Road Test: 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT Plus

Road Test: 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT Plus

Fast, Furious and 30 MPG!

Living in Southern California, where it seems everyone has a screenplay to pitch, it is not difficult to take moments in your day and imagine they are scenes in a film. I had one of these (a moment, not a screenplay) with the 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT.

I had just finished backing the Challenger into a shopping center parking space and three, helmeted,

2015 Dodge,Challenger,Fast & Furious,fuel economy,performance

Spanning the generations

nine-year-old boys come screaming around the corner of the store on their skateboards. The lead kid, without missing a beat or slowing down, says, “Cool car, mister!” Me: “Thanks!” Perfect scene for Furious 7, the latest in the Fast and Furious franchise, which by the way the Challenger is prominently featured.

For more than 45 years the Dodge Challenger has been known for its success in drag, sports and stock car racing. The famous Hemi engine muscled the Challenger to championships over the years and, today at your dealership, the 2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat, with 707 hp, will snap your head back with stunning acceleration. But focusing on the performance and racing heritage of the Challenger doesn’t tell the whole story, especially since there is a version that gets 30 mpg on the highway. Hard to believe? Believe!

Drivetrain

The 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT Plus comes with the 3.6-Liter, Pentastar V-6, DOHC, 24-valve engine, with sequential multiport electronic fuel injection. This 220-cubic-inch all-aluminum engine produces 305 hp and 286 lb-ft of torque through the TorqueFlight eight-speed automatic transmission, delivering an EPA rating of 19 city/30 highway/23 combined.

2015,Dodge Challenger,SXT,fuel economy, performance,mpg

Challenging performance car perceptions

In 958 miles of 70-percent/30-percent highway/city driving Clean Fleet Report averaged 26.3 mpg, which means we were surpassing the 30 mpg rating on the highway. Note: The EPA’s gas mileage formula by law is 45-percent highway and 55-percent city. Here in Southern California and in much of the U.S. our 70-percent/30-percent highway/city driving pattern is far more real world and is why we report it to you.

Running on unleaded regular (with mid-grade recommended), the 3.6-Liter engine was smooth and responsive overall, but we did sense a bit of rough idle when first starting the car. The eight-speed automatic had no trouble finding the right gear for around town or highway driving; the final four gear ratios are close together for smooth shifting and to maximize fuel economy. For more performance feel, there is a Sport Mode setting that provides improved throttle response and quicker shifts, as fast as 400 milliseconds as well as additional steering feel. To really get the most out of the transmission, pop the center console-mounted lever into Auto Stick M+/- and you can manually shift the transmission through a sequential pattern. You also can manually go through the gears by blipping the paddle shifters located behind the steering wheel.

Driving Experience: On The Road

The Dodge Charger SXT weighs in at a solid 3,834 lbs. For comparison, the Challenger’s Pony car competitors, the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang, weigh in at 3,722 lbs. and 3,524 lbs. respectively.

Clean Fleet Report’s rear-wheel drive Challenger was equipped with the Super Track Pak option that

delivers a firm, but not stiff, ride, with no noticeable drift or pushing through hard cornering, and a

2015,Dodge Challenger,performance, fuel economy

Ready to grip and go

comfortable highway ride. The Super Track Pak comes with 245/45ZR20 three-season performance tires mounted on 20-inch polished aluminum wheels with graphite pockets for a very sharp looking wheel and tire combination. When pushing the Super Track Pak button you get a lowered ride height, performance-tuned independent SLA, or Short Long Arm, double-wishbone front suspension with coil springs over Bilstein shock absorbers, a beefier stabilizer bar, high-performance brakes and a three-way adjustable stability control system. The rear suspension is a five-link independent set-up with the same bits as the front.

The Challenger never felt heavy or sluggish and the response and feel via the electric power steering was acceptable and left you with a good feeling for the road. You even have the option in the Uconnect screen of setting one of three drive modes and activating the Launch Control feature. Dodge has gone to great lengths to give even the six-cylinder Challenger a performance feel, so you don’t have to step-up to the 5.7L or 6.4L Hemi V-8 engines.

2015 Dodge,Challenger SXT,racing,performance

Not afraid to claim its heritage

Having cut my driving teeth on rear-wheel drive cars it was nice getting behind the wheel of one that could be driven hard through corners. Breaking the rear tires loose was never a fear nor was swapping the back end, which would be tough to do with the traction control turned on. If you have spent your life driving front-wheel drive cars (which are very good, of course), treat yourself to a test drive of the Challenger, or rent one for a weekend, to see what predominated in the automotive world pre-1980.

