Thursday, July 14, 2016

Crosstrek could be the multitasker of your dreams

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 –  There are a lot of good reasons to buy a Subaru, and most of them can be found on the tested 2016 Crosstrek 2.0i Limited sport-utility vehicle.

You have your all-wheel drive, excellent off-roading capabilities, strong fuel mileage (26 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg on the highway) and dare I say that the exterior styling looks downright cute.

Yes, I said cute.

And the starting price is pretty reasonable at $25,095.  Mine was dressed up with extras (a multimedia/navigation system and power moonroof were part of the deal) that brought the bottom line to a still-reasonable $28,840 for this five-passenger model.

Over the years, Subaru has mastered the art of driving dynamics.  I thought it was my imagination for a long time, but seriously, you can FEEL the strength of Subaru’s engineering right away.

Road manners are solid and smooth.  Off-road manners can be downright aggressive, when needed.

Auto-reviewing colleagues have taken some shots at this Crosstrek, noting that its flat-4 engine configuration is lacking in power, at around 150 horsepower.

Well, OK, maybe if you’re racing that Corvette to the exit ramp you'll find reason to complain. Otherwise, I found this crossover SUV quite capable in most conditions, certainly capable enough to keep me happy.

Subarus aren’t necessarily known as luxury liners, but the tester was nicely equipped with goodies that included leather upholstery, an all-weather package with heated front seats and multiple connectivity perks.

Standard safety features are plentiful, including a helpful blind spot-detection system.  Also noteworthy: top safety ratings, including a max five-star overall vehicle score from the feds.

The five-door design is functional, and while the Crosstrek looks small at first glance from the outside, it is surprisingly roomy on the inside.

In sum, this Crosstrek can do a lot -- on the pavement or off it -- and not crush your bank account.  It might shape up as that multitasker you been hunting for, a versatile commuter/suburan/wilderness warrior available at a nice price.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

'Baby Bentley' satisfies with Hemi V-8 power

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 2016 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California In some circles, the Chrysler 300 is known as the “Baby Bentley.”

For starters, the grille of the big-shouldered 300 sedan resembles what you’ll find on some high-class Bentley models.  It’s in the recently tested 2016 Chrysler 300C Premium, however, that you get the full near-Bentley experience.

My ride, with a base price of $42,445 and plenty of extras pushing the bottom line on the sticker to $51,430, was dressed up with flashy perks that you don’t see even in name-brand luxury rides.  That includes the front-center console cupholders that will heat or cool your drink at the push of a button.  Yes, I’m serious.

And then there’s the 900-watt, premium Harman Kardon audio system with NINETEEN speakers.  The steering wheel is heated.  There’s a rotary shifter.

You get the idea.  Unique and luxo to the max.

But the true Bentley experience in the tester was the presence of a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine under the hood.   This hits the performance hot spot.

With the 363-horsepower Hemi, the 300C loses any trace of bulky sluggishness.  Accelerations are crisp and strong.  On-the-fly lane changes are executed without strain.  Uphill runs are swift, invigorating climbs.

The Hemi drove the 300C with so much authority that I sometimes asked myself, “Am I driving this big hunk of sedan too fast for my capabilities?”  Maybe.

Naturally, there’s a price to pay for the performance.  Fuel mileage comes in at only 16 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.  I admit without shame that I didn’t care.  I was having way too much fun aggressively putting the 300C through its paces to worry about gas mileage.

While the performance rush is satisfying, the 300C’s numerous comforts are smile-inducing.

The roomy interior cabin is functional and quiet.  There’s plenty to keep you busy, and it’s all within easy reach of the driver’s seat.  Nothing like deciding to heat up your coffee in the front driver cupholder while cruising down the highway.  This must be how the other half lives.

And you can feel secure in knowing that the driving enhancement/safety features in the 300C are state of the art.  My package of extras included automatic high-beam headlamp control, blind-spot detection, a collision-warning system, adaptive cruise control and brake-assist.

I should add that the four-wheel disc brakes were top-tier stoppers.

I’ve liked the Chrysler 300 for some time, throughout its multiple variations.  I seriously recommend it with the Hemi V-8.  The 300 is a fine, upper-level sedan as is.  With the Hemi V-8 thrown in, it’s a performance-loaded every day driver that satisfies the need for speed.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

New Buick convertible reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the all-new 2016 Buick Cascada convertible in the latest, July 2016, 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 30, 2016

Lexus RX hybrid is roomy, peppy and luxurious

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 good old RX. It’s the venerable Lexus sport-utility vehicle that has long received exceptional reviews in the “reasonable-luxury” SUV segment.

