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Motoring

DEBUTING FWD ACURA MDX SHOULD DRAW NEW BUYERS

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

It’s almost like an all-new MDX. For 2014, Acura has lightened its popular midsize luxury SUV by 275 pounds while stretching the wheelbase by 2.8 inches. Out goes the previous 3.7 liter V6 power train to be replaced by a smaller 3.5-liter V6 cranking out 290 hp (down by 10) @ 6200 rpm and 267 pounds-feet of torque @ 4500 rpm. Though the competent 6-speed auto gear box has been maintained, Acura is now offering front-wheel drive (base priced at $42,290) on this otherwise all-wheel-drive ride. The independent front MacPherson strut and the rear multilink suspension has been revised for stability in all types of road/weather conditions. The result is a pleasingly agile ride. Also fresh is an accurate and quick Motion-adaptive electric power steering. Via the Integrated Dynamics System (IDS), the driver has the option of sport, normal and comfort settings. Looking to save gas? Well, the Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) system can operate in three or four cylinder modes for substantial fuel savings.

Sporting a handsome look with its jewel-eye LED headlights, the MDX has undergone a huge interior transformation. The unending buttons and controls that used to dot the dashboard have been replaced by an 8-inch navigation screen and a 7-inch touch screen. The easy-to-use central control dial takes care of your audio, nav, phone systems. There are plenty of storage compartments but our favorite is the supersized center console bin, which is 2 inches deeper and wider and 5 inches longer to accommodate even a laptop. The second-row seat can go fore and aft 6 inches so third-row passengers can slide in effortlessly. Other standard amenities are power rear tailgate and moon roof, 10-way power drive seat, wood trim.

Standard safety features include 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, rearview camera, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system.

With its swift acceleration, the comfortable and versatile MDX provides well-balancing handling, decent fuel economy, plentiful cargo and passenger space, and a plethora of luxury accoutrements. Plus, the addition of a front-wheel-drive version should appeal to first-time Acura buyers.

MDX (AWD)


FIAT 500L A SUPERB CARGO, PEOPLE MOVER

Size-wise, this is Fiat’s first expansion since debuting in the United States in 2011. And the growth via an all-new 500L should be worth the efforts. “The new vehicle shares only the Fiat 500 number. That’s it,” point out the marketing folks for the automaker. We believe that.

The four-door (a first for Fiat) compact wagon is 27 inches longer and 6 inches wider and taller than the regular Fiat. Behind the flat/fold/tumble and recline second-row 60/40 seat, the L offers 23.1 cubic feet of space compared to just 9.5 inches in a standard 500. In all, the wagon opens up 120 cubic feet of total interior space.

Available in Pop ($19,100), Easy ($20,195), Trekking ($22,195) and Lounge ($24,195), the 500L is equipped with a 1.4-liter turbo inline-4 cylinder engine developing 160 horsepower @ 5500 rpm and 180 pounds-feet of torque @ 4000 rpm. All trims get a standard 6-speed manual except for the Lounge, which comes with a 6-speed twin clutch auto gear box.

The cheeky-styled L boasts whiskers and logo face with chrome-accented, bi-halogen circular projector headlights, chromed tail lamps bezels and a honeycomb lower grille. Standard for the Pop are a/c, cloth seats, 160 mph instrument cluster, driver information center, manual tilt/telescopic steering column, UConnect 5.0 and six-way manual front seats. Behind the analog circular gauges for the speedometer and tachometer are secondary scales for fuel and engine temperature readings. It truly is a simple and easily laid out dash design.

For the first year, the enticing Premier Package is available at no charge. It includes the UConnect 6.5/touch screen, rear-park assist and camera, hands-free phone and Bluetooth-streaming audio, etc.

Like your order (in this case, ride) supersized? Then the fuel-sipper 500L with its sumptuous but cavernous cabin for people- and cargo-hauling capabilities, great value for the money and a distinct European flair to be at the top of your test-drive list. Competitors should be as the Mini (Cooper Countryman), Nissan (Juke) and Mazda (5) should rightly feel threatened by the debut of your classy four-door car.

500L (Pop)


KIA PUMPS UP THE POWER IN 2014 SORENTO

Kia lovers, no need to fret. The Korean carmaker still sells the entry-level 2.4-liter 4-cylinder GDI engine in the 2014 Sorento. But for those who seek more power behind the wheel of this popular midsize SUV, the option is a 3.3-liter DOHC GDI V-6 engine blasting off 290 horsepower (up by 16) @ 6400 rpm and 252 pounds-feet of torque @ 5200 rpm. Seating seven, the Sorento is still mated to the effortless and precise 6-speed auto transmission.

