Thursday, January 19, 2017

2017 Tacoma TRD Pro is a rugged, refined ride

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, CaliforniaToyota added the TRD Pro to its Tacoma pickup lineup for 2017, billing it as a truck for folks who like to work hard and play hard.

Message received.

At first glance – my tester was the mouthful of 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro 4X4 Double Cab – the truck just looks like a rugged performer, complete with 16-inch black alloy wheels and all-terrain tires that looked capable of motoring up Mount Everest.

The tested truck worked just fine on the local roadways, and my humble journey off the paved surfaces didn’t really come close to getting the absolute bottom line on this Tacoma’s off-road capabilities, which is a shame.

Visually, the Tacoma TRD Pro appears ready to smash through miles of dirt and streams.

The specialized equipment includes heavy-duty shocks, LED fog lights, a TRD front skid plate and TRD exhaust.

Naturally, the package included a serious 4WD system, an electronically controlled transfer case, an automatic limited-slip differential, crawl control, hill-start assist and much, much more.

Toyota says the TRD Pro’s body is composed of high-strength steel riding on a double wishbone coil-spring front suspension and a leaf spring rear suspension, bolstered by outboard-mounted gas shocks.

Ample power was supplied by a 3.5-liter V-6 dishing up a max 278 horsepower.  The engine was surprisingly responsive, but it served up power in impressive, smooth steps.  No lurching here, a most pleasant development.

Engine noise was fairly muted, but I actually could hear those heavy-duty tires on the freeway.  No complaint from me.  I know what the truck is capable of, and the sound was a happy reminder of the TRD Pro’s solid-footed stability.

Fuel mileage, alas, is a not-so-hot 18 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.

For all its rugged exterior looks, the interior cabin was refined and comfortable for driver and passengers.  Controls were thoughtfully positioned an easy to operate.  Leather trim dominates the interior, creating a warm feeling in a cabin likewise loaded with today’s necessary communications/technology bells and whistles.

The starting price on the tester was a somewhat hefty $42,760, pumped up to $45,042 on the bottom line with the addition of some extras.

If you have the cash, this is an A-grade pickup offering from Toyota.  How you divide work and play time in it is up to you.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

2017 Lincoln MKZ delivers luxury, and lots more

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

Sacramento, California Luxury sedan buyers aren’t necessarily a picky lot … All they want is everything.

Over the past generation, that means a lot of folks have been turning to Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW and Infiniti models.  Fair enough.  But if you’re looking for a made-in-America luxury liner built to spoil you, the extensively redesigned 2017 Lincoln MKZ is worth some of your attention.

You want it all your way, and then some?  Fear not.

High-power performance is definitely in the cards with a twin-turbo, 3-liter V-6, with 400 horsepower and 400 foot-pounds of torque.  This power plant gets the four-door car going in a hurry, and the power curve flows smoothly and effortlessly when matched to an all-wheel drive system.

Prefer something a little more fuelish and sedate?  The MKZ has that covered too with a hybrid version equipped with a 2-liter, four-cylinder engine, plus an electric assist.  That will get you an estimated 41 miles per gallon in the city and 38 mpg on the highway.

The starting price range among the MKZ offerings is generally in the $35,000 to $45,000 ballpark, and you’ll be happy to know that Lincoln does not hold back on the perks for that kind of money.  My recent week in the 2017 MKZ included pretty much wall-to-wall leather, a 10-way power driver’s seat, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, an incredibly diverse driver’s seat comfort/lumbar system, a power trunklid and heated/cooled front seats.

The tester’s option package added heated rear seats/steering wheel, LED adaptive headlamps and a primo, blast-me-out-of-my-seat Revel Ultima audio system.

My ride looked sharp with a classic Lincoln grille, eye-grabbing 19-inch wheels and dual chrome exhaust tips.

The MKZ is a midsize sedan, but frankly, it handled with the four-footed firmness of a full-size model.  It was rock-steady on sharp corners, and very little noise reached the interior cabin, even when I asked the max from the car.

