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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

Email: lsolochek@tampabay.com

Blog: Gadgets and Gizmos

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  1. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Acura MDX AWD

    Autos

    Quick, name an Acura model. Chances are, it's the MDX, which, given the identity crisis that seems to inflict some of the brand's other models, is a good thing. That's because the MDX stands out in the crowded SUV landscape. Acura redesigned the MDX for 2014, skipped a 2015 model designation and went directly to the 2016 we drove, which adds some powertrain changes.

    Exterior: This third-generation MDX seems more refined in its appearance and wouldn't look out of place next to its German competition. The appearance of slight fender flares are the only element that breaks up its sleek and stately design, accentuated by chrome window trim. Still here, though, is Acura's "shield" grille, a design that is starting to show its age. Our tester came in handsome Fathom Blue Pearl....

    A bin under the back cargo deck allows you to discreetly store your bags.
  2. The Daily Drivers: 2015 Lexus RC 350 F Sport

    Autos

    We always appreciated the Lexus IS F sport coupes and their blend of sportiness and luxury. Now the new RC models replace those sports coupes. We drove the RC350 with the F Sport trim upgrade. It sports an attractive entry price for a luxury car — starting at $42,790.

    Appearance: It sure does attract attention, especially with our tester's Ultrasonic Blue Mica paint. The coupe has the Lexus' large spindle grille, which in the F Sport trim is mesh with chrome trim and a prominent Lexus badge in the middle. This aggressive front is complemented by the triangular headlights with check-mark LED running lights below them. We both liked the car's aerodynamic profile that tapers back from the curved hood into a fastback-style roof with an integrated spoiler lip on the trunk. The 19-inch F Sport wheels have a unique design. The rear vents that flank the exhausts? They look totally fake and kind of cool at the same time....

     The chrome-trimmed spindle grille has mesh inserts in the F Sport trim.
  3. The Daily Drivers: 2015 Lincoln MKC AWD

    Autos

    It has been too long since we've driven a Lincoln. The company has rebranded itself as the Lincoln Motor Company and enlisted actor Matthew McConaughey as its pitchman in an effort to be a player in the luxury-car segment again. That brings us to the new MKC, the "Luxury Utility Vehicle" built on parent Ford's Escape compact-crossover platform.

    Appearance: It may be based on the Escape platform, but the MKC doesn't scream "Ford." Instead, the sheet-metal creases on the hood and body give it a more sophisticated look; the MKC wouldn't look out of place next to some of its German competition. Then there are the styling cues that are all Lincoln, including the bold split-winged grille with the Lincoln logo at the center. It's not for everyone (count Lyra among them). But Peter is firmly Team Wing Grille. One thing's for certain: You'll know it's a Lincoln. The rear, with its wraparound liftgate design, is just as bold, with sleek horizontal LED taillights that recall classic Lincolns. Our tester had the optional 20-inch polished aluminum wheels with dark stainless painted pockets that were a sharp contrast to the Ruby Red Metallic exterior paint....

    The LCD screen in the instrument cluster screen displays some driver-assist features.
  4. The Daily Drivers: 2015 Rolls-Royce Wraith

    Autos

    If you can afford the moon and the stars, then the 2015 Rolls-Royce Wraith is how you should roll. Think we exaggerate? The Wraith's fiber-optic Starlight headliner mimics the night sky. Rolls resurrected its historic Wraith name last year when it introduced this coupe, which is based on the Ghost sedan but rides on a shorter wheelbase. Rolls calls the Wraith the most high-tech and powerful car in its storied history — the 6.6-liter V-12 produces 624 horsepower — and it resembles nothing less than a sporty fastback. A fun-to-drive Rolls? Proof you can have it all under the stars....

