Thursday, April 28, 2016

Tucson climbs ladder to become a contender

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website  www.sacbee.com/news/business/article4005306.html

Sacramento, California ­– My first memories of the Hyundai Tucson sport-utility vehicle were of it being a distant second place to the South Korean automaker’s Santa Fe model.

That’s not how I would call it today.

My recent week in the new, third-generation Hyundai Tucson showed me that the vehicle has done some serious climbing up the upscale ladder, while still maintaining its position as an affordable, entry-level crossover.

Simple translation: This bargain SUV is improved in its new skin.

My tester was the 2016 Hyundai Tucson Sport with all-wheel drive and equipped with a 1.6-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine.  The starting price was around $27,500, but keep in mind that there are other trim levels of the model that are more affordable.

The Tucson looks smooth and sleek in profile, and it's attractively styled on the front end.  Nothing over the top, but a nice aerodynamic wedge.

Hyundai touts a larger interior on this new Tucson, and I believe it.  My ride seemed much roomier than previous-generation Tucsons I sampled.  The interior controls are thoughtfully positioned, laid out in a wide sweep that gave me a comfortable feeling of ample operating room.

The 175-horsepower turbo-4 engine was responsive and surprisingly powerful, even on the low end of revs.  Hyundai claims that peak torque comes in at only 1,500 rpm, which creates some motoring advantages.  The Tucson had no trouble mixing it up in crowded freeway commutes, easily slipping into small holes in traffic.

The tester with all-wheel drive was remarkably adept at cornering.  I was able to round off sharp turns with much tighter accuracy than I’ve experienced in competitors’ crossover models.  The nicely tuned suspension offered few complaints when I executed sharp turns at relatively high speed.

A nice daily driver?  Absolutely.

Fuel mileage was good at 24 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

Passenger and cargo configurations were more than adequate in this segment.

One other note: The Tucson can be had with the hands-free “Smart Power Liftgate” at the rear, which is just way too much fun.  Makes you feel like a magician demonstrating it for the neighbors.

All in all, the Tucson has grown up to be quite the player in the entry-level crossover SUV segment.  It’s not cheapo.  More like primo.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Honda's new HR-V a small SUV with large appeal

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website  www.sacbee.com/news/business/article4005306.html

Sacramento, California ­– Just when I thought there was no more room for another entry in the already crowded entry-level, crossover sport-utility vehicle market, along comes the all-new 2016 Honda HR-V.

Right off the top, I can tell you that it is a good addition.

It’s just-right in size, handles well and is equipped with some unique goodies that you typically don’t see in this sector.

The fact that it’s a fuel-sipping Honda is icing on the cake.

My tester was the comparatively upscale 2016 Honda HR-V EX-L with all-wheel drive, a continuously variable transmission and a navigation system.  Even with all that, the starting price is a reasonable $25,840.  A basic two-wheel driver version starts at less than $20,000.

The HR-V looks sleek in profile, and hey, is it a two door?

That’s the question I asked when I walked up to the tester, feeling like an idiot moments later when I realized that the rear door handles were installed flush at the very back of the rear passenger windows.

Oops.  Actually, it looks pretty cool.

The vehicle is a study in practicality.  The 1.8-liter, four-cylinder, 141-horsepower engine growls a bit when asked for maximum performance, but the power plant handles most of what’s asked of it, getting exceptional fuel mileage of 27 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway in the bargain.

The HR-V was easy to steer, and I found it to be secure and stable in rainy, wet conditions.  Body rigidity in slalom maneuvers was excellent, which I found surprising for an entry-level crossover.  I could say the same about the four-wheel disc brakes.

So, given the HR-V’s smallish size, it probably can’t carry much cargo, right?  Not so fast; with the rear seats folded, the EX-L offers cargo space of nearly 56 cubic feet.  Yeah, that’s a lot of groceries.

Interior comfort was good.  Ditto the layout of controls, easily reached from the driver’s seat.  Another plus: high safety ratings from the feds and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Cool touch: Speedometer illumination changing from white to green when fuel efficiency is being maxed.

Even cooler touch: At the push of a button, the “Automatic Brake Hold” feature keeps the brake engaged during extended stops in traffic, then automatically disengages when the driver’s foot touches the accelerator.

All in all, this is an SUV that most Every Man/Woman can afford.  The HR-V gets an “A” for effort in its debut year.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Looking ahead: 2017 Elantra is a compact gem

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website  www.sacbee.com/news/business/article4005306.html

Sacramento, California ­– Want a glimpse at the compact car future?

