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July 2, 2002

Review: 2002 Nissan Cefiro Brougham VIP

The Cefiro Brougham VIP, since its 2000 launch, has carved out its own market niche, that of a limousine-like conveyance with features that could only be found in European sedans costing two or three times its price. Thanks to the electronic gadgetry, bag loads of space and of course, that legendary, silky-smooth 2.0-liter twin-cam 24-valve V6 VQ engine, the black-and-gray sedan found a steady market.   With the 2002 Brougham, Nissan Motors Philippines is hoping that lightning could strike again.

Well, the sky is certainly charging up with electricity.  For starters, the 2002 Cefiro Elite and the high-end Brougham VIP both carry a redesigned version of the VQ engine.  Horsepower has been bumped up to 165 bhp at 6400 rpm and torque to 189 Nm at 4000 rpm (up from 155 bhp and 186 Nm).  The boost is partly due to the new induction system that uses nylon and glass-wool material to supply a bigger volume of cooler air to the engine.

The standard 4-speed automatic transmission is also improved, featuring two-way communication with the engine.  During shifts, the gearbox instructs the engine to reduce its torque output.  At anything less than full throttle, shifts are imperceptible, with only the dip of the tach needle indicating a change of gear.

On Manila roads, the engine / transmission combination of the Nissan Cefiro Brougham VIP is simply remarkable.  From idling, the V6 engine purrs evenly—silent and smooth.  Rev it up to its 6,400 rpm redline and it will behave just as well, with no discernible vibration.   Push the throttle hard, and be rewarded by an induction whine that’s reminiscent of an big-bore American V8’s.  Expect considerable thrust, too, as the V6 engine is responsive, moving the 1,511 kilogram car quite well.

On uphill or twisty roads, the Brougham VIP doesn’t hunt for gears thanks to the smart programming.  It will sharply drop revs during a steep uphill climb, but the engine will pull the car up even if there are five people inside.  There’s a button on the center console for ‘sport’ and ‘winter’ modes as well.  The sport mode means higher revs, more push and more oomph—a handy feature when trying to defend yourself from swerving cars along EDSA.  The winter mode on the other hand results in gentler take-off, useful if there’s something slippery underneath or if the boss has a hernia.

The Nissan Cefiro Brougham VIP continues to ride on the familiar McPherson Struts and Multi-Link Beam suspension set-up.  However, the tried and true set-up has been given a new set of improvements to eliminate the understeer that plagued the previous version.  By moving one of the transverse links from behind the beam to the front, Nissan has created a car with increased accuracy and sharper steering response.  The Cefiro is by no means a small car, extending 4920 mm nose-to-tail and 1780 mm left-to-right.  Yet it’s a big car that’s lithe and agile, easy to drive quickly right out of the gates.  It does that big-German-sedan trick of feeling smaller the faster you go.

Despite the additional 200 mm in overall vehicle length, the Brougham VIP exhibits excellent control and maneuverability when compared to the Toyota Camry and even the Honda Accord.  Body roll is kept well in check, making the Brougham VIP as talented on twisty mountain roads as it is on the open highway.  There’s not much steering feedback, but it’s much more obedient to twists of the steering wheel.  Speaking of which, that wheel is a tactile delight, having wood inserts in the front for your palms and the leather continuing at the back for your fingers.

The sporty handling does not upset the ride either, as this car exhibits the best ride of any car that’s cheaper than a small house.  Bumps, potholes, manhole covers, concrete joints, even dead cats all disappear, isolating the Cefiro’s occupants from the problems of the outside world.   What’s the only signal that you’ve hit a nasty one?  The CD changer skips a beat.  The suspension is complemented by comfort-oriented 205/65 VR 15 Goodyear NCT3 tires.

