Thursday, October 29, 2015

Corolla says it all, in a good way

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

Sacramento, California ­– There have been many sports superstars who were instantly known by a single name.

A couple come to mind: Tiger in golf.  Shaq in pro basketball.

And so it is with cars.  There are some vehicles that have been around so long, are so reliable or so iconic that a one-word mention says it all.

The Camry is certainly in that group.  Mustang and Camaro, of course.  And for today’s review, Corolla.

Yes, the monster-selling Corolla is in the one-word-only crowd, and rightly so. Over the years, I’ve seen numerous conversations like the following:

“Hey Joe, Cindy is going off to college soon.  What’s she gonna drive?”

JOE: “Got her a Corolla.”

Yup, say no more.  The Corolla has built a sterling reputation because it tends to run trouble-free forever, is nicely equipped for an economical price and has safe/sane performance characteristics that make it more likely to stay out of harm’s way.

And there’s this: It an easy, enjoyable daily driver.

This is not rocket science, but I appreciated Corolla’s brilliant simplicity again recently with a week in the 2015 Toyota Corolla S Premium, wearing an easy-on-the-eyes $24,659 on the bottom line of the sticker.

My ride had just a few extras to boost the $22,905 starting price, but what caught my eye was its standard appearance.  The tester looked saucy and bossy in “Blue Crush Metallic” paint and 17-inch alloy wheels that looked ready for a round of street racing.

Maybe the sporty look explains why the 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine linked to a seamless, continuously variable transmission seemed so much stronger than the advertised 132 horsepower.  My tester was peppy in most situations, particularly in accelerations from a standing start.  It won’t blow off a Porsche, but I did not expect miracles for this affordable price.

Fuel mileage does blow most away.  The tester came in at 29 miles per gallon in the city and 37 mpg on the open road – definitely numbers you can live with if you want a reliable sedan that won’t cut deeply into your monthly gasoline budget.

The tested Corolla also was awash in safety/convenience features, and lest you think it’s cheap, standard perks included a power tilt/slide moonroof.  Four-wheel disc brakes also were a plus.

I could go on and on, but this long-established model needs no further praise.  It has had sales and star power for a long time: Corolla.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Lyn St. James at California Automobile Museum

Sacramento, California – Before Danica Patrick arrived on the scene in a gigantic way in 2005, racing devotees asked to name a female race driver likely would have instantly responded with: Lyn St. James.

Highly talented with a string of top-tier accomplishments – including the 1992 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year – over her racing career, St. James also has a talent for relating her singular experiences on camera and in her own book.

On Nov. 13, Sacramento-area residents have the opportunity to attend “An Evening with Lyn St. James” at the California Automobile Museum, 2200 Front St., in Sacramento.
The 5:30 to 10 p.m. event includes a “Farm-to-Fork” dinner, cocktails, silent/live auctions, live entertainment and, of course, St. James.

Tickets are $75 until Nov. 1, and $85 after that.  Group/table packages also are available.  Proceeds will benefit the museum.
For more information on tickets and the event, go to or call (916) 442-6802.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Luxurious Lexus SUV resides in upper class

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

Sacramento, California ­– I had some seat time in the Lexus GX 460 sport-utility vehicle a little more than a year back, and getting another bit of time recently in the 2015 version, I was reminded of something.

You pay a Lexus-level price for a reason.

I’ve been on the SUV-testing highway for more than a month now, and reviewing a bunch of sport-utes in a row can make you jaded.  But my time in the “Luxury” version of the GX 460 stood out, because of the nearly obscene levels of luxury, quietness, smoothness and comfort.

And yes, you should have all those things when the bottom line on the sticker reads $65,980.

I should point out at this time that the GX 460 continues into 2016 with very few changes.  That hefty price stays in place, however.

Well, if you can afford the fare, I not only salute you, but I envy you.

The exterior look is pretty classic: big grille/boxy SUV, but inside it’s a luxury suite.

In the tester, I was surrounded by leather trim, a screaming Mark Levinson audio system and beyond-the-norm goodies such as three-zone climate control.

