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

ALFA ROMEO 4C SPIDER It was our very first test-drive of an Alfa Romeo car ever. And we must say it left a lasting impression on us, especially the “takeoff” aspect. Step on the gas and the rear-wheel-drive 4C Spider will catch you off guard, as it lunges forward with a fervor you wouldn’t find in most sport cars. It’s quick on its feet, reaching 0 to 60 mph in a mere 4.1 seconds.

A 1.7-liter turbocharged inline-4 cylinder puts out 237 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 258 pounds-feet of torque @ 4250 rpm. It is coupled with a responsive 6-speed dual auto transmission. Handling the suspension quite well is a double wishbone front and MacPherson strut rear. But steering the 2,487-pound car can be a challenge because of a manual rack-and-pinion system. The dna modes available in the two-seater stand for dynamic, natural and advanced efficiency.

Undoubtedly, it is a great looker that will draw oodles of attention. A triangular grille is surrounded by oblong bi-xenon headlights while the rear shows off rounded LED tail lamps and dual exhaust tips, as well as carbon-fiber vents and spoiler. However, the interior doesn’t live up to the expectations in this transverse-mounted mid-engine car. Digital gauges greet the driver in a 7-inch screen up front. But the Pioneer radio gives this otherwise extraordinary Spider a cheap appearance. And you can forget using a glove box for your belongings because there isn’t any. Other standard amenities include a single-zone a/c, aluminum pedals, flat-bottomed leather steering wheel and seats.

This being a performance-oriented car that handles aggressively, Alfa Romeo has ensured safety is paramount with such standard features as dual front and side door-mounted airbags, driver knee airbag, passenger knee bolsters, four-wheel antilock brakes with traction control, hill start assist, tire pressure monitor and daytime running lights.

The 4C Spider packs plenty of punch, displaying amazing nimbleness and tons of grip at sharp turns on city streets. And, of course, you always have the option of taking the speed demon to the racetrack for the thrill of your life.



2018 BENZ E400 COUPEGive us an E-Class anytime. As in the E400 coupe. Redesigned for 2018, the 10th-gen midsize luxury car is equipped with a 3.0-liter V6 bi-turbo engine packing 329 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 354 pounds-feet of torque @ 4000 rpm. The 4Matic (four-wheel drive) ride is mated to a standard 9-speed automatic, which can be driven in individual, dynamic, comfort, eco, sport and sport + modes. The independent multilink front and rear suspension works splendidly to absorb unpleasant highway bumps and sudden sharp turns. Returning a weighted response to the driver’s input is a razor-sharp electromechanical power rack-and-pinion system. Zero to 60 in the four-seater is achieved in 5.2 seconds.

The E400’s handsome road presence is dominated by the familiar three-pointed star sitting on the low-positioned mesh grille, a long hood with power domes, with LED headlights. The cabin is extravagant and stylish as is expected of any Benz with dual-zone auto a/c, flat-bottomed power tilt/telescopic steering column, ambient lights, wood veneer on doors and dashboard, circular air vents and a power trunk lid. The previous rotary knob for the Command system has been replaced with a touchpad to control the audio, navigation and phone infotainment on the 12.3-inch display screen. And who can miss the elegant Mercedes analog clock on the dash? Agreed, premium materials abound though we do wish the trunk capacity of 13.1 cubic feet could have been slightly larger.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes, Electronic Stability Program, Pre-Safe (partial braking in an emergency), rearview camera, keyless start, active brake assist, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system.

During our test-drive week, we equaled EPA’s 22 combined city/highway mpg in this $61,400-base-priced ride (with options, $84,785). Not inexpensive by any means. But the remarkable car boasts smooth and linear acceleration, incredible handling and steering feel. Truly, the E400 is dream car to take for a spin.



2018 LINCOLN NAVIGATORIt has been named North American Truck of the Year, marking the first time a Lincoln vehicle has captured this prominent honor, now in its 24th year. The 2018 Lincoln Navigator beat the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 and Ford Expedition to win the award based on innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value at the recent North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Totally redesigned for this year, the Navigator is equipped with a revised twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 engine, which cranks out 450 horsepower (up 70 hp from its predecessor) @ 5500 rpm and 510 pounds-feet (increase of 50) @ 3000 rpm. Transmission goes up from the previous 6-speed to a 10-speed automatic. The full-size SUV gets an independent short- and long-arm front and a multilink rear suspension to keep the drive secure, regardless of road and weather conditions. When you need to stop, 13.8-inch vented front and rear discs come into play. All you sailboat haulers, tow capacity is impressive at 8,700 pounds.

Head out toward the Navigator with key in pocket and the chrome Lincoln star logo, surrounded by horizontal LED headlights on the huge mesh grille, will illuminate. The cabin is well laid out, intelligently-designed, beautifully-made with gobs of storage areas. Among the creature comforts are 30-way power front seats that can be heated, cooled or provide you massage. The user-friendly Sync3 interface controls audio, phone and navigation systems via voice, touch or both. Total passenger volume is an admiring 172 cubic feet with rear-seat occupants treated to royalty. Audiophiles will thrill to the Revel 20-speaker sound system. Tri-zone auto a/c, panoramic sun roof, power second- and third-row seats, head-up display, 12-inch configurable instrument cluster, power tilt/telescope steering column, power lift gate and the Lincoln welcome mat come at no extra cost.

The Lincoln offers 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, rearview camera, front and rear three-point seatbelts, remote start, tire pressure monitor and daytime running lights.

Don’t be misled into believing that the mighty 5,855-pound vehicle lacks clout. In fact, the gas pedal unleashes strong acceleration to make the Navigator a graceful, enjoyable and easy-riding companion. Lest we forget, the North American Truck of the Year is also the ultimate utilitarian workhorse.



2018 Cadillac CT6Now here’s an American-made ride that can give tough competition to its European rivals. The 2018 Cadillac CT6 is not just a stunner but also loaded with classy and tech-laden cabin accoutrements.

Under the hood of the full-size sedan resides a direct-inject 3.0-liter DOHC twin-turbo V-6 engine belting out 404 horsepower @ 5700 rpm and 400 pounds-feet of torque @ 5100 rpm. Though mated to a sole, receptive 8-speed auto gearbox, you have a choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive.

LED headlights border a massive mesh grille with the centered but familiar Cadillac crest emblem. Climb into the Caddy and you will find that the fit and finish, gloss levels and materials are first-rate. The exquisitely-executed interior is equipped with the hands-on CUE (Cadillac User Experience). A 10-inch touchscreen in the center stack includes capactive controls, haptic feedback, gestures and voice recognition (yes, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available). Dripping of opulence, the driver and passengers are coddled by supple leather bucket seats. In fact, there is ample head and leg room for five adults to relax and sit in comfort. Passenger space is a laudable 110 cubic feet while the cargo volume is also a worthy 15.3 cubic feet. Standard perks include head-up display, 20-way power and heated/cooled/massage front seats, quad auto a/c, 34-speaker Bose Panaray sound system, power rear window, and a 40/20/40 rear seat. For those curious about autonomous driving, the Super Cruise with driver attention system will be a good start.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, front knee airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes, blind spot monitor, front collision and rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist/departure warning, night vision, front pedestrian braking, rear camera, remote start, active front head restraints, front/rear park assist and obstacle detection, stability and traction control, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard. Via the rear camera mirror, you can watch a streaming video or toggle to return to the traditional electro-chromatic view.

Though appearing bulky for a sedan, the CT6 is wickedly fast, sprightly and a blast to drive. It’s an impeccably balanced package of luxury, technology and sportiness. The only snag could be the steep price tag.


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