JULY 2019
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By NITISH S. RELE – motoringtampabay@gmail.com

As though a mid-cycle refresh three years ago wasn’t enough, Acura has totally overhauled its RDX for 2019. Out goes the 3.5-liter V-6 engine in this third-generation SUV to be replaced by a 2.0-liter inline-4 cylinder turbo blasting off 272 horsepower (down 7) @ 6500 rpm and 280 pounds-feet of torque (up 28) @ 4500 rpm. Also say goodbye to the 6-speed auto gearbox, which has been swapped with an absolutely seamless 10-speed.

Keeping the SUV steady at all times once again is a MacPherson strut front but with a revamped 5-link rear suspension to result in a well-damped ride. Thanks to the dual-pinion variable ratio electric power steering, which means no hoses or pumps, there are fewer trips to the gas station. Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) distributes power not just between the front and rear wheels but also the left and right rear wheels. Our SH-AWD model EPA estimates are 21/26 mpg, a modest increase in city mileage. Comfort, sport, sport+ and snow modes are offered.

This year’s RDX is bigger and better in all respects. Wheelbase gets a boost of 2.6 inches, length by 2.4, with a wider track (1.1 front, 1.3 rear) and a larger fuel tank (1.1 gallons) than its predecessor. Up front, it’s an attention-grabber with jewel-eye LED headlights and tail lamps flanking the signature diamond pentagon grille. The A-Spec package fetches the owner 20-inch alloy wheels, leather seats with ultra-suede inserts, cooled seats, gloss-black accents on grille, larger exhaust tips, and more. The interior with brushed aluminum accents on the instrument panel, doors and central console is inviting. Standard amenities include 12-way power front seats, 60/40 rear seat, tilt/telescopic steering column, dual auto a/c, and a power moon roof and tail gate that can be activated remotely. Total passenger volume is a worthy 103.5 cubic feet while cargo space is up by 5 to reach 31.1 cubic feet. The underfloor bin in the cargo hold should come in handy during the long summer trips.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes, front/rear crumple zones, side-impact door beams, vehicle stability assist with traction control, lane departure warning and lane-keep assist (which maintains the ride in its path), blind-spot monitor, collision mitigation system, multi-angle rearview camera, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system are standard. These now include all the safety technology that comes with AcuraWatch.

As we head into inclement weather this hurricane season, the SH-AWD (also offered in front wheel) capabilities of the RDX will certainly ensure safety for all occupants. Plus, the facelifted SUV boasts exceptional handling prowess, attractive styling and a pleasing interior.



2-19 LEXUS RC350 F SPORT0 to 60 is reached in only 5.8 seconds, ¼-mile in 14.3 seconds and top speed can peak at 143 mph. Not bad, we thought, as we took the third-generation 2019 Lexus RC 350 F Sport for a test drive. As expected, this enjoyable and entertaining luxury coupe is quick off the mark, supple in traffic and a blast to drive. Under the unitized steel body resides a 3.5-liter V-6 engine putting out a healthy 311 horsepower @ 6600 rpm and 280 pounds-feet of torque @ 4800 rpm. It is equipped with an eight-speed auto gearbox and can be driven in eco, normal, sport, sport+ and custom modes. Though our car was a rear-wheel drive, you can opt for an electronically controlled all-weather drive for firmer grip and traction. For 2019, Lexus has recalibrated the electric power steering while refurbishing the coil springs and shock absorbers for a well-damped and athletic ride.

The F Sport comes with a mammoth mesh spindle grille flanked by LED headlights and daytime running lights, 19-inch five-spoke wheels, cooled/heated power front seats, perforated shifter and power steering column, aluminum sport pedals, blind spot monitor with rear-cross traffic alert, among other luxuries. And, of course, a forceful sport-tuned suspension that provides for some spirited driving. LFA-inspired instrument panel hosts a moving center ring for a digital speedometer, tachometer and a driver information center. Other goodies include silver metallic trim, revamped analog clock, 60/40 fold rear seat, steering wheel paddle shifters, Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa, and dual-zone auto a/c. A mouse-like, easy-to-use Remote Touch enables the driver to toggle navigation, climate, audio and phone controls, which are displayed on a 7-inch screen.

Standard are dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, front knee airbags, vehicle stability and traction controls, front/rear crumple zones and side-impact beams, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, daytime running lights and a tire pressure monitoring system. Add in a pre-collision system that detects pedestrians, lane departure assist and keep assist, auto emergency braking, dynamic cruise control, all part of the no-cost Lexus Safety Sense+.

