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Payne: Screaming Z06 is a Ferrari with a ‘Vette badge

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 29, 2023

Pontiac — Some road warriors like to crank up Springsteen’s “Born to Run.” Others prefer Tom Cochrane’s “Life is a Highway” or AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.”

I’ll take the Chevy Corvette Z06’s flat-plane crank overhead-cam V-8 engine.

Wound at 8,500 RPM around M1 Concourse’s 1.5-mile circuit in Pontiac — WAAAAWRRHH! — the music from the ‘Vette’s four centrally-mounted pipes out back is irresistible. The eight-speed, dual-clutch gearbox downshifts automatically from 4th to 2nd into the hairpin — WHAP! WHAP! — holding gear in the meat of the 6,000 RPM rev band so that I could explode off the corner and down the back straight. WAAAAWRRHH! to 120 mph it howled.

Big brakes help bring the 2023 Chevy Corvette Z06 down to speed from long straightaway runs.Big brakes help bring the 2023 Chevy Corvette Z06 down to speed from long straightaway runs.

Look back over 70 years of Corvette’s greatest hits, and the Z06’s Ferrari-inspired 5.5-liter V-8 — the most powerful, normally-aspirated engine built today — is right at the top. This is a Ferrari in ‘Vette drag. Taking the Corvette C8’s inherently balanced mid-engine layout, Z06 cranks up the shock stiffness by 30% over the base Stingray’s Z51 track package for a flat, nimble chassis that responded instantly to my steering inputs.

Unlike front-engine ‘Vettes of yore, the car’s 107-inch wheelbase shrank around me, and I rotated easily from corner to corner, nailing apexes with effortless precision. It’s a confident feeling and very close to the screaming, 9,000-RPM flat-6 Porsche 911 GT3 RS — the benchmark for supercar handling and visceral thrills — that I recently destroyed California’s Thermal Raceway with.

Can we compare 911 GT3 RS data (courtesy of Car and Driver) to give you a sense of just how good this ‘Vette is? Same 1.16 lateral g-loads on the skid pad, similar 0-60 mph time (2.6 seconds for Z06, 2.7 for GT3), similar braking (139-feet 70-0 mph Z06 versus 133 feet for GT3). Whoa.

Yet my $147,690 ‘Vette is $125K cheaper than the Porsche — and 1/3rd the price of the Ferrari 269GTB whose engine it mirrors.

With the aero package the 2023 Chevy Corvette Z06 gets a distinctive rear wing. You'll know the flat-plane crank V-8 by its center, quad exhaust pipes.With the aero package the 2023 Chevy Corvette Z06 gets a distinctive rear wing. You'll know the flat-plane crank V-8 by its center, quad exhaust pipes.

These are cars at the summit of production performance — rare gems curated by Ferrari, Porsches, McLaren and yes, Chevrolet — to be supreme on track and on road.

Think I exaggerate? Consider supercar enthusiast Frank Moceri, 58, of Bloomfield Hills.

An avid racer, Moceri’s stable includes a 2012 Ferrari 458 Challenge, 2016 Ferrari 458 Challenge and a 2023 Corvette Z06. High-revving, flat-plane crank V-8s all. Moceri races the Ferraris all over the country from Road America in Wisconsin to Daytona to Sonoma, California.

“The Ferraris are race cars with stripped interiors. They’re lighter, stiffer, better handling — but the Z06 is really good,” he said as we admired his black-and-red Z06 next to my orange tester in M1’s paddock. “I like to take it on track as a break from the hardcore Ferraris.”

The flat-plane crank V-8, the taut handling, the mid-engine style. All that appealed to him, and the fact that the ‘Vette — like his first, 1981 Camaro Z28 sports car — is Made in America by a hometown brand.

“The mid-engine C8 had instant appeal for me when it first came out in 2020,” said Moceri. He tracks his cars and waited for the superior Z06. The only time he’s taken it on the road was for a trip to Florida — where he took it out on another test track, The Motor Enclave outside Tampa (designed by one of M1’s founders, Brad Oleshansky).

Frank Moceri owns a 2023 Chevy Corvette Z06 and tracks it at M1 Concourse in Pontiac.Frank Moceri owns a 2023 Chevy Corvette Z06 and tracks it at M1 Concourse in Pontiac.

“The 1,200-mile trip helped me reach the 1,500 miles recommended by Chevy before tracking the car,” smiled Moceri.

He enjoyed the trip, which is more than a lot of owners can say about their track toys. I had a pal buy a 911 GT3 that he traded it in for a Targa a year later because it was killing his back. Great track car, problematic road car.

Not the Z06 which, despite its stiffer setup, uses its magnetic dampers to good effect in TOUR mode. I ran errands around town with the ‘Vette’s healthy cargo space (the frunk holds a carry-on suitcase, the rear a set of golf clubs) and was no worse for the wear, thanks to the comfortable seats and ride.

