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Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE –[email protected]

2018 LEXUS LC500 In our eyes, this one qualifies for the title of a supercar – abundant frills and high-performance rolled into one. Sharing its engine with the Lexus RC-F, the LC500 can take off from 0 to 60 mph in a mere 4.4 seconds topping speed at 168 mph. The 5.0-liter V-8 engine in the powerful midsize luxury coupe blasts off 471 horsepower @ 7100 rpm and 398 pounds-feet of torque @ 4800 rpm. The rear-wheel-drive ride is mated to a forceful but smooth 10-speed auto gearbox. Providing positive brake feel are 15.7-inch vented front and 14.1-inch rear discs equipped with six- and four-piston Brembo calipers respectively.

Up front, a mammoth mesh spindle grille is flanked by arrowhead LED daytime running lights with triple-projector LED headlights to indicate that this is indeed a speed demon. LEDs also deck up the rear, side signal, corner and tail lamps. Step into the well-appointed cabin and you will find an eye-catching shifter knob adorned in leather and satin-plated bezels while gas/brake pedals and footrests show off aluminum. Satin metallic finish touch is evident throughout. Niceties include 10-way power cooled/heated front seats, push-button start, analog clock, drive mode selector, power tilt/telescopic steering column, dual-zone a/c and a Lexus premium audio system. A mouse-like Remote Touch enables the driver to toggle navigation, climate, audio and phone controls, which are displayed on a 10.2-inch screen.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, front knee airbags, vehicle stability and traction controls, three-point seatbelts for all, front/rear crumple zones and side-impact beams, rearview camera, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, daytime running lights and a tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

With its power-at-all-times engine for lead-foot drivers and graceful styling inside and out, this high-end sports coupe speaks for itself. Indeed, it is one of a kind, i.e., if the 100g price tag is of little consideration.



2018 AUDI A5 CONVERTIBLEEnjoying the best of both worlds. That’s how we felt when Audi first sent over the 2018 A5 Cabriolet (convertible). Then, within a month, the German carmaker dispatched the A5 coupe (base price $42,800) for us to enjoy. And we had a blast in both vehicles, which share a 2.0-liter direct-injection, inline-4 cylinder turbo engine offering 252 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 273 pounds-feet of torque @ 4500 rpm. They can take off from 0 to 60 mph in 6 seconds with top speed of 130 mph, a laudable feat for a 3,990-pound vehicle. A power-folding soft top in the convertible retracts under 15 seconds at speeds of up to 30 mph.

Providing peace of mind in any road situation or weather condition is the legendary quattro permanent all-wheel drive. A 7-speed S tronic auto transmission with manual and sport modes results in a quiet drive train. An all-new independent five-link front and rear steel spring suspension effectively absorbs road imperfections. The electromechanical power steering is always willing to change directions when you turn the wheel. The driver can select comfort, dynamic, auto and individual modes.

The aggressively-styled A5 sports a massive single-frame Audi grille flanked by horizontal xenon auto headlights and splitter and flat fog lamps, a rakish roofline, LED tail lamps and dual exhaust tips. The well-crafted and intelligently-designed cabin is awash in amenities such as a 10-way power heated front seats, tri-zone auto a/c, aluminum inlays on instrument cluster and a/c gauges, sunroof with retractable shade, tilt/telescopic steering column with paddle shifters and driver information center. Though rear-seat passenger space is restricted, there is plenty of room in the trunk.

In the event of a possible collision, Audi pre sense basic 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, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard.

Open-air motoring buffs, if you are looking to catch some sun and the attention of bystanders, your ride has arrived. Those who prefer the coupe will be equally thrilled with this peppy, rev-happy and luxurious A5.



