No. 769,
October 22, 2014

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On The Table


Sunday
Aug312014

ON THE TABLE - SEPTEMBER 3, 2014

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Nissan, Infiniti. Editor-in-Chief's Note:
First it was Johan de Nyyschen leaving Infiniti to run Cadillac, and now it's Andy Palmer, who is leaving the Japanese automaker to run Aston Martin. Just this week Palmer was interviewed in Automotive News saying that Infiniti is "different, personalized and provocative" in his role as chief of Nissan's luxury division after de Nysschen's exit. But Infiniti wasn't provocative enough, apparently, because Palmer has left the building. What's the problem? Well, there are many, but it's easy to zero in on the most critical issues. Nissan's bureaucratic fiefdoms are legendary, and the glacier pace of change - especially when it came to developing new products for Infiniti - served to kill any momentum that the luxury brand hoped to generate. Infiniti will find it difficult to compete in the ultra-competitive global luxury arena with a debilitating internal environment like that getting in the way. But ultimately it all comes down to Carlos Ghosn. He created the systems, he has allowed the hidebound bureaucracies to flourish, and any executive worth his or her chops isn't going to hang around in the hopes that it will get better.
This just in, it won't, because Ghosn isn't going anywhere. - PMD

Editor-in-Chief's Note: Dollie Cole, the widow of GM legend Ed Cole, passed away on August 24 in Lockhart, Texas, at the age of 84. Often described as spirited and outspoken - which was anathema for auto executive wives back in the day - Dollie was a genuine piece of work and a legend in her own right. I'm sure those of you out there who are interested will read plenty about Dollie over the next couple of days (Hannah Lutz sums-up Dollie nicely in Automotive News here). Dollie was fiercely protective of Ed, and never hesitated to engage the press if she felt he (and GM) were getting a bad rap. She was a car freak, too, and Ed had her most famous personal driver - a 1965 Nassau Blue Corvette Convertible with White interior, removable hardtop and side pipes - custom-built with a big-block 396 cu. in. V8, a good six months before the big blocks were available for production. She called it her "Blue Bird" and she used to tear around Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham in it, her trademarked blonde tresses clearly visible. I know, because she sent it over to our house a few times for my brother Tony to "borrow" for the weekend. One of those times included a memorable drive back in 1965 to the University of Notre Dame in a caravan consisting of the "Blue Bird," a red 289 Cobra and a GT350 Shelby Mustang. Yes, it was a different time and a different era and the memories remain vivid to this day. I will quibble with one thing about the stories sure to emerge about Dollie in the next week or so, because they all make it sound as if she was the first of the auto executive wives in this town who spoke her mind and was feisty. Not true. Dollie was all of that and more, but she wasn't the original in that department by any means. In fact she couldn't hold a candle to my mother Josephine, who was the true pioneer when it came to being an auto executive wife who was feisty and never hesitated to speak her mind. You could often find my mother bending the ear of a GM chairman or president about various subjects - "Why wasn't GM building more small agile cars" was one of her favorites, among many - much to the delight of the other wives, who would mutter under their breath, "Give 'em Hell, Jo!" and then give their own husbands an earful when they got home. A different time and a different era indeed. - PMD

(Images courtesy of Land Rover)
Longer, lower, wider, uh wait a minute, wrong press release. This is the new Land Rover Discovery Sport - "A versatile premium compact SUV" - according to the manufacturer. This package is built on a 107.9-inch (2,741mm) wheelbase, but Land Rover insists that it has room for seven passengers with its "5+2" seating configuration, all with an overall length of 180.7-inches. (4.59 mm). Really? All we can say about that is yikes, and who are you going to stuff back there? Ah well, in the land of allegedly compact SUVs, saying you have room for seven is the new Holy Grail, apparently, even if it's readily apparent that the only humans you'd ever think of putting back there are under four feet tall, or having a forced time out. At any rate, it has a 2-liter, turbocharged engine with 240HP, a nine-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive, an all-new multi-link rear suspension, electric power-assisted steering and optional Autonomous Emergency Braking designed to help the driver avoid collisions, plus an all-new 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system "with intuitive controls and an expansive connectivity package." The Land Rover Discovery Sport will be at dealers in early 2015. Pricing start at $37,995.

(Images courtesy of Mazda)
Mazda has unveiled the fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 (known as Roadster in Japan) together at fan events held simultaneously in Japan, USA and Spain. The all-new MX-5, which adopts both SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY and Mazda’s KODO—Soul of Motion design language - will be rolled out to global markets starting in 2015. Mazda says that, "The exquisite proportions make the driver and passenger stand out, and both the interior and exterior evoke the exhilaration of open-top driving." Uh, really? Exquisite isn't a word that comes to mind, but, whatever. The one thing that stands out to us? The new MX-5 is more than 100 kilograms lighter than the model it replaces, which is a very good thing.


