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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 Update: 2017 Toyota 86

    Autos

    When Toyota ended its youth-oriented Scion division, one of the models it kept was one of our favorites, the minimalist FR-S sports car. It's now called the Toyota 86, which is what it was sold as globally. The car, a joint venture with Subaru that badges it as the BRZ, pairs rear-wheel drive, skinny tires and a 2.0-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder that makes 205 horsepower when paired — as it should be — with the available six-speed manual transmission which gets 21 miles per gallon in the city and 28 highway. (Automatic is also available, with a slightly better mpg of 24/32.) That's all such an intoxicating cocktail that the enthusiast may not mind those modest power numbers or even the equally modest cabin. That's because if you're the type of driver who likes do his or her own shifting, find twisty roads a challenge and even get the rear end loose on occasion, then the 86 is a pure joy. We noticed a slightly more aggressive exterior — a larger air intake, Toyota 86 badging, streamline bumpers and LED head- and taillights. Mechanically, the changes include new shock tuning and spring rate, differential gear ratio change, and engine tuning that bumps up the torque and horsepower. Peter thought the gear-shift action to be slightly stiffer. Lyra thought the car drove a bit stiffer. All that really matters is the fun is still there, as is the enthusiast-on-a-budget price point of less than $30,000....

    2017 Toyota 86
  2. Review: Disney's Rivers of Light show turns on the H2-oh!

    Blog

    Last spring, Disney’s Animal Kingdom teased the media with a brief preview of Rivers of Light, a theatrical show  that carried the promise — and the burden — of being a signature event designed to keep guests into the park’s new evening hours. Disney anticipated a summer opening.

    What it didn’t anticipate was delay after unexplained — technical issues? — delay. Cue 2017: Finally, Friday night, came the official premiere of Rivers of Light, and we  generally liked what Disney calls a “visual mix of water, fire, nature and light.” Well, that description is certainly accurate....

    After many delays, Disney's Rivers of Light nighttime show finally opened at Animal Kingdom this week.
  3. next seasonConnecticut is planning to suit up Azurá Stevens, a 6-6 transfer from Duke who many believe would have been its best player this season. The Huskies will also add Megan Walker, rated by some as the nation's No. 1 recruit. They return six of seven rotation players.— New York Times

    Sports

    You don't know what to do with yourself, do you? Spring training isn't here yet, and who cares about Tom Brady's missing Super Bowl jersey, and golfers are still limbering up, and the NBA won't be decided until June. That leaves college basketball, which is sort of a mess with everyone but Gonzaga taking multiple losses. Then there are the UConn women, whom you wouldn't even think of looking at. Right? Which makes you a dope, for choosing boredom over excellence....

    Gabby Williams drives to the basket as South Carolina’s Alaina Coates defends. AP
  4. The Daily Drivers: 2017 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG

    Autos

    The Mercedes C63 AMG Coupe is a classic muscle car. Sure it has the luxury Mercedes-Benz heritage and pedigree. The C Class — similar in size to a Mustang or Camaro — has been redesigned for 2017. And like the Ford or Chevy, it shares a large engine, small two-door body and rear-wheel drive.

    Appearance: In this, the C63 doesn't have the sometimes overwrought design of a traditional muscle car. Instead, its lines — the rounded roof, creased fenders and pillarless windows — flow naturally yet connote power. Lyra calls it "breathtakingly beautiful," and the Mercedes-Benz fan who approached her to get a better look also thought so. Our car was helped by its deep Brilliant Blue Metallic paint, a gorgeous hue set off by cross-spoke black wheels with red brake calipers. Up front, the "diamond" grille carries a huge M-B badge, perhaps the most ostentatious thing about the car....

    [LYRA SOLOCHEK  |  Times]
  5. Required reading for Super Bowl Sunday

    Sports

    If you're among those who watch precisely one NFL game each year, yet want to sound like a real fan at Sunday's party, we've got you covered with Super Bowl facts, talking points and some nerd statistics:

    The TV team

    Joe Buck and Troy Aikman are in the booth for Fox TV while Tampa's Erin Andrews and Chris Myers are on the sidelines.

    The site...