Sure, like Dom Turretto showing off his guns in a muscle shirt, Z06 wants you to know it has 670 horses under the rear deck. Start it up in the morning — WHOOM! CRACKLE! POP! — and it’ll wake everyone in the neighborhood. Idle in SPORT or TRACK mode and it sounds like an IndyCar in the pits. Or a T-Rex gargling razor blades. But you can select STEALTH mode to turn down the theater when desired.

It’s part of a cabin filled with high-tech tools to match any luxe vehicle. For 2024, the rear-camera mirror comes standard, which is a good thing because you can’t see out of the narrow greenhouse. Cadillac IMSA prototypes use camera mirrors for better visibility in race traffic, and I found it essential when switching lanes in Detroit traffic as well.

The 2023 Chevy Corvette Z06 camera mirror helps rear visibility.The 2023 Chevy Corvette Z06 camera mirror helps rear visibility.

I navigated the metro area with wireless Android Auto, barked voice commands at the screen, programmed the Z MODE steering wheel button, and located the Personal Data Recorder in the screen should I want to record my hot laps.

Because at the end of the day, this rocket is all about hot laps. Track it or sell it.

You’ll know the Z06 by its wicked exoskeleton. Huge front air intakes to feed additional engine oil coolers. Expanded side intakes. And a (must have) aero package with front spoiler, dive planes and rear wing that gives the appearance of a scorpion ready to strike. The aero package makes about 734 pounds of downforce at 180 mph — well below the GT3 RS’s 1,900 pounds — but you’ll never see those speeds unless Nürburgring is your local track.

The interior of the 2023 Chevy Corvette Z06 comes with multiple color choices. Helmet sold separately.The interior of the 2023 Chevy Corvette Z06 comes with multiple color choices. Helmet sold separately.

Better to buy the optional near-slick Michelin Cup 2 tires — or better yet, just buy a set of slicks. On my hot laps around M1, the brakes were so ferocious that the standard Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires (10.8 inches wide front, 13.6 inches rear) struggled to maintain grip. Slicks could take full advantage of the brakes, not to mention the added cornering Gs.

Owner Moceri is so enamored with his Z06 that he thinks Chevy should follow Ferrari and create a Corvette Challenge series with a stripped-down Z06. “I’d buy it,” he smiled. And I doubt he’d miss the stereo with that glorious V-8 soundtrack.

2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

Vehicle type: Mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive two-passenger supercar

Price: $112,295 base, including $1,395 destination ($147,690 as tested)

Power plant: 5.5-liter V-8

Power: 670 horsepower, 460 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: eight-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 2.6 seconds (Car and Driver); top speed, 189 mph

Weight: 3,434 pounds (mfr.)

Fuel economy: EPA 12 mpg city/19 mpg highway/14 mpg combined

Report card

Highs: V-8 from the gods; tenacious grip

Lows: New-car plastic smell; its limits can only be approached on track

Overall: 4 stars

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

Honda debuts roomy, pricey, Ultium-based Prologue EV

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 29, 2023

Farmington Hills — Honda Motor Co. on Thursday unveiled the Prologue SUV, its first electric vehicle for the U.S. market. It’s also the first Honda vehicle built in partnership with General Motors Co. on the Detroit automaker’s Ultium battery platform.

With a targeted price of under $50,000 and an estimated range of 300 miles, Prologue is aimed at the meat of the EV market currently dominated by the $50k Tesla Model Y. As governments from California to Washington, D.C., force automakers to go all-EV over the next 10 years, Prologue marks a different model strategy than Honda has been known for in the U.S. market.

Historically a value automaker, Honda has won over millions of American consumers — and gained a 7% U.S. market share — by conquesting entry-level buyers with sub-$30,000 models like the Civic, HR-V and Accord, then graduating them to $30k-plus family vehicles like the CR-V and Pilot. Further upscale, Honda’s Acura luxury brand has catered to customers looking for premium offerings.

Given EVs’ high costs and high-demographic customer, however, Prologue is aimed more at existing Honda customers who have craved an EV. It will likely be Honda’s most expensive model, with marketing photos showcasing the vehicle charging in an upscale home.

“In terms of the current income bracket for EV buyers they are going to be looking for EVs in this price range with this feature level,” said Rob Keough, director of battery-electric vehicle planning for Honda North America. “It’s going to appeal to Honda loyalists who have been waiting for the right EV in the electric space.”

The Japanese automaker has sold the wee, battery-powered Honda e hatchback in Japan and Europe since 2000 but its limited, 100-mile range and $33k price tag — 50% more than a base-trim Honda Civic — are deemed impractical for the U.S. market. Prologue’s Acura ZDX cousin — also built on the Ultium platform — was introduced earlier this year and is expected to start at $60,000, the brand’s priciest offering.

Some of the vehicles’ sticker shock could be negated by a $7,500 tax credit if they are assembled, as expected, in the U.S. Honda ultimately intends to produce its own EV platform in Ohio.

In addition to the luxury-class Model Y, Prologue will compete against $40k-$45k mainstream badges like the Toyota bZ4X, Kia EV6, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Nissan Ariya, Ford Mustang Mach-E and Chevy Blazer EV. These entries are designed to appeal to the mid-size SUV customer — the largest segment in the auto industry — as automakers try to meet EV sales volume mandates. California, for example, requires that 35% of automaker sales be battery-powered by the 2026 model year or face significant fines.

