Thursday, March 16, 2017

VW's Passat sedan is a masterful midsize marvel

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

Sacramento, California – Are you still mad at Volkswagen?

If you are, I understand.  VW’s emissions-cheating scandal was a hard smack in the face to California motorists in particular, and I’m sure the automaker often wishes that it could turn back the clock and make it right, avoiding the billions of dollars it’s paying out now to settle all scores.

And yet, incredibly, Volkswagen was the world’s No. 1 automaker in 2016.  All other things aside, VW has topped the world by producing some very good cars, one of which I recently tested.

The 2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SE sedan was priced right, built right and was generally right on the mark in every way.

The tested Passat was priced at $26,315 on the sticker’s bottom line, and that included everything in the generous list of standard features.  Beyond-the-norm perks for this price range included heated front seats, a power tilt/sliding sunroof and a blind-spot monitor with rear traffic alert.

Exterior styling is nothing fancy, but certainly easy on the eyes for a exceptionally functional midsize sedan.  It looks as appealing as most everything else in this no-nonsense segment.

A top-tier, five-star overall federal safety rating is reassuring.  Plentiful high-tech safety features also help, including an intelligent crash-response system.

Oh, the warranties are pretty generous as well.

Power comes from a 1.8-liter turbo 4 that reacts and dishes up through-the-gearbox performance in a way that makes the advertised 170 horsepower rating seem like a short-changed mistake.

Freeway cruises were a happy blast in the tested Passat, and the sedan was a surprisingly agile vehicle in tight downtown spots.  The tester had a surprisingly tight turn-around radius, which I appreciated multiple times in cramped parking garages.

The mileage report is likewise something to appreciate: 23 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg on the highway.  With the Passat drinking regular gas, I’m thinking those numbers are a positive development for many household budgets.

VW’s Passat had some major upgrades in 2016, and there are a few more tweaks for the 2017 model year.

I like what Volkswagen has done with the interior cabin, which is not only functional but comfortably spacious for the midsize segment.  At the rental counter, you’d probably peg the Passat as a full-size car, and you wouldn’t be wrong thinking that.

All in all, the latest Passat lands in the B-plus/A-minus grade range.

Friday, March 10, 2017

VW's Golf Alltrack more than meets the eye

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

Sacramento, California The all-new-for-2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack is a segment bender.

Motor Trend magazine calls it a sport-utility vehicle.  I don’t agree.  Volkswagen calls it a derivative of the Golf SportWagen. Well, OK.  Fellow auto reviewers have called it a high-riding station wagon.  Uh, that doesn’t quite cover it, in my view.

It’s not like this is new.  Subaru has been playing this game for years.  But I digress.

Here’s what I didn’t expect out of my 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack TSI S w/4Motion (yeah, say that four times fast): It’s a peppy performer.

How so?  Well, I made a fool out of myself just driving it out of the parking lot for the first time.  I stepped on the gas expecting an easy coast into traffic, and instead, I found myself hanging on to a rapidly accelerating car seemingly ready to jump the opposite curb and keep going.

Thankfully, only a handful of witnesses saw this humiliating performance.  Snatching up the owner’s manual, I quickly saw that the power plant was a turbocharged 1.8-liter, four-cylinder spitfire with 170 horsepower and 199 foot-pounds of torque.

OK, that explains things.

Over a week’s time, the Alltrack and I learned to get along, but I was consistently impressed with how quickly the vehicle dished up power with very little asking.

No, I did not take it off-road, but I did have fantasies of me chasing fleet woodland creatures through the backwoods in the wilds of Northern California.

So, here’s the thing:  Yes, it looks very much like a wagon with serious off-road capabilities.  But it’s more than that.  I could see myself happily using an Alltrack as a daily commuter/driver, never leaving the paved flatlands.  Seriously.

It steers with the ease of a midsize sedan.  Engine noise is comfortably controlled.  The 360-degree view from the driver’s seat is superb.

Another bonus: With the rear seats folded, the Alltrack’s interior cargo space measures 66.5 cubic feet, a serious number that I would have guessed to be hopelessly overinflated when I first viewed the car.

The list of standard safety features is impressive (the feds gave the Alltrack a maximum five-star overall safety rating), as are the number of standard comfort/convenience features.  Hard to argue with the price: a reasonable $26,950 to start, and that included no extras on my ride.

Gas mileage is pretty good as well: 22 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.

Volkswagen seems to advocate that it’s OK to treat this Alltrack roughly, because, well, it can take it.  I’m good with that, but frankly, I felt better mashing the accelerator and dusting off roadway crawlers.

