Henry Payne Blog

Cartoon: Hollywood Gun Violence

Posted by Talbot Payne on March 20, 2018

Cartoon: I,Hillary Movie

Posted by Talbot Payne on March 20, 2018

Cartoon: March Madness Trump

Posted by hpayne on March 15, 2018

Cartoon: FBI Spy

Posted by hpayne on March 15, 2018

Payne: Alfa Quadrifoglio is family track ute

Posted by hpayne on March 15, 2018


orget soccer moms. The 505-horsepower five-door Alfa Stelvio Quadrifoglio SUV is designed for track moms.

The muscular all-wheel drive Italian SUV whupped Germany’s legendary Nürburgring race track with a lap time of just under 7 minutes and 52 seconds, burying the previous SUV record held by the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S by eight seconds (not to mention the 2006 Ford GT and 2008 Lamborghini Gallardo). Indeed, the super-ute was just 20 seconds slower than its sister sedan, the 505-horse Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio over the 13-mile lap.

My laps in the twin-turbo V-6 Stelvio Quadrifoglio around the 20-turn, 3.4-mile Circuit of the Americas’ Formula One track in Texas were, in turn, about 20 seconds slower than my lap times in a 150-horse Lola SCCA club-sports racer. Which in turn is about 20 seconds slower than a modern, 525-horsepower IMSA Corvette, and …

Payne, have you gone mad? What are you doing comparing an SUV to race cars? Or to the Giulia, the best-handling sports sedan on the planet? Or for that matter, what are you doing on a race track at all with a sport utility vehicle?

Yes, the world has turned upside-down.

Track tests used to be for Porsche sports cars and BMW M3 sports sedans to show their bandwidth as weekday commuters and weekend track-letes. But in ute-crazy America, such niche performance brands — which once sold mere thousands — have figured out how to sell tens of thousands by transferring their performance DNA to Frankenstein SUV-monsters like the Porsche Cayenne and BMW X5 M.

I am convinced that no human being will ever take these tall SUVs out to do track laps. Yet their very existence depends on convincing customers that they share the same personality as the sports cars that made their brands household names.

Mom and Dad can’t justify a two-seat Alfa Romeo — where would they put the kids? — but they can buy an Alfa Romeo Stelvio SUV, anchor two child seats in back and still arrive at the country club social with that legendary Trilobo grille up front. The Quadrifoglio is the steroid-fed version of Alfa’s ute which begins as the best handling, most powerful entry in the premium compact class.

Thus, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio’s SUV lap record around the legendary Nurburgring, which followed siblings Alfa 4C and Giulia Quadrifoglio who set the fastest lap for, respectively, an under-250-horsepower car and a sedan.

Stelvio’s lap eclipsed the record set by Porsche’s Cayenne Frankenstein. Call it Frankenstein Jr.

The 570-horsepower Cayenne Turbo S and 707-horse Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk may have insane power but they are mid-size SUVs weighing 5,000 pounds. They are a serious handful in turns even as their power induces giddy goosebumps on exit. Barreling down Club Motorsports’ main straight — set in Maine’s White Mountains — into Turn 1 at 125 mph in a Jeep Trackhawk last fall, a voice in my head kept nagging:

If the steering fails, we’re going to burn a hole in that mountain yonder.

The Stelvio Quadrifoglio, by contrast, is a compact ute at 4,300 pounds — still a big piece of steak but more easily digested through Circuit of the Americas’ serpentine Turns 2-5 esses.

Flying downhill into Turn 2, chassis dynamics turned to Race mode, the 2.9-liter V-6 howling like a poked badger, the Qaudrifoglio is a composed handful. Its tight, 21/4 turns lock-to-lock steering makes for small inputs. Sliding right-to-left into Turn 3, however, I never think of pulling on the huge, curved silver paddle shifters (they look like they were pulled off the Black Panther’s Wakanda throne) for two reasons: 1) Fixed to the steering column, they are hard to grab, and 2) I don’t need them.

