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Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE –motoringtampabay.com

2021 GMC YUKON After five years, GMC has totally redesigned the Yukon, making the full-size SUV even bigger than ever before. Here are the impressive figures: wheelbase and length are up by 5 and 6.1 inches respectively; third-row leg room increases another 10.1 cubic feet as does the cargo area behind the third row; and maximum cargo room grows by a gigantic 28.2 cubic feet.

A 6.2-liter V-8 Ecotec engine, coupled with a 10-speed auto gearbox, blasts off 420 horsepower @ 5600 rpm and 460 pounds-feet of torque @ 4100 rpm. An independent coil-over-shock front and a new independent rear suspension (out goes the traditional solid-axle) work well to eagerly tackle sharp, sudden curves on the road. The power rack-and-pinion electric power steering has a trusty feel. The Dynamic Fuel Management system deactivates four of the eight cylinders for fuel savings. We dig the active noise cancellation feature, which guarantees silence and poise at highway speeds. Tow capacity is an impressive 8,000 pounds.

Up front, familiar C-shaped LED headlights flank the much bigger Galvano chrome-accented grille. Also obvious are the traditional vertical tail lamps and rear chrome bar with GMC etching, body-color side moldings, fog lamps and a wider rear track. Step into the capacious cabin and you will realize there is no need to remove the third-row seat. Instead, press a button in the cargo hold and watch the bench fold. The second-row seat moves fore and aft 5.5 inches. That leaves you 122.9 cubic feet of space behind the first row with the two seats down. The two-gauge analog instrument cluster is well-lit and crystal clear. And the huge center console can swallow a laptop. Other notable niceties include tri-zone auto a/c, power tilt/telescopic steering column, 10.2-inch color touch screen for infotainment readings, 14-speaker Bose surround system, heated/cooled front seats, wood trim on dash and doors, hands-free power lift gate and several USB slots.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for rear rows, stability, hill descent and traction controls, four-wheel antilock brakes, rearview camera, rear-cross traffic, forward-collision and side-blind zone alerts, lane departure assist/warning, front/rear park sensors, auto-locking rear differential, two-speed transfer case, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights. 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.

The Yukon Denali boasts ample room for cargo and passengers, laudable tow capacity backed by a potent power train. Turn a blind eye to a whopping price tag and fuel economy figures (14 mpg city/19 highway) and this full-size SUV will serve the needs of large families quite well.



2021 Chevy CamaroUnlike the mammoth 6.2-liter V-8 engine (455 horsepower) Camaro we test drove last year, this one for 2021 was equipped with a smaller power train. Nevertheless, it is still a thriller of a ride.

The Chevy Camaro 3LT model is equipped with a 3.6-liter V-6 engine cranking out 335 horsepower @ 6800 rpm and 284 pounds-feet of torque @ 5300. Making the rear-wheel-drive coupe a fun experience is an effortless 10-speed auto gearbox (at $1,595). The iconic muscle car is truly a blast to drive, especially when pushed hard at sharp and quick turns. Some of the credit goes to a McPherson-type strut front and an independent 5-link rear suspension. And thanks to a variable-ratio electric power, steering feedback is rapid and accurate. Drive modes include tour, sport and snow/ice.

Immediately grabbing attention up front is a bulging hood that meets up to prominent LED headlights and daytime running lights. The black bowtie and RS badge in the upper grille are visible too, making the speedster not just bold but also intimidating. However, the cabin displays a classic Camaro appearance with deeply recessed binnacles housing rounded tachometer, speedometer, fuel and oil temp gauges. An 8-inch touch screen displays phone, audio and navigation capabilities. The soft power top opens or closes in a mere 15 seconds via a button. In fact, you can operate the top at up to a 30-mile speed. Also standard are 8-way driver and six-way front-passenger power seats, dual auto a/c, flat-bottomed leather-wrapped steering wheel and short-throw shifter, folding rear seat, head-up display, keyless open/start and ambient lighting.

Among the several safety features are dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, stability and traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes, limited slip differential, rearview camera, rear park assist, rear cross traffic, lane change and side blind zone alerts, three-point safety belts for all, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights. The powerful 12.6-inch front and 12.4-inch rear vented discs (Brembo available) will boost any driver’s confidence behind the wheel.

The Camaro displays incredible nimbleness, tremendous handling and exceptional braking. It leaves you asking for more as you put the pedal to the metal. If top-down motoring enthusiasts are looking to catch the sun and the eye of the onlookers, this rear-wheel-drive ride fits the bill. Take a seat behind one of the finest-handling convertibles, power down the top and cruise your neighborhood for a sensational jaunt.


Nitish S. Rele, editor/publisher of Motoring Tampa Bay (www.motoringtampabay.com) and Khaas Baat (www.khaasbaat.com), was an automotive editor/columnist for The Tampa Tribune.


2021 KIA K5Remember the Kia Optima? Well, it has been retired for 2021, substituted by another suitable midsize sedan, the K5. And the new name, the fresh look is as bold appearing or even more so than its predecessor. Length and wheelbase are up by 2 and 1.8 inches respectively, width rises another inch though the height is down by 0.8 inches.

The sporty EX gets a 1.6-liter turbo gas inline-4 cylinder engine developing 180 horsepower @ 5500 rpm and 195 pounds-feet of torque @ 4500 rpm. It is coupled to a seamless 8-speed auto. An independent MacPherson front and a multilink rear suspension handles the bumps of irregular surfaces with little sacrifice. The column-mounted motor driven power steering is perfectly weighted and provides decent feedback.

Sitting on the steel-unibody based car is a wide and thin front silver-metallic radiator grille that extends into its LED headlights and the hood. The cabin offers such helpful amenities as a 10-way power driver and 6-way manual passenger leatherette seats, 60/40 rear seat, manual tilt/telescopic steering column, panoramic sun roof, dual auto a/c with rear vents, push-button start, 4.2-inch LCD instrument display, power windows, door locks and outside mirrors, and an infotainment system with an 8-inch touch screen. Satin chrome accents on the center console garnish, dash pad bezel and air vents convey elegance. Trunk volume is admirable at 16 cubic feet.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes, stability and traction control systems, forward and blind-spot collision avoidance assists, as well as lane-keep and lane-follow assists, rearview camera, front and rear crumple zones, side-impact door beams, three-point front seatbelts with pretensioners, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system.

EPA estimates on our EX trim, which is rated at 27 city/37 highway, came in around 30 mpg in city for out test and peaked 39 on highway. The easy-on-the-pocket K5, like the outgoing Optima, is not your typical sedan. A lively, fun-to-drive attitude, coupled with a muscular stance and gas-sipping abilities, make this Kia a best buy in our eyes. Indeed, it is a tough act to beat if you consider the Korean automaker’s basic 10-year/100,000-mile limited power train and 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranties.

K5 (EX)

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