    Profile of the 2015 Rolls-Royce Wraith
  5. The Daily Drivers: A look at a range of Rovers

    Autos

    It doesn't seem like that long ago that Land Rovers were primarily viewed as sturdy off-roaders. How times have changed. Now, the company's vehicles are symbols of aspirational luxury where the "S" in SUV may as well stand for "status." But despite being well-mannered family haulers on the road, Rovers are still at home off the pavement, as well. The best of both worlds? Yes. Here are three Range Rovers along with the more rugged Land Rover LR4. They all are equipped with four-wheel drive and Terrain Response System for adjusting the ride to surface conditions. ...

     Photo by Lyra Solochek, Tampa Bay Times
  6. The Daily Drivers: 2015 GMC Canyon 4WD SLT

    Autos

    The choices for midsize trucks have dwindled in the past few years as domestic carmakers focused more on full-size pickups. But now General Motors has decided to jump back into the segment with the almost-identical cousins GMC Canyon and Chevy Colorado. They come in extended- and crew-cab models. Our Canyon tester was the crew cab with a short box (bed) and four-wheel drive.

    Appearance: It resembles a smaller-scale version of GMC's full-size Sierra. But that doesn't mean it's like the compact pickups some of us remember. Lyra parked the 4WD Canyon next to her husband's 2012 F-150 and its hood sat as high as that of the full-size Ford pickup. Our Canyon had the standard rear built-in corner bumper steps for easy bed access. Our tester, the top SLT trim, had the optional sprayed-on bed liner ($475) and vinyl tonneau cover ($615). Best of all, our tester wore the premium Emerald Green Metallic ($495), which was set off by 18-inch polished cast-aluminum wheels....

    Our tester had the optional spray-on bed liner and a vinyl tonneau cover.
  7. The Daily Drivers: 2015 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Luxury

    Autos

    With its edgy design, the Cadillac CTS cuts an impressive figure in the luxury midsize class, which is dominated by the heavyweights from Germany and Japan. We drove the sedan in its base trim and came away thinking that Cadillac is on the right road to attracting new buyers.

    Appearance: First thing we noticed is that the beautiful Black Diamond Tricoat ($995) shimmers in the sun. It makes the car look more expensive than its price. Cadillac seeks to shed its image as granddad's luxury car and its new design vocabulary bears it out: It's long, lean and angular. The creases in the sloping hood flow down into its large chrome-trimmed grille. That grille, wide and almost minimalist, has been redesigned, as has its Cadillac emblem; gone is the traditional "wreath and crest." The most distinctive feature of the CTS is its high-intensity headlights that sweep back to a sharp point, and vertical LED running lights that extend down to the front air intakes. A striking package. ...

    The cover for the cup holders opens and closes electronically.
  8. The Daily Drivers: 2015 Audi RS7

    Autos

    Pity the person who has to classify Audi's A7 and its performance variants — in this case, the RS7. The sedan's fluid design resembles a coupe. Then there's the fact that it's also a hatchback and a performance car. We call it awesome.

    Appearance: A sedan never looked so good, with a coupe-like raked roof that culminates in a rear hatch. In the past, Audi has called its design a "fastback." The single-frame of the RS models carries a honeycomb mesh grille. Our tester had the optional Dynamic Edition package that included carbon-fiber accents (mirrors, splitter, diffuser) and 21-inch five-blade-design wheels with Tornado Red brake calipers and sport exhaust with black finishers. Our RS7 also came in nardo gray, which is a clear-coated matte the color of concrete. As Lyra rightly says: "Not every car would look good in this color, but the RS7 owns it." Indeed. The RS7 oozes attitude....

    The Extended Carbon Package adds carbon fiber to the exterior mirrors.
  9. The Daily Drivers: 2015 Lexus NX 300h

    Autos

    When we drove the new Lexus NX 200t compact SUV, we fell in love with its aggressive look in the F Sport trim. The NX carried the automaker's first turbocharged engine and was one of our favorites of 2014. Now, we've driven the hybrid version, the NX 300h, which is not quite as sexy but has the same edgy design. And the mileage? Pretty good.

