Thursday, July 20, 2017

Versatile Compass provides memorable moments

A menu of Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website  www.sacbee.com/news/business/article4005306.html

Sacramento, California – I couldn’t remember much of anything about my last test drive in a Jeep Compass sport-utility vehicle … and that in itself was saying something.

Almost every vehicle I test makes some kind of impression, so I was anxious to get some seat time in the recently tested 2017 Jeep Compass Limited 4X4.

This ride made some memories, mostly good ones.

I received the Compass after two weeks of driving enormous vehicles, so its practical crossover size made me feel comfortable right from the start.  It looked good riding high on 19-inch polished aluminum wheels with black pockets.  The current Compass has some nice sculpting on the sides, enhancing its side-profile appearance.

Yes, the seven-slot grille still exists, but Jeep designers tweaked it by setting each of the individual chrome slots in a “Gloss Black” field.  Nice touch there; if anything, the front end stands out even more.

Mine was the loaded version, with a bottom line of nearly $34,500.  I wasn’t complaining about the extras.  A dual-pane sunroof was a bonus in the summer sunshine.

On the move, the Compass was responsive and agile … certainly more relaxing than piloting vehicles big enough to have their own ZIP codes.  The automaker’s touted “4X4 architecture" did indeed translate to civilized road manners.  In the ever-rising gearbox wars, my tester had a nine-speed automatic transmission.

That translated to pretty good fuel mileage at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the open road.

Power came from a 2.4-liter, in-line 4 engine rated at a max 180 horsepower.  The engine handled most chores well, but it was not a sharply accelerating power source, and it struggled a bit on steep inclines.

This being a Jeep, I put it through some modest off-road maneuvers, which the tester handled with effortless ease.

Volunteer passengers said they were impressed with the tester’s interior room, and they noted that they volunteered fearing a rough ride “since this is a Jeep.”  Turned out that latter concern was, by their own confessions, needless worry.

One of the target customers for this Jeep Compass is likely a suburban family with weekday commutes to make and plentiful weekend chores to do, plus a periodic desire to get away from it all and go camping.

Another prospective customer: An outdoors enthusiast who sometimes likes to pack a week’s worth of supplies and disappear into the backcountry … full well knowing the Compass can easily handle the urban commutes upon returning to reality.

And in both cases, the vehicle you get is priced well below rival vehicles that don’t have Jeep’s off-road chops.

Sound like your cup of SUV?  Then you might want to put the Compass on your test-drive list.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Big Infiniti QX80 has the goods, hauls them too

A menu of Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website  www.sacbee.com/news/business/article4005306.html

Sacramento, California – The 2017 Infiniti QX80 AWD Limited sport-utility vehicle made me feel small, but at the same time, I happily envisioned the possibilities.

What you need to know is that the QX80 is a full-size luxo SUV capable of seating up to eight folks, with a monumental overall interior volume of 168 cubic feet.

As luck would have it, I needed a big vehicle during my test week to help put on a special event. I was transporting A LOT of stuff, and I figured I would have to recruit a volunteer driver and a second vehicle to get everything to the venue.

I was wrong.  To my amazement, the QX80 took all of it.

That included eight cases of water and sodas, two folding six-foot tables, four full-size coolers, two flagpoles, a six-by-four-foot sign (and its stand), six banker-size paper boxes, two large suitcases, a trumpet case and four full-size grocery bags.

The SUV basically transported the contents of a convenience store.  Talk about utility!

In addition to handling this massive chore, my week in the QX80 was an enjoyable mixture of luxury and power.

Keeping in mind that the bottom line on the tester’s sticker read $90,445 – and that was without options – the QX80 was loaded with luxury liner perks to justify the price.  The all-star lineup included “truffle brown leather” seating/interior surfaces, a 15-speaker Bose audio system, a power rear liftgate, a hydraulic body motion-control system, power-folding rear seats, primo ash wood trim and a full house of electronic/audio/entertainment connections and devices.

The exterior mirrors alone spoke volumes about the premium nature of the vehicle: They were power-folding, auto-dimming and heated with integrated LED turn signals, courtesy lights and an automatic tilt-down feature for reverse maneuvers.

Power was provided by a 5.6-liter V-8 with 400 horsepower and 413 foot-pounds of torque.  That hefty engine easily moved the big QX80 around with authority.  The size of the vehicle played tricks on my mind when it came to speed; 60 miles per hour felt like 40 mph.  Steering was spot-on firm.

The price to be paid for power came to 13 miles per gallon in the city and only 19 mpg on the highway.

For such a big brute, the tested QX80 looked good, smooth over the top and riding on 22-inch wheels.  My tester wore a new-for-2017 paint color called Mocha Almond, which sparkled in the sunlight and drew comments from passersby.

Overall, this is a B-plus to A-minus vehicle in its class.  And that class is an SUV segment for the financially fortunate motorist who wants it all.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

This Ford Fusion blasts away from the pack

A menu of Mark Glover’s AutoGlo reviews of the latest motor vehicle models also can be seen on The Sacramento Bee’s website at www.sacbee.com/news/business/article4005306.html

This review first appeared in the June 2017 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California The Ford Fusion is a perfect example of popular practicality.

