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Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE,

Since debuting five years ago, this four-door, four-passenger Porsche has evolved. We recall that the 2010 model was equipped with a naturally-aspirated 4.8-liter V-8 engine. Well, now that is history. It has been replaced by a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 engine pumping out 420 horsepower (up by 20 from its predecessor) @ 6000 rpm and 384 pounds-feet (increase of 15) of torque @ 5000 rpm. Available in rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, the performance car boasts 0 to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds instead of the previous 5.2. At the same time, the Panamera 4S can come to a stop from 60 to 0 in just 109 feet.

The retained PDK Porsche double-clutch 7-speed transmission is basically two clutches without a clutch pedal but can work either automatically, via steering-wheel mounted paddles or a center-mounted lever. The result is a flawless transmission with instantaneous up and down shifts. The quick ride also is fitted with an engine start/stop system, which turns the engine off at a halt so you can save fuel.

Porsche Active Suspension Management adjusts the suspension system of double-wishbone front and multilink rear so a fine balance of ride and handling can be maintained, regardless of driving styles. And then there is the Porsche Stability Management, which works in tandem with antilock brakes, to maintain stability and traction in shifty road or weather conditions. Also, keeping the driver and passengers out of harm’s way are standard dual front and side airbags, curtain side airbag, front knee airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, front/rear parking sensors, rearview camera with surround view, rear-obstacle detection system, three-point seatbelts with pretensioners, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

Up front, the long hood of the monocoque lightweight body ends up at a Porsche crest logo that is flanked by bi-xenon headlights and larger low-air intakes underneath. LED tail lamps, dual exhaust tips made up of brushed stainless steel and a huge adaptive spoiler deck up the rear.

The interior drips of class, sophistication and superb skill that are a Porsche tradition. Lending credence to the rich setting of the cabin is full leather upholstery on and around the dashboard and instrument panel, on the doors, center console. Gauges on the five-dial 4.8-inch instrument cluster are clear and so are the controls on the dashboard. We were quite impressed with the gargantuan rear-seat passenger room, especially for six-footers who can sit contentedly in the back with their legs stretched. Fold down the seats and you can pack in 44.6 cubic feet of space.

Other standard goodies include dual-zone auto climate control, three-spoke tilt/telescopic steering column, eight-way power front seats, driver information center, power sunroof and lift gate, digital/analog clock, 7-inch navigation system and, of course, the unique left-hand ignition.

Porsche claims the Panamera is a sports car for four. And it certainly is, not just because of astounding performance – which is the carmaker’s strong point – but also for offering an enormous cabin. If you can spare $98,300 and change ($132,500 with options), the Panamera will blow your mind, as it did ours!



At a base price of $62,000 (for our top-line LTZ trim), this isn’t a cheap drive. And neither are its fuel economy figures (at just 15 mpg in city for us) anything to write about. But leave apart the two negatives, the fully redesigned 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe will continue to attract buyers, mainly for its capability of carrying nine comfortably, towing up to 8,400 pounds and cargo space of 94.7 cubic feet.

This full-size SUV retains the sole 5.3-liter V-8 engine but now pumps out 355 horsepower (up by 35) @ 5600 rpm and 383 pounds-feet (increase of 48) @ 4100 rpm. The fully boxed frame is still mated to a healthy 6-speed automatic transmission and comes in either rear-wheel or all-wheel-drive versions. However, Chevy has switched to an electric-assist power steering for better positive on-center response. Magnetic Ride Control, which adjusts the four-wheel independent suspension as per road conditions, brings toughness and rock-solid stability to the ride. GM’s Active Fuel Management system deactivates half of its eight cylinders to conserve gas while cruising or at slower speeds.

Safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for all rows, four-wheel antilock brakes, stability and traction controls, front parking sensors, lane departure warning, blind spot monitor, vibrating safety-alert seat, rearview camera, keyless start, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system.

You can recognize a Tahoe in a parking lot or on the street, thanks to its gigantic presence starting up front with a centered gold bowtie on the twin-port horizontal grille, HID headlights and 20-inch aluminum wheels. For 2015, the biggest and welcome change in the generous cabin is the third-row seat now folds into the floor instead of having to be removed. And yes, both the second- and third-row seats can be operated via a button. Other amenities include a tri-zone auto climate control, power four-spoke tilt/telescopic steering column and rear lift gate, hidden bin behind the motorized 8-inch central infotainment screen, and 12-way power heated/cooled front seats.

Apart from a slight but noticeable lag in pickup, the Tahoe delivers a calm and compliant ride, responsive brakes and remarkably good body control. No wonder, this full-sized SUV is a functional miracle that has served its buyers well for about two decades.



Just three years ago, Toyota had totally redesigned its five-passenger sporty hatchback. And now, it has revamped the Scion tC inside and out while improving the 6-speed auto gear box for twice as faster upshifts and downshifts than its predecessor.

Though down by just 1 horsepower, the 2.5-liter, DOHC inline-4 cylinder engine, which develops 179 hp @ 6000 rpm and 174 pounds-feet of torque @ 4100 rpm, packs adequate punch for your daily driving. The slightly retuned suspension is handled once again by a MacPherson strut front and a double-wishbone rear to maintain equilibrium at sharp turns. The tweaked Electric Power Steering is direct and accurate, making it easy to place the car in corners.

Ensconced on 18-inch wheels, the boldly-styled tC portrays a more forceful front look with new upper/lower grille treatments, and of course, the visible body-color mirrors and door handles. A sculpted hood meets up with angular projector-beam headlights to enhance the appearance. The three-spoke tilt/telescopic steering column with a flat bottom catches your eye as you relax in the height-adjustable driver seat. Also prominent are deep-orange illuminated speedometer and tachometer gauges with large meters and needle indicators. Behind the rear seat, you get a satisfactory 14.7 cubic feet of space. Other comforts include air-conditioning, cruise control, 60/40 recline-fold rear seat, driver information center, 6.1-inch touchscreen for audio and a USB port with iPod connectivity for music lovers.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, front knee airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, front active headrests, Vehicle Stability Control and traction control, three-point front seatbelts with pretensioners and tire pressure monitoring system.

Sporty, reasonably priced and trendy with just the right amount of power, the tC has been a volume leader for Scion. With this overhaul, the front-wheel drive compact should continue to be a hot-seller. And with gas inching toward $4 a gallon as summer nears, we can only rave about our 27 mpg city and 33.8 mpg highway mileage numbers (EPA estimates are 23/31). Cant make a ride any more appealing!


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