Road Test: 2017 Infiniti QX30 AWD

Road Test: 2017 Infiniti QX30 AWD

Stylish Compact Luxury Crossover and 30 mpg

2017 Infiniti QX30

2017 Infiniti QX30

Want to step-up your game a bit and go for luxury in a compact crossover? Look no further than the all-new 2017 Infiniti QX30 AWD that Infiniti says “was created for a new generation of premium buyers.” Sharing the platform, engine and transmission with the Mercedes-Benz GLA, Infiniti is off to a great start, bringing style, comfort and luxury to a small SUV.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The all-wheel drive 2017 Infiniti QX30 is powered by a smooth and responsive turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine producing 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The seven-speed automatic dual clutch transmission with paddle shifters has driver selectable settings of Eco, Manual and Sport. Using premium gasoline, EPA fuel economy rates it at 21 City/30 Highway/25 Combined for the AWD models. In 300 miles of 75-percent highway/25-percent city driving, Clean Fleet Report averaged 28.6 mpg, exceeding the EPA combined numbers. The 30 mpg highway mileage is impressive for a 3,475 lb. compact crossover (the model we drove). Infiniti achieved this by using a non-jarring idle stop-start system and .32 drag coefficient (Cd).

2017 Infiniti QX30

Infiniti edges into the growing small SUV/crossover segment

Out on the road the QX30 AWD has a stable nature that, when opting for the Sport mode, provides a more aggressive and engine-responsive driving experience. While Sport is good for quicker acceleration and on mountain roads, this setting holds the gears too long for all-around driving. The Eco mode is where you will spend most of your driving time as it is an important element of getting optimum fuel economy.

The four-wheel independent suspension has MacPherson struts with a stabilizer bar and twin tube shocks up front, and the rear has a multi-link with stabilizer bar and mono tube shocks. The electric power-assisted steering was set to deliver good road feel, if not on the bit heavy side. Our QX30 AWD was equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels and 235/50/18 Continental Pro Contact SSR run-flat tires, resulting in confident handling with moderate body roll and understeer.

Driving Experience: Exterior

There are six QX30 models, with the all-wheel drive version Clean Fleet Report drove having the highest ride height at 7.9-inches. All new for 2017, the QX30 was first revealed a short two years

ago as a concept car and now, according to Infiniti, is a “mix of artistry in the flowing lines…elevated stance, confident look” in what “makes a bold visual statement.” The final result is a very attractive crossover sporting a beautifully designed grill with an unique mesh insert that leads to the wide-set LED headlights and lower fascia LED fog lights. The sculpted fenders give the impression of motion, while the low-slung roofline and tapering rear side windows lead to a visually pleasant integrated spoiler over the rear hatch. The rear is finished-off with LED taillights and twin bright exhaust tips.

Driving Experience: Interior

2017 Infiniti QX30, interior

The driver-oriented dash has tech and knobs

Slipping into the QX30, you will quickly notice the superior materials, especially those we found in the Premium model. The black dash with white top stitching has an asymmetric design where the driver receives the attention. Gauges, knobs and levers are convenient to read and use. The black faces and white lettering on the large, round speedometer and tachometer sandwich the driver information center.

Infiniti has spent considerable time on the front seats, incorporating their Spinal Support and Zero Gravity technology. They’re engineered to match the curvature of the spine for support and body weight distribution, wider shape with soft cushions. It all leads to firm, but comfortable seats. The heated, eight-way power adjustable front seats, all clad in a very rich and soft Nappa leather, have four-way power lumbar support adjustments and excellent thigh bolsters. Add in the tilt and telescopic steering column and the driver can easily find a perfect seating position for those long road trips.

The 60/40 split-folding rear seat has a center armrest with cup holders, pass-through for long items and folds flat. The rear seat is best suited for two adults as shoulder space can be tight and the slopping roofline reduces head space for taller passengers. Otherwise the leather-trimmed seats were comfortable and the vents on the rear of the console were a nice touch.

The center dash finds a seven-inch color display, which is the access point to the infotainment (information and entertainment) center. The entertainment element includes the excellent 10-speaker Bose sound system with AM/FM/CD/MP3/AUX HD radio, 2 USB ports and SiriusXM. Our QX30 had the Infiniti InTouch connectivity system that included navigation. The leather-wrapped steering wheel has mounted controls and voice recognition for hands-free telephone, audio, navigation and vehicle information systems.

