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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 Audi R8 Coupe


    We often get asked a variation on this question: If you won the lottery, what car would you buy? For Peter, the answer is easy: Audi's R8. Lyra wouldn't mind one either. With a starting price of $162,900, we'd need that winning ticket to afford the supercar. (Still, the R8 is a bargain compared with its corporate cousin, the Lamborghini Huracán, which starts at $237K.) So why all the R8 love?...

    The large hexagonal opening is covered with a dark honeycomb grille. [LYRA SOLOCHEK   |   Times]
  2. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Honda Civic Coupe Touring


    You have to applaud Honda: The carmaker still believes that some drivers prefer two doors to four — hence the coupe versions of the popular Accord and compact Civic. Following its redesigned sedan, Honda rolled out a new coupe for 2016 with an edgier design, bolder face and an available turbo 4.

    Appearance: Our Civic Coupe Touring's design was overshadowed by its color — Energy Green Pearl, which looks and sounds like a new Mountain Dew flavor. (Someone asked if it was a performance model based on its color. No, it just looks loud.) Once you get past the Day-Glo paint, the Civic Coupe features an aggressive and chrome-heavy grille that extends between and over slender, jewellike headlights. Sharp creases sculpted the hood and run the length of the body, swooping up over the rear wheels. Those wheels are pushed out to the corners with minimal overhang, resulting in a wider stance. In the rear, the LED taillights extend across the deck-lid spoiler in what Peter called a "futuristic, Honda Insight (RIP) style." It's an attention-getter, especially at night. The two doors open wide and make entrance easy, even for backseat passengers. The 17-inch alloy wheels are sharp....

    The car’s two doors open wide, making entrances easy, even for backseat passengers. 
 [LYRA SOLOCHEK  |  Times]
  3. The Daily Drivers: 2017 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet


    Is there an enduring automotive design more iconic than the rear-engined Porsche 911 Carrera? You don't have to be an auto enthusiast to recognize the distinctive shape and know: "That's a Porsche." For 2017, the 911 — across its dozen-and-a-half models — is sleeker, more powerful and yet more efficient.

    Appearance: Our 911 Carrera S Cabriolet (convertible) was the embodiment of elegance and sportiness in crisp white with a bright red drop-top and 20-inch Carrera alloy wheels with red brake calipers. Even Peter's wife conceded: "That's a beautiful car." The soft top, which folds flat and out of the way, preserves the car's iconic profile. Elsewhere, the car gets slight cosmetic updates front and rear — headlights, grille, taillights, vents. ...

    The interface for the 7-inch infotainment display is more like a smartphone or a tablet, with taps and swipes. [LYRA SOLOCHEK   |   Times]
  4. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Volkswagen Golf R


    Lyra almost bought a Volkswagen GTI a few years ago — black with a sunroof. The combination of sporty performance and versatility of a four-door hatchback was a big draw, but she ended up with an SUV instead. If VW only had the Golf R back then, her choice would have been much different.

    Appearance: Nothing screams performance when you see the Golf R. It shares characteristics of the regular and somewhat boxy hatchback Golf. But if you look closely, you'll notice the subtle "R" badge, sporty exterior trim, quad exhaust tips in chrome, rear spoiler and 18-inch alloy wheels that set it apart. The Lapiz Blue Metallic paint is a classy hue. Seems Volkswagen decided less is more, and it works. ...

    2016 Volkswagen Golf R
  5. The Daily Drivers: 2017 Infiniti QX30 Sport


    When is a crossover not a hatchback? When is an Infiniti not a Mercedes? Welcome to the conundrum that is the brand-new Infiniti QX30. Parent company, Nissan, calls it a "premium active crossover" for a "new breed of driver." Obviously, that driver is one who wouldn't deign to be seen behind the wheel of a hatchback. And what of Mercedes? The QX30 has the same DNA as the GLA — the result of a joint venture between Mercedes and Nissan. Our QX30 was the Sport. Other models include base, Luxury and Premium....

     The seats were sporty with good bolstering. White accents broke up the darkness.
  6. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Mazda3 Grand Touring


    For those who view compact sedans as the most efficient way to move four people from Point A to Point B, let's consider the Mazda3. The 3, which comes in four- and five-door (hatchback) models, makes the journey between those points more fun than you would expect from a small sedan, especially when outfitted with Mazda's slick manual transmission.