    FILE - In this June 20, 2016, file photo, actors from Broadway's "Hamilton", Jasmine Cephas Jones, Phillipa Soo and Renee Elise Goldsberry, from left, attend the Elly Awards in New York. Original cast members of the Tony Award-winning Broadway hit "Hamilton: An American Musical," will sing "America the Beautiful" during pregame festivities at Super Bowl 51, the NFL and Fox announced Friday, Jan. 27. The performance by the three, who starred as the Schuyler Sisters, will be televised live by Fox prior to kickoff Feb. 5 when the Atlanta Falcons face the New England Patriots. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File) NY169
  6. The Daily Drivers: 2017 Audi A4 sedan

    Autos

    We really liked the Audi A4 and here's why: It's a car that satisfies our appreciation of an everyday sedan that packs luxury (but not too much), performance (but not too much) and a premium price tag (but not too much). Simply put, the redesigned-for-2017 A4 is what we think a small luxury sedan should be.

    Appearance: The A4 is handsome and well-proportioned for a small-to-midsize sedan. It's a well-designed car — all the creases are in the right place — that doesn't scream "look at me." (Think evolution from the previous model, not revolution.) The only showy features are the distinctive design of the xenon/LED headlights and the optional 10-spoke Dynamic-design 18-inch wheels ($800)....

    The digital screen can be configured to make dominant the navigation screen.  2017 Audi A4 sedan. [LYRA SOLOCHEK  |  Times]
  7. The Daily Drivers: 2017 Kia Forte S

    Autos

    They don't make compact cars like they used to, and that's a good thing. No longer simply no-frills transportation, today's compacts often flash the same style and technology as their larger siblings. Case in point: the Kia Forte sedan. (There also are two other Forte models: The Forte5 hatchback and the Koup.)

    Appearance: The overall design has been refreshed for 2017 and the Forte now resembles its bigger sibling, the midsize Optima, with a angled beltline and a sloping roof that extends into the rear deck and gives it a coupe-like profile. Other changes include a new front fascia highlighted by large gloss black grille and stern-looking headlights that sweep up and back into the fenders. A curved character line extends across the bottom of both doors, echoing the arc of the roofline. Overall, the look is more elegant than aggressive, and not as showy as some cars in this class....

    The instrument panel is simple, with white-on-black gauges and a small readout in the middle.   [LYRA SOLOCHEK  |  Times]
  8. The Daily Drivers: 2017 Jaguar XE 35t AWD Prestige

    Autos

    Jaguar jumps back into the compact luxury segment for 2017 with the XE sports sedan, which the company launched this spring and touted as an "aluminum-intensive drivers car." Jag has been on a roll as of late with its sleek F-Type sports car and new F-Pace SUV, so how does the XE stack up?

    Appearance: The model we drove was the XE 35t AWD Prestige. From its sloping and sculpted hood to the subtle touches that recall the F-Type, the XE may be a compact car, but it's neither small nor boring. Our XE came in Ammonite Gray, which gave it a menacing look set off by 19-inch Venom 5 twin-spoke black wheels and a gloss-black mesh grille highlighted by a red Jaguar badge. The XE also has Jag's signature J-Blade daytime running lights, while the tail lights have a hint of the rear lamps on the F-Type. A minor complaint: The dual exhaust tips lack integrated finishers; chrome tips would have been nice to enhance the sporty look. ...

    The sedan has a long nose with a sporty roofline. [LYRA SOLOCHEK  |  Times]
  9. SportsTalk: The Lightning players' off-ice rituals

    Sports

    PISCATAWAY, NJ - OCTOBER 08:  A Rutgers fan reacts after the Michigan Wolverines scored in the second half at High Point Solutions Stadium on October 8, 2016 in Piscataway, New Jersey.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) 668994551
  10. SportsTalk: Transgender hockey player hears his 'name said right'

    Human Interest

    NAMES-IN-THE-NEWS EDITION

    HARRISON BROWNE

    Up until the season-opening game Friday of the National Women's Hockey League's second season, the 23-year-old who teammates call "Brownie" went by the name Hailey Browne. That changed when the rising star for the Buffalo Beauts went public in announcing that he identifies as male, becoming the first openly transgender player in U.S. pro team sports. "My family is starting to come to grips with it," Browne told ESPN. "Now it's my time to be known as who I am, to be authentic and to hear my name said right when I get a point, or see my name on a website." Browne didn't have to wait long: He scored in his team's first game and got to hear "Harrison Browne" announced over the PA system. "It was unreal," he said. Commissioner Dani Rylan said the league is now working on a policy that will include transgender athletes and the NWHL fully supports Browne. "It felt like the stars were aligning for Harrison," Rylan said after seeing him score — on a short-handed breakaway, no less. "I don't know if it would've been as easy for him five years ago."...