2017 Infiniti QX30, storage

The QX30 has plenty of the reason you buy an SUV

Convenience comes your way with a panoramic power moonroof and sunshade, push button start/stop, interior lighting front and rear, auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink and a universal garage door opener, dual zone automatic climate control, cargo and floor mats, power automatic keyless door locks, power windows with one-touch up and down, rearview camera, rain-sensing windshield wipers with heated washers, rear window wiper, power and heated side mirrors with turn indicators and an electronic parking brake.

Of special note and available on many Infiniti models is their Around View Monitor system, which is a series of cameras strategically located on the exterior that allow the driver to see completely around the vehicle, as if looking down from above. This is a technology that should be on all vehicles from all manufacturers.

Safety, Pricing and Warranties

The 2017 QX30 comes with an extensive list of standard safety features including eight airbags, four-wheel power disc ABS braking system, forward emergency braking, intelligent (adaptive) cruise control, blind spot monitoring, park assist with front and rear sensors, vehicle dynamic control, traction control, hill launch assist, tire pressure monitoring system, antitheft engine immobilizer, lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert.

Clean Fleet Report’s 2017 Infiniti QX30 Premium AWD, with optional equipment, had a MSRP of $42,750 excluding the $995 destination charge. Front-wheel drive QX30’s start at $29,950 and AWD models start at $34,400.

The 2017 QX30 comes with these warranties:

  • Basic – Four years/48,000 miles
  • Powertrain – Six years/70,000 miles
  • Roadside Assistance – Four years/48,000 miles

Observations: 2017 Infiniti QX30 Premium AWD

2017 Infiniti QX30

The back end does the wave

The compact crossover segment is only a few years old, but demand for this size vehicle is growing. There are compromises when dropping in size from a midsize or full-size SUV as rear passenger and cargo space can be limited. The benefits of the compact crossover are many, including easier parking, maneuvering and better fuel economy.

In the case of the 2017 Infiniti QX30 Premium AWD, you are buying into a luxury package where expectations are high. The power is smooth, if not spectacular, and the handling (for a tall vehicle) is adequate. The fit and finish is excellent, the fuel economy is good, the interior is quiet and made of high-quality materials and the Bose sound system is top notch. (It’s standard on the Premium model.)

The QX30 competes with the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Lexus NX, Mercedes-Benz GLA and the Buick Envision. Therefore, if you are stepping up to a luxury small crossover, take advantage of the various models to cross-shop and you will be treating yourself to a well-earned new ride.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

Related Stories You Might Enjoy:

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

In Collaboration with Katzkin Leather

In Collaboration with Katzkin Leather

Make Your Aging Green Car Like New

The dilemma is this—you’ve got your Prius from a few years ago. Okay, let’s be honest—from the time before they thought anyone buying a super efficient environmentally friendly vehicle would want a leather interior. That’s from the days when the “environmental car” market was thought to be monolithic and comprised of treehuggers willing to sacrifice everything in their quest to minimize their automotive impact on the earth. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

new Katzin interior

Katzkin’s leather was a near-perfect fit

Those days are over and, thankfully, environmentally friendly vehicles of all shapes and sizes are available and selling to millions. But you may remain with your non-leather Prius (or other early model). You love the car and what it means for your environmental footprint. You know the longer you drive it, the more you minimize that footprint. So, you may be faced with the choice I had in my 2010 Nissan Rogue (one of the early crossovers on the cusp of joining the 30 mpg and club).

You could invest a serious amount of cash or credit in a new state-of-the-art machine or you could upgrade your perfectly acceptable vehicle to extend its usefulness and continue to reduce your environmental footprint. It’s not just a dollars and cents decision, but one caught up in personal values and finances.

An Inside Job

So, once you’ve sorted through your personal agenda, here’s an option to put on the table. Upgrade your pedestrian factory fabric with a Katzkin leather interior. It’s a rewarding option that I can

new Katzin interior

Looking (and feeling) like a whole new car

testify from personal experience (and from comments of friends recently in the car) is akin to getting a new vehicle.

Katzkin presents an overwhelming number of choices when it comes time for your upgrade. They will present you with more than a hundred different designs and

Old Rogue seats

This was what had to go

combinations so you can tailor your interior to your style and lifestyle. In addition, they’ll help you with the design or you can freelance it yourself.

