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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

  1. The Daily Drivers: 2015 Nissan Rogue SL AWD


    The bottom line: We like the Rogue, we just wish it had a little more horsepower and a more driver-engaging ride.

    We've always considered the Nissan Rogue a stylish, fun-to-drive compact crossover — even though the only engine available is a four-cylinder. Since we last drove a Rogue, Nissan has given it a facelift, but we're not sure it's keeping up with the competition....

    Even on a rainy day, the panoramic moonroof brings in some daylight.
  2. The Daily Drivers: 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat


    Those who fondly remember the Horsepower Wars of the '60s and early '70s must be shaking their heads at the monstrous output of today's muscle cars. After all, in today's eco-conscious era, doesn't "charger" call to mind something for your electric car? Well, maybe so, but when the Charger is Dodge's SRT Hellcat, the electricity comes from the visceral thrill of more than 700 horsepower.

    Performance: When a car comes with two sets of keys — one to unlock its full fury — you know it's not an ordinary sedan. That's because this Charger carries the new supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi "Hellcat" V-8, which it shares with the Challenger muscle car. The black key fob restricts the power to a "mere" 500 horses. The red fob unleashes a street-shaking 707 horsepower. Some other numbers touted by Dodge would make enthusiasts drool: 650 pound-foot of torque, 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, a quarter-mile time of 11 seconds and a top speed of 204. Dodge says the Charger Hellcat is the most powerful production sedan on the planet. All of this power is routed through a quick-shifting TorqueFlite 8-speed automatic transmission (with manual mode) whose rev-matching downshifts work particularly well. As for stopping power, we both found the Brembo brakes were up to the task. Despite all the power, this Hellcat is well-mannered in city driving. In Street mode — one of three settings you can pick, along with Sport and Track — it drives pretty much like a family sedan. Save for some supercharger whine and the low rumble of the Hemi at idle, you could almost forget what's under the hood. One thing's for sure, you're guaranteed to have the most potent grocery-getter in the neighborhood. The steering feel is good as it loosens up at higher speeds, but the power assist is all but lacking when you're maneuvering in and out of those tight supermarket parking spaces. We had the red key only for a few hours. Peter had the car then. His reaction: "There is no thunderous fanfare when you start the Hellcat with the red fob. I drove it on a rainy morning and let's just say that 700-plus horsepower on rain-slicked streets can be an adventure, especially with the traction control off. (Lesson learned.) No matter what drive mode you select, it's almost effortless to leave some rubber behind when you take off. Push it, and acceleration is a theme-park ride that pins you to the seat."...

    The rear seats are well-padded and there’s plenty of legroom. But the headroom is reduced because of the tapered roof line.
  3. The Daily Drivers: Toyota 4Runner 4x4 Trail Premium


    Toyota's venerable 4Runner is a throwback to the days when SUV owners actually needed a vehicle for occasional excursions away from the pavement. It has been refreshed for 2015 — mainly in its off-road technology — but loses none of its ruggedness.

    Appearance: The front fascia is brawny, with a black mesh grille resting behind a thick body-color crossbar and bumper. This is accented by a large silver skid plate, which is standard, as you might expect on an SUV with off-road capability. Flanking the grille are angular projection-beam headlights that include check mark-shaped LED running lights. The hood sits high, and has an air scoop. Overall, the 4Runner seems proud to still carry a rugged, boxy look. Our 4x4 Trail Premium tester also came with a moonroof and 17-inch, seven-spoke alloy wheels....

    You can open the power window on the rear hatch.
  4. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander SEL


    We've driven a few generations of the Mitsubishi Outlander and have always found the crossover severely lacking when compared to the competition. Now the Outlander has been given an overhaul for 2016. Is it enough to give Mitsubishi, an all-but-overlooked player in the marketplace, a boost up?

    Appearance: The Outlander now sports a really large grille and front fascia that looks like a Transformer. Half of this new Dynamic Shield design works, especially the thick chrome that starts from under the headlights and drops down to form the "shield." From the side, this chrome also accents the elongated profile. The lower fascia — black with a skid plate — seems to get lost, however. Our SEL tester also came with 18-inch alloy wheels with an intricate spoke design. Overall, it's somewhat of a bigger "small" crossover....

     Folding down the second-row seats takes a few steps. Step 1: Move the bottom seat cushion forward.
  5. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Honda Pilot AWD Elite


    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....

    2016 Honda Pilot AWD Elite
  6. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited


    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....

    2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited
  7. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Honda HR-V AWD EX-L


    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.
  8. The Daily Drivers: 2015 BMW M3


    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 sports sedan actually has some space, even for adults, especially when the front seats are pulled forward.
  9. The Daily Drivers: 2016 Acura MDX AWD


    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....

    The armrest cubby is deep. You can plug in via USB, auxiliary outlets. There’s also a slot to keep your cellphone, but it was too narrow for my iPhone 6 Plus.
  10. The Daily Drivers: 2015 Lexus RC 350 F Sport


    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....

    The display is controlled by a touchpad and some buttons next to the shifter.
  11. The Daily Drivers: 2015 Lincoln MKC AWD


    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....

    The door can be opened with a code.
  12. The Daily Drivers: 2015 Rolls-Royce Wraith


    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....

    Much of the interior is covered in natural-grain leather, including the dash, seating surfaces, door panels and pillars. Elsewhere, there’s open-grain paneling and chrome and piano-black consoles.
  13. 'I'm shocked that Austin Dillon is even alive'Jimmie Johnson

    'I'm shocked that Austin Dillon is even alive.'

    Jimmie Johnson

    "It's not really acceptable, I don't think."

    Austin Dillon

    what they're saying

    "Today is a day to figure out how to make racing better and safer. And the simplest way to do that is for NASCAR to lower the speeds at Daytona and Talladega with a rules package that restricts the cars' ability to reach 200 mph." Scott Fowler, Charlotte Observer...

    Austin Dillon (3) goes airborne and hits the catch fence as he was involved in a multi-car crash on the final lap of the NASCAR Sprint Cup series auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Monday, July 6, 2015, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)
  14. The Daily Drivers: A look at a range of Rovers


    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
  15. The Daily Drivers: 2015 GMC Canyon 4WD SLT


    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....

    Our tester had the optional spray-on bed liner and a vinyl tonneau cover.