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The Daily Drivers | By Peter Couture and Lyra Solochek, Times Staff Writers

The Daily Drivers: Audi TT RS, Ford F-150 with Ecoboost, Honda Ridgeline Sport add personality

Sometimes we find ourselves with too many cars to drive and not enough space for them all. We know, first-world problems, right? Here are some vehicles we've reviewed in the past that have new models with performance changes or design tweaks.

2012 Audi TT RS

We drove Audi's TT Roadster last summer. Peter was impressed with the ride when he drove it to Miami, but Lyra had higher performance expectations and was disappointed in the little coupe. Well, this summer, Audi has imported the European RS to the U.S. market to the delight of the Daily Drivers and enthusiasts alike. Audi puts a turbocharged 5-cylinder engine in the TT, mates it to a short-throw 6-speed manual (the only transmission available in the United States) and, of course, the standard Quattro four-wheel-drive system. Audi also adds a Magnetic Ride suspension system and rear spoiler for added downforce and huge brakes. The results are a car that handles like it's on rails and accelerates like a true Porsche competitor (0-60 is 4.1 seconds). You have to really flog the RS to provoke even a hint that the rear ends wants to step out on you. Speaking of visceral thrills, our tester had the Titanium Sports Exhaust Package, which produced a sonorous note that's ever present in the cabin, especially when working through the lower gears or pushing the redline. The cabin is outfitted in black leather and chrome-finish accents. Very Germanic. Very cool. The well-bolstered seats have the TT RS logo embossed in them and there are vented aluminum sport pedals and a race-inspired flat-bottom steering wheel. The 2+2 rear "seat" is more useful as a bench for parcels than people, however. Given its size and sport suspension, the RS even handles bumps, such as brick streets, fairly well. The headroom is adequate, but taller drivers like Peter might feel as if they have to duck their heads down to avoid being eye level with the top of the windshield. Porsche shoppers, and even those who want a taste of Audi's R-8 supercar, would be wise to check out the TT RS, especially since its availability is limited.

Ford F-150 with Ecoboost

When we drove the higher-end F-150 with a Platinum package, we were thoroughly impressed with the power and towing capacities of the V-8. But we wanted to test the new Ecoboost V-6 engine that has been getting good reviews. Lyra recently test-drove (and later bought) one when she was looking to replace her truck. The 3.5-liter with twin-turbo has incredible towing power with 420 pound-feet of torque at rpms of 1,700 to 5,000 with almost no turbo lag. Pulling a 5,000-pound trailer, Lyra's truck got about 12 mpg on the highway on a recent trip north. (Before this truck, she was getting around 9 mpg.) Ford estimates 16 city and 22 highway without towing. Lyra got to test the Trailer Sway Control and Roll Stability Control during Tropical Storm Debby, when the trailer hit a water patch on the interstate and fishtailed. The truck settled the trailer with no problems. Although she initially missed the rumble of a V-8, after a few long drives on the highway, the quieter V-6 was welcome.

2012 Honda Ridgeline Sport

The new trim line for the four-door, four-wheel-drive crewcab is all about black. Black mesh grille with a bright red "Sport" emblem, headlights and brake lights with black-trimmed bezels, 18-inch black alloy wheels, black side mirrors, black door handles, black floor mats. The Sport trim, which Peter thinks gives it an aftermarket tuner look, comes only in three colors: white, silver and, yes, black. The net effect is to give a practical vehicle a slightly less ungainly appearance. Fog lights are standard in this version. Feature-wise, it's a dressed-up RT base trim. The 3.5-liter V-6 is the same across the board, and puts out 250 horsepower. The best features still are the in-bed waterproof trunk and the two-way tailgate. Unlike earlier models, the trailer hitch and tow hooks are standard on all trims.

The Daily Drivers: Audi TT RS, Ford F-150 with Ecoboost, Honda Ridgeline Sport add personality 07/27/12 [Last modified: Friday, July 27, 2012 4:30am]
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