Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fast crowd at Nov. 8 California Automobile Musuem event in Sacramento

"Life in the Fast Lane" is the theme of the California Automobile Museum's 2013 benefit and auction, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Nov. 8 at the museum, 2200 Front St., Sacramento.

Tickets are $75 each or $525 for a table of eight. Cocktails, appetizers and a dinner are included.

The list of regional motor sports greats and guests includes Gary Pitts, regional manager of the Sports Car Club of America; Thunderhill Raceway CEO David Vodden; 24 Hours of LeMons founder Jay Lamm; Concours d'LeMons creator and Billetproof owner Alan Galbraith; Norman Racing Group CEO Jon Norman; and Larry Oka Racing Services CEO Larry Oka.

A live silent auction on-site includes an extensive list of automotive, entertainment, dining and recreational items. See or call (916) 442-6802.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Just-the-basics Corolla still features allure

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 – It turns out that you can get a truly affordable car with a significant amount of newness to it.

Case in point: the completely-reworked-for-2014 Toyota Corolla sedan.

Yes, that Corolla, as in the monster-seller from the Japanese auto-producing giant.  That means you’re going to get a real car, not a specialized, loss-leading bag of bolts that draws you in with dreams of stealing the pants off a local dealer with a price too good to be true.

And just to seal the deal, I can tell you that I was handed the most plain, stripped-down version of a new test car that I’ve ever received.  It was a 2014 Toyota Corolla L, next-to-last among the 12 trim levels, starting at $17,400.  No extras.

In fact, I didn’t even have a key fob and had to remember to stick the key in the door lock to gain entrance to the vehicle … just like when I was a kid.

And you know what?  I still liked this Corolla.  Liked it a lot.

OK, no messing around with plus extras.  It’s just straight-up transportation.  And on that score, it did well.  For less than $17,500, I’d say it did great.

The 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine performed well, even with an advertised horsepower rating of 132.  Frankly, in my view, the car felt stronger than that number, especially in busy freeway commuter traffic.

And I had no problem with 27 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway.

Also, the car is not totally stripped, with LED lights on the front end standard.  Plenty of safety and convenience features for the MSRP price, too.

Throw in a nicely sculpted body, and it’s a pretty safe bet that this latest-generation Corolla will continue to roll up good numbers at the sales lots.

I have to believe that the less-is-more approach and easy-on-the-wallet price will lure in large numbers of young buyers as it seems that the ultimate status symbol for our youngest generation of adults right now is having a job.

I’ve never had a problem with basic transportation, especially transportation that’s likely to have a young driver behind the wheel and similarly youthful passengers filling up the cabin.

Likewise, this Corolla looks like a strong candidate as a backup worker in a two-car household.  Take the Caddy to the country club if you’re that fortunate, but let the Corolla make the milk runs.

Bottom line: This 11th-generation model looks, and feels, very good for its age.

Friday, October 25, 2013

RAV4's changed look doesn't lessen its appeal

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 me start by saying that my wife drives a 2011 Toyota RAV4 … and she absolutely loves it.

But her RAV4 is not the current RAV4, aka the fourth generation introduced for the 2013 model year and carrying on into 2014.

First thing you’re likely to ask upon seeing the latest RAV4: Hey, what happened to the rear-mounted spare tire?

Good question.  The spare is now below the floor inside the rear storage area, in line with what you get in most SUVs.

This was greeted with applause by many SUV devotees who questioned why Toyota would put a spare tire on the back end of a small SUV.  I confess that I was not one of them. I did not think the rear-mounted spare took away from the look of the vehicle in any way.  However, I can understand how you might like an interior-loaded spare when you’re changing a flat tire in the pouring rain.

And you would want a roof over your head while changing said tire in said downpour, right?  Of course, and you get that too in the latest RAV4 – a roof-hinged liftgate replacing the easy opening, side-hinged rear door.

For the record, my wife, who stands 5-2, likes her side-hinged door, as opposed to making a running start and leaping into the air to snare the top of the roof-hinged liftgate.  Different strokes for different folks.  I get it.

Personally, I’m not affected.  But then I’m 6-4.

So, bottom line, these seemingly drastic changes do nothing to detract from the RAV4’s look (which is sleek and attractive) or its cargo-carrying capacity, which remains ample in all configurations.

The interior remains surprisingly roomy for five passengers, and controls are easily understood and managed from the cockpit.  Audio systems on the RAV4 are strong and gutsy.