The warning systems seemed a bit touchy, in my view.  I was startled several times by audio/video warnings that indicated I was too close to vehicles on either side of the car.  For my money, I wasn’t even close.

Lincoln talked up a revised, more-functional interior, and I noticed.  Various controls were easier to find, and use.  More complex adjustments – like the myriad seat configurations – were easier to figure out in this 2017 model.

During my time behind the wheel of the MKZ, I mentally ticked off comparisons of various features it shares with other luxury sedan models from manufacturers abroad.  I came to the conclusion that the MKZ stacks up just fine against all those other foreign competitors.

What about prestige, you ask?  Well, this is a Lincoln, which as far as American nameplates go, is pretty high up there.  Maybe shoulder to shoulder with Cadillac, depending on your passions.

So, yes, this nicely done 2017 MKZ is an American contender, offering a lot to a consumer segment that wants it all.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Nissan's 2017 Armada has size, hidden charms

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 – The Nissan Armada has been reworked for the 2017 model year, but yes, it’s still a big, somewhat intimidating sport-utility vehicle.

Armada?  Yes, it might take an armada to tow it somewhere.  It's that big. Walking up to my 2017 Nissan Armada Platinum 4WD tester made me feel small.

I felt better after hoisting myself up into the driver’s seat.  The Armada’s civilized, thoughtfully laid-out interior put me at ease.  Yes, captain, I can take command of this vehicle.  No problem.

Not surprisingly, virtually everything on the Armada involves a big number.

Power comes from a 5.6-liter V-8 engine with 390 horsepower and a max 394 foot-pounds of torque.

That’s enough juice to make the Armada move with authority when needed.  The seven-speed automatic transmission had no hiccups, and front/rear ventilated disc brakes brought the Armada to a halt quickly on demand.
 
On freeways, the Armada cruises with a surprisingly light feel and very little noise.  You don't want to make any sudden moves in city traffic, however, lest you scare your fellow motorists.

Riding high on the roadways – the 20-inch, premium machine-finished alloy wheels helped in that department – I felt like the king of the road.  My range of vision from the cockpit seat was exceptional.

And in case my attention lapsed, an impressive suite of standard safety features stood ready to keep me safe.  The list included a protective forward collision-warning system, a lane-departure warning system, blind spot intervention/warning technology and back-up collision intervention.

Like I said, the Armada has a lot to make the nervous SUV driver feel secure.

There’s a price for all this, of course.  On my ride, the bottom line on the sticker read $61,435.

You won’t find big numbers in the fuel mileage ratings, which are a wallet-crunching 13 miles per gallon in the city and 18 mpg on the highway.

I’m sure Armada buyers aren’t worried about such things.  They want a big, powerful freeway cruiser capable of carrying half of their home belongings (and maybe even a Volkswagen Beetle thrown in) when they take to the open road.

I can only imagine what this Armada can do off-road.  Damage, would be my guess.  Best to stay out of its way.  But if you’re heading up to the Sierra Nevada snow in this Armada, my guess is you'll be thanking your lucky stars for the four-wheel drive capability and the Armada’s solid, four-cornered stance.

In the world of big and pricey, this Armada rules the roadways over most.  Having taken the long-running, previous-generation Armadas on vacation jaunts, I can tell you that this SUV is a decidedly enjoyable transporter.  And this 2017 version is the best of the Armadas that I’ve had the opportunity to drive.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Buick's Encore a loaded, affordable crossover

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 – Looking for a Buick sport-utility vehicle but don’t want to lay down the $40,000 to $47,000 or so it takes to get into the automaker’s Enclave?

If so, you might want to take a look at the latest Buick Encore, extensively reworked for 2017 and an SUV sufficiently loaded to make you feel really good about saving some money.

My 2017 Buick Encore Premium tester with front-wheel drive had a lengthy list of standard features for the starting price of $30,465, and even a substantial option package kept the bottom line at $34,675.

The extras included the variable valve timing version of the turbocharged, 1.4-liter, four cylinder engine with a max horsepower rating of 153, or 15 more horses than the standard power plant.