Wind and road noise was near non-existent and road imperfections were barely noticeable in the Challenger. For smoothness, the eight-speed automatic transmission had no problem imperceptibly finding the correct gear for whatever the demand. Plus, using the Sport Mode or paddle shifters raised the fun factor a notch or two.

As part of the Super Track Pak the brakes are vented front and solid rear rotors with performance brake linings. The brakes stopped with confidence but the pedal was a bit soft before steady pressure delivered the desired brake force. The power assist, Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) has Rain Brake Support, all-speed traction control (TCS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC).

Driving Experience: Interior

The first thing you notice when sliding behind the wheel of the 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT is the two feet of dash to the windshield and then the seven feet of hood, totaling nine feet from your seating position to the front bumper. To say there is a large expanse ahead of the front seats is apparent and obvious. But, after a few minutes of acclimation, it all falls into place as being exactly like it should be with the hood length becoming part of the Challenger’s driving experience.

The SXT package starts with the nicely crafted soft-touch materials on the dash, doors and center

2015,Dodge Challenger,interior

Driver-oriented cockpit

console, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls and front Nappa Leather Sport Seats, which are heated and ventilated. The driver’s seat is six-way power adjustable, with four-way power lumbar adjustments, while the front passenger seat is manually adjustable. The seats offered good lumbar and thigh bolster support, but for some reason I was not able to adjust the seat so my upper back was supported. At 5’ 9”, I thought maybe it was a size issue, so I had a 6’ 1” associate try the driver seat and he too was unable to find a setting that supported his upper back. This did not make driving the Charger unpleasant or uncomfortable, but is worth noting.

The rear seats accommodate three, but realistically it would be two passengers and most likely they would be back there only for short trips. Yes, the leather is comfortable and there is a wide folding arm rest with cup holders – all good so far. But getting into the rear seating area, accessible through the single doors, can be a bit of a contortionist trick — as in: being flexible is a good thing. The seating position has a low bottom and an erect seat back, but does provide plenty of leg and headroom. The small side windows don’t lend to a panoramic view, so the feeling of being confined could be an issue for some people.

2015 Dodge,Challenger,trunk

A high lift, but room for plenty

The trunk has a high lift over, but once inside, there is plenty of storage space. Lowering the 60/40 rear seatbacks will easily accommodate luggage and golf clubs for two people on a long road trip.

Having also reviewed the 2015 Dodge Dart and 2015 Chrysler 200, I appreciate more and more the simplicity in the Dodge/Chrysler dash layout design. The Challenger dash is non-flashy with a welcome minimalist tone and feel and contemporary asymmetric look. The dash is nicely sculpted with an ergonomically laid-out combination of knobs, switches and buttons for the climate and radio controls that are exactly where you want and need them. Chrysler calls this an “enthusiast’s designed cockpit” that will “highlight the muscle car’s performance abilities.”

Probably the best illustration of this is: When pressing the Super Track Pak button it reveals the Performance Pages and Performance Control settings on the 8.4-inch Uconnect

2015,Dodge Challenger,Uconnect,electronics

Performance electronics!

touchscreen. The Performance Control screen gets you a digital Tach and Launch Control and Drive Mode Set-up options. The Performance Pages screen includes digital Reaction Timers for 0-60, 1/8- and ¼-mile runs, digital gauges for coolant, oil pressure and temp, battery voltage, intake air temp and trans temp. The final read-outs on Performance Pages show G-Force, Horsepower and Torque readings. All are very fun to play with and are appropriate for a Muscle Car.

Our Challenger SXT Plus had the Sound Group 1 and Technology Packages that included an 8.4-inch touch screen display screen with navigation and the Uconnect system that comes with a six-month subscription plan. The infotainment system, which features Apple iPad-like simplicity, is among the most convenient and easy-to-use of all

2015 Dodge,Challenger SXT,Uconnect,electronics,

A screen for all reasons

the systems I have tested. The Alpine sound system has a 276-watt amplifier and six-speakers with AM/FM/CD/MP3 and HD Radio, with SiriusXM (one-year subscription included), voice command with Bluetooth, audio input jacks with iPod control and USB port.

The Challenger SXT Plus had convenience features such as power windows with one-touch down, power door locks, power and heated foldaway exterior mirrors, A/C with automatic climate control and rear vents, floor mats, remote start, keyless entry, 12V power outlets, power tilt and telescoping steering column, multiple cup holders, auto-dimming rear view mirror, rear view camera and cruise control.

