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See the new Chevy Cruze and Infiniti QX56

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There’s a mad dash to claim market share in the new small car segment of the automotive world today. Car companies are recalibrating to produce appealing and profitable smaller cars. Enter the Chevy Cruze.

This little sedan has actually been on sale in more than 60 world markets for some time, and GM has logged more than  250,000 sales and millions of miles of driving. Finally, after all of that in-the-field fine tuning, it has come to the U.S.

The Cruze covers a broad swath of the market with a price range starting as low as $16,900 and escalating to more than $25,000 for the LTZ with leather seats and navigation.

The styling makes the car look substantial, statesman-like, confident and larger than other compacts. The Cruze is a very solid car. The rigid body structure delivers a solid platform to work with, making it squeak and rattle free. Another by-product of the structural design is that it has a very composed ride.

A week of driving it under a wide variety of conditions yielded the assurance that the vehicle is well put together. Additionally, the Cruze handles very well. In fact, it handles better than others in its class, and, for that matter, better than most other cars on the road.

Another unique bonus to the Cruze is its advanced safety features. GM, like most other manufacturers, has discovered that the best way to improve the safety performance of any car, especially a small one, is to have lots of air bags. The Cruze comes with a class-leading 10 bags standard. That’s two front, two side curtain, two front seat thorax, an unusual two rear seat thorax, and totally new two front knee bags. That, added to a strong body structure and a responsive car that can actually avoid some collisions, places this model head and shoulders above others in its class when it comes to safety.

The Cruze is offered in three trim levels, the LS, LT and LTZ. The base LS is only offered with the 1.8 liter, 4 cylinder engine. Either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission is available. It is rated at 22 city and 35 highway mpg. The better engine is the new 1.4 liter turbo. This tiny 88-cubic-inch powerplant is no larger than some large motorcycle engines, but delivers the goods quite efficiently. The upcoming ECO model is optimized for economy and will deliver a 40 mpg rating.

The interior fit and finish is very good. The front seat travel is very long, allowing tall occupants to ride upfront. The trunk is large and the rear seatbacks fold down to enlarge the usable cargo space.

The new Chevy Cruze is happy and efficient in city driving; yet has the comfort and poise to do a cross country drive. It’s a nice piece of work.

Even though the current automotive market is skewing sharply towards smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles, there is still a need/desire, albeit a smaller one, for large luxury SUVs.

Infiniti is the luxury brand of Nissan.  The new Infiniti QX56 is the “Infinitized” version of the very popular Nissan Armada. The QX56 is an unapologetic high dollar, high zoot land yacht that is amazingly pleasant to drive.

Basically the QX56 is a large SUV with a body-on-frame design derived from a full-size pickup truck. It is large and heavy with a big engine and an 8,500-pound towing capacity.

Now having said all that, this big SUV is remarkably refined, luxurious and enjoyable to drive. The stylists deserve a round of “atta-boys” for making this inherently boxy design look so good. It basically outclasses the current pack of competitors. The interior is equally gorgeous. The look is luxurious, avant-garde and finely finished. Infiniti has a real knack for combining wood and leather in a unique way.

The interior space is also very large and roomy even in the third row. Additionally, the third row has a power recline and fold flat capability. The entertainment and electronics package is complete, and the second row passengers have individual headrest-mounted screens for their viewing pleasure. The second row also boasts roomy and comfortable captain’s chairs with a center console.

This SUV drives smaller than it really is. Handling is a breeze and highway stability is superb. Steering is precise and maneuverability is excellent. After properly adjusting the lovely heated and cooled seats, you’ll simply glide down the road with ease, isolated from the din of traffic. Your view is unobstructed and the miles just melt away.

Upfront there’s a touch screen navigation system with a 40 GB hard drive and a Bose audio system. Real time XM weather and traffic let you know what’s ahead before you get there. The Distance Control feature will automatically keep you at a safe distance from cars you’re following. If you’re so inclined, you can even opt for the optional lane departure warning and lane departure prevention systems that help you steer straight.

The QX56 is powered by a 400 horsepower 5.6 liter V-8 connected to a 7-speed automatic transmission. When prodded, the QX will respond with surprising speed, but the penalty for all the heft and power is a 14/20 EPA economy number.  It is offered in either a rear wheel or automatically controlled 4-wheel drive configuration.

Though it could go almost anywhere, the QX is just too pretty to get muddy.

Visit www.MyCarData.com for more information on these models.