Thursday, December 7, 2017

This stylish Lexus coupe can get lost in a hurry

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

Sacramento, California I’ve said in previous reviews that I genuinely like the Lexus RC coupe, and the enhancements for 2017 make it an even more aggressive competitor against all those two-door bombs out there on the roadways.

The tested 2017 Lexus RC 350 with the F Sport package grabbed my attention right away with its race car-like profile and mini-Ferrari styling on the back end.  Dual chrome exhausts add to the visual appeal.  It looks fast standing still, and you can’t wait to get behind the wheel and open it up.

Believe me, you won’t be disappointed.

The 3.5-liter, 24-valve V-6 actually seems stronger than the advertised 306 horsepower.  That was especially true on the freeway when additional pressure on the accelerator at moderately high speed produced an additional blast to push my ride beyond the reach of surrounding cars.

For all that juice, fuel mileage is OK at 19 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the open road.

And the ride is remarkably smooth.  Interior cabin noise is moderate, even when the Lexus is at full song.  On corners taken at high speed, the tester was spot-on solid, with no hint of wiggle.  Kudos to Lexus engineers for maxing the body rigidity of this RC 350, but stopping just short of it being an annoying spine jolter.

The look and feel of the RC 350 are decidedly sporty, but the tester was so loaded up with luxury, convenience and technology features that I was reminded that Lexus is, above all else, a luxury brand.  My ride included wood interior trim, illuminated door sills, a moonroof and a premium, 17-speaker, 835-watt Mark Levinson audio system.

Of course, all this costs money: $58,323 on the bottom line.  Given the whole package, I didn’t really have much of a problem with that price.

What I did have problems with was the left-side, steering column-mounted turn signal system that doesn’t work like a conventional system, which translates to I could never quite tell when the turn signal was working or not … or whether it would ever shut off.  I’m old school when it comes to using turn signals, and I’ve never mastered this particular piece of hardware.  Half the time, I’m sure following drivers are convinced that I don’t know which way I’m going to turn.

Happily, safety features are numerous and state-of-the-art.  The brakes grab with instant authority.  The backup camera is crystal clear and easy to understand, and the location-specific tire pressure monitoring system is arguably the best in the business.

In a world where I had all the money in the universe – yeah, imagine that – would I opt for the RC 350 as my guilty pleasure coupe?  I have to confess that I would be very tempted by that proposition.  This is an exceptional coupe that gets high marks for looks, perks and performance.
 
 
 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Nissan's iconic 'Z' car reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the 2017 Nissan 370Z Roadster in the latest, December 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, November 30, 2017

C-Max Hybrid a small wonder in its segment

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 – Small wonder that the Ford C-Max Hybrid has been reviewed so positively by so many.

It’s a small wonder.

My 2017 C-Max Hybrid SE tester with five doors kept surprising me every day I had it.

OK, so it’s considered a small hybrid, and it fits that description when you walk up to it.  Yet loading it up with cargo proved to be a longer-than-usual task.  The back end took in a lot of stuff.  In-floor storage in the back was a pleasant bonus.

This being a hybrid, I thought I would need to mash the accelerator to help get the tester up to adequate speed over 20 seconds from a standing start.

Not so.  The 2-liter, Atkinson-cycle, four-cylinder engine combined with electric motor (188 horsepower equivalent) drove the C-Max off the line with surprising gusto.  And moving the speed curve up the ladder was an effortless thrill.  It was a serious blast from a small front-driver.

My ride was blowing past pretty much everything at light changes and freeway ramps.  And the match up with the continuously variable transmission was flawless.

Very impressive.

Add to the positive side a lengthy list of standard features that included a 10-way power driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control, LED signature lighting and turn signal indicators on the exterior mirrors.

The C-Max Hybrid also has a strong suite of state-of-the-art safety/security features.

In other words, the tester was not stripped and still came in at a most reasonable bottom line of $26,990, a fair number on a vehicle loaded with hybrid technology.

Of course, that technology drives past service stations with ease, with ratings of 42 miles per gallon in the city and 38 mpg on the highway.

Naturally, the C-Max Hybrid competes in a tough school against those Prius variations offered by Toyota.  Still, I thought the tested Ford stacks up well in that competition.

In fact, I was feeling guilty about not getting more C-Max seat time in days past.  Turns out I didn’t know what I was missing.

I won’t make that mistake again.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Room for improvement in major racing series

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 – With the waving of the checkered flag at Formula 1’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday, motor sports fans went into their annual, painful hibernation.

Two long months must pass before the Rolex 24 at Daytona gives us our next fix.

