Thu04022015

News

Council eyes bond for Hillview center

Council eyes bond for Hillview center


The Los Altos City Council accepted an $87.5 million cost model for its preferred layout for replacing Hillview Community Center. 

Residents could cast their votes as soon as November on a bond measure to partially fund the redevelopment of...

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Schools

Oak students showcase creativity in Destination Imagination competitions

Oak students showcase creativity in Destination Imagination competitions


Courtesy of Jane Lee Choe
The Sharp Cheddars, a team of Oak Avenue School sixth-graders, perform at the Destination Imagination state competition Saturday in Riverside.

A team of seven Oak Avenue School sixth-graders traveled to Riverside last week...

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Community

Heising-Simons Foundation relocates to 400 Main St. property in Los Altos

Heising-Simons Foundation relocates to 400 Main St. property in Los Altos


Bruce Barton/Town Crier
All in the family: Mark Heising, from left, Caitlin Heising and Elizabeth Simons make up the board of the eight-year-old Heising-Simons Foundation, now in its new headquarters at 400 Main St. in downtown Los Altos.

The He...

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Comment

What would Bob do?: Editorial

The recent passing of an extraordinary Los Altos resident, Bob Grimm, has generated a range of heartfelt reaction, from sympathy to fond memories, from all corners. That’s because Bob did not discriminate in his desire to help others with his money, ...

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Special Sections

Cars that are right on track

Cars that are right on track


Courtesy of BMW
The BMW M4 is packed with power, featuring 425 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque.

There’s nothing more fun than driving a responsive automobile that feels alive in the curves and eager to go when given more than a touch ...

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Business

First Street's 'Fort Knox' up for sale

First Street's 'Fort Knox' up for sale


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
The Los Altos Vault and Safe Deposit Co. is on the market for $4.5 million. Its fortified steel and concrete structure has been compared to the U.S. Federal Reserve’s gold depository.

A downtown Los Altos structure “b...

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Books

'Pope Joan' Book weaves tale around legend of female pontiff

'Pope Joan' Book weaves tale around legend of female pontiff


The idea that there may have a female pope at one time in history has generated much speculation throughout the centuries. “Pope Joan” (Crown, 1996) by Donna Woolfolk Cross, does not answer the question; rather, the author has created a detai...

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People

JOHN BATISTICH

JOHN BATISTICH

John Batistich of Los Altos Hills died peacefully on March 12 surrounded by his family. John is survived by his wife Claire Batistich (Vidovich) of 67 years and children Gary Batistich of Lodi and Gay Batistich Abuel-Saud of Menlo Park. He is also ...

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Travel

Eat, hike, soak: Cavallo Point Lodge offers Marin experience

Eat, hike, soak: Cavallo Point Lodge offers Marin experience


Eren Göknar/ Town Crier
Cavallo Point Lodge comprises former U.S. Army buildings, like the Mission Blue Chapel, repurposed for guests seeking a luxurious getaway.

It used to be a place where batteries of soldiers lived, with officers’ quarter...

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Stepping Out

'Fire' ignites in Mtn. View

'Fire' ignites in Mtn. View


Courtesy of Kevin Berne
The cast of “Fire on the Mountain,” includes, from left, Tony Marcus, Harvy Blanks, Molly Andrews and Robert Parsons.

TheatreWorks is slated to present the regional premiere of the musical “Fire on the Mountain” this wee...

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Spiritual Life

Spiritual Life Briefs

Oshman JCC hosts Judaism and Science Symposium

The Oshman Family Jewish Community Center has scheduled its inaugural Judaism and Science Symposium, “An Exploration of the Convergence of Jewish & Scientific Thought,” 5 p.m. April 12 at the JCC’s ...

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Magazine

Food for thought: Hidden Villa programs offer teens training in sustainability on the farm

Food for thought: Hidden Villa programs offer teens training in sustainability on the farm


/Town Crier It’s not all cute and cuddly for teens participating in the eight-week Animal Husbandry Apprenticeship program at Hidden Villa in Los Altos Hills. Mia Mosing of Palo Alto, left, and Sophia Jackson of Los Altos clean the pigpens – one of...

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Cross-fits: Four crossover SUVs practical for families


Courtesy of Infiniti
The 2013 Infiniti FX37 ($55,800 as tested) gets 19 mpg combined (city/highway).

As much as we’d like to see the entire world driving diesel station wagons, we realized that it’s not going to happen. That’s because most consumers don’t want to buy them and manufacturers aren’t selling them in this country, despite the fact that diesel-powered station wagons are the most popular family vehicles in Europe.

When Americans aren’t buying pickup trucks and sedans – the two best-selling body styles in the country – they’re buying medium-sized, medium-priced sport-utility vehicles built on automobile chassis.

