Friday, March 18, 2005

NYIAS: Nissan Sport Concept

With files from Nissan Canada
The Nissan Sport Concept, which will make its public world debut at the 2005 New York International Auto Show, is the latest in a series of dynamic performance/ youth concept vehicles, following the Nissan Actic and Nissan AZEAL concepts.

The Sport Concept is a dynamic three-door hatchback with a dramatic four-seat interior. It offers the look and feel of a sports tuner car, yet is conceived as an affordable, attainable vehicle for buyers entering the new car market for the first time. The Sport Concept brings Nissan’s heritage of innovation, sportiness and driving pleasure to a category of vehicles that traditionally lack excitement and visual appeal.

Highlights of the Nissan Sport Concept include:


- Aggressive, athletic roofline with large rear spoiler
- Bold surface composition and robust fender character lines
- Large, muscular front bumper air intake with large wings
- Rear bumper outlet with strong negative surface and bold composition
- Projector-style headlights and rear combination lamps with multi-layered reflectors
- 20-inch aluminum-alloy six-spoke wheels with machined and painted surfaces
- Extensive use of carbon-fiber composite parts
- Pearl White metallic paint
- Wheelbase 102.4 inches
- Overall length 171.3 inches
- Overall height 59.1 inches
- Overall width 71.1 inches

- Driver-oriented cockpit designed to enhance the driving experience
- 2+2 seating with emphasis on the deep, body-wrapping front seats with built-in 4-point seat belts
- Front seats covered in Wolf Gray leather with double-layered pearl suede inserts
- Sporty instrument panel with integrated tachometer and gauges
- Distinctive center console with emergency brake lever integrated into the console lid, distinctive sport-throw shifter lever
- Leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel
- Individual rear seats with built-in 4-point seat belts, leather and suede coverings
- Rear console-mounted support grips
- Large blue-cone speaker and woofer located in rear parcel shelf

The Sport Concept was designed, created and managed by Nissan Design, Nissan Technical Center, Atsugi, Japan.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

DRIVEN: Smart fortwo - Being 'Snow Smart'

By Russ Bond
Photos courtesy Mercedes-Benz Canada

Some things magically go together, like bread and jam, sun and Florida, and of course snow and Canadian winters. If you happened to have purchased a Smart car, the last one might have been reason for concern.

Mercedes Benz was out to prove that Canadian winter driving really is no concern at all as they invited us journalist types to ‘have a go’ in the Smart fortwo Coupe and Cabriolet Cdi models on a ‘snow track’ at Toronto’s Exposition Place.

We arrived early to have a look at the track, and to be honest, I don’t think I would have attempted to navigate it if I was a Smart owner – but I was proven wrong.

After a brief description of the Smart’s snow-busting qualities, including the recommended use of snow tires, we set out to have a go at the facility ourselves – with no tow truck in site.

I would say that I was pleasantly surprised how the Smart handled the snow – which in some places was six to eight inches deep.

The little fellas just chugged their way right through it.

The Smart has a very sophisticated electronic stability program, traction control and ABS system, including brake assist that made the drive quite pleasant. My issue with these systems has always been that they are quite intrusive, and the Smart systems are just that.

That being said, on most vehicles, the electronic systems – except the ABS – can be turned off. Not so with the Smart – they are on all the time. For the general motoring public, this is fine, as they really are a good way of keeping the cars occupants as safe as possible.

For most drivers, snow and ice present a few extra challenges as the grip level is so low. Short wheelbase cars are much more likely to ‘get away from you’ because they are so short – the phrase ‘spins like a top’ comes to mind. The Smart, has a short wheelbase (1,812 mm) but a wide track (1,275 mm) and that helps overcome the problems of most short wheelbase cars. This is critical when everything else on the road is basically bigger than you are.

Driving in the snow and ice in the Smart is just like driving anything else, which was a pleasant surprise. The track that Mercedes-Benz had set up featured some neat challenges to put the Smart through its paces. The slalom was my favourite, and on my second attempt, I went ‘flat’ through the whole section. This was interesting because you could feel the stability program react and yet it still didn’t take you off line. Keeping the car going in the desired direction was easy, even with my right foot firmly planted.

While this is not the recommended procedure, it does illustrate that if you’re trucking along and you hit, say, black ice, and don’t know it, the car does and will compensate as needed.

All in all it was an interesting experience, and if you have or are contemplating a purchase of a Smart, but don’t know about the winter driving aspect of it, trust me, the Smart is indeed ‘Snow-Smart.’