Friday, January 25, 2013

This one gets my vote as Best Beetle Ever

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car 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 – The 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible Turbo (60s Edition) was the best Beetle I’ve ever driven, and let me tell you, I have driven quite a few VW Beetles over the years.

What’s to like?  A whole lot.

It’s nicely rounded and smooth from the outside, unmistakably a Beetle at first glance but modern enough to make you feel good about your contemporary choice.

Inside, the 60s Edition was just what I was hoping for -- a throwback beauty.  On the tester, I loved the light-blue colored metal backdrop to the dash controls.  Compact car buffs will undoubtedly say it looks a lot like what you get in the Fiat 500.

To which I say, so what?  If it looks good, go with it.

Those aforementioned dash controls and gauges are easy to read and use.  Mastering the interior devices was a five-minute task, about one-sixth of my standard time these days.  Didn’t see a bud vase.  Another good thing.  Boys like this Beetle too.

And wow, the 2-liter, four-cylinder, 200-horsepower turbocharged engine was quite the beast in this weight class.  Combined with instantly responsive steering, I found myself running this Beetle through traffic like a Bowie knife through whipped cream.  Yeah, it felt good, and that’s the primary reason that this particular Beetle went to the top of my all-time Bug List.

For a zippy turbo, fuel mileage of 21 miles per gallon in the city and 29 mpg on the highway actually was a little better than I expected.

Warning: Expect a fair amount of exterior noise to find its way into the convertible’s cabin.

And Beetle devotees, take note: There are now ELEVEN trim levels in the kingdom of Beetledom, so there should be no problem finding the one of your dreams.  However, if you figured my droptop, turbocharged, retro ride was going to cost you just a shade over $20,000, think again.  That starting fare is about $32,400.

Welcome to the 21st century folks.  I’m betting that more than a few baby boomers expect to get a Beetle for a super-low price, because hey, wasn’t that how the Beetle got started in America in the first place?

Yes, it is, but the current price is about right for our times.  Similarly equipped – and lesser quality – cars are going for the same price.

So, if you want a high-end Beetle, be prepared to pay the price.  And prepare to enjoy.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Volvo sedan lives up to expectations, and more

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car 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 – For far too many years, Volvo has been underappreciated.

I can’t even put my finger on it, because Volvo once meant high-class cars with world-class safety features.

And yet, now I too often hear a bitter litany that goes something like this: Too vanilla, plain-Jane styling, unexciting, overpriced, Mercedes-Benz pretender, old yuppie’s middle-age crisis and grandpa’s car.

Wow, who knew slander could be so diverse?

I recently had a week behind the wheel of a 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD sedan, and here’s my take: aerodynamically stylish, perfect fit-and-finish, stout off the line and on the fly, absolutely loaded with comfort/tech features, safety features deserving of the highest honors, bank vault-quiet, smooth and seemingly respected by neighbors and fellow motorists alike.

All this for a list price of well under $40,000.  So, what’s not to like?

It occurred to me that the nation of Sweden – seat of Volvo’s long-standing DNA – doesn’t get much attention on the world stage, but the quality of life in that country consistently ranks among the highest in the world.

And so it with this particular S60.

I particularly ate up the 2.5-liter, turbocharged, five-cylinder engine rated at 250 horses.  It’s a serious performer, and yet the package qualifies as an Ultra-Low Emissions Vehicle.  That’s a notable accomplishment among peppy power plants.  Ask your local automotive engineer.

The all-wheel-drive system, highly touted by Volvo for this model year, is spot-on, ride-the-rails perfect.

Fuel mileage is, well, OK at 20 miles per gallon in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.

The interior luxury and safety packages are, in my estimation, what you’d expect on a $60,000 machine.  The bottom line on my tester, however, showed an entirely reasonable $38,170.  Federal government safety ratings on the car were the max five stars, across the board.

So, fine, you want to keep lobbing verbal shots at Volvo, go right ahead.  In my view, the smart folks are driving them.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Fusion SE sedan reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the 2013 Ford Fusion SE sedan in the latest, January 2013 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.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Scion steps up with a surprising road-burner

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

Sacramento, California When someone whose car knowledge I respect asks me if my test ride is an Alfa Romeo, I know something good is happening.

