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.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Droptop VW Beetle reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the 2017 Volkswagen Beetle Dune Convertible in the latest, October 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, October 6, 2016

Porsche's Panamera perfect for four-door fun

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

Sacramento, California For Porsche purists – and I’m talking about SERIOUS traditionalists here – it was bad enough when the German performance car producer introduced the Cayenne sport-utility vehicle to North America in 2003.

But when the FOUR-DOOR Panamera sedan came along six years later, the shriek of hurt feelings could be heard around the globe.  When some called the Panamera a “hatchback,” I swear that some Porsche devotees thought the world was ending.

I had my first cockpit experience in the Panamera recently.  I had a blast, a super-fun experience.  Four doors?  Six doors?  Didn’t matter to me.

My Panamera tester had a let-it-all-hang-out Porsche scream at full song, racetrack-ready road manners and interior perks to please most of the auto-driving population.

Yes, you’re going to have to put down $80,000-plus for even the most basic version of the Panamera, which is what I had.  But this is Porsche, right?  That kind of money goes with the territory.

The exterior look of the Panamera is instantly recognizable as a Porsche, not a Honda Civic as some old-school Porsche fans would have you believe.  Think of a stretched version of a Porsche 911, and you’re there.

Interior features and comforts are plentiful and just what you’d expect in this lofty luxury/performance segment.

The essence of the tested Panamera was the 3.6-liter V-6 engine making a max 310 horsepower and 295 foot-pounds of torque.  By Porsche standards, this is entry-level power.  For my tastes, the power plant shoved the Panamera forward with heart-racing excitement.

The complex transmission is essentially a seven-speed, twin-clutch automatic.  Fuel mileage is a pretty fair 18 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.  Be advised, however, that Porsche dictates unleaded premium fuel in the Panamera tank.

The rear-drive Panamera weighs in at nearly 4,000 pounds, but I found that it maneuvered with a much lighter feel.  My opinion was seconded by volunteer passengers who climbed into the extra two doors leading to the back seats, where there’s room for two.  They were impressed with the Panamera’s road manners, and yes, the vehicle’s rear-seat space.

And there’s this: the Panamera can be configured for a max cargo-carrying capacity of 44.6 cubic feet.

For the record, it should be noted that Porsche is rolling out a new and improved Panamera now, and it is possible to spend well into the six figures on more horsepower-laden versions of the four-door vehicle.

But for me, my first experience in the basic 2016 Panamera impressed me adequately, thank you very much.  Those four doors didn’t bother me in the least.  And volunteer passengers loved the ride as well.

It was all I’d expect from a luxury sedan with a starting price well south of $100,000.