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

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

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

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

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, 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.