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

2020 VOLVO XC90 review A few months ago, Volvo had dispatched over a 2016 XC90 R-Design for us to drive. And recently, we had the one-up 2017 Inscription model parked in our driveway for a test drive. Undoubtedly, both are incredible rides we recommend wholeheartedly to the potential seven-passenger luxury SUV buyer.

The XC90 maintains the status quo power train with a T6 2.0-liter inline-4 turbocharged and supercharged engine cranking 316 horsepower @ 5700 rpm and 295 pounds-feet of torque @ 4500 rpm. 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.

The optional $5,600 Inscription trim gets you full LED headlights and Thor’s hammer-like daytime running lights surrounding a silver-matte grille, 20-inch, 10-spoke alloy wheels, Inscription badge on the tailgate, Nappa leather seats, dashboard, upper door panels and key fob, walnut wood inlays, cooled front seats, among other cool goodies. 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 safety features include dual front and side airbags, driver knee airbag, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes, anti-whiplash front seats, rear park assist and camera, side impact protection system, dynamic stability and traction control, City Safety (brakes automatically to help prevent a rear-end collision), tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

Whether you are testing off-road prowess or on-road capability, the nearly 4,600-pound XC90 is astonishingly quick off the mark, sprightly in traffic and pleasing to drive. It’s a smart choice if the steep price tag is within your reach!

XC90 (AWD)


2020 LEXUS GX460So, you fancy going off the beaten path but you want to do it in style and luxury? There aren’t a whole lot of choices on the road but the 2020 Lexus GX460 comes to mind. And don’t for a minute believe that the 5,198-pound-weight is a drag on this body-on-frame SUV. Zero to 60 is an impressive 7.8 seconds as you take a seat around opulence. Indeed, it is a blast to drive, responding with quickness in any driving situation while loaded with lavish treats.

Under the hood sits a 4.6-liter V-8 engine blasting off 301 horsepower @ 5500 rpm and 329 pounds-feet of torque @ 3500 rpm. It is mated to a standard 6-speed auto gearbox. Showing off a muscular posture, the GX460 sports a refreshed but massive spindle mesh grille flanked by triple-beam LED headlights and daytime running lights; chrome accents deck up its lower rear bumper. As soon as we stepped into the airy and well-appointed cabin, we noticed the two spacious Captain’s chairs while the 50/50 third-row seat folds flat via the touch of a button. A 4.2-inch TFT LCD screen displays larger analog speedometer, tachometer, and smaller fuel and temp gauges. Some goodies include tri-zone auto a/c, 10-way power front seats, power tilt/telescopic steering column, and moon roof. Aluminum accents and Gray Sapele wood convey a cool appearance. Clearly labeled audio, nav and climate buttons make it a breeze to use the 8-inch screen. And there is a CD player to boot, whether you use it or not!

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, front-passenger cushion airbag are standard along with blind-spot monitor with rear-cross traffic alert, side-impact door beams, four-wheel antilock brakes, electronic brake distribution and brake assist, vehicle stability and traction control, rearview camera, push-button start, three-point seatbelts with pretensioners, and front/rear crumple zones. These are complemented by a pre-collision system that detects pedestrians and bicyclists, lane center and departure assist and dynamic cruise control, all part of the no-cost Lexus Safety Sense+.

If in the market for a full-size rugged but luxury SUV that can tackle the tough landscape (thanks to multi-terrain select and crawl control) with confidence, the GX460 fits the bill. You won’t be disappointed as long as the steep price tag is within your reach!



2020 HONDA RIDGELINEIt’s been back for over three years ago and the powerful Honda Ridgeline is now even more appealing than before. For 2020, the midsize pickup acquires a seamless and quiet 9-speed auto gearbox for quick acceleration and fuel savings to replace the previous 6-speed. Standard are Honda Sensing safety and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Once again, the single crew cab pickup shares its powertrain with the Pilot SUV: 3.5-liter V-6 engine cranks out 280 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 262 pounds-feet of torque @ 4700 rpm. A Variable Cylinder Management, which operates in three or four cylinder modes, ensures fewer trips to the gas station. And if you want to go on an off-road adventure, just change your normal mode to mud, sand or snow.

LED headlights flank a chrome bar and three-slot black grille hosting the Honda emblem. The 8-inch Intelligent Multi-Information Display (i-MID) displays data for audio, navigation, Bluetooth, rearview camera, fuel economy, texting, compass, clock, etc. Storage space is abundant with bins and cubicles throughout the cabin. There also is a massive in-bed trunk, which touts a 5-foot-long bed that can haul 4-by-8 plywood sheets. The dual-action tailgate is easy to lower and raise. Lest we forget, the 60/40 rear seat folds so you can load up a flat-screen TV or luggage for a weeklong trip. Red perforated stitching on black leather seats conveys a stunning visual. A power moon roof with tilt capability can be of use during pleasant weather. Other niceties include tri-zone auto a/c, tilt/telescopic leather steering wheel, push-button start, power-slide rear window and 10-way power driver and four-way front-passenger heated seats.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake distribution, vehicle stability assist with traction control, active front-head restraints, side-impact door beams, rearview camera, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard. Honda Sensing fetches you collision mitigation brakes, adaptive cruising control, lane keep assist, and forward collision and lane departure warnings.

Why should you buy the Ridgeline? Well, it’s not a full-size pickup but serves the purpose of one with notable cargo and towing capability, while delivering a civilized and decent ride.


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