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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: 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT

    Autos

    We've driven the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT a few times since its current generation rolled out in 2011 and have always enjoyed Chrysler's "ultimate performance" luxury SUV for its sheer HEMI audacity.

    Appearance: As you might expect from the SRT division, it's aggressive, with a wide stance that signals this is not your ordinary SUV. The Jeep's signature seven-slot grille gets a black screen insert, which is now flanked by more slender bi-xenon headlamps that also feature black backgrounds. Standard five-spoke wheels are sharp 20-inchers; ours were Black Chrome. The raised hood has two functional exhausters sculpted into it to help feed air to the big HEMI lurking underneath....

    The interior is a nice mix of stitched leather upholstery and trim accents.
  2. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature

    Autos

    With Lyra on vacation, I recently had the all-new CX-9, Mazda's three-row crossover, all to myself for a rainy week that went by all too fast. Mazda may not have invented the crossover, but it has done something close to reinventing it with the CX-9.

    Appearance: Mazda completely redesigned the CX-9 for its second generation, giving the seven-seater a sleek look that is more like a car than SUV, which is appropriate since it shares its platform with the Mazda6 midsize sedan. The low stance, wide wheelbase and long hood give it a sport wagon appearance while incorporating Mazda's KODO, or "soul of motion," aesthetic. (That's design-speak, I think, for making cars appear to be moving even while standing still. Or simpler yet: not boring.) Especially in the crossover's upper trims, like the signature model I drove, Mazda makes judicious use of chrome trim to highlight the tasteful curves of the CX-9, whose boldest design feature is the large grille that — especially in profile — protrudes from the long hood. It's a look some may find ungainly, but I found distinctive. My CX-9 came in Mazda's new signature hue — Machine Gray, which is a $300 upgrade — and was set off by 20-inch alloy wheels....

     2016 Mazda CX-9 Photo by Peter Couture, Tampa Bay Times
  3. The Daily Drivers: 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Ultimate

    Autos

    Appearance: The Santa Fe Sport is a handsome SUV that doesn't take any design detours — call it buttoned-down style. The refresh gives it a new three-louvered grille with a large Hyundai badge and wraparound headlights. We especially like the bold character lines that flare at the top of the quarter panels and extend over the wraparound taillights. Our Sport came in Hyundai's new Nightfall Blue and was set off by 19-inch wheels whose smoky finish would probably look better with a lighter paint color. So here's our quandary: As much as we like the looks of the Santa Fe Sport, it leaves us with the impression that Hyundai's recent redesigns are tending toward the generic (hello, Sonata, Elantra). You could be forgiven, for example, if in a crowded parking lot, you mistook the Santa Fe Sport for another brand....

    Photo by Lyra Solochek, Tampa Bay Times
  4. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Lexus GS F

    Autos

    Let's try to imagine the thinking that led to the development of the new Lexus GS F sedan. You can almost hear some rebellious executive: "Hey, a lot of consumers still think we're a stodgy luxury brand — let's show them. We'll produce a V-8-powered thrill ride and we won't even use a turbocharger."

    Appearance: The GS F is based on the existing GS 350 sedan and is four-door sibling to the RC F coupe. It doesn't wear the huge spindle grille as well as the sleek coupe, which may put off some buyers, but then this car is not for everyone. Why else would it come in a color called Molten Pearl, a shimmering orange bound to attract attention. The other clues that this is no ordinary sedan can be seen in bodywork that includes large front-fender vents, carbon-fiber trunk-lid spoiler and 19-inch forged aluminum (with matching orange brake calipers) and quad exhaust tips....

    The sports seats have good lateral bolstering, keeping you in place on quick turns. 

2016 Lexus GS F
Photo by Lyra Solochek, Tampa Bay Times
  5. U.S. Olympians are getting older — and better

    Olympics

    Some days, when Meb Keflezighi hits the road, his legs just don't want to move.

    That is what happens to a marathoner when he reaches the comparatively ancient age of 41.

    "You can't run like you're 25 anymore," he said. "You're going to have bad days."

    The fact that Keflezighi has qualified for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio — where he will become the oldest American Olympic marathoner — astonishes some of his younger teammates....

