Henry Payne Blog

Cartoon: Brangelina Ex

Posted by hpayne on September 21, 2016

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Cartoon: Obama Keep America Safe

Posted by hpayne on September 21, 2016

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2017 Chevy Bolt EV debuts at $37,495

Posted by hpayne on September 21, 2016

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The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV will debut at showrooms later this year for $37,495 including destination charge, true to its promise to be the first electric vehicle under $40,000 to go more than 200 miles on a charge.

Including a federal $7,500 tax credit, the Bolt will cost as little as $29,995 – though the tax credit is capped to the first 200,000 EVs General Motors Co. sells.

Chevy’s pricing announcement Tuesday comes on the heels of news this month that the Bolt will get an Environmental Protection Agency estimated range of 238 miles on a single charge of its 60-kWh battery. The figures are competitive with Tesla’s Model 3, which boasts similar predicted performance — but is not expected to be on sale for at least another year. The Model 3 claims a 215-mile range for about $35,000.

“Value is a hallmark for Chevrolet and the pricing of the Bolt EV proves we’re serious about delivering the first affordable EV with plenty of range,” Alan Batey, president of GM North America, said in a statement. “We have kept our promise yet again, first on range and now on price.”

The Bolt, built at Orion Assembly north of Detroit, will be available in two trims at launch: base LT and more upscale Premier. Standard LT features include a steering wheel paddle that regenerates the battery, rearview camera, 10.2-inch dashboard touch screen and self-sealing Michelin tires. The Premier, which begins at $40,905 including destination, piles on amenities like heated leather front and rear seats.

DC Fast Charging is a $750 option for both trims.

The peppy, five-seat Bolt crossover is not to be confused with its sister Chevrolet Volt plug-in sedan, which has a 53-mile electric range before a 1.5-liter gasoline engine kicks in. The Bolt’s big battery – the same size as a base, $66,000 Tesla Model S – makes for zippy, sub-7 second 0-60 mph performance while doubling the range of other “affordable” EVs like BMW’s $43,395, 117-mile-range i3 and Nissan’s $29,010, 107-mile Leaf.

The Bolt will be available at select Chevy dealers in late 2016.

Cartoon: Jersey Chicken Bomber

Posted by hpayne on September 21, 2016

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Cartoon: Uber Pittsburgh

Posted by hpayne on September 16, 2016

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VW tries to hit ‘reset’ in U.S.

Posted by hpayne on September 15, 2016

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Seattle – One year after Dieselgate buried Volkswagen under costly litigation and consumer distrust, the company is reintroducing itself to U.S. buyers with new vehicles, new management, a new philosophy – and an abandonment of diesel.

The German automaker’s strategy took form this week with the launch of its first new vehicle, the 2017 Golf Alltrack wagon, since the cheating scandal broke last September.

“The Alltrack is the beginning of the journey making the brand more family-oriented, more fun-to-drive, and also more smart-to-own. It is the beginning of a positive journey for this brand,” said Hinrich Woebcken, 55, who began in April as CEO for VW Group North America. “Me and my team are intending to take this negative perception which is in the market because of (diesel) right into a positive momentum.”

Notably, diesel is no longer on the menu.

“We are transitioning away from diesel to electric vehicles,” said Woebcken, an outsider who comes to VW after 10 years at BMW. “Regulations have made diesel harder to do in the U.S. market anyway.”

The Golf Alltrack, a “ruggedized” version of VW’s SportWagen, is powered by a turbocharged 1.8-liter gas engine. Woebcken says the all-wheel drive Alltrack, which rides nearly an inch higher than the SportWagen, is representative of the brand’s shift from “a compact car company to a bigger car company” featuring more all-wheel drive models. As part of the brand’s realignment, the SportWagen, too, will get an AWD option.

The most important product in VW’s relaunch, however, will come in the second quarter of next year when VW unveils a midsize three-row SUV.

“It is in the middle of ramp-up in Chattanooga,” said Woecken, referring to VW’s Tennessee assembly plant which makes the Passat sedan. “This product is going to be a splash. It is a great seven-seater – the biggest Volkswagen SUV ever. This product is designed into the heart of the U.S. market.”

