Thursday, August 18, 2016

2016 Ford GT: 360 Experience for smart phones

This is cool. Totally cool.  Can't afford a real Ford GT like me?  Can't get on the approved list if you can afford one?  Well this 360 app for smart phone is the ticket.

Launching today for iOS and Android users in the United States, Ford’s new virtual reality app delivers a powerful storytelling platform for consumers and fans to experience Ford innovations like never before.

The first piece of featured content is the story behind the all-new Ford GT’s return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Fifty years after the original victory, the innovative balance of power and efficiency delivered an incredible class win earlier this year

You can download the app now for iOS and Android devices – and a headset or cardboard is not required! You can still use your smartphone for 360 video fun.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Autonomous Vehicle on sale date announced by Ford

Listen up.  This is HUGE.  Bad news for uber and lyft drivers, but imagine the possiblities.  With an aging population that is facing the loss of drivers licenses, this means mobility won't end when ones vision fails.  As promised in the last couple of Auto Show previews Ford is out to be the disrupter in the auto industry and create waves changing how things are done in the transportation industry.  I implore you to listen to the entire video as it really lays out the road map to get to level 4 autonomous vehicles.

Ford isn't doing it alone.  Ford isn't doing it all in Dearborn.  They're increasing the size of their Silicon Valley campus.  They are investing and partnering with other companies to do it.  Companies like Velidar makers of the Lidar systems that help in the guidance of the autonomous car.  Also they are working with a NEURO scientist to bring human like intelligence in how the cars see the world around them.  Amazing.

As a kid of the Jetsons era this is big.  Its not the self flying car of the cartoon, but it will be the self driving car.  Game changer.  Disruption in the Industry.

Monday, August 15, 2016

2017 Nissan Titan Platinum Reserve

Its no secret at this point...this is the #NissanYearoftheTruck.  With all Armada, Titan XD and Pathinfinder on sale or about to go on sale, the regular duty TITAN is ready to join the ranks.  Its part of Nissan's lofty goal of selling 500,000 trucks a year by the end of this year.

Fleshing out their line of trucks is the light duty TITAN that was revealed at the New York Auto Show in the spring.  This truck available in regular or crew cabs will be the volume leader of their truck business.  Its all new and focused on several areas to take on the competition in a variety of trims from S,SV, SL, Pro-4X to Platinum Reserve its designed to be the go to for fleet managers who already have their NV vans in service.  Some of the key things they did for the TITAN:

  • Unique rugged steel frame from the XD
  • Powered by Nissan's new for 2016 Endurance 5.6L V8 with 390 horsepower, 394 ft lbs of torque mated to a new 7 speed automatic.
  • Available V6 (details to be released at later date)
  • Available in Crew, Single and King Cab configurations with standard 8 foot bed
  • Crew model going on sale August 2016
In development of their regular duty truck Nissan looked at 4 key areas of development to set themselves apart from their competition and set themselves up to be a leader in the truck field. the areas of focus:
  • Styling and Aerodynamic enhancements
  • New powertrains and capabilities
  • Handling, steering and ride capabilities
  • Utility and Driving aids
They took a bold styling approach to emphasize power and abilities when looked at even at a stand still.  Power bulge in the hood indicates its packing.  Add in nice touches like LED headlamps and taillamps.  Their signature deep V chrome grill unique to TITAN but bears a family resemblance that is enhanced with their boomerang LED Daytime Running Lamps.  It even has LED Puddle lamps and improved running boards for easier access to the cab and bed over the 2014 models.

Aerodynamics were improved over the 2014 model by 10%.  Things like active grill shutters when the engine and condensor don't need large air flow close down to improve air flow.  Bed seals, smoother front air dam and undercarriage sealing all improve aeros on the road.

Coupling the newly improved drivetrain with these aerodynamics you get improved fuel economy.  How much?  A whopping 28% increase in fuel economy over 2014 to 15 MPG city, 21 highway and 17 combined.  Not bad when you look at the TITAN half ton's base towing capacity is a class leading 9,390 pounds!

