Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The #1 Tip for Winter Weather Driving

Black ice, snow drifts, chunks of ice hurtling off trucks, and a few feet of snow. This winter is not kind to Northeastern commuters. While this is slightly bothersome, the real annoying part is that friend  we all have from up north who thinks he's bulletproof in the snow, and wants to constantly remind you of the fact. But even he probably knows that the single most important thing about driving in any kind of inclement weather is your tires.

Sure, there are lots of techniques and tips for driving in the snow, but none is more important than that layer of rubber that goes between you and the road. Lately I see a lot of automotive websites dismissing all wheel drive (AWD) cars, and preaching the necessity of snow tires. But the fact remains that snow tires just aren't practical for most people. This is of course unless your daily driver is a high-torque RWD sports car, or you live in the snow belt. But for the rest of us, we make due with our all season rubber. As for the AWD, it has its place, and that's smashing snowbanks and climbing icy hills.

Last winter was really rough for me, because I did not have adequate tires. There were times when I couldn't even get out of a parking spot after a snowfall. So this year, I did some online research and then made a call to Mavis Discount Tire to make an appointment.

Tires for my car are very big and very expensive. Also, I'm what you call a "spirited" driver, so usually a decent 245/45/18 runs me more than 200 dollars. I normally get my favorite tire, a Bridgestone Potenza RE960 AS, which are about $270 a pop. Since I needed 4 and my family needed to eat this month, this wasn't going to happen.

After talking with the service manager, I settled on a set of Goodyear Eagle GT's for $125 each, a significant savings. They came highly recommended, and after looking them up online, I was willing to take a chance.

And boy I'm glad I did. They have a mean asymmetrical tread pattern, they have a little flare which gives the appearance of an aggressive stance, and the sidewalls aren't too busy. But more importantly, they grip. They hold traction perfectly in the rain, and haven't hydroplaned yet, and with the snow we have experienced, I'm remarkably sure footed. I have had other people spin in front of me while I easily dodge them. My car puts 300 HP to the front wheels, which usually makes my immobile in the snow, but this year I have yet to get stuck.

So here's the moral of the story. Don't skimp on tires. they are literally the only thing between you and the road. Don't feel like you have to buy the most expensive, but it does pay to talk to someone who knows a thing or two about rubber and do some research before making the investment.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

I'm an Absentee Father. But That's OK, Because I Drive a Four-Door Sports Car

Lets get something straight. The Nissan Maxima does not get the love it deserves. Not from the auto press and not from car enthusiasts. Any commuter would be hard pressed to find the combination of power, luxury and reliability at a decent value that the Maxima offers. That's probably why the nameplate derives such fierce loyalty, and I have owned 3. That being said, I'm very excited about the announcement of the 2015 Maxima, which was briefly teased at this year's Super Bowl.

Now I'm sure you have seen the commercial by now. Some people even understood the correlation that this super-cool racecar driver is a family man who chooses the sporty 4DSC Maxima as his personal ride. Unfortunately, they chose to use "Cats in a Cradle" as a soundtrack, whose opening note inspires guilt and anxiety in pretty much every father who wishes they could spend more time with their family. Not the kind of marketing message I would want to send, but I hope it works for them.  

But damn, its sexy. Official photos were released today. It has a very muscular front end and rear haunches that are reminiscent of Infiniti models, yet somehow different. It also takes design cues from Nissan's current lineup, with boomerang lights, while that grill fascia really needs to be available in a matte black. I'm a little nervous about the high beltline and visibility, but I'll reserve judgement until I take a test drive.

Photos from Newspress
As for the powerplant and technicals, no one knows what that will be, but I'd  venture guessing either a 3.5 or 3.7 liter V6, mated to a CVT. I don't think we will see a platform beyond FWD, as Nissan still relies on Maxima upgraders for the survival of the Infiniti brand.

The car is set to debut at the NY Auto show in April, and I'll be there.

information via