Except for a tight rear seat, miniscule trunk and lack of cubby space, the energetic RC350 delivers not just a punch or two but also a top-notch cabin, muscular styling and respectable fuel economy to give competitors a run for the money.



2019 Mazda 3It’s always been an exciting and well-composed ride for us. In fact, all Mazdas are. What makes the Mazda3 special is its amazing agility, response and grip. The 2019 power train is fitted with the direct-injection Skyactiv technology, which uses a torque boost via a high compression ratio for stretching fuel economy. Under the hood sits a 2.5-liter inline-4 cylinder engine that develops 186 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 186 pounds-feet of torque @ 4000 rpm. Mated to the car, which is available as a sedan or hatchback, is a 6-speed manual or auto gearbox.

Length and wheelbase see a modest upturn of 3.2 and 1 inches respectively. A matte-finish grille with the Mazda insignia is surrounded by horizontal LED headlights and daytime running lights. Changes in the cabin include a newly redesigned command control to operate the bigger 8.8-inch (prior was 7”) navigation/infotainment screen. Also revamped is the leather steering wheel design, shifter and the armrest, which has been moved forward. Other conveniences include six-way power driver seat, heated front seats, push-button start, dual-zone auto a/c, 60/40 fold-down rear seat with hidden armrest and cup holders, power windows and door locks, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and AM/FM.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, front knee airbags, stability and traction control, hill launch assist, active front-head restraints, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, rearview camera, radar cruise control, lane keep assist and departure warning, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert and tire pressure monitoring system are standard. For 2019, the G-Vectoring Control Plus (enables driver to handle emergency situations or untoward road conditions with more accurate steering inputs) comes at no extra cost. And the i-ACTIV AWD works along with G-Vectoring to control torque distribution between front/rear wheels.

Base-priced at $27,900, Mazda3 is a compact car, so we will excuse the tight rear seat for passengers or the intruding noise at highway speeds. But this splendid fuel-sipper is reasonable, well-balanced, trendy and a blast to take out for a jaunt or as a dally ride.



2019 Toyota 86Before you wonder what the heck a Toyota 86 is, here are the answers. It’s a sports car equipped with an 86 mm bore and stroke. Also, AE86 was the global name for the Corolla GT-S, which was sold in the mid-80s. And that’s how the now-defunct Scion FR-S adopted the 86 identity, now passed on to Toyota.

Developed jointly with Subaru (BRZ for one!), the rear-wheel-drive sporty coupe is equipped with a 2.0-liter inline-4 horizontally opposed DOHC engine cranking out 205 horsepower @ 7000 rpm and 156 pounds-feet of torque @ 6400 rpm. The lively 6-speed manual gearbox is fun to shift. A MacPherson strut front and double-wishbone suspension lends nimbleness and significant body control to the ride, whether it is in city or cruising the highway. And the standard Torsen limited slip differential keeps the coupe in control at sharp corners and turns.

Portraying a low and a wide stance, the boldly-styled 86 is equipped with projector-beam LED headlights, fog lamps and tail lights, flanking a mesh grille. That this is an ‘86’ is evident only from a closer look at the embossed logo on the front fenders. Or if you step into the cabin, the insignia is once again visible on the center cap of the leather tilt/telescopic steering column. Carbon fiber dash and door trim, as well as aluminum sport pedals and scuff plates, enhance the already sophisticated appearance. The 4.2-inch instrument panel shows off a large center-mounted tachometer with a digital speedometer and programmable rev indicator, flanked by another analog speedo and temp/fuel readings. The easy-to operate toggle switches for heat/ac are a nice touch amid the redundant controls of today. Other eye-catching goodies include push-button start, 7-inch infotainment touchscreen, six-way height-adjustable driver and four-way front-passenger seats, cruise control, dual auto a/c, and power doors and windows,

Safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, hill start assist, rearview camera, vehicle stability and traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, remote keyless entry, three-point seatbelts for all, smart stop technology, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

Push the starter button to summon the 4-cylinder boxer engine and the rev-happy 86 emits an exhaust roar that will delight any sports coupe buff. Stout and gorgeous-looking from any angle, the four-seater is by no means a speedster but it justifiably earns a report card full of good marks.


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