Driving Experience: Exterior

Taking design cues from the 1971 Challenger, the 2015 version has a retro look with the split front grille and split tail lamps. Offered in 11 different exterior colors, including our test car’s Ivory White Tri-Coat Pearl, the Challenger has what Dodge says is a profile view of “muscle car proportions and large thruster

2015,Dodge Challenger,styling

A svelte silouette–just don’t look back

rear-quarter panels (that make it) stand out from the crowd.” I can add that the design has no unnecessary cladding or chrome work with tasteful piano black trim surrounding the four LED headlamps and a cool flip-up, chrome fuel door. The front-end lighting is completed by projector-type High Intensity Displacement (HID) headlights and LED fog lights integrated into the lower fascia.

The long, double bulge hood with two functional vents leads to a not-so-sloping windshield rising up to a flat roofline, ending in a short trunk lid, an integrated body color spoiler, fascia-mounted dual chrome exhaust tips and ribbon-like LED tail lights.

All-in-all, it’s a very muscular looking design that faithfully represents, but updates, the original Challenger from the early 1970s.

Safety and Convenience

The 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT has an Overall 5-Star National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rating, with a 5-Star Side Crash, and a 4-Star rating for Rollover and Frontal protection. Safety and convenience features include nine airbags, Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Path Detection, Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), traction control, rain-sensitive windshield wipers, remote start keyless and proximity entry system, engine immobilizer and security alarm, Tire Pressure Monitoring (TPM), brake assist, hill start assist and Adaptive Cruise Control.

2015,Dodge,Challenger,performance,styling,fuel economy

With muscle comes a bustle

The Blind Spot system works when a car is on your right or left rear side, where your natural blind spot would be, and a warning appears as a yellow triangle in both exterior rear view mirrors. When lit, the radio cuts-out with a gentle beep and, once the offending car passes, all warnings end and the radio returns to its previous volume. In the case of the Challenger, the Blind Spot technology is a must-have. From the driver’s seat, it is almost a completely obstructed view when looking over your right or left shoulder to the rear. Between the small rear side windows, head rests and high body shape on the fender, it is impossible to see cars in that crucial blind spot.

The Rear Cross Path Detection is helpful when backing-up and a car, child or other moving object unexpectedly crosses behind your car. This works separate from, but in-conjunction with, the ParkSense Rear Park Assist System and Rear View Camera.

The Forward Collision Warning system sounds an alert when the car senses the driver has not reacted quickly enough to an object in front of the car. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems across the manufacturers are a bit different, but these all worked well, were unobtrusive and helpful.

Pricing and Warranties

The Dodge Challenger has a base price of $26,995 with the Challenger SXT Plus Clean Fleet Report was driving having a MSRP of $32,680. Option Packages will add to these prices, as will the $995 Destination Charge.

All 2015 Dodge Challenger models come with these warranties:

2015,Dodge Challenger,styling

Here’s looking at you

  • Three-year/36,000-mile  Basic
  • Five-year/100,000-mile  Powertrain
  • Five-year/100,000-mile  Rust-Through
  • Five-year/100,000-mile  Roadside Assistance

Observations: 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT

For more than 45 years the Dodge Challenger has built a heritage based on its success in drag, sports and stock car racing. The famous Hemi engine muscled the Challenger to championships and now the current version has a featured role in movies.

But the performance and racing heritage of the Challenger doesn’t tell the whole story, especially since we found a version that gets 30 mpg on the highway and is still fun to drive.

2015 Dodge,Challenger SXT,performance,fuel economy

Will Gen Z get it?

That next generation of car buyers that had a quick flash of recognition at the shopping center should make Dodge happy. Does it help sales today? Well, not with nine-year-olds, but maybe with their parents or anyone wanting to experience a muscle car at a very reasonable price. As noted, if you don’t opt for the higher powered versions, the 2015 Dodge Challenger gets respectable highway fuel economy and keeps it’s street cred with Camaro and Mustang, which it has been battling against for bragging rights over the past five decades.

Treat yourself to a test drive of this fun car. You just may drive home in something you never thought would possibly find a home in your garage.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

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First Drive: 2016 Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle

First Drive: 2016 Toyota Mirai Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle

Does the Future Start Like the Past?

