Friday, July 26, 2013

Just the basics: Sentra fills the bill

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 – Let’s talk basic transportation, shall we?

And as things go, the 2013 Nissan Sentra fills the bill rather nicely.  The 2013 model represents the seventh generation of the venerable nameplate, and the latest version features some sweet sporty styling (LED-accented headlights and taillights!) and a new 1.8-liter, four-cylinder, 130-horsepower engine.

It’s lighter too – by 150 pounds – than the previous-generation five-passenger Sentra sedan.  The gears were managed through a continuously variable transmission, which worked like a well-made watch.  Seventeen-inch alloy wheels add to the look and the feel of the car.

For me, driving the top-of-the-seven-trim-line Sentra SL, all this meant a surprisingly peppy and agile car that young families would likely be happy to have.  And keep in mind that my top-tier Sentra had a starting price of only $19,760.

Yeah, there’s a basic transportation fact you can feel good about.  And no, my ride was not stripped.  Standard features included dual-zone climate control, a six-way adjustable driver’s seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated power exterior mirrors and fog lights.

Pretty good deal, I say.

OK, this is not a massive machine, and three people in the back seat are going to bruise each other with their sharp elbows when the driver is rolling along a twisty stretch of road.  But hey, what do you want for a 20-grand sedan?

The fuel mileage on the tester was advertised at 30 miles per gallon in the city and 39 mpg on the highway, but frankly, I’m certain I was not attaining those numbers.  Perhaps a heavy right foot and an unusually bad week in urban gridlock worked against me, so take that for what it’s worth.

Nissan has spent the past couple of years rolling out new versions of established models, and the automaker didn’t hurt its reputation with this upgraded Sentra.

Just be aware that it is indeed basic transportation for a comparatively bargain price.  You want the Lexus, well, you’d better get a second job.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

CAM Car Cruise ready to roll on Aug. 3

Sacramento, California – There’s still time to sign up for the fifth annual California Automobile Museum Car Cruise, set for Aug. 3 in Sacramento.

Hundreds of cruisers driving gleaming cars of all types will leave Lot 1 of California State University, Sacramento, at 4 p.m. and park along a closed-off section of Fulton Avenue by 5 p.m.

At the Fulton Avenue staging area, Sacramento-area band Todd Morgan & the Emblems will be entertaining, and numerous vendors and food trucks will be on-site.

More than 20 car show awards will be handed out around 7:30 p.m. There is no charge for spectators.

The cruise is a partnership of the museum and the Fulton Avenue Association. Proceeds benefit the museum’s mission to preserve, exhibit and teach the story of the automobile and its influence in our lives.

For more information or to register, call (916) 442-6802 or visit

Monday, July 15, 2013

Volvo S60 sedan reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the 2013 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design sedan in the latest, July 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, July 12, 2013

New Mazda6 sedan: Where good gets better

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 June 2013 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California Let’s get started on 2014, shall we?  And let’s start with the 2014 Mazda6, a midsize sedan that years ago set the standard for producing multiple vehicles off a universal platform.

Flash-forward to this early-intro 2014 Mazda6.  This extensively reworked model now provides a very convincing argument for: Should I get the Mazda6 instead of the Toyota/Honda equivalents?  For my money, the Mazda should be on your test-drive list.

My tester was the relatively pricey Mazda6 i Grand Touring edition, starting at around $29,500 and dressed up for a sticker bottom line of $31,490.  Keep in mind that a basic 2014 Mazda6 with a manual transmission starts at around $21,000.

But oh, my ride was absolutely stuffed with standard goodies: heated front seats, paddle shifters, rearview camera, monster 11-speaker Bose sound system and on and on and on … Felt like a mini-Lexus.

The past design of the Mazda6 did little to turn my head, but the tweaks on this new arrival got my attention.   Pronounced fenders, big mouth street-racer grille, eagle-eye-shaped headlamps and a decidedly spread-out look at the four wheels that all but screamed midsize sportiness.  It certainly didn’t hurt that my ride’s exterior color was “Soul Red,” an appropriate label for the rich color that gleamed in the sunlight.

On-the-roll performance was comparatively understated.  Don’t get me wrong, the 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, 184-horsepower Mazda6 will handle the urban jungle and freeways just fine, but serious power is more subtle and gradual as opposed to being dished up with a hammer.

The byproduct of the subtle power plant is mileage ratings of 26 miles per gallon in the city and 38 mpg on the highway -- pretty impressive from even a four-cylinder front-driver in this day and age.

Casual Mazda watchers undoubtedly want to ask what the touted SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY is all about on these cars.  For me, it’s a fancy marketing term to state the obvious: the Mazda engineers worked their tails off to get a nice mix or engine oomph, good fuel mileage and air-splitting aerodynamics without gutting the whole driving experience.

My advice is to forget the SKYACTIV part and just enjoy the ride, giving a mental nod to Mazda’s tireless engineers.

Passengers can also enjoy the experience with good room for five all around, including the back seats.  Interior quietness was good, and gauges were easy to reach and to use.  My Mazda6 had most of the audio/communications bells and whistles.

I had some all-around vision problems from the cockpit, but this was pretty much fixed with some tweaking of the mirrors.

The previous-generation Mazda6 was already a pretty good car amid an outrageously competitive field of midsize players.  The Mazda6 is even better now.  It will be interesting to see how it does against the big boys.

Friday, July 5, 2013

BMW sedan upholds 3 Series' reputation

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 – BMW’s 3 Series is repeatedly paid compliments that … well, let’s just say they don’t show up in the box score.

I can tell you from personal experience that I’ve read hundreds of auto reviews and automaker marketing materials that contain these words: “competes admirably with BMW’s 3 Series.”

That’s marketing-speak for the 3 Series is the standard everyone else is shooting for.

And it’s a spot-on assessment.

Sure, there are affordable midize niches, loaded compacts and perks-laden luxury cars, but the 3 Series is a player in a segment that bespeaks the ideal: relatively affordable, yet luxurious; performance-heavy; brilliantly engineered; safe and a just-the-right-size car.

Now in its sixth generation, the 3 Series does nothing to hurt its reputation in 2013.  If anything, it’s enhanced.

My week in a 2013 BMW 328i M Sport Line sedan was one to enjoy.

The styling on my ride looked darn near race-ready – aerodynamic, razor-sharp on the front end and a wide, firm stance.

And yet, the car drove smaller than it looked – satisfyingly agile on sharp turns, a light feel in city traffic, sporty off the line and a silky straight-line racer when asked to dish up some power.  Cruising at 70 miles per hour felt like I was dogging it.  Yep, that smooth.

The 328i engine is a 2-liter turbo 4 advertised at 240 horsepower.  From my seat in the cockpit, it felt a bit more robust than that, and yet fuel mileage was pretty fair at 23 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.

One thing that I never got used to was the engine-shutdown feature, which essentially enables to car to automatically put the brakes on the engine and lighten up the air conditioning when stopped for a length of time at a stoplight or in traffic.  The first couple times it happened, I could have sworn that I had stalled the car.

Not a good feeling for my old heart.

However, a quick glance in the dash told me that, despite the sudden silence, the car remained “READY” to spring back into action once my right foot depressed the accelerator.  And it always did.  Still, I was never comfortable with this green, fuel-saving feature.

Everything else was a blast.

My tester with a $36,850 starting price was dressed up with tons of extra goodies, pushing the bottom line to an eyebrow-raising $47,295.  But I must confess that I happily soaked up all the luxurious goodies.

Through six generations, the BMW 3 Series still looks and feels pretty good.  For all those automakers out there trying to build its equal, keep on trying.