Thursday, September 29, 2016

Changes for Fusion, but good stuff stays in place

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

Sacramento, California – Ford’s popular Fusion sedan gets some major upgrades for the 2017 model year, but the old-school charms of the car remain intact.

It still looks pleasingly angular and sporty.  Interior comfort and controls are more than you’d expect in this segment.  Handling is superb for a car that starts on the low end of the $20,000s bracket.

And for me, a bonus.  My tester was the 2017 Ford Fusion Titanium Hybrid, a technologically advanced fuel sipper with a four cylinder/electric combination putting out nearly 200 horespower at full song.

Ford really has gone the extra mile to pack more technology into its latest Fusion. Yes, mine had extras, but who’s complaining?

My ride included adaptive cruise control, a highly versatile navigation system, a lane-keeping system and cross-traffic alert.

Wasn’t it just a few years ago that these things were only found in the luxury levels?

Speaking of that, how about luxury appointments on this mainstream sedan?  Yes, those were plentiful on the tester.

The list included 12 Sony speakers, leather-trimmed seats/steering wheel and aluminum sport pedals, easily overlooked by some but a nice touch for those who appreciate the little extras.

It took me just a short time to warm up to the rotary gear shift dial.  It negates the rush you get from occasionally slamming a center-mounted shifter into gear, but it’s not a major downer.

I noticed only the slightest bit of electric whine during operation, certainly not enough to jolt me.  Response off the line was good, and the tested Fusion was quick to move out of harm’s way during nose-to-tail freeway commutes.

As with past Fusions, the tester steered with ease and whipped around pokes with tight, precise cuts.

For me, the hybrid Fusion stacks up as a long-term investment, covering a lot of consumer target likes. Take your pick: practical-size sedan, fuel saver, four-door transportation that doesn’t require you to refinance your home and safety feature-packed passenger car that’s easy to drive in city traffic or on wide-open interstates.

My guess: Ford is going to sell a bunch of these newly reworked Fusions.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Highlander Hybrid might be just right for your needs

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

Sacramento, California – So you’re looking to buy a new Toyota – something one of every five California auto shoppers currently does, according to Golden State registration statistics – and you need something for the family, which enjoys regular road trips and transportation comforts.

Getting good gas mileage is high on your list as well.

Maybe you want a Toyota RAV4, but is that going to be big enough?  And that $85,000 Toyota Land Cruiser is too big in price and size, right?

What you might want is what I recently drove for a week: a 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum with all-wheel drive.

Size-wise, it’s perfectly situated between the RAV4 and the behemoth Land Cruiser.  The Limited Platinum model is loaded with passenger-pleasing perks (to the tune of $51,385 on the tested sticker’s bottom line).  And you get some pretty good fuel mileage on this sturdy roadway cruiser – 27 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

And you’re in luck if you’re looking for the 2016 edition.  Dealers are likely going to be willing to bargain with the new-and-improved 2017 Highlander on the scene.

What I found in the tested Highlander Hybrid were smooth, quiet road manners and handling that required only the lightest touch on the steering wheel.  I expected to work harder from the cockpit seat, but the tester pretty much made my motoring life a breeze.

This gave me the opportunity to enjoy the extras offered in the “Platinum Package.”  That included radar cruise control, a lane departure alert system (it was a little sensitive, I confess) and automatic high-beam headlights that were spot-on in their timing.  The package also included leather captain’s chairs in the second row.  Nice.

I’ll admit to being spoiled by the 3.5-liter V-6 engine paired with a high-torque electric drive motor-generator.  The marriage produces a max 280 horsepower, performance to spare in this class.

I was also pleased to hear virtually no whining out of the V-6/electric pairing.  In other hybrid vehicles, I’m constantly startled by a high-pitch whine that sounds a lot like the approach of a speeding fire engine.

If you’re one of those folks who keeps score right down to the inch, the 2016 Highlander includes nearly 160 cubic feet of interior cabin space.  That’s plenty of spread-out room for families, even when they’re taking full advantage of the third row of seating.

Throw in a blizzard of safety features – enough to win a top-level five-star rating from the feds – and this Highlander stacks up as must-test-drive model on your SUV shopping list.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Volvo SUV is a complex, invigorating piece of work

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

A similar version of this review first appeared in the August 2016 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California I know what you’re thinking: How in the world does a 2016 Volvo sport-utility vehicle rate an AutoGlo review at a time of year when hot, new 2017 hardware is showing up on dealer lots?

Well, let’s start with this:  Of the hundreds upon hundreds of motor vehicles I have tested over many years, the 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 R-Design is arguably the most technologically complex auto that I’ve driven.

You know things are going to be different when the folks dropping off the XC90 start with: “Wait, we have to show you a few things about operating this SUV.”  Say what?

So, they explained.  How to start the vehicle.  What it can do.  How to operate the NASA-like central command system.

