Thursday, March 20, 2014

Chevy Silverado has all the proper pickup perks

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, CaliforniaThe competition for attention in America’s pickup truck market is something to behold … a relentless stakes-raising game of horsepower, toughness, interior comforts and muscular styling.

With an eclectic mix of everyday drivers, ranchers, farmers and construction teams stepping up to buy pickups, I’ve always felt that the best thing you can do in the ever-evolving market is not mess up a good thing.

And fortunately, Chevrolet has more than held serve with its Silverado.

My ride was the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 High Country 4WD Crew Cab going for just a shade less than $50,000.

For that kind of money, you definitely want it to be right.  And my Silverado hit all the marks.  Hit them quite well, to be exact.

Power comes from a 5.3-liter V-8 engine with 355 horsepower.  This throaty power plant has more than enough juice to do the job, and it emits an impressive roar at full song.  Ordinarily, engine noise invading the cabin is an annoyance, and Chevy has touted the quietness of the interior cabin.

And  yes, it is quiet … relatively speaking.

Frankly, in this case, I liked to hear the engine’s growl.  The V-8 all but screamed that the rugged-looking truck was ready to put in some hard work.

My ride was generously loaded with comfort, convenience and even luxury features.  It still amazes me how much finery is being loaded into pickup trucks in this day and age, a far cry from what I experienced as a youngster.

Fuel mileage comes in so-so at 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22 mpg on the open road.  Well, this is a big V-8, so I can’t complain too much.

If you’re truck shopping, keep in mind that a Chevrolet Silverado comes in numerous configurations.  In fact, you’d be a sap to go looking for one without doing a good week’s worth of homework.  There are that many variables to consider.

Silverado’s styling is sweetly intimidating with a chromed-out, get-outta-my-way wall of a grille on the front end.  Gotta have that in today’s market.

I absolutely loved the steps carved into the corners of the rear bumper.  For years, it seemed like no one wanted to admit that climbing up into a truck box from the back end was a chore that could cause you injury, depending on your age, physical condition or what you were toting.

To be able to step up on one of the Silverado’s rear corners and handle/move cargo from outside the bed was a serene experience. My aging back thanks you.

Overall, the Silverado remains a solid “A” grade pickup, with all the tools needed for the road, the job site or the ranch/farm.

Thanks to GM for not messing up a very good thing.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Sans flash, VW's Passat has a lot to like

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 – The Volkswagen Passat sedan makes its way onto a lot of “most liked” lists, and it’s easy to see why.

It comes in nearly 20 trim levels available, is generously equipped, comes off as peppy but with good fuel mileage, is comfortable and it’s affordable four-door transportation for families.  What’s not to like?

Even the comparatively high starting price of $31,715 for my upper-end 2014 Passat SEL Premium was hard to argue with, given all that comes with it.  That included plentiful safety features and standard comfort/convenience perks like power/heated front seats and exterior mirrors, leather surfaces and a rearview camera system.

Styling is fairly simple for the latest Passat, but again, I can’t argue with that because the car is a solid sedan offering with no over-the-top attempts to make it look like an Infiniti sport-sedan or a some random Corvette offspring.

Is this formula sounding familiar?  Yeah, think Camry.  Or Malibu.  Sell the world a sensible sedan, and they’ll bring bags of cash to your doorstep.

For me, where the Passat really excelled beyond the median was in performance, thanks to a 1.8-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine rated at 170 horsepower and 184 foot-pounds of torque.

This particular power plant dished out responsiveness and performance at a most-pleasing level.  I found the turbo engine particularly helpful in negotiating crowded city streets.  Some turbos don’t like this chore, and there is lag time trying to work your way through the traffic maze.

Not so, this Passat.

And yet, check out the fuel mileage figures: 24 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg on the highway.  Pretty impressive with a zippy turbo under the hood.

And 34 mpg makes for few stops on long road trips on freeways.

Cabin quietness was pretty good.  Three adults in the back seat did indeed feel a bit cramped, but the interior cabin is an easy comfort zone for four folks.

The Passat might not have enough flash for some folks, but it has so much of everything else that people look for in a passenger car that you walk away asking, “Who really needs flash, anyway?”

VW continues to emerge as a giant auto-making force on the planet, making progress in multiple international markets.  When you know how to make a good car, like the Passat, success comes naturally.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Hyundai Equus reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the 2014 Hyundai Equus Ultimate sedan in the latest, March 2014, 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, March 6, 2014

New 500L Lounge: More Fiat for the money

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 February 2014 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California   Say Fiat 500 and most expect: tiny car, limited horsepower, a handful of perks.

Not so with the all-new 2014 Fiat 500L Lounge, a four-door, five passenger car with some saucy lines to make it stand out.  Think of it as the Fiat 500 with something extra … a lot extra to be truthful.

The “Lounge” version is the top end of four trim 500L levels, and my tester looked ready for battle on 17-inch wheels resting under flared wheel arches and an aggressively sculpted front end to knife through the wind.

All this made the 500L Lounge look about twice the size of the previously tested, standard Fiat 500.  Happily, there’s more horsepower under the hood to put the 500L Lounge through its paces.

Power comes from a 1.4-liter, four-cylinder, turbocharged engine with a max horsepower rating of 160.   That certainly was enough to make most of my driving efforts enjoyable, although there was a slight lag in time between mashing the accelerator to the floor and delivery of somewhat noisy full power.

Handling was nimble, and the car showed that it was capable of quick lane changes at high speed, sans any wiggle on the back end.  Very nice.

The turbo did little to hurt the fuel mileage, which came in at a respectable 24 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the open road.

Interior room was good, way better than the basic Fiat 500, and the layout of controls was nicely done, with the comfort of the driver in mind.  One thing I did have trouble with from the cockpit was a double A-pillar arrangement in the windshield.  It looked stylish, but it definitely affected visibility, particularly on left-hand turns.

The list of standard features was pretty impressive for this class, including knee-bolstering airbags, reactive head restraints, a tire pressure-monitoring system, dual zone climate control, heated front seats and a fancy chrome/leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Naturally, you have to pay a little bit more for a Fiat that offers more.  Starting fare on the tester was $24,195, boosted to $27,445 on the bottom line due to extras that included a $950 power sunroof and $500 worth of enhanced audio speakers.

So, if you’ve been wanting a Fiat that has more than a major cute factor going for it, this 500L Lounge is likely worth a serious look.  This vehicle is right out of the Mini Cooper playbook – a beefier version of the basic ride.

I can’t argue with that proven strategy.  And this 500L Lounge had enough to make me want to spend more time in it.