VW will follow the as-yet-to-be-named sport ute – which debuted at the Detroit Auto Show in 2013 as the CrossBlue concept – two months later with a long-wheelbase version of its compact crossover Tiguan. A redesigned Jetta sedan will follow.

Karl Brauer, a senior analyst with Kelley Blue Book, said, “Last year’s VW emissions issue has damaged diesel’s image and all but eliminated that customer base. It will be a long road, but the new Alltrack – and strong focus on SUVs and EVs to meet customer and government demands – is a glimpse of where Volkswagen needs to go as an automaker.”

The shift in product emphasis will parallel a shift in responsibility to U.S. operations which gives it more independence from its corporate parents in Wolfsburg, Germany.

“With my arrival (in the U.S.) we decided to govern all activates in North America under one governance, so to speak,” said Woebcken. “We have factories, engineering centers, procurement, sales and marketing in the region – all these activities are under one umbrella now. And this is new.”

“In the past there was a direct reporting line of each function back to HQ where things were put together,” he continued. “The company feels that it is very important to get closer the customers, closer to the dealers.”

The strategy echoes the successful efforts of Volkswagen Group’s luxury brand Audi to build U.S. brand independence in 2005. That was done under the leadership of Johan de Nysschen, now Cadillac’s president. Audi has since set U.S. sales records for 68 straight months as a full-line seller of all-wheel drive luxury SUVs and sedans.

Volkswagen’s relaunch in Seattle was no accident. The brand covets the active, outdoorsy customers here who have made all-wheel drive niche brands like Subaru, a popular lifestyle choice. The Alltrack will be aimed squarely at Subaru’s Outback and Crosstrek AWD wagons. Once popular in the U.S. market, VW – the No. 2 brand in sales globally behind Toyota – saw U.S. sales plummet to less than 350,000 last year, well below smaller Subaru’s 582,675. Sales have continued to take a hit this year with only 29,384 units sold in August – a decline of 9 percent over 2015.

Answering criticism that VW models have been overpriced, the Alltrack will debut at $26,670 – comparable to the Outback but with more standard features like heated seats and leatherette seats.

VW’s product and organizational news comes in addition to big financial commitments to rebuild trust here. VW has agreed to pay $16.5 billion in fines and settlements, including $10 billion to buy back or modify diesel products owned by U.S. customers who may feel betrayed by the brand’s claim to clean diesels. VW has been banned from selling diesels since last September.

Also included are $2.7 billion into an environmental trust fund, and $2 billion for the next decade into electric vehicle infrastructure. “Electrifying America for more electric mobility is a huge commitment which is going to be beneficial for the whole country, for all consumers, for the whole nation,” said Woebcken.

Determined to use Dieselgate as a teachable moment, VW says it will invest $7 billion in U.S. operations by 2019. Part of that investment has gone to Puebla, Mexico, where the Alltrack – due on dealer lots in October – is built.

“A global brand like Volkswagen cannot rely on success in Europe, Germany or China,” said Woebcken. “We need this strong market in the U.S. We employ 6,000 people in North America, and that will grow.”

2 Payne: Fiesta vs. Mirage 3-cylinder face-off

Posted by hpayne on September 15, 2016

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Threesomes aren’t always as fun as they sound. Sure, there was the sexy BMW i8 I tested last year with its turbocharged three-cylinder electric hybrid making instant, all-wheel drive power. And the 2015 1-liter Ford Fiesta with its overachieving 123-horsepower three-banger was Usain Bolt in a bottle.

But there was also Fiesta’s classmate, the 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage … three cylinders of disappointment.

If the Fiesta was the subcompact class valedictorian, Mirage was the kid who showed up for class in his pajamas carrying last year’s textbook. He obviously didn’t care if he got a failing grade. Mirage was a dud. So the wee Mitsu did the sensible thing: He took a year off to get his act together.

For 2017 Mirage is back in school, redesigned as a sportier GT model and prepped for the exam. Groomed and fit? You bet. Where the old model looked like a toaster with headlights and a rear spoiler glued on, the ’17 Mirage has spent some time in front of the mirror.

Swept headlights and a coiffed, chrome-lined grille give the Mirage presence. The spoiler is properly integrated into the rear hatch and the wheels — wow, Mirage is that really you? — are sculpted, multi-spoke jobbies that would make more expensive Honda Civics proud.

