MAY 2019
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Motoring

LEXUS FLAGSHIP LS500 IS ULTRA LUXURY ON WHEELS!

By NITISH S. RELE – motoringtampabay@gmail.com

Right off the bat, let’s point out that the Lexus flagship sedan isn’t for everyone. Ask why? Well, it has a base price of nearly $79,000, which with options is almost $104,000. Add tax, tag, delivery and destination and you are looking at around $120,000.

Now that price is settled for a few, but not for most, here’s what you get. Under the hood of the 2019 LS500 resides a 3.5-liter twin-turbo engine with continuously variable valve timing that cranks out 416 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 442 pounds-feet of torque @ 4800 rpm. The all-wheel-drive luxury car is mated to a smooth and quick-to-respond 10-speed auto gearbox. Among the modes available are eco, normal, sport S and sport S+. Torsion limited-slip center differential ensures that this exhilarating ride has a firm trip, traction and cornering stability at every turn.

Surrounding the massive spindle grille up front are triple-projector LED headlights, turn signals and daytime running lights. Step inside the lavish cabin and you will be in awe of fabulous leather and wood sprinkled throughout. The optional ultra-suede headliner reinforces the elegance. A mouse-like, easy-to-use Remote Touch enables the driver to toggle navigation, climate, audio and phone controls, which are displayed on a massive 12.3-inch screen. Other niceties are dual-zone auto a/c, analog clock, power tilt/telescoping steering column, 16-way power driver and front-passenger seats and heated/cooled rear seats. Among the options are a heads-up display, panorama glass roof, Mark Levinson sound system with 23 speakers, power side window shades, 18-way power recline rear seats, and an adaptive variable air suspension.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, front knee airbags, vehicle stability and traction controls, front/rear crumple zones, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, daytime running lights and a tire pressure monitoring system. Add in a pre-collision system that detects pedestrians, lane departure alert/steering assist and dynamic cruise control, all part of the no-cost Lexus Safety System + 2.0.

Despite the 5,027-pound weight, 0 to 60 is possible in just 5.2 seconds with top speed at 136 mph. Truly, the LS500 is nothing short of a palace on wheels. Everyone aboard is treated to royalty in the beautifully-made and skillfully executed cabin. Dream about this powerful machine and if you can afford the steep price tag, it’s yours.

LS500


affordable OUTLANDER SPORT IS an attractive proposition

Smaller than its sibling, the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport continues to chug along for 2019 with a redesigned steering wheel and an all-new 6.1-inch audio display. Our test drive GT trim replaces the previous SEL. Otherwise, it’s the same 2.4-liter, inline-4 cylinder power train that puts out 168 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 167 pounds-feet of torque @ 4200 rpm. The slightly noisy Continuous Variable Transmission endures as is.

No doubt, the Outlander sports an aggressive look with horizontal HID headlights and fog lamps flanking the grille with a centered Mitsubishi emblem. The cabin is roomy with plentiful head and leg room for rear-seat passengers in the 60/40 fold seat. The analog instrument cluster of speedometer and tachometer with silver accents hosts digital fuel and temperature gauges. Several comforts are offered such as auto a/c, cruise control, power windows/door locks, leather tilt/telescopic leather steering column and shifter, six-way manual and heated driver and four-way front-passenger seats, driver information center, audio system with six speakers, under floor cargo hold, and a rear seat armrest with two cup holders.

Safety features at no extra cost include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, rearview camera, active stability and traction control, blind spot monitor with lane change assist and rear-cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, hill start assist, four-wheel antilock brakes, anti-theft alarm, front-pedestrian impact crumple zones, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system.

Though deficient in power, the four-cylinder and practical Outlander is a tempting proposition. After all, it makes up for the deficit with considerable cargo and passenger space, decent fuel mileage (our mixed driving average was around 26) and a price that’s inexpensive in the SUV market.

OUTLANDER


GAS-SIPPER LEXUS RX450h IS A SMART CHOICE!

After a major overhauling two years ago, the Lexus RX450h continues mostly as is. The increase in wheelbase, length, width and height appears to have been sufficient for the 2019 model. It is equipped with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine mated to electric motor/generators, putting out a plentiful 308 total horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 247 pounds-feet of torque @ 4600 rpm. It takes just 7.7 seconds for the five-passenger luxury SUV to take off from 0 to 60 mph with top speed limited at 112 mph.

