Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Gen 4 Kia Sportage has the goods to be great

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 – For the 2017 model year, Kia’s fourth-generation compact crossover sport-utility vehicle weighs in with a lengthy list of tweaks, changes and additions.

But vastly improved driving dynamics top the charts, in my view.  Having driven numerous versions of the Sportage over the years, I can tell you that the current generation handles like a champ.  Seriously, at times, I felt like I was driving a pricey midsize SUV or a top-line, full-size sedan.

My ride, the 2017 Kia Sportage SX FWD, was much more stable and significantly more agile than Sportages I’ve sampled in past years.

And happily, that’s just the iceberg's tip of what’s new for 2017.

The Sportage, Kia's longest-running nameplate in the United States, is wrapped in some new, decidedly sporty skin this time around.  The ultra-aggressive front end features two tiers with four distinct light sockets.  The thing looks ready for some night road racing.
 
Added plus: 19-inch alloy wheels.  I’m also sure that the “Hyper Red” exterior paint on my ride made it extra spicy-looking.

Another plus: My tester came with the 2-liter, turbocharged-4 engine making 240 horsepower on the top end.  That’s nearly 60 more horses than the standard 2.4-liter Sportage power plant offering.

With the turbo, I enjoyed a remarkable advantage.  I was able to zip the overpowered compact crossover into tight freeway slots, and the tester skipped around urban center pokes with barely a blip on the accelerator.

Fuel mileage on the tester was advertised at a so-so 21 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.

My Sportage had a bottom line of $33,395 on the sticker, a fairly hefty price for a small SUV, but it was loaded with the kind of standard features that you expect to get in that ballpark.  Interior comfort/convenience features included leather seat trim, a Harman Kardon premium audio system, a heated steering wheel with paddle shifters and heated/ventilated power front seats.

Safety features were likewise plentiful, including autonomous emergency braking, a rear cross-traffic alert, a blind sport-detection system and lane-change assist.

Kia touts its Sportage as “a breed apart in the compact CUV segment,” and I have to agree.

The Sportage is a prime example of how South Korea’s Kia/Hyundai offerings have evolved from cheap hardware to good-quality vehicles over little more than a generation.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Lancer a practical sedan at an easy-on-the-eyes price

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 – When auto folks gather to talk about compact sedans, the Mitsubishi Lancer is not the first model that rolls off the lips … Maybe not even the 10th.

And yet, the current Lancer is a practical sedan loaded with practical perks, and can be had for practically a song.

My recent week in the 2016 Mitsubishi Lancer 2.4 SEL AWC sedan was certainly pleasant.  It was loaded with comfort/convenience/safety features, all included in the sticker's bottom line of $22,805, which included the $810 destination/handling charge.

For the record, that AWC designation stands for All-Wheel Control, the heart of an electronically controlled 4WD system, which performed admirably.

For 2016, Mitsubishi tweaked the Lancer inside and out.

Inside, the front/center console has been redesigned, as has the navigation system.  Exterior refinements include a new look on the front end and new alloy wheels designed to emphasize a sporty look.

My ride had the 2.4-liter in-line 4 engine with 168 horsepower.  The power plant is no neck-snapper, but it handled freeway commutes and dicey downtown situations well enough.  It took on steep hills with surprising, if somewhat noisy, enthusiasm.

The continuously variable transmission was smooth and efficient.

Fuel mileage is nice at 23 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.  And yes, you can fill it up with all the bargain-priced 87 octane fuel that you need.

Front-seat comforts are excellent, but alas, full-size adults are going to feel a bit squeezed in the compact sedan’s back seat domain.

Arguably the best part of my week in the car was its decidedly Euro feel … and appearance.  In fact, several of the neighbors volunteered incorrect guesses on the motor vehicle model parked in my driveway.  They were genuinely surprised – and in a good way – when told that the car's manufacturer was Mitsubishi.

Mitsubishi’s generous warranties are a bonus as well.

The toughest thing the Lancer faces is intense competition in its segment, from four-door models made by Toyota, Honda, Ford and General Motors.  But even with that in the mix, if you’re pondering a small sedan, I’d put the Lancer on your test-drive list.

It might have just enough specialty charm to lure you away from some of the bigger names.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Buick's reinvention continues with Cascada droptop

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

Sacramento, California Perhaps you’ve seen those Buick television commercials where some clueless folks don’t realize that they’re standing in front of a Buick product.

I guess the oversized Buick logo on the cars is no help to them.

Whatever the case, Buick is going to great lengths to announce that it is reinventing itself, with a revamped lineup of cooler cars appealing to a wide range of buyers.

A perfect fit for this approach is the all-new 2016 Buick Cascada convertible, with seating for four in a 2 + 2 configuration.  My tester was the Premium version starting at just a shade more than $36,000.

OK, I’ll admit this is a cool droptop.  It’s Buick’s first convertible offering in a quarter century.  In the interest of full disclosure, the car is made in Poland and has a fair portion of Opel DNA in it.

Still, it’s cool.  Very sporty looking from all angles.  Topping the cool chart is rooftop that disappears into the trunk at the push of a button.  And you can do this 17-second magic trick at speeds of up to 31 miles per hour.

Given all this, friends and neighbors ran up to the tested car like it was giving away free ice cream on a horribly hot day.  “What is that?,” they wanted to know.  Amazingly, they started sounding like the people in those Buick TV commercials.

