Monday, May 21, 2018

Carpenter the best bet in wide open Indy 500

  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

The Indianapolis 500 will be run for the 102nd time on May 27.  Mark Glover will be attending his 56th 500.

What to make of the utterly wide open Indianapolis 500 that will be run this Sunday?

Besides the usual variables that go with a long, open-wheel auto race -- mechanical failures, unfortunate caution periods, crashes, pit stop mistakes, mental errors and bad luck -- you have a new aero package that promises to make the bullet-like cars twitchy in the turns.  And the new chassis configuration apparently will make passing much more difficult than what we've seen in recent years.

What we do know right now is that Chevrolet power plants have the power advantage over the Hondas, and the four Team Penske cars seem to have things locked in to the point that it wouldn't be surprising if those machines took the top four spots on race day.

But back in 2012, Chevy had a similar pre-race advantage over Honda.  By race day, however, Honda had turned the tables and was getting good gas mileage to boot. Dario Franchitti won the race in a Honda-powered car that year.

And this is Indy, where anything can happen.  Even a moderately knowledgeable student of Indy history knows that.  You can win from the middle of the pack.  You can start near the back of the pack and be in the top five before the race is even 25 percent completed.

Can Danica Patrick win after a years-long absence from IndyCar?  Absolutely, and she has a very fast car for the 500-mile grind.

Watch for Tony Kanaan, the 2013 winner, starting from the No. 10 spot.  He knows how to drive this race, and no one is better when it's go time in the late stages.

You can make the same case for three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, and he's driving for the powerhouse Penske team.  I have a soft spot for Helio as I'd love to see him get a record-tying fourth Indianapolis 500 win.

But frankly, any one of his Penske teammates could pull it off -- Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden.  If I had to pick a favorite among the four Penske pilots, I'd take Newgarden.  He's smart, fast and seemingly fearless when it's time to make the final push to the checkered flag.

So, Newgarden is the best among the top-flight Penske team.  He should win it, right?  Logic says yes.

But I believe that pole-sitter Ed Carpenter will win on Sunday.

Carpenter is outstanding on high-speed ovals, and he obviously has the car to carry the day.  Even before the "fast 9" drivers made their runs for the pole position yesterday, I picked Carpenter to take it, because his skill on the blazing fast Indy oval is unmatched.

Indy has been a cruel sister in Carpenter's past, dishing out heartbreaking crashes and setbacks when the driver had the car to take racing's biggest prize.  And what a popular win it would be if Carpenter takes it on Sunday, with him being a hometown favorite adored by the hardcore Indy fans.

If Carpenter stays clean and is in the mix late, he will win it.  If not, put your money on Newgarden.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

One surprising sport-ute: BMW's all-new X2

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 – BMW gives us something to think about with its all-new-for-2018 X2 sport-utility vehicle.

It presents possibilities for folks who might have figured that a BMW SUV is priced well beyond the limitations of their household budgets.

Not so with this X2, which comes nicely equipped for a starting price of less than $40,000. And yes, that includes BMW's admirable technology, engineering and fit-and-finish excellence.

Tempting?  I should say so.


The tested 2018 BMW X2 xDrive28i is reasonably sized and sweetly sculpted with smooth lines across the top.  It looks good head-on and in profile riding on 19-inch wheels.
The ride is decidedly coupe-like, with the BMW capable of making quick, agile cuts at high speed ... with little or no sway.  My guess is that most buyers will feel like they're piloting a midsize sedan.

And in this case, it's a peppy ride.  The turbocharged, 2-liter, four-cylinder engine is pleasingly responsive, with 228 horesepower and 258 foot-pounds of torque.  It makes the zero-to-60 miles per hour trip in 6.3 seconds.

The transmission is an eight-speed automatic and sport and manual-shift modes aiding the all-wheel-drive system. Four-wheel, anti-lock disc brakes are reassuringly grippy.

Fuel mileage ratings are a pretty fair 21 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.

The tester was packed with luxury and technology features one expects from BMW.  Given all it had, I would have estimated the price at $60,000.  That would have been a big swing and a miss -- the true value of the vehicle on the sticker's bottom line was $50,920.

That long list of perks included heated front seats, a head-up display, a panoramic moonroof, LED headlights/fog lights, run-flat tires, a power tailgate, ambient lighting and parking-distance control.

Bottom line: The X2 exceeded my expectations on virtually all levels.

Been thinking about getting a Land Rover, Infiniti or Lexus SUV?  You might want to think about an X2 as well.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Compact GMC sport-ute has large 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 – GMC calls the 2018 Terrain Denali its "premium compact SUV," but boy, you wouldn't know if by looking at it.

My tester, the all-wheel-drive version, just looked big and imposing, probably helped along by a wide, expansive, aggressive-looking grille that radiated bigness.

Ah, but driving it, things felt just right -- no big vehicle sway.  The Terrain Denali was quiet and smooth on the freeways, and it was surprisingly agile in gridlocked downtown traffic.

