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Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE –

2017 Infiniti Q50It may not be on a potential shopper’s radar like a BMW or Audi but this luxury sport car from Infiniti deserves attention. Oodles of it. Carrying over from last year mostly with little change, the Q50 is equipped with a 3.0-liter V-6 twin-turbocharged engine blasting off 400 horsepower @ 6400 rpm and 350 pounds-feet of torque @ 5200 rpm. Available as a rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, the lively midsize sedan is mated to a 7-speed automatic gearbox. Credit for the superbly accurate steering goes to a power-assist, rack-and-pinion system. Behind the wheels hide large rotors: front four-piston 14 inches at front and rear two-piston 13.8 inches to inspire confidence in the driver. Lest we forget, you can enjoy the Q50 in standard, eco, snow, sport, sport+ and personal modes.

Up front, the double-arch grille and wide hood are surrounded by LED headlights and daytime running lights. Distinct brushed finish exhausts and duel chrome bars deck the rear. If anyone tells you that the Infiniti cabin isn’t on par with its German rivals, point out the gorgeous-appearing Kaachu aluminum trim and maple wood on the instrument panel, center console and door panels. Also standard are eight-way power front leather seats, dual a/c climate control, solid magnesium paddle shifters, 60/40 rear seat, Bose audio with 16 speakers, aluminum pedals and sill plates with ‘Infiniti’ insignia, and power tilt/telescopic steering column and moon roof.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes, vehicle dynamic and traction controls, front seatbelts with pretensioners, remote keyless entry, rearview camera, zone body construction, energy-absorbing steering column, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

The Q50 displays forceful handling, first-rate cornering prowess and a robust steering feel. It is one of the smartest choices for a prospective sport sedan buyer. And a head-turner ride to boot.



CX-5 CROSSOVERBarely in its fourth year and the CX-5 has been revamped twice. Seating five in comfort and style, the sporty ride sticks to its reliable power train: 2.5-liter inline-4 cylinder engine putting out 187 horsepower (up by 3) @ 6000 rpm and 185 pounds-feet of torque @ 3250 rpm while coupled to a 6-speed auto transmission. Whether you choose the front-wheel or all-wheel drive, the compact crossover is equipped with the direct-injection Skyactiv, which uses a torque boost via a high compression ratio to increase fuel economy. And the G-Vectoring Control (uses engine timing for more accurate steering inputs) is standard across all trims for 2017.

An all-new Soul Red Crystal color enhances the attractive appearance of the CX-5, which sports a sharper five-point grille flanked by trapezoidal eagle-eyed LED headlights. The well-crafted and intelligently-designed cabin conveys a classy and tailored look. The fresh 4.6-inch TFT instrument cluster of analog speedometer, tachometer and driver information center is pleasing to the eye. The 7-inch screen for navigation, phone and audio is easy to use via a commander control knob on the center console. Our top-level Grand Touring arrived with standard dual a/c control, leather seats, power sun roof, push-button start, heated front seats, metallic-finish trim, eight-way driver’s seat and a Bose sound system. Head and legroom is adequate for adults and, best of all, is the 40/20/40 split rear seat, which folds flat via a lever release in the trunk. This opens up 59.7 cubic feet of space in the cargo hold or you can still eke out 30.9 cubic feet with occupied seats.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, dynamic stability and traction controls, four-wheel antilock brakes, hill launch assist, blind spot monitor, lane-keep assist and departure warning, rear-cross traffic alert, front/rear crumple zones and stabilizer bars, rearview camera, three-point safety belts for all, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard.

In only three years, the CX-5 has carved a slot in the competitive compact crossover segment. The 2017 facelift makes the ride, which delivers plentiful cargo/passenger room, sportiness and commendable fuel mileage, even more likeable.



2017 Ford EdgeThe midsize crossover segment is packed with tough competitors. Take the solid Toyota Highlander, Nissan Murano, Chevy Equinox, to name a few. Standing its ground among the worthy contenders is the Ford Edge, which is one alluring five-passenger ride.

For 2017, three engine choices are offered, including a 3.5-liter V-6 and 2.7-liter V-6. Ours was the turbo 2.0-liter inline-4 cylinder EcoBoost engine that puts out 245 horsepower @ 5520 rpm and 275 pounds-feet of torque @ 3000 rpm. Coupled to all power trains is a 6-speed automatic transmission gearbox with steering wheel paddle shifters. The hot-seller comes in front-wheel or all-wheel drive systems and in SE, SEL, Titanium and Sport editions (base price starts from $28,950 and our Titanium came in at $35,600).