Then there’s this: The RAV4 is a dream to drive. It’s instantly responsive, quiet and darn-near a small sports car performer when its dodging through heavy traffic.

There’s no six-cylinder power plant, but let me assure you that you don’t need it.  The 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine rated at 176 horsepower in the XLE model tester (which had the additional advantage of all-wheel drive) provided plenty of oomph.  And even sprints from a standing start were brisk and impressive.

My wife is not holding a gun to my head when I tell you that the RAV4 is the near-perfect suburban-dweller’s vehicle.  Your get good ride height to see above the crowd, midsize sedan-like handling, the ability to carry everything from groceries to cinder blocks, an easy-to-step-into floor level, big SUV capabilities in a practical-size package and an affordable price ($25,690 MSRP on the generously-equipped tester).

So, what’s not to like?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Dixon's never-give-up attitude pays again

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website – via the “GALLERY: Reviews of new cars” link at

Sacramento, California – Another year, another IndyCar series gone.

And in what has become an annual tradition, a Team Penske driver lost the series title after having a virtual hammerlock on it late in the season.  It’s a pretty amazing thing from a team that has all but defined perfection for decades, especially in the Indianapolis 500.

I can’t argue with Scott Dixon (pictured) winning the IndyCar title for a third time.  He’s relentless.  He never gives up.  And yet, he might be the nicest bulldog in all of sports.  He put together some great drives in 2013 and shrugged off crushing setbacks that might have wilted other drivers.  Cheers to you, Scott.

Two things I’ll remember from this year, besides Dixon gutting it out to the last lap:

For one, yes, you can still get hurt in an IndyCar racer, despite the incredible advances in car safety.  Three-time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti demonstrated that in dramatic fashion recently when his car was launched into a temporary fence in the shadow of the old Houston Astrodome.

Happily, Franchitti emerged with “only” broken back bones and an apparently nasty ankle break.  It wasn’t all that long ago that such a spectacular crash would have taken off limbs, or worse.  Kudos to the car designers.  And I’m really glad fans who were in the way of debris were not seriously hurt.
I still think current catch fences fall short of the mark.  The cars still get shredded.  As I’ve said before, putting a clear, bullet-resistant “wall” between cars and fans would likely keep debris out of the grandstands.

Second thrill of the year was being on hand to watch longtime sentimental favorite Tony Kanaan finally win the Indianapolis 500 last May.  I’ll always remember the thunderous roar of the crowd when it became apparent that “hard-luck” Tony was going to win the crown jewel of American racing.  His Indy run, amid record lead changes and an all-time record speed for 500 miles, was the drive of the year in the series.

And next year, Kanaan joins Dixon and Franchitti on the Chip Ganassi Racing team.  Can you say Super Team?  Certainly stacks up that way.

IndyCar will again make a run at wrapping up its season by Labor Day in 2014.  It has been tried before, and I think it makes sense.  The Indy 500 draws media attention at the end of May, and by Labor Day, football is ruling the roost.  For this particular series, I think it makes sense to have competitive races in the summer months and then clear the decks by Labor Day Monday.

And yes, I like the idea of a road race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway a couple weeks before the Indy 500.  I don’t know what kind of crowd it will draw in 2014, but I kind of like the idea of restoring the whole “month of May” atmosphere at IMS.  Yeah, those old-school feelings die hard.

One other thing to ponder over the long winter: How fast will the IndyCar racers go with the proposed spec changes?  I have long believed IndyCar to be the edge of the envelope when it comes to high speed and close-quarters racing action.  Faster is better in my view.  And I think the construction of the cars provides the necessary margin of safety.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Honda Crosstour reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the 2013 Honda Crosstour 4WD EX-L V6 in the latest, October 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, October 10, 2013

Kia gets fancy with its new Cadenza

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

Kia has an all-new-for-2014 flagship offering called the Cadenza, and for those of you familiar with the typical Kia offering, prepare to be surprised.

This full-size sedan  with a handsome two-tier grille and jewel-like wheels is downright luxurious, loaded with pleasing comfort and convenience features.  From its perfectly fitted headlights to its nicely sculpted back end, the Cadenza is a head-turning bit of classy artwork.

Be advised: The price of the front-driver is not a bargain-basement deal, starting at $35,100.  And with the addition of a Technology Package and Luxury Package (my tester had both), the bottom line on the sticker swells to just shy of $42,000.

Call it a fancy Kia with a lot of extras.  Yes, I liked my week in it, with the full understanding that Kia needs a high-end offering in its vehicle lineup.