A lot of attention was put into making the new TITAN a class leading quiet and comfortable cabin. Things like hydraulic body mounts, acoustic front side glass and better sealing of the cabin result in a 43% reduction of noise inside at cruise speeds.  An enhanced frame new for 2017 allows for better handling while further reducing noise and vibration passed into the cab.  End results is ride and handling are improved and Nissan is proud of these achievements:

  • Better steering "feel" in the half ton segment
  • More responsive steering while being linear and predictable
  • Reduced body roll motion
  • Improved body response over moderate to heavy steering inputs
  • Reduced vibration, maintained competitive level of harshness and improved interior quietness
  • Consitent handling across all model line
The truck bed has a lot of new and useful features.  Its obvious a lot of thought went into how people use trucks and built in some pretty slick ideas.  The cargo bed has LEDs embedded into the light rail for even load illumination.  There are built in cargo rails that are designed so you can use a tonneau cover or bed topper.  They even put lockable dry storage compartments into the side of the box!

For 2017 Nissan adds some really new and useful drivers aids to enhance driving and trailering. Among them;
  • Around View Monitor that provides a 360 degree view around the truck.  Not warped with trailer mirrors instaled.  Very helpful in maneuvering in small spaces.
  • Front and rear sonar
  • Blind Spot monitoring
  • Nissan Connect with Navigation and smart phone integration
  • Back up Camera
  • Built in Integrated Trailer Brake Control with sway control, trailer light check and downhill speed assistance
The big news with all the changes to the TITAN is that its will get a best in class warranty to back up how serious Nissan is about the truck market.  The new warranty will be 5 years/100,000 miles.

Now that I've told you about how the truck has changed, what does it all mean in the real world?  Driving impression is that this is still a truck, refined and quieter than most.  Definitely a smoother ride than most of its competition with noticeably less wiggle and jiggle over potholes and speed bumps (or humps as the refined neighborhoods call them).  

Steering is precise and it has decent road feel, again better than most of its competition.  What I really appreciated was the back up camera and 360 Around View when driving and parking into tight spaces.  Its a lot more confidence inspiring knowing whats next to the fenders!

The model I drove and photographed was the new tippy top of the line Platinum Reserve. This trim level brings about such niceties as single stitched leather seating, soft touch dash, heated and cooled seats, multiple USB ports, electrical ports and an uber quiet luxury car ride.  Add in the standard driving changes and this could easily be mistaken for the cabin of a luxury car, not a truck capable of towing nearly 5 tons of stuff or offroading.  You won't mistake it for their 370z in roadhandling, but you will know its much more comfortable and easy to drive in over the long haul than most of its competition.

  Just as a little reminder, this trip Nissan paid for my travel and put me up in the swanky Carmel Valley Ranch Lodge.  Their providing this junket didn't affect my if anyone can sway influence over me.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

5th Annual Galpin Car Show September 18

Galpin Motors in the San Fernando Valley, the largest volume Ford Dealer in the world is hosting its 5th annual Car Show.

What sets this car show apart from the others is that it is dedicated to custom and unique show cars, not restorations and survivors.  The show is tightly curated so you get the best of the custom car crafters.  Galpin says that they have over 300 cars lined up for this show.  More details on the show at their FB Event Page.

Galpin Motors, 15505 Roscoe Blvd, Van Nuys CA 91343  10AM-2PM September 18, 2016

Monday, August 8, 2016

2017 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum

Nissan could have rested on its laurels with the Pathfinder as this generation is only a couple of years old and selling 90% up over the previous generation.  But the segment is competitive and they listened to their customers and gave the 2017 model a significant change inside and out with a lot more tech goodies to make life easier and safer.  They focused on several areas:

  • Major style and design upgrades
  • Improved driving dynamics
  • Enhanced user friendliness
  • Advanced  Driver Assistance Technology
The exterior has front and rear changes that move it towards bolder SUV stance and less carlike/crossover than the previous iteration.  New LED headlamps, revised grill and fog lamps and front air dam yielded slightly better aerodynamics than the prior version.  This model as a drag coefficient of .326 vs .34 of the outgoing model that adds incrementally over the long haul to its highway fuel economy.

