder is very nimble.

Visibility in all directions is among the best ever in a large SUV and the 260-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 gave us over 23 mpg in mixed driving and 25 on the highway. That is impressive considering its towing capacity is 5000 pounds. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) in our test vehicle was unobtrusive, quick to react and kept the engine on task. A hybrid Pathfinder is also available.
2015 Nissan Pathfinder

Mom’s view: What a surprise. This is a big SUV that drivers like a small one. It has a turning radius that enables you to quickly maneuver into tight mall parking spaces. Safetywise, Pathfinder models come standard with dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags, traction and stability control systems and a tire pressure monitoring system. Options include a voice-activated navigation system, a 13-speaker Bose stereo and the best Around View system in the business providing a clear, 360-degree overhead view of nearby obstacles. A blind-spot warning system and rear cross-traffic alert are available on SL and up models. You can also order all wheel drive, but we found the front wheel drive enough to power through the recent snowfall without slippage.

The interior has plenty of storage spaces, but the real plus was the usefulness of the second row seats that have over five inches of travel and help make access to the third row of seats easier. I was impressed on how easy the seats folded flat enabling us to haul a six foot table with room to spare. A great place to put those bargains. The Pathfinder is available in S, SV, SL and Limited trim levels. Even the base model is well equipped with tri-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo system, and 18-inch alloy wheels and more. Nissan has created a value oriented SUV for families that has a 19.5 fuel tank making 500 miles trips possible without refueling.
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Working woman’s view: I reommend the SL version with its leather interior, power liftgate, remote start, heated front and rear seats, an electric-adjustable front passenger seat, and a digital compass as well as a 120V outlet. The center armrest is equipped with jacks for just about any devise. I would also add the Tech Package with its 13-speaker Bose stereo and a navigation system, eight-inch touchscreen, NavTraffic and NavWeather, and an around-view monitor that provides a 360-degree birds-eye view of the surrounding area. The interior is understated and quite funcitonal. I believe the information center was the easiest to use of any I have tested and the large touch screen was quick to accept inputs. There is also a DVD Family Entertainment Package that shows images on 7.0-inch screens located in the back of the front seat headrests.
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Dad’s view: This is not a performance vehicle and is tuned more for economy. The results are very good, but its real pride is in its handling and ride. If you haven’t driven a vehicle with a continuously variable transmission it might take you a short time to adjust. The braking is good for its class and the government crash test scores were all above average. The seats are very comfortable and the optional heating element works quickly. I highly recommend you look into the Pathfinder hybrid which, unlike the Toyota Highlander hybrid, can be purchased in models with a minimum of extras and thus starts around $35,000. Since Nissan also produces the best selling all-electric car, the Leaf, that technology certainly helps when they created the Pathfinder hybrid and were able to package the batteries with a minimum loss of cargo space. Essentially, the Pathfinder is a family vehicle for drivers who don’t like minivans. I found this Nissan refreshing and it showed quality throughout. I kept it in front wheel drive for better fuel mileage, but the recent bad weather gave me the opportunity to try it on slick roads and it never faltered. This is the type of one-size fits all households. It is easy enough to go grocery shopping, take a weekend trip, or commute with equal aplomb.

Family conference: This is an excellent choice for 909 readers looking for a large, family oriented SUV that is enjoyable to drive, has great visibility, and an abundance of features. Clearly, Nissan has done its homework and the Pathfinder gets our most improved SUV award. It certainly deserves a test drive. As always, we highly recommend you buy from a reliable dealer.

Nissan Rogue: Bigger and Better

by The Car Family

There are few cars so misnamed as the Nissan Rogue. Indeed, it is an honest vehicle that has great reliability and is ranked among the best affordable compact SUVs for families, and certainly no rogue. And although 909 readers have an average household income of about $100,000, Nissan went so far as to provide a Select model with a starting price around $20,000 for those on a budget.

Labeled a crossover, the Rogue has an abundance of cargo space, fairly good fuel mileage, and excellent crash scores. The standard four-cylinder engine runs through a continuously variable transmission and they combine for a 26/33 mpg average, near the top in this segment. The handling is fine for commuting and the whole kit and caboodle make for an ideal drop off the kids, go to the mall, or take a trip to Las Vegas. Top that off with a third row seat and you have a handy utility vehicle well worth a test drive. There isn’t any real sport in the Rogue, but that is just fine with us. No doubt, the new Nissan Rogue is both bigger and better.