Nothing wrong with that, right?

Monday, March 6, 2017

Black Edition Ridgeline reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the 2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD Black Edition pickup in the latest, March 2017, 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, call (916) 933-0949 or send an e-mail request to Mailed requests for information should be sent to Cruisin’ News, P.O. Box 1096, Folsom, CA 95763-1096.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Ford's popular Escape reworked for 2017

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 might call it the sport-utility vehicle for the rest of us.

The Ford Escape isn’t a luxury liner, but it’s nicely equipped.  It can be had for a reasonable price, enabling you to stick with just one job to pay for it.  The Escape is uncomplicated and utterly functional.  It can be an errand-runner or a comfortable daily driver-commuter.

What’s not to like?  No wonder it’s so popular, with annual sales topping 300,000. That makes it Ford’s second-best seller behind the longtime overall sales champ, the Ford F-Series of pickups.

Turns out there’s more to like about the Escape in 2017, as it gets a major reworking.

My tester was the 2017 Escape SE FWD priced at $25,100 to start and a relatively hefty $29,975 on the bottom line with a significant lineup of optional extras.

About those changes for 2017 …

Ford tweaked the Escape’s hood and trapezoidal grille, giving the SUV an attractive, sporty appearance that also looks capable of smashing through some serious mud in off-road mode.

Inside, the gear shifter has been moved, storage bins have been added and a push-button electronic parking brake has replaced the previously entrenched, hand-operated version.

Those changes alone create a more comfortable and functional cabin.

Power on my ride came from a 1.5-liter turbo 4 that was adequately enthusiastic when asked and quietly efficient on freeway runs.  It’s rated just shy of 180 horsepower.

As has been true of past Escapes, this one handled very much like a midsize sedan, a very good thing.  And volunteer passengers were impressed with the amount of interior room.

Fuel mileage is pretty fair at 23 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.

Cool standard features included the “ice blue” lighting arrangement, a 10-way power driver’s seat and easy-to-use audio controls on the steering wheel.

The tester had extras that included a power liftgate, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and special 19-inch black-aluminum wheels.  The options were nice, but I would have been perfectly happy with the standard perks.

Oh, and the Escape can be had with adaptive cruise control, a collision-warning system and auto start-stop technology.  As usual, I disabled the start-stop feature for my driving tastes, but just making the point: the Escape really goes beyond the basic SUV.

It’s worth your consideration, whether you are looking to trade in an older sport-ute or pondering your first-ever SUV.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

New Prius Prime is a primo ride in all ways

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

Sacramento, California – They call it the Prius Prime, but Prius Mega, Prius Ultra and Prius Supreme would have worked too.

New for 2017, the Prius Prime is a plug-in, five-door hatchback that’s simply the best Prius I’ve ever driven.  Toyota calls it’s the most advanced and best equipped of all Prius offerings today.  No argument from me there.

There are so many ways the Prime stands out in the ever-growing Prius field.  It literally looks different from other Prius midsize models with unique, sporty styling on the front and back.  It rides low for maximum aerodynamic efficiency.

The Prius Prime also has a “dual wave” rear window that reportedly enhances the car’s ability to cut through the wind, but the horizontal strip splitting the rear view from the driver’s seat takes some getting used to.

Inside, the dual colors and materials made me feel like I was in command of a very special vehicle capable of lifting into space.

From the commander’s chair, I had easy access to controls for quad-LED headlights, heated/power exterior mirrors, heated front seats and a color head-up display.

Dominating the center stack of controls is the mother of all display screens, a massive 11.6-inch, high-definition wonder that is vertically positioned.  It’s like having a giant flat-screen TV in your car, complete with detailed map data, audio information and a even a little Prius avatar that greets you when you start up and drives down and away to wish you farewell when you shut off the car.

In sport mode, the tested Advanced model was the peppiest Prius I’ve sampled, with enthusiastic jumps from a standing start and impressive acceleration on the fly.  My Prime was instantly responsive, something I cannot say about other hybrids I’ve driven.

In electric-only mode, the Prius Prime is capable of traveling up to 25 miles, and in full gas-electric configuration, you can figure on driving forever and a day – an EPA-estimated 133 miles per gallon equivalent.

The list of safety features is tech-loaded and exceptional.

Given all this, it’s no surprise that the Prius Prime is priced higher than your typical Prius hybrid -- $33,100 to start, and with my special package of extras, the bottom line on the sticker read $36,305.

In my estimation, it's worth that, especially for an environmentally-conscious motorist who wants more from a hybrid and plans on keeping the machine for a decade or more.

