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Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE –

LEXUS LC500 When it was first introduced in 2018, we drove this supercar – what we call copious frills and high-performance rolled into one. Then it was the coupe version. Recently, we had the immense pleasure to test drive the LC500 convertible, which was launched just this year.

Sharing its engine with the Lexus RC-F, the LC500 can take off from 0 to 60 mph in a mere 4.6 seconds topping speed at 168 mph. The 5.0-liter V-8 engine in the powerful midsize luxury convertible 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. To watch the unfolding of the power soft top, which takes 15 seconds to open and another 16 to close at up to 31 mph, is like poetry in motion.

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. As for the back seat, don’t bother. It’s more for show than for holding even a toddler!

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, active roll bars, daytime running lights and a tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

Lexus absolutely made the right move by launching the convertible version of the LC500. With its power-at-all-times engine for lead-foot drivers and elegant styling inside and out, this high-end sports convertible speaks for itself. Indeed, it is one of a kind, i.e., if the 100g price tag is of little consequence.



VW ID.4 PRO (RWD)It’s sized almost similarly to the Tiguan but the likeness ends there. The ID.4 is an all-new electric SUV, the first for Volkswagen. And so important, indeed, that we were invited to visit the Chattanooga, Tenn. Assembly Plant where the vehicle will begin production next year. Employing 3,800 people, the automaker has invested $800 million more in the $2.6 billion factory to produce solely electric vehicles.

Available as a rear-wheel (base-priced at $39,995) or all-wheel drive ($43,675), the ID.4 will be offered in Pro, Pro S and 1st Edition trims. And there is a $7,500 federal tax credit that could be on hand. Range will be between 240 to 260 miles as per the model before plugging in the 11 kW charger that can take 7½ hours, or the 125 kW DC fast charging capability, which takes just 38 minutes. Buyers do get three years to use Electrify America fast charging systems free of cost.

The RWD ID.4 is equipped with a single rear motor putting out 201 horsepower and 229 pounds-feet of torque. The AWD version gets an additional electric motor cranking out 295 hp and 339 pounds-feet of torque. In the underbody is the 82kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The result is a vehicle that can take off from 0 to 60 in a remarkable 5.4 seconds.

It is definitely a bold-looking vehicle, especially up front with the illuminated light bar and the VW logo located centrally while surrounded by LED projector headlights. As soon as the driver settles into the six-way (12-way are optional) power leatherette seats, he is greeted by a configurable 5.3-inch digital display or what the carmaker called an ID.Cockpit. A Discover Pro 10-inch (12-inch is offered) touchscreen for infotainment controls sits atop the dashboard. Passenger volume for the compact vehicle at 99.9 cubic feet is quite creditable. Front-seat passengers gets 41.1 inches and rear has 37.6 inches. Fold down the second row and you have 64.2 cubic feet. Other goodies include dual auto a/c, 60/40 fold rear seat, 7-speaker sound system, heated front seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel, panoramic glass moon roof and hands-free power lift gate.

Dual front and side airbags, front and rear curtain airbags, rearview camera, front/rear park distance control, electronic stability control, rearview camera, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard along with the IQ.Drive, which fetches you forward collision warning and auto brakes with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitor, rear traffic alert, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control.

The up to-260-mile-range ID.4 shows plenty of promise in the electric SUV segment. It touts ample power and superb balance. Truly, the ride handled the twists and turns of Chattanooga roads with ease and steadfastness. It could prove to be a far better viable option for buyers (thanks to the fed tax credit) looking at the ever-popular but pricey Tesla or the Mustang Mach-E.



2022 GENESIS G70One more down, as in the stick shift. For 2022, Genesis has nixed the manual gearbox for the G70, one of the finest luxury sports sedans on the road. Rarely to be found in the cars of today, the manual transmission now is even scarcer than before. However, the sedan does get a refresh and a restructured dashboard look.

