Wednesday, March 30, 2016

2016 Honda Odyssey: Proof that minivans matter

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

Sacramento, California ­– Friends and colleagues often ask: How come you still review minivans?

They ask it in the same manner that a technology pro might ask: Why do you still have dial-up?

You get the idea.

For me, minivans must be considered as long as they’re still around.  My family has roots dating back to the long-ago introduction of the minivan.  Yes, the first true Chrysler minivan -- which defined the segment -- that was rolled out by none other than Lee Iacocca.

And minivans were a big part of my traveling days as a parent with young children.  You had to have one of those big boats to carry the kids and all their cargo, right?  I drove minivans in every corner of America.

Naturally, those minivans were dinosaurs compared with what’s available now.  Oh, what I would have given for an in-vehicle video entertainment system for the youngsters back in the day.

But I digress.

My most recent minivan tester was the 2016 Honda Odyssey SE.  The Odyssey is in my personal “Big Four” of minivans, joining the Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Town & Country and Toyota Sienna.  All of them offer a lot.  They’re rolling hotels.

Yeah, minivans might not excite the auto purist’s heart, but they’re entirely functional for road trips and serious errands.

The tested SE’s starting price was $33,375, and that included everything, including a blizzard of five-star government safety ratings.  I loved the remote, dual, power sliding doors.  Makes things so much easier.  Everybody gets settled in before I settle into the driver’s seat.  This is a big deal if you’re a parent, take my word for it.

Comfort/convenience features are numerous.  The tester had the DVD rear-seat entertainment system that I longed for all those years ago.  It was a treat to try it out as a passenger in the parked Odyssey.

If you have to live in your vehicle, this is a good choice.

The 3.5-liter V-6 churned out a respectable 248 horsepower, good enough for most situations, although the power plant did let out a wail on extremely steep hill climbs. That’s not a deal-breaker.

Do be advised that fuel mileage is fair at best: 19 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

Volunteer passengers loved the spacious interior, back-seat amenities and plentiful cupholders and storage spaces.  Some actually left singing the praises of the minivan.

I think that’s what I’d call progress.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Lincoln's upgraded MKX excels with luxury, pep

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

Sacramento, California ­– Unless you quit watching television a year or so ago, you’ve likely seen a lot of the extensively reworked-for-2016 Lincoln MKX luxury sport-utility vehicle on the airwaves.

You know, the SUV seen in the slow jam commercials with Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey at the wheel.

Yes, that one.

I’ll admit that I’m apparently missing the esoteric driving pleasures experienced by the actor, but for my humble tastes, this is a good luxury vehicle getting better.

My 2016 Lincoln MKX AWD tester was decked out with the “Reserve” equipment group, which is Lincoln-speak for it’s loaded with a lot of cool, over-the-top stuff.  The 22-WAY power driver seat got my attention, for example.

The tester’s base price checked in at $47,650, but all the extras pushed the bottom line to $58,740.  So yes, this is a luxury liner on all levels.

It looks smooth and aerodynamic in profile, with a nicely sculpted, but somewhat understated grille for this day and age.  Classy-looking from bumper to bumper.

Hitting the unlock fob at night illuminates puddle lights that project the Lincoln logo in “floormat” shape on either side of the car.  Your kids and neighbors will love this; take my word for it.

Stepping inside the cabin, I was impressed with the level of luxury and quiet.  Not a sound penetrated the cabin, not even the neighbor boy moving the lawn.

Devices of all types were within easy reach of my fingertips, including heated seats/steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers and state-of-the-art audio, climate and multimedia controls.  Safety and driver-assist features were stuffed into the thing, ready to help you park, drive safely or panic stop.

The vehicle earned a top five-star safety rating in federal government testing.

Many of the tech features were mind-blowing, but simple enjoyment came in firing up the MKX and taking it out on the roadways.

The tester was equipped a turbocharged, 2.7-liter V-6 rated at 335 horsepower and 380 foot-pounds of torque.  With that power plant, the MKX qualified as a freeway warrior, luxury beast and hill-climbing devil, depending on what I wanted from it at a given time.

For all that power, very little noise reached the spacious interior cabin, and the MKX was monorail-solid on slalom runs.

Very impressive.

Naturally, you lose a little something on the fuel mileage end, which comes in at a tepid 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.

