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.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Honda's special-edition Ridgeline is black magic

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 March 2017 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California If Batman opted to drive a pickup truck, I have no doubt that he’d be behind the wheel of the 2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD Black Edition.

Honda went to the drawing board – probably a computer, actually – to create an all-new Ridgeline from the ground up, with the goal of taking command in the crucial midsize pickup niche.  And Honda did a nice job of it from a practical standpoint.

But the Ridgeline Black Edition is another ballgame entirely.  Black from bumper to bumper, including the 18-inch alloy wheels, the Black Edition comes off as a road warrior, bad in a decidedly posterior sort of way.  Yes, you can drive it as a chore-eating pickup, but the Black Edition makes a statement with its appearance.

Performance also has something to say.

The tester’s sophisticated 3.5-liter, 280-horsepower V-6 is responsive and throaty.  You hear it coming, and when surrounding motorists get a glance at the pickup’s all-black exterior, they tend to get out of the way.

As well they should.  The tested Black Edition laid rubber off the line when asked, and it was rock-steady in slalom runs.  A sweetly tuned suspension and unibody construction carried the load with ease.

And yes, despite appearances, the Ridgeline is a unibody truck.  Don’t be fooled by the rubber-filled gap between the cab and truck bed.  That little valley is there to make truck traditionalists feel good … or something like that.  No matter what, it’s a visual misdirection play.

Alas, fuel mileage is pretty tepid at 18 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway, the expected trade-off for the V-6 engine’s enthusiasm.

On most pickups, the bed is merely open space.  Not so with the Ridgeline.

The super-durable, composite bed can be had with an in-bed “trunk” space that offers more storage room under the bed floor.  There’s a dual-action tailgate.  You can open it old-school flat or like a swinging gate.

And the bed can even be equipped with an audio system, the better to hear your tunes when you’re loading or unloading the cargo-carrying space.  Clever much?  I’d say so.

My ride was loaded with a super-lengthy list of standard features, including plentiful, high-tech safety and driving-enhancement perks.  This explains the straight-up, no-extras starting price of $42,870, a fairly hefty figure to ponder in a midsize truck.

Welcome to pickup of the 21st century, seriously evolved from the uncomplicated workhorses of generations past.  I had no problems with it.  Apparently, I’m not alone in that.

The redesigned and re-engineered 2017 Ridgeline was named the 2017 North American Truck of the Year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.  Oh, it also surpassed the competition with a “Top Safety Pick” nod from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Throw in the Black Edition with “Crystal Black Pearl” paint, black chrome accents and black exterior moldings, and I agree with Honda: It is a whole new way to Ridgeline.

Black magic all the way around.
 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Mercedes droptop reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the 2017 Mercedes-Benz SLC300 convertible in the latest, April 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, March 30, 2017

2017 Pacifica emerges as the ultimate minivan

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 – How did the Chrysler Pacifica emerge from the middle of the pack to suddenly become the minivan of choice of auto reviewers from coast to coast?

I think I have the answer: The automaker that invented the minivan segment took everything it learned over more than 30 years and packed the best of all of it into the all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica.

You name it, the Pacifica has it, and it can be had in hybrid form as well.

My tester was the 2017 Limited version, priced at $42,495 to start and wearing $48,280 on the bottom line of the super-loaded version that I drove.

Yes, that's pricey. But this is the ultimate minivan.  Where to begin to cover all that it has?

Well, for starters, it’s undoubtedly a minivan.  Chrysler did not go out of the galaxy and try to style an over-the-top, Star Wars-like family hauler that can accommodate up to eight.  The Pacifica is simply a nicely styled, sleek minivan that looks good parked in any driveway.

My ride had the responsive 3.6-liter, V-6 engine with variable-valve timing and an advertised 287 horsepower.  Linked to a nine-speed automatic transmission, this power plant does an admirable job on freeways (70 miles per hour cruises are bank vault-quiet), city streets and twisty mountain roads (uphill and down).

Fuel mileage is a strong 28 miles per gallon on the highway and an OK 18 mpg in the city.  Those are pretty fair numbers in the minivan segment.

Interior space is cavernous. Yes, it can swallow an 8-by-4-foot sheet of plywood.

