Henry Payne Blog

Cartoon: Media Defaces Free Speech

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 22, 2022

Cartoon: Speaker Pelosi Retires

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 22, 2022

Cartoon: Thanksgiving Turkey Canada

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 21, 2022

Cartoon: Twitter Musk Free Babylon Bee

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 21, 2022

Payne: Wicked 600-hp Acura NSX Type S saves the best for last

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 17, 2022

Southfield — The Acura NSX is galloping off into the sunset in style. For its last model year, the NSX gets a Type S performance model with 600 horsepower, carbon-fiber roof, sticky Pirelli P Zero PZ4 tires and quicker shifting.

Awesome. But can we talk styling?

As one of world’s rare mid-engine supercars — and one of only two Made in the USA (the other is the Corvette C8 in Kentucky) — the NSX’s conservative wardrobe always appeared a mismatch for the sinewy, all-wheel-drive hybrid turbo-V6 sci-fi beast underneath.

Walk up to a C8 and its shard-like headlights stare at you hungrily. Come across a Lamborghini Huracan and it looks like Smaug the Dragon on the verge of burning down Middle Earth. The NSX? It has the face of a Honda Accord.

Not the Type S. This thing looks wicked. For its last hurrah, Acura has remade the front and rear clips of its supercar for proper menace. The headlights — 12 LED projectors glowing inside — are now visually separated from the gaping grille and underlined by gaping gills. A huge diffuser hangs out back.

More:Final assembly: On the Ohio line with the last Acura NSX Type S supercar

Now that’s a proper supercar. Like an alien insectoid come to earth to consume all our asphalt roads.

Type S and I did a lot of consuming.

Over northern Oakland County’s twisty lake roads, I nailed the throttle and the V-6 howled with pleasure. Slinging NSX around a 180-degree Telegraph Road turn, I stomped the gas. More howling. Out of a stoplight on a vacant rural two-lane, I initiated launch control for a 2.9-second 0-60 mph sprint. Hooowwwwl!

The 2022 Acura NSX Type S features a 600-horse, 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 mated to a 9-speed auto transmission.

With 492 pound-feet of thrust, the hybrid all-wheel-drive drivetrain is a joy. Despite the resulting 3,900 pounds of girth, the supercar’s low center of gravity makes it feel sucked to the road. It’s learned at the feet of the NSX GT3 race car (still competitive on the IMSA circuit). Given that it was introduced in 2017, the NSX’s interior design is dated given the relentless industry electronics race — but also since NSX’s signature cyclops driver mode button and trigger shifter are being phased out in other Acura/Honda products. But it’s still unusual, a reminder of the NSX’s ambitions when it was rolled out as a $160,000 hybrid supercar with tech previously found on the $1 million Porsche 918.

Despite its technological prowess, NSX was a sales disappointment, moving just 2,548 copies globally over its five-year run. Though cheap for the hybrid supercar class, it had to compete against comparably priced cyborgs like the flat-6-fired $160K Porsche 911 GT3. Ohhhh, knees. Getting. Weak.

But while the stiff, wailing 911 GT3 feels like it wants to race all day long, the NSX Type S is a lovely daily driver, starting with its Toyota Prius-like preference to sneak out my driveway on battery power in Quiet mode.

The interior of the 2022 Acura NSX Type S features a rotary knob for drive modes and a trigger shifter.

Dial up cyclops to Sport, Sport Plus and Track modes, and the engine tone gets sharper, the magnetic dampers firmer. Two personalities, one supercar. A St. Louis pal had to trade in his 911 GT3 after a year for a 911 Targa because he wanted more comfort.

Just don’t plan on going too far in the Type S. Its tiny 4.4 cubic feet of trunk space won’t hold much more than toiletries for a date weekend. Frunk-equipped peers like the McLaren GT and 911 are more accommodating.

My friend Kevin has owned everything from Lambo Aventadors to Ferrari F8s, and he fell in love with the Type S.

“I like this better than the Ferrari,” he said while driving over the oxcart-rough roads of Southfield. In Track mode, the Type S porpoised over the bumps. Then we dialed it back to Sport, and the car was more domesticated — the ferocious, battery-assisted torque always at the ready when needed.

The Acura NSX Type S options carbon ceramic brakes for just, ahem, $13,000 as part of the carbon package.