But I digress.  Performance was no problem with 1.6-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine under the hood.  With a max horsepower rating of 200, the Cascada easily zoomed around most of my motoring colleagues on city streets and commuter freeways.  It took on hills with relative ease.  It was solid on sharp corners taken at high speed.

Cargo room with the top up and out of the way is a surprisingly good 13 cubic feet.  I’m not sure I agree with fellow reviewers that the Cascada has ample room for adult-size people in the back seats.

The Cascada does have some interior features that I sincerely liked.  One of them was a thoughtful cabin layout that allowed a clear field of vision all around the vehicle.

Also on the plus side were seat belts that move up and into position to be buckled, and deep-set, old school analog gauges looking back at me from behind the steering wheel.

Four-wheel disc brakes are worthy Cascada-stoppers.

Fuel mileage is, well, pretty fair at 20 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.  That should give you a good amount of time to enjoy motoring before having to refill the 14.3-gallon fuel tank.

The interior layout of controls is geared to the driver … easy to reach and use.  Sport bucket seats look nice and are comfortable even on long drives.

In sum, I can’t say much that’s negative about this Cascada, and believe it, the convertible is simply fun to drive.

Score one for the new Buick.
 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Tech-laden Volvo SUV reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the all-new 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 R-Design sport-utility vehicle in the latest, August 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.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

10 generations in, Honda Civic only gets better

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 been saying for years that the venerable Honda Civic is a universal car, one that pleases on so many levels that no prospective buyer is immune to its charms.

I can cite numerous cases of religiously “buy American” parents who opted to get their child a Honda Civic when he/she went off to college.

Why?  It’s affordable, it tends to run forever with few problems, it’s well-equipped and gas mileage is excellent.

That’s pretty convincing, right.  Maybe that explains why the Civic entered its TENTH generation with some tpleasing weaks and major improvements for the 2016 model year.

My tester was the 2016 Civic 1.5T Touring sedan starting at $26,500.  No extras needed beyond the $835 destination and handling charge.

For that amount of money, the tested Civic was loaded up with leather-trimmed seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel/shift knob, a cockpit-rockin’ audio system with 10 speakers, heated front/rear seats, a driver’s eight-way power seat, a navigation system and an electric parking brake.

Throw in the extensive safety systems and exterior goodies such as LED front/rear lights and rain-sensing windshield wipers, and you’re looking at a motor vehicle that probably should cost $35,000.

Feeling good about saving that much coin on this relatively high-end Touring edition?  Wait, there's more. On the tester, fuel mileage came in at 31 miles per gallon in the city and 42 mpg on the highway.  Those numbers will leave a few gas stations in the dust.

Interior room is good, although large adults in the backseat area might feel a bit squeezed.

Beyond this, the latest Civic looks good and is fun to drive.

The tester was sporty and sleek in profile, and it looked sharp riding on 17-inch alloy wheels and wearing Cosmic Blue Metallic paint.

The Honda sedan was decidedly peppy with a 1.5-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine (174 horsepower) doing the chores.  Matched to a continuously variable transmission, the power plant moved the Civic around with ease.  Accelerations were strong.  Steering was effortless.

Body rigidity was improved by Honda engineers, and it showed in the tester, which sawed off high-speed corners with barely a wiggle felt in the driver’s seat.  Four-wheel disc brakes stopped the Civic sedan on a dime.

Somehow, Honda has managed to make an A-grade car even better, a talent that likely translates to many motorists buying Civics for generations to come.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Outlander raises its game in crossover market

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 – Want to compete in the crowded crossover sport-utility vehicle market?  You need to keep evolving.

The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander has done just that.

Thoroughly redesigned and improved for the 2016 model year – more than 100 tweaks, according to Mitsubishi engineers – the reasonably-priced Outlander is stuffed with standard features covering all bases, from safety to cruising comfort.

My tester was the higher-end 2016 Outlander 3.0 GT S-AWC … That last part stands for Super All-Wheel Control, by the way.  Kind of self-explanatory.

This Outlander GT, which means you get the 3-liter V-6 making a max 224 horsepower, started at a reasonable $30,995.  Remember, this is a three-row, up-to-seven-passengers SUV.

Naturally, the tester was dressed up with around $3,300 in extras that included a top-notch navigation system, a forward collision-mitigation system, adaptive cruise control and a lane-departure warning system.

Nice to have these things, but frankly, I’d be OK with the standard package.  For the record, this 2016 Outlander not only was awarded the max five-star safety rating from the federal government, it was a “Top Safety Pick” of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

If I listed all the standard features, this would have to be a two-part review.  The tester was liberally loaded with perks that included leather interior appointments, under-floor cargo/storage area, a power/remote liftgate and heated exterior mirrors.

The exterior look has been jazzed up, with aggressive, sporty styling, especially on the front end.

But the best news was in the driving: The tested Outlander was stronger, smoother and much quieter than Outlanders I’ve tested in past years.

Mitsubishi touted thicker door glass and more use of sound-insulation materials.  The ride also is enhanced by a more-rigid body structure.  Consequently, the Outlander was a silky freeway cruiser, and it was agile in downtown traffic when I wanted to hustle to my next appointment.

Fuel mileage with the V-6 comes in at an OK 20 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.
 
Some auto-reviewing colleagues complained that the 224-horsepower V-6 was not powerful enough for their tastes.  I found the power plant more than adequate in virtually all driving situations.  The engine did strain on extremely steep hill climbs, but that just puts the Outlander in a very large group.

Simply put, the Outlander bumps up from a previous “B” grade to an “A-minus” with all the changes.  Translation: It competes well among the crossovers.

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.