Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Buick's Encore a loaded, affordable crossover

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

Sacramento, California – Looking for a Buick sport-utility vehicle but don’t want to lay down the $40,000 to $47,000 or so it takes to get into the automaker’s Enclave?

If so, you might want to take a look at the latest Buick Encore, extensively reworked for 2017 and an SUV sufficiently loaded to make you feel really good about saving some money.

My 2017 Buick Encore Premium tester with front-wheel drive had a lengthy list of standard features for the starting price of $30,465, and even a substantial option package kept the bottom line at $34,675.

The extras included the variable valve timing version of the turbocharged, 1.4-liter, four cylinder engine with a max horsepower rating of 153, or 15 more horses than the standard power plant.

The tester responded quickly and enthusiastically in most situations, struggling just a bit on the steepest of hill climbs.  Handling was akin to what I expect from a midsize sedan, a good thing.

The Encore looks a bit pinched and squat parked next to its Enclave sibling, but the crossover has a clean look from all angles.  Smooth, aerodynamic styling on the front end is new for 2017.

The interior has likewise been restyled … for the better.  Chrome accents and carefully crafted stitching are definite improvements, and the center stack of controls is easier to use.  I really liked the easy-to-read, 8-inch color touch screen.

Five-star federal government safety ratings abound on the Encore, including a top-level overall vehicle score.  Fuel mileage on the tester came in at a strong 27 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.

Interior comforts were downright luxurious, with leather-appointed seats and a Bose premium audio system.  The tester was loaded with safety/security systems, including a rear cross-traffic alert (kept me honest in crowded parking lots several times) and forward collision alert.

The only minor gripe I had was less-than-optimum, 360-degree vision from my cockpit seat, but this was mostly negated by the standard side blind-zone alert system, standard on the Encore.

All in all, the Encore earns a B-plus to A-minus grade among the large field of practical-size, relatively-affordable crossovers.


Thanks for reading in 2016.  Happy new year to all.  Looking forward to offering my take on more vehicles in 2017 -- MG

Thursday, December 22, 2016

2017 Kia Forte feels fine, with a braking bonus

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

Sacramento, California – Thankfully, it’s not often that you experience the real-life engagement of a motor vehicle’s emergency safety system during a test drive.

But it happened to me in my recent week with the refreshed-for-2017 Kia Forte EX sedan. Let me explain.

My dressed-up compact came with an “Autonomous Emergency Braking” system, which will automatically take over the hard-braking duties if sensors determine the car to be an eye-blink away from serious trouble.  Yeah, you know what’s coming, right?

On a recent commute home to the Sacramento suburbs, driving a route I’ve driven hundreds of times, I encountered a perfect storm for a chain-collision crash while at the wheel of the Forte.

Rolling in the center lane of a three-lane highway in heavy traffic, the truck in front of me suddenly went into a full panic stop at around 60 miles per hour.  Naturally, I did the same. In a fraction of a second, I determined that we would not collide, so I took my foot off the brake, but the Forte’s AEB system took over and sent the brake pedal flat to the floor.

My instant reaction was panic, as I was certain that the car behind me would crunch my rear bumper hard.  I immediately pumped the accelerator, hoping to avoid this.

Amazingly, everything straightened out and no contact occurred.  Given all the evidence, I came to the conclusion that one of two things happened: For one, the driver behind me deserved a medal for reacting so quickly to avoid crashing into me.  Or two, the Forte’s AEB system saved my bacon.

I’m inclined to believe it was the latter.

So, if you are searching for a compact that just might bail you out of a hot spot during a dicey urban commute, put the Forte at the top of your list.

Oh, by the way, there’s much more to like about the latest Forte beyond that.

Sleek, sporty styling draws approving nods from folks viewing the Forte’s profile, and an upgrade in engines for 2017 bolsters the saucy look.  My ride had a 2-liter, four-cylinder power plant rated at 164 horsepower.  This was more than enough to move the Forte around with authority.

I found the Forte quite agile in quick slalom moves, and the steering balance was just about perfect, which is saying something for a compact sedan.

Fuel mileage ratings on the tester were a sublime 25 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.  The starting price on an EX is $21,200, with plentiful options available.

On the motion picture scale, this 2017 Forte deserves four stars … and my thanks for almost certainly braking me out of harm’s way.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Enhanced Mitsubishi Mirage is the best one yet

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

Sacramento, California – The Mitsubishi Mirage dates back to the disco era of the late 1970s, but the latest, reworked-for-2017 version is the best of the lot.