After a half hour or so of pushing buttons to snap open the glove compartment, drop the rear-seat headrests out of sight, maneuver the front passenger’s seat from my cockpit seat, activate the bird’s-eye 360-degree view created by four hidden cameras and utilize the FOUR-zone electronic climate control system, it was time to drive.

Well, the Volvo sort of let me drive it.  I say that because the vehicle is equipped with technology that lets it take over as needed. That includes a collision-avoidance system called “City Safety” (it can detect bicycles veering into the SUV’s path), an anti-rollover system, a “Road Sign Information” system with a front camera that can recognize signs and display those images on the speedometer or head-up digital display, automatic brake-activation to avoid that crash you’re about to have, a mind-blowing adaptive cruise control system that can be adjusted to numerous driving tastes and on and on and on …

The tested XC90 T8 R-Design is equipped with a 2-liter, four-cylinder engine that is both supercharged and turbo-boosted, and it’s mated to electric motors that throw another 87 horsepower onto the pile.  The whole package generates a max 400 horsepower and 472 foot-pounds of torque.

It also makes the Volvo sport-ute move like a scalded cat.  The tester blazed off the line from a standing start, and its freeway manners were downright sports car crazy.

I’d tell you that I burned rubber but – you guessed it – the tester had a system that balances torque perfectly, negating any premeditated burnout.

And oh, did I happen to mention that this hybrid system is a plug-in, complete with an easy-to-use charging cable to juice up the powerful on-board battery?  Strategic use of that will get you 53 miles per gallon.

If you opt for this SUV, you might want to read the owner’s manual for about 10 days before driving, because the center console command touchscreen has about a zillion options that might include sub-orbital spaceflight for all I know. On top of all this is an extensive luxury/convenience package that includes leather everything, 10-way power front seats with heat and power cushion extensions and opulent metal inlays.

The tester was likewise loaded with Scandinavian touches, including a small blue-and-yellow Swedish flag in the seat stitching, an Orrefors crystal gear shifter and daytime LED running lights in a T-pattern resembling the hammer of Thor.  I’m serious!

All this was wearing a sticker that read $82,405 on the bottom line, which I actually thought was reasonable given the engineering marvels of the machine.

I’m not sure if this XC90 T8 R-Design was my cup of tea (or yours), but it was incredibly fun to drive and packed with enough oomph to earn it a special AutoGlo run.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Porsche Panamera reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the 2016 Porsche Panamera in the latest, September 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, September 1, 2016

GMC Yukon XL Denali is a celebration of bigness

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

Sacramento, California – You get a lot of attention driving a 2016 GMC Yukon XL Denali 4WD sport-utility vehicle.

Fellow drivers and passersby notice its enormous size: a ZIP-code-of-its-own 224 inches long, 80 inches wide and 74 inches tall, and weighing in at 6,009 pounds.

You also get a lot of dirty looks from folks who are convinced that the vehicle you’re driving is killing the planet.  For the record, its gets 14 miles per gallon in the city and 20 mpg on the highway.

If folks could see the sticker price – $80,650, including extras, in my case – I’m sure that would likewise freeze them to the spot.

OK, the Yukon XL Denali is undoubtedly the king of super-size transportation.  I fully understand that and all that goes with it.

I’m also certain that there are some households and commercial enterprises that need a vehicle just like this.  To the best of my knowledge, having one is not against the law anywhere in the United States.

Test driving this behemoth required multiple adjustments on my part.  For example, I parked it in remote areas of parking lots, the better to gently wheel it back onto the roadways with a minimum of risk.

You don’t want to tailgate in a GMC Yukon XL Denali; that creates too much risk of flattening the vehicle ahead of you in an emergency.

I also tended to take it easy on the accelerator, knowing that fuel is a precious commodity in this particular SUV.

The bottom, positive line of all this: I became a safer, more-careful driver, and few would oppose that.  Certainly not my family and friends.

The things you can do with the Yukon XL Denali’s bigness are many:  It can carry most of your belongings.  It can tow a small island.  A large gathering of large adults can have a night on the town in it (the designated driver needs to reject  all alcohol offerings, however), and it stacks up as smooth interstate cruiser on long road trips.

I found the tester to be a very civilized, surprisingly quiet freeway machine.  On tight city streets, however, you need to pay close attention and make sure of clearance on our lane changes.

The big tester had a big engine to handle the chores with authority – a 6.2-liter V-8 with 420 horsepower and 460 foot-pounds of torque.  Premium fuel is recommended but not required.

My Yukon XL Denali was loaded up with luxurious, passenger-spoiling perks – another long-drive bonus.

One other cool feature: the “Safety Alert Seat” gives you a buzz in the seat of the pants if the SUV's sensors determine that you are about to collide with another vehicle.  It’s nice to have a little backup when you’re driving an SUV this large.

For those have the cash and the need for this vehicle, you’re getting quite the piece of large engineering.  Just make sure that you know what you’re getting into with this heavyweight hauler.