And then when I tell him the carmaker is Scion, well don’t that just beat all!

The car in question is the new-for-2013 Scion FR-S sports car, a four-passenger, two-door rear driver with serious sleekness and classic Euro-sport design.  Mine looked particularly fetching in basic black.

Looked sporty and felt sporty.  The 2-liter, four-cylinder boxer engine is rated at 200 horsepower, and yes, that moves the 2,800-pound machine forward with righteous aggressiveness.  Deep-detail readers know that’s the same engine you’ll find in the delightful Subaru BRZ.

Rest assured, from my experience, you can surprise many a sports car-driving fellow motorist by putting your right foot down in this FR-S and simply sailing away.

The FR-S handled with old-school nimbleness, and small movements of the steering wheel at high speed brought instant gratification. Nice job on that score.

Alas, the sport-tuned suspension is to the max, so you’re going to feel every little bump in the road.  Things get pretty noisy in the cockpit at full song as well.

One other annoyance for me was the racer-style driver’s seat with accented side padding that could not be adjusted, or deflated.  So unless you’re the size of the typical Formula One pilot – say 5-7 and 145 pounds – those pads are going to dig into your upper torso.  Perhaps if you drive the car often enough, the seat molds to your body frame.  Frankly, I don’t know the answer to that one.

What I do know is that your neighbors will likely flip out at the sight of this FR-S, because really, it looks like a $50,000 number sitting in your driveway.  You’re under no obligation to tell anyone that the sticker price is about half that.

And you don’t have to spill the beans on the gas mileage, which is very good for a spunky performer in this segment – 25 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg on the highway.

Interior standard features are pretty impressive in this price segment.  They include leather trimmed touches and aluminum sport pedals/scuff plates.  Adds to the whole sports car experience, I say.

And I’m not the only one liking this vehicle: It was named “Hottest Sport Compact” at the recent Specialty Equipment Market Association show in Las Vegas.

A few years ago, I’m not sure I’d have taken a bet that Scion would produce such a stout, sporty car.

Happily, I would have been wrong.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Patriot has basics, but new ride shows promise

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car 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 – Boosted by robust U.S. sales, the Jeep brand set global sales records in 2012, and perhaps the automaker’s secret is knowing when to change.

Consider Jeep’s iconic Wrangler.  It sets the bar for off-road looks and ruggedness, and kudos to engineers who have tweaked and massaged that vehicle to be what it is now.

Having recently spent a week in the 2013 Jeep Patriot Latitude 4X4, I think I understand why the biggest buzz around this vehicle is the upcoming replacement for the Jeep Patriot/Compass.  The 2014 replacement, which has been a hot offering on Internet spy photo pages, is a stylish-looking, Fiat-based crossover.

Bravo, I say.

Understand, it’s not that the Patriot is a terrible vehicle.  It handles the basics for a pretty fair price, but frankly, the coming upgrade will be a welcome development.

My ride was basically styled on two squares, one starting at the front grille and the second rolling back from the windshield.  With a 2.4-liter in-line 4 (172 horsepower) handling the power arrangements, the Patriot Latitude cuts through the air at 20 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.  Nope, not much to write home about there.

Cabin layout is nice, with comfortable bucket seats and easy-to-use controls within easy reach of the driver.  The interior can be configured to carry enough cargo that you’d likely strain your back loading it all in.  That part works.

Vision from the cockpit is good.  Interior cabin quietness was pretty fair.

Alas, the Patriot Latitude felt every inch the square-ish SUV on the fly.  It’s not a struggle to steer, but it’s no ballerina.  The power plant struggles on uphill runs and when it’s called upon to handle a quick, high-speed pass.  I felt compelled to let up on the gas in the middle of high-speed corners.

Given what’s coming next year, I’d absolutely understand a buyer putting the Patriot on a list for basic transportation to handle SUV chores that include hauling kids, sports equipment and all manner of gear.  And I’m guessing that Jeep dealers will be more than willing to haggle on the base price of the 2013 model ($22,880 on the tester) as this year goes on.

But on a quality-vehicle basis, I’d wait for the replacement with Fiat DNA.  Given Jeep’s good year in 2012, my money is on the soon-to-be new kid in town.