Anything not to like?  For me, with audio systems off, the Prius Prime emits a high-pitched whine that sounds very much like an emergency vehicle approaching from perhaps a block away.  I eventually adjusted to it, but it shook me the first couple times around.

Prius perfection in this ride?  Pretty darn close, I’d say.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Upgraded Corolla remains midsize sedan superstar

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

Sacramento, California – Now hear this: The monster-selling Toyota Corolla gets a major reworking for the 2017 model year.

What better way to celebrate 50 years on the market?  Since its 1966 debut, more than 43 million Corollas have been sold.

The 2017 restyling, additions and tweaks only enhance what has made the Corolla so popular for so many years: An affordable, generously equipped, safe sedan priced within range of most personal and household budgets.

What’s not to like?

My tester was the sporty-looking Corolla XSE with an easy-on-the-eyes bottom line of $23,545 on the sticker.

That price gets you standard goodies that include a power tilt/slide moonroof, a rear spoiler, heated front seats, 17-inch alloy wheels, disc brakes on front and rear, a multimedia package with Siri eyes-free command capability, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and much more.

My tester also had a continuously variable transmission and a sport drive mode.

The most obvious change for 2017 is the new, race car-worthy front grille spiced up with LED headlamps.  It might be over-the-top for some.  Not for me.

Power comes from a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing and intelligence.  At 132 horsepower, it’s not going to snap your neck, but the power plant is responsive and more than adequate for most road situations.

And the four-cylinder engine dishes up an additional bonus: exceptional fuel mileage ratings of 28 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.

The 2017 Corolla’s safety package is extensive and includes an intelligent pre-collision system, enhanced braking features and a lane-departure alert.  That’s the short list.  Combined, they make it difficult for even the most careless driver to screw it up.

The Corolla has been around for so long that I believe its mass appeal sometimes gets swallowed up in the blizzard of auto offerings that are new and shiny.  That’s the auto-selling game of course, but buyers seem to understand that few, if any, practical sedans have as much to offer as the Corolla.

How else to explain the long-standing, superior sales numbers? And yes, the Corolla remains the most popular midsize sedan sold in the United States.

This latest Corolla does nothing to take away from that storied history.  It actually adds to it.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

New Genesis G90 features full-on luxury, pep

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

Sacramento, California – The all-new 2017 Genesis G90 luxury sedan prompts bulging eyeballs and jaw-dropping wonder.

But before you get your face back in order, you have to know what you’re talking about.

Here’s the quick course: The full-size G90 is produced by Hyundai’s luxury division, Genesis, and the four-door model replaces what we called the Hyundai Equus.

Got that?  OK, here’s the shock and awe part: The sticker on my rear-driver 3.3T Premium G90 had a bottom line of $69,050.

That was without a single add-on.  Even in the ever-changing auto industry, it’s hard to get my head around a $70,000 car with Hyundai DNA.

But that’s quickly banished by other awesome things such as over-the-top luxury, superior technology features and pin-me-to-the-seat performance.

This is a full-on luxury sedan that absolutely ranks with anything put out by BMW, Acura, Lexus or Mercedes-Benz.  In fact, given all the G90 has, it’s probably a bargain for the listed price.

Let’s start with looks.  It’s what I’d call a substantial vehicle, as in seemingly capable of consuming small sedans and crossovers.  Riding on 19-inch alloy wheels, my ride matched the look – bank vault quiet and rock-solid in all conditions.

The 3.3-liter, twin-turbo V-6 has an advertised 365 horsepower, and it dishes up what I call “walk away power.”  By that, I mean that the engine does not scream, and the chassis does not buck.  The car simply walks away from surrounding autos with the slightest nudge on the accelerator.

Give it more than a nudge, and it fairly runs away from the pack, like the other cars are frozen in time.  It’s a feeling of power that can go to your head.

You might be brought back down to the earth with the realization that the power plant wants to drink premium fuel, and it guzzles it at a rate of 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.

Moving inside, five people can ride in supreme comfort.  From the driver’s seat, the all-around view is excellent, and numerous comfort/convenience/entertainment perks are within easy reach.

The G90's standard goodies are not what you see in most cars, even luxury models.  That includes the TWENTY-TWO-way power driver’s seat, the SEVENTEEN-speaker audio system and the 12.3-inch, high-definition navigation system.

The placement of leather and wood trim in the cabin is elegant, the high-tech safety systems are remarkable and the warranties (as usual for a Hyundai creation) are excellent.

If you’re one of those motorists fortunate enough to have a fat bank account, but still rank value for your dollar at the top of your shopping list, the Genesis G90 is probably the sedan of your dreams.