Thursday, August 22, 2013

BMW's Z4 still has a handle on hot

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 – Some cars, you just look forward to getting them.

Like when you see a small configuration of letters and numbers spelling out this: BMW Z4.  Add in BMW Z4 sDrive35is, and you know you’re really going to be enjoying a primo version of the hot two-seat droptop.

Extra bonus, my 2013 Z4 tester showed up painted bright red … about as in-your-face as a sporty car can get.

I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves: 3 liters, six cylinders, 335 horsepower.  Can the lightweight, turbocharged Z4 scoot?  Yes, it can.

I tried to ignore the other numbers, like a bottom line of nearly $70,000 on the sticker and so-so fuel mileage ratings of 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.  This is an open-road performance car, so it’s OK to purge all feelings of price and fuel-consumption guilt and just enjoy the ride.

Enjoy, I did.

The tested Z4 was a monorail-like blast.  Fast on the draw.  Rock-solid on high-speed turns.  A warrior in rush-hour traffic.

And oh, doesn’t it look sweet riding on those 19-inch alloy, double-spoke wheels?  When parked in my neighborhood, I noticed cars driving slowly by it or circling the block to give it a second look.  Uh-huh, I’ll confess that I took selfish enjoyment from watching that parade.

The suspension on the Z4 is decidedly sport-tuned, so the seat of your pants absorbs road bumps, but hey, this is a two-seat sports car.  Silky smooth isn’t necessarily part of the deal.

Nor should it be.

I was pleasantly surprised by a fairly lengthy list of cool interior features.  Also, my tester was bumped up in price by a $2,150 navigation system.

That nav system was wasted on me.  I was simply looking to get lost in my time with the Z4.  With this two-seater, yeah, you can get lost in a hurry.

My week in the red rocket was entirely too short.  But I loved every minute of it.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

VW's Touareg is not your typical hybrid

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 – I remember driving one of the first Volkswagen Touareg models to arrive in the United States about 10 years back, and here’s what I remember most about that experience: Boy, this thing drives like a big ol’ brute.

Heck of a thing to say about a sport-utility vehicle that won Motor Trend magazine’s 2004 SUV of the Year award, right?  But that’s what I remember.

That was not how I felt about the recently tested 2013 VW Touareg Hybrid.  With a 3-liter, six-cylinder engine working with an electric motor to dish up a combined 380 horsepower and 428 foot-pounds of torque at low rpms, the tester stood up in the saddle and moved out with authority.

I’m talking about sport sedan-like authority, with a nicely tweaked suspension keeping the five-passenger SUV rock-solid in the turns, straight and true on speedy straight-line runs.  Passengers who had plenty of room to spread out agreed with my assessment; they were not being rocked around the interior cabin despite my best efforts on sharp turns.

But you must remember that “hybrid” in this case does not translate to 40 miles-per-gallon runs.  Even with the electric assist, the advertised gas mileage is 20 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.  Not great.

And there’s this: a starting price of $62,575 on the Touareg Hybrid.  That’s a significantly hefty sticker and translates to: You’d better make sure you absolutely want and love this SUV before you sign the check in the dealer’s finance office.

Thankfully, for that price, you do get plentiful perks and luxury touches, plus a long list of safety features.

Over-the-top standard features include 12-way power/heated  front seats with memory, rearview camera with parking distance control, a power panoramic sunroof, a power liftgate, power adjustable heated exterior mirrors with memory, heated steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers and silver roof rails.

Oh, in my view, it also looks more sporty than Touaregs of years ago, with the help of 19-inch alloy wheels shod with all-season tires.

Big brute gets better?  Yeah, I’d say so.  But again, this is a vehicle that invites extremely careful buyer consideration, given its lofty starting price.  If you have the dough and the Touareg makes you happy, not much else to say.

Friday, August 9, 2013

BMW's X1 SUV reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i crossover vehicle in the latest, August 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, August 8, 2013

Volvo sedan sparkles with perks, pop

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

Sacramento, California Having sampled the T5 version of the goods in the Volvo S60 luxury sedan, I wanted to step into a lofty T6.

Let me tell you, it’s quite a step up.

