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Monday brings us another batch of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recalls. This week, the list of major (over 100,000-units) safety recalls includes well over 1-million units. How can you determine if your vehicle is under a current NHTSA recall? Grab your vehicle identification number (VIN) and enter it into the NHTSA website. The VIN can be most easily read if you are standing on the outside of the vehicle and looking through the lower left (driver) corner of the windshield. The VIN is stamped (or etched) onto a small metal plate. NHTSA Campaign Number: 16V029000 Nissan Recall Campaign Number: See Note Below Vehicles Affected: Certain 2013-2015 Nissan Altima vehicles manufactured from March 6, 2012 through December 31, 2014. Approximately 846,000 vehicles are expected for inclusion in this recall campaign. Cause: In the affected vehicles, the secondary hood latch may bind and remain in the unlatched position when the hood is closed. Concern: If the primary latch is inadvertently released and the secondary latch is not engaged, the hood could unexpectedly open while driving, increasing the risk of a vehicle crash. Correction: These vehicles may have been included in a previous recall, however the previous remedy plan may not have been performed consistently to remove the safety risk. To correct this issue, Nissan will re-notify all affected owners and dealers will replace the hood latch with a new one, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in mid-February. Owners may contact Nissan customer service at 1-800-647-7261. Note: This recall supersedes recalls 14V-565 and 15V-116. NHTSA Campaign Number: 16V036000 Ford Recall Campaign Number: 16S03 (See Note Below) Vehicles Affected: Certain 2004-2006 Ford Ranger vehicles manufactured from March 24, 2003 through May 4, 2006. Approximately 361,692 vehicles are expected for inclusion in this recall campaign. Cause: Upon deployment of the driver side frontal air bag, excessive internal pressure may cause the inflator to rupture. Concern: In the event of a crash necessitating deployment of the driver’s frontal air bag, the inflator could rupture with metal fragments striking the vehicle occupants potentially resulting in serious injury or death. Correction: Ford will notify owners, and dealers will replace the air bag inflators, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin March 7, 2016. Owners may contact Ford customer service at 1-866-436-7332. Note: This recall supersedes 14V-343 and applies only to Ford Rangers manufactured in North America.
Here is the criteria for vehicles making this list of the 8-best used high performance sports cars available for under $20K: They must be readily available in the continental U.S. They must be a 2000 model or later. They must be able to achieve 0 to 60 mph in 6.5-seconds or less. Of course, they must be available for $20k OR LESS. 1997 – 2004 Chevrolet Corvette C5 The Chevrolet Corvette is the stuff of little car enthusiast’s dreams. The truth is that this dream can become a reality for $20K or less. It comes in coupe and convertible variations and has a big old honking V8 engine with your choice of an automatic or manual transmission. 0 to 60 times: 1998 Corvette: 4.8 seconds. 2004 Corvette Z06: 4.2 seconds 2003-2011 Ford Mustang GT The Ford Mustang is often credited with being the first muscle car. Whatever your opinion, you can’t argue that this particular batch of Mustang GTs has a ton of curb appeal and they are more fun to drive than a barrel of monkeys. The last stock Mustang GT that I tested was a 2003 and it bolted from 0 to 60 mph in only 5.6-seconds. 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T Another retro-muscle car, the Challenger is loaded with aesthetic appeal and plenty of muscle. A giant 57-liter HEMI provides the muscle and the car is available with either a manual or automatic transmission. This car looks low, mean, and muscular and looks ain’t deceiving. It can rocket from 0 to 60 mph in 6.2-seconds. 2004 – 2010 Subaru Impreza WRX STi This imported sports car was available as a coupe in earlier model (1995 – 2000) versions but later models were offered only as a sedan . At any rate, it is equipped with a turbocharged 4-cylinder that really makes the hay. The 2008 Impreza WRX STi can achieve 0 to 60 mph in just 4.8 seconds. 