Choices Are Just the Beginning

Color choices go from basics like black or red to exotics like bayou (a camo look), carbon crimson or Outlaw Brown (also available in Outlaw Black, Saddle or Clay depending what type of outlaw you might be.

new Katzin interior

A Coach magician at work

The magicians at Coach Automotive Restyling of Union City (in the San Francisco Bay Area) did a quick turn-around on the job, pulling out the old seats and stripping the worn materials, fitting on the Katzkin leather with a combination of experience, elbow grease and a little steam. The also dropped in a little welcome surprise during a cold winter–heated seats integrated into the new leather.

The bottom line is a redone interior of Katzkin leather can really give you a new car and/or extend the life of your car, garnering you points for environmental stewardship—and giving you a cool ride.

Road Test: 2016 Honda Civic Touring

Road Test: 2016 Honda Civic Touring

Everything Done Well—and Some Things Done Very Well

2016 Honda Civic Coupe,performance

Where it thrives–out on the road

In the battle to sell cars, Honda has never taken the path of the lowest price. Instead, it has traveled a higher road and earned the reputation of quality, reliability and high-tech innovation. The latest 2016 Honda Civic Coupe is no exception.

The all-new Civic Coupe followed the sedan onto dealer lots, but a Civic Coupe is nothing new—Honda has sold nearly two million of them so far. In its quest to build a better-than-the-previous model, which lacked a spark of race-bred intensity, they produced a very long list of significant changes for this 10th-generation edition. In the face of growing competition, the 2016 Honda Civic Coupe does everything well, and some things very well.

Starting off, there’s some exciting news under the hood for a change—two new four-cylinder engines, one with a first time in the U.S. turbocharger. Constructed on an all-new platform, the 2016 Civic, both coupe and sedan, boasts new edgy styling, a quieter, larger interior that wouldn’t look out of place in an Acura, and a host of other improvements.

But wait, there’s more. As more Americans realize the sensibility of a hatchback, there’s now a Civic five-door hatch, and for the tuner crowd Honda is finally bringing the sinister Type R hatchback to our shores with some 300 horsepower early next year.

The Coupe Lineup

For 2016, there are five trim levels for the Honda Coupe: LX, LX-P, EX-T, EX (that’s a lot of Xs) and the top line Touring model, our test driver. The base LX with a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission starts at $19,050, plus a $835 destination charge. At the top end, the Touring sticker price with the turbocharged engine and continuously-variable transmission (CVT) starts at $26,125.

Regardless of trim or engines, all 2016 Honda Coupes join Clean Fleet Report’s 40 mpg Club. Turbocharged models with the CVT score the highest EPA ratings with 42 miles-per-gallon on the highway, 31 mpg city and 35 mpg combined. Civics with the 2.0-liter four with a CVT have an estimated 41 mpg on the highway, 31 mpg city and 35 mpg combined.

A Look Under The Hood

2016 Honda Civic Coupe,engine

Power and efficiency under the hood

Powering the LX and LX-P Civic Coupe is an all-new 2.0-liter dual overhead cam (DOHC) four-cylinder engine. It produces 158 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 138 pounds-feet of torque at 4,200 rpm, making it the most powerful base engine offered in the Civic’s history.

Want a little more zest from the coupe? Also new is a 1.5-liter turbocharged four. It also is a DOHC engine with Honda’s dual variable cam timing that churns out 174 horsepower at 6,000 rpm with a peak torque of 162 pounds feet from 1,700 to 5,500 rpm. With these two new engines it marks the first time in Civic’s 43-year history that no single-cam engine is available.

If you like to shift gears, the base LX with the 2.0-liter engine is the only model that offers a six-speed manual transmission. All other models are standard with a new CVT, a transmission design that Honda introduced in 1996 on the Civic HX model. There’s a Sport mode that delays upshifting for more available power and provides greater engine braking. The CVT provides the optimum gear ratio for the driving conditions, and doesn’t have that disconnected “rubber-band” feel like some CVTs do.

It Looks Like A Civic, But…

If you’ve grown accustomed to Honda’s usual glacially slow rate of change, take a second look at the photos. Yes, it still looks like a Civic, but Honda transformed the Civic Coupe and gave it a character of its own. To call this 10th generation Civic a compact econobox would be like calling BMW’s M3 a compact-size European sedan.