With extensive improvements for the 2016 model year, the Lexus RX 450h gains considerable ground, enough I would guess to tempt some buyers who would otherwise shop for an SUV in the $40,000 range.

The tested RX 450h started at $52,235 and was dressed up with significant extras that pushed the bottom line to $61,420.

Yes, that’s a serious investment.  Unless money is no object, I look at this hybrid SUV as a 10-year commitment, minimum.

The latest-generation RX has been freshly sculpted to deliver a sporty punch to the eyes.

The front end in particular has an angular, imposing grille opening that would look totally at home on the snout of a great white shark.

The roofline flows smoothly off a long, sharply raked windshield, and the whole package rides on 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels as standard.  For the record, 20-inch wheels can be had on the RX.

Artfully arranged LED lights on the front and rear round out the package.

This visual feast is backed up by a 3.5-liter, V-6 engine working with an electric Lexus Hybrid Drive system to produce more than 300 horsepower.  Matched to an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission, the tested RX showed its muscle on daily commutes and was surprisingly agile on city streets.  Runs in the Sierra Nevada foothills were a heart-pumping blast, given the tester’s precisely tuned suspension.

Inside, five passengers have plenty of room to spread out, with lots of open space remaining for their cargo. Total interior volume is 139.7 cubic feet.  With rear seats folded, cargo capacity is 55.9 cubic feet.
 
Towing capacity, with a proper hitch, is 3,500 pounds.

From the cockpit, the numerous perks are easily reached and operated.  Ten-way power, leather-trimmed front seats; a power tilt/telescoping steering column; power-folding, heated exterior mirrors; a moonroof; and aluminum roof rails were just a few of the standard offerings on the tested SUV.

The extensive list of opulent extras on the tested RX included power-folding, heated rear seats; a color heads-up display; a touch-free power rear door; and a massive, 12.3-inch multimedia display.

The hybrid system delivers 31 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway, pretty good numbers given the vehicle’s size and generally admirable pop.

Some reviewers have complained that the RX powertrain lacks quick response and adequate oomph.  I had no problems along those lines.

With the full understanding that this reworked RX is beyond many household budgets, I can say that the vehicle is nicely positioned between relatively loaded, entry-level crossover SUVs and the luxo SUV models that are the playground of the comparatively rich.

If you can afford to splurge a bit on a well-equipped SUV, this RX deserves a look.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Improved Maxima still has pop, generous 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 – Another week, another Nissan.  But we step up in class this week to one of my long-standing favorites.

It seems that the Nissan Maxima gets way too little love among auto-reviewing colleagues, but I’ve liked it for years.  For me, it has the right mix of style, performance, comfort and convenience.

It’s the sedan you don’t hear coming.  But it has enough juice to blow past you in an eye-wink.

Changes for the 2016 model year are numerous, and only bolstered my good feelings about the Maxima.

My tester was the lofty 2016 Nissan Maxima Platinum edition, which translates to about $40,000 on the bottom line.  Happily, this buys a bunch of goodies.

Sporty styling tweaks on the exterior give the 2016 Maxima a look that’s darn near weekend racer.  Sweetly sculpted from grille to back bumper, the sedan makes you do a double-take when you first see it in profile.

The 18-inch, machined-aluminum alloy wheels added to the racy look.

Visually, the Maxima makes a promise of serious performance.  And it delivers with a finely tuned 3.5-liter V-6 rated at a max 300 horsepower.

As previous Maximas have done, the latest generation lays down heart-pumping acceleration in smooth, but not overly loud, layers.  On the freeways, even small blips on the accelerator produced comfortable space between myself and following cars.

You can almost read the mind of the driver quickly disappearing in the rearview mirror: “What the heck was that?”

This has long been true of the Maxima.  The engineers have always done it right.  I love it.  Fuel mileage is pretty OK as well, at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.

For all its robust road energy, interior comforts are numerous, luxurious and fun to use.  The dual panel panoramic moonroof, rear window power sunshade and voice-recognition system for navigation and audio were my favorites, although I think I started to drive passengers crazy with my relentless use of these features.

Nobody appreciates this kind of in-car entertainment anymore.  Go figure.

Oh, there’s a "Drive Mode Selector," with a choice of Normal or Sport.  Maxima pilots can hit the switch to tweak throttle response, transmission programming and shift adjustments.

Without shame, I confess that I had the tester in Sport mode during my entire week with the car.  When you spend time with an old friend, you want to make the most of it, right?