Chrysler touts 37 “minivan firsts” on this Pacifica, and while I was not keeping count, I was blown away by the blizzard of consumer-pleasing features.

There’s the Stow ’n Vac integrated vacuum system, the tri-pane panoramic sunroof, the hands-free sliding doors and liftgate (let your feet do the work), the Stow ’n Go seating that enables you to fold the rear seats for more cargo room, the seatback video screens, the wireless headphones, the heated front/second-row seats and on and on and on …

Safety and driving-enhancement systems include a 360-degree Surround View camera, a parallel/perpendicular parking-assist system, hill-start assist, adaptive cruise control and much, much more.

Essentially, the Pacifica is a Hail Mary pass in a vehicle segment that some wrote off as dying just a few years back.  If any vehicle can restore the minivan segment to its once-lofty heights, the Pacifica is it.  It's that formidable.

The Pacifica gets A grades across the board.  If it’s within your budget and frequent road trips with plentiful passengers are your passion, this is your minivan.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

VW's Passat sedan is a masterful midsize marvel

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 – Are you still mad at Volkswagen?

If you are, I understand.  VW’s emissions-cheating scandal was a hard smack in the face to California motorists in particular, and I’m sure the automaker often wishes that it could turn back the clock and make it right, avoiding the billions of dollars it’s paying out now to settle all scores.

And yet, incredibly, Volkswagen was the world’s No. 1 automaker in 2016.  All other things aside, VW has topped the world by producing some very good cars, one of which I recently tested.

The 2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SE sedan was priced right, built right and was generally right on the mark in every way.

The tested Passat was priced at $26,315 on the sticker’s bottom line, and that included everything in the generous list of standard features.  Beyond-the-norm perks for this price range included heated front seats, a power tilt/sliding sunroof and a blind-spot monitor with rear traffic alert.

Exterior styling is nothing fancy, but certainly easy on the eyes for a exceptionally functional midsize sedan.  It looks as appealing as most everything else in this no-nonsense segment.

A top-tier, five-star overall federal safety rating is reassuring.  Plentiful high-tech safety features also help, including an intelligent crash-response system.

Oh, the warranties are pretty generous as well.

Power comes from a 1.8-liter turbo 4 that reacts and dishes up through-the-gearbox performance in a way that makes the advertised 170 horsepower rating seem like a short-changed mistake.

Freeway cruises were a happy blast in the tested Passat, and the sedan was a surprisingly agile vehicle in tight downtown spots.  The tester had a surprisingly tight turn-around radius, which I appreciated multiple times in cramped parking garages.

The mileage report is likewise something to appreciate: 23 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg on the highway.  With the Passat drinking regular gas, I’m thinking those numbers are a positive development for many household budgets.

VW’s Passat had some major upgrades in 2016, and there are a few more tweaks for the 2017 model year.

I like what Volkswagen has done with the interior cabin, which is not only functional but comfortably spacious for the midsize segment.  At the rental counter, you’d probably peg the Passat as a full-size car, and you wouldn’t be wrong thinking that.

All in all, the latest Passat lands in the B-plus/A-minus grade range.

Friday, March 10, 2017

VW's Golf Alltrack more than meets the eye

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 February 2017 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California The all-new-for-2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack is a segment bender.

Motor Trend magazine calls it a sport-utility vehicle.  I don’t agree.  Volkswagen calls it a derivative of the Golf SportWagen. Well, OK.  Fellow auto reviewers have called it a high-riding station wagon.  Uh, that doesn’t quite cover it, in my view.

It’s not like this is new.  Subaru has been playing this game for years.  But I digress.

Here’s what I didn’t expect out of my 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack TSI S w/4Motion (yeah, say that four times fast): It’s a peppy performer.

How so?  Well, I made a fool out of myself just driving it out of the parking lot for the first time.  I stepped on the gas expecting an easy coast into traffic, and instead, I found myself hanging on to a rapidly accelerating car seemingly ready to jump the opposite curb and keep going.

Thankfully, only a handful of witnesses saw this humiliating performance.  Snatching up the owner’s manual, I quickly saw that the power plant was a turbocharged 1.8-liter, four-cylinder spitfire with 170 horsepower and 199 foot-pounds of torque.

