Friday, October 19, 2012

New Elantra GT a fuelish, fun ride from Hyundai

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo reviews also can be seen on the business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website – via the “GALLERY: Reviews of new cars” link at

Sacramento, California – I’m not usually a guy who goes gaga over small cars, but this new-for-2013 Elantra GT made me sit up and take notice.

With a Black Noir Pearl paint scheme and sharp Batmobile-style sculpting around the edges, this $19,000-and-change, five-door hatch looked the part of the pocket rocket.  And sure, mine was dressed up to a nearly obscene level with more than $5,000 in extras.

Can my attention be bought?  Early evidence indicates yes, as I really liked the optional sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels, navigation system, leather appointments and panoramic sunroof.

Controlling things from the cockpit kept me busy, but everything was within easy reach and did not take a doctorate degree in engineering to operate.

On the roll, the Elantra GT was significantly nimble on city street slaloms, and the steering was firm enough to make me feel like I was not overdriving the car.  Nice touch there.

Alas, with 148 horses coming from the 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine, I found myself wanting more in the power department.  I really had to mash the accelerator to get the desired oomph on freeways, and while the car coasted along effortlessly in the 60- to 65 miles per hour range, I was shy about making quick lane changes as it took time to get an extra safety cushion in tight traffic.

I made a cargo run out of necessity and was surprised how much stuff the tester took in once the seats were folded.  It handled about 40 percent more than I would have guessed.  That will save you a few errands.

Gas mileage: Very nice at 28 miles per gallon in the city and a whopping 39 mpg on the open road.

Hyundai touts the Elantra GT as a competitor against the Ford Focus, Mazda3 and Volkswagen Golf, and I can’t argue with that.  I’d say each model has its advantages.  For performance, I’d probably opt for the Mazda3.  But I might lean toward the Elantra as a reliable choice for a family member or close friend.

My Elantra experience was rounded off by a lengthy list of standard safety, comfort and convenience features.

All in all, it’s hard not to like this new Elantra GT.  Who am I kidding?  I liked it just fine.

If you’re searching for practical-size, affordable, gas-sipping transportation with modern perks, put this one on your test-drive list.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Acura's new ILX sedan an entry-level pleasure

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo reviews also can be accessed on the business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website – via the “GALLERY: Reviews of new cars” link at

Sacramento, California – And now, something all-new from Acura: the 2013 ILX sedan.

Acura calls it the brand’s new “gateway” car, which is auto industry-speak for “you might want to try this one first because it’s a practical and relatively affordable ride in our luxury-heavy lineup.”

The bottom line is, yes, I’d agree with all that.  And man, Acura pulls out all the stops to make this small-size luxury sedan attractive to a lot of folks.  You get six trim levels playing off the same architecture, with the various offerings mixing engines (even a hybrid), glittery options, transmissions and technology goodies.

My ride was the ILX with a 2-liter, 150-horsepower in-line 4 engine and the technology and premium packages.  Base price of the car is $31,400, with the $895 destination and handling charge pushing the bottom line on the sticker to $32,295.  Keep in mind that you can get the basic ILX for as little as $25,900.

The tech/primo packages on the tester included a lot: leather-trimmed sport seats, satellite radio, heated front seats, high-intensity xenon headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, navigation system (with voice recognition), rearview camera, a top-tier audio system with Surround-Sound and a 60-gig hard drive to name just a few.

On top of every other standard feature, just sitting in the ILX gave me the feeling of getting a special luxury experience sans a major output of cash.  All of it in an attractively wrapped, midsize-feeling package.  Interior space, in my view, was rather impressive for a car in this segment.

The exterior look is typical Acura: Understated sportiness with just a right touch of elegance.  The sculpted hood is particularly fetching. Will the neighbors notice it when you bring it home?  Count on it.

On the fly, the four-cylinder VTEC handled things pretty well, but the power plant is what I’d call one major consideration in the pricing scheme.  It does OK but labors on hard uphill runs, and you’d better press that accelerator hard if your freeway merge looks like it’s going to be a tight experience.  Bottom line: 150 horsepower is what it is.

The interior cabin was nicely quiet, even when I asked the ILX for everything it had.  Fuel mileage is pretty good as well: 24 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.

More good news: The ILX earned a top safety pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Must-communicate-while-I-drive types have that option with a sophisticated in-car phone and texting hookup built into this ILX.

As for me, I opted to cut off all communication and enjoy the ride.  Best decision I’ve made in a long time.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fancy Fiat reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the 2012 Fiat 500c Lounge Cabrio in the latest, October 2012 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.

Chrysler 300 ... a sedan that still matters

This review originally appeared in the September 2012 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California   When Chrysler came out with its Chrysler 300 sedan for the 2004 model year, I remember thinking: FINALLY, a contemporary Mopar family hauler with some daring and dash!

Remember that first 300 grille, looking about the approximate size of North Dakota.  In a rearview mirror, an approaching Chrysler 300 looked like a giant land shark ready to devour compact and midsize cars alike.

Well, the grille on the current 300 is a little more understated, and dare I say stylish.  And overall, the 300 retains its swagger, a big-shouldered freeway cruiser that can haul kids and cargo … and the driver can still fantasize the he/she is piloting a horsepower-laden bomb on some NASCAR track of dreams.

My tester was the 2012 300S with all-wheel drive, which translates to a 3.6-liter V-6 power plant putting out 292 horses at a gas-gulp rate of 18 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.  Let me state straight up: That was plenty of horsepower for me.

The 300S was a more-than-willing performer in all conditions, and no, it was not the SRT8 with a V-8 dishing up a rip-roaring 470 horses.  That SRT8 starts near $50,000, compared with a starting price of $35,820 on my tester.  I have no problem with folks spending 50-K on a speed merchant, but alas, I haven’t been on super friendly terms with the Highway Patrol for years, so I’d be happy with the cost savings.

No matter what version of the 300 purchased, you get a lot of gears: 8 of them to be exact.  Frankly, eight speeds through the automatic gearbox meant little to performance, but hey, it’s an impressive line on the stat chart.

Even in basic trim, the 300 is fairly loaded.  Interior comfort and quiet is admirable.  There’s plenty of room for three normal- to large-size adults in the back seats.  The trunk yawns open wide for a double-stack of luggage.  Good vehicle for a long vacation road trip?  Absolutely.

I again struggled with some of the controls, somehow managing to turn the blind-spot warning system on and off in a display of unrelenting technical ignorance.  You know you’re getting old when the interior controls are besting you on a regular basis.

One thing I could have done without was the in-cabin audio warning system.  Several times, after being in totally gridlocked traffic for five minutes, I’d get a jarring audio bite of “traffic ahead” through the cabin.

Well, thank you Captain Obvious!  If the system is that slow on the draw, I’d rather handle things myself.

Truthfully, though, that was a small irritation.  I’ve liked this particular version of the Chrysler 300 since it was introduced, and getting another week in it was as comfortable as slipping into a favorite set of clothes.