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

After a major redesign inside and out in 2011, the Honda Odyssey returns this year without any visible changes. As it should. After all, this family mover with a powerful and fuel-efficient power train offers swift acceleration, remarkably well-balanced handling and worthy body control.

Under the hood of the hot-seller resides a sole 3.5- liter i-VTEC V-6 engine, which generates 248 horsepower @ 5700 rpm and 250 pounds-feet of torque @ 4800 rpm. The Variable Cylinder Management system deactivates three or four of the cylinders at lower speeds to enhance the up to eight-passenger vehicle’s fuel efficiency. A 5- and 6-speed automatic gear box is offered depending on the trim.

Sitting on the unit-body structure is a MacPherson strut front and multilink rear suspension to take the edge off most bumps and rough surfaces on the road. The fast and precise variable power-assist rack and pinion steering provides a confident on-center response.

The front-wheel-drive Odyssey is available in several trims such as LX ($28,675), EX ($31,875), EX-L ($37,225), Touring ($41,530) and Touring Elite ($44,025). So, take your pick. The base LX comes with such standard amenities as front/rear manual a/c, rearview camera, tilt/telescopic steering column, 229-watt sound system, eight-way power driver’s seat, third-row stowable seat, cloth upholstery, front-floor storage console, 15 or more beverage holders (but then who’s counting?), power windows, mirrors and door locks.

However, if you can afford to and pick the top-level Touring Elite, you will travel like royalty with power-sliding rear doors, leather seats, 16-inch ultra-wide DVD split screen for rear-seat passengers, 650-watt audio system, wide-angle rearview camera, tri-zone automatic climate control and 10-way power front seats. And the cool box under the dashboard, which can keep your beverages cold while the a/c is on.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for all rows, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Assist with traction control, active front head restraints, remote keyless entry, three-point seatbelts, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system are standard on the LX.

With the Odyssey, you get a solid and complete package of ample power, laudable fuel economy, hands-on interior and a reasonable value. Lest we forget, the minivan is backed by Hond a’s impeccable reputation for durability and reliability. What else can one ask for in a people-hauler?


Tires: 235/60R18
Wheelbase: 118.1 inches
Length: 202.1 inches
Weight: 4,337 pounds
Brakes: 12.6-inch ventilated front; 13.1-inch solid rear
Fuel capacity: 21 gallons
City: 19 mpg, Highway: 28 mpg
Web site: www.honda.com


Zero to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. And if you are a speed maniac, how about 0 to 60 in 4.7 seconds? That’s the Porsche Boxster for you. This year, the two-seat base convertible gets a 2.7-liter horizontally-opposed, water-cooled, direct-fuel injection flat-six engine blasting off 265 horsepower (up by 10) @ 6700 rpm and 206 pounds-feet of torque @ 4400-6500 rpm. The S is equipped with a 3.4-liter flat-six engine but with 315 hp (increase of 5) @ 6700 rpm and 266 pounds-feet of torque @ 4500-5800 rpm.

Mated to the mid-engine car is a standard 6-speed manual gear box. The optional PDK Porsche double-clutch 7-speed is basically two clutches without a clutch pedal but can work either automatically, via steering-wheel mounted paddles or a center-mounted lever. The result is impeccable transmission with instant up and down shifts. The ride also is equipped with an engine start/stop system, which turns the engine off at a halt to save gas.

Other noticeable changes in the Boxster include a boost in wheelbase of 2.4 inches and in length of 1.5 inches. However, the weight and height see a minor decrease. The standard Porsche Stability Management works in tandem with antilock brakes to maintain stability and traction in rough road or weather conditions. An all-new electromechanical power steering replaces the previous hydraulic version to eke out slightly better fuel mileage than its predecessor.

Keeping the driver and passenger out of harm’s way are standard eight airbags, Porsche Side Impact Protection, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, seatbelt pretensioners and force limiters, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights. Braking is handled expertly by 12.4.-inch front and 11.8-inch rear vented rotors with four-piston calipers. The 18-inch alloy wheels come shod with 235/45ZR up front and 265/45ZR at the rear. The fabric power top opens or closes in a mere nine seconds. In fact, you can operate the top at up to a 30-mile speed.

Step up to the rear-wheel-drive Boxster and you will notice that the revamped headlights and tail lamps, even more sharply raked windshield and bulgier fenders/nose. The cabin drips of class, sophistication and superb craftsmanship that are a Porsche tradition. Lending credence to the rich feel is leather upholstery on and around the dashboard and instrument panel, on the doors, and a fresh upward-inclined center console. Gauges on the circular instrument panel are large and clear and so are controls on the dashboard. Also standard are a three-spoke height-and-reach adjustable steering column, driver information center, speed-activated rear spoiler, halogen headlights, and of course the distinctive left-hand ignition.

Priced starting at $49,500 for base and $60,900 for the S, the performance-driven Boxster will draw in not just the sun but also oodles of attention from onlookers. And what open-air motoring buff won’t cherish the sweet-sounding but familiar throaty exhaust roar?

Wheelbase: 97.4 inches
Length: 172.2 inches
Weight: 2,954 pounds
Fuel capacity: 16.9 gallons
City: 22 mpg
Highway: 32 mpg
Web site: www.porsche.com


Infiniti M OK, here are the facts. Mitsubishi has totally redesigned the Outlander inside and out for 2014. Obviously, the compact SUV continues as is this year with minor changes. So, you can buy the vehicle as is or wait till later.

Available in ES, SE and GT trims, the base front-wheel-drive ES gets a 2.4-liter, inline-4 cylinder engine putting out 168 hp @ 6000 rpm and 167 pounds-feet of torque @ 4100 rpm. Move up to the high-end GT S-AWC (Super All-Wheel Control) and the power train is a 3.0-liter V-6 engine blasting off 230 hp @ 6250 rpm and 215 pounds-feet of torque @ 3750 rpm. Choices include a Continuous Variable Transmission or a 6-speed auto gearbox. And, you can pick tarmac, snow or lock modes.

The S-AWC system sends power not only to the front or rear wheels but also to the left or right wheels for maximum traction. Also, the idle-neutral logic technology translates into fuel savings at a stop. EPA estimates 23 mpg city/28 mpg highway in FWD and 19/25 mpg in the all-wheel version.

Standard amenities on the ES include a/c, tilt leather steering column, power windows and door locks, cloth upholstery, trip computer and height-adjustable driver’s seat. Of course, the top-level GT will fetch you not just a bigger engine but also satellite radio, auto on/off xenon headlights, six CD in-dash changer, third-row stowable seat, and heated front/side mirrors. Lest we forget, the fold-down tailgate can hold 440 pounds of weight.

Base-priced at $22,695 for the ES FWD, $25,495 for the SE-AWD and $28,595 for the GT-AWC, the striking SUV delivers an energetic ride, admirable fuel economy and ample cargo and passenger capacity. If you get a great deal, we suggest signing on the dotted line.

Wheelbase: 105.1 inches
Length: 183.7 inches
Suspension: MacPherson strut front; multi-link rear
Weight: 3,780 pounds
Fuel capacity: 15.8 gallons
Web site: www.mitsubishicars.com


CHRYSLER 200 Numerous five-passenger SUVs compete vigorously in the market but the GMC Terrain stands out for covering more ground than others with a vast array of trim levels (10 total). Sharing its design with the Chevrolet Equinox, the base engine is a flex-fuel 2.4-liter inline-4 cylinder engine boasting 182 horsepower @ 6700 rpm and 172 pounds-feet of torque @ 4900 rpm. If that appears puny in this 4,000-plus pound vehicle, go for the all-new Denali model, which replaces the previous optional 3.0 liters with a 3.6-liter engine V-6 cranking out 301 hp (up by 37) and 272 pounds-feet of torque (50 boost) @ 4800 rpm. Power routed through the retained 6-speed auto gear box delivers ample performance.

Of course, it’s in the passenger/cargo department that the Terrain Denali truly shines. Take the 60/40 multi-flex rear seat, which slides fore and aft 8 inches, and even reclines in different positions. No wonder there is 63.9 cubic feet of space behind the front seat. Cubicles and bins are well placed throughout but if you fancy a mobile office of sorts, the front center console can swallow a laptop. Providing eye candy are black leather seats with red contrast stitches.

The 4-cylinder engine, which has a towing capacity of 1,500 pounds, starts at $25,835. EPA estimates are a worthy 20 city/29 highway. The 6 can tow 3,500 pounds and peak at $36,275 (with options, our Denali passed a steep $40,000). Though official fuel mileage figures are 16/23, we averaged 19.3 mpg combined and 24.6 on highway.

Available as a front-wheel or all-wheel drive, the hands-on and robust Terrain is a fine blend of performance and style. You will be hard-pressed to find a midsize SUV with a sundry of tempting options and upgrades.

Tires: P225/65R17
Wheelbase: 112.5 inches
Length: 187.8 inches
Suspension: independent strut-type front; 4-link rear
Steering: hydraulic power rack and pinion
Fuel capacity: 20.9 gallons
Web site: www.gmc.com

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