Power comes from a remarkably responsive and efficient 2-liter turbo-4 rated at 252 horsepower.  That power plant scooted the SUV along briskly when asked, and long hill climbs really presented no challenge to the engine whatsoever.  Impressive.

Fuel mileage comes in at 21 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway, pretty fair numbers for an SUV in this segment.

The nine-speed automatic transmission functioned seamlessly.

GMC touts the 2018 redesign, and for good reason.

Upgrades to the doors, the interior seating and the instrument panel create a comfortable, attractive atmosphere.  An expanded center console with pass-through storage underneath is a nice touch.  Flat-folding seats are a snap to use, and when all are folded, a generous 81 cubic feet of cargo space is created.  That will carry a few groceries.

A solid lineup of safety features is part of the package.  Technology helps you pass, park and avoid car contact at all angles. 

I'm often asked why anyone would want to spend around $40,000 on a sport-utility vehicle, and it's a fair question.

Yet driving in this improved-for-2018 product, I'm convinced that it has enough in it to more than justify the check you write.  That's particularly true on the safety front as GMC has pretty much loaded the whole technology store into this vehicle.

You can't put a price on safety.  And in this vehicle, safety is first.

All in all, I'd give this GMC sport-ute a solid "A" grade.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Volkswagen Golf GTI is Autobahn-worthy

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 April 2018 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California If you’re going to have “Autobahn” – the world-famous high-speed highway in Germany – in your car’s model name, it better have some pop.

Fortunately, a recent week in the 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI Autobahn five-passenger hatch was a satisfying experience, with a 2-liter, turbocharged 4 dishing up 220 horsepower and making the machine scoot around with impressive velocity.

The max 258 foot-pounds of torque comes in early at 1,500 rpm, so trips off the line get the heart going … if you’re into that sort of thing, which I am.

Sure, it helped that the GTI’s skin was “Deep Black Pearl Metallic” but there’s also something very satisfying about nailing the accelerator on a little four-door model and blowing away an annoying lane-drifter on the freeway.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, well, perhaps you should go looking for another cup of tea.

Beyond the GTI’s enjoyable “oomph,” the tester was decidedly civilized.

Volkswagen has bragged about its revamping of the Golf GTI lineup and how each 2018 model, the Autobahn version included, has its own unique appearance and style.  On that score, VW did quite well.

The Autobahn does indeed have distinctive touches to set it off from the others.  And inside, you get a feast of quality comfort and convenience features.

Colorful ambient lighting, illuminated door sills and backlit switches make for a fun experience driving at night.  I also enjoyed the sporty, flat-bottomed steering wheel, the heated seating surfaces and the standard navigation system on the Autobahn.

An impressive lineup of safety and driving-enhancement features added a feeling of security.

I was not a fan of the adaptive cruise control system, but that’s not a knock on the tester.  I pretty much despise all such systems, because they tend to overreact in busy traffic, slow down way too much in advance of anticipated trouble and are too slow on the draw to resume normal cruising speed when potential trouble has long passed.

I guess I’m just too impatient a driver to deal with current adaptive cruise systems.  Even so, they seem to keep evolving, and I’m sure they eventually will come up with a system that can even please me.

Fuel mileage on the tested model was pretty fair, given the pop generated by the turbo-4: 24 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.  The starting price on the Autobahn is a somewhat hefty $36,170.

You might be thinking that this GTI is a peppy weekend toy.  I disagree.  It shapes up as a wonderful daily driver, complete with a surprisingly spacious cargo area of nearly 53 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.  And as a bonus, the trunk floor can be raised or lowered.

Performance, versatility and nicely equipped.  I’d say my tester would feel at home on the Autobahn, or pretty much any other road you can name.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Outlander prompts sticker shock, in a good way

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 sport-utility vehicle.  And you might be asking yourself: Why would I want a 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander?

A good, long look at the window sticker should answer your question.

I was stunned at the myriad standard perks on the tested 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander 2.4 SEL S-AWC. They went on forever.  They were listed in small type because, best as I could tell, they would have needed a SECOND sticker to get them all in there in standard-size type.

Let’s see, there were heated, power side exterior mirrors; halogen headlights; a windshield wiper de-icer (the wipers are rain-sensing); heated front seats; leather appointments; a 7-inch touchscreen with smartphone link capability; steering wheel voice controls and on and on.

Throw in the exceptional safety equipment and a $3,000 SEL Touring Package of extras (that included adaptive cruise control, a heated steering wheel and a lane departure warning system), and the bottom line on the tester still came to only $32,260.

And did I mention the max federal government overall safety rating of five stars?

How about the admirable gas mileage of 24 miles per gallon in the city and 29 mpg on the highway?

Yes, this is a loaded up three-row, seven-seater with a genuine bargain of a price.

With a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine rated at 166 horsepower, it was not a flaming hot rod, but my Outlander responded well, cruised smoothly on freeways and handled downtown gridlock with plentiful agility.  It’s equipped with a continuously variable transmission.

I also found that I could load it up with lots of cargo, such were the spaces and angles available to me when the seats were folded.

