Sunday, January 31, 2016

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had the opportunity to test drive the 2016 Infiniti QX50, 2016 Equinox LTZ, and now the 2016 Pathfinder Platinum. Out of the three, the Pathfinder surprised me the most! In fact, I wasn’t even going to bother test driving it. It’s been around since 1985, I didn’t think there would be much to wow me. Boy was I in for a treat!

Let’s start by how it looks from the outside. It’s a larger SUV, 6 passenger, 20” alloy wheels; with a classic look, integrating chrome detail. I found the exterior to be quite similar to the Equinox, but more curvy and modern.

When I hopped inside I was blown away! It feels like a Land Rover with all of the leather detail and tech options. Nice leather, perforated seats, with a heating AND cooling seat option for both the driver and passenger. The second row passengers also have heated seats that they can control from the back, and they can adjust their seats for more leg room. Heated steering wheel, panoramic sunroof with a small partition in the middle, 13-speaker Bose sound system, full size plug outlets for laptops or whatever you like, 7-inch rear screens on the back of the driver and front passenger’s headrest for gaming or to watch DVDs, headphone jacks and power outlet for second row passengers, optional 4X4 and 2WD mode, around view monitor system to help you park, easy fill tire alert system, hill start assist, 5,000 pound towing capacity, great navigation program, heated side mirrors and blind spot alert… the list goes on and on! I can’t believe how much this vehicle has to offer for just under $49,000. They really thought of everything!

Unlike the Equinox that is of similar size, yet only 4 passenger, I found this vehicle much easier to park in downtown Toronto. You can see through the front much easier and the rear camera includes an overview picture as well, to assist you when backing up. Leaving much fewer blind spots. To be honest, I didn’t even realize this vehicle had two rows of back seats until I opened the trunk! It really doesn’t feel large at all from behind the wheel. It handles well around corners, just like a sedan. The Pathfinder also has a lot more power than the Equinox, but it is of course a V-6, 260 hp, so that’s to be expected. It’s great on gas; Nissan says it gets 8.9 hwy and 12.1 city L/100km. The Pathfinder is solid over bumps, just a really nice ride! Again, I felt it drove similar to a Land Rover, only less bumpy.

Unfortunately, unlike the QX50 there isn’t a button to press to lay down the back seat. You have to manually put it down and bring it back up again. Both passenger rows can be folded down flat. I think this may be my only complaint, I found it a bit hard to do.
It has a great power liftgate! You can control from inside the vehicle or by using the main fob. Just press it down to open and press down again to close. Great feature for shopping! The engine is also a push start, no key.

All in all, the 2016 Nissan Pathfinder is a great family vehicle, or for anyone who loves going off-roading and the outdoors! It definitely comes equipped with plenty of extra features to earn a “luxury vehicle” pass from me! 

Amanda Risser
New, Luxury

Vehicle Blogger

Thursday, January 28, 2016

My latest test drive was the 2016 Infiniti QX50, fully loaded with Navigation, Tech and the Premium package, bringing it in at about $47,900.

First impression… I didn’t fall in love with the exterior. It’s very average, plain looking. Perhaps designed for the “more mature” driver in mind. The new Hagane blue colour wasn’t my cup of tea either… basically it’s just a very pale baby blue. In my opinion there is no sex appeal when it comes to the outside of this SUV! Inside, it’s a bit dated looking with the fake wood panel and there’s a ton of buttons on the console. At first glance I found this a bit overwhelming.

However, once you press the start button and put your foot on the gas pedal, you’re in for a real treat! This vehicle has guts! I saw that immediately when I hit the gas, the 325 horse powers really came alive. Even though it’s a V6, it really wasn’t bad on gas at all. They say it gets 13.7/9.7 L/100 KM city/hwy. It’s a very quiet, solid ride, but I did find it to be quite bouncy going over bumps.

It handles well, nice and tight like a car, hugging corners. It felt solid on the road, not big and bulky, or hard to control like some larger SUVs. Nissan likes to put their blind spot alert on the inside because of our winters. I’m not a fan of it, I find the side mirror alerts catch my attention quicker. When you come close to the middle line an audio warning goes off. Parking is made easy with the back view camera that shares a split screen with an overview of the vehicle. An audio alert sounds off when you get too close. Pulling into a tight spot in downtown Toronto was a piece of cake!