Prologue intends to gain EV buyers the old-fashioned Honda way: with room and vroom.

The 2024 Honda Prologue has a long, 121-inch wheelbase, which the SUV puts to good use inside.The 2024 Honda Prologue has a long, 121-inch wheelbase, which the SUV puts to good use inside.

The SUV boasts a 121-inch wheelbase that is nearly nine inches longer than the bZ4X — and 10 inches bigger than its gas-engine sibling, the $42,000 Passport. That chassis, with the Ultium battery stored underneath, translates into a best-in-class, 137 cubic feet of interior space, most of which appears intended to benefit passenger space. Indeed, while Prologue’s starting price is closer to that of the $44k EV6, its square, roomy proportions are more akin to the $56k Kia EV9 three-row SUV that debuted recently.

Honda says that the cube-shaped Prologue is infused with the sporty DNA that has been synonymous with Honda since its early racing days. While Prologue isn’t planned for any racing series (unlike the Jaguar i-Pace SUV when it launched in 2018), its low-slung batteries offer a low center of gravity complimented by multi-link front and rear suspensions and available SPORT driving mode.

Prologue comes standard as a front-wheel-drive model with all-wheel-drive optioned. The twin-motor model features 288 horsepower and 333 pound-feet of torque. Its EX, Touring and Elite trims are familiar to owners of other models, and Honda hopes that familiarity will encourage adoption  rom green-focused owners who have bought the brand’s Accord, CR-V and Insight hybrid models. Hybrids this year have accounted for half the sales of Accord and CR-V.

Hybrids, however, still rely primarily on gas engines for propulsion and refueling convenience.

The simple interior of the 2024 Honda Prologue conforms to the current brand style.The simple interior of the 2024 Honda Prologue conforms to the current brand style.

Though Honda does not have its own charging network — the secret sauce that has turbocharged Tesla adoption — the company has partnered with six other manufacturers on building a national EV network. To maximize the existing, spotty, third-party EV network established by companies like Electrify America and EVGo, Prologue is equipped with Google Built-In. The infotainment operating system is equipped with Google Maps that, Honda says, will recommend charging stations on a road trip to optimize travel time — and even pre-condition the battery ahead of a charging stop.

Prologue’s 85 kWh, 400-volt, Ultium battery pack can add 65 miles of range in 10 minutes on a DC fast-charger, a long way from the 450 miles in three minutes from a gas-powered Passport. It’s also shy of the 800-volt platform Hyundai/Kia family and their 148-mile charging capability in 15 minutes.

Most EV owners are homeowners and charge in the garage. For those customers, Honda is eager to accommodate with a free 240-volt home-charging station, $500 installation subsidy and $100 public charger credit. Buyers can also opt for a portable charging kit, $250 installation credit and $300 public charging credit, or a simple $750 public charging credit.

Inside, the Honda offers a clean, high-tech cabin designed to maximize interior space. Like Tesla, the Prologue is operated by a steering-wheel shift stalk to open console space. The two-tier console offers class-leading storage capacity, a multi-use tray that enables twin smartphone changing, and big cupholders that can handle 32-ounce bottles. Standard safety-assists include rear cross-traffic braking, rear pedestrian alert, and blind-spot steering assist.

The 2024 Honda Prologue gets a new rear Honda badge.The 2024 Honda Prologue gets a new rear Honda badge.

All this is wrapped in a simple exterior package that conforms with today’s simple Civic and Accord designs. Honda’s logo anchors the front fascia and H-o-n-d-a is spelled out on the rear tailgate. Prologue adopts the brand’s international “e:series” badge as well. The debut model featured a fresh paint color called North Shore Pearl.

“The arrival of the all-new Honda Prologue is a pivotal moment for the brand,” said Lance Woelfer, American Honda assistant vice president of sales. “Prologue is aptly named as our first volume Honda EV, a stylish, sporty and spacious SUV that will take us toward our vision of 100% zero emissions vehicle sales by 2040.”

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

American Speed Festival: Le Mans racers, Corvettes and Indy cars

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 29, 2023

Pontiac — Celebrate 100 years of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 70 years of Corvette, and 50 years of the International Race of Champions as the third annual American Speed Festival takes over M1 Concourse auto club this weekend.

The celebration of motorsports performance, which opens Friday and runs through Sunday, puts an exclamation point on a month of auto shows in Metro Detroit, including Detroit 4fest, the North American International Auto Show and Concours d’Elegance.

Race car drivers A.J. Foyt and Dan Gurney won the 2'4 Hours of Le Mans', the first Americans ever to do so, in this Ford GT40 Mk IV in 1967. It's among the sportscars that will be at the American Speed Festival this weekend at M1 Concourse.Race car drivers A.J. Foyt and Dan Gurney won the 2'4 Hours of Le Mans', the first Americans ever to do so, in this Ford GT40 Mk IV in 1967. It's among the sportscars that will be at the American Speed Festival this weekend at M1 Concourse.