The Stelvio’s eight-speed transmission is so intuitive that I don’t feel the need to overrule it. Coming off tight Turn 9 into one of the fastest sections of track, the engine is in the meat of its torque curve, AWD scrabbling for traction, and …

Payne, are you still on a race track with an SUV?

OK, OK. The Alfa is a practical daily driver, too. The ute shares the same magnificent suspension and 505-horse drivetrain with the rear-wheel drive Giulia Quadrifolgio sedan. But Stelvio mates it to a sophisticated, torque-vectoring AWD system that makes it an all-season workhorse.

Where an M1 Concourse track jockey might store the rear-wheel drive Giulia Quadrifoglio for the winter once the snow falls, the Stelvio can be driven in all conditions.

It’s in a rare class of three. Although other compact utes from Audi (SQ5) and BMW (X3 M40i) offer impressive performance numbers, only Porsche’s Macan Turbo S, Mercedes’ AMG GLC63 and the Alfa are muscled in excess of 400 horsepower.

As you would expect from Germans and Italians, the Porsche and Alfa utes (I have yet to sample the V-8 powered Mercedes) have very different personalities despite their similar wheelbases and twin-turbo V-6s.

The Porsche — I took an S model out on the Mid-Ohio race track a couple years back— looks like a Turbo 911 on stilts, its enormous ribbed side air intakes big enough to swallow a flock of geese. Inside, the key (yeah, Porsche still does keys) is on the left (just like the LeMans racers), the tach front and center behind the steering wheel, the console sleeve tattooed with buttons to control everything from heated seats to spring settings.

The Alfa’s push-start button is on the steering wheel, racy-looking dials behind it, a quirky monostable shifter at your right hand.

Both infotainment systems are competent, but you buy these birds of prey for their war cries.

The German is soaring, determined. The Italian is more demented, like a meatball got caught in its esophagus. It snorts on upshift, clears its throat with rev-matching downshifts. Eccellente! Kids and normal-size adults will fit more comfortably in the rear seats than the tight Giulia Quadrifogio. And the five-door hatch opens up headroom — and provides two more seats than you have in the Alfa 4C sports car.

Oh, and did I mention that the Stelvio Quadrifoglio beat the nimble 4C’s Nurburgring lap time? By 12 seconds. That’s what double the horsepower gets you.

Hmm, maybe you really should take this SUV out for track days …

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-1 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.

2018 Alfa Stelvio Quadrifoglio




$81,590 base ($97,390 Competizione Red Stelvio with carbon-crmaic brakes/carbon-fiber seats as tested; Trofeo White Stelvio as tested $85,890 Trofeo White Stelvio)

Power plant

2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6


505 horsepower, 443 pound-feet of torque


8-speed automatic


0-60 mph, 3.6 seconds (mfr.); towing: 3,000 pounds


4,360 pounds

Fuel economy

EPA fuel economy: 17 city/24 highway/20 combined

Report card

Highs: Stirring engine note; fastest ute yet (until Lambo Urus comes along)

Lows: Big sticker price; if you want to track a Quadrifoglio, buy a Giulia


Cartoon: Summit Trump

Posted by hpayne on March 15, 2018

Payne: Ford Ecosport is sporty — not so eco

Posted by hpayne on March 8, 2018


From the first 2014 Ford Fiesta I drove, I’ve been hooked. Cute, perky, affordable and loaded with options from the affordable, base 1.6-liter manual to the raucous ST, the Fiesta hatchback is a lip-smacking, salsa-soaked appetizer to the automotive world.

But I’m in a minority.

The wee Fiesta has been trampled by the U.S. rush to SUVs. Still popular in Europe where gas costs an arm and a leg, the Fiesta’s 2018 update hasn’t made it across the pond to U.S. shores.

Instead, Ford is importing its entry-level SUV, the Ecosport, all the way from India.