Sharing a basic design with the Santa Fe, its sibling from Hyundai, the front-wheel or all-wheel-drive ride Sorento gets a revised independent MacPherson front strut (stiffer H-shaped sub-frame cradle) and multilink real suspension. Gone is the hydraulic power rack and pinion to be replaced by an Electric Motion Driven Power steering for better feel and response.

The steel unibody structure-based SUV displays a sculpted hood meeting up with the familiar Kia tiger-nose grille and a visible black mesh appearance. It is surrounded by flared-back, horizontal xenon headlights and vertical fog lamps, with a spoiler and chrome exhaust tip in the rear.

The center gauge cluster shows off a digital speedometer, flanked by analog tachometer, fuel and engine temp readings. Space is plenty with a recline-and-fold second-row and third-row 50/50 seats, which folds flat into the floor. All in all, you get 72.5 cubic feet of space with the seats down. Second-row passengers are treated to ample head, knee and leg room. All-new is the 8-inch screen for navigation, audio, Bluetooth and UVO eServices. Also standard is dual-zone auto climate control, push-button start, tilt/telescopic steering column, driver information center, eight-way power driver and four-way front-passenger heated/cooled seats.

Safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, Electronic Stability and traction control, Downhill Brake Control, Hill Assist Control, four-wheel antilock brakes with Brake Assist, front active headrests, side impact door beams, front/rear crumple zones, blind spot detection, rearview camera and parking sensors, rollover sensor and tire pressure monitoring system.

This all-new sporty SX Limited model adds more zing to the already well-rounded Sorento lineup, making for an impeccable balance of comfort and performance. To top it all, the Korean carmaker’s basic 5-year, 60,000-mile and 10-year, 100,000-mile limited power train warranties are tough to beat.

SORENTO SX LTD


A TALE OF TWO DIFFERENT MITSUBISHIS

LANCER GT: WHAT’S NEW FOR 2014?

Under the hood of this fun and agile ride, Mitsubishi has retained the reliable 2.4-liter inline-4 cylinder engine cranking out 168 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 167 pounds-feet of torque @ 4100 rpm. And rightly so. Why tamper with a power train that works? So does the smooth and easy-to-engage Continuous Variable Transmission as well as the proven and sport-tuned front MacPherson strut and multilink rear suspension. Ditto for the razor-sharp hydraulic power rack-and-pinion steering.

As usual, the front-wheel-drive sedan in the GT attracts looks with a chrome-accented front grille flanked by halogen headlights and a mammoth rear wing spoiler. For 2014, Mitsubishi is offering a standard 6.1-inch touchscreen audio system, HD radio, rearview camera, upgraded seats and a gloss black interior decoration panel. Behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel, you are greeted by attention-grabbing chrome accents on HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). Keep an eye on the ECO indicator for substantial fuel savings. Other standard amenities include auto a/c, terrific-feeling shifter knob, six-way adjustable driver’s and four-way manual passenger seats, 60/40 fold rear seat, paddle shifters and trip computer.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver’s knee airbag, Active Stability Control, traction control, front crumple zones, four-wheel antilock brakes, three-point safety belts, active head restraints and tire pressure monitoring system.

Though miniscule and mostly interior, the 2014 changes in the Lancer do make a difference. Potential buyers still get to drive a quick, athletic, stylish and peppy car but with an even more pleasing and accommodating cabin than its predecessor.

LANCER GT

ALL-ELECTRIC i-MiEV AN ADEQUATE DEBUT

Mitsubishi i-MiEVAll we needed were 36.5 miles of driving behind the Mitsubishi i-MiEV (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle) and we got the hang of it. Besides, the all-electric car can’t go past about 62 miles on a full charge. The five-door, four-passenger hatchback is powered by a 49 kilowatt electric motor along with a 16 kWh lithium-ion battery that’s warrantied for 8 years/100,000 miles. The outcome is 66 horsepower and 145 pounds-feet of torque. A single-speed gearbox provides sufficient feedback.

Available in ES and SE, the ride comes in three drive settings: eco, B (for regenerative braking) and D (normal driving), which is indicated via an electric meter in the instrument cluster.

Drawbacks? Going the distance for just 60 miles isn’t enough when you look at competitors such as the Nissan Leaf (73 miles) and the Ford Focus Electric (80 miles). Also, a tight rear seat behind which there’s just 13.2 cubic feet of space. Fold the seat to get 50.4 cubic feet of space. On a 120-volt system, you will need 22 hours to charge the battery; a 240 volt will do the job in only seven hours.

Reasonably priced at $29,125, the i-MiEV is a commendable first-time effort. Now, if only the carmaker could extend that range to about 100 miles or so, then we can get more excited. Regardless, our kudos to Mitsubishi.

i-MiEV

 
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