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When Mazda invited us for their Active Lifestyle Drive Program in Bluffton, S.C. recently, we were more than happy to join. After all, no other carmaker’s vehicles convey the fun and energetic lifestyle as much as Mazda’s, starting with the Mazda3, Mazda5, Mazda6, CX-3, CX-5 and CX-9. And, of course, MX-5 Miata, the world’s best-selling roadster.

We were put up in the newly-expanded Montage Palmetto Bluff ( set within the 20,000-acre Palmetto Bluff community, a centuries-old maritime forest surrounded by 32 miles of riverfront. Just 35 minutes from Savannah International Airport, the classic Colonial-style resort features 200 guest accommodations, six dining options, three pools, Spa Montage, Paintbox children's program, 35 private Montage Residences, 18-hole golf course and more than 16,000 square feet of meeting and event space.

During the media presentation held in Somerset Chapel (a venue for large weddings) on the resort property, Mazda Public Relations Senior Manager Eric Booth pointed out that the Japanese carmaker sells its vehicles in 120 countries, has 5,200 dealers worldwide and 1.53 million annual unit sales. “Mazda is evolving into its own premium brand,” he said. With unique styling, detailed craftsmanship and impressive infotainment/tech features, Mazda is well on its way to become an exceptional marque.

For activities, our host set up kayaking or cycling at the 5,200-acre Sea Pines, a private residential and resort plantation on Hilton Head Island. It is known for a world-recognized Harbour Town Marina, which has some breathtaking yachts as larger as 115 feet. The landmark red-and-white-striped lighthouse was built in 1969 by Charles Fraser to help boats traveling on the Calibogue Sound. Basically, it is a hexagonal column with a red observation deck below the lantern. You reach the top of the lighthouse after climbing 114 steps. Sea Pines boasts a lush, 605-acre forest preserve, access to five miles of Atlantic Ocean beaches, over 100 tennis courts and four championship golf courses, two security gates and several swimming pools. Lunch was served at The Salty Dog, an island tradition since 1987.

We concluded our Southern Escape by heading back to the stunning Montage Palmetto Bluff to further explore the resort. Indeed, Mazda knows how one can enjoy and cherish an active lifestyle, behind the steering wheel of one of its outstanding vehicles, of course!

For more information on Mazda vehicles, visit


Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE,

2017 Mercedes-Benz C63 S CoupeIt can take off from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds. And top speed is set at 180 mph. Impressed? You ought to be. After all, the 4.0-liter bi-turbo V-8 engine in the 2017 Mercedes-Benz C63 S Coupe isn’t just a run-of-the-mill. It was specially hand built by the AMG division in Affalterbach, Germany.

Step on the throttle of rear-wheel-drive luxury coupe and the V8 bi-turbo engine blasts off 503 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 516 pounds-feet of torque at 4500 rpm. Mated to a 7-speed automatic gearbox, the C63 is equipped with an electro-mechanical rack-and-pinion steering, which is razor sharp. Front suspension is handled competently by an independent multi-link system. Both ends have gas shocks and coil springs to improve ride quality and comfort. Bringing the speed demon to a halt are 14.2-inch front/rear caliper discs. To vary the driving experience, Mercedes comes in individual, comfort, sport, sports+ and race modes, the latter best suited for the speedway.

Walk up to the C63 and the first element that will grab your attention is the AMG badge embossed in the arrow-shaped ‘twin-blade’ grille with the familiar three-pointed star, flanked by wraparound LED headlamps and daytime running lights. The cabin is lavish and elegant as is expected of any AMG-equipped Benz with dual-zone auto a/c, 40/20/40 rear seat, Burmester sound system, panoramic sunroof, steering wheel-mounted shifters, open/close power trunk and head-up display. The dash, doors and center console are covered in rich Nappa leather upholstery. The previous rotary knob for the Command system has been replaced with a touchpad to control the audio, navigation and phone infotainment on the 8.4-inch display screen. All the materials and craftsmanship are top-notch.

Base-priced at $75,000 and topping at $93,885 with options, the performance-oriented C63 comes with abundant power, exceptional handling and a cabin packed with high-tech luxury items. And if you have the dough, we can only encourage you to be pompous. After all, who says flaunting is a crime?



First, thank you Nissan for inviting us to the 2016 Miami Auto Show for the reveal of two of its 2017 models: Sentra SR Turbo and the Rogue. Here’s a summary of the two vehicles. But do look for our test-drive reviews in an upcoming issue:

2017 Nissan SentraSENTRA SR TURBO

Out goes the previous 1.8-liter power train to be replaced by a 1.6-liter direct-injection gas turbo and inter-cooled inline-4 cylinder engine that puts out 188 horsepower (up by 64 from previous) @ 5600 rpm and 170 pounds-feet (increase of 52) of torque @ 2000 rpm. More power and torque calls for a revised suspension, steering, larger front disc brakes as well as a new Xtronic Continuous Variable Transmission along with the 6-speed manual. Nissan informs us that the compact Sentra sold 215,000 units last year. We wouldn’t be surprised if the Japanese carmaker sells a lot more, thanks the al-new SR Turbo version to be priced under $22,000.


