Henry Payne Blog

Cartoon: Supremes No Biden Vaccine Mandate

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 14, 2022

Cartoon: Biden Vaccine and Civil Liberties

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 14, 2022

Payne: Ford Bronco Sasquatch vs. Land Rover Defender 90 in the Dirt Bowl

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 13, 2022

Holly — What’s better than taking an off-road beast over snowbound Holly Oaks ORV Park? Taking two off-road beasts.

I flogged the Land Rover Defender 90 and Ford Bronco First Edition two-door models over southeast Michigan’s premier adventure park for grins — and to see how the two warriors compared. The Bronco has wowed in comparison tests with its arch-rival Jeep Wrangler.

But so good is Bronco that it also matches up against His Highness of Rugged Royalty, Land Rover.

It’s good to have the Brit and Bronc back. They are iconic names that disappeared from the U.S. market for years. Defender last sold here in 1997, the Bronco 1996. Credit Wrangler’s wild success as a brand halo for Jeep in the Age of Ute for bringing these two legends out of retirement.

Like Wrangler, Defender and Bronco have their roots in World War II. They were first built as rugged, battle-ready General Purpose (GP — or Jeep for short) vehicles. But the Brit and Yank have diverged dramatically since then. Aimed at Land Rover’s First Class clientele, Defender now rides on a — la-de-da — air suspension and crisp unibody SUV chassis contrary to the truck-based bruiser of safari legend. The Americans are still based on ladder frames and can be stripped naked of their doors and roof to get even closer to Mother Nature.

Wrangler and Broncos are natural predators and will be hunting each other for years across Holly Oaks and other U.S. adventure parks. But, in a challenge to Jeep, Bronco has updated the off-road formula with state-of-the-art tech — rotary mode shifter, single-button sway-bar disconnect, fully digital instrument displays, independent front suspension.

Its sophistication not only challenges Jeep — but puts it in the same neighborhood as Land Rover for $20,000 less.

A consistent theme of these columns is how the electronics age has shrunk the gap between luxe and mainstream (see Mazda CX-50 vs. BMW 2-series, VW Golf R vs. Audi S3, Corvette vs. Porsche), and Rover v. Bronco is another example. Game on.

The 2021 Land Rover Defender 90 is comfortable on and off-road, though its electronics keep a tight rein on the Bond SUV's abilities.

Punching the Rover 90’s 395-horse, supercharged-and-turbocharged inline-6 across Holly Oaks’ frozen tundra, I slewed the 5,000-pound beast into The Sandbox — an undulating sea of sand that tests vehicles’ stability and strength. The Defender was solid as a rock (despite an eerie wail from the brakes which my pal, Tom — riding shotgun — surmised was sand in the discs) on its unibody chassis.

The unibody choice raised eyebrows at the Rover’s introduction in 2019 — Heresy! Off with the engineers’ heads! — but it’s more rigid than the old ladder frame and never flinched through Holly Oaks’ unsparing terrain.

Defender knows its clientele. For all its off-road chops, Land Rovers are show horses. They spend their time ferrying its occupants to country clubs, not ORV parks.

Roll out onto the Holly Oaks battlefield and Rover intuitively recognizes the incongruity of the task at hand.

“Um, do you really know what you’re doing? I’ll take it from here.”

What ensues is a heavily managed trip around the grounds, the 90’s electronics always present to ensure you don’t get too far over your skis. For clearance over rocks Defender’s air suspension rises to 11.5 inches.

The 2021 Land Rover Defender 90 sports an elevated shifter for its 8-speed transmission that opens console space and is easily worked next to drive mode controls.

The big rotary dial on the dash allows easy access to Defender’s multiple modes: AUTO, GRASS/GRAVEL/SNOW, MUD, SAND, ROCK CRAWL. But no matter the mode, Defender won’t let you tune the nannies off. As our friends at Car and Driver put it: “Non-defeatable stability control occasionally stifles off-roading.”

The Bronco wants you to push the envelope. Four exposed tow hooks come standard — on the Rover, exposed tow hooks are optional. That tells you something.

The 2021 Ford Bronco 2-door can go down as well as up with trail crawl assist feature that manages steep grades with a sort of off-road cruise control.

Bronco achieves its 11.5” ride height the old-fashioned way — by slapping on huge 35-inch Goodyear Territory tires, part of a Sasquatch package that includes dual-locking differentials and performance shocks.

The heck with air suspension, these balloons with teeth not only jack up the car, they can claw up Rushmore’s face. Ford encourages its drivers to play with the firepower on hand. High on the dash are buttons to turn off stability control, disconnect sway bars, turn on lockers, even toggle Turn Assist for extra-tight turning radius.