Standard safety features and enhanced-control systems numbered in the dozens.  Suffice it to say that this GX 460 monitors your every driving move and can warn you of imminent contact on all four sides of the vehicle.  It does this at low speed or high speed.

Make you feel secure?  Absolutely.

On the fly, the 4.6-liter V-8 with variable valve timing was something to enjoy for the long-term.  Enthusiastic on the city streets or in the commuter freeway wildlands, the tester was likewise responsive to my motions on the steering wheel.

At high speed, the tester’s interior cabin was old-school library quiet.

Closer inspection shows that the GX 460 is more than adequately equipped for off-road use.  In fact, Lexus enthusiastically promotes this fact, although I’m not sure that I would be inclined to scratch up my nearly $70,000 ride in the unpaved wilderness.

I walked away from the vehicle thinking that it gives you more on so many fronts, and I suppose that’s the definition of luxury, whether it’s in an SUV, a home or a hotel.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Rugged 4Runner all but begs to venture off-road

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

Sacramento, California ­– I went out looking for a Toyota sport-utility vehicle and encountered a genuine off-road warrior.

It was a 2015 Toyota 4Runner 4X4 TRD Pro Series with a V-6.  It’s worth noting that the 2016 model carries over unchanged from 2015.

Normally, I start off by looking at the body lines on a newly arrived test vehicle.  Not so much this time.

The 4Runner was riding on 17-inch alloy wheels supporting like-sized tires that looked capable or knocking down a brick wall.

Lots of sport-utes can be taken off-road.  This 4Runner pretty much begs for it.

So, yes, I did depart from the pavement for a short time, but what I put this vehicle through was pretty much the equivalent of Usain Bolt racing a turtle.

Not even close.

I have no doubt that my tester, if it could speak, wanted to head up to the hard rocks in the Sierra Nevada.  And based on my humble off-road venture, I'm positive that the 4Runner could have handled the hard-core stuff easily.

The 4-liter, 270-horsepower V-6 (with a max torque rating of 278 foot-pounds) worked like a champ, and the monster tires dug in with purpose.

Priced at $43,134 on the sticker, the tested 4Runner had all the necessary off-road bells and whistles, including crawl control, hill-start assist control, vented disc brakes on front and rear and traction-control all around.  That’s the short list.

Back on the paved roads of civilization, the tester was no less enjoyable.

For all its ruggedness, the 4Runner was a smooth freeway cruiser and not a brute to steer in city traffic.

The five-speed automatic transmission was nicely calibrated, and starts from a standstill were surprisingly smooth.

Interior comfort was good, front and back.  And while there were nice interior comforts, the vehicle was not overloaded with ooh-shiny perks, kind of what I expect from an SUV with serious off-road intentions.

Fuel mileage was, well, ugh!  You get 17 miles per gallon in the city and 21 mpg on the highway, but that was not much a surprise in this vehicle niche.

It should go without saying that motorists pondering the purchase of this vehicle should take their off-roading excursions seriously, because the 4Runner TRD Pro Series is equipped for that kind of adventure.  Buying it for routine suburban-city commutes would be wrong in my book, sort of like getting a sledgehammer to set the pushpins on your bulletin board.

Overall grade: I give it a strong B.  Off the beaten path, I’d lean more toward an A-minus.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Boosted Volkswagen Beetle has some bite

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 September 2015 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, CaliforniaEleven years ago, I wrote an auto review telling the world that I was able to hold off an aggressive Chevrolet Corvette driver on a curvy portion of Highway 29 north of Calistoga.

Nobody believed me of course, seeing as how I was driving a 2004 New Beetle Convertible GLS 1.8T rated at 150 horsepower.  It actually did happen, though, with me having the advantage of holding the inside line on a very twisty stretch of road, before being blown off by the Corvette when the road straightened out.

I bring that up now because the recently tested 2015 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8T coupe is a most worthy successor to that GLS of more than a decade ago.

For those of you of a certain age – and that group includes yours truly – it’s difficult to picture the Beetle as a performance machine.  Too much old-school VW history in your head.  Too many bud vases added up over time.  And if I have to explain the connection between bud vases and VW Beetles, well, you’re too darn young.

