JULY 2021
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Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE –motoringtampabay.com

2021 HYUNDAI SONATA HYBRID After 25 years out to pasture, the Ford Bronco has returned to the rodeo! And what a comeback! Ford engineers have brought tough competition to the game in response to its chief rival: the immensely successful and iconic Jeep Wrangler.

The Bronco Sport version (Badlands 4X4 trim) Ford gave us comes with rough-and-ready looks and off-road prowess.

Though offered with a base 1.5-liter 3-cylinder power train, our Bronco had plenty more muscle with its 2.0-liter turbocharged Ecoboost inline 4-cylinder engine. It pumps out 250 horsepower @ 5500 rpm and 277 pounds-feet of torque @ 3000 rpm.

EcoBoost is essentially twin turbochargers and a small-displacement engine working in tandem with gas-direct injection to produce a powerful but fuel-efficient engine. It’s mated to the standard lively 8-speed auto gear box. An independent MacPherson strut front end with tuned struts and stabilizer bar, and rear double lateral link semi-trailing arms suspension, isolate occupants from road noise and imperfections to ensure a safe jaunt.

Providing superb on-center feel to the driver is an electric power system. G.O.A.T. (Goes Over Any Type of Terrain) modes are normal, eco, sport, slippery, sand, mud/ruts and rock crawl.

Up front, rounded LED headlights flank the signature cartridge gray grille with BRONCO etched in white letters. Metal bash plates, front tow hooks, active grille shutters and mainly short front and rear overhangs convey off-road prowess of a vehicle that can wade through 23.6 inches of water.

The cabin, though comfy, offers features such as rubberized flooring (and cargo area too) and zipper pockets (with Molle straps) for extra gear that proves it’s safe to venture into nomad land. Other goodies include:

The standard Ford CoPilot360 bundles together driver-assist safety features such as blind spot monitor, cross-traffic alert, pre-collision and lane-keep aid with auto emergency brake, auto high beams, and rearview camera. Also included are dual front and side airbags, front knee airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic stability and traction control, front 180-degree camera, trail control (essentially cruise control while off-roading), tire pressure monitor, and daytime running lights.

The Bronco’s gallop back into the wilderness, this time with the Sport 4X4, is a tremendous and much-needed addition to the already-impressive Ford lineup. If you like to go off the beaten path or customize your vehicle (as in Jeep), the exciting and cool Bronco offers endless choices. Kudos, Ford engineers! It’s a job well done!



It may not be on a potential shopper’s radar like an Audi, Benz or BMW 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. An independent double-wishbone front and a multilink rear suspension ensure safety for occupants in adverse road/weather conditions. 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 dual 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. The InTouch infotainment system, which comes with dual 8- and 7-inch touch screens atop each other, is convenient to use. Also standard are eight-way power front leather seats, dual auto a/c, magnesium paddle shifters, 60/40 rear seat, overhead sunglass holder, Bose audio with 16 speakers, aluminum pedals and sill plates with ‘Infiniti’ insignia, and power tilt/telescopic steering column and moon roof. But we could have used slightly more space in the 13.5-cubic-foot trunk area.

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, blind spot, lane-departure and forward-collision warnings, rear cross traffic alert, auto brakes with pedestrian detection, hill start assist, energy-absorbing steering column, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

The Q50 displays energetic handling, superb cornering skills and a strong steering feel. It is one of the cleverest and coolest choices for a potential sport sedan buyer. And a head-turner ride to boot.



Redesigned just last year, the 2021 Nissan Sentra is an even more attractive proposition than ever before. The small sedan is quick off the mark, with immediate and smooth acceleration from any speed, and agile handling/balance.

Under the hood sits a 2.0-liter direct-injection inline-4 cylinder engine that generates 149 horsepower @ 6400 rpm and 146 pounds-feet of torque @ 4400 rpm. Our test drive was mated to a fairly silent continuous variable transmission. An up front strut suspension and a rear multilink system soak obstacles with skill and self-assurance. Providing positive on-center response is an electric power steering.

Boomerang-shaped reflector LED headlights flank the dark chrome V-motion grille to portray an aggressive look. Boosting the appearance further are lower body side sill extensions, black-painted outside mirrors, and a rear spoiler and chrome tip. The practical cabin is plentiful with creature comforts such as dual auto a/c, tilt/telescopic steering column, 60/40 split fold rear seat, leather steering wheel and shifter, power-slide moon roof, six-speaker audio. New for 2021 are standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 7-inch Advanced Drive-Assist, located between tachometer and speedometer, displays vital info. Trunk space is an admirable 14.3 cubic feet.

Dual front and side airbags, side airbag curtain for both rows, front knee airbags, vehicle dynamic and traction control systems, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, blind spot and lane departure warnings, rear-cross traffic alert, auto emergency brake with pedestrian detection, tire pressure monitoring system, three-point front seat belts with pretensioners, rearview camera and daytime running lights are standard.

Affordably priced, the Sentra is nimble, fuel efficient, sporty and earns a report card full of great marks. The enjoyable and energetic car should be on the list of every first-time owner’s test drive.