American Speed Festival is not just an opportunity to see some of the most historic race cars ever made, but to see them in their natural habitat — on track — as many of the cars take to M1’s 1.5-mile Champion Motor Speedway.

“The American Speed Festival aims to preserve the rich heritage of motorsports and ignite a passion for automotive excellence in present and future generations,” said M1 Concourse CEO Tim McGrane of the 2023 event sponsored by Comerica Bank and WLLZ.

Held on M1’s 87-acre property at the corner of Woodward and South Boulevard in Pontiac, the event hosts a wide range of historic performance cars from Indy racers to NASCARs to endurance racers and state-of-the-art supercars. Attendees can ogle the cars under M1’s large paddock tent and talk with the owners and race teams that maintain them. Then they can grab a hot dog from a food truck and head to the grandstands as the four-wheeled greyhounds go out on course in their respective “Speed Ring” sessions.

The chorus of V-12, V-8, and turbocharged engines is beautiful music at the facility. Friday will feature a special parade of Corvettes and Saturday a Ford GT40 parade.

Endurance cars from 100 years of France’s prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans will headline the event. Le Mans has long been the standard for sportscar speed and reliability. The so-called Circuit de la Sarthe has seen battles over the decades between some of the most famous marques in racing with the Ford v Ferrari battle of 1966 recently the subject of a popular Hollywood film.

Among the Le Mans cars present will be the red-and-white-striped 1967 Ford Mk IV, which AJ Foyt and Dan Gurney piloted to victory in 1967, the second straight year that Ford beat Ferrari to the finish line. The 427-cubic-inch Mk IV recorded speeds on the nearly four-mile long Mulsanne straight of 230 mph and won the race at a record average speed of 135 mph. The Speed Festival will be a rare appearance for the ’67 Ford outside of its Henry Ford museum home.

Honoring the 70th anniversary of Corvette will be gems like the 1963 Z06, which raced and won in both SCCA A/Production class and international FIA racing. The Z06 was piloted by Dr. Dick “The Flying Dentist” Thompson. Other notables include numerous Calloway Corvettes that competed in endurance racing in the 1990s and early 2000s, a 1962 Le Mans Corvette entry, and a 1959 so-called CERV-1 from Chevy, which was an early exploration of mid-engine layout that eventually found its way into the 2020 Corvette C8 that’s on the road today.

The International Race of Champions — IROC to enthusiasts — was motor racing’s All-Star game, which ran from 1973-2008. The series featured the sport’s best drivers competing in identical sportscars like, say, Porsche 911s. Speed Festival will showcase three championship-winning cars from the IROC era.

But wait, there’s more. In the tradition of Speed Festival, the grounds will be littered with significant Indy cars.

Consider the 1968 Lotus 56 STP Turbine, one of that decade’s experiments with jet engines in race cars that produced astonishing speeds around Indianapolis. The Lotus 56 pumped out 500 horsepower at, ahem, 45,000 RPM and was banned for being too fast.

Other notables include a 1963 A.J. Watson Roadster, the first Indy car to record laps in excess of 150 mph, Gordon Johncock’s sixth-place 1990 Lola T90 and a 1977 Team Penske McLaren driven by Mario Andretti at the Indy 500.

After the on-track action Friday, spectators can buy a ticket to the Garage Reveal and stroll M1 garages where local collectors keep some of the area’s finest cars. Ogle collections of Ford GTs, Lamborghinis, Porsche 911 GT3s and more. Dinner is included on the tour.

It wouldn’t be a Metro Detroit show without a charitable ball, and Saturday ends with the swank Checkered Flag Ball presented by the Checkered Flag Challenge, M1’s philanthropic arm. The ball benefits M1 Mobility and the Pontiac Community Foundation.

General admission ickets for the American Speed Festival are available for $25 (66% off last year’s price). For tickets and more information, visit www.americanspeedfestival.com.

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

Detroit News Readers’ Choice Awards: The best of the 2023 Detroit auto show

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 22, 2023

Detroit — The Detroit News Readers’ Choice Awards results for the 2023 North American International Auto Show are in and hometown brands are the big winners. Across eight categories, Cadillac took home two trophies, including the CT4 sedan for Best in Show. Dodge’s electric future looks bright as the Dodge Charger SRT Banshee EV concept got two wins, for Muscle Machine and Top Concept.

There are lots of auto awards, but none quite like Readers’ Choice. The annual trophies are the only prizes decided by the people who are the focus of the Detroit auto show: consumers.

Randall Rudzki of Wixom checks out a 2024 Cadillac Lyriq Tech on display at the Detroit auto show Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, at Huntington Place in downtown Detroit.Randall Rudzki of Wixom checks out a 2024 Cadillac Lyriq Tech on display at the Detroit auto show Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, at Huntington Place in downtown Detroit.

Ballots in hand, 100 News readers descended on the Detroit Show floor Sept. 13 tasked with passing judgment on 35 brands inside Huntington Place. The show was neatly organized in one, main exhibition hall, but the choices were dizzying, from electric pickups trucks to hot hatches to jacked dirt-kickers.