My tester was the 2013 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design with “Platinum” extras.  If that's a bit too wordy for you, it’s probably better to simply think: loaded Volvo sedan going for nearly $50,000.

That’s a pretty steep price for a not-so-large sedan, but wait a minute.  It is absolutely packed with perks.  I’m talking about a ridiculous number of safety, security, performance, luxury and technology features.  Reading the owner’s manual is a must, because there are so many things going in this car that you’re going to miss out on a worthy one if you don’t methodically cover each one in the manual.

Oh, it looks good too.  My ride was done up “Rebel Blue,” but paint-color labels such as “Blue Explosion,” “Mega-Electric Blue,” or “Blue to the Max” would have worked as well.  You know your car is standing out when the neighbors say: “Hey, I saw you from a half-mile away.”

The bluer-than-blue exterior color on the tester probably stood out more than usual because the S60’s body styling is head-turning sporty.  In profile, it truly does resemble a weekend stock racer.

And it has the engine to back up the look.  A 3-liter, turbo, in-line 6 engine is rated at 325 horses, and it propels the S60 with barely-street-legal authority.  I really had to be careful with it as I continually ran it up to 80 miles per hour when I first got it.  That’s what happens when a hot engine is so sweetly mated to a sport-tuned chassis that it makes 80 mph feel like 40 mph.

Even at high speed, however, engine noise doesn’t come close to drowning out conversations in the cabin.  The ride was smooth and effortless, in all conditions.  The car seemed to casually blast through any humble challenge I had to offer.

Sure, fuel mileage is a somewhat ugly 18 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway, but it’s a fair trade-off if you appreciate the performance of the power plant.  And yes, I totally appreciated it.

This S60 is made for a certain customer … which is to say one with a six-figure income who loves both safety features and horsepower highs.  Nothing wrong with that.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Car sales sailing, but momentum is key

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 – Are we back?  And by we, I mean the folks who sell new motor vehicles in the United States.

Well, not quite.  Prior to the dog days of the recession, you’ll remember that automakers were selling around 17 million new motor vehicles annually.

This just in: Based on seasonally adjusted projections,  automakers are on track to sell around 15.5 million vehicles this year, which would be the best year since about 16.1 million new-car sales were recorded in 2007 … right before things went into the tank.

Figuring out the reversal of fortune does not take a brain wired for rocket science.

Sure, jobs, the stock market and the general fiscal outlook of the nation are on the mend or outright improving.  And yes, people who kept their old clunkers running while they were waiting for better economic times are now heading to the auto lots.  And yes again, automakers and local dealers are cranking out highly alluring, incentive-laced deals on new motor vehicles – deals sweet enough to make even the most determined Scrooge eager to part with his dollars.  Nice lease deals and a continuation of favorably low interest rates also have helped.

In July, automakers selling in the U.S. sold more than 1.3 million new units, up 14 percent over the total amassed in July 2012.

Good news poured out of various corporate offices: General Motors moved 234,071 vehicles in July, up more than 16 percent from the year-ago period.  Toyota’s sales in the U.S. rose 17.3 percent year over year, coming in at 193,394 last month.  Honda’s year-over-year bump up was nearly 21 percent, ringing up new-car cash on 141,439 units.

Chrysler Group, once scolded for lagging behind, sold a solid 140,102 new cars in July, up 11 percent from a year ago.

From the sales floor perspective, yeah, it’s all good.  And many analysts say they expect things to keep humming along through the end of the year.

But as is always the case in the new car sales game, the devil is in the details.

Bandon, Ore.-based CNW Research points out that the industry in July was actually down 6.4 percent from June.  Lumped in those numbers were hefty month-over-month percentage declines for Ford (down 17.8 percent), GM (slipping 11.6 percent) and Chrysler (off 10.7 percent).

Foreign automakers, by comparison, fared much better.

CNW aptly points out that momentum is critical to maintain market share over both the short and long term.  And one does wonder how long the incentive bonanza will go on before automakers start to become concerned with the bottom line.

Time will tell.  It’s hard to argue with the bottom-line sales numbers at this point, but let’s regroup in a few months to see how automakers’ balance sheets are doing in the incentive-laden market.