Just the right size.  Room for five.  Attractive, but not over-the-top styling.  Just the right amount of power.

About that last part: My recent week in the 2017 Ford Fusion V6 Sport had way more power than any previous Fusion under my control.  The tester got my heart racing with a 2.7-liter, twin-turbo V-6 under the hood, making an advertised 325 horsepower and 380 foot-pounds of torque.

Think of a wiry, 5-foot-8 shortstop launching a 550-foot home run.  Not what you expect, right?

Yes, well, that did not stop me from putting this muscular Fusion through its paces, which amounted to blowing away virtually everything else on the road.  Much fun?  You bet.

And really, that’s the selling point for this particular Fusion.

Ford says of its turbo-boosted creation: “Power like this vanquishes on-ramp anxiety.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Oh, all-wheel-drive is standard on this V6 Sport, which translates to nimble handling even as it’s running up through the gears.

Fuel mileage is a not-so-good 17 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.

For all its aggressive characteristics, my ride was very civilized inside.  Downright luxurious in some ways.

Standard interior features included a 10-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support, aluminum sport pedals and leather appointments.  Interior comfort was excellent, as was the 360-degree view from the cockpit seat.

The V6 Sport also includes steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, which some might opt to use over the rotary gear shift dial.  Let’s face it, you get the peak sport sedan experience using the paddles versus turning a dial like you’re searching for a certain station on an old-school radio.

Ford explains that the rotary gear shift dial “dramatically improves interior ergonomics, allowing for better placement of cupholders, a longer armrest and easier access to storage bins.”

Who knew?

Ford did not go wild on the exterior look.  The Fusion V6 Sport looks like a Fusion.  You do get quad-tip dual exhausts and a spoiler, adding just the right sporty touches.

You also get some functional touches you might not expect in this segment.  That includes hill-start assist, a remote-start system and heated front seats.

For all this, the starting price is pretty reasonable at $33,475, plus $875 in destination/delivery charges.

Ford boasts that this fast-moving Fusion could tempt owners of German sport sedans to consider the more affordable blue oval version.

Well, that might be stretching things a bit.  But if you like high horsepower, four doors and saving $20,000 or so in the deal, this Fusion V6 Sport sedan should be on your test-drive list.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Sweet two-seater reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF two-seater in the latest, July 2017, edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News, published out of Folsom, California, by John Sweeney and Evonne Sotelo.

The “Hot Laps” reviews, along with my "Oil Drips" observations on anything with wheels, appear monthly in the publication.

To subscribe to the Cruisin’ News, visit www.cruisinnews.com, call (916) 933-0949 or send an e-mail request to cruisinnews@mac.com. Mailed requests for information should be sent to Cruisin’ News, P.O. Box 1096, Folsom, CA 95763-1096.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Nissan's Rogue gets everything "just right"

A menu of Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website  www.sacbee.com/news/business/article4005306.html

Sacramento, California – They ought to call the Nissan Rogue the Goldilocks vehicle.

Why’s that?  Because everything is “just right.”

Well, that’s what my passengers said in my week with the 2017 Nissan Rogue SL AWD sport-utility vehicle.

They praised the practical size of the Rogue.  And in the next breath, they talked about the generous cargo space when the rear seats were properly folded.

The 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, 170-horsepower engine was no screamer, but it moved the Rogue about with authority in virtually all conditions.

It has sporty styling that is instantly recognizable as SUV-worthy, with nicely cut angles here and there that offer up the promise of sporty maneuvers.

In sum, it’s an utterly functional sport-ute that starts in the $25,000 ballpark and moves up from there -- $35,475 on my super-loaded tester.

Fuel mileage, by the way, is quite good at 25 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.

When the Rogue made its debut in the 2008 model year, it was touted as a sweet match for young folks.  It even made appearances in TV shows, hammering home that theme.

Thing is, older motorists liked it as well, which is why the Rogue has been a pleasantly robust best-seller for the Nissan in the United States.

The mass appeal is easy to understand. The Rogue is generously equipped, and the option packages are equally attractive.

My tester’s comfort/convenience features lineup included a nine-speaker Bose sound system, an around-vehicle monitor, a moving object-detection system, leather seating surfaces (ditto the steering wheel and shift knob), a remote engine-start system, a motion-activated liftgate and a clever cargo system that included moveable components.  Oh, LED daytime running lights, heated exterior mirrors and those so-very-useful roof rails were part of the standard package.

My ride was dressed up options that included a power panoramic moonroof, 19-inch alloy wheels, intelligent cruise control and a pair of lane departure-warning systems.  Quite the road trip package, this one.

And it was a nimble dodger in crazy downtown traffic, where no lane change is ever accompanied by a turn signal.

