Behind the Wheel

2020 Nissan Kicks Review: As competition stiffens, the subcompact SUV puts up a good effort

The Nissan Kicks is the smallest SUV the company sells in the U.S.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The Nissan Kicks is only in its second model year in the U.S. but the subcompact SUV is already making a sizable impact in the market. It was right on-trend when it finally make it to America after years of use in global markets that are friendlier to small vehicles.

On paper, the model isn't changed from the 2019 model year. It's still a zippy-looking crossover with appointments that mostly don't challenge the norm for the segment. Its design isn't as fun or funky as the Nissan Juke, but it tries to stay youthful.

2020 Nissan Kicks The appearance of the Kicks is playful. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The 2020 Kicks has a 1.6-liter DOHC 16-valve 4- cylinder engine rated at 122 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque powering it. It's paired with a continuously variable transmission. This is the same powertrain that is in the 2020 Nissan Versa. There, it's competent and confident at moderate speed, but not quick. It performs similarly in the Kicks in that respect. The two models are about the same weight and often used in the same urban environment.

Nissan only sells the Kicks with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is not available.

Some competition has more, while others have less horsepower and torque. Some are better off the line (Hyundai Kona) while others come standard with all-wheel drive (Subaru Crosstrek).

With the competition in its segment strengthening, and the upgrades present in the recently redesigned Nissan Sentra, its hard to drive the Kicks without being a bit disappointed by its appointments, which is unusual for a Nissan. For its starting price, the model is reasonably well appointed, but getting into the top tier trim, which presses $22,000 in both models, the Kicks falls short.

2020 Nissan Kicks The interior of the Kicks features numerous hard elements that make the car feel interior to the competition.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The Kicks comes standard features with a 7.0-inch infotainment touch screen that has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.It also has Nissan's suite of safety and driver assistance technology called Nissan Safety Shield 360, and an above average amount of cargo capacity.

However, there are plenty of hard surfaces and places where Nissan looks like they took shortcuts with the design. This is a similar problem to what the Leaf interior has going on.

Not only is it not as aesthetically well-appointed as the competition, its cabin allows a fair amount of road and CVT noise to reach passengers and seats are uncomfortable for anything other than a short trip. The Hyundai Venue has seats that are comfortable for all-day driving and an infotainment system that proves more responsive.

The Kona, Venue, and Crosstrek prove worthy competition for the model. The Sentra features the next stage of Nissan design, delivering even more bang for the buck than before. The Kick's biggest asset is that trend of buying a sedan is waning. Still, the Kicks is primed for an upgrade.

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The Lamborghini Huracán STO is the latest addition to the popular Huracán lineup.

Photo courtesy of Lamborghini Automobili

It's the purest concentration of Lamborghini motorsports possible, made into a road car. It has a big engine, wide haunches, and attitude to spare. Power? That's not even a question.

The new Lamborghini Huracán STO brings together the prowess of the Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo EVO and GT3 EVO race cars but in a format that makes it a possible daily driver. The Huracán GT3 EVO is noted for its three 24 Hours of Daytona and two 12 Hours of Sebring wins. The Huracán Super Trofeo EVO was designed for the Super Trofeo race series.

Powered by a naturally aspirated V10 engine that puts out 640 horsepower and 416 pound-feet of torque, the rear-wheel drive Huracán STO can take drivers from zero to 62 mph in just 3.0 seconds. It gets from zero to 124 mph in 9.0 seconds. Lamborghini has given the car a top speed of 192 mph.

Lamborghini Hurac\u00e1n STO The hood and fenders of the car have been combined into a one-piece component.Photo courtesy of Lamborghini Automobili

Lamborghini has given the car an increased wheel track, stiffer suspension bushing, specific anti-roll bars, and MagneRide 2.0. These help with its daily drivability. The engine has been calibrated to be responsive with a direct pedal-to-throttle feeling and improved engine sound sharpness at high revs. Gearchange speed has been increased.

