Thursday, March 15, 2018

Ram with a Hemi makes for a fun power trip

A menu of Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website

Sacramento, California – I was confused just reading the window sticker.

It said I was getting into a 2018 Ram 1500 Limited Crew Cab 4X4 pickup truck.  In other spot, it said the vehicle was a 2018 Ram 1500 Longhorn Crew Cab 4X4. Oh, and I got the “Limited Tungsten Edition” suite of goodies as well.  Tungsten all around, I tell you.

Bottom line, no matter what you call this truck: It certainly is big. A visual beast for the eyes.

It looked capable of toting a Longhorn cattle herd in the back bed, so I cheerfully vaulted myself up into the cockpit seat and fired it up.

I noticed that I was surrounded by a ridiculous number of extra perks: heated steering wheel, heated second-row seats, power sunroof, leather everywhere and so on.

That explains the $63,525 bottom line on the sticker, I thought.  A real Cowboy Cadillac, this Ram.

I was still taking it all in when I hit the gas on the uphill entrance ramp for the freeway.  My Ram pickup took off like scalded cat, roaring up the ramp and easily slipping into an open space at an effortless 70 miles per hour.

OK, that was worth the price of admission.

The tester was outfitted with a top-of-the-line 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 producing about 400 horsepower and a like number of foot-pounds of torque.  So powerful was the tester that I constantly felt like I was motoring way over the speed limit.

It turns out that I was doing just that.

Yes, it was a rush ... That much truck moving that quickly through traffic with seemingly little pressure on the accelerator.

Can you get hooked on that?  Yes, you can.

There is a price to pay on the fuel side.  The tester’s fuel economy ratings were a dreadful 15 miles per gallon in the city and 21 mpg on the highway.

I didn’t care.  I had a super-fun week putting the big brute through its paces, comforted a bit by the strong federal government safety ratings for the 2018 Ram pickup.

To be sure, Ram has rolled out a new and improved 2019 version of the Ram 1500 just barely in 2018.  It will have a basic Ram 1500 starting price of less than $32,000.

Does it have the HEMI engine option?  Yes it does.

I’m excited already.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Is it a Corvette? A Ferrari? Yikes, it's a Lexus

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

This review first appeared in the February 2018 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California As I walked into the parking lot, I thought to myself: “Wow, I wasn’t expecting a Corvette” And then when I was closer to the delivered vehicle, that changed to: “Is that a Ferrari?!”

Standing next to it, the truth hit home.  It was a Lexus, an all-new 2018 Lexus LC 500, one of the automaker’s all-new new flagship performance, rear-driving coupes.

Sleek, sculpted, angled in just the right places and clad in brighter-than-bright “Infrared” paint, the LC 500 absolutely could have passed for a Corvette or a Ferrari at first glance.  And there were other similarities.

Stepping into the cockpit transported me to a world of luxury and primo sports car bliss.

I sat in a 10-way power, heated/ventilated, leather seat that instantly contoured to my frame.  Electroluminescent gauges and read-outs cast a warm glow throughout the cabin.  The audio system was a Mark Levinson surround-sound scorcher with 13 speakers. Three-point belts for all seats (with force-limiting pretensioners, of course).  Can’t forget the on-board Siri Eyes Free technology, or the easy-to-use heads-up display.

The long list of safety features included state-of-the-art systems capable of controlling multiple car functions on the move.  Getting into trouble in this ride would be a challenge; that’s how sophisticated the safety systems are in the LC 500.

But who am I kidding?  The best part was starting it up and putting the LC 500 through its paces.  What a rush!

I barely tapped the accelerator feeding fuel to the 5-liter, 32-valve V-8 with 471 horsepower, and the LC 500 responded with a press-me-to-the-seat blast that was accentuated by a deep roar from the front end.  It was almost scary knowing how much I had left to give with my right foot.  Triple-digit speeds are just a subtle toe tap away.

Power was dished up so smoothly, however, that I never had a sense that I was overmatched by the car.  It rode rock-steady, with not even a hint of side sway.

The 10-speed transmission functioned with seamless precision, and yes, you can do those gear-changing chores with the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Ridiculously strong, responsive brakes with high-friction pads brought the tester to heel with seemingly no effort whatsoever.

As I blazed past virtually everything on the road on 21-inch forged wheels, I could see the open-mouthed stares of fellow motorists.  Some sped up, to my bumper … perhaps to confirm that this really was a Lexus and not some super-exotic model hand-built in an immaculate European garage.

