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Lyra Solochek, Times Staff Writer

Lyra Solochek

Lyra Solochek oversees the editorial content for the Tampa Bay Times' BayLink, JobLink, HomeLink and AutoLink sections. With Peter Couture, she writes the weekly auto review the Daily Drivers. She also contributes to the Gadgets and Gizmos blog. A native of Japan, she joined the Times in 1997 as a copy editor and page designer.

Phone: (727) 893-8338


Blog: Gadgets and Gizmos

  1. The Daily Drivers: 2017 Kia Sportage SX AWD


    To say Kia's compact Sportage is all new for 2017 is underselling what is a dramatic makeover. While it wasn't bland in its previous incarnation, neither did it stand out in the sea of similar-looking SUVs. Well, no more.

    Appearance: Kia has given the Sportage an injection of European attitude with styling cues — a boldly creased hood and curvaceous fenders that remind us of Porsche, especially with our Sportage's Sparkling Silver paint. Even the swept-back headlights — ours had the Dynamic Bending Light feature and high-beam assist — are on the crest of the fenders, which house 19-inch alloy wheels. Beneath the lamps, four-part LED fog lights add a futuristic touch. We've heard that some find the overall look odd. We disagree. This new Sportage also is slightly longer and taller, with a longer wheelbase. ...

    The design for the rear is understated with LED tail lights that connect with a chrome trim and red lens.
  2. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Chevrolet Suburban 4WD 1/2 ton LTZ


    Thanks to lower gas prices, large sport utility vehicles are making a comeback. Among them is the stalwart, the Suburban, an SUV before there was the acronym. This large Chevy, which is based on the Silverado pickup, is now in its 12th generation.

    Appearance: Big and still boxy. The Suburban shares a bold front end with the Silverado with a chrome-trimmed split grille. Our 'Burb came with polished 20-inch aluminum wheels, and its almost 19-foot length was painted in a sharp Iridescent Pearl Tricoat. (Considering black? Only if your regular driving involves motorcades.)...

    No more reaching or running around to fold the rear seats. The Suburban can do that for you with pushes of buttons in the cargo area. [LYRA SOLOCHEK | Times]
  3. The Daily Drivers: 2016 BMW 750i xDrive


    The BMW 7 Series resides in the exclusive class known as "executive sedans." Indeed, its standard long wheelbase provides the cabin with roominess and comfort befitting of the C-Suite. But you don't have to be a corporate titan to appreciate BMW's flagship. We drove the all-wheel-drive 750i xDrive trim.

    Appearance: The car's contemporary look was showcased by our tester's brilliant Alpine White paint. The 7 Series avoids the bloated look of some large sedans. It benefits from subtle styling details such as its creased hood, which tapers to the familiar BMW kidney-shaped grille and upswept headlights with circular lenses. L-shaped accent trim on the lower side body panels accentuates the length of the car while adding some visual interest. The optional 20-inch V-spoke alloy wheels are some of the sharpest we've seen on a luxury sedan and would not seem out of place on a sports car. ...

     The cabin is well appointed, with plush Nappa leather surfaces, high-gloss wood trim, brushed aluminum buttons and trim.
  4. The Daily Drivers car review: 2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD


    This may be the best time to shop for a small crossover, with several redesigned models already on the market or about to be rolled out. Case in point: The Mazda CX-5, which gets a mid-cycle refresh that, to quote Lyra, gives it an air of "aggressive elegance."

    Appearance: The new design features that stand out are mainly up front. The CX-5 now sports a bolder five-slat grille with thicker chrome trim. The headlights get new LEDs and the fog-lamp housings have been redesigned. The hood gains more pronounced creases and the front fenders are more curvaceous. Our Grand Touring tester came in Titanium Mica, a dark bronze that lessens the visual distraction of the wheel-well cladding. This trim comes with 19-inch dual-spoke alloy wheels....

     Our tester came with 19-inch alloy wheels.
  5. The Daily Drivers car review: 2016 Volvo XC90


    Welcome to Volvo's future. The XC90 is the first fully redesigned effort from the Swedish brand since it was bought by China's Geely Automobiles. How successful is the result? It was named North American Truck of the Year, a category that includes SUVs.

