Thursday, September 15, 2016

Highlander Hybrid might be just right for your needs

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 – So you’re looking to buy a new Toyota – something one of every five California auto shoppers currently does, according to Golden State registration statistics – and you need something for the family, which enjoys regular road trips and transportation comforts.

Getting good gas mileage is high on your list as well.

Maybe you want a Toyota RAV4, but is that going to be big enough?  And that $85,000 Toyota Land Cruiser is too big in price and size, right?

What you might want is what I recently drove for a week: a 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum with all-wheel drive.

Size-wise, it’s perfectly situated between the RAV4 and the behemoth Land Cruiser.  The Limited Platinum model is loaded with passenger-pleasing perks (to the tune of $51,385 on the tested sticker’s bottom line).  And you get some pretty good fuel mileage on this sturdy roadway cruiser – 27 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

And you’re in luck if you’re looking for the 2016 edition.  Dealers are likely going to be willing to bargain with the new-and-improved 2017 Highlander on the scene.

What I found in the tested Highlander Hybrid were smooth, quiet road manners and handling that required only the lightest touch on the steering wheel.  I expected to work harder from the cockpit seat, but the tester pretty much made my motoring life a breeze.

This gave me the opportunity to enjoy the extras offered in the “Platinum Package.”  That included radar cruise control, a lane departure alert system (it was a little sensitive, I confess) and automatic high-beam headlights that were spot-on in their timing.  The package also included leather captain’s chairs in the second row.  Nice.

I’ll admit to being spoiled by the 3.5-liter V-6 engine paired with a high-torque electric drive motor-generator.  The marriage produces a max 280 horsepower, performance to spare in this class.

I was also pleased to hear virtually no whining out of the V-6/electric pairing.  In other hybrid vehicles, I’m constantly startled by a high-pitch whine that sounds a lot like the approach of a speeding fire engine.

If you’re one of those folks who keeps score right down to the inch, the 2016 Highlander includes nearly 160 cubic feet of interior cabin space.  That’s plenty of spread-out room for families, even when they’re taking full advantage of the third row of seating.

Throw in a blizzard of safety features – enough to win a top-level five-star rating from the feds – and this Highlander stacks up as must-test-drive model on your SUV shopping list.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Volvo SUV is a complex, invigorating piece of work

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

A similar version of this review first appeared in the August 2016 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California I know what you’re thinking: How in the world does a 2016 Volvo sport-utility vehicle rate an AutoGlo review at a time of year when hot, new 2017 hardware is showing up on dealer lots?

Well, let’s start with this:  Of the hundreds upon hundreds of motor vehicles I have tested over many years, the 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 R-Design is arguably the most technologically complex auto that I’ve driven.

You know things are going to be different when the folks dropping off the XC90 start with: “Wait, we have to show you a few things about operating this SUV.”  Say what?

So, they explained.  How to start the vehicle.  What it can do.  How to operate the NASA-like central command system.

After a half hour or so of pushing buttons to snap open the glove compartment, drop the rear-seat headrests out of sight, maneuver the front passenger’s seat from my cockpit seat, activate the bird’s-eye 360-degree view created by four hidden cameras and utilize the FOUR-zone electronic climate control system, it was time to drive.

Well, the Volvo sort of let me drive it.  I say that because the vehicle is equipped with technology that lets it take over as needed. That includes a collision-avoidance system called “City Safety” (it can detect bicycles veering into the SUV’s path), an anti-rollover system, a “Road Sign Information” system with a front camera that can recognize signs and display those images on the speedometer or head-up digital display, automatic brake-activation to avoid that crash you’re about to have, a mind-blowing adaptive cruise control system that can be adjusted to numerous driving tastes and on and on and on …

The tested XC90 T8 R-Design is equipped with a 2-liter, four-cylinder engine that is both supercharged and turbo-boosted, and it’s mated to electric motors that throw another 87 horsepower onto the pile.  The whole package generates a max 400 horsepower and 472 foot-pounds of torque.