The Ford swaggered up to Holly Oaks’ intimidating, snowy, slick Mt. Magna rock face. With 43-degree approach angle, lockers on and sway bar disconnected, I waltzed up Magna as easy as Gretzky stuffing a power-play goal.

The Defender struggled. Never mind its lack of suspension articulation (the Defender doesn’t offer sway bar disconnect), traction control forced multiple attempts to find grip. Its 37.5-degree approach angle and 32-inch Goodyear Wrangler tires also were relatively limited.

Oh, how I pined for Bronc’s button controls and Territory 35s. The sequence repeated itself across Holly Oaks — the Ford attacking, the Rover managing. Ultimately, the Bronco’s incredible capabilities took me places the Defender wouldn’t dare.

How different might “No Time to Die” have turned out if the bad guys had Sasquatch package to pursue Bond?

The beauty of the Ford is that, thanks to modern electronics, its controls are as easy to use as Rover’s. The Bronco’s horizontal all-digital dash is surprisingly similar to the luxe Rover — then Bronco ups the ante with a giant center screen and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

A 12-inch dash screen dominates the handsome horizontal interior of the 2021 Ford Bronco 2-door.

Drive modes — NORMAL, ECO, SPORT, MUD/RUTS, SLIPPERY, SAND/SNOW, ROCK CRAWL, BAJA, and MARS (just kidding about that last one) — are accessed via similar rotary dial. No muscling a second transfer case shifter as in Wrangler. Modes are then refined using the aforementioned dash buttons.

Bronco also matches Rover for visual drama. The two-doors are athletic looking — the Defender in Pangea Green, the Ford in Area 51 Blue — compared with four-door models. Bronco’s Sasquatch package made my truck pal Scott’s knees weak when he saw it in the parking lot.

“I gotta take a picture for my daughter,” he smiled.

Yeah, chicks dig these brutes. But those 35s come at a cost to comfort. On road, Defender is noticeably quieter. Put your right foot down and the Defender’s 395-horse supercharged-and-turbocharged inline-6 will get you to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds.

Big claws. The 2021 Ford Bronco 2-door options a Sasquatch off-road package that includes serious, 35-inch Goodyear Territory off-road tires.

Hit the gas in the 330-horse Bronco and the turbo V-6 hits 60 mph in 6.3 seconds, but with a roar: WAAUUURRGHH!

If you want a rugged-looking Land Rover, the $66,000 Defender is the summit. If you want to go off-roading, the $49,000 Bronco is the bomb.

And you can put the 17 grand you save toward a $21K Ford Maverick pickup.

2021 Ford Bronco First Edition Advanced

Vehicle type: Front engine, all-wheel-drive, five-passenger two-door compact SUV

Price: $49,180, including $1,495 destination fee as tested ($31,490 for standard two-door)

Powerplant: 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6

Power: 330 horsepower, 415 pound-feet torque

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 6.3 seconds (Car and Driver); towing capacity, 3,500 pounds

Weight: 4,871 pounds

Fuel economy: 17 city/17 highway/17 combined

Report card

Highs: Off-road beast; easy-to-use controls

Lows: Hard-top leaks; noisy ride

Overall: 4 stars

2021 Land Rover Defender 90 First Edition

Vehicle type: Front-engine, all-wheel drive, five-passenger two-door compact SUV

Price: $66,475, including $1,350 destination fee as tested ($50,050 base model)

Powerplant: 3.0-liter supercharged turbo-inline 6-cylinder

Power: 395 horsepower, 406 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 5.7 seconds (mfr.); towing, 8,201 pounds

Weight: 5,000 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA, 17 mpg city/22 highway/19 combined

Report card

Highs: Standout style; composed ride on- and off-road

Lows: Undefeatable off-road nannies; no wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto

Overall: 3 stars

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.

Cartoon: Georgia Bulldogs and Yale Bulldogs

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 12, 2022

Cartoon: Harris, January 6, Memorial

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 11, 2022

Cartoon: Trump January 6 Legacy

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 11, 2022

Cartoon: Chicago Schools and Covid Students

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 7, 2022

Cartoon: I 95 Back Up and Global Warming

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 7, 2022

Cartoon: Red State versus Blue State Bowl

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 6, 2022

Cartoon: College Omicron Class

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 6, 2022

Payne: Subaru WRX gets fancy new duds, still wants to play hard

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 6, 2022

Santa Rosa, California — An old stagecoach trail running through Mendocino County called Mountain View Road is hell. Its blind, narrow, asphalt path is pocked with patches and neglect. It snakes below a canopy of redwood trees, the perpetually damp surface iced with pine needles making the road surface even more challenging.

