Thursday, June 22, 2017

Primo Escalade lives up to super-lux reputation

A menu of Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website  www.sacbee.com/news/business/article4005306.html

Sacramento, California – Here’s the thing about driving a primo Cadillac Escalade sport-utility vehicle wearing dark-colored paint: You get out of it and people are surprised that you’re not wearing a bullet-resistant FBI vest or opening the rear door for the governor or some other high-ranking public official.

Yeah, stereotypes.  Gotta love ’em.

But frankly, the Escalade has earned those stripes in every way over the years.  It is the quintessential big brute luxury transporter, and if you have to travel in big style, this is your ride.

In my case, the 2017 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium Luxury tester wore a sticker with a bottom line of $94,130.  Yes, I’m serious.

That’s about a thousand bucks short of what I paid for my home when I moved to California in 1984.

To be fair, you get a lot.  Fuel mileage is not on that list, however, coming in at 15 miles per gallon in the city and 20 mpg on the highway (premium fuel is recommended, but not required).

Beyond that, the perks are nothing short of astounding.

There’s the 16-speaker Bose Surround-Sound audio system. There are 12-way power-adjustable seats. Heating and cooling are to be had in the front bucket leather seats. Seats can be folded via power (folding everything gives you a cavernous 121 cubic feet of cargo space). There’s a rear-seat entertainment system, of course.  Climate can be controlled in three zones.  The power tilt/sliding sunroof is easy to use; ditto the hands-free power liftgate.  Automatic park assist is there for nervous parallel parkers.

I could go on and on, but you’d be reading all night.  For the record, the list of safety and driving-enhancement features is just as long as the list of comfort/convenience highlights.

This is a big vehicle, riding on 22-inch wheels.  I had to make a plan to climb up into the driver’s seat.  Smaller folks might need your help vaulting into the passenger leather bucket seats.

From the cockpit, I felt like I was sitting in an elevated command center, yards higher than the surrounding traffic.

The tester was so big that I had to take care driving it.  I allowed plenty of space between my Escalade and the vehicle ahead of me in stop-and-go freeway commutes.  It’s not that the tester’s four-wheel disc brakes lacked grip – they were exceptional, actually – but you can feel every ounce of the Escalade’s nearly 6,000-pound curb weight when you’re on the move.

The 6.2-liter V-8 engine rated at 420 horsepower doesn’t have any trouble getting that weight going mind you.  It does that quite well, which is why you need to be careful.  The big vehicle can be going 70 miles per hour before you know it, and the smooth ride makes it feel like 50 mph.

So, there you have it: Luxury, performance and head-turning presence in a single package.  For those who can afford the ride, I salute you.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Infiniti's Q70 sedan has pop, and all the perks

A menu of Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website  www.sacbee.com/news/business/article4005306.html

Sacramento, California – I’ve always liked Infiniti’s lineup with its nice mix of generous standard features and peppy performance.

The recently tested 2017 Infiniti Q70L 5.6 sedan gave me no reason to re-evaluate my long-held perceptions.

Please understand that we’re talking about a pricey piece of hardware here – $64,850 to start and $69,055 on the tester.  Luxury sedan, check.

Performance?  Yup, also there in spades.

The tester was driven by a 5.6-liter V-8 pumping out a max 416 horsepower and 414 foot-pounds of torque.  Mashing the accelerator on the Q70L delivered a satisfying engine roar and a heart-racing run-up through the seven-speed automatic transmission.

The car’s a terrific road cruiser, but the enthusiastic power plant allows the driver to fulfill some road warrior fantasies without going off the reservation.  The tester also came equipped with a manual shift mode, by the way.

OK, fuel mileage suffers amid all that power, coming in at a tepid 16 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.

I’m assuming most Q70 buyers have the kind of coin to disregard gas costs, the better to enjoy the luxury/comfort/convenience features to be found on this ride.

The tester came with multiple LED lighting features, leather/climate-controlled/10-way power front seats, a heated steering wheel, Japanese Ash wood interior trim, power sliding/tinted glass moonroof, heated rear seats, a super-sophisticated navigation system, a Bose audio system with 10 speakers and enough safety/security features to qualify for recognition from the United Nations.