Here’s the list of winners:

Cadillac's entry-level sedan, here in CT4-V trim, took the Best in Show award from Detroit News readers at the North American International Auto Show.Cadillac's entry-level sedan, here in CT4-V trim, took the Best in Show award from Detroit News readers at the North American International Auto Show.

Best of Show

In an age of electric hype and SUV domination, the Cadillac CT4 sedan pulled a shocking upset by winning Readers’ Choice top prize. The CT4 is the entry-level vehicle from GM’s luxury brand. One of the sportiest cars in segment, CT4 is powered by rear or all-wheel-drive and offers three engine options — including the ferocious, 472-horse, turbo-6 cylinder monster found in the BMW M2-fighting CT4-V Blackwing. The CT4 even beat out its sister CT5 sedan, which headlined the Caddy display with exterior and interior updates.

The Ford Bronco was the judges' favorite off-road vehicle at the show.The Ford Bronco was the judges' favorite off-road vehicle at the show.

Off-Road Warrior

The off-road wars are in full swing. Witness the dueling rollercoaster rides on the show floor featuring the Jeep Wrangler and Ford Bronco. The Bronc got the nod from jurors this year with its bold styling and user-friendly cabin. Though the Jeep line has been updated for the 2024 model year with bigger screens and trims, the Bronco’s 37-inch tire, 418-horse, Raptor had tongues wagging.

The 2024 Cadillac Lyriq Tech was the electric vehicle that impressed the group of Detroit News readers the most.The 2024 Cadillac Lyriq Tech was the electric vehicle that impressed the group of Detroit News readers the most.

Most Electrifying

The gas-powered CT4 got Best in Show, but jurors were also impressed by Cadillac’s first electric offering, the Lyriq. With a front end that lights up like the Fox Theatre marquee and a 33-inch dash screen, the mid-size crossover previews the brand’s transition to all-electric-power by 2030.

The Dodge Charger Daytona SRT Banshee with its 800V propulsion system was judged the top concept vehicle.The Dodge Charger Daytona SRT Banshee with its 800V propulsion system was judged the top concept vehicle.

Top Concept

Jurors liked the futuristic Lyriq — but also want to get to the electric future fast in the Dodge Charger SRT Banshee EV, Dodge’s first EV. The Banshee was inspired by the original 1969 Charger Daytona, the first NASCAR to hit 200 mph. To keep the EV on the ground at such speeds, the concept even features a front, aerodynamic, so-called R-Wing — also inspired by the NASCAR.

The 2024 Chevrolet Trax Activ, available for less than $25,000, impressed judges as the most appealing affordable ride at the show.The 2024 Chevrolet Trax Activ, available for less than $25,000, impressed judges as the most appealing affordable ride at the show.

Bargain Buggy

The average price of a new car these days pushes $50,000 as manufactures introduce expensive EVs and mega-trucks. But there are affordable new entries as well, like the $21,495 Chevrolet Trax SUV that comes standard with wireless Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, roomy interior, and a stylish Activ trim that is still under $25k.

A guest exits a Jeep Grand Wagoneer after checking out the interior at the Detroit Auto Show Charity Preview Gala on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023 at Huntington Place in downtown Detroit. (Katy Kildee/The Detroit News)A guest exits a Jeep Grand Wagoneer after checking out the interior at the Detroit Auto Show Charity Preview Gala on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023 at Huntington Place in downtown Detroit. (Katy Kildee/The Detroit News)

Top Family Hauler

It took awhile, but Jeep has finally entered the mega-ute wars with the Grand Wagoneer. Based on the Ram truck chassis, Grand Wagoneer goes head-to-head with the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator with lux and style, including three — count ‘em, three — screens across the front dash. Interior room is palatial, horsepower plentiful, and the Grand gets a big, $100k sticker to match. Jurors awarded Jeep’s efforts with their top SUV award.

Ride in supreme comfort in the palatial back seat of the 2023 BMW 760i.Ride in supreme comfort in the palatial back seat of the 2023 BMW 760i.

If Money Were No Object

If you have over $100k in the bank, however, jurors recommend that you put the BMW 760 on your shopping list. The all-wheel-drive 760 is the 7-series sedan’s top model and can push $150,000 if you outfit it with red interior, automatic open-and-close doors, 536-horspower twin-turbo V-8, seat massage, and rear-seat entertainment suite complete with a drop-down, 31-inch rear movie screen. Put up your feet on the ottoman in back and tell James to drive to the club.

Twice is nice for the 2024 Dodge Charger Daytona SRT Banshee, which captured two categories in the judging.Twice is nice for the 2024 Dodge Charger Daytona SRT Banshee, which captured two categories in the judging.

Muscle Machine

Dodge may be ditching its iconic, Challenger and Charger V-8s, but jurors don’t think that’s the end of muscle cars. The battery-powered Charger SRT Banshee EV promises neck-snapping, all-wheel-drive acceleration — and a loud soundtrack to go with it. Dodge promises the Fratzonic Chambered Exhaust — which looks like a pipe organ hanging out back — will amplify the twin electric motors’ silent whir into a 126-decibel, V8-like howl worthy of the SRT badge.

