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Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE –

2020 BENZ E53 CABRIOLETOK, so it isn’t quite as fast as the C63 AMG but this one still can fly! Replacing the E43 model, the Mercedes-Benz E53 can take off from 0 to 60 mph in a mere 4.4 seconds. And top speed is set at 130 mph. Not earth-shattering numbers but still very impressive, one must say. After all, the 3.0-liter turbo engine with an integrated EQ starter-generator (located between engine and transmission) in the 2020 Cabriolet isn’t just a run-of-the-mill. It was specially hand built by the AMG division in Affalterbach, Germany.

Step on the throttle of all-wheel-drive luxury convertible and the inline-6 engine blasts off 429 horsepower at 6100 rpm and 384 pounds-feet of torque at 5800 rpm. Mated to a slick and effective 9-speed automatic gearbox, the E53 is equipped with an electro-mechanical rack-and-pinion steering, which is razor sharp. Suspension is handled competently by an independent multi-link system. Both ends have gas shocks and coil springs to improve ride quality and comfort. Bringing the speed demon to a halt are 14.5-inch front and 14.2-inch rear caliper discs. To vary the driving experience, Mercedes comes in eco, individual, comfort, sport, and sports+ modes. The soft power top opens or closes in 20 seconds. In fact, you can operate the top at up to a 31-mile speed.

Walk up to the E53 and the first element that will grab your attention is the AMG badge embossed in the arrow-shaped ‘twin-blade’ grille with the familiar three-pointed star, flanked by wraparound LED headlamps and daytime running lights. The cabin is lavish and elegant as is expected of any AMG-equipped Benz with dual-zone auto a/c, 40/20/40 rear seat, Burmester sound system, panoramic sunroof, steering wheel-mounted shifters, open/close power trunk, and heated/cooled seats. The dash, doors and center console are covered in rich Nappa leather upholstery. The previous rotary knob for the Command system has been replaced with a touchpad to control the audio, navigation and phone infotainment on the massive 12.3-inch display screen. AMG enthusiasts will quickly notice the emblem imprinted on the seatbacks. All the materials and craftsmanship are top-notch.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes, electronic stability program, pre-safe (partial braking in an emergency), rearview camera, keyless go/start, active brake assist, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system are standard. Numerous packages are offered and we recommend going with driver assistance offer ($2,250), which will fetch you active distance, steering, land-keep brake and blind spot assists, among others.

Base-priced at $81,600 and topping at $95,445 with options, the performance- and luxury-oriented E53 packs a bunch or two with superb handling and balance. And if you have the dough, we can only encourage you to be a little pompous. After all, who says flaunting is a crime?



2019 VW AtlasIntroduced in 2018, the fairly new Atlas is the largest VW on the road today, eclipsing its younger sibling the Tiguan. Under the hood sits a sole 3.6-liter V-6 engine putting out 276 horsepower @ 6200 rpm and 266 pounds-feet of torque @ 2750 rpm. For a vehicle weighing nearly 4,700, it’s quick off the mark, responding with agility in any situation. The midsize SUV offers an 8-speed auto gearbox. Ensconced on the unitary body is a robust independent four-wheel suspension. Tow capacity is a remarkable 5,000 pounds.

Available as a front-wheel or all-wheel drive (our trim), this replacement for the Touareg appears to be attracting lots of attention, all good. Horizontal LED headlights and daytime running lights flank chrome bars with the centered VW insignia. The attractive cabin of the SUV epitomizes European styling and flair with a simple but elegant instrument panel of large analog speedometer and tachometer gauges and a centered driver information center. The 60/40 second-row seat tilts and slides 7.7 inches forward effortlessly while the 50/50 third row is big enough for two adults to sit comfortably. Passenger volume is commendable at 153.7 cubic feet while you get an astonishing 96.8 cubic feet behind the front row with all rear seats down. Like the sun to come down on you? Open up the 4.4-by-2.8-foot panoramic sunroof. Amenities include an 8-inch touch screen for audio, nav and phone controls, tri-zone auto a/c with second-row air vents, three-spoke leather steering column, front heated/cooled seats, and a power lift gate.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, Electronic Stability Protection with anti-slip regulation and engine brake assist, traction control, lane departure and forward collision warning, blind-spot monitor, front/rear park distance control, hill start assist and descent control, adaptive cruise control, overhead and rearview camera, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard.

Competition is fierce in the midsize SUV segment but this fairly new ride has been receiving rave reviews from its owners. Apart from a potent power train and good looks, a roomy third-row seat and generous cargo hold should ensure that the VW Atlas becomes a frontrunner.



2020 Nissan ZYutaka Katayama may not be a household name but you can shower accolades on the late ex-president of Nissan’s U.S. operations in the 1970s. After all, he was instrumental in bringing the Fairlady Z, known then as 240Z, to the American roads. And what a ride it’s been for the icon, which debuted as a 2.4-liter single-overhead cam inline-6 cylinder engine with just 150 horsepower, 4-speed or 3-speed automatic transmission and 14-inch wheels in 1970.

Fifty years later, the 370Z (as in a 3.7-liter V-6 engine) anniversary edition cranks out 332 horsepower at 7000 rpm and 270 pounds-feet of torque at 5200 rpm. The rear-wheel-drive coupe is equipped with a sole 6-speed manual transmission. And how can we forget those 19-inch forced alloy wheels? What a difference five decades can make!

Bi-functional xenon dark-tinted HIDs, boomerang LED tail lamps, aluminum hood, doors and hatch, enhance the muscular stance of the bold-appearing car. Z buffs will be familiar with the three-bay gauge pods for oil temperature, voltmeter and digital clock on top of dashboard. Some fine standard cabin amenities are auto climate control, push-button ignition, eight-way adjustable driver and four-way passenger seats, manual tilt steering column, cruise control, 7-inch touchscreen, and powers windows and door locks.

Safety is paramount in the Z with its standard dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, stability/traction control, active-head restraints, front/rear crumple zones, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

Here’s what the 50th edition adds to the regular Z:

After five decades, this 2020 sports coupe continues to offer tremendous performance, elegant styling and great value for the money! Z enthusiasts have every right to be celebrating its golden anniversary with glee.

Happy 50th, Z.


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