Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida


Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE,

Dodge DART LIMITEDThe Dart is back! And after a 36-year hiatus, it’s on target on again. Based on the Italian-built Alfa Romeo Giulietta – first vehicle developed between Dodge and Fiat – it replaces the Caliber hatchback. Acceleration is adequately quick and smooth from any speed with first-rate handling and balance.

The front-wheel-drive compact car is available in five trims: SE, SXT, Rallye, Limited and R/T. Power train choices include a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine cranking out 160 horsepower @ 6400 rpm, 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine developing another 160 hp @ 5500 rpm and a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine blasting 184 hp @ 6250 rpm. Depending on the model you pick, the Dodge comes as a 6-speed manual, 6-speed auto or a 6-speed automated manual.

Ensconced on a steel unibody structure is an independent MacPherson strut front and a multilink rear suspension to result in a pleasingly supple ride. The electric power steering is quick and accurate, providing a positive on-center response.

Halogen-projector headlights sandwich a bright crosshair grille with piano black accent to lend the Dart an aggressive appearance. We couldn’t help but admire the striking Charger-inspired ‘racetrack’ LED tail lamps. The cabin displays exquisite taste, tailoring and functionality. Standard amenities on our Limited test-drive model included a/c, ambient lights, 7-inch reconfigurable instrument gauge cluster, 8.4-inch touchscreen, front-passenger under-seat storage bin, power 6-way driver seat, 60/40 rear seat, rearview camera, overhead sunglass holder and cruise control.

Base-priced at $15,995 for the SE, the mid-level SXT is $17,995 and the high-end Limited at $19,995. And as far as fuel economy, we earned a respectable 28.3 mpg in city/highway driving.

It’s fun to drive, nimble, stylish, solidly built, spacious and affordable. Plus, the numerous exterior, interior, power train and transmission choices, as well as customization options, should appeal to a varied range of potential compact-car buyers. Folks, this Dart is on target!

Tires: 225/45R17
Wheelbase: 106.4 inches
Length: 183.9 inches
Weight: 3,242 pounds
Fuel capacity: 15.8 gallons
City: 25 mpg
Highway: 36 mpg
Web site:

Test-drive the Dart at Jerry Ulm Dodge, 2966 N. Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa, call (813) 872-6645 or visit


2013 ALTIMAWho doesn’t aim for No. 1? Nissan is looking to get to the top of best-selling vehicle rank as its 2013 Altima heads to dealer showrooms. In 2011, the Japanese carmaker fell 40,000 short of units to claim the top spot from the Toyota Camry. But its redesigned and popular midsize sedan may very well do the trick.

Nearly 4 million Altimas have been sold so far. The fifth-generation car is equipped with a 2.5-liter inline-4 cylinder engine (and a new variable intake) developing 182 horsepower (up by 7) @ 6000 rpm while the 3.5-liter V-6 engine stays at 270 hp @ 6000 rpm. Nearly 90 percent of all Altima sales are of the 4-cylinder power train. The standard and tweaked Continuously Variable Transmission translates into noise reduction and improved fuel economy.

Though the Altima retains the front independent strut, the multilink rear suspension has been redesigned with standard active under steer control. A fresh Electronic Hydraulic Power-Assisted steering provides positive on-center response.

Sitting on the unibody type Altima is a swept-back black grille flanked by projector-type halogen headlights, tapered roofline, bigger tail lamps, raised trunk and chrome door handles. The wheelbase is the same as its predecessor but the sedan gets a wider front and rear track. Standard cabin amenities on the base and S trims include power windows/locks/mirrors, keyless access automatic headlights, cruise control, cloth seats, 60/40 rear seat, 6-way manual driver and 4-way front-passenger seats, piano black trim with chrome accents, and hands-free Bluetooth. The 4-inch Advanced Drive-Assist, located between tachometer and speedometer, displays text, navigation and audio information in the driver’s view.

Available in base, S, SV and SL, the 2.5-liter (27 city/38 highway mpg) starts at $21,500 while the 3.5-liter (22/30), which comes in S, SV and SL, can reach up to $30,080.

Introduced in 1993, the Altima has proved to be a huge success story for Nissan. No wonder this remarkable ride with affordable price, bold styling, superb performance and genuine everyday practicality is inching closer to the top best-selling car position.

Tires: 215/60R16
Wheelbase: 109.3 inches
Length: 191.5 inches
Weight: 3,108 pounds
Fuel capacity: 18 gallons
Web site:


CHRYSLER 300cAfter a redesign last year, the 300 sedan maintains its status quo. This Chrysler flagship comes in a base 3.6-liter V-6 engine but under the hood of our rear-wheel-drive test car resides the legendary 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 engine. The power train belts out 363 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 394 pounds-feet of torque at 4200 rpm.

The 300C also gets a Multi-Displacement system that shuts off half of the eight cylinders for fuel savings. Zero to 60 mph is possible under 6 seconds for the heavy footers behind the robust steering wheel. Though the 300 is mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission, an 8-speed gearbox is available with certain trims.

Suspension is handled capably by an independent front short- and long-arm and the rear with a multilink system. The electro-hydraulic power steering is quick and accurate. Safety is handled by dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes, front-seat active head restraints, stability and traction control, daytime running lights and a tire pressure monitoring system.

Apart from a stunning front fascia made up of the Chrysler winger badge in the massive seven-slat grille, flanked by bi-halogen projector headlights, its cabin drips with elegance. Heated and cooled 12-way power front leather seats, power tilt/telescopic steering column, power rear sunshade, analog clock, 60/40 fold rear seat and navigation system are standard. The speedometer and tachometer gauges with blue illumination and chromed ring accents are attractive, especially at night.

Though the hefty sedan weighs 4,000 pounds, the powerful HEMI provides ample pep to result in a delightfully supple ride. And props go to Chrysler for the 300’s interior packaging, which equals or betters that of European rivals.

Tires: P225/60R18
Wheelbase: 120.2 inches
Length: 198.6 inches
City: 16 mpg
Highway: 25 mpg
Fuel capacity: 19.1 gallons
Base price: $38,470
Web site:

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