APRIL 2018
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Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE –motoringtampabay@gmail.com

2018 BMW 430i CONVERTIBLE A luxury sport convertible on your radar? Then the BMW 430i could very well be to your liking as long as you are prepared to spend $50,000 and change. Make that over $63,000 if an M sport package along with other options catches your fancy.

The outstanding performer has been tweaked inside and out though it retains the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder twin-turbo engine blasting off 248 horsepower @ 5200 rpm and 258 pounds-feet of torque @ 4800 rpm. The car achieves 0 to 60 mph in just 6 seconds and can reach top speed of 130 mph.

Providing seamless shifts is an 8-speed auto transmission with manual and sport modes. The standard but revised suspension and power rack-and-pinion steering systems afford outstanding feedback. Fear not about low gas mileage since a stop-start function allows the car to save fuel by shutting off the engine. Turn the knob in the center console for your driving choice of eco pro, comfort, sport and sport+ modes.

It’s an attention-grabber for sure, thanks to the sleek and stretched roofline. Yes, the iconic kidney grille is a giveaway but one will appreciate the hexagonal-shaped full LED headlights. Step inside and you will find yourself ensconced in confidence-inspiring, 10-way power front seats. The previously complex iDrive console knob to control navigation, entertainment, communication and climate systems on the 6.5-inch flat screen is simple to understand and use. The thick-rimmed three-spoke, tilt/telescopic power steering wheel conveys a solid touch to the driver, inspiring confidence in the liveliness of the vehicle. Also standard are auto a/c, anthracite headliner, through-loading 40/20/40 rear seat, wind deflector, 9-speaker audio/CD system and adjustable front armrest. Minus point? A miniscule trunk, which is to be understood in a convertible, that opens up and closes in seconds while in motion.

Dual front and side airbags, front knee airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes with dynamic and cornering brake controls, dynamic stability and traction controls, rear camera, rollover protection, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard.

So, if open-air motoring buffs are looking to catch the sun and the eye of the onlookers, the 430i fits the bill. Take a seat behind one of the finest-handling, trendy convertibles, power down the top and cruise your neighborhood for a fun-filled outing.

BMW 430i


2018 KIA STINGER SPORTBACK“No way, is that a Kia?” was the first impression from most everyone who happened to gaze at our 2018 Stinger test car. Indeed, it is a product of the Korean carmaker’s nearly decade-long work to produce the five-passenger sportback. And it has done an exceptional job.

The rear-wheel-drive four-door coupe is equipped with a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6 pumping out 365 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 376 pounds-feet of torque @ 4500 rpm. Power reaches the wheels via an 8-speed auto gearbox with eco, smart, comfort, sport and custom drive modes. The independent MacPherson strut front and multilink rear suspension along with 13.8-inch front and 13.4-inch rear Brembo brakes ensure stability on the toughest road surfaces.

Up front, the familiar “tiger-nose” concave grille with a matching lower trim is flanked by LED headlights while on the side of the strikingly bold-appearing car are GT black chrome vents with air surrounds. The cabin provides all the luxe accoutrements you would expect in a similarly sold car in this class. It is tasteful, functional and attractive with Nappa leather seats, dual-zone auto a/c, 16-way driver and 12-way front-passenger heated and cooled seats, heads-up display, Harman Kardon sound system with 17 speakers, power tilt/slide sun roof, flat-bottomed steering column, satin chrome door handles, electro-luminescent instrument cluster for speedometer, tachometer, coolant temperature, fuel level, odometer and trip computer gauges, 8-inch touchscreen display for phone, nav and audio to control via a knob; and much more.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, electronic stability and traction control, front/rear parking sensors and crumple zones, rearview camera, blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision avoid/warning, lane departure warning/assist, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard.

With this new agile, handsome and remarkable ride affording an upscale, spacious interior, European competitors such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, among others, have been put on notice. Base-priced at $49,200 (bargain compared to the offering from its rivals), the Stinger is a winner that takes Kia to the next level. And it is a tough act to beat if you consider the Korean automaker’s basic 5-year, 60,000-mile and 10-year, 100,000-mile limited power train warranties.



2018 Mazda CX-9Redesigned just two years ago, the CX-9 continues with a couple changes for 2018. Noticeable among them are a standard G-Vectoring Control (uses engine timing for more accurate steering inputs), Smart City Brake Support (designed to reduce rear-end collisions by stopping at low speeds before a frontal impact), blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert in all trims.

Under the hood of the Mazda flagship crossover is once again an 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine putting out 227 horsepower @ 5000 rpm and 310 pounds-feet of torque @ 2000 rpm. The powertrain is equipped with the direct-injection Skyactiv, which uses a torque boost via a high compression ratio to increase fuel economy. Power is routed through the traditional but seamless 6-speed automatic transmission.

Suspension is handled via an independent MacPherson strut in the front and a multilink rear with stabilizer bars at both ends. The electric-power assist steering is direct and precise. And the one-off CX-9 is available as Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and Signature trim – to meet the needs of the diverse buyer. Tow capacity is an impressive 3,500 pounds.

The familiar five-point grille with double bars is surrounded by LED headlights while the rear also gets LED tail lamps and dual exhaust tips. Nappa leather, and splashes of rosewood and aluminum trim, lend classiness to the roomy cabin. The 60/40-split second-row seat, which can slide fore and aft, as well as the 50/50 third-row seat, will be useful if traveling with children. Also standard are a tri-zone auto a/c, 8-way heated power driver and 4-way passenger seats, 8-inch instrument display with command control, power lift gate, head-up display, tilt/telescopic steering column, second-row window sun shades, push-button start and a 12-speaker Bose sound system.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for all rows, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution, Dynamic Stability Control and traction control, antiskid system with rollover sensor, front seat active-head restraints, three-point front seatbelts with pretensioners, rear backup sensors, lane keep assist/departure warning, front/rear crumple zones and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

The CX-9 is anything but your run-of-the-mill crossover SUV. It offers ample power, quick acceleration, incredible people and cargo-hauling capabilities, and in the looks department, it scores a point or two for bold styling.



2018 VW PASSATWith such stalwarts as Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Mazda6 competing fiercely in the sedan segment, credit goes to Volkswagen Passat for standing its ground. It is truly a remarkable car with reasonably quick and smooth acceleration from any speed.

Our test drive was equipped with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine cranking out 280 horsepower @ 6200 rpm and 258 pounds-feet of torque @ 2500 rpm while mated to a standard but responsive 6-speed auto gearbox. The muscular domed hood meets up with a full chromed four-bar grille that is surrounded by slim headlights. Other visible characteristics are a chrome strip on the trunk that blends in with LED tail lamps. Take a seat behind the steering wheel and you are greeted by two large speedometer and tachometer gauges in the instrument panel while the center stack incorporates VW’s latest MIB II infotainment system. The two-tone décor panels and chrome trim on a/c vent bezels, upper door, cup holders and shift lever add European flair to the Passat. Other conveniences are dual-zone auto a/c, 60/40 rear seat, eight-way power driver’s seat, heated front and rear seats, power tilt/slide sun roof, Fender audio system, and a 15.9 cubic feet trunk.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, Electronic Stability Protection with anti-slip regulation, traction control, three-point seatbelts for all positions, adaptive cruise control, rearview camera, blind spot monitor, front collision and land departure warning, post-collision and auto emergency braking, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

As we said initially, the Passat has passed the test with flying colors amid stiff rivalry. Carrying occupants in comfort and style, it is the perfect sedan for a family of four or five, for that matter.


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