APRIL 2014
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Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE, [email protected]

In 1968, BMW began selling the compact 2002 in the United States. The two-door car was an instant hit and sold well over 400,000 units before being replaced by the 320i in 1976. Now, after 38 years, the then-popular 2002 has returned as two coupes: 228i and the much-powerful 235i M.

Our test drive was the high-performance M with a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged and intercooled inline-6 cylinder engine pumping out 320 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 330 pounds-feet of torque @ 4500 rpm. The 8-speed auto gearbox operates with immaculate logic. Basically, a replacement for the 1 Series coupe, this rear-wheel-drive 235i can take off from 0 to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds. Fear not about low gas mileage since a stop-start function allows the entry-level car to save fuel by shutting off the engine. Turn the knob in the center console for your driving choice of comfort, sport, sport+ and eco pro modes.

Thanks to the long hood with a centered BMW emblem, the forward-surging fascia meets up with the familiar kidney grille, surrounded by xenon headlights with Corona rings. L-shaped LED rear lights and spoiler show off the rear.

Except for a tight rear seat, the cabin is plush, elegant and exquisitely made. Step inside and you will find yourself ensconced in cushiony 10-way power front seats. Right under the rounded speedometer and tachometer analog gauges is the driver information center, clock and outside temperature reading. The previously complex iDrive console knob to control navigation, entertainment, communication and climate systems isn’t perfect but much simple to understand and use. An M-inspired thick-rimmed three-spoke power steering wheel conveys a solid touch to the driver, inspiring confidence in the nimbleness of the ride. Also standard are a two-way power moon roof, 60/40-fold rear seat and dual-zone auto climate control.

Safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver/front passenger knee airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes, stability and traction control, cornering and dynamic brake control systems, front safety belts with pretensioners, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system.

This classy and soundly built piece is quick off the mark, sprightly in traffic and a blast to drive. Welcome back 2002, err 2 Series, into the BMW fold once again! You’ve been missed!



That Chevrolet Corvette you’ve known all these decades, you can forget it all. A fully redesigned Corvette with the revived Stingray (remember the ’63 Sting Ray?) designation has replaced the legend in 2014. Our rear-wheel-drive convertible was equipped with a 6.2-liter V-8 engine belting out an incredible 455 horsepower (up by 19 from its predecessor) @ 6000 rpm and 460 pounds-feet (increase of 32) of torque @ 4600 rpm. Though a 7-speed manual is standard, the Corvette comes with an optional 6-speed auto gearbox. The sports car takes off from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds. The power-operated hood can be lowered or opened in a mere 20 seconds at speeds of up to 30 mph. A Drive Mode selector, which can be operated via a rotary knob near the shifter, offers tour, weather, eco, track and sports options.

Saving you dollars at the pump is GM’s Active Fuel Management system, which deactivates four of the eight cylinders. So, it’s not only the most powerful standard Corvette ever but also fuel efficient when you consider the massive 6.2 under the hood (we beat the 16 mpg EPA city estimate by eking out 19.8; highway EPA is 28). You get the picture.

Our thumbs up go to GM for the gorgeous appearance. All fresh is a lightweight aluminum frame to replace the previous steel structure for a more angular look with a carbon-fiber hood, front LEDs set in black-chrome lamp housings, and dual-element tail lamps. Yes, this is a speed demon but let’s not forget that GM has tremendously improved the interior by ‘deploying’ a fighter-jet inspired wraparound cockpit. Unlike past Corvettes, the cabin styling and filament are top-notch. Relax in the first-rate, rich-looking eight-way power heated bucket leather seats and you will be gazing at two 8-inch driver/infotainment touch screens. To ensure clever use of space in the two-seater, there is a hidden bin behind the center touchscreen. Trunk space is an adequate 10 cubic feet of space. Our test drive was equipped with a Z51 Performance package, which includes performance suspension and gear ratios, electronic limited slip differential, black calipers, and a 19-inch front and 20-inch rear painted aluminum wheels.

Some of the standard safety features are dual front and side airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes, Active Handling with electronic stability control, safety belt pretensioners, rearview camera, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

Displaying incredible agility, quickness and response, the power-at-all-times Corvette Stingray will stop bystanders in their track. With a pleasantly styled exterior, which now finally matches the awe-inspiring cabin, this icon should be a huge hit with its followers and gain some new admirers too.



It’s the best-selling car nameplate in the world. Nearly 40 million units of the compact sedan have been sold in 47 years. With its wheelbase stretched nearly 4 inches, the totally redesigned for 2014 Toyota Corolla also is longer (by 4 inches), lower (by .4 inches) and wider (by .6 inches) than its predecessors.

Our all-new LE Eco model of the 11th-generation car was equipped with a 1.8-liter inline 4-cylinder engine generating 140 horsepower @ 6100 rpm and 126 pounds-feet of torque @ 4000 rpm. Also fresh are the Valvematic Technology and a continuous variable transmission to result in substantial gas savings. The retuned MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension soak up obstacles with ease and maintain stability in all types of tricky situations. Though not as responsive as one would like, the Electric Power Steering is precise and crisp.

Up front, this year’s Corolla is sleek, sharp and attractive unlike the bland look of the past. Flanking the halogen headlights with low LED lamps and daytime running lights is a large trapezoidal grille that rests beneath a thin intake inlet below the hood. A rear deck spoiler and color-keyed door handles and outside mirrors enhance the aggressive outward appearance. The practical cabin is simply laid out with piano-black gloss and metallic accents on the dashboard and instrument panel of three round gauges for speedometer (hosting the driver information center), tachometer (Eco indicator) and fuel surrounded by chrome rings. Rear-seat passengers can stretch to take advantage of the extra 5-inch legroom. Other standard amenities are an auto climate control, 6.1-inch touchscreen, 60/40 rear fold seat, cruise control, tilt/telescopic steering column and a 6-speaker sound system.

