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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 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. ...

    The third row of the Limited trim came with power recline.
  2. 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 “silver performance interior trim” accents the cabin.
  3. 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
  4. 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....

    An 8-inch Cadillac CUE display anchors the center stack.
  5. 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.
  6. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h


    We were fans of the midsize Lexus RX before the popular crossover received a makeover for 2016, which has displeased those who don't care for how Toyota's luxury brand has given it a body with more angles than a stealth aircraft. We like the redesign, and we still like the SUV, which we recently drove in its RX 350 (gasoline) and RX 450h (hybrid) models. Both models now come in F Sport trim variants....

     The chrome-trimmed grille is in the shape of a spindle.
  7. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Audi A3 sedan


    Here's a question we often hear: Am I better off getting the top-of-the-line model of an automaker's regular brand or the equivalent entry-level model of its luxury brand? We typically would lean away from the luxury brand, but Audi's compact A3 made us reconsider our philosophy.

    Appearance: The A3 shares design cues with its Audi siblings — trapezoidal grille with signature four-ring Audi badge, slender headlights framed by checkmark LED running lights, rounded roofline — that some might consider too ordinary. We think the little sedan — while not showy — has a handsome bearing. Even the taillights — elongated triangles framed with bright LEDs — break up any hint of blandness. Our A3 came with the optional 19-inch wing-design wheels with titanium finish ($800), which lift the overall look....

    The leather seats are comfortable and the cabin is well laid out. One nit: The cup holders are too far forward.
  8. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Buick Cascada


    Automakers have never been ones to leave a niche unfilled, which is why we now have the 2016 Buick Cascada, a relatively affordable four-seat convertible in a marketplace where most droptops are either too expensive (think sports and performance cars) or too small (think Mini Cooper). The stylish Buick is aimed at the audience last served by the likes of the Toyota Solara, Chrysler Sebring and Volkswagen Eos....

    Without the convertible mode, you have more space in the trunk. The rear seatbacks fold down for pass-through storage.
  9. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE Diesel


    Land Rover's Range Rover has long been a favorite for those who like its combination of interior luxury, brand cachet and — for some — its well-deserved reputation for off-road agility. For 2016, the Rover line gets another option for U.S. buyers: a diesel engine for those who want better MPG from their large SUV.

    Appearance: The Range Rover — which has five luxury-laden trim lines — has been spruced up without taking away from what is, by now, a classic profile. The modern touches include slender headlights with circular LED running lights, a two-bar woven-metal style grille, prominent skid plates and lip spoiler on the power liftgate. Our HSE tester was an elegant Indus Silver Metallic, which has a slight bluish tint. Our Rover ran on 20-inch five-spoke wheels. A detail we liked: The rear glass is deeply tinted, which blocks prying eyes and the sun. A detail we found odd: The taillights are small for a vehicle of this size. ...

     The second row can seat two comfortably, three in a pinch.
  10. The Daily Drivers: 2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited


    The Hyundai Elantra has long shed its image as a budget compact sedan. For 2017, it matures into a stately ride and even gains some features that wouldn't be out of place in larger and more expensive cars.

    Appearance: Hyundai made a statement in 2011 when it introduced the Sonata and Elantra sedans with what was then a fairly radical design — with its swooping body creases and pronounced character lines. It's five years later, and Hyundai is evolving the design of both cars into a mature — some might call it bland — look. The 2017 Elantra has a far less busy design and loses some of its uniqueness. That's not to say it's not an attractive package, especially with its low sculpted hood, chrome-trimmed hexagonal grille and flared headlights with LED daytime running lights. You can definitely see the family resemblance to the Sonata. The upscale Limited that we drove has nice touches that include chrome door handles with approach lights and 17-inch alloy "in-motion design" wheels. ...

    At the bottom of the center stack is a covered bin with ports for smartphones and gadgets.
  11. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser


    When the Toyota Land Cruiser was delivered to us, our first thought was: "They still make these?" Yes they do. The 2016 model gets a midcycle refresh after its 2013 overhaul. But how does it fit in with everyday drivers like us?

    Appearance: The Land Cruiser, which has been around since the 1950s, has shed some — not all — of its boxiness and now resembles a large station wagon. Peter likened it to a "steroidal Subaru," and Lyra thought the look "a bit frumpy" from the back. The front end gets the most noticeable makeover, with a heavy chrome grille that extends into the headlights. (They have washers for when they encounter mud.) Our Cruiser had running boards, which is a must for short drivers like Lyra. But those boards might be a hindrance for hard-core off-roaders. The Cruiser comes in only one trim level with few package options....

     The third row is well padded, like real seats.
  12. 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 dash is covered with soft plastic and accent stitching.
  13. 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.)...

    The Cocoa and Dune interior colors are accented with polished wood trim.
  14. 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 rear windows have power mesh shades.
  15. 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....

    The 2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD