Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Santa Fe for seven remains a bargain

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 – High gas prices have changed the nation’s car-buying habits, but some folks still need something that can carry seven passengers or a fair amount of cargo on a regular basis.

Those needs, however, do not negate bargain shopping.

And that’s why the Hyundai Santa Fe should be on your list.  Over the years, I’ve recommended the Santa Fe to numerous friends and family members as a practical choice in the crowded field of sport-utility vehicles, some of them priced to the sky.

Not so the Santa Fe.

My tester, a 2013 Santa Fe Limited with front-wheel drive, was loaded to the teeth for a starting price of $33,100.   A Technology Package that included a sunroof and a nav system pushed the bottom line to just short of $37,000

But I can tell you straight up: I would have been just as happy without the extras.

That’s because the long list of standard features included all the contemporary traction-control devices, braking assistance technology, 19-inch alloy wheels, proximity key entry, heated seats in the first two rows, leather seating surfaces, roof rails and a windshield wiper de-icer.  That’s just the short list.

What I had in my tester would easily equate to $45,000 or $50,000 in seven-passenger SUVs made by other manufacturers.  So, yeah, you’re getting a pretty good deal here.  Throw in Hyundai’s over-the-top warranties, and you’re getting a very good deal.

The Santa Fe’s styling is classic SUV, which is to say roundish with enough aerodynamic smoothness thrown in to please the eye.

Power is supplied via a 3.3-liter V-6 rated at 290 horsepower.  That power plant propels the Santa Fe with authority, when asked, and the vehicle is agile enough to give you lane-changing confidence during crowded freeway commutes.  On long interstate hauls, the Santa Fe was quiet and smooth, the better to hear the 12-speaker Infinity Logic 7 surround-sound system that was among the extras in my ride’s Technology Package.

Cargo-carrying capacity is impressive.  The back end area is deep enough to stack boxes without blocking the rear view.

Gas mileage is only fair at 18 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.  Alas, I’ll take the V-6 power advantage over fuel mileage in a crowd-carrying SUV every time.

Overall, the Santa Fe maintains the charms that have prompted me to recommend it to prospective SUV buyers for years.  Lots of goodies for the right price.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Kia Cadenza reviewed in the latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the all-new 2014 Kia Cadenza sedan in the latest, September 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.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

BMW presents one hot crossover in the X1

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

Sacramento, California BMW’s X1 five-passenger crossover was doing pretty well overseas, so BMW brought it to America for 2013.

Nicely played.  My 2013 BMW X1 xDrive28i was a surprising bit of fun.  When it showed up, I thought to myself: too small.  And if you’re one of three people jammed into the back seat, I think that initial assessment is going to hold serve.

But when I got the xDrive28i out on the highway, “too small” had vanished in the rearview mirror.

Honest, I had trouble keeping the thing under 80 miles per hour.  I cracked the throttle halfway, and the needle just stubbornly stood there at 80 mph, seemingly begging for more.

Power comes from a 2-liter, twin-turbo, four-cylinder engine rated at 240 horsepower.  That power plant blasts the xDrive28i along like a champ.  As you’re blazing by everything on the open road like a champ, you’re thinking that you’re at the wheel of one hot car.

For me, that was literally true.  My time in the BMW X1 came during a week of mercilessly hot weather in Sacramento, with temperatures soaring to 105 degrees and above.  I’m going to assume it was nature’s fault, but the interior temperature within the little fishbowl of the X1 was so hot from sitting in the afternoon sun that I could not touch the steering wheel until the car had a good five minutes to cool down with the AC running at hurricane force.
My ride was the jazzed-up “M Sport Line” version, which helped boost the car’s $32,350 starting price to a somewhat eye-popping $45,245.  Given all the luxo/techno perks in the crossover, it was an understandable price, but I’m guessing that similarly dressed-up X1s might turn off folks shopping for a small crossover that gets good fuel mileage.

Mileage on the tester was advertised at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway – which my tester seemed to be hitting spot-on in my time with it.

I should add that driving dynamics of the car were exceptional. Plus, the eight-speed auto gearbox was seamless, and you could operate it as a manual.  It’s no mystery to me that the X1 garnered praise in on foreign roadways.  The xDrive28i is a good thing in a small package, and a hot performer when you want a little something extra from a crossover.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Old reliable Honda Civic still has the stuff

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 – Hot sports cars and luxury liners that I’m fortunate to test drive get my undivided attention, but it’s good medicine to get back to the basics now and then.

 And I give you the 2013 Honda Civic EX sedan.

 OK, a Civic might not get your blood boiling, but it matters.