2000 – 2008 Honda S2000 As the first roadster on the list, the Honda S2000 is more than capable of hanging in there on the curviest of roads. With a long front end and an athletic stance, the S2000 provides smooth and ample performance for less than $20K. The S2000 can blast from 0 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds. 2002 – 2008 Nissan 350Z Like the flagship model GT-R, the Nissan 350z uses the legendary 3.5-liter VQ engine. This is also a retro-car of sorts as it pays homage to the iconic 240, 280, and 300 Z-Cars of old. The cabin is a little cramped and there is not a lot of room for cargo but this thing will corner like it is on rails and accelerate like a demon (when equipped with the manual transmission). The 350Z is capable of reaching 0 to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds. 2010 – 2012 Chevrolet Camaro The Camaro has been called “the poor man’s Corvette” but it has recently become a performer in its own right. With a 300+ horsepower base package V6 engine and a low center of gravity, the Camaro is as much of a road car as it is a muscle car. The 0 to 60 time, with a V6 engine and manual transmission is 4.9 seconds. 2006 – 2011 Dodge Charger R/T This is the sedan-sister of the Challenger R/T. If you like your high performance with four-doors, this is the hot rod for you. It also comes with the 370hp 5.7-liter HEMI engine and this is a family car that really “pick ‘em up and put ‘em down.” 0 to 60 is accomplished in 5.2-seconds.
Driving a car many people consider ugly is often kind of fun for those of us with a contrarian streak. With the Nissan Juke NISMO RS, you don’t even need that — it’s fun in the traditional sense, even if its shape suggests otherwise. Photo: Lyndon Johnson I admit to having somewhat of a soft spot for the Nissan Juke since it debuted in 2010 as a 2011 model. My regular readers will know I daily drive that other weird Nissan, the cube. So in addition to catching my eye with its muscular stance and sporty turbocharged engine, I had some love for the Juke because it was built on the same basic platform as my cube. It also had my sympathies because it was often maligned as an ugly duckling — a criticism cubes know a little too well. A tinge of jealousy strikes when I get behind the wheel of the Juke NISMO models, however. The NISMO RS is the zenith of current Jukes and everything I wish Nissan had dared to do to the cube before the automaker discontinued importation of the boxy model to the U.S. this year. Photo: Lyndon Johnson The Juke NISMO RS takes the Juke’s 1.6-liter turbocharged, direct-injected gasoline engine, bumps its horsepower from a stock 188 to a NISMO-tuned 215, and gives it the transmission and chassis it deserves. Yes, there are three pedals in there — for the win, might I add. Photo: Lyndon Johnson The gearbox in our tester was manual, with closely-spaced ratios and short gearing to keep that engine on the boil. There’s a CVT available, but it requires the engine lose a few of those extra horses and takes away a lot of what I enjoy most about the Juke NISMO RS. Photo: Lyndon Johnson The tires are sticky 18-inch Continental ContiSportContact summer performance models mounted on attractive black-and-gray alloys. The brakes are bigger than any other Juke model, and unlike other Jukes, they’re ventilated. There’s a helical limited-slip differential on tap to keep power flowing to the front wheel with the most grip in the NISMO RS — unavailable on any other Juke — and the suspension is revised for handling that frankly embarrasses most of the Juke’s compact crossover cohort. Photo: Lyndon Johnson The 2016 Nissan Maxima I recently reviewed was fun to drive, but not at all in the same way the Juke NISMO RS is. The Juke NISMO RS is quick to turn in, and its manual transmission offers short-enough throws and a level of engagement the CVT-only Max does not, even in the sporty Maxima SR trim. The short gearing ensures it’s easy to keep the MR16DDT engine gnawing at your right foot, begging you to floor it. Photo: Lyndon Johnson That gearing comes as a blessing and a curse. It’s infinitely amusing on twisty backroads and during the stoplight drags in town, but it also puts the engine RPM squarely in the 3,000 to 4,000 range whenever you hit an