My 2022 Subaru WRX tester was in heaven.

Rally bred, the WRX (short for World Rally Cross) cut across the challenging terrain like Barry Sanders through a defensive line. Stiffly damped, its suspension absorbed road irregularities. Barreling into a tight series of S turns, I flicked the stick into second, then blasted out of the corner — the all-wheel-drive system propelled by 271 ponies.

A road that would be a nightmare in the average family SUV turns into a grin-inducing playground at the wheel of the WRX.

The swift Subie is the latest remade entry in my favorite automotive segment: pocket rockets. These talented hellions will happily do daily chores all week, then gleefully devour country roads on the weekend. It’s a segment apparently sheltered from the SUV revolution — so passionate is its fanbase (guilty as charged), so capable are the players.

Each athlete brings a unique skill set to the arena, with the Subaru flaunting manual-shifting, all-wheel-drive DNA born of some of the toughest rally-racing terrain in the world. Mountain View Road? Ha, have you seen Motu Road Gorge in New Zealand? Like the Volkswagen Golf GTI, WRX is a segment icon.

And like the GTI, the ’Ru got a total makeover for the new model year.

The remake is timely given the all-out assault by its competitive set on the market. Notably, WRX has been challenged by the Mazda3 Turbo as the only segment competitor offering AWD — a boon to those of us living in snow country.

The Mazda has set segment benchmarks for looks and interior panache. Its gorgeous tablet-topped dash and hatchback utility make it a formidable rival.

Subie answers with its most daring exterior style ever, its boomerang headlights bracketing the familiar hexagonal grille while also emphasizing the compact car’s wider stance compared with the standard Impreza compact car. Indeed, while WRX shares the Global Platform that undergirds Impreza, the WRX has divorced itself (even dropping the Impreza family name!) from its underpowered sibling and adopting its own unique body panels. The blistered rear fenders and huge quad-pipe-engorged rear diffuser instantly send a message as you come upon a WRX: do you know who you are tangling with?

More controversial are blocky black fender claddings that echo other, more-off-road oriented Subaru Wilderness models. The cladding is unusual. But given WRX’s rally focus and liberal use of black makeup, the styling works remarkably well.

The cockpit of the 2022 Subaru WRX changes dramatically with an available 11.6-inch center touchscreen.

Inside, the ’Ru brings a trendy new 11.6-inch center screen copied from its Outback and Legacy siblings. The touchscreen (complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity) is easier to use than the Mazda’s sometimes quirky remote rotary controller, but it isn’t as driver-focused as the 3’s high-mounted tablet.

The 2022 Subaru WRX comes with a six-speed manual transmission. An auto CVT is also on offer, but the manual makes up 85% of sales for the driver-focused car.

Style marks go to the automatic-shifting Mazda, but the Subaru is intensely performance driven, starting with a tight six-speed shifter.

Plunging through the redwoods, I never missed a shift. The throws are short, the pedals conveniently placed for heel-and-toe downshifts, even for my size 15s. The arrangement is better than the Golf GTI’s stick, if not on par with the Honda Civic Si’s terrific shifter — one of the best I’ve experienced this side of a Porsche.

Unlike the GTI and SI, however, WRX is curiously emotion-less. There is no rev match on downshift, no growl, not even a SPORT drive mode selector (though the top model GT trim will get six driving modes with its automatic tranny). Odd choice that.

With a quieter cabin that the last gen, the WRX engine feels curiously removed from otherwise pulse-pounding performance. Take the AWD system, for example.

While the Si and GTI bring superb front-wheel-drive, limited-slip differentials that help rotate them through the twisties, the ’Ru goes all out with a rear-wheel-biased, longitudinally mounted low-center-of-gravity Boxer engine that feeds all that power to all four wheels all the time. You know, like an Audi.

Adding nearly another half-liter to last gen’s 2.0-liter engine, the Subie pulls hard. Past quibbles about turbo-lag are forgotten. As I overcooked it into a mountain switchback, the rear end came around nicely as I applied throttle.

The 2022 Subaru WRX gains displacement with a 2.4-liter turbo-4 engine. But output remains the same as last gen with 271 horsepower and 258 pound feet of torque.

So proud is Subaru of its AWD drive grip that it provides sticky summer tires — standard — for WRX.

I’m a sucker for hatchbacks, and the Golf’s hatch utility gives it a leg up over WRX and Si. Subarus are traditionally strong on the standard feature front, but the manual WRX oddly overlooks adaptive cruise control (reserving it for the automatic, even though manuals make up 85% of WRX’s sales volume). ACC — especially for the young (average age 37) WRX buyer — is becoming an essential feature. Both GTI and Si offer it on their manuals.

