Monday, July 10, 2017

IN THE DRIVEWAY: 2017 Nissan Pathfinder

While hatchbacks still are not big sellers here in the States, there is a nice little niche market for hot hatchbacks like the Ford Focus ST and Fiesta ST and the long-running favorite, the Volkswagen GTI. And for those that want the performance and fun of the GTI but in a sedan configuration, they can get pretty close to that in this week's ride - the 2017 Volkwagen Jetta 2.0 GLI.

The GLI is the Jetta’s top trim level, unlike the GTI which is a separate vehicle from the Golf in Volkswagen’s lineup. And while the GTI can be had with an optional Performance package that adds more power and a electronic limited slip differential, the Jetta GLI gets none of that stuff - and only comes one way.  Still though it's not a bad set up.

Powering the GLI is the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four as in the GTI, as well as Volkwagen’s Porsche-like six-speed dual-clutch automatic (a six-speed manual transmission is standard). Power is claimed at 210 horsepower, same as the GTI, and 207 lb-ft of torque - 51 lb-ft less than the GTI.

Engine specs aside, the GLI benefits in other ways. To distinguish it from a standard Jetta, Volkswagen adds a set of 18-inch Mallory wheels, a reworked front fascia with the signature GLI red grille trim, a more aggressive front bumper, darkened headlights, a subtle decklid spoiler, GLI badging, and a slightly lowered, sportier stance. It turns a very conservative looking Jetta into a very attractive German performance machine.

Driving the GLI, it's evident that Volkswagen went through great lengths to make this sporty Jetta feel as much like a GTI as possible (oddly enough that don't share the same platform). And for the most part, they nailed it - I can't really notice a difference between the two.

The main reason for this is the main constant between the two hot VWs: the excellent 2.0-liter turbo. One of my favorite engines, it’s a punchy and silky smooth little powerplant that provides a solid wave of torque all the way to redline once boost is kicking hard. The lower torque figures in the GLI does  make it feel a little slower as it takes a little more time to for the Jetta to actually get up and go. But once it does, it's smiles galore.

Another part of the fun equation is the DSG gearbox. Sure I'd rather have three pedals and a stick, but if you have to have an automatic, the DSG is the way to go. It's quick, precise, and, fun to operate. You can either leave it in automatic mode and let it do all the work for you or go ahead and shift for yourself using the steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

The interior of the GLI is nothing to write home about, but it's hard to complain about it either. Everything is well executed and all the controls and gauges are well-placed and easy to read. It's just not that exciting.

The Jetta GLI hits the mark for those wanting a GTI sedan. It's not has fast and sporty as the GTI, but if you want a Jetta with the heart of a GTI, this is the route to take.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Texas Auto Writers Association Names the 2016 Car of Texas and Family Car of Texas

2016 Ford Shelby GT350R
 FORT WORTH, TX -- May 03, 2016 - The Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA) gathered once again for the annual Texas Auto Roundup to drive and evaluate 53 vehicles, within 17 different categories, over a two-day period. Fifty-eight journalists descended on Texas Motor Speedway and have chosen the 2016 Ford Shelby GT350R as Car of Texas, and the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica as the Family Car of Texas.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica
Journalists came from 11 different states across the country, and from around the globe including the Netherlands. Despite early threats for a repeat of the deluge of 2015, the weather finally cleared up enough to allow journalists to take full advantage of the Texas Motor Speedway facilities including the infield racetrack.

Winning the Compact Car category was the 2016 Honda Civic Touring, with the 2016 Mazda3 5-door Grand Touring runner-up.

In the Mid-Size Car category, the 2016 Kia Optima SXL was named the winner with the 2016 Nissan Altima SL runner-up. In the Mid-Size Luxury Car category, the 2016 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 was the winner with the 2016 Lexus ES 350 runner-up.

In the full-size category, the 2016 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack was the winner with the 2016 Nissan Maxima Platinum runner-up. For the full-size luxury car, the 2016 Cadillac CT6 was the winner, with the 2016 Chrysler 300 Platinum runner-up.

Performance Compact winner was the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club, with the 2016 Volkswagen Golf R runner-up. Performance Coupe was the 2016 Ford Shelby GT350R with the 2016 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat runner-up. Performance Sedan was the 2016 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, with the 2016 Cadillac CTS-V Sedan runner-up.

The Minivan category was won by the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited, with the 2016 Toyota Sienna Limited runner-up. Activity Vehicle was the 2016 Nissan Murano Platinum, with the 2016 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD Drive-E runner-up.

Performance Utility was won by the 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD R-Design with the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT runner-up. The Green Vehicle was the 2016 Lexus RX 450h, with the 2017 Chevrolet Volt Premier Hatchback runner-up.

The Super Car of Texas was the 2016 Dodge Viper GTC.

2016 Dodge Viper

"This year's Texas Auto Roundup was our biggest yet with a record number of journalists and a highly competitive field of vehicles to evaluate."

