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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: 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
  2. 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....

    The center console has large on-screen buttons and physical dials and buttons.
  3. 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 rear seat legroom can be cramped if the front seats are moved backward.
  4. 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....

    Audi’s multimedia interface takes some getting used to.
  5. 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....

    You can control the drive mode with a dial next to the shifter. Below it is the electronic parking brake. [LYRA SOLOCHEK   |   Times]
  6. 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....

    The car dynamics can be controlled with the R-mode controls.
  7. 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. ...

    2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
  8. 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....

    2015 Audi RS 5 Cabriolet
  9. 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. ...

    Eos’ unique roof has a retractable sunroof in addition to the retractable hardtop roof.
  10. 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....

    When the A/C is off, the dash is flat.
  11. 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....

    2016 Kia Sorento SXL: The dash has accent stitching, giving the interior a classy feel.
  12. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600

    Autos

    Remember the Maybach, that titan of Teutonic luxury? It was so expensive that Jay-Z and Kanye trashed one in an act of conspicuous destruction for a music video. Sales of the Maybach, however, weren't titanic, so parent Mercedes retired the brand a few years ago. Now it's back as a "sub-brand" — the Mercedes-Maybach S600 — with a lower price but higher expectations given that it's now the German automaker's flagship sedan. It goes on sale this month. ...

    The color head-up display helps keep your eyes on the road.
  13. A Daily Drivers SUV update: Mitsubishi, Subaru, Mazda, Infiniti

    Autos

    2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE $19,595 base, $28,545 as tested

    The compact crossover is now a bit more powerful with the optional 2.4-liter MIVEC 4-cylinder engine that gets 20 more horses than the smaller 2.0. Our tester had the smaller powerplant, but the additional horsepower over the 148 for this car would be welcome. The Outlander Sport is a carryover from last year, still offering a reasonable entry point for SUV shoppers at $19,595 as its base price. It's better on pavement than off-road and best as a city ride. The lack of power is more evident on the highway. The CVT is loud, but it helps to get a decent estimated fuel mileage of 25 city, 32 highway. It handles well for an SUV, but unlike the "Sport" in its name, the ride isn't sporty. The interior has been slightly improved, with one of the most expansive sunroofs and available leather seats, but the quality still lags some of its competition. ...

    Outlander Sport: The center console has a user-friendly combination of dials and buttons.
  14. The Daily Drivers: 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE

    Autos

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    We liked Toyota's 2015 model redesign of its popular-but-bland Camry that finally gave the exterior a bold look while further refining the cabin. This time, we trade the V-6 for a hybrid, which makes the midsize sedan even more sensible.

    Appearance: The refresh injected attitude into the Camry with a more aggressive grille and an athletic look. The hybrid's exterior is pretty much the same as the regular Camry. Ours was the SE, the more sporty of the Camry hybrid's three trims (the base is the LE and the top-of-the-line version is the XLE). The black mesh grille gives it a more racy look, as does a deck-lid spoiler and 17-inch alloy wheels with graphite finish. Our tester had sharp Blue Crush Metallic paint....

    There’s plenty of legroom for rear passengers.
  15. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Mazda6 Grand Touring

    Autos

    Here's a question we're often asked: "What family sedan is your favorite?" For both of us, the answer comes quickly: the Mazda6. We think it's the best-looking midsize car on the market, is engaging to drive and has a well-appointed interior. For 2016, it gets a refresh and is even better.

    Appearance: The 6, all muscular front fenders and creases that accentuate its flowing lines, invites adjectives such as sleek and sinuous — even sexy. That might seem like hyperbole, but in an era of indistinguishable cars, the 6 stands out. For '16, the exterior changes are few but well done: Our Grand Touring tester gets a slightly restyled grille and new LED headlights. In the rear, LED taillights now echo the front lights' menacing look. Our tester rolled on twin-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels....

    The three-ring instrument panel has the speedometer at the center with the tach on the left and a monochromatic display to the right.