But the cute red Ecosport in my driveway is hardly a replacement for the Fiesta. Indeed, the five-door Fiesta remains Ford’s $15,000 entry-level vehicle complemented by the ST — the five-alarm, jalapeno pepper entree to Ford performance. Entry-level SUV it may be, but the Ecosport shares more with Ford’s Focus sedan than the Fiesta.

Both the Focus and Ecosport sticker well north of Fiestas (about $19,000 for the Focus, $21,000 for the Ecosport). Both are offered with the surprisingly peppy 1.0-liter “Godzilla-in-a-box” three-cylinder. And both appeal not only to new buyers, but also to downsizing empty-nesters coming out of three-row Explorers.

Suddenly I don’t fear for the Fiesta’s future so much as I fear for the Focus. In ute nation, I give the Focus a snowball’s chance in Vegas.

Ironically, Ford is late to the subcompact ute market despite being a brisk seller abroad since way back to 2003. While other mini-SUVs — the Jeep Renegade, Buick Enclave and Honda HR-V — scored hits by tailoring their subcompacts to the U.S. market, Ford has had to update its Ecosquirt — er, Ecosport — to meet Yankeed preferences.

 They did an admirable job. Despite coming to market with one of the shortest wheelbases in the class (99 inches), the Ecosport manages to be competitive in cargo- and leg-room with longer-wheelbase competitors like the Chevy Trax and Jeep Renegade. It even beats the cavernous Honda HR-V in front legroom.

Still, your ex-basketball player’s 6-foot-5 dimensions were cramped in the Ecosport’s back seat, and the accelerator and brake pedals felt close together under my big clown shoes. But its short length is an advantage in cramped city spaces — a trait tried and tested in tight cities abroad.

Other pleasant traits abound — what Ford’s literature calls “fun, capable, and connected.” Begin with fun.

Marrying its small wheelbase to Ford’s natural athleticism (cue the Fiesta), Ecosport is surprisingly good dance-partner. Though limited to front-wheel drive in my 1.0-liter base turbo-3 engine — the 2.0-liter turbo-4 comes with all-wheel drive— the Ecosport followed my lead through Oakland County’s twisty lake country.

The 1.0-liter overachiever — its trophies for engine of the year would probably require a Ford Expedition to carry — continues to impress. The three-holer once-upon-a-time paired nicely with the 2,600-pound Fiesta (alas, it is no longer available with the U.S.-version Fiesta) and proves worthy of the porkier Ecosport SUV.

Like Laurel throwing Hardy on his back, the wee three moves the SUV along out of corners, the effort masked by the Ford’s best-in-segment interior quieting.

That low-end turbo grunt comes at a price, though, as the 1.0-liter’s gas mileage is well off the 34 mpg (40 highway) of the Focus. Blame the SUV’s higher drag co-efficient as well. All told, the 123-horsepower Ecosport’s 28 mpg (29 highway) is no more “eco” than the larger-displacement 141-horsepower Honda HR-V and 138-horse Chevy Trax offerings.

The fun factor is amplified by the Ford’s mighty-mouse design. The hatchback has a raked-forward athletic stance. Its growly three-bar grille gets its DNA from the Mustang/Fiesta side of the family instead of the more conservative Edge/Explorer wing.

Fun and capability intersect in the Ecosport’s rear swing-gate, which is the subcompact’s defining feature. In a segment full of character, it’s almost a must that each bring a unique feature to the potluck party.

Ford Ecosport: Dude, my door swings open.

Jeep Renegade: Yeah, well, I can go topless!

Kia Soul: I look like a toaster.

Chevy Trax: My front seat folds flat so you can put a surfboard inside me.

Buick Encore: Me, too — and I’m also really cute.

Like the Mini Cooper Clubman’s Dutch doors, the Ford defies convention with its swinging cabinet door. Trigger the hidden button under the taillight and the tailgate swings halfway open to a detent — then will continue to full, 90-degree open.

