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

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

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

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, call (916) 933-0949 or send an e-mail request to Mailed requests for information should be sent to Cruisin’ News, P.O. Box 1096, Folsom, CA 95763-1096.

Thursday, 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

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.