Basic transportation refined for our times.  That’s the ticket.

My tester was the 2017 Mirage GT five-door hatchback, and the sticker numbers that draw your attention right off the bat are: 37 miles per gallon in the city and 43 mpg on the highway.

Yes, that will put a smile on your face.  So will a starting price of $16,495.

Naturally, there are some sacrifices to be made to match those numbers.

The power plant is a 1.2-liter, three-cylinder creation rated at 78 horsepower, which is actually up 4 horses from the 2016 model.

Be advised: You really have to mash your right foot down hard to get rolling into the freeway traffic, and the three-cylinder engine will make a hair-raising amount of noise when asked to give its all.

The other side of the coin: This econo-liner is not stripped, and it looks good.

Standard features on the tester included a rear spoiler, a front seat heater, steering wheel-mounted controls for cruise/audio and fog lights.

Best of all, the look has changed for the better … much better, in my view.

Mitsubishi redesigned the hood, grille, front/rear bumpers, headlamps and wheels (15-inch, two-tone alloys on the tester).  The result is a cleaner, more-aerodynamic appearance.

The automaker also offers a lengthy list of entertainment and tech options, the better to dress up your Mirage to your liking.

My GT was nimble in downtown traffic, a plus in a driving environment where too many drivers make sudden, unexpected moves in an all-out effort to dent your bumpers.  Another downtown bonus: The tester was a snap to park in even the tightest urban lots. And the brakes were surprisingly grippy.

This being a Mitsubishi model, the consumer protections are outstanding – 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty, 5-year/60,000 new vehicle limited warranty, 7-year/100,000-anti-corrosion/perforation limited warranty and a 5-year/unlimited mileage roadside assistance program.

Overall, the newest Mirage GT stacks up as a deal-maker, with one potential deal being that you could get your college-age son/daughter a reliable new car instead of rolling the dice on a used model.  Likewise, this Mitsubishi is a smart choice as a daily driver for commuters watching their budgets and their fuel expenditures.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Maserati's Ghibli sedan is something special

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

This review first appeared in the November 2016 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California When you’re offered a drive in a 2016 Maserati Ghibli sedan, you jump at it.

This is something special, beyond the routine.  At least that’s what you expect from Maserati.

To put it mildly, I was not disappointed in my day with the car.

I knew about the Ghibli before it ever showed up in the United States.  News of its elegance and performance arrived before the car landed on these shores.  Happily, the advance reviews were accurate.

First off, even my basic Ghibli looked fast just sitting there.  The best of Euro styling accented a long, flowing front end that promised aerodynamic bliss.

Inside, a luxurious cabin is enhanced by thoughtfully placed controls.  Everything is so elegant and classy looking that you can’t imagine ever bringing a cup of coffee or any kind of food into this vehicle.  If a car can raise your sophistication level, this is the one.

An eight-speed automatic transmission was matched to a 3-liter, twin-turbo V-6 making a max 345 horsepower.  Frankly, the engine feels more powerful than advertised.  Jumps off the line are immediate and brisk.  Runs up to 60 or 70 miles per hour are a quick rush, made all the better by a satisfying growl from the power plant.

I found the steering a bit firm on the tester, but in a reassuring way.  At no time did I feel like I was laboring to take sharp corners.

Given the Ghibli’s power, fuel mileage is relatively fair at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.

This might be the best $70,000 to $80,000 you’ll ever spend.

It should be noted that the Ghilbi can be dressed up with yet more power and some top-of-the-line options, including a blasting Harman Kardon audio system.

I know what you’re thinking.  This is beyond most household budgets.  I hear that loud and clear.  It’s beyond mine.

But consider the options for a moment.

This is essentially an entry-level Maserati, an exotic marque that carries the same kind of emotional impact as Ferrari.  The Ghibli is smaller and much more affordable than its big brother, the Maserati Quattroporte, which is priced well into the six-figure ballpark.  And the Ghilbi is loaded with safety features, making it more than a prestige-loaded Euro luxury liner.

Bottom line: A starter Ghibli can be had for what you might pay these days for some high-end sport-utility vehicles, and if you’re craving a Euro sports car with exotic leanings, the Ghibli might be the one you’ve been seeking for all these years.

Is it worth it?  You can make that call after a test drive.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Lincoln MKZ sedan reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the 2017 Lincoln MKZ sedan in the latest, December 2016, 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 1, 2016

Santa Fe Sport gets better with 2017 upgrades

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

Sacramento, California – The Hyundai Santa Fe has long been a dependable multitasker in the Korean automaker’s fleet.