2018 LAND ROVER DISCOVERYForget the body LR4. The midsize SUV has been substituted by the 2017 Land Rover Discovery. It is equipped with a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V-6 engine (Td6) belting out an ample 254 horsepower @ 3750 rpm and 443 pounds-feet of torque @ 2250 rpm while mated to a responsive 8-speed auto gearbox. A permanent all-wheel drive delivers necessary torque to the rear wheels. Using the exclusive Terrain Response system, pick one of the following as per road/weather conditions: general (for daily driving), grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, sand, rock crawl and dynamic. Credit an independent front and rear electronic air suspension (enables the ride to lower 1.6 inches to enable easy ingress/egress) for a remarkably supple ride on the 20-inch wheel SUV. Tow capacity is a remarkable 7,716 pounds.

Longer but lower with a slight boost in wheelbase, the Discovery is a fitting replacement for the LR4. Its familiar clamshell hood meets up with jewel-like LED headlights and a mesh grille hosting the vehicle emblem. The cabin is decked in typical Land Rover fashion with rounded instrument gauges, straightforward climate, navigation and entertainment controls, and supportive seats. The 16-way power adjustable front seat along with a tilt and telescopic steering column can accommodate the largest of drivers. Accommodating seven, with just a touch of a button, both the rear seats fold down. Space abounds inside with a dual glove box, huge center console and a decently-sized trunk area. Other standard amenities include a rotary gear shifter, tri-zone auto a/c, power panoramic sun roof and tailgate, heated front/rear seats, 825-watt Meridian sound system and a 10-inch LCD screen.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake Distribution, hill descent control, side door impact beams, Electronic Stability and traction control, front/rear parking sensors, anti-rollover system, front crumple zones, two-speed electronic transfer case with torsion-center differential, rear camera, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

No doubt this diesel-charged and luxury-packed Land Rover is nippy of the mark, sprightly in traffic and a pleasure to drive. Plus, you can put the SUV’s off-road prowess to use. Now you all need is $65,950 and change.



2017 KIA SORENTOAfter a major revamp last year, the 2017 Kia Sorento continues as is with some minor changes such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone availability. It comes in three engine choices and ours was equipped with the 3.3-liter GDI power train putting out 290 horsepower @ 6400 rpm and 252 pounds-feet of torque @ 5300 rpm. Seating up to seven, the midsize SXL SUV is coupled with the steadfast 6-speed auto transmission. Tow capacity is a cool 5,000 pounds.

The front-wheel or all-wheel-drive (which was ours) Sorento sticks to an independent MacPherson front strut and multilink rear suspension. The Electric Motion Driven Power steering ensures a firm feel and response. Normal, eco and sport drive modes are offered.

Up front, we must admit the LED fog lamp pockets stand out more than even the narrower xenon HID headlights and mesh grille on the steel unibody SUV. But it is the sumptuous interior, packed with abundant creature comforts, that wins hands down. The center gauge cluster sports a speedometer with a driver information center, flanked by analog tachometer, fuel and engine temp readings. Space is plenty with a recline-and-fold 40/20/40 second-row seat. All in all, you get 74 cubic feet of space with the seats down. Also standard are 14-way power heated/cooled driver and eight-way passenger seats, dual-zone auto a/c, push-button start, 8-inch display screen, tilt/telescopic steering column, Infinity sound system, power lift gate and piano black trim.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, electronic stability and traction control, downhill brake and hill assist control, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, front active headrests, side impact door beams, front/rear crumple zones, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, rearview camera and rear parking sensors, rollover sensor and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

The sporty SX model is a perfect balance of comfort and performance. And it is tough to beat if you consider the Korean carmaker’s basic 5-year, 60,000-mile and 10-year, 100,000-mile limited power train warranties.



2017 Lincoln MKZIt was a first for us, test drive of the 2017 Lincoln MKZ, and we must admit, it left us highly impressed. Available in front-wheel or all-wheel drive, under the entry-level midsize luxury sedan resides an all-new 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine cranking out a striking 400 horsepower @ 5500 rpm and 400 pounds-feet of torque @ 2750 rpm. That is plenty for the nearly 4,000-pound vehicle to scoot from any speed. The 6-speed auto gear box is effortless though somewhat outdated.

