NOVEMBER 2011
Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida
Motoring

ALL-NEW VELOSTER IS GREAT VALUE FOR THE MONEY

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

There is no stopping Hyundai. Close on the heels of the all-new/redesigned Tucson, Sonata, Equus, Elantra and Accent comes the 2012 Veloster, a three-door, four-passenger sport coupe ensconced on a steel unibody structure.

Available in front-wheel drive and just a base trim, the 1.6-liter GDI inline-4 cylinder engine from the Korean carmaker develops 138 horsepower @ 6300 rpm and 123 pounds-feet of torque @ 4850 rpm. A 6-speed manual is standard and the dual-clutch 6-speed auto transmission is optional. Suspension is handled adeptly through an independent MacPherson strut front and a coupled torsion beam axle rear. EPA fuel estimates are notable at 28 city and 40 mpg highway with choice of an eco mode to eke out even more gas savings.

The fine-looking Veloster sports a familiar Hyundai hexagonal grille, which is flanked by wraparound LED-accented headlights, hood scoop detailing, as well as body-color door handles, front bumpers and outside mirrors. And how can we forget the passenger-side forward-hinged rear door, which provides easy ingress and egress? Step in and you will find yourself staring at a floor console and center stack that resembles a sport motorcycle. Even the air vents have been inspired by tail pipes on a bike. Cabin volume is an admirable 105.3 cubic feet. Among the several standard amenities are a tilt/telescopic steering column, air-conditioning, driver information center, six-way driver seat, front-passenger slide/recline seat, 60/40 split rear seat, seven-inch display and Bluetooth hands-free system.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution, Electronic Stability Control with traction control, front seatbelt pretensioners, hill assist control and tire pressure monitoring system.

Base-priced at $17,300 for the stick, add $1,250 for auto. You also can pick the Style and Tech packages at $2,000 a piece for such conveniences as navigation system, panoramic sun roof, piano black interior accents, etc.

Naturally, the independent, front-hinged door makes the Veloster an inimitable vehicle. By no means is this is a speedster that you want to test on the race track. But the car offers an exciting, tossable and elegant ride coupled with ample passenger/cargo capacity and praiseworthy fuel mileage. Indeed, it is great value for the money.

VELOSTER
Tires: 215/45HR17
Wheelbase: 104.3 inches
Length: 166.1 inches
Steering: rack and pinion
Weight: 2,584 pounds
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons
Web site: www.hyundai.com


DODGE SIMPLIFIES GRAND CARAVAN MODEL LINE

Get ready to bid the Dodge Grand Caravan goodbye after 2013, which is the year this pioneer of the minivan segment will exit gracefully. However, its sister, the Chrysler Town & Country, will continue to be sold as the automaker’s sole minivan. And that makes perfect sense since both the vehicles pretty much offered the same power train and features though the Town & Country is a notch above.

To simplify the model trim line, Dodge has nixed the 3.3-, 3.8- and 4.0-liter V-6 power trains with a sole 3.6-liter V-6 engine, which doles out 283 horsepower at 6400 rpm and 260 pounds-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. The front-wheel-drive ride is mated to a seamless 6-speed automatic transmission. A retuned MacPherson strut front and twist beam axle rear suspension ensure occupants are isolated from road noise and rough surfaces. The power rack-and-pinion steering is razor sharp, with a firm on-center feel.

Our Crew model showed off redesigned quad headlights flanking the familiar split crosshair grille. The rear sports new LED vertical tail lights and Dodge insignia. But it is for its interior amenities that people buy the Grand Caravan. You can forget the Swivel ’n Go. Instead, the Stow ’n Go enable the second- and third-row seats to fold into the floor. For extra gas savings, switch on to eco mode. Best are the convenient driver and passenger side power-sliding doors for easy ingress/egress. And of course, storage compartments thrive in the minivan, offering cargo volume of 143.8 cubic feet and total passenger volume of 195.8 cubic feet. Other standard amenities include tri-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power driver’s seat, power adjustable pedals and a manual tilt/telescopic steering column.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for all three rows, driver knee airbag, front active head restraints, Electronic Stability Control with traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes, remote keyless entry/start system, and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

If not for the Town & Country, the Grand Caravan would be missed. The complete package should draw families looking for a safe and solid ride, people- and cargo-hauling practicality, good fuel economy and reasonable price.

GRAND CARAVAN CREW
Tires: P225/65R17 all season
Wheelbase: 121.2 inches
Length: 202.8 inches
Weight: 4,510 pounds
Fuel capacity: 20 gallons
City: 17 mpg
Highway: 25 mpg
Base price: $28,695
Web site: www.dodge.com



ENJOY TOP-DOWN CRUISING WITH CAMARO CONVERTIBLE

Though all-new for 2011, the Chevy Camaro convertible shares model configurations with its twin coupe. Our inferno orange SS was equipped with a throbbing 6.2-liter V-8 engine belting out 426 horsepower at 5900 rpm and 420 pounds-feet of torque at 4600 rpm. Making the rear-wheel-drive ride exhilarating is a smooth, accurate and easy-to-engage 6-speed manual transmission. A confidence-inspiring four-wheel independent suspension and variable ratio rack-and-pinion steering also are shared with the coupe.

Xenon HID headlights with eye-catching halo rings, squared tail lamps and 20-inch wheels on a unitized body structure can be attributed to the $1,200 RS package. Step into the cabin and you will be staring at deeply recessed instrument binnacles housing round gauges and a center console four-gauge cluster of oil temperature, oil pressure, battery and transmission fluid temperature readings. The top retracts in just 20 seconds.

Also standard are a three-spoke tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, six-way power driver and two-way manual front-passenger seat, heated front seats, driver information center, and, of course, the familiar SS emblem on the backs of front seat headrests.

Safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for front rows, stability and traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes, limited slip differential, rear obstacle detection system, three-point safety belts for all, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights. The potent 14-inch front and 14.4-inch rear ventilated roar discs will boost any driver’s confidence behind the wheel.

Of course, this isn’t a perfect ride. With the top up, rear corner visibility suffers. Except for a glove box and small center bin, the Camaro lacks in storage areas and the rear seat is cramped. Otherwise, you will enjoy top-down motoring in the Camaro convertible. A delight to drive around corners, the swift convertible is sporty, nimble, fun and attractive. Watch out Dodge Challenger, Nissan 370Z and Ford Mustang. This one’s going to give you all a run for the money.

CAMARO (2SS)
Wheelbase: 112.3 inches
Length: 190.4 inches
Width: 75.5 inches
Height: 54.7 inches
Fuel capacity: 19 gallons
City: 16 mpg
Highway: 24 mpg
Weight: 4,116 pounds
Base price: $39,650
Web site: www.chevrolet.com

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