    Appearance: It carries the Lexus chrome-trimmed spindle grille, which has horizontal slats instead of the sharper-looking black mesh of the F Sport trim. The grille is flanked by upswept angular headlights underscored by bold LED check-mark running lights. The NX's high belt line, chiseled angles and bold sheet-metal flourishes make it a head-turner, although some have called it too sci-fi. (We obviously disagree.) The fender flares are trimmed with black cladding, which is the only visual blemish. Our tester's paint was Obsidian, a rich look that contrasted nicely with the chrome trim and optional 18-inch double-spoke wheels....

    The infotainment system is controlled by buttons and touch pad.
  10. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Nissan GT-R Premium

    Autos

    We've had the opportunity to drive Nissan's GT-R a handful of times since its introduction, and Nissan's supercar has always been a singular experience for us. The 2016 GT-R Premium we drove only confirms our feelings about the car. Fans looking for wholesale updates of "Godzilla" will have to wait a few years.

    Appearance: One thing is for certain: The GT-R will never be mistaken for an Italian exotic; its lines are mostly hard angles that Peter once called "Transformers-ish." (Nissan says the body creases help create downforce.) Either way, the car is basically unchanged for '16, with the exception of new 20-spoke, 20-inch wheels. Flared front fenders accommodate the rubber, and behind them are "gills" to help the air move around the wheels. In the front is a black grille with sleek triangular headlights sweeping up to near the apex of the fenders. In the rear, a simple spoiler wing sits on the deck lid....

    2016 Nissan GT-R Premium
  11. The Daily Drivers: a second look at Highlander Hybrid, Toyota Tundra

    Autos

    2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

    The Highlander was redesigned for 2014, making the reliable family hauler look sharper than ever. We recently drove the hybrid model, which gets an estimated MPG of 27 city and 28 highway. That's not bad for a large SUV that can haul seven passengers. But as with many hybrids, the bottom line is price. In the case of the Highlander, the hybrid — there's only one model and it's the top Limited trim — is pushing $50,000. Compare that with the nonhybrid base model that sells for less than $30,000. The Highlander has shed its boxy past and now looks more athletic despite its minivan proportions. It now carries the distinctive gaping grille of other Toyota models and has handsome accents that include bright 19-inch Chromtec alloy wheels. ...

    The 19-inch Chromtec wheels glistened in the sun.
  12. The Daily Drivers: 2015 Audi RS 5 Cabriolet

    Autos

    We recently drove Audi's RS 5 Cabriolet, which shares the somewhat conservative looks of the model its based on, the A5 coupe. But don't let the looks fool you. This is no top-down luxury cruiser. For all intents and purposes, the RS 5 is a German muscle car.

    Appearance: The RS 5 does get some slight exterior tweaks from its A5 and S5 siblings that include the front end and fascia, as well as a "wide-body design." The RS also has a single-frame grille with honeycomb mesh insert. Large air intakes with horizontal slats sit beneath the grille, which also is flanked by adaptive xenon-plus headlights with LED daytime running lights. In the rear, it sports LED taillights, RS oval exhaust outlets and a spoiler lip on the trunk lid. When the top is down, it tucks behind the rear seats. Our tester's Daytona Gray Pearl paint was set off by optional five-arm rotor-design wheels (titanium finish) that show this car means business. Peeking out from those 20-inch wheels: bright-red brake calipers....

    The trunk space is reasonable for a convertible.
  13. The Daily Drivers: 2015 Volkswagen Eos Final Edition

    Autos



    We finally got to drive the Volkswagen Eos, just in time to see it go away. The car that's named after the Greek goddess of Dawn is driving off into the sunset. VW is stopping production this year, partly because of lagging sales. Our tester was the aptly named Final Edition.

