The Ram's Eye - A Driver's Blog: May 2013


Thursday, 30 May 2013

Nissan Juke NISMO - A Closer Look

I couldn't help but remember the less than worthy cars Chevy put the SS moniker on in the mid 2000's. The Cobalt SS and Traiblazer SS were great performance cars in their respective classes but the Malibu and Impala simply weren't. Nissan seems to want to cash in on the NISMO name the same way Chevy did with the SS moniker - by making more NISMO models. This is even worse, though, because of fact that the SS had an even longer heritage that is harder to tarnish with a couple of bad models. Here's the first example: the Nissan Juke NISMO. It will start at $23,780 for a FWD with a manual and $26,080 or an AWD with a CVT ($24,998 and $28,478 in Canada).

So what is more sporty about this NISMO model? Well, you get a whopping 9 hp over the run-of-the-mill Jukes. On the outside, you still get the polarizing body but with a racy "aerodynamic body kit" (according to the website) and 18" wheels wrapped in Continental ContiSportContact5 tires that are 10 mm wider than the rest of the Juke trims. The package is available with FWD or AWD and a 6-speed manual or CVT automatic, but it's not that simple. If you want a manual to avoid the fun-killing CVT, you're stuck with FWD and it doesn't have a limited slip differential. If you want to avoid the FWD with an open differential, you're stuck with a CVT. You do get NISMO shocks and springs that are 10% stiffer and the body kit is supposed to be good for a 37% increase in downforce, although owners probably won't be going fast enough to take advantage of that.

I'm not sure what the point of this car is. The Juke isn't a sales success because the exterior has a love-it-or-hate-it design and (unfortunately for Nissan) it's a hate-it for most people. The ground clearance isn't enough to make it a useful off-roader and the NISMO is even lower. The body style makes it less useful than a sub-compact hatchback like the Chevy Sonic, with both the seats up or down. The Chevy Sonic has 19.0 cu.ft. behind the second row of seats and 47.7 cu.ft of cargo space with the seats folded down vs 10.5 cu.ft and 35.9 cu.ft. for the Juke. It's stuck somewhere between a crossover and a hatchback that makes it less useful than either (i.e. taking the cons of each class and leaving the pros). The NISMO treatment is far from sporty enough to attract new customers to the Juke or build more credibility for the NISMO name, which will be applied to more models in the future. What purpose does it serve?

When Motor Trend reviewed it, they also struggled to find a purpose for it. They suggested that for "those buyers who love the Juke despite its quirkiness, the NISMO variant gives them a sportier option" with a sporty bodykit, a hint of added performance and an affordable price. So there you go, the Juke NISMO is for those who already love and buy the Juke but would appreciate a new trim with a (very) little hint of added sportiness in looks and feel. They would have to overlook cars like the Ford Focus ST, the upcoming Fiesta ST and other hot hatches on the market, though.

Source: Nissan

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Details about BMW M5 and M6 Competition Package

BMW recently unrelieved the refreshed 5-series for model year 2014, which is scheduled to be in dealerships by August of this year. Along with the subtle facelift, the 5-series receives an updated diesel engine and the Competition Package. Information about the latter was recently leaked but more details have become available.

Opting for the competition package will get you new springs and dampers, which lower the car by 0.4 in, and stiffer anti-roll bars. Since cars are now packed with electronic components that affect performance, most manufacturer performance packages included hardware and software upgrades and the Competition Package is no exception. The steering in the M5 has been an area of criticism and, while the upgraded springs, dampers and anti-roll bars should help, the electric power steering will also be revised for a more direct feel. Other upgrades include reprogramming the active M differential for improved traction and adjusting the stability control system for higher limits to allow sportier driving before it engages.

Power will go up by 15 hp to 575 hp, which BMW estimates will cut down 0.1 s from the 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) time to 4.2 seconds with the manual and 4.1 with the automatic, dual-clutch transmission. Visual upgrades include unique, 20 in wheels and black-chrome exhaust tips. Pricing is yet to be announced but the package will probably demand a hefty premium.

There was no mention of whether the wheels will be lighter than the optional 20 in wheels currently available, wider or come with upgraded rubber but since it wasn't mentioned, they probably offer no performance advantage. The confirmed upgrades should be a decent upgrade, though, but only time (and a test) will tell how much of a difference they make.

Source: Motor Trend

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Kia Cadenza First test - A Closer Look

Motor Trend recently tested the Kia Cadenza, a full-size sedan that's new for 2013 in the North American market (full post: 2014 Kia Cadenza First Test). This new sedan will be Kia's flagship until the Quoris RWD sedan makes it to North American market. Buying one will set you back $35,100 before even ticking any options boxes. It seems that the folks at Motor Trend are struggling with this car - they're proposing that this could be a luxury car, if it hadn't been for the Kia name on the hood, because of the luxury car features and the "luxury car-like" starting price of $35,100.

