Thursday, February 15, 2018

Enclave is another super-loaded GM sport-ute

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 – If there’s anything a recent week in the 2018 Buick Enclave Premium AWD taught me, it’s this: General Motors is serious about swinging for the fences in its sport-utility vehicles.

The three-row Enclave tester was loaded with luxury, comfort/convenience perks and state-of-the-art safety systems.  It felt big and drove big.

And if you want a sizable SUV in this market, you need to bring your most cash-laden wallet.  The starting price on the tested Enclave was a hefty $50,315.  Extras boosted the bottom line to $56,555.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. I just think today’s frugal SUV shopper has a lot to ponder.

The simple truth in my week in the Enclave is that it felt like something produced by Mercedes-Benz.  Yes, that level of luxury and quality.

The 3.6-liter V-6 with 310-horsepower glided down the freeway with silky-smooth precision and very little noise.  Seven folks in the interior cabin could gab away endlessly without straining their voices to be heard.  The nine-speed transmission functioned flawlessly.

Fuel mileage was a tepid 17 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway, which was not a surprise to me. An SUV buyer willing to pay $50,000 and up for a ride is likely more concerned about performance, not fuel prices.

The Enclave rides on the same frame as the recently reviewed Chevrolet Traverse.  Like its Chevy sister, the Enclave held the line with a comforting firmness.  And the Enclave’s exterior look is pleasingly sleek. The sharpened angle on the windshield adds to that look.

The tester's safety technology kept me between the lines and was ever on the lookout for cross traffic and reckless lane changers.

Interior space was generous for passengers and cargo.

So many standard goodies inside, including a heated steering wheel (with power tilt/telescoping to boot), a kickin’ Bose audio system and tri-zone climate control.  A power, hands-free liftgate on the back end also included the Buick logo projected onto the ground.  Cool.

GM is taking SUV art to the max, and for my money, if you’re going to purchase a top-end sport-ute that you plan to keep for at least 10 years, this Enclave is an excellent choice.  For me, the week in this luxury liner went by far too quickly.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Volkswagen Passat with a V-6 feels 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 – Here’s something you rarely get to say to your local purveyor of Volkswagen passenger cars: I’ll take the six.

That’s as in six cylinders in a V arrangement, standard on the recently tested 2018 Volkswagen Passat SEL Premium.

That gets you a midsize sedan with 280 horsepower under the hood.

Is it worth it?  Oh, yeah.

The tested Passat wore basic sedan skin but moved out like a shop-enhanced hot rod.  My ride rolled down the freeway entrance ramps with authority and tucked into tight spots with effortless ease.
 
Mashing the gas routinely powered me out of harm’s way, whether that was on packed commuter interstates or city streets clogged with unpredictable drivers.

That’s a secure feeling that few high-tech devices can match, in my view.

With that power being dished up by the 3.6-liter V-6, fuel mileage was so-so at 19 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

For the $35,500 starting price, this top-end Passat model was loaded with state-of-the-art safety, comfort and convenience features, all thoughtfully positioned around the driver’s cockpit. I noticed this after I took in the luxurious Vienna leather seating surfaces.

Interior space was surprisingly generous.  Ditto on the trunk space, which came in just a shaving kit short of 16 cubic feet.

All of that makes the Passat not only a delightful daily driver, but a best bet for family road trips, not something I expect from a midsize four-door model.

I realize that Volkswagen has taken its lumps in recent years, especially in the aftermath of the great emissions-cheat scandal that had earthquake impact in California.

But it’s not hard to see why VW sales have continued at a strong pace even after that.  The automaker continues to make customer-pleasing vehicles across all segments, pricing them below what you might expect to pay for competitive models offered by other manufacturers.

The tested Passat stacked up as a primary example of this international formula.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Super-sporty Lexus reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the high-performance 2018 Lexus LC 500 in the latest, February 2018, 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, February 1, 2018

Lexus GX 460 sport-ute pours on the luxury

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 – Last week’s review was about a sport-utility vehicle that surprised with all it had in it.  This week, I offer my take on the 2018 Lexus GX 460 Luxury, an SUV that you expect to have just about everything.