Introduced in 2019, the entry-level Genesis G70 combines performance and luxury to result in an outstanding ride. The rear-wheel-drive car is equipped with a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6 pumping out 365 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 376 pounds-feet of torque @ 4500 rpm. The winner of the North American and Motor Trend Car of the year awards, among several other accolades, delivers power to the rear wheels via a seamless 8-speed auto transmission with eco, normal, sport and snow drive modes.

Just to keep up in line with the larger SUVs in its roster, the G70 acquires a bold and mammoth crest grille with a winged Genesis emblem atop, flanked by quad LED auto headlights. The rear also gets a similar quad LED tail lamp treatment with dual chrome asymmetrical exhaust tips. Step inside and you will discover generous sprinkles of brushed aluminum on the doors, console and pedals. Quilted Nappa leather seats convey class. The floating but practical and larger 10.25-inch touchscreen display for phone, nav and audio is prominent. Pampering the occupants are dual auto a/c, leather-wrapped tilt/telescopic steering column, electro-luminescent display for speedometer, tachometer, coolant temperature, fuel level, odometer and trip computer gauges, 12-way power front heated seats, 60/40 rear seat, and much more.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, front center airbag (located between the driver’s seat and center console, a first in its segment), four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, stability and traction control, rearview camera, forward collision avoidance and lane keep/follow and highway driving assist, blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights come at no extra cost.

This sleek and extravagant Genesis is equipped with an impressive power train, well-appointed and elegant cabin, and several safety features. And compared to its European competitors such as Benz, BMW and Audi, the G70 is a reasonably priced ride.



LEXUS NX 300h (AWD)Leave it to Lexus to shine in the compact luxury crossover segment. The add-on of the F Sport Black Line to the NX 300h makes it even more fun drive, responding with quickness in any driving situation while loaded with luxury and tech goodies. Zero to 60 is an impressive 9.1 seconds in this lively ride, which gets standard blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert for 2021.

A 2.5-liter Atkinson 4-cylinder engine that cranks out 154 horsepower @ 5700 rpm. The battery-powered electric motor ups the total to 194 hp. It is mated to an ordinary continuous variable transmission. But drivers can pick the following modes: normal, eco and sport. During deceleration and braking, the vehicle uses regenerative decelerating to apply much of the wasted energy to recharge the hybrid battery.

The familiar Lexus spindle grille with stylish satin chrome trim is flanked by bi-LED headlights, while the blue tint in the emblem and the penciled hybrid on the rear doors are a giveaway. Step into the well-lit and airy cabin and you will quickly get cozy and comfy in the plush semi-aniline leather seats. A mouse-like, easy-to-use Remote Touch enables the driver to toggle navigation, climate, audio and phone controls on the 8-inch touch screen. A 4.2-inch TFT LCD screen displays audio, eco charge, outside temperature, odometer and tire pressure readings. Also standard are dual auto a/c, driver information center, power adjustable heated/cooled front seats and manual recline/fold 60/40 rear seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, 8-speaker premium sound and power tilt/telescopic steering column. Besides sport-tuned suspension, F Sport comes with aluminum pedals, blue-stitched interior, heated steering wheel, front fog/cornering lights, black headliner and more.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, front-passenger cushion airbag are standard along with side-impact door beams, four-wheel antilock brakes, electronic brake distribution and brake assist, vehicle stability and traction control, rearview camera, push-button start, three-point seatbelts with pretensioners, and front and rear crumple zones. These are complemented by a pre-collision system that detects pedestrians and bicyclists, lane trace assist and departure alert, and dynamic cruise control, all part of the no-cost Lexus Safety Sense.

If in the market for a compact luxury crossover with a forceful engine, decent gas mileage and plentiful creature comforts, the NX 300h fits the bill. The F Sport trim factor adds even more thrill to the ride!



2021 TOYOTA SUPRAWithin just a year of the cherished marque’s return after two decades, Toyota has already tweaked the engine, suspension and steering, and boosted power and torque in the 2021 Supra. In Latin, “supra” means “above” or “beyond.”

