MAY 2018
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Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE –[email protected]

2018 VOLVO XC60It was long time coming and Volvo has made the most and best of it. Nearly nine years after its introduction, the XC60 has been totally revamped in and out. Offered in at least three trims, our small luxury crossover SUV was equipped with a T6 2.0-liter inline-4 turbocharged and supercharged engine cranking 316 horsepower @ 5700 rpm and 295 pounds-feet of torque @ 2200 rpm. That’s 0 to 60 in just 5.6 seconds and a top speed of 130 mph. The 8-speed auto gearbox in the front-wheel or all-wheel-drive SUV is as seamless as can be possible. And the start-stop feature (automatic engine stop when the vehicle halts) ensures substantial savings in fuel and weight. A revised and enhanced double front and integral rear suspension handles the bumps of road surfaces with little sacrifice to your back side.

Gaining 3.6 inches in wheelbase, nearly 2 inches length, and wider too opens up more passenger volume, which is now a notable 102.9 cubic feet. Rear legroom sees a boost of 4 inches. The handsome crossover sports a centered chrome grille with the familiar Volvo iron mark, flanked by LED headlights and Thor’s hammer-like daytime running lights. With materials of high quality and splendid fit and finish, the generous cabin sports a 12.3-inch instrument panel decked in shimmer graphite aluminum inlays. 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. Standard goodies include 20-inch wheels, Inscription badge, four-zone auto a/c, 10-way power front seats, cooled glovebox and a leather-wrapped dashboard.

The Chinese-owned but Swedish-made car company is well-known for its safety features. Continuing the tradition, the XC60 gets dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes, three-point seatbelts for all, side impact protection system, dynamic stability and traction control, City Safety (brakes automatically to help prevent a rear-end collision) also gets steer assist, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

The 2018 XC60 boasts an impeccably balanced package of style, comfort, performance and, of course, safety. Volvo has a winner on its hands with this overhauled SUV, which should be an even bigger hot seller than its predecessor.



2018 LEXUS LC500 HYBRIDLexus aficionadas will recall our test-drive review of the 2018 LC500 equipped with a 5.0-liter cylinder engine. The Japanese carmaker followed that up recently with the same supercar but with a 3.5-liter V-6 powertrain mated to electric motor/generators, which put out a total of 354 horsepower @ 6000 rpm. Zero to 60 mph is clocked at just 4.7 seconds with top speed limited at 155 mph. The rear-wheel-drive speedster is fitted with a 310.8-volt lithium-ion battery, which is recharged by energy captured as the driver applies the brakes or coasts. Also, the Continuous Variable Transmission and 4-speed auto gearbox get a regenerative braking system. When the car is coasting or the brakes are applied, the electric power functions as a generator, capturing kinetic energy that would normally be lost. Instead, it converts the energy into useable electricity for recharging the batteries.

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.

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

Like the power-at-all-times engine in the non-hybrid version, this LC500 is priced slightly higher but still peaking at over 100g. It does sip gas slower to eke out an impressive 26 mpg city and 35 mpg (regular LC is only 16 city/26 highway). This classy sports coupe is still an extraordinary ride, lunging gracefully forward with fervor at each turn, and braking just as quickly and with self-confidence.



2018 TOYOTA AVALONIf you are looking for a large sedan that delivers smooth and linear acceleration with first-rate steering and body control, then the Avalon should be at the top of the list. The front-wheel-drive Toyota is the near-perfect ride, whether you want to dodge peak-hour traffic or cruise the highway this summer.

A 3.5-liter V-6 engine blasts off 268 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 248 pounds-feet of torque at 4700 rpm. Though the 6-speed auto gearbox is up to the mark, we wouldn’t be surprised if Toyota ups the ante for the next Avalon revamp. MacPherson struts shared up front and in the rear do an admirable job of absorbing bumps and potholes. Communicating what the Toyota is up to at all times is an accurate power rack-and-pinion steering system.

The Avalon displays a chrome grille surround flanked by quadra-beam LED headlights and fog lamps. Resin scuff door plates greet the occupants into a superbly fitted and finished cabin made upscale with generously sprinkled black woodgrain-style on the steering wheel, door panels, shifter knob and center console. Amid a black/gray background are located attractive white pointers on white illuminated instrument gauges. Other standard amenities are power tilt/slide moon roof, dual-zone auto a/c, keyless entry/engine start, eight-way power and heated/cooled front seats, rearview camera, 7-inch touch screen for audio, phone and nav controls. Trunk space is an incredibly large 16 cubic feet while passenger volume is also laudable at 103.6 cubic feet.

The now-standard Toyota Safety Sense includes a pre-collision system that detects pedestrians, lane departure assist and dynamic cruise control. Other safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, front knee airbags, vehicle stability and traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert, front and rear crumple zones, side impact door beams, three-point seatbelts for all, tire pressure monitor and daytime running lights.

The engine provides plentiful pep for the somewhat hefty Avalon. A high-class cabin and admirable fuel economy (23 mpg combined average) add to the appeal of the Toyota flagship sedan.


2018 OUTLANDER is roomy, economical and fuel efficient

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander GTWe have driven several versions of the Mitsubishi Outlander with the somewhat OK 2.4-liter 4-cylinder power train under the hood. But recently we test drove the crossover utility vehicle with a 3.0-liter V-6 developing 224 horsepower @ 6250 rpm and 215 pounds-feet of torque @ 3750 rpm. Without a doubt, the GT trim of the Outlander is an enjoyable ride that responds with agility in most driving situations. Also unlike previous occasions, this one has a 6-speed auto gearbox instead of the noisy continuous variable transmission. Tow capacity is a worthy 3,500 pounds.

No doubt, the Outlander shows off an aggressive look with LED headlights and fog lamps surrounding a chrome grille and front bumper silver accents. The interior is spacious with passenger volume of 128.2 cubic feet and 63.3 cubic feet of space after the 60/40 second- and 50/50 third-row seats are folded. The larger 7.2-inch touch navigation and display audio interface is easy to operate. An Eco indicator on the instrument panel can be a convenient fuel saver. The black instrument panel with silver accents conveys elegance found in high-end vehicles. Several goodies are offered such as dual auto a/c, leather tilt/telescopic leather steering column and shifter, eight-way power driver and four-way manual front-passenger heated seats, power sun roof, driver information center, 710-watt Rockford-Fosgate sound system with nine speakers, under floor cargo hold, and a rear seat armrest with two cup holders.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, active stability and traction control, hill start assist, four-wheel antilock brakes, anti-theft alarm, rear camera, blind spot monitor, rear-cross traffic alert, lane change assist, front-pedestrian impact crumple zones, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system.

Unlike the 4-cylinder engine, this Outlander has plenty of power to ensure a quick and smooth ride with good handling/balance. Besides, there is also substantial cargo and passenger space, decent fuel mileage and an affordable price tag.


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