The drive train is improved with a new version of the 3.5l V6.  Adding in new air intake, mirror finish cylinder bores with direct injection and new variable valve technology brings about a horsepower increase from 260 to 289.  Torque also gets a bump with these changes from maximum rating of 240 in the old version to 259 in the new engine.  The changes added power yet let the Pathfinder keep best in class mileage ratings of 20 city, 27 highway and 23 combined.  Towing capacity is best in class at 6,000 pounds.

Ride and handling was enhanced with all new struts and 25% stiffer springs in the rear.  There is now less roll and sway through the twisty bits of the canyons than the outgoing models had.  Steering has a quicker ratio allowing for faster response while turning and making lane changes.

Their all wheel drive system is new with an enhanced 4X4-I system.  This simple rotary dial allows for full lock up in LOW range allowing 100% torque to be allocated perfect for launching a boat in water, slippery slopes and snow driving.

New to this model is Nissan's enhance infotainment center with NissanConnect.  It has built in HD microphone for better voice recognition and commands.  It has smartphone style pinch and zoom finger controls on the touch screen.  It even has over 5,000 points of interested preloaded into its map folders.

NissanConnect allows you to control your cars lights, remort start, lock, valet alert and a few other tricks from from your smart phone.  It has an SOS button that you can use to signal for help in an emergency.  Its even possible to do remote stuff similar to the smart phone via the web including sending maps to your navigation system.

Technology enhancements make this vehicle stand out in the class for 2017.  Several are new for this year adding to the well equipped available features from the out going model.  They are:
  • Forward Emergency Braking (new)
  • Forward Collision Warning (new)
  • Blindspot Warning
  • Rear Collision Alert
  • Class exclusive All Around View Monitor with moving object detection (new)
  • Intelligent Cruise Control
  • Automatic Hill Descent
Pricing is expected to start at under $30,000 for the S trim and increase as you move up the grade ladder through SV, SL and Platinum.  Additionally enhanced packages are available with each move up the ladder that make each grade have unique customization.

What does all this mean.  It means the Pathfinder got a significant upgrade over the last version of this generation.  On the road this is the quietest Pathfinder yet.  Only the occasional roar from the throaty V6 when its called to accelerate hard up an onramp or steep grade.  It seriously is the best as in quietest and drone-less CVT application I've seen yet.  

This is really  a road trip car that can take a serious jaunt off pavement as this video can attest too.  On the freeways and twisty bits on Laureless Grade in Carmel the car was not wanting for power, nor was it lacking finesse in the curves.  

Off-roading is where I was pleasantly surprised by the abilities of this machine.  Up hill, loose gravel, sand whatever it was able to effortlessly power through it all.  The Downhill Assist was a trip.  Push a button and simply aim where you want to go, the system does the downshifting and braking to get you safely down.  Its so different to not control gas and brake and let it do it for you with only the soft hum of relays alternating which brake needs application to ensure your safe descent.  Amazing.

With its stated competition of Ford Explorer, GMC Acadia, Toyota Highlander and Honda's Pilot mechanically and driving this is an extremely competitive truck.  The niggles come about in the hard plastics used on the dash and console that just don't exude the same upmarket feel as the Platinum version of the Explorer.  Whether that is a hindrance or not is debatable, just an observation I made regarding top trim comparisons.  Overall I really liked this Pathfinder.

 This adventure was a gift from Nissan, they provided my transportation and hotel while in Carmel Valley.  It however doesn't affect my opinion and impressions of the if anyone could program my words!

Monday, August 1, 2016

2017 Nissan Armada Platinum

The Embargo is over and I can now tell you about the redesigned for 2017 Nissan Aramada in Platinum trim.  The machine is a beast in the very best meaning of the word.  Aimed at the Yukon, Denali, Sequoia and Explorers of the world it beats them handily.  In fact, in my not so humble opinion its knocking at the doors of the Navigator/Escalade and will be cross shopped with them in the Platinum Trim.  Its. That. Good.