The Coupe’s wheelbase is longer by more than an inch compared to the sedan, yet overall length drops by more than five-inches, all of it coming off the backside. The two-door has a sportier design than the sedan, with taught, tidy proportions. The hood features sharply defined character lines, drawing the eye forward and down to the Civic’s aggressive new face, highlighted by a chrome-plated Honda “wing” that runs the full width of the front. Honda accompanies that bold stroke with abbreviated front and rear overhangs and bulging wheel arches that cling to the wheels.

Inside, the odd double deck dashboard is gone and designers used that real estate for a wide and uniform looking dash like the sedan, yet with a little more flair. Instrument gauges are now more traditional in their setup, but no less far-reaching, with plenty of digital readouts. Steering wheel controls work well, which is a good thing because on our Touring there were few other buttons or knobs, just a screen with touch sensitive areas for controlling most everything. High quality, soft-to-the-touch materials are everywhere—the instrument panel, front door inserts and sash and door and the large thickly padded center armrest. As expected from Honda, build quality is simply superb.

Front seats—already good—have gotten better and more comfortable, and the heated leather eight-way adjustable driver’s seat made it simple to find a good driving position. There is ample room for the driver and front seat passenger, and the Coupe actually feels like a small midsize car, which technically it is.

A Back Seat Surprise—Room

2016 Honda Civic Coupe,interior, back seat

Room for adults in back

It is a two-door, so our two six-foot tall grandsons grumbled a bit when making their way into the back seat. These are big, wide-shouldered guys, but once seated, they both said they were comfortable. With temperatures dipping into the low 30s, they particularly liked that the back seat also was heated.

The Civic Coupe may appear to be a hatchback, but it has a traditional trunk with a cargo space of 11.9 cubic-feet, up slightly from the outgoing car.

Our Civic Coupe came standard with premium leather seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front AND rear seats, lightning-fast Bluetooth phone link, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and a 10-speaker sound system with subwoofer.

Think about it. Not long ago, all of those features would have been found exclusively on expensive luxury cars. Now they’re on a spacious Civic Touring, priced out the door at $26,960, including handling charges. That price also gets you voice-recognition, remote starting and a seven-inch. electrostatic touchscreen that is loaded with entertainment options, navigation, additional climate controls and vehicle information.

Adding to the Civic Coupe Touring’s value proposition is the standard Honda Sensing, a suite of driver-assists that include forward-collision alert and automatic braking to mitigate frontal collisions; lane-departure warning and self-correcting steering to prevent unintended lane and road departures and adaptive cruise control to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead.

Behind The Steering Wheel

2016 Honda Civic Coupe,interior

A screen alone; your buttons on on the steering wheel

One of the Civic’s biggest drawing cards has been its ride. This is the most comfortable and confident Civic we’ve driven and a refreshing improvement over the outgoing car, which lost some steam and enjoyment in Honda’s drive to reduce complexity and cost. Noise levels dropped from intrusive to inconspicuous, and acceleration has been elevated from everyday adequate to invigorating.

The turbo-assisted four lagged a bit under hard acceleration, though the Sport mode tightened things, but not so much that you can’t leave it engaged, which I frequently did.  Honda finally figured out the continuously variable transmission. This one acts like a standard transmission, save for the times when I hammered it while merging onto the freeway or passing. Even then, it was fairly quiet.

The 2016 Coupe reintroduces the Civic’s proverbial agility and its front end grips the asphalt stubbornly. The little two-door tracked true at speed, abetted by terrific steering feel and a tight turning circle. It handled most chores with aplomb. Bumps were taken in stride, with good absorbency and little float or wallow. In a world where compact cars are often just driving appliances, the Civic Coupe is actually a lot of fun to drive: it’s peppy, agile and responsive, and I found myself looking for places to go. To whip up my enthusiasm even more, brakes were very efficient with good pedal modulation.

During the week with the Civic Touring, I used both the Eco and Sport modes depending on traffic conditions, terrain and—oh gee, it’s time to have some fun. When I returned the car to Honda the odometer read 200.3 miles and fuel economy registered 37.1 mpg—a couple mpgs above the EPA’s combined rating.