The tester had some subtle driving-assist features that drew my attention but did not come off as annoying – a pleasant plus in this era of overly sensitive driver-warning systems.

Handling was excellent, even on tight city streets.

Brakes were exceptional, part of a “Premium Select Edition” package that included sport brakes with four-piston front and two-piston rear calipers.

Those brakes came to my rescue in the Sacramento International Airport parking garage, where a careless driver suddenly darted across the bow of my Infiniti.  As it was happening, the words “unavoidable crash” flashed through my mind, but my ride stopped on a dime and avoided a costly crunch by maybe six inches.

There are times when you thank the car for bailing you out.  This was one of those times.

Overall, my Q70L 5.6 sedan was a solid B-plus or A-minus of a luxury sedan, a good grade in a field of crowded competitors from all over the world.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Reworked Audi A4 leaves them in the dust

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 www.sacbee.com/news/business/article4005306.html

This review first appeared in the May 2017 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California While they’re close cousins sharing plenty of DNA, there are differences between power and performance.

Power, as in that put out by a motor vehicle’s engine, is pretty straightforward, with specific measurements as you run up through the engine revs.

Performance is a more nuanced.

Performance can gently press you deep into your driver’s seat or snap your neck in such a way as to create pain that lingers for a day.  And some cars have what I call freeze-frame performance.  That’s where the car’s acceleration and movements are so abrupt that everything surrounding the car appears to freeze in place.

Those of you who remember the old “Six Million Dollar Man” TV series know what I’m talking about.  Ditto if you watch current TV episodes of “The Flash.”

The extensively reworked for 2017 Audi A4 has freeze-frame performance.  Or to be precise, I experienced it in my tester: the 2017 Audi A4 2.0T Quattro S tronic.  Got that?  Good.

What most of that means is that my ride had a 2-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine with 252 horsepower and 273 foot-pounds of torque linked to a seven-speed S tronic transmission and a very sophisticated all-wheel drive system.

Now those aren’t spectacular numbers or unique features, but the way the A4 employs them gets the heart racing.

Acceleration from a standing start is pretty exciting, but the real blast comes when the A4 is asked for more at, say, freeway speed.  Traveling among a group of cars at around 60 miles per hour, an added tap on the accelerator sends the Audi into freeze-frame mode.  It just sprints away from everything, and everything else appears to be super-glued to the pavement.

What a rush!  Naturally, I repeated this move numerous times over my week in the car.  It never ceased to amaze me.  Just for the record, Motor Trend magazine tested the A4 2.0T at 5.4 seconds in the zero-to-60-mph run.  So believe us, the performance is there.

Beyond that, the A4 sedan is a luxury liner stuffed with enjoyable comfort/convenience features and state-of-the-art technology.

Standard perks on my tester included LED lighting inside and out, a power sunroof, three-zone digital climate control and a keyless engine stop/start system.

The starting price of the tested A4 2.0T was $39,400, but it was dressed up with packages that swelled the sticker’s bottom line to $51,575.  The extras included a “Prestige” package that included heated/auto-dimming/power folding exterior mirrors, a blazing surround-sound audio system and a full color head-up display.

Exterior styling is sleek, but elegantly understated – just the right note for a luxury sedan.

And for all its performance, the fuel mileage ratings were an impressive 24 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.

You’d think that with all that luxury and years of engineering genius that they could place the front cupholders in a smart spot.  Instead, they’re flush against the bottom of the center stack of controls, meaning you’re out of luck if you have anything more than a small plastic coffee cup.

That’s a minor gripe for an Audi A4 that is otherwise an A-grade car all the way.
 
 
 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Power-laden Fusion reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the performance-loaded 2017 Ford Fusion V6 Sport sedan in the latest, June 2017, 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 www.cruisinnews.com, call (916) 933-0949 or send an e-mail request to cruisinnews@mac.com. Mailed requests for information should be sent to Cruisin’ News, P.O. Box 1096, Folsom, CA 95763-1096.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Toyota, Lexus sedans get high hybrid marks

A menu of Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website  www.sacbee.com/news/business/article4005306.html

Sacramento, California -- In this tale of two hybrid sedans, the buyer comes out a winner in either case.  It’s just a matter of how much you want to spend.

