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

2020 CHEVY CAMARO LT1 This one is especially for the performance-oriented folks. The rest should take a back seat. Seriously. The all-new 2020 Chevrolet Camaro LT1 model is equipped with a mammoth and potent 6.2-liter V-8 engine cranking out 455 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 455 pounds-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. Making the rear-wheel-drive coupe a thriller is an effortless and freshly adopted 10-speed auto gearbox (at $1,595).

The iconic muscle car is truly a blast to drive, especially when pushed hard at sharp and quick turns. Of course, it is a relief to have 10-spoke 20-inch forged aluminum wheels, four-piston Brembo brakes, strut tower brace and an optional dual-mode exhaust that has to be heard to be believed. Steering feedback is rapid and accurate, thanks to a variable-ratio electric power system. Drive modes include tour, sport and snow/ice.

Immediately grabbing attention up front is a vent-style matte black hood (like one in the SS trim) that meets up to striking LED headlights and daytime running lights. The black bowtie emblem has been shifted to the upper grille and a body-color bar separates the upper and lower grilles. This makes the Camaro LT1 appearance not just bold but also intimidating. However, the cabin displays a classic Camaro appearance with deeply recessed binnacles housing rounded tachometer, speedometer, fuel and oil temp gauges. A 7-inch touch screen displays phone, audio and navigation capabilities. Also standard are 8-way driver and six-way front-passenger power seats, auto a/c, flat-bottomed leather-wrapped steering wheel and short-throw shifter, folding rear seat, head-up display, keyless open/start and ambient lighting.

Among the several safety features are dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, stability and traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes, limited slip differential, rearview camera, rear obstacle detection system, three-point safety belts for all, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights. The powerful 13.6-inch front and 13.3-inch rear vented discs will boost any driver’s confidence behind the wheel.

The only minus we see is a constricted rear seat and poor visibility. Otherwise, the Camaro displays incredible nimbleness, tremendous handling and exceptional braking. It leaves you asking for more as you put the pedal to the metal. Priced at just $34,000, the LT1 is great value for the money. Heavy lead-footers couldn’t ask for a better V-8 performance experience!



2020 CHARGER WIDEBODY Scat PackIt falls just one short of the Hellcat, which Dodge has loaded up with a mind-numbing 707 horsepower. Our 2020 Charger Scat Pack test drive was equipped with a 392 Hemi V-8 engine, which still packed a massive punch at 485 hp @ 6100 rpm and 475 pounds-feet of torque @ 4100 rpm. And that is more than plenty for this full-size sedan to go from 0 to 60 in 4.3 seconds, ¼-mile in 12.4 seconds, while mated to an 8-speed auto transmission. Of course, the Widebody package enhances the overall width by 3.5 inches. The rear-wheel-drive sedan takes the edge off sharp bumps and breaks with composure, thanks to performance-tuned independent front short-long arm with high upper ‘A’ arm and 5-link rear suspension. Keeping torque steer to the minimum is the rack-and-pinion electric power steering offered in sport track, default and custom modes.

Ensconced on a unitized steel body, the front fenders of our Charger sported a “392 Hemi” badge while the rear was etched with the Scat Pack Bee logo as well as LED tail lamps, spoiler and dual chrome tips. The air-intake hood joins a daunting mail-slot honeycomb grille and Scat Pack badge, surrounded by quad halogen reflector headlights. That this is a race-inspired cabin is evident from the rounded 180 mph speedometer and 7000 tachometer gauges with fuel and temperature readings, and a driver information center. Lending further taste and elegance are aluminum lithographic splashes on the center stack, shifter, dash and door-switch bezels. Other standard amenities are eight-way power front seats, 8.4-inch UConnect touchscreen, 7-inch reconfigurable instrument cluster, 60/40 rear seat, spacious 16.5-cubic-foot trunk, compass and a distinctly designed T-handle shifter.

Safety is vital for Dodge with dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, driver knee airbag, active head restraints, electronic stability and traction control, hill-start assist, front/rear crumple zones, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system. Credit goes to massive 15.4-inch front brake rotors with six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers for bringing the 4,373-pound sedan to a halt in 107 feet.

Muscle-car fans, crave for that throaty exhaust growl (it’s a Hemi!) as you turn on the ignition? Like to mash the pedals for a speed-demon-like takeoff? Then the Charger Scat Pack Widebody will fit the bill. To a T.



2019 Fiat 500L (Trekking)For 2020, the two-door base Fiat has been discontinued. But no worries. The 500L and 500X will still be available. Our test drive was the 2019 Fiat 500L Trekking trim, which came with a 1.4-liter turbo inline-4 cylinder engine developing 160 horsepower @ 5500 rpm and 184 pounds-feet of torque @ 4000 rpm. It is mated to a seamless 6-speed auto gearbox. Suspension is handled adeptly via a MacPherson strut front and twist-beam axle rear, soaking up obstacles with ease. Though not as responsive as one would like, the electric power steering is swift and accurate.

The front-wheel-drive hatchback boasts a body-color grille with satin silver accent/logo, flanked by bi-halogen circular halogen headlights. Also visible are chromed head/tail lamp bezels and a rounded clamshell hood. Step inside and the instrument cluster of the 160-mph speedometer, tachometer, engine temp and fuel gauge draw attention. It justly is a simple and easily laid out dash design, especially the circular temp controls. Other notable goodies include a/c, satin-silver door handles, UConnect 7-inch touch screen for phone, nav and audio controls, ambient lights, dual glove boxes, Beats premium audio, black leather shifter with chrome accent, front seat height adjusters, manual tilt/telescopic steering column, and a hands-on 60/40-split rear tilt/tumble/slide seat. We recommend the $795 optional convenience package for dual auto a/c, power two-way driver and manual two-way passenger lumbar adjusts, and a rear park assist system. Also appealing for Sunshine State residents is the $1,395 dual power sun roof.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, electronic stability and traction control, hill start assist, rearview camera, front active head restraints, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard.

Like your order (in this case, ride) supersized? Then the Fiat 500L with its sumptuous but cavernous cabin for people- and cargo-hauling capabilities, good value for the money and a distinct European flair should be at the top of your test-drive list. But the ride could use some extra power to enhance an OK performance.

500L (Trekking)

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