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

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

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

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, 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, 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

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.