Thursday, July 30, 2015

Pathfinder renews urge to take that long road trip

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 ­I spent a week with an old friend recently.  Technically, it was a 2015 Nissan Pathfinder SL 4X4 sport-utility vehicle, but trust me, we go way back.

Remember when the Pathfinder made its debut back in 1985, available only as a two-door model.  It was definitely more truck-like back then.

Nissan cleverly marketed the vehicle as a regular participant in endurance runs and super-long road treks over plains, mountains and streams.  Back then, just the Pathfinder offered up the promise of seeing new, faraway places on roads yet untraveled.

You got the vibe just backing the vehicle out of the driveway.

Yeah, I’m a sentimental sucker, but it works for me.

Now, four vehicle generations later, my week in the 2015 Pathfinder once again had me itching to be out on the long and winding road.  But this time around, things have changed.

The current Pathfinder – reportedly due for major upgrades over the next year – is a lot more vehicle than what I remember.  And much more luxurious.  In fact, I couldn’t envision taking this beauty off the road and into the mud up in the wilds of Alaska.

Why would I want to mess up the gleaming “Cayenne Red” paint job?

Still, I’m sure this current 4X4 could plow through the mud if asked.  The 3.5-liter V-6 rated at 260 horsepower performed at level well above that advertised number.  The Pathfinder was strong off the line and peppy on prolonged accelerations.  It drove lighter than it looked.

The exterior look is SUV basic, but smooth over the top.  Plentiful safety/security features are standard – including a blind spot-monitoring system­ –  to make you feel secure at the wheel.

Inside, the seven-passenger SUV was a study in contemporary luxury and motorist-pleasing perks.

Leather all around.  Rear-view monitor.  Rear sonar system.  Four 12-volt power jacks.  My ride was dressed up with a $2,030 tech package that included a primo 13-speaker Bose audio system, a top-tier navigation system and an Around View Monitor with four wide-angle cameras to help me avoid unwanted contact.

The extras brought the bottom line on the sticker to $40,875, which is about right.  I can’t imagine trading in this vehicle after three or four years.  No, I’d look at it as a 10-year investment, minimum.  Consider it your ticket to travel the open road for years to come.

Worth noting on the plus side: solid safety ratings.  On the other side of the coin: fuel mileage not terrific at 19 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.

The Pathfinder competes against some other solid models in this sector, and in my view, it stacks up quite well when compared with its rivals.

Sure, it can do the daily commute, or the suburban chores.  And if you’re thinking about heading out on the path not yet taken, well, you probably know what to do from there.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Navigator upgrade for 2015 is a crowd-pleaser

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 ­The sizable 2015 Lincoln Navigator 4X4 might just as well be called a rolling hotel room, but that wouldn’t quite say it all.

It’s a rolling LUXURY hotel room.  A five-star special.  Take my word on this.

You can get jaded reviewing pricey motor vehicles over the long haul, but I am not one to ignore the plush glories of this vigorously reworked-for-2015 sport-utility vehicle.

Where to begin?  Well, it’s impressive in size, so big that I felt compelled to step carefully around it, lest it become offended.

Yes, the style is somewhat boxy, but for practical transportation and big-time cargo-carrying purposes, the advantages of practical styling cannot be denied.

Inside, wow, what a blast.

A cavernous interior could easily carry the Golden State Warriors starting five and their gear.  And in comfort too.

My ride had the “Reserve Equipment Group” option package, a $6,850 luxo-fest that included a leather-wrapped instrument panel, armrests and gear shifter; premium Ziricote wood trim; and premium leather on all three rows of seats (22-inch polished aluminum wheels also are part of the deal).

Lincoln kindly points out that Ziricote is a natural-grain wood commonly used as accent material on yachts.  Who knew?  Not me, I’ve yet to own my first yacht.

On top of that, the Navigator experience includes heated/cooled front seats, second-row heated seats, powered third-row seating that can fold flat, power adjustable pedals with memory settings, power/folding/heated exterior mirrors, a power liftgate, power side running boards that automatically deploy to welcome driver and passengers, a voice-activated navigation system and a rear auxiliary climate-control system.

Oh, the usual automatic safety/warning systems also are present.

So, how does it drive?

The tester was surprisingly peppy and smooth for such a big brute.  Power comes from a 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 engine rated at a max 380 horsepower.  That’s more than enough to do the job, although the job gets done with wallet-sapping fuel mileage ratings of 15 miles per gallon in the city and 20 mpg on the highway.

Still, I was impressed with the Lincoln’s get-up-and-go attitude on hill climbs and freeway entrance ramps.  Also noteworthy: Very little noise reaches the interior cabin, and the vehicle absolutely eats up road imperfections to the point where you begin to think that all the roadways were repaved overnight.

