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Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE,

4RUNNER TRAIL PREMIUM 4X4 Except for the suspension and steering, it’s an all-new 2016 Honda Pilot. Here are most of the major changes compared to its predecessor in a nutshell: 30 more horsepower and 9 pounds-feet of torque; 5-speed auto is now either 6-speed or 9-speed depending on the model; weight is down by nearly 300 pounds; wheelbase is up by almost 2 inches and length almost 3.5 inches; 1.3 cubic feet of more cargo area; fuel capacity is down about 1.5 gallons. You get the picture.

And forget that boxy and almost plain appearance the Pilot debuted with in 2003. In its place is curvy and attractive look that will draw inquisitive stares like it did for us during the test-drive week. The Honda SUV is still equipped with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine but now packing 280 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 262 pounds-feet of torque @ 4700 rpm. Our top-level Elite was mated to a 9-speed auto transmission, which when combined with the Variable Cylinder Management, operates in three or four cylinder modes for substantial fuel savings.

As expected, it’s in the cabin that he Pilot shines with numerous bins and cubbies, some particularly cavernous, are scattered throughout. There also is a massive underfloor cargo area. Passenger volume is 153.1 cubic feet of space. Thirsty occupants have 14 beverage holders to stay hydrated. The 8-inch Intelligent Multi-Information Display (i-MID) displays information for audio, revised navigation, Bluetooth, rearview camera, fuel economy, texting, compass, clock, etc. Other amenities include tri-zone auto climate control, tilt/telescopic four-spoke leather steering wheel, second-row Captain’s chairs (or you can opt for a second-row bench) and a third-row 60/40 flat seat, 10-way power driver and four-way front-passenger seats and power tailgate.

Offered as a front-wheel (tow capacity up from 2,000 to 3,500 pounds) or all-wheel drive (tow capacity rises from 3,500 to 5,000), the rigid unit-body Pilot comes in LX, EX, EX-L, Touring and Elite trims. Base price starts at $29,995 and can reach up to $46,420 for a fully loaded model with rear entertainment system and navigation. EPA fuel estimates are 19 mpg city/27 highway for FWD and 19/26 for AWD.

For an SUV that weighs about 4,300 pounds, the revamped Pilot delivers a smooth and amenable outing in comfort and style. Thanks to a fine mix of cargo-, people-hauling practicality and fuel economy, it is the ideal vehicle to park in a family garage.



Recently, Volkswagen unveiled the 2016 Passat, built in Chattanooga, Tenn., at a media event in New York City and Khaas Baat was present to cover it. As you can see, the midsize sedan appears more aggressive than before with a new hood, front fenders, grille, front and rear bumpers, trunk lid and available LED headlights and tail lamps.

And for the first time, an R-Line version of the Passat is being offered with unique rocker panels and 19-inch anthracite Salvador aluminum-alloy wheels. The cabin has been upgraded with a new instrument panel showing off two large gauges and the center stack incorporates VW’s latest MIB II infotainment system. Also new are the steering wheel and column stalk design, two-tone décor panels, and refined chrome and piano black trim. Heated rear seats are now available along with Easy-Open keyless access that opens the trunk via moving a foot near the rear of the vehicle.

The Passat retains the three power trains: 1.8-liter turbocharged and direct-injection TSI four cylinder; 2.0-liter TDI; and the 3.6-liter VR6 engine, which cranks out 280 horsepower.

Though detailed pricing is not available, the 1.8T S will start at $22,440, same as the previous model, and will be equipped with a 6-speed auto gear box.

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When it debuted about three years ago, we found the entry-level sedan to be well-equipped and well-priced for young professionals seeking a quick, practical and enjoyable Acura. Same can be said of the 2016 ILX with some significant changes.

Gone is the 2.0-liter inline-4 cylinder power train. Instead, the car retains the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, putting out a decent 201 horsepower @ 6800 rpm and 180 (up 10) pounds-feet of torque @ 4400 rpm. Also out are the 5-speed auto and 6-speed manual to be replaced by an 8-speed gearbox.

It remains a stunner but now acquires the signature Acura jewel-eye LED headlights and tail lamps. The driver-oriented cabin is tailored and classy with such standard amenities as dual-zone auto climate control, power moon roof, supple leather seats and steering wheel, tilt/telescopic steering column, Bluetooth hands-free system, heated front seats, rearview camera and the Acura premium sound system with seven speakers. Sandwiched between the round speedometer and tachometer is the appropriately-placed but clear and legible Multi-Information Display, showing outside temp and fuel mileage figures.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, vehicle stability control, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, hill start assist, three-point seat belts, side-impact door beams, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system. Options include lane keeping assist/warning, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and rear cross traffic alerts, among others.

The ILX displays remarkable agility and response, and noteworthy handling/balance. An accommodating cabin along with new tech/safety goodies are a deal clincher.



Mitsubishi had promised more than a mid-cycle refresh of its 2016 Outlander. And it appears the Japanese carmaker has followed through on its pledge with a revamped crossover utility vehicle that touts over 100 engineering and design improvements.

