Friday, May 29, 2015

2016 Kia Sorento impresses on multiple levels

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website

Sacramento, California ­One of the great things about the auto biz is that you can periodically get a glimpse of the future just by showing up.

Take the recently tested 2016 Kia Sorento SX-L V6 AWD sport-utility vehicle.  It represents an early jump on the 2016 model year, and after a week in this SUV, I’m convinced that it might be the luxury sport-ute of the future.

This was a super-loaded, structurally imposing, luxurious and smart-handling vehicle that might well have been wearing a $50,000 starting-price sticker.  The actual starting price, still the most expensive among all the available trim levels, rings in at a still-robust $43,100.

Is this the future of the luxo SUV segment: Give them everything, and a discount on the price to boot?  It is if you’re shopping Kia, I suppose.

Granted, $43,100 to start is still pretty rich, but the time I spent in the Sorento told me the investment would be well worth it for a buyer looking for a family- and cargo-hauling vehicle for the long term.  Going to be taking some lengthy road-trip vacations with the family over the next seven years or so?  This Sorento should be on your ponder list.

The tester was equipped with a 3.3-liter V-6 engine rated at nearly 300 horsepower.  It did everything pretty well.  However, putting the vehicle in “ECO” mode requires a serious application of your right foot to get the thing going.  Saving fuel has its trade-offs, right?

I was impressed with the Sorento’s rock-solid stability in freeway commuter traffic and on twisty suburban roads.  Hard corners produced nary a wiggle, and the degree of interior cabin quiet was remarkable in all situations.

Not surprisingly, fuel economy was not so great at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.  Remember, this vehicle tops 4,000 pounds and can carry up to seven passengers.

A power bonus: A towing capacity of 5,000 with the all-wheel drive package.  Nice.

Overall, this Sorento is a big brute with a comfortable, highly sophisticated interior – I found the audio output to be top-notch – and highly refined road manners.

Little wonder that Kia touted the new Sorento at a Lake Tahoe setting.  It’s arguably the perfect vehicle for that alpine locale…comfortable to wheel around the lake’s loop road and rugged enough to venture off the paved path when needed.

I give this early 2016 arrival a solid “B-plus” to “A-minus” grade.  It’s truly worth a test drive for those shopping for an SUV with some serious substance.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Montoya's Indy 500 win: a charge for the ages

Mark Glover attended the Indianapolis 500 for the 53rd time on May 24. Here is his take on the 99th running of the world-famous auto race.

Sacramento, California – All month long, the talk was about the cars.  On race day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it was all about the driver.

One driver in this case: Race winner Juan Pablo Montoya.

Montoya’s charge to the front of the field Sunday in the 99th Indianapolis 500 was epic. It was arguably one of the greatest winning drives in the long history of the race.

Consider that Montoya, who started 15th in the field of 33 cars, avoided disaster three times in the chaotic first dozen laps of the race, with multiple pit stops, bodywork falling off the back of his car and a quick replacement of the rear body/wing assembly by his pit crew.

After all that, he gets the green flag at the back of the pack.  Mentally, at this point, I had counted Montoya out of the running for the top prize.

How wrong I was.

As the first half of the race wore on, there was plenty of dicing at the front, a very entertaining show with the new aero packages allowing drivers to draft down the straights and perform breathtaking late-move passes in the turns.  Sometimes, the passing was done in the turns.  Spectacular.

Somewhere along the line, I noticed Montoya’s Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, car No. 2, climbing the leader board.  I turned my attention away from the front pack and started watching Montoya.

What I saw was a relentless, highly-skilled, super-aggressive charger at his best.  Some of Montoya’s competitors use decidedly salty words to describe Montoya’s driving style, but on Sunday, that here-I-come-get-outta-my-way style was the key to victory.  Continually, I watched Montoya do deep-in-the-turn passes that few others were pulling off.

Every time he was in a drag race down the front stretch, he won going into Turn One.  Every time.  Even when it appeared the leading car had the advantage, he pulled it off.