2014 Nissan Rogue

Mom’s view: I enjoyed driving the Nissan, although the third row is best left for the younger set. You have a large cargo bay made even better as the rear seat has a 40/60 split and the seats can fold flat. I liked Nissan’s Divide-N-Hide cargo system designed to keep things in place as well as away from prying eyes. Very handy, but read the manual first. The interior is rather plain, but the Rogue’s useful dash display and handy buttons makes it very workable. I especially liked the optional Nissan’s Around View monitor that uses four cameras to provide an aerial perspective of what is around the vehicle. You must order this system, especially for those who park in crowded lots. Standard features include a four-speaker stereo, Bluetooth, a rearview camera, auxiliary audio jack and a USB port. Safety-wise the Nissan can be ordered with LED headlights, Forward Collision Warning and Safety Shield, a phrase for a battery of safety features that includes Blind Spot Warning, Lane Departure Warning and Forward Collision Warning and more. I liked the theater type seating for those in the second row. Overall, this is truly a family vehicle. It does everything a carrier of people should with a touch of elegance and a huge amount of safety equipment. Best of all, it does this in a workmanlike fashion

Rogue 2014 de Nissan

Young working woman’s view: If you need a third row of seats on a consistent basis move up to the Pathfinder. Secondly, although the base price of $22,490 is attractive, it only takes a couple of option packages to drive that sticker price well north of $33,000. However, Nissan is offering some great lease deals that make the Rogue an extremely attractive alternative. The Roguege is an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety top award and its did well in other crash tests as well. As Mom said, a great family vehicle especially with the optional Forward Collision Warning. The Rogue is Nissan’s second top selling vehicle and it is easy to see why with additional standard features including Nissan’s Advanced Air Bag System with dual-stage supplemental front air bags; front seat-mounted side impact supplemental air bags; roof-mounted curtain side impact supplemental air bags with rollover sensor for front and rear-seat outboard occupant head protection among other features. The Nissan is easy to drive and maneuver and park. It is a handy size and the entry height isn’t too high, but the rear hatch is a reach. Dad’s view: No question that the Rogue’s engine comes in for a fair amount of criticism due to its noise under stressful conditions. I didn’t mind it knowing that the 2.5-liter four cylinder engine produces 170 horsepower and uses Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission to provide an excellent fuel economy. In fact, the Sport mode helped make the transmission respond more appropriately to driver input when driving in the mountains. Tight canyon turns were  no challenge and driving down valleys found that Nissan had provided the transmission with the ability to help brake the Rogue (Active Engine Braking). Nissan is promoting its NASA inspired zero gravity driver’s seat to reduce stress. I found it comfortable, but you need to test it yourself. One interesting feature was the Easy Fill Tire Alert system that uses the Rogue’s horn to signal when the tire inflation at the correct level. Young working male’s view: This vehicle is loaded with useful features. For example, the Moving Object Detection enhances the driver’s awareness of objects around it when starting out. The electronics are good with a seven-inch color monitor and a GPS that is quick to refresh. The standard stereo is mid-range. What impressed me was the interior storage space. With the rear seats down you get 70 cubic feet of room and the rear seats can be reclined and can move forward or back. The Rogue doesn’t live up to its name, thank goodness. Hey, check out my latest music video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JRcJq34GMg#t=26) Family conference: The Rogue is a good choice and an excellent value and a trustworthy, family friendly vehicle,

Nissan Versa Note: You Can Carry it All

By The Car Family

For more vehicle reviews go to www.motorists.org/carfamily

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Searching for a snappy vehicle that gets gas mileage in the 40 mpg range, offers ample cargo space for a growing family and is cute enough to brighten up a gloomy day, take note; Nissan’s Versa Note. This roomy hatchback also adds one element missing in the competition and that is a starting list price under $15,000. Not bad for a competent, willing, and easy to maneuver vehicle, but it has one more notable attribute. This Versa Note would make it an ideal go to college car. You can pack the all the dorm room furnishing inside, park it in the tightest of parking spots, and never have to worry about your future graduate being in a speed contest because the 109 horsepower engine is built for frugality not velocity. Nevertheless, there is ample torque from the four cylinder engine to make freeway merging reassuring.

2014 Nissan Versa Note

Mom’s view: A sharp looking exterior hides a rather bland interior. However, the controls are easy to reach and visibility is outstanding, I would opt for the more upscale SV and SL models that offer the amenities I appreciate such as an ungraded interior fabrics and available heated seats. Speaking of which, the seats are a bit tight for those with girth concerns, but they are comfortable even on long trips. Those riding in the backseat are going to love the huge amount of room the Note offers. The rear cargo space is very generous and there is even a slim package shelf under the main floor for that iPad or laptop to cozy. Nissan’s Versa sedan costs less so you may want to cross shop them, but I found the looks of the Note more aesthetically pleasing and the hatchback configuration makes it easier for me to load. The greatest plus in owning the Note is in its versatility giving ample credence for the company’s selection of the Versa name. I also liked the way it handled in traffic and the slightly higher seating position that made it easy to enter and leave as well as see traffic ahead. Good value, a cute face, a tight turning radius and achieving hybrid type fuel mileage without the high cost of a hybrid were the closers for me.