Just weeks after my jaunt in a loaded $185,000 Gotham Gray Matte Type S, Chevrolet introduced the performance version of its Made in America supercar — the Corvette Z06.

The 670-horse, V8-powered Z06 has an 8,000-RPM exhaust note from the gods, 2.6-second 0-60 mph time, Stealth mode and 12.6 cubic feet of cargo room. For $166K loaded ($127K base). Oh.

The rear of the 2022 Acura NSX Type S gets a carbon aerofoil and diffuser.

The ‘Vette will probably sell as many copies in a year as NSX sold in its lifetime. Which speaks to why Acura couldn’t translate its supercar into super sales. Still, the halo-car NSX has transformed Acura back into a performance brand. Everything from the RDX SUV to the entry-level Integra now carries its DNA.

And with its final, 2022 run of 350 copies, NSX has finally found its halo. The Type S is the best-looking NSX ever.

2022 Acura NSX Type S

Vehicle type: Mid-engine, all-wheel drive two-passenger sports car

Price: $171,495 base ($192,495 as tested)

Powerplant: 3.5-liter, twin-turbo V-6 with three electric-motor hybrid assist

Power: 600 combined horsepower, 492 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: Nine-speed dual-clutch

Performance: 0-60 mph, 2.9 seconds (Car & Driver); top speed, 191 mph (mfr.)

Weight: 3,898 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA 21 mpg city / 22 mpg highway / 21 combined

Report card

Highs: Best-looking NSX made; supercar performance for under $200K

Lows: Small cargo space; less performance than cheaper Corvette Z06

Overall: 3 stars

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

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Posted by Talbot Payne on November 16, 2022

Cartoon: Trump 24 DeSantis Nicknames

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 16, 2022

Cartoon: Trump Election Turkey

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 14, 2022

Cartoon: Pro Choice No Choice Democrats

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 14, 2022

Cartoon: Trump DeSantis 2024

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 10, 2022

Cartoon: Whitmer reelected, Cruella 2 Whitmer

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 10, 2022

Payne: Turn up the volume — Sci-fi BMW iX is loud, lavish and ‘lectric

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 10, 2022

Pontiac — The new 2023 BMW iX is here. Call it BMW Tron.

For its first electric vehicle, BMW has created a dramatically different user experience. Where BMW has built its brand on sleek design and tight handling, iX takes its cues from Hollywood sci-fi movies. This is a vehicle out of Disney’s acclaimed, futuristic “Tron” flick.

Turn on a gas-powered BMW X5 40i and it growls like a hungry beast. BRAPPA! Turn on the iX M60 and you’re met with silence from the electric drivetrain. But that doesn’t mean it’s quiet. Instead, BMW contracted with Hollywood movie composer Hans Zimmer to create a unique interior soundtrack for iX.

The 2023 BMW iX M60 starts an electric EV line that parallels gas models (see X4 at right).

A two-time Oscar winner, Zimmer’s credits include the soundtracks for such sci-fi blockbusters as “Dune” (Academy Award winner in March), “Inception” and “Interstellar.” So he seems particularly well-suited for the iX assignment.

See my iX M60 zip by on the road, and it’s whisper quiet. But inside, it’s a symphony of noise.

I activated EXPRESSIVE mode and the cabin exploded in a musical cacophony as if the string section of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra has just occupied the rear seat. ZZPPHVEVEVEVHHHH!!!

I lifted my right foot and the symphony went silent. Back on the throttle: ZZPPHVEVEVEVHHHH!!!

Who said EVs are quiet? The 2023 BMW iX M60 offers loud Drive modes. This one, EXPRESSIVE, has sound to match its wild graphics.

Enough. I poked EFFICIENT mode on the console screen and the car went deathly quiet. I squeezed the accelerator hard and heard nothing. Not even motor whine. “That’s eerie,” said my friend Tom.

I activated SPORT mode. WAURRRRGGHH!! went the speakers when I buried my right foot, launching the nearly three-ton beast to 60 mph in 3.3 seconds.

It’s crazy.

“This car is fun to drive,” smiled pal Caroline, who has owned Audi Qs and Bimmer Xs.

“Too gimmicky,” said Tom, who owns a Porsche Panamera.

Back in 2001, Bimmer did a similar radical makeover for the dawning electronics era, introducing a rotary dial-controlled infotainment screen and mold-breaking 7-series sedan courtesy of designer Chris Bangle. At the Detroit auto show, my father-in-law shook his head at iDrive’s complexity — and the exterior design was so polarizing it was nicknamed the “Bangle butt.”