Simply put, Montoya lifted for no one going into the turns.

The closest thing I can remember to this performance is three-time Indy 500 winner Johnny Rutherford coming from the back of the field to run down pole-sitter A.J. Foyt and win the 1974 race.  That was a different era, when in-race bravery was held in the highest regard.  In today’s era, Montoya carries that torch.

By the time the 15-lap showdown to the finish came, my money was on Montoya, and he did not disappoint, including an are-you-kidding-me? passing move on Scott Dixon that saw the two cars touch.  Montoya bullied his way forward with that pass, the move of the race, and ultimately blazed past leader Will Power for the win.  Game over.

When Montoya won the Indy 500 as a rookie in 2000, he showed the fastest hands in the game, the ability to immediately get a car with cold tires running under control at top speed, making super-fast corrections on the steering wheel to keep his ride off the walls.

As he showed Sunday, Montoya hasn’t lost a thing.  At 39, he might be faster than he was nearly a generation ago.  If the Colombian had stuck with Indy cars throughout his career – bypassing stints with Formula One and NASCAR – it isn’t too difficult to imagine that he might have rung up five or more Indianapolis 500 wins over that time.

He still might get five.  He’s that good.  He’s so skilled and so aggressive that I believe he was the only driver in Sunday’s race who could have pulled off the win given the cards he was dealt early in the grind.

And so, a month that was dominated by concerns over new aero kits, horsepower limits, downforce adjustments and upside-down crashes ends with a mad-skills master drinking the winner’s milk.  It will be interesting to see what kind of changes, if any, will be made in the aero packages over the next year.

No matter what, I’m already looking forward to the 100th running of the race in 2016.  The smart early money for that one is on Montoya.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Qualifying parade offers few clues on Indy winner

Mark Glover will be attending the Indianapolis 500 for the 53rd time on May 24. Here is his take on what might happen on Sunday, when the world-famous race is run for the 99th time.

Sacramento, California – My take is that I have no idea what is going to happen during Sunday’s race.

I’m not sure I can remember a month like this at Indy.  The closest I can come is 1973, ominously a year that most would like to forget.

In 1973, it rained constantly (the rain-shortened race took three days to run), and there were some brutal crashes during the month.  The race gods pointed to speed advancements in the cars that were running ahead of safety concerns.  Rules and officials changed after the 1973 affair mercifully ended.

Fast-forward to this year, specifically Sunday, a day such as I’ve rarely seen at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Ed Carpenter’s sledgehammer crash before the scheduled run for the pole set instant rules changes in motion as it was the third upside-down-flip crash within a week, following frightening shunts by three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves and the most-capable Josef Newgarden.

I admit, those hard hit/flips got my attention.  Why would all three cars flip over onto their tops after wall impact?  The aero package?  Odd weight distribution?  Coincidence?

Doesn’t matter.  I knew what was going to happen, and it did.  Aero kits were axed, downforce was increased and horsepower was decreased.  Essentially, we saw a Sunday qualifying parade with cars in race trim.

I think it had to be done, but at the same time, it pained me.  I’m that old-school Indy fan who has long believed that the series -- and particularly the Indianapolis 500 -- was about super-high speeds, pushing the envelope out to the far frontier.  I actually was looking forward to some runs in the 232 mph-233 mph range on Sunday.

That was the goal of series officials, to baby step up to Arie Luyendyk’s nearly 20-year-old Indianapolis 500 qualifying records, in excess of 236 mph.

Alas, it looks like they need to go back to the drawing board.  Maybe someday, right?

As for the race, Sunday’s procession of qualifying speeds in the 224/225 mph range didn’t tell me much, other than I like pole winner Scott Dixon’s chances, car and talent.  If Scott has it dialed in on race day, it’s hard to bet against him.

From there on back, take your pick.  Will Power will start next to Dixon.  He has the right car and the Penske Team machine on his side, but somehow, Power always seems to encounter a critical mid-race drawback that keeps him from dicing for the lead late in the Indianapolis 500.  If he keeps his wheels in line, he too has a chance.