It’s a feature folks with low garage ceilings (me) will appreciate. I recently had a Tesla Model X and was relieved when its falcon-wing doors sensed when to stop opening. Many SUVs are not so — BONK! — sensitive.

The Ecosport’s swinger is a garage-friendly throwback to the good ol’ station wagon days (though the Ford’s gate won’t fold flat like a pickup tailgate). A quick primer on the pros/cons of a swing-gate:

■Con: Only one person can access it at a time from the right.

■Pro: I don’t bang my head on it.

■Con: It doesn’t have a foot-kick-open option like the Ford Escape

■Pro: It offers roof access for wee Mrs. Payne who can stand on the rear cargo lip and help tie down a Christmas tree, luggage, etc.

As for being connected, Ford has put past hiccups behind it. It’s new SYNC 3 system is reliable, provides Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and allows the driver to control the car remotely via a smartphone app.

Not long ago I was ogling luxury cars that I could start remotely. Now I have a crisp, detailed app on my phone for a common, $20,000 Ford that can do everything from start the car, check its maintenance status and pick up my laundry (just kidding about that last part, though it can’t be far away).

As an entry-level SUV, Ecosport sits in an interesting spot. Its high ride and five-door utility will make it a tempting buy for Ford customers who once defaulted to Focus for the compact car. But the Ecosport’s small back seat will cramp 6-footers expecting more from a ute — a cramp that may send them across the showroom (or to the certified pre-owned desk) to Ecosport’s roomier, techier Escape.

Whatever the case, there is still my favorite little Fiesta hatch which is still the only entry-level Ford five-door for under $17,000. It’s still the Ford that’s the most fun to throw about. And it’s still a moderate fuel-drinker despite its party name.

2018 Ford Ecosport




$20,990 base ($25,740 1.0-liter Titanium FWD as tested)

Power plant

1.0-liter turbo-3 cylinder; 2.0-liter inline-4


123 horsepower, 125 pound-feet of torque (1.0-liter); 166 horsepower, 149 pound-feet of torque (2.0-liter)


6-speed automatic


0-60 mph, 10.0-10.5 seconds (Car and Driver est.); towing: 1,400-2,000 pounds


3,021 pounds (FWD); 3,300 (AWD)

Fuel economy

EPA fuel economy: 27 city/29 highway/28 combined (1.0-liter FWD); 23 city/29 highway/25 combined (2.0-liter AWD)

Report card

Highs: Interior space belies its small wheelbase; swinging tailgate

Lows: Still small in rear seat; thirsty 1.0-liter


Cartoon: Bachelor Trump Tariffs

Posted by hpayne on March 8, 2018

Cartoon: Trump Democratic Tariffs

Posted by hpayne on March 7, 2018

Cartoon: Oscar Obscure Movies

Posted by hpayne on March 7, 2018

Cartoon: First and Second Amendment

Posted by hpayne on March 2, 2018

Cartoon: Orange Panther Trump

Posted by hpayne on March 2, 2018

Cartoon: Left Anti-Woman

Posted by hpayne on March 1, 2018

Review: Tesla Model 3 lives up to hype

Posted by hpayne on March 1, 2018


Correction: This review has been updated to reflect that the Tesla Model 3 keyless entry system responds to a digital key transmitted by Bluetooth from the car owner’s phone or by tapping a thin card on the car’s b-pillar. The system was incorrectly described. Also, the “Autosteer” feature cautions drivers to check mirrors for oncoming traffic before activating a lane change. The level of autonomy was incorrectly characterized. Finally, the characterization of the body panel fit as inconsistent has been restored from an earlier version.

Peering over the instrument-free dashboard, I threw the compact Tesla Model 3 into an M-10 cloverleaf. Its balanced rear-wheel drive chassis rotated easily, then — zot! — I bolted silently onto the freeway with instant electric-motor torque.

The “mini-Model S” is here, and it’s everything its iconic big brother is. And less.

