Friday, December 27, 2013

Quite a year in wheels, looking forward to 2014

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 – What a year it has been in the world of wheels.

The cars I reviewed in 2013 were technology loaded, performance laden and pretty much stuffed with perks once available to only high-end car buyers.

It just goes to show you: You can’t build a cheap piece of junk anymore in this automotive market.  It’s too competitive.

And that means: Advantage buyers.  Not a bad deal at all.

The auto industry rallied significantly in California and nationwide in 2013.  That backs up a long-held theory of mine:  No matter how bad the economic times get, people still save and scrape and eventually get around to replacing their old wheels.  It’s just a fact of life in America … and has been for a long time.

Remember that when the next financial panic hits.  And alas, it will arrive eventually.

Oh, and remember the experts predicting not that long ago that Toyota was on the rocks and in a downward cycle?  Big swing and a miss there, right?

One year ago at this time, I would have had trouble buying into hard-luck Tony Kanaan being an Indianapolis 500 champion and three-time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti being out of the sport for good.  To be sure, auto racing remains a fast-moving, wildly unpredictable sport.

And yes, you can still get hurt strapped to a bullet traveling at 200 miles per hour or more.

A year ago, I would not have had trouble believing that Jimmie Johnson would be celebrating as a six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion.  He’s now in the greatest of all time argument, right there with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.  Will Jimmie pull down a record-tying No. 7 in 2014?  I wouldn’t bet against him.

So much to look forward to in the year ahead.  But before 2013 closes out, let me say THANKS for tuning in and reading.  It’s always fun to talk wheels with friends.

See you up the road in 2014.

Monday, December 16, 2013

You have needs? Infiniti QX70 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 – What more could one want in a sport-utility vehicle?

After a week in the 2014 Infiniti QX70 3.7 AWD, my answer is: Can’t think of a thing.

Strange as it sounds, I have an emotional attachment to luxo Infiniti SUVs, as a loaded Infiniti sport-ute was one of the first models I was allowed to test drive all by my lonesome years ago.  Flashing forward to now, however, my long-ago experience was more akin to taking a flight in a biplane.  By comparison, this contemporary Infiniti SUV model is a bells and whistles-laden Stealth fighter jet.

The tester’s technology list was long and impressive.

Start out with a lane departure warning system that also doubles as a lane departure prevention system by lightly applying the brakes if you do not respond to an audible warning.

Move on to the distance control assist system that aids the driver with throttling and braking in suddenly slowing traffic.

Then there’s intelligent cruise control (speeds automatically controlled to maintain a safe following distance).  You can adjust following distance via a steering wheel-mounted button.  You can also opt for old-school cruise control should the primo version be too much for your liking.

You also get intelligent brake assist, which has the job of warning of imminent impact. And there’s a forward collision warning system.

Keep in mind that this is the PARTIAL list of techno fireworks.

Most know that I typically don’t like to give up control of a car to various tech systems, but just seeing all these goodies in one SUV struck me as a fairly major engineering accomplishment.

Yes, my QX70 – sharp-eyed readers will note that this is a recent departure from Infiniti’s “FX” nomenclature – did have the full-on Technology Package, the Deluxe Touring Package (leather appointments, maple interior accents, aluminum pedals and 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels) and Premium Package (including voice recognition, hard drive navigation and an eight-inch color touchscreen for multiple uses) that swelled the $46,400 starting price to $57,945.

And for that price, it is good to get a lot.  Beyond the tech show, luxury features ran the gamut, making the QX70 a near five-star rolling hotel suite.  Exterior styling is aerodynamically pleasing, a positive departure from the more boxy Infiniti SUVs of years past.

On the roll, the QX70 was a study in quiet assertion.  Power comes from a 3.7-liter V-6 rated at 325 horsepower.  It propels the QX70 with authority, but be careful on the accelerator, as the torque output is so silky that you can find yourself pushing 80 mph in a hurry.  Interior cabin noise is virtually negated, even during hard accelerations.

This is a highway cruiser that makes a 100-mile jaunt seem like a springtime skip in the park.  You don’t want to get out of the vehicle after a mere 100 miles.  A 300-mile cruise with sweetly amplified music, comfortable seating and rock-solid handling is actually something to look forward to in this QX70.

That extended mileage will cost you, however.  Fuel mileage ratings are a wallet-sapping 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22 mpg on the highway.

My guess is that the typical QX70 buyer doesn’t worry about such trivial things as budgeting for weekly gasoline purchases.  Alas, I’m not part of that sky’s-the-limit group.

But I certainly did enjoy my week in this decidedly classy transporter.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

For the money, 2014 Altima tough to pass up

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 – Upon seeing the 2014 Nissan Altima parked in the usual test car pick-up spot, my brain registered this disappointment: “Oh, it’s the 2.5 sedan.”

