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

LEXUS LC500 After testing the Bronco Sport, Ford dispatched over the larger sibling (Advanced 4X4) for us to try out. What a remarkable vehicle this one is, no surprise it was named the 2022 North American SUV of the Year. Its revival after 25 years out to pasture brings tough competition to the game in response to its chief contender: the iconic Jeep Wrangler.

The Bronco version (Advanced 4X4, Black Diamond trim) Ford gave us comes with rough-and-ready looks and off-road prowess. And it has plenty of muscle. A 2.7-liter turbocharged Ecoboost V-6 engine cranks out 315 horsepower @ 5500 rpm and 410 pounds-feet of torque @ 3250 rpm. EcoBoost is essentially twin turbochargers and a small-displacement engine working in tandem with gas-direct injection to produce a powerful but fuel-efficient engine. It’s mated to a standard 10-speed auto gear box. An independent MacPherson strut front and a five-link solid axle rear suspension isolate occupants from road noise and imperfections to ensure a safe jaunt.

Providing superb on-center feel to the driver is an electric power system. G.O.A.T. (Goes Over Any Type of Terrain) modes are normal, eco, sport, slippery, sand, mud/ruts and rock crawl. Tow capacity is a commendable 8,840 pounds.
Up front, rounded LED headlights flank the signature cartridge black grille with BRONCO etched in white letters. Heavy-duty modular bumper, metal bash plates, front tow hooks, active grille shutters and mainly short front and rear overhangs convey off-road prowess of a vehicle that can wade through 33.5 inches of water.

The cabin, though comfy, offers features such as rubberized flooring (and cargo area too) and zipper pockets (with Molle straps) for extra gear that proves it’s safe to venture into nomad land. Other goodies include leather/wrapped tilt/telescopic steering column/shifter, 60/40 split fold rear seat, manual single a/c, six-way manual front seats, second-row under seat storage bin; and an 8-inch instrument panel, Sync3, which accesses audio, telephone, navigation controls via a voice command.

The standard Ford CoPilot360 bundles together driver-assist safety features such as blind spot monitor, cross-traffic alert, pre-collision and lane-keep aid with auto emergency brake, auto high beams, and rearview camera. Also included are dual front and side airbags, front knee, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic stability and traction control, front 180-degree camera, trail control (essentially cruise control while off-roading), tire pressure monitor, and daytime running lights.

The Bronco’s gallop back into the wilderness, this time with the Advanced 4X4, is a tremendous and much-needed addition to the already-impressive Ford lineup. If you like to go off the beaten path or customize your vehicle (as in Jeep), the exciting and cool Bronco offers endless choices. It’s a job well done. Take a bow, Ford!

Tires: P315/70R17
Wheelbase: 116.1 inches
Length: 189.4 inches
Width: 76.3 inches
Height: 73.9 inches
Weight: 4,995 pounds
Fuel capacity: 20.8 gallons
City: 18 mpg
Highway: 20 mpg
Base price: $39,340
Price as tested: $48,325
Web site: www.ford.com


VW ID.4 PRO (RWD)Introduced almost a decade ago, it was long due for a redesign. And that has finally come in 2022. The Subaru BRZ gains more power, styling updates, tweaked chassis, among other changes. Out goes the 2.0-liter engine. The rear-wheel-drive sporty coupe is now equipped with a larger 2.4-liter inline-4 horizontally opposed DOHC engine putting out 228 horsepower (up 23 hp) @ 5000 rpm and 184 pounds-feet of torque @ 3700 rpm. Our Limited edition came with a flawless 6-speed auto gearbox. A standard Torsen limited slip differential keeps the coupe in control at sharp corners and turns.

This year, the lightweight car with its low center of gravity goes up by 0.2 in wheelbase, 1.2 in length but loses height by 0.4 inches. Up front, LED headlights flanked by the familiar Subaru emblem with a lower three-slatted grille and a functional air intake attract your attention. Step into the cabin and the first thing you will notice is faux suede upholstery with red stitching and the BRZ logo on front seatbacks. Other eye-catching goodies include a leather tilt/telescopic steering wheel with red seams, 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, dual auto a/c, fold-down rear seat, aluminum alloy pedals, heated front seats, frameless rearview mirror and a 7.0-inch digital instrument display with the tachometer front and center and a digital speedometer readout.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, all-new driver’s knee airbag, side curtain airbag, blind spot monitor with lane keep assist and rear cross-traffic alert, hill start assist, rearview camera, vehicle stability and traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, remote keyless entry, reverse auto brakes, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights. The Eyesight assist monitor, which features lane departure warning and active cruise control, ensures that the driver maintains a straight path.

Push the starter button to summon the 4-cylinder Boxer engine and the rev-happy BRZ emits an exhaust rumble that will delight any sports coupe aficionado. Robust and stunning from any angle, the reasonable four-seater is by no means a speedster but it deservedly earns a report card full of excellent marks.

Tires: 215/40R18
Wheelbase: 101.4 inches
Length: 167.3 inches
Width 69.9 inches
Height: 51.6 inches
Suspension: MacPherson strut front; double wishbone rear
Steering: electric-power assist  
Weight: 2,881 pounds
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons
City: 21 mpg
Highway: 30 mpg
Base price: $32,295
Price as tested: $33,255
Web site: www.subaru.com


2022 GENESIS G70Pitched in 2017 to replace the S80, Volvo hit a home run with the more powerful and capable S90. Fun to throw through corners on even the most challenging roads, the midsize luxury sedan turn in 0 to 60 in a mere 4.6 seconds with a top speed of 112 mph. Reassuring brakes, solid steering feel and inspired handling ensure your safety in this all-wheel-drive and plug-in hybrid called Recharge.

