JULY 2013
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Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE, motoringtampabay@gmail.com

Lead-foot drivers, you’ve been warned! Put pedal to the metal on this ride and you will take off 0 to 60 in 4.9 seconds. And top speed is 155 mph. This high-performance version of the Audi A4 sedan will take your breath away with a reasonable 3.0-liter V-6 supercharged engine putting out an astounding 333 horsepower @ 5500 rpm and 325 pounds-feet of torque @ 2900 rpm.

Getting power to the ground on our S4 test drive is the ever-obliging 6-speed manual with an optional 7-speed gear box. That the luxury sports sedan is equipped with the legendary quattro permanent all-wheel drive should provide excellent balance. Replacing the previous hydraulic power steering is a quick and alert electro-mechanical system.

Tweaked for 2013 is the single-frame Audi grille with angled upper corners, slender xenon headlights, rectangular fox lamps, hood and reconfigured bumpers with gaunt air inlets. Sliding into the 12-way power driver’s leather/Alcantara seat is a delight, mainly thanks to the flat-bottom three-spoke steering column. With rounded tachometer and speedometer gauges, the revised instrument cluster is an easily readable package. And who wouldn’t want the choice of four modes offered via Audi Drive Select: dynamic, comfort, auto or individual? Other cabin niceties include a tri-zone climate control, power open/close sun roof, 60/40 fold rear seat, brushed aluminum inlays, overhead sunglass holder and Audi concert radio.

If looking for a sedan to take you from A to B, test-drive the 2.0-liter (211 hp) A4. But if you want vim and vigor in a ride, and can afford to spend an extra 10 g, the rev-happy and muscular S4 will be more than happy to oblige.


Tires: 245/40R18

Wheelbase: 110.7 inches

Length: 185.7 inches

Suspension: 5-link front; trapezoidal link rear axle

Weight: 3,935 pounds

Fuel capacity: 16.1 gallons

City: 17 mpg

Highway: 26 mpg

Base price: $47,600

Web site: www.audiusa.com


One thing is for sure. Among minivans such as Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey and Dodge Caravan, the Quest is a looker. Maybe not exactly stunning but a ride that will draw oodles of attention for its boxy appearance.

For 2013, Nissan has carried over the Quest without any noticeable changes. The unibody structure-based minivan retains the 3.5-liter V-6 engine pumping out an impressive 260 horsepower @ 5200 rpm and 240 pounds-feet of torque @ 4400 rpm. Available in S, SV, SL and LE trims, it is coupled to a quiet and responsive Continuously Variable Transmission. An independent strut front and multilink rear isolates occupants from road and wind noise. And the power rack-and-pinion steering offers a firm on-center feel and good feedback.

The front-wheel-drive minivan sports a massive horizontal black grille with chrome accents, xenon headlights, boomerang tail lamps and a rear roof spoiler. Standard amenities on our top-level LE included tri-zone auto climate control, DVD player, 8-inch navigation system, conversation mirrors, eight-way power driver and four-way front-passenger seats, wood trim on doors and instrument panel, dual-glass moon roof and a tilt/telescopic steering column. As expected, storage areas are plentiful – cavernous under-floor bin, large glove box, removable second-row center console, 12 cup holders and four bottle holders. Traveling with children or carrying cargo? The power-sliding rear doors and lift gate come in handy. Also, just push a button in the cargo hold and the third-row seat opens and closes. As summertime reaches its peak, manual sunshades in the rear seat will turn out to be a life-saver.

Starting comfortably at $25,990 for the base, the Quest is priced up to $42,640 for the top-of-the-line LE. It boasts a decent performance and generous cargo- and people-hauling capabilities. Except for average fuel economy figures and its colossal weight (over 4,500 pounds), potential minivan owners should place this one on their test-drive list.


Wheelbase: 118.1 inches

Length: 200.8 inches

Tires: 235/55R18

Fuel capacity: 20 gallons

City: 19 mpg

Highway: 25 mpg

Web site: www.nissanusa.com


Let’s get the hurdles (for lack of a better word) out first. Base price? $62,995. With options, it peaks at $68,000. EPA fuel estimates? Merely 13 mpg in city and 19 highway. Look beyond these and the 2014 Grand Cherokee SRT8 is yours.

The all-wheel-drive Jeep flagship has retained the 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 engine, which blasts off 470 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 465 pounds-feet of torque @ 4300 rpm. But out go the 5- and 6-speed auto gearbox to be traded with an all-new and bigger 8-speed, which can be attributed for the slight hike in fuel mileage. Tow capacity is up by 2,200 to a substantial 7,200 pounds. And SRT8 allows the driver sport, auto, snow, tow and track modes.

An even brawnier seven-slot upper horizontal grille with black-screen insert and surrounded by bi-xenon LED headlights, larger LED tail lamps with black surround, and a new spoiler pump up the Jeep’s intimidating appearance. That this is a race-inspired cabin is evident from a carbon-fiber trimmed binnacle hosting 180 mph speedometer, tachometer and temperature gauges. The revised instrument panel now features a 7-inch programmable multi-view gauge cluster. Also fresh for the Grand Cherokee is Chrysler’s 8.4-inch UConnect touchscreen offering effortless navigation, audio and phone controls. We were drawn to the flat-bottomed three-spoke steering column as well as the distinctly-designed T-handle shifter with drive or sport mode. Aluminum splashes on the center stack, shifter, dash and door-switch bezels are stylish.