Sure, there were looks of envy.  If only they knew; the LC 500 was mine for only a week.

Those wishing to make it theirs for the long term need to bring sufficient funds to wrap around the starting price of $92,000.  With extras, the bottom line on my tester was a heart-stopping $102,890.

Which I had no problem with … Lexus should have a show-stopping model at the top of its food chain.

In the LC 500 coupe, it has a beauty.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Fiat Spider reviewed in the latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the high-performance 2018 Fiat 124 Spider Lusso two-seater in the latest, March 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, call (916) 933-0949 or send an e-mail request to Mailed requests for information should be sent to Cruisin’ News, P.O. Box 1096, Folsom, CA 95763-1096.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

VW's Alltrack wagon offers much to many

A menu of Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website

Sacramento, California – Drive enough big sport-utility vehicles and you start to long for something a bit more manageable, yet something that also offers utility and convenience.

The 2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack S for example.

Ah yes, that’s the ticket.  Good ride height. Modern wagon looks (love the LED lights front and rear). A responsive 1.8-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine putting out a max 170 horsepower but consuming fuel at a relatively positive rate of 22 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.

Sure, it’s considered a “small station wagon,” but you wouldn’t know that from its excellent roadway manners and its generous cargo volume of 66.5 cubic feet with the rear seat folded.

All-around vision from the cockpit is excellent.

The starting price is a remarkably reasonable $27,055, and the all-wheel-driven Alltrack is nicely equipped for that number.  The Alltrack’s hill-descent control and off-road mode make it a genuine off-the-pavement warrior.  It really can negotiate the dirt, streams and mud.

Yet the plentiful comfort/convenience perks also make it an ideal daily commuter/driver.

The six-year/70,000-mile bumper-to-bumper limited warranty is a nice addition as well.

Looking for something beyond the norm?  How about automatic headlights with rain sensors?  Yeah, pretty cool.

And there’s this: The Alltrack’s “4Motion” permanent AWD system utilizes technology that activates before wheelspin occurs. When operating with a low load or when coasting, the front wheels do the driving while the rear wheels take a break, a fuel-saving measure as a bonus.

The rear wheels can immediately re-engage when needed via the center differential, which VW said is activated by an electro-hydraulic oil pump.  Engineering overload?  I’d say so, but undoubtedly cool.

Overall, the Alltrack is a vehicle that appeals to a super-wide range of consumers, and it competes straight-up with the Subaru equivalents.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

A5 Sportback is an Audi worth remembering

A menu of Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website

Sacramento, California – Is it possible to have too many As?

If you’re talking report cards, no. If you’re talking about the number of A-leading, alphanumeric designations in Audi’s passenger car lineup, well …

If you’re keeping count, there are six of them, which I believe makes it difficult for the general public to sort them out.  Try this test on your friends: “Quick, name Audi’s signature passenger car.”

If you’re greeted with a prolonged, “uhhhh,” then the point is made.  The good news is that, in my view, the extensively reworked-for-2018 A5 just might be the one that stands out in the crowd.

My tester was the 2018 Audi A5 Sportback 2.0T Quattro S tronic, and yes, that’s way too much to remember.  The simple translation is that my ride was a sporty five-seater with Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system and a seven-speed S tronic transmission.

We’ll just call it an A5 from here on out.

Besides sleek, elegant looks that radiated luxury and class, my A5 had the full boat of strong performance, excellent handling, exceptional state-of-the-art safety features and a generous list of standard comfort/convenience perks.

You might expect to pay around $65,000 for all of this, yet the bottom line on the tester’s sticker was a mere $52,100, and that was with extensive extras. The starting price was a remarkably reasonable $42,600.

So right away, I’m impressed.

On the fly, the 2-liter turbo-4 engine with 252 horsepower was an enthusiastic, but quiet workhorse.  When asked, it instantly sprinted away from surrounding cars.  I tried to make the suspension wiggle in exaggerated slalom runs, but the A5 was not having it.  It was rock-solid in all conditions.

Because of its configuration, the A5 Sportback can take on 35 cubic feet of cargo when the appropriate seats are folded. That will haul a few toothpicks.

And while I was enjoying the numerous options – a super-sophisticated navigation system, 3D sound and high-gloss, dark brown walnut inlays among them – I was impressed with the modern, stylish layout of the dashboard.

The cherry on top: pretty good fuel mileage at 24 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg on the highway.

All told, this was an Audi I won’t soon forget … for all the right reasons.

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

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

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.