That’s as in 2.5 liters, enough for four cylinders and 182 horsepower.  For me, that’s a big drop from the Altima’s optional 3.5-liter, 270-horsepower V-6 engine, much preferred by me for its robust performance qualities.

Well, a funny thing happened …

I last tested a 2012 Nissan Altima 2.5, and for 2013, Nissan presented an all-new fifth-generation Altima.  Giant horsepower tweaks were not part of that reworking – 175 horses for the previous generation – but whatever happened between 2012 and now certainly made a big difference to me.

My 2014 Altima 2.5 SL tester performed with heroic enthusiasm and exceptional nimbleness.  I was stunned by the engine response, which to my mind seemed at least 25 percent stronger than I remembered from just two years ago.  Pleasant surprise?  That doesn’t even begin to cover it.

The Altima was a willing warrior on freeway entrance ramps, and some uphill runs in the Sierra Nevada foothills found it to be likewise enthusiastic, plus silky smooth through hard, twisty corners.  Steering was darn near sports car quality.  The continuously variable transmission worked flawlessly. And the interior cabin remained quiet in all conditions.

Fuel mileage is a definite plus at 27 miles per gallon in the city and 38 mpg on the highway.

The manufacturer’s suggested retail price on the 2014 2.5 SL is $27,760, and you get a generous helping of goodies for that outlay.  All-part-of-the-deal perks included an eight-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, leather surfaces, a nine-speaker Bose audio system, a rearview monitor and a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel.

My tester included an $800 moonroof and a technology package that included a navigation system, a blind sport-warning system, a lane departure-warning system and a moving object-detection system.  All that for $1,090.  Not a bad deal.

Nissan has been touting the Altima for its near-luxury appeal at a relatively affordable price, and after a week in this ride, I have to concede that the marketing is pretty much spot-on.  With all badging removed, I’d figure paying $35,000 to $40,000 for a car like this.  Even with the extras, the bottom line on my tester was $30,625.

Oh, it looks pretty sharp too.  Sporty lines and 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels are eye-catching, and the “Cayenne Red” paint job on my ride certainly didn’t hurt.

Hate to call this a compromise car, but I mean that in a good way.  Maybe you’re looking for a nicely appointed sedan for $35,000 or more, but if that was my money to spend, I’d compromise and take the Altima for a serious test drive.  You might find that your compromise was really the only logical choice from the beginning.

Friday, December 6, 2013

2014 Scion tC reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the 2014 Scion tC in the latest, December 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, December 5, 2013

Chevy Impala carries U.S. passenger car banner

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

What better place to test the latest generation of the venerable Chevrolet Impala than the mean roadways stretching from Los Angeles to San Diego, where every lane change is challenged and every on-ramp merge is a fight for survival?

My ride was the 2014 2LTZ primo version of the Impala, starting at $35,905, and most important, equipped with a 3.6-liter V-6 engine rated at 305 horsepower.  You don’t want to venture out on the low SoCal interstates with an underpowered sedan.

You pay a bit of a price in the fuel ratings, of course, with an estimated 19 miles per gallon in the city and 29 mpg on the highway, but I’ll take the power advantage every time in this urban jungle.

The good news is that I survived my week slicing and dicing on the 5, the 15, the 215, the 10, the 110 and the 605.  The Impala not only looked the part of a SoCal freeway warrior with a broad-shouldered front, smooth-on-top look, it earned its stripes by muscling into tight spots with authority when asked.

Brakes were firm and even, the better to avoid the ever-present, mysterious Southern California interstate stop from 80 miles per hour to 5 mph in the time it take to snatch a quick glance at the deep blue Pacific Ocean.

On a performance level, my Impala tester just felt like it belonged.  Very few challenged its path when I whistled it into parking space-size traffic holes traveling at 75 mph.  Risky business, that, but I confess that I admire a commuter culture that can hook into an 80 mph nose-to-tail freight train of cars stretching for a mile or more.

I also admired the Impala’s interior, a nicely laid out mix of comfort features and downright luxurious perks.   Leather, cool interior lighting and chrome accents made me feel like a high roller for at least a week.

Interior noise was remarkably mute, even when the Impala was breezing along at nearly full song.  And there’s plenty of room for five sizable adults in the seats.  The Impala had a little bit of sideways give during sharp, high-speed corner maneuvers, but not enough to give me discomfort.  It stuck sure enough, and I never felt like I was losing control of the steering.

All in all, this is a very nice job on a vehicle that counts 1958 as its debut model year.

 This latest Impala will do little to damage its status as America’s standard-bearer amid a sea of monster-selling, foreign-made passenger cars.  Impala has been the nation’s top-selling full-size sedan since 2004 and periodically challenged the Camry-Civic-Corolla-Accord powerhouses for the overall top-seller spot in some populous states during that time.

The 2014 Impala remains a contender in the ring of passenger cars that sell well and consistently get good reviews.