Not overlooked is seating comfort. Over four hours of aggressive driving, my big 6’5” frame never felt uncomfortable.

The WRX’s new thrones have been extensively reworked, and my Premium trim’s (the meat of WRX sales) cloth seats were as comfortable as if they had been leather while keeping me in place though the curves.

The base WRX starts at $28,315 and goes up in price across Premium, Limited, and GT model lines that offer leather seats, moonroof, big screen, auto transmission, and other goodies. Fun and AWD are standard.

Rear legroom is admirable, too. The ’Ru has put its extra inch of wheelbase to good use, and could fit my giraffe legs easily behind myself in the backseat. But for the tight Mazda, roomy rear seating for four has become a segment staple — though your passengers may squirm when you point at the S curves ahead.

So iconic is the WRX that Subaru no longer feels the need to enter it in a high-profile race series. It exited the World Rally Championship (recording a record 46 wins) over a decade ago, and American Rallycross expired during the pandemic. The WRX is not alone in the Subaru performance lineup, sandwiched between the BRZ and the winged STI.

As engaging as the rear-wheel-dive BRZ is, however, WRX — for about the same price — shows off its value with winter-friendly AWD, comfy seating for four, deep trunk space and big-screen ergonomics.

If you were hoping for a WRX for Christmas, however, you were disappointed. Production was delayed until January.

2022 Subaru WRX

Vehicle type: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive five-passenger pocket rocket

Price: Est. $29,000 (est. $32,000 Premium trim, Solar Orange Pearl paint as tested)

Powerplant: 2.4-liter turbo-4 cylinder Boxer engine

Power: 271 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: 6-speed manual, continuously variable transmission (CVT)

Performance: 0-60 mph, 5.4 seconds (Car and Driver est., manual); top speed, 145 mph

Weight: 3,320 pounds (premium as tested)

Fuel economy: EPA, 19 mpg city/25 highway/21 combined (auto); 19 mpg city/26 highway/22 combined (manual)

Report card

Highs: Upgraded looks; AWD OMG

Lows: Emotionless engine note; no adaptive cruise control with manual

Overall: 3 stars

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.

Cartoon: 2022 Fauci Resolutions

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 5, 2022

Payne: High Five! Hyundai Ioniq 5 is a stylish, roomy and speedy EV

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 5, 2022

Julian, California — We’ve come a long way from Pious to Ioniq.

Twenty years ago, the Toyota Prius sparked a green segment in the American car market. The stylish hybrid was gobbled up by granola chewers and became a hit, inspiring predictions from the pointy-head class that hybrids would dominate the market by 2020. Hybrid GMC Yukons, Ford Fusion hybrids, Chevy Volts came and went as the hybrid hype fizzled. Turns out, green is a niche like V-8s, diesel trucks, off-road dirt kickers.

Now comes another green spasm and the market is flooding with battery-powered vehicles. But this time, the niche is fun.

Hybrids wore out their welcome in part because they were sooooo cloying. Their screens awoke with tree branches reminding us they were doing good. Saving the planet! Just like Leo DiCaprio! Prius was derisively dubbed the “Pious” and the name stuck.

The Ioniq 5 is not that car, even as it is the Prius’s logical heir.

“What is that?” a passerby on a San Diego sidewalk exclaimed, ogling the Hyundai’s brooding, Dodge Challenger-like cowl, creased doors and sci-fi pixel taillights. “It’s cool looking.”

“You should see the inside,” I smiled, flinging the door open to reveal twin 12-inch screens like a computer desktop. “Ooooooh,” my new friend panted.

Phone meets car. The 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5's design is an unmistakable blend to the smartphone age with its hoodless screens and simple interior. Surprisingly, smartphone connectivity still requires a wire.

Self-driving through California traffic (good Lord, is it ever not rush hour in Cali?), I toggled the 5’s left turn signal and the car automatically switched lanes. Then I floored the accelerator pedal — ZOT! — and 446 pound-feet of torque shot me past the slower car. Toggle the right signal and I automatically merged back in lane. Gimme a high 5!

Green doesn’t have to be vanilla. It’s a lesson Hyundai learned with its Ioniq sub-brand, which started in 2015 as an electrified answer to Prius but lacked personality.

Then along came stylish Tesla rocket ships that you could summon across a parking lot and drag race out of stoplights. How cool can EVs be? Mustang now makes one.

