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Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE –

LEXUS LC500 Its kind are few and far between. It only has to be noticed by potential buyers and they would line up to buy one, i.e. the Subaru WRX. The totally redesigned high-performance sports sedan for 2022 is a fun and enjoyable ride, especially for your daily roundabout. Standard all-wheel-drive system should be an impetus on top of it all.

Out goes the previous 2.0-liter to be replaced by a more potent 2.4-liter horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder engine (intercooled and turbocharged) that blasts off a healthy 271 horsepower (up by 3 from previous) @ 5600 rpm and 258 pounds-feet of torque @ 5200 rpm. Power routed through a flawless 6-speed manual auto gear box contributes to a sporty and exciting performance. The WRX’s exceptional stopping power comes from robust 12.4-inch ventilated front and 11.4-inch solid rear discs.

Ensconced on the unitized body structure is a traditional hexagonal grille with centered Subaru star cluster insignia, which is flanked by C-shaped LED headlights. You cannot help but notice the bulging but functional and broad scoop atop the aluminum hood. A twin cockpit with electroluminescent gauge displays for speedometer, tachometer, fuel and coolant temperature give the cabin a rich feel. The power-tilt moon roof is a nice touch too. As are the ultrasuede seats with red stitches. Further enhancing the appearance is a matte dark gray metallic finish on the center dash panel. Tossed out is the small 7-inch touch screen for infotainment controls to be replaced with a 11.6-inch tablet-style vertical display. And what driver wouldn’t appreciate a 10-way power seat? And if you like physical buttons for audio volume, tune, temp control, this is yours to keep! Other standard niceties include dual auto a/c, 60/40 fold rear seat, flat-bottomed leather steering column, aluminum alloy pedals, 11-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, and rear seat armrest with dual cup holders.

Standard are dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, vehicle dynamic control, active front seat head restraints, blind spot detection, lane departure and change alert, rear-cross traffic alert, rearview camera, remote keyless entry, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard.

Thanks to the total overhaul, the WRX is an even more appealing ride than ever before. It’s the perfect choice for any sport sedan buyer who likes a certain thrill on the road. Who doesn’t want a robust engine, luxurious cabin, affordable price and standard all-wheel drive? It is just perfect for the everyday chore.

Tires: 245/40R18
Wheelbase: 105.2 inches
Length: 183.8 inches
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, double wishbone rear
Steering: rack-and-pinion power assist
Weight: 3,390 pounds
Fuel capacity: 16.6 gallons
City: 19 mpg
Highway: 26 mpg
Base price: $35,995


VW ID.4 PRO (RWD)For folks who just want to go from point A to point B, the base Hyundai Kona is available. But if you itch for some gut-wrenching and pulsating thrill in your ride, there’s our recent test-drive Kona N trim. Forget sport mode. In the 2022 Kona N, there is a N Grin Shift (NGS) red button on the steering wheel, which when activated, goes into overboost drive, so you can have at least 20 seconds of some heavy pedal to the metal! Or toggle the light blue N buttons to set up N1 and N2 program modes such as suspension, steering, stability. In short, you will have a blast playing around in the N, especially if you are on the track.

A 2.0-liter turbo inline-4 cylinder engine blasts off 276 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 289 pounds-feet of torque @ 4700 rpm. Power reaches the front wheels via a crisp-shifting 8-speed dual-clutch auto gearbox. It should come as no surprise that the Kona takes off real quick and comes to a stop at a moment’s notice, thanks to 14.2-inch front and 12.4-inch rear disc brakes.

The subcompact SUV portrays a low and wide stance with a mesh grille flanked by slim DRLs atop LED headlights. That this is not your base Kona is evident from the red imprinted N on not just the exterior badging, fascias and side sill moldings but also on the steering wheel, sport bucket seats, shifter and sill plates. Further enhancing the stylish appearance are alloy pedals and a black headliner along with eye-pleasing leather/suede seats. Our vehicle came with standard 10.25 screens for infotainment as well as digital instrument cluster of speedometer, tachometer, digital and trip odometers. Other goodies include eight-way power driver’s seat, auto a/c, 60/40 rear folding seat, blue accents, tilt/telescopic steering column, Harmon Kardon audio and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay capabilities.