Let’s bring out the subcompact class stud for comparison: the 2016 Fiesta 3-cylinder. Bolt in a bottle. The holy trinity.

Before you judge me for leading a Mirage to slaughter, let me reassure you that this is a fair contest. It wasn’t easy. In fact, finding a three-cylinder Fiesta in Southeast Michigan is harder than finding a four-leaf clover. In these days of under-$3 a gallon gas, 3-cylinders aren’t in favor. I found —appropriately — only three on Metro Detroit dealer lots. Thanks to Bill Brown Ford of Livonia for letting me take their tike out with Mirage for a play date.

Both my testers go for under $18 grand. The Mirage for $17,330. The Fiesta: $17,670. For the price, the Mirage is well-equipped, indeed.

There are those Mirage wheels I mentioned. Very classy. And the GT gets pushbutton start. The key-operated Fiesta, meanwhile, is stuck with base wheels that look out of place on a car with a face modeled after Aston Martin. It’s like Cinderella showing up at the ball in army boots.

Fiesta has a choice of better wheels. But they will cost you. As will Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, the fashionable smartphone app twins. Mirage has ’em, base Fiesta does not. Ford offers the combo in its excellent SYNC 3 console unit — a $995 upcharge.

Though both subcompacts offer similar interior dimensions, cloth interiors and hard-plastic dashes, Fiesta’s attention to detail makes it the more livable space. The Ford is 400 pounds heavier for a reason: better interior quieting and engineering. And it has soft-material elbow rests and center console storage that the Mitsu lacks. Only on console knee-room did the Mirage feel more comfortable, which I discovered while taking both three-bangers to the limit.

I flogged them across interstate and rural real estate, because what you really want to know is whether three is enough. Can you really live with just half a six-pack?

Both cars deliver on the three-cylinder’s core premise: fuel economy. Mirage gets 39 mpg combined, Fiesta 36. But Mirage lags badly in other metrics.

That’s because Mitsubishi stubbornly sticks to its old, normally-aspirated 1.2-liter three with just 78 horsepower. That’s four more than the last go-round, but I think my leaf-blower has more horsepower. And sounds better.

Mated to a CVT transmission, the Mirage’s triad sounds like a bloodhound howling at the moon. HAWROOOOOOOOOOO! No stepped upshifts like Nissan or Honda CTs. Just one, continuous drone when you stomp the pedal. HAWROOOOOOOOO!

That said, the Mitsu’s fun factor has improved considerably thanks to GT suspension tweaks. I took the Mirage to my favorite roads outside Hell, Michigan, expecting it to topple over like a fridge on rollers. But its short wheelbase was a hoot to throw through corners. Coming out was a different matter. With just 74 pound-feet of torque and a CVT, I had to bury the throttle just to keep from going backwards. Which destroys that vaunted fuel economy — I recorded just 30 mpg.

The trip back to Detroit on the I-96 race track — the closest thing this metropolis has to high-speed Autobahn — reminded me of a trip to Germany years ago. I rented a Porsche 944 to fully enjoy the Autobahn (and a side trip to do Nurburgring laps, of course) — and found myself being drafted in rural areas by Fiats, Renaults and other tiny tin cans. With their foot to the floor, they were determined to use my Porsche to help them maintain 90-plus mph speeds over the rolling countryside.

With traffic on I-96 moving along at over 90 mph, I tried the same trick here. Drive any other car with your foot screwed to the floor in top gear and you’ll get arrested. Do it in a 3-cylinder Mirage and you’ll just be keeping up with Detroit traffic.

The Fiesta, by contrast, needs no help in the power department. Unlike the Mirage, this 3-banger isn’t the subcompact’s base engine (a mere, 1.6-liter I-4 is). I rowed this 1-liter, turbocharged delight with a manual. You can get an auto, but it’ll cost you ($1,095). With 8.3-second 0-60 time and 148 pound-feet of torque, you’ll want to take it out just to beat up on bigger fish. Merging onto I-96 near Brown Ford, I apologize to the three sedans I laid tire tracks over.

For all its pep, the 1-liter Fiesta won’t wow you in the handling department. If cornering is your game, then take a stroll over to Fiesta’s own GT — the so-called ST, a hot-hatch carnival ride. But once again, it’ll cost you. The Fiesta ST starts at $22 grand.

