Friday, January 27, 2017

Mazda6 has tools to compete in crowded niche

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

Sacramento, California – The Mazda6 is a midsize sedan that offers pretty much the full range of customer-pleasing perks: style, reliability, safety, technology, comfort and affordability.

Thing is, it competes in a crowded niche with names such as Accord, Malibu and Camry.

You see the problem here.  It’s tough to stand out in a field loaded with mega-popular cars.

Nevertheless, the 2017 Mazda6 sedan does a good job of showing off what it has.  My recent tester, a 2017 Mazda6 i Grand Touring edition was a case in point.

My ride looked sophisticated and sporty wearing "Machine Gray Metallic" paint and riding on 19-inch alloy wheels.  Inside, leather seating surfaces provided a comfortable setting to enjoy a thoughtfully laid out dash and center stack of controls.

The tested Mazda6 is the loaded end of the lineup, but the starting price of $30,695 seemed like a bargain, given the generous package of standard equipment.  A GT Premium Package of options pushed the bottom line to $34,530 on the tester.

The 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine was responsive enough with 184 horsepower. In freeway commutes, the Mazda6 responded with brisk sprints when asked.  It was a nimble dodger in tight city traffic.

Fuel mileage with the four-cylinder power plant was exceptional at 27 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.  In truth, I think I was getting a little better than that on the freeways, where the Mazda6 cruised with quiet, seemingly effortless grace.

The current-generation Mazda6 gets a top-level five stars in federal government safety ratings…no surprise looking at the long list of standard safety features.

The “lane keep assist” feature, however, was an annoyance for me, sending out needless warnings on winding roads and freeway exit ramps.  I guess you can’t have too much caution in these cases, but still, it tried my patience.

All in all, this is a B-plus car all the way, and I’m sure some devotees would grade it out with a top-of-the-line A.  Welcome to the world of car opinions, where strenuous debate is never-ending.

Again, however, the Mazda6 is lumped into the debate with some of the best-selling midsize models in California and nationwide.  I’m sure purchases often boil down to brand loyalty, and I really can’t argue with that.

But at a minimum, I’d recommend that midsize sedan shoppers at least take a test drive in the 2017 Mazda6.  You might just end up switching brands.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

2017 Tacoma TRD Pro is a rugged, refined ride

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

Sacramento, CaliforniaToyota added the TRD Pro to its Tacoma pickup lineup for 2017, billing it as a truck for folks who like to work hard and play hard.

Message received.

At first glance – my tester was the mouthful of 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro 4X4 Double Cab – the truck just looks like a rugged performer, complete with 16-inch black alloy wheels and all-terrain tires that looked capable of motoring up Mount Everest.

The tested truck worked just fine on the local roadways, and my humble journey off the paved surfaces didn’t really come close to getting the absolute bottom line on this Tacoma’s off-road capabilities, which is a shame.

Visually, the Tacoma TRD Pro appears ready to smash through miles of dirt and streams.

The specialized equipment includes heavy-duty shocks, LED fog lights, a TRD front skid plate and TRD exhaust.

Naturally, the package included a serious 4WD system, an electronically controlled transfer case, an automatic limited-slip differential, crawl control, hill-start assist and much, much more.

Toyota says the TRD Pro’s body is composed of high-strength steel riding on a double wishbone coil-spring front suspension and a leaf spring rear suspension, bolstered by outboard-mounted gas shocks.

Ample power was supplied by a 3.5-liter V-6 dishing up a max 278 horsepower.  The engine was surprisingly responsive, but it served up power in impressive, smooth steps.  No lurching here, a most pleasant development.

Engine noise was fairly muted, but I actually could hear those heavy-duty tires on the freeway.  No complaint from me.  I know what the truck is capable of, and the sound was a happy reminder of the TRD Pro’s solid-footed stability.

Fuel mileage, alas, is a not-so-hot 18 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.

For all its rugged exterior looks, the interior cabin was refined and comfortable for driver and passengers.  Controls were thoughtfully positioned an easy to operate.  Leather trim dominates the interior, creating a warm feeling in a cabin likewise loaded with today’s necessary communications/technology bells and whistles.

The starting price on the tester was a somewhat hefty $42,760, pumped up to $45,042 on the bottom line with the addition of some extras.

If you have the cash, this is an A-grade pickup offering from Toyota.  How you divide work and play time in it is up to you.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

2017 Lincoln MKZ delivers luxury, and lots more

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

This review first appeared in the December 2016 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California Luxury sedan buyers aren’t necessarily a picky lot … All they want is everything.

Over the past generation, that means a lot of folks have been turning to Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW and Infiniti models.  Fair enough.  But if you’re looking for a made-in-America luxury liner built to spoil you, the extensively redesigned 2017 Lincoln MKZ is worth some of your attention.