The edgy Ioniq 5 follows in these sexpots’ footsteps, but it is more interested in room than vroom.

Sure, the Ioniq can wear you out with windy speeches about how moral it is — “seats, headliner, door trim, floor, arm rests use eco-friendly, sustainably sourced materials (that) include recycled PET bottles, plant-based yarns and natural wool yarns and bio paint with plant extracts” — but these claims are buried in press releases. There’s not a green leaf to be found on its mod bodywork.

The clean cockpit of the 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 with navigation run by Android Auto on the right screen. Drive modes are selected via the button at SW of the wheel. There is no console island - opening the footwell.

The 5 reminds that the Prius was a very practical car. It had good cargo space under the rear hatchback (begiining with 2004 models), good visibility, head-up dash driving info (before head-up displays were a thing), and could go forever on a tank of gas.

Ioniq follows in Prius’s footsteps with an EV that is more hatchback than SUV. The 5 is stretched over the longest wheelbase in Hyundai’s lineup — longer even than the Palisade three-row SUV. Note: in an indication of EVs’ niche status, however, my Limited trim Ioniq 5 tester cost nine grand more than a similarly equipped full-size Palisade Limited. That’s a lot of extra coin for a compact-class Hyundai.

My 6’5” frame easily sat behind myself in the 5’s rear seat with knee room to spare. Heck, Hyundai could fit a third row in this thing (like the spacious Tesla Model Y) if it wanted to. A Tesla-like panoramic sunroof gives the cabin an added sense of openness.

The airiness continues up front. The Ioniq employs an open footwell like the original Tesla Model S (or my parents’ 1960s Buick station wagon), so I could splay my feet while self-driving. Postal carriers might embrace the 5 to easily slide across the seat to stuff mailboxes.

When I get a hot hatch at home like the VW Golf GTI or Mazda 3 Turbo, I head to Hell, Michigan, to have some fun. When in San Diego, the spaghetti curves of the Laguna Mountains beckon.

Ioniq’s acceleration may be bioniq, but it is no hot hatch.

This is curious given Hyundai’s choice (like its Model Y, Mustang Mach-E and Volkswagen VW ID.4 rivals) to make the base single-motor Ioniq 5 a rear-wheel-drive car to optimize performance. Hyundai certainly knows how to make corner carvers like the rabid Veloster N.

Sport Mode changes the instrument display - though it does little for the 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5's performance.

But 5 could care less about handling. Through the California-79 twisties, my all-wheel-drive tester wallowed about, an indifferent dance partner. “Payne, do we really have to do this?” it seemed to say as I toggled SPORT mode, trying to add pep.

My hatchback preference would be the VW Golf GTI, which is an absolute riot to flog through the curves — while offering plenty of hatchback utility and range to spare for long weekends in the mountains. But I belong in the motorhead niche.

For green buyers who don’t have my need for speed, Ioniq offers everything you need — including good range. Range is the Achilles heel of EVs, limiting them to metro commuters. Within its metropolitan envelope, the Ioniq 5 works hard to earn your trust.

For example: behold the heat pump.

Outside SoCal’s climate paradise, northern latitudes are hell on EVs. Option all-wheel drive on Ioniq 5 and it reduces range from 303 to 256 miles. But the AWD 5 comes standard with a heat pump to assure you get that range even in cold temps. The only EV (including my Model 3) that has hit its mileage marks in sub-30 degree weather was a Hyundai Kona EV I tested two year ago — complete with heat pump.

That assurance should get you good range around Michigan when Hyundai begins to sell 5s beyond its core coastal markets in 2022. If you need to juice up the 5 at a local Supercharger, it won’t keep you waiting.

A pair of 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5s recharge at a San Diego shopping mall.

After a full day flogging 5 through the mountains, I stopped at an Electrify America supercharger at a shopping mall with just 27% of charge remaining. ZOT! With Hyundai’s Porsche Taycan-like, 800-volt recharging architecture, I filled to 80% (205 miles) in just 15 minutes — twice as fast as in my 400-volt Tesla.

That’s not Tucson fast (Hyundai’s best-selling compact SUV will fill up with 370 miles worth of petrol in just 5 minutes), but it’s a stop that can be budgeted into a busy day.

And that 15 minutes will help you bone up on more of the Ioniq 5’s cool features. Like Smaht Pahk. After unplugging, you can summon the car to you with Hyundai’s smartphone app. Just like Hollywood actor John Krasinski in that TV ad.

He’s not nearly as pious as DiCaprio.