Why?  It’s the prototype starter car for budget-conscious motorists.  It’s likely going to be the car you trust most when it comes time to buy wheels for your kid.  It’s likely to be the car you pick for said offspring to drive off to college.

 I wish I had a nickel for every primo car “expert” I’ve talked to over the years who, when asked what motor vehicle they ultimately bought for their child, answered: I got him/her a Honda Civic.

 And that’s a good choice, old folks.  And while the kids might lust for a Corvette, the Civic is the wise choice.

 It gets great gas mileage.  Civics tend to run forever.  They’re uncomplicated.  They stand up well in safety ratings.  They can’t be accelerated from zero to 60 miles per hour in five seconds.  These are positive attributes when you hand the keys over to your young loved one.

 So, how does the 2013 Civic stack up in the long gray line of reliable transporters?

 From my week in the Civic EX four-door, it still holds a solid spot in the halls of practical motoring.  And this Civic is not just a warm-over from the reworked-for-2012 edition.

 You might recall that Honda took some heat for its 2012 make-over of the Civic.  Honda responded by making exterior styling changes and some tweaks inside the cabin.  All in all, the automaker did a good job of softening the rough edges it gave the Civic for the 2012 model year.

 The car’s exterior look is pretty basic, but nicely aerodynamic.  Inside, gauges are nicely laid out and easy to use.  However, I did not like the soft blue lighting in the information center behind the steering wheel.  In sunlight, I honestly couldn’t read what was displayed.  Even lit up at night, it was hard to read.

 My Civic with the 140-horsepower, 1.8-liter, four-cylinder i-VTEC engine was smooth enough in freeway traffic and on city streets.  But it was challenged on uphill runs and struggled for long seconds to get up to speed in tight quarters on the open highway.  I really had to put my right foot deep down the well to get some performance.  That’s not necessarily a surprise with a 140-horsepower engine, but it’s something you need to consider based on your daily diet of driving.

 Safety and interior comfort/convenience features were plentiful and most welcome for an easy-on-the-eyes starting price of $20,815.

 All said, I’d still put the Civic on your top-five list of starter cars and young family transporters.  Ditto a reliable second car for rolling around town while the daily commuter is in the garage on weekends.

 Honda has preserved Civic’s sterling reputation and quickly executed some upgrades after a serious remake last year.  A good effort.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Tell racers to start engines ... then shut up

Sacramento, California -- Is anyone else getting tired of the relentless commercialization and trashing of the traditional command to start engines at auto races?

Amazing to see how many people can't say four simple words: Drivers start your engines.

Instead, they mug for the camera like frat-boy idiots ... Or hold up some useless product most of us can do without ... Or deliver a speech that even Fidel Castro in his prime would have considered long-winded.

I have a particularly irrational dislike of all this as I'm extraordinarily wrapped up in the history of motor sports.

The original "traditional" command originated decades ago at the history drenched Indianapolis 500.  It was a somewhat formal command to kick off an event that would essentially be a war among pilots of four-wheel monsters: Gentleman, start your engines.

Simple, direct and historically significant ... heard by a long, gray line of race drivers living and dead.

You'd think that something stretching that far back, honoring the heroes of the sport would take on a sacred quality.  You'd be wrong.

Now, comedians ham it up and shriek into the microphone, doing everything but bending over and dropping their pants.  Others do a full commercial about their wonderful product, their terrific company and the incredibly wonderful people who work there.

Arguably, the topper came recently at NASCAR's Irwin Tools Nights Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.  Las Vegas fight announcer Michael Buffer was brought into wail his usual "get ready to rumble" rap, but wait, that was just the warm-up.  He then threw it to a bunch of Irwin employees grouped together, and we had to sit through another Irwin commercial before getting the words to get the engines started.

Enough already.  And for those who think it's just me and motor sports, imagine the simple words to kick off a Major League Baseball game being similarly polluted.  Instead of play ball, the umpire might break into something like ...

"HEY Y'ALL, LET'S PLAY SOME BALL ... AND DON'T FORGET TO BUY BARDAHL" (cue to ump holding up an automotive lubricant).

Is that what you want?   Not me.  Yes, with the welcome addition of more female racing drivers, I have no problem with DRIVERS START YOUR ENGINES.  Being a traditionalist, I would personally prefer to have the original phrase preserved, as Indy has done in the past, with LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, START YOUR ENGINES.

How tough is that?  Seems simple to me.  And yes, I can wait for the commercials to come later, like the hundreds or so that I'm bombarded with trying to watch a race on television.
Give the command, fire up the engines, let's go racing.  And while you're at it, how about respecting the sport and its long-standing traditions.