"All our manufacturers brought outstanding vehicles for us to assess, however, there were some standouts that caught the attention of our journalist members when considering their performance, value, and versatility." "This event represents a tremendous amount of work and consideration and I'd like to thank our diverse group of journalist members, the Board of Directors and especially our automotive manufacturers for their continued dedication to our recognition of their best of the best." --  Nic Phillips, President, TAWA 

TAWA is one of the most reputable automotive press organizations in the industry, with a mission to promote quality and accuracy in automotive journalism and disseminate information about the industry through news related print, online and broadcast media. TAWA produces two driving events each year -- the Texas Auto Roundup in the spring and the Texas Truck Rodeo in the fall. Media members enjoy driving and evaluating new vehicles competing for the coveted Car of Texas or Truck of Texas trophies. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Texas Auto Writers Name the New Nissan Titan XD Truck of Texas for 2015


Dallas, TX, October, 2015. The Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA) named the 2016 Nissan Titan XD the Truck of Texas, marking the first time for a Nissan truck to win the prestigious title. The Nissan Cummins® 5.0L V8 Turbo Diesel and Aisin powering the new Titan also received Best Powertrain Award, while the Titan XD Pro-4X won best off-road pickup; the Titan XD Platinum Reserve won luxury pickup truck; and Nissan’s Murano Platinum won mid-size CUV award.

The 2016 Ford Explorer was named SUV of Texas and the 2016 Volvo XC90 was named CUV of Texas.

The 25th TAWA Truck Rodeo, sponsored by the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), with lunch sponsors BFGoodrich and Michelin Tires, was held at the historic Knibbe Ranch near San Antonio Oct. 7-9.  The event was especially competitive this year with 88 vehicles available for 69 TAWA media members to test both on and off road. TAWA members evaluated the off-road vehicles while climbing rocks and crossing creeks, while the smoother drives on the road might include pulling trailers.

Fred Diaz, senior vice president, Sales & Marketing and Operations, U.S.A., Nissan North America, said, “Of the hundreds of thousands of miles driven during the development of the all-new 2016 TITAN XD, the miles driven by the truck experts of the Texas Auto Writers Association were the most critical miles driven to date as we prepare to launch our new truck. This prestigious Truck of Texas award gives us tremendous validation heading into the TITAN XD launch in December. We are humbly honored to accept this award.”

TAWA members evaluated pickups, SUVs and crossover utility vehicles whose combined sticker prices totaled almost $4 million. Several TAWA members commented on how helpful it was to have engineers from the competing companies available to answer questions.  It also aided the evaluation process to have side by side comparisons for on/off road driving and towing capabilities.

"The members of the Texas Auto Writers Association always enjoy the Texas Truck Rodeo,” said Michael Marrs, TAWA president. "It’s a unique chance to compare vehicles back-to-back in a timely manner on the same course and provide honest, real-time feedback to our industry partners. The Nissan Titan with the Cummins Diesel engine really impressed TAWA members at this year's event; there's no doubt that innovative powertrains, impressive designs and new technologies paid off for the Titan.”

The 2015 award categories and winning vehicles were:

• Truck of Texas: Nissan Titan XD (Cummins Diesel)
• SUV of Texas: 2016 Ford Explorer
• CUV of Texas: 2016 Volvo
• Truck line of Texas: Ford
• Heavy duty pickup truck: 2016 Ram 2500
• Best commercial vehicle: 2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris Cargo and Passenger van
• Luxury pickup truck: 2016 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Reserve
• Off-road pickup: 2016 Nissan Titan XD Pro-4X
• Full-size pickup: 2016 Ram 1500 Rebel
• Midsize pickup: 2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road & TRD Sport & Limited
• Best technology: Ford Pro-Trailer Backup Assist
• Best connectivity: Volvo Sensus
• Best powertrain: Nissan Cummins 5.0L V8 Diesel & Aisin
• Off-road utility vehicle: 2016 Jeep Wrangler
• Full-size luxury SUV: 2016 Lexus LX 570
• Mid-size luxury SUV: 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit 4x4
• Compact luxury SUV: 2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE LUX
• Full-size SUV: 2015 Dodge Durango RT AWD and Citadel AWD
• Mid-size SUV: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited Diesel
• Compact SUV: 2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk and Limited
• Full-size CUV: 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD
• Mid-size CUV: 2015 Nissan Murano Platinum
• Compact CUV: 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk
• Luxury CUV: 2016 Volvo XC90 T6

The Texas Auto Writers Association, Inc. was founded in 1985 by automotive journalists who wanted to provide an avenue of professional growth, development and networking. These professionals sought to create an automotive event that was unique to Texas, and the result was the TAWA Truck Rodeo. Since 1992, Truck Rodeos have been held in San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Granbury and Spring Branch.

In 2003, TAWA created an event for sedans, sports cars, and other vehicles not eligible for the Truck Rodeo. The Texas Auto Roundup, as the event is called today, is held at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.  For more information, visit