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Peter Couture, Times/tbt* Staff Writer

Peter Couture

Peter Couture grew up in St. Petersburg and is a graduate of the University of South Florida. He has worked for the Tampa Bay Times full-time since graduating from USF in 1989. He was a member of the startup team for the daily edition of tbt*, where he is the editor of the weekly Rides, Office and Cuisine sections. He also edits the daily SportsTalk page. He co-writes the weekly auto review column, the Daily Drivers.

Phone: (727) 892-2938

Email: pcouture@tampabay.com

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  1. 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 angled touchscreen and vents are surrounded by a metallic trim.
  2. 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. ...

    An ashtray slides out of the center console.
  3. 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 sunroof is one of the most expansive we’ve seen.
  4. 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....

  5. 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....

    You can release the seat backs with a pull of a lever in the trunk.
  6. The Daily Drivers: 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage ES

    Autos

    Never have we driven a car that came loaded with so much baggage. Meet the Mitsubishi Mirage, the poster child — some say — for motoring misery. One notable review said a lifetime supply of hiking boots would be a better way to spend your transportation dollars. So what did we think of this subcompact?

    Appearance: The four-door hatchback has a slightly bulbous shape common in subcompacts. The tiny 14-inch wheels are placed at the absolute corners of the car to help with interior room — not much overhang here. The car wears a sort of a frown, as if it's expecting the worst to be said about it again. (Most of the grille opening is under the bumper.) Still, this budget car does have a few adornments: Our ES tester had integrated turn indicators on the mirrors and a hatch-top spoiler with built-in brake lights. In addition to four basic colors (black, white, gray and silver), you can get your Mirage in Infrared (like our tester), Sapphire Blue, Kiwi Green and Plasma Purple, which is more like a fuchsia. There aren't many carmakers that have a bright pink color. If you are going to own this car, you might as well own it....

    There are three seat belts in the back, but it might be a tight squeeze for three adults.
  7. The Daily Drivers: 2015 Subaru Impreza

    Autos

    We've driven Subaru's Impreza hatchbacks but had never had the opportunity to drive the sedan model. So we were surprised to find that after a refresh for 2015 that includes both styling and interior tweaks, the Impreza holds its own with the leaders of the small sedan segment.

    Appearance: The front end now includes a larger air intake and a revised grille: Chrome crossbars extend out from the Subaru logo. That line carries into the LED lights in the new headlights and further extends into the L-shaped chrome trim on the fog lights for a more sophisticated appearance. Our tester's 17-inch 15-spoke aluminum alloy wheels stood out. Overall, the Impreza seems more adult (yet handsome) in a category that tends to lean toward either sporty or bland....

    The seats are plush and comfortable.
  8. The Daily Drivers: 2015 Honda CR-V AWD Touring

    Autos

    The Honda CR-V has long been one of the top choices among compact crossovers, and the 2015 model brings much-needed R&R: refreshening and refinement. Most importantly, the SUV regains its Top Safety Pick honors from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.

    Appearance: The CR-V still carries the same gently rounded profile, but it gets some contemporary, chiseled details. There's a bolder grille, which has attractive chrome accents and slender headlights that sweep upward and are rimmed by classy LED daylight running lights (EX trim and up). It's a huge improvement when compared with last year's bland front end. The 18-inch fan blade-like alloy wheels on our tester looked sharp against the serene Mountain Air Metallic color. Lyra calls the look chic, but Peter wonders if the design — even with its tweaks — is starting to show its age....

    Green bars in the instrument cluster signify efficient driving.
  9. The Daily Drivers: 2015 Kia Soul EV

    Autos

    We're fans of the conventional Kia Soul, so we were eager to drive the electric Soul. For starters, EVs are not for everyone — especially if you're a long-distance commuter like Lyra. That said, this Soul — Kia's first electric, which rolled out initially in California — proved to be all that we liked about the gas-powered model with only a few drawbacks.

    Appearance: It's the same funky little hatchback, with the most noticeable difference being the grille, or the lack of it. Instead, there's a panel that covers the grille opening. This panel contains a door that opens to reveal the charging ports. The EV also has a body-color front bumper. Our tester was Caribbean Blue with a white roof....

    The driver’s cockpit has a clean, uncluttered design.
  10. The Daily Drivers: 2015 Chevrolet Trax redefines the SUV

    Autos

    Chevrolet has redefined the SUV — literally. The carmaker calls its new Trax a "Smart Urban Vehicle." And that, it is. The mini sport utility vehicle is nimble around town, yet provides ample cargo space. The Trax is new to the United States, but its concept is not: Buick's upscale version, the Encore, was introduced in 2013.