So applause to Mitsubishi for saving the Mirage from ignominy with its affordable, drivable ’17 makeover. At under $18 grand, the Mirage finally belongs in the U.S. market. Just be sure and speak up when you have a passenger — so they can hear you over the leaf blower.

2016 Ford Fiesta 1-liter

specifications

VEHICLE TYPE FRONT-ENGINE, FRONT-WHEEL DRIVE,

FIVE-PASSENGER SEDAN OR HATCHBACK

Power plant 1-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder
Transmission Six-speed manual or automatic
Weight 2,537 pounds (manual as tested)
Price $17,670 base (as tested)
Power 123 horsepower, 148 pound-feet torque
Performance 0-60 mph, 8.3 seconds (Car

and Driver); top speed: 120 mph

uel economy EPA 31 mpg city/48 mpg highway/36 mpg

combined

report card

HIGHS THE 3-CYLINDER MOUSE THAT ROARED; EASY ON THE GAS
Lows Base wheels don’t match upscale styling

Overall:★★★★

 

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage

GT 3-cylinder

specifications

VEHICLE TYPE FRONT-ENGINE, FRONT-WHEEL DRIVE,

FIVE-PASSENGER HATCHBACK

Power plant 1.2-liter 3-cylinder
Transmission Continuously variable automatic
Weight 2,117 pounds
Price $17,330 base (as tested)
Power 78 horsepower, 74 pound-feet torque
Performance 0-60 mph, 12.8 seconds (Car and Driver

estimate); top speed: 100 mph (estimate)

Fuel economy EPA 37 mpg city/43 mpg highway/39 mpg

combined

report card

HIGHS MUCH-IMPROVED STYLING; SMARTPHONE CONNECTIVITY

Lows Underpowered; droning CVT

Overall:★★★

Cartoon: Powell Emails

Posted by hpayne on September 15, 2016

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Payne: Chevy Bolt has 238-mile range, lots of muscle

Posted by hpayne on September 13, 2016

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The much-anticipated battery-powered 2017 Chevrolet Bolt isn’t just a green machine: This all-electric compact crossover can lay some serious black rubber, too.

Chevy claims a zero-60 time of 6.9 seconds. That’s comparable to Ford’s rabid Fiesta ST, but it feels quicker. Tesla calls its Model S P90D’s acceleration “Ludicrous” mode. Let’s just call the Bolt “Bananas” — and you might lose a few from the grocery bag by throwing around the nimble crossover on the way home.

Test-driving a Bolt outside its birthplace in GM’s Orion Assembly, I stomped the accelerator out of a stoplight and it, well … bolted. With 266 pound-feet of instant torque coursing through its front wheels, the Chevy’s Michelin tires left yards of scorched asphalt in my wake.

The five-door Bolt will have an EPA-estimated range of 238 miles on a full charge and beat the Tesla Model 3 to market as the first car under $40,000 to eclipse the 200-mile mark. The mileage figure is a significant 20 percent jump over the car’s anticipated 200-mile figure — and it beats the $66,000 base Tesla Model S luxury sedan by 20 miles.

From the Fiat 500e to the Nissan Leaf, there are more than a half-dozen “affordable” EVs in production. But none approach the potential of the Bolt and Model 3.

Promising similar range (the Model 3 is estimated at 215 miles on a full charge) and acceleration as the Bolt, the Silicon Valley-bred Tesla electrified the auto community with its plans to bring Model S-like range and performance to the masses. Pricing is even similar — the Bolt will start at around $37,500, minus a $7,500 federal tax rebate; the Model 3 should start at $35,000.

But the Bolt will hit showrooms by the end of the year, while the Tesla won’t be available for a year after that. And with such a huge jump in the marketplace, Bolt might steal some of Tesla’s thunder. Heck, tech god Steve Wozniak says he’s ready to trade in his Model S for the Chevy.

Riding shotgun with me with me on public roads north of The Palace of Auburn Hills was Bolt chief engineer Josh Tavel, a testament to the fact that Chevy’s Bolt ambitions go way beyond high mileage numbers.

An amateur race-driver who worked on GM’s Alpha platform — the athletic bones on which the Cadillac ATS and Camaro sit — the 37-year old knows a thing or two about performance. And he has brought it to the Bolt.

