Holiday Season

Carol of the (Alert) Bells: 2020 Nissan Leaf's sound effects create their own Christmas music

Nissan has added its own holiday-themed twist to typical pedestrian alert sounds.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Jingle, jingle, jingle. It's not just Santa Claus that you hear. There's a new Christmas carol out this holiday season and it features the sounds of the 2020 Nissan Leaf.

For the 2020 model year, the Leaf received several updates that including warning sounds. The two pedestrian safety sounds received updates in tone and volume. For the U.S. market, the all-electric Nissan Leaf makes a constant tone (known as "Canto," derived from the Latin verb for "I sing") for forward movement under 18.6 mph and a pulsing chime when reversing.

The volume of these sounds was updated to meet the standards of the U.S. electric vehicle regulations that go into effect Sept. 1, 2020. An additional speaker has been added to the engine compartment to aid in the compliance.

The creative team at Urban Green Lab put those sounds to use, combining them with "Jingle Bells" and "Angels We Have Heard on High" to create a unique holiday melody. Take a listen.

Also new for the 2020 model year, the Nissan Leaf comes with Nissan's Safety Shield 360 technology, a suite of six advanced active safety and driver-assist technologies.

The 2020 Nissan Leaf will arrive at dealerships in the coming weeks.

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The Nissan Z Proto is the next step in the Z story.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The Nissan Z Proto has arrived. It's not a production car, it's a promise. A promise by Nissan to launch a new generation of the legendary Z sports car. The model has design elements that harken back to to the Z models of yesteryear that have become iconic waypoints in Nissan history.

Nissan has revealed that the Z Proto is one of the 10 models that the company will be showing for the U.S. in 20 months. The timeline has been adjusted from the original due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Other models included as part of the plan are the 2020 Nissan Sentra, 2021 Nissan Rogue, and 2022 Nissan Ariya.

Nissan Z Proto

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

"The United States is home to one of the most devoted and enthusiastic Z communities in the world, with nearly 1.35 million total sales over the model's 50-year history," said Mike Colleran, senior vice president, Nissan U.S. Marketing and Sales. "With new models like Sentra and Rogue opening new eyes to our brand, Z Proto is our loudest statement yet that Nissan will continue to bring vehicles that thrill to U.S. showrooms."

The Z Proto is bathed inn a bright yellow pearlescent paint job - one that is reminiscent of the yellow of the first-generation 240Z and the 300ZX.

At its front are teardrop-shaped LED headlights that have their design roots in the original Z. The Z Proto's rectangular grille is more modern but the design of the grille fins are vintage in origin.

"The LED headlights have two half-circles that hark back to the Japan market-only 240ZG of the 70s," said Alfonso Albaisa, head of design at Nissan. "The ZG has clear dome lenses over the headlight buckets, which under light give off two circular reflections over each headlight. We liked that unique characteristic and discovered that it naturally fit with the Z's identity."

Nissan Z Proto

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

From the side, the Z Proto has a roofline that flows backward like the first-gen Z. It leads to the rear, which takes inspiration from the 300ZX taillights and reinterprets them for a modern world, complete with LED lights. They're set within a rectangular black section that spans the rear of the car and wraps around each outer edge. Below is a dual exhaust.

Side skirts, the front lower lip, and rear valance are made of carbon fiber. The prototype rides on 19-inch alloy wheels. The 2020 370Z also has 19-inch wheels.

The vintage-meets-modern elements continue in the car's cabin where design was focused on achieving a proper balance for road and track. In front of the driver is a 12.3-inch digital display that is arranged to allow to easy data interpretation at speed.

Designed to fit driver and passenger like a glove, the Z Proto's cabin seamlessly blends modern technology with vintage Z touches. A deep dish steering wheel combines modern aesthetics with vintage styling.

Under the prototype's hood is a twin-turbocharged V6 engine that is paired with a six-speed manual transmission. Nissan says that an automatic transmission option is in development. Horsepower and torque figures were not immediately available.

In looking toward the future, Nissan relays, "work is now underway to synchronize the power with the grace and control that has defined the Z for the past 50 years." The current Z has a 3.7-liter V6 engine that achieves 332 horsepower. It comes paired with a standard six-speed manual or available seven-speed automatic transmission.

Compared to the current Z, the Z Proto is five inches longer and two-tenths of an inch wider. The 2020 Nissan 370Z is two-tenths of an inch taller than the Z Proto.

Where do we go from there? Stay tuned.