The leather seats are really comfortable, dual climate and heated seat controls for the driver and passenger, electric seat adjusters for both, and even a memory function for the driver side. However, I found the seated heats too hot, even on the lowest setting, and I wasn’t impressed with the quality of the leather. I could already see creases forming on the driver’s seat.

It comes with a Bose 11-speaker stereo system, the sound is incredible! The moon roof is standard… but most new SUVs today have moved to a panoramic roof – I would have liked to have seen that. Maybe it would have given it more of a modern look.

Here’s something I really liked… the back seats fold down completely flat with a push of the button from the trunk area AND if you hold another button down you can bring them right back up! In most other vehicles you have to push the seats back up manually. It’s a 40/60 split. Unfortunately there was no power tail gate button to close the trunk, you have to shut it the old-fashioned way, but there was a luggage compartment, which was a nice extra.

After driving this vehicle for one week, I found I was no longer overwhelmed by the amount of buttons on the console. It was very easy to figure out how to do everything on my own and I really enjoyed the feel of this vehicle… even though it wasn’t as pretty as I like on the outside! I think it could be the perfect fit for the “more mature” driver.

Amanda Risser
Freelance Producer

Looking for a “larger”, more affordable SUV? You may want to consider the 2016 Chevrolet Equinox LTZ. It sells for just under $35,000.

I know, I know, it’s domestic, you’re thinking “where’s the luxury”? Let’s start with the exterior. I really liked the Tungsten Metallic colour, combined with the chrome trim and 18” tires. It gives it a classy, modern, rich look. Not what you might expect from GM. Its body isn’t curvy, but it is quite beautiful to look at. Did I mention it’s “large”? Careful going into underground parking garages, at times it can be tight!

So let’s take a peek inside. When I first opened the driver side door I quickly noticed the high quality perforated leather, heated seats, similar to what you might see in more high-end vehicles like BMW. Both passenger and driver have their own heated seat control. I kept it on the highest level and it was very comfortable, didn’t get too hot. What I didn’t like once inside, was the usual firm plastic dash that you typically see from GM, and hard, sharp edged, plastic touch buttons on the console. It’s also not a push start engine. It comes with a key similar to VW, where you press a button to release it from the main key fob… boring. Nice leather wrapped steering wheel, looks and feels good. Additional leather trim and stitching throughout the interior is a nice touch. It gives it a more luxurious feel. Driver and front passenger have electric seat controls. The driver also has a memory setting for their seat AND the outside mirrors.

The power moon roof is a great feature to add on. What I really liked about it was that each button had a picture on it! No guessing when it comes to “which button does what”!
I didn’t like that there wasn’t a button in the trunk area to put down the back seats, it’s all manual… BUT there is a programmable lift gate! When you have your hands full of shopping bags you just press the trunk button on your key fob to open it AND hold it down to close it! I love that! The back seat is a 40/60 split and the center partition pulls down to double as a drink holder! No climate control for passengers. I would have liked to have seen that.

Its 6-speaker Pioneer system with a subwoofer is quite good, nice sound. The On Star 4G LTE with Wifi is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! You can connect up to 7 devices and it’s pretty easy to figure out. Decent touch navigation system, again easy to use.

So how does it drive? Well, I wasn’t sure at first if it was a 4 or 6 cylinder, but I quickly found the answer to my question. It’s a 4-cylinder, 182 hp. When you press the gas pedal it’s a bit sluggish, but once it’s going it’s a pretty solid ride. I found it drives more like a truck… but without all the power! It’s very large, have I mentioned that yet?? It’s great over bumps, not bouncy at all, very smooth, but it definitely does not hug corners. I had A LOT of trouble parking it in downtown Toronto - at the gym, on the street, everywhere! The back-up camera is great - very clear, great audio warnings. I just wish it had a 360 camera to help with parking and all the blind spots. It’s good on gas, even has an Eco Mode. Although, it does feel and sound a bit rougher in this mode.

Both side mirrors are heated, with blind-spot alert. If you’re getting too close to a vehicle in front of you a “bright” warning light and “loud” audio alert sounds off. It’s a bit distracting, but it should definitely wake you up and prevent you from “accidentally” bumping into someone!

The 2016 Equinox LTZ really is a comfortable and roomy ride for the driver and all passengers. I was impressed with all the little extras that GM added to this vehicle, but they still have a long way to go to get a “luxury vehicle” pass from me!

Amanda Risser
Luxury, New Car Blogger