I tested the 2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE (pictured) and the 2017 Lexus ES 300h, respectively, over two consecutive weeks, and frankly, it was difficult to favor one over the other.  That’s saying something given that the bottom line on the Lexus was a hefty $48,415, or $12,000 more than $36,351 on the Toyota.

The Camry’s monster-selling characteristics were fully evident in my ride, with generous comfort/convenience features, excellent safety ratings and a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine nicely assisted by an electric “Hybrid Synergy Drive” system.  Yes, you’re paying some for the hybrid technology, but 40 miles per gallon in the city and 37 mpg on the highway feels pretty good.

Road manners on the Camry were exceptional, and the hybrid propulsion system demonstrated admirable oomph when asked.

My Camry was loaded up with an incredibly long list of extra goodies, including illuminated door sill enhancements.  It was all very nice, but the basic XLE with hybrid technology stood tall on its own.

My Camry was dressed up with a wide assortment of communication/audio perks, and even though the Camry has been around for seven generations now, it’s hard to imagine a young motorist walking away from this tech-ready ride.

Moving to the Lexus ES 300h demonstrated to me that the two sedans shared similar charms, but this being a Lexus, there were subtle things that stood out.  The ride seemed a bit smoother, a bit firmer.  Fit and finish was more perfect.  The solid “ka-chunk” of closing the driver’s side door spoke of a solid, sure-footed machine.

I was somewhat surprised to see that the Lexus hybrid got a little better fuel mileage than the Camry, coming in at 40 miles per gallon in the city and 39 mpg on the highway.

The Lexus stood out for its lengthy list of safety features, which included “smart stop” technology, intelligent high beam headlights and a pre-collision system.

The tester featured a silky-smooth, quiet freeway presence, with a strong response when it came time to zip around weekday commute pokes.

Again, it comes down to money.

The Camry radiates reliable performance and long-haul comfort for a relatively affordable price, given its hybrid technology.  The Lexus, appropriately, is more of a luxury liner.  And it shows.

Performance history indicates that both will run forever, creating zero or very few surprise trips to the service center over the years.  Tough choice, but both are safe bets.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Sato's all-out style claims racing's biggest prize

The Indianapolis 500 was run for the 101st time on May 28.  It was Mark Glover’s 55th 500.

Prior to Sunday, it’s a fair bet that most sports-following Americans had never heard of Takuma Sato.  Casual sports watchers likely responded to news of his victory in the 101st Indianapolis 500 with: “Who?”

For those of us who have been watching Sato for years – he’s no youngster at 40, by the way – Sunday’s triumph was pure Sato … fearless, all-out, go-for-it and let the chips fall where they may.

Those things have been Sato’s downfall in other races, where his unrelenting passion to squeeze his car into the smallest of openings either put him into the wall or on the no-Christmas-card list of fellow IndyCar drivers who were eliminated amid Sato’s sometimes ill-advised charges.

I will say this of Sato: He’s always been that way.  And while his go-for-broke style is not necessarily suited for tight road courses or narrow street circuits, it’s perfect for the last 10 laps of the Indianapolis 500.

Over the past decade, Indy 500-winning runaways have vanished.  The aero design of the cars all but guarantees close racing right up to the checkered flag.  On Sunday, that meant it was Sato time.  This wasn’t Sato’s debut in late-race heroics.

In 2012, he charged hard into Turn One under race leader Dario Franchitti, only to lose control and crash into the outside wall as Franchitti went on to post his third Indy 500 win. Typical Sato, said some.  Others felt that Franchitti squeezed Sato too aggressively.

On Sunday, it went Sato’s way.  I will freely admit that I was pulling for Helio Castroneves to win a record-tying fourth Indianapolis 500, but when he took the lead with just six laps to go, my gut told me Sato’s ultra-aggressive nature would not let that stand. With five to go, Sato edged his No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda to the front and held off one more hard charge from Castroneves to win the race.

Sato’s screams over his radio after crossing the finish line were the byproduct of more than three hours of tense, wheel-to-wheel racing, but they just as well could have been the emotional release of so many close calls and near things over his many years in open-wheel racing.

It could have been even more interesting had two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso’s McLaren-Honda held together for just 20 more laps.  Alonso was masterful Sunday, making moves high and low in traffic to stay up front.  He looked like a veteran of 10 Indy 500s, not a “rookie” in his first start.