Entry-level, second level, sturdy crossover, peppy sport-utility vehicle. Over the years, the Santa Fe has played all these parts.

But arguably the most pleasant experience I’ve had in the vehicle was a recent week in the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate FWD.  Long name.  Plentiful pleasure.

Hyundai’s engineers swung at the 2017 Santa Fe Sport with both fists, producing an extensively reworked version for the new model year.

The manufacturer says the latest Santa Fe Sport has nearly 350 updated components.

Since “Sport” is in the name, Hyundai tweaked the front and rear fascia to convey a more-aggressive look.  Smartly placed LED lighting and 19-inch alloy wheels worked well on the tester.

All Santa Fe powertrains offer multiple mode selections, enabling pilots to cover a range from dark green mode to let ’er rip.  The tester was equipped with a turbo 4 that made a maximum 240 horsepower.  That was more than enough to tackle the city streets, the daily suburban-urban commute and even twisty uphill climbs.

Steering was firmer than I remember in previous Santa Fe models, a positive thing when taking on mountain roads.

Some price has to be paid for the power curve, of course, so fuel mileage came in at a so-so 20 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.

I’ll admit to being stunned at the long list of standard features on my ride.  The perks included a hands-free smart liftgate, heated seats all around, a multi-view camera system and an easy-to-read 8-inch touchscreen/navigation system.

The tester had an “Ultimate Tech Package” of extras (smart cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and auto-leveling headlights, to name just a few) that helped push the $36,500 starting price to $39,070 on the bottom line.

Hyundai rightly touts a strong safety record on the Santa Fe Sport, topped by a max five-start federal government safety rating.  As usual for Hyundai, the warranties are generous.

I used to tout the Santa Fe as a perfect downtown commuter that was equally useful in doing those endless suburban chores.  My latest experience tells me that it also would be a comfortable road trip warrior, with a generous cargo-carrying capacity.

Overall, this sweetly reworked Santa Fe Sport grades out in the B-plus to A-minus niche.

Monday, November 28, 2016

An appreciation of greatness in our time

Blogger's note: Due to technical problems at a remote location, this item failed to post last week.  Apologies for the delay.  The sentiments remain sincere -- MG

Sometimes, in sports, we witness greatness but fail to completely appreciate it as it's happening.

As a youngster, I watched Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown run over, around and through tacklers like a wolf among sheep.  Sure, it's what he did, right?

When UCLA was winning seven consecutive NCAA men's basketball championships in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I considered it almost routine.

Now that I'm older, and hopefully wiser, I appreciate what Jimmie Johnson did on Nov. 20 in the fullest possible way.  Seven championships in NASCAR's top-tier series.  SEVEN!

Yes, Richard Petty did it.  Dale Earnhardt did it.  But it's hard to picture them pulling down seven in this NASCAR era that's not only mega-competitive but nearly demands a couple of mind-blowing, lucky breaks along the way.

Can you picture Petty or Earnhardt amassing all those titles under the current Chase format, where a single bad race near the end of the "playoffs" can spell doom to what was otherwise a spectacular year?  I'm not sure I can picture it.

What I have witnessed with Johnson is sustained excellence and off-the-charts mental toughness ... must-have tools in today's playoff format.

Watching the 2016 season-ending race at Homestead Miami Speedway in South Florida, I gave up on Johnson's chances about five times.  Even before the race began, he was shuffled to the back of the field due to post-tech inspection work done on his car.  I figured it would take him half the race to get back near the front.  Instead, his manic drive into the top 10 left him three-quarters of the race to play his hand.

Even so, his car seemed to be the weakest of the four gunning for the championship.  He was consistently trailing Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano.  They seemed to have the horsepower, handling edges they needed to keep Johnson stuck on six NASCAR championships.

Repeated adjustments on Johnson's car in the pits made for long stops, and Johnson seemed constantly on the verge of shuffling back into the 15th position.

Yes, Edwards' dive-bomb move on a late restart took him out and did some damage to Logano.  Still, with 10 laps to go, it looked like Johnson was a third seed behind Busch and Logano.

Amazingly, on the last restart, Johnson drove away from everybody.  It was like his car was super-energized.  He even blasted past Elk Grove's Kyle Larson, who had the field covered all day.  It was an amazing thing to see.

But no more amazing than watching Johnson win five championships in a row.  And no more amazing than watching him notch championship No. 6.

