Search

The Review Garage

Rating the best and worst in cars, SUVs, trucks, motorcycles, tools and accessories.

Tag

Special Editions

2019 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

As a new trim level, the 2019 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek arrives as the least truck-like sport utility vehicle in the Pathfinder lineup during its more than three-decade history in the United States.

This is a fully realized midsized crossover SUV in the current idiom that leans more toward family transportation and long-distance cruising  than off-road bashing around in bush country. It is neither expensively luxurious nor barefoot economical but a decent performer at a competitive price.

Nissan at Chicago Auto Show

There are three rows of seats for seven passengers, so this Pathfinder can substitute for a minivan, though overall it is not as commodious, especially for beach-vacation cargo. The second-row seats slide fore-and-aft, allowing a division of knee room that enables third- and second-row adult passengers enough space for moderate comfort.

Original Pathfinders were built like Nissan’s Hard Body compact pickup trucks, with body-on-frame construction. As used vehicles, they were sought after by rock climbers and mountain bikers without the wherewithal to purchase expensive Jeeps or Land Rovers. Their main competitor was the Toyota 4Runner and the short-lived Isuzu Trooper.

Nissan at Chicago Auto Show

There was some indecision along the way. From 1996 to 2004, the Pathfinder became a crossover with unit-body construction, though it retained the looks of a truck. Then it was redesigned again as a body-on-frame SUV, where it remained until 2013, when it returned to a car-like unit-body.

Today, competitors include the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, GMC Acadia and Mazda CX-9.

Customers familiar with Washington, D.C., will immediately associate the Rock Creek Edition with the creek and park of the same name that runs up the spine of the city. But Nissan says the name was chosen to connect the vehicle’s rugged heritage to outdoor-adventure minded families.

Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek-24-sourceThe Rock Creek Edition package is available on the Pathfinder’s midlevel SV and upscale SL trim levels, in both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive configurations. Tested for this review was the SV with all-wheel drive. It had a base price of $37,005 and, with the Rock Creek package and a few other options, topped out at $39,675. Both prices include the destination charge.

Rock Creek items include special tires on 18-inch alloy wheels with a smoky patina, and black mesh grille, roof rails, door handles, outside rearview mirrors and fender details. Inside are unique two-tone seats (upholstered with comfortable cloth on the SV tester), metallic trim and high-contrast stitching on seats, doors, console lid and steering wheel.

The Rock Creek comes with adaptive cruise control and safety equipment that includes automatic emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert and tire-pressure monitoring along with basic traction control , rear camera and electronic brake-force distribution.

Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek-20-sourceOptional equipment included Nissan Connect infotainment with a navigation system, SXM satellite radio, and heated front seats, outside rearview mirrors and steering wheel.

Controls are intuitive and consist of a touch screen, large knobs and buttons. There even are redundant radio pre-set buttons in addition to those on the screen. However, USB and charge ports are so far back in a center stack cubby they are nearly inaccessible. Fortunately, there are extras ports in the console.

The Pathfinder is powered by 284-hp, 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 259 lb-ft of torque. On the tested all-wheel drive SV, the power travels to all four wheels via Nissan’s Xtronic continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT). Both two-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions can tow up to 6,000 pounds.

Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek-8-sourceSome critics routinely bash CVTs, which multiply torque with systems of belts and pulleys or, in some cases, with gears. Their main characteristic is a lack of shift points, so acceleration is smooth and seamless. However, some CVTs feel and sound as if they are slipping.

That’s not the case with the Pathfinder and other CVTs from Nissan, which arguably has more experience with them than other manufacturers. Moreover, the transmission on the Pathfinder incorporates a kick-down passing gear that mimics a conventional automatic.

Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek-12-sourceWith ample power from the smooth-running V6, the Rock Creek Pathfinder is an amiable highway companion. It cruises quietly and effortlessly with few steering corrections needed in straight-line driving. Of course, it is no sports sedan but handles curves capably as long as it’s not pushed too hard.

A twist knob allows the driver to select two-wheel drive for economy, automatic all-wheel drive and locking all-wheel drive for gooey or gravelly conditions. Though marketed as a rugged vehicle, the Pathfinder is not equipped for serious off-roading.

Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek-19-sourceSpecifications

  • Model: 2019 Nissan Pathfinder SV Rock Creek Edition four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.5-liter V6; 284 hp, 259 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nissan Xtronic continuously-variable automatic with all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 7 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 10 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 138/16 (47, 80) cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,448 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 6,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/26/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $37,005.
  • Price as tested: $39,675.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek-21-sourcePhotos (c) Nissan

2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Nostalgia and heroic performance come wrapped in a pretty, pulsating package called the 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt.

The Bullitt is not unlike one of those Beatles tribute bands, except it makes different music from exhaust pipes. It also comes from the same source — Ford Motor Co. — that birthed the star of the 1969 movie. The other star was actor Steve McQueen as Lt. Frank Bullitt of the San Francisco police department.