In The Marketplace

Two-door coupes are not high on the list of car shoppers as evidenced by the list of competitive vehicles. In the compact class there is now only one, the Kia Forte coupe — or Koupe, as Kia calls it. It’s a sporty little number that also has a turbocharged engine, a 1.6-liter four that produces 201 horsepower and is offered with a six-speed manual shifter, something that the Civic Coupe will offer at a later date. The Forte’s steering and handling are nicely balanced and the car is sporty enough to challenge the Civic Coupe. The starting price of $19,890 is line with the Honda, but fuel economy of 28 mpg combined is dismal compared Civic’s 35 mpg.

Uncommonly talented, the 2016 Honda Civic Coupe is atop the charts for all-around practically and offers a healthy dose of driving fun. A proven record of reliability, durability and high resale value make this compact two-door one you should test drive if, you are like me, smitten by a coupe’s looks.

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Road Test: 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Plug-in Hybrid

Road Test: 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Plug-in Hybrid

Efficiency, Safety, and Luxury in One Seven-passenger Package

The 2016 Volvo XC90 is a handsome, luxurious, comfortable, fuel efficient and expensive large crossover. All-new, it’s a huge step forward for the Chinese-owned Swedish brand. Also all-new is a plug-in hybrid model–the 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Plug-in Hybrid.

The old model, which was based on former owner Ford’s platform, is replaced by an all-new Scalable Product Architecture, which allows Volvo to build multiple cars off of the same structure, saving development time and expense.

The Family Test

2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Plug-in Hybrid,hybrid

Room for seven–or five and luggage

To test this true seven-passenger ride, I loaded my family into it. My wife and I rode up front, my older son and my daughter-in-law sat in the third row (yes, it fits adults) and, in the center, were my other adult son, my seven-year old granddaughter in the optional built-in booster seat, and my two-year old granddaughter, in an easily attached child seat.

During the work week, I commuted daily, enjoying the incredible Bowers & Wilkins optional audio system. It puts out 1,400 watts of power through 19 carefully located speakers. You can set it for three different “rooms,” including the Gothenburg Concert Hall.

Three Levels of Volvos

XC90s come in three trim levels: Momentum, Inscription and R-Design. Momentum is the “base” car, but it’s full of good stuff. The Inscription, like my Crystal White tester, is the luxury model, with many extra touches, exemplified by the Orrefors Swedish crystal shift knob. The R-Design is the sportiest, swapping, for example, the Inscription’s walnut trim for a metallic motif.

2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Plug-in Hybrid,interior

Like an iPad at your side

Inside, a nine-inch center touch screen replaces numerous buttons. It’s essentially a dash-mounted iPad. Dauntingly complex at first, it became easy and responsive after a few days. Its home layout is four stacked horizontal bars, including navigation, media, phone and another one you select. I normally filled that with the fuel economy and powertrain monitor. Swipe up and down and left or right to expose other settings and options.

Volvo Plugs In

The regular gasoline car is a T6, but my tester was a T8, the world’s first seven-passenger plug-in hybrid SUV. All XC90s share a potent 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that uses both super- and

2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Plug-in Hybrid

For the first time, Volvo plugs in

turbo-charging to put out 313 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. The T8 adds an electric motor and a battery pack to deliver limited electric-only motoring and a total of 400 horsepower and 472 lb.-ft. of torque. I drove my 18-mile commute entirely on electricity once, but normally achieved just under that. The center screen shows graphical and digital statistics, and where the power is flowing.

Hybrid system settings are Hybrid, the default mode, which switches back and forth from fuel to charge. Pure mode means all-electric. Power mode combines the motor’s instant torque and the gas engine’s horsepower to provide V8-level performance. Save mode lets you retain the battery charge for later use.

An EV range in the teens is typical for many plug-in hybrids—and remarkable for a 5,059-lb. vehicle. The EPA gives it a 53 MPGe rating (compare that to other battery vehicles). In pure EV mode, it’s much better. Gas-only delivers 25 MPG. My tester averaged 22.7 mpg over 63 hours and 1,578 miles, including previous journalist loans.

Green scores are 7 for Smog and a split number for the Fuel Economy/Greenhouse Gas rating—7 for MPG and an 8 for CO2.

Safety Equipment, Of Course

2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Plug-in Hybrid, safety

Safety equipment surrounds the XC90

The XC90 is loaded with safety equipment. The metal front-seat seatbelt tangs are engraved with “Since 1959” as a reminder that Volvo invented seatbelts. The IntelliSafe Safety Technology includes rollover protection, various electronic controls to keep the car in the lane and a safe distance from other cars, automatic braking under some conditions, and much more.

