JULY 2012
Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida


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

2012 Kia Optima SXSo what if we in the USA don’t get the convertible unlike our counterparts in Europe? We are more than satisfied with the all-new TT-RS (Racing Sport) coupe that Audi sent over for a test drive. This high-performance version of the TT can sprint 0 to 60 in a mere 4.1 seconds and an intimidating 174-mph top speed.

Under the aluminum-alloy space frame sits a 2.5-liter turbocharged and inter-cooled inline-5 cylinder engine, which cranks out 360 horsepower @ 5500-6700 rpm and 343 pounds-feet of torque @ 1650-5400 rpm.


Thanks to the German carmaker’s legendary quattro all-wheel drive, the TT is quick off the mark, nimble in traffic and a pleasure to cruise on the highway. Mated to a lively 6-speed manual gearbox, the coupe has significant body control and splendid ride comfort.

That this is the racing version of the two-door sports car from the German automaker is apparent from the TT-RS emblem on the front/rear bumpers, the massive single-frame black-diamond grille and a retractable wing-type spoiler. The interior is beautifully executed, especially the round speedometer, tachometer, fuel and temperature gauges of red needles on white numerals amid black background. The three-spoke tilt/telescopic flat bottom steering column is ideal for the driver to slip in and out easily while basking in the comfy 10-way power leather seat. Splashes of aluminum trim on the steering wheel, center console and mirror controls lend grace to the cabin.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, front knee airbags, hill hold assist, Electronic Stability Protection and traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes, anti-skid system, remote keyless entry, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

Push the starter button to summon the 5-cylinder engine and the rev-happy TT-RS emits a wonderfully loud exhaust growl that will delight any performance enthusiast. Stout and gorgeous-looking from any angle, the sports coupe deservedly earns a report card full of great marks.

Tires: 255/35R19
Wheelbase: 97.2 inches
Length: 165.3 inches
Suspension: MacPherson strut front; 4-link rear
Steering: Electromechanical rack and pinion
Brakes: 14.6-inch front; 12.2 inch rear
Weight: 3,306 pounds
Fuel capacity: 15.9 gallons
City: 18 mpg
Highway: 25 mpg
Base price: $56,850
Web site: www.audiusa.com



THE RIDE: Two-door, four-passenger 2012 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet.

DOWN THE ROAD: Last year, Nissan introduced this first all-wheel-drive crossover convertible. From the looks of it, you either like or dislike the vehicle. Regardless of its cheeky appearance, the CrossCabriolet delivers a sophisticated ride with plenty of cargo- and passenger-hauling practicality.

TECH & PERFORMANCE: The power train is shared with its Murano hardtop sibling. A 3.5-liter DOHC V-6 engine, mated to a smooth and quiet Continuous Variable Transmission, develops a healthy 265 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 248 pounds-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. Suspension is handled competently by an independent strut in front and a multilink rear. Leading the convertible safely to its destination is the perfectly-weighted power rack-and-pinion steering.

LOOK & FEEL: Bi-functional xenon headlights, body-colored front/rear bumpers, LED rear tail lamps and dual chrome exhausts deck up the exterior. The cabin is user-friendly and functional with a dual-zone auto climate control, eight-way power driver and four-way manual front-passenger seat, power tilt/telescopic steering column, two-tier center console storage box and a push-button ignition. The instrument panel is typical Nissan with electroluminescent gauges for speedometer, tachometer, fuel and coolant temperature readings. The folding power soft top works seamlessly at the touch of a button.

SAFETY FIRST: Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, Vehicle Dynamic Control, Electronic Stability Control, traction control, auto roll bars, front seat active-head restraints, front/rear crumple zones and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

OUT THE DOOR: $44,540, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges.

BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, P235/55R20; wheelbase, 111.2 inches; length, 190.1 inches; weight, 4,438 pounds; fuel capacity, 21.7 gallons; city, 17 mpg; highway, 22 mpg; Web site, www.nissanusa.com

WHY DIG IT: As we said at the outset, this one’s a head-turner – either you are for or not for this unique but awkward-appearing vehicle. Steeply priced and amply noisy, the CrossCabriolet is tops in top-down motoring coupled with generous cargo capacity and standard all-wheel drive to boot.

Mazda has a front-runner in all-new CX-5 crossover

2012 Kia Sorento Remember the Tribute? And the fairly recent CX-7? Well, both rides have been axed and replaced by the 2013 compact crossover CX-5 seating five. This is smart thinking on behalf of Mazda while realigning its product lineup. Obviously, the Japanese carmaker has retained the seven-seater CX-9.

The CX-5 offers a new engine, transmission, styling and the option of front-wheel and all-wheel drive. And, of course, the direct-injection Skyactiv, which uses a torque boost via a high compression ratio to increase fuel economy. On our FWD test drive, we averaged an impressive 27.3 mpg in city/highway while EPA estimates combined mpg at 29.

The lone 2.0-liter inline-4 cylinder engine develops an adequate 155 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 150 pounds-feet of torque @ 4000 rpm. Three trims are available: base Sport, which comes only in a standard 6-speed manual gear box, while the mid-level Touring and the top-of-the-line Grand Touring get a 6-speed auto transmission.

A familiar five-point grille blends flawlessly with the black trapezoidal eagle-eyed headlights on the outside. The well-crafted and intelligently-designed cabin conveys a tailored and upscale look. Head and legroom is adequate for adults and, best of all, is the 40/20/40 split rear seat, which folds flat via a lever release. This opens up 64.8 cubic feet of space in the cargo hold.

The base model starts at a reasonable $20,695 with a fairly equipped Touring priced at $25,145 and peaking at $28,295. The CX-5 stands apart in the crowded market of compact crossovers, thanks to ample room and comfort, good looks, sportiness and respectable fuel mileage. Indeed, Mazda has a winner on its hands.

Tires: 225/55/R19
Suspension: independent MacPherson strut front; multilink rear
Steering: electric power rack-and-pinion
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Length: 179.3 inches
Weight: 3,272 pounds
Fuel capacity: 14.8 gallons
City: 26 mpg
Highway: 32 mpg
Web site: www.mazdausa.com

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