Practical transport

Over the past six weeks, we requested a sampling of four such vehicles, including the 2014 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring FWD ($30,640 as tested), the Kia Sorento SX FWD ($36,900), the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC 4Matic ($50,485) and the 2013 Infiniti FX37 rear-wheel drive ($55,800). Well, at least one of them had a diesel engine.

We concluded that all four vehicles are practical, all-around suburban family transportation modules. They all share attributes important to the female decision-maker in this market niche: a high seating position, good all-around visibility, ease of access to the second-row seats, good cargo capacity for big-box shopping expeditions and reasonable fuel efficiency.

In addition, when we think about the vehicles we’ve been testing for the past 10 years, what stands out is the behavior of these four and their many counterparts in freeway driving.

A decade ago, the price of driving a sport-utility vehicle was a rough ride at best, with unpredictable, even dangerous handling at worst, and limited acceleration to cope with traffic give-and-take. Now built on automobile chassis, equipped with electronic stability control and antilock braking, and powered by high-efficiency engines, these crossovers offer all the comfort of sedans with the space and visibility of the bigger, higher utility vehicles.

No, you can’t run the Rubicon Trail above Lake Tahoe or challenge the off-road tracks in Hollister Hills in these four new models, but all the surveys indicate that off-roading is the least likely thing you’ll want to do with your people and cargo hauler.

Beyond that, the choice of what to buy is pretty much going to depend on your eye for styling and your pocketbook. Three of the four vehicles have that rounded-off look that always makes us think that the stylists just inflated a standard SUV until it no longer had any sharp edges. The fourth, the Mercedes GLK, carries over from the first generation the functional SUV styling of its highly popular larger siblings.

Fuel for thought

Two other attributes are worth comment: First, the three Asian vehicles that we were given to test were all two-wheel drive, though each could be purchased with all-wheel drive for a few thousand dollars more.

We have no reservation recommending that anyone buying a sport-ute in California should opt for all-wheel drive; this configuration is more stable on wet pavement, and can get you past the chain controls for those winter ski trips up to the Sierra (provided you have winter tires).

Second, Mercedes is the only one of these four manufacturers offering a diesel version of its SUV. In the past two years, we’ve become great fans of the modern diesel engines now penetrating the U.S. model lineups of the European manufacturers. After a decade of development in response to European fuel taxes and pricing subsidies, these companies have solved both the noise and emissions problems Americans associate with diesels, while preserving the higher fuel efficiency, greater acceleration and towing power, and better longevity that are prime attributes of diesel engines.

As a measure of the power and efficiency of the diesel, only one other of these small SUVs, the Kia Sorento, would be up to towing a boat or horse trailer, and the Sorento’s V6 engine gives up 8 mpg in order to match the GLK250’s 3,500-pound towing rating.

On the subject of fuel efficiency, the four cars range from a low of 19 mpg in combined city and highway driving on the most expensive and most powerful car in the range, the Infiniti FX37, to the other extreme of 28 mpg combined for the Mercedes-Benz diesel. In between, the four-cylinder Mazda CX-5 delivers a nearly equivalent 27 mpg combined, while the V6 Kia Sorento comes in at a much lower 21 mpg.

However, the Sorento does have an advantage to counter its limited fuel efficiency: It’s the only one of the four that has a third row of seats and can carry seven passengers or 72.5 cubic feet of cargo with both rear rows of seats folded down.

For a family that doesn’t want to invest a lot of money in transportation but has frequent occasion to haul the soccer team to an away game or a boat or snowmobiles to the mountains, this is one of the few vehicles on the market that can do that for less than $40,000.

Interior styling

Of course, when it comes to interior appointments, you get what you pay for.

The Infinity FX37 and the Mercedes-Benz GLK250 both provide the satisfaction of driving a luxury marque – even when the interior is filled with kids and soccer balls. This is one area where Mercedes listened to criticisms about the first-generation GLKs and has adapted the interior look and feel of its more luxurious mid-range sedans.

This isn’t to criticize the Sorento or CX-5 for their interiors; in fact, you might even feel that if you’re buying a sport-ute, it should look, well, utilitarian. We’d probably opt for vinyl ourselves if we expected to use our crossover for serious work, rather than the leather that is available on the Mercedes and Infiniti. But at least there is much more quality and much less hard plastic in the two lower-priced vehicles than was the case when crossovers were first introduced.

The bottom line is that we are being won over to the idea that a mid-range crossover may actually be a practical choice for the busy family that needs extra space for weekend activities and prefers a sportiness not offered by minivans.

Longtime Los Altos residents Gary and Genie Anderson are co-owners of Enthusiast Publications LLC, which edits several car club magazines and contributes articles and columns to automotive magazines and online services.

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