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

2017 INFINITI QX30 CROSSOVER THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2017 Infiniti QX30 luxury compact crossover.

DOWN THE ROAD: An all-new model, the front-wheel-drive QX30 is agile and quick on the road, boasting a first-rate ride and commendable handling.

TECH & PERFORMANCE: Under the hood resides a 2.0-liter DOHC inline-4 turbocharged engine that cranks out 208 horsepower at 5500 rpm and 258 pounds-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. We liked the slick and seamless 7-speed auto dual-clutch transmission, which also be shifted manually. A front MacPherson strut and a rear multilink suspension ensure stability at sharp turns, corner and bumps on the road. The electric-power steering conveys a direct feel. Manual, eco and sport modes are offered.

LOOK & FEEL: Based on a steel unibody construction, the QX30 is one sharp-looking vehicle. It all starts at the double-wave aluminum hood that meets up with a double-arch gloss black grille, surrounded by traditional Infiniti-shaped halogen headlights and fog lamps. Also noticeable are LED running lights and tail lamps, dual chrome exhaust tips, body-color side sills and a low-slung roofline. The cabin is awash with luxury and comfort features such as eight-way power front seats, push-button ignition, 60/40-split rear seat, flat-bottom leather steering wheel with paddle shifters, Bose audio with 10 speakers, dual a/c, and aluminum pedal finishers. The familiar Infiniti double-wave instrument panel lights up with electroluminescent analog gauges.

SAFETY FIRST: Dual front and side airbags, front knee airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, vehicle dynamic and traction control, parking sensors, hill start assist, front/rear crumple zones, Around View Monitor, moving object detection, energy absorbing steering column, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

OUT THE DOOR: $38,500, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges.

BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, 235/45R19; wheelbase, 106.3 inches; length, 174.2 inches; fuel capacity, 13.2 gallons; city, 24 mpg; highway, 33 mpg; Web site:

WHY DIG IT: If you are looking for a carlike ride that offers luxury, convenience and utilitarian features, then the QX30 should fit the bill. Hats off to Infiniti for introducing this much-needed, practical crossover.


2017 Subaru BRZIntroduced four years ago, the 2017 Subaru BRZ gains more power, styling updates, revamped suspension, among other minor changes. The rear-wheel-drive sporty coupe is still equipped with a 2.0-liter inline-4 horizontally opposed DOHC engine putting out 205 horsepower (up 5) @ 7000 rpm and 156 pounds-feet of torque @ 6400 rpm. The revised and lively 6-speed manual gearbox is fun to shift. Updated coil springs and dampers lend more nimbleness and significant body control to the ride, whether it is in city or cruising the highway. A standard Torsen limited slip differential keeps the coupe in control at sharp corners and turns.

Only 500 of the Series.Yellow BRZ that we test drove will be sold. Making this trim unique is black BRZ and Subaru exterior badging, yellow door handles, foldable exterior mirrors, LED headlights and fog lamps, and a prominent rear spoiler. Step into the cabin and the first thing you will notice is black leather and Alcantara seats with yellow stitching and the BRZ logo on the front seatbacks. Other eye-catching goodies include a redesigned leather tilt/telescopic steering wheel, 6.2-inch infotainment touchscreen, dual auto a/c, fold-down rear seat, aluminum alloy pedals, frameless rearview mirror and a 4.2-inch instrument display next to the tachometer.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, revised hill start assist, rearview camera, vehicle stability and traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, remote keyless entry, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

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 enthusiast. Stout and gorgeous-looking from any angle, the four-seater is by no means a speed demon but it deservedly earns a report card full of great marks.



The gorgeous city of Charleston, S.C., served as the backdrop for our one-day test drives of the 2018 Elantra and Sonata. Here is a roundup of both the vehicles, which we will review at length in the near future.


2018 ElantraAccording to Product Planning Manager Mike Evanoff of Hyundai, the compact car now has a lower and wide stance that shows off a cascading hexagonal grille with standard vertical LED daytime running lights. The rear acquires a standard spoiler, dual exhaust, and LED tail and brake lamps. Larger than main competitor, VW Golf, the Elantra goes up 1.6 inches in length and .6 in width from its predecessor. The 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine still puts out 161 horsepower @ 6200 rpm and 150 pounds-feet of torque @ 4200 rpm. The 1.6-liter 4-cylinder turbo powertrain in the Sport cranks out 201 hp @ 6000 rpm and 195 pounds-feet of torque @ 4500 rpm. Depending on the trim, they can be mated to a 6-speed manual or auto and a 7-speed auto transmission.

The cabin sports a horizontal dash layout of a standard 8-inch display audio, 60/40 rear seat, rearview camera, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Available comforts include dual a/c, wireless charging, cooled front seats, 8-inch nav screen, Infinity audio, blind sport monitor, smart cruise control, lake keep assist and driver attention alert. Cargo volume is up by 8 percent, now 55.1 cubic feet.