2015 GMC Yukon Denali XL 4WD: $77,965 ($68,380 Base Price; Midnight Amethyst Metallic, $495; Cocoa/Dark Atmosphere; 6.2-liter Direct-injected EcoTec3 V8 with Variable Valve Timing and Active Fuel Management delivering 420HP and 460 lbs-ft of torque, 6-speed automatic transmission; Magnetic Ride Control; Fully automatic locking rear differential; 3.42 rear axle ratio; 2-speed transfer case; Trailer sway control; Duralife brake rotors; Automatic rear load leveling; Trailer brake controller; Front and rear park assist; Trailering equipment; High Intensity Discharge headlamps with lamp control; 20" Ultra Bright machined aluminum wheels; 17" steel spare wheel; power rear liftgate with programmable height; Intellilink with 8" diagonal touch screen and navigation; 10 speaker Bose Centerpoint surround sound audio system; Active noise cancellation; Customizable driver display; Tri-zone automatic climate control; passive entry system including keyless entry and keyless start; Heated steering wheel; Steering wheel controls; Power tilt & telescopic steering column; Perforated leather appointed heated and cooled front seats; Side blind zone alert with lane change alert, Memory settings for driver seat, outside mirrors, steering column and pedals; Second row power fold and tumble bucket seats; Heated second row seats; Third row 60/40 split-bench power fold seat; Express down windows, express up front power windows; Remote vehicle start; 110-volt AC power outlet, SiriusXM + service sold separately by SiriusXM after three months; XM NAV traffic; Power adjustable pedals; Bluetooth with audio streaming; Touring Package - Power sunroof, Third row DVD screen, Theft-deterrent system content theft alarm, 20" chrome wheels, Rear seat entertainment system, self-powered horn, Theft-deterrent system body system content (includes vhicle inclination sensor, interior vehicle movement sensor), head-up display - $4,160; Power retractable running boards, $1,745; Adaptive cruise control, $1,695; 22" aluminum wheels with painted inserts, $495, GVW rating - 7,500 lbs., Destination charge, $995.)


2015 Chevrolet Tahoe LT 4WD: $60,855 ($53,000 Base Price; Black; Jet Black/Dark Ash; 5.3-liter Direct-injected EcoTec3 V8 with Variable Valve Timing and Active Fuel Management delivering 355HP and 383 lbs-ft of torque, 6-speed automatic transmission; Fully automatic locking rear differential; Premium Ride Suspension; 3.08 rear axle ratio; Single speed transfer case; Rear park assist; Trailering equipment; 4-wheel antilock disc brakes; Rain sensing windshield wipers; Power heated outside mirrors; Luggage rack side rails; Assist steps; Remote keyless entry, extended range; 18" aluminum wheels; 17" steel spare wheel; power rear liftgate with programmable height; Leather appointed and heated front bucket seats; Memory settings for driver seat, outside mirrors, steering column and pedals; Power seat adjuster, driver and front passenger; Second row 60/40 split fold flat bench seat; Third row 60/40 fold flat bench seat; Remote vehicle start; Express down, express up front power windows; Power door locks; Power adjustable pedals; Auto dimming inside rearview mirror; Tilting and telescoping steering column; Steering wheel controls; Tri-zone automatic climate control; Chevrolet Mylink with 8" diagonal touch screen; Bose Premium audio system; 110-volt AC power outlet; Universal home remote; Sun, Entertainment and Destination Package - Power sunroof, Chevrolet Mylink audio system with 8" diagonal color touch and navigation, Rear seat entertainment, Additional nine months SiriusXM radio - $3,225; Luxury Package - Passive entry system including remote keyless start, Second row 60/40 split bench seats with power release, Heated second row seats, Third row 60/40 split bench seats with power fold, Power tilt and telescopic steering column, Heated steering wheel, Front and rear park assist, Rear cross traffic alert, Side blind zone alert with lane departure alert, Rear cross traffic alert adjustable with turn signal, Front fog lamps - $2,705; 20" polished aluminum wheels, Sun, Entertainment and Destination Package Discount, -$500; Destination charge, $995.)


In Praise of Big.

Over the last couple of weeks we've had an immersion in Big, namely the 2015 GMC Yukon XL Denali and the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe LT, both with 4WD. The Big Daddy Yukon Denali XL, with its imposing face and even more imposing length, width and height was an exercise in sumptuous splendor. Note I didn't say excess, because even though I couldn't imagine careening around town in one of these on a regular basis, there is no question that if you have a need for this kind of space and capability, this thing fits the bill and then some. A bit ponderous in the suburban slog - to say the least - once you get this full-size Yukon going it's like a luxury train that delivers everything you could possibly desire. Okay, let me revise that. Even though its truck-like demeanor has been soothed and honed to a fare-thee-well and the tastefully-rendered Denali package does its absolute best to make you forget you're in a behemoth, the Yukon Denali XL is no super luxury cruiser as compared to the current crop of state of the art luxury cars, but it does provide a level of comfort and luxury accoutrements that is indeed impressive. And the sheer space it delivers is mind boggling.

The Chevrolet Tahoe LT is impressive in its own right as well. First of all, a big tip of the hat has to go to the GM designers who worked on this new Tahoe, because it looks clean, crisp and positively svelte from 10 yards away, especially in its jet black livery. (And special mention must go to the beautiful aluminum wheels on our tester, which are some of the best looking wheels in the business, on any vehicle.) The Tahoe is not svelte, of course, because other than the extra length of the Yukon XL in the back its basic footprint on the road is just as big. But the Tahoe does drive differently, and it does feel lighter on its feet. In fact it feels smaller, as improbable as that sounds. As I've often said, the level of high-caliber engineering that goes into these big vehicles is simply incredible, because it makes them drive smaller than they really are. They're damn-near engineering marvels exactly for that reason.

Do people really need these vehicles? As daily drivers I really have to question it, then again there seem to be a lot of people - primarily women - rolling around town in Tahoes, Yukons and Escalades so clearly a lot of people disagree with that assessment. But if you do happen to need the capability and utility of vehicles like the Yukon Denali XL or the Chevrolet Tahoe LT, they're simply in a class of their own.

I will dispense with our usual brand image discussion when it comes to framing these vehicles for that very reason, because the people who want them don't care. If you have the cashola to spend on a Yukon Denali XL, there is nothing that is going to dissuade you from going out and getting one. Same goes for the Tahoe, which for $17,000 less seems like a veritable bargain. There's a reason there are people out there clamoring for these large vehicles - especially the new Cadillac Escalade by the way - making this one of the hottest vehicle segments in the business right now. People like Big. And People want Big. And these two vehicles are prime examples why. - PMD