JUNE 2016
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Motoring

REDESIGNED LEXUS RX350 EVEN MORE CLASSY, PRACTICAL

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

2016 Lexus RX350 It’s been totally revamped inside out. And for the better, of course. The 2016 Lexus RX350 retains the 3.5-liter V-6 power train but cranks out 295 (up 25) @ 6300 rpm and 267 (up 19) pounds-feet of torque @ 4700 rpm. Out goes the dated 6-speed to be replaced by an 8-speed auto transmission, ensuring fuel economy savings of at least 1 mpg. Also tweaked is the front MacPherson strut with coil springs and the rear double wishbone with coil springs suspension to enable the 4,387-pound vehicle to maintain equilibrium at sharp turns. A standard and effortless electric power steering nixes the need for hoses that go with a hydraulic pump.

Getting a substantial boost is the wheelbase by nearly 2, length by 5, width by .4 and height by 1.4 inches. The most obvious exterior feature of the revamped five-passenger luxury SUV is the incredibly mammoth spindle grille with a chrome-plated border and surrounded by triple L-shaped LED headlights. The center stack is now more angled toward the driver, making it even easier to control buttons on the lowered dashboard. The 10-way power front seats, three-spoke power tilt/telescopic leather steering wheel, push-button start, auto dual-zone climate control, metallic accents around the center of the overhauled instrument cluster, 40/20/40-split recline/slide fold rear seat, gated shifter and Lexus 9-speaker Premium audio come at no cost. A cool mouse-like Remote Touch (but not the best in the market) can be used to toggle navigation, climate, audio and phone controls, which are displayed on a huge 12.3-inch screen atop the familiar analog clock.

Standard safety features include 10 airbags, Vehicle Stability Control with Traction Control, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, active head rests for front seats, free-limiting seatbelt pretensioners for front seats and three-point seatbelts with pretensioners for rear seats, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

Available in front-wheel or all-wheel drive, the RX 350 is a wise choice for any potential SUV buyer seeking a stylish, brisk and nimble ride with remarkable handling/balance and a functional interior.

RX350 (AWD)


2016 VOLVO XC60 IS QUICK, ROOMY AND SAFE

2016 Volvo XC60 Introduced in 2010, the XC60 hit record sales of over 26,000 units last year. And that should continue for a host of reasons laid down. Our small luxury crossover SUV was equipped with a T6 Drive-E 2.0-liter inline-4 turbocharged and supercharged engine pumping out 302 horsepower @ 5700 rpm and 295 pounds-feet of torque @ 4500 rpm. Add an 8-speed auto gearbox and the start-stop feature (automatic engine stop when the vehicle halts) to the mix and you have substantial savings in fuel as well as weight to produce an exceptional ride.

A front MacPherson strut and a multilink rear suspension handles the bumps of road surfaces with little sacrifice to your back side. Conveying a direct and communicative feel is the electric power-assist rack-and-pinion steering.

The good-looking crossover displays an average-size grille hosting the familiar Volvo iron mark, and is surrounded by dual xenon headlights and a lower front spoiler with bright trim. With materials of high quality and superb fit and finish, the roomy cabin sports an adaptive digital instrument panel with elegance, eco and performance themes, and decked in shimmer graphite aluminum inlays. Cargo capacity is a notable 67.4 cubic feet of space with the 40/20/40 rear seat up and 30.8 with the seat down. Other standard amenities include eight-way power front seats, dual-zone auto climate control, Volvo Sensus infotainment with 7-inch display screen, Harman Kardon sound system and a tilt/telescopic steering column.

The Chinese-owned but Swedish-made car company is renowned for its safety features. Continuing the tradition, the XC60 gets dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes, three-point seatbelts for all, side impact protection system, dynamic stability and traction control, City Safety (brakes automatically to help prevent a rear-end collision), tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

Yes, it’s an SUV but don’t for a minute believe that your ride will be slow. The front-wheel or all-wheel-drive vehicle can take off 0 to 60 mph in a mere 6.5 seconds and reach top speed of 118 mph. Apart from incredible agility, the ride boasts an obliging cabin and no-frills capabilities. Volvo’s long safety list makes it a no-brainer.

XC60 (AWD)


TAKE THE HONDA ODYSSEY ON A VOYAGE!

2016 Honda Odyssey SE Everyone’s favorite minivan (apart from the Toyota Sienna), the Odyssey continues in 2016 with its status quo intact. Except for the fact that Honda has introduced a new trim, Special Edition, which was our test drive for the week.

Under the hood sits a sole 3.5- liter i-VTEC V-6 engine, which develops 248 horsepower @ 5700 rpm and 250 pounds-feet of torque @ 4800 rpm. The Variable Cylinder Management system deactivates three or four of the cylinders at lower speeds to enhance the up to eight-passenger vehicle’s fuel efficiency.

The front-wheel-drive Odyssey starts at $29,275. Mid-level Odyssey goes for around $35,925. And the top-level Touring Elite for $44,750. Our SE model ($33,375) came with a host of standard amenities but specifically gets a rear DVD entertainment system with 9-inch display, XM satellite radio, 115-volt power outlet and in-vehicle vacuum cleaner in the trunk. Other goodies are tri-zone auto a/c, 10-way drive an four-way front-passenger power seats, tilt/telescopic steering column, push-button start, 60/40 fold-flat third-row seat, second-row sunshades, power sliding side doors and sunglasses holder.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for the three rows, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Assist with traction control, forward collision and lane departure warnings, active front head restraints, remote keyless entry, three-point seatbelts, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

If you are looking for a more-than-satisfying mix of people-hauling practicality, generous cargo capacity and impressive fuel economy, head over to your local dealer to test-drive the 2016 Odyssey. This is one decision you won’t regret.

ODYSSEY (SE)


SPORTY KIA OPTIMA NOT YOUR TYPICAL SEDAN!

2016 Kia OPTIMA (SX) It is undoubtedly one of the boldest-appearing midsize sedans today. Sharing its basic design with the Hyundai Sonata, the Kia Optima has undergone a major transformation for 2016.

The sporty SX gets a 2.0-liter turbo gas inline-4 cylinder engine developing 245 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 260 pounds-feet of torque @ 4000 rpm. It is coupled to a seamless 6-speed auto. An independent MacPherson front and a multilink rear suspension handles the bumps of irregular surfaces with little sacrifice. The electric rack-and-pinion steering is perfectly weighted and provides decent feedback.

Sitting on the steel-unibody based car is a tiger-nose grille surrounded by swept-back xenon HID headlights, along with rear LED tail lamps, spoiler and dual chrome tips, side sills with black accents, and unmistakable red brake calipers. The Optima receives a boost of .4 inches in wheelbase, ½ inch in length and 1.2 inches in width. Cargo capacity is up by .5 to 15.9 cubic feet. The cabin offers such helpful amenities as a 12-way power driver and 6-way front-passenger seats, 60/40 rear seat, tilt/telescopic steering column, metal pedals, dual-zone auto a/c with rear vents, push-button start, 4.2-inch instrument cluster, power windows, door locks and outside mirrors, and a navigation system with 8-inch display screen.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes, stability and traction control systems, hill assist control, front and rear crumple zones, side-impact door beams, three-point front seatbelts with pretensioners, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system.

EPA estimates on our SX trim, which is rated at 22 city/32 highway, came in around 26 mpg in city for out test and peaked 35 on highway. The easy-on-the-pocket Optima is not your typical sedan. A lively, fun-to-drive attitude, coupled with a muscular stance and gas-sipping abilities, make this Kia a true best buy in our eyes.

OPTIMA (SX)

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