On my report card, the latest Maxima gets a solid “A” grade.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Nissan Sentra: Compact sedan, sizable driver appeal

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 – Can I get some basic transportation over here?

There are a lot of places where you can ask that ... getting what you want and then some.

Yet in the United States, a Nissan lot might not be the first place that jumps to mind.

Maybe it's time to change your thinking. An extensively reworked Nissan Sentra has arrived for the 2016 model year.

What does it offer?  A lot for a compact sedan.

My liberally loaded tester, a 2016 Nisan Sentra 1.8 SL with a continuously variable transmission, had standard perks that included leather-appointed seats, heated front seats, a rear-view monitor, smart headlights and a Siri Eyes Free voice-recognition system.

Options on my ride included intelligent cruise control, a power sliding glass moonroof and a kickin’ Bose premium audio system.

Even with all that, the bottom line was an affordable $25,545.

Nissan’s Maxima and Altima received styling upgrades, and happily, so did the Sentra.  The latest Sentra looks decidedly sporty with a new front fascia, grille, fenders, hood and boomerang-shaped headlights.

All that sporty flash likely makes the Sentra look like its moving very fast on the fly.  If you like the illusion, don’t tell friends that the Sentra is powered by a relatively humble 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine making a max 130 horsepower.

Do tell them that you’re getting 29 miles per gallon in the city and 38 mpg on the highway.

Frankly, I found the four banger to be more than adequate for what I was asking from the tested Sentra.  Steering was one-hand easy, and the continuously variable transmission performed seamlessly.

A surprisingly roomy interior cabin was a treat for driver and passengers.  Frankly, I felt spoiled by my surroundings, not a common occurrence in a compact sedan.

The reworked Sentra also offers a full menu of in-vehicle connectivity features, a smart shout-out to a new generation of motorists.

Another bonus: Admirable federal safety ratings in this segment.

The Sentra has its work cut out for it in a segment dominated by Toyota, Honda, Ford and others.  But if you’re working up a list of quality compacts for your college-bound child, your ever-on-the-go spouse or your soon-to-retire self, write down the 2016 Nissan Sentra and underline it in red.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Redesigned Camaro still rocks the roadways

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 May 2016 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California The Chevrolet Camaro enters its sixth generation with a 2016 model year redesign, and let me answer your first question: Yes, it’s still cool.

In the affordable high-horsepower department, loyalties typically are divided between Mustang fans and Camaro fans.  That would figure given the decades-long history of the two makes.

What is kind of hard to believe is that the Camaro disappeared for a few years after the dawn of the current millennium.  Thankfully, sanity returned in 2010 with a much-anticipated, fifth-generation Camaro.  For Gen Six and 2016, there’s much to like.

My tester was the comparatively modest 2016 Chevy Camaro LT coupe, with a turbocharged, four-cylinder engine rated at 275 horsepower.   And the starting price was well less than $30,000, darn near a steal in the head-turning sports car class.

Even though my ride was not a thunder-producing V-8 blazer with more than 450 horsepower, I was more than pleased with the tester’s enthusiastic performance and fabulous engine growl making its ever-loving way into the cockpit.

Camaro engineers shaved significant weight – reportedly 200 pounds ­­– off the previous-generation Camaro, and Gen Six has a more-rigid structure.  For me, this translated into the Camaro handling slalom runs and high-speed lane changes with effortless ease, without me having to yank hard on the steering wheel.

Chevy promised a more agile, nimble Camaro this time around.  Promise kept.

And here’s how you know that the car is still cool: when passing motorists give you a thumbs-up, or Camaro groupies salivate all over your car when it’s parked in the supermarket lot.

Yes, seriously, these were common occurrences in my short week with the rear-driving Camaro coupe.

Which is to say that it looks good.  No mistaking the current-generation Camaro for another model, and that’s saying something in the current age of look-alike automotive hardware.  The Camaro has the double-tier, wide, get-outta-da-way front grille, which gives way to a hood line and raked windshield that look long enough to dock a hot-air balloon.  The back end has a decidedly sporty chop that is entirely appropriate for this Camaro.

Interior comforts are far advanced from the early Camaros I knew as a youth.  The tester was downright opulent, with plentiful comfort/convenience features to keep me satisfied.  A lot of chrome and flash inside the vehicle, lending a fighter-jet feel from the driver’s seat.

Flat-bottom steering wheel.  Loved it.

Fuel mileage was pretty lovable as well in this segment, coming in at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.

Overall, the Camaro upgrades give it plenty to keep up with rival Mustang in the bragging rights game.  Best part: The Camaro still rocks the road.