So do Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti and Simon Pagenaud.  Ryan Hunter-Reay came from a mid-pack starting position to win it last year.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make it to the front from his 16th starting position on Sunday.

Ed Carpenter is in a back-up car, but I like his ability to adapt quickly and hustle a car around a high-speed oval.

Throw another five drivers in there, and your picks are probably as good as mine.

Cornered to make a call, I like Castroneves to use his savvy and challenge for the win late.  I like Kanaan for the same reason.  Dark horse for me: Newgarden.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Popular Honda CR-V gets better with 2015 changes

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website

Sacramento, California – Honda decided to mess with a good thing, its CR-V sport-utility vehicle, in 2015.

And hey, things turned out pretty well.

Before undergoing extensive changes for the 2015 model year, the CR-V was rolling up some fabulous numbers.  It was the best-selling SUV in the United States for years running.  In car-crazy California, it was the state’s top-selling SUV in calendar 2015, with a healthy 34,980 registrations, according to the Sacramento-based California New Car Dealers Association.

Alas, no resting on laurels here, as Honda dug in and changed things up.

Tweaks to the exterior look kept the basic SUV shape, but to my eye, the current-generation CR-V looks smoother, sportier and longer.  Honda calls it bolder; to me, it just looks more capable of slicing through the air.

On the run, the tested 2015 CR-V AWD Touring edition did that rather nicely.  It’s an excellent freeway cruiser. The CR-V has a midsize sedan feel to it from the driver’s seat, and its tight turning radius enabled me to negotiate downtown dices with ease.

Power is provided by a surprisingly peppy 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine with 185 horsepower on the high end.  The comparatively lightweight engine is matched to a continuously variable transmission.

Peppy, by the way, does not mean wasteful.  Fuel mileage ratings are a pleasing 26 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.

The interior layout of controls has been reworked for the better, with everything in logical, easy reach and easily understood.  Driving-enhancement and safety features are plentiful.

I’m sure most California drivers will love the live camera image of the right side of the CR-V displayed in the center-mounted screen.  That’s triggered automatically when you hit the right-turn signal. You never know when a bicycle rider is going to try to squeeze by your vehicle’s right side when you’re making a right turn … but you’ll have plenty of advance warning of that potential disaster in your CR-V.

So, what did all these changes do for the CR-V?

They made an “A” grade car even better, and the vehicle was named SUV of the Year by Motor Trend magazine.

It should be noted that my tester is the most expensive version of the CR-V, starting at $32,770, but that includes a ton of standard equipment.  For the record, I was perfectly content with what the tested CR-V had, and there was not a single optional perk on the sticker.

Having reviewed so many SUVs over time, I confess that it takes a lot for a sport-ute to impress me.  For my money, the CR-V’s appeal is not that it has blow-me-away appeal, but it is loaded with so much that looks/functions so well.  That’s probably why it is so popular, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mercedes-Benz SL550? I'll be right there

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo reviews of the latest motor vehicle models also can be seen on The Sacramento Bee’s website at

This review originally appeared in the April 2015 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California My conversation with my Bay Area buddy, and relentless horsepower freak, went something like this:

Him: “Hey, I’ve got a new car I want you to look at, maybe shake it down with me.”

Me: “I already have more cars than I can review right now, you know that.”

Him: “It’s a new Mercedes-Benz SL550”

Me: “I’ll be right there.”

These opportunities don’t come along every day, and really, how many more chances am I going to get to climb behind the wheel of a wondrous M-B convertible at my age?  Not many, let me assure you.

Naturally, I jumped at the chance.  But not too quickly.  Yes, the hardtop convertible show where the roof retreats into the back end of the car is still worth the price of admission, which is north of $105,000 new.

But this is a serious piece of machinery with 429 horsepower screaming out of the 4.7-liter V-8.  Fuel mileage is 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway, but that’s just a wager on a 10-foot putt at the country club in this high-flying buyer segment.

