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Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE –

2018 Nissan Kicks The all-new 2018 Kicks, an entry-level and affordable crossover utility vehicle, essentially “kicks” off the CUV/SUV lineup for Nissan. Millennials, singles and couples without children, the tech reliant, exploratory and image-conscious folks should have a go or two at the front-wheel-drive compact crossover. It makes perfect sense. After all, it starts at only $17,990 for the base trim (S, SV, SR and SR premium available) and peaks around $21,000 with some attractive perks in the mix. That is great value for the money.

We had the opportunity to test drive the Kicks on the busy streets of Miami and came away impressed with the vehicle’s nimbleness, handling and balance. Nissan informs us that the Brazilian “Kicks Concept” was the inspiration behind its origin, reflecting the vibrancy and exuberance of the carnival theme. It comes in just one power train, a 1.6-liter inline-4 cylinder engine putting out 125 horsepower @ 5800 rpm and 115 pounds-feet of torque @ 4000 rpm with Xtronic continuously variable transmission. Sitting on a unibody-type structure is the familiar V motion grille flanked by boomerang halogen headlights and tail lamps. Seven exterior colors are available with a few two-tone combinations.

The interior with its “gliding-wing” dash design is spacious allowing five to sit in comfort. There’s 43.7 cubic feet of front legroom space while the cargo area boasts 25.3 cubic feet for your luggage. Ingress and egress is easy with the 60/40-split rear seat. Go for the S model and you can have such standard amenities as a D-shaped tilt/telescopic steering wheel, a/c, 7-inch touch screen for audio and phone controls, driver information system, six-way manual driver and four-way front-passenger cloth seats, cruise control, three USB ports, remote keyless entry, power windows/door locks, etc.

The Kicks is an excellent effort by Nissan to put out an entry-level compact crossover on the market. Boldly styled, sporty, practical and economical, this crossover definitely has a few ‘Kicks’ to become another hot-seller for the Japanese carmaker.


Look for a detailed review of the Kicks in a future issue.


2018 CHALLENGER SRT HELLCATZero to 60 in the mid-3 second range and top speed at 199 mph. Impressed? You ought to be. The 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi SRT engine in the Dodge Challenger boasts robust acceleration, superb handling and steering feel. Our Widebody Hellcat test-drive version is all new for 2018.

Step on the throttle and the V-8 engine blasts off 707 horsepower (yes, you read that right!) at 6000 rpm and 650 pounds-feet of torque at 4800 rpm. Mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission, the Challenger is equipped with a hydraulic power assist, rack-and-pinion steering, which is razor sharp. Front suspension is handled competently by an independent SLA with higher upper ‘A’ arm while the rear gets a five-link independent system. Both ends have coil springs to improve ride quality and comfort. Bringing the speed demon to a halt are Brembo high-performance 15.4-inch front six-piston caliper and 13.8-inch rear four-piston caliper discs, both vented and slotted. To vary the driving experience, this version of the Challenger comes in street, sport, track and off modes.

Walk around the rear-wheel-drive vehicle and the first element that will grab your attention are center air intake and dual heat extractors atop the aluminum hood. Rounded bi-functional and air-catcher HID headlights with the Hellcat logo convey a menacing look. The rear sports split LED-illuminated tail lamps with gloss black surround, satin-black spoiler and quad exhaust tips. The cabin is roomy and elegant with dual auto a/c, six-way power driver seat, power and flat-bottomed tilt/telescopic steering column, heated/cooled front seats with the SRT/Hellcat logo, 18-speaker Harman Kardon system, 7.5-inch reconfigurable instrument cluster, 8.4-inch UConnect for audio, phone and navigation controls, and a 60/40 rear seat.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, electronic stability and traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, blind spot monitor and rear-cross path detection, rearview camera, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard.

Muscle-car aficionados, crave for that throaty exhaust growl (it’s a Hemi!) as you turn on the ignition? Like to mash the pedals for a speed-demon-like takeoff? Then the Challenger Hellcat will fit the bill. To a T.



2018 LINCOLN NAVIGATOR It is the first American vehicle ever to dominate the J.D. Power Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) study. The top ranking, deservedly so, is thanks to customers who praised the SUV’s technology to seat comfort, surpassing other brand nameplates.

Totally redesigned for 2018, the Lincoln Navigator is equipped with a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 engine, which cranks out 450 horsepower (up 70 hp from its predecessor) @ 5500 rpm and 510 pounds-feet (increase of 50) @ 3000 rpm. Transmission goes up from the previous 6-speed to a 10-speed automatic. The full-size SUV gets an independent short- and long-arm front and a multilink rear suspension for a secure ride, regardless of road and weather conditions. When you need to stop, 13.8-inch vented front and rear discs come into play. Tow capacity is remarkable at 8,700 pounds.

Head out toward the Navigator with key in pocket and the chrome Lincoln star logo, surrounded by horizontal LED headlights on the huge mesh grille, will illuminate. If coziness is of significance, be assured that you are traveling in a lap of luxury. Everyone aboard is treated to royalty, starting with the 24-way power and heated/cooled front seats. The user-friendly Sync3 interface controls audio, phone and navigation systems via voice, touch or both. Total passenger volume is an admiring 172 cubic feet with rear-seat occupants treated to royalty. Audiophiles will thrill to the Revel 20-speaker sound system. Tri-zone auto a/c, panoramic sun roof, power second- and third-row seats, head-up display, 12-inch configurable instrument cluster, power tilt/telescope steering column and lift gate, and the Lincoln welcome mat come at no extra cost.

Dual front and side airbags, front knee airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic stability and traction control, blind spot monitor with cross-traffic alert, rearview camera, front and rear three-point seatbelts, remote start, tire pressure monitor and daytime running lights are standard.

It may be nearly 5,900 pounds but the full-size SUV packs tons of power. In fact, the gas pedal unleashes robust acceleration to make the Navigator an elegant, pleasing and easy-riding companion. Lest we forget, the North American Truck of the Year (that’s another well-earned honor) is also the ultimate utilitarian workhorse.



2018.5 Nissan Rogue Sport It is just slightly smaller than the hot-seller Rogue: 2.3 inch shorter in wheelbase, 12.1 inches fewer in length and 5.6 inch lower in height. But this entry-compact crossover delivers a comfortable well-damped ride while targeting youthful and active lifestyles.

The 2.0-liter inline-4 DOHC cylinder engine still 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 of the 2018.5 Rogue Sport is a V-motion black grille with chrome accents, halogen headlights, body-colored bumpers and door handles. Offered at no extra cost on the SV trim model are dual auto a/c, 5-inch touch screen, cloth seats, eight-way power driver seat, tilt/telescopic steering column, push-button start and a six-speaker CD player. Ingress and egress is effortless 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.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, vehicle dynamic control, antiskid system, front seat active-head restraints, automatic emergency braking, front seatbelts with pretensioners, front and rear crumple zones, hill start assist, blind spot warning, rear-cross traffic alert, and tire pressure monitoring system.

If versatility, functionality, high fuel-economy figures and value rank top of the list, then the Sport version of the all-new entry-compact crossover is a no-brainer. Are you listening – the young, urban SUV buyer?


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