The people who follow this sport are now making the right call: We're seeing one of the greatest of all time.  Is title No. 8 coming up next year?  Can Johnson win 10 before he hangs it up?  Based on what I've seen, I think it's possible.  Johnson stays in superior physical shape, and his skills seem, if anything, at their peak at age 41.

It will be interesting to see how far he pushes the envelope over the next few years.  But for now, it's a good time to simply appreciate greatness in our time.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Elantra's seven speeds, dual clutch = fuel savings

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

Sacramento, California – The all-new-for-2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco sedan is a nicely priced compact car that surprises you with a long list of perks that you might not have guessed when first glancing at the window sticker.

The sticker’s bottom line on my tester read $21,610 – which included only $125 for carpeted floor mats and an $835 freight and handling charge – so the affordable starting price of $20,650 included a blizzard of standard high-tech devices, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a hands-free smart trunk, to name just a few.

But the star of the show for this sixth-generation Elantra is the power package.

Let me explain.

The Eco is equipped with a turbocharged, 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine making a maximum 128 horsepower and 156 foot-pounds of torque. That engine is mated to a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission with specific gear ratios.  The combination delivers 32 miles per gallon in city driving and 40 mpg on the highway.

Impressive?  I’ll say.

Some auto-reviewing colleagues of mine claim that the dual-clutch technology created a momentary power lag when they hit the accelerator with force.  I felt this the first time my right foot landed hard on the accelerator, but my own adjustments on accelerator pressure after that seemed to override the lag.

Is that possible?  I’m not telling you that I’m smart enough to outwit a seven-speed transmission, but the bottom line for me was one minor lag experience, and no more after that.

All in all, the Elantra Eco was a fun ride.  I could easily envision it as a daily commuter/driver, with the bonus of comparatively rare trips to the gas pumps.

Steering was a fingertip breeze, and the tester was pretty much without a wiggle on sharp turns taken at high speed.

Yes, it does whine a bit at the top of steep hill climbs, but so do most compact cars with four-cylinder engines and horsepower ratings less than 150.

My ride also looked good with “Symphony Silver” exterior paint, LED daytime running lights, smooth over-the-top lines, a wide-yawning grille and 15-inch alloy wheels.

If your holiday shopping list includes nicely equipped basic transportation, an affordable new ride for one of your children or a four-door commuter that won’t crush your budget, this thoughtfully reworked Elantra should be on your test drive list.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

VW’s Dune droptop is a peppy, cool-retro Beetle

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

This review first appeared in the October 2016 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California Over the years, I’ve driven so many variations of the Volkswagen Beetle that the myriad changes have washed over me like so much white noise.

Until now.

A recent week in the 2017 VW Beetle Dune Convertible showed me that driving the iconic post-World War II sensation can still be a fun, heart-pumping experience.

My droptop was wearing saucy “Sandstorm Yellow” paint, Dune badging and a power black cloth top that went up and down with ease.  Beetle devotees will notice DNA from the old Baja Bug in this model, and it’s a great retro shout-out to the vehicle that won hearts in Southern California in the 1960s.

The Baja Bug look is enhanced by a sizable air-intake opening on the front end.  The fog lights are encased in two black, honeycomb vents on either side of the centered intake – another visual plus.  The tester rode high on 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.

This Dune surprised me with its muscular performance, courtesy of a 1.8-liter turbocharged-4 making 170 horsepower.  I smoked the tires the first couple times from a standing start.  That wasn’t my intention.  That was the little vehicle telling me to be careful with its more-than-adequate power.

Once you get the rhythm of the accelerator, the Dune just scoots along.  Brisk starts easily create space between you and trailing traffic.  The convertible is agile enough to zip into tight spots without aggressive braking.

All this was enjoyable from a cockpit that was attractive and well-designed.

A two-tone interior color scheme was sufficiently sporty, and the Dune was equipped with more connectivity devices and high-tech options than I’d ever use in a lifetime.  Controls were within easy reach and easy to use.

Gas mileage was a very nice 25 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg on the highway.  The starting price is about $24,000 on the nose, although the Dune can be dressed up with some technology extras.

Fellow auto reviewers have sometimes put down the Dune as just a dressed up version of the basic VW Beetle convertible, and I can understand that to some degree.

However, I think this Dune has enough of its own spice and Baja Bug mojo to be a special model to Beetle-loving buyers.

Please be advised that the Volkswagen Beetle Dune Convertible is best enjoyed as a two-person runabout.