A revised split-winged satin aluminum grille with the centered Lincoln emblem, surrounded by adaptive HID headlights and LED signature lights, conveys a robust stance. But it is in the lavish, modish and beautifully made cabin that the MKZ justly shines. Out goes the MyLincoln Touch to be replaced by the user-friendly Sync3, an interface to control audio, phone and navigation systems via voice, touch or both. The 10.1-inch configurable LCD gauge cluster is simple and clear-cut. Passenger volume is plenty with 96.6 cubic feet and the trunk opens up to 15.4 cubic feet of space.

Dual-zone auto a/c, Revel Ultimate sound system, 10-way power cooled/heated front and perforated leather seats, 60/40 fold second-row seat, power tilt/telescopic steering column, wood on doors, steering wheel and instrument panel, hands-free lift gate and the Lincoln welcome/farewell light elements when you enter or exit are standard.

The MKZ 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, rear camera and parking sensor, front and rear three-point seatbelts, remote start, tire pressure monitor and daytime running lights.

Indulge yourself and the passengers in this remarkably smooth and exceptionally quiet MKZ. Plus, it’s a nice-looking sedan. These should help justify the high-ticket item.



2017 Chevy Bolt EV hatchbackTHE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2017 Chevy Bolt EV hatchback.

DOWN THE ROAD: 200 miles and some more on a full one-time electric charge. GM claims 238 miles, to be exact. That’s the Bolt for you. It is ultra-smooth and a cool car to drive offering superb handling and overall balance. Zero to 60 is possible in fewer than 7 seconds.

TECH & PERFORMANCE: Power is derived solely from a huge under-floor lithium-ion battery that has a capacity of 60 kWh and an electric motor. It produces 200 horsepower and 266 pounds-feet of torque. The Bolt is mated to a single-speed gearbox though a sport mode is also available. Regenerative braking allows the vehicle, when coasting or slowing down, to capture kinetic energy that would be lost. It converts the energy into useable electricity to recharge the battery. Keeping the hatch stable enough to soak bumps is an independent suspension of front MacPherson strut and torsion beam rear. The electric power rack-and-pinion steering is precise and direct. Charging options include a standard 120-volt Level 1 power cord, which takes an hour to recharge 4 to 5 miles. Instead, opt for the 240-volt Level 2 charging, which can recharge 25 miles or so in an hour (cost to install can range from $750 to $1,000).

LOOK & FEEL: It isn’t really a stunner though HID projector headlights flanking the familiar and centered Chevy bowtie gives the car a fitting appearance. The cabin is unlike most cars, especially the instrument panel with a 8-inch LCD screen in driver’s vision displaying the digital speedometer, distance, miles to go, average and battery level bar graph indicators. The mammoth 10.2-inch color screen in the center stack shows entertainment, climate and navigation readouts. Also standard are a single-zone auto a/c, leather shifter with satin silver and chrome accents, tilt/telescopic steering column, six-way manual front seats, 60/40 split rear fold seat and keyless open/start.

SAFETY FIRST: Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, front knee airbags, three-point safety belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, StabiliTrak with traction control, rearview camera, tire pressure monitor and daytime running lights are standard.

OUT THE DOOR: $36,620, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. A federal tax credit of $7,500 is available.

BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, P215/50R17; wheelbase, 102.1 inches; length, 164 inches; weight, 3,580 pounds; Miles Per Gallon equivalent (MPGe): 119; Web site,

WHY DIG IT: No doubt, the Bolt, like its hybrid sibling, the Volt, is a ground-breaking vehicle that offers speedy acceleration with ample power. It is no Tesla but a car of the future that should one day be mastered to perfection (imagine going 500 miles on an electric charge). And at $29,120 after the federal credit, it’s a steal.

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