Endless safety features are standard. There are dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, electronic stability and traction controls, electronic limited-slip differential, brake assist, blind spot, forward-collision and rear-cross traffic collision avoid assists, front avoid assist, lane keep and follow assists, adaptive cruise control, front crumple zones, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.
Base-priced at just $34,200, the addition of the N trim makes the Kona an agile, delightful and a cool SUV to drive. Its daring looks, feisty character (remember the red NGS!) and a reasonable price tag should persuade you to sign on the dotted line.

Tires: P235/40R19
Wheelbase: 102.4 inches
Length: 165.9 inches
Width: 70.9 inches
Height: 61.6 inches
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multilink rear
Steering: motor-driven power, rack-and-pinion
Weight: 3,020 pounds
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons
City: 20 mpg
Highway: 27 mpg
Web site:


2022 GENESIS G70Over the last few years, we have driven hundreds of vehicles but nothing comes close to the value, price and fuel economy offered by the all-new Maverick. And that is not an understatement. Check this out. The first full hybrid compact pickup in the United States starts under $20k, seats five comfortably in a spacious cabin and best of all touts over 42 mpg in city. You just can’t beat that! The only problem? Well, Ford cannot produce enough Mavericks since the demand, understandably so, is relentless. Pre-orders should be open soon for the 2023 model year, we are told.

Under the hood of our hybrid version sits a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder engine putting out 162 horsepower @ 5600 rpm and 155 pounds-feet of torque @ 4000 rpm. Add a 94 kW electric motor to the mix for a boost in hp by 29. The impressive pickup is coupled with a flawless electronic continuous variable transmission. An independent MacPherson strut front and a twist beam rear suspension isolates occupants from road noise and rough bumps. The electric power steering is razor sharp, with a consistent on-center feel. You can effectively go well over 500 miles in the Maverick, which offers normal, eco, sport, slippery and tow/haul modes. Tow capacity is good at 2,000 miles with a standard payload of 1,500 pounds, affording 37 bags of 40-pound mulch!

Boxy appears to be the theme with squarish LED headlights flanking a black mesh grille with dark surround/gray bars, door and tailgate handles. And yes, boxlike windows for excellent outward vision. Ten tie-down hooks in the 4.5-foot-long bed can be useful. The spacious interior may be all cloth material but you will love the impression left by the two-tone dark gray and orange accents on the door handles, air vents and storage areas, sort of a marble look. The 8-inch touch infotainment screen sits atop the dashboard with simple knobs, cleverly separated from temp controls by a/c vents. A huge bin under the flip-up rear bench is a wise use of space. Other standard amenities include single-way a/c, manual tilt/telescopic steering wheel, six-way manual driver and four-way front-passenger seats and a rotary club dial.
Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, electronic stability and Advance trac controls, regenerative braking, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard. Opt for the worthy $540 Co-Pilot 360 package, which will fetch you pre-collision assist with auto emergency brakes, blind spot monitor with cross-traffic alert, lane-keep, rearview camera and auto high-beam headlamps.
Slotted between the Ranger and the F-150, the Maverick is an amazing value for the money. With gas prices still hovering over $3, it will lighten the burden on your wallet. And for a hybrid, the truck moves quickly and quietly down the road, with superb ride and satisfactory handling.  
So, the next time you are at the Ford dealership and happen to come across this renegade, snap it asap!

Tires: P225/65R17
Wheelbase: 121.1 inches
Length: 199.7 inches
Width: 72.6 inches
Height: 68.7 inches
Weight: 3,674 pounds
Fuel capacity: 15 gallons
City: 42 mpg
Highway: 33 mpg
Base price: $22,280
Price as tested: $26,390
Web site:


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