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Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE –

2017 Cadillac CTSWho doesn’t want to own a super sedan that shares its powertrain with the Corvette Z06? That’s the 2017 Cadillac CTS-V, a ride with tremendous power just a throttle away.

The 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 engine doles out 640 horsepower at 6400 rpm and 630 pounds-feet of torque at 3600 rpm. Mated to an 8-speed auto gearbox with magnesium paddle shifters, the rear-wheel-drive car can take off from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds with top speed at 200 mph. Magnetic Ride Control adjusts the four-wheel independent suspension as per road conditions, resulting in a smooth but firm ride. It also keeps body roll to a minimum. Stopping power is exceptional, thanks to 15.3-inch vented front and 14.3-inch rear disc Brembo brakes. Drive modes are tour, sport, track and snow/ice.

Ensconced on the unitized welded steel body is a mammoth mesh grille that meets up a carbon fiber hood, quad stainless steel tips and prominent chrome strip on the trunk door. Climb into the Caddy and your first impression is of a tailored, upscale and luxurious cabin. Indeed, the fit and finish, gloss levels and materials are first-rate. The sumptuous interior is equipped with the hands-on CUE (Cadillac User Experience). An 8-inch touchscreen in the center stack includes capactive controls, haptic feedback, gestures and voice recognition (yes, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available). Throw the 12.3-inch reconfigurable instrument cluster into the mix and you have an infotainment system that should be the envy of the competition. The driver and passengers are coddled by supple leather bucket seats with suede inserts. In fact, there is ample head and leg room for five adults to relax and sit in comfort. To accommodate drivers of all heights, Cadillac has equipped the CTS-V with a power tilt/telescopic three-spoke steering wheel. Standard goodies include head-up display, sport alloy pedals, 20-way power and heated/cooled front seats, dual auto a/c and a sueded headliner. There are plenty of options such as a Carbon Black Package ($5,950), Recaro seats ($2,300), Luxury Package ($2,075) and more. Lest we forget, gas guzzler tax is $1,000.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, front knee airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes, blind spot monitor, lane departure warning/alert, rear/curb view camera, remote start, active front head restraints, forward warning and front/rear park assist and obstacle detection, stability and traction control, extreme limited slip differential, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard.

With incredible power at its command, the attractive and athletic CTS-V responds with nimbleness and quickness to any driving condition. This is one invigorating experience that will leave you wanting for more. The only catch? You will need $85,995 and plenty of change for this fine prize!



2017 MINI COOPER COUNTRYMANOK, so here’s the deal. This is the biggest Mini (an oxymoron, indeed) you will ever drive. It is 7.8 inches longer, 1 inch wider and up by 2.9 inch in wheelbase than its predecessor. Under the hood of the Countryman ALL4 resides a 1.5-liter, 3-cylinder twin-turbo engine that puts out 134 horsepower @ 4400 rpm and 160 pounds-feet of torque @ 1250 rpm. Best of all is the fuel-saving and seamless 8-speed auto transmission. Front suspension is left up to a 1-link drive strut axle front while the rear gets a central pivot axle. Keeping the car on course is electric power steering. Drive modes include sport (aggressive), mild (normal) and green (eco). Fuel mileage mimicked EPA estimates at 23 mpg city and 30 highway.

Up front are large, round traditional Mini headlights surround a hexagon radiator grille, power dome and striking helmet roof. The rear shows off jewel-like upright tail lamps, exhaust tip and COUNTRYMAN etched in bold letters. The circular theme continues inside with air vents, instruments, door trim and of course the eye-catching retro-style, center-mounted speedometer. The changing colors of the LED light ring in the instrument cluster provide feedback to the driver. With the rear seat up or down, you get 17.6 and 47.6 cubic feet of space respectively. Other notable features include 6.5-inch navigation touch screen, panoramic moon roof, heated front seats, power tailgate, height-adjustable front and slide-recline 40/20/40 rear seats, wireless phone charging, dual auto a/c and a hidden under-floor cargo bin.

Standard are dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, front knee airbags, rearview camera, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution, stability, traction and park-distance control, three-point seatbelts, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

Always fancied a Mini Cooper but hesitated because you feared it fell short on space? Well, you have plenty of room in this splendid ride with its inimitable European flair. Plus, enjoy security of being behind the wheel of an all-wheel drive car.



2017 CHRYSLER PACIFICA HYBRIDLeave it to Chrysler to come up with a first. A pioneer of the minivan segment more than three decades ago with the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country, the automaker has debuted with Pacifica – the world’s first gasoline plug-in hybrid minivan.

A 3.6-liter V-6 Pentastar gas engine is coupled to two electric motors, one of which serves as a generator and the other delivers torque. The 16-kWh lithium-ion battery in the second-row floor enables the Pacifica to go about 38 miles on pure electric. Pumping up the battery via a 6.6kW on-board charger takes just two hours or the typical 240-volt plug-in at home will consume 14 hours. On a full battery and gas tank, Chrysler claims you can go 530 total miles. All in all, total horsepower is 260, plenty to cruise the highway or speed up in rush-hour traffic. The electrically variable transmission in the front-wheel drive minivan is up to the job.

Our high-end Platinum model showed off a black front grille flanked by auto halogen quad headlights, LED daytime running lights and fog lamps. But it is for its interior amenities that people will buy this minivan. Forget Stow ’n Go for the second row (though it easily slides) but the third-row bench still folds into the floor. For extra gas savings, keep a close eye on the central information display of battery charge, engine power, fuel gauge readings. Laudable are convenient driver and passenger side power-sliding doors for easy ingress/egress. And, of course, storage compartments thrive in the Pacifica, offering 140.5 cubic feet with both rear rows folded and 32.3 cubic feet behind the last row. Other goodies include tri-zone auto a/c, 8-way power driver’s seat, power adjustable lift gate, Nappa leather seats, 8.4-inch UConnect for audio and navigation, and a manual tilt/telescopic steering column.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for all three rows, front knee airbags, front active head restraints, Electronic Stability Control with traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes, blind spot monitor, rearview camera, rear-park and hill start assist, remote keyless entry/start system, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

By no means a bargain at an exorbitant $44,995, the Pacifica plug-in hybrid should attract families looking for a safe and solid ride, people- and cargo-hauling capability and mainly substantial fuel savings at the pump.



2017 Hyundai Elantra SportSometime back, we drove the 2017 Hyundai Elantra equipped with a 2.0-liter engine. That was a fun car. But even more enjoyable is the Sport edition we tested recently, which gets a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder turbo powertrain that develops 201 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 195 pounds-feet of torque @ 4500 rpm. The compact car is coupled to a 7-speed transmission with normal and sport modes.

A black hexagonal sporty grille hosting the ‘turbo’ badge, standard HID headlights, horizontal LED daytime running lights, and dual chrome tips adorn the exterior fascia. The nice-looking cabin offers standard comforts such as a/c, leather seats, flat-bottom leather tilt/telescopic steering, alloy sport pedals, 60/40 rear seat, 6-way adjustable driver’s seat, 7-inch display or audio and navigation, rear center armrest and a 3.5-inch LCD instrument cluster. Trunk volume is a passable 14.4 cubic feet though total interior capacity at 110.2 cubic feet is comparable to the midsize Cadillac CTS sedan.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, front/rear crumple zones, Electronic Stability and Traction Control, front seatbelt pretensioners, remote keyless entry and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

Base-priced affordably at just $22,750, the fuel-sipping Elantra Sport is a delightful and well-composed compact with impressive handling and steering feel. This one’s the perfect car for a novice driver in the family.


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