Less, as in half the price. I spent a day around Metro Detroit driving one of the first customer-owned Model 3s delivered to Michigan. At a loaded, $59,000 ($35,000 base), the newest Tesla family sedan is considerably easier on the wallet than the $130,000 ($74,500 base) Model S sedans I have driven in recent years. Yet, in many ways, Model 3 is a more satisfying product.

Unless you’ve been living on Mars, you know the Model 3’s production launch has been a pickle — “production Hell” CEO Elon Musk calls it — as the young Silicon Valley automaker has struggled to get the assembly line moving for its mass-market EV with a range of 200-plus miles.

Musk’s bravado hasn’t helped. He boasted that Tesla would be turning out 5,000 vehicles a week by December 2017 (actual production: about 1,500 for the month). He took shots at legacy automakers, calling the pace of today’s manufacturing slower than“grandma with a walker.” Added Musk: “Why shouldn’t it at least be jogging speed?”

Critics have delighted as the most audacious auto entrepreneur since Henry Ford has struggled to get production up to a jog. But product will ultimately define Tesla — product that spurred an unprecedented 450,000-plus pre-orders from customers like me.

Take the much-ballyhooed issue of Tesla build-quality. Walking around this blue Model 3 tester, body panel fit is inconsistent. Gaps in the lid of the “frunk” — the front trunk — vary from nose to fender. An A-pillar seam is slightly misaligned. That doesn’t happen on, say, the similarly priced Audi RS3 I recently sampled.

I doubt owners will sweat such minutiae because the Model 3 is unlike anything they have driven. It’s the iPhone of autos.

Take that frunk: Luggage storage like that doesn’t exist on other cars except for the Porsche 911. But the 911 has a frunk in front because its engine is in back. With its battery-pack stowed under the floorboards, the Model 3 also has ample trunk-storage in the rear, augmented by bench seats that fold flat so you can pass through big toys like flat-screen TVs or skis.

The front cabin is as striking as the first iPhone you saw in 2007. The austere dash is uninterrupted by an instrument panel or butterfly-vent controls. Most controls are contained in a 15-inch, horizontal tablet that’s positioned high in the center console. Indeed, there’s not a single button in the cabin except for door openers and a federally mandated “emergency flasher” button in the ceiling. Glove box button? In the screen. Temperature controls? Screen. Radio? Screen.

Like a smartphone, the touchscreen uses a Google Maps interface for Tesla’s voice-activated navigation system. More responsive than the last Model S I tested, Google Maps loads quickly and responds to direct voice-commands — there are no multi-step navigation commands like most cars. “Navigate to Vinsetta Garage,” I barked after a sudden urge for mac and cheese. Done.

Only the mirrors and steering-wheel position are not controlled through the screen; they’re adjusted by two thumb-operated orbs on the steering wheel. If the iPhone redefined phone glass, then Tesla expands auto glass with an uncluttered front screen, full sunroof and easy rear-visibility.

I’m an advocate for cockpit-centered displays — Audi’s Virtual Cockpit is the best — but with key data like speed and range located in the tablet’s northwest quarter, the Tesla layout works OK. It would work better if complemented by a reflective heads-up display.

The simplicity of design and lack of console shifter (the right steering-wheel stalk controls the electric drive) means the center console is one big piece of furniture with multiple cubbies for storage. Battery location in the basement also opens more rear seat acreage for 6-foot-5 giraffes like me. I sat comfortably in the back seat with headroom to spare under the tinted glass roof.

The exterior is a sleek sportback-eggshell that — while not as elegant as the longer Model S — is distinctly Tesla.

Instead of keyless entry via a fob like the Model S (and other autos), the Model 3 responds to a digital key transmitted by Bluetooth from the owner’s phone. A thin card also grants entry if tapped on the b-pillar. Sensing the phone, the car unlocked as I approached, and then turned on when I slipped inside. Luke Skywalker would be impressed.

You’ll want to slip inside a lot because this Starfighter is a blast to drive.