Here’s your warning: The tester’s bottom line came in at $73,395, which should give you a clue as to what income bracket we’re talking about here.

To be honest, I don’t usually get excited about a big, high-end, gas-drinking SUV these days.  But I’m making an exception with the newly upgraded Navigator.  The reworked sport-ute does everything well in the full-size luxury segment.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Prius appeal goes beyond gas pump avoidance

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 ­The Toyota Prius v is what they call “the big Prius,” or perhaps even more to the point, the “original” Prius.  Maybe “Prius Classic” works best.

Think four doors and a hatch, and you’ve got it.

In the time I had it, the 2015 “Five Model” edition, I enjoyed it immensely.

The biggest enjoyment was knowing that there was virtually no way I was going to run out the gas tank in a week’s time.  The 1.8-liter, four cylinder engine paired with the battery pack-backed electric system made the hybrid a super-efficient wheeling machine.

Fuel mileage figures are a ridiculous 51 miles per gallon in the city and 48 mpg on the highway.  Given California’s often mind-blowing at-the-pump prices, there’s little wonder that the Prius has taken or nearly taken the No. 1 new car sales crown in the Golden State over the past few years.

So, the mileage is great, and the exterior styling is instantly recognizable as a Prius (with snappy 2015 additions that include 17-inch alloy wheels integrated fog lights). What else does it have, you ask?

Leave it to Toyota to make things interesting.  Climbing into the tester prompted my eyes to wandering.

Those mini windows placed in front of the regular driver/front-passenger windows certainly turn your head.  Likewise, my head was turned by the center console that swept in an open arch from my elbow to the center stack of controls.

These aren’t big things, but I must admit that they’re cleverly stylish.

With this Prius, carrying a crowd is a snap, and the cargo area is pretty generous if you configure it to the max.

For those of you thinking the unspoken question, let me provide you with the straight-up answer: Yes, in my view, the Prius is a better option than other sport-utility vehicles, crossovers and wagons on the market.  But shop carefully to get exactly what you want.

The tested Prius had a starting price of $30,005, but it was dressed up with the Advanced Technology Package priced at more than $4,300.  I confess that the tech pack is a smile-inducing goodie bag.  It includes a premium JBL audio system with navigation and App Suite, radar cruise control, lane assist, a pre-collision system and much more.

Ordinarily, I can do without some of these extras.  In the Prius, they were a welcome bonus.

Being a pioneer in the field of alternative-power technology on the American roadways, the Prius has evolved over more than a decade into quite the comfortable freeway cruiser.  It’s also perfect for the family that wants a second car to run errands in suburbia for something like the next 20 years with no complaints.  And imagine the gas money you’re saving over that time.

So, yes, the Prius still has technology and wallet appeal.  Beyond that, it’s a pleasure to drive as well.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Challenger still has the look, the feel, the vroom

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 originally appeared in the June 2015 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California – Like its Dodge Charger running mate, the 2015 version of the Dodge Challenger received major changes this time around.

Thankfully, Dodge did not mess up an already good thing.  The 2015 Challenger still has that American muscle look, that road warrior feel and more than enough vroom to turn the heads of other motorists. (PHOTO taken by Charles Glover)

With the Charger having four doors, the Challenger remains the true beast of the Dodge high-horsepower lineup.  And I say that having spent a week in one of the relatively “modest” versions of the Challenger, an SXT Plus with a mere 305 horsepower produced by the 3.6-liter V-6.

The V-6 certainly made a sound like a V-8, and I appreciated that.  Even if the neighbors did not.

And here’s the thing about the Challenger (and the Charger too, for that matter): It feels like a lot of car, just sitting in it.  It feels long, wide and powerful, like it’s radiating that get-outta-my-way attitude for all wavelengths.  You see a Challenger in the rearview mirror, your gut says: “Don’t mess with it.”

This feeling is boosted by the super-sporty, classic American muscle looks of the Challenger.  You have the smackdown grille on the front, widening at the hips toward the back end and a nicely sculpted/well-lighted back end.

On the roll, acceleration of the tested Challenger was brisk but not neck-snapping.  For all of its big feel, the tester was actually easy to steer into and out of tight places.  I experienced some body roll on hard corners, but not enough to make me adjust my steering patterns.

I appreciated the old-school gauges behind the steering wheel.  Took me back in time … in a good way.

Fuel mileage was pretty good at 19 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.  The starting price of $29,995 was bulked up to $34,175 on my ride with the addition of some customer-pleasing extras.  That included a $1,195 power sunroof.

Standard features were plentiful, with ventilated/heated front seats, lots of leather surface touches and a strong audio system leading the way.

Having sampled the 2015 Charger and Challenger back to back, I think it boils down to a matter of preferences and personal environment.