    Appearance: This subcompact SUV is built on Chevy's Sonic platform, just like the Encore. This ute-let is only 167 inches long and resembles a more muscular compact hatchback with its fender flares and a tall, creased hood. The rather-small two-part grille, with its chrome-trimmed horizontal slats, seems to almost pucker. Having already kissed up to younger buyers with the Encore, which has proved to be a hit with them, General Motors no doubt hopes this cute ute does the same. Our LTZ trim tester came with 18-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels that added a bit of character to what is an otherwise generic design....

    Less is more? An analog tach sits next to the large monochromatic digital readout.
  11. The Daily Drivers: 2015 Kia Sedona is back in the minivan discussion

    Autos

    We're glad to see that Kia hasn't run up the white flag on its Sedona minivan, which was long overdue for a redesign. The segment is dominated, after all, by Chrysler, Toyota and Honda. The frumpy Kia has been all but an afterthought until now. For 2015, the Sedona is going all-in in the minivan race.

    Appearance: Call this new Sedona's style Minivan Modern, with hints of design influences from its competitors. The look is best expressed in the front end, which reads more SUV than minivan: low nose, wide black-mesh grille trimmed with bright chrome and wraparound headlights bisected by LEDs. It's unfussy and effective. The body is now creased by subtle character lines, and our tester had 19-inch chrome-alloy wheels....

    LED lights bisect the headlight assembly.
  12. The Daily Drivers: 2014 Toyota Tacoma PreRunner Access Cab

    Autos

    It's now game-on in the midsize truck segment. Toyota's Tacoma had led the segment until General Motors reintroduced its Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon last year. Toyota will soon respond with an all-new Tacoma for 2016. We recently got a chance to drive a '14 Tacoma. Because there were few changes for 2015, we decided to give it a spin.

    Appearance: It now looks a bit stale compared to the new midsize pickups we mentioned from GM or even its big sibling, the Toyota Tundra. Our tester's color — Spruce MIca — was an attractive dark green. (Sadly, not available for 2015.) Our Tacoma "Access Cab" came in the PreRunner trim, and had the TRD Sport Extra Value Package ($3,575). With that, you get TRD graphics, 17-inch alloy wheels, a hood scoop and touches such as body-color trim surrounding the grille and flared fenders. The truck also sits high with a 9.3-inch ground clearance. Overall, it has an off-road, but dignified look. ...

    Control the AC with three dial controls.
  13. The Daily Drivers: 2015 Volkswagen Golf

    Autos

    Volkswagen's venerable Golf recently was named North American Car of the Year. That honor, along with a similar award from Motor Trend, took many by surprise. Maybe it shouldn't have, because the redesigned-for-2015 Golf has a model range — from EV to diesel to performance — that pushes the boundaries of the compact hatchback.

    Appearance: Now in its seventh generation, the '15 Golf is not a radical departure from its predecessors, retaining the familiar wedge-shaped hatchback design. The changes are subtle: upswept headlights and taillights and some character lines on the side body panels, generally a more angular look. Our tester, the four-door TSI, was an attractive Silk Blue Metallic color, which contrasted nicely with the car's black- and chrome-accented grille and 15-inch Lyon alloy wheels. A nice touch that we've always liked: In the rear, the VW badge is actually the hatch latch....

    2015 Volkswagen Golf TSI
  14. Hot cars at the Detroit auto show

    Autos

    New cars and experimental concept vehicles were introduced at the North American International Auto Show, which will continue through Sunday. Here are some notables:

    Ford GT: The lightweight, carbon-fiber GT has a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine that produces more than 600 horsepower. The two-seater has deep, dramatic scoops in the hood and the sides and advanced aerodynamics, including a deployable rear spoiler. It's Ford's first GT in more than a decade and one of 12 new Ford performance vehicles coming to market by 2020. Pricing will be announced later, but executive chairman Bill Ford says it will be in the range of other exotic supercars like the $200,000 Lamborghini Gallardo. ...

    FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2015 file photo, the Hyundai Santa Cruz crossover truck concept is unveiled during the North American International Auto Show, in Detroit. The Santa Cruz concept is a five-seat crossover with a small pickup bed in the back. If people like it, Hyundai could put it on the road in three years. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File) NYBZ155
  15. The Daily Drivers: 2015 Honda Accord Coupe EX-L V-6 is function with flash

    Autos

    The Accord has long been a bestseller, but the car is in a class of its own when it comes to model range: Honda is the only automaker that still makes a coupe version of its midsize sedan. In some ways, it's a throwback to the day when two-door cars were common. For 2015, most of the changes to the Accord involve features for the various trims.

    Appearance: Overall, the look is a bit simple, some might say bland, for a sporty coupe. But in this case, less is more. This isn't a performance car, after all. What you get is a handsome coupe with enough visual interest — bold, black-mesh grille, LED-underscored headlights, flared fenders, 18-inch alloy wheels — to stand out among the drones on your morning commute....

    LED taillights wrap around the back.