My favorite compact sports sedan is the athletic Cadillac ATS. This 3,814-pound, 310-mile-range, 75-kWh Model 3 tester was every bit its match. Multiple Woodward stoplight launches (no Ludicrous mode here) yielded zero-60 times in the 5.2-second range (Motor Trend has recorded 4.8 seconds). The top-line 335-horse V-6 ATS? 5.6 seconds. The fat steering wheel feels rooted to the ground, the 113-inch wheelbase (the ATS has a 109-inch wheelbase, BMW 3-series measures 111) is balanced, the chassis flat as a board.

Flinging the Model 3 through 180-degree cloverleafs, I barely got a squawk from the Continental tires.

My tester came equipped with the latest version of Tesla’s self-driving Autopilot, which worked competently on I-696, though its turn-signal-activated, “Autosteer” lane-switch feature still not-so-autonomously cautions drivers to safely check the mirror for oncoming traffic first (impressively, sci-fi Telsa is constantly improving such features with over-the-air software updates). Most impressive is auto parallel-park: No hands — or feet — are needed.

As has been typical in my lead-footed Tesla Model S test drives, I took 44 miles off the battery for every 30 miles on the odometer. Under more civilized driving across Michigan and Ohio, my tester’s owner says he’s been able to average 305 miles on a full charge — not far off Tesla’s claimed 310 miles for the big-battery EV.

Only long-range Model 3s are currently being delivered — the standard-battery, 240-mile range $35,000 base-entry comes later this year. The wait isn’t getting any shorter — my projected August delivery is jogging four months behind schedule. But the mini-Model S lives up to the hype.

Cartoon: US Debt

Posted by hpayne on February 23, 2018

Tesla fighters: Volvo’s Polestar joins EV race

Posted by hpayne on February 23, 2018


Here they come.

Spurred on by the success of American electric-car company Tesla, luxury European carmakers are bringing to market a wave of new battery-powered vehicles beginning this year.

Where other start-up companies like Lucid and Faraday Future have struggled to raise the capital to manufacture their sleek electric-vehicle dreams, established automakers like Jaguar, BMW, Porsche, Jaguar and Audi are pouring billions into new EVs. They will rival Tesla in performance, surpass it in initial build quality, and — perhaps most importantly — try to tempt buyers at a time when global governments are forcing the auto industry to go electric.

One of the boldest new entries is Polestar, an EV brand from Volvo.

Like Tesla wannabes Lucid and Faraday Future, Polestar has wowed the public with a jaw-dropping high-performance prototype. Unlike Lucid and Faraday, Polestar comes with the full backing of Volvo, an established Swedish maker with deep Chinese pockets behind it.

“Tesla is the leader in premium electric, but many other people are catching up to that party and there is going to be a lot of choice within it,” Polestar Communications chief J.B. Canton said in an interview. “We’re confident that what Polestar has in store is going to be right up there with the best of them.”

Next month in Geneva, Polestar, which is owned by Chinese automaker Geely, will introduce the production-ready version of the Polestar 1. It will hit dealerships in 2019 to compete against the Tesla Model S and X; Jaguar I-PACE (due this summer); Audi eTron (expected later this year); and Porsche Mission E, Mercedes EQC and Buick EV (all due in 2019). By 2022, major manufacturers — including luxury and mainstream brands — are expected to flood the market with 100 new EVs with ranges in excess of 200 miles.

“Regulatory pressure is driving everything to electric vehicles,” says Canton. “Legislation is going that way — just look at China — and forcing R&D spending towards electrification that needed to happen anyway. Volvo feels a sense of corporate responsibility, and has made an emotional and moral commitment to push Polestar in that direction.”

Canton says Polestar gives Volvo the chance to expand beyond the tailored safety-conscious sedans and SUVs that have defined it for decades. Toyota created Lexus. Hyundai invented Genesis. Volvo’s Polestar brand will forge a new premium path of performance-oriented EVs.