 

Dad’s view: The 1.6 liter engine is designed for fuel economy and thus I would recommend the more upscale CVT equipped models to keep the engine in its sweet spot as much as possible. The initial acceleration is adequate, but you are going to have to be a bit abusive to the accelerator when going skiing with four adults and luggage. Brake feel is good and the steering surprisingly well weighted. Overall, this is a very enjoyable rig to commute with as can safely navigate through traffic and an wiggle its rear into tight parking spots the Kardashians could only dream about. The engine noise is fairly well muted and at cruising speed things settle down allowing you time to appreciate the option packages the Note offers. In fact, there is so much optional technology available that you could tickle the $19,000 mark. But I have noted that Nissan dealers are offering some enticing deals that truly make the MSRP truly a suggestion.

 

Young working woman’s view: The 360 degree Around view monitor comes only on the high level models, but it has to be seen to be believed, literally. It is so useful that it is almost a necessity once you get used to it as the Around system provides an “aerial” view of the Note and its surroundings. Great for tight parking situations. In fact, it is going to spoil you for any other vehicle that does not have this safety feature. Go to your Nissan dealer just to see the 360 Around view if nothing else. You can also order GPS and information and entertainment systems that go far beyond what you would expect in a car at this price. Young parents are going to love how easy it is to put a baby seat in as you don’t have to stress your back. The rear doors open wide and the height of the Versa means you don’t have to reach so far. The seniors shouldn’t pass up the Note either. It is economical to own and operate, carries large yard sale finds with ease, and there aren’t the usual blind spots. If you own a RV, with the proper equipment towing the Note with its light weight and spacious interior would make it an ideal choice. The Versa Note is a funky hatchback with a lot to love

2014 Nissan Versa Note

 

Young working male’s view: If you go with the SL package you can get USB socket, 4.3-inch color display, a fun to use Easy Fill system that monitors tire pressure, and an assortment of other smart driving and comfort features. Step up to the SL with the Tech package, which I recommend, and you get a larger monitor, navigation, the sensational Around View camera, satellite radio, Pandora, voice reading texts, Bluetooth audio streaming, and more. You just have to get this package as it adds so much to the Note’s enjoyment and if you are driving a Note you must have your tunes.

 

Family conference: The Note is unique in that it could be ideal for a one car family or as a second car or even as a handy tow behind RV choice. It is not a luxury car. For that move up to the smooth Nissan Maxima. What really separates the Versa Note from the competition is the myriad of technology available and its ability to offer owners a vehicle that can meet their needs without challenging their budget.

 

Nissan’s Leaf is to be sold in Europe, too, starting in January.

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Since March, nearly 12,000 customers in Europe have signed up for regular updates on Nissan LEAF’s introduction, and in the US and Japan pre-orders have exceeded 23,000 units since online reservations began in April.

Such high demand has meant the Nissan LEAF will launch slightly later than planned in the Netherlands. Sales are now expected to start in June 2011, with pre-orders opening to customers in October this year. All other market launch dates remain unchanged.

Nissan LEAF features  air conditioning, satellite navigation and a parking camera. Also available is a smart phone connectivity which will allow an owner to heat or cool the interior of the car remotely via a mobile phone.

The car’s AC motor develops 80 kW of power and 280 Nm of torque, enough for a maximum speed of more than  (90 mph.  The electric motor uses  laminated lithium-ion battery with a power output of more than 90 kW.

A full charge delivers a potential range of 100 miles. Global research indicates that the average daily mileage for 80 percent of the world’s population is under 60 miles for a daily commute.

http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/home/most-reliable-vehicles/

Box Cars: Perfect for Hauling Coal for Stockings

by The Car Family

For more reviews: http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/home/most-reliable-vehicles/

Looking for the best vehicle to haul that coal for the undeserving one’s stocking this holiday season? Well it might not be that simple since there are five main types of coal. Of these, Anthracite, which is an environmentalist nightmare, has significant carbon content, but high heating value. Bituminous, the most common, is used mainly for generating electricity and casts a large carbon footprint, too. There is also Subbituminous, which gives less heat, but also has less carbon, and Lignite, a younger coal with less potential.

So which coal to buy is the question, but equally of note is which box car to tote home the combustible sedimentary rock? Fortunately, this holiday season there are three fairly newly minted vehicles that provide good fuel mileage, room for four adults as well as a few bags of coal within their squared off exteriors. The box cars are the Scion xB the Kia Soul, and the Nissan Cube and they are as different as Bituminous is from Lignite despite their similar Lego-like looks.

Mom’s view: The most conservative of the trio is the fairly “spacious” Scion xB with nearly 70 cubic feet of interior space and a lengthy list of options from stereo upgrades to an integrated navigation system. There is an abundance of standard features, especially considering the mid-$15,000 price range. Acceleration is PCH brisk, which means it can get you to 40 mph in a hurry, but after that no rush. The engine is eager to please while still yielding above 30 mpg in mixed driving. The interior is quaint, but legroom is tight. Safety features include antilock brakes with brake assist, traction control, front seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and front active head restraints. Crash scores have been above average. Overall, this is a handy rig, but the bus driver type seat and steering wheel angle were obviously designed for a younger dudette.

Dad’s view: If you are into a bit more sport and a whole lot more fun the Kia Soul is worth a tug at your purse strings. Starting under $14,000, this cool coal hauler has a great seating position, good handling, although it can be harsh on tax deprived roads, and offers 53 cubic feet of cargo space or about room for 40 bushels. Besides its looks, the Soul has such standard features as a four-speaker stereo with CD/MP3 player, satellite radio, and auxiliary input jacks, as well as 12-volt power outlets. An enormous number of options can help give the Soul more soul, but definitely check out the glowing upholstery options and get the larger engine. The base engine and local canyons don’t make a good mix. Safety features include antilock brakes. stability control and front side airbags and side curtain airbags. A bit noisy, but with the excellent stereo it really doesn’t matter. Overall, a worthy utility machine that is loaded with value. However, a safety reminder is in order. Never, ever start the Soul after a member of the younger generation has driven it without first turning off the stereo first. You heard me, didn’t you?

Young guilty male driver’s view: Priced around $15,000, the Nissan Cube is an oxymoron, a round box. Every inch of this vessel has been exposed to the French curve and the result is, well, French like. Perhaps this is owing to the fact that Renault has controlling shares. Nevertheless, this is a compelling machine and practical, too. It has just over 58 cubic feet of cargo space and the rear hatch can be accessed through the side-hinged door. The interior is interesting, especially with the optional 20-color interior lighting and distinctive instrument panel. The easiest to park and maneuver, the Cube is full of fascinating features and doesn’t short change the buyer on safety equipment as front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, stability control and antilock brakes are standard. Cool, but the stereo is n’t as sick as the Soul.

Family conference: All of these diamonds in the rough are great coal haulers, but after the season is over they are also ideal for driving the kids to the therapist and still have room in back for the peace making dog in the process. And if you are into positive reinforcement and don’t cater to the Sicilian tradition of coal in the stocking, or perhaps want to substitute Carbone Dolce, these three boxcars are great fun and attract more attention than a Maria Shriver with a cell phone.

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The Best 2010 Vehicles

By The Car Family

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After a long look at the 2010 vehicles it becomes clear that this is not a stellar one. The Audi Q5 is the best of the SUV/Trucks and the Kia Forte sedan is the best of the vehicles, although we found the Toyota Prius terrific. As for our best family vehicle, we would go with the Ford Fusion hybrid. And for the rich family vehicle, the Lexus RX 450h/RX 350 are useful, frugal, and hold their value.

Mom’s view: The Toyota Prius is great, but I just like to slide into a vehicle and so the Lexus RX is my favorite. I also enjoyed the Kia Soul more than I would like to admit. Comfortable and handy.

Dad’s view: The new Jaguar sedan with the supercharged engine is fun and dominating. You can run with the best sports cars and still enjoy the comforts of a large sedan. I also liked the Lexus RX and the Kia Soul.

Working woman’s view: The Nissan Cube is cute.  But what stole my heart was the Mercedes GLK with a diesel engine.  Awesome, and I probably am going to buy one in the future. That says something.

Young working male’s view:  I’m still making open source hardware for http://www.eracks.com and they are the most quiet units on the market. As such a treasure my comfort and so the Mercedes E Class and the Subaru Legacy and Outback are my choices

Alfa Romeo

This model year tends to reflect the down nature of the economy with a few bright spots for those with dough and risk takes. For example, Alfa Romeo is back with three Italian beauties. The Alfa Romeo 159 Sedan is a BMW 3 Series fighter with a 260 horsepower 3.2-liter V6 engine stunning looks and standard all-wheel drive all for about $35,000. Adding to that Italian Flair is the Alfa Romeo Brera 2 plus 2 Coupe that is really attractive and carries the same drive train as the 150 sedan. As usually, you have to pay more for something beautiful so the sleek two door should run a couple of grand more. Of course, going topless is the sole purpose of the Alfa Romeo Spider which should cost over $40,000 probably with the same V6 engine. We suggest wait and see.

Aston Martin

Aston Martin has more expensive eye candy for anyone to own who has a couple of hundred thousand dollars to spend. The Rapide has four door, a first, a first for this newly purchased company, and a 470 horsepower. For a hundred thousand dollars more you can own a smaller vehicle, the DBS Volante 2+2 and sit on 510-horsepower. That is the same horsepower you can feast upon in a Jaguar sedan that costs $80,000. There is also the One-77 for two million, a V12 with 700 horsepower and it is built to the owner’s specifications, more or less. Oh, the name? They are only going to build 77 of them. Hurry. You can get a lot more for a lot less.