It also makes the Volvo sport-ute move like a scalded cat.  The tester blazed off the line from a standing start, and its freeway manners were downright sports car crazy.

I’d tell you that I burned rubber but – you guessed it – the tester had a system that balances torque perfectly, negating any premeditated burnout.

And oh, did I happen to mention that this hybrid system is a plug-in, complete with an easy-to-use charging cable to juice up the powerful on-board battery?  Strategic use of that will get you 53 miles per gallon.

If you opt for this SUV, you might want to read the owner’s manual for about 10 days before driving, because the center console command touchscreen has about a zillion options that might include sub-orbital spaceflight for all I know. On top of all this is an extensive luxury/convenience package that includes leather everything, 10-way power front seats with heat and power cushion extensions and opulent metal inlays.

The tester was likewise loaded with Scandinavian touches, including a small blue-and-yellow Swedish flag in the seat stitching, an Orrefors crystal gear shifter and daytime LED running lights in a T-pattern resembling the hammer of Thor.  I’m serious!

All this was wearing a sticker that read $82,405 on the bottom line, which I actually thought was reasonable given the engineering marvels of the machine.

I’m not sure if this XC90 T8 R-Design was my cup of tea (or yours), but it was incredibly fun to drive and packed with enough oomph to earn it a special AutoGlo run.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Porsche Panamera reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the 2016 Porsche Panamera in the latest, September 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.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

GMC Yukon XL Denali is a celebration of bigness

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 – You get a lot of attention driving a 2016 GMC Yukon XL Denali 4WD sport-utility vehicle.

Fellow drivers and passersby notice its enormous size: a ZIP-code-of-its-own 224 inches long, 80 inches wide and 74 inches tall, and weighing in at 6,009 pounds.

You also get a lot of dirty looks from folks who are convinced that the vehicle you’re driving is killing the planet.  For the record, its gets 14 miles per gallon in the city and 20 mpg on the highway.

If folks could see the sticker price – $80,650, including extras, in my case – I’m sure that would likewise freeze them to the spot.

OK, the Yukon XL Denali is undoubtedly the king of super-size transportation.  I fully understand that and all that goes with it.

I’m also certain that there are some households and commercial enterprises that need a vehicle just like this.  To the best of my knowledge, having one is not against the law anywhere in the United States.

Test driving this behemoth required multiple adjustments on my part.  For example, I parked it in remote areas of parking lots, the better to gently wheel it back onto the roadways with a minimum of risk.

You don’t want to tailgate in a GMC Yukon XL Denali; that creates too much risk of flattening the vehicle ahead of you in an emergency.

I also tended to take it easy on the accelerator, knowing that fuel is a precious commodity in this particular SUV.

The bottom, positive line of all this: I became a safer, more-careful driver, and few would oppose that.  Certainly not my family and friends.

The things you can do with the Yukon XL Denali’s bigness are many:  It can carry most of your belongings.  It can tow a small island.  A large gathering of large adults can have a night on the town in it (the designated driver needs to reject  all alcohol offerings, however), and it stacks up as smooth interstate cruiser on long road trips.

I found the tester to be a very civilized, surprisingly quiet freeway machine.  On tight city streets, however, you need to pay close attention and make sure of clearance on our lane changes.

The big tester had a big engine to handle the chores with authority – a 6.2-liter V-8 with 420 horsepower and 460 foot-pounds of torque.  Premium fuel is recommended but not required.

My Yukon XL Denali was loaded up with luxurious, passenger-spoiling perks – another long-drive bonus.

One other cool feature: the “Safety Alert Seat” gives you a buzz in the seat of the pants if the SUV's sensors determine that you are about to collide with another vehicle.  It’s nice to have a little backup when you’re driving an SUV this large.

For those have the cash and the need for this vehicle, you’re getting quite the piece of large engineering.  Just make sure that you know what you’re getting into with this heavyweight hauler.

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.