Toyota is the world’s largest automotive manufacturer and they pride themselves in doing things right and leading the industry in many ways. Say hybrid and the image that comes to mind is the Toyota Prius. Clean Fleet Report recently had the chance to drive a pre-production prototype of the first generation Toyota Mirai at the Western Automotive Journalists‘ Media Day program in Monterey, California. This is Toyota’s initial fuel cell car that will enter the U.S. market later this year. It brought back memories of driving a right-hand drive first generation Prius more than a decade and half ago prior to the hybrid coming on sale.

Back to the Prius, the typical visual would be of a second or third generation Prius, which were the ones

2016,Toyota Mirai,fuel cell, electric car

Not to be mistaken for a Camry

that broke through in sales and established the model and hybrid technology as viable. The first generation Prius was a slightly different animal. While the technology was solid, the looks of that model was far from mainstream, maybe by design. The early adopters and eco-minded consumers who bought the 2000-03 Prius bought a symbol of something new that was unlikely to be mistaken for anything else.

Fast forward a decade and a half and Toyota is about to introduce its first retail fuel cell vehicle. Just as with the hybrid, the company seems less concerned about being the first

Honda, Fuel cell car,FCEV,

Honda’s Fuel Cell Car coming later

(Hyundai’s Tucson fuel cell went on sale last year much as Honda’s Insight hybrid beat the Prius to market; this time Honda will trail Toyota, though it has had its Clarity FCEV in limited production) than getting it right. For Toyota, that means a distinctive vehicle, which the 2016 Toyota Mirai fuel cell definitely is. It wears what is probably the most expressive Toyota styling outside the Lexus  F-series supercars. That said, it is clearly a Toyota, carrying forward styling cues already seen on volume models like the Camry, Corolla and Prius. For its fuel cell development work, Toyota used the Highlander compact SUV platform, but for the public launch the company’s first fuel cell gets a unique body and a mainstream five-passenger sedan format.

The Future Questions All Lead to Infrastructure

The logical question is—Is Toyota launching the Mirai as the next Prius, more expensive than comparable gasoline models, but not out-of-reach? A second question is one seemingly only asked by the media—Is Toyota betting on fuel cells as the winner of the zero-emission technology race over battery electrics?

As noted above, the Mirai launch features many details similar to the Prius, but with one big

2016 Toyota,Mirai FCEV, hydrogen, electric car

Looking for some more pumps

added complication. While you could take the Prius to any gas station in the country, the Mirai will only be able to be refueled at a handful of stations, most of which are in California. Driving out of range of those stations means a flatbed trip home. It’s the range anxiety of a plug-in vehicle, but without the fall-back of being able to find a 110-volt outlet anywhere to grab a few electrons. When automakers and enthusiasts say the fuel cell is a gamechanger, they mean it in every sense of the word.

The paradox of this is that missing infrastructure is the piece that makes the fuel cell vehicle the antidote to the ongoing issues with all but mega-expensive Tesla battery electrics. They provide the same kind of quick-refueling that is the hallmark of gasoline and diesel vehicles. Spend three-minutes at the pump and you’re good for another 300 miles, unlike the battery equation where even at a fast-charger you’ll be parked for 20-30 minutes to get to a charge that may be good for another 50-80 miles (again, excepting the Telsa). The fuel cell is the closest zero tailpipe emission vehicle that replicates the personal freedom offered by the automobile, the not-so-secret reason for its popularity for the past century.

Toyota has announced that the Mirai will retail for $57,500, but lease deals will be offered to compete with Hyundai’s introductory $499/month deal on the fuel cell Tucson. Like the Prius when it was introduced, the pricing is significantly higher than comparable gasoline models, in the Mirai’s case at least double. But it makes more sense to compare the Mirai with the current highest technology vehicle offered by Toyota, the Prius Plug-in, which can be loaded up to around $40,000. It’s still a big step, but more comparable to the jump from a gas car to a hybrid on a percentage basis.

As to the fuel cell vs. EV debate, since they’re both fuel cells the whole “controversy” appears to be a little contrived. On the other hand, when the vice chairman of Toyota, says:  “The current capabilities of electric vehicles do not meet society’s needs, whether it may be the distance the cars can run, or the costs, or how it takes a long time to charge.” (Takeshi Uchiyamada quoted at a 2012 press conference introducing one Toyota’s electric cars.)

What About the Car?

Setting aside, if you can, the scarcity of fueling stations, what can you say after a short drive of the Mirai? Like almost every electric car (which all fuel cell cars are), the Mirai is quiet, smooth and quick on  acceleration.