Audi

Whether Audi’s winning streak lasts is in the hands of four new Audi vehicles. The A5 Cabriolet does away with the A4 in appearance only as most of the drivetrain is the same. Look for some more technology and a price a little over forty grand. You can also order supercharged version for a few thousand dollars more. Finally, the Audi S4, at around $50,000, is going to have a 3.0-liter  supercharged six-cylinder engine making about 335 horsepower and all wheel drive.  A BMW with a softer image.

BMW

BMW continues its quest to build some pretty strange looking vehicles, but they continue to succeed. The  Z4 well have a retractable hardtop and its excellent  twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine as well as a base model sans the induction help starting in the mid-$40,000 range. For $80,000 you can harvest a large BMW 7-Series with a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 with 400 horsepower. Again, less horsepower than the Jaguar sedan, but it has more backseat room. Back to strange looking BMWs and the X6 M. For nearly ninety thousand dollars you can drive a very fast SUV that can rival the Porsche Cayenne in everything, including depreciation. Look for 550 plus horsepower from a twin-turbocharged V8. The base 3 Series is still the best BMW.

Buick Lacrosse

We don’t recommend General Motors products at this time. The Lacrosse is priced at about $28,000 and for that you can get a slightly used Lexus RX still under warranty for that price. Remember that General Motors only allows select people to test drive their vehicles so watch for bias in reviews.

Cadillac

We don’t recommend General Motors products at this time. Cadillac has a new sports wagon and more powerful engines in most of its products. The SRX and sports wagon cost nearly the same, about $34,000 and they both do essentially the same, with the wagon being more sprightly. We don’t get the pricing strategy, but we also don’t understand why GM hired back a leader who helped create the bankruptcy in the first place. Stick to the base CTS.

Ferrari

Ferrari California is offered at about $195,000. For that you get a retractable hardtop convertible, a 4.3-liter V8 that produces 460 horsepower, a seven-speed dual clutch transmission, and a Ferrari that makes the overpriced and poor riding Bentley look like yesterday. No wonder Bentley sales and resale are suffering.

Fiat 500

When it comes buy it. Pricing is fairly high for such a small machine, just below $20,000, but it is cute, rides well, and you can order it with a fuel sipping 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine with 100. We recommend you delay your gratification until the more powerful engine becomes available.

Ford Mustang

It isn’t getting old and it is getting better, The Mustang looks much sharper this year and the handling has been smoothed. A myriad of engine choices. For about $20,000 you can have a car that makes the weird looking Chevrolet Camaro and bulking Chrysler Challenger like bad styling exercises.

Ford F-150 SVT Raptor

Expensive, high riding, and expensive, the F-150 Raptor is meant to destroy off-road obstacles and pass most everything except a gas station. $39,000.

Ford Taurus

We highly recommend the Ford Fusion. However,  if you need more leg and cargo space, the new Taurus is a darn good vehicle to consider, especially with a $26,000 asking price. Good fuel mileage, a six-speed automatic transmission and a 3.5 engine are standard. If you need more power and want to spend nearly $39,000 you can stuff your Taurus with the SHO turbocharged, 365 horsepower engine.

Ford Fusion

A bargain and fun to drive, the Fusion is now available as a hybrid that can easily get mid-30 mpg. Well priced at just over $20,000, the Fusion is just as good as the competition from Asia and the hybrid is one of the best family vehicles you can possess that offers exception fuel mileage.

Honda Insight

Priced below $20,000, the Insight is less expensive than the Toyota Insight, but you get a lot less. Fuel mileage in the low 40 mpg arena. Look for Toyota to offer a stripped Prius to offset the Honda’s price advantage. However, it won’t have the Honda handling.

Hyundai Genesis Coupe

Wow, for those who like a slick looking coupe that goes fairly well, the $23,000 Genesis coupe is a must drive. The turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and the 3.8-liter V6 produce 210 and 306 horsepower respectively. Why pay more?

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Jaguar XJ Series

This stunning sedan is available with an extended-wheelbase and potent powertrains from the base 5.0-liter V8 and its 385 horsepower, to the .XJL Supercharged 470 horsepower version, to the Supersport’s 510 horsepower engine. Safety wise the Jaguar offers ABS, traction control, antiskid system, curtain side airbags, and front side airbags. Add to that Jaguar’s Adaptive Dynamics adjustable air suspension and you have a sweet riding sedan. You can also add a dual-screen DVD entertainment system. The Supersport is a bargain for those who like their sedan to truly leap. One of our favorites. Priced just under $70,000.

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Jeep Grand Cherokee

As the much anticipated Chevrolet Volt is said to be the most important vehicle to General Motors, the Grand Cherokee is even more vital to Chrysler. To this end they are offering extended warranties on the drivetrain and a less ancient styling. Pricing is expected to be just over $30,000, but more importantly, you are going to own a vehicle with a nicer interior and better handling than any previous model.  Well worth the late for those that need the Grand Cherokee’s legendary off-road ability.

