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2Mar/11Off

Innovation Unleashed

TechOps Guy: Nate

This has really nothing to do with IT, but it has to do with innovation, and my three readers know I like innovation, whether it is in IT systems or other technology.

So, in a nutshell I bought a new car this past weekend. I'm very happy and excited about it, it's really my first new car that I have owned, past vehicles I've always bought used.

The tag line for the car is Innovation Unleashed.

My previous vehicle had 113,000 miles on it and was 10 years old. The check engine light seemed to be coming on once every 3-4 months and I was getting tired of it. Bottom line - if I knew how much it was going to cost to maintain for the next two years I would be happy, but for all I knew it may be another $5k in repairs and parts, I don't know. I'm not a car guy.

So a couple of weeks ago the check engine light comes on again and I start thinking about the possibility of a new car, I wanted:

  • Something that I could fit into, need leg room, I'm not a small person
  • Something that was smallish on the outside so it's easier to park than my previous SUV
  • Wanted a SUV of sorts, I didn't want to have to seriously climb down into a really low riding car.
  • Something that was more fun to drive (want more speed for passing)

So after some research, and a few test drives...

I decided on the 2011 Nissan Juke SV. There is a good video-review of it here.

Those are generic pictures, not of my car specifically.

Innovations in the Juke

First off, let me start by saying cars have come a long way since I last really looked at them, I mean features that I would of expected to be on $50,000+ cars seem standard on cars that cost half as much.

Torque Vectoring All wheel drive

That just sounds cool doesn't it? Anyways, I learned something new from this buying experience (again I'm not a car person so don't keep up to date on this stuff). Traditional all wheel drive systems transfer power between the front and back wheels to increase traction. That much I knew of course.

Torque vectoring all wheel drive goes one step further, in addition to front and back it can control power side to side as well, individual wheels can have their power levels adjusted for maximum control. By default the car tries to say in 2WD mode to improve fuel economy but of course automatically switches to 4WD/AWD when it feels a disturbance in the force and needs more traction.

Here is a video that shows it in action.

This really does make it pretty fun to drive, you can make some crazy tight turns and it doesn't seem to lose any grip.

In between the gauges for MPH and RPM is a dynamic LCD, which has many modes, one of which shows real time information as to which wheels are getting the power applied to them, so you can see when making tight turns that typically one wheel gets almost all power removed from it, and the others get more power.

I-CON System

The I-CON, or Integrated Control system is just below the stereo / navigation system and is a really neat way to control the car, and is very easy to use.

The same set of controls manages two different modes, either climate controls, or driver controls which change how the car performs. The same buttons and interface are used and the functions change seamlessly at the touch of a button, here is part of a video of it in action.

Climate controls are pretty typical, hot/cold, fan speed etc. The graphics on the LCD are neat to see though.

Driver mode is a bit different though, there are 3 modes - Normal, Sport, and Eco. Changing modes adjusts a few things dynamically in the car to suit more towards sporty driving or more towards fuel economy. Me, at the moment like sport mode, only down side is the car defaults to Normal whenever it starts so I have to manually switch it to sport each time, it doesn't remember the last mode it was in.

Then there are more ..how can I say, cosmetic things the LCD displays such as

  • Boost level (the car has a turbo boost)
  • Torque level
  • Fuel economy information (MPG over the last X number of starts, or last X number of days etc)
  • G-force information

Performance and Fuel Economy

The car has a 4-cylinder direct injected gas turbo charged engine. To me that says, it has a smaller engine for fuel economy, but has the turbo charger for performance. So you get a balance of both. It really works well together.

The official specs are 188 horsepower and 177 pound feet of torque. If only they could give me a number that measured performance in IOPS...

Fuel economy for the AWD version is 25 city, 30 highway, the FWD version gets slightly better economy. My previous vehicle was 12 city, 17 highway, so I'm coming out ahead in either case! Not that fuel economy is at the top of my list of priorities.

Other misc features

It has a standard (but to me fancy since I don't think I've ever used such a system before) key less entry and operation system, push button starter, I put a big fancy audio system in it with multiple amps, sub woofer (which turned out a lot bigger than I expected, and got a custom fiberglass enclosure for the sub woofer), high end navigation system(which is windows based - it's already crashed on me once and I had to turn the car off than on again to reboot it, there might be another way to reboot it I'm not sure). After market backup camera (again, heard of them never used one before).

