Different Shapes of Family Haulers

January 1st, 2018

By Don Armstrong

Whether you’re on a budget, or have a preferential shape or style, every manufacturer offers a variety of vehicles with hopes of winning your approval. This month, we look at the two most popular styles in the Bay Area, a minivan and a crossover.

Lexus NX 200 T
Known for quality workmanship and service that has set the new benchmark, Lexus offers a compact SUV that is perhaps the most stylized of all, the NX 200 T.

From its oversized, spindle-shaped grille and scalloped sides to edgy lighting fore and aft, the NX turns heads wherever it goes.

The outside-the-box design continues on the interior with its unique approach to controlling the infotainment system. The screen is set too far back on the dash for the driver to facilitate finger-touch control so a joystick-like pad is placed atop the center console, forward of the shifter, to move the invisible cursor with your finger. A slight vibration on your finger tip and a highlighted option on the screen’s menu indicates where you are. A press of the pad will select the desired function.

Cargo space behind the second-row seats is smaller than its competitors but you’ll have to decide its importance.

Our 200 T version of the NX includes a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that produces 235 horsepower.

Starts at $35,285.

Honda Odyssey
Will you ever use your SUV for true off-roading? Our guess is, probably not. So, why buy something that you’ll only use some of its capability? The minivan remains the ultimate people hauler and Honda has an all-new version of its reliable Odyssey.

Now in its fifth iteration, the Honda Odyssey is a solid contender in the minivan class. Its attractive, conservative shape will appeal to everyone. The hallmark of the minivan, of course, is its sliding, second-row passenger doors. And, yes, the popular, on-board vacuum system returns

New this year is a second row of seats that slide fore and aft, making it easier to get back to the third row of fold-in-the-floor seating. Honda also has a rear cabin camera system that allows mom to monitor the goings-on behind her without having to stop the vehicle and referee the misbehavior.

Thank you, Honda, for keeping the 3.5-liter V-6 engine that is now married to a nine or ten-speed automatic transmission. Plenty of horsepower for luggage, 6-kids and mom and dad.

Start planning the summer vacation starting at $30,965.

Truck Scene 2017

March 1st, 2017

By Don Armstrong

Trucks and SUV’s are now outselling cars and manufacturers are doubling down variety. This month we focus on a car-based, light duty hauler and a gutsy bruiser that could be your new catamaran tug.

The 2017 Nissan TITAN XD and TITAN Single Cab models are the first-ever single cab offering in TITAN history. The trucks are designed to provide an affordable and rugged entry-point in the commercial fleet/work truck market.

Nissan Titan XD single cab diesel
The Titan XD could be classified as a “tweener,” with price and capability that fits between a standard ½ ton and a heavy duty ¾ ton pickup. The base version XD gets a 5.6-liter V-8 but the optional, purpose-built 5.0-liter Cummins V-8 diesel delivers 555 lb-ft of torque to pull up to 12,300 pounds. The engine’s grunt is delivered to all-four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Two-wheel drive is standard.

The 2017 Nissan TITAN King Cab is marked by its available 6-person seating, wide-opening rear doors and available “rear seat delete” option that is ideal for commercial use with its flat floor and secure in-cab storage space.

The XD offers similar interior option packages as the regular Titan. A crew cab edition arrives at dealers later this year. So, for now anyway, only a single cab model is available. I don’t know about you, but what was once the only cab size available, today looks out of place among the popular 4-door versions.

Our Titan XD single cab came with the long bed that was equipped with Nissan’s Utili-track system that offers a variety of cleats and tie-downs. Handy, under-bed rail and tailgate lighting is a terrific option and one that every trucker will appreciate.

Nissan Titan XD pricing starts at $34,780

2017 Honda Ridgeline

Honda Ridgeline
Car-based, truck-like utility vehicles have been around since the 1930s. You may be familiar with the Ford Ranchero and Chevrolet El Camino. Chevy ended its foray into this design in the late 80s, Ford in the 70s. Fast forward to this century when Honda decided it was time to pick up the baton and build the Ridgeline.

The second generation, 2017 Honda Ridgeline continues the tradition of the first but with more truck swagger and all the sought-after features that make this crossover so appealing. Crossover? Yes. It’s built on the same platform as the Honda Pilot CUV.

2017 Honda Ridgeline

With a sealed and lockable in-bed trunk, a dual-function tailgate, rear seat and 4-doors, this Ridgeline is like the Swiss Army knife of pick-ups. However, hauling and towing capacity is limited to about 1,500 lbs.

The ride quality and interior is that of the Pilot, nice, but depending on option choices, you could be pushing the price into the full-size truck category.

The 2017 Honda Ridgeline starts at $29,475. A Chevy Silverado 1500 Crew cab starts at $31,610.