The “just right” characteristics of the tested Rogue were so pleasant that, if I was footloose and fancy free and inclined to take a weeklong road trip on an hour’s notice, I’d likely put the Rogue at the top of my list as my vehicle of choice.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Primo Escalade lives up to super-lux reputation

A menu of Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website  www.sacbee.com/news/business/article4005306.html

Sacramento, California – Here’s the thing about driving a primo Cadillac Escalade sport-utility vehicle wearing dark-colored paint: You get out of it and people are surprised that you’re not wearing a bullet-resistant FBI vest or opening the rear door for the governor or some other high-ranking public official.

Yeah, stereotypes.  Gotta love ’em.

But frankly, the Escalade has earned those stripes in every way over the years.  It is the quintessential big brute luxury transporter, and if you have to travel in big style, this is your ride.

In my case, the 2017 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury tester wore a sticker with a bottom line of $94,130.  Yes, I’m serious.

That’s about a thousand bucks short of what I paid for my home when I moved to California in 1984.

To be fair, you get a lot.  Fuel mileage is not on that list, however, coming in at 15 miles per gallon in the city and 20 mpg on the highway (premium fuel is recommended, but not required).

Beyond that, the perks are nothing short of astounding.

There’s the 16-speaker Bose Surround-Sound audio system. There are 12-way power-adjustable seats. Heating and cooling are to be had in the front bucket leather seats. Seats can be folded via power (folding everything gives you a cavernous 121 cubic feet of cargo space). There’s a rear-seat entertainment system, of course.  Climate can be controlled in three zones.  The power tilt/sliding sunroof is easy to use; ditto the hands-free power liftgate.  Automatic park assist is there for nervous parallel parkers.

I could go on and on, but you’d be reading all night.  For the record, the list of safety and driving-enhancement features is just as long as the list of comfort/convenience highlights.

This is a big vehicle, riding on 22-inch wheels.  I had to make a plan to climb up into the driver’s seat.  Smaller folks might need your help vaulting into the passenger leather bucket seats.

From the cockpit, I felt like I was sitting in an elevated command center, yards higher than the surrounding traffic.

The tester was so big that I had to take care driving it.  I allowed plenty of space between my Escalade and the vehicle ahead of me in stop-and-go freeway commutes.  It’s not that the tester’s four-wheel disc brakes lacked grip – they were exceptional, actually – but you can feel every ounce of the Escalade’s nearly 6,000-pound curb weight when you’re on the move.

The 6.2-liter V-8 engine rated at 420 horsepower doesn’t have any trouble getting that weight going mind you.  It does that quite well, which is why you need to be careful.  The big vehicle can be going 70 miles per hour before you know it, and the smooth ride makes it feel like 50 mph.

So, there you have it: Luxury, performance and head-turning presence in a single package.  For those who can afford the ride, I salute you.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Infiniti's Q70 sedan has pop, and all the perks

A menu of Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website  www.sacbee.com/news/business/article4005306.html

Sacramento, California – I’ve always liked Infiniti’s lineup with its nice mix of generous standard features and peppy performance.

The recently tested 2017 Infiniti Q70L 5.6 sedan gave me no reason to re-evaluate my long-held perceptions.

Please understand that we’re talking about a pricey piece of hardware here – $64,850 to start and $69,055 on the tester.  Luxury sedan, check.

Performance?  Yup, also there in spades.

The tester was driven by a 5.6-liter V-8 pumping out a max 416 horsepower and 414 foot-pounds of torque.  Mashing the accelerator on the Q70L delivered a satisfying engine roar and a heart-racing run-up through the seven-speed automatic transmission.

The car’s a terrific road cruiser, but the enthusiastic power plant allows the driver to fulfill some road warrior fantasies without going off the reservation.  The tester also came equipped with a manual shift mode, by the way.

OK, fuel mileage suffers amid all that power, coming in at a tepid 16 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.

I’m assuming most Q70 buyers have the kind of coin to disregard gas costs, the better to enjoy the luxury/comfort/convenience features to be found on this ride.

The tester came with multiple LED lighting features, leather/climate-controlled/10-way power front seats, a heated steering wheel, Japanese Ash wood interior trim, power sliding/tinted glass moonroof, heated rear seats, a super-sophisticated navigation system, a Bose audio system with 10 speakers and enough safety/security features to qualify for recognition from the United Nations.

The tester had some subtle driving-assist features that drew my attention but did not come off as annoying – a pleasant plus in this era of overly sensitive driver-warning systems.

Handling was excellent, even on tight city streets.

Brakes were exceptional, part of a “Premium Select Edition” package that included sport brakes with four-piston front and two-piston rear calipers.

Those brakes came to my rescue in the Sacramento International Airport parking garage, where a careless driver suddenly darted across the bow of my Infiniti.  As it was happening, the words “unavoidable crash” flashed through my mind, but my ride stopped on a dime and avoided a costly crunch by maybe six inches.

There are times when you thank the car for bailing you out.  This was one of those times.

Overall, my Q70L 5.6 sedan was a solid B-plus or A-minus of a luxury sedan, a good grade in a field of crowded competitors from all over the world.