For my money, Alonso’s performance rivaled that of the late, great Scotsman, Jimmy Clark, the two-time Formula One series champ and 1965 Indy 500 winner.  Clark won the 500 on his third try, and Alonso hinted Sunday that he might be back for another go on the world-famous Indiana oval.

That I’d like to see.  The 2018 Indianapolis 500 can’t get here soon enough.

A menu of Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website  www.sacbee.com/news/business/article4005306.html

Monday, May 22, 2017

Wide-open Indy 500 has many potential winners

The Indianapolis 500 will be run for the 101st time on May 28.  Mark Glover will be attending his 55th 500.

Picking the Indianapolis 500 winner is a thankless task.

There are too many variables that come up over 500 miles.  I’ve seen solid favorites swept out of the race, getting involved in heartbreaking shunts not of their making.  I’ve seen drivers luck into victory, but their likeness looks just as shiny on the Borg-Warner Trophy presented to the race winner.

What to make of this year?  Again, any one of a dozen or more could win it all.

Yes, in my mind, it’s likely that the winner will come out of the first three rows.  Unless he doesn’t.

The first nine starters are loaded with talent and are piloting swift rides.

You have to like 2008 champ and 2017 pole position winner Scott Dixon.  He routinely does well at Indianapolis, and he rarely makes a mistake.  And yet, with a couple of breaks here and there, he could have been a four-time winner as I write this.

He’s won only once.  That should tell you how difficult it is to make your way first to the checkered flag.

What is obvious to me is that Honda was holding a lot back before showing its cards at Indy over the past weekend.  Prior to May, the betting money was on the Chevrolet power plants, which seemed brimming with power … certainly more than the Hondas were showing.

So much for that wisdom.  Honda dominated the weekend speed charts, which means that defending champion Alexander Rossi, Marco Andretti and even perpetual hard-luck driver Takuma Sato could take the big prize.

It would not surprise me if Fernando Alonso, the two-time Formula One champion and 2017 Indy 500 rookie, won the race.  He has mad skills, has taken to the blindingly fast 2.5-mile oval like a champ and has a Honda engine at his back.

Dark horse: Watch out for Ryan Hunter-Reay in his Andretti Autosport Honda.  He starts 10th and by all rights should have been in the “fast nine” running for the pole.  Circumstances held him up there, but on race day, I see him hustling to the front in a hurry.  He’s very good on this track.

Among the Chevys, Indy veteran Ed Carpenter stands with Dixon as a logical co-favorite.  Carpenter is an oval master and an Indianapolis Motor Speedway genius. Bad breaks have denied him the Borg-Warner Trophy before.  Is it his time?  Could be.

For what it’s worth, I’m picking 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan to win it again this year.  Driving a fast Honda, Kanaan chose a different qualifying set-up from Dixon, and it cost him some speed.  In race trim, however, Kanaan is likely to be on equal footing with Dixon.

Like I said, it’s very hard to go against Dixon, but if it comes down to a 10-lap shootout between him and Kanaan at the end, I think Kanaan’s aggressive, go-for-broke driving style gives TK the edge.

More winner’s milk for Tony?  I’m betting on it.
 
A menu of Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website  www.sacbee.com/news/business/article4005306.html

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Turbocharged Kia Soul adds ! to the equation

A menu of Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website  www.sacbee.com/news/business/article4005306.html

Sacramento, California – I liked the Kia Soul from the beginning, and no, I was not swayed by the admittedly super-clever marketing of the unique-looking vehicle.

I thought it had just the right Funky Factor out of the box, and its interior space and polite driving qualities added to the enjoyment.

My recent week in the tweaked-for-2017 Kia Soul equipped with an enthusiastic turbocharged engine moved the Soul up a couple of notches on my personal feel-good chart.

(I’m going to pause here to explain something to automotive enthusiasts who demand that even the smallest details be noted.  This particular Soul model was unveiled last November at the Los Angeles Auto Show as the “Soul Exclaim.”  But Kia has since designated this on its window stickers with an exclamation point (!).  OK, the bottom line is that this is the most horsepower-laden of the Souls, to which I say: !)