To the untrained eye, the all-new Nissan Cefiro looks similar to the model it replaces. But despite the conservative redesign, the Cefiro is of a wholly new body construction.  The overall length has increased to 4920 mm from 4770 mm; width has increased by 10 mm and the overall height by 20 mm.  The slab-sided panels have been ditched in favor of a slightly angular look.  In combination with more visible fender flairs, it gives the Cefiro a more masculine look.  Touches of luxury have been added such as the chrome grille, wide horizontal tail lamps and quadruple complex-surface-reflector headlamps.

Nissan, as it always has, goes over the top with its high end model.  The Cefiro Brougham VIP for instance features additional exterior features which border on the cheesy side.  This includes the two-tone black and gray paint job (the one and only color combination for the Brougham VIP) and of course, the prerequisite hood ornament.  Somehow the Ace of Spades-meets-Pagcor logo on the hood doesn’t have quite the same chest-beating effect as its rivals’, but it is quite helpful in indicating where the long hood ends.

Inside, the Nissan Cefiro Brougham VIP has most of the luxury toys as standard.  Aside from all power features, the new car boasts electronically adjustable seats for both front and rear passengers.  The driver gets the most position adjustments at eight, the front passenger gets six and even the rear passengers get two.  There’s also—take a deep breath now—a  6-disc CD / VCD changer with TV tuner and a re-designed 6-speaker system, full-leather interior trim with tufted seats, wood grain finish that actually adds class, an Infiniti-inspired analogue clock, a full automatic climate control system with rear control override, white-glow gauges (with dimmer, thankfully), rear reading lamps, chromed door handles and rear aircon vents!

All the gadgets are easily recognizable and within reach.  The driving position is also very comfortable thanks to the almost unlimited variations of motorized adjustment.  The Cefiro Brougham VIP offers the best interior fit and finish of any Japanese sedan available in the Philippines today.  The quality is consistently high through the cabin with all the cubby holes featuring soft touch mechanisms that glide out with ease.  Even the glovebox and the door handles, often the most neglected of interior trimmings, get a nice luxury feel to them.  All the compartments have been lined with felt or cushioning to lessen the rattling, especially the coin holders.

All in all, this results in a very quiet interior cabin that is even more hushed than the previous model.  Whether cruising on the highway or negotiating Makati City traffic, the Cefiro isolates the passengers pretty well from anything that Metro Manila could throw at them.  Though the triple door seals have been phased out, the Cefiro improved NVH levels that make it as tranquil as watching a televised golf game.  The deep and comfortable seats lined with top-notch leather easily add to this feeling of peace and tranquility inside the Cefiro Brougham VIP.  The rear seat is comfortable just for two, though; the middle person will be boosted up close to the ceiling by the seat’s center bulge.

Progress is steady and uninterrupted.  At speed, there’s virtually no mechanical or road noise.  You’d think that you were inside the comfort of your living room, when you’re actually cruising at triple-digits along the South Superhighway.

The Cefiro Brougham VIP contains the latest safety equipment as well.  Like before, the Cefiro has the standard dual SRS airbags and four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System).  This time, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BAS) have been introduced.  All these work well to bring the car to a dead halt with the best pedal feel and brake response this side of a Porsche.  Overall, the brake actuation is quick and precise—the brake pedal being nicely weighted.  The overall brake feel is confidence-inspiring, particularly when compared to the Honda Accord’s.

The front seats feature active head restraints which lessen whiplash on the event of a collision.  The rear has three 3-point ELR rear safety belts.  On the safety list are power windows with anti-squeeze function, speed sensing door locks, rear back-up sensors, heads-up digital speed display.

Though pricey at PHP 1,680,000, the Nissan Cefiro Brougham VIP is worth every cent to a buyer who is looking primarily at a mix of outstanding value, quality and performance.  Though it may not have the prestige of a BMW 5-series or a Volvo S60, the Brougham VIP is tough to ignore.  Although commonly prescribed for middle-aged execs with bulging wallets and bellies, the Brougham VIP deserves a second look.  Behind all the badge snobbery is a car that’s as good to drive as to be driven in.  The Nissan Cefiro Brougham VIP provides an excellent alternative for people who choose with their minds rather than with their hearts.  The ante has just been raised further.

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