All in all, this is a top-flight entry in the midsize luxury SUV segment.

Or as Matthew McConaughey would say: “Alright, alright, alright.”

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Second-generation Volt offers surge in driving pleasure

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

Sacramento, California ­– Introduced in late 2010, the Chevrolet Volt wowed the nation’s automotive establishment, employing a relatively long-range electric drive source and a small, standard gasoline engine.

A sensible driver could pilot it from Sacramento to the outskirts of Los Angeles before needing to refill the gas tank.  A commuter with a daily, 30-mile round-trip routine could theoretically run on only electric power every day, as long as he/she recharged the Volt with an easy-to-use plug upon arriving home each evening.

The Volt came on the scene decidedly green and capable of long-distance hauls.  For many awaiting an environmentally friendly, gas-sipping car with traditional auto capabilities, the Volt’s appearance was a dream come true.

Among numerous honors, the Volt was named Motor Trend magazine’s 2011 Car of the Year.

I was privileged to get an early look at the first-generation Volt.  Having recently spent a week in the second-generation 2016 model, I can tell you this: The new one is WAY better than the original, darn near a quantum leap.  And yes, I was very impressed with the original.

The reworked Volt has a starting price just a shade less than $40,000. Given the Volt’s current technology, that’s a bargain.

The first thing I noticed was the Volt’s sleeker, sportier skin.  In fact, when I first walked up to it, I didn’t think it was a Volt.  Neighbors who saw it parked at my home said the same thing.

Two electric motors power the Volt’s front wheels.  They’re backed up by a modest 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine ready to take over once the juice runs out – a seamless transition, by the way.  The electric-drive system puts out an advertised baseline of 149 horsepower, and max torque is nearly 300 foot-pounds, a definite eye-opener.

The Volt’s much-improved torque was evident to me right off the bat.  I actually had to learn to be a little lighter on the “gas” pedal, so as not to look like a complete idiot out there on the public roadways.

Besides the torquey power source, there’s this: the new Volt has an electric-power-only range of up to 53 miles.  Total driving range improves to 420 miles.  Needless to say, a little gas for the standard engine goes a long, long way.

The Volt’s range was improved in part by weight loss.  GM engineers were able to shave more than 200 pounds off the curb weight of the first-generation Volt.  The more-slender Volt was a nimble performer in both city and freeway traffic.

Most impressive to me was how much information the car was feeding me while I was on a roll.  I was getting real-time readouts of energy consumed, battery status, regenerative braking contributions and much more.

I confess that three full-size adults in the Volt’s back seat will be too close for comfort.  Fine, somebody has to go.  Four car occupants will get along just fine.

Please note that the latest Volt can be had with the safety and driving-enhancement features that have become staples on most contemporary models.  That includes lane-keeping assist, blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and forward collision alert.

Interior comfort is likewise improved, and the list of standard comfort/convenience features is what you’d expect for a major automaker’s small sedan offering.  And the hatchback arrangement works well with this vehicle.

On my grading scale, the Volt gets an “A.”  Others complain that it’s too pricey for many households.  I understand.  But technological advances, and progress, don’t come cheap.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Kia's Optima moves up in class for 2016

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 February 2016 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California When you compete in the midsize sedan class – the equivalent of being in the same division as the Golden State Warriors in the NBA – you have to offer up something special.

Otherwise, you’re going to get trampled.

Kia thinks it has the answer in its extensively reworked-for-2016 Optima.  Having spent a week recently in the 2016 Kia Optima LX Turbo, I have to give Kia kudos for effort.

The new Optima is a pretty serious step up from Optimas past.  It just feels more regal, and its sporty exterior styling with a strong dash of Euro flash is an improvement.

The tester started at a reasonable $23,990, but the standard features went a little beyond what you’d expect for that price, all part of the plan to have the Optima step up in class among its rivals.

Standard features included leather interior surfaces, power/folding exterior mirrors with LED turn signals and a crystal-clear LCD rear camera display.  A long list of standard safety features included hill-start assist control.  Adding $2,600 to the bottom line was a Technology Package with a navigation system, blind spot-detection system and a rear cross-traffic alert.

Even with the extras and freight, the tester’s price was a still-reasonable $27,415.

