Just wait for the Chevy Trailblazer article -- I had to rent a vehicle with 4-low to run medical crew for the SCCA National Rally (100-Acre Wood) in Missouri (first time ever to have the Nationals here). It'll be on TV: OLN in a few months -- fun stuff to watch -- like WRC, but more "local". I'll be there the next few days. Plenty of pics and video to follow!
2006 Nissan Maxima
Trim Level: "SE"
EPA Vehicle Class: Midsize Car
Engine: DOHC 3.5L, V-6 rated at 265 Horsepower / 255 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 5-Speed Automatic with "Manu-Matic" shift gate
EPA Mileage Estimates (City/Highway/Combined Cycle): 20/28/23
Test Loop: 75% City, 25% Highway
Max Cruise Speed = 65 mph
Weather Conditions over 2-days: Icy/Snowy roads, 25-40F. Day 2: Light rain, overcast skies, and then heavy rain on the last day (32-50F)
Driving Style: Agressive
Location Test: Urban Little Rock
Vehicle Computer Average Speed = 40 mph (approximated)
Vehicle Computer MPG = 19.9 MPG
Actual Calculation = Not performed (tank not received full)
Conclusion: This is really an unfair test. When the roads dried-up, it was too tempting to really rev-up that "VQ" V-6 to hear and feel one of the best engines designed. This same engine can be found in the likes of the 350Z and Altima SE-R. It was really a pleasure to drive. Despite its large size, the big tires and wheels really bit down in the corners. With power comes a sacrifice in economy. Essentially, around 20 mpg was expected with the mostly agressive, city driving.
Editor's Notes: The Maxima is a big car with a big, thirsty engine. In "SE" trim, expect a tighter suspension than the SL, razor-sharp handling, fun with the "manu-matic" shift-gate, G-force pulling acceleration, and an available full-length glass window that runs through the roof (unfortunately it doesn't open). Exterior styling is aggressive, with large rims, and bold features. The interior is where this car loses it's lustre. The fit and finish seems "cheap", and the center stack has like 100 buttons to access a variety of controls (very confusing at first). Dual-zone automatic climate controls are standard, as are steering wheel-mounted controls for the radio and cruise. The seat was supportive and comfortable. Plenty of trunk space and rear seat room is on tap. I've always considered the Maxima a good rental, but not very efficient.
Bottom line: In the rental bin, there are few cars to be classified as a true sports-sedan, so when the mood strikes you to let loose and have some fun, this one fits the bill. Just don't expect it to be very economical (or encourage economical driving).
No, when I first started out with fuel economy experimentation I bought a data logger, which blew my "fun budget". I could really use the scanguage. The only other problem is finding the OBD-II connector on all of these different cars. There's a website that gives the locations of the ports, but I'd have to print-out the manual and take it with me -- no big deal now that I think about it. I'm really tempted to buy one. It would help tremendously. I think I'll browse around for one, and next time I get paid, I'll look into getting one...
The "Factory Photo" wouldn't cut it, becuase this vehicle is designed for what it looked likes here. Check my Rally America thread for details of the event.
2006 Chevy Trailblazer
Trim Level: "LS"
EPA Vehicle Class: Special Purpose Vehicle - S.U.V. - 4WD
Engine: DOHC 4.2L, Inline-6 rated at 291 Horsepower / 277 lb-ft torque
Transmission: 4-Speed Automatic with Torque Lockup Converter
EPA Mileage Estimates (City/Highway/Combined Cycle): 15/21/18
Test Loop: 90% City, 10% Highway
Max Cruise Speed = 75 mph
Weather Conditions over 4-days: Cold turning warmer: 40-70F
Driving Style: Average
Location Test: Kansas City to Rural Missouri and Back (Rally-America Medic Vehicle -- stage mileage not recorded due to excessive idling and racing the stages -- only the commute from KC to Salem, MO and the return trip to the airport)
Vehicle Average Speed = 60 mph (approximated) for both tanks.
2 Tank Calculated MPG = 17.1 MPG
Conclusion: Due to the highway speeds of 70-80 max, I can understand a reduction in MPG (and the hilly terrain on 20% of the trip). Honestly, I didn't expect good mileage, but it was nearly on par with estimates. But really, you don't buy this vehicle for gas mileage.
Editor's Notes: The transit miles of about 300 miles from home to the hotel near the Rally (and back), were mostly highway, but the grunt work of this vehicle was on back-roads and truly off-road. Breaking tradition, the base engine is actually a good one for GM -- a DOHC engine, and an Inline-6? Yes, indeed -- the "Vortec" did perform well as the base engine. The powerplant revved happily to the redline and didn't disappoint. Low-end torque actually was pretty good, but due to the same old 4-speed automatic that GM just can't give up, this tranny couldn't decide what gear to say in, and tended to run a little low on the tach during cruise. This exact vehicle was also rented on the Big Island of Hawaii, and climbed up the 13,000 foot Mauna Kea and only stalled once. The rest of the time, the steering was numb and what gear should it be in??? 3rd or 4th? Up hills, if it had "Hill Logic Control" it would be better, but it keeps hunting. Shifting back and forth. But, off-road, low-range 4WD did an excellent job in both applications on the mainland and in Hawaii. Riding the brake was inevitable as it seemed like this vehicle just wanted to keep coasting -- perhaps a compression issue at low RPMs. I found myself shifting down to "3" just to keep the brakes from overheating on several occasions. The passenger seat was noted to be very uncomfortable, but the 8-way power driver's seat with adjustable lumbar was very supportive. There was no shortage of power points and storage. The vehicle was very feature-laiden and did the following well...
Now for the reason this vehicle was designed. Off-road, the 4WD was flawless and would climb out of a ditch or take a dirt road at speed. 4-Low would pull hard, but the power resides high in the rev-band, so significant throttle was required. It would pull vehicles out of low-traction situations without skipping a beat. I actually took one Rally stage at maximum speed -- call me crazy, but with "Stabilitrak" it was nearly impossible to get into trouble. The brakes automatically took care of any skid or roll-potential, and fixed the impending doom. I ended up coming in ahead of the last 6 cars in the rally on one stage! (It was the Medic's responsibility to clear the stage after the last car - at whatever speed you choose). The engine revved happily to the redline, and got up to 80 mph on backroads. The brakes were good, and stability control was a life-saver. Cargo space held all the medical equipment a modern field ambulance would require, and parked in the brush over large rocks without bottoming out.
Bottom line: On-road manners are marginal with numb steering and transmission indecision, but if you do any off-roading, then this vehicle will not disappoint. Unfortunately most buyers of this vehicle, 99% of the time, will tow nothing, won't even drive on gravel roads, or even do any true "off-roading". It's an SUV, and in this editor's opinion, it should be used for SUV things and not status. If you want/need space, get a minivan or car-based cross-over. Expect crappy mileage at any location, but it'll go a variety of places, including the mall! Of course, reliability isn't a strong point.
...and sorry to the rental agency for the torture to the vehicle :-)