Under the hood a 2.0-liter inline-4 turbocharged and supercharged engine cranks out an enormous 400 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm and 472 pounds-feet of torque @ 5,400 rpm. A rear electric motor and a center-mounted 11.6 kWh lithium-ion battery can take the midsize luxury sedan nearly 21 miles before the 34 kW starter generator kicks in gas. The 8-speed auto gearbox operates with impeccable logic in any untoward situation. And the start-stop feature (auto engine stop when the vehicle halts) ensures substantial savings in fuel.

Up front, LED headlights and daytime running lights shaped like Thor’s hammer surround a revised silver-matte waterfall grille with a chrome frame. The centered, updated Volvo iron mark suggests a confident and athletic stance. Hidden exhaust tips along with a refreshed tail lamp design and trunk lid further enhance the overall appearance.

The jet-like cabin provides eye candy, mainly the 12.3-inch instrument digital display of the rounded speedometer and tachometer, and fuel, temp and driver information center readings. Volvo Sensus infotainment, with a distinct vertical 9-inch display touch screen, is essentially made up of four tiles: navigation, media, phone, and user-defined. Activate one and watch it expand while keeping the other tiles visible for future use.

Wood inlays on dashboard, center console and doors give the S90 an opulent feel. A plethora of lux and comfy accoutrements include power moon roof, leather-wrapped tilt/telescopic steering column, four-zone auto a/c, 10-way power heated and cooled front seats, and 13.5 cubic feet of trunk space.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes, anti-whiplash front seats, pedestrian/cyclist/large animal detection, semi-autonomous driving called Pilot Assist, rear park assist and camera, side impact protection, dynamic stability and traction control, three-point safety belts with pretensioners for all, lane departure warning and driver alert control, City Safety (brakes automatically to help prevent a rear-end collision), tire pressure monitoring system, and daytime running lights are standard.

Displaying remarkable agility and handling, and an appealing cabin bar none, the S90 is the perfect flagship sedan for Volvo. Lest we forget, the Swedish carmaker’s much-touted and renowned safety features make this exciting ride a no-brainer.

Wheelbase: 120.5 inches
Length: 200.4 inches
Suspension: double wishbone front, integral axle rear
Steering: electric power rack and pinion
Drive modes: AWD, eco, hybrid, individual, sporty
Fuel capacity: 15.9 gallons
Gas only: 30 mpg
Electricity + gas: 60 MPGe
Weight: 4,673 pounds
Base price: $60,050
Price as tested: $70,640
Web site: www.volvo.com


LEXUS NX 300h (AWD)It’s a new territory for the Frontier, i.e. the 2022 Nissan Frontier. And a welcome one too, we should point out. The midsize pickup gets a major overhaul inside and out though the powertrain stays the same.

Under the hood is ensconced a 3.8-liter V-6 direct-injection engine that cranks out 310 horsepower @ 6400 rpm and 281 pounds-feet of torque @ 4400 rpm. The good news is that the former 5-speed transmission has been swapped with an impressive 9-speed auto gearbox. And tow capacity is a respectable 6,720 pounds.

An all-steel double wishbone front and solid axle in the rear make up the suspension system, resulting in a secure ride. The power rack-and-pinion steering system shifts seamlessly. That brings us to some of the abundant standard safety features in the pickup: dual front and side airbags, front knee airbags, side airbag curtain, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and vehicle dynamic control, hill start assist and descent control, rearview monitor, front/rear crumple zones, front seat active head restraints, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights. Our PRO 4-X version was equipped with a shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive with 2WD/4H/4LO modes, electronic rear differential, Bilstein off-road shock absorbers, and steel skid plates to tackle the vigor of off-road driving.

The sporty look of the fully boxed ladder frame Frontier can be attributed to an angled and black grille flanked by LED headlights, fogs and daytime running lights. Other distinct exterior traits include a visible red Nissan emblem, large bumpers, short front and rear overhangs, tailgate spoiler and a roof rack with crossbars. It sits on standard 17-inch all-terrain alloy wheels with a 59.5-inch-long bed in the Crew Cab. Stepping into the roomy and pleasing cabin is trouble-free, thanks to full-size, forward-hinging doors. Push-button start is standard. The large 9-inch touch screen with nav, phone and infotainment controls is easy to use! So are the sizeable climate control buttons. The 60/40 rear seat flips up to reveal a hidden stowage bin. Dual auto a/c, leather shifter, manual tilt steering wheel, power door locks, cruise control, heated six-way power driver and four-way manual passenger seats, overhead sunglass holder, and satin chrome ring accents around the white-faced analog gauges come at no extra cost.

Packing tons of power with ample creature comforts and praiseworthy towing figures prove that the all-new Frontier is better equipped to make inroads into the midsize truck segment. And if you plan to take this highly capable pickup off the beaten path, go for the PRO-4X.  

Wheelbase: 126 inches
Length: 210.2 inches
Width: 74.7 inches
Height: 72.9 inches
Weight: 4,708 pounds
Fuel capacity: 21 gallons
City: 17 mpg
Highway: 22 mpg
Base price: $37,240
Price as tested: $46,570
Website: www.nissan.com


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