And it does.

It’s the automotive equivalent of ordering the filet mignon and two bottles of Dom PĂ©rignon at the priciest restaurant in town. You expect the best.

Where to begin with this Lexus luxury liner?  How about the bottom line of $75,072 on the tester? So, now that we know where we stand there, let’s move on to the fuel mileage of 15 miles per gallon in the city and 18 mpg on the highway.  Yes, you’ll be paying a lot for gas.

Now that we’ve established that money is no object, let’s move on to the vehicle’s charms.

It’s loaded with so much luxury, so many safety features and so many over-the-top comfort and convenience perks that you feel like you’re driving the presidential suite of a five-star hotel.

Heated mahogany wood steering wheel? Check. Blind spot monitor with radar cross-traffic alert? Check. Intuitive parking assist? Check.  And on and on and on …

On the roll, it’s a dream, with the 4.6-liter, 301-horsepower V-8 seemingly laboring in silence as it smoothly propels the SUV down the road.  Volunteer passengers sat open-mouthed in the three-row configuration, with one rider asking if the GX 460 was operating in hybrid mode, so quiet was the ride.

The big SUV was easy to handle, although you have to mind your manners in tight city traffic.

It’s not hard to picture yourself gliding into the valet drop-off area of a mega-luxury resort in this vehicle…and feeling right at home among the Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover and Cadillac equivalents parked there.

My tester had the “Sport Design Package” that added a few visual, comfort and technology extras, but frankly, the GX 460 looks like a conservatively styled sport-ute upon first glance.  Conservative in a million-dollar sort of way, that is.

While the GX 460 is beyond my personal household budget, I will confess to lapping up every ounce of luxury in my week with the vehicle.  If you have the funds to make it yours over the long-term, color me green with envy.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

More to like in the reworked Chevrolet Traverse

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 – One of the drawbacks of reviewing scores of new motor vehicles over a given time is that you can become jaded … Expectations are locked in, and that sets you up for the occasional jolting surprise.

Take the recently reviewed 2018 Chevrolet Traverse FWD Premier, a three-row crossover sport-utility vehicle.  I expected some typical SUV fare.

What I got was more … much more.

Reworked for the 2018 model year, the current Traverse is a feature-stuffed player that, in my view, reaches out to virtually every need an SUV buyer can name.

In short, the Traverse I tested was an impressive work wagon-daily driver-road trip dreamboat.

Styling is pretty classic SUV, and fuel mileage is fairly typical for this segment – 18 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.

Beyond that, things get pretty serious.

Safety and security features on the tested Premier – with a bottom line of $46,265 on the sticker – were what I’d expect from a $60,000 vehicle. Cameras all around, rear park assist, blind spot alert and surround vision were exceptional perks.

The interior features were likewise plentiful, including top-drawer leather surfaces, heated/ventilated seats, power tilt/telescoping steering column, multiple folding-seat configurations, a Bose sound system and a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Best of all, the 3.6-liter V-6 engine – matched to a nine-speed automatic transmission, by the way – was an able performer in city traffic, on busy freeways and on twisty country roads.  Performance actually felt stronger than the advertised 310 horsepower.

Freeway cruises were smooth and quiet.  Even with three rows of seating, the Traverse was agile in slalom maneuvers.

The thought ran through my head that this would be the perfect vehicle for a prolonged road-trip vacation.  You could carry family and plenty of cargo, and frankly, I couldn’t imagine getting tired in the cockpit as everything was that comfortable … plus lots of entertainment options to keep everyone interested.

Kudos to Chevy.  Their improvements ended up being just that.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Toyota's new crossover SUV a strong addition to lineup

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 – Calling a motor vehicle a “subcompact” can give a false impression … that maybe the car is so small that adults can’t fit into it.

The new-for-2018 Toyota C-HR is a subcompact crossover sport-utility vehicle, and I’m here to tell you that adults fit in it just fine. And beyond that, the C-HR is a comfortable, nice-handling piece of work that is delightfully useful for transporting humans or knocking off chores.