2016,Toyota Mirai,fuel cell,electric

Designed to attract those who want to be noticed

The exterior styling is aggressive, clearly intended to leave an impression that you are not driving an ordinary Toyota. On the other hand, it doesn’t carry a sense of the luxury zone you might expect to be in for more than $50,000. In exterior size, it’s within an inch or two of the Camry. There is some logic to building off the dimensions of your most popular vehicle. Inside, it feels more cramped than the Camry, in part due to a prominent center stack that reminded me of the Chevy Volt—smooth, shiny plastic. The were the inevitable Prius touches inside as well, such as in the switchgear, which looks like it was plucked out of the current model.

Performance was comparable to most of the fuel cell vehicles I’ve driven during the past decade. The pre-production model had a few noises that will probably disappear by the time the Mirai goes on sale.

All-in-all, it’s unremarkable, which in some ways is what you want in a purported next step in automotive technology. The transition for most drivers will be just a matter of adapting to a new fueling regimen, which involves only a small variation from current pumps. Once you’re in the car, functionally things will be familiar other than a few new gauges.

The High-Tech Solution

By design, the Mirai is a high-tech car. For all of BMW’s advances with carbon fiber with the i3, the hydrogen that fuel cell cars has been stored in carbon fiber tanks for decades. Instead of a heat-pump that produces motivation by exploding carbon-based fuel, the fuel cell car is a chemist’s lab that separates and combines elements and creates electricity to run the motor or motors. But underneath that high-veneer, it’s a fairly basic, 150-year-old process. Run hydrogen and oxygen over a membrane to create electricity and leave water vapor coming out the tailpipe.

One carryover from the Prius generation of vehicles is the battery. Rather than move to lithium-ion

2016 Toyota,Mirai fuel cell,electric car, hydrogen

A price too far?

batteries like it uses in the Prius-Plug-in, the Mirai packs a 1.6 kWh nickel-metal-hydride battery, similar to the ones that have powered Prius hybrids for the past decade and a half.

Toyota, of course, has much vested in its hybrid solution to modern automotive advancement, so it incorporates a variation of its hybrid system into the Mirai’s drivetrain. Using a hybrid system also helps validate the fuel cell vehicle as the “next step” in automotive evolution. But these steps are usually best seen in retrospect, so in the same way the electric car was killed and revived, we may not know whether this is the true birth of the fuel cell car for decades to come. In the meantime, we can say it’s a good ride, a little pricey, but delivers on its promise of being a real zero-emission replacement for the internal combustion engine.

Coming Soon: A Talk with the Man Who Will Market the Mirai

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Road Test: 2015 Nissan Juke SL

Road Test: 2015 Nissan Juke SL

Quirky, Unique Styling in A Fun-To-Drive Package

On seeing the 2015 Juke, some people give the just-bit-into-a-lemon sourpuss face and won’t give this cute little car a second look. Well, too bad on them for a having a lack of imagination of what their life would be like zipping around town this attention-getter. Fun, hip, sporty…are just some of the better—and more true to the car—things other people say.

Drivetrain

The 2015 Nissan Juke comes in either FWD or AWD, with an intercooled and turbocharged 1.6L, 16-

2015,Nissan Juke,SL, lights

A light or two

valve sequential direct injection Inline four-cylinder engine that runs on premium unleaded, putting out 188 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. Clean Fleet Report’s Juke SL had Nissan’s smooth Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) with an EPA rating of 28 City / 32 Highway / 30 Combined. In 409 miles of 70-percent/30-percent highway/city driving we averaged 33.9 mpg, which if the 13.2 gallon fuel tank was run dry, would have taken us almost 450 miles down the road. For the AWD Juke with the same engine and transmission, shave a couple miles per gallon off these numbers, but clearly numbers good enough to welcome the Juke into the 30 MPG AWD Club.

For even more fun, there is the Juke NISMO RS, which cranks out 215 hp and 201 lb-ft of torque in a true, high-performance sports car in a mini-crossover package.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The five-door Juke (four doors plus a hatch) weighs in at 3,968 lbs. With a 63/37 front-to-rear weight distribution, the handling was way better than other small crossovers I have tested. The wide rev band

2015, Nissan,Juke, SL,styling

In your face styling

of the turbocharged engine and the performance-leaning handling made the Juke a really fun car to drive, with only a minor amount of easily manageable torque-steer when accelerating hard. Also adding to the driving experience, and available on the SV and SL Juke models, is Nissan’s Advanced-Integrated Control

(I-CON) system interface that allows the driver to select between several functions including the adaptive drive mode settings of Normal, Sport and Eco.