The $35,100 starting price is certainly a lot of money for a base model family sedan. Looking at just the price doesn't tell the complete story, though. For that money, you don't get a stripped out model. You get an 8-inch touch screen with the UVO infotainment system and navigation, leather, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, Bluetooth, backup camera and sensors, heated power seats, and Infinity stereo. If you add all these options to other large family sedans like the Ford Taurus, Dodge Charger, Toyota Avalon and the upcoming Chevrolet Impala (which all start several thousand dollars less) you will end up in within a few hundred dollars of the Cadenza's price. Then there's the size issue. Not only is the price comparable to other mainstream large family sedans (when similarly equipped) but the starting price is only "luxury car-like" if the only luxury cars you're considering are compacts like the Cadillac ATS, Mercedes C-class or BMW 3-series.

I'm not sure what Kia is trying to accomplish with this car's starting price. I disagree with Motor Trend - this car doesn't come across as a car that's trying to be a luxury car in any way. The car is not more expensive than others in its class when similarly equipped. It does not have exclusive features, more available options, a world class drivetrain or other distinct qualities that could make it a luxury car. The starting price is higher than others in the class simply due to the fact that buyers are forced to buy the car with certain options.

I think what Kia may be doing is gauge the market's willingness to accept a Kia at a higher starting price than usual and/or prepare it for the idea of future vehicles starting at a higher price than usual. According to Scoop Independent News (as quoted by Automobile magazine) Kia announced that they are aiming to move upscale to compete with luxury brands Mercedes-Benz and Audi by 2017. They probably realize that people aren't ready yet for an "upscale" Kia. How could they increase the price without taking away value? They added features. I personally will never be able to view Kia as a luxury car, not in 4 years or 40 years but maybe younger generations who didn't live through many models of less-than-mediocre products from Kia offering nothing over the competition but competitive pricing will be able to.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

2014 Chevy Corvette Stingray Weighs 3,298 lb.

Chevrolet is making more information available about the Corvette Stingray as it gets closer to going on  sale. The new C7 Corvette will weigh 3,298 lb. For the Corvette faithful, that's about 90 lb. heavier than the current, C6 Corvette. How's that possible when we know from the release that the frame underpinning the C7 is 99 lb. lighter than the outgoing one? Well, Chevrolet broke down the areas of weight addition:

  • 35.2 lb. - direct injection, VVT, AFM
  • 6.6 lb. - standard engine oil cooler
  • 13.2 lb. - dual mass clutch
  • 15.4 lb. - steel torque tube part of AFM
  • 4.4 lb. - AFM exhaust valves
  • 11 lb. - 7th transmission speed
  • 18.5 lb. - strengthened differential, half shafts
  • 18.3 lb. - larger fixed brakes
  • 17 lb. - new interior appointments and safety features
  • 17.2 lb. - upgraded seats
  • 18.5 lb. - structural safety requirements
  • 31.5 lb. - new infotainment and cabin technology, as well as relocating battery to the rear
  • 3 lb. - bigger fuel tank

The total adds up to 210 lb. 

However, since there are several areas of weight savings in the new car, it's not 210 lb heavier. The new aluminum frame, as previously announced during the public release, is 99 lb. lighter (full post: The Stingray is back! Details about the new 2014 C7 Corvette). The new car also uses more carbon fibre body panels, which shave another 37 lb. A lighter hatch and hollow, lightweight control arms round off the significant weight savings for total savings of approximately 150 lb compared to the outgoing car. This should mean that the new car is 60 lb. heavier but according to Chevy's website, the C6 Corvette weighs 3,208 lb. so the new car is actually 90 lb. heavier. The 30 lb. difference probably comes from several small changes.

This excludes the Z51 performance package, which adds transmission and differential coolers, a rear sway bar, larger wheels and brakes, electronic differential and a spoiler (more details about options: 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Pricing). The Z51 package should add more weight but how much that is wasn't announced.

The additional weight definitely has been to good use, though, and Chevrolet wasted no time in announcing that the C7 Corvette is better in every way than the outgoing Corvette, the C6, so we know that the added weight should not be detrimental - it will drive and handle better. It is unclear whether the Z06 and ZR1 will use more parts to save weight compared to the base Stingray, but it should be expected. I wouldn't be surprised if Chevy at least offers a stripped down option for those who don't want the new features and the weight that comes with them.

Source: GM Authority