Friday, June 28, 2013

Sonata keeps it rep: get lots for less

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 – A fair amount of time has passed since I last reviewed a Hyundai Sonata.

I’d forgotten how much I was missing.

A lot, which is what Hyundai insists on stuffing into its cars as standard features.  Hyundai has won a lot of converts this way, and frankly, I’m amazed that so many people still opt for other automaker’s offerings when Hyundai offers a much more feature-loaded equivalent of the same car for a substantially lower price.

Take my tester, the 2013 Hyundai Sonata Limited PZEV sedan.  PZEV, by the way, stands for partial zero emissions vehicle.  Think green, very good for the environment.

For the $25,845 starting price, the customer gets electronic stability control with traction control, four-wheel disc brakes with assist and electronic brake force distribution, 17-inch alloy wheels, power sunroof, front fog lights, leather seating surfaces, heated seats front and rear, dual temperature control, all the audio bells and whistles and magnificent warranties – all standard.

That’s a steal, believe me.

Add in good gas mileage of 24 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway, and you’re really talking a bargain.

Oh, it looks nice as well.  Swoopy enough to be sporty and squared enough to be sophisticated, the Sonata cuts through the air smoothly and quietly.  Interior space for five is quite good.  Ride smoothness is right there.

The power plant is a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder machine rated at 190 horsepower.  It’s not a neck-snapping engine, but it serves this midsize sedan quite well.  If you really need to get out of harm’s way, you’ll have to put your right foot the floor.  Otherwise, it handles most everything else on the roadways with ease.

One other bonus: safety.  A long list of safety figures is bolstered by a flurry of five-star government safety ratings for all types of crash scenarios.  I typically don’t buy a car based on how I think it might save my life, but those who have this as a priority won’t be disappointed.

All in all, the Sonata remains the car I remember from years past: loaded, safe, attractive and affordable.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Engine upgrade adds much to Mazda's CX-5

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 – We’re spoiled, selfish.  We want our favorite vehicles to continually get better, to evolve, to stretch out with more perks and better drive characteristics.

Auto manufacturers know this is a key to sales success, and Mazda seems to know it better than most.

Take the 2014 Mazda CX-5, for example.

The latest version of the five-passenger sport-utility vehicle is a significant jump up from the previous one.  And the blue ribbon winner for best single improvement in this ride is the power plant.

The 2014 CX-5 gets the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 184 horsepower, a way, way better offering than the former 2-liter job with 155 horsepower.  Simply said, the 2.5-liter engine enables you to do things you couldn’t think of doing – or certainly didn’t look forward to trying – with the 2-liter engine.

Stronger, abler, the new, stronger engine just makes you feel more secure behind the wheel. You feel you can climb easier, haul better and just have a better chance of getting out of harm’s way if that occasion arises.

If the Old Folks Home is not that far away in your future – and I’m thinking of myself here, folks – you like the CX-5 over its big brother, the CX-9.  The CX-5 is the easier package to deal with, much lighter in feel and agile in an almost athletic way.

I realize there are folks out there with young families and lots of gear, and the CX-9 is likely going to be your cup of tea.  But for me, the CX-5 is a spot-on choice for a driver that likes good ride height, the ability to carry a good number of folks and passengers every now and then and an easy-handling SUV that makes a daylong road trip seem not all that tiring.

That’s the CX-5 in a nutshell.

My tester was comparatively pricey among the seven trim levels, a 2014 Grand Touring AWD version with enough extras to push the bottom line to nearly $32,000.  Even so, I thought that price was pretty good, given all the features on the sticker.

Mine included a power moonroof, leather trimmed sport seats, an eight-way power driver’s seat, heated power exterior mirrors and a kickin’ Bose audio system with nine speakers.  Like I said, pretty good goods for the price.

Fuel mileage is pretty good at 24 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.

Mazda kicked in some sharp-angle side sculpting to spruce up the otherwise smooth small SUV profile, and riding on 19-inch alloy wheels looked good.  Felt good too.  Exceptionally smooth ride on the open road.  Interior space, comfort, quietness: quite good.

As in other models, the blind spot monitoring system sounded when I was well out of harm’s way and zooming past a car going 20 miles per hour slower than myself.  But hey, better to err on the side of safety, right?

Overall, a solid B-plus to A-minus grade range for this 2014 SUV.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Honda's big deal: A loaded Pilot SUV

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 – Eight passengers, 12 trim levels, shoulders like a Hummer-Mack truck love child.  Yeah, the Honda Pilot impresses you with its largeness right from the get-go.

Here’s the sweet little secret, however … It’s entirely sophisticated inside, like one of those stretch SUVs you see rolling up to a high school prom.

