Sunday, January 3, 2010

Test Drives

Day of drives: Wed. Dec. 30th
Rides: 2004 Infiniti FX45; 2006 Range Rover HS3; 2009 Ford Flex; 2008 GMC Acadia
Along for the ride: My buddy, Grant

I've been a fan of the FX45 since its release as an '04 model, and although I've driven countless G35's and visited my local dealer numerous times, I've never come across the FX45 version that cried "Drive Me!" There was always something in the way, whether it was the weather, the time of day, or the lazy sales guy. It's taken me this long to get behind the wheel of one. And I must say, "I am not impressed". For being such an expensive luxury vehicle, I really did expect more from it. Now I know, driving a used one (especially one now five years old) isn't exactly the best vehicle to bet your opinion on, but then again, for how well these vehicles are supposed to be built and for the price they command new, there's a lot missing in this "luxury" vehicle. My 2000 Mustang convertible was in WAY better shape than this big creature, when it turned five (and with WAY more miles on it!).

I will admit that I am a fan of Infiniti vehicles (most, anyways). My brother owned a G35 sedan and my buddy owns a G37S coupe. I love the monstrosity called the QX and would love to get my hands on one, but I don't look lightly at ANY vehicle, especially one that's billed as having been meticulously maintained. And cold weather shouldn't affect how the vehicle drives, once it's been properly warmed up. But the FX never seemed to really do that (warm up properly). It felt cold inside, even after the half hour drive. The heated seats should really be labelled "heated thighs", and there should be a warning for the road noise: "If you're not blasting the stereo, prepare to be inundated with the whirrrrrr of the road!". Seriously! This thing was LOUD! I drove my convertible for nine years, and I thought IT was loud, but whoever decided to put this combination size wheel/tire and tread pattern on a vehicle this size, should really reconsider their line of work! Seriously unimpressed with my first experience in the FX45, and it had less than 80 000 clicks on it. For shame!

Off we went to Ford to test the Flex. I had an interest in the vehicle since it's launch in '08, but still cannot believe Ford decided to go fwd on this size of vehicle! For all it's weight to be on those two wheels, and the advantage rwd would've given Ford in the sales arena, I'm surprised they still chose fwd. Nonetheless, it handled well enough albeit feeling quite large doing so, yet surprisingly easy to drive and manoeuver. The seats were comfy, the tranny shifted smoothly, and it was amazingly quieter than the FX45 on the highway. Kudos to Ford for this vehicle, but not gonna be a consideration for me unless it ends up with rwd or awd in the future.

Headed over to my area GMC dealer to check out an Enclave or Acadia, but noticed the Range Rover. Nice vehicles, and OMG! THE TOYS!!! WOW! Soooo much fun to play around with, especially the back-up camera (so cool) and the height adjustable suspension! WOW! Now THAT'S nice! We fiddled a little while at the pumps (had to fill up before the drive) and the nav/info center displays the standard ride height, and where the vehicle currently sits in relation to it. If the sales guy didn't tag along, I definitely would've had more fun playing around. Smooth ride for a boxy SUV, but even quieter and smoother than I expected (and subsequently, better than the FX). Nice toy, but the biggest squabble was the rear hatch/window combo. Not nearly quiet enough; hit a bump or an irregularity in the road, and the squeaky noises come out to play. If I ever get one of these, it'll have to be brand new. But even then, not sure if I'd ever spend that kind of coin on one.

My last ride was in the Acadia. It wasn't as decked out as I'd liked it to have been, but since it was getting late and Grant had to depart soon, I figured this version would do or I'd have to wait another week before I could try again. It actually surprised me. I didn't realize it was a six-speed auto until I started fiddling around with the manual shift controls, and was actually really impressed with its responsive shifting time. It rode nicely, but I'm really going to have to check out one appointed in leather and awd (since those are a couple of my necessary options) to see if it's truly as quiet as I'm hoping it to be.

All in all, the nicest to drive this day was the Acadia, while the Rover was the most fun to play around with. The Flex felt too big (must be for that North American diet!), and the FX just left me completely unimpressed. I'm hoping to check out a few more versions of "crossover utilities" and would love to get my hands on an X6 sometime soon, but I haven't seen a used one yet, and the only other option at my dealer is the M version (uhm, I'm not putting $10 000 down for a test drive). So looks like that'll have to wait a while. Maybe the lucky streak will strike up soon and I'll hit that $40 Million jackpot this week so I can just buy everything. But come to think of it, if that happens, I won't be driving used vehicles to fill my afternoons any longer! ;)