What’s different, of course, is that Volvo is already a premium brand where Toyota, Hyundai and others invented premium brands to complement mainstream models. But Volvo believes the electric revolution is ripe for a new kind of luxury.

“So many other companies have launched … higher-margin products to appeal to more folks than their core-vehicle business,” says Canton. “With the world going to electric cars, it made sense for us to do it now. There is no premium nameplate already above the Volvo brand. So to go performance-electric and use the Polestar brand name … the timing was just right.”

Polestar’s first production car, the Polestar 1, will be a green beast.

 It will come wrapped in an all-carbon-fiber coupe shell with all-wheel drive channeling 600 horsepower with a stump-pulling, 740 foot-pounds of torque — more than Corvette’s V-8 powered supercar.

All that grunt will come from a combined gas-electric plug-in powertrain, the only Polestar offered as a hybrid. After that, all models will be electric-only. After Polestar 1, a Polestar 2 and 3 will follow over two years, with the 2 offered as an entry-level, $45,000 EV.

Why a hybrid halo? “Outright performance, you can do more with both,” Canton said of a no-holds-barred exotic starting at $150,000.

Performance is key to the Polestar brand just as it defined Tesla — not as a slow granola-mobile, but as a zero-60 dragster that could smoke any muscle car out of a Woodward stoplight. The start-up brand gets its name from a familiar Volvo teammate, Polestar Racing. Long successful on the track (Polestar Volvos won Europe’s prestigious World Touring Car Championship in 2017), Polestar was brought in-house by Volvo in 2015 as a Volvo performance badge much like the Shelby moniker for Ford.

The Polestar 1 design shares Volvo family traits: “Thor’s hammer” LED headlights, C-clamp rear taillights, Scandinavian interior. And like the Toyota-Lexus creation, Polestars will share the same two platforms as Volvo cars and SUVs. The brand will explore new technologies like a continuously-controlled electronic suspension and twin-rear, torque-vectoring electric motors.

Like Tesla, Polestar will also pioneer new sales strategies. It’s looking at a subscription-ownership experience modeled on smartphones with customers turning in their Polestar for an upgraded model after two or three years.

“Ideally, all Polestars will be owned by subscription,” says Canton of a service called “Care by Volvo.”

 Polestar will create a new network of dealer-owned franchises, unlike Tesla which has tried to sell its EVs directly to consumers. But like Tesla, Polestar will not service cars from dealerships as it plans storefronts in more trafficked environments like city centers.

Canton credits Tesla for spreading the EV gospel, but he expects the market to grow slowly. While Tesla’s Model 3 has roared out of the gates with more than 450,000 pre-orders, Volvo anticipates 1,000 sales a year for the exotic Polestar 1, with the cheaper Polestar 2 selling in the “tens-of-thousands globally.”

Echoing Chevrolet when it introduced its 200-mile-range Bolt EV opposite Tesla’s 200-mile r-nge Model 3, Volvo sees Polestar’s competitive advantage in manufacturing.

In a subtle shot at the Silicon Valley maker, Canton says, “Polestar is not redesigning the wheel. Volvo has these amazing platforms, they know how to build factories, they know how to build perfectly good cars with excellent quality control so we go to market with 100 years of developing cars behind us.”

Big and small, all EV brands will face the same challenge: how to capture more buyers. Sales of electrics and hybrids have stalled at less than 3 percent of the U.S. market.

Cartoon: Florida Shooter Tags

Posted by hpayne on February 23, 2018

Camaro ZL1 crashes the sedan party at Daytona 500

Posted by hpayne on February 23, 2018


When the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series field rolls to the green flag for the start of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, it will be Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry family sedans versus… the Chevy Camaro ZL1 track beast. Doesn’t seem like a fair fight.

For the first time in NASCAR Cup Series history, Chevy will officially enter its Camaro muscle car in America’s premier racing league.