But BMW’s boldness stood the test of time, capturing a new generation of buyers.

Not a looker. The 2023 BMW iX M60 is innovative - but its blunt styling is off-putting.

The iX is even more polarizing. The interior is a stark, austere departure from recent BMWs. Aside from the signature iDrive and volume control roller on the console (crafted from crystal along with the door-mounted seat controls), there are no control dials. Everything is haptic touch controls.

I found the Drive Mode controls — accessed via raised lettering on the floating-island console — particularly frustrating.

At dusk at a Woodward stoplight, a menacing Audi S5 rolled up next to me. Devil in a red dress. I was in EFFICIENT mode. I reached for the raised lettering in the darkness to access SPORT mode/launch control but couldn’t locate it. Dang. I poked at the screen trying to find the Modes. Dang.

The light turned green. EFFICIENT mode would have to do. I still blew the Audi A5’s doors off.

Putting a gob-smacking 811-pound feet of torque (260 more than a comparable X5 M50i, 100 more than a supercharged, V8-powered Dodge Challenger Demon) to asphalt via all four paws, the iX erupts off the line despite its 5,800-pound girth (450 more than the X5). It’s addictive.

The 2023 BMW iX M60 comes standard with AWD and will hit 60 mph in just 3.6 seconds.

With its big 105.2 kWh battery pack under the floorboards, adaptive air suspension and a sophisticated carbon fiber-reinforced, mixed-metal frame, this rhino in tennis shoes is surprisingly nimble for a mid-size ute that can seat four six-footers with ease. Through the S-turns of Oakland County lake country, iX bounded about happily — its instant torque always at the ready.

The innovative, hexagonal steering wheel — firm in SPORT mode — adds more security at speed, its squared-off construction allowing excellent instrument visibility like the Corvette C8’s square wheel.

The 2023 BMW iX M60 has a hexagonal steering wheel to better view the big instrument display.

But in this EV utility space, smooth electric torque is not exclusive to BMW. The Mustang Mach-E GT matches it. And the Rivian R1T. So too the Tesla Model Y Performance.

Where the Bimmer really wants to make its mark is as a tech showcase. This is an all-wheel-drive smartphone.

As with a smartphone, I only scratched the surface of what was available in a week behind the wheel. Years ago, after a month with my first Samsung smartphone, my son (who owned the same series) came home and unlocked features I had no idea existed. Each day in the iX was like that.

The 2023 BMW iX M60 encourages multiple voice commands.

After my frustrations with accessing Drive modes, I discovered I could just talk to iX.

Hello, BMW. Set Drive Mode.

BMW’s Personal Assistant then switched the curved 14.9-inch infotainment display to beautifully crafted Drive mode pages. I tapped the one I wanted. With its ergonomically inferior touch controls, I increasingly used voice commands. Like a lot of luxe vehicles, the Bimmer wants to self-drive — but unlike other systems, iX is also aware of its surrounding environment even when driver-assist turns off.

Coasting toward another car, my iX M60 broke lightly — not harshly — just as a human would. Other gee-whiz functions included an electromagnetic, panoramic glass roof that could switch between opaque and non-opaque. You can take pictures of passengers inside the car. The iX has its own security camera, a polyurethane covering on the front grille that self-heals scratches … and so on.

Still, all this tech will not make up for EVs’ Achilles heel: range anxiety.

My M60 boasted 220 miles at (recommended) 80% charge, not enough to get to Charlevoix without stopping for electrons. An Electrify America charge stop adds half an hour — and when you arrive with just 11% of battery range? You better hope there’s a 240-volt charger to juice up overnight. Charging adds another hour to my 7-hour trip to hometown Charleston, W.Va.

The good news? The Bimmer’s nav system is on par with segment-standard Tesla. It plans your route complete with fast chargers — even locating restaurants/retail nearby. The bad news? Unlike Tesla’s multi-stall stables, third-party chargers from, say, EVGo, often are single units, meaning you’ll face delays if others are in line.

Like a sci-fi vehicle, iX is a big-budget blockbuster ($110K for my tester, $20K more than the X5 M50i) and wants to explore the frontier of electronics and EVs. Like a sci-fi flick, it’s more interested in entertainment than utility.

