JUNE 2017
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Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE – motoringtampabay@gmail.com

2017 LEXUS RC-F It can go 0 to 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds. Top speed is at 170 mph. And a quarter mile takes only 12.5 seconds. That’s the powerful 2017 Lexus RC-F luxury sport coupe for you with a 5.0-liter V-8 engine blasting off 467 horsepower @ 7100 rpm and 389 pounds-feet of torque @ 5600 rpm. And, of course, the forceful F Sport-tuned suspension provides for some spirited driving. The rear-wheel-drive ride is mated to an 8-speed auto gearbox with eco, normal, sport and snow modes. Providing positive brake feel are 14.9-inch vented front and 13.5-inch rear discs equipped with six- and four-piston Brembo calipers respectively.

Up front, a gigantic mesh spindle grille is flanked by twin-projector LED headlights and daytime running lights, with ‘F’ badge on front fenders to indicate that this is indeed a speed demon. Step into the luxurious cabin and you will also find ‘F’ engraved on 10-way power cooled/heated front seat headrests, multi-information display and power tilt/telescopic leather steering column. Niceties include push-button start, carbon-fiber trim and LED air-vent dials, analog clock, navigation with Mark Levinson audio of 17 speakers pumping out 835 watts, and auto dual-zone a/c. A mouse-like, easy-to-use Remote Touch enables the driver to toggle navigation, climate, audio and phone controls, which are displayed on a 7-inch screen.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, front knee airbags, vehicle stability and traction controls, three-point seatbelts for all, front/rear crumple zones and side-impact beams, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, rearview camera, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, daytime running lights and a tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

If the miniscule 10.1-cubic-foot trunk and a hefty price tag topping $79,869 with options aren’t a concern, the RC-F should be the vehicle of choice for lead-foot drivers. It delivers an effective punch or two while heading toward your destination.



2017 Acura MDX Sport HybridIt is a no-brainer if you ask us. The 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid, i.e. Unlike the regular MDX, which ekes just 19 city/26 highway, this one rates at 26/27. And best of all, it is priced at just around $58,000 like its gasoline twin.

A 3.0-liter (down from 3.5 in regular trim) SOHC V-6 engine pumps out a total of 321 horsepower (up by 31) and 289 pounds-feet of torque (increase of 22). Being a hybrid, it is equipped with three electric motors and a 1.3 kWh lithium-ion battery. Instead of a 9-speed gearbox in the regular SUV, this MDX gets a smooth and capable 7-speed dual-clutch auto. Once again, the MDX is offered in front-wheel and all-wheel drive. Thanks to Integrated Dynamics System (IDS), the driver can choose comfort, normal, sport and sport+ settings. Looking to save even more fuel? The Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) system can operate in three or four cylinder modes for substantial fuel savings.

Look-wise, jewels-eye LED headlights surround a new diamond-pentagon grille. Blue tint in the SH-AWD badge on the power tailgate is proof you are sitting in a hybrid version. Acura has left the interior of this MDX intact with a supersized center console bin, which is large enough to accommodate a laptop. And the second-row seat can go fore and aft 6 inches so third-row passengers can settle in effortlessly. There is a generous 68.4 cubic feet of space behind the first seat. Other amenities are tri-zone auto climate control, power moon roof, 10-way power front seats, second-row Captain chair, manual rear door sunshades, stainless-steel pedals, electronic tilt/telescopic steering column, and wood/metal trim blend.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes, front/rear crumple zones, side-impact door beams, vehicle stability assist with traction control, lane departure warning and lane-keep assist (which maintains the ride in its path), blind-spot monitor, collision mitigation system, multi-angle rearview camera, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system are standard. These include all the safety technology that comes with AcuraWatch.

Regular or hybrid? We whole-heartedly recommend opting for the latter. It will save plenty more gas at the pump while still lavishing driver and all occupants in luxury. And despite its 4,484-pound weight, the MDX hybrid provides tremendous acceleration, remarkable handling and steering feel.