While the Camaro-Fusion-Camry competitors will still be largely the same under the skin according to NASCAR’s strict vehicle rules, the jarring contrast in car models marks a break from recent manufacturer marketing. And it echoes NASCAR’s 1960s glory days when automakers fielded hot rods like the Plymouth Superbird and Ford Talladega to give superstar drivers like Richard Petty and David Pearson a leg up in the championship fight.

The Camaro ZL1 production car is an earth-pawing athlete

The Camaro ZL1 production car is an earth-pawing athlete following in the tire tracks of this NASCAR prototype. (Photo: Chevrolet)

We are looking forward to bringing the Camaro ZL1 to the race track,” GM Vice President for Motorsports Jim Campbell said at Daytona last month. “We race Camaro in the Xfinity Series, Pirelli World Challenge GTS category, NHRA Stock, Super Stock Sportsman classes and up through Funny Car. This is another logical extension for us with racing.”

On paper, America’s greatest race should be no contest. The Camaro ZL1 production car is an earth-pawing, Nurburgring-tested athlete with the same supercharged 650-horsepower engine that fires the Chevy Corvette Z06. In showroom trim, the Camry and Fusion are 4- or 6-cylinder powered, four-door grocery-haulers with half the Camaro’s horsepower.

 In the 21st century, however, NASCAR has enforced strict aerodynamic and engine rules to make entries from its three marquee manufacturers the same in order to promote tight racing, keep costs down and put a spotlight on individual drivers. Distinct car models have given way to strict body templates with similar V-8 engines under the hood.

“Things had become so homologized in NASCAR that in 2007 Toyota decided to go racing with the least likely race car of them all, the Camry,” wrote Chris Smith at CarThrottle.com. “(It is) the culmination of the trend in removing any sort of ‘stock’ from stock car racing.”

NASCAR Cup racers bear little resemblance to their production avatars, save for glued-on headlights and badge stickers. As a result, manufacturers have fielded family sedans like the Fusion and Camry and Chevy Impala in order to market their brands to NASCAR’s family-friendly viewing demographic — a fan base that has also attracted household names like Tide, Cheerios and FedEx as sponsors.

Toyota’s 850-horsepower, V-8-powered Cup car has been badged as a Camry. The Japanese brand entered NASCAR in 2007.

“NASCAR has been a great platform for Toyota’s brand,” a spokesperson said ahead of Daytona. “It has introduced our company to a loyal and diverse audience that may not have known what our brand represented before we came into the sport.”

The NASCAR Camaro will pack a V-8 under its hood just like the ZL1 on dealer floors. It marks the first time a Camaro has been on a NASCAR Cup grid since 1971 when Tiny Lund fielded a private entry — but the first time that Chevy has entered the muscle car as a factory effort.

“The biggest challenge translating Camaro to the NASCAR Cup design template was maintaining the strong character of the production car while working with our race teams to create a great aero platform for them to build fastest race cars possible,” says Chevy NASCAR program manager Pat Suhy.

 Camaro’s debut has led to speculation that Ford might counter with its own V-8 powered muscle car, the Mustang. Ford confirms it has gotten a lot of interest in that possibility, but is tight-lipped on future plans.

“This is racing, and we are always working on actions to improve performance and that includes engine, body, aero, everything on the car. We will make an announcement on any future body actions when we are ready,” says Ford Motorsports chief Mark Rushbrook.

Toyota teased the return of its new Supra this week, which will give the Japanese brand its own muscle car for NASCAR consideration.

After fielding the Chevy Impala family sedan until 2012, GM bucked the family car trend for NASCAR Cup cars by entering its V-8 powered rear-wheel drive Chevy SS. Trouble was, the SS — a four-door muscle car — sold just 4,000 cars in the U.S. market. The under-performing SS was discontinued for 2018, and the Camaro — with annual sales just under 70,000 vehicles — took its place.

“(The SS) was the most authentic entry in NASCAR from track to showroom,” said GM Motorsports boss Campbell. “We wanted to keep that principle intact as we went forward, and Camaro was the right place for us to do it.”

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