Still, I was wary.  I baby-stepped it up to 60 mph and then 70 mph.  What was I thinking?  The V-8 performed so smoothly that I was touching 80 in a heartbeat, yet not a quiver or quake from the car.

This is the kind buttery performance that can get you in trouble if you’re not prepared, like slugging down sweet-tasting White Russians at a Vegas bar and suddenly realizing the attractive lady you’ve been chatting with is actually a slot machine.

But I digress.

Once I mastered the rhythm of the tester’s accelerator from a standing start – following several incredibly embarrassing lurches into intersections – I was good to go. Once comfortable, I was able to enjoy the opulent, luxurious surroundings in this SL550.  Mercedes-Benz did not hold back in that department.  Ditto scores of safety features and driving-enhancement technologies.

Please note that this SL550 is a relatively low rider.  So if you get nervous motoring between large trucks on your commute, it’s probably not gong to be your cup of tea.  It’s best to unwind the SL500 on twisty Sierra Nevada foothills roads on a quiet afternoon.  Much more pleasure to be derived there, believe me.

The big gripe with Mercedes-Benz used to be glitches in the numerous on-board electrical systems.  Although my time in the SL550 was short, I sensed none of that this time around.  And I sampled about everything in the cockpit.  I’m assuming those glitches left the train station long ago.

In the end, I didn’t want to leave this luxurious, robust performer.  I was just getting comfortable with it.  It’s top-drawer all the way. If you have the bucks to buy this SL550, go for it.  And I salute you.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Dodge Charger reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the 2015 Dodge Charger R/T in the latest, May 2015, 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.

Friday, May 1, 2015

I want to go to there, the Sonata that is

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website

Sacramento, California – I often call the Hyundai Sonata sedan my “go to” car.

That’s because I’ve repeatedly told folks asking me what to look for in a practical midsize sedan to go look at the Sonata.  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve offered up this advice over the years.

This is not expert advice, mind you.  It’s a no-brainer.

The Sonata is affordable, feature-loaded, carries a good record of reliability and is bolstered by some generous warranty coverage.  In sum, you get a lot of midsize for the money, a lot more than you’ll find in comparable models made by other automakers.

And now there’s more reason to like it: a nose-to-tail reworking for the 2015 model year.

Hyundai touts sporty exterior styling touches, a stiffer body structure, a smoother/quieter ride and the standard  inclusion of more state-of-the-art safety and convenience features.

Tooling around in the tested 2015 Hyundai Sonata Limited, I pretty much agree with everything the Hyundai marketing machine says.  But it’s really more than that.

The seventh-generation Sonata – yeah, I know, that will make you feel old – is truly a much sexier-looking machine than that rolled out in days past.  I love the aerodynamic side profile, and the front end tweaks are sporty to the max.

The tester’s 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine with 185 horsepower is not a tire-shredding monster, but accelerations at important on-road moments are more than adequate.  Handling is quite nimble.  When conditions required me to snap the car out of harm’s way, it responded instantly and with very little pushback on me in the driver’s seat.  Impressive.

The list of standard comfort and convenience features is so lengthy that you are inclined to believe that someone mixed up and mistakenly gave you an ultra-luxury version of the car.  Alas, my Sonata started well below $30-grand, but the bottom line on the sticker swelled to $32,510 with the addition of a couple of tech-laden packages.  Both significantly added to the vehicle.

A $3,500 Tech Package included a panoramic sunroof with tilt and slide, a heated steering wheel and ventilated front seats.  The accompanying $1,550 Ultimate Package added smart cruise control, a lane-departure warning system, a forward collision warning feature and an electronic parking brake.

With all that and more, $32,510 looked pretty darn good to me.  Oh, fuel mileage is an excellent 24 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.

My only gripes: the lane-departure warning system was a little too quick-on-the-draw sensitive for my tastes, and for whatever reason, the “automatic” feature on the climate-control system seemed about 5 degrees off in this season of chilly mornings and hot afternoons.

Other than that, the newly reworked Sonata is an A-grade sedan that’s better than it ever was.