Thursday, August 31, 2017

Little Kia Niro makes a big impression

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

Sacramento, California – Is it a subcompact crossover sport-utility vehicle?  Maybe a wagon? Whatever you call it, I remember thinking that the new-for-2017 Kia Niro Touring was too small when I first laid eyes on it.

Like many times before, I was wrong.  Darn first impressions!

So, what Kia came up with here is an exquisitely functional vehicle that’s fun to drive and capable of carrying much more than you might guess at first glance.

I should know.

I drove my Niro from California’s Wine Country to Sacramento loaded down with suitcases, boxes, food, suburban supplies and enough wine to make the neighbors question my commitment to sobriety.

The Niro not only took on what I could load into it, the increased weight did little to slow it down.

The 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine matched with a 43-horsepower electric motor cruised well in dicey interstate traffic and did not seem weighed down with the floor-to-ceiling interior packed with humans and cargo.

Combined horsepower with the gasoline engine is 139, and the torque rating is a surprisingly robust 195 foot-pounds.  A Kia-touted six-speed dual-clutch transmission earned its praises with seamless shifts across the full range of revs.

Granted, this is not a road burner of a vehicle. If you want that, that’s a whole different shopping trip.

What the Niro does offer is good road manners, utility and versatility for an affordable price -- $30,545 on the tester.  That price included everything, including a full boat of safety features, a long list of comfort/convenience features (leather seat trim and heated/ventilated front seats among them) and a few upper-end exterior touches, such as LED daytime running lights.

Another bonus: 46 miles per gallon in the city and 40 mpg on the highway.  A regenerative braking system chips in when it can.

And yes, it’s kind of sporty-looking machine riding on those 18-inch alloy wheels and the wide-and-low stance of a pro football linebacker.

I enjoyed my week in the Niro enough to mentally ask: Where were you years ago when I had a young family and a correspondingly tight budget?

No answer came to me.

That’s OK.  I enjoyed my time in the present with the Niro, a comparatively small machine with surprisingly large appeal at the curb and on the road.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Twin-turbo Genesis sedan provides a serious rush

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’ve had a recent run of Genesis models – think Hyundai with luxury and performance extras – but my recent week with the 2018 Genesis 3.3T Sport with rear-wheel drive takes the cake.

This new addition to the Genesis lineup stands out in performance, which is exceptional and downright addicting.

The 3.3-liter twin-turbo V-6 power plant doesn’t just propel the sedan…it projects it through a seemingly parallel universe where the laws of physics don’t apply.  Response is so instantaneous and so dramatic that surrounding cars in motion appear to freeze in place as my ride blazes ahead.

This is a serious rush.

I repeatedly found myself mashing the accelerator to get the full experience from the advertised 365 horsepower and 376 foot-pounds of torque.  This is a finely tuned piece of machinery that delivers the kind of response that other cars advertise, but don’t quite deliver the goods at this level.

This G80 dispatches pokes, texters, mobile phone chatters and slow-footed drivers so quickly, it’s like they were never there.  How many cars can do that? … cars that are priced less than $100,000 that is.

For perspective, my tester was feature loaded and wore an understandable bottom line of $56,225.

Beyond the primo sport sedan performance features, customer-pleasing perks were plentiful.

The comfort/convenience package included premium leather seating surfaces, a power tilt-and-slide panoramic sunroof, an exceptional 9.2-inch touchscreen with multiple functions, a top-level 17-speaker audio system and even a wireless charging pad in the front of the cabin.

A full round of state-of-the-art driver safety/assist features comes standard.  Exceptional federal crash-test safety ratings are topped off by a max five-star overall score.  As usual, the Hyundai-based warranties are more than generous.

By the way, it looks good with sporty lines that are not overdone.  From all sides, the G80 radiates luxury more than it does power.

OK, fuel mileage isn’t so great at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway, but I’m guessing the G80’s target audience is not counting pennies at the gas pumps.

My week with the tester only added to my respect for Hyundai, which has evolved from a one-time maker of cheap cars to a producer of top-quality vehicles.  And in my book, this G80 leads the automaker’s current fleet of models.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Honda's Odyssey is the ultimate minivan experience

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 minivans I drove on family vacations in the 1980s were Flintstone Mobiles compared with the recently tested 2018 Honda Odyssey Elite.

Oh, where were you when I needed you fair Odyssey?

The tested Odyssey was a mind-blowing combination of spectacular technology, entertainment features and pleasure perks.  It was a veritable amusement park on wheels.

The features in this fifth-generation Odyssey are so numerous that it’s hard to know where to begin … And once started, you don’t know where to stop, lest you leave out an eye-popping experience.

There’s the 4G LTE in-vehicle Wi-Fi that supports streaming video and music.  There’s the CabinTalk feature, sort of an in-car public address system that enables the driver to talk with second- and third-row passengers through entertainment system headphones of via speakers.

