MAY 2022
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Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE –

LEXUS LC500 Some may recall the M Class. That was pre-2015. Thereafter, Mercedes-Benz retitled the popular midsize luxury GLE fitting it between the smaller GLC and the bigger GLS. Regardless of the nomenclature, the 2022 Benz GLE450 is a wonderful blend of power and sophistication that offers spice and entertainment both on and off-road.

Under the hood of the five-seater 4Matic (all-wheel drive) SUV is ensconced a 3.0-liter inline-6 turbo engine putting out 369 horsepower @ 6100 rpm and 369 pounds-feet of torque @ 4000 rpm. It integrates an EQ starter-generator (located between engine and transmission) to save fuel as well as enhance torque. Essentially, what would be called a hybrid electric motor at work too. This is no speedster but 0 to 60 in 5.5 seconds and top speed of 130 mph is no small feat! Power reaches all four wheels via a meaty, crispy and accurate 9-speed auto gearbox. The independent double-wishbone front and multilink rear suspension with soil springs works well to absorb unpleasant bumps and sudden turns on the road. Handling and steering feel were good overall, thanks to the electro-mechanical rack-and-pinion. Tow capacity for the steel unibody structure is commendable at 7,700 pounds.

Up front, the face is instantly recognizable as a Benz, highlighted by a two-slot diamond black AMG grille (optional) with the familiar three-pointed star emblem. Power domes on the bulging hood meet up with horizontal LED headlights to convey an attractive stance. Space is ample in both rows and the dashboard and center console is complemented by alluring wood and lush weather to give the SUV a classy ambiance. A touchpad controls the audio, nav and phone infotainment on the massive 12.3-inch screen, also similar in size to the digital instrument cluster. A personal infotainment system, or the all-new MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience), works through voice, touch and even hand gestures (just say, Hey Mercedes!). It can’t get any more intuitive and personal for new Benz owners! Other creature comforts include dual auto a/c, power/tilt slide moon roof, 10-way power front heated seats, 40/20/40 fold rear seat and copious aluminum accents.

Safety is priority in any Benz and begins with dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, electronic stability and traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes, active parking/brake and lane keep assists, blind spot monitor, Presafe, forward-collision and lane departure warnings, rearview camera, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.
Packed with tech- and infotain-laden features, the GLE450 delivers performance and style that’s matchless for the money. You will be hard-pressed to find a midsize luxury SUV that will pay heed to your command (Hey Mercedes!) as you experience the exceptional ride.

Tires: 275/45ZR21 front, 315/40ZR21 rear
Wheelbase: 117.9 inches
Length: 194.3 inches
Height: 70.7 inches
Width: 84.9 inches
Weight: 4,991 pounds
Fuel capacity: 22.5 gallons
City: 20 mpg
Highway: 25 mpg
Base price: $63,500
Price as tested: $81,405
Web site:


VW ID.4 PRO (RWD)Tesla 3, meet Kona electric. The Hyundai subcompact crossover can go up to 258 miles on a full charge, thanks to the 64-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. And unlike the Tesla 3, which starts at nearly $47,000, the front-wheel-drive Kona e is base-priced at just $34,000 with the Limited edition at $44,500.
A 150kW permanent-magnet synchronous motor puts out 201 horsepower @3600 rpm and 291 pounds-feet of torque. That is plenty for the car to take off instantly while assuring the driver a smooth, quiet and graceful ride. The single-speed direct transmission is flawless with eco, comfort and sport modes available. A recalibrated MacPerson strut front and multilink rear suspension does an outstanding job of leveling bumps and potholes while the motor-driven power steering is communicative with quick turn-in. Also, additional sound-damping materials hold wind/road noise, vibration and harshness to a minimum.

Some may find the front port/flap a bit awkward but it is definitely convenient when you pull into a charge station or your garage to connect cables for more juice. On a 240-volt, it will take between 9 to 10 hours while a fast DC charge can load up 80 percent in just 55 minutes. Otherwise, the front look is bold and stylish with LED headlights and slimmer daytime running lights, plus active lower grille shutters.