OK, that explains things.

Over a week’s time, the Alltrack and I learned to get along, but I was consistently impressed with how quickly the vehicle dished up power with very little asking.

No, I did not take it off-road, but I did have fantasies of me chasing fleet woodland creatures through the backwoods in the wilds of Northern California.

So, here’s the thing:  Yes, it looks very much like a wagon with serious off-road capabilities.  But it’s more than that.  I could see myself happily using an Alltrack as a daily commuter/driver, never leaving the paved flatlands.  Seriously.

It steers with the ease of a midsize sedan.  Engine noise is comfortably controlled.  The 360-degree view from the driver’s seat is superb.

Another bonus: With the rear seats folded, the Alltrack’s interior cargo space measures 66.5 cubic feet, a serious number that I would have guessed to be hopelessly overinflated when I first viewed the car.

The list of standard safety features is impressive (the feds gave the Alltrack a maximum five-star overall safety rating), as are the number of standard comfort/convenience features.  Hard to argue with the price: a reasonable $26,950 to start, and that included no extras on my ride.

Gas mileage is pretty good as well: 22 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.

Volkswagen seems to advocate that it’s OK to treat this Alltrack roughly, because, well, it can take it.  I’m good with that, but frankly, I felt better mashing the accelerator and dusting off roadway crawlers.

Nothing wrong with that, right?
 
 
 
 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Black Edition Ridgeline reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the 2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD Black Edition pickup in the latest, March 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, March 2, 2017

Ford's popular Escape reworked for 2017

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 – You might call it the sport-utility vehicle for the rest of us.

The Ford Escape isn’t a luxury liner, but it’s nicely equipped.  It can be had for a reasonable price, enabling you to stick with just one job to pay for it.  The Escape is uncomplicated and utterly functional.  It can be an errand-runner or a comfortable daily driver-commuter.

What’s not to like?  No wonder it’s so popular, with annual sales topping 300,000. That makes it Ford’s second-best seller behind the longtime overall sales champ, the Ford F-Series of pickups.

Turns out there’s more to like about the Escape in 2017, as it gets a major reworking.

My tester was the 2017 Escape SE FWD priced at $25,100 to start and a relatively hefty $29,975 on the bottom line with a significant lineup of optional extras.

About those changes for 2017 …

Ford tweaked the Escape’s hood and trapezoidal grille, giving the SUV an attractive, sporty appearance that also looks capable of smashing through some serious mud in off-road mode.

Inside, the gear shifter has been moved, storage bins have been added and a push-button electronic parking brake has replaced the previously entrenched, hand-operated version.

Those changes alone create a more comfortable and functional cabin.

Power on my ride came from a 1.5-liter turbo 4 that was adequately enthusiastic when asked and quietly efficient on freeway runs.  It’s rated just shy of 180 horsepower.

As has been true of past Escapes, this one handled very much like a midsize sedan, a very good thing.  And volunteer passengers were impressed with the amount of interior room.

Fuel mileage is pretty fair at 23 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.

Cool standard features included the “ice blue” lighting arrangement, a 10-way power driver’s seat and easy-to-use audio controls on the steering wheel.

The tester had extras that included a power liftgate, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and special 19-inch black-aluminum wheels.  The options were nice, but I would have been perfectly happy with the standard perks.

Oh, and the Escape can be had with adaptive cruise control, a collision-warning system and auto start-stop technology.  As usual, I disabled the start-stop feature for my driving tastes, but just making the point: the Escape really goes beyond the basic SUV.

It’s worth your consideration, whether you are looking to trade in an older sport-ute or pondering your first-ever SUV.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

New Prius Prime is a primo ride in all ways

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 – They call it the Prius Prime, but Prius Mega, Prius Ultra and Prius Supreme would have worked too.

New for 2017, the Prius Prime is a plug-in, five-door hatchback that’s simply the best Prius I’ve ever driven.  Toyota calls it’s the most advanced and best equipped of all Prius offerings today.  No argument from me there.

There are so many ways the Prime stands out in the ever-growing Prius field.  It literally looks different from other Prius midsize models with unique, sporty styling on the front and back.  It rides low for maximum aerodynamic efficiency.