The Armada may seem like a new model but its history dates back to the 1952 Patrol sold in other markets and in fact the Patrol is rolled into Armada this model year as part of a giant remake of the mode.  ITs about going anywhere in  confidence and style.  With this redesign to combine the two Nissan focused on several areas to ensure they could beat their target competition:

  • Premium Style
  • New Powertrain
  • Superior Comfort, Convenience and roominess
  • Enahanced Ride and Handling
  • Safety Suite of features
In terms of style they made it bigger and bolder.  Raised the hood and continued with the "v motion" grill and LED DLRs.  The grills on the front fenders are functional air intake and engine compartment heat exhaust.  Across the model line up LED headlights and tail lamps are standard.

The interior got the complete redo as well.  It now boasts the roomiest 2nd row seats in its class with 40" of head room and 41" of leg room.  Everything you touch is premium quality soft touch.  Real wood, real brushed aluminum.  REAL stuff not a bit of faux anywhere.  Add in the use of acoustic glass and you now have a library quiet cabin at cruise where you don't hear a thing and can carry on a quiet conversation.

The standard and only available engine is new for this year.  ITs a 5.6l V8 with variable valve lift and timing with direct injection.  What it comes down to is the most powerful standard motor in the class with 390 horsepower and 394 ft lbs of torque.  Add in the new 7 speed automatic and you get authoritative get up and go coupled with library quiet when cruising without even a hit of rumble from the powerful V8.  As a side bar to this power and now boasts best in class towing with 8,500 tow capacity, easily 1,100 pounds better than its nearest competitor.

Creature comforts like heated and cooled seats are available if not standard on the Platinum edition.  Across the board in all trims a 13 speaker BOSE stereo system is standard.  Also standard is a Navigation system with traffic and weather (the latter two require a subscription to Sirius XM to function.  There is also available a second row, 2 screen LCD entertainment system that allows your rear passengers to play games, watch video or listen to their own music privately through wireless headphones.

The ride and handling was completely reinvented for the new Armada; Nothing was left untouched in the effort to make it the best in class:

  • full box steel exterior frame
  • double wishbone front suspension with 36mm sway bar
  • double wishbone rear suspension with 36.5mm sway bar
  • auto-level rear suspension
  • twin tube shock absorbers
  • engine speed variable rack and pinion steering
  • 4 wheel disc brakes with ABS and brake assist
The standard Safety Shield is an entire suite of features that make driving in town and crowded parking lots even safer in the all new Armada.  They are:
  • Around View with Motion Detector and intervention
  • Intelligent Cruise Control with distance monitor
  • Forward emergency braking with collision detection
  • Lane departure warning and intervention
  • Blind spot intervention and warning
  • Back up collision warning and intervention
The Armada will come in 3 trims, SV, SL and Platinum.  It will go on sale mid-August 2016 at a base price of $44,440 and a destination charge of $995.  Nissan expects that 65% of the Armadas sold will be in the premium priced Platinum trim.

So what does all that gobbledy gook mean?  It comes together as the most complete, luxurious, roomy SUV in its class.  Ride and handling benefit from the attention given.

Driving this SUV was so much easier than I expected.  It was actually fun, FUN to drive on the twisty bits of Laureles Grade.  It had ample power to take on the 7 mile 10% grade of the Laureles grade down into Carmel Valley.  All the while it was in hushed quiet and uber comfy ride.

There was a wild fire in the area so the original course intended to test the Armada's 4X4 mode had to be changed up a bit.  I wasn't heartbroken in the least to learn our Off Road course was going to be at a specially designed for the Armada at Maxda Race Way Laguna Seca, yes....that Laguna Seca.  I was living the dream. 

On the track the Armada displayed the same quiet confidence up the hills, down the hills, through steep banked curves and supremely uneven ground as it did on the freeways and country roads of Monterey County.  Even when transitioning from 4 to 3 to 2 wheels on the ground you felt confident this truck would get it done with style and comfort.  

This adventure was a gift from Nissan, they provided my transportation and hotel while in Carmel Valley.  It however doesn't affect my opinion and impressions of the if anyone could program my words!