So have a seat in the iX theater. Turn up the volume and enjoy the show.

Next week: Who needs a truck? Towing a boat with a 2022 Ford Explorer SUV

2023 BMW iX

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

Price: $85,095, including $995 destination fee ($109,895 iX M60 as tested)

Powerplant: 105.2 kWh lithium-ion battery driving two, electric motors

Power: 516 horsepower, 564 pound-feet of torque (xDrive50); 610 horsepower, 811 pound-feet of torque (M60)

Transmission: Single-speed drive

Performance: 0-60 mph, 3.6 seconds (mfr.)

Weight: 5,800 pounds (as tested)

Fuel economy: EPA 78 MPGe; range, 324 miles (xDrive50); 280 miles (M60)

Report card

Highs: Hi-tech interior; explosive power

Lows: Polarizing exterior design, short battery range

Overall: 3 stars

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

CARtoon: Cadillac Escalade V Sequel

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 8, 2022

Cartoon: Musk Syndrome Strain

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 8, 2022

Cartoon: XI Fauci Zero Covid Policy

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 8, 2022

Payne: The Lordstown Endurance marches to the beat of a different hub motor

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 3, 2022

Ann Arbor — Electric trucks these days are supercar wannabes. Go zero-60 mph in the GMC Hummer EV in three seconds! The Rivian R1T has neck-snapping torque! The Ford Lightning is quicker to 60 mph than a Ford Raptor! And so on.

The Lordstown Endurance pickup truck is different.

“How fast does the Endurance do 0-60 mph?” I asked chief engineer Darren Post who was riding riding shotgun as I stomped the Endurance’s accelerator on to West Huron River Drive northwest of Ann Arbor.

“About 6.3 seconds, but our clients want us to slow that down,” smiled Post. “They worry their drivers will drag-race.”

Unlike Hummer, Rivian, Lightning, and Tesla Cybertruck (0-60 mph in 3.0 seconds!), the Lordstown Endurance is singularly focused on commercial truck fleets — not wealthy motorheads at M1 Concourse race track. That means Endurance is obsessed with efficiency. Woodward drag racing? Not so much.

It also means Lordstown is synonymous with yet another novel electrified term for our auto lexicon. If Lightning pioneered the mega-frunk, Rivian the gear tunnel, and Hummer crab-walking, then Endurance wants you to know about hub motors.

“Fleet customers are interested in cost of ownership,” said Post. “If they can adopt technologies that will bring down significant operating and maintenance cost of a vehicle, then that becomes a significant advantage. They are aware of the complexity of a traditional EV powertrain that requires gear reduction (transmission), lubrication, various shafts and u-joints that need to be kept up.

The 2023 Lordstown Endurance boasts a unique, in-wheel hub motor system on all four wheels.

“So, as we talked about hub motors at the corners without that extra hardware, it became very attractive to them.”

Peer underneath the Endurance and it doesn’t look like any other vehicle on the market.

Tesla simplified the auto interior; Lordstown has simplified the drivetrain. Gone are the gearbox and driveshafts and u-joints found on other automobiles, including EVs.

The Endurance is motivated by electric motors on each hub, the driveshaft space replaced by huge cables carrying current to each corner.

The arrangement is key to Lordstown’s pitch to commercial clients. Less parts, less maintenance. Indeed, even as I tested the Endurance, a semifinalist for Truck of the Year in my duties as a North American Car, Truck, and Utility of the Year juror, the Endurance is the only vehicle nominated that will not be sold to retail customers.

As its customers’ 0-60 mph concerns reflect, Endurance is not a vehicle gym-toned for performance — unlike EV pickup peers such as Rivian R1T and Ford F-150 Lightning. Endurance is a vehicle to be driven efficiently, within the lines — not pushing the boundaries of speed (the Lightning will do an insane 4.0 second 0-60 run) or off-road performance (dude, Rivian can go deep into America’s national parks with 34-inch Pirelli Scorpion All Terrain Plus off-road tires).

When asked if Rivian had looked at hub motors, Rivian engineer Kenneth Tsang replied matter-of-factly: “I can see where that fits Lordstown’s commercial model, but we are a brand focused on off-road enthusiasts.”

The 2023 Lordstown Endurance comes with all-wheel-drive, crew cab, and 200 miles of range for $65k.