For collision avoidance, the XC90 uses a radar and camera unit that can automatically brake the car when another car comes through an intersection. It helps eliminate collisions with cyclists and pedestrians. The four-way, 360-degree camera helps you avoid hitting things, and also makes it a snap to park perfectly by providing a bird’s eye view. There’s automatic parking assistance, too, if you’re not good at parallel parking.

The supremely comfortable and supportive Volvo seats are now mounted on slimmer frames for more interior space; they are also very protective in case of an unavoidable collision. The gorgeous leather in my Inscription model was a traditional Volvo orange-brown; it smelled great, too.

Pricing for the T8 starts at $69,050. My tester, with the $3,500 Inscription level upgrade, plus a raft of safety, convenience and style packages and features, came to $84,005. That’s a big price tag, but this car is a truly incredible experience.

The XC90 T8 was named Green Car Journal’s Luxury Green Car of the Year, and is part of what is a welcome resurgence for Volvo, a brand with a historic commitment to safety. Today’s Volvo features the latest technology and now, a greener way to move a family of seven.

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Second Report Opinion: 2016 Nissan Titan XD

Second Report Opinion: 2016 Nissan Titan XD

In order to give you, the reader, the best perspective on the many vehicles available, Clean Fleet Report has a variety of contributors. When possible, we will offer you multiple perspectives on a given vehicle. This comes under SRO-Second Report Opinion. We hope you’ll enjoy these diverse views–and let us know if you do or don’t. 

When Only A Different Size Diesel Pickup Will Do

Breaking the stronghold that Detroit’s automakers have on the American full-size pickup  truck market is not an easy task—just ask Nissan.

2016 Nissan Titan XD Pro 4X

The grille says big truck

The Japanese maker introduced its first full-size offering, the Titan, in 2002 as a 2003 model. An American designed and built pickup, it was comfortable to drive and was ahead of its day with features like a factory bedliner, cargo tie down rails and electronic stability control. But that wasn’t enough to sway pickup buyers as they continued to flock to Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge (now Ram) trucks.

Nissan sold barely 12,000 Titans last year, that’s way less than what Ford sells every month of its F-150 trucks.

But Nissan isn’t throwing in the towel. The company discovered a chink in Detroit’s stronghold that hadn’t been filled in—a different size truck powered by a diesel engine named the Titan XD, something those other guys don’t offer.

An Inbetweener

Different size in this case means the Titan XD crewcab is slightly larger than light-duty, full-size half-ton trucks, and slightly smaller than heavy-duty three quarter-ton models. Nissan lables it an “inbetweener” full-size pickup truck.

Since many buyers don’t need or want a heavy duty truck, or its cost, but do need the torque that a diesel offers, Nissan turned to the diesel experts at Cummins to provide the engine and had the folks at Aisin supply a heavy-duty automatic transmission.

The result is a truck that can haul more than a 2,000-pound payload and tow more than 12,500 pounds, excellent inbetween numbers. And, since the Titan XD has a gross vehicle weight above 8,500 pounds, Nissan doesn’t have to state estimated fuel economy numbers.

Note that there is also a standard half-ton light-duty Titan that is almost 20 inches shorter and available with a V-8 or V-6 gasoline engine.

The Power Of A Diesel Engine

2016 Nissan TITAN XD

Thumping, stump-pulling power under the hood

The Titan XD pickup’s Cummins V-8 diesel is a clean-sheet design that on paper will out-grunt every light-duty gasoline truck that Detroit has to offer. It’s not the same as the larger displament Cummins inline-six turbodiesel that powers the Ram three-quarter-ton pickup, but it bests the V-6 diesel offered in the half-ton Ram. The Nissan slots neatly between the two in hauling and towing.

Displacment of the new diesel is 5.0-liters, and with its twin two-stage Holset turbochargers, the 90-degree dual-overhead cam diesel clatters up 555 pounds-feet of torque and 310 horsepower. That enables a maximum towing capicity of 12,300 pounds and a maximum payload of 2,091 pounds. That’s right about where light duties end and heavy duties begin. By comparison, the Ram light-duty half-ton diesel tows 9,200 pounds.

The engine block is made of compacted-graphite iron, which is twice as strong as cast iron and weighs half as much. The heads are aluminum, and the piezo-based fuel injectors are capable of up to seven injections per combustion event.