Vivid and stunning desert landscapes, splendid and picturesque drives, unbelievable viewpoints, magnificent mountain ranges, marvelous biking and riding trails, serene picnic spots, and the extraordinarily enduring saguaro cacti make Arizona’s second largest city into a bewitching metropolis. And the perfect venue for the Hyundai folks to kick off their overhauled 2022 Tucson. Welcome to Tucson the city and more importantly, Tucson the SUV.

First introduced in 2004, the compact SUV has undergone a makeover in the past. But the inside out redesign and power train transformation (with hybrid and plug-in hybrid) for the front-wheel or all-wheel-drive Tucson is major. And for the better, we must say.

It’s a bigger vehicle than the predecessor in every respect. Length is up by 6.1, width and height 0.6 and wheelbase 3.4 inches; cargo volume increases by 7.7 and passenger volume 6 cubic feet. In essence, there is plenty of leg room now for rear-seat passengers. Make it a total of 108.2 cubic feet for total passenger room. Cargo space is a cool 80.3 cubic feet with the rear seat down.

A 2.5-liter direct-injection gasoline engine puts out 187 horsepower @ 6100 rpm and 178 pounds-feet of torque @ 4000 rpm. A 1.6-liter turbocharged gas engine develops 226 hp and 258 pounds-feet of torque with an electric motor and battery pack. The plug-in hybrid is also 1.6 but packs a punch at 261 hp and with an electric-only range of 28 miles before fuel kicks in. A 6-speed or 8-speed auto gearbox is offered depending on the trim you pick. The front MacPherson strut and multilink rear suspension have been re-engineered while body rigidity, sound damping and safety have improved with advanced high-strength steel.

A top-selling SUV for Hyundai, the fourth-gen Tucson boasts a sporty, modern, sleek look up front as diamond-cut elements gaze at you from the sharp parametric-jewel grille. The cabin is “hidden tech” as the Hyundai team likes to call it with a lowered and hoodless digital instrument cluster, button less center stack, capacitive touch controls, multi-air mode, new ambient lights, 10.2-inch color touch display, Hyundai digital key (lock/unlock vehicle with phone), latest version of Bluelink and remote smart park assist. Standard features on the base SE include tilt/telescopic steering column, 6-way adjustable driver seat and 60/40 fold seat with recline/center armrest.

Safety is paramount for Hyundai with dual front and side airbags, side curtain with rollover sensor, lane keep/follow assist, forward-collision warning, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, front/rear parking sensors and crumple zones, electronic stability and traction control, blind-spot warning, forward collision avoid-assist, remote keyless entry, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system standard.

Starting at $24,950, the Tucson peaks at $37,350 for the limited hybrid AWD. Now that is a heck of a deal. The three power trains result in a responsive ride, sharp handling and decent overall cornering balance. And Hyundai’s five-year, 60,000-mile basic, and 10-year, 100,000-mile power train warranties should convince you to sign on the dotted line.



It’s bigger in wheelbase by 1.4 inches and height by 1 inch. Also, overall cargo volume is up by 2.5 cubic feet from the previous version. Best of all, the 2021 Kia Sorento is offered in a wide range of trims and power trains, including hybrid. Our test of this fourth-gen SUV was the all-new Prestige X-Line AWD trim. Believe it or not, the ride packs quite a punch.

A 2.5-liter turbocharged GDI 4-cylinder engine cranks out 281 horsepower @ 5800 rpm and 311 pounds-feet of torque @ 4000 rpm. Seating six (seven is also offered in other trims), the midsize SUV is coupled to a solid 8-speed dual-clutch auto gearbox. Eco, smart, comfort, sport and snow drive modes are offered. Tow capacity is OK at 3,500 pounds.

The front shows off a dark hyper silver radiator “tiger nose” grille mesh flanked by LED headlights and daytime running lights. The bumper delivers a rough appearance thanks to molded-in skid plates. But it is the classy interior in the steel unibody SUV, packed with abundant creature/tech goodies, that wins hands down. The gigantic 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster sports an analog speedometer and tachometer with fuel and engine temp readings. Space is plenty with a one-touch, slide-and-fold second-row Captain’s chairs and a 50/50 third-row seat. All in all, you get 75.5 cubic feet of space with both seats down. Other conveniences are 10-way power heated/cooled front seats, dual auto a/c, push-button start, satin-chrome door handles, robust leather shifter and tilt/telescopic steering column, 10.25-inch infotainment touch screen, panoramic sun roof, power lift gate and nice-looking wood on doors and dashboard.

Dual front and side airbags, driver knee airbag, side curtain airbag for both rows, electronic stability and traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, front active headrests, side impact door beams, front/rear crumple zones, forward, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assists, smart cruise control, lane keep and follow assists, surround view monitor, rearview camera, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

Our hats go to Kia for installing the 2.5 turbo engine into the well-rounded Sorento lineup. By no means is the new power train inadequate to haul the nearly 4,000-pound SUV. This eminently useful package is a smart choice for the SUV buyer who at times likes to venture off the beaten path.


Nitish S. Rele, editor/publisher of Motoring Tampa Bay (www.motoringtampabay.com) and Khaas Baat (www.khaasbaat.com), was an automotive editor/columnist for The Tampa Tribune.

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