My time in the Endurance was spent in its natural habitat — urban Ann Arbor, navigating city streets and secondary roads. The same routes that say, a utility service truck, would take on daily rounds of less than 200 miles — which happens to be the $65K Endurance’s range, well shy of a $75K Rivian’s claimed 314 miles.

The Endurance was not unpleasant to drive, however. Far from it. With its smooth, instant torque, it felt like other EVs I’ve driven from Tesla to Hummer.

I flogged it harder, I’m sure, than any utility employee will be allowed. Lordstown stuffs its trucks with data monitors so owners can track their trucks — and it’s equipped with all-season tires to discourage off-road forays. This is not the Tesla Cybertruck.

Nor is it the F-150 Lightning.

The Lordstown and Ford products are the first mass-production pickups available in the commercial market. The startup vs. the legacy king of trucks. David vs. Goliath.

Lordstown is one of a rash of EV startups in the U.S. market that has taken hope from Tesla’s own David vs. Goliath success story. The Silicon Valley automaker reinvented the automobile with electrification and — just a decade after the introduction of its first mainstream product, the Model S — is the luxury sales leader in the U.S., beating out giants BMW, Mercedes and Lexus.

“As a startup, we can make decisions more quickly,” said Post, who came to Lordstown in 2019 after a 30-year career with GM as well as stints with two other startups. “We can take on new technologies without being hampered by standardized processes. And being a startup offers the chance to take a fresh look at what the customer’s need is and adopt technologies that could do things differently than the rest of the industry.”

Chief engineer for the 2023 Lordstown Endurance, Darren Post, was previously an engineer with GM for 30 years.

Lordstown’s path will be formidable given the Detroit Three’s dominance of the commercial pickup market (F-series, Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra, Ram) — and because all three automakers have EV trucks of their own in the pipeline.

Ford’s offering, the Lightning Pro, isn’t cheap at $55K as EV material costs have inflated its sticker from $40,000 just four months ago. But the Endurance’s sticker is even higher at $65,000.

For that cost, customers get not only extensive tracking data and hub motors, but a deep “frunk” (front trunk) so workers can carry gear without fear of its getting waterlogged in the 5’8” bed. The 4-wheel-drive truck will tow 8,000-pounds.

Post’s team has not yet published a range figure for towing, a task that has proven a challenge for EVs. A recent TFL Truck report, for example, found that Lightning went just 93 miles on a charge when towing 6,000 pounds.

“There will be degradation in towing,” said Post, but he says customers will typically use the vehicle on low-mileage routes. “They essentially leave a depot, do work at multiple sites, then return to the depot. We’ve done study of data and found the average route is under 100 miles, but may extend upwards to 150.”

The interior of the 2023 Lordstown Endurance is simple with a big dash screen encompassing twin digital displays and a lot of plastic materials for durability as a work truck.

Inside, Endurance boasts modern, digital instrument and infotainment displays. Interior materials are simple — cloth seats, plastic dash — as the pickup assumes interiors won’t be driven by country club valets like retail-oriented brands, but used as daily workplaced for service and construction workers.

At 6’5” and 235 pounds, my large frame fit easily in the interior, and access to the 5’8″ composite bed was excellent with Chevy Silverado-like corner bumper steps.

The 2023 Lordstown Endurance offers lots of room for rear passengers.

Lordstown’s access to the market has not been as easy. The pickup maker purchased GM’s former Lordstown manufacturing facility but ran into financial problems that led to the resignation of its CEO, Steve Burns, then a sale of the plant to Foxconn — the Taiwan-based electronics manufacturer that is itself a rookie at vehicle manufacturing.

The Endurance is Foxconn’s first vehicle project. Indeed, it will be the first contract assembly plant in North America — seeking to replicate the success of Magna Steyr in Austria that assembles European models like the Mercedes G-Class and Jaguar iPace.

“We work closely with (Foxconn) as would any company launching a new vehicle,” said Post. “We have targets to meet in terms of quality, and on a daily basis we are involved in the plant as we are work through launch issues. We have very good working relationship with the Foxconn team.”

The 2023 Lordstown Endurance features a 5'8" composite bed for durability and light weight.

In keeping with its creative engineering and manufacturing, Endurance’s design is also unique. You can’t miss it on the road with its bold, horizontal lines tracing the bodywork like etchings on a circuit board. Also unique to any EV (save the Nissan Leaf sedan), Endurance’s charge port is found smack in the middle of the front fascia.

