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

2017 Genesis A performance crossover from Jaguar? You bet! The all-new F-Pace S, a supercharged growler, can take off from 0 to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds with a top speed of 155 mph.

Under the hood of this nippy cat resides a 3.0-liter V-6 engine blasting off 380 horsepower @ 6500 rpm and 332 pounds-feet of torque @ 4500 rpm. It is mated to an impeccable 8-speed automatic transmission, which also can be shifted via steering wheel-mounted paddles. A double wishbone front and integral link rear suspension with Adaptive Dynamics active damping improves balance, handling and grip by automatically adjusting firmness. Apart from normal and eco drives, you can pick dynamic (for a sporty feel) and Adaptive Surface Response (for dealing with slippery conditions during winter). It helps that the lighter electromechanical power steering is eager to change directions when you turn the wheel.

Ensconced on the light aluminum structure of the performance-oriented SUV is an intimidating and upright front mesh grille, flanked by slender but striking LEDs, muscular hood, short overhang and a sleek roofline. The S badge on the rear trunk lid is a giveaway that this is no ordinary Jag. Press the start button/stop button and enjoy the sound as the engine purrs to life. Lending credence to the grandiose cabin is a hidden shifter dial that majestically pops out from a center console nook into the palm of your hand. With the F-Pace, Jaguar has introduced InControl Touch Pro for audio, navigation and phone readings that appear on a 10.2-inch tablet-style screen. The 12.3-inch instrument cluster houses a large centered analog speedometer. Other standard comforts are 14-way power front heated/cooled seats, electric-recline rear seats, power tilt-and-telescopic steering column and panoramic roof, rear power sunshade and an astonishing 825-watt Meridian sound system.

Safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution, dynamic stability and electronic traction control, active front-head restraints, lane keep assist, rearview camera, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights. And then there is Torque Vectoring by braking, which maximizes control through even the tightest corners.

The thriller-of-a-ride displays remarkable agility, briskness and response rarely found in five-seater crossovers. Throw in a cabin packed with tech- and luxury-laden goodies and you have a perfectly-rounded SUV. Fully loaded at $65,745.



It’s all about NISMO (Nissan Motorsport or, in other words, the in-house tuning and performance division) in the 2017 Nissan Sentra turbo model. The NISMO influence is evident in the compact sedan’s front and rear fascias with signature red stripe, rear spoiler, front grille, LED daytime running lights and side sills, exhaust tip, tuned suspension and steering, front seats with logo, chrome door handles and trunk finisher, leather shifter, instrument meter cluster and more.

The 1.6-liter direct-injection gas turbo and inter-cooled inline-4 cylinder engine offers 188 horsepower @ 5600 rpm and 170 pounds-feet of torque @ 1600 rpm. Our test drive was mated to a sprightly 6-speed manual.

Boomerang-shaped projector LED headlights flank the ‘layered double wing’ V-motion grille to portray an aggressive look in the factory-tuned performance car. Same goes for the interior with red accents on Alcantara and leather steering wheel, push button start, leather shifter and embroidered carpets, and dark headliner. Standard amenities include a/c, six-way adjustable driver seat, tilt/telescopic steering column, 60/40 split fold rear seat, heated front seats, and power door locks and windows. The 5-inch Advanced Drive-Assist, located between tachometer and speedometer, displays text, navigation and audio information in the driver’s view. Trunk space is an admirable 15.1 cubic feet.

Dual front and side airbags, side airbag curtain for both rows, vehicle dynamic and traction control systems, front and rear crumple zones, four-wheel antilock brakes, tire pressure monitoring system, three-point front seat belts with pretensioners, rearview camera and daytime running lights are standard.

Base-priced at $25,855, the Sentra turbo NISMO is nimble, fun, affordable, fuel efficient, sporty and a blast to drive. If you like some vim and vigor in your sedan, this rev-happy ride is for you.



Merely 8.8 feet in length, 5.4 width and 5.1 height. Top speed is 94 mph. And only two can ride in the two-door Cabrio. You get the picture. The 2017 Smart ForTwo is not for everyone, especially those with huge families. But the rear-wheel-drive car serves the purpose of zooming by on congested city streets or snatching a parking spot.

A 0.9-liter inline 3-turbocharged engine puts out 89 horsepower @ 5500 rpm and 100 pounds-feet of torque @ 2500 rpm. That doesn’t deter the Smart from keeping up with heavy lead-foot drivers on the road mainly because of its 2,000-pound weight (0 to 60 takes 11.6 seconds). It is coupled to a 5-speed manual or 6-speed auto while suspension is handled by an independent multilink front and De-Dion rear axle.

The quirky-appearing Smart sports a honeycomb grille that is surrounded by rhombic headlights and LED daytime running lights. The soft top can be powered open in just 12 seconds while the car can turn 22.8 feet from curb to curb and 24 feet from wall to wall. The interior is tasteful with standard cruise control, auto a/c, power windows and steering, three-spoke leather steering column, height-adjustable driver seats, fold-down passenger seats, removable roof bars and a 3.5-inch color display. Indeed, all materials and craftsmanship are top-notch.

Mercedes-Benz, manufacturer of Smart, has used high-strength steel for the tridon safety cage to ensure occupants are protected in the miniscule car. Dual front and side airbags, side curtain, antilock brakes, crosswind assist (detects wind gusts and applies brakes to reduce drift), hill start assist and alarm system boost its defenses.

Based at $18,900 and topping at $22,170 with options, the gas-sipper Smart ForTwo is quick off the mark, agile, reasonable and, best of all, an attention-getter. And a dream to park or navigate city traffic, of course!

Smart ForTwo


It falls just one short of the SRT Hellcat, which Dodge has loaded up with a mind-numbing 700 horsepower. Our 2016 Charger R/T Scat Pack test drive was equipped with a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 engine, which still packed a massive punch at 485 hp @ 6000 rpm and 475 pounds-feet of torque @ 4200 rpm. And that is more than plenty for this full-size sedan, mated to an 8-speed auto transmission. The rear-wheel-drive speedster takes the edge off sharp bumps and breaks with composure because of the assuring independent front short-long arm with high upper ‘A’ arm and 5-link rear suspension, both performance tuned. Keeping torque steer to the minimum is the rack and pinion electric power-assist steering offered in comfort, normal and sport modes.

Ensconced on a unitized steel body, the front fenders of our Charger sported a “392 Hemi” badge while the rear was etched with R/T as well as LED tail lamps, spoiler and dual chrome tips. The air-intake hood meets up with an intimidating black matte honeycomb grille and Scat Pack badge, which is surrounded by quad halogen reflector headlights. That this is a race-inspired cabin is evident from the rounded 180 mph speedometer and 7000 tachometer gauges with fuel and temperature readings, and a driver information center. Lending taste and elegance to the cabin are aluminum lithographic splashes on the center stack, shifter, dash and door-switch bezels. Other standard goodies are eight-way power front seats, 8.4-inch UConnect touchscreen, 7-inch reconfigurable instrument cluster, 60/40 rear seat, spacious 16.5-cubic-foot trunk, compass and a distinctly-designed T-handle shifter with drive or sport mode.

Safety is vital for Dodge with dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, driver knee airbag, active head restraints, Electronic Stability Program, traction control, hill-start assist, front/rear crumple zones, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system.

Muscle-car aficionados, crave for that throaty exhaust growl (it’s a Hemi!) as you turn on the ignition? Like to mash the pedals for a speed-demon-like takeoff? Then the Charger will fit the bill. To a T.


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