    Appearance: The Scandinavian design philosophy still rules. While there's nothing dramatic about the XC90, it looks elegant without looking bulky like some third-row SUVs. The most striking feature is — for Volvo — a bigger and bolder rectangular grille, flanked by eye-catching headlights with LED running lights that the automaker calls "Thor's Hammer." Our model was the R-Design trim, which adds chrome-trimmed gloss-black grille slats, integrated aluminum roof rails and "silk-metal" trim. ...

    The XC90 has a wide stance. With the R-Design trim, the grille has gloss-black horizontal slats.
  6. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Toyota RAV4 XLE


    Toyota's RAV4 has been around since the beginning of the SUV trend — indeed, it may have started it. For 2016, it gets a slight refresh inside and out. Our RAV4 was the XLE model, which is nicely equipped for a mid-level trim.

    Appearance: Toyota has tweaked the exterior, most notably giving it a more chiseled front fascia whose headlights now appear to extend out of the grille. It's a more sporty look, which goes along with the rest of the automaker's recent surge of style. Our tester was came in the new Electric Storm Blue — a brilliant hue that was a hit with Lyra — and set off by 17-inch twin five-spoke alloy wheels. The front and rear bumpers have silver-painted "skid-plate garnishes" that are more cosmetic than functional. Let's face it: The RAV4 is not much of an off-roader....

    2016 Toyota RAV4 XLE
  7. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Nissan Altima SL


    Nissan has followed Honda and Toyota by giving its midsize sedan, the Altima, a mid-cycle refresh that brings a much-needed injection of style that recalls its big brother, the Maxima.

    Appearance: The Altima was looking stale, so this refresh injects some much-needed character into the midsize sedan. Most notable is the "V-Motion" grille that it now shares with other Nissans. If you stand in front of it, you'll appreciate the confluence of lines that flow down from the hood to the grille and its dramatic new "boomerang" headlights. Those changes, along with newly muscular fenders and chiseled front bumper, make the Altima one of the sharper looking midsize sedans on the market. Less successful: Lyra wasn't a fan of the black cladding that accents the rear bumper....

     2016 Nissan Altima SL Photo by Lyra Solochek, Tampa Bay Times
  8. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club


    Mazda's Miata — most people don't bother with the MX-5 designation — is a litmus test for how you view driving. Do you see it as being more about the journey than the destination? If so, you'll love the Miata, which makes a driver want to choose the longest route and most twisty roads to get from Point A to Point B. Even better, this redesigned fourth-generation roadster now has a look to match its performance....

    The accent trim includes faux metallic weave on the door arm rests.
  9. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron


    Audi has introduced its first plug-in hybrid — the A3 Sportback e-tron. The compact is the only hatchback version of the entry-level A3 sedan available in the United States and boasts 17 miles of all-electric range. The question: Is that enough EV range to justify a premium starting price?

    Appearance: Despite its robotic-sounding name, the e-tron is far from exotic. It's a handsome low-profile hatchback that without the e-tron badges would not stand out as a hybrid. Our tester's vibrant Misano Red Pearl paint and 17-inch turbine-design alloy wheels added a punch of flair and sportiness. But the e-tron does have one unique feature: The grille's four-ring Audi badge swings opens to reveal a charging port. (Uncharacteristically, the badge has a cheap plastic feel.)...

     The interface for Audi’s multimedia infotainment system is on the lower console.
  10. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD


    One look at the Mazda CX-3 and it was love at first sight. ... at least based on its looks. We declare the subcompact crossover to be the best-looking small SUV on the market. Then we drove it, and let's just say our affections for it surprisingly split.

    Appearance: The CX-3 is gorgeous, with a look that's as curvy as an old-school Coke bottle. The combination of its long hood, flared fenders and short rear end brings to mind a hot hatchback. Overall, the CX-3 is a prime example of Mazda's "Kodo design philosophy," which attempts to give sheet metal a flowing, organic presence. The only thing distracting from its appearance is the black cladding around the wheel wells that in our Grand Touring trim housed 18-inch alloy wheels....

