Thursday, January 18, 2018

Toyota's new crossover SUV a strong addition to lineup

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

Sacramento, California – Calling a motor vehicle a “subcompact” can give a false impression … that maybe the car is so small that adults can’t fit into it.

The new-for-2018 Toyota C-HR is a subcompact crossover sport-utility vehicle, and I’m here to tell you that adults fit in it just fine. And beyond that, the C-HR is a comfortable, nice-handling piece of work that is delightfully useful for transporting humans or knocking off chores.

The recently tested 2018 Toyota C-HR XLE Premium was the latest in a series of small crossover SUVs I sampled last year, and while it’s a close call, I think it’s my favorite.

For starters, it’s nicely sculpted on the front end and in profile, offering up a pleasing look that goes way beyond SUV-basic.

The 18-inch alloy wheels look decidedly sharp.

Inside, the interior cabin is surprisingly spacious and versatile.  From the cockpit seat, controls are easy to reach and understand.  A generous list of standard safety features on the tester was impressive, including a lane-departure alert and radar-assisted cruise control.

Convenience features were likewise plentiful for this segment, with automatic high beams and a spot-on dual-zone climate-control system leading the way.

Fuel mileage was very good at 27 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.

I thought the 2-liter, four-cylinder power plant might struggle, but I was wrong.  The 144-horsepower engine was more than adequate across the range of driving conditions.  It was pretty robust off the line as well.

Passengers commented on how smooth the ride was on the freeways.

In essence, Toyota has given fans of small SUVs another option below the automaker’s RAV4, and it’s an entirely functional option, not a trade-down.  Even with a few extras, the bottom line on the tester was a reasonable $25,945.

The C-HR is an easy-to-like daily driver and would be equally useful as a second, chore-running vehicle in suburbia.  For those who want to send their kids off to college in something more than a compact sedan or coupe, the C-HR is worth a look.

And I know you’re dying to know: What does C-HR stand for?

Answer: Coupe-High Rider. Yes, I know.  It's confusing, but catchy.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Fast and flashy, Z Roadster lives up to the brand

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

Sacramento, California Some cars need only a single name to project an image … Mustang and Camaro, for example.

Other cars need only a single letter: Z.

I had not been behind the wheel of a Nissan roadster for too long a time, so I was grateful for the recent offer to put a 2017 Nissan 370Z Roadster through its paces.

Sliding into the driver’s seat, it was like I had never left.  The car radiated its familiar personality, all flash and very fast on the draw.  And very well equipped, I might add.

I first drove a Z up the California coast back in 1984, and I’ll never forget the thrill of its acceleration or the throaty exhaust note it presented when my right foot dropped down on the accelerator.  I was pretty much hooked right away.

The current-generation Z droptop with a 3.7-liter V-6 and 332 horsepower represents a serious evolution from that Z of years ago.  The tested Z moved with impressive authority that far exceeded the Zs of my memory.

Even more impressive, it was monorail-solid in high-speed maneuvers on a twisty Sierra Nevada roadway.  It felt glued to the driving line, yet so comfortable that I felt like I could have one-handed it through the corners.

With the top down, you draw lots of stares, approving looks and thumbs-up signs.  The 370Z Roadster’s classic, sleek lines are accentuated with the roof safely tucked away.  And yes, it feels great cutting through the air on the open road.

By the way, the 370Z Roadster’s fully automatic top slips out of sight in 20 seconds, a show that never gets old.

The four-wheel, vented disc brakes were exceptional and gave me a feeling of confidence even as I was pressing the car to challenge traction on a corner.

For the uninitiated, the Z’s finely tuned sport suspension is perfect for slalom runs, but you do feel road imperfections in your tailbone.

The tester’s interior included a nicely arranged package of perks, including a strong audio system and cupholders that actually do the job even when the 370Z is at full song.  Sometimes, the simple things are the most appreciated.

Fuel mileage was fair at 18 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.
Please note that you can move up to Z sportsters with more muscle, but for me, the V-6 with 332 horses provided plenty of rush for my taste.

One small gripe: My view out the back of the vehicle was somewhat limited, but that’s a minor complaint in this segment.