The hefty Pilot received a serious refresh for 2012, but I finally got to sample the goods only recently.  My ride was a top-of-the-line 2013 4WD Touring edition, starting at $41,270.  And this version is so stuffed with features that the only extra is an $830 destination/handling charge.

They threw everything into this model, and I was still looking for the kitchen sink right up until the moment I had to surrender the tester.  What all was in it?  Do you have 10 minutes to spare?

Here’s the short list of what I’d call above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty STANDARD features: Bluetooth HandsFreeLink and audio features, eight-inch high resolution center display, rearview camera, DVD rear entertainment system with nine-inch screen and wireless headsets, 10-speaker premium audio system, USB audio interface, tri-zone climate control, second-row sunshades, power moonroof, power tailgate and on and on and on …

Ye gods, throw in more than a dozen top-tier safety features and a half dozen more driver-assist technos, and you almost feel like you’re getting a break at 41K and a fraction.  Can I pay for the floor mats?  Really, I’m feeling guilty.

OK, the styling is boxy and brutish, and you figure it gets about 300 yards to the gallon, but you’re seriously mistaken.  Fuel mileage is actually pretty good in this sizable SUV segment, 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.

It drives “big” but not uncomfortably so.  Interior noise was minimal, steering was light and responsive and body sway in the corners was decidedly light … much lighter than what I’ve felt in smaller rides.

A 3.5-liter V-6 is rated at 250 horsepower, and that accounts for a little bit of the gas savings.  OK, some probably will long for more power, but Honda long ago figured out that more of today’s buyers are thinking dollar savings over muscle building.  I’d say the power plant provides “just enough” for what most will be looking for out of the vehicle.

Loaded up and driving uphill, yes, you need to mash the gas pretty deep to get satisfaction. But just think of all those dollars you’re not pouring into the gas pump, right?

The Pilot is sort of the antithesis of what Honda is right now, a champion builder of fuelish, smallish cars.  But the Honda folks also recognize that demand for a beefy SUV still exists, the better to serve large families rolling on frequent road trips and kids’ athletic teams needing to transport equipment and future all-stars.

Given what else is out there in this segment, the Pilot ranks well near the top.

Friday, June 7, 2013

2014 Mazda6 reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the 2014 Mazda6 i Grand Touring midsize sedan in the latest, June 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.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Cadillac ATS ups ante, heartbeat

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

This review originally appeared in the May 2013 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California Cadillac introduced the 2013 Cadillac ATS as an entry-level luxury sedan designed to crush the Euro competition without necessarily crushing your wallet.

Nice work Caddy Crew, because it works.

For an entry-level luxo liner, I sure was intimidated by my 2.0T Premium version of the ATS.  For starters, it’s one of SIXTEEN trim levels of the ATS available.  A Premium ATS starts at around $45,000 and can be had with rear-drive or all-wheel drive.

Secondly, the small 2-liter, four-cylinder turbobox puts out a pretty hard shot for an advertised 272-horsepower power plant.  I had to be careful not to leave rubber and vault myself over a VW Bug.  Likewise, you can sail up to 80 miles per hour on the freeway before you know it (not that you’d know if from the extremely quiet interior cabin).  Even so, gas mileage is pretty fair – around 25 miles per gallon in combined city/highway operation.

And then there’s the Cadillac CUE system, or comprehensive in-vehicle user experience.  It combines all the entertainment, data and high-tech device possibilities into one, and it’s managed via the center stack video screen.  Wow, I felt like I was taking basic computer classes all over again, but I finally mastered perhaps half of everything after a week.

So, you want to compete in the sedan world these days, you make a rolling computer that goes like a scalded cat and is offered in enough varieties to make a snap-decision-maker agonize over the best way to go.

Oh, and it looks good too.  It has the understated elegance of a Cadillac, but it has just enough swoop to give you a hint that it will scoot hard when the accelerator is nudged.  Interior luxury is decidedly Caddy-like, even though old-school Cadillac lovers might be taken aback by interior features with digital readouts instead of traditional buttons.

Cadillac has done so much on the techno end that it’s easy to lose track that the most enjoyable things about the ATS are robust performance, excellent handling, stop-on-a-dime braking and rock-solid slalom capabilities.

Two techno perks really got my attention.

For one, the heads-up display not only gives you your current speed but displays the current lawfully posted speed in an icon that looks exactly like a standard roadway speed limit sign.  Amazing!  OK, it isn’t always exactly correct and the speed limit number goes away on some side streets, but still cool, right?

Then there’s the lane-straying warning system and the “you’re getting too close to a really solid object” warning system.  In a Mercedes, you get the warning as a vibration in the steering wheel.  In the ATS, you get the vibrations in the seat of your pants.  I about went through the roof of the car the first time this happened.  Thankfully, if you have a weak heart and don’t like being goosed by your car, you can override it.

Overall, this new effort from Cadillac gets an A-minus grade from me.