2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5

Vehicle type: Battery-powered, rear- and all-wheel-drive five-passenger hot hatch

Price: $40,925, including $1,225 destination fee ($55,725 as tested)

Powerplant: 58 kWh or 77.4 kWh lithium-ion battery with single or dual-electric-motor drive

Power: 225 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque (RWD); 320 horsepower, 446 pound-feet of torque (AWD)

Transmission: single-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 4.9 seconds (Car and Driver, AWD as tested); top speed, 115 mph

Weight: 4,662 pounds (AWD as tested)

Fuel economy: EPA, 114 MPGe (FWD), 98 MPGe (AWD); range, 303 miles (FWD), 256 miles (AWD)

Report card

Highs: Sharp looks; roomy cabin

Lows: Pricey; limited initial nationwide availability

Overall: 3 stars

Cartoon: 2022 Celebrate Red Blue States

Posted by Talbot Payne on December 30, 2021

Cartoon: Biden Covid tests Mandate

Posted by Talbot Payne on December 30, 2021

Cartoon: New CDC guidelines

Posted by Talbot Payne on December 30, 2021

Payne: These are the Top 10 new car features of 2021

Posted by Talbot Payne on December 29, 2021

Combine SUV demand, electric motors and an electronics revolution, and you had a recipe for innovation in 2021. Auto workshop elves were busy hammering together new treats for us.

Showrooms offered pickup trucks from $20,000 entry-level models to $140,000 electric monsters. Electric sports sedans boasted acceleration numbers quicker than super sports cars. Jeep inspired a new generation of overland SUVs. Look inside, and they were full of goodies. So capable is the modern vehicle that it was hard to find enough chips to operate them — condolences if you’re having to wait for these toys to appear in your driveway.

Here are the Top 10 new features of 2021.

Detroit auto critic Henry Payne's son, Henry, relaxes in a 2022 Kia Carnival reclining, second-row seat.

Backseat living rooms. Americans live in their cars and they are looking more and more like our domiciles. The Jeep Grand Cherokee and Nissan Pathfinder got third-row seating so roomy that 6’5” basketball players like me could comfortably lounge back there. The second-row seat in the Kia Carnival is literally a lounge with a par of reclining Barcaloungers. And Jeep’s Grand Cherokee and Grand Wagoneer allow you to hook up your phone to backseat screens and binge-watch your favorite Netflix series. Ah, home away from home.

The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Xtreme Recon 392 package features 35-inch tires from the factory.

Thirty-fives. 33s once were a reference to vinyl records. In the auto world, 33s designate the biggest diameter off-road tires offered on the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon — at least until this year, when the Ford Bronco Sasquatch package offered 35s. Those were immediately matched by Wrangler’s Xtreme Recon Package. Not only do they look awesome, they are invincible over rough terrain.

Using Near Field Communication, the 2022 Hyundai Tucson can be opened with a phone app.

Phone apps. This was the year phone apps became a common commodity. Pioneered by (who else?) Tesla as a way to, say, preheat your car or check its charging state, the feature can now be found on many vehicles from Hyundais to BMWs. Naturally, Tesla is taking the app a step further with Summon, so your car will come to your phone like a sort of mechanical dog.

The 2022 Lucid Air sports twin screens - the upper, instrument screen reminding of the Porsche Taycan.

Curved screens. Go ahead, ooh and aah at the curved screens behind the steering wheel of the Porsche Taycan, Lucid Air EVs (extending 34 inches) and Cadillac Escalade (38 inches). They aren’t easy to make, but expect more of them from luxury makers.

The driver's eye view of the 2022 Hyundai Tucson includes digital screens and lots of steering wheel controls for volume and cruise control.

Hoodless displays. Speaking of screens, Hyundai Tucson, Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Ford Mustang Mach-E introduced bright, hoodless instrument screens — continuing the trend of autos becoming rolling smartphones. The Hyundai screens also allow for a more symmetrical interior with clean horizontal lines  around the cabin.

The unique, cabinet doors on the 2022 Mazda MX-30.

Cabinet doors. Mazda’s first EV, the MX-30, disappointed with its 100-mile range. But the stylish ute wowed with cabinet doors — the sort of thing we’re used to seeing on show cars. The 2019 Lincoln Continental Coach Door Edition, for example, wowed at the Detroit Auto Show with a limited, 80th Lincoln anniversary, 80-car run. Not only do the MX-30 doors differentiate the EV from its gas cousin CX-30 — they also enable easy entry and egress.

Owners of the 2022 Ford Maverick can scan a QR code in the bed to find how-to videos online.