The tester responded quickly and enthusiastically in most situations, struggling just a bit on the steepest of hill climbs.  Handling was akin to what I expect from a midsize sedan, a good thing.

The Encore looks a bit pinched and squat parked next to its Enclave sibling, but the crossover has a clean look from all angles.  Smooth, aerodynamic styling on the front end is new for 2017.

The interior has likewise been restyled … for the better.  Chrome accents and carefully crafted stitching are definite improvements, and the center stack of controls is easier to use.  I really liked the easy-to-read, 8-inch color touch screen.

Five-star federal government safety ratings abound on the Encore, including a top-level overall vehicle score.  Fuel mileage on the tester came in at a strong 27 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.

Interior comforts were downright luxurious, with leather-appointed seats and a Bose premium audio system.  The tester was loaded with safety/security systems, including a rear cross-traffic alert (kept me honest in crowded parking lots several times) and forward collision alert.

The only minor gripe I had was less-than-optimum, 360-degree vision from my cockpit seat, but this was mostly negated by the standard side blind-zone alert system, standard on the Encore.

All in all, the Encore earns a B-plus to A-minus grade among the large field of practical-size, relatively-affordable crossovers.

+++

Thanks for reading in 2016.  Happy new year to all.  Looking forward to offering my take on more vehicles in 2017 -- MG

Thursday, December 22, 2016

2017 Kia Forte feels fine, with a braking bonus

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 – Thankfully, it’s not often that you experience the real-life engagement of a motor vehicle’s emergency safety system during a test drive.

But it happened to me in my recent week with the refreshed-for-2017 Kia Forte EX sedan. Let me explain.

My dressed-up compact came with an “Autonomous Emergency Braking” system, which will automatically take over the hard-braking duties if sensors determine the car to be an eye-blink away from serious trouble.  Yeah, you know what’s coming, right?

On a recent commute home to the Sacramento suburbs, driving a route I’ve driven hundreds of times, I encountered a perfect storm for a chain-collision crash while at the wheel of the Forte.

Rolling in the center lane of a three-lane highway in heavy traffic, the truck in front of me suddenly went into a full panic stop at around 60 miles per hour.  Naturally, I did the same. In a fraction of a second, I determined that we would not collide, so I took my foot off the brake, but the Forte’s AEB system took over and sent the brake pedal flat to the floor.

My instant reaction was panic, as I was certain that the car behind me would crunch my rear bumper hard.  I immediately pumped the accelerator, hoping to avoid this.

Amazingly, everything straightened out and no contact occurred.  Given all the evidence, I came to the conclusion that one of two things happened: For one, the driver behind me deserved a medal for reacting so quickly to avoid crashing into me.  Or two, the Forte’s AEB system saved my bacon.

I’m inclined to believe it was the latter.

So, if you are searching for a compact that just might bail you out of a hot spot during a dicey urban commute, put the Forte at the top of your list.

Oh, by the way, there’s much more to like about the latest Forte beyond that.

Sleek, sporty styling draws approving nods from folks viewing the Forte’s profile, and an upgrade in engines for 2017 bolsters the saucy look.  My ride had a 2-liter, four-cylinder power plant rated at 164 horsepower.  This was more than enough to move the Forte around with authority.

I found the Forte quite agile in quick slalom moves, and the steering balance was just about perfect, which is saying something for a compact sedan.

Fuel mileage ratings on the tester were a sublime 25 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.  The starting price on an EX is $21,200, with plentiful options available.

On the motion picture scale, this 2017 Forte deserves four stars … and my thanks for almost certainly braking me out of harm’s way.
 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Enhanced Mitsubishi Mirage is the best one yet

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 – The Mitsubishi Mirage dates back to the disco era of the late 1970s, but the latest, reworked-for-2017 version is the best of the lot.

Basic transportation refined for our times.  That’s the ticket.

My tester was the 2017 Mirage GT five-door hatchback, and the sticker numbers that draw your attention right off the bat are: 37 miles per gallon in the city and 43 mpg on the highway.

Yes, that will put a smile on your face.  So will a starting price of $16,495.