    Appearance: There's certainly nothing striking about the Eos, which looks similar to the VW Jetta. The highlight is the convertible hard top, which features a unique built-in retractable sunroof. With the top down, it's an attractive droptop with a clean rear look. (The top folds flat into the trunk.) The Final Edition trim brings bi-xenon headlights with adaptive front lighting, LED running lights and 18-inch alloy wheels. Our tester had the elegant and bronzelike Black Oak Brown Metallic exterior paint. ...

    The gauges are simple. The Bluetooth phone connection is on the driver screen in the instrument cluster.
  14. The Daily Drivers: Jaguar F-Type R Coupe is one cool cat

    Autos

    Jaguar rolled out a coupe version of its F-Type — the spiritual successor to the iconic E-type — last year, following the introduction of the roadster version. The result is an even more striking car, especially in the performance F-Type R that we drove.

    Appearance: Classic proportions. The coupe's long hood flows into an arching roofline. The short rear haunches are wide and muscular. Up front, the appearance is equally aggressive; even the headlamps, which have Jaguar's "J-Blade" LED running lights, look predatory as they flank the clamshell hood. From the rear, there are design nods to the E-Type: a liftback hatch and quad tailpipes. A retractable spoiler lifts out at higher speeds. Our F-Type rode on 20-inch double-spoke alloy wheels. The red brake calipers were a sharp contrast against our tester's Polaris White finish, which shone nicely under the sun. Overall, the coupe's look seems to mimic Jaguar's "Leaper" logo; this car is ready to pounce....

    The small color display at the center of the instrument cluster is flanked by hooded gauges, speedometer on the left, tach on the right.
  15. The Daily Drivers Updates: 2016 Kia Sorento SXL V-6 AWD and 2015 Lexus LS460 F Sport

    Autos

    2016 Kia Sorento SXL V-6 AWD

    Price: base, $24,900, as tested, $46,695

    For 2016, Kia has redesigned the Sorento, giving the midsize SUV a sleeker and more chiseled look while extending its wheelbase. Our tester was the top-of-the-line SXL model. One telling new detail that's symbolic of this new upscale Sorento: The integrated foglights are now jewellike LEDs like those seen in some high-end cars. Our tester had the optional Soft White Premium Pearl paint and the 19-inch chrome-finished alloy wheels that made the Sorento's overall appearance even more sophisticated. Inside, the first thing you notice is the luxuriousness of the two-tone cabin. Is this really a Kia? It's spacious, with plenty of amenities in the SXL trim. It's well appointed, with comfortable Nappa leather seats that are heated and ventilated. The driver's seat comes with a 14-way power adjustment. The second row has good legroom with seats — outboard ones can be heated — that slide and fold to allow access to the third row, which is best suited for small passengers. Kia is one of the automakers that seems to get what we need in our electronic-gadget age; besides its excellent UVO infotainment system, there are plenty of plug-in points: two USB, one 110-volt power inverter and four 12-volt outlets. The 8-inch touchscreen has a crisp resolution and can show real-time traffic conditions, which long-commuter Lyra found convenient during Tampa Bay rush hours. There's up to 113 cubic feet of cargo space for your hauling needs, with a Smart Power Liftgate that opens automatically when you're standing nearby with a key fob. Especially in its upper trim lines, this newer Sorento is an impressive blend of luxury, amenities and performance. Under the hood of our tester was the optional 3.0-liter direct-injection V-6, which is standard on the third-row models in the midsize-but-larger SUV. (There are two different 4-cylinder engines available in the lower trims.) The V-6 makes 290 horsepower and is paired with an electronically controlled 6-speed automatic. There are three driving modes: Eco, Sport and Normal. The ride is stable, thanks to the Dynamax full-time AWD, which we found keeps the Sorento planted even on rain-slick roads. Our tester was loaded with safety features that included a rear camera, blind-spot detection, forward-collision system and surround view....

    The cockpit has aluminum pedals and a thick 
leather-wrapped steering wheel.