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

2018 Range Rover Velarex This all-new crossover from Land Rover sits between the Evoque and the Sport. And based on its twin from the other company owned by the India-based Tatas, the supercharged growler Jaguar F-Pace. Get ready to take off from 0 to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds with a top speed of 155 mph in the 2018 Range Rover Velar R-Dynamic HSE.

Under the hood sits a 3.0-liter V-6 engine cranking out 380 horsepower @ 6500 rpm and 332 pounds-feet of torque @ 4500 rpm. It is mated to an impeccable 8-speed auto gearbox, which also can be shifted via steering wheel-mounted paddles. A double wishbone front and integral link rear suspension with Adaptive Dynamics active damping improves balance, handling and grip by automatically adjusting firmness. Apart from normal and eco drives, pick dynamic (for a sporty feel) and Adaptive Surface Response (for dealing with slippery conditions during winter). It helps that the electromechanical power steering is eager to change directions when you turn the wheel. Using the Terrain Response system, choose one of the following as per road/weather conditions: general (for daily driving), grass/gravel/snow, mud/ruts, sand, rock crawl and dynamic.

Ensconced on the light aluminum structure is an intimidating and upright front mesh grille, flanked by slender but striking LEDs, muscular hood and a sleek roofline. Lending credence to the grandiose cabin is a hidden shifter dial that majestically pops out from a center console nook into the palm of your hand. Like in the F-Pace, the Velar is equipped with an InControl Touch Pro for audio, navigation and phone readings that appear on two 10.2-inch tablet-style capacitive touchscreens. Retractable exterior door handles lend class to this classy vehicle. Other standard comforts are 20-way power front heated/cooled massage seats, electric-recline rear seats, two-zone auto a/c, burnished copper-colored accents, head-up display, power tilt/telescopic steering column and panoramic roof, rear power sunshade and an astonishing 825-watt Meridian sound system.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution, dynamic stability and electronic traction control, active front-head restraints, lane keep and park assist, adaptive cruise control, 360 park aid, rearview camera, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are offered at no cost.

The all-new vehicle is a fitting addition to the Land Rover lineup. Like its other siblings, the Velar shows off tremendous off- and on-road prowess in a nimble, brisk, luxury- and tech-packed ride.



2018 Toyota Sequoia 4X4THE RIDE: Four-door, up to eight-passenger full-size 2018 Toyota Sequoia 4X4 SUV.

DOWN THE ROAD: Based on a body-on-frame, the power in the Sequoia is plentiful to propel the 6,000-pound plus vehicle. The ride is silent and elegant, whether you are on the highway or testing its off-road talent.

TECH & PERFORMANCE: A 5.7-liter V-8 DOHC engine develops a considerable 381 horsepower at 5600 rpm and 401 pounds-feet of torque at 3600 rpm. It is mated to a 6-speed auto transmission but our all-wheel-drive version also was equipped with an auto-leveling rear air suspension to smoothen bumps. Tow capacity is an imposing 7,000 pounds. The four-wheel-drive system can be driven in auto, 2WD, 4Hi or 4Lo modes depending on road and weather conditions. Up front and in the rear is an independent double-wishbone suspension. Normal, comfort and sport modes are available.

LOOK & FEEL: We test-drove the Platinum model, which is loaded to the hilt. A revised front grille and lower bumper greets the onlooker. Refreshed for 2018 are the Optitron gauges, 4.2-inch TFT screen and the leather steering wheel. Space is at a premium (make that Platinum!) in the Sequoia with storage areas in the center console, overhead console and doors. Believe this: the SUV accommodates 18 cup/bottle holders! Want cargo space to haul plywood from the local home improvement store? Then fold the second-row seat (two Captain’s chairs in our drive) and press a button and watch the 60/40 third-row seat fold flat to open up 120.1 cubic feet of space. Woodgrain-style accents on doors convey a tasteful appearance. Also standard is a 6.1-inch touchscreen for audio, nav and phone controls, 12-way power front heated/cooled seats, tri-zone auto a/c, floor-mounted gated shifter, power slide/tilt moon roof, ceiling-mounted Blu-Ray player with 10-inch LCD screen and power rear lift gate.

SAFETY FIRST: The now-standard Toyota Safety Sense includes a pre-collision system that detects pedestrians, lane departure assist and dynamic cruise control. Also included are dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, front knee airbags, side-impact door beams, four-wheel antilock brakes, Electronic Brake Distribution with brake assist, vehicle stability and traction controls, rearview camera, front/rear parking assist, blind spot monitor and tire pressure monitoring system.

OUT THE DOOR: $67,235, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges.

BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, 275/55R20; wheelbase, 122 inches; length, 205.1 inches; fuel capacity, 26.4 gallons; city, 13 mpg; highway, 17 mpg; Web site: www.toyota.com

WHY DIG IT: There is plentiful of room for passengers and cargo as well as commendable tow capacity. What’s there not to like? If you looked past the fuel economy figures, the Sequoia should serve the needs of large households quite well.


2017 Honda Civic Type R TouringTHE RIDE: Four-door, four-passenger 2017 Honda Civic Type R Touring hatchback.

DOWN THE ROAD: It’s the fastest (0 to 60 mph in 5.4 secs) and most powerful Honda. Launched in 1997 in Japan, the Civic Type R is a dream car for heavy pedal-to-the-metal drivers. With a race-bred chassis, the aggressive hatch displays amazing agility, power and response. The credit of course goes to the robust engine with unique aero and cooling capabilities.

TECH & PERFORMANCE: The 2.0-liter DOHC turbocharged inline-4 engine blasts off 306 horsepower @ 6500 rpm and 295 pounds-feet of torque @ 4500 rpm. It is mated to a sprightly 6-speed manual gear box that provides smooth upshifts and quick downshifts. Absorbing noise vibration is the dual-axis front strut and multilink rear suspension with dampers and anti-roll bars. The dual-pinion electric-power steering feels sharp and precise. A brake hold button near the shifter enables the car to stand still up or down a hill till the driver presses on the gas.

LOOK & FEEL: It’s got the look, the daring look we must say, with an air scoop on its aluminum hood merging with horizontal LED headlights and centered red “H” and Type R badges. At the rear, nobody can miss the massive wing spoiler and triple exhaust tips. Get behind the wheel and you realize instantly that this is a race-inspired ride with the rounded aluminum shifter knob and well-bolstered sport seats with red/black suede fabric and double red stitches. The black/red theme resonates throughout the cabin. The center console hosts a Type R serial number plate (our car was No. 932). A Multi-Information Display (i-MID) includes a 7-inch LCD screen that displays readings for phone, audio, trip computer and navigation. Also standard are dual auto a/c, 540-watt audio system with subwoofer, sport pedals and a 60/40 split fold rear seat.

SAFETY FIRST: Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, Vehicle Stability Assist, traction control, side-impact door beams, front/rear crumple zones, limited slip differential, rearview camera, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard.

OUT THE DOOR: $33,900, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges.

BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, 245/30ZR21; wheelbase, 106.3 inches; length, 179.4 inches; weight, 3,117 pounds; fuel capacity, 12.4 gallons; city, 22 mpg; highway, 28 mpg; Web site, www.honda.com

WHY DIG IT: It’s agile, quick, athletic and lively, fun to rev and delivers a punch or two. Just what you would expect of a race car. The only snag, if you can call it that, is finding one at your dealership for the listed MSRP! Good luck with the search.


2018 Chevrolet EquinoxSo far, two million Chevrolet Equinox units have been sold. The number continues to increase briskly on an annual basis. That shouldn’t surprise anyone because the redesigned 2018 Equinox, smaller (wheelbase down by 5.2 and length by 4.7 inches) and 400-pound lighter than its predecessor, is a noteworthy crossover SUV.

Our test-drive front-wheel compact crossover was equipped with a 1.6-liter inline-4 turbo diesel engine putting out 137 horsepower @ 3750 rpm and 240 pounds-feet of torque @ 2000 rpm while coupled with a slick 6-speed auto gearbox. Suspension is handled by an independent MacPherson strut front and the rear gets a four-link with coil springs. An electric power rack-and-pinion steering guides the Equinox to its destination.

A single-tier grille with the gold bowtie Chevy emblem, flanked by wraparound HID headlights and LED daytime running lights, boost the crossover’s bold appearance. Passenger space is a cool 103.2 cubic feet with the folded rear seat. Head and legroom is plentiful for rear-seat passengers. Storage areas are numerous as well as cavernous such as the center console, which can hold a laptop, and an underfloor cargo bin. The compass and driver information center, sandwiched between the speedometer and tachometer, is functional. Other amenities include dual auto a/c, premium cloth seats, 7-inch touchscreen for nav, phone and audio controls, eight-way power driver and four-way front-passenger seats, and a robust tilt/telescopic leather steering column.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, stability and traction control, remote keyless entry, antiskid system, rear camera, park assist and side blind-zone alert, three-point safety belts for front, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

For all you skeptical folks, the diesel powertrain in the Equinox works just fine. It is quiet and responsive with impressive acceleration, remarkable handling and steering experience. At the same time, the SUV impresses with significant cargo and passenger-hauling capabilities, as well as laudable diesel economy.


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