2017 Nissan RogueROGUE

The compact SUV acquires a fresh look and a front-wheel or all-wheel-drive hybrid engine. So, the 2.5-liter inline-4 DOHC cylinder engine cranking out 170 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 175 pounds-feet of torque at 2800 rpm has been retained. But the all-new 2.0-liter inline-4 cylinder hybrid engine is coupled to a 30kW electric motor and lithium-ion battery. The result is a total of 176 horsepower and 144 pounds-feet of torque. The Rogue is mated to the Xtronic Continuous Variable Transmission. Its appearance gets an overhaul with a new front fascia, “V” motion grille, revamped headlights with LED daytime running lights and 19-inch wheels. The redesigned cabin now sports a D-shaped steering wheel and a revised shifter design.

For more information, visit


2017 GMC Acadia DenaliNumerous seven-passenger SUVs compete vigorously in the market but with a total revamping inside and out, the GMC Acadia Denali has been reborn. Positioned between the smaller Terrain and the larger Yukon, the Acadia is equipped with a 3.6-liter V-6 engine boasting 310 horsepower @ 6600 rpm and 271 pounds-feet of torque @ 5000 rpm. Power routed through the retained 6-speed auto gear box delivers ample performance. Drive modes include 2X4, 4X4, Sport, Off Road and trailer/tow.

The 2017 model is lighter than 700 pounds from its predecessor, thanks to a shrinking wheelbase by 6.4, length by 7.2, height by 6.6 and width by 3.5 inches. Chrome rules the exterior of the Acadia. It can be found on and around the new dimensional grille, wraparound xenon headlights mounted in large, rectangular housings, door handles, mirrors and roof rack rails. Of course, it’s in the passenger/cargo department that the Acadia truly shines. Take the 60/40 second-row and 50/50 third-row seats, which can be folded easily via a lever. Maximum cargo space is 79 cubic feet. Providing eye candy is wood sprinkled on the front center console around cup holders and doors. Other standard goodies are a power lift gate, 8-inch touch screen for audio, nav and phone controls, eight-way power heated/cooled front seats, power tilt/telescopic steering column, 8-speaker Bose sound system, Wi-Fi spot and tri-zone auto a/c.

Available as a front-wheel or all-wheel drive, the hands-on and robust Acadia is a fine blend of performance and style. Last year, GMC sold 96,393 units. We won’t be surprised if the overhauled midsize SUV surpasses the 100,000 mark in 2017.



2017 Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon Hard Rock 4X4‘Jeep since 1941’ reads the prominent inlay on the passenger-grab handle of the 2017 Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon Hard Rock 4X4. Need we say more about this classic, off-road and durable SUV – the only four-door 4X4 convertible on the market?

For starters, under the hood of this ladder-type frame Jeep resides a 3.6-liter V-6 Pentastar engine cranking out 285 horsepower @ 6400 rpm and 260 pounds-feet of torque @ 4800 rpm. The go-anywhere capable vehicle, with high and low transfer case gears, is mated to a standard 6-speed manual or optional 5-speed auto gear box. Suspension is duly handled by an independent 5-link coil system to maintain stability at sharp and sudden turns.

Our test drive was truly a standout three-piece hardtop with removable four doors, exposed hinges, fold-down windshield, front/rear hooks and tubular side steps. That this is a Jeep is even more obvious from the familiar seven-slot, body-color grille, flanked by rounded halogen headlights, and a flat, clamshell hood reaching down to trapezoidal fender flares. The Trail Rated exterior badge means the 4X4 is designed for off-road conditions such as traction, ground clearance, maneuverability, articulation and water fording. Step to the rear and tail lamps on the body bring back memories of the 1941 Willys.

The cabin sticks to the original Jeep’s functional capability with 104 cubic feet of interior room, 31.5 cubic feet of cargo area behind the 60/40 rear seat and 70.6 cubes with the seat folded flat. Storage cubicles are scattered throughout, including a bin under the rear cargo floor. As are numerous 12-volt outlets. The instrument panel is simply laid out with a centered speedometer, tachometer, temperature, fuel, oil and volt gauges. Also included are a/c, tilt steering column, 115-volt outlet, temperature/compass gauge, adjustable driver’s height seat, lockable console and door armrest.

Barring a loud engine and road noise, hardcore Jeep enthusiasts will love the amazing skills of the rugged Wrangler. Simultaneously, the quintessential SUV with more than seven decades of tradition is adept on neighborhood streets. After all, this is ‘Jeep since 1941’!


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