APRIL 2011
Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida


Test-drive reviews by NITISH S. RELE, motoringtampabay@gmail.com

When Motor Trend magazine picks its Car of the Year, everyone sits up and takes notice. As we did after the 2011 Chevrolet Volt took the esteemed honor this year. Motor Trend justifies its selection quite convincingly: “Moonshot. Game-changer. A car of the future that you can drive today, and every day.”

Indeed, your ride of the future is a plug-in gas/electric sedan equipped with a 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, which touts 149 total horsepower (84 hp for gasoline) and 273 pounds-feet of torque. And that is plenty to take the car from 0 to 60 mph in 8.8 seconds. It is quick on the mark, providing enough punch around town to maneuver through rush-hour traffic.

Here’s how the car works: plug it in a 120-volt household current (10-12 hours) or a 240- volt charging station (four hours) for the first 39 miles, which are purely electric driven, thanks to a 16 kWh lithium-ion battery and two generator motors. The cost of charging the battery fully averages $2.64. After the charge runs out, the gas-powered hybrid system kicks in for 300 miles. You can eke out a total of 379 miles, according to GM, but in our test drive we came close to 350 miles for electric and gas systems. When you slow down or stop, regenerative braking captures energy to transfer back to the battery. The battery pack comes with an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty.

The Volt is one good-looking sedan with a centered Chevy bowtie flanked by halogen-projector headlights that meet up to a raked windshield. The cabin is unlike most cars, especially the instrument panel with a 7-inch LCD screen in driver’s vision displaying the speedometer and battery/fuel level bar graph indicators. The screen in the center stack shows entertainment, climate and navigation readouts. An Efficiency switch accesses energy usage, power flow and charging screens. Bright silver surrounds on door switches, center cup holders, door pulls, center stack switches and climate control outlets convey elegance. Also standard are a four-spoke tilt/telescopic steering column, 60/40 split rear fold seat, compass, automatic climate control and a navigation system.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, front knee airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, stability and traction control, remote keyless entry, three-point safety belts for all, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system.

No doubt, the Volt is a ground-breaking vehicle that offers smooth acceleration with plentiful power just a throttle away. Our only qualms are the price (which with a $7,500 federal tax credit is reduced to $32,780), a crowded rear seat and the premium fuel requirement. Now if only GM could somehow stretch out the Volt’s electric range to around 100 miles or more!

Tires: P215/55R17
Wheelbase: 105.7 inches
Length: 177.1 inches
Weight: 3,781 pounds
Transmission: 1-speed automatic
Suspension: Independent MacPherson strut-type front; torsion beam rear
Steering: Rack-mounted electric power
Fuel capacity: 9.3 gallons
Combined fuel economy: 93 mpge all-electric; 37 mpg gas only
Base price: $40,280
Web site: www.chevyvolt.com


To call it a redesign or restyling wouldn’t do justice to Chrysler’s flagship car. In fact, it is nearly an all-new 300C with the ever-popular 5.7-liter V-8 HEMI engine, which belts out 363 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 394 pounds-feet of torque at 4200 rpm while mated to a smooth-shifting 5-speed automatic transmission.

A Multi-Displacement system enables half of the eight engines to deactivate for fuel saving. Zero to 60 mph is achieved in just six seconds, commendable for a 4,500-pound vehicle. The all-wheel drive, which incorporates an active transfer case and front-axle disconnect system, is reassuring to the driver, especially under inclement weather or road conditions. The engine touts broad power delivery, seamless revs and a throaty exhaust sound that you would find only in a HEMI-equipped car.

Sitting on a unitized steel body and aluminum hood is an all-new light chrome grille with seven deeply sculpted horizontal blades, a new Chrysler brand winged badge, projector-beam headlights and a lower-intake opening flanked by projector-fog lamps.

The cavernous cabin is elegant, lavish and expensive-looking. For example, wood appliqué on the instrument panel, doors, center console and steering wheel shows exquisite taste. Also, the instrument panel of two large speedometer and tachometer gauges with blue illumination and chromed ring accents is a beauty. Best of all is the 8.4-inch Uconnect touch screen with straightforward radio, climate, navigation and phone functions. Other standard amenities include power rear sunshade, 12-way power driver and front-passenger heated/ventilated seats, power tilt/telescopic steering column, automatic dual climate control, 60/40 split rear seat, navigation system and a rearview camera.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbags, driver knee airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, front active head restraints, stability and traction control, front seatbelt pretensioners, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard.

With an engine that provides ample pep for the robust sedan, and an upscale cabin, the “reborn” 300 is a classy and solidly built ride. If you do buy the car, be prepared to garner plenty of attention from inquisitive bystanders. You’ve been warned!

Tires: P245/45R20 all season
Wheelbase: 120.2 inches
Length: 198.6 inches
Weight: 4,513 pounds
Suspension: independent short/long arm front; five-link independent with coil springs
Steering: Rack and pinion with hydraulic power assist
Brakes: 13.6-inch front; 12.6-inch rear vented
Fuel capacity: 19.1 gallons
City: 15 mpg
Highway: 23 mpg
Base price: $40,320
Web site: www.chrysler.com

Test drive the Chrysler 300 at Jerry Ulm Dodge Chrysler Jeep at 2966 N. Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa, call 1-866-906-9287 or visit jerryulmdcj.com


Sometimes, it’s all about timing. As gasoline prices skyrocket, the redesigned 2011 Elantra is making its way into Tampa Bay dealerships. The compact car boasts 29 mpg in city and 40 mpg on highway. We can predict that the gas sipper is going to be a winner for Hyundai this summer.

The fifth-generation Elantra comes in just one power train: an all-new 1.8-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine, which cranks out 148 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 131 pounds-feet of torque at 4700 rpm. Available in just two trims, GLS and Limited, it is mated to a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission.

With the familiar hexagonal front grille, swept-back headlights and sleek roofline, the sharp-looking steel unibody structure has undergoes some changes for 2011. It is now 2 inches longer in wheelbase, up in overall length by 0.9 inches but 1.8 inches lower in height than its predecessor. Trunk volume is an astounding 14.8 cubic feet.

Standard cabin amenities include tilt steering wheel, six-way driver’s seats, driver information center, power windows and door locks, 60/40-split rear seat and a 172-watt sound system. Air-conditioning and cruise control are optional. But then the Elantra is base-priced at $14,830 and tops at $21,980.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, front/rear crumple zones, Electronic Stability Control, front seatbelt pretensioners and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

With gasoline prices inching toward $4 a gallon, Hyundai will find it tough to meet demand for this outstanding compact car. Consumer Reports’ Top Pick as small car for 2011 offers not just exceptional fuel economy but also is comfortable, roomy, good-looking, affordable and practical.

Tires: P195/65R15
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Length: 178.3 inches
Suspension: MacPherson strut front; torsion axle rear
Steering: Electric power rack-and-pinion
Brakes: 11-inch ventilated front; 10.3-inch solid disc rear
Weight: 2,661 pounds
Fuel capacity: 12.8 gallons
Web site: www.hyundaiusa.com

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