2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited

Kia Soul

A real surprise, the Kia Soul can be bought for under $15,000 and you get a very useful and fun car to drive. It has a high seating position and both the 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine and 142 horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder get good gas mileage. The large tires give a sturdy ride, but that is the sole concern with the Soul. Another one of our favorites.

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Kia Forte

Yet another bargain from Kia, the Forte is a sedan that has an available 173 horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine and room for five all for under $15,000. Kia is on a roll, pun intended.

Kia Forte Koup

A two door version of the Forte for under $20,000.

Kia Sorrento

The Sorrento is leaner, but still not nearly competitive with the other crossovers at this time. However, Kia dealers are willing to deal and the new engine choices might make this a thrifty hauler. Well under $25,000 and look for good deals.

Lexus IS C

This convertible relies on the Lexus name and stunning interior to gather new customers. The base engine is barely adequate, and the larger engined IS 350C and its 3.5-liter, 306 horsepower V6 drives up the price thousands. Look to pay over $40,000 and for that you get a retractable hardtop and Lexus service.  Watch for those bulging side panels in parking lots, though.

Lexus RX 450h

Another giant leap forward for the best crossover in the land, the Lexus RX. This time Lexus has improved the performance and offers a plethora of new technology treats for those who want the $42,000 smoothmobile. You can easily get over 30 mpg and there is plenty of pep, but the reality is that the base RX offers nearly the same mileage for much less. Drive them both.

Lexus HS 250h

Not the best Lexus when it comes to styling, the HS 250h is a larger Prius with the Camry hybrid’s 2.4-liter engine. Rides well and is pretty perky, but it is priced in the mid-$30,000 range and the fuel mileage isn’t that much better than the terrific Toyota Corolla.

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Lincoln MKT

We like Lincoln, but we don’t always understand their attraction. They seldom are different than the base Ford they are based on, but that may all be in the past as the MKT comes online. A stunning interior, an attention getting exterior and ample power. Priced in the mid-$40,000 range. Our advise, buy the turbocharged engine with its 355 horsepower.

Mazda3

More versions of this poor man’s BMW, the Mazda3 in the form of a four and five door and a souped-up sizzler, this fun and frugal winner has seen its interior expanded, but not its powertrain.  Prices start around $17,000. The Speed version threatens the pavement with a 2.3-liter engine creating 263 horsepower. Can you say torque steer?

Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid

For nearly $90,000 you can own the luxurious S Class Mercedes that combines the power of the base engine with that of electric motors to give a big push to a big car without sacrificing too much fuel. Personally, we think the Bluetec diesel is the best offering, but it does not come in the S model.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe

A very large coupe at a good price, the $54,000 E-Class is available with an optional 382-horsepower V8 to provide a lot of go in this attractive two door.

Mercedes-Benz GLK

An optical illusion, this SUV is actually small on the outside, but large on the inside. Available with the diesel, which would make it perfect, it also comes with a 3.5-liter V6 engine and a potent 268 horses. Priced below $35,000. The best MB SUV.

Mercedes-Benz M-Class Hybrid

Priced around $50,000, this SUV combines a 3.5-liter V6 engine with a continuously variable transmission and two electric motors to make it seriously fast and still get fuel mileage above 20 mpg. In reality, this is better than the General Motors products in the form of the Cadillac Escalade hybrids, but lacks the polish of the Lexus RX 450h. Stick with the M-Class.

MINI Crossman

A MINI on steroids, the all wheel drive Crossman is a tall, stubby, attention getting version of the MINI that uses a turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine with 172 horsepower to push it through the considerable turbulence its design creates. For about $30,000 you can drive something different.

Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback

Sporty in appearance and handling, this Lancer can be ordered with all wheel drive and the station wagon styling makes it very family friendly. The hot rod Ralliart version is also planned. Priced under $30,000, the Sportback is the most utilitarian of the Lancers, but look for dealers to offer some good pricing.

Nissan

The 370 Z convertible is here and this two-seater is a hoot to drive, especially considering its base pricing of just over $40,000 well equipped. For a lot less you can have the hard top version with the same engine, transmission, and suspension. With prices starting around $30,000, the 370Z comes with a 332 horsepower V6,  six-speed manual transmission and the must have SynchroRev Match system that automatically matches engine speed to your selected gear on downshifts. A real bargain, but there is a lot of competition in the sporty car field now with the upgraded Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, Chrysler Challenger, and Hyundai Genesis coupe.

Nissan’s Cube is a box with a little style and a lot of utility. The poster car for funky, the Cube has an asymmetrical rear glass and a side opening rear hatch. For about $14,000 this eye catcher can do your daily chores without much fuss thanks to the 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine with 122 horsepower. There is a lot of competition in this niche once dominated by the Scion B and D. Now the pressure comes from the Kia Soul.