The starting price for the basic roadster is $41,820, and from there you can move up to the 370Z Roadster Touring Sport that starts at $49,400.  Please note that Nissan has made some modest upgrades in the 370Z lineup for the 2018 model year.

All in all, the tested 2017 Nissan 370Z Roadster provided a fun ride and a trip down Memory Lane that was a sporty blast.  The Z remains a classic and worth a look if you’re pondering the acquisition of a sporty model strictly as a guilty pleasure.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

A wonderful wagon rolls on in Volvo's V90

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

Sacramento, California – Yes, it’s 2018, but I wanted to offer up one more 2017 ride for your inspection.

A recent week in the 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD wagon was a revelation.  This vehicle was a new offering last year, and it pleased in every way: safety, performance, comfort/convenience features, technology and style.

Yes, style. From Volvo. That’s saying something.

Volvo rolled out the V90 wagons as state-of-the-art vehicles in the seldom-appreciated segment.  Plenty of auto reviewers agreed with Volvo's enthusiasm, with the V90 line pulling down numerous prestigious awards.

My initial impression was that the tested V90 Cross Country wagon oozed elegance and smooth styling. On the move, the air seemed to flow over the car without making a sound.  I rolled down the windows and double-checked, so there.

Power came from a 2-liter, supercharged/turbocharged engine dishing up a max 316 horsepower with silky, forceful authority.  I was blowing past cars on the freeway with barely the slightest pressure on the accelerator.  Yet acceleration was smooth and quiet.  A velvet hammer.

The eight-speed gearbox worked seamlessly with the willing power plant.

While I blazed past stragglers, I sat in cool comfort amid luxurious features that included 10-way power front seats (with heat), a heated steering wheel, a panoramic moonroof with a power sunshade, leather all around and dark walnut wood inlays to set it off nicely.

Safety and security perks were plentiful, just what you expect in a Volvo-badged motor vehicle.

Fuel mileage was pretty fair at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.

The only thing that might give wagon buyers pause is the price – nearly $65,000 on the tested vehicle, but that included a $3,200 Bowers & Wilkins premium sound system and $1,200 for a primo air suspension set-up in the rear.

Bottom line: If you’re seeking a luxurious wagon for the long haul, the V90 is your starting point.  You might find all you want on your first test drive.  Kudos to Volvo for developing a wonderful wagon.

Friday, December 29, 2017

2018 promises to be busy, with myriad story lines

Sacramento, California -- This is the last post of 2017, and the message is sincere: Here’s wishing you and yours a safe, happy and prosperous 2018.

And as always, thanks for reading.

The coming year promises to bring a flood of story lines in the ever-changing auto industry: more in-car technology, remakes of long-popular models, continuing escalation in the pickup truck wars, more electric vehicles coming to market and the continuing evolution of autonomous vehicles.

If the driver-less motor vehicles start reviewing themselves, I might be in trouble.  Until then, thanks for your interest and feedback.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Back to basics: Rio prompts appreciation, memories

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

Sacramento, California – A recent week in a 2018 Kia Rio LX five-door hatchback enhanced my appreciation of driving on two levels.

The simple pleasure of just driving was boosted, and I was made even more grateful for all the technology that we take for granted in today’s new motor vehicles.

The tester was the most basic car I’ve driven in probably the past 25 years.  You had to turn the key in the exterior door handle to lock it.  Exterior mirrors had to be adjusted with old-school knobs mounted inside front doors.  Windows had to be rolled up or down by hand.

Yeah, welcome back to the 1970s.

And yet, I couldn’t help but feel that I’ve been spoiled all these years, with all the electronic gadgetry at my fingertips in the cockpit.  Remember just getting into a car and driving off … on a simple errand or a much-anticipated road trip. Simple pleasures.

The Rio returned these memories.

At the same time, it made me think hard about the blizzard of comfort/convenience/safety features that are stuffed into motor vehicles these days.

Power/heated/cooled seats.  Blind spot-warning systems.  Mega cruise-control systems.  Automatic braking systems.  It’s amazing when you ponder it.  Just think for a second how much more we get in new cars now than we did just a generation ago.