The Detroit auto show runs through Sunday, Sept. 24 so you can check out all the jurors’ picks.

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

Payne: Come aboard for a tour of the BMW 760i land yacht

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 21, 2023

Charlevoix — The BMW 760i is a land yacht. Striking bow. Sumptuous living quarters. All the latest technological amenities that require a shelf of manuals to operate. A big ol’ V-8 engine below decks to get you to your next port of call.

Let me give you a tour.

Like a yacht, I took the BMW’s flagship model up north to Charlevoix for the weekend. But I didn’t tow it, I drove it. The Lake Michigan coastline is peppered with marinas stuffed with sailboats, motorboats and yachts in summertime. Not all of us own a boat, but we have friends who do. They tend to be generous — welcoming friends aboard their prized assets for entertainment, water skiing, or just to hang out and watch fireworks.

The 2023 BMW 760i is the top-line sedan for the Bavarian brand.The 2023 BMW 760i is the top-line sedan for the Bavarian brand.

Celebrity yachts are measured in feet like, say, the DeVos family’s 178-footer or Kid Rock’s 200-foot cutter. The seventh-generation 7-series length is measured in inches (212 to be exact) but has no less presence. The bow is particularly formidable with its enormous kidneys, black trim and squared-off hood that reminded many of my passengers of a Rolls.

There was no Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament parting the waves, but the front end is so tall that BMW has adopted mid-facia headlights (like many SUVs on the market) to reduce glare for oncoming traffic. The Jeep Cherokee innovated this design back in 2014, but it has since been adopted by premium brands from GMC to BMW to Buick. With the headlights next to the grille, the fascia focus is on the thin LD “eyebrow” lights at the hood-line.

The rest of the car’s flanks are simple, clean, business-like. The real action starts when you open the front door. Or rather, when it opens for you.

The sumptuous, red interior of the 2023 BMW 760i includes a panoramic roof.The sumptuous, red interior of the 2023 BMW 760i includes a panoramic roof.

Push a button on the Bimmer’s slab-like doors and they briefly gap — then swing open automatically (though not too far if another vehicle is parked next door) to welcome you in. Slide in, press the brake pedal and the door swings shut behind you. Or just speak and the door will close. Cool.

Want to exit? Push the door icon on the left-side dash and the door automatically opens for you to get out. Walk away from the 7, and the doors will swing closed behind you with the touch of the BMW fob. There are myriad other options to learn, and buyers should insist on a day-long course to cover them all (heck, my wife got a healthy electronics course when buying her $30K Subaru).

Like the exterior, the interior is beautifully, simply crafted. A curved, hoodless 27-inch screen dominates the dash — 12.3-inch digital instrument and 14.9-inch infotainment displays contained within. They are supported by wireless Android Auto so you can tell the car where to go (another hiccup: the native voice recognition system is inconsistent). Though BMW was a pioneer of remote rotary screen controllers 20 years ago, the brand now also offers touchscreen control for our smartphone era. I never used the controller (nor did anyone else who drove it) — an artifact that now takes up precious console room.

Detroit News auto critic Henry Payne uses the 2023 BMW 760i ottoman feature.Detroit News auto critic Henry Payne uses the 2023 BMW 760i ottoman feature.

That console space is helped by a small, exquisite glass shifter. Yes, glass. While BMW has been experimenting with a variety of polarizing exterior designs — 10-story kidney grilles, Lego block M2s — its interior use of glass controls is beyond reproach. Check out the jewel-like glass seat controls on the 760i. They are as functional as they are beautiful.

But the real interior show is in the back seat. Literally.

In the front infotainment display (among the blizzard of apps) is a blizzard of modes to match your mood (SPORT, EXPRESSIVE, RELAX). One of those modes is THEATER.

Activate it and the entire rear seat turns into an Emagine cinema. A 31-inch screen (equipped to show movies, Fire TV channels and so forth) folds down from the roof. Blinds go down across the side and rear windows. If the front passenger seat is empty, the right rear-seat occupant can turn their seat into a Barcalounger to better enjoy the entertainment.

Access the mini-screens on the door handles (yes, the door handles have mini-screens), then choose the chair recline option, which not only collapses the front seat but activates an ottoman for your feet. Be sure and fluff up the pillow attached to the rear headrest. What, no drink bar?

The palatial rear quarters of the 2023 BMW 760i offer the best seat in the house.The palatial rear quarters of the 2023 BMW 760i offer the best seat in the house.

The rear passenger can further take control by activating seat massagers for the entire cabin. Kudos to one of my family members for discovering this feature while I was driving. Should the driver be annoyed by this intrusion, they can switch the massager off in their own front screen. Drivers are likely to be more annoyed by discovering they can no longer see out the back of the car thanks to the blind over the rear window. My tester did not come with a rearview camera mirror. A rare technical hiccup.

There is no hiccup when it comes to power. Talk to boat companies and they demand big engines to handle the Great Lakes’ multiple weather challenges — and to simply get their successful passengers where they need to go on time.