Unfortunately, there is no change in the 2.4-liter, inline-4 cylinder power train, which once again develops 166 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 162 pounds-feet of torque @ 4200 rpm. Getting power to the ground is a fresh but still boisterous Continuous Variable Transmission.

The front fender fascia, halogen headlights, rear fascia, tailgate garnish and LED tail lamps have been refreshed. Step into the cabin to find a redesigned steering wheel, seating surfaces, accent trim and an all-new 6.1-inch navigation and display audio interface. The leatherette/fabric front and rear 60/40 fold-down seats offer sufficient head and leg room. An Eco indicator on the instrument panel can be a convenient fuel saver. The black instrument panel with silver accents conveys elegance found in high-end SUVs. Several amenities are offered such as dual auto climate control, tilt/telescopic leather steering column and shifter knob, HD radio, driver information center, under floor cargo hold, and a rear seat armrest with two cup holders.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, active stability and traction control, hill start assist, four-wheel antilock brakes, anti-theft alarm, front-pedestrian impact crumple zones, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

No doubt, the tweaked Outlander manages just an adequate performance in a composed ride that carries seven safely to their destination. However, a cramped third-row seat and cranky transmission could be a turnoff for some potential buyers.



It’s a notch or two below the bestseller CR-V. Maybe Honda felt a subcompact SUV was needed to fill in a niche of sorts. And that the HR-V does for the most part, successfully.

Available in front-wheel or all-wheel drive, the 2016 HR-V gets a 1.8-liter inline-4 cylinder engine packing 141 horsepower @ 6500 rpm and 127 pounds-feet of torque @ 4300 rpm. It is mated to a clunky and noisy continuous variable transmission, which definitely needs some work on behalf of Honda engineers. However, the MacPherson strut front and torsion-beam rear suspension is up to the task of smoothing rough surfaces on the road. The Electric Power Steering is direct and accurate, making it easy to place the five-seater in corners.

Sitting on the unit-body structure is the traditional H emblem, surrounded by multi-reflector halogen headlights while the rear gets LED tail lamps and spoiler. Space is aplenty in the airy interior with 100.1 cubic feet of passenger volume and 58.8 cubic feet with the 60/40 second-row, easy-to-fold-flat Magic Seat as Honda calls it. Step inside and the rounded three-meter instrument cluster of 140-mph speedometer, tachometer and driver information center draw attention. Save fuel by keeping an eye on the speedo as it illuminates from white to green. Paddle shifters on the tilt/telescopic steering column are welcome as is the striking brushed chrome and piano black trim. Other standard niceties include auto a/c, 7-inch touch screen, leather on the seats and shifter knob, center storage bin, push-button start and two 12-volt power outlets.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag with rollover system, Vehicle Stability Assist, traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution, hill start assist, rearview camera, side-impact door beams, front-seat active head restraints, electric parking brake, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard. A convenient feature is LaneWatch, which displays a wide-angle view of the passenger side road on the i-MID (Intelligent Multi-Information Display). The image appears when the right turn signal is activated.

No doubt Honda saw a need for an entry-level vehicle on the market today. Priced just right with a spacious cabin and impressive fuel-sipping numbers, the HR-V is worth a test drive. However, a slight power boost and a quieter-shifting transmission could make this SUV a moneymaker. Just like its big brother CR-V.


functional rdx DELIVERS A vigorous performance

After a major overhaul three years ago, the 2016 Acura RDX gets a mid-cycle refresh, which we believe adds more value. As a result, the small luxury crossover maintains its status quo with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine cranking out 279 horsepower (up 6 from predecessor) @ 6200 rpm and 252 pounds-feet (up 1) of torque @ 4900 rpm under the hood. A fresh variable cylinder management system deactivates up to half of the cylinders at lower speeds to enhance gas efficiency. The 6-speed auto gearbox is unchanged though we won’t be surprised if it jumps to 8-speed next time.

Keeping the SUV steady at all times once again is a MacPherson strut front and multilink rear suspension to result in a well-damped ride. Thanks to Electric Power Steering, which means no hoses or pumps, there are fewer trips to the gas station. The front-wheel-drive model EPA estimates are 20/29 mpg whereas the all-wheel drive 19/28 mpg (both highway estimates see 1 mpg hike).

Acura jewel-eye LED headlights and tail lamps flank a fresh three-dimensional grille with more forceful lower front and rear bumpers to result in an intimidating appearance, sort of. Noticeable immediately is the high-contrast silver and black trim as well as the spacious rear-seat legroom and cargo space. Standard amenities include 10-way driver and eight-way front-passenger power, heated seats, 60/40 rear seat with air vents, tilt/telescopic steering column, Acura premium sound system, and power moon roof and tail gate that can be activated remotely. Total passenger volume is a laudable 103.5 cubic feet while cubicles and bins are well placed throughout.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Assist with traction control, front and rear crumple zones, three-point seatbelts, active front head restraints, side impact door beams, immobilizer theft-deterrent system, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard.

Its all-wheel-drive (also offered in front wheel) capabilities ensure safety for occupants of the SUV under inclement weather and road conditions. Plus, the RDX boasts excellent liveliness and grip, muscular styling and a purposeful cabin.


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