Mitsubishi Motors touts the Outlander as its top-selling model, and given all that comes in the package, that’s certainly no mystery.

I walked up to the Outlander not expecting much that was special and came away a week later with the conviction that anyone considering a seven-passenger SUV would be a fool not to have the Outlander on their priority list.

It’s a great compromise between discount, moderately-equipped crossovers and lavishly priced sport-utes.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

There's plenty to like in the Mazda CX-5 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 – It can’t carry as much cargo as some other sport-utility vehicles.  It’s not exactly laden with high horsepower.  And it tends to make a fair amount of noise when you do ask it for maximum performance.

And yet, I found myself liking the tested 2018 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD SUV on a recent trip over to California’s Napa/Sonoma Wine Country.

I liked the flashy “Soul Red Crystal Metallic" paint job.

I liked the reasonable starting price of $30,945, boosted on my ride by almost $4,000 with some premium options.

I liked the five-seater’s generous helping of standard features, including leather upholstery, a power moonroof and LED lights all around.

I liked the strong lineup of safety features that helped make this CX-5 a “Top Safety Pick” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

I liked its handling characteristics and the way it easily maneuvered through tight parking lots.

And I liked the fuel mileage ratings of 24 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.

In fact, giving it further thought, the tested CX-5 carried an ample amount of suitcases and wine … more than I could consume over a long stretch.

And the 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine with 187 horsepower handled pretty much everything I could throw at it, and it cruised easily and quietly on the freeways.

In short, the CX-5 has just about everything the practical SUV buyer would want for family outings, daily commutes and extended road trips … all without dropping 50-grand or spending the family fortune at the gas pumps.

One gripe I had with the tester was the overly sensitive blind spot monitor, which sometimes sounded when I was a good 50 feet beyond a trailing car traveling 20 mph slower than myself.

That being said, this CX-5 stacks up as a worthy competitor to big sellers such as the Honda CR-V, the Subaru Forester and the Toyota RAV4.  I suppose it’s all a matter of personal taste, and if you’re a big fan of Mazda’s motor vehicles. I'm not surprised that the CX-5 is Mazda's best-selling vehicle in the United States.

My ride contributed to an enjoyable week in the Wine Country.  I offer a toast and a sincerely meant CHEERS!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Fiat 124 Spider Lusso two-seater is a small wonder

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 March 2018 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California In this era of look-alike car models, it’s pretty rare to draw a crowd around your vehicle the instant you park it, with assembling spectators breathlessly asking: “What is that?!”

It’s a 2018 Fiat 124 Spider Lusso (photo by CHARLES GLOVER), thank you very much, and I won’t pretend to tell you that I did not relish the attention the test vehicle was getting.  Of course, I eventually realized that 100 percent of the star power was in the car, not me.  But hey, you take what you can get at my age.

Anyway, the two-seat, rear-drive Spider is the definition of cute and sporty.  It’s an adult’s plaything starting at $27,495.  Mine was liberally dressed up with extras – including heated exterior mirrors, a primo navigation system and headlamp washers – that brought the bottom line to $33,725.  As adult toys go, that’s still not too bad.

For older adults, be forewarned that this Spider rides VERY low to the ground.  I pretty much had to fall down into it.  There was just enough room to swallow up my 6-4 frame and allow me to drive the car… just enough.

Getting out of the vehicle was my biggest challenge.  I had to employ the “swing two feet to the pavement, jump out of the car strategy” to get it done.

Not that I looked forward to getting out of the Spider.  For such a small vehicle, it was loaded with a surprising number of comfort/convenience perks.  The soft top was a hook/manual configuration, but it fell back into place and out of harm’s way with very little effort.

The best part was the ride.  No surprise there.

The Spider has a 1.4-liter, four-cylinder, multi-air turbo power plant under the hood dishing up 184 horsepower.  Given the light weight of the vehicle, that number of horses propels the Spider forward in a serious hurry.  It’s a noisy, aggressive rush.  A classic Euro sports car thrill.  I couldn’t get enough of it.

For those who get nervous in dicey freeway traffic, the Spider might take some getting used to.  You are riding very low to the ground amid 18-wheel trucks and assorted monster-size sport-utility vehicles, and some might feel intimidated.

And with the soft roof, exterior noise from those loud, neighboring vehicles does register in the cockpit.

I was not intimidated, simply because the Spider’s high-performance capabilities made it so easy to get out of harm’s way in a split second.  A quick blip on the accelerator, and I found myself gliding along in clean, open air in a heartbeat.  Plus there was the added bonus of the tester’s top-flight agility.  It could carve out spaces between cars easily, with rock-solid stability and perfect balance.  Very nice.

And the four-wheel anti-lock brakes functioned quite well to boot.

All in all, this Fiat is an ideal ride for those who enjoy the old-school pleasures of driving.  With two seats and enough trunk space for perhaps one suitcase, obviously, it’s not every motorist’s cup of tea.

But if fun is your primary goal, this Spider is worth collecting.