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Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE,

2015 HONDA CR-V Back in 2009, when the supercar debuted, base price was just $76,840 and horsepower topped 480. Forget those days, as they say. The 2016 Nissan GT-R Premium comes at a hefty $101,770 and though retaining the 3.8-liter V-6 twin-turbo engine, it blasts off 545 hp (up by 5 from its predecessor) @ 6400 rpm and 463 pounds-feet of torque @ 3200-5800 rpm. The 6-speed dual-clutch auto gearbox with normal, R and Save modes, all-wheel drive and 20-inch wheels are still standard. And the beast accomplishes 0 to 60 mph in a little over 3 seconds. Suspension handled via an independent double wishbone aluminum front and multilink aluminum rear works superbly to absorb unpleasant bumps and sudden sharp turns and curves.

With its large hood bulge converging on to LED headlights and daytime running lights and dark-gray grille, the 2 + 2 coupe displays a daunting but prominent stance. Also exquisite are front fender vents with GT-R emblems, body-color bumpers, four-ring tail lamps, top spoiler-mounted LEDs and quad exhaust tips. Flush-mounted aluminum door handles may prove to be a challenge initially. As expected of any wickedly fast car, the tachometer is located in the center with the 220-mph speedometer to its left and a gear display on the upper right corner. Switches in the center of the instrument panel assist the driver in configuring transmission, suspension and Vehicle Dynamic Control modes. Other standard goodies include an eight-way power driver and four-way front-passenger seat, 11-speaker Bose audio system, 7-inch display for navigation, audio, phone controlled by a touch pad, dual-zone auto climate control, carbon-fiber trim, tilt/telescopic steering column and console-mounted push start button.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution, vehicle dynamic and traction control, front seatbelts with pretensioners, rearview monitor, rear/front crumple zones, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard.

Indisputably, the GT-R is a supercar. With a power-at-all-times engine and graceful styling inside and out, this high-end sports car speaks for itself. All one needs now to fulfill that ultimate dream is arrange for $100,000 and spare change.



FIAT ABARTHIf you have always yearned for the Abarth trim but didn’t buy one because it lacked an automatic transmission, your prayers have been answered. The performance-oriented turbocharged and intercooled 2015 Fiat Abarth is equipped with an all-new 6-speed auto gearbox (additional $1,350). But the hatchback or convertible retains the 1.4-liter inline-4 cylinder engine packing 160 hp @ 5500 rpm and 170 pounds-feet of torque @ 2500 rpm. Switch to sport mode and you will get a firm grip and handling, thanks to specially tuned shock absorbers and springs.

The track-ready, front-wheel-drive car touts its familiar whiskers and the Fiat badge while surrounded by bi-halogen circular projector headlights and honeycomb grille. The all-new instrument panel now has a digital display for speedometer, fuel level, eco index and driver information center. Another useful feature is the circular turbo boost pressure gauge. Push a button and the power cloth top retracts up at speeds of up to 60 mph. Notable comforts include a flat-bottomed tilt steering column, aluminum pedals, leather instrument panel cluster and shifter, and a 50/50 fold-down second-row seat.

Standard safety features are dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, electronic stability and traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes, rear park and hill start assist, active front head restraints, remote keyless entry, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

Base-priced at $26,395, the Abarth is nimble, cool, sporty and, of course, stylish on the cheeky side. But a word or two of caution. The rear seat is crammed for tall folks. And our fuel economy didn’t touch EPA estimates, which are 24 mpg city/32 highway and 27 combined. We averaged just 24 mpg in a week’s city/highway driving, a disappointment.



The popular and much-touted midsize crossover from Hyundai comes in several trims. There’s the Santa Fe Sport, the Sport 2.0T, the GLS and the Limited, which was our test drive for a week. The six-passenger, front-wheel-drive (AWD is also available) is equipped with a 3.3-liter gasoline-direct injection V-6 engine cranking out 290 horsepower @ 6400 rpm and 252 pounds-feet of torque @ 5200 rpm. Like the other trims, it too is mated to a slick-shifting 6-speed auto transmission. Suspension is handled capably by a front MacPherson strut and a rear multilink system. The driver selectable steering mode allows the SUV to be driven in comfort, sport and natural modes via a switch on the steering wheel.

The forceful front shows off a massive hexagonal chrome grille surrounded by HID headlights while the rear gets a spoiler with LED tail lamps and a twin-tip chrome exhaust. Electroluminescent analog gauges for odometer, tachometer, fuel level and coolant temperature are clear, large and easy to read. Other niceties include dual-zone auto climate control, tilt/telescopic steering column, driver information center, power locks/windows/mirrors, remote keyless entry, second-row Captain’s chairs and third-row 50/50 bench seat, manual rear window sunshades, metallic accents and Bluetooth phone capabilities.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, hill accent/descent control, blind spot detection system, vehicle stability management with traction control, front/rear crumple zones and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

Fuel mileage is astonishingly laudable as we raked in 19 mpg in city and 28 mpg on highway (EPA estimates are 17/23), attributed partly to the active Eco system. Indeed, practicality and fun take a front seat in this fine, well-liked ride with its bold styling and inviting cabin.


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