Dual front and side airbags, driver knee airbag, side curtain airbag, vehicle stability and traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, three-point seatbelts for all, keyless entry, smart-stop technology and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

Folks, this one’s a no-brainer as gas continues to be in the $3.50 gallon range. The revamped Corolla earned us nearly 36 mpg in city driving (EPA estimates are 30 city and 42 highway). That should take you over 450 miles in the city itself on a full 13.2-gallon tank. Priced at $18,700 for our LE Eco trim, the power-lacking Corolla can be slightly noisy at high speeds. But thrifty fuel consumption, reasonable price and more-than-adequate rear passenger room are enough to compensate. Besides, Toyota’s reputation for durability and dependability should help seal the deal for the wavering ones.


Test drive the Corolla at Toyota of Lakewood, 5959 E. State Road 64 in Bradenton, call 1-877-261-5187 or visit www.toyotaoflakewood.com


In December 2010, Lexus rolled out the two-seat 4.8-liter V-10 LFA supercar blasting off 552 horsepower with a top speed of 202 and capable of 0 to 60 in just 3.6 seconds. Base price was $375,000 and two years later, the Japanese carmaker stopped making the car after selling 500 units.

Sorry, folks. Buying the supercar is out of question. But coming quite close to the adrenaline-charged driving experience of the LFA is the 2014 IS-F with a top speed of 170 mph and 0-60 in 4.8 seconds. The performance sedan (note, seating four, not five) equipped with a 5.0-liter V-8 engine streams out 416 hp @ 6600 rpm and 371 pounds-feet of torque @ 5200 rpm. It is mated to a superb 8-speed auto gear box with paddle shifters and manual mode. The modified-for-IS-F double wishbone front and multilink rear suspension along with 14.2-inch front and 13.6-inch rear Brembo brakes ensure stability on the toughest road surfaces.

The unitized steel structure of the rear-wheel-drive sedan exhibits bi-xenon headlights and LED fog lamps bordered by large mesh-type grilles, brake cooling ducts in lower grille and air outlets in front fenders, taller hood, and a carbon-fiber rear spoiler. That this is an F-Spec is apparent by the logo on the front fenders and the right-rear trunk area. The silver, black and blue F theme continues as you check out the headrests, electro-luminiscent Optitron gauges, silver-trimmed steering column, rear-center console and even front carpet mats. Most attention-grabbing in our eyes is the two-tone upholstery of red leather seats with black Alcantara inserts. Other standard creature comforts include 10-way power front seats, dual auto climate control, Lexus Premium audio system with 13 speakers and power tilt/slide moon roof.

Dual front, side and knee airbags, side curtain airbag, Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (stability and traction controls, antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist), rearview camera, smart stop technology, three-point seatbelts for all, front/rear crumple zones, side-impact beams and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

This LFA-inspired speedster is a sensational ride, lunging gracefully forward with fervor at each turn, and braking just as quickly and with self-confidence. Just rev it up and take off!



Why tinker with perfection? Toyota knows better. No wonder the Japanese carmaker has left its third-generation 2014 Sienna intact barring a now-standard tow prep package for all its five trims. And the minivan continues to be offered in all-wheel drive if that’s to your liking.

A 3.5-liter DOHC dual VVT inline-6 cylinder engine puts out 266 horsepower @ 6200 rpm and 245 pounds-feet of torque @ 4700 rpm while coupled to a 6-speed auto gearbox. Boosting the solidness and instilling confidence in the driver is a front independent MacPherson strut and rear torsion beam suspension. Turning sharp corners on the back roads? The quick and precise electric power assist rack-and-pinion steering in our front-wheel drive version is up to the job.

Sitting on the steel unitized frame is a metallic-gray grille surrounded by projector-beam headlights. But the Sienna truly shines when you step into its vast cabin. A tri-zone climate control system guarantees that all of its seven or eight passengers stay cool in summer. So do the second- and third-row sun shades. The second-row captain’s chairs slide 23 inches fore/art for easy ingress and egress to the third row, which can be stowed into the floor. Well-placed storage cubbies abound in the Sienna, which offers a huge front center console, dual glove box and 10 cup holders! And thanks to an eco indicator, the driver can tread lightly on the pedal to ensure fuel savings. We beat EPA estimates of 18/25 by earning 21.7 mpg in city and up to 28 on highway. Other standard amenities include dual power-sliding doors, multi-information display with rearview camera, eight-way power driver’s seat, tilt/telescopic steering column and overhead compass.

Safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for all three rows, driver knee airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Control, front active headrests, energy-absorbing steering column, front/rear crumple zones, three-point seatbelts for all, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

Priced reasonably, the classy Sienna is a superb mix of passenger- and cargo-hauling practicality. It would be on the top of our list for potential minivan buyers.


Test drive the Sienna at Toyota of Lakewood, 5959 E. State Road 64 in Bradenton, call 1-877-261-5187 or visit www.toyotaoflakewood.com

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Read the Editor's Blog. By Nitish Rele Classifieds Getaway Motoring Cuisine Astrology Home Improvement Books Yoga Music and Dance Fashion Movies Techno Corner Finance Immigration Health Editorial News Classes/Places of Worship Content Find us on Facebook!