Safety is paramount for Jeep with dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, driver knee airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with Brake Assist, Electronic Stability Program, traction control, remote keyless entry, antiskid system with rollover sensors, blind spot monitor, rear backup camera, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system.

Listen up, muscle-car fans. The over 5,000-pound SRT8 can take off 0 to 60 under 5 seconds with a 180 mph top speed. Yes, it’s an almost roguishly speed-demon-like ride in SUV attire. Just keep your gaze away from the gas gauge and suck in the steep price tag!


Wheelbase: 114.8 inches

Length: 191.3 inches

Suspension: front SLA and coil springs, multilink rear

Steering: SRT-tuned power rack-and-pinion

Fuel capacity: 24.6 gallons

Test-drive the 2014 Grand Cherokee as well as any Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge vehicles at Jerry Ulm Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep, 2966 N. Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa. For more information, call the dealership at (813) 872-6645 or visit www.jerryulmdcj.com


In just six months, you can forget the FX label. Starting next year, get ready for some confusion from the folks at Infiniti who are changing the FX nameplate to QX70. The present EX, G, M and JX plaques also will begin with the letter Q.

For 2013, the luxury car division of Nissan has retained the premium midsize SUV’s interior/exterior but swapped the power train from 3.5 V-6 (303 hp) to a 3.7-liter V-6 engine cranking out 325 hp @ 7000 rpm and 267 pounds-feet of torque (up 5) @ 5200 rpm. A crisp-shifting 7-speed auto gear box is standard. Absorbing rough road surfaces is an independent front aluminum double wishbone and a rear steel multilink suspension system. The power-assist rack-and-pinion steering returns a direct response to the driver’s input.

Available as a rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, the double-wave long hood of the FX37 meets up with a dark chrome grille, flanked by ‘boomerang-like’ HID xenon headlights. The exterior is further decked up with side air vents behind the front wheels, large LED tail lamps, dual exhaust with chrome tailpipe finishers, integrated roof spoiler and chrome-window moldings and door handles.

Black lacquer trim and the familiar double-wave instrument panel greets you into the spacious and elegant cabin. Coddling the driver is a 10-way power seat. The driver information center is sandwiched quite conveniently between the large and clear electroluminescent gauges for coolant, tachometer, speedometer and fuel readings. And who can miss the tasteful Infiniti analog clock on the dashboard? Also standard are a three-spoke leather steering column, aluminum pedal accents, push-button start, dual-zone auto climate control, power moon roof and 60/40 recline rear seat.

Except for a crammed rear seat, this practical, fun-to-drive and agile SUV is the right blend of luxury and performance. Amid such competition as the Porsche Cayenne and the BMW X5, the FX stands its ground. Hats off to Infiniti for a ride well done!

FX37 (RWD)

Tires: 265/60R18

Wheelbase: 113.6 inches

Length: 191.3 inches

Weight: 4,209 pounds

Fuel capacity: 23.8 gallons

City: 17 mpg

Highway: 24 mpg

Base price: $44,300

Web site: www.infinitiusa.com


Performance-oriented drivers, your massive ride has arrived! Based on a car-type unibody structure similar to Jeep Grand Cherokee, the 2013 Dodge Durango R/T (Road/Track) model is a blast to drive. Under the hood of the massive rear-wheel-drive (AWD is an option) SUV is a 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi engine, cranking out 360 horsepower @ 5150 rpm and 390 pounds-feet of torque @ 4250 rpm (the meek can settle for a 3.6-liter V-6 of 290 hp). Power reaches the rear wheels via a crisp-shifting 6-speed auto gear box.

The sport suspension handled by a short/long arm front and a multilink rear works just fine to absorb bumps. Steering response with the electro-hydraulic power rack and pinion conveys a good and confident response. The result is the 5,000-pound plus Durango delivers plenty of punch and passing ability but the same time remains stable under heavy braking.

Ensconced on 20-inch aluminum chrome-clad wheels, the bold-faced Durango split crosshair grille is flanked by xenon HID headlights that meet up with a sculpted hood. Noticeably visible in the rear are wraparound tail lamps with a centered chrome light DODGE bar and a dual exhaust tips. Step into the cavernous cabin and you will notice that legroom for the 60/40 second-row passengers is aplenty as is space in the 50/50 third-row seat for children. And with both the seats folded flat, you can get 84.5 cubic feet of cargo space to load up plenty of plywood from your local home improvement store. Standard amenities include tri-zone auto climate control, 6.5-inch touch screen, sizeable front center console, eight-way power driver seat and fold-flat front-passenger seat, and leather-wrapped tilt and telescopic steering wheel.

Safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbags for all rows, Electronic Stability Control, four-wheel antilock brakes, hill start assist, remote start, front-row active head restraints and tire pressure monitoring system. For all sailboat owners, tow capacity is an astounding 7,400 pounds.

Go for the R/T Durango if you crave robust power that only a Hemi can deliver along with gobs of cargo and passenger capacity. But do keep in mind that gas mileage is weak at just 14 city/20 highway and the ride gets pricey with options. Our fully loaded R/T topped $43,000.


Wheelbase: 119.8 inches

Length: 199.8 inches

Fuel capacity: 24.6 gallons

Base price: $35,995

Web site: www.dodge.com

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