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

2014 Toyota 4RUNNER TRAIL PREMIUM 4X4It’s stood the test of time for three decades. And the robust midsize SUV is still going strong. Under the hood of the 2014 Toyota 4Runner sits a 4.0-liter DOHC V-6 engine cranking 270 horsepower @ 5600 rpm and 278 pounds-feet of torque @ 4400 rpm. It is mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission, which we hope will get one an additional gear soon for more fuel savings down the road. An independent double-wishbone front and four-link rigid-type rear suspension along with 13.3-inch front and 12.3-inch rear ventilated disc brakes ensure stability on the toughest road surfaces. The fast and accurate variable power-assist rack and pinion steering provides a confident on-center response.

For an SUV, this is a standout ride with a prominent hood scoop meeting up with a muscular front grille surrounded by smoked multi-reflector projector headlight bezels, integrated front fog lamps, LED rear combination lamps, color-keyed bumpers, door handles and rear spoiler, and silver-painted roof rack. The redesigned cabin is spacious and accommodating as you would expect of any Toyota. Notable changes include the instrument cluster now large speedometer and tachometer gauges with a centered driver information center. We are huge fans of the multi-information display at the top of the dashboard showing average mpg, outside temperature, compass and time readouts. Other standard niceties are manual a/c, 40/20/40 rear seat, tilt/telescopic steering column, and six-way driver and four-way front-passenger seats. Go for the optional perfect-for-tailgating $350 sliding rear deck, which can hold up to 440 pounds.

Whether you are testing off-road prowess or on-road capability, the 4Runner gets the done job with ease and effectiveness. The tough SUV is surprisingly quick off the mark, spirited in traffic and pleasing to drive. Besides, it comes with Toyota’s steadfast reputation for reliability and durability.



2015 CHEVY TAHOESix months ago, we test drove the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe all-wheel-drive model. And recently, we had the rear-wheel-drive version of the same. We won’t go into details but point out some basic differences. The RWD is base-priced at $50,045 (unlike the $62,000 AWD). Fuel economy is slightly better for highway driving by a gallon (city 16 mpg; highway 23 mpg). Tow capacity is at 8,500 pounds (up by 100 from AWD) and weight is down by about 200 pounds (5,466).

With the capability of carrying nine, the full-size SUV gets a 5.3-liter V-8 engine pumping out 355 horsepower @ 5600 rpm and 383 pounds-feet @ 4100 rpm. The fully boxed frame is mated to a slick 6-speed automatic transmission. For 2015, Chevy has switched to an electric-assist power steering for better positive on-center response.

Thanks to its gigantic presence starting up front with a centered gold bowtie on the twin-port horizontal grille, HID headlights and 20-inch aluminum wheels, the Tahoe is easily recognizable on the road. For 2015, the biggest and welcome change in the generous cabin is the third-row seat now folds into the floor. And yes, both the second- and third-row seats can be operated via a button. Other amenities include a tri-zone auto climate control, four-spoke tilt/telescopic steering column and a concealed bin behind the motorized 8-inch central infotainment screen.

The Tahoe packs plenty of power while boasting numerous creature comforts and a laudable towing capacity. No wonder, the practical ride has served its buyers well for nearly two decades.




Brittany Lincicome, left, Paula Creamer, Stacy Lewis and
Morgan Pressel each won a 2015 Kia K900.

Kudos to Stacy Lewis, Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel and Brittany Lincicome for earning a key to the 2015 Kia K900 luxury sedan because of their outstanding performances on-and-off the course in last year’s season. The four LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) Tour pros were honored recently with the Kia Performance Awards for accomplishments in statistical, performance and community categories at the Tiburon Golf Club in Naples. The event was put together by the CME Group Titleholders.

“We know and love the game and we’re honored to be able to recognize the best the game’s had to offer in 2014, four players who have consistently set the bar on-and-off-the course,” said Michael Sprague, executive vice president, sales and marketing, Kia Motors America. “Setting the bar is what we strived for at Kia, and we are incredibly pleased to offer the K900, a luxury sedan fit for a champion, to these deserving four winners.”


KIA K900SThis Kia premium flagship is equipped with a 5.0-liter V-8 engine belting out 420 horsepower @ 6400 rpm and 376 pounds-feet of torque @ 5000 rpm. It is mated to a crisp 8-speed auto gear box. Providing an agile, poised ride is the five-link fully independent suspension. Best of all, the driver can choose normal, comfort, sport and snow modes depending on road/weather conditions. The result is smooth acceleration from any speed.