2015 Nissan, Juke SL,styling

A stable fashion statement

The electric, power-assisted and speed-sensitive steering was light, nimble and quick without ever losing the “there” feel through all speeds and situations, including when driving 70+ mph on a grooved highway. The 17-inch Goodyear Eagle RS-A all-season tires were well-matched to the Juke’s front independent strut with stabilizer bar and rear torsion and stabilizer bar suspension that also included KYB twin-tube shock absorbers all-around. For additional cornering grip and traction in foul weather, you can opt for the Juke with Nissan’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system.

The Juke’s excellent braking system consisted of front vented and rear solid discs, combined with Nissan’s Electronic Brake-force Distribution system, which adjusts brake proportioning to compensate for added weight from passengers or cargo, and even adjusts as fuel is consumed. All-in-all, there was never a highway or cornering braking situation the Juke could not handle with confidence.

If you read my other Clean Fleet Report reviews, you will see I find driving a

CVT-equipped car to be a good experience as they are smooth, help deliver higher fuel economy and

2015, Nissan,Juke,SL,

An angle of approach

bring a big smile because you will never, ever feel a gear shifting. The CVT and the 1.6-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine was slightly loud when accelerating hard to enter a freeway or climb a hill. Once there, the Juke cruised along and kept up with traffic easily, with the turbo giving needed ready-power when passing cars. The three driver-selected adaptive drive modes (Normal, Sport and Eco) made the CVT act more like a shift transmission with Eco for the open road to maximize fuel economy, Normal for around town cruising and Sport for a bit more performance feel. I tended to use Sport and Eco because, heck, who wants to be Normal?

Design wise, the Juke is not a car to be confused with anything else on the road. It has an aggressive stance that makes it look muscular and larger than it is. I personally like the styling, but also have heard comments that it looks like an insect or maybe a frog. I get it, but the Juke design style is its DNA and what makes it so fun and unique. The front is where some people may utter a “ewww” as they look, from bottom-to-top, at the fog lights in the lower fascia, then the distinctive, round projector halogen headlights set into the bumper, and finally the stacked turn signal and daytime running lights on the fender tops. There is a lot going on upfront, but somehow it all seems to work when you figure how non-conforming it is to everything else on the road.

2015,Nissan,Juke,taillight

Styling coming and going

From the side the raked windshield leads to a roofline that drops noticeably to the rear hatch. The color-keyed, integrated rear door handles make for a smooth appearance, leading one to think the Juke is a coupe. Out back, the rear taillights are similar to those found on the Murano, 370Z, Versa Note and the Altima, what Nissan calls its “boomerang” design that helps guide air away from the body for reduced turbulence, helping to increase fuel economy.

Driving Experience: Interior

Clean Fleet Report was driving a highly optioned 2015 Juke SL with the Tech and Cold Weather packages, floor and cargo carpet mats and center armrest as options. Our 400+ miles cruising Southern California was an enjoyable experience, one we did not want to end.

The first thing we noticed when getting into our Juke was the bold, red, motorcycle tank-inspired center

2015 Nissan, Juke SL, interior styling

How many wheels, again?

console framed by black (with red baseball stitching) leather-appointed and perforated, heated front seats. The driver seat was six-way adjustable, while the passenger side was four-way adjustable. The seats were firm and offered good lumbar and bolstering support.

Nissan says there is seating for three adults in the 60/40 split bench rear seat, but we are guessing that the vast majority of Juke owners lay those seats flat – permanently – which results in a very usable 35.9-cubic-feet of storage space, a nod to traditional hatchback functionality and versatility. Otherwise, there is little usable storage space behind the rear seats when they’re in the upright position. There is plenty of headroom for driver and passenger, even with the power sliding sunroof option.

2015 Nissan, Juke SL, interior, style

Styling details

Adding to the interior comfort was a tilt and energy absorbing steering column, leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel with audio, Bluetooth hands-free telephone and cruise controls, A/C, power windows and door locks, power outside mirrors, multiple cup holders, carpeted floor mats, center console, auto-dimming rearview mirror, multiple beverage holders and a 12-volt accessory outlet.