Available in either two-wheel or four-wheel drive, the engine is connected to a heavy-duty Aisin six-speed automatic transmission with tow/haul mode and an American Axle rear-end, available with an electronic locking differential.

Big Truck Styling Outside, Luxury Inside

2016 Nissan TITAN XD

Inside, it’s a luxury car

There’s not a whole lot that designers can do to a big pickup truck to distinguish it from competitors, except when it comes to the front end. With the Titan XD diesel, Nissan followed the current trend with a big-rig-style prominent chrome grille with slats and mesh with black inserts on our off-road ready Pro-4X test driver. The grille is flanked with equally large headlamps with a distinctive LED slash that sets the truck apart at night. This is topped by a tall, bulging hood, while the fenders are well-defined with rounded wheel arches. A standard running board stretches between the front and rear wheels, long enough to provide access to the front of the cargo bed. And, of course, there’s a factory bed liner. The backside is, well, it’s a pickup with a tailgate and large rear taillights.

Beneath the sheet metal is a fully boxed high-strength steel frame and an extended wheelbase of 151.6 inches that stretches the crew cab truck to 242.7-inches in length—about 20-inches longer than the gasoline-powered XDs. A heavy-duty independent double-wishbone with stabilizer bar front suspension is reinforced. A rigid rear axle suspension utilizes hefty leaf springs and leaf bushings, along with twin-tube shock absorbers.

While everything underneath the Titan XD Pro-4X was rugged and tough, the interior was close to a large luxury automobile with power adjustable leather heated and cooled front seats and comfort amenities such as power tilt/telescoping heated steering wheel, wood and metallic trim along with a 12-speaker Rockford sound system. All of the latest high-tech goodies were included: A seven-inch color display for the navigation and infotainment systems, Bluetooth connectivity, USB port with iPod connection, Siri Eyes, SiriusXM satellite radio and a rear-view and 360-degree camera.

Dominating the front cabin is a massive instrument panel that includes a combination of analog and digital gauges along with a five-inch color display with unique diesel monitoring and

2016 Nissan TITAN XD,interior

More covered storage in the rear

maintenance displays. A standard column-mounted transmission shift lever provides better usability of the center stack. Controls and buttons there are mounted high and easy to reach. It also opened up the center console for additional storage that can hold a 15-inch laptop computer.

Rear doors open wide for easy entry and exit, but the rear cabin doesn’t have quite the room that the Ram crew cab offers. Our Pro-4X came with a rear heated seat that had under seat storage with a locking lid and an integrated fold-out flat floor.

On The Road

After settling in behind the steering wheel, the first thing I noticed about the Titan XD diesel was that the window sills dip downward at the front edge like Ford’s F-150, giving better side view visibility. It may be a copycat design, but it’s a good one.

Push the start button and there’s no mistaking that a diesel engine is under the hood, but it’s surprisingly quiet at full song, thanks to judicious use of insulation and laminated glass. At highway speeds wind noise is impressively absent, and there’s just a hint of turbulence coming from the large towing mirrors.

My week driving the truck was a variety menu that included in-town stop-and-go traffic, two lane highways, gravel roads, freeways and four hours of some delightful off-roading. The XD diesel is a large body-on-frame truck with a solid rear axle, but Nissan engineers somehow came close to eliminating the bouncy ride referred to as a “truck-like” feel. The long wheelbase provided more comfort than I expected over all road surfaces with minimal bounce and shudder through the boxed frame.

Only a Little Throttle Needed

2016 Nissan TITAN XD

Sipping diesel out on the road–until you need more power

The Cummins diesel responded extremely well to part-throttle acceleration at low speeds. It’s a remarkable engine, and there is so much torque available I rarely needed engine speed above 2000 rpm. The only times the diesel needed full throttle was when I was jumping onto a crowded freeway or passing on two-lane highways—and it responded well in those situations. Engineered specifically for the Titan XD diesel, the transmission is well-matched to the engine, with a smooth, steady shift quality.

It’s obvious the XD is not canyon carver—there’s plenty of understeer and a lot of length to maneuver. But overall, the steering is solid with good on-center feel and a natural progression to turn-in that generated confidence. Parking a truck as big as the XD requires some care, and some experience. I found it necessary to execute three-point turns into most parking lot spaces. This even with a very quick 2.75-turn steering ratio that helps maneuvering at low speeds.