2019 Mustang Bullitt

Ford delivered two 1968 Mustang fastbacks for the filming, which included a storied episode of McQueen chasing bad guys in a 1968 Dodge Charger, who came to a fiery end. The Mustangs — one still survives — were modified with stronger springs, Koni racing shock absorbers and modest customizing by removing identifying badges.

So goes the 2019 model. It has smooth, flowing lines that make you want to caress it like a newborn, accented by a black hole of a grille. The event horizon paint is the original 1968 Highland Green, the only color offered and only on the Bullitt.

Bullitt’s sensuous body is bereft of ornamentation. Not a Mustang or Ford emblem mars the curvy surface. Only the Bullitt name, in a circle that evokes a target, graces the backside and beckons followers.

2019 Mustang Bullitt

The 1968 Bullitt Mustang was powered by a 320-hp, 6.4-liter V8 engine that made 427 lb-ft of torque. The four-speed manual gearbox and clutch were heavy-duty parts from Borg Warner, and the steering wheel came from a Shelby Mustang.

Contemporary tests put the zero-to-60 acceleration time at just over five seconds with a quarter-mile time of about 13 seconds. Top speed was well into three digits, depending on the tester.

Over the years after the turn of the millennium, Ford produced optional Bullitt packages to somewhat mimic the original. But the 2019 Bullitt, 50 years after the movie if you can imagine that, is the monument on the mountain top.

2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt

No automobile is perfect or flawless, but any high performance machine should be true to its purpose. The 2019 Bullitt is such a machine in conception and execution.

Its 5.0-liter V8 engine spits 480 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque with a cacophony of sounds through the minimally restrictive exhaust system, making certain that the occupants understand what it is about. The muscular clutch and six-speed manual gearbox require strength and finesse that become relaxed and easy with familiarity. This is a machine that grows on you and you on it.

The 2019 Bullitt Mustang shaves about a second off the 1968’s zero-to-60 time, in the four-second range, with a top speed over 160 mph. But that’s not the point in modern traffic. In the famous daylight chase in the movie, San Francisco’s streets were mostly empty. Now you’d be unlikely to duplicate that at 3 a.m. on a weekend.

2019 Mustang Bullitt

Yet even in traffic, the Bullitt delivers tactile sensations: the smooth feel of the round ball on the shift lever, the progressive uptake of the clutch, the positive moves of the shift linkage aided by uncanny automatic rev-matching on downshifts, the blasting exhaust notes.

When the road clears, punch the pedal in second or third gear and experience the adrenaline rush as the Bullitt takes hold of your body and pins you in the seat. Too bad you can’t do it every time because of traffic.

But the Bullitt is docile enough to be perfectly happy noodling along around town in second, third or fourth gears. You know the hammer is there if you want or need it.

2019 Mustang Bullitt

With its tidy dimensions, honking V8 power, quick steering, compliant suspension system and performance tires, the Bullitt delivers joyful feedback any time you can find a twisting mountain road with minimal traffic. Think Skyline Drive in Virginia or the Blue Ridge Parkway. You don’t even have to go very fast to enjoy the moments.

Though the Bullitt Mustang has seats for four, it’s best to think of it as a two-seater — or what used to be called a “plus two” with mostly useless back seats. The rear seatbacks fold down to augment the trunk space, which is surprisingly generous considering the fastback design.

2018 NAIAS

As a high-performance sports car, the Bullitt delivers something of a bargain. The base price of the test car was $47,490, including the destination charge. With a few options, including Ford’s MagneRide shock absorbers, which deliver a comfortable ride but stiffen up for quick maneuvering, the bottom-line sticker came to $51,920.

Ford markets more powerful Mustangs. But none with the character and appeal of the Bullitt.

2019 Mustang Bullitt

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt two-door sports coupe.
  • Engine: 5.0-liter V8; 480 hp, 420 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 83/14 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,850 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 15/24/18 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $47,495.
  • Price as tested: $51,920.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2019 Mustang Bullitt

Photos (c) Ford

2018 Miami Auto Show: A DriveWays Report…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Miami Beach, Fla. — One of the stars of the Miami International Auto Show in October was a modified Nissan Titan pickup truck that looked like a survival vehicle prowling the landscape in a dystopian future.

Ultimate Service TITAN 2018

But there were no machine guns or rockets for defense, and it was very much intended for offensive survival in the present. Called the “Ultimate Service Titan,” the truck was conceived, developed and manufactured by Nissan with the American Red Cross spelling out its requirements for hurricane and other disaster relief duties.

Based on the Titan XD Diesel Midnight Edition Crew Cab, the pickup has a special extended commercial-grade ladder frame, raised chassis for ground clearance and other enhanced off-road capabilities. It is powered by a 310-hp, 5.0-liter Cummins diesel engine that develops 555 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force. To extend the range, the Ultimate Service Titan comes with a 75-gallon fuel tank.

Ultimate Service TITAN 2018

Substantial modifications transformed the four-door full-size truck into a mobile command center with a power generator and Wi-Fi hotspot for communications.

