JUNE 2011
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Test-drive reviews by NITISH S. RELE, motoringtampabay@gmail.com

Redesigned for 2011, the third-generation Toyota Sienna boasts a 2-inch longer cabin than its predecessor. This naturally means plenty of cargo and passenger room. And who doesn’t crave for more space in a family minivan?

Mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission, the 3.5-liter DOHC dual VVT inline-6 cylinder engine develops 266 horsepower @ 6200 rpm and 245 pounds-feet of torque @ 4700 rpm. A front independent MacPherson strut and rear torsion beam suspension soaks up bumps and maintains equilibrium on the toughest of road/weather conditions. The electric power assist rack-and-pinion steering is quick, accurate and perfectly weighted. Ensuring exceptional balance and stability with minimal body roll is Toyota’s Active Torque Control all-wheel-drive system.

Ensconced on a steel unitized body is a chrome-surround grille flanked by projector-beam headlights and body-color bumpers, body side moldings, exterior mirrors and door handles. But the Sienna truly shines when you step into its cavernous cabin. A tri-zone climate control system guarantees that all of its seven or eight passengers stay cool in summer. So do the second- and third-row sun shades. The second-row captain’s chairs slide 23 inches fore/art for easy ingress and egress to the third row, which can be stowed into the floor. Well-placed storage cubbies abound in the Sienna, which offers a huge front center console, dual glove box and 10 cup holders! And thanks to an eco indicator, the driver can tread lightly on the pedal to ensure fuel savings. Other standard amenities include dual power-sliding doors, multi-information display with rearview camera, eight-way power driver’s seat, tilt/telescopic steering column and overhead compass.

That safety is paramount in the Toyota minivan is obvious from standard dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for all three rows, driver knee airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Control, front active headrests, energy-absorbing steering column, front/rear crumple zones, three-point seatbelts for all, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

The stylish Sienna is a satisfying blend of genuine passenger- and cargo-hauling practicality and affordable pricing. And despite recalls, Toyota still enjoys a solid reputation for durability and reliability.

Tires: P235/55R18 run flat
Wheelbase: 119.3 inches
Length: 200.2 inches
Weight: 4,585 pounds
Tow capacity: 3,500 pounds
Fuel capacity: 20 gallons
City: 16 mpg
Highway: 22 mpg
Base price: $31,130
Web site: www.toyota.com


A quick glance at the all-new Nissan Juke and the natural response would be, “Now, that’s quirky!” But that’s understandable. Indeed, the 2011 cheeky-styled hatchback teases you with its coupe-like roofline and raked windshield meeting up to the split halogen headlights, black chrome grille and side sills, body-color front/rear bumpers and mirrors, and boomerang-style tail lamps.

Based on a unibody structure, the four-door, five-passenger crossover SUV is equipped with a 1.6-liter direct-injection gasoline turbocharged and inter-cooled inline-4 cylinder engine developing 188 horsepower @ 5600 rpm and 170 pounds-feet of torque @ 2000 rpm. Those may not appear hugely impressive but once in motion, the front-wheel-drive ride accelerates rapidly. And even a rookie driver can easily shift and engage the 6-speed manual transmission.

The interior is spacious and functional with height-adjustable six-way driver and four-way passenger manual seats and a 60/40 fold-flat rear seat. A navigation system is standard along with power-sliding moon roof, rearview camera, Rockford Fosgate sound system, tilt steering column, push-button start, driver information center with outside temperature display and rear lift gate. The under-floor cargo storage bin can be useful. Functionality is further enhanced by an open tray in the center console for coins, cell phones and small belongings. But a missing center armrest could cause inconvenience.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, Vehicle Dynamic Control, front seat active head restraints, front/rear crumple zones, three-point seat belts, energy-absorbing steering column and tire pressure monitoring system.

Sure, the Juke’s an odd-looking ride but it also is a roomy, nimble and sporty alternative to some bland crossovers in the market. But you are assured of garnering plenty of attention while strolling down the streets.

Tires: 215/55R17
Wheelbase: 99.6 inches
Length: 162.4 inches
Weight: 2,952 pounds
Suspension: independent strut front; torsion beam rear
Steering: speed-sensitive electric assist
Brakes: 11.7-inch front vented; 11.5-inch rear solid
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons
City: 24 mpg
Highway: 31 mpg
Base price: $22,550
Web site: www.nissanusa.com


The numbers say it all. Or most of it. Zero to 60 in 5.6 seconds. And a mere 12 seconds at up to 30 mph for the power-folding soft top to work its magic. Undoubtedly, the 2011 Audi TT roadster is top-down motoring at its finest.

Under the rigid and steel body sits a 2.0-liter turbocharged and inter-cooled 4-cylinder engine, which belts out 211 horsepower (up by 11 from predecessor) and 258 pounds-feet of torque.

Thanks to Audi’s renowned quattro all-wheel drive, the TT is quick off the mark, lively in traffic and fun to cruise on the highway. It has noteworthy body control and superb ride comfort. The convertible is mated to a slick 6-speed S Tronic auto dual-clutch transmission, which also can be shifted via paddles on the steering wheel.

The stretched-out TT (by 0.79 inches) acquires new bumpers, radiator and fog light grilles and fog lamps surrounded by chrome. Even the dual exhausts acquire a chrome finish. Of course, the massive Audi single-frame grille with xenon plus headlights and LED daytime running lights conveys a bold, muscular stance. The interior is classic Audi, especially the round speedometer, tachometer, fuel and temperature gauges of red needles on white numerals amid black background. A three-spoke tilt/telescopic flat bottom steering wheel is convenient for the driver to slip in and out effortlessly while basking in cushy 10-way leather/Alcantara trimmed seat. Splashes of aluminum trim on the steering wheel, center console and mirror controls lend elegance to the cabin.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, front knee airbags, Audi hill hold assist, Electronic Stability Protection and traction, four-wheel antilock brakes, roll bars with aluminum trim, power retractable wind deflector, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard safety features.

The enjoyable, energetic and luxurious TT is rev happy, athletic and provides plenty of punch. And remember, if you take the top down, you will catch not just the sun but also the eye of onlookers. After all, TT is top-down motoring at its best!

Tires: 245/40R18
Wheelbase: 97.2 inches
Length: 164.5 inches
Suspension: MacPherson strut front; 4-link rear
Steering: Servotronic power
Brakes: 12-inch front; 11.3 inch rear
Weight: 3,153 pounds
Fuel capacity: 15.9 gallons
City: 22 mpg
Highway: 31 mpg
Base price: $41,300
Web site: www.audiusa.com

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