It comes standard with a CVT, or Continuously Variable Transmission, where it does not have traditional gears, instead has hundreds (thousands?) of smaller gear ratios or something which provides for smoother shifting and stuff. AWD models are automatic only, manual transmission not available. But even in the automatic version it has a manual mode, which emulates a six speed transmission. The only thing lacking is paddle shifters...some day hopefully someone will come out with some. I do prefer manual, but if I have to make a choice, AWD or manual I'll take AWD. My last vehicle didn't have the best of traction (even with new tires) on slick surfaces.

It comes standard with 17" wheels.

The transmission comes standard with a 120,000 (or is it 110,000) mile / 10 year warranty, I opted for the 100,000 / 7 year extended warranty as well. Cars are so complicated now, and given this is the first model year for this car and it has a lot of brand new things, who knows what might break in the coming years or how much it'll cost to fix.

How it drives

It's a mean little car, it has some solid power to it, I haven't pushed it too hard yet the manual says to keep it under 4,000 RPM for the first 1200 miles (have about 400 on it now), so doing my best to keep it under 4,000 RPM, sometimes unavoidable though with the turbo, since there is some lag before turbo kicks in the RPMs tend to spike really high, so i try to slow down quickly so it doesn't stay above 4k RPMs for more than a couple seconds.

I can't help but think I'm driving a cross between a Prius and a Porsche.

Sound system is pretty amazing, Navigation system is nice. I have no sense of direction so navigation is a must, past few years I have been using Sprint Navigation on my various phones, it gets the job done but certainly not as nice as an in-dash unit, especially a Navigation system that doesn't rely on a 3G signal, that has screwed me up on Sprint Navigation more than once since it requires 3G connectivity to get map data.

It has a really tight turning radius, and is significantly shorter than all other SUV-type vehicles on the road, so makes it easy to park. Despite it's small exterior it has a lot of space in the front seats. The back seats are cramped as is the trunk, all I really care about is the front seats though.

What's missing

Nothing is perfect, and Juke is no exception, there are a few minor things I would like to see:

  • Paddle shifter option (mentioned above)
  • Some sort of compartment to put sun glasses
  • Arm rest for drivers right arm

Only Complaint

Not about the car itself but rather the process of buying the car. For the most part it went very smoothly and I was very happy with the service I got. When trading in my previous vehicle the sales rep came back and said there was an accident reported on my vehicle by carfax and that would lower the resale value, I asked him What? Why is there an accident reported? And he said there just is, so I asked to see the report and there it was.

I bought the vehicle used in late January 2004 in Washington. I have traveled to Washington, Oregon, California and Arizona in it, that's it.

So you imagine my surprise when he said there was an accident reported on my vehicle in New York. In 2008. I've never been to New York. I never intend to ever visit that city ever in my lifetime (too crowded). So I was kind of confused. I owned the car in 2008, and it never got further east than Arizona.

I of course ran a carfax report when I bought the vehicle in 2004, and it came back clean. So I naturally wasn't too happy.

It turns out that my vehicle came from New Jersey and was sold at an auction in 2004 in the northwest. So I can only assume, for some really stupid #$%@ reason that someone decided to wait 4-5 years before reporting to whatever system carfax uses to get it's data. I mean I can understand a few months, six months maybe a year, but practically half a decade? That's not right. Maybe it was a mistake, I don't know. Cost me about $1000 in value though.

I'm sure there may be things I could of done to contest it and stuff I just wanted to be done with the whole situation so said screw it, I don't care, just put it behind me and move on, so I did.

Overall

Overall I am very satisfied with the Juke so far (only been driving it for 4 days now), it is a good value (base model price of the version I got is roughly $24,000). It's small enough for easy parking, has good space up front (compared it to much larger SUVs and it has comparable or even better space than them for the driver's seat at least). I can't wait to take it on some kind of road trip, at least a couple hundred miles, that will be fun.

While I have seen some comments on line how some people hate the way it looks (for whatever reason), I think it looks fine and so far everyone I have come across really likes it as well, so I wouldn't be surprised if it became a really successful model for Nissan, especially given it's low cost.

The Juke looks even meaner at night, with the various gauges and the illuminated kick plates that have the Juke logo.

At the moment Jukes are made only in Japan and imported to the U.S. Supplies are tight, in fact there was only one Juke SV (the one I bought) that did not have a navigation system(remember I put in an after market system) in the entire northwest region. It came from somewhere in Oregon, they managed to get it to the dealership here in a matter of hours and I picked it up the next day. My dealership didn't even have an AWD model to test drive so my test drives were only on FWD.

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