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.

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.