The retained 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 engine now blasts off 382 horsepower (up 48) and 368 pounds-feet (increase of 3) of torque @ 5000 rpm. That translates into 0 to 60 in just 3.9 seconds (from previous 4.1) and a top speed of 155 mph. Remarkable for a slightly 3,397-pound vehicle? You bet.

Push the starter button to summon the twin-scroll turbocharger, and the rev-happy Supra emits a throaty exhaust roar.

Keeping that muscle on the road are a modified double-joint spring McPherson strut front end and a multilink rear suspension that provide a stable refined ride even on harsh roads and in bad weather. An adaptive variable suspension instantly adjusts damping force in response to driver input and road conditions. The 8-speed automatic gearbox with paddle shifters in the rear-wheel-drive vehicle is lively in any situation.

The sport-calibrated electric power steering — direct, responsive and accurate — gives extra confidence behind the wheel. Stopping the two-seater, which rides on 19-inch alloy wheels, are 13.7-inch ventilated front discs and 13.6-inch rear disc brakes. Four-wheel antilock brakes, traction and stability control join in to avoid any mishaps. Safety is built into the Supra with eight airbags, and a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure and forward-collision warnings.

Looks matter, too. The bulging triple-grille front fascia gives the car a hungry look and provides generous air intake. Above, sweptback six-lens LED headlamps have integrated daytime running lights and turn signals. Think muscular! Same goes for the rear with the tall retractable spoiler reminiscent of the 4th-gen Supra’s wing.

The cabin possesses all the luxury accoutrements expected in a Bimmer. No, that’s not a typo! Since it shares the engine, gearbox and steering rack with the BMW Z4, it’s not inappropriate that the Supra mirrors the BMW roadster’s interior with an 8.8-inch infotainment touch screen, shifter knob, and climate controls.

Attractive from any angle, the iconic brand has truly returned “above” and “beyond” all expectations.

SUPRA (premium)


2021 VW ARTEONAs Volkswagen phases out its once-popular Passat, here’s another ride to consider from its stable, the Arteon. Conveying more of a hatchback look than a midsize sedan, this flagship vehicle notches a step or two above the Passat. And for good reason.

Under the hood of the unitary structure sits a 2.0-liter inline-4 cylinder turbocharged and intercooled engine that develops 268 horsepower @ 5500 rpm and 258 pounds-feet of torque @ 1950 rpm while mated to a standard but responsive 8-speed auto gearbox. Suspension is handled competently via a strut-type with lower control arms front and multilink rear with coil springs. The rack-and-pinion electric power assist offers a direct and communicative feel.

Up front, an illuminated light bar in front grille flanking the new VW emblem rises up to connect with the daytime running headlights. Three chrome bars and an air intake also standout along with the car’s long hood and wide stance. Our test-drive came with an R-Line, which fetches you a distinct front bumper, stylish air intakes in gloss-black finish and real spoiler too. The cabin is awash in luxury and conveniences such as luminous elements with 30-color ambient lights on the dashboard and doors. The center console has been revised with the MIB3 infotainment system and a three-zone auto climate control. R-Line also means Nappa leather upholstery, black headliner and stainless-steel door sills and sport pedal covers. The digital instrument cluster is futuristic-looking. Passenger volume is laudable at 96.5 cubic feet of spaCe. Other standard goodies include panoramic sun roof, 60/40 rear seat, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, etc.

Dual front and side airbags, front knee airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, electronic stability and traction control, three-point seatbelts for all positions, adaptive cruise control, rearview camera, blind spot monitor, front collision and lane keep, post-collision and auto emergency braking, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard.

Base-priced at $43,395, the Arteon’s peppy turbo engine will give other midsize sedan stalwarts such as the Acura TLX or the Kia Stinger a run for their money. This fairly new ride boasts strong acceleration, remarkable handling and steering feel. It shows promise, plenty of it, though buyers are heavily opting for SUVs and crossovers nowadays.


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