The Prius Prime also has a “dual wave” rear window that reportedly enhances the car’s ability to cut through the wind, but the horizontal strip splitting the rear view from the driver’s seat takes some getting used to.

Inside, the dual colors and materials made me feel like I was in command of a very special vehicle capable of lifting into space.

From the commander’s chair, I had easy access to controls for quad-LED headlights, heated/power exterior mirrors, heated front seats and a color head-up display.

Dominating the center stack of controls is the mother of all display screens, a massive 11.6-inch, high-definition wonder that is vertically positioned.  It’s like having a giant flat-screen TV in your car, complete with detailed map data, audio information and a even a little Prius avatar that greets you when you start up and drives down and away to wish you farewell when you shut off the car.

In sport mode, the tested Advanced model was the peppiest Prius I’ve sampled, with enthusiastic jumps from a standing start and impressive acceleration on the fly.  My Prime was instantly responsive, something I cannot say about other hybrids I’ve driven.

In electric-only mode, the Prius Prime is capable of traveling up to 25 miles, and in full gas-electric configuration, you can figure on driving forever and a day – an EPA-estimated 133 miles per gallon equivalent.

The list of safety features is tech-loaded and exceptional.

Given all this, it’s no surprise that the Prius Prime is priced higher than your typical Prius hybrid -- $33,100 to start, and with my special package of extras, the bottom line on the sticker read $36,305.

In my estimation, it's worth that, especially for an environmentally-conscious motorist who wants more from a hybrid and plans on keeping the machine for a decade or more.

Anything not to like?  For me, with audio systems off, the Prius Prime emits a high-pitched whine that sounds very much like an emergency vehicle approaching from perhaps a block away.  I eventually adjusted to it, but it shook me the first couple times around.

Prius perfection in this ride?  Pretty darn close, I’d say.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Upgraded Corolla remains midsize sedan superstar

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 – Now hear this: The monster-selling Toyota Corolla gets a major reworking for the 2017 model year.

What better way to celebrate 50 years on the market?  Since its 1966 debut, more than 43 million Corollas have been sold.

The 2017 restyling, additions and tweaks only enhance what has made the Corolla so popular for so many years: An affordable, generously equipped, safe sedan priced within range of most personal and household budgets.

What’s not to like?

My tester was the sporty-looking Corolla XSE with an easy-on-the-eyes bottom line of $23,545 on the sticker.

That price gets you standard goodies that include a power tilt/slide moonroof, a rear spoiler, heated front seats, 17-inch alloy wheels, disc brakes on front and rear, a multimedia package with Siri eyes-free command capability, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and much more.

My tester also had a continuously variable transmission and a sport drive mode.

The most obvious change for 2017 is the new, race car-worthy front grille spiced up with LED headlamps.  It might be over-the-top for some.  Not for me.

Power comes from a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing and intelligence.  At 132 horsepower, it’s not going to snap your neck, but the power plant is responsive and more than adequate for most road situations.

And the four-cylinder engine dishes up an additional bonus: exceptional fuel mileage ratings of 28 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.

The 2017 Corolla’s safety package is extensive and includes an intelligent pre-collision system, enhanced braking features and a lane-departure alert.  That’s the short list.  Combined, they make it difficult for even the most careless driver to screw it up.

The Corolla has been around for so long that I believe its mass appeal sometimes gets swallowed up in the blizzard of auto offerings that are new and shiny.  That’s the auto-selling game of course, but buyers seem to understand that few, if any, practical sedans have as much to offer as the Corolla.

How else to explain the long-standing, superior sales numbers? And yes, the Corolla remains the most popular midsize sedan sold in the United States.

This latest Corolla does nothing to take away from that storied history.  It actually adds to it.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

New Genesis G90 features full-on luxury, pep

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 – The all-new 2017 Genesis G90 luxury sedan prompts bulging eyeballs and jaw-dropping wonder.

But before you get your face back in order, you have to know what you’re talking about.

Here’s the quick course: The full-size G90 is produced by Hyundai’s luxury division, Genesis, and the four-door model replaces what we called the Hyundai Equus.

