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

Freshened for 2010, the Lexus flagship retains its 4.6-liter V-8 engine. Mated to a responsive 8-speed automatic transmission (at this rate, a 10-speed isn’t too far behind!), the LS460 pumps out 380 horsepower at 6400 rpm and 367 pounds-feet of torque at 4100 rpm.

A four-wheel independent multilink suspension enables the bulky sedan to absorb road imperfections with poise. Steering feedback is precise and instant, thanks to an electric rack-and-pinion power system. Boosting the efficiency of the rear-wheel-drive sedan is a dual fuel-injection system. And we can believe Lexus’ claims that the car can scoot 0 to 60 mph in an impressive 5.4 seconds.

Up front, a chrome-slathered low grille is flanked by steering-linked adaptive xenon headlights. Also visible are LEX brake and tail lamps, integrated chrome exhausts and fog lights, a one-piece chrome window surround and 18-inch wheels with 10 spokes.

But it is the sumptuous and elegant cabin, packed with abundant creature comforts, that wins hands down. Though robust, the four-spoke power tilt/telescopic leather steering wheel can manage a 35.4 feet turning circle. Wood is sprinkled generously on the door panels, center console, steering wheel, dash and shifter knob. Electro-luminescent gauges for tachometer, speedometer, water temperature and fuel look classy. An Eco Drive indicator will be an instant hit with energy-conscious owners. Other standard amenities include dual-zone automatic climate control, 16-way power driver and 12-way front-passenger seats, Lexus 10-speaker audio system, rearview camera, push-button keyless engine stop/start and power tilt-and-slide moon roof.

Go for the Comfort Package ($2,185) if you would like front heated/cooled seats, power rear sunshade, intuitive parking assist, heated steering wheel and rear seats, power door closers and one-touch open/close power trunk.

Standard safety features are dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, front knee airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes, Vehicle Stability Assist and traction control, antiskid system, front seat active-head restraints, three-point seatbelts and headrests for all rear passengers, front/rear crumple zones, side impact door beams, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system.

If you seek a thrill down the spine while driving down the road, we suggest passing on the LS460. But if a spacious and well-appointed ride with a potent engine is on your list, then the flagship sedan should rate high up. And yes, the hefty price is justifiable.

Tires: 235/50R18
Wheelbase: 116.9 inches
Length: 199.2 inches
Weight: 4,350 pounds
Fuel capacity: 22.2 gallons
City: 16 mpg
Highway: 24 mpg
Base price: $64,680
Web site: www.lexus.com


And we thought the 2010 Camaro with a V-6 engine (306 horsepower) displayed incredible nimbleness, tremendous handling and exceptional braking!

Till the Chevrolet folks recently dispatched over the sparkling rally yellow iconic muscle car with a mammoth 6.2-liter V-8 engine that blasts off 426 hp at 5900 rpm and 420 pounds-feet of torque at 4600 rpm.

Making the rear-wheel-drive ride thrilling was a smooth and effortless 6-speed manual transmission. A four-wheel independent suspension and a variable ratio rack-and-pinion steering are shared with the V-6 engine.

The $1,200 RS Package fetches xenon HID headlights with halo rings, squared tail lamps, 20-inch wheel, front air scoop and brake cooling ducts on a unitized body frame. The interior displays a classic Camaro appearance with 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. Also standard are a three-spoke tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, fold-down rear seat, six-way power driver and two-way manual front-passenger seat, driver information center, and, of course, the familiar SS emblem on the backs of front seat headrests.

Among the numerous safety features are dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both 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 powerful 14-inch front and 14.4-inch rear ventilated roar discs will boost any driver’s confidence behind the wheel.

Our only concerns were poor visibility when you peered around the vehicle and miniscule space for rear-seat passengers.

Otherwise, the Camaro is a perfect blend of power and agility. This is one entertaining and competent coupe that leaves you asking for more as you put the pedal to the metal.

2010 CAMARO (2SS)
Wheelbase: 112.3 inches
Length: 190.4 inches
Width: 75.5 inches
Height: 54.2 inches
Fuel capacity: 19 gallons
City: 16 mpg
Highway: 24 mpg
Weight: 3,849 pounds
Base price: $33,945
Web site: www.chevrolet.com


Get ready for a Fiesta, folks! Ford of Europe’s No. 1 vehicle has arrived in the United States in all its mighty and glory. More than 500,000 Fiestas now ride the roadways of the continent across the Atlantic Ocean.

Available as a sedan or a hatchback, the subcompact car is equipped with a 1.6-liter DOHC inline-4 cylinder engine, which develops 120 horsepower at 6350 rpm and 112 pounds-feet of torque at 5000 rpm. Getting power to our test-drive sedan was a standard 5-speed manual (5-speed automatic is an option) transmission. An independent MacPherson strut with stabilizer bar in front and a twist-beam axle with coil springs in the rear make up the suspension system. The Electric Power Assist steering, unlike a conventional hydraulic power-assisted system, is fuel efficient and light. As a result, the nimble car lunges forward with eagerness toward its destination as five sit in comfort and style.

Ensconced on a unitized steel body is the Blue Oval insignia in the three-bar grille, inverted trapezoidal lower grille opening, elongated headlights and burly-looking front fenders. A standard integrated blind spot mirror is a thoughtful touch.

The cabin conveys a classy look with a compact instrument panel center stack of switches, audio and climate controls. A choice of seven colors is offered with ambient lights to make for varying moods. Though there is no console box, there are three cup holders in the front center console and small cubbies. Also standard are air-conditioning, driver information center, leather-wrapped tilt/telescopic steering wheel, 60/40-split second-row seat, Sync voice-activated system and a height-adjustable driver’s seat.

Safety features are dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes, antiskid system, electronic stability control, traction control, height-adjustable seatbelts, seatbelt pretensioners and tire pressure monitoring system. Kudos to Ford for offering a standard driver’s knee airbag.

Agreed, the Fiesta doesn’t have a powerful power train to take off like a Bimmer or an Audi. But the car offers a good-looking, fun, fuel-efficient, practical and affordable ride. Watch out, Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris because it’s time for a Fiesta!

Tires: P195/50R16
Wheelbase: 98 inches
Length: 160.1 inches
Weight: 2,578 pounds
Brakes: 10.2-inch front vented; 7.9-inch rear drum
Fuel capacity: 12 gallons
City: 28 mpg
Highway: 37 mpg
Base price: $16,320
Web site: www.ford.com/fiesta

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