Some creature comforts are head-up display, power open/close trunk door and rear sunshade, heated/cooled and reclining 60/40 rear seat, three-zone auto climate control, 12.3-inch LCD instrument panel, Lexicon 900-watt sound system, panoramic sunroof and a 9.2-inch navigation display. Starting at $65,500, the K900 is a tough competitor for proven European premium sedans.


Lewis earned her third-consecutive Kia Drive to the Top award, which is given to the player with the most top-10 finishes of the season. In 2014, the Palm Beach Gardens resident amassed 17 top-10 finishes in 27 tournaments, three of them victories, played through the Lorena Ochoa Invitational.

Lincicome clinched the Kia Power Drive, awarded to the player with the longest driving average in 2014. The Seminole resident averaged 271.56 yards per drive on the year. This is her second Kia Power Drive honor, having also won the inaugural award in 2012.

Creamer earned the Kia Most Compelling Performance, awarded to a player with an exceptional performance and voted on by fans at LPGA.com and the LPGA’s official Facebook page. The Windermere resident won for an amazing 75-foot eagle putt snapping a four-year winless drought for her 10th career victory.

Pressel is the winner of the Kia Community Assist award, which recognizes a player who makes exceptional contributions to charity organizations or community programs. Pressel’s foundation, the Morgan Pressel Foundation, has raised more than $3.5 million. The foundation’s Kathryn Krickstein Pressel Mammovan, named after Pressel’s mother who lost her battle with breast cancer, travels around the South Florida area providing yearly mammograms.

Besides sponsoring the Kia Performance Awards, Kia is the Official Automotive Partner of the LPGA, title sponsor of the Kia Classic and Official Tournament Vehicle for five LPGA events.

For more information, visit www.kia.com


GMC CANYONAt its peak, nearly 35,000 GMC Canyon trucks were sold in 2005. Then in 2012, GMC ceased production on its midsize pickup. Till now. The truck is back, far better and polished to take on competition from the redesigned 2015 Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier.

This all-new model is equipped with a 3.6-liter V-6 engine putting out 305 horsepower @ 6800 rpm and 269 pounds-feet of torque @ 4000 rpm. It is mated to a 6-speed auto gearbox. An independent coil-over-shock front and solid axle rear suspension soaks hurdles with skill, sure-footedness and confidence. The electric power-assist rack-and-pinion steering is direct and precise. Tow capacity for our SLE four-wheel-drive Crew Cab version is a remarkable 7,000 pounds.

Chrome is splattered all over the front three-bar grille, which is flanked by projector-beam headlights and LED daytime running lights, front fog lamps, all-new aluminum hood, and active aero grille shutters. Mammoth vertical tail lights with chrome bumper greet the onlooker in the rear. Step inside the lap of luxury to be impressed by aluminum trim on the instrument panel of speedometer and tachometer along with tilt/telescopic steering column, 8-inch color touch screen for audio, navigation and Intellilink readings, overhead sunglass holder, four-way power driver seat, folding second-row bench, and a leather steering wheel. Storage space is abundant with bins and cubicles, plus four USB ports. The 6-foot-2-inch Long Box can haul 8-foot-length items. We wish the innovative lift and lower tailgate (which is effortless to raise and even better, lowers slowly) was incorporated into all other pickups.

So why should you buy the Canyon? Well, it’s not a full-size pickup but serves the purpose of one with impressive cargo and towing capability, praiseworthy fuel efficiency (we averaged 20.4 in city compared to EPA 17) while delivering a civilized and decent ride.



2014 Fiat 500 AbarthExcept for minor changes such as new 16-inch wheels and an inch lower passenger seat for more headroom, the 2014 Fiat 500 Abarth stayed the same. It’s quicker than the base Fiat thanks to a turbocharged and intercooled 1.4-liter inline-4 cylinder engine putting out 160 horsepower @ 5500 rpm and 170 pounds-feet of torque @ 2500 rpm. The easy-to-engage 5-speed manual gear box makes the hatchback a fun to drive.

Up front, this track-ready front-wheel-drive car boasts whiskers and the Fiat badge, flanked by bi-halogen circular projector headlights and a honeycomb grille. Step inside and the rounded instrument cluster of the 160-mph speedometer, tachometer, engine temp and fuel gauge draw attention. Another neat feature is the circular turbo boost pressure gauge. Notable features include a flat-bottomed tilt steering column, aluminum pedals, leather instrument panel cluster and shifter, and a 50/50 fold-down second-row seat.

Base-priced at $22,195, the Abarth is nimble, sporty and, of course, stylish on the cheeky side. But a word or two of caution. The rear seat is crammed for the tall folks. And our fuel economy didn’t come quite close to EPA estimates, which are 28 mpg city/34 highway and 30 combined. We averaged a disappointing 26 mpg in mixed driving.


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