Editor/wife Lynne and I took tour our Pro-4X off-roading where the little used Forest Service roads were muddy, rutted, full of pot holes and steep with occasional large rocks. With 275/65R18 all-terrain tires, a ground clearance of eight inches, under-belly skid plates, heavy-duty transfer case and an electronic locking rear differential, the XD was more than capable of delivering an afternoon of pure fun. The 360-degree camera was a jewel in finding out-of-sight obstacles.

When we handed the keys back to Nissan, the trip odometer read 187.7 miles, and we averaged 16.7 miles per gallon. Dang good for an almost heavy-duty crew cab pickup truck that spent four hours slogging through the mud and ruts.

In The Marketplace

As the “inbetweener” full-size pickup truck, the Nissan Titan XD diesel crewcab doesn’t have a direct competitor.  Pricing for a two-wheel drive starts at $37,485 and goes up from there. Our four-

2016 Nissan TITAN XD

In the end, what you get a pickup for

wheel drive Pro-4X had a sticker base price of $50,970. Add the $7,030 worth of options and $1,195 destination charges and the total package was $58,165—certainly not chump change.  By comparison, the Ram 1500 half-ton crew cab with the VM Motori six-cylinder diesel and four-wheel drive has a base price of $55,615—$4,195 more than the Nissan Pro-4X.

On the other side, you have the heavy-duty diesels of Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD, Ford F-250 Super Duty, GMC Sierra 2500HD and Ram 2500 that start at around $55,000 or more.

Pickup truck brand loyalty is strong and breaking away is a tough decision. But take the 2016 Nissan Titan XD for test drive, and you just might decide that a inbetweener-size pickup is the right truck for you.

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

News: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Becomes Fuel Economy Leader

News: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Becomes Fuel Economy Leader

Korean Automakers Make Major MPG Push

2017 Hyundai IONIQ Hybrid

There’s a new badge in town

Hyundai’s 2017 Ioniq Hybrid may not have the Toyota Prius’ flamboyant styling, but it does have an EPA-certified fuel economy rating that bests the Prius Eco, making it the most fuel efficient car

sold in America without a plug.

When it arrives before the end of the year, the Ioniq Hybrid will have a window sticker showing 57 miles per gallon city/59 mpg highway and 58 mpg combined. That compares to the Toyota Prius Eco at 58 mpg city/53-mpg highway for a combined 56-mpg.

“We need some way to ‘pop’ above our competitors and get recognition in an area where we’re just kind of a new born,” said Michael J. O’Brien, Hyundai Motor America vice president of corporate and product planning, during a media event at the Los Angeles Auto Show. “I think for us having class-leading numbers is certainly a way of getting noticed.”

The Powertrain

2017 Hyundai IONIQ Hybrid,engine

Under the hood of the new Ioniq

The five-passenger Hyundai hybrid is powered by 1.6-liter Atkinson-cycle direct injected gasoline engine with output of 104 horsepower and 109 pounds-feet of torque. The engine is backed up with a 43 horsepower electric motor that is fed by a 1.56-kwh hour lithium-ion battery. Combined, the engine and motor are good for 139 horsepower, besting the Toyota’s 121 horsepower.

Rather than an electronic continuously variable transmission employed in the Prius and most hybrid vehicles, the Ioniq uses a six-speed dual-clutch transmission, known for more sporty performance than refinement.

More Plug-ins Coming

2017 Hyundai IONIQ Hybrid

Hyundai establishes a “green” sub-brand

Shortly after the Ioniq Hybrid arrives, it will be followed by a battery only model with an electric driving range of 124 miles (and an EPA MPGe—miles-per gallon equivalent—rating of 136).

At the press event, company officials said a 200-plus miles EV is coming in 2018. A few months after, early next year, a plug-in hybrid Ioniq will be released. With its 8.9-kwh lithium-polymer battery good for more than 25 miles of electric driving, it too will beat the new Prius Prime plug-in hybrid rated at 22 miles.

This onslaught of battery assisted and battery-powered cars is part of Hyundai’s plan to offer 10 hybrids, eight plug-in hybrids, six EVs and two fuel cell vehicles by 2020.

Hyundai acknowledged Toyota’s decades of work and millions of hybrids sold to make it the number one manufacturer of green vehicles, but the number two spot is up for grabs and the South Korean automaker aims to grab it.

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