Frank Washington

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2021 Lexus RX 350 AWD F Sport

DETROIT – When you make one of the most popular luxury sport utilities on the planet, why change it before it is time? Thus, the product planers at Lexus did not do that much to alter the 2021 Lexus RX 350, or the 2022 version. Engineer’s added blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert, and they added power folding auto diming side mirrors. They added and then made wireless charging optional, and they renamed the performance package the handling package. There were a couple of interior colors added to the palette, but our interior was a dulled red, which was not hard on the eyes. And the sheet metal was a gun metal grey. Lexus called it Nightfall Mica. It still befuddles us that people get paid a lot of cash to come up with these names. Anyway, the specs on the 2021 Lexus RX 350 AWD F Sport are impressive. It was powered by a 3.5-liter 295 horsepower V6 engine that made 267 pound-feet of torque. This engine is normally aspirated, it has been around for years, thus it is a tried and tested reliable set of pistons. The car had sport instruments. There was an odometer with a digital speedometer in the middle. The temperature and fuel gauges shared the same housing and the TFT screen was on the left.

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2022 Toyota GR 86

Toyota has retrofitted its GR 86. For the uninitiated, this is a world class 2+2 sports car. That may sound strange in a utility vehicle world, but the automaker is looking for incremental sales; perhaps as many as 13,000 annually. And they did this the only acceptable way with sports cars. Improvements were incremental. The engine was bumped up from 2.0-liters to 2.4 liters. That gave the 2022 GR 86 18 percent more horsepower and 11 percent more torque. That is 284 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The GR 86 keeps its horizontally opposed four cylinder or boxer engine; but engineers also tweaked the engine so that torque comes far earlier in the power curve, at 3,700 rpm versus 6,000 rpm on the previous model. The bore was increased to 94 mm from 86 mm for 20 percent more displacement. That bumped the engine up from 1,998 cc to 2,387 cc. Doesn’t sound like much but it translates into a better zero to 60 time from 7.0 to 6.1 seconds for the manual. Almost a second faster and that is significant. For the automatic the reduction was even more, it was 8.0 to 6.6 seconds.

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2022 Mitsubishi Cross & Outlander

living@thetimesweekly.com ANN ARBOR, MI – Mitsubishi is back. Or a more conservative view is that it is progressing nicely. We came to this college town just west of Detroit to get a look at the Outlander and the Eclipse Cross. Before we go any further, we are more than pleased to report that the automaker has refined the grilles on both crossovers. They look like a full piece rather than being horizontally cut in half. That alone to us was a major improvement. What Mitsubishi representatives told us was by summer they will have refreshed their product lineup and we will see a redesign of their flagship, the Mitsubishi Outlander.

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2021 Hyundai Venue

Small use to be a synonym for cheap but not anymore. We test drove the 2021 Hyundai Venue and were impressed. It was a subcompact crossover, it seems the category has grown, because of its performance and size. It was powered by 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that made 121 horsepower and 113 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to a continuously variable transmission that had been engineered to simulate automatic shifts. This it did nicely.

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2021 Mazda MX-5

The 2021 Mazda MX-5 is an enthusiast’s throwback. It is a two-seat sports car in a real sense of the words. We had the MX-5 RF; the RF stood for retractable fastback. In other words, the roof retracted into the tonneau cover in a relatively quick 13 seconds, creating a roadster.

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Volkswagen ID.4

We have driven more all electric vehicles in the last three months than we have in a lifetime. What seemed like the distant future is now upon us. The latest wattage on four wheels we’ve evaluated was Volkswagen’s ID.4. We have no idea what that stands for. But we can share some truths. The ID.4 was quiet, but it was not silent. Road noises combined with wind noise provided that aural sense needed when driven. Trust us, absolute silence while driving can be dangerous. And we have been surprised that electric vehicles function like internal combustion powered cars. They are quick, steady on the road and they have the same equipment; Volkswagen’s ID.4 included.

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2021 Genesis GV80

Detroit – Genesis did it backwards. The luxury car-maker introduced first rate luxury sedans when it entered the U.S. market in 2015. The problem was the market was speedily shifting to crossovers. Although they never said it, but Genesis’ launch plan called for sedans before utility vehicles. Since we are talking years of development and billions of dollars to make its luxury car lineup happen, we did not see a sport utility until the 2020 model year. But the GV80 has been worth the wait. It was dominated by Genesis’ crest grille. There was a Parabolic line that ran along the side, accentuated by power lines above each wheel. The quad lamps, which flanked the grille, required sophisticated technology, that’s what Genesis wanted as its brand identification. The bottom line was that the headlamps were distinctive, garnering attention wherever we went. The Genesis GV80 had a unique face that turned heads. The quad lamp look, it was repeated in the rear, will come to define Genesis.

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2022 Infiniti QX55

It has been a while since we test drove an Infiniti. Thus, we forgot the identity of the brand: speed, quickness, and maneuverability. We had the 2022 QX55 crossover and were surprised on several levels. First, it was quick and fast. Powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that they got 268 horsepower out of and 280-pound feet of torque. To our surprise, this engine was mated to a continuously variable transmission. It had paddle shifters. Infiniti engineers mastered getting the transmission to move the QX55 almost instantly from driver input. The QX55 was fast; we pushed the peddle to the metal on one of the expressways here and found ourselves looking at 80 mph and the engine wasn’t even working hard. It had a MacPherson strut front suspension and an independent multilink rear suspension. In other words, it was set up for smooth riding at high speeds and comfortable transport at low speeds.

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2021 Lexus NX 300h F Sport Black line

Incremental improvements; that is the best was to describe the 2021 Lexus NX 300h F Sport. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine was mated to electric generators powering both the rear and front wheels and sending captured energy to the Nickel Metal Hydride battery. The total horsepower output was 194.

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2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV

We just drove the future. The Chevrolet Bolt EUV is an electric vehicle but it goes a step further. In a phrase, it can drive itself -- sorta. Chevy calls it Super Cruise. It is a driver assistance feature to maintain your current lane. It works in conjunction with adaptive cruise control. And the system will alert the driver when he or she needs to take control. It works on compatible roads, meaning thoroughfares with painted lanes and medians, that separate opposing traffic. It uses a GPS system, map, a network of cameras and sensors that maintain control of steering. The adaptive cruise control maintains the gap between the vehicle you’re following. There is also a driver attention alert to make sure the driver stays alert. In other words, you can’t engage this system and then take a nap or sightsee. Chevrolet is careful to emphasize that Super Cruise is not a self-driving system.

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