“This car is a noodle without the battery in the floor,” says Tavel, motioning to the car’s floor where a 60 kWh lithium-ion battery is fully integrated into the car’s steel chassis. For perspective, that’s the same size battery as in the much more expensive, base Tesla Model S luxury sedan.

Like Tesla, Tavel and his team want the high-tech Bolt to redefine the car experience. This isn’t a green vehicle. This is a high-tech vehicle that happens to be green. Tavel says 40 miles of the Bolt’s range is achieved through brake regeneration. It’s a concept is familiar to legions of Model S addicts.

Removing my lead foot from the accelerator acts like a brake, recharging the battery. Then Bolt takes the trick a step further: Move the mono-stable shifter from Drive to Low and the Chevy will coast to a complete stop without any brake at all. The Bolt also has a “regen paddle” on the steering wheel that allows the driver to slow the vehicle with a fingertip. It makes for an interesting game along your daily commute — a game with better range numbers as a reward.

“I always drive my Bolt home in Low mode,” Tavel says.

The battery in the basement does more than just give the Bolt a low 20.7-inch center of gravity on par with production sports cars: it transforms the interior space. With only an AC motor and control units like the AC/DC power-converter controller under the hood, there’s plenty of room to move the cabin forward, opening up acres of space in back. A leggy 6-foot-5 ex-basketball player, I could easily sit behind myself in the rear seat. The 102.4-inch wheelbase is midway between a Chevy Sonic and the Cruze, the B-segment subcompact. But its 94 square feet of interior room is decidedly C-segment.

Unlike its plug-in hybrid sister Chevy Volt, which has a battery splitting the cabin in two, the Bolt has plenty of interior elbow and legroom. Unencumbered by a drivetrain, the console opens for ample storage and a huge 10.2-inch screen on the dash.

Continuing Chevy’s embrace of digital devices, the Bolt won’t offer an in-car navigation system. It’s a nod to consumer preference for using their own Android or Apple smartphones’ navigation systems: With Android Auto and Apple CarPlay standard, drivers simply plug in their phones and ask Google (or Siri) to lead the way.

Even the Bolt’s tires are transformative. Run over a nail and Michelin’s compound will absorb the intruding shrapnel without going flat. “We are taking away every excuse not to buy this car,” says engineer Tavel.

Perhaps the biggest excuse Bolt overcomes is it’s not a sedan. The Chevy Volt suffered in a market that was rejecting sedans (it was ridiculed as a $40,000 Chevy Cruze). The Bolt’s elevated seating position, unique platform and compact-utility interior hit the sweet spot of the automotive market.

That sweet spot includes players like the 2015 North American Car of the Year VW Golf GTI which sports similar space and grunt — 210 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque — for $10,000 less. It’s a reminder of the steep hill the Bolt will face to grow its market beyond green customers.

The Chevy’s unique, raked crossover profile will stand out on the street despite its conservative Chevy styling cues. While the Bolt likely won’t beat the rear-wheel drive Tesla Model 3 sedan off the line in performance (the Bolt’s front-wheel drive architecture suggests its platform will be used for future GM vehicles — the next Sonic, perhaps?), its utility should be an advantage.

But can mainstream Chevy match Tesla luxury brand cache? After all, Tesla has hooked 373,000 customers (including your humble scribe) into committing $1,000 down payments on a product that doesn’t yet exist.

Chevy marketing chief Steve Majoros is unfazed by the Tesla’s head start in generating buzz. He prefers being first to market.

“We have a great, national dealer network,” he says. “And they already have customers lining up for this car. Having at least a year head start on the competition is fundamentally a great proposition.”

Tesla may be an EV rock star, but Majoros points out that Chevy has cred, too, given the Volt’s household name and record of bullet-proof reliability.

“Customers look at Chevy as a great people-hauling company,” says Majoros. “The Bolt fulfills that need and builds on the credibility that we have in the EV space. We may not be as publicly visible as Tesla, but we are going to come to market very aggressively with the Bolt.”

Behind the wheel in Rochester Hills, my aggressive driving gets plenty of encouragement from Tavel. I throw the road-hugging Bolt into a 90-degree right-hander, tires screaming, then flatten the throttle on exit. Try this in a 250-horse Ford Focus ST and the torque-steer will rip the steering wheel from your hands. Not the Bolt. Tavel’s team has dialed out torque-steer with careful programming.