The RX450h is fitted with a 288-volt nickel-metal hydride battery, which is recharged by energy captured as the driver applies the brakes or coasts. Also, the Continuous Variable Transmission-equipped car gets a regenerative braking system. When the car is coasting or the brakes are applied, the electric power functions as a generator, capturing kinetic energy that would normally be lost. Instead, it converts the energy into useable electricity for recharging the batteries.

Staring in your face up front is an exceptionally gargantuan spindle grille with a chrome-plated border and flanked by bi-LED headlights and integrated fog lamps. However, blue highlights incorporated into front and rear ‘L’ logos make the trendy SUV stand out as a hybrid. Standard are 10-way power front seats, three-spoke power tilt/telescopic leather steering wheel, push-button start, auto dual a/c, metallic accents around the center of the instrument cluster, 40/20/40-split recline/slide fold rear seat, gated shifter and Lexus 9-speaker audio. A mouse-like Remote Touch (but not the best in the market) can be used to toggle navigation, climate, audio and phone controls, which are displayed on a huge but optional 12.3-inch screen atop the familiar analog clock.

Ten airbags, Vehicle Stability Control with Traction Control, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, active head rests for front seats, rearview camera, free-limiting seatbelt pretensioners for front seats and three-point seatbelts with pretensioners for rear seats, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights come at no extra cost.

Available in rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, the gas-sipping RX450h is a wise choice for any potential midsize luxury SUV buyer. It boasts an elegant and nimble ride with ample creature comforts.

RX 450h AWD


2020 TOYOTA COROLLA GETS AN ALL-NEW HYBRID MODEL!

Bold, new stylng. Competitive price. Value consistent. And a bullishness on sedans and small cars. Those were the claims from Toyota representatives during the launch of the 2020 Corolla in Savannah, Ga., recently. Most important in our eyes is the hybrid version of the Corolla, a first for the United States. Watch out, sibling Prius!

The fully redesigned and 12th-gen compact sedan is available in at least six trims and three power trains. There’s the 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine developing 139 horsepower @ 6100 rpm and the all-new 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine putting out 169 hp @ 6600 rpm and 151 pounds-feet of torque @ 4800 rpm. The hybrid is equipped with a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to two motors/generators for a total 121 hp. Depending on the model, you can get the continuous variable transmission or a 6-speed manual gear box. Though wheelbase stays the same, length and height are down by 0.8 inches and the hood reduced by 1.4 inches from its predecessor.

The retuned MacPherson strut front and all-new multilink rear suspension (replaces previous torsion beam) soak up obstacles with ease and maintain stability in all types of tricky situations. As always, the electric power steering is precise and crisp.

Up front, the new design is sleek, sharp and eye-catching. Flanking the slim, J-shaped bi-beam LED headlights and fog lamps is a rounded nose with a three-dimensional trapezoidal grille, sculpted bulging wheel arches and sharp body lines. The practical cabin is simply laid out with piano-black gloss and metallic accents on the dashboard. Basic amenities include a/c, cloth seats, 7-inch touch screen for audio, phone and nav controls, 4.2-inch TFT multimedia screen, six-way driver adjustable and four-way front-passenger seats, USB port, digital clock, two front and rear cup holders, 60/40 rear fold seat, and a manual tilt/telescopic steering column.

Dual front and side airbags, driver knee airbag, side curtain airbag, vehicle stability and traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, three-point seatbelts for all, keyless entry, blind spot monitor, front/rear crumble zones, rearview camera, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system are standard. The no-cost Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 translates into a pre-collision system that detects pedestrians, lane departure assist and dynamic cruise control.

Folks, this one’s a no-brainer as gas continues to inch toward the $3 gallon range. Base-priced at $19,500 and peaking at $25,450, the overhauled Corolla can get from 29 mpg up to 40 mpg while the hybrid ekes out 53 mpg. The compact sedan market is a crowded field, mainly with Honda Civic, Chevy Cruze, VW Golf, Mazda3 and more. But this revamped offer from Toyota, with its agility, good looks, fun-to-drive character and roominess, should march ahead of the competition.

COROLLA (L)


REDESIGNED 2019 TOYOTA RAV4 SEATS FIVE IN COMFORT

Since its debut in 1996, the RAV4 has stood the test of time delivering a civilized and enjoyable ride. Of course, never to rest on its laurels, Toyota has totally overhauled its best-selling vehicle in the United States for 2019.