Unibody pickups. Based on SUV platforms, the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Fe broke the pickup mold, offering smooth-riding affordable pickups for less than $30k. With their smaller size came cool new bed features like a sliding tonneau cover on the back of the Santa Cruz. The Maverick appealed to pickup owners’ Do-It-Yourself ethic with multiple options. There’s a QR code in its bed, for example. Scan the code with your phone and Ford takes you to a website with helpful tips on how to, for example, hack 12-volt bed wiring to configure your favorite accessories. A pair of 110-volt outlets are also back there to power tailgate parties.

The Ford Bronco lets the driver select from several drive modes with the turn of a knob.

GOAT mode. At the center of the popular Ford Bronco is an electronic GOAT (Goes On Any Terrain) dial that drivers can simply spin to access the off-road bruiser’s variety of drive modes. Combined with electronic buttons atop the dash for complementary functions like swaybar disconnect or Trail Turn Assist, the Bronco’s electronics advance the cause of trailblazing.

CrabWalk mode helps the 2022 GMC Hummer EV get through tight situations off-road. General Motors Milford Proving Ground in Milford, Michigan.

Crab walk. Teased for an early 2023 launch, the Hummer EV is the industry’s most outrageous vehicle with 9,000-pound curb weight, 3.0-second zero-60 mph capability, and crab walk. Hummers were spotted testing on public roads moving in a coordinated shuffle dance. Thanks to all-wheel-steer, the dance has practical applications off-road when the Hummer gets into a tight spot and can move sideways to get out of trouble.

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning frunk can fit two golf bags (or a full-size suitcase and two carry-ons).

Mega-frunk. Mid-engine sports cars pioneered the “frunk” (front trunk). EVs made it popular. Electric pickup trucks have supersized it. I’m cheating a bit here since the Ford F-150 Lightning won’t be out until next spring, but I got an eyeful this year. Freed of a front engine, the pickup  Ford revealed in May boasts the world’s biggest frunk, with 14 cubic feet of cargo room that can fit two golf bags and 400 pounds of payload. Expect more mega-frunks as EV pickups battle it out.

More: Tiny shifters, lane nannies top list of most annoying car technology

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.

Cartoon: New Year Amazon Delivery

Posted by Talbot Payne on December 29, 2021

Payne: Sci-fi Lucid Air offers Tesla performance, European style

Posted by Talbot Payne on December 29, 2021

Woodside, California — In 2017 I hustled across Skyline Boulevard here in an American-made, electric, 680-horsepower Tesla Model S P100D. The car was hypnotic — a new standard for luxury that blew away rivals like Mercedes S-class and the BMW 7-series in acceleration (2.3 seconds zero-60) and tech. My goosebumps told me luxury had a new boss.

Four years later and I followed in the Tesla’s tire tracks in the 2022 Lucid Air. The goosebumps were back.

The creation of original Model S engineering genius Peter Rawlinson, Lucid Air has followed the Tesla playbook — leap-frogging the European competition with sci-fi performance, instant torque and drop-dead beauty. With clean-sheet designs propelled by state-of-the-art electric-motor technology, the twin Silicon Valley startups stand atop the luxury class for most electrifying vehicles (pun intended).

At a Woodside stoplight, I triggered launch control by flooring both pedals. Then released the brake. I was halfway to the moon before my vision cleared. With 1,111 horsepower (um, about the same as Penske’s famed 1973 Porsche 917-30 Can Am for you racing fans), the 5,200-pound rocket ship launches to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds. Nearly as quick as the P100D.

Having achieved these heights, the Lucid steps back to ask whether the world is big enough for another Tesla. Push the limits of autonomous driving? Of government regulation? Controls in screen? Yoke steering wheel?

Let Tesla be Tesla. Lucid tries a third way. With one foot in New World power and the other in Old World European luxury, Lucid aims to be the Mercedes of the electronics age.

Take that mind-blowing acceleration, for example.

Unlike Tesla, Lucid hasn’t taken its business model from “Spaceballs,” the movie. My rocket-pad launch was not achieved using Ludicrous or Plaid mode. Lucid sports more conventional Smooth, Swift and (the ultimate Launch Control-equipped) Sprint drive suite. It dovetails with a product that wants to bring classic elegance to EVs, while Tesla explores the bleeding edge of smartphone tech on four wheels.

My $170,500 Air Dream tester is already a collector’s item. Just 520 will be built to launch the model line which begins at $78,900 with the Lucid Air Pure. Slip inside the sedan and it recognized my key like the Model S Plaid I tested earlier this month. No starter button. No brake initiation. Hand meets glove.

But the interior surrounds are more European luxury than Apple smartphone. Lush materials. Porsche Taycan-like, 34-inch curved screen. A traditional full wheel (flat-bottom for ease of entry) versus the Model S’s yoke steering wheel.

