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GLK350 OFFERS A CAR-LIKE RIDE

By NITISH S. RELE

editor@motoringtampabay.com

THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2010 Mercedes GLK350 compact luxury SUV.

DOWN THE ROAD: All new for 2010 and sharing its platform with the C-Class, the GLK350 offers a car-like ride with the functional and practicality of an SUV. This rear-wheel-drive vehicle is equipped with a standard agility control, an auto-adjustable suspension to smoothen rough road surfaces.

TECH & PERFORMANCE: A rightly-sized 3.5-liter V-6 engine produces 268 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 258 pounds-feet of torque at 2400 rpm. It is mated to a crisp-shifting seven-speed automatic transmission, which can be driven in comfort or sport modes. A four-wheel independent suspension of MacPherson struts in the front and a multilink rear lend a car-like agility to the SUV. Steering is quick and precise, thanks to a hydraulic power assist rack-and-pinion system. Braking duties are handled adeptly by 13-inch front and 11.8-inch rear ventilated discs.

LOOK & FEEL: Based on a unibody steel structure, the GLK350 exterior shows off a commanding trapezoidal radiator grille with two chrome louvers, a steeply raked windshield, projector-beam headlights, distinct horizontal tail lamps and dual exhaust chrome tips. Step into the cabin and be ensconced comfortably in supportive eight-way power front seats. The spacious second-row seat also can be folded flat to fetch 54.7 cubic feet of space in the cargo area. Ingress and egress is effortless because of large door opening angles and the elevated roof line. Leave it to Benz to use space smartly with a stowable under-floor cargo compartment. Also standard is the dual-zone automatic climate control, three-spoke leather tilt/telescopic steering wheel, driver information center and front and rear cup holders.

SAFETY FIRST: Standard features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, Electronic Stability Program, traction control, rollover sensor system, front active-head restraints, Hill Start Assist, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

OUT THE DOOR: $34,600, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges.

BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, 235/50R19; wheelbase, 108.5 inches; length, 178.3 inches; weight, 3,926 pounds; fuel capacity, 17.4 gallons; city, 16 mpg; highway, 22 mpg; Web site, www.mbusa.com

WHY DIG IT: There is no doubt that the all-new GLK enhances the Mercedes-Benz lineup of SUVs. If in the market for a compact SUV that drives like a car while boasting admirable cargo- and passenger-hauling capabilities, take the 350 for a test-drive. It will be well worth your time and effort.

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RESTYLED ALTIMA IS A GREAT EVERYDAY RIDE

By NITISH S. RELE

editor@motoringtampabay.com

THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2010 Nissan Altima 3.5 SR sedan.

DOWN THE ROAD: Freshened for 2010, Nissanís popular sedan acquires a restyled hood, grille, front bumpers and rear license plate. But the power train maintains its status quo, enabling this fourth-generation car to display tremendous agility, grip and response.

TECH & PERFORMANCE: Previously known as the 3.5 SE, this model still offers the 3.5-liter DOHC V-6 engine with 270 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 258 pounds-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. It is mated to an efficient Continously Variable Transmission. The power rack-and-pinion steering is quick and precise. The front and rear suspension systems are independent of each other but with stabilizer bars at both ends. Thanks to sizeable 11.7-inch front vented and 11.5-inch rear solid discs, the car remains stable under heavy braking.

LOOK & FEEL: A familiar T-shaped and chrome-slathered grille is flanked by halogen headlights. Chrome also decks the dual exhaust tips though the side molding fascias and rearview mirrors are splashed in body color. The revised interior shows off the familiar three-round instrument gauges, now illuminated in white. Wood is sprinkled generously on the doors and under-dash area. Storage room is plentiful with the trunk offering 15.3 cubic feet of space. And we counted a total of nine cup/bottle holders throughout the cabin. Standard amenities include eight-way power driver seat, push-button ignition, trip computer with outside temperature gauge, four-spoke tilt/telescopic steering wheel, 60/40-split fold-down rear seat, and air-conditioning vents for rear-seat passengers.

SAFETY FIRST: Standard are dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, Vehicle Dynamic Control, traction control, antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution, front seat active-head restraints and seatbelts with pretensioners, front and rear crumple zones and tire pressure monitoring system.

OUT THE DOOR: $24,520, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges.

BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, P215/55R17 all season; wheelbase, 109.3 inches; length, 190.7 inches; weight, 3,357 pounds; fuel capacity, 20 gallons; city, 20 mpg; highway, 27 mpg; Web site, www.nissanusa.com

WHY DIG IT: Introduced in 1993, the Altima has proved to be a huge success story for Nissan. Contributing toward the carís immense reputation is the perfect blend of splendid performance and bold styling. Indeed, this is a great everyday ride for the money.

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GIVE 2010 EQUINOX SERIOUS CONSIDERATION!

By NITISH S. RELE

nitishrele@gmail.com

THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2010 Chevrolet Equinox LT1 crossover SUV.

DOWN THE ROAD: Redesigned for 2010, the body-integral structure based Equinox acquires an impressive 2.4-liter direct-injection engine with variable valve timing. Agreed, it is not a robust power train but has a lively, fun-to-drive attitude, reacting with nimbleness and swiftness in any driving situation. Our ride was equipped with an all-wheel-drive system, which means tackling the off-road terrain with ease and poise.

TECH & PERFORMANCE: The inline-4 cylinder puts out 182 horsepower at 6700 rpm and 172 pounds-feet of torque at 4900 rpm. It is mated to a slick 6-speed automatic transmission. Suspension is handled by an independent front strut-type with coil springs; the rear is equipped with an independent four-link with coil springs and trailing arm. Guiding the SUV is an electric power steering system, which makes the vehicle easy to maneuver at corners and sharp turns. The Equinox comes to a slowdown or stop thanks to 12.6-inch vented front and 11.9-inch rear disc brakes. And who doesnít want to save on gas? Just switch on the Eco mode and you can get the most out of the fuel economy.

LOOK & FEEL: A two-tier grille with the gold bowtie Chevy emblem also can be found on the Malibu and the Traverse. The wraparound headlights, dual round tail lamps and body-keyed mirrors and door handles boost the SUVís bold appearance. If traveling with children, the multi-flex reclining rear seat, which slides 8 inches fore and aft, will be of assistance. Storage areas are numerous as well as cavernous such as the center console, which can hold a laptop. Also, the Equinox comes with an oversized glove box and a covered bin atop the center stack. The red stitches on the black cloth seats give a sporty look to the cabin. Head and legroom is plentiful for rear-seat passengers. The compass and driver information center, sandwiched between the speedometer and tachometer, is functional.

SAFETY FIRST: Standard features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes with Brake Assist, stability and traction control, remote keyless entry, antiskid system, three-point safety belts for front, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

OUT THE DOOR: $25,110, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. Go for the $320 rearview camera system for assistance backing up, especially in a crowded neighborhood.

BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, P225/65R17; wheelbase, 112.5 inches; length, 187.8 inches; weight, 3,761 pounds; fuel capacity, 18 gallons; city, 20 mpg; highway, 29 mpg; Web site, www.chevrolet.com

WHY DIG IT: Our hats off to Chevy for a job well done with the second-generation Equinox. The new 2.4-liter power train is quiet and responsive with strong acceleration, notable handling and steering experience. At the same time, the Equinox can tout immense cargo and passenger-hauling capabilities. Itís a ride potential crossover SUV buyers want to give serious consideration.

Test drive the Equinox at Ferman Chevrolet at 9751 Adamo Drive in Tampa or visit www.fermanchevy.com

 


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