MARCH 2016
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Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE, [email protected]

4RUNNER TRAIL PREMIUM 4X4 After a major re-do inside out last year, the best-selling car in the United States continues as is in 2016. The 2.5-liter inline-4 cylinder engine in the Toyota Camry develops 178 horsepower and 170 pounds-feet of torque, plenty to cruise on the highway or dodge traffic in the city (the other power train is a 3.5-liter V-6 cranking 268 hp and 248 pounds-feet of torque). The sedan is equipped with an effective 6-speed auto transmission and a sport-tuned suspension for nippy and attentive handling. It helps that engineers used sound-insulating materials to further reduce noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels in an already-quiet ride.

Projector-beam halogen headlights with black trim bezels flank a smoked chrome upper grille hosting the familiar Toyota emblem. Satin-chrome accents deck up the interior with its center stack, custom-tuned JBL audio system, 4.2-inch TFT screen between the tachometer and speedometer, and a wireless charging system for select cellphones. Trunk space is a cool 15.4 cubic feet. Standard goodies include eight-way power driver and four-way front-passenger seat, a/c, leather three-spoke tilt/telescopic steering column, 60/40 rear seat, two 12-volt power outlets and a 6.1-inch touchscreen for navigation, audio, phone controls.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag and front knee airbags are fitted at no extra charge along with side-impact door beams, four-wheel antilock brakes, Electronic Brake Distribution with brake assist, vehicle stability and traction controls, rearview camera, front/rear crumple zones and tire pressure monitoring system.

This bread-and-butter vehicle for and from Toyota is an agile, sporty and tidy ride that seats five with comfort. The Japanese carmaker’s reputation for durability and reliability can only help to keep the recently fine-tuned midsize sedan at the top for several years to come.



MKCLast year, about 25,000 units of the MKC were sold. Launched little less than 1½ years ago, this compact luxury SUV has come as a fresh boost of much-needed air for Lincoln. Available in all-wheel or front-wheel drive, the five-passenger ride comes in a 2.0-liter or 2.3-liter power train, both turbocharged. Our test vehicle was the latter putting out 285 horsepower @ 5500 rpm and 305 pounds-feet of torque @ 2750 rpm. That is plenty for the 3,989-pound vehicle to scoot from any speed. The 6-speed auto gear box is effortless.

A split-winged grille with the centered Lincoln emblem, surrounded by HID headlights and LED accents, conveys a powerful stance. But it is in the lavish, modish and beautifully made cabin that the MKC justly shines. Out goes the MyLincoln Touch to be replaced by an all-new and user-friendly Sync3, an interface to control audio, phone and navigation systems via voice, touch or both. Passenger and cargo room is plenty with 25.2 cubic feet behind the second row and 53.1 cubic feet behind the first row. Dual-zone auto climate control, three-spoke manual leather steering wheel, 10-way power driver and 4-way front-passenger seats, 60/40 flat second-row bench, hands-free lift gate and the Lincoln welcome/farewell light elements when you enter or exit are standard.

As we said at the outset, the MKC has been a boon for the lagging Lincoln brand. The ride is quick and nimble as you would expect from any sedan. And passengers can sit, relax and enjoy the coziness of this luxury SUV.



Scion IMLet’s start off by recognizing that this all-new compact hatchback from Scion is no powerhouse. But it does offer some redeeming qualities that will appeal to potential buyers, especially the novice driver in the family.

Under the hood of the one-trim, front-wheel-drive car sits a 1.8-liter inline-4 cylinder engine developing 137 horsepower @ 6100 rpm and 126 pounds-feet of torque @ 4000 rpm. A 6-speed manual is standard though you can opt for a continuous variable transmission. A MacPherson strut front and a double wishbone rear suspension suppress road and wind noise to result in a pleasingly agile ride.

Up front, the iM displays sharp-eyed, projector-beam halogen headlights surrounding a piano black grille, hexagonal lower grille, side bezels with honeycomb pattern and sporty body aero kit. The cabin is spacious and elegant with standard dual-zone a/c, leather tilt/telescopic steering column, 60/40 fold rear seat, height-adjustable driver seat and armrest, digital clock and piano black and satin-chrome trim throughout. The 4.2-inch multi-information display between the analog gauges for the speedometer and tachometer is useful. So is the 7-inch touch screen audio display.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with traction, stability and hill start control, front active headrests, three-point seatbelts, rearview camera and tire pressure monitoring system are standard. The two-year/25,000-mile maintenance plan is a bonus.

No doubt, the iM lacks muscle and, as a result, manages a passable performance. However, it makes up for the deficit with plentiful cargo and passenger space, good fuel mileage (our mixed driving average was EPA-estimated 31 mpg) and a price that’s competitive in the compact hatchback market.



Ford FocusLast year, Ford had sent over the 2.0-liter GDI inline-4 cylinder Focus hatchback to test drive. We wondered how the other power train, a 1.0-liter turbo EcoBoost 3-cylinder engine, would hold up in comparison. (EcoBoost is essentially twin turbochargers and a smaller-displacement engine working in tandem with gasoline direct injection to produce a powerful but fuel-efficient engine).

Our prayers were answered recently when we took a ride in the 1.0, which puts out 132 horsepower @ 6350 rpm and 148 pounds-feet of torque @ 5000 rpm. The most thrilling was the seamless 6-speed manual gear box, providing smooth up shifts and quick downshifts. The compact car also is equipped with a 5-speed manual or 6-speed auto.

Take the driver’s seat inside the unitized steel body of the front-wheel-drive car and you will find instrument gauges with aqua-blue needles atop white numerals amid black background. Satin-chrome details on the switches give the cabin a fresh feel and appearance. Air-conditioning, front center console with armrest and bin, tilt/telescopic steering column, driver information center, 60/40 rear seat, 6-way driver and 4-way manual front-passenger seats, 6-speaker audio with AM/FM, CD and power windows/door locks are standard in the SE trim. An all-new Sync3 replaces the former MyFord Touch, making it simpler to access audio, telephone, nav controls via a voice command, touch screen tap or button click.

Customary safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes, AdvanceTrac with electronic stability control, rearview camera, antiskid system and tire pressure monitoring system.

Base-priced at just $18,460, the Focus delivers fun-to-drive handling, worthy steering and body control, and admirable fuel economy (29/40 and combined 33 mpg) in a tasteful package.


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