The level of detail in the Bolt impresses: roomy enough for a soccer mom, yet enough pop to keep demon dad happy.

“To quote the Michigan Fab Five: We’re gonna shock the world,” says Majoros. Pun intended.

Cartoon: Hillary Deplorables

Posted by hpayne on September 13, 2016

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Cartoon: Hillary Pneumonia

Posted by hpayne on September 12, 2016

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Cartoon: Trump Foreign Policy

Posted by hpayne on September 10, 2016

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Cartoon: Hillary’s Schedule

Posted by hpayne on September 9, 2016

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Payne review: Ford Fusion bulks up

Posted by hpayne on September 8, 2016

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In 1989, basketball icon Michael Jordan shaved his thinning pate clean and males with receding hairlines wanted to Be Like Mike. They may have had potbellies out to there, but their HeadBlade domes looked as cool as the coolest athlete on earth.

Auto fashion is like that.

A pouty-mouth grille and fastback shape has made Aston Martin the coolest cat in autodom. So in 2013, Ford’s frumpy Fusion mid-size sedan modeled Aston’s grille and shape and — dude! — it was cool.

Four years later and Fusion is due for its mid-cycle refresh. There may be a million of ’em on the road, but the sleek sedan still turns my head, its upscale looks rivaled only by the Mazda 6. Meanwhile, Aston style has continued to define auto fashion.

Would Fusion evolve with the sexy Brit? Would it get rounder hips like the Rapide sedan? Or copy its full frontal grille? Or get a wrap-around fascia like the stunning DB11 and Bond-inspired DB10?

Um, well: No, no, no and no. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, so Fusion Part Two has played it safe. Rather than rocking out as a full Rapide wannabe, Fusion has just tweaked its Aston cues — headlights more angled here, lips more pointed there, corners edgier over there. A little bling goes a long way, so Fusion’s tookus gets a nice, horizontal chrome strip connecting the rear taillights. And “eyeliner” front LED running lights. Like the theme song that accompanies Broadway musical characters, cars these days must have their own light signature.

But if the Fusion Part One’s exterior wowed, the headliner for Fusion Part Two is what’s under the skin. Like the Michael Jordan wannabe who shaved his head and then adopted a basketball fitness regimen, the new Fusion has put some serious firepower behind that lovely Aston face.

For 2017 Fusion has added a “Sport” badge to its lineup.

But this is no Honda Accord Sport model tarted up with big wheels and a decklid spoiler. Fusion Sport is packed with the same blown, 325-horsepower V-6 found in the F150 and Ford Edge Sport. That would be the first mid-size sedan to pack more than 300 horses.

Whip the Sport out of a Woodward stoplight and it will hit 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds — two seconds quicker than Fusion’s peppy, turbocharged 2.0-liter and just a half-second off Aston’s Rapide sedan. Now we’re talkin’.

Ford is a decidedly bipolar brand these days — a fuel-sipping Ecoboost greenie one minute, a hungry twin-turbo drag racer the next. Nowhere is this split personality more evident than the Fusion lineup, which made headlines in 2013 by offering a hybrid version that went farther on a gallon of fuel (42 miles vs. 41) than King Camry. There’s a plug-in too.

That was then, this is now. For Act Two, the 20 mpg Sport is the least efficient Fusion — part of a Blue Oval performance offensive that has includes the Le Mans-wining Ford GT, asphalt-melting Shelby Mustang GT350, and musclebound Ford Focus ST and RS hot hatches.

“We decided not to do an ST version of the Fusion. This customer is not quite as hardcore,” says Todd Soderquist, chief program engineer for Fusion. But Soderquist didn’t hold back much. This is a motorhead who spends his leisure time wringing the neck of a GT350 at a two-mile racetrack he built in Nebraska.

The Fusion Sport would sound great on a racetrack, too. WAAUUUUUGHHHHHH!! I nail the throttle coming out of the twisties near Hell, Michigan, and for a moment wonder if it isn’t a masculine Ford V-8 under the hood. Put Sport in SPORT mode and the sound sharpens, the steering tightens and the tranny holds a higher gear to take full advantage of 380 pound-feet of torque.