A look back at some of the major racing series is in order.  Hopefully, some of the things we saw in 2017 will prompt the respective racing bodies to make some changes where they’re needed.

In some cases, major surgery is needed. And by that, I mean…

FORMULA 1: The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was a microcosm of the entire season: a Mercedes parade at the front and absolutely no drama whatsoever.  I actually found myself wanting to get to the end of Sunday’s race to have it over with.

Even the drivers complained about the lack of passing opportunities.

OK, Formula 1 remains the world’s most cutting-edge form of motor sports.  But given that, shouldn’t it also be a little more exciting to watch?

Sure, hybrid power plants and budget-limiting measures are stylish, but they’re adding no drama to the globe-hopping series.

Admit it, wouldn’t you like to see just one heart-stopping finish for the victory at a single venue?  Not happening.  You get drama at the start, but things are pretty much written in titanium by the end of the first lap.

Hopefully, the recently minted F1 ownership will remake the playing field and convert the high-speed sport to something more than a single-file snooze-fest.

INDYCAR:  Yes, there is variety here.  A dozen or so drivers have a chance to win every time out.  As a bonus, a new car is coming to the tracks next year.

And yet, I sometimes wonder if the Indy folks get it.

The Indianapolis 500 remains the jewel of the series – and arguably, all of American racing – and it’s hard to imagine another race ombining the spectacle, speed and dramatic finishes that we’ve seen at Indianapolis over the past decade.

The 500 keeps me on the edge of my seat, with heart racing and palms sweating as the four-wheeled missiles duel inches apart for the big prize.

However, when that kind of racing is seen elsewhere, what do I hear?: driver complaints.  Too much “pack racing,” they say.  Wow, really?  So, high-speed racing among cars in tight formation is a bad thing?

Apparently.

Yes, I get the idea that crashes can occur in such situations, and the sanctioning lords want to keep as many drivers as possible healthy.  Good on them. But isn’t the high-speed edge what Indy Car racing has always been about?  The skill, courage and mind-blowing action are what separates it from the rest.  I’d hate to see that erode even more over time.

NASCAR: Praise to NASCAR for letting the young guns take charge of the Xfinity Series.  While the top-tier NASCAR drivers still race there, the rules limiting appearances and negating series points enabled the up-and-comers to battle it out. That’s the way it should be.

And if you don’t feel good about Martin Truex Jr. winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, well, you probably don’t have a pulse.  What a well-deserved championship with multiple emotional stories attached to it!

Still, I think the “playoff” system needs work.  Do you realize that we came within one late-race pass for position at Phoenix to avoid a “Final Four”-qualifying driver who has yet to win his first Monster series race (Chase Elliott)?

That’s a serious flaw that needs to be fixed.  And I still hate the fact that one bad-break race late in the season can eliminate a driver who has perhaps put up an otherwise extraordinary season.

That’s it.  Enjoy the holiday season, and brace yourself for a couple months without big-time racing.  The wait will be over before you know it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

VW Atlas has three rows of seats, and much more

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 – Get this: It’s a Volkswagen sport-utility vehicle, and it has THREE rows of seating.

It’s a 2018 Volkswagen Atlas – the V6 SE version with a special technology package in my case – and yes, it stacks up quite well in the segment of three-row transporters.

The exterior look is pretty standard, helped out by 18-inch alloy wheels wearing all-season tires.

Inside the tester, I found a wealth of comfort/convenience features, top-tier safety equipment and a blizzard of helpful technology.  Bottom line for all this was $38,015, actually a pretty attractive number in this age of the dime-a-dozen $40,000-and-up sport-ute.

At first, I felt a bit overwhelmed by all that was in the Atlas.  The surround-all air bags were there, but I also felt secure with the grippy disc brakes, backed up by an engine brake-assist system.

Heated front seats, plentiful seating/folding configurations for the second and third rows and three-zone climate control promised – and delivered – passenger comfort.  Getting folks in and out of the vehicle did not require an engineering degree or bending one’s spine into dangerous angles.

The touted technology package included adaptive cruise control, a lane-departure warning system, blind spot monitor, forward collision warning system and other state-of-the-art systems that seemingly make it impossible to dent the vehicle, even if you were trying to do just that.

On the move, my ride was responsive and agile with a 3.6-liter, narrow-angle V-6 (276 horsepower) doing the heavy lifting.  I expected the Atlas to struggle on uphill runs, but that did not happen.  It dug in well and held the line on slalom runs.

Fuel mileage is fair at 18 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.