The dash layout is simple and clean with easy to find controls. I was especially pleased to see the radio had real knobs for volume and channel selecting and the climate control wheels were a different size than those of the radio, and were located away from the radio to eliminate any confusion. This may not seem like a big thing, but it is when reaching for these very different controls in the dark – regardless of your familiarity with the dash layout.

The simplicity of the dash layout also made reading the gauges and operating the sound system easy.

2015,Nissan, Juke, SL, technology

A view to all-around

Clean Fleet Report’s Juke SL came with the Tech Package that included a 5.8-inch HD touch-screen with navigation and mobile apps and a rear view monitor. The powerful and great sounding Rockford Fosgate ecoPUNCH audio system came with six speakers and a powered subwoofer, SiriusXM (three-month trial subscription), AM/FM/HD/CD/MP3/WMA, USB port with iPod connectivity, Aux-in jacks and Bluetooth streaming audio.

Safety and Convenience

The 2015 Juke comes with six air bags, remote keyless entry, push button start/stop, Moving Object Detection (MOD), Around View Monitor (AVM), Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Traction Control System (TCS), Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), 4-wheel disc Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) with brake assist, Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD), projector–type Halogen headlights, fog, and anti-theft vehicle immobilizer.

Pricing and Warranties

Base price for the 2015 Nissan Juke with the CVT is $20,250 and the six-speed manual transmission is $24,830. Clean Fleet Report’s 2015 Juke SL FWD CVT had a MSRP of $25,700. All prices are excluding the $825 Destination charge.

The 2015 Juke comes with these warranties:

  • Three-year/36,000-mile  Basic
  • Five-year/60,000-mile  Powertrain
  • Five-year/Unlimited-mile  Anti-Perforation

Observations: 2015 Nissan Juke SL

The 2015 Juke is a blending of a small crossover and performance car that, for the more adventurous

2015 Nissan, Juke SL,styling

They’ll see you coming

among you, lets you make your own statement with a design that has been called everything from wild to modern sculpture. Available in nine colors, including the very noticeable Cosmic Yellow our car came in, the 2015 Juke is one of the most unique cars on the road. New for 2015 is Nissan’s Juke Color Studio where owners can personalize the exterior and interior colors, even going as far as matching your Juke’s colors to your favorite sports team. How’s that for making a statement!

Nissan says the Juke buyer is confident and focused on the car’s overall look, and what that look says about them. When you become a Juke owner there is no doubt this describes you perfectly, as you will get looks when cruising around and have some pretty interesting conversations with family, neighbors and complete strangers. Suffice it to say, you will not be just another car on the road if you own a Juke.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

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Elon Musk on the Near Future of the Autonomous Car

Elon Musk on the Near Future of the Autonomous Car

Tesla (and everyone) is getting more automated; selling more, just not in the U.S.; selling software upgrades rather than new hardware (but he has new hardware, too)

The first quarter of 2015 may be a watershed time for Tesla Motors. As time marches on, CEO Elon’s Musk’s very different view of the automobile is emerging. For instance, the frequent styling changes of most cars are being passed over for software and under-the-skin hardware upgrades, much like you might expect on a computer. In addition, for the first time in its short existence, Tesla did what virtually every other auto company does—report its sales numbers (more about that later). Among the features being adding to the topline Tesla models are more that move it closer to autonomous driving, something Musk spoke at length about recently.

Over the last several months, culminating in a March 19, 2015, announcement, Tesla has made a variety

TEsla, autopilot,Model S,electric car

Tesla’s autopilot software activates on relatively new hardware

of upgrades to its Model S hardware and software, turning models built since October of last year into cars capable of hands-free driving through its Autopilot. That software package will activate a forward-looking camera, a radar sensor and ultrasonic sensors recently added to the Model S. With all of those active, the car will be capable of reading roadside speed signs and keeping the car at the posted limit, change lanes automatically if the driver initiates the turn signal and the road is clear. Musk’s message is clear:

“Most cars don’t improve over time. By contrast, Model S gets faster, smarter and better as time passes. With Tesla’s regular over-the-air software updates, Model S actually improves while you sleep. When you wake up, added functionality, enhanced performance, and improved user experience make you feel like you are driving a new car.”

Tesla,Model S,upgrades,electric car

This ain’t no Beetle

So Musk may be emulating the strategy that served Volkswagen well for decades with the Beetle, leaving the exterior shape of the vehicle roughly the same and making changes in more substantial (and sometimes less substantial) components. Of course the Beetle was an iconic bit of mass transportation that served the lower end of the market. The Model S is none of that, but may be following the strategy of Daimler with its upscale Mercedes-Benz models that rarely changed. But both of those references are from the past and the recent market looks nothing like that.