Naturally, there are some sacrifices to be made to match those numbers.

The power plant is a 1.2-liter, three-cylinder creation rated at 78 horsepower, which is actually up 4 horses from the 2016 model.

Be advised: You really have to mash your right foot down hard to get rolling into the freeway traffic, and the three-cylinder engine will make a hair-raising amount of noise when asked to give its all.

The other side of the coin: This econo-liner is not stripped, and it looks good.

Standard features on the tester included a rear spoiler, a front seat heater, steering wheel-mounted controls for cruise/audio and fog lights.

Best of all, the look has changed for the better … much better, in my view.

Mitsubishi redesigned the hood, grille, front/rear bumpers, headlamps and wheels (15-inch, two-tone alloys on the tester).  The result is a cleaner, more-aerodynamic appearance.

The automaker also offers a lengthy list of entertainment and tech options, the better to dress up your Mirage to your liking.

My GT was nimble in downtown traffic, a plus in a driving environment where too many drivers make sudden, unexpected moves in an all-out effort to dent your bumpers.  Another downtown bonus: The tester was a snap to park in even the tightest urban lots. And the brakes were surprisingly grippy.

This being a Mitsubishi model, the consumer protections are outstanding – 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty, 5-year/60,000 new vehicle limited warranty, 7-year/100,000-anti-corrosion/perforation limited warranty and a 5-year/unlimited mileage roadside assistance program.

Overall, the newest Mirage GT stacks up as a deal-maker, with one potential deal being that you could get your college-age son/daughter a reliable new car instead of rolling the dice on a used model.  Likewise, this Mitsubishi is a smart choice as a daily driver for commuters watching their budgets and their fuel expenditures.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Maserati's Ghibli sedan is something special

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 www.sacbee.com/news/business/article4005306.html

This review first appeared in the November 2016 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California When you’re offered a drive in a 2016 Maserati Ghibli sedan, you jump at it.

This is something special, beyond the routine.  At least that’s what you expect from Maserati.

To put it mildly, I was not disappointed in my day with the car.

I knew about the Ghibli before it ever showed up in the United States.  News of its elegance and performance arrived before the car landed on these shores.  Happily, the advance reviews were accurate.

First off, even my basic Ghibli looked fast just sitting there.  The best of Euro styling accented a long, flowing front end that promised aerodynamic bliss.

Inside, a luxurious cabin is enhanced by thoughtfully placed controls.  Everything is so elegant and classy looking that you can’t imagine ever bringing a cup of coffee or any kind of food into this vehicle.  If a car can raise your sophistication level, this is the one.

An eight-speed automatic transmission was matched to a 3-liter, twin-turbo V-6 making a max 345 horsepower.  Frankly, the engine feels more powerful than advertised.  Jumps off the line are immediate and brisk.  Runs up to 60 or 70 miles per hour are a quick rush, made all the better by a satisfying growl from the power plant.

I found the steering a bit firm on the tester, but in a reassuring way.  At no time did I feel like I was laboring to take sharp corners.

Given the Ghibli’s power, fuel mileage is relatively fair at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.

This might be the best $70,000 to $80,000 you’ll ever spend.

It should be noted that the Ghilbi can be dressed up with yet more power and some top-of-the-line options, including a blasting Harman Kardon audio system.

I know what you’re thinking.  This is beyond most household budgets.  I hear that loud and clear.  It’s beyond mine.

But consider the options for a moment.

This is essentially an entry-level Maserati, an exotic marque that carries the same kind of emotional impact as Ferrari.  The Ghibli is smaller and much more affordable than its big brother, the Maserati Quattroporte, which is priced well into the six-figure ballpark.  And the Ghilbi is loaded with safety features, making it more than a prestige-loaded Euro luxury liner.

Bottom line: A starter Ghibli can be had for what you might pay these days for some high-end sport-utility vehicles, and if you’re craving a Euro sports car with exotic leanings, the Ghibli might be the one you’ve been seeking for all these years.

Is it worth it?  You can make that call after a test drive.