    Pole-vaulter Shawn Barber. AP PHOTO
  11. The Daily Drivers: 2017 Audi R8 Coupe

    Autos

    We often get asked a variation on this question: If you won the lottery, what car would you buy? For Peter, the answer is easy: Audi's R8. Lyra wouldn't mind one either. With a starting price of $162,900, we'd need that winning ticket to afford the supercar. (Still, the R8 is a bargain compared with its corporate cousin, the Lamborghini Huracán, which starts at $237K.) So why all the R8 love?...

    2016 Audi R8 Coupe [LYRA SOLOCHEK   |   Times]
  12. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Honda Civic Coupe Touring

    Autos

    You have to applaud Honda: The carmaker still believes that some drivers prefer two doors to four — hence the coupe versions of the popular Accord and compact Civic. Following its redesigned sedan, Honda rolled out a new coupe for 2016 with an edgier design, bolder face and an available turbo 4.

    Appearance: Our Civic Coupe Touring's design was overshadowed by its color — Energy Green Pearl, which looks and sounds like a new Mountain Dew flavor. (Someone asked if it was a performance model based on its color. No, it just looks loud.) Once you get past the Day-Glo paint, the Civic Coupe features an aggressive and chrome-heavy grille that extends between and over slender, jewellike headlights. Sharp creases sculpted the hood and run the length of the body, swooping up over the rear wheels. Those wheels are pushed out to the corners with minimal overhang, resulting in a wider stance. In the rear, the LED taillights extend across the deck-lid spoiler in what Peter called a "futuristic, Honda Insight (RIP) style." It's an attention-getter, especially at night. The two doors open wide and make entrance easy, even for backseat passengers. The 17-inch alloy wheels are sharp....

    LED daylight running lights underscore the jewellike LED headlights.
  13. The Daily Drivers: 2017 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet

    Autos

    Is there an enduring automotive design more iconic than the rear-engined Porsche 911 Carrera? You don't have to be an auto enthusiast to recognize the distinctive shape and know: "That's a Porsche." For 2017, the 911 — across its dozen-and-a-half models — is sleeker, more powerful and yet more efficient.

    Appearance: Our 911 Carrera S Cabriolet (convertible) was the embodiment of elegance and sportiness in crisp white with a bright red drop-top and 20-inch Carrera alloy wheels with red brake calipers. Even Peter's wife conceded: "That's a beautiful car." The soft top, which folds flat and out of the way, preserves the car's iconic profile. Elsewhere, the car gets slight cosmetic updates front and rear — headlights, grille, taillights, vents. ...

    The cloth top folds down flat.  [LYRA SOLOCHEK   |   Times]
  14. SITTING TALL

    Sports

    Greg Walker encountered the tallest man in Iran in the dining hall of a hotel in rural China. Walking with crutches, the man, Morteza Mehrzad, ducked beneath a towering archway. Once through, he straightened his back, unfolding his 8-foot-1-inch frame.

    Walker's first thought: Wow.

    His second thought: Oh, this is bad.

    Walker, who was at a tournament as the coach of the United States men's sitting volleyball team, realized that Iran had intensified the competition to find tall players leading up to the Paralympics....

    Morteza Mehrzad during a sitting volleyball match against China at the Paralympics in Rio on Saturday. With Mehrzad’s entrance into the competition, the coaches of other nations must rethink their strategy — or get taller players.
  15. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Volkswagen Golf R

    Autos

    Lyra almost bought a Volkswagen GTI a few years ago — black with a sunroof. The combination of sporty performance and versatility of a four-door hatchback was a big draw, but she ended up with an SUV instead. If VW only had the Golf R back then, her choice would have been much different.

    Appearance: Nothing screams performance when you see the Golf R. It shares characteristics of the regular and somewhat boxy hatchback Golf. But if you look closely, you'll notice the subtle "R" badge, sporty exterior trim, quad exhaust tips in chrome, rear spoiler and 18-inch alloy wheels that set it apart. The Lapiz Blue Metallic paint is a classy hue. Seems Volkswagen decided less is more, and it works. ...

    The backlit gauges have blue indicators and a small information screen in the middle.