Tesla’s latest software update focused on features it promoted as “Range Assurance” for owners, warning drivers before they run out of battery power and routing them to the nearest supercharger. Other features, coming later, will enable owners to remotely summon their cars from their garage.  For now, new features will enable automatic emergency braking, a blind spot warning alert, side collision warning and a valet mode that limits speed, locks the glove box and frunk (the Model S’ front trunk) and limits access to personal information in the car’s system.

Musk wants to make you upgrade to get the new features and just accept that the exterior is going to be

Tesla,software upgrades,Model S, electric car

The outside may look the same but the brains of the car have been updated

pretty much the same. This saves big expenses in new tooling, which is particularly important as Tesla moves closer to launching the SUV-like Model X and then moves on to its Model3. Not that the hardware and software changes don’t come at a cost. The new Model S 70D features a 240-mile ranges and AWD, starting at $76,200, compared to the Model S 85D at $86,200 and full-court press Model S P85D at $106,200. Some upgrades may be free, but like the iPhone, you have to have the most recent model to really benefit from all the new free upgrades offer.

Tesla also touts its wireless delivery of upgrades, but then Tesla doesn’t really have new models to sell its owners , so bringing them into the dealership for an upgrade (the traditional way such things are done in the auto business) isn’t really necessary. And, of course, there aren’t that many dealerships out there, though the number is growing. Some states still ban Tesla’s direct-sales style of marketing.

So on one hand Musk is offering near autonomous technology on his latest model (note it is only available on cars build beginning in fall 2014; time to upgrade!), but when asked about the future of the autonomous car, he deferred:

“We’re a long way from that” because of the great number of legacy cars on the road—2 billion and

Tesla,autonomous car,Model S,software,hardware,electric car

Getting ready to move on its own

climbing. He noted that it would take 20 years to replace the fleet if all the new cars sold today had full autonomous capability. He added that the same numbers applied for the move toward electrification that Tesla is championing.

Still he teased: “In the future they may outlaw driving in a ‘two-ton death machine’,” but then he took the discussion in another path, talking about how safety regulations that make the car so heavy could be relaxed if the autonomous technology were ubiquitous. Besides more vehicles, what does the industry need to get to autonomous cars? A bigger suite of sensors and faster processors, which was a nod to his host at the conference at which he was speaking—Nvidia (which already supplies the chips behind the Model S’ big screens).

In Musk’s analysis, we have a significant “problem” area for current driving. Sub-10 mph ultrasonics handle most issues, he said, and at beyond 50 mph on highways current cars can take care driving

Tesla, Fremont Factory, Model S,

Making more–at least for now.

autonomously. It’s 10-50 mph in “complex urban environments where unexpected things happens” that is the “hard” area, Musk stated. In addition, there are government hurdles, where agencies will demand a “large amount of statistical proof” before acting to allow autonomy in vehicles, as Musk said, “typically after it is already happening.”

After these sobering thoughts, Musk seemed to shift gears and get much more positive about the effort he and others are putting into autonomous cars. “I almost view it like a solved problem. We know what to do; it will just take a while to get there.  We’ll take it for granted in a few years.”

The subtext of his talk was his view of the car as a software platform. Software platforms get upgrades and can reach new levels when paired with advanced hardware, but their packaging doesn’t need to change.

In early April 2015 Tesla Motors did something they had never done before—they released their quarterly sales figures. The numbers, 10,030, bested some projections, and the estimates of 4,900 sales in the U.S. (Tesla didn’t break out regional sales) dramatically demonstrated the shift of Model S sales to

Tesla,Model S P85D,AWD,upgrade,electric car

An AWD iPhone?

overseas markets. Even with the addition of the Model X later in the year, Musk cautioned that annual sales would not necessarily be a 4X of this first quarter. And soft sales in China continued to hamper the company’s growth, even while spending on the Model X launch and Model3 development increased.

So Tesla on one hand starts to behave more like other car companies while still pressing its advantage by doing things other car companies cannot or will not do, such as over-the-air software updates. It would be hard to argue it is, as it claims, the most automated car on the road, but it clearly has that goal in its sights and is moving quickly in that direction. As CEO Elon Musk says, we will probably have full autonomy well before it is officially sanctioned by the government. Tesla’s definitely charging toward this future and is something we’ll be watching closely.

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