If you have a family and other people to haul around on a regular basis, but you still like to unwind an American car with a storied muscular past, my guess is that you’re probably going to be happy in the Charger.

If you spend a lot of time by yourself in a car, and most of that time is spent enjoying the feel of your right foot deeply planted in the accelerator, the Challenger is going to be your preferred cup of tea.

Kudos to Dodge for keeping the spirit and legacy of these two models alive, while peppering both with some most-positive improvements for 2015.
 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

New Acura TLX sedan reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the 2015 Acura TLX 3.5 SH-AWD Advance sedan in the latest, July 2015, 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.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Lexus LS price has risen, so has overall quality

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 ­ The Lexus LS sedan has long been one of my favorite high-end passenger cars.

In fact, years ago, I told friends and relatives that even if I had millions of dollars to spend, I’d likely still buy the LS as my every day transporter, given its sublime blend of style, performance and luxury.

This was when a Lexus LS 430 started in the mid-$50,000s.

Times have changed.  The recently tested 2015 Lexus LS 460L rear-rear driver started at $78,820 and was dressed up with extras to put the bottom line at $84,605.

Say it with me: WOW!

Yes, power, perks and other opulent wonders have been added over the years to enhance that old LS 430, pushing the price higher and higher.  For me, at this price, my week in the tested sedan was a trip to Fantasy Island.

Considered in that fashion, I appreciated the current LS for what it has to offer.

It looks sleek and strong-shouldered on the outside, but the overall vibe is class and luxury.

Inside, the luxury is overwhelming.

Plentiful luxo features are beautifully laid out amid rich wood and leather appointments.  The wood-and-leather steering wheel alone feels like it must cost 20-grand.

There’s ample front and rear room for five adults.  The comfort level is off the charts.

Performance from the 4.8-liter, 386-horsepower V-8 is impressive.  Power is dished up in buttery style, so smooth that you can be touching 80 miles per hour before you even sense something resembling high speed.

A lengthy list of safety features makes you feel secure beyond the sedan’s instantly apparent bank vault characteristics on the move.

Fuel mileage is nothing to write home about, with the sizable V-8 consuming 16 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.

That’s to be expected.  Fuel costs are not high on the list of concerns voiced by Lexus LS buyers.

If anything, the luxury and performance level of the current LS line moves it up into the high Mercedes-Benz, low Bentley level.  It’s that good.  And yes, the price required to own one would certainly qualify for those lofty levels as well.

If you are sufficiently well off to consider a luxury car, the LS 460L should be on your test-drive list, even if you’re pondering other cars with stickers starting at six figures.  At the high end, cost is relative.  But the charms of this current-generation LS sedan are universal and worth sampling.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Lexus, er Avalon, sedan is the total package

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 ­ I’ve said it before, and it remains true as the ocean tides: Take the Toyota Avalon sedan’s badging away, and it is a worthy Lexus in disguise.

That’s especially true of the tested 2015 Toyota Avalon XLE Touring SE, a loaded luxury liner with crowd appeal.

The starting price is entirely appropriate at $37,170, and my ride had not a single extra.  No problem there.  It had plenty to begin with.

The short list included leather trim, heated seats, heated exterior mirrors, duel chrome-tipped exhausts, a power tilt/slide moonroof, paddle shifters, blind spot monitor system, and on and on and on …

Sure, it helped that it looked sporty with racy alloy wheels and a paint job called, I kid you not, Attitude Black.  These feel-good touches are a gift in a sizable sedan.

What’s not to like?

Maybe the gas mileage, which comes in at a somewhat tepid 21 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.

That’s a small price to pay for a willing 3.5-liter V-6 engine that generates a max 268 horsepower.

OK, this is not a tire-shredding power plant, but it does most things very well, including freeway on-ramp accelerations and hill climbing.  At the top of long, steep hills, the engine will let you know that it’s doing its best.

Steering is direct and firm.  Freeway cruises are smooth and quiet.  The Avalon was mega-stable, even on twisty roads navigated a high speed.

If you don’t go the SUV/minivan route, this Avalon might be one of the top five long-road-trip family sedans out there.  It’s comfortable for the adults riding up front, and the kids have enough room/comfort/entertainment options to keep them from constantly asking if we’re there yet.

That alone might be worth the price of purchase.

If you use the Avalon as strictly a commuter, you’ve made a wise choice.  It has strong reliability ratings over the long haul, and I would think most Avalon purchasers are inclined to keep the car for five years or more.  Maybe much more.

You can’t argue with a passenger car that transports you and cargo with little or no complaint (and I’m talking primarily about surprise trips to your mechanic here, folks) through many seasons.

A stands for Avalon, and that is its overall grade, hands-down.