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Porsche Panamera

This is a four door Porsche that comes in two forms, fast and faster. The 4400 pound sedan comes in either two or four wheel drive, but with engines pushing from 400 horsepower to 500 horsepower version. Certainly usable for a family, but at $125,000 plus it is best left to those who enjoy the status of owning this unusual vehicle.

Rolls-Royce Ghost

Why bother. Another Rolls gas hog that serves no purpose that a vehicle half its cost does not provide. A good way to spit in the face of environmentalists while getting the best parking spot at upscale restaurants.

Saab 9-5

Probably due much later in the model year, the new Saab 9-5 is a knockout. Nothing else much new from Saab due to its sale, but used Saabs are a bargain and the 2006 anniversary edition convertible remains one of the great undervalued and automobile collector bargains with only 400 produced. (see photo)

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Smart fortwo ED

We love the Smart cars, except for the jerky transmissions. They are a hoot to drive and with this version you even get good gas mileage thanks to its electric motors. Another of our favorites.

Subaru Legacy

Bigger and sort of better, the $20,000 Legacy is larger and better looking, but the weak base engine still is challenged in mountain driving even with the new 6-speed manual transmission. We highly recommend the more expensive 3.6-liter flat-six engine option. Another one of our favorites.

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Subaru Outback

Essentially the same as the Legacy, but with fancier exterior parts, the one to own is the
2.5 GT.  Priced under $25,000

Suzuki Kizashi
The Kizashi is a totally new direction for Suzuki to grow with a appealing exterior, a 2.4-liter, dual overhead cam four-cylinder engine mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or a CVT, all wheel drive option, and the promise of more power to come. Lots of promises from Suzuki such as upscale audio systems, lots of safety equipment, and a price not much over $20,000. If you are interested in smaller vehicle this is a must drive.

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Toyota Prius

Another winner from Toyota. The new Prius is much superior to the previous generation in every way from better fuel mileage to improved cargo room. Prices start about $23,000.  Awesome, but the tires are noisy and the handling is for the slow goers. Easily one of the best cars of 2010. Another one of our favorites.

Volkswagen GTI

It looks the same, but the GTI I much improved, although the powertrain remains virtually the same with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with 200 horsepower and 6-speed manual or dual-clutch gearbox. Not inexpensive at $26,000, the handling and versatility of this VW might just spark new interest.

Volkswagen Golf

A well priced Volkswagen; the Golf is essentially the old Rabbit with a 2.5-liter gasoline four-cylinder engine or the highly desirable 2.0-liter diesel pushing the wind aside. Excellent fuel mileage and a $17,000 price tag make this a good vehicle for those who like to drive, but still enjoy passing a gas station.

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Volvo XC60

The Volvo wagon remains one of the best you can buy for safety and room, especially the XC 70. However, the pricing on these big wagons is steep and so Volvo is offering the XC60. This smaller, Volvo wagon has an abundance of safety features and the  3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six with its 285 horsepower has just enough power to move this crossover. The all-wheel-drive unit and better handling make this a better choice than its longer brother. Look for prices around $38,000. This is the best Volvo.

For vehicle reviews go to http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/home/most-reliable-vehicles/

Unique Family Vehicles for Every Pocketbook

By The Car Family

Good fuel economy, room for five, fun to drive, and plenty of safety features are what makes a great family vehicle. What makes these six unique is that they are often overlooked and that results in these being exceptional buys as dealers are often very willing to make some dramatic deals on them. For example, two of them have diesel engines and they are quiet, clean, and remarkably efficient. Two are priced under $20,000, and one cost over $50,000

There are six that instantly meet that criteria. First, the Volkswagen Routan. This is essentially a Dodge minivan with a sharper interior, better handling, and the same spacious interior. Except for the dreadful headlights, this is a better driver than the Chrysler products. However, with a price significantly more expensive than the Dodge look for the Volkswagen dealer to be eager to meet the competition’s price. Gas mileage seldom exceeds 20 mpg and the engine and transmission don’t always agree, but it you want room and an abundance of useful storage features the Routan is worth a look and they offer a Carefree Maintenance program, too.

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Volkswagen’s Jetta Sports Wagon is terrific. For a base price under $20,000 you are going to house the family in a vehicle capable of getting over 35 mpg and with much less maintenance than a gas powered wagon. Get the optional six-speed automatic with Tiptronic over the manual transmission mainly because the clutch on the stick shift has such a high take up point that it makes it more difficult to shift if you have shorter legs. Besides, there is virtually nothing to favor the standard transmission in terms of gas mileage and resale will be less with the manual. The rear hatch is very easy to open, but someone didn’t ask the ladies about where to put the opening latch. The designers decided that the dirtiest place on a wagon would be best, right above the rear bumper. I can’t imagine any women living in the snow belt who is going to appreciate that location.

