Thursday, August 3, 2017

No matter what you call it, Mazda's MX-5 still pleases

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

Sacramento, California When the Mazda MX-5 Miata two-seater made its debut on that cold morning at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show, the auto world was grabbed by the collar and temporarily rendered speechless.

Maybe that’s why it was hard to put a label on it from the beginning.  It was a two-seater.  It was a roadster. It was a Miata.  Later, Mazda said to just call it an MX-5.

What people did figure out right away was that it was brilliantly styled and capable of turning heads from a mile away.  Was it the ultimate fun car?  Given the reactions – Americans bought it like crazy and some collectors were so convinced of its enduring greatness that they bought new ones and immediately locked them up in garages for the long-term – it was a resounding success.

All these years later, Mazda is not taking any chances.  My recent tester featured a sticker that read “2017 Mazda MX-5 RF,” and just in case that wasn’t enough, the full-on name listed below that was the “2017 MX-5 Miata Grand Touring RF.”

Here’s the best news: The reworked-for-2017 version is still a winner.  Leave your practicality at the dealership door when you go shopping for this car.  This is the fun driver you’ve likely wanted all your life. Can a car be playful?  This one is.

What’s the RF stand for, you ask?  It stands for Retractable Fastback, and yes, that means you get the child-like joy of watching the hardtop roof electronically retreat into the trunk area at the push of a button.  You absolutely want to make sure the neighbors are watching when you do this; small pleasures like this don’t come along all the time in life.

The tester was a comparatively upscale version of the MX-5 two-seater (no, there’s absolutely no room for anything else, if you’re thinking that).  My ride had goodies that included a Bose audio system (nine speakers), rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated front seats, leather upholstery and auto on/off LED headlights.

That put the bottom line at $34,960, certainly pricier than Miatas past but worth the check today given all the appointments, in my view.

Even with all the perks, the tester remains equipped with the standard 2-liter, four-cylinder engine rated at 155 horsepower and 148 foot-pounds of torque.  For all the MX-5’s enduring popularity, Mazda has resisted the temptation of, say, stuffing a 350-horsepower V-6 under the hood.  Smart move.  The basic power plant provides more than enough oomph and enjoyment for the pleasure-seeking motorist.

Along that same line, Mazda has not messed with the classic MX-5 design.  The car is instantly recognizable as one containing the DNA of the two-seater that took America by storm long before anyone knew what texting was.

My tester handled twisty roads with a familiar, agile grace, and it charged up hills like a champ.  Safety features on the current generation are more numerous and far better than anything being built in 1989, so the feeling of security behind the wheel was comforting.  The 360-degree view from the driver’s seat is not great, but then again, the same can be said of the first MX-5 Miatas.

Fuel mileage remains a plus at an advertised 26 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.

I did have one gripe that had nothing to do with the MX-5 and everything to do with me.  My aging, 6-4 frame was challenged climbing out of the low-slung tester.  I discovered that the best way to exit the vehicle was to swivel my frame counterclockwise, plant both feet on the pavement and then use both legs to drive upward, as if I was vying for a rebound in some basketball game among oldsters.

Well, we all get older.  The same can be said of the MX-5, yet it still looks and acts young and exciting.
 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Chrysler 300S sedan reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the 2017 Chrysler 300S sedan in the latest, August 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, July 27, 2017

Complex Volvo S90 has straightforward performance

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 – Volvo has been sending me some exceedingly complex cars of late.  The technology-laden transporters sometimes make my head swim.

But there are more basic delights that give me instant clarity … like a 2-liter, four-cylinder engine with a supercharger AND a turbo churning out 316 horsepower in the most enthusiastic way.

All this is wrapped up in the 2017 Volvo S90 T6 Inscription sedan.  That’s a mouthful, but relax and know that it translates to a technology lab rolling along with a high-performance package.  Oh, it’s luxurious as well.

The audio system blasts out concert hall-quality sound to all interior corners.  The safety/security systems are state of the art (including a whiplash-protection system).  It has a cooled glovebox.  It has walnut wood inlays.  It has more leather surfaces than a big-box furniture store.  The car-control systems are so advanced that you could pilot it home with one finger on the steering wheel.  Connectivity devices were numerous, making the tester a veritable rolling command center.

Impressed?  I was.

However, the lane departure-warning/alert system was so sensitive that I opted to drive without it.  And the automatic engine on/off feature was not seamless, so again, I nixed it.

What I did like was the color navigation display centered behind the steering wheel.  No need to avert your eyes to the right, because it's all right there.

My tester looked nice as well, riding on those 19-inch alloy wheels.  The distinctive Volvo grille made it easy to spot in crowded parking lots.

But above all this, there was the performance.

The tested S90 dished up power in smooth, yet firm style.  Combined with a perfect-pitch steering feel, the sedan was a joy to drive in dicey freeway commutes.  It moved out of harm’s way cleanly, but quietly.  Good engineering shows, believe me.

So, you’re likely wondering about that turbo/supercharger combo under the hood, right?  Here’s the short answer for you:  The supercharger helps deliver low-end torque and response.  Below 3,500 revolutions per minute, the turbo and supercharger work in tandem.  Above 3,500 rpm, the turbo takes over the horsepower-delivery chores, and it does that quite well.

Even so, fuel mileage is pretty fair at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.

Be advised: This kind of transportation does not come cheap.  The tester started at a few bucks less than $53,000, and extras kicked up the bottom line to $66,105.

I can’t argue with that.  This is a primo luxo sedan. If you are fortunate enough to drive it off the dealer lot, be sure to spend as much time behind the wheel as you can.

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.