A second console screen follows the Tesla example — containing drive modes, steering wheel, climate, even mirror controls. Sealed tight with sound-deadening materials, the 2 1/2-ton space ship is a dream to drive. Like the Model S, it feels organic — no piped-in faux engine sounds like Taycan. Just silent, relentless torque.

At busy Alice’s Restaurant on Route 35 I stepped out of the cabin and Air drew onlookers like a magnet. They’re used to exotic vehicles in the wealthy Bay Area where startups Rivian and Tesla have redefined luxury sedans and pickups (not to mention the stodgy image of EVs).

I remember the first time I saw the Air prototype at the 2017 New York Auto Show. Slim chrome cowl over slimmer headlights. High sills. Bubble greenhouse. It looked like a car from a sci-fi flick.

Take Air to the local country club and your guests will spill out from a backseat as big as your living room. Unlike the prototype, however, the rear compartment is spare, devoid of seat recliners and passenger tablets like Euro rivals. Drive controls are familiar, though you may have to explain one-foot regenerative driving to the valet.

The expected EV details are here. Up front is a bigger frunk than the Tesla — so big it has a sub-frunk. The new Mercedes EQS and BMW iX don’t have frunks. Huh?

Blame poor packaging, something Lucid and Tesla have down cold. The Air has the interior room of a Merc S-class, the wheelbase of an E-class. Credit Lucid’s compact motors — more space efficient than even Tesla’s hallowed tech. Sitting on an industry-leading 900-volt architecture (compared to the Model S’s 400 volt), Lucid benefits from battery technology developed for Formula E racing by battery partner Atieva.

Plug the Air into a 350-kWh charging station and it claims 300 miles of range added in 22 minutes. That’s tops for EVs, though still well shy of a gas engine’s capability.

Air’s huge 118-kWh battery pack is mounted low in a skateboard chassis, and I tackled Route 35’s twisties with confidence. Throttle back and ogle the redwoods canopy above through a Tesla Model X-like panoramic roof.

The standard Lucid Pure features a full steel roof. That front trunk is enveloped by a dramatic clam-shell hood, as is the rear trunk.

Lux buyers want white-glove dealership service, and here Lucid is a work in progress. Following Tesla’s pioneering path (and statehouse lobbyists), it wants to build its brand with unique “studio” showrooms and adjoining service centers. Mobile units will provide home service for small fixes — a convenience I enjoy with my own Model 3.

But my Tesla showroom/service center is an hour away, and mobile units can take days for an appointment. Lucid will face similar challenges. Speaking of infrastructure, Tesla’s secret sauce is a Supercharging network integrated with vehicle software, easing owners’ range-anxiety on long hauls. Lucid puts its trust in a promised network of third-party chargers — in particular partner Electrify America.

In the Golden State Lucid navigated a mock trip to Santa Barbara. The system dutifully found an EA supercharger on the way. Nice start. But, in the Age of Tesla, buyers will also want to know how long they will be at the charger, where to eat nearby, and so on. Lucid hopes its sexy looks, 520-mile range and powerful motors will keep owners content until the charging network catches up.

It also promises self-driving technology. Eschewing Tesla’s daring all-road Autopilot, Lucid talks of a “DreamDrive” hands-free system like Cadillac SuperCruise and Ford BlueCruise. Lucids will get an over-the-air update to awake 32 onboard sensors — including LIDAR for all-season nasty weather.

In just a decade American brands have upended the luxury vehicle landscape. They aren’t called Cadillac or Lincoln. They are fresh-faced kids named Tesla and Lucid. And they come up quickly, silently in your rear-view mirror.

2022 Lucid Air

Vehicle type: Battery-powered, all-wheel-drive five-passenger luxury sedan

Price: $78,900, including $1,500 destination fee ($170,500 Dream Air Performance as tested)

Powerplant: 118 kWh lithium-ion battery with dual-electric-motor drive

Power: 480 horsepower, 443 pound-feet of torque (1,111 horsepower, 1,025 pound-feet of torque Dream Air as tested)

Transmission: single-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 2.5 seconds (mfr); top speed, 168 mph

Weight: 5,200 pounds (as tested)

Fuel economy: EPA, 114 MPGe (FWD), 98 MPGe (AWD); range, 406 miles (Pure), 520 miles (Dream Air)

Report card

Highs: Gorgeous figure; best-in-class EV range

Lows: Slim dealer network; gets pricey

Overall: 4 stars

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.

Cartoon: Warp Speed and Biden Snail

Posted by Talbot Payne on December 29, 2021