Hyundai is offering it up right now with the significantly reworked 2017 Elantra, a serious contender in the diverse and wildly popular compact segment.

Why?

This Elantra has a lot for relatively little money.

My tester was the comparatively loaded version – a 2017 Elantra Limited  – but its starting price was a most reasonable $22,350.  That included a lengthy list of standard amenities, including blind-spot detection, rearview camera, rear cross-traffic alert, leather seating surfaces, a hands-free smart trunk and the usual array of high-tech hook-up portals.

The tester was opulently dressed up with extras that pushed the bottom line to $27,710.  The lineup of pay-extra perks included a navigation system, a premium audio system, a power sunroof, heated seats front and back and smart cruise control.

You get the idea: You can have the Elantra pretty much any way you want it, and still be well under $30,000.

I’ll say this: It's easy on the eyes.

The sedan has a sporty wedge shape in profile with some nice, eye-catching angular sculpting cuts on the side.  Those 17-inch alloy wheels looked fine as well.

This Elantra is not a rubber-burning transporter with a 2-liter, four-cylinder engine making a max 147 horsepower.  Yet my ride powered through most of what I had to offer.  And the good news payoff: a healthy 28 miles per gallon in the city and 37 mpg on the highway.
 
The 2017 Elantra's interior is thoroughly modern-looking, with easy to reach and use controls.

Hyundai’s generous warranties also make the Elantra an alluring compact entry.

The South Korean automaker reports that the latest Elantra grew slightly, but frankly, the interior space looked much more generous than a I remember from years past.  Volunteer passengers were happy with their seats, and they volunteered that the Elantra operated quietly for a compact.  I agreed.

As possible first-car offerings go – ditto as a second household car to handle the comparatively short-drive chores – this Elantra more than makes the grade.

It’s a little early to be talking about 2017, but this Elantra is a strong automotive offering for the year yet to come.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Begging for speed, this Jaguar fills the bill

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

Sacramento, California OK, I admit it.  I begged for a one-day test drive in the redesigned-for-2016, deliciously sporty Jaguar XF sedan.

It had been forever since I was in a luxo-loaded, performance-laden Jaguar, and this XF caught my eye when its new lines were touted at last year’s New York International Auto Show.

Granted a local audience with the freshly upgraded model, I put it through its paces … and learned a lot.

For starters, this is NOT your daddy’s Jag.

Jaguar engineers spent serious time shaving weight off the XF through the clever, calculated application of aluminum.  Although the XF looks big to the eye, it drives like an incredibly nimble midsize.  My tester was the 2016 Jaguar XF Premium rear driver starting at a shade less than $52,000, actually a bargain price among the available trim levels.

The XF looks air-slicing sleek in profile, and aggressively styled 18-inch wheels add to the sporty look. Although the XF looks pinched in the back, the trunk has a relatively generous 19.1 cubic feet of open space.

This Jaguar is loaded with high-tech driving-enhancement and safety features, and the list of standard, luxurious comfort and convenience perks is lengthy.  You’d do well to study the owner’s manual carefully as there is a lot to master.  Once mastered, the vehicle is a rolling luxury cabin.

Who am I kidding?  The ride was the best part.  The power plant on the tester was the 3-liter, supercharged V-6 maxing at 340 horsepower.  Performance off the line was profound and immediate.

I was stirred, but not shaken.  The run-up through the eight-speed automatic gearbox was firm but silky smooth.  You’re pressed into your seat GENTLY, but the sensation of serious speed is felt throughout.

The Jaguar instantly responded in my hands.  The steering was remarkably light, but when I made an aggressive lane change, the wheel felt firm and secure in my palms.  Very nice.

An exquisitely tuned suspension certainly added to the velvet glove feel, and comparatively little engine noise reached the cabin.  All in all, it’s a most enjoyable power package.

And yet, fuel mileage is pretty decent at 20 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.

I had forgotten how much fun it was to drive a nicely engineered Jaguar.  And for those of you who still hang on to the old, old-school idea that Jaguar electronics fail too often, you might want to take a closer look at recent driver feedback and customer-satisfaction studies.  You might be surprised.

Alas, Jaguar competes in a class that includes heavyweight hardware from the likes of Acura, Cadillac, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti.  That’s a tough crowd, to be sure.

But if you haven’t been in a Jaguar in a few years, I suggest you give it a go.  As for me, I enjoyed my time in the new-generation XF sedan.