The power plant is a 1.6-liter, gas direct injection turbo-4 with a max 201 horsepower and 195 foot-pounds of torque coming in a low rpms.

Anyone who has ever been in a Soul for even a few minutes should be able to figure out what those particular numbers mean in this vehicle.  Performance is enthusiastic, to say the least.  A rush?  Yes, that and more.

And yet, fuel mileage comes in at an impressive 26 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.  Also, the extra power boost does not translate to a clunky, bumpy ride.  The tester motored along in a fairly quiet, refined way in all conditions.

A seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission manages the power package.  And it manages quite well.

A first glance at the Kia Soul might tell some that there is not enough interior room for their stuff.  But folding the rear seat and other quick configuration fixes will give you a most generous 61.3 cubic feet.

This turbo Soul has some special looks worth noting: 18-inch alloy wheels, special trim, special badging and dual chrome, twin-tip exhausts.

Interior features are plentiful, especially for the bargain starting price of $22,650. I think the feature I enjoyed the most was the leather-wrapped, D-shaped steering wheel, which felt sporty and comfortable in my hands.

The Soul is touted as a young person’s car, but I beg to differ.  My youth is way back in the rearview mirror, and I enjoyed the Soul every minute I drove it.  I’d also consider it to be an ideal run-around-town car for empty nesters who still have chores to do but relish free time out on the roadways.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Optima PHEV features big savings, enjoyment

A menu of Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website  www.sacbee.com/news/business/article4005306.html

Sacramento, California – I’ve sung the praises of the Kia Optima sedan in previous reviews, but now, there’s more to like.

A lot more mileage, for starters.

My recent week in the all-new, 2017 Kia Optima PHEV offered up a sublime blend of sound automotive basics and top-level plug-in hybrid technology.

Kia’s Optima PHEV stretches the wallet-saving numbers to the limit. A 2-liter, four-cylinder gas engine and a strong 9.8 kilowatt-hour, lithium-ion polymer battery pack combine to give you the equivalent of 103 miles per gallon.  Gasoline alone nets you 40 mpg.

Electronic conversions are tricky, but rest assured that the power package delivers around 200 horsepower at its max.  And you can motor 29 miles in all-electric mode, given sane driving habits.

Total driving range: Around 600 miles or thereabouts.

Impressive, yes?

Needless to say, the gas-electric pairing is seamless, and from your cockpit seat, you can monitor a host of hybrid functions.

Please be advised that the starting price for all this is $35,210, and my ride was ornately dressed up to push the sticker’s bottom line to a hefty $41,750.

My options were pleasing – a panoramic sunroof, a blind spot-detection system and extensive LED lighting inside and out were among them – but the standard package is pretty nice as well.

The automatic offerings include a good navigation system with an eight-inch touchscreen, a primo Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system and a heated leather steering wheel.  It's downright luxurious on some levels.

The exterior looks smooth and sporty, with my ride looking particularly handsome on 17-inch alloy wheels.

For all its gas-electric technology, response was instant and robust, when asked.  Steering was spot-on perfect, with just the right amount of firmness coming to my hands on the steering wheel.

As in all Optimas, you get a wide range of high-tech safety features.  Traction control, electronic stability control and vehicle stability management systems were among the oh-so-secure perks built into the tester.

All in all, this Optima is a most formidable product.  Its mix of technology, generous comfort/convenience features and old-school driving charms is a delight.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

'Economical' Mercedes droptop packs a punch

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 www.sacbee.com/news/business/article4005306.html

This review first appeared in the April 2017 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California You know you’re in the high-class neighborhood when your test ride is considered a bargain with a starting price at around $52,500.

Welcome to the world of Mercedes-Benz, and my tester was the 2017 SLC300, a convertible with a willing 2-liter turbo 4 with nearly 250 horsepower.

Yes, this is the “economical” version of the car, which also can be had with a 3-liter, twin-turbo 6 dishing up around 362 horsepower.  But that’s another story for another time.

If you’re keeping score, the SLC-Class replaces the automaker’s SLK class.  It’s not unusual to change the name to usher in something new, although most of what’s in the 2017 SLC300 will be familiar to veteran Mercedes pilots.

Interior luxury features are nicely placed and plentiful.  The upholstery was spot-on, perfectly stitched and radiating elegance, a nice bonus in a car priced less than 60-grand.