Base-priced at $19,350 and peaking at $28,200, the fuel-sipping but delightful Elantra is solid value for the money.


2018 SonataMore than 2.8 million Sonatas have been sold. That is 30 percent of all Hyundais sold in the United States. With the 2018 refresh, the Korean carmaker will unload even more of these midsize sedans. The Sonata undergoes an exterior model change with a reimagined front and rear. The cascading grille will once again catch your attention along with the Catamaran shape on its lower bumper. And yes, the license plate has been moved into the bumper. A revised interior means a fresh look to the center stack and instrument dials. A new 8-speed auto gearbox has been inducted into the 2.0T model while the rear suspension is much firmer. Added standard goodies are blind spot monitor and hidden trunk release button. Available are Qi wireless and rear USB charge port, and lane keep assist with driver attention alert. However, the power trains have been retained. The 2.4-liter inline-4 cylinder still offers 185 hp @ 6000 rpm and 178 pounds-feet of torque @ 4000 rpm; and the 2.0T puts out 245 hp @ 6000 rpm and 260 pounds-feet of torque @ 4000 rpm.

The exterior and interior overhaul and affordable pricing (based at $22,050 and tops at $32,400) will only mean more Sonatas will hit the road come 2018. Its competitors Camry, Accord, Mazda6 and Altima have plenty of reasons to worry.



2017 RENEGADE ALTITUDE 4X4Two years ago, Jeep introduced an all-new Renegade. Just a notch under the Cherokee, the subcompact Jeep is available in two power trains: 1.4-liter inline-4 turbocharged engine developing 184 horsepower @ 5500 rpm and 184 pounds-feet of torque @ 4000 rpm; or the optional 2.4-liter inline-4 cylinder engine putting out 180 hp @ 6400 rpm and 175 pounds-feet of torque @ 3900 rpm, which came in our test drive for an extra $1,530.

The Altitude trim gets a standard all-wheel drive and 9-speed auto gearbox. Keeping the Jeep stable to soak rough surfaces on the road is an independent suspension of front MacPherson strut and a Chapman strut rear system. The electric power rack-and-pinion steering is quick, accurate and direct.

Though an entry-level Jeep, the Renegade can accommodate five in comfort. Cargo room is capacious too as you get 18.5 cubic feet of space with the 40/20/40 rear seat up and 50.8 cubic feet with the seat down. Up front is a waterfall hood with the traditional seven-slotted grille, which is flanked by rounded halogen headlights. Displaying exquisite taste and tailoring, the instrument cluster features a 7-inch programmable multi-view display. The interior continues its rugged appearance with a passenger-grab handle to plop into the cushy cloth seat. Standard amenities include 5-inch UConnect touchscreen, 8-way power driver seat, folding rear seat with pass through, center floor console with two cup holders, tilt/telescopic steering column and power retractable and removable dual panels called My Sky.

Also at no cost are dual front airbags, side curtain, driver’s knee airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, electronic stability and traction control, rear camera, hill start assist, active front headrests, daytime running lights, tire pressure monitoring system and keyless entry.

With its off-road or on-road prowess, the Renegade has proved to be a tremendous and much-needed addition to the already-impressive Jeep lineup of Patriot, Compass, Cherokee, Grand Cherokee and Wrangler. Affordably based at $23,495, it is versatile, perfectly suited for the daily grind and a ‘Renegade’ of sorts!



2017 DURANGO GT AWDTwo years ago, we had tested the Dodge Durango with a 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi engine (360 horsepower). That was a fun ride to drive. So was the 2017 Durango we drove recently though it had a lesser powerful engine: 3.6-liter V-6 boasting 295 hp @ 6400 rpm and 260 pounds-feet of torque @ 4000 rpm. But that was more than enough to merge into peak-hour traffic or cruise down the highway. Power reaches the all-wheel-drive SUV via a fuel-saving 8-speed auto gear box.

Ensconced on 20-inch aluminum chrome-clad wheels, the bold-faced Durango split crosshair grille is flanked by projector-beam headlights that meet up with a sculpted hood. Noticeably visible in the rear are wraparound tail lamps with a centered chrome light DODGE bar and dual exhaust tips. Step into the cavernous cabin and you will notice that legroom for the 60/40 second-row passengers is aplenty as is space in the 50/50 third-row seat for children. And with both the seats folded flat, you can get 84.5 cubic feet of cargo space to load up plenty of plywood from the local home improvement store. Tri-zone auto a/c, 8.4-inch touch screen, sizeable front center console, eight-way power driver seat and fold-flat front-passenger six-way power seat, and leather tilt/telescopic steering wheel are standard.

Safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbags for all rows, Electronic Stability Control, four-wheel antilock brakes, hill start assist, remote start, rearview camera, rear parking sensors, front-row active head restraints and tire pressure monitoring system. For sailboat owners, tow capacity is 6,200 pounds.

Opt for the Durango if you crave robust power along with tons of cargo and passenger capacity. It will be well worth the money.


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