    Beach volleyball star Kerri Walsh Jennings collects balls after a practice session. The 37-year-old Walsh Jennings will be going for her fourth Olympic gold medal at the Summer Games in Rio next month. “People are training smarter and eating better,” she says of Olympic athletes’ increased longevity.
  6. The Daily Drivers: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited

    Autos

    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 8.1-inch display for the infotainment system was crisp. The user interface was intuitive.
  7. Hey, fans: Take our sports quiz to ease your boredom

    News

    We've reached the annual Summer Sports Doldrums. And if this stretch of summer is not deserving of that proper noun, it should be. After all, the NBA and NHL seasons are long over, baseball just finished its All-Star break and the whistles have yet to sound on the NFL and college football seasons. In the spirit of relieving your boredom, here's a quiz to catch you up on some recent sports news....

    FILE - In this April 27, 2016, file photo, Golden State Warriors' Draymond Green celebrates after scoring against the Houston Rockets during the first half in Game 5 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, in Oakland, Calif. Green was arrested for an alleged assault over the weekend in East Lansing, Michigan, according to online court records.
The incident occurred around 2:30 a.m. Sunday, July 10, 2016, in the city where Green played for Michigan State from 2008-12. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File) NY168
  8. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Lexus RC 200t

    Autos

    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.
  9. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Cadillac CT6

    Autos

    If the CT6 is truly the best example of the new Cadillac, then it largely succeeds despite an alphanumeric name more befitting a Star Wars droid than a flagship luxury sedan. After all, when reimagining a brand, an actual name seems to be an important starting point. Fortunately, most of Cadillac's other choices were good ones.

    Appearance: The CT6 incorporates Cadillac's angular "art and science" design philosophy and also shows touches from the much-praised Elmiraj concept car, such as its large, louvered chrome grille. The car's most noticeable feature may be its LED head lamps — sorry, "vertical light systems" — that are striking, especially at night. The lamps have light blades that extend below the grille to frame the front end. The wide-set and sleek look of the sedan is complemented by sparkles-in-the-sun Stellar Black Metallic paint and 20-inch Manoogian Silver painted-finish wheels that wouldn't look out of place on a European sports car. The only design blemish is in the rear, which lacks visual interest and whose perfunctory taillights seem like an afterthought....

    Photos by SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
  10. The Daily Drivers Updates: 2016 Honda Accord Touring, 2016 Toyota Camry SE, 2016 Kia K900 Luxury, 2016 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport Limited

    Autos

    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
  11. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe

    Autos

    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....

     The rear seats are suitable only for small passengers, or jackets.
  12. Once homeless, she now has Pride

    Sports

    Christina Burkenroad once wore a brilliant disguise. On the outside: An athletic, cool surfer-girl from San Diego. On the inside: A scared and wounded child.

    Her mind was a mess with dark themes of death, homelessness, depression, drugs and suicidal thoughts. To escape, she'd go catch a wave or bounce a soccer ball and play pretend, trying to mask her pain. She felt alone in her conflicted universe, thinking no one cared if she lived or died....

  13. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Ram 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4x4

    Autos

    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 seat inserts mimic the tread patterns of the Toyo tires.
  14. In welcoming China, room for rock-climbing boom

    Sports

    Michael Dobie moved to Liming in September 2010 with two friends who discovered the Chinese village in a travel brochure. Crisscrossed by dirt roads, the rustic setting in the mountains of Yunnan province offered few amenities.

    "It was pretty wild," Dobie said. "People were walking miles into town for supplies. It was kind of just one street, that type of traditional village."

    But the group came with a purpose — to establish traditional, or "trad," climbing in China — and for this, Liming offered two advantages. First, its endowment of soaring sandstone cliffs was rich with cracks and crevices ideal for the sport. Second, the local government embraced their vision and granted permits to explore the surrounding crags. In early 2011, Dobie set out cleaning routes, removing undergrowth and knocking away loose rock. By the summer, he'd finished more than 40....

    Michael Dobie moved to China to help establish traditional, or “trad,” climbing. Dobie tells tbt* that the route pictured here is a mixed-protection climb that uses both removable gear and bolts.
  15. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h

    Autos

    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 Gray Sapele Wood trim has aluminum pinstriping, which reminded Lyra of the Rolls-Royce we test-drove last year.