Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida


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

The top-selling car for 13 of the last 14 years has been redesigned. The result is a seventh-generation 2012 Camry, which will only help to prolong the midsize sedan’s popularity and growth.

Our test-drive was an SE model with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine pumping out 268 horsepower @ 6200 rpm and 248 pounds-feet of torque @ 4700 rpm. Power is routed to the road via a smooth 6-speed auto transmission. A sport-tuned suspension of independent front MacPherson strut and the rear dual link isolate occupants from road noise and imperfections to ensure a safe and quiet ride. New for 2012 and providing splendid on-center feel to the driver is an Electric Power Steering system, which nixes pumps and hoses for substantial fuel savings.

A fine-mesh upper grille flanked by projector-beam headlights is well-balanced by a three-part lower grille that houses fog lamps to create a somewhat-bold and attractive appearance. The instrument panel and dashboard convey elegance, thanks to generous sprinkling aluminum and chrome. Indeed, the refurbished materials and craftsmanship are top class for this price category. A tilt/telescopic steering column will be useful for drivers of varying heights in a family. Also standard are an eight-way power driver’s seat, 60/40 fold rear seat, navigation system, keyless access and start, four cup holders and six in-door bottle holders, and numerous storage bins and compartments throughout the cabin.

A welcome addition this year is a front-passenger airbag and rear-seat side airbags, making for a total of 10 standard airbags. Also standard are four-wheel antilock brakes, stability and traction control and brake-override technology, front/rear crumple zones, side impact door beams, three-point seatbelts, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

Kudos to Toyota for tuning up the best-selling vehicle in the United States to meet the desires and needs of a family. This bread-and-butter vehicle is a stylish, agile, sporty and tidy ride that seats five with ease and comfort. The Japanese carmaker’s reputation for durability and reliability can only help to keep the Camry at the top for several years to come.

Tires: P225/45/R18
Wheelbase: 109.3 inches
Length: 189.2 inches
Weight: 3,420 pounds
Fuel capacity: 17 gallons
City: 21 mpg
Highway: 30 mpg
Web site: www.toyota.com


The newest Range Rover starts at $44,145. Now that’s pricey, especially when you consider that the 2012 Evoque is the smallest of SUVs to join to the Land Rover family.

Available as a coupe (Dynamic trim), which was our test drive, or as a four-door vehicle, the 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 cylinder engine belts out 240 horsepower @ 5500 rpm and 250 pounds-feet of torque @ 4000 rpm. Shift action is light and crisp with the 6-speed automatic transmission. The fully independent suspension with long-travel coil springs ensures stability in all types of tricky situations to result in a pleasingly supple ride. Providing superb feedback to the driver is an Electric Power Steering system. Indeed, it’s noteworthy that the nearly 3,680-pound vehicle can go 0 to 60 mph in a mere 7.1 seconds. However, we averaged just 18 mpg in our city/highway driving all week.

Standard safety features include dual front and rear airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, stability and traction controls, front/rear park distance control, hill start assist and hill descent control, and height-adjustable front seatbelts. Of course, the standard and permanent all-wheel drive delivers necessary torque to the rear wheels providing peace of mind in any road condition. Using the exclusive Terrain Response system, you can pick general (for daily driving), grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, and sand, rock crawl. There is always the option of normal, manual or sport mode for the motoring enthusiast.

Ensconced on a monocoque structure with the traditional clamshell bonnet but a rakish roofline may give the impression that rear visibility is hindered but that isn’t the case. Though the 60/40 rear seat can be crammed for three adults, the Evoque offers a sumptuous and beautifully-made cabin. The full-length panoramic glass roof will be of good use under sunny skies. Flanked by round speedometer and tachometer gauges, the temperature and fuel bars convey classiness. Also standard are dual-zone automatic climate control, six-way power driver and four-way front-passenger seats, navigation system and power lift gate.

We wonder what inspired Land Rover engineers to also offer a coupe trim when the four-door Evoque could have sufficed. No doubt this entry is quick off the mark, lively in traffic and entertaining to drive. Plus, you can put the SUV’s off-road prowess to use. Now all you need is $50,000 and change.

Tires: 235/55R19
Wheelbase: 104.8 inches
Length: 171.9 inches
Fuel capacity: 18.5 gallons
City: 18 mpg
Highway: 28 mpg
Web site: www.landrover.com


Who needs a hybrid when you can eke out even more miles out of a diesel engine without sacrifice? “VW’s less-boring-than-it-looks 100-percent-German-driving Passat is Motor Trend’s Car of the Year,” announced the prestigious magazine. One can only nod in agreement. Our test-drive 2012 Passat TDI SEL trim earned nearly 44 mpg in city/highway driving. With an 18.5-gallon tank, you are looking to travel 785-plus miles (Tampa to Virginia) before a fill-up at the gas station. Beat that, Prius!

Built at the new $4 billion VW plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., the 2.0-liter turbo-diesel inline-4 cylinder engine develops 140 horsepower @ 4000 rpm and 236 pounds-feet of torque @ 1750 rpm. Getting power to the ground is a 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission. Suspension is handled competently via a strut-type with lower control arms front and multilink rear with coil springs. The rack-and-pinion electric power assist offers a direct and communicative feel.

About 4 inches longer than its predecessor, the Passat sports a three-blade horizontal grille with a lower honeycomb intake surface. Chrome rules when you step into the pleasing and roomy cabin. The alloy is splattered all over the instrument gauges that border a digital display, air vents and radio, navigation and climate control surrounds, as well as on the window, mirror adjustment and trunk-opening switch. Also giving the car a rich ambience is wood splash on the dashboard, doors and center console. The trunk offers a gigantic 15.9 cabin feet of space with an under-floor storage bin. Other standard amenities include leather seats, keyless access and remote start, navigation, eight-way power driver and front-passenger seats and a Fender premium audio system.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, electronic stability and traction control system, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

Base-priced at $32,195, the Passat diesel’s peppy engine will give hybrids and other midsize sedans a run for their money. This great everyday ride boasts strong acceleration, remarkable handling and steering feel. And with record-shattering fuel (diesel) economy figures, it’s a home run for VW.

Tires: 215/55R 17
Wheelbase: 110.4 inches
Length: 191.6 inches
Weight: 3,397 pounds
City: 30 mpg
Highway: 40 mpg
Web site: www.vw.com

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