interstate highway. In point of fact, 70 MPH saw the engine turning just a hair over 3,000, while 80 MPH put me at about 3,500. I was glad for the excellent Rockford Fosgate sound system, as it helped drown out the turbo mill’s scream going down the interstate. Side note: Bluetooth audio streaming with my Android 4.4 smartphone worked much better with the older NissanConnect head unit in the Juke NISMO RS than it did with the newly revised NissanConnect head unit in the Maxima. The short gears of the Juke NISMO RS, of course, make the fuel economy lackluster for such a small vehicle. This is an area where tall, length-challenged crossovers like the Juke are at a disadvantage anyway because of aerodynamics, so I wasn’t all that surprised to see a calculator-reported 28.4 MPG when I stopped to get fuel after burning about half a tank of the recommended premium unleaded on I-40. Granted, I had the cruise control set at 80 MPH most of the trip, but then again, I was getting passed a lot even at that speed. Blame traffic heading into Knoxville from the west for the UT-Vanderbilt football game, I guess. Photo: Lyndon Johnson The first time I drove the Juke NISMO was a less-powerful non-RS model. Even that model got me thinking mighty hard about the Juke NISMO as a suitable compromise for those who want a sporting car but who can’t square their child-rearing lives with owning a two-door sports coupe. I had only one child back then. Alas, now with two wee ones to tote, the same thoughts crept into the back of my mind as I spent the week ferrying my toddler and infant around in the back of the Juke NISMO RS. Yeah, its interior space is a bit tight even within the confines of the segment, but there’s enough room to carry two forward-facing child seats in the back row without too much compromise of front-seat legroom — perhaps partially thanks to the thin backrest profile of the NISMO RS Recaro racing buckets. We were even able to get by with my infant’s rear-facing seat on the passenger side, although we have my wife’s short stature to thank for that — she wasn’t bothered by scooting her front passenger seat up almost all the way to provide adequate clearance for the rear-facing Baby Trend Flex-Loc seat behind her. Photo: Lyndon Johnson Other constraints of interior space made themselves apparent when we took the Juke NISMO RS on a shopping spree where we bought our kids’ Christmas presents. The rear cargo area’s 10.5 cubic feet quickly filled with bags and boxes after just a couple of stops on our planned shopping route, so by the end of the trip we were stuffing things into the second row seats and floorboard. There was a storage well underneath the rear cargo floor that we admittedly didn’t use because it was too small for the first few toys we bought. In our hurry to get the shopping done, we didn’t take time to unload and repack everything midstream to see if it would have been possible to carry the whole load in the cargo area. But that’s probably one of about four times this year I’ve needed more cargo space behind the rear seats than the Juke could offer. Living with a cube — itself no paragon of rear cargo space — teaches you to minimize a lot. As a result, we’re not the double-stroller-packing type of parents. We could probably make do just fine with a Juke’s interior space for at least the next several years, assuming my toddler boy doesn’t have a massive growth spurt that sends him shooting toward 6 feet in height anytime soon. Photo: Lyndon Johnson Until such a day arrives, I know one thing for sure: If I owned a Nissan Juke NISMO RS, I’d be having way too much fun driving it everywhere. If you’re looking for something that has a compelling mix of enthusiastic, usable performance and four-door crossover practicality, you could do a lot worse than this. 2015 Nissan Juke NISMO RS Base Price: $28,020 Price As-Tested: $29,316 Options: NISMO Carpeted Floor Mats and Cargo Mat ($220), Center Armrest ($250) Likes: Sporty handling Too-fun NISMO tune of MR16DDT turbocharged 1.6-liter engine Excellent Rockford Fosgate stereo system Dislikes: Short gearing means buzzy highway experience Not-so-great fuel economy relative to vehicle’s size Tight interior space, particularly in cargo area Disclosure: Nissan provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas for this review.