With a desk, couch and bed, the command center can function as an aid station with facilities to collect and deliver blood donations. It also can double as a shelter with food service. Equipment includes a microwave, stove, sink and refrigerator. Besides the bed inside for treatment or rest, there’s a tent on the command center roof.

Ultimate Service TITAN 2018

Nissan donated the Ultimate Service Titan to the Red Cross of South Florida, where it will be used by first responders. Though a one-of-a-kind now, it struck this observer as a vehicle with commercial possibilities.

Jeremy Meadows, a Nissan senior marketing manager, said the out-the-door cost of the truck was $125,000 — certainly affordable by many governmental and private disaster relief organizations.

Ultimate Service TITAN 2018

2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune: A DriveWays Review

by Frank A. Aukofer

The 2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune has nothing in common with Frank Herbert’s fantasy novel and its scary giant sandworms. But the stylish makeover of VW’s Beetle should worm its way into the affections of Beetle buffs.

It’s a proven technique in the automobile biz. When a given model has been around awhile and familiarity begins to breed indifference, manufacturers dream up newbies. They rearrange options lists, lower prices, invent new names, and add equipment and colors so the vehicle appears fresh and new.

Volkswagen has been particularly adept at such spinoffs, especially with the Beetle, which was resurrected in 1997 as the New Beetle, a front engine, front drive two-door instead of the original rear engine, rear drive Bug. It has since formed the foundation for many special editions and, in 2011, the company dropped the “New” designation to simply keep it the Beetle.

2016VWBeetleDuneConvertible-2The Beetle Dune actually amounts to a bit more than options shuffling. Inspired by the Baja 1000 off-road adventure in Mexico’s Lower California peninsula, it can boast of some miniscule boondocks credibility—a slightly wider stance and a bit of extra road clearance.

But in the end it’s all about styling. From one perspective, the Beetle Dune mimics a high-powered Porsche race car overtaking you on the road. At the same time, it resembles a customized dune buggy. So it has both curb- and sand-blaster appeal. Even if you don’t like the look, you have to concede that it has personality and panache.

What it doesn’t have is a pit stop full of performance. Other than its arresting looks, the Beetle Dune is, well, a regular Beetle. That means it comes with a 170 hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 184 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission.

A manual gearbox would be more attractive to enthusiasts who like the control and driver involvement that comes with shifting for themselves. But VW goes with the flow, recognizing that the automatics obviously have wider appeal. In the U.S., stick shifts have diminished to less than 4% of total new car sales.

2016VWBeetleDuneConvertible-10However, the Dune’s automatic comes with driver selectable Sport and Manual modes. In Sport, the onboard computer holds each gear to higher rpms before upshifting. Car and Driver magazine clocked a respectable 0-60 mph acceleration time of 7.4 seconds.

What the Dune excels at is respectable road manners. The steering delivers responsive feedback while the suspension system, body rigidity and tires keep everything planted around corners. Though the tradeoff favors handling, the ride is supple and reasonably comfortable in most situations.

The Dune, like other Beetle versions, is available as a two-door hatchback—tested here—or as a two-door convertible. In the hatchback model the rear seatbacks fold flat to double the cargo space from 15 to 30 cubic feet.

There’s no pretense of a fifth seat. The Dune is a four-passenger car with adequate but not generous rear seat room for regular sized adults. On the plus side, the manually operated front seats slide back and forth to ease access to the back seats.

The same cannot be said for the sun visors. On the driver’s side, the visor slides on its support rod to fully block sunlight from the side. But the passenger’s sun visor does not slide, perhaps saving Volkswagen a buck per car.

2016VWBeetleDuneConvertible-7Even at that, the Dune has a starting price of $24,815, including the destination charge. With options that included $250 for the special Sandstone Yellow exterior paint and $1,695 for a technology package, the test car came with a bottom line sticker of $26,760, including the destination charge.

The yellow paint theme, which borders on orange, carries over to the interior, where the seats are crafted of quality cloth with stylish vinyl trim and gold stitching. All seat adjustments are manual but there are enough to of them accommodate almost anyone. They provide good support for long distance cruising.

Standard features include cruise control, 18-inch alloy wheels, parking assist and an array of safety equipment: traction and stability control, rear view camera, tire pressure monitoring and crash mitigation.

The technology package included a motorized sunroof, automatic climate control, a Fender premium audio system and keyless access with pushbutton starting. Though the glass sunroof is large, it only opens about half way.

With clogged highways that sometimes seem impenetrable, the 2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune’s exceptional looks, passable performance and decent handling go a long way toward replacing frustration with motoring satisfaction.

2016_beetle_dune_5731Specifications

  • Model: 2016 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8T Dune two-door sedan.
  • Engine:8-liter four cylinder, turbocharged, 170 hp, 184 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 1 inch.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 85/15 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,093 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 25/34/28 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $24,815.
  • Price as tested: $26,760.

Photos (c) VW, Jason Fogelson

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