You want it all your way, and then some?  Fear not.

High-power performance is definitely in the cards with a twin-turbo, 3-liter V-6, with 400 horsepower and 400 foot-pounds of torque.  This power plant gets the four-door car going in a hurry, and the power curve flows smoothly and effortlessly when matched to an all-wheel drive system.

Prefer something a little more fuelish and sedate?  The MKZ has that covered too with a hybrid version equipped with a 2-liter, four-cylinder engine, plus an electric assist.  That will get you an estimated 41 miles per gallon in the city and 38 mpg on the highway.

The starting price range among the MKZ offerings is generally in the $35,000 to $45,000 ballpark, and you’ll be happy to know that Lincoln does not hold back on the perks for that kind of money.  My recent week in the 2017 MKZ included pretty much wall-to-wall leather, a 10-way power driver’s seat, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, an incredibly diverse driver’s seat comfort/lumbar system, a power trunklid and heated/cooled front seats.

The tester’s option package added heated rear seats/steering wheel, LED adaptive headlamps and a primo, blast-me-out-of-my-seat Revel Ultima audio system.

My ride looked sharp with a classic Lincoln grille, eye-grabbing 19-inch wheels and dual chrome exhaust tips.

The MKZ is a midsize sedan, but frankly, it handled with the four-footed firmness of a full-size model.  It was rock-steady on sharp corners, and very little noise reached the interior cabin, even when I asked the max from the car.

The warning systems seemed a bit touchy, in my view.  I was startled several times by audio/video warnings that indicated I was too close to vehicles on either side of the car.  For my money, I wasn’t even close.

Lincoln talked up a revised, more-functional interior, and I noticed.  Various controls were easier to find, and use.  More complex adjustments – like the myriad seat configurations – were easier to figure out in this 2017 model.

During my time behind the wheel of the MKZ, I mentally ticked off comparisons of various features it shares with other luxury sedan models from manufacturers abroad.  I came to the conclusion that the MKZ stacks up just fine against all those other foreign competitors.

What about prestige, you ask?  Well, this is a Lincoln, which as far as American nameplates go, is pretty high up there.  Maybe shoulder to shoulder with Cadillac, depending on your passions.

So, yes, this nicely done 2017 MKZ is an American contender, offering a lot to a consumer segment that wants it all.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Nissan's 2017 Armada has size, hidden charms

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

Sacramento, California – The Nissan Armada has been reworked for the 2017 model year, but yes, it’s still a big, somewhat intimidating sport-utility vehicle.

Armada?  Yes, it might take an armada to tow it somewhere.  It's that big. Walking up to my 2017 Nissan Armada Platinum 4WD tester made me feel small.

I felt better after hoisting myself up into the driver’s seat.  The Armada’s civilized, thoughtfully laid-out interior put me at ease.  Yes, captain, I can take command of this vehicle.  No problem.

Not surprisingly, virtually everything on the Armada involves a big number.

Power comes from a 5.6-liter V-8 engine with 390 horsepower and a max 394 foot-pounds of torque.

That’s enough juice to make the Armada move with authority when needed.  The seven-speed automatic transmission had no hiccups, and front/rear ventilated disc brakes brought the Armada to a halt quickly on demand.
On freeways, the Armada cruises with a surprisingly light feel and very little noise.  You don't want to make any sudden moves in city traffic, however, lest you scare your fellow motorists.

Riding high on the roadways – the 20-inch, premium machine-finished alloy wheels helped in that department – I felt like the king of the road.  My range of vision from the cockpit seat was exceptional.

And in case my attention lapsed, an impressive suite of standard safety features stood ready to keep me safe.  The list included a protective forward collision-warning system, a lane-departure warning system, blind spot intervention/warning technology and back-up collision intervention.

Like I said, the Armada has a lot to make the nervous SUV driver feel secure.

There’s a price for all this, of course.  On my ride, the bottom line on the sticker read $61,435.

You won’t find big numbers in the fuel mileage ratings, which are a wallet-crunching 13 miles per gallon in the city and 18 mpg on the highway.

I’m sure Armada buyers aren’t worried about such things.  They want a big, powerful freeway cruiser capable of carrying half of their home belongings (and maybe even a Volkswagen Beetle thrown in) when they take to the open road.

I can only imagine what this Armada can do off-road.  Damage, would be my guess.  Best to stay out of its way.  But if you’re heading up to the Sierra Nevada snow in this Armada, my guess is you'll be thanking your lucky stars for the four-wheel drive capability and the Armada’s solid, four-cornered stance.

In the world of big and pricey, this Armada rules the roadways over most.  Having taken the long-running, previous-generation Armadas on vacation jaunts, I can tell you that this SUV is a decidedly enjoyable transporter.  And this 2017 version is the best of the Armadas that I’ve had the opportunity to drive.