Under the hood of the compact SUV resides a 2.5-liter inline-4 cylinder engine with variable valve timing that produces 203 horsepower (up by 27 from its predecessor) at 6600 rpm and 184 pounds-feet (increase of 12) of torque at 5000 rpm. Out goes the 6-speed auto gear box to be replaced by an 8-speed for even seamless shifts and substantial fuel savings. An independent MacPherson strut front and double-wishbone rear suspension does a particularly good job of soaks bumps and potholes with skill and sure-footedness in this front-wheel or all-wheel-drive ride. Also history is the column-mounted steering, to be swapped with a rack-mounted system for ease at higher speeds or pulling into a parking lot. Though no speed demon by any means, braking duties are handled more than effectively by 12-inch ventilated front and 11.1-inch rear solid discs.

Our test-drive model was the all-wheel-drive Adventure, this one’s for off-roaders who truly like to explore! It stands out from the rest with black LED headlight bezels flanking a split-bar upper grille, color-keyed upper and black lower bumpers with silver valance, and of course distinct Adventure badging and roof rails. Essentially, wheelbase sees an upturn of 1.2 inches. Touches of brushed metallic silver finish are evident as you slide behind the three-spoke, leather tilt/telescopic steering wheel. Storage areas are scattered throughout the cabin, including an open bin atop the glovebox, center console box (1.5 inches wider than previous), several cup/bottle holders and overhead sunglass holder. Other notable amenities include dual-zone auto a/c, 4.2-inch multi-information display screen (analog tachometer, speedometer, coolant temp and fuel gauges), 60/40 rear seat, 7-inch touch infotainment system, eight-way power driver and four-way adjustable front-passenger seats, power lift gate, and a moon roof. Orange accents and stitching on the seats, dashboard, doors, cup holder trim and in-dash storage trays are an instant giveaway that this is an ‘Adventure’ you want to take on or off-road and enjoy!

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag and driver knee airbag are standard along with side-impact door beams, four-wheel antilock brakes, electronic brake distribution and brake assist, vehicle stability and traction control, rearview camera and front and rear crumple zones. Also included at no cost is Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which fetches the owner a pre-collision system that detects pedestrians, lane departure assist and dynamic cruise control.

If you need to seat five in comfort behind a roomy and safe vehicle, equipped with a responsive power train, the RAV4 should be at the top of your list. If you are not the adventurous type, go for the LE, XLE, XLE Premium or Limited trims. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.

RAV4 (ADVENTURE)


ENJOY OPEN-AIR MOTORING IN THE FUN-TO-DRIVE MAZDA MIATA!

It’s a dream ride for top-down motoring buffs. The rear-wheel-drive Mazda MX-5 Miata, which celebrates its 30-year anniversary, continues to reign over the competition. More so now than ever before, thanks to extra power and torque in the 2019 model, as well as a standard tilt/telescoping steering column and rearview camera, among other new safety features.

Under the hood of our Grand Touring RF (retractable fastback) trim resides a 2.0-liter DOHC inline-4 cylinder engine making 181 horsepower (up 26 hp) at 7500 rpm and 151 pounds-feet of torque (increase of 3) at 4000 rpm. It is mated to a 6-speed auto gearbox though a 6-speed manual also is offered. Suspension is adeptly handled via a double wishbone front and multilink rear system. Guiding the lively convertible, whose hardtop opens and closes in 13 seconds via a power switch, is a double-pinion power-assist steering.

Penetrating inward LED headlights surround the familiar Mazda insignia as eyes gaze up to a long hood with a pushed-back windshield and short roof. The interior is elegant, lavish and expensive-looking. Take the leather on the steering column, shifter, hand brake, and of course the comfortable seats. Other amenities include push button ignition, 7-inch navigation, phone and audio touch screen, paddle shifters, heated front seats, Bose audio with 9 speakers, auto a/c, piano black seatback bar trim, mesh aero board, and power door locks and windows. The only minus would be a miniscule trunk, which is understandable.

With the extra power and torque, the MX-5 transforms into an even more exhilarating and entertaining car to drive. Open-air motoring fans will be in awe of its snappy acceleration, impressive handling and admirable fuel economy. And at just $34,410, it’s a steal. May the world’s best-selling roadster bring smiles and pleasure for another 30 years!

MX-5 (GT)

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