Then there’s the CabinWatch system that employs a ceiling-mounted camera with infrared capability, which enables the driver to keep an eye on back-seat passengers via an eight-inch display screen.

CabinControl works via an app that enables smartphone users to control the rear entertainment system, rear cabin climate and some aspects of the vehicle’s navigation system.  Part of CabinControl is the “Social Playlist,” which operates like a virtual jukebox, allowing up to seven passengers to upload their music choices to the audio system via smartphones.

“Magic Slide” seats can be quickly configured to the social patterns of the cabin.  Squabbling kids can be separated.  True pals can be closer together.

I know, can you believe it?

And I’m just touching the tip of the iceberg here.

On top of all this are multiple, state-of-the-art safety systems and top-tier interior comforts, including tri-zone climate control and heated/ventilated front seats.

The tester’s 3.5-liter V-6 with 280 horsepower was more than enough to handle most of the road chores, and the highly touted 10-speed automatic transmission handled things like a champ.  Freeway cruises were quiet and effortless.

How much for all this?  Well, the bottom line on the tested Odyssey Elite was $47,610, and yes, that is a big number to ponder.  But like I say, this vehicle has everything.

Even the gas mileage is pretty fair at 19 miles per gallon in the city and a notable 28 mpg on the highway.

For me, this 2018 Odyssey is the ultimate machine in the evolution of the minivan.  It’s hard to imagine how much more can be stuffed into this venerable family traveler, but somehow, I’m sure Honda is working on it right now.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

No matter what you call it, Mazda's MX-5 still pleases

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 July 2017 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California When the Mazda MX-5 Miata two-seater made its debut on that cold morning at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show, the auto world was grabbed by the collar and temporarily rendered speechless.

Maybe that’s why it was hard to put a label on it from the beginning.  It was a two-seater.  It was a roadster. It was a Miata.  Later, Mazda said to just call it an MX-5.

What people did figure out right away was that it was brilliantly styled and capable of turning heads from a mile away.  Was it the ultimate fun car?  Given the reactions – Americans bought it like crazy and some collectors were so convinced of its enduring greatness that they bought new ones and immediately locked them up in garages for the long-term – it was a resounding success.

All these years later, Mazda is not taking any chances.  My recent tester featured a sticker that read “2017 Mazda MX-5 RF,” and just in case that wasn’t enough, the full-on name listed below that was the “2017 MX-5 Miata Grand Touring RF.”

Here’s the best news: The reworked-for-2017 version is still a winner.  Leave your practicality at the dealership door when you go shopping for this car.  This is the fun driver you’ve likely wanted all your life. Can a car be playful?  This one is.

What’s the RF stand for, you ask?  It stands for Retractable Fastback, and yes, that means you get the child-like joy of watching the hardtop roof electronically retreat into the trunk area at the push of a button.  You absolutely want to make sure the neighbors are watching when you do this; small pleasures like this don’t come along all the time in life.

The tester was a comparatively upscale version of the MX-5 two-seater (no, there’s absolutely no room for anything else, if you’re thinking that).  My ride had goodies that included a Bose audio system (nine speakers), rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated front seats, leather upholstery and auto on/off LED headlights.

That put the bottom line at $34,960, certainly pricier than Miatas past but worth the check today given all the appointments, in my view.

Even with all the perks, the tester remains equipped with the standard 2-liter, four-cylinder engine rated at 155 horsepower and 148 foot-pounds of torque.  For all the MX-5’s enduring popularity, Mazda has resisted the temptation of, say, stuffing a 350-horsepower V-6 under the hood.  Smart move.  The basic power plant provides more than enough oomph and enjoyment for the pleasure-seeking motorist.

Along that same line, Mazda has not messed with the classic MX-5 design.  The car is instantly recognizable as one containing the DNA of the two-seater that took America by storm long before anyone knew what texting was.

My tester handled twisty roads with a familiar, agile grace, and it charged up hills like a champ.  Safety features on the current generation are more numerous and far better than anything being built in 1989, so the feeling of security behind the wheel was comforting.  The 360-degree view from the driver’s seat is not great, but then again, the same can be said of the first MX-5 Miatas.

Fuel mileage remains a plus at an advertised 26 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.

I did have one gripe that had nothing to do with the MX-5 and everything to do with me.  My aging, 6-4 frame was challenged climbing out of the low-slung tester.  I discovered that the best way to exit the vehicle was to swivel my frame counterclockwise, plant both feet on the pavement and then use both legs to drive upward, as if I was vying for a rebound in some basketball game among oldsters.

Well, we all get older.  The same can be said of the MX-5, yet it still looks and acts young and exciting.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Chrysler 300S sedan reviewed in latest Cruisin' News

Check out my review of the 2017 Chrysler 300S sedan in the latest, August 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.