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

2017 GenesisThere is just no stopping the Genesis. The hot-selling luxury brand of Hyundai will release a total of six vehicles by 2021 – large G80 and G90, and the smaller G70 sedans, a coupe and two SUVs. Sold in a separate section of the Korean carmaker’s showrooms, the Genesis brand is successful, thanks to quality, styling, design and ease of use, according to Chris Hosford, corporate communications executive director for Hyundai.

Our test drive was the flagship rear-wheel-drive G90, with a 5.0-liter DOHC V-8 engine cranking out 420 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 383 pounds-feet of torque @ 5000 rpm. Power reaches the wheels via a seamless 8-speed auto transmission while offering eco, smart, individual or sport drive modes.

Hyundai has boosted the Genesis wheelbase by 4.5 inches from its predecessor, which translates into 128.9 cubic feet of interior space and a trunk volume of 15.7 cubic feet. The long hood meets a bold crest grille with winged Genesis emblem, flanked by LED auto headlights. Vertical tail lamps and chrome dual asymmetrical exhaust tips take up the rear. Step inside and you will discover a larger 12.3-inch touchscreen display for phone, nav and audio that can be controlled via a knob. Pampering the occupants are tri-zone auto a/c, head-up display, leather-wrapped power tilt/telescopic steering column and tilt-and-slide sunroof; 7-inch electro-luminescent display for speedometer, tachometer, coolant temperature, fuel level, odometer and trip computer gauges; 22-way power driver and 16-way front-passenger seats; matte finish wood on center console, dash, doors; heated and cooled front seats; Lexicon sound system with 17 speakers; power rear and side windows sunshades; and much more.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, electronic stability and traction control system, front/rear parking sensors and crumple zones, rearview camera, blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning/lane keep assist, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard.

By no means is the Genesis ($69,700 base price) an economical ride. But for all that this lavish sedan is equipped with – commanding power train, well-appointed and classy cabin, and numerous safety features – it is a bargain compared to European rivals.



2017 Nissan PATHFINDER (PLATINUM 4WD)Competitors are aplenty in the large seven-passenger SUV segment but the Pathfinder surely takes the lead, in our eyes. For 2017, Nissan has totally overhauled the fifth-gen ride with a revised 3.5-liter V-6 engine, which now blasts off 284 horsepower (up by 24) @ 6400 rpm and 259 pounds-feet of torque (increase of 19) @ 4800 rpm. The potent engine enables the rugged SUV to effectively and equally traverse rugged terrain as well as tackle peak-hour traffic on city roads.

Coupled with a continuous variable transmission, its unibody structure is equipped with an all-mode four-wheel drive, which distributes torque evenly to the wheels irrespective of road conditions. The retuned suspension is handled via an independent strut front and multilink rear to result in a well-damped ride. The hydraulic electric speed-sensitive steering gives the SUV a curb-to-curb turning circle of more than 38.7 feet. Maximum capacity for towing is a respectable 6,000 pounds (up by 1,000).

Up front, the V-Motion chrome grille is flanked by the familiar boomerang headlights with LED daytime running lights. However, the hood, bumper, recessed windshield wipers, silver roof rails, chrome door handles and badging, and body side molding are fresh. The new and larger 8.0-inch (up from 7) touch screen interface is easy to control via a knob. Also, there is more infotain and driver assist display reading between the round speedometer and tachometer gauges. Cubby space is abundant with a huge center console and a storage bin under the cargo floor. There are 10 cup and six bottle holders throughout the cabin. The 60/40 second-row seat tilts and glides to enable two passengers to duck into the third-row 50/50 seat, which splits and folds flats. Other goodies are eight-way driver and four-way passenger power seats, tri-zone auto a/c control, Bose sound system with 13 speakers, and dual power panoramic moon roof.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side airbag curtain for both rows, vehicle dynamic and traction control systems, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, intelligent cruise control, forward emergency braking, front and rear crumple zones, four-wheel antilock brakes, tire pressure monitoring system, three-point front seat belts with pretensioners, and daytime running lights.

The much-improved Pathfinder should appeal to SUV buyers, especially those who want a dominant engine under the hood. With refreshing exterior and interior styling cues, Nissan has made the path to your destination more fun than ever before.



2016 VW PassatThe midsize sedan’s small-size engine of 1.8 liters should not fool anyone. A 4-cylinder turbocharged and intercooled power train in the 2016 VW Passat puts out 170 horsepower @ 6200 rpm and 184 pounds-feet of torque @ 1500 rpm. It is coupled to a standard but responsive 6-speed auto transmission.

The Passat appears more aggressive than before with a revised exterior fascia, which now gets a new domed hood, larger fully chromed four-bar grille and window surrounds, slimmer headlights, rear bumper and trunk lid, and available LEDs. The cabin receives an upgrade with a fresh instrument panel showing off two large gauges; the center stack incorporates VW’s latest MIB II infotainment system. Also new in the front-wheel-drive sedan are the steering wheel and column stalk design, two-tone décor panels, and chrome trim on a/c vent bezels, upper door, cup holders and shift lever. Convenience features include dual-zone auto a/c, 60/40 rear seat, eight-way power driver’s seat, heated front and rear seats, sun roof and a 15.9 cubic feet trunk.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, Electronic Stability Protection with anti-slip regulation, traction control, three-point seatbelts for all positions, adaptive cruise control, rearview camera, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard.

The Passat is an ideal sedan for a family of four or five, for that matter. It can carry occupants in comfort, luxury and style. As VW has often said in the past, "European elegance. Autobahn performance."



2017 Jeep CherokeeTHE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland 4X4 midsize SUV.

DOWN THE ROAD: Overland is a sort of premium Jeep trim with cushy Nappa leather seating and a forceful power train. It assures you a safe and adequate ride with superb handling and overall balance.

TECH & PERFORMANCE: Power is routed via a 3.2-liter V-6 cylinder engine, which develops 271 hp @ 6500 rpm and 239 pounds-feet of torque @ 4400 rpm. An optional but astounding 9-speed auto gearbox will save you loads at the gas station because of its fuel-efficient features. Keeping the Jeep stable enough to soak bumps is an independent suspension of front MacPherson strut and a four-link rear. The electric power rack-and-pinion steering is quick, precise and direct. Depending on road/weather conditions, Selec-Terrain enables the driver to choose auto, snow, sport, sand/mud and rock modes.

LOOK & FEEL: A waterfall hood with the familiar seven-slotted chromed grille, surrounded by bi-xenon HID black headlights/bezels, portrays an aggressive appearance. Displaying exquisite taste and tailoring, the cabin features a 7-inch programmable multi-view gauge cluster. Chrysler’s 8.4-inch UConnect touchscreen offers effortless navigation, audio and phone controls. Comforts include dual-zone a/c, four-way power front seats, power lift gate, 9-speaker audio sound system with subwoofer in cargo area, full-length floor console and the classic mix of wood and leather on the robust steering wheel.

SAFETY FIRST: Dual front, side and knee airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, electronic stability and traction control, electronic roll mitigation and hill start assist, rearview camera, remote start, blind spot monitor and cross-path detection system, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

OUT THE DOOR: $37,695, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges.

WHY DIG IT: Meager fuel mileage and Jeep have been synonymous in the past. But not any more. We beat EPA estimates by eking out 21.9 mpg in city and 27.5 on highway. Partial credit goes to the gas-saver 9-speed transmission. Besides, the Overland model is versatile and spacious. For the daily grind, the Cherokee is as alluring as any other midsize SUV on the road.


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