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

2019 Audi A8 If there is a dream ride for us, this is it. The fourth-gen A8 gets a total overhaul for 2019. For the better, of course. Since the V-8 version is just entering the market, Audi dispatched over a V-6 that had plenty of punch to produce a graceful and energetic ride. Lest we forget, the renowned quattro all-wheel drive provides peace of mind in any road situation or weather condition.

The 3.0-liter direct-injection powertrain cranks out 335 horsepower at 6400 rpm and 369 pounds-feet of torque at 4500 rpm. This allows the flagship sedan to accelerate to 60 mph in just 5.6 seconds, a major feat for a 4,751-pound vehicle. For the first time, the A8 gets 48-volt electric mild-hybrid capabilities, helpful during stop and go or while cruising the highway. An 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission (6 speeds will soon become extinct!) results in a quiet and smooth drive train. An electronically controlled, continuously adaptive air suspension system at all four wheels delivers admirable poise and stability. The potent brakes, which feature 14.8-inch front and 13.8-inch rear ventilated discs, have a firm pedal feel. They operate inside 19-inch alloy wheels shod with 255/45 tires.

The aluminum-alloy structure-based A8 sports a massive upfront single-frame grille with the familiar four Audi rings, which are flanked by LED headlights, daytime running lights and tail lamps. The cabin is packed with all the luxury accoutrements expected in a ride of this class. The MMI infotainment interface has been totally revamped. Out go the control knob and individual buttons to be replaced by dual black-gloss touch screens, a 10.3-inch upper display for navigation, radio and telephone controls while the 8.6-inch lower one is solely for climate control. Offering a solid grip is the splendid and inimitable yacht-like shifter knob. Rear-seat passengers will enjoy abundant headroom and luxury-liner legroom in this 7-inch longer wheelbase model. Also standard are a four-spoke power tilt/telescopic steering column, 18-way heated power front seats, rear and side power sun shades, four-zone auto a/c, open/close power trunk, brushed aluminum trim, LED ambient lights, Bang & Olufsen sound system with 17 speakers and a Audi Drive Select so the driver can pick dynamic, comfort, auto or individual modes.

In the event of a possible collision, Audi pre sense basic and front detects an emergency maneuver and prepares the vehicle and its occupants. Dual front and side airbags, front knee airbags, side curtain airbag, stability and traction control, front three-point safety belts, front/rear limited-slip differential, four-wheel antilock brakes, rearview camera, parking sensors, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard.

The redesigned A8 exhibits exceptional performance as occupants savor the lushness of an elegant and spacious cabin. Indeed, the sedan is a fantastic blend of power and style that comes at a price approaching six figures.



2019 Infiniti QX50 Essential AWD SUVTHE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2019 Infiniti QX50 Essential AWD SUV.

DOWN THE ROAD: This one’s all new, well almost. Out go the previous V-6 versions to be replaced by a 2.0-liter variable-compression turbo engine. It is as powerful or even more so as the agile SUV quickly takes to the road, boasting a first-rate ride and laudable handling.

TECH & PERFORMANCE: Under the hood of the midsize luxury SUV is a 4-cylinder power train that cranks out 268 horsepower at 5600 rpm and 280 pounds-feet of torque at 4800 rpm. We liked the slick and seamless continuous variable transmission, which also can be shifted manually. An all-new MacPherson strut front and a rear multilink suspension ensure stability at sharp turns, corner and bumps on the road. The variable-assist, direct adaptive steering conveys an unswerving feel. Braking duties are handled exceptionally well by 13-inch vented front and 12.1-inch rear discs. Four drive modes are offered: standard, eco, sport and personal.

LOOK & FEEL: Based on a steel unibody structure, QX50 is one sharp-looking vehicle that is shorter but wider and taller than its predecessor. It all starts at the long clamshell hood that meets up with a double-arch black-metallic grille, surrounded by horizontal LED headlights and fog lamps. The aluminum roof rails are standard as are the chrome dual exhaust tips and rear tail lamps that connect to the chrome strip. The cabin is awash with luxury and comfort features such as aluminum accents on the center console, dashboard, doors, push-button ignition, 60/40-split rear seat, eight-way power front seats, tri-zone auto a/c, 8-inch upper touch screen for navigation and a 7-inch lower screen for climate, audio and phone controls. InTouch, a rotary knob in the center console, controls the dual screens. The familiar Infiniti double-wave instrument panel lights up with electroluminescent gauges. A mix of leather and aluminum on the short but easy-to-grip shifter knob gives a classy touch. As for roominess, there is plenty with a total interior volume of 135.8 cubic feet, and 64.4 cubic feet with the rear seat down. There also is a large hidden under-floor bin.

SAFETY FIRST: Dual front, side and knee airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, vehicle dynamic and traction controls, antiskid system, front/rear crumple zones, front seat active-head restraints, blind spot warning and tire pressure monitoring system are standard. Looking into the future of autonomous transport, the optional ProPilot Assist helps drivers to maintain their lane, and set vehicle speed and distance to a car ahead.

OUT THE DOOR: $45,150, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. With options, ours peaked up to $59,585.

BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, 225/45R20; wheelbase, 110.2 inches; length, 184.7 inches; height, 66 inches; width, 74.9 inches; fuel capacity, 16 gallons; city, 24 mpg; highway, 30 mpg; weight, 3,857 pounds; Web site: www.nissanusa.com

WHY DIG IT: If you are looking for a carlike ride that offers luxury, convenience and utilitarian features, then the QX50 should fit the bill. Kudos goes to Infiniti for overhauling this fine crossover into an even more appealing buy.


2019 NISSAN TITANThe Nissan Titan carries over with negligible changes such as a new 7-inch touch infotainment display and the fresh Fender premium audio with 12 speakers for 2019. But then this second Titan gen came out just less than three years ago.

The retained 5.6-liter DOHC Endurance V-8 engine pumps out 390 horsepower at 5800 rpm and 394 pounds-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. It is mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission. Tow capability? A creditable 9,230 pounds. The power rack-and-pinion steering system shifts seamlessly. A double wishbone front and leaf spring in the rear make up the solid suspension system, resulting in a secure ride. That brings us to some of the abundant standard safety features in the pickup: dual front and side airbags, side airbag curtain, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and vehicle dynamic control, blind spot monitor warning with rear cross traffic alert, front/rear sonar and crumple zones, front seat active head restraints, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights. And if you have a 4X4 vehicle, you get shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive, two-speed transfer case, four-wheel power disc brakes and active brake limited slip, and steel skid plates to tackle the vigor of off-road driving.

The sporty look of the body-on-frame Titan can be attributed to a body-colored grille flanked by dark but LED headlights, fogs and daytime running lights. Other distinct exterior characteristics include active grille shutters, and black badging, step rails, mirrors and door handles, body-colored front/rear bumpers, and a two-way dampened tail assist. It sits on a standard 20-inch dark chrome clad wheels with a 5.5-footlong bed. Stepping into the airy and appealing cabin is trouble-free, thanks to full-size, forward-hinging doors. The dashboard conveys elegance with touches of attractive wood and dark chrome accents. The 60/40 rear seat not only flips up but also folds flat with a hidden storage bin. Loading up personal belongings is made convenient because of a huge storage area in the center console that can even hold your laptop computer. Other standard goodies are dual auto a/c, heated/cooled eight-way power driver and four-way passenger seats, and a leather shifter knob.

No doubt, this is a functional workhorse! The Titan packs tons of power while boasting plentiful creature comforts and praiseworthy towing figures. And off-road enthusiasts can always quench their thirst to venture out and off to the rugged terrain in the highly capable full-size pickup!


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