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

After a major redesign last year, the S60 continues mostly as is. As it should. After all, the midsize luxury sedan has been a hot-seller for Volvo. Three engine choices are available but we received our test drive with a 2.0-liter inline-4 turbocharged and supercharged power train blasting off a massive 400 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 472 pounds-feet of torque @ 5400 rpm. An electric motor and a 11.6 kWh lithium-ion battery can take the sedan nearly 22 miles before the gasoline engine kicks in. The 8-speed auto gearbox in the all-wheel-drive vehicle is sprightly in any untoward situation. And the start-stop feature (auto engine stop when the vehicle halts) ensures substantial savings in fuel and weight.

The good-looking and practical sedan portrays a centered chrome grille with a familiar Volvo iron mark, flanked by LED headlights and Thor’s hammer-like LED headlights. The lavish cabin conveys an upmarket aura with a 12.3-inch instrument panel decked in shimmer graphite aluminum inlays. There is ample space for leg/shoulder room for three adult passengers in the 60/40 rear seat. Volvo Sensus infotainment, with a distinct vertical 9-inch display touch screen, is essentially made up of four tiles: navigation, media, phone and user-defined. Activate one and watch it expand while keeping the other tiles visible for future use. Standard treats include two-zone auto a/c, 10-way power front heated seats, 60/40 rear seat, steering wheel paddle shifters, leather/aluminum shifter knob, aluminum cargo scuff plate, head-up display, and a leather-wrapped dashboard.

The Chinese-owned but Swedish-made car company is renowned for safety. Continuing the tradition, the S60 gets dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes, three-point seatbelts for all, side impact protection system, dynamic stability and traction control, blind spot monitor and cross traffic alert, lane departure warning/assist, City Safety (brakes automatically to help prevent a rear-end collision) also gets steer assist, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

Yes, it is a hybrid but don’t for a minute believe that your jaunt to the neighborhood store or on the highway will be sluggish. Resting on 18-inch wheels, the S60 can take off 0 to 60 mph in a mere 4.4 seconds and reach top speed of 130 mph. Apart from remarkably quick acceleration and razor-sharp handling/balance, the ride boasts high-tech luxury goodies in the cabin. Volvo’s long safety list makes it a no-brainer.



Open-air motoring enthusiasts are ardent fans of this fun, entertaining sports car. And that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. The rear-wheel-drive Mazda MX-5 Miata, which celebrated its 30-year anniversary last year, continues to reign over the competition. More so now than ever before, thanks to extra power and torque, as well as a standard tilt/telescoping steering column and rearview camera, among other new safety features.

Power for our Grand Touring RF (retractable fastback) trim is derived from a 2.0-liter DOHC inline-4 cylinder engine, which makes 181 horsepower (up 26 hp) at 7500 rpm and 151 pounds-feet of torque (boost of 3) at 4000 rpm. It is mated to a 6-speed auto gearbox though a 6-speed manual also is offered. Suspension is adeptly handled via a double wishbone front and multilink rear system. Guiding the lively convertible, whose hardtop opens and closes in 13 seconds via a power switch, is a double-pinion power-assist steering.

Penetrating inward LED headlights surround the familiar Mazda insignia as eyes gaze up to a long hood with a pushed-back windshield and short roof. The interior is elegant, lavish and expensive-looking. Take the leather on the steering column, shifter, hand brake, and of course the comfortable seats. Other conveniences include push button ignition, 7-inch navigation, phone and audio touch screen, paddle shifters, heated front seats, Bose audio with 9 speakers, auto a/c, piano black seatback bar trim, mesh aero board, and power door locks and windows. The only minus is the miniscule trunk, which is understandable.

Dual front and side airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes with stability and traction control, three-point seatbelts with pretensioners and force limiters, blind spot monitor, rear-cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, side impact door beams, anti-theft engine immobilizer and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

With the additional power and torque, the MX-5 transforms into an even more thrilling and enjoyable car to drive. Top-down motoring buffs will have a blast cruising the highway or tackling the rigors of daily driving, thanks to the convertible’s quick and agile character. And at just $34,410 ($37,900 price as tested), it’s a steal. May the world’s best-selling roadster bring smiles and pleasure for another 30 years!

MX-5 (GT)


OK, so it’s not some speed machine that can take off 0 to 60 in under 4 seconds. But if you are looking for a five-door liftback that is roomier than your average subcompact sedan, the Yaris is for you. Not to disregard the fact that you can eke out 35 mpg in city/highway driving. Now, that’s a fuel saver.

A sole 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine develops just 106 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 103 pounds-feet of torque @ 4000 rpm for a pleasant and comfortable drive. Available as a 5-speed manual or a 6-speed auto gear box with sport mode, the Japanese carmaker’s entry-level car is stylish, cool and safe. An independent MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear works well to absorb unkind road surfaces. The electric power steering is quick, precise and well weighted.

Eye-catching LED headlights/daytime running lights and integrated fog lamps flank a black hexagonal mesh grille with piano black accents. Offered in base L, LE and the sporty XLE, the Yaris gets auto a/c, cruise control, 7-inch infotainment touch screen atop the dashboard, 60/40 rear seat, leather tilt/telescopic steering wheel and shifter, power door locks and windows, and six-way adjustable driver seat. The 15.9-cubic-foot trunk space is as big as any found in a midsize sedan. The only comfort we found lacking was a driver armrest.

Kudos to the carmaker for packing the inexpensive vehicle with standard safety features such as dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, dynamic stability and traction control, low-speed pre-collision safety feature, antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution, rearview camera, smart-stop technology, remote keyless entry, side-impact door beams and tire pressure monitoring system.

The agile, spacious, good-looking and practical Yaris gets the job done reasonably well. And assures you of tremendous savings at the pump (EPA estimates of 32 mpg city and 40 highway). What more can one ask for in a ride that’s priced at just $18,750?


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