     2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD
  11. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Kia Optima SX Limited


    For 2016, Kia redesigned the midsize Optima, but that's almost misleading. Sure, it's the fourth generation of the sedan, but it still bears a huge resemblance to the previous iteration that rolled out as a 2010 model. And why not? The Optima is still one of the most stylish sedans in the segment. If it ain't broke . . .

    Appearance: The uncluttered design is attractive but not flashy. Credit that to chief design officer Peter Schreyer, who has had a similar influence with Volkswagen and Audi. The changes are minimal: The chassis of the Georgia-built Optima is now slightly wider, longer and stiffer. With its sporty profile and tapered roofline, it would be understandable if you mistook the Optima for a European sedan. The grille, too, is sleeker and covered with a dark-chrome 3D-mesh that houses Bi-Xenon HID headlights. (Dynamic Bending Light models with Auto-Leveling also are available.) Chrome window trim, laser-cut 18-inch alloy wheels and chrome dual exhaust tips further enhanced the look of our SX Limited model....

     With ample legroom, adults can sit comfortably in the back.
  12. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ


    Take a close look at these sporty coupes. You'll notice some minor differences, but they're cosmetic. Both Scion's FR-S and Subaru's BRZ are products of a joint venture between Toyota and Subaru that were introduced as 2013 models. We recently had the chance, in successive weeks, to drive the cars again. Driving these rear-wheel-drive cousins only reinforced our appreciation of them as the choice for budget-minded enthusiasts, especially if they choose the manual gearbox. With the plug being pulled on the Scion brand later this year, the FR-S will live on as a Toyota....

    LYRA SOLOCHEK   |   Times
  13. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Honda Civic Touring


    The previous generation Honda Civic, which seemed tired (design) and uninspired (cabin materials), stalled its reputation as the class leader among compact cars. Now comes the all-new 2016 Civic, which we drove the same week it was named the North American Car of the Year. Does it deserve such praise? We think so.

    Appearance: Peter owns a 2010 Civic and this new model makes his look pedestrian. In our top-of-the-line Touring model, the grille has a dominant chrome bar that extends over the slender LED headlights that resemble the Jewel Eye lamps of Honda's upscale Acura brand. The body of this new Civic — about 3 inches longer and 2 inches wider — makes a further bold statement with its fender bulges, sharply creased sheet metal and short, coupelike rear. Setting it off: 17-inch twisted fan-blade alloys. Dare we say it: The Civic is now edgy. ...

    Gadgets storage is two-tiered. The lower bin has power and USB ports, the second has an anti-skid mat for the phone.
  14. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD


    Hyundai has redesigned its compact crossover for the 2016 model, making the third-generation Tucson bigger and bolder. The question is, of course, is it better?

    Appearance: Hyundai is going for a more sophisticated, rather than sporty, bearing for its "Fluidic Scupture 2.0" design ethos. That said, the 2016 Tucson now follows the look of its larger Hyundai siblings, the two Santa Fe models. It has a larger and chrome-trimmed hexagonal grille flanked by projector-beam (or optional LED) head lamps. We both like how the sheet metal is sculpted and sweeps back across the body. Other touches that add flair: 19-inch alloy wheels, low-profile roof rails, LED taillights that sit high for good visibility, a hatch top spoiler and twin chrome exhaust tips. Overall, Peter thinks the new look is handsome, if drawing a bit from its competition....

     The 8-inch touchscreen has physical buttons and dials for controls.
  15. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Lexus IS 200t


    We've always enjoyed Lexus' small sedan, formerly known as the IS 250. For us, it's been one of those "just enough" cars aimed at the buyer who wanted something upscale, sporty and stylish in "just enough" doses. For 2016, Lexus has redesigned its entry-level car, renaming it the IS 200t. That little "t" is for turbo. It's the engine from the NX200t crossover that we liked so much when it was first introduced....

    The cupholders are placed toward the back of the lower console, so if the seat is pulled forward, the reach would be awkward.