The 760i sports a thumping, 4.4-liter, twin-turbo V-8 with 536 horsepower and enough torque to tow the Queen Mary. Mated to an eight-speed automatic, it’s as smooth as you’d expect from one of the world’s premier engine makers. And the addition of rear-wheel-steer helps it carve sharp corners (and tight parking lots). Yet, the eight-holer — even in SPORT mode — seems as removed as the engines of cruise liners deep below decks.

The smooth, 4.4-liter turbo V-8 in the 2023 BMW 760i puts out 536 horsepower.The smooth, 4.4-liter turbo V-8 in the 2023 BMW 760i puts out 536 horsepower.

Just like mega-yachts, the 760i comes with hands-free driving (on divided highways only), with a camera monitoring you from behind the instrument display to ensure you stay engaged. BMW trails Cadillac’s Super Cruise, which is the best hands-free system I’ve driven from Detroit to Charlevoix. The Bimmer performs similar tricks like auto lane changes but it hasn’t mapped as much interstate as Super Cruise and the system cut out frequently during my journey. Neither does it have subtle features (innovated by Ford’s BlueCruise and Tesla Autopilot) that automatically move your vehicle to the outside of the left-lane when passing large 18-wheelers.

For a $150,000 land yacht, these are notable misses. Though most owners — especially those who will experience this vehicle entirely from the rear seat after hiring a skipper — will never explore its myriad features.

Instead, they will enjoy showing off their state-of-the-art craft, from its cabin glass sculptures to its lovely graphics interface to its luscious red leather seats (just like the ones in the Bimmer in the latest “Mission Impossible” movie).

If one of those owners invites you on deck for a tour, be sure to accept.

Next week:

2023 BMW 760i xDrive

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

Price: $114,595 base, including $995 destination ($149,045 as tested)

Power plant: 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8

Power: 536 horsepower, 553 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: eight-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 4.1 seconds (mfr.); 130 mph

Weight: 5,095 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA 18 mpg city/26 mpg highway/21 mpg combined

Report card

Highs: Technological showcase; powerful V-8

Lows: Lags in self-driving tech; polarizing styling

Overall: 3 stars

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

Payne: Behind the wheel of Bollinger’s ambitious, commercial e-truck

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 21, 2023

Ann Arbor — With instant torque, innovative electric platform, and high-tech interior, Silicon Valley-based Tesla remade perceptions of the luxury automobile. Oak Park-based Bollinger Motors wants to do the same for an entirely different segment: Class 4 trucks.

Step on the throttle of the eight-ton Bollinger B4 box delivery truck and it squirts forward like a Tesla.

Turn into a roundabout and it stays planted, thanks to the huge, 158-kWh battery located low between the frame rails. Turn into a parking lot and its innovative platform allows for tight turning. It’s ideal for central-city deliveries, and it’s a long way from the off-road-focused, Bollinger B1 and B2 Hummer fighters that CEO Robert Bollinger envisioned when he founded the company eight years ago.

Bollinger B4 Class 4 truck is designed for delivery work in tight urban areas.Bollinger B4 Class 4 truck is designed for delivery work in tight urban areas.

“Commercial EV trucks sales will outshine retail sales right away because every fleet wants them, every state is for them, and the federal government is giving subsidies. A lot of customers want B4 and B5,” said Bollinger, 56, of the commercial truck class that carries as much as 16,000 pounds and is dominated by diesel-powered Ford F450s and similar giants from General Motors Co., Mercedes-Benz, Stellantis NV, and Isuzu.

The multibillion-dollar Inflation Reduction Act — Bollinger calls it the “Biden Act” — was key to opening the floodgates to billions in federal subsidies to back up government plans to eliminate gas-fired commercial trucks just as it has targeted gas-driven retail vehicles for extinction by 2035.

To achieve that goal, the U.S. government is offering $40,000 tax credits for each commercial truck (which typically sell for $85,000-$175,000) — similar to the $7500 offered on the sale of EVs like Tesla. But where Tesla has sold like hotcakes for a decade with or without government subsidy, Bollinger says that the $40k tax break is key to EV truck adoption.

Instant torque from its battery makes the B4 quick to accelerate for easy freeway entrances.Instant torque from its battery makes the B4 quick to accelerate for easy freeway entrances.

“We purposely did a Class 4 because we knew the Biden Act was coming,” he said from behind a B4 steering wheel. You’ll know the Bollinger trucks by their “B’ logo on the fascia — formed by a stacked pair of greater-than symbols.

Where Tesla built a network of DC fast chargers that enabled its vehicles to go on long-distance trips as well as plug in at home, Bollinger sees its business as local. For now, trucks carrying big loads are severely limited for distance driving compared to their diesel peers.

Bring EV trucks into an urban environment, however, and the equation changes.

My B4 tester at the University of Michigan North Research Campus Research Complex weighed in at 50% of capacity (7,770 pounds) and was equipped with a 800-volt platform, 110-200 miles of range, and charge port behind the cabin that could fit a DC fast charger or 240-volt charger.