The 3.3-liter V-6 rated at 293 horsepower gives you more than you need to be sure, but you have to put your foot pretty deep down the well to get the full, press-me-to-the-seat rush.  The power plant provides more than enough to hold your own in a busy rush-hour commute, and hill climbs are likewise butter in the hands of the six-banger.  The Cadenza is pleasingly firm in slalom maneuvers.

The Technology Package is a nicely loaded mix, with a good blind spot detection system.  Only a couple times did it give me an unnecessary alarm when I was blazing past stragglers.  The lane departure warning system was not too sensitive, a big plus in my book.  I hate other systems that don’t understand the concept of a freeway exit.

The Luxury Package was likewise good.  I don’t expect to see a power tilt/telescoping, heated steering wheel in a Kia.  White interior leather touches?  Yeah, cool and classy.

Another cool thing with the tester: power exterior mirrors automatically unfolding as I approached the Cadenza on foot.  So with a proximity sensor fob capable of engineering that trick, you’d think the driver’s door would automatically unlock when my hand touched the door.  Alas, it doesn’t do that.

No big deal, I guess.  But if you have a system that unfolds the mirrors before you touch the car, you’d think they add the already established system that unlocks the driver’s door when hand skin touches door metal.  That absence produces the same reaction as opening a hotel mini-bar stocked only with 2 percent milk.  Just saying.

One other thing: You kind of have to dig deep in the center-mounted audio/navigation control systems to get what you want.  It might take you a few days of playing around and consulting the owner’s manual.  But once you get the pattern down, you’ll do fine.

Overall, a solid B-plus grade for this new arrival.  Hey Kia, any chance of putting a V-8 in it up the road?  I’d like that.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Surprise: Reworked 2014 Outlander excites

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 – Ordinarily, I wouldn’t get excited about a seven-passenger Mitsubishi sport-utility vehicle.

But this redesigned 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander 3.0 GT S-AWC absolutely surprised me.  Really, I’m serious.

Maybe I wasn’t paying attention when it was pulling in various awards for safety and such.  Maybe I should have been.

And while smallish SUV is the theme, this Outlander is decidedly a crossover.

My ride looked station wagon-sleek upon arrival, and as advertised, safety features were numerous.  A closer look at the sticker caused me to yelp, because it was a seriously loaded package for a starting price of $27,795.

Comfort/convenience features were everywhere, and the thoughtful layout of controls for the driver and front passenger was a plus.  Great warranties to boot?  Check.

The GT Touring Package added an eyebrow-raising $6,100 to the bottom line, but I confess it was stuffed with satisfying additions.  That included a navigation system with a high-definition seven-inch touch screen and 3-D mapping, a power glass sunroof, leather seating surfaces, a 710-watt Rockford Fosgate premium audio system with nine speakers and a power/remote tailgate.  Sure, I could do without the lane-departure warning system and forward collision-mitigation system (I like pilot control, at my peril, I suppose), but the option package still came off as a winner.

With a 3-liter V-6 churning out 224 horsepower, performance was not a problem.  Ditto city driving, hill climbing and every-man-for-himself freeway commutes.  The six-cylinder power plant has nearly 60 more horsepower than the down-one-step four-cylinder job, and I was glad for it.  Fuel mileage suffered only slightly at 20 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

OK, so you want to know what that S-AWC thingy is in the model name.  That stands for Super All-Wheel Control, which is Mitsubishi’s name for an all-wheel drive system that provides enhanced stability and traction control on serpentine roadways.  Sure, I’ll buy it as my tester performed like a champ on just such surfaces on a jaunt into the Sierra Nevada foothills.  Score one for the S-AWC and Mitsubishi’s engineers.

Again, Mitsubishi touts the safety features of its reworked-for-2014 Outlander.  While most of us worry about a vehicle’s ability to hold up in “the really big crash,” the newest Outlander also tests well in the comparatively less violent, but still common shunt.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently added the “small overlap frontal crash” test to its hit parade.  Essentially, it replicates what happens when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or tree/utility pole.  In IIHS testing, 25 percent of the front of a vehicle on the driver’s side impacts a five-foot-high barrier at 40 miles per hour.

The 2014 Outlander scored a “good” rating in that test. Mitsubishi said the Outlander was one of only two in its SUV class to get a “good” rating.

Good enough.  But for me, that’s not the deal maker.  I liked virtually everything else about it.  Surprise, surprise.