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Driving Impressions

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Driving Impressions

Hyundai Tucson Encounter On The Route To The Stars!

If ever you have been fascinated by the constellations, then Chile should top your must-see list. With near-perfect atmospheric conditions– cool, dry air– for optical clarity, the town of La Serena is perfectly positioned for a drive up into the foothills of the Andes, literally above the clouds. The roadways that lead to Chile’s many high-powered telescopic installations are known as La Ruta de las Estrellas (the Route to the Stars). And by no stroke of luck, this is exactly where we were headed to discover Hyundai’s new Tucson!

Ford’s Ranger Sets the New Standard

The atmosphere was bristling with anticipation as our group of invited journalists from the Caribbean and Central America was warmly received at the lavish Bristol Buenaventura Resort Hotel on Panama’s Pacific coast, some two hours from Panama City.

On our first official evening we joined Ford officials and other media representatives for cocktails and dinner. Naturally, the new Ford Ranger was the hot topic of the evening and everyone spoke glowingly of Ford’s performance in their respective markets versus the competition from Nissan and Toyota. We heard from Chris Sirju of The Gleaner about the remote, mountainous regions in Jamaica where Suzukis and Land Rover Defenders are the only means of getting around due to the crude roads and limited infrastructure. Everyone, it seemed, was well aware of who the real performers were in the current market. We did all agree on one thing though– the last few generations of the Ranger had excelled in terms of sales, reliability and on- and off-road performance, a fact that was reflected in the large numbers of happy owners. The Ford team skillfully recognised our concerns and noted our comments without giving away too much.

Toyota’s 86: the Ultimate Underdog

One of the most legendary cars from Toyota is the AE86 Corolla/Trueno hatchback. This small, lightweight, rear-wheel drive sporty economy car gained notoriety in Japan for its tuning potential, proficiency in drifting and for defeating more powerful and advanced cars in downhill road races and in motorsport. It is widely respected as a car that teaches its driver how to exploit and occasionally, defy the laws of physics.

The car even became a co-star in Initial D, which is a must-see Japanese anime series for any serious enthusiast. The protagonist Takumi Fujiwara delivers tofu in an AE86, which he also races on various mountain roads. A few seasons later, he drives his father’s Subaru, an Impreza WRX STi Type R Version V. Tak soon realises that his old, beloved Hachiroku (86 in Japanese, referring to the AE86) cannot keep up. It seems destined (to Initial D fans at least) that Toyota and Subaru should work together. Toyota owns a 16.5 per cent stake of Fiji Heavy Industries, the parent company of the Subaru brand, making such a venture even more feasible for both parties. In reality, this effort that has finally delivered a production car and over 90 per cent of the parts used are specific to the shared platform. It is known as the Toyota 86, or GT86 in some markets, the Subaru BRZ or the Scion FR-S in others. Along with badging, there are subtle exterior and larger interior differences and unique suspension calibrations. All models carry dual exhaust pipes. The 86 also pays homage to the Toyota 2000GT and the boxer-engined Toyota 800.

The Nissan 370Z: Bringing the Best of the Past to the Present

The 370Z comes from a long line of distinguished sports cars beginning with the 240Z, a car that was revered for its lively handling and excellent power-to-weight ratio. The 240Z was also very affordable and reliable and thus spelt the beginning of the end for British sports cars of the 70s, which were not. At that time, the brand was known internationally as Datsun until a rebranding was effected in the early 1980s. The 240Z grew in size with larger engines and longer bodies for the 260Z and 280Z models. They eventually became a 2+2, known as the 280ZX with all models powered by an inline 6-cylinder engine. With the first 300ZX, the move was made to three-litre V6 engines in naturally aspirated and turbo configurations. In the following version, the CAD-modelled 300ZX became a rolling showcase for Nissan sports technology with either a 222hp naturally aspirated V6 or a 300hp twin-turbo version with variable valve timing, direct ignition and Super HICAS four-wheel steering. After passing the technology showcase mantle to the Nissan Skyline GT-R, now known simply as the GT-R, a move to simplify and return to the original 240Z’s roots brought about the 350Z, powered by a naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V6 engine. Performance was comparable but slower than the old twin turbo 300ZX. Finally the new generation of this carefully refined sports car icon, the lighter, faster and slightly smaller Nissan 370Z has arrived.

Porsche’s Boxster is Back in the Ring

The Boxster was Porsche’s first road vehicle to be originally designed as a roadster since the 550 Spyder from the 1950s. Making its world debut in 1996, the name Boxster is a combination of the words that conceptually define this car– “boxer” for its horizontally opposed engine and “roadster” for its two-seater, convertible configuration. Thanks to a mid-engine layout, the Boxster and its hardtop sibling, the Cayman are said to deliver near-perfect balanced handling that many consider superior to the iconic Porsche 911. While Porsche’s sport models are capable of delivering some of the purest driving experiences on the planet, at the end of the day it comes down to personal preference.

TT Motorsport Car Clubs

  • Autosport - Drags, Drag & Wind
  • C.A.R.S. - Solodex/Autocross
  • Rally Club TT - Rally
  • Side-B - Off Road
  • Trail Blazers - Off Road
  • Trini Truckin'
  • TTASA - Drags, Circuit, Karting
  • TTDA - Drift
  • TTKA - Karting
  • TTORC - Off Road
  • TTundra - Drag Racing