 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Nissan's sporty "Z" reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the 2016 Nissan 370Z Sport Coupe in the latest, April 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, March 30, 2016

2016 Honda Odyssey: Proof that minivans matter

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website  www.sacbee.com/news/business/article4005306.html

Sacramento, California ­– Friends and colleagues often ask: How come you still review minivans?

They ask it in the same manner that a technology pro might ask: Why do you still have dial-up?

You get the idea.

For me, minivans must be considered as long as they’re still around.  My family has roots dating back to the long-ago introduction of the minivan.  Yes, the first true Chrysler minivan -- which defined the segment -- that was rolled out by none other than Lee Iacocca.

And minivans were a big part of my traveling days as a parent with young children.  You had to have one of those big boats to carry the kids and all their cargo, right?  I drove minivans in every corner of America.

Naturally, those minivans were dinosaurs compared with what’s available now.  Oh, what I would have given for an in-vehicle video entertainment system for the youngsters back in the day.

But I digress.

My most recent minivan tester was the 2016 Honda Odyssey SE.  The Odyssey is in my personal “Big Four” of minivans, joining the Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Town & Country and Toyota Sienna.  All of them offer a lot.  They’re rolling hotels.

Yeah, minivans might not excite the auto purist’s heart, but they’re entirely functional for road trips and serious errands.

The tested SE’s starting price was $33,375, and that included everything, including a blizzard of five-star government safety ratings.  I loved the remote, dual, power sliding doors.  Makes things so much easier.  Everybody gets settled in before I settle into the driver’s seat.  This is a big deal if you’re a parent, take my word for it.

Comfort/convenience features are numerous.  The tester had the DVD rear-seat entertainment system that I longed for all those years ago.  It was a treat to try it out as a passenger in the parked Odyssey.

If you have to live in your vehicle, this is a good choice.

The 3.5-liter V-6 churned out a respectable 248 horsepower, good enough for most situations, although the power plant did let out a wail on extremely steep hill climbs. That’s not a deal-breaker.

Do be advised that fuel mileage is fair at best: 19 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

Volunteer passengers loved the spacious interior, back-seat amenities and plentiful cupholders and storage spaces.  Some actually left singing the praises of the minivan.

I think that’s what I’d call progress.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Lincoln's upgraded MKX excels with luxury, pep

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website  www.sacbee.com/news/business/article4005306.html

Sacramento, California ­– Unless you quit watching television a year or so ago, you’ve likely seen a lot of the extensively reworked-for-2016 Lincoln MKX luxury sport-utility vehicle on the airwaves.

You know, the SUV seen in the slow jam commercials with Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey at the wheel.

Yes, that one.

I’ll admit that I’m apparently missing the esoteric driving pleasures experienced by the actor, but for my humble tastes, this is a good luxury vehicle getting better.

My 2016 Lincoln MKX AWD tester was decked out with the “Reserve” equipment group, which is Lincoln-speak for it’s loaded with a lot of cool, over-the-top stuff.  The 22-WAY power driver seat got my attention, for example.

The tester’s base price checked in at $47,650, but all the extras pushed the bottom line to $58,740.  So yes, this is a luxury liner on all levels.

It looks smooth and aerodynamic in profile, with a nicely sculpted, but somewhat understated grille for this day and age.  Classy-looking from bumper to bumper.

Hitting the unlock fob at night illuminates puddle lights that project the Lincoln logo in “floormat” shape on either side of the car.  Your kids and neighbors will love this; take my word for it.

Stepping inside the cabin, I was impressed with the level of luxury and quiet.  Not a sound penetrated the cabin, not even the neighbor boy moving the lawn.

Devices of all types were within easy reach of my fingertips, including heated seats/steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers and state-of-the-art audio, climate and multimedia controls.  Safety and driver-assist features were stuffed into the thing, ready to help you park, drive safely or panic stop.

The vehicle earned a top five-star safety rating in federal government testing.

Many of the tech features were mind-blowing, but simple enjoyment came in firing up the MKX and taking it out on the roadways.

The tester was equipped a turbocharged, 2.7-liter V-6 rated at 335 horsepower and 380 foot-pounds of torque.  With that power plant, the MKX qualified as a freeway warrior, luxury beast and hill-climbing devil, depending on what I wanted from it at a given time.

For all that power, very little noise reached the spacious interior cabin, and the MKX was monorail-solid on slalom runs.

Very impressive.

Naturally, you lose a little something on the fuel mileage end, which comes in at a tepid 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.

All in all, this is a top-flight entry in the midsize luxury SUV segment.

Or as Matthew McConaughey would say: “Alright, alright, alright.”