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Nissan Murano heralded the coming of age for crossovers. While there were a handful of cute utes and a couple luxury crossovers on the market prior to its arrival in 2002 as a 2003 model, it stripped away the pretense of rugged, blockish SUV styling in favour of a sleek, curvaceous body that clearly embraced the urban utility (and fashion sense) that so many SUV drivers were looking for. Forget about locking 4WD, or even AWD on base models. The Murano was simply a stylish, highriding hatchback, perfectly suited to the marketing-friendly “Crossover” label that would supplant the place of SUVs in the media and consumers’ tastes. It was exactly what people wanted and was a huge success for Nissan. The follow-up generation, launched in 2008 as a 2009 model, kept the formula the same, with updated styling and mechanicals, but nothing revolutionary in its basic composition. Like the first generation, it is based on the Altima platform, but styling that is distinctly Murano. There are some details that seem awkward in my eyes, particularly the front grille and “quad-cylinder” HID headlights that look a bit like an alien probing device, but overall it is an attractive crossover, and those HID projectors offer impressive illumination. As with the original, the soft lines and curvy corners and angled windows communicate an urban chic, and the exclusive Sapphire Blue Onyx metallic paint (only available with the $2,500 Platinum Package) is a subtle but appealing colour. Our tester also featured a set of intricately machined alloy rims with a satin-effect finish that added to the sophisticated look. The interior also delivered on the promise of sophistication, with a seveninch touchscreen that works in concert with menu buttons, a scrolling wheel, and directional buttons, meaning you sometimes have three ways to navigate and access menus in the infotainment system. Somewhat redundant, but in the end you can’t help but find it easy to use because of all the options. Below the screen and controller were dedicated dial and button controls for radio and the automatic climate control that were conventional and even easier to use. Phone pairing was quickly managed and the Bluetooth reception was clear, as was the quality of streaming audio played over the 11-speaker Bose sound system.
The controls were laid out in a logical and clear system and surrounded by high quality, soft touch upper dash and harder plastics beyond casual reach. The door panels were a mix of soft rubber, leather inserts and hard plastics for the door handle, with the handle for closing the door treated with a special coating that provided a non-slip grip. However, the slim door pockets don’t provide for extra water bottle space, so the centre-console cupholders are the only drink-capable storage spots in front. The seating was also typical of this class, at a height that makes slipping into the driver or passenger seat painless, and 8-way power adjustable with 2 memory settings for the driver’s seat (4-way power for front passenger). The seat itself was unremarkable but comfortable enough. Rear seat legroom and headroom is plentiful for adults and children and the ideal height of the seats made strapping our daughter into her safety seat similarly painless. The LATCH anchor for the top tether was placed conveniently high, making it easy to install with no need to circle around to the trunk as some require.
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The Scion FR-S is one of the most anticipated new car releases of 2012. In fact, it is safe to say that for many car enthusiasts, I included, this could be the most anticipated new vehicle release for 2012 period. Over the past five years concept cars and development rumours have held people in great anticipation of what the final product would finally be and, more importantly, how it would drive. Well guess what, that day is finally here. Scion Canada invited us to Montreal recently to drive the new FR-S on both the road and the track. I am not sure who was smugger at the event, Scion Canada because they knew they had such a good product to show off or me, for getting the chance to terrorize the track in it. For those unfamiliar with the FR-S, it is the offspring of an equal partnership between Toyota and Subaru to create a pure sports car that is affordable to the average consumer while being fun to drive. Three versions of this vehicle will be produced: this FR-S, Subaru’s BRZ and the Toyota GT 86. The first two will be available in Canada while the latter will be sold in other world markets. Toyota’s goal with this car was to create a spiritual successor to three cars from their past; the Sports 800, the 2000 GT and the Corolla GT-S AE86. For Scion, the FR-S is to be their halo car so a lot is riding
2013 Scion FR-S on it. Using a newly designed 2.0L horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine from Subaru, Toyota added their D-4S direct injection to create a naturally aspirated engine developing 200 hp and 151 lb-ft. Scion, Toyota and Subaru (Scioybaru?) are the only manufacturers in the world producing
a front engine, rear-wheel drive vehicle powered by a boxer motor. By using this boxer engine configuration they were able to keep the centre of gravity at a very low at 460 mm. As all three manufacturers are quick to point out, that is lower than a Porsche Cayman. Weighing in at a svelte 1,254 kg, the FR-S
sends power to the rear wheels via a choice of 6-speed transmissions; one automatic, one manual. The 6-speed automatic transmission comes standard with steering wheel mounted paddles shifters and a multitude of settings. It has an available ‘M’
mode that gives the driver full control over the gears as well as a ‘D’ mode that will shift for you like a regular automatic. Automatic equipped vehicles also feature sport and snow modes that increase or decrease throttle response and gear
change speed respectively. In sport mode the transmission will perform rev matching downshifts when driven aggressively. Thankfully, all FR-S models arrive with a standard LSD. Initially the FR-S will be available in seven colours that have catchy names, but don’t overtly lead on to what they are: Whiteout, Argento, Asphalt, Raven, Firestorm, Hot Lava and Ultramarine. Adorning both front fenders of every FR-S is a logo with the number 86 (for AE86) set on top of boxer engine pistons. The theme of 86 continues throughout the vehicle as it also refers to the bore and stroke of engine and the inner diameter of the exhaust tip. The coolest exterior feature of the FRS however is the center line marker positioned at the top of the hood by the base of the windshield. Its purpose? To help the driver identify the ‘stance and attitude of the vehicle’ while drifting driving.
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