Overall, this Atlas shaped up as the perfect road trip cruiser, the kind of vehicle you actually enjoy taking on a long road journey, and get out of the SUV not feeling exhausted at the end of the day.

Likewise, with three rows of seating at the ready (or not), it’s great for transporting youngsters, groceries or whatever else you have in your life.

This Atlas makes Volkswagen a player in the larger SUV segment.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Nissan's pickup is a Titan, without a doubt

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 driven a lot of full-size pickup trucks lately … certainly more than I typically do.  But a recent week in the 2017 Nissan Titan provided a breath of fresh air.

The Titan was extensively reworked for 2017, and my tester with the 5.6-liter “Endurance V8,” PRO-4X four-wheel drive and crew cab configuration showed off the best of what’s new.

For starters, the Titan looks like a workhorse, big shouldered and seemingly taller than an NBA center upon first glance.

Getting into the tester, I was floored by the blizzard of luxurious, helpful comfort/convenience/safety features: power outlets galore, clear-as-day rearview monitor, dual-zone climate control, hill-start assist, hill-descent control, a manual gear-select option (a seven-speed automatic transmission is standard) and a voice-recognition navigation/audio system.

The Crew Cab's interior felt larger than an in-home den.

On the fly, the Titan quickly taught me to be careful.  Why?  Because the 5.6-liter V-8 with 390 horsepower and nearly 400 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm got up to freeway speed so quickly and effortlessly that hitting 80 miles per hour was a quick journey.

My Titan glided up and down the freeways, easily mixing with sedans, coupes and horsepower-laden sport-utility vehicles.  And yet, the interior cabin remained relatively quiet even as serious power was being dished up.

Throw in a generous bed with rugged interior walls, an impressive four-wheel disc braking system and a towing capacity of 9,230 pounds (when properly equipped), little wonder that the 2017 Titan pulled down a room full of awards shortly after it was introduced.

Even with the “Endurance V8” engine, gas mileage comes in at a so-so 15 miles per gallon in the city and 20 mpg on the highway.

The starting price is around $45,000, but my tester was loaded up with extras that pushed the bottom line to $52,305.

No matter. It was a pleasure to put this Titan through its paces.  And yes, it stands up well against those American-made competitors that fill the airwaves with commercials throughout the holiday season.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Acura TLX sedan brings the heat and the luxury

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

Sacramento, California Sometimes, you can get blurry-eyed and lost in Acura’s lineup of “X” cars, but the recently tested 2018 Acura TLX 3.5L AWD A-Spec sedan doesn’t let that happen.

Its enthusiastic performance stays in your brain, and it’s a fun-filled blast when you’re dishing it out behind the wheel.

The is not the 573-horsepower NSX, but this TLX A-Spec added to the lineup for 2018 does just fine with its 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 matched with a nine-speed gearbox and a sport-tuned suspension.

My ride dispatched most everything else on the road, with my right foot planted only halfway to the floor, as pleasing a feeling as one can expect these days on the typically gridlocked freeways.  Acceleration in the low end is pretty good, and it gets better from there as the revs ramp up.

And instead of the $160,000 or so you need to walk in the door just to look at an NSX, the tested TLX A-Spec wore a bottom line of $45,750, and that included everything on the standard equipment sheet.

My tester had an arm’s length list of safety features (including a driver’s knee airbag and vehicle stability assist), and the interior luxo package included heated front seats, a driver-recognition memory system and a remarkably versatile touch-screen control center.

The tech package utilized a multi-view rear camera, real-time traffic/street conditions and rain-sensing wipers.  A special A-Spec package piled on with ventilated seats, singular styling touches, 19-inch alloy wheels and parking sensors.

Yes, luxury and performance made for an enjoyable week, and the TLX’s racy lines were easy on the eyes.  That “matte-black diamond pentagon grille” wrapped in chrome is a head-turner in parking lots.

For all its spirited oomph, the TLX ride was exceptionally quiet and smooth, a hallmark of Acura engineering.  And yes, the paddle shifters on the steering wheel were a joy to mess with.

Fuel mileage checked in at an OK 20 miles per gallon in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.

Luxurious perks and rubber-burning performance are nice, but I also was impressed with the simple usefulness of the vehicle.  Plentiful interior space, a generous trunk and rock-solid road manners are not to be taken for granted.

This TLX competes in a tough neighborhood that includes the BMW 3 Series and the likes of the Audi A4, but it compares well with both.  Testing the BMWs and Audi and passing on the TLX would be a mistake.

This new TLX offering raises Acura’s fleet a notch or two in my book.