    Appearance: The 3 wears Mazda's design philosophy well for a small sedan. The lines flow from its longish hood and over the fenders before swooping down through the door, giving the car the illusion of motion. Only when you get to the rear, which seems somewhat truncated, is the elegant look interrupted. Our 3 came in Blue Reflex Mica paint, which Lyra described as a "bright and cheerful" color. A rear deck-top lip and 16-inch alloy wheels provide finishing touches....

    2016 Mazda3 Grand Touring
  7. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT


    We've driven the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT a few times since its current generation rolled out in 2011 and have always enjoyed Chrysler's "ultimate performance" luxury SUV for its sheer HEMI audacity.

    Appearance: As you might expect from the SRT division, it's aggressive, with a wide stance that signals this is not your ordinary SUV. The Jeep's signature seven-slot grille gets a black screen insert, which is now flanked by more slender bi-xenon headlamps that also feature black backgrounds. Standard five-spoke wheels are sharp 20-inchers; ours were Black Chrome. The raised hood has two functional exhausters sculpted into it to help feed air to the big HEMI lurking underneath....

    The ParkView rear back-up camera has lines to guide you.
  8. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature


    With Lyra on vacation, I recently had the all-new CX-9, Mazda's three-row crossover, all to myself for a rainy week that went by all too fast. Mazda may not have invented the crossover, but it has done something close to reinventing it with the CX-9.

    Appearance: Mazda completely redesigned the CX-9 for its second generation, giving the seven-seater a sleek look that is more like a car than SUV, which is appropriate since it shares its platform with the Mazda6 midsize sedan. The low stance, wide wheelbase and long hood give it a sport wagon appearance while incorporating Mazda's KODO, or "soul of motion," aesthetic. (That's design-speak, I think, for making cars appear to be moving even while standing still. Or simpler yet: not boring.) Especially in the crossover's upper trims, like the signature model I drove, Mazda makes judicious use of chrome trim to highlight the tasteful curves of the CX-9, whose boldest design feature is the large grille that — especially in profile — protrudes from the long hood. It's a look some may find ungainly, but I found distinctive. My CX-9 came in Mazda's new signature hue — Machine Gray, which is a $300 upgrade — and was set off by 20-inch alloy wheels....

     2016 Mazda CX-9 Photo by Peter Couture, Tampa Bay Times
  9. The Daily Drivers: 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Ultimate


    Appearance: The Santa Fe Sport is a handsome SUV that doesn't take any design detours — call it buttoned-down style. The refresh gives it a new three-louvered grille with a large Hyundai badge and wraparound headlights. We especially like the bold character lines that flare at the top of the quarter panels and extend over the wraparound taillights. Our Sport came in Hyundai's new Nightfall Blue and was set off by 19-inch wheels whose smoky finish would probably look better with a lighter paint color. So here's our quandary: As much as we like the looks of the Santa Fe Sport, it leaves us with the impression that Hyundai's recent redesigns are tending toward the generic (hello, Sonata, Elantra). You could be forgiven, for example, if in a crowded parking lot, you mistook the Santa Fe Sport for another brand....

    LYRA SOLOCHEK   |   Times
  10. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Lexus GS F


    Let's try to imagine the thinking that led to the development of the new Lexus GS F sedan. You can almost hear some rebellious executive: "Hey, a lot of consumers still think we're a stodgy luxury brand — let's show them. We'll produce a V-8-powered thrill ride and we won't even use a turbocharger."

    Appearance: The GS F is based on the existing GS 350 sedan and is four-door sibling to the RC F coupe. It doesn't wear the huge spindle grille as well as the sleek coupe, which may put off some buyers, but then this car is not for everyone. Why else would it come in a color called Molten Pearl, a shimmering orange bound to attract attention. The other clues that this is no ordinary sedan can be seen in bodywork that includes large front-fender vents, carbon-fiber trunk-lid spoiler and 19-inch forged aluminum (with matching orange brake calipers) and quad exhaust tips....

    The cabin is sporty with carbon fiber trim and bright blue stitching.

2016 Lexus GS F
Photo by Lyra Solochek, Tampa Bay Times
  11. The Daily Drivers: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited


    Remember the Pacifica? It was the crossover that minivan pioneer Chrysler positioned as, well, an upscale alternative to the minivan. It wasn't a success, but the name lives on in Chrysler's new minivan. Cue the irony. The Pacifica replaces the Town & Country, and Chrysler views it as the future of the minivan.

