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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 Honda Pilot AWD Elite

    Autos

    The Honda Pilot has always seemed to us to be a vehicle in search of an identity. Is it a boxy and rugged SUV? A family hauler with third-row seating? Honda couldn't seem to decide — until now. The all-new third-generation Pilot is a sleek crossover for those who need plenty of passenger room but don't want to sacrifice styling or comfort.

    Appearance: This is one redesign that is long overdue. The word "boxy" is now but a memory. The new crossover is aerodynamic and sophisticated — befitting of a vehicle called a Pilot. The Honda family's DNA is evident in its upswept lines and the long body that recalls the Odyssey minivan. The creased hood sits high above a chrome-heavy grille. The grille's top bar integrates with the upswept headlights that are framed by LED running lights in the Elite trim like our tester. The Pilot's fender flares help give it a bolder look, as does a hatch-top spoiler and 20-inch alloy wheels....

     A table with cupholders sits between the second-row seats.
  2. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited

    Autos

    Hyundai redesigned its midsize Sonata sedan for 2015, dispensing with its "Fluidic Sculpture" philosophy for a more stately look. Now Hyundai has seen fit to extend that redesign to its Sonata hybrid, which gets the new look for 2016.

    Appearance: Our tester came in Seaport Mist, a hue unique to the hybrid model that Lyra likens to a sea-foam gray or maybe putty. (Peter just calls it bland.) Hyundai's "Blue Drive" and "Hybrid" badges tell you this is not your average Sonata. Besides those badges, the hybrid's front fascia is different, with front-active air flaps and a trapezoidal grille that recalls Audi. There also is an integrated spoiler and rear diffuser to help make the hybrid more aero-efficient. Otherwise, the hybrid has the 2015 Sonata's less-busy exterior lines and gently sloping roof. It's almost as if Hyundai felt it had outgrown its wild design years and is aiming for a mature look. Our tester came with 17-inch Eco-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels....

    The Ultimate Package ($4,500) adds a panoramic sunroof with tilt and slide functions. 

2016 Hyundai Sonata Limited
Photo by Lyra Solochek, Tampa Bay Times
  3. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Honda HR-V AWD EX-L

    Autos

    Honda dove right into the mini Ute race with the new HR-V, which is based on one of our favorite subcompact cars, the Fit. The HR-V reminds us of Honda's popular CR-V when it came out in 1997 with its simplicity. It's versatile, even offering an entry-level 6-speed manual transmission.

    Appearance: Honda went with a traditional design for its baby ute rather than the more whimsical looks of small crossovers such as the Nissan Juke or Kia Soul. Instead, the HR-V has some of Honda's more stern new design cues that can be seen in the CR-V and Pilot: drop-down grille with chrome accent bar, upswept headlights and creased hood. Creases also traverse the body, with one joining the curved window line at the hidden rear door latch. Visually, these lines give the HR-V a sense of height. (The ute does have more ground clearance than the Fit.) Our tester also came with 17-inch machine-finish alloy wheels, which add a sporty touch....

    With the Magic Seats, the seat bottoms fold up so you can store objects up to 4 feet tall.
  4. The Daily Drivers: 2015 BMW M3

    Autos

    The BMW M3 has held near-legendary status for decades among auto enthusiasts for its potent blend of performance and luxury. We'd never had the opportunity to drive one of these coveted machines until now, and we wish we were still driving it.

    Appearance: "Wow!," "Ewww!" and "Whoa!" are some of the reactions we got from our tester's Austin Yellow Metallic paint. Lyra preferred "garish." One thing's for sure: It stood out in parking lots. Overall, the M3, which is based on BMW's medium-sized 3 Series sedan, has a look that reads performance: wide stance and fender flares, raised hood and gaping lower air intakes. The kidney-shaped BMW grille is flanked by headlights that have a predatory squint. Of course, M3 badging lets you know this isn't your normal 3 Series sedan. Our tester had black 19-inch alloy wheels that added to the aggressive look, as did the carbon-fiber roof....

    The Carbon Structure cloth inserts of the leather seats resemble the carbon fiber trim.
  5. 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....

  6. 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....

    A metallic bevel surrounds the digital display of the tach.
  7. 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....

    Instead of a shift lever, buttons on the dash control the automatic transmission.
  8. 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....

    The optional Starlight headliner resembles a night sky — even in the day — with 1,340 fiber-optic lights. You can have your constellation customized.
  9. 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
  10. 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.
  11. 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 Ultraview Sunroof covers most of the roof.
  12. 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 inserts of the Valcona leather seats have honeycombed stitching.
  13. 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 chiseled flared-out taillights echo the front check-mark design. [LYRA SOLOCHEK   |   Times]
  14. 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....

    Orange-painted Nissan/Brembo brake calipers peek out from the 20-inch forged aluminum wheels.
  15. 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