Got that?  OK, here’s the shock and awe part: The sticker on my rear-driver 3.3T Premium G90 had a bottom line of $69,050.

That was without a single add-on.  Even in the ever-changing auto industry, it’s hard to get my head around a $70,000 car with Hyundai DNA.

But that’s quickly banished by other awesome things such as over-the-top luxury, superior technology features and pin-me-to-the-seat performance.

This is a full-on luxury sedan that absolutely ranks with anything put out by BMW, Acura, Lexus or Mercedes-Benz.  In fact, given all the G90 has, it’s probably a bargain for the listed price.

Let’s start with looks.  It’s what I’d call a substantial vehicle, as in seemingly capable of consuming small sedans and crossovers.  Riding on 19-inch alloy wheels, my ride matched the look – bank vault quiet and rock-solid in all conditions.

The 3.3-liter, twin-turbo V-6 has an advertised 365 horsepower, and it dishes up what I call “walk away power.”  By that, I mean that the engine does not scream, and the chassis does not buck.  The car simply walks away from surrounding autos with the slightest nudge on the accelerator.

Give it more than a nudge, and it fairly runs away from the pack, like the other cars are frozen in time.  It’s a feeling of power that can go to your head.

You might be brought back down to the earth with the realization that the power plant wants to drink premium fuel, and it guzzles it at a rate of 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.

Moving inside, five people can ride in supreme comfort.  From the driver’s seat, the all-around view is excellent, and numerous comfort/convenience/entertainment perks are within easy reach.

The G90's standard goodies are not what you see in most cars, even luxury models.  That includes the TWENTY-TWO-way power driver’s seat, the SEVENTEEN-speaker audio system and the 12.3-inch, high-definition navigation system.

The placement of leather and wood trim in the cabin is elegant, the high-tech safety systems are remarkable and the warranties (as usual for a Hyundai creation) are excellent.

If you’re one of those motorists fortunate enough to have a fat bank account, but still rank value for your dollar at the top of your shopping list, the Genesis G90 is probably the sedan of your dreams.

Friday, February 3, 2017

All-new VW Alltrack reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the all-new 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack in the latest, February 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, February 2, 2017

Upgrades boost appeal of luxurious Acura MDX

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 – The 2017 Acura MDX rolls into the current model year as a seriously reworked sport-utility vehicle.  It’s something to feel good as the young year moves into February.

The new look is a big step up, and the fabulous, lengthy list of standard features is sure to turn the head of many a prospective buyer.

The sweetly sculpted “diamond pentagon” grille looks like something you would see on a horsepower-laden sports car, and your eyes are immediately drawn to it. The jewel eye LED headlights also add flash to the restyled front end.

The MDX looks low and aerodynamic in profile – even riding on 20-inch alloy wheels – and the sport-ute certainly cut through the air in a quiet, sure-footed way. 

My tester was the AWD Advance version, with power coming from a 3.5-liter V-6 engine with a max horsepower rating of 290.  Accelerations were sufficiently strong and smoothly handled through a nine-speed automatic gearbox.

I disabled the idle/stop feature, however, because it was just too clunky getting back to business after a full stop.  I also found the visual “BRAKE” warning displayed in the dash to be overly sensitive.

Otherwise, the MDX was easy to handle, with just the right amount of firmness in the steering wheel and a surprising agility in tight spots.

A blizzard of electronic safety and technology features watched and guarded my every move.  I’d recommend a thorough reading of the owner’s manual, because the perks are numerous and sometimes difficult to master.

The tester had some traditional features for which I was grateful during a recent cold snap.  The remote engine start was particularly helpful, allowing me to step into a warm cabin and get right to driving with hard frost melted off the front and rear glass.

Fuel mileage was OK for this segment, at 19 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.

This MDX is a genuine luxury liner, with the tester starting at $56,400.  Given all the standard bells and whistles on my ride, I’d say the price was on point.

The current-generation MDX earned a top-level, five-star safety rating from the federal government.

With all the improvements and technology stuffed into this MDX, I would think that buyers would want to hang onto it for 10 years, minimum.  So, if you’ve been wanting to reward yourself with a state-of-the-art luxury SUV, the MDX should be at the top of your test drive list.