Take it out for a weekend drive, open it up and get away from the crowd.  Just my 2 cents on this retro-themed machine.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Maserati Ghibli sedan reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the 2016 Maserati Ghibli sedan in the latest, November 2016, 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, November 3, 2016

Pathfinder road trip warrior gets better with age

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

Sacramento, California – Two years removed from reviewing the Nissan Pathfinder, I found much to like in the extensively reworked-for-2017 version of the venerable road trip warrior.

The tested SL 4WD version of the sport-utility vehicle looks more aggressive than its predecessor, with prominent “boomerang-shaped” headlights nicely placed on the restyled front end.  An aerodynamic profile translated to quiet motoring on the highway.

Best of all, the V-6 engine gets a significant power boost for 2017; the 3.5-liter V-6 now puts out 284 horses.  That’s up 24 from the previous generation.

And it shows.  The tester jumped off the line from a standing start and demonstrated significantly more muscle on the freeways than what I remember from a couple years back.

The starting price of $37,390 on the tested Pathfinder included a generous menu of goodies: eight-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support, a heated/leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated exterior mirrors with LED turn signals, a motion-activated liftgate and a most-helpful rear cross traffic alert.

Mine was dressed up with about $3,400 in extras, an SL Premium Package that included a premium Bose audio system with 13 speakers and a dual panorama moonroof.

Worth noting: a top-level, five-star overall federal government safety rating.

Fuel mileage comes in at a so-so 19 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.

As I’ve said in previous reviews, the Pathfinder takes me back to younger days when it was regarded as the prototypical vehicle for an extended road trip far from the urban jungle.  The characteristics that implanted those memories in my head remain in the 2017 Pathfinder.

It’s an easy-steering, nimble, generally quiet cruiser, even as it's making its way up steep climbs in the Sierra Nevada.  Yes, you can take it off-road, but for me, the Pathfinder is best enjoyed on a daylong road outing, opting for the scenic rural roads over the get-me-there-now interstates.

Just my romanticized preference, mind you.

If you are likewise inclined to hit the road, take along friends and cargo.  The Pathfinder’s three-row, seven-passenger capacity configuration offers plenty of spread-out room.  If your road trip involves just two of you, the Pathfinder’s back end can be configured to carry plenty of suitcases and supplies.

Overall roominess – passengers and cargo – comes to 173.8 cubic feet. Need to take more stuff?: towing capacity is up to 6,000 pounds.

For me, this is the best Pathfinder yet.  If you’re a road trip junkie, it should be on your test-drive list.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Three rides: a bit pricey but high in quality

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

Sacramento, California – It’s all my fault.  Really.

I’ve been on the road or sampling one-day rides and fallen behind on my reviews of recently delivered vehicles.  It’s time to catch up, so today, I’m offering up my impressions of three 2016 motor vehicles in which I’ve enjoyed seat time – not only recently but dating back several generations of the models.

Fasten your belts.  Ready?  Here goes:

+ 2016 Lexus RX 350 ($54,820 as tested; 20 mpg city/28mpg highway): The venerable RX (PICTURED) was extensively reworked for the 2016 model year, so be advised that the 2017 model showing up at dealerships now is pretty much unchanged.

It’s pretty easy to see why this practical-size sport-utility vehicle has maintained its popularity over the long-term.  The 3.5-liter V-6 generates plenty of juice at 300 horsepower, the luxury features inside are exceptional and it looks very sporty on the fly.

The 2016 redesign included a monster front grille and sharp, eye-catching lines that slice through the air with ease.

And yes, there’s a hybrid RX to be had as well.

Alas, the fuel mileage on the tester was a bit tepid, and the cost has swelled somewhat dramatically over the years.  But then again, this is a Lexus.

Bottom line: This SUV gives you most of the high-end Lexus treatment for a price that’s still within range of middle-range incomes.

+ 2016 Toyota Sienna Limited Premium ($49,301 as tested; 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway): This super-loaded tester minivan made me feel like Father of the Year as it was positively stuffed with primo comfort/convenience/entertainment features.

You want the prototype family road trip vehicle?  This might be the one.

Again, gas mileage was not the best, and it made my heart jump to look at dropping nearly 50-grand on a minivan.

But if you’re looking at this particular seven-passenger, all-wheel drive Sienna as a long-term investment that simultaneously makes a lot of happy family travel memories, it’s probably worth the dent in your checkbook.

+ 2016 Ford Edge Sport AWD ($49,990 as tested; 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway): The model’s name conveys a sense of hit-the-road abandon, but a closer look reveals a solid mainstream hauler.