Safety wise the Volkswagen Jetta wagon has ABS, traction control, antiskid system, curtain side airbags, front side airbags, and rear side airbags. The car feels heavier then it is and you aren’t going to find a better handling wagon outside of the BMW and that costs at least ten thousand dollars more.

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Mercedes’ R-Class Bluetec is a vast, heavy, unflappable Mercedes wagon that is surprisingly nimble on its feet, fairly frugal at the diesel pump, and has awesome passing acceleration. What’s not right is the overly complicated stereo and temperature controls, the placement of the turn signal, cruise control, and shift lever, and the lack of some features that should be standard on a vehicle that costs nearly $50,000 in base form.

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This is a very enjoyable alternative to a minivan and much more fun to drive. The handling is pretty good considering the 5000 plus pounds it is touting and the visibility is quite good. Options on our test vehicle were the rear entertainment center, which has two screens mounted in back of the front row seats, and separate head phones as well. The system works, but is even better is the fact that those in the rear seats have a good view of the road and the advantage of being able to get in and out easily. Although we prefer the sliding doors of most minivans, the more traditional swing out doors on the R-Class are much easier to use, and during inclement weather, can be closed much faster.

But the real story is under the hood. Mercedes makes the best diesel engines for luxury cars and has for years. In Europe they are common, but elsewhere there has been some reluctance to accept these models. In the past they have been noisy and prone to smelly exhaust fumes. That is no longer the case. They are nearly as quiet as a gasoline powered vehicle, get at least 20 percent better fuel mileage, have higher resale, and require less maintenance. What’s not to like. Indeed with a listed 18 mpg, city/24 mpg, highway, it as economical as most minivans and the Mercedes as all wheel drive. However, we found it very easy to get well over 28 mpg on the highway and 24 in town. Add to that the 25 gallon tank and you 500 plus miles before refueling isn’t that difficult to obtain. If you want more mileage try the fabulous E-Class sedan with the Bluetec engine and 30 mpg is common for this luxury sedan.

The R-Class safety features include an interesting Pre-Safe program that uses the brakes, accelerator, and steering inputs to detect if a crash/rollover is imminent. Once the computers sense this danger they tighten the seatbelts and, this is nearly impossible to believe, the passenger seat is moved into the optimum position for the airbag to deploy, and the windows and sunroof are closed. Other safety features include ABS, traction control, antiskid system, curtain side airbags, and front and rear side airbags. I would also consider the optional park-assist system.

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The Mitsubishi Lancer is priced around $18,000 with a lot of features for those willing to take a chance on an “off-brand” sedans. The Lancer got high crash scores, and has dual-stage front, side and head curtain air bags with some models getting anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution. Always get as many safety options as you can on any vehicle. The 2.0-liter, 152-horsepower four-cylinder engine delivers well over 26 mpg in mixed driving. It look sporty and drives sporty while still offering room for a family and it has an exceptional warranty with five years/60,000 on the car and 10 years / 100,000 miles on the drivetrain as well as five years of roadside assistance.

One of our favorites doesn’t have a pretty face, but it is a beauty with a price tag of $10,000 and room for five. The Nissan Versa is probably the best small family car you can buy for the money. It has a huge interior, enough pep to make it fun to drive, especially with the manual transmission, and it is easy to get over 30 mpg. Good crash safety ratings. However, the 1.6 engine and the bare bones interior, even air conditioning is an option, is really not what most families would want. Thus consider adding a few extras and you can still have a family friendly vehicle for well under $12,000 and that includes six standard airbags. We also recommend better tires and the optional safety equipment. Be aware that if you load the 1.6 with too much you are going to make it more expensive than the much better equipped 1.8 model. The Versa isn’t the quietest or the best looking, but it is frugal and roomy.

Hyundai’s Genesis 3.8 is well equipped at $38,000 and a breath of fresh air for those looking for a family vehicle with plenty of luxury and still gives you 24 mpg in mixed driving and a terrific warranty that Hyundai calls “America’s Best.” Plenty of room inside for five, a list of standard features that makes other manufacturers blush, and a pleasant, if not sporty, ride. It was our family car of the year and deserving, but the difficult part is explaining to everyone that you didn’t pay over $50,000 for the Genesis.

High-tech equipment features you can order include electronic stability control, XM NavTraffic, adaptive headlights, radar-based active cruise control, a 500-watt 17-speaker Lexicon audio system, and electronic active head restraints. The Genesis also has heated and cooled seats and ultrasonic sensors located on the front and rear bumpers to help park in tight spaces. Safety wise the Hyundai has dual front airbags, front and rear seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and roof-mounted side curtain airbags.

Family conference: These vehicles are the perfect remedy for the family that needs good transportation, exceptional fuel mileage, and cargo space without surrendering to the thought you have to buy a tipsy, gas swilling SUV. Pick your price range and one of these unique vehicles could save you plenty.

For a list of all vehicle websites go to http://www.reacheverychild.com/business/index.html

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