Exterior styling on the SLC300 is decidedly sporty and aerodynamic.  And yet the front grille seems understated in this day and age of grilles bigger than a battleship.  Simply said, it’s a classic Mercedes-Benz look that presents just the right mix of sophistication and sportiness.

Performance was definitely a highlight, smooth and forceful, yet quiet in the cabin.  The car took to the freeway with a smoothness one expects from a car with a six-figure sticker.  On city streets, it was agile and quick to respond.  It darted out of harm’s way with effortless ease.

Yes, I enjoyed my all-too-short time with the tester.

Fellow reviewers noted that the SLC300 accommodates taller people.  And at 6-4, I agree that the ride from the driver’s seat was a welcome comfort.

Of course, the retractable hardtop is a blast to operate and show off to the neighbors.  When folks come over to gawk at the hardtop show, be sure to tell them about the nine-speed automatic transmission.  They might not know the significance of that, but it sure sounds impressive.

What is impressive is the advertised 25 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.  Granted, my tester was not a neck-snapper of a beast, but those are still pretty fair numbers from a Mercedes-Benz convertible.

Mercedes’ always top-notch safety systems included collision-prevention braking, a backup camera, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist and parking assist.  The lane-keeping feature was not overly reactive, a nice departure from other, recently tested systems that wanted to rip the steering wheel from my hands.

All in all, this is a Mercedes worth pursuing – relatively affordable for many budgets and nicely equipped bumper to bumper.
 
 

Performance-loaded Audi reviewed in Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the 2017 Audi A4 2.0T Quattro S tronic in the latest, May 2017, 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 www.cruisinnews.com, call (916) 933-0949 or send an e-mail request to cruisinnews@mac.com. Mailed requests for information should be sent to Cruisin’ News, P.O. Box 1096, Folsom, CA 95763-1096.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

CX-9 SUV is another star in Mazda's galaxy

A menu of Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website  www.sacbee.com/news/business/article4005306.html

Sacramento, California – Mazda’s midsize, three-row CX-9 sport-utility vehicle received some serious upgrades for the 2016 model year, so I figured the 2017 test driver would do little to quicken my pulse.

I was wrong.

I was handed the 2017 Mazda CX-9 Signature edition with all-wheel drive, and it was a powerful, luxury loaded performer that provided a week of wall-to-wall enjoyment.

And it didn’t have your typical luxury appointments.

Upholstery was done in rich Nappa leather.  Rosewood touches were supplied by Japanese guitar maker Fujigen.  Classy LED lighting could be found on the grille and the shifter.

Mazda claims that these touches (and more) on its seven-seater are luring buyers from traditional premium and luxury brands, and I have to believe it.

On top of everything else, my ride cooked, courtesy of a 2.5-liter turbo-4 with 227 horsepower and an impressive 310 foot-pounds of torque.

Yes, it was possible to squeal the tires from a standing start with that power plant, and it easily dodged around rowds of cars on daily freeway commutes. The SUV drove lighter than it looked.

While I was breezing by pokes in the tested CX-9, I enjoyed the roomy interior, the nice 360-degree view from the cockpit and plentiful comfort/convenience features jammed into this ride.

I liked the auburn-colored interior too; just the right mix of elegance and warmth.

This being the high-riding Signature edition, the bottom line on the sticker read a hefty $45,655, but this is what I expected in an SUV so generously equipped.

Fuel mileage was so-so at 20 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.

Thankfully, Mazda resisted the temptation to style the CX-9 off the reservation.  The look on the front and back and in profile is pretty classic SUV.  It has just the right amount of air-cutting sweep over the top, and an imposing front end that matches that of other sport-ute producers.

I was made to feel secure by a long list of safety features, including roll-stability control and grippy four-wheel disc brakes.

If you’re willing to put down close to $50,000 for a family-hauling SUV that you’re likely to keep for years, this CX-9 is definitely worth a look.

Mazda continues to impress me with its product lineup, development of technologies and smart approach to functional, luxurious vehicle interiors.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Opulent Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT drops jaws

A menu of Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website  www.sacbee.com/news/business/article4005306.html

Sacramento, California – I’m starting to wonder if I’ve completely lost touch with automotive reality.