Consider the outstanding federal safety ratings, including a top-level, five-star overall rating.  Check out that hands-free liftgate that prompts the neighbors to applaud as you unload groceries from the back.  Leather all around inside?  Why, of course.

Yes, the Edge rounds out my trifecta with not-so-hot fuel mileage and a bottom line that’s 10 bucks short of $50,000.

Is it worth it?  Yup, if you pack on the miles, myriad chores and happy road trips over at least five years.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

This Dodge Challenger leaves pack in the dust

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

Sacramento, California – Sometimes, you get a test vehicle that makes you feel overmatched.

The recently tested 2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack two-door model was just such a vehicle.

It looks capable of flight, with old-school-NASCAR-like lines, 20-inch forged aluminum wheels and a long hood that looks like it could double as a helicopter landing pad.

Here are the numbers that really matter: a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 engine with 485 horsepower and 475 foot-pounds of torque.

Knowing this, I tried to ease the Challenger out into traffic with a very light foot on the throttle.  I failed ... miserably  The sound of burning rubber was broadcast over a wide area, much to my embarrassment.

It took me some time to get it right.  Moving the Scat Pack in reasonable order from a standing start is like climbing into a sleeping bag stretched over a slippery, high-altitude granite rock.  You have to do it carefully.

Once accomplished, you’re pretty much the master of the motoring world.

Passersby stare open-mouthed at your ridiculously hot-looking ride.

Just starting the Scat Pack produces a roar that demands attention from anyone standing within a quarter-mile radius of the car.

Prospective cut-off artists back off when they see what you’re driving.

Pokes and wildly erratic drivers are quickly dispatched with just the smallest nudges on the accelerator.

Welcome to the world of American muscle, and yeah, it feels good.

I can only imagine what it’s like to put a 707-horsepower Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat through its paces. Maybe the feeling a cheetah gets upon encountering a herd of slow-moving antelope.

For the record, fuel mileage on the tester was 15 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.

The interior of the Scat Pack was fairly basic but nicely laid out.  My optional extras included a “leather performance steering wheel,” special sporty badging and a “Satin Black” fuel filler door.  Back-to-the-70s round, analog gauges were a nostalgic treat.

The starting price for this road warrior was a surprisingly reasonable $37,995, but mine had extras that pushed the bottom line to $43,475.

This R/T Scat Pack version of the Challenger has niche appeal.  And if you have to ask what niche that is, never mind.  The power curve has somehow missed you.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Chevy Malibu does it right; hybrid tech is a bonus

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

Sacramento, California – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve experienced this at car rental counters at airports across the nation … A prospective auto renter is pondering myriad options, and then, unprompted, suddenly says: “Hey, do you have a Chevy Malibu?”

That, more than anything I can think of, is the best example of the midsize Malibu sedan’s cover-all-the-bases appeal.

Yeah, it fits.  The Malibu satisfies on all levels: just the right size, good trunk space, room for adults, good engine power, admirable reliability and on and on …

And if you’re getting a fuel-sipping hybrid version of the Malibu, you’re even further ahead in the game.

That was my week recently, tooling a 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid sedan around Northern California.

Yes, that hybrid package with the 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine matched with a two-motor drive unit translated to a bottom line of $33,620 on the tester’s sticker. Full disclosure: My ride also had a long list of optional extras.

The bonus on the hybrid technology: 47 miles per gallon in the city and 46 mpg on the highway.

The 2016 Malibu was changed from the ground up – the 2017 model is virtually identical to the 2016 version – and the extensive tweaks included a longer wheelbase, a curb weight loss of nearly 300 pounds and numerous technology/entertainment upgrades.

All that was very cool, but for me, the new ’Bu’s familiar agility and easy steering were the top bragging points.

The hybrid’s power plant also featured Chevy’s “Exhaust Gas Heat Recovery” technology, which employs exhaust heat to warm the engine and interior cabin.  This fact wows passengers every time.

Another cool fact: the 80-cell, 1.5 kilowatt-hour ion battery pack providing electric power to the Malibu’s hybrid system generates enough oomph to power the Malibu up to 55 miles per hour on electricity alone.

Beyond the technology front, the tested Malibu had plenty of old-school amenities to add to my enjoyment.

The perks list included power/heated exterior mirrors, power lumbar support in the driver’s seat and a thorough, helpful driver information center.

For the record, the Malibu’s extensive safety package is bolstered by a top-level, five-star, overall safety rating from the feds.

All in all, the Malibu continues to impress, at rental counters and on the roadways.