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The 2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X is the most off-road-ready version of the full-size truck.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

In 1939, 65 years before the Nissan Titan first arrived at U.S. dealerships, Prime Minister Winston Churchill uttered the iconic phrase, "It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key." Here, in 2020, we find the Titan epitomizing the subject of the quote.

Don't get me wrong. I like the Titan. I just want to like it more.

The major facelift for the 2020 model year was kind to the Titan. As tested in the PRO-4X trim, the model is beefy and brawny looking with a black grille, tailgate finisher, and badging. Red-orange detailing is present on the Nissan emblem one the grille and tow hooks. The model looks unlike all the other Titans in the lineup and that's a good thing.

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X Nissan has loaded the truck with standard safety features. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Moving inside the cabin, the highlight is the Titan's Zero Gravity Seats. They were co-designed with NASA and provide hours of fatigue-reducing comfort. The truck's leather-appointed upholstery is nice but the rest of the interior doesn't hold a candle to the supple materials in and luxe looks of Ram's mid-grade and up models.

The refreshed center stack in the Titan is at least as nice as what's in the GM pickups. As equipped, the model had a 9.0-inch infotainment touch screen that is reasonably responsive though the visual design of the system is not the best there is. Still, it's cleaner than the purple graphics-heavy design of the screen in the 2020 Subaru Outback and Legacy.

Nissan has made the system capable of over-the-air updates thanks to a standard Wi-Fi hot spot. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and two USB are also standard across the Titan lineup.

As fresh as the center stack is for the 2020 model year, there are still obvious places in the cabin where leftover buttons and equipment show their age. Chief among them is the trucks's steering wheel. While the blacked out emblem on its center and black button surrounds that are part of the PRO-4X grade helped the look, there's no getting around the fact that the wheel looks like something a decade older than the rest of the design. However, as ugly and dated as it may be, it's still perfectly functional.

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X The Titan PRO-4X also has red-orange accents in the cabin. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Powering the truck is a 5.6-liter V8 engine. It offers 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque, making it plenty strong (those are best-in-class figures) and plenty thirsty. Nissan doesn't offer the truck with a host of engine options like its competition does. It's not a matter of holding back. Currently they don't have anything in their lineup that would even be a contender to be made available.

The truck's nine-speed automatic transmission was also refreshed for 2020. It has more ability in higher gears now, which is good for towing, but, quite frankly, the lower gears of the transmission are a complete mess. The nine-speed can't decide what it wants to do while on daily driver duty at moderate speed. It hems and haws and switches positions more often than a politician scrambling to get your vote.

Being behind the wheel of the Titan makes one still feel like you're driving a truck. Like the Nissan Frontier, there's a connected and true truck experience when you're driving that is a reminder of the way it used to be (which is also a reminder of just how good the other truck manufacturers are at engineering their steering systems). It does soak up the bumps in the road well and, based on previous experience, the model is good and capable off-road.

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X The truck's seats are very comfortable.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The truck also comes standard with Nissan Safety Shield 360, which includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, high beam assist, and rear automatic braking. A number of additional driver assist technologies are available. If you're going to spend some extra cash on a Titan, let it be for the Intelligent Around View Monitor, which offers a 360-degree view of the truck's surrounds. This makes parking a breeze.

Nissan deserves kudos for putting that camera button in an easy-to-reach, quickly accessible location on the center stack. How is this not standard operating procedure for automakers?!

After test driving the Titan for a week, and seeing the evolution of the truck landscape over the last few years, the way Nissan has designed the model gets even more confusing. It seems like the truck was a victim of the budgetary process and time constraints more than any other model in the Nissan lineup.

The Titan feels like a compromise, not necessary for the average buyer, but for the truck's engineers. That may be the key here.

2020 Nissan Titan PRO-4X The Titan PRO-4X stands out at the rear. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Granted, every decision in the automotive development process is a compromise, but with the Titan, the sore spots show through more than most. The Nissan Titan is the girl you date while you're waiting for the woman who will be your wife to come along - good enough for a good time, but not the one you want to commit to for life.

While there's a lot of reasons why Nissan isn't selling as many full-size trucks as their rivals, chief among them is the trucks the Titan is up against. They're more capable, nicer appointed, and filled with more innovative features. To gain market share, the Nissan Titan needs to do something, anything, better than the competition. Ram has its interiors. Ford has its capability. GM has innovative camera tech and a new type of tailgate. Toyota has historically good reliability.

On its own the 2020 Titan stands tall, but next to other full-size trucks, it sits in the shadows.

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