2017 CR-VThe Honda CR-V (Comfortable Runabout Vehicle) underwent a major transformation about five years ago. And once again, the compact SUV is back with another redesign on a massive scale. And it’s all for the better.

Offered as a front-wheel or all-wheel drive, the fifth-generation 2017 CR-V is available in a new 1.5-liter direct-injection, turbo 4-cylinder engine that develops 190 horsepower @ 5600 rpm and 179 pounds-feet of torque @ 5000 rm. Power is put to the road via a new continuously variable transmission. An independent MacPherson strut front and a multilink rear suspension isolates occupants from road noise and rough bumps. The motion-adaptive Electric Power Steering, which nixes use of hoses and pumps, translates into gas savings.

The CR-V styling appears even more aggressive and sleeker from its predecessor. LED headlights and wing-shaped daytime running lights flank a bulkier chrome-slathered two-bar grille, longer hood and a boost in its wheelbase, ground clearance and front/rear tracks. The 4.2-inch digital display gets the much-needed re-do. The 60/40 rear seat is easy to fold. Just pull the small levers located near the tailgate and you have a flat seat to haul cargo. Bins and cubbies are scattered throughout. Also standard are dual-zone a/c, 7-inch display for audio/navigation system with voice recognition and rearview camera, leather seats and shifter, tilt/telescopic steering column, sunglass holder, power tailgate and moon roof, push-button start, 12-way driver and four-way power front-passenger seats and driver information center.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag with rollover system, Vehicle Stability Assist, traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, forward collision and lane departure warnings, lane keep assist, collision mitigation braking system, three-point seatbelts, front/rear crumple zones, adaptive cruise control, front-seat active head restraints, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard.

The revamped car-like CR-V boasts admirable passenger- and cargo-hauling capabilities. And you can count on the freshly-introduced turbocharged power train to add more peppiness and fun to the ride.



Toyota Highlander HybridAfter debuting nearly a decade ago, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid undergoes its first change, mainly gaining a more potent gasoline engine. The 3.5-liter DOHC V-6 engine, coupled to three electric motors, now puts out a total of 306 horsepower (up by 26) @ 5800 rpm and 215 pounds-feet (down by 2) of torque @ 4800 rpm. The crossover SUV is fitted with a 288-volt nickel-metal hydride battery, which is recharged by energy captured as the driver applies the brakes or coasts. Also, the Continuous Variable Transmission-equipped car gets a regenerative braking system. When the car is coasting or the brakes are applied, the electric power functions as a generator, capturing kinetic energy that would normally be lost as heat through the brakes. Instead, it converts the energy into useable electricity for recharging the batteries.

Smoked chrome projector-beam headlights flank a two-bar grille hosting the centered Toyota emblem. The SUV offers cavernous cargo and passenger capacity, allowing for 13.6 cubic feet of space behind the 60/40 third row, 42 cubic feet behind the two second-row captain’s chairs (which go aft and forth by 3 inches for easy access to third row as well as get a collapsible side tray with cup holders in center) and 83.2 cubes with both seats folded. The in-dash shelf is handy for small personal belongings. Also, the roll-top center console can comfortably swallow big items out of sight. Other amenities include a tri-zone auto climate control, eight-way driver and four-way power heated/cooled front-passenger seats, wood and silver-painted satin and chrome accents, and power lift gate and moon roof.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, vehicle stability and traction control systems, front active headrests, front/rear crumple zones, push-button start, rear parking sensor and camera, hill start assist, blind spot, rear-cross traffic and lane-departure alert systems, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

During the week we test drove the Highlander Hybrid, we earned the EPA-estimated 28 mpg in combined city/highway driving. The price, of course, is astronomical at $49,579. However, the practical and delightful midsize crossover can accommodate up to eight passengers in comfort. Besides, the vehicle comes with Toyota’s solid reputation for reliability and durability.


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