    Appearance: It's sleek for a minivan, with few hard lines and plenty of curves. The short creased hood — an homage to its crossover namesake? — drops down to a swoopy front fascia with a small curvy grille and chrome-accented headlights with LED borders. If this is the new face of the minivan, it's an attractive one (especially in the upper trim levels). One thing you won't see: those unsightly minivan sliding-door track lines. In the Pacifica, they're integrated into the rear window trim. ...

    LED lights curve around the headlights.
  12. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Lexus RC 200t


    Sports-car style, practical luxury and just-enough performance have been consistent characteristics in Lexus coupes over the years. Now its sleek RC 200t has an available "t" for turbo (a 4-cylinder) in its name. How does it compare with the V-6 models we've driven?

    Appearance: The little coupe is a head-turner, especially in Ultrasonic Blue Mica, which we've admired before in the Lexus line. The car has Lexus' large take-it-or-leave-it spindle grille, which in the F Sport trim is mesh with chrome trim and a prominent Lexus badge. (We are Team Take It.) We especially like the way the curved hood slopes down to the grille and is flanked by triangular headlights underscored by check-mark LEDs. It makes for a slightly menacing look. The fastback-style coupe has an integrated spoiler lip on the trunk lid, but we still don't like the faux rear vents. The F Sport package also adds 19-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels....

    The faux vents and dual exhaust outlets give the car a sporty look.
  13. The Daily Drivers Updates: 2016 Honda Accord Touring, 2016 Toyota Camry SE, 2016 Kia K900 Luxury, 2016 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport Limited


    2016 Honda Accord Touring

    The '16 model has been given a refresh and the result is a sleeker, more modern look for one of our favorite sedans. Changes include swept-back headlights that are better integrated with the grille, some suspension refinements and an infotainment system that supports Apple CarPlay and Android. Our top-trim Touring came with the 3.5-liter V-6 that puts out a sturdy 278 horsepower and gets an estimated MPG of 21/34, which isn't bad for a 6-cylinder. That engine is paired with a 6-speed transmission rather than the 4-cylinder model's CVT. But why no paddle shifters in the Touring? Still, acceleration is quick, and the ride is comfortable and refined. We still think Honda's two-screen infotainment system is redundant, but overall, there are no deal-breakers with the Accord, which does just about everything well.

    2016 Toyota Camry SE...

    Photos by LYRA SOLOCHEK   |   Times
  14. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe


    Do you still think of Cadillac as the go-to car for grandad? Then you haven't checked out General Motor's luxury brand recently, especially the V Series, which Cadillac is using to challenge those luxury German automakers and their performance lines. The 2016 Cadillac ATS-V coupe is proof that Detroit can take on Deutschland.

    Appearance: The head-tuning Velocity Red coupe with V-Forged aluminum wheels has more angles than a geometry textbook. It's low and wide, and tells everyone that it means business with a bulging hood, black mesh grille and aero splitter. (A forward-facing camera is useful to prevent damage to the low-slung front end.) That bulging hood features a functional air extractor to allow better flow to the engine. Our tester had the optional package, that adds carbon-fiber finish on the splitter, hood extractor and rear diffuser. From behind, the coupe — except for the large spoiler — lacks visual interest....

     The carbon fiber hood has a functional air extractor.
  15. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Ram 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4x4


    The recipe for a making a light-duty truck that can appeal to the rebel in all of us? Take a normal Ram 1500 pickup, give it a menacing cosmetic makeover and add a few off-road modifications. Oh, and give it a name that implies its driver stands out from the crowd — you know, a Rebel.

    Appearance: Gone is the traditional crosshair grille. The first thing you'll notice is the blackout grille with a huge RAM logo squarely in the center. The presence of two large tow hooks and a sizable skid plate below the grille telegraph this truck's off-road intentions. So do the 33-inch Toyo all-terrain tires, which roll on sharp alloy wheels with matte black pockets. The hood is tall and imposing with dual vents to bring air to the engine compartment. The thick tailgate has a spoilerlike lip and also has a huge RAM on the back. It's heavy, though, and lacks a soft-open feature. What, off-roaders don't like niceties? The Rebel comes only in the crew-cab design with a 5-foot-7 bed....

    The lid for the bin folds out to create a platform for cargo.