The Endurance launches off the assembly line — at less than 6.5 seconds 0-60 mph — in late 2022.

2023 Lordstown Endurance

Vehicle type: Battery-powered, all-wheel-drive, five-passenger pickup truck

Price: $65,000

Powerplant: 109 kWh lithium-ion battery driving four, in-wheel hub motors

Power: 440 horsepower

Transmission: NA

Performance: 0-60 mph, 6.3 seconds (mftr.); payload, 1,050 pounds; towing, 8,000 pounds; top speed, 74 mph

Weight: 6,450 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA 65 MPGe; range, 200 miles

Report card

Highs: Hub-motor simplicity; unique design

Lows: Higher sticker, lower range than Ford F-150 Lightning Pro

Overall: 3 stars

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

Cartoon: Biden Save Democracy

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 3, 2022

Payne: Multi-state trek shows off Mazda CX-50’s multi-talents

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 3, 2022

Watkins Glen, New York — The original Watkins Glen race track was 6.6 miles of raw, open country road. After racers took the green flag downtown, they would climb steeply into the hills overlooking the stunning Seneca Lake valley — then madly plunge downhill to begin another lap through town. Man, those drivers had guts. While today’s Watkins Glen races are held on a smooth, enclosed 3.7-mile track nearby, the original course is marked as a historic public road.

It’s available for any visitor to drive. Which I did (repeatedly) in my 2023 Mazda CX-50.

The 256-horsepower, all-wheel-drive CX-50 is that rare SUV that can get you to your destination in comfort, then offer performance to enjoy the local landscape when you arrive. Heck, the CX-50 is a sci-fi cyborg compared to the ‘50s Allard J2 Cadillacs that used to conquer the Glen’s hills.

It’s this kind of versatility that has the Mazda and Kia Sportage at the top of my list for North American SUV of the Year.

As a juror for North American Car, Truck, and Utility of the Year, I’m weighing a semifinal list of 13 vehicles for best ute (along with 13 sedans for best car and three pickups for best truck). It’s a competitive group that includes a record eight electric vehicles: Audi Q4 e-tron, BMW iX xDrive M50i, Cadillac Lyriq, Genesis GV60, Kia EV6, Nissan Ariya, Rivian R1S and Volvo C40 Recharge.

But as much as I enjoy EVs (I’ve purchased two Tesla Model 3s in the last four years, and they’re the coolest toys I’ve owned), they aren’t ready for prime time as family wagons. Utes are about, well, utility. Utility infielder utility. Allow me to quote from Webster’s: “capable of serving as a substitute in various roles or positions.”

That is, vehicles that can do anything. And EVs just don’t do road trips well.

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 offers utlity to go with its fun-to-drive nature on long trips to, say, Watkins Glen Raceway in New York state.

My mid-September trek to meet my race team at Watkins Glen’s SCCA Regionals is a good example. Leaving Thursday afternoon, I would need to arrive in time for dinner with my sons (arriving from Seattle and Newark) to discuss the weekend ahead. I mapped the 389-mile trip and Google suggested I take the northern, Canadian route around Lake Erie, arriving at the Glen after seven hours versus the 7.45-hour southern route via the Ohio Turnpike.

The 458-mile range CX-50 tester in my driveway would need to stop once for a five-minute fill-up. On the other hand, my Tesla’s nav system mapped an eight hour, 10 minute drive with two stops across Canada. When I reached Watkins Glen I would have 9% of battery charge left.

Did my hotel have a 240-volt charger? No. Was there a Tesla Supercharger in town? No. Would I dare take laps of Watkins Glen’s historic track without charging my battery? No.

Aw, the heck with it.

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 combines style with all-wheel-drive versatility and 460 miles of highway range.

I just didn’t want to deal with EV inconveniences. Electrics are inferior road-trippers. A friend says we should all make the sacrifice of longer EV road trips in order to save the planet. But what about lost time with my kids? Or losing prep time for a race? Or losing sleep?

I took the gas-powered, 25 mpg, 2.5-liter turbo-4 Mazda. We had a ball together and I never had to worry about where — and for how long — my next fill-up would be.

The CX-50 is the more butch-looking twin of the CX-5 — long my benchmark as best compact SUV. Not only because of its BMW X3-like handling, but for its value. Starting at $28.8K, the base ute comes with all-wheel drive, emergency braking, blind-spot assist, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, auto high beams, auto wipers and a college counselor for your child (kidding about the last one).

