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Motoring

HAPPY 25th BIRTHDAY TO THE HIP MX-5!

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

QX60 More than 900,000 of the “Best-Selling Two-Seater Sports Car,” which is celebrating its silver anniversary this year, have been sold. Really, no tribute can be enough and fair for the entertaining Mazda MX-5 Miata. Even after 25 years, top-down motoring enthusiasts have a blast going down the highway or tackling the daily driving rigors in this fine, tossable convertible.

Power is derived from a 2.0-liter DOHC inline-4 cylinder engine, which makes 158 horsepower at 6700 rpm and 140 pounds-feet of torque at 5000 rpm. A 6-speed auto gearbox delivers flawless shifts. Guiding the sprightly rear-wheel-drive car is a direct and accurate electronic power-assist, rack-and-pinion steering system. Best of all, the power retractable hard top (PRHT) opens or closes in a mere 15 seconds.

Ensconced on a monocoque, unibody structure are inboard-mounted halogen headlights flanked by a chrome-sprinkled five-point grille, sculpted triangular fog lamp bezels and body-colored bumpers. Keeping true to the MX-5 tradition are the four circular air vents, arched hood over the T-shaped instrument panel and a black center stack. The driver’s seat height adjuster will be a plus point for multiple drivers in the family. Also standard are auto a/c, power windows and door locks, leather on the seats, shifter, three-spoke tilt steering wheel and hand brake, mesh aero board wind blocker, driver information center and a sizeable rear center console bin.

Dual front and side airbags, stability and traction control systems, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution, three-point seatbelts with pretensioners and force limiters, side impact door beams, anti-theft engine immobilizer, remote keyless entry and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

For 2016, Mazda promises a lighter (by 220 pounds) next-gen MX-5 with a revised suspension, steering and a stiffer chassis. Till then, open-air motoring enthusiasts can enjoy the familiar but exhilarating ride in the current model. Happy birthday, Miata!

MX-5 GRAND TOURING (PRHT)


TRENDY ACURA MDX IS HIGH-TECH ON WHEELS!

QX60 After a major overhaul just a year ago, Acura has maintained the status quo on the 2015 MDX. The 3.5-liter V-6 cranks out 290 horsepower @ 6200 rpm and 267 pounds-feet of torque @ 4500 rpm. Also preserved in the midsize luxury SUV is the competent 6-speed auto transmission. Of course, the MDX is offered in front-wheel as well as all-wheel drive. Thanks to the Integrated Dynamics System (IDS), the driver can choose sport, normal and comfort settings. Looking to save fuel? 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 cabin of the MDX is straightforward since Acura did away with unending buttons and controls that used to dot the dashboard. In their place are 8-inch navigation and 7-inch touchscreens. The easy-to-use central control dial takes care of audio, navigation, phone systems. Storage space is abundant 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 include tri-zone auto climate control, power rear tailgate and moon roof, 10-way power front seats and wood trim.

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, lane departure warning and lane-keep assist (which maintains the ride in its path), blind-spot monitor, collision mitigation system, multi-angle rearview camera, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

Overfilling with tech-savvy accoutrements, the stylish and solid MDX flaunts abundant cargo/passenger space and admirable fuel economy despite its 4,300-pound weight. Plus, the fairly-new front-wheel-drive version should draw first-time Acura buyers.

MDX (AWD)


TRAVEL COMFORTABLY IN 2014 OUTLANDER SPORT

QX60 Launched as a five-passenger model three years ago, the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is a foot shorter than its larger seven-seater sibling but shares identical height and weight. Regardless, the front-wheel-drive compact crossover SUV boasts adequate acceleration, notable handling and steering feel.

A 2.0-liter DOHC inline-4 Cylinder engine puts out 148 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 145 pounds-feet of torque at 4200 rpm. Getting power to the ground is a somewhat noisy Continuous Variable Transmission. A MacPherson strut front and a multilink rear suspension works well to absorb unpleasant highway bumps. The Electric Power Steering system returns a weighted, linear response to the driver’s input. Braking duties are up to capable 11.6-inch ventilated front and 11.9-inch rear solid discs.

Jet-fighter-like air intakes, super-wide auto xenon headlights, chrome surround grille, LED tail lamps and spoiler, and an exhaust chrome tip greet the onlooker. Step inside and you will notice that the cloth front and rear 60/40 fold-down seats offer sufficient head and leg room. Enhancing the sportiness of the Outlander are magnesium-paddle shifters on the three-spoke tilt/telescopic steering column. An Eco indicator on the instrument panel can be a terrific fuel saver. Several amenities are offered such as an automatic climate control, tilt/telescopic leather steering column and shifter knob, HD radio, driver information center, Fuse hands-free system for cell phones, 140-watt audio system and a rear seat armrest with two cup holders.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, Active Stability Control, Hill Start Assist, rearview camera, active front headrests, three-point seat belts for all five, remote keyless entry, side-impact door beams and tire pressure monitoring system.

This smaller, fuel-saver Outlander delivers a refined and poised ride to carry five in comfort and safety. But if Mitsubishi pumped up the power in the underperforming engine, it would bring a smile to our faces as well as yours.

OUTLANDER SE

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