Believe me on this part: The tested four-cylinder, turbocharged, 170-horsepower 2015 Beetle coupe was a performer in every sense of the word.  Yes, the Beetle’s relatively light weight helps.  And yes, it’s pretty nimble in the driver’s hands.  But simply said, this Beetle zips along with attitude when asked.

My tester was classic Beetle in appearance, although the 18-inch alloy wheels were sculpted in a thoroughly modern way.  This is not your grandma’s Beetle, with my ride getting a power sunroof,  a premium eight-speaker audio system, a navigation system, a rearview camera and a blind spot monitor/rear traffic alert.

All those goodies contributed to a reading of $27,805 on the sticker’s bottom line.  No question, the Beetle no longer equates to cheap these days.

Even with the aforementioned pop, advertised fuel mileage is pretty fair at 25 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.  Safety features and crash-test ratings are top-drawer, by the way.

Concerned about doing your part for the environment?  Then know that the Beetle 1.8T coupe qualifies as a Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle.

Please note that you can get the VW Beetle any number of ways, but frankly, I’m partial to the tested coupe, which is capable of handing out motoring enjoyment through all four seasons, including folks whose seasonal adventures include driving in the snow.

Volkswagen has done an admirable job of turning around the public’s perception of its Beetle.  It went from being a female-oriented runabout to a sporty model with appeal across all genders and age groups.   This is just one more example of why Volkswagen is now selling cars at a pace not exceeded by others, including recent top dog Toyota.

So, yes, check this Beetle out for yourself and, sure, choose a Corvette next time you’re out there spoiling for a challenge.  Just make sure you have a twisty stretch of road to start with … Don’t want to be foolish, after all.

Monday, October 5, 2015

2016 Acura MDX reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the 2016 Acura MDX AWD sport-utility vehicle in the latest, October 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.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Reworked 2016 CX-5 a cut above previous versions

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

Sacramento, California ­– Another week, another sport-utility vehicle.  It has been like that lately.

But who am I to complain about a 2016 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring SUV with front-wheel drive, especially when the CX-5 has been extensively reworked inside and out for the new model year?

It didn’t take me long to figure out that I like this new CX-5 better than what I remember from the previous versions.  And looking at the standard feature-loaded starting price of $28,220 ­­– a bargain given the overall package ­– I felt even more invigorated.

Naturally, my ride was dressed up with plentiful options to bring the bottom line to nearly $33,000.  And while I like door sill trim plates, LED headlights and other cool stuff, I frankly would have been super-pleased with the standard, no-extras-needed offering.

The “Soul Red Metallic” exterior paint color probably influenced me, but I liked the aerodynamic profile of the tester.  Likewise, the big smile of a grille with horizontal touches was easy on the eyes.  Nineteen-inch alloy wheels.  Nice.

Somehow, the redesigned dash seemed to line up perfectly with my quick-glance vision.  Every time my eyes strayed for the desired control, the needed button/tab lined up perfectly with my line of sight.  I must ask Mazda engineers how they did this, although perhaps it was all a coincidence.

Interior controls were a breeze to figure out, a blessing in my advancing age.

On the fly, this CX-5 is MUCH quieter than what I remember from CX-5s past.  Mazda admits to using new materials.  Whatever they used, it all works.  Conversations with passengers were easily had, even on busy freeways.

The CX-5 was nicely responsive and nimble when I asked it to make some sharp cuts.  It held high-speed curves with admirable stability.

The power plant on the tested CX-5 was a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, 184-horsepower engine that I found willing and able.  It tackled steep inclines with only the slightest of complaints.

Performance did not sap fuel mileage, which held serve at an advertised, impressive 26 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.

SUVs have been selling well of late, a byproduct of what auto industry analysts claim was pent-up demand in the aftermath of the recession.  Even so, I’ve lately wondered if motorists who recall the “Cash for Clunkers” days get nervous about buying sport-utes with sticker prices far north of $30,000.

For me, the CX-5’s comparatively affordable cost and plentiful comfort, convenience and safety features make it stand out from the crowd.  The 2016 version gets a solid “B-plus,” and if you are in the market for a new, practically priced SUV, it should be high on your must-try test-drive list.