The recently tested 2018 Toyota C-HR XLE Premium was the latest in a series of small crossover SUVs I sampled last year, and while it’s a close call, I think it’s my favorite.

For starters, it’s nicely sculpted on the front end and in profile, offering up a pleasing look that goes way beyond SUV-basic.

The 18-inch alloy wheels look decidedly sharp.

Inside, the interior cabin is surprisingly spacious and versatile.  From the cockpit seat, controls are easy to reach and understand.  A generous list of standard safety features on the tester was impressive, including a lane-departure alert and radar-assisted cruise control.

Convenience features were likewise plentiful for this segment, with automatic high beams and a spot-on dual-zone climate-control system leading the way.

Fuel mileage was very good at 27 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.

I thought the 2-liter, four-cylinder power plant might struggle, but I was wrong.  The 144-horsepower engine was more than adequate across the range of driving conditions.  It was pretty robust off the line as well.

Passengers commented on how smooth the ride was on the freeways.

In essence, Toyota has given fans of small SUVs another option below the automaker’s RAV4, and it’s an entirely functional option, not a trade-down.  Even with a few extras, the bottom line on the tester was a reasonable $25,945.

The C-HR is an easy-to-like daily driver and would be equally useful as a second, chore-running vehicle in suburbia.  For those who want to send their kids off to college in something more than a compact sedan or coupe, the C-HR is worth a look.

And I know you’re dying to know: What does C-HR stand for?

Answer: Coupe-High Rider. Yes, I know.  It's confusing, but catchy.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Fast and flashy, Z Roadster lives up to the brand

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 December 2017 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California Some cars need only a single name to project an image … Mustang and Camaro, for example.

Other cars need only a single letter: Z.

I had not been behind the wheel of a Nissan roadster for too long a time, so I was grateful for the recent offer to put a 2017 Nissan 370Z Roadster through its paces.

Sliding into the driver’s seat, it was like I had never left.  The car radiated its familiar personality, all flash and very fast on the draw.  And very well equipped, I might add.

I first drove a Z up the California coast back in 1984, and I’ll never forget the thrill of its acceleration or the throaty exhaust note it presented when my right foot dropped down on the accelerator.  I was pretty much hooked right away.

The current-generation Z droptop with a 3.7-liter V-6 and 332 horsepower represents a serious evolution from that Z of years ago.  The tested Z moved with impressive authority that far exceeded the Zs of my memory.

Even more impressive, it was monorail-solid in high-speed maneuvers on a twisty Sierra Nevada roadway.  It felt glued to the driving line, yet so comfortable that I felt like I could have one-handed it through the corners.

With the top down, you draw lots of stares, approving looks and thumbs-up signs.  The 370Z Roadster’s classic, sleek lines are accentuated with the roof safely tucked away.  And yes, it feels great cutting through the air on the open road.

By the way, the 370Z Roadster’s fully automatic top slips out of sight in 20 seconds, a show that never gets old.

The four-wheel, vented disc brakes were exceptional and gave me a feeling of confidence even as I was pressing the car to challenge traction on a corner.

For the uninitiated, the Z’s finely tuned sport suspension is perfect for slalom runs, but you do feel road imperfections in your tailbone.

The tester’s interior included a nicely arranged package of perks, including a strong audio system and cupholders that actually do the job even when the 370Z is at full song.  Sometimes, the simple things are the most appreciated.

Fuel mileage was fair at 18 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.
 
Please note that you can move up to Z sportsters with more muscle, but for me, the V-6 with 332 horses provided plenty of rush for my taste.

One small gripe: My view out the back of the vehicle was somewhat limited, but that’s a minor complaint in this segment.

The starting price for the basic roadster is $41,820, and from there you can move up to the 370Z Roadster Touring Sport that starts at $49,400.  Please note that Nissan has made some modest upgrades in the 370Z lineup for the 2018 model year.

All in all, the tested 2017 Nissan 370Z Roadster provided a fun ride and a trip down Memory Lane that was a sporty blast.  The Z remains a classic and worth a look if you’re pondering the acquisition of a sporty model strictly as a guilty pleasure.