Conveying a muscular appearance and understandably so is a three-bar chrome grille hosting LED signature headlights, body-color door handles and oval stainless-steel exhaust tips. Take a seat behind the steering wheel and you find yourself staring at a speedometer flanked by two 4.2-inch LCD screens. Atop the center stack is an 8-inch touch-screen LCD for climate, audio and phone controls. The MyFord Touch accesses audio, telephone, navigation controls via a voice command, touch screen tap or button click while Ford’s Sync3 integrates Bluetooth-enabled cell phones and iPods through voice recognition. Cargo capable is plentiful at 39.2 cubic feet. Other standard amenities are dual a/c climate control, 10-way driver and eight-way power front-passenger seats, leather steering wheel and seats, 60/40 easy-fold rear bench, eight cup holders, overhead sun glass holder, push-button start and 12-speaker Sony audio system.

As noted, the midsize crossovers are amid one heck of a crowded field. But this Ford with its nimbleness, good looks, fun-to-drive character and roominess, has an ‘Edge’ over its competition.



2017 Nissan Rogue SportMeet the 2017 Rogue Sport, all-new vehicle slightly smaller than the hot-seller Rogue: just 2.3 inch shorter in wheelbase, 12.1 inches fewer in length and 5.6 inch lower in height. Nissan claims that this entry-compact crossover will provide the “perfect size and utility and youthful and active lifestyles, featuring responsive handling and maneuverability.” After driving the nimble ride in the Florida Keys, we can only nod in agreement.

A 2.0-liter inline-4 DOHC cylinder engine develops 141 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 147 pounds-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. It is mated to a Continuous Variable Transmission, which is easy to engage. The electric power rack-and-pinion steering conveys a solid on-center feel, willing to change directions when hustled along on the road. An independent strut with coil springs make up the front while the rear is equipped with a multilink suspension system.

Sitting on a unibody-type structure is a V-motion black grille with chrome accents, halogen headlights, body-colored bumpers and door handles. Depending on the S, SV and SL trim levels, you can get dual auto a/c, 7-inch touchscreen, leather or cloth seats, six-way power driver seat, rearview camera, and a four-speaker CD player. Ingress and egress is easy with the 60/40-split rear seat, which when folded, ekes out 61.1 cubic feet of space. An under-floor cargo area storage tray can come in handy for wet items.

Listen up, all you younger and urban SUV buyers. If versatility, functionality, high fuel-economy figures and value rank top, then the Sport version of the all-new entry-compact crossover is a no-brainer. In fact, it is one useful ‘Rogue’ you want to keep by your side, or in this case, parked in your garage.


Look for our detailed test-drive review of the Rogue Sport in a future issue.


2017 Chevy CRUZE PREMIERSome years ago, we had test driven the compact Cruze sedan and it had left a lasting impression on us. If you recall, it’s the same car that then replaced the Cobalt. Now, Chevrolet has produced an all-new Cruze hatchback, which we must point out is a surprisingly splendid, lively and fun-to-drive car offering superb handling and steering feel.

Our hatchback came in the Premier RS trim with a 1.4-liter turbocharged inline-4 engine putting out 153 horsepower @ 5600 rpm and 177 pounds-feet of torque @ 4000 rpm. Getting power to the ground is a six-speed automatic transmission. Suspension is handled by an independent front MacPerson strut and a rear Z-link torsion beam, which isolate occupants from rough surfaces. Gas/diesel savings are enhanced by a rack-mounted electric power steering that doesn’t require hoses or pumps.

With noticeable wraparound headlights housings sweeping into the fenders and the sculpted hood, and the centered familiar bow tie, the Cruze stands out in a crowd. And props to Chevy for its interior packaging, especially the cool-looking ice-blue illuminated analog and tachometer instrument cluster. With the 60/40 rear seat folded, 47.2 cubic feet of space opens up, which is substantial for a compact. Standard cabin amenities include a/c, leather tilt/telescopic steering wheel, power door locks and windows, trip computer, remote keyless entry and vehicle start, eight-way power driver seat, 7-inch touchscreen and a front center console. Major options are navigation with power moon roof, blind-spot monitor, and rear-park and lane-keep assist. The RS package ($995) will get you a rear spoiler, front fog lamps, body kit and RS insignia in grille.

That safety is paramount in the Cruze is evident in standard dual front and side airbags, front knee airbags, side curtain for both rows, stability and traction control, antilock brakes, collapsible pedal system, rear camera, three-point safety belts for all positions, tire pressure monitor and daytime running lights.

If in the market for an affordable compact ride that comes with several bells and whistles, and more, this hatchback should get a serious look. With generous midsize interior for a compact hatch price (base priced at $23,945), the Cruze is a hands-down winner.


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