Lamborghini has given the car three new driving modes: STO, Trofeo, and Pioggia. The default STO mode is for road driving and fun on curving roads. In Trofeo mode, the car's systems are optimized for dry asphalt and the fastest lap times on the track. Pioggia (rain) mode optimizes traction control, torque vectoring, rear-wheel steering, and the ABS on wet asphalt.

"The Huracán STO delivers all the excitement of a beautifully balanced, lightweight and aerodynamically superior super sports car, mirroring the driving feeling and exhilaration of Super Trofeo, and perfectly set up for the world's most demanding tracks but created for the road," said Maurizio Reggiani, Chief Technical Officer.

"The extensive technical solutions and intelligence gained from both our Super Trofeo and GT3 programs has been refined and embodied in the Huracán STO, allowing the pilot to experience the emotions of a racing driver, daily, in a road-legal Lamborghini super sports car able to take lap records."

Lamborghini Hurac\u00e1n STO The car's wing allows for massive changes in the airflow of the car.Photo courtesy of Lamborghini Automobili

Lamborghini says that every aspect of the car is designed to balance efficiency and weight. The car features a cofango that is a single piece that combines the hood and fender and was inspired by the Lamborghini Miura and Sesto Elemento.

At the rear, a new fender finds its roots in the Super Trofeo EVO and achieves increased downforce and improves aerodynamic efficiency. The revised rear hood has an air scoop that encourages air cooling at the rear underwood. Dedicated air deflectors manage that airflow and help regulate the car's temperature.

This airflow improves the car's cornering ability while the car's adjustable rear wing optimizes aerodynamic balance and drag resistance depending on track characteristics. The Huracán STO achieves the highest level of downforce in its class. Overall airflow efficiency is improved by 37 percent and downforce has been increased by 53 perfect over the Huracán Performante.

More than 75 percent of the car's body panels are made of carbon fiber. The rear fender features a carbon fiber 'sandwich' technique that is traditionally utilized in the aerospace industry. This allows the car to have 25 percent less carbon fiber material while retaining its structural rigidity.

A lightweight windscreen and magnesium rims continue the lightweighing theme, which also carries over to the interior, which is filled with carbon fiber. Its sport seats are made of the material. Carpets have been removed in favor of a carbon fiber floor while the door panels have been made of the material as well.

Owners of the Huracán STO can fully personalize both the exterior and interior of their race car- on-the-road via a rich Ad Personam personalization program, with limitless paint and trim combinations as well as race-style vinyls.

The first customers will take delivery of the new Lamborghini Huracán STO in spring 2021. Pricing for U.S. customers starts at $327,838.

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Subaru Motorsports takes center stage in the newest season of "Launch Control".

Photo courtesy of Subaru of America Inc.

The award-winning "Launch Control" documentary series will return December 2 for its eighth season. The show will air on YouTube and Amazon Prime Video.

Season 8 of "Launch Control" picks up where Season 7 left off. The Subaru team has just won the rally and rallycross championships but the future of the team is uncertain.

The program, which has been chronicling the Subaru Motorsports teams since 2013, documents the challenging 2020 season of the driving sports, which included a new rally driver lineup, a shortened and delayed season due to COVID-19, and the return of ace driver Scott Speed following a season-ending back injury in 2019.

Season 8: "Launch Control"

Photo courtesy of Subaru of America Inc.

"Launch Control" will also include a two-part sneak peek at the one-off WRX STI build that Subaru worked with Vermont SportsCar to create for the next installment of the "Gymkhana" franchise, where Subaru driving star Travis Pastrana will take over the feature roll from Ken Block.

New episodes documenting the stage rally season will release every other Wednesday through December and January, with the two-part Gymkhana STI build special arriving in February.

"'Launch Control' has always been an unflinching look at the reality of running a top-level motorsports program," said William Stokes, Motorsports Manager for Subaru of America. "This year brought more challenges than anyone expected, but we're a rally team, and in rally we press on regardless. As tough as this season was, we're thrilled to bring the series back—especially for the fans who couldn't come to events in 2020, who we've missed most of all."

The program is a production of Formula Photographic and Bowes Media with the support of Subaru of America.

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