So, thanks to the tested Rio for all that.

Oh, by the way, my no-frills Rio handled well.  The 1.6-liter, 130-horsepower, in-line 4 engine moved the vehicle around impressively.  The Rio was nimble and easy to steer.  The back storage area was surprisingly roomy.

Gas mileage was exceptional at 28 miles per gallon in the city and 37 mpg on the highway.

And that bottom line sticker price of $16,315 was pretty easy on the eyes as well.

If you want basic transportation for a college-bound youngster or a suburban daily driver to handle all those errands, the Rio shapes up as a strong contender.

The appreciation enhancements are a bonus.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Golden Age of motoring? It's happening now

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

Sacramento, California People are asking: What’s the story of the year in the auto industry?

In my view, the industry itself is the top story of 2017.

Historians like to talk about the so-called Golden Age of motoring back in the 1950s and 1960s.  Frankly, all the things that are going on right now make those years seem like the Dark Ages.

Domestic new-car sales are again on a strong pace as 2017 nears its close (California likely will top 2 million new vehicles again by year’s end).  Incredibly, crossover sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks continued to ring up robust sales even as automakers are under pressure to produce more fuel-efficient machinery.

And they are doing just that.  Electric vehicle development is at an all-time high, and manufacturers are producing gas-electric hybrid versions of their most popular models. Infrastructure for hydrogen-fueled vehicles continues to expand in California.
Behind the scenes, major automakers continue to develop and test autonomous vehicles, which you can expect to see on Golden State roadways in numbers in the near future.

Incredible technology that I once believed would take 50 years to master can now be had at dealer lots from coast to coast.

Cars can park themselves, automatically hit the brakes hard in advance of a nasty collision and warn drivers of dangers approaching their vehicles from all angles.  You darn near have to try to crash some of today's motor vehicles.  That’s how advanced the safety systems are right now.

Other than the dawn of the automotive age, I can’t think of any period in history where so much is being developed and put into motion.  It’s an amazing time to be a motorist.

And sure, traditionalists are concerned.  The very idea of a motor vehicle driving itself instead of being controlled by human hands is dreadful to many.

I say relax.

I don’t anticipate the joy of driving on the open road going away anytime soon.  It’s still OK to enjoy the simple pleasures of motoring, while simultaneously admiring the seemingly relentless development of more powerful, safer and more technologically advanced cars.

You can expect a lot more in 2018.  Me?  I can’t wait.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Popular Camry gets a decidedly positive upgrade

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

Sacramento, California – You hold your breath when an automaker decides to rework a hugely popular model … Just ask the designers who remade the Ford Taurus with disastrous results a generation ago.

For the 2018 model year, Toyota dug in on its Toyota Camry sedan, a longtime hall-of-fame money maker.

I’m happy to report that, not only did Toyota do no harm, it upgraded the Camry into something remarkable.

Camry critics have long conceded that it’s a reliable, feature-loaded mainstream driver, but in the same breath they have dismissed it as a vanilla-looking car with performance characteristics that fall far short of getting the pulse racing.

Not so now.

My recent week in the 2018 Toyota Camry XSE provided a feast for the eyes and the heartbeat.

My ride was equipped with the 3.5-liter V-6 rated at 301 horsepower, and I was stunned at its robust performance from a standing start and amid fast-moving traffic.  Acceleration was so brisk that the same exclamation kept bouncing around in my brain: “I can’t believe this is a Camry.”

The performance rush is backed up with a dynamic restyling that makes the Camry look aggressive, but not gaudy.

If tepid looks and performance have been holding back prospective Camry buyers in past years, they no longer have any excuses.

By the way, fuel mileage on my V6 was pretty darn good at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.

Everything else I experienced was vintage Camry: comfortable seating, thoughtfully laid out controls and a generous list of safety, comfort and convenience features.

This being the XSE version, yes, the bottom line price of $38,230 on my ride was a bit hefty.  But my experience tells me that Camry buyers tend to keep their purchases for the long haul.  The long-term math, for them, works out well.

Bottom line: For 2018, an exceptional passenger car gets even better.