That’s useful because the Fusion Sport is no lightweight. Exiting a Glenn Brook Road hairpin, the V-6 grunts with exertion to keep the sedan’s porky 3,982 pounds (551 more than the base Fusion) moving. Continuously variable dampers — a cousin of the magnetic dampers that make GM’s performance cars such a joy to drive these days — help keep the big fella nimble.

Some of those added calories come from the Sport’s extra two cylinders and all-wheel drive. Other poundage comes from hood insulation and double-laminated glass that contribute to the 2017 Fusion’s biggest advance: a quiet, sophisticated interior.

Beginning at the Fusion’s SE trim (standard on Sport), the much-improved SYNC 3 system is available. SYNC’s console screen is quick to the touch, connects to my smartphone via Android Auto (CarPlay for you Appleheads), and displays its info in the instrument panel for safer, heads-up driving.

Transforming Fusion’s center console is an electronic rotary shifter. Its beauty is in what it adds — the aggressive, aforementioned SPORT button — and subtracts.

Eliminating hydraulic cables, the e-shifter also opens up the once-cramped console. The console storage bin is so deep it reaches to China, and a cave of space has opened under the dash screen big enough for spelunking. Add two cupholders and a roomy slot for my monster smartphone and you can have everything and the kitchen sink at your disposal.

Otherwise, Fusion’s dimensions are unchanged. I could sit behind myself in a backseat that is no Honda Accord-sized living room but comfortably average for the class. The Sport (you’ll know it by its unique mesh grille) is also joined in 2017 by an upscale Platinum trim, meaning the Fusion model line now runs from $22,610 to north of $42,000 — a $20,000 trim spread that is typical of lux models like Audi’s A4, for example.

With a growly voice, AWD and similar horsepower to Audi’s S4 sport trim model, think of Fusion as a roomier version of Audi’s S4 sports sedan. Sport even sports a unique LED light signature (Audi started this trend), ditching the standard Fusion “eyeliner” for an eyebrow LED. I would even go so far as to cross-shop against the Audi — especially as you can have the athletic Fusion for (cough) $18,000 less.

Take a good look in your rearview mirror the next time you hear a growly engine. That grille could be an Aston Martin. That menacing headlamp? An Audi. But when it roars past, you’ll note the Ford badge and think: I can afford that.

2017 Ford Fusion

specifications

VEHICLE TYPE FRONT-ENGINE, FRONT OR ALL-WHEEL DRIVE,

FIVE-PASSENGER SEDAN

Power plant 2.7-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 (Sport model

as tested). Also available: 2.5-liter inline-4; 1.5-liter turbocharged inline-4; 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline-4; hybrid with 2.0-liter inline-4/battery assist; plug-in hybrid with 2.0-liter inline-4/7.6 kWh lithium-ion battery

Transmission Six-speed automatic
Weight 3,982 pounds (Sport model)
Price $23,485 base Fusion ($41,350 Sport as tested)
Power 325 horsepower, 380 pound-feet torque

(turbo V-6, Sport). Also available: 175 hp, 170 pound-feet torque (2.4L 4-cyl);

181 hp, 185 pound-feet torque (1.5L turbo-4); 240 hp, 770 pound-feet torque (2.0L turbo-4); 188 hp (hybrid); 188 (plug-in)

Performance 0-60 mph, 5.3 seconds (Sport model, Car

and Driver); top speed: 125 mph

Fuel economy EPA 17 mpg city/26 mpg highway/20 mpg

combined (Sport model). Also available: 22/34/26 mpg combined (2.4L 4-cyl);

23/36/28 mpg combined (1.5L turbo-4); 22/31/25

report card

HIGHS MACHO ENGINE GROWL; ROOMY CONSOLE WITH E-SHIFTER
Lows Porky at nearly two tons

Overall:★★★★

Cartoon: Next iPhone

Posted by hpayne on September 8, 2016

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Cartoon: Clinton and 17 million

Posted by hpayne on September 7, 2016

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Cartoon: Kaepernick’s Tattoo

Posted by hpayne on September 6, 2016

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Cartoon: End of Summer

Posted by hpayne on September 2, 2016

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Cartoon: Back to School

Posted by hpayne on September 2, 2016

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Cartoon: Chicago Deaths and Obama Climate Change

Posted by hpayne on September 2, 2016

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