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 options a panoramic roof, leather seats, and strong engine for 10 grand less than a comparable BMW.

Add the rockin’ 256-horse, 2.5-liter turbo-4 and standard features grow to leather heated seats, panoramic sunroof, head-up display and 20-inch wheels. Price? $43K. The comparable BMW x30i will set you back $52K while delivering 245 horses and 2 mpg less. Pinch me.

Charging up I-94 to the Bluewater Bridge, the CX-50 exhibits the same obsession with detail as the (much smaller inside) Mazda3 hot hatch. The six-speed tranny is buttery smooth, the turbo-4 torquey, the steering flawless.

That obsession with detail extends to the electronics.

Crossing into Canada, the speed limit sign in my head-up display didn’t change from mph to km/h like the Volvo XC90 I recently drove to the Great White North. No, it did something better.

It told me my speed in mph. So when the Canadian speed limit went from 100 km/h to 110 km/h, the sign changed from 62 mph to 68 mph. Brilliant, especially for metric-illiterate Yanks who just want to know how to keep their speed not more than, say, 5 mph over the legal limit.

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 features a clever head-up display that translates km/h (when in Canada) to mph - as well as showing directions from Google Maps.

The head-up display also showed the wireless Android Auto directions and indicated whether a car was in my blind spot. After the experience, I was pining for a head-up display in my Tesla.

I mentioned the Kia Sportage earlier as one of my Top 2 SUVs due to its own impressive interior appointments and standard features. Sportage can’t hold a candle to the Mazda’s handling, but it makes its case with a self-drive system nearly on par with Tesla and Cadillac.

On recent trips to northern Michigan, Sportage drove itself for long distances, allowing me to relax and even monitor messages on my phone. The CX-50 isn’t that good, maybe because Mazda thinks that you bought a Mazda because you enjoy driving (not being driven around).

That driver focus also informs Mazda’s rejection of a touchscreen infotainment system. Even Audi and BMW — which pioneered the remote, rotary dial controller — have succumbed to the touchscreen in this smartphone-obsessed world.

The 2023 Mazda CX-50's driver-oriented interior with hgh infotainment screen, remote controller, and sporty gauges.

Mazda has stubbornly stuck with its remote controller, and it works beautifully for those willing to learn its methods. Its ergonomics are logical, and — once mastered — allow for less-distracted driving.

Over the country roads leading into Watkins Glen from the Niagara border crossing, the Mazda’s 320 pound-feet of torque came in handy — Whoosh! — in passing traffic on two-lane country roads. Once at Watkins Glen, however, the Mazda’s duties turned more utilitarian.

While some Mazdas are tight in the rear seat, the 2023 Mazda CX-50 offers plenty of legroom for six-footers.

CX-50 comfortably fit me and my two boys — all six-plus footers — as well as bags of ice, groceries and other necessities. Another NACTOY SUV finalist, the Lexus RX, has two inches less rear legroom than the CX-50 while sporting a $52K sticker similar to the BMW X3.

After Sunday’s race, I contemplated the seven-hour drive back home by way of Canada. Scheduled arrival time: 1 a.m. thanks to a single gas stop. The compact SUV space is awash in flashy EVs this year. But they have some work to do to catch up with the fleet CX-50.

Next week: BMW iX

2023 Mazda CX-50

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

Price: $28,825 base, including $1,225 destination fee ($43,170 Premium Plus as tested)

Power plant: 2.5-liter inline-4 cylinder; turbocharged, 2.5-liter inline-4

Power: 187 horsepower, 186 pound-feet of torque (2.5L); 256 horsepower (227 on regular gas), 310 pound-feet of torque (turbo-4)

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 6.6 seconds (Car and Driver est.); towing capacity: 2,000 pounds (2.5L), 3,500 pounds (turbo-4)

Weight: 3,907 pounds as tested

Fuel economy: EPA 24 mpg city/30 mpg highway/27 mpg combined (2.5L); 23 mpg city/29 mpg highway/25 mpg combined (turbo-4)

Report card

Highs: Obsessive attention to detail; utility with performance capability

Lows: If you like sleek Mazda styling, opt for the CX-5; remote controller requires patience to learn

Overall: 4 stars

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

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