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

2017 BMW X4 The xDrive35i model in the 2017 BMW X4 sport activity coupe is history. It has been replaced by a more powerful M40i, which is equipped with a 3.0-liter inline-6 twin-turbo engine putting out 355 horsepower (up by 55 hp) @ 6000 rpm and 343 pounds-feet (increase of 43) of torque @ 5250 rpm. Translation: 0 to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds for a vehicle weighing 4,235 pounds!

The X4 is equipped with Performance Control, which works in tandem with the xDrive all-wheel-drive system to distribute torque between the left and right rear wheels. Providing seamless shifts is an 8-speed auto transmission with manual mode. A standard variable rack and pinion steering system affords outstanding feedback. The powerful and fade-resistant 12.9-inch ventilated front and 13-inch rear discs operate inside 20-inch M wheels shod with 245/40 front and 275/35 rear run-flat tires. Fear not about low gas mileage since a stop-start function allows the car to save fuel by shutting off the engine. Turn the knob in the center console for your driving choice of eco pro, comfort, sport and sport+ modes.

It’s an attention-grabber for sure. Yes, the familiar kidney grille is a giveaway but one will appreciate the larger air intakes below the signature twin-round xenon adaptive headlights with LED corona rings. Step inside and you will find yourself ensconced in confidence-inspiring 14-way power front seats. The iDrive console knob to control navigation, entertainment, communication and climate systems is simple to understand and use. Fineline light high gloss-wood strips on dash, doors and front center console is stylish. An M-inspired thick-rimmed three-spoke power steering wheel conveys a solid touch to the driver, inspiring confidence in the sprightliness of the vehicle. Also standard are a two-way power moon roof, power tailgate, black high-gloss instrument panel, ambient lights and dual auto a/c.

Standard are dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes, stability and traction control, rollover sensor, park distance control, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

Undoubtedly, the X4 M40i is German engineering at its finest. But potential buyers may want to check out visibility issues and meager cargo area (17.7 cubic feet room behind rear seat) before splurging on this wickedly quick and expensive vehicle.

X4 (M40i)


2018 GENESIS G80The Genesis G90 we tested last year boasted a commanding power train and a lavish cabin. We could say the same about the slightly smaller 2018 G80 Sport luxury sedan we drove recently, which has a performance-driven engine under the hood. The rear-wheel-drive car is equipped with an all-new 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6 pumping out 365 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 376 pounds-feet of torque @ 4500 rpm. Power reaches the wheels via a 8-speed auto transmission with eco, normal, sport and snow drive modes.

Only in its second year, Hyundai has tweaked the LED headlights, lower front grille and front/rear fascia of the G80. Step inside and you will notice that there is a refreshed instrument cluster, shift knob, rearview mirror, analog clock and premium speaker design. But you still get the large 9.2-inch touchscreen display for phone, nav and audio to control via a knob. Pampering the occupants are dual auto a/c, heads-up display, leather-wrapped power tilt/telescopic steering column and tilt-and-slide panoramic sunroof; 7-inch electro-luminescent display for speedometer, tachometer, coolant temperature, fuel level, odometer and trip computer gauges; 16-way power driver and 12-way front-passenger seats; carbon fiber trim; heated/cooled front seats; Lexicon sound system with 17 speakers; power rear and manual side windows sunshades; black suede headliner; wiregrass charging phone pad; and much more.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, electronic stability and traction control, smart cruise control, front/rear parking sensors and crumple zones, rearview camera, blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning/assist, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard.

Listen up, European competitors, you have been put on notice. The agile G80 sedan is a perfect blend of luxury and performance. Hats off to Genesis for a ride well done!



2017 LINCOLN CONTINENTALIt took a breather for 15 years but now the Continental is back! Under the flagship Lincoln resides a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine blasting off 400 horsepower @ 5750 rpm and 400 pounds-feet of torque @ 2750 rpm. The full-size luxury sedan is mated to an effortless 6-speed auto gearbox and an option of comfort, normal and sport modes to add variety to the ride. And Dynamic Torque Vectoring automatically adjusts torque between the rear wheels to aid at sharp corners, especially at tight turns.

A split-winged grille with the centered Lincoln emblem, surrounded by HID headlights and LED accents, conveys a tough stance. The E-latch door handles are a rarity even among high-end cars. But it is in the extravagant, trendy and beautifully made cabin that the Continental justly shines. For an extra $1,500, we suggest the Perfect Position option, which are basically 30-way front heated and cooled massaging seats. The user-friendly Sync3 interface controls audio, phone and navigation systems via voice, touch or both. Total passenger volume is an admiring 106.4 cubic feet and the trunk opens up 16.7 cubic feet of space. Tri-zone auto a/c, panoramic sun roof, 40/20/40 reclining rear heated/cooled/massage seats (separately packaged), Revel audio system with 19 speakers, suede headliner, foot-activated trunk, power tilt/telescope steering column, manual rear sunshades and power rear-window sunshade, and the Lincoln welcome/farewell light elements when are standard.

The Continental comes with a plethora of standard safety features, including dual front and side airbags, front knee airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic stability and traction control, blind spot monitor with cross-traffic alert, rearview camera, front and rear three-point seatbelts, tire pressure monitor and daytime running lights.

Weighing at 4,547 pounds, the forceful engine provides plenty of vim and vigor for the large sedan. And if you ever wanted to be treated to royalty, the Continental is up to the task. The lap of extravagance is no longer just the domain of Mercedes, BMW and Audi anymore.



2017 VW Golf TSI SELAfter a major redesign just two years ago, the 2017 VW Golf continues as is. After all, the 2015 North American Car of the Year has set fresh benchmarks in innovation, design, value and available driver assistance features.

Our test-drive Golf TSI SEL edition was equipped with a 1.8-liter turbo inline-4 cylinder engine developing 170 horsepower @ 4500 rpm and 199 pounds-feet of torque @ 1600 rpm. It is mated to a standard and sprightly 6-speed auto. You are assured that the stylish Golf will get up to speed with urgency, and slow down as quickly and with self-assurance.

The seventh-generation hatchback sports a steely sloped and longer hood, shorter front overhang, narrower grille and headlights than its predecessor. Cabin passenger volume is 93.5 cubic feet of space. Trunk space is 22.8 cubic feet and if you fold down the rear seat, you gain 52.7 cubic feet. Occupants will find the 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system user friendly. Other goodies are power tilt/slide panoramic sun roof, dual auto a/c, 60/40 rear seat, leather tilt/telescopic steering wheel, shifter and brake handle, power driver and manual front-passenger heated seats, and a center console with cup holders, armrest and bin.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes, stability control, rearview camera, blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, three-point safety belts for all, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system.

The fine-looking Golf is incredibly athletic with a peppy engine, which provides ample punch to maneuver in rush-hour traffic. It also eked out an impressive average of nearly 30 mpg in city/highway driving. And the potential buyer is promised ample cabin space.


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