My ride was equipped with the new 1.6-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine rated at a max 178 horsepower and 195 foot-pounds of torque.  Accelerations and other chores were handled strongly and efficiently with that engine, although I did experience a couple of instances of brief turbo lag on hard accelerations.   Noise from the turbo is definitely produced, but not at an annoying level.

The tested Optima rode on a tighter, sportier chassis than I remember previous Optimas having.  It now has a decidedly sporty feel, but not so stiff to prompt complaints from the driver and volunteer passengers.  Rear-seat room is good but not cavernous by any means.

The seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission was a seamless performer on the tester, and I found the Optima to be stable and grippy in all conditions, including sharp corners taken at high speed.

Be advised that you can trade up to the Optima SX and SXL models and get the 2-liter turbo 4 rated at 245 horsepower.  Given the brisk performance of the 1.6-liter engine on the tester, I can only imagine what the 2-liter bomb feels like.  I’m imagining a trip to the drag strip.

Alas, there’s always a price to pay.  If you opt for the stronger engine, you’ll not only pay more for the car but fuel mileage ratings come in at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway…both pretty fair numbers.

However, the tested Optima LX Turbo has fuel mileage ratings of 28 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway.  And those are pretty fantastic numbers from a perky power source.

Overall, I’d give this new Optima a B-plus.  It should attract more eyes in the ultra-competitive midsize sedan sector.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Sporty Jaguar XF reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the 2016 Jaguar XF Premium sedan in the latest, March 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, March 3, 2016

Technology-laden Volvo also high on safety, luxury

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

Sacramento, California ­– Every now and then, automakers will tag a well-known motor vehicle model with a fancy additional label, reflecting glorious add-ons and extras for which you’ll be paying more money.

For the 2016 model year, Volvo has done this with its S60 luxury sedan.  My tester officially was known as the 2016 Volvo S60 T5 Inscription FWD.  Inscription is the key word here.

Volvo says Inscription translates to premium-level S60 versions.

I will say this: The tester was absolutely loaded with oh-wow technology, security/safety features and comfort/luxury/convenience perks.  Loaded, I tell you.

The vehicle’s standard starting fare of $38,700 was pretty nice in this class.  Alas, the blizzard of extras pushed the  purchase price to $45,925.

That being said, the tested S60 was so full of technology wonders that I considered the sticker’s bottom line a reasonable figure.

The S60 T5 Inscription looks luxurious and aerodynamic from the outside.  I particularly like the grille with the familiar chrome slash/Volvo logo design.

Inside, passengers get a bonus with plentiful legroom, courtesy of a three-inch stretch in the standard wheelbase on this 2016 offering.

The vehicle vigorously scoots along with a turbocharged, 2-liter, four-cylinder engine rated at 240 horsepower handling the chores.  My ride had a seamless, eight-speed automatic transmission.  Simply put, the S60 handled like a champ in city traffic, dicey freeway commutes and on twisty mountain roads.
Fuel mileage is very nice for this sector: 25 miles per gallon in the city and 37 mpg on the highway.  A start/stop engine feature can be disabled, which I did consistently.

Interior comforts were excellent, and numerous.

The lineup included a power glass moonroof, leather seating surfaces, power folding rear seats and sport front seats with power lumbar support.

With Volvo involved, primo safety features could be found bumper to bumper.  The car seemed entirely capable of saving your life even in the nastiest of crashes.

Even so, a couple of the systems tried my patience.

The collision-warning system, a nerve-jangling tech piece with flashing lights and an audible alarm, was super-sensitive.  It triggered at least a dozen times during my week, which would be about 10 more than normal.  In truth, I think I had one close call in commuter traffic that warranted the triggering of the system.

The other thing I noticed was Volvo’s “Lane Keeping Aid,” a system that employs a forward-facing camera to identify road markings and continually evaluate whether you are staying within your lane, or drifting out of it.  It will not activate if you used a turn signal to indicate a lane change.

However, if you are, say, gliding up an exit ramp and angling right to make your right turn at the top of the ramp, the system starts maneuvering the steering wheel around to correct this perceived mistake.  It startled me several times, although the wheel adjustments were subtle, not forceful.

I’m chalking all that up to “everybody needs as much protection and help as they can get behind the wheel these days,” but control freaks be advised: You’ve been warned.

Given everything, this S60 T5 with Inscription badging gets a B-plus to A-minus grade as a new offering.