With length up by 1.6 inches and rear legroom increase of 0.6 inches, there is plentiful space for those usually tall passengers. Our Limited test version came with standard 10.25 screens for infotainment as well as digital instrument cluster of speedometer, power gauge, charge level, digital and trip odometers. The push-button gear selector may be tricky but with time should be easy to operate. We especially liked the high-mounted center console with easy access to lower storage space. Other standard amenities include power tilt/slide moon roof, eight-way power driver and six-way adjustable front-passenger seats (cooled and heated), auto a/c, 60/40 rear seat and a three-spoke leather tilt/telescopic steering column.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, electronic stability and traction controls, brake assist, blind spot, forward-collision and rear-cross traffic collision avoid assists, front avoid assist, lane keep and follow assists, front crumple zones, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights come at no extra cost.

As gas prices continue to hover near $4 a gallon, going fully electric makes even more sense than ever before. And the Kona electric appears to be a viable and right choice not just for affordability and performance but also plentiful tech and comfort features. Lest we forget, Hyundai offers assuring warranties such as five-year, 60,000-mile basic and 10-year, 100,000-mile battery and power train warranties.

Tires: 215/55R17
Wheelbase: 102.4 inches
Length: 165.6 inches
Width: 70.9 inches
Height: 61.2 inches
Weight: 3,836 pounds
MPGe: 132 city, 108 highway, 120 combined
Web site:


2022 GENESIS G70Nestled against the backdrop of the Santa Ynez Mountains sits the American Riviera, i.e., the gorgeous Mediterranean-style coastal city of Santa Barbara. It is no wonder than that Mazda picked this California seaside wonder, known for spotless beaches, sprawling ocean views, world-class wineries, enchanting gardens, breath-taking landscapes and sights, and demanding but varied terrain, to test the all-new CX-50.

Built at the new Mazda Toyota Manufacturing plant in Alabama, the compact SUV with standard and enhanced all-wheel drive is purpose-built for the active and outdoor lifestyle. It may convey a square and rugged silhouette but also boasts a sporty image. Lower, wider and longer than the CX-5, the 2023 CX-50 with sport, off-road and tow modes delivers a confident, fun-to-drive feel, especially if you are going off the beaten track.

The CX-50 also shares power trains and transmission with its smaller sibling. A 2.5-liter 6-cylinder naturally aspirated engine puts out 187 horsepower @ 6500 rpm and 186 pounds-feet of torque @ 4000 rpm; the 2.5-liter turbo blasts off 256 hp @ 5000 rpm and 320 pounds-feet of torque @ 2500 rpm. Both are mated to a 6-speed auto gearbox. The ride is equipped with the direct-injection Skyactiv, which uses a torque boost via a high compression ratio to raise fuel economy. And the G-Vectoring Control uses engine timing for more accurate turn inputs.

We cruised on the California highways in the CX-50 before tackling the rigors of a planned off-road track made up of steep slopes and sharp downhills. The off-road mode provided plenty of punch and control to hold the CX-50 in check and on course! Mazda also provided us a U-Haul truck for a couple miles. Thanks to the tow mode, which can pull up to 3,000 pounds, it proved to be an effortless task.

A Mazda first is a panoramic moon roof and it has the most standard safety features of its siblings. Ten packages are offered along with such choices as a rooftop tent, bike/luggage/kayak carriers, cargo box, outdoor backpack, crossbars, surfboard attachment, and many more accessories for the outdoor enthusiasts. Also borrowed from the CX-5 are the neat 7-inch instrument cluster and an 8.8- or 10.25-inch color infotainment display.

Base-priced at $26,800 and topping at over $41,000 (with hybrid and electrified trims to follow), the CX-50 shows promise amid the crowded compact crossover field of three million annual sales. With peppy performance, athletic stance, top-notch interior and superior off-road prowess, it will surely make a major dent into the crammed market.

CX-50 (S)
Tires: 225/65/R17
Wheelbase: 110.8 inches
Length: 185.8 inches
Weight: 3,706 pounds
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
Steering: power rack and pinion
Fuel capacity: 15.8 gallons
City: 24 mpg
Highway: 30 mpg
Web site:


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