I blame this on the recently tested 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT.

OK, we all know that it’s a king-size sport-utility vehicle, and it doesn’t take deep motor vehicle knowledge to guess that the fuel mileage is pretty awful (13 miles per gallon in the city and 19 mpg on the highway, for the record).

But beyond this, the Grand Cherokee SRT bends my brain like it was a soft rubber cigar.

One glance at the bottom line on the sticker pretty much put me in shock: $78,355. Holy house payment, Batman!

From my new position flat on my back next to the vehicle, my eyes were drawn to the bright-red brakes.  Are those Brembo high-performance brakes, as in the kind of brakes built into top-flight race cars?

Yes, indeed.

Oh, I’m just getting started.

The tester’s audio system had NINETEEN Harman Kardon speakers on board, boosted with an 825-watt amplifier. The system produced the kind of sound you expect to get in the front row of a 1970s-metal rock concert.  What?  I can’t hear you, but I assure you it’s true.

The list of interior comfort, convenience and technology features is Rolls-Royce lengthy and just as impressive – LED lights all around, dual-pane panoramic sunroof, power liftgate and power everything else.

How does it drive?  Well, with a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 dishing up 475 horsepower, it drives quite well, thank you very much.  I lost count of how many times I unintentionally lurched the SUV forward from a stop in a week’s time, but there was great satisfaction derived from pressing the accelerator on such a large vehicle and blowing away sports cars and other nimble automobiles on my freeway commutes.

The power package does the zero-to-60 miles per hour run in an advertised 4.8 seconds, and I can personally testify that there is solid-gold accuracy in that claim.

Also in the mix are eight drive modes that enable drivers to “personalize” their driving experience.  For 2017, Jeep nicely tweaked the front end for a more-sporty appearance.

I could go on and on, but it should be obvious, even to those who are concerned about their grip on reality regarding everything on four wheels:  This is an ultra-SUV that stacks up with anything being produced by Mercedes-Benz, Porsche or Volvo.

If you have the cash and a desire for a rolling five-star luxury suite, your dream vehicle is wearing a Jeep badge.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Years later, Outback still hits all the right notes

A menu of Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website  www.sacbee.com/news/business/article4005306.html

Sacramento, California – It’s the classic 'tweener … the sport-utility vehicle that looks like a wagon.  Or maybe it’s the other way around.

No matter, the Subaru Outback has been around since 1994, and my week with the 2017 Subaru Outback 2.5i Touring was packed with the kind of amenities that made the vehicle so popular since Day One.

The look is simple and direct – a sleek vehicle with adequate riding height and features for taking it off the paved roadways.  And yet, its freeway manners are smooth and quiet.  It’s agile on busy city streets as well.

Those 18-inch wheels look pretty good too.

Power comes from a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder boxer engine making a max 175 horsepower.  This is not a drag-racing machine, but the power plant does well in all situations, including steep hill climbs.

This being a time-tested, all-wheel drive Subaru, spot-on, responsive handling is part of the deal, although some might wince at the starting price of $35,995.  That means you need to really like this vehicle and plan on keeping for some time.

Fortunately, the Outback has a strong reliability history, plus an exceptional lineup of safety features.  The tester included lane-change assist, blind spot-detection, rear vision cameras and rear cross-traffic alert.

Five-star federal government safety ratings are the norm on this vehicle, including the max five stars on the overall vehicle score.

Interior comforts are numerous … more than I remember.
 
Standard perks on the tested Outback included leather-trimmed seats/steering wheel, a power moonroof, heated front/rear seats-mirrors-wipers and a power rear gate with height memory.  I'm feeling better about the sticker price, already!

First-timers might look at the current-generation Outback and think they need a bigger sport-ute.  Before you go out and pay more for another model, consider that folding the rear seats offers a generous 73 cubic feet of cargo room in this Outback.  That should haul a few groceries.

The Subaru Outback Touring trim also includes the standard Subaru Starlink 7.0” multimedia navigation system featuring voice-activated controls. Nice.

Everything considered, this Outback represents more than a generation of learning and expert engineering input from an automaker that mastered all-wheel drive and practical size off-roading vehicles.

That’s a pretty good argument for a test drive right there.