With electric infrastructure in industrial parks, buildings, and homes throughout metro areas, the B4 can charge more cheaply overnight after a 200-mile delivery day than a comparable diesel truck can fuel. And — assuming that big, $40k government subsidy, of course — the B4 would be cheaper to operate because of its simple, rear electric motor and the ability to charge using cheap off-peak utility rates.

Bollinger expects local governments in big cities like New York and San Francisco to increasingly penalize gas-powered vehicles, which would give the e-truck a further cost advantage.

The vehicle’s operation is conducive to central-city driving.

Robert Bollinger introduces his Bollinger B4 Class 4 truck to media Tuesday in Ann Arbor.Robert Bollinger introduces his Bollinger B4 Class 4 truck to media Tuesday in Ann Arbor.

The B4’s 44-foot turning circle — credit Bollinger’s narrow front rails— makes for better maneuverability in urban areas, and the truck’s 702-pound feet of instant torque makes merging onto traffic — think the Lodge‘s short on-ramps — much easier.

CEO Bollinger started his journey inspired by Tesla and its re-invention of the automobile. But as he entered the commercial space, he and his team learned the value of contracting with existing suppliers — not just for cost saving, but also for customer security. The rear axle is sourced through Dana, the battery through ONE, and final assembly is by Roush to ensure reliability.

“We’re operating in the same commercial environment that’s existed for 70 years,” said Bollinger, an avid environmentalist. “We sell them through dealers. Then they work with upfitters — the same people who work with diesel trucks — who sell to fleets. B1 was our dream, to make exactly the way we wanted to. The B4 is other side of the coin, we’re giving (customers) exactly what they want.”

The Bollinger B4's charge port can fit a DC fast charger or 240-volt charger.The Bollinger B4's charge port can fit a DC fast charger or 240-volt charger.

The B4 will be on sale in the second quarter of 2024 for utilities, landscapers and delivery fleets. Bollinger said that the same clients are knocking on his door for a B5 (Class 5 truck with 16,001-to-19,500-pound rating).

Like Tesla and other retail EVs, the B4 comes with limitations. Its battery is sensitive to weather changes — heat, cold, heavy rain — which can reduce range by 25-40%. On the other hand, Bollinger equips its trucks with Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries (LFP) rather than the Nickel Manganese Cobalt batteries (MNC) more commonly used in retails EVs because LFP batteries are less prone to fire.

LFPs also don’t contain cobalt, says Bollinger electric controls director Willian Wheeler, which has caused political issues for manufacturers since most cobalt is sourced from child labor mines in the Congo. China, however, remains an issue since some 60-80% of battery minerals are sourced there.

“The commercial vehicle market is unlike retail in that it’s very relationship-based,” said Jim Connelly, who came to work for Bollinger after 25 years at GM in marketing. “It’s great to be with a start-up where we can build the product right from the ground up.”

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

How six Ferraris appeared on the 2023 Detroit auto show floor

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 21, 2023

Detroit — The Detroit auto show is showcasing an exotic car display for the first time during public days. The Detroit Auto Dealers Association dutifully pulled Porsches, Astons, and McLarens from local dealers.

But they really wanted their first exotic car stable to really pop.

A collection of Ferraris on display at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Friday, Sept. 15, 2023.A collection of Ferraris on display at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Friday, Sept. 15, 2023.

So they called up Lauren Mendelson, a Metro Detroit car collector with one of the finest Ferrari collections anywhere. The result is a North American International Auto Show loaded with the latest Jeeps, Fords, Cadillacs — and six jaw-dropping Italian stallions to wow crowds.

“The show team came over the week before the show opened for media days, looked over my collection, and selected the six they wanted,” said the Royal Oak-based collector. “Then we drove them all downtown. The city is going through its second renaissance, and I’m very proud to be part of this show.”

Stroll over to the exotic display behind the Jeep rides, and a silver and yellow 2020 Ferrari Monza SP1 will stop you in your tracks. The 799-horsepower, V-12-powered, single-seater is one of just 499 made and cost well over $1 million when new.

But wait, there’s more. Sharing the stable is a mid-engine 2010 458 Italia, 2020 F8 Tributo, 2015 458 Speciale A convertible, and two front-engine beauties: a 2008 599 GTB and a 2014 F12 Berlinetta.

Six Ferraris from Lauren Mendelson's private collection headline the exotic display at the 2023 Detroit Auto Show - including a silver and yellow 2020 Monza SP1.Six Ferraris from Lauren Mendelson's private collection headline the exotic display at the 2023 Detroit Auto Show - including a silver and yellow 2020 Monza SP1.

“The main ingredient that all my cars share is style,” said Mendelson of the only privately owned cars on display. “I love the design of all these cars, and I love their performance.”

Once upon a time, exotics like these could only be seen at an exclusive, $250-a-ticket Saturday evening at a local hotel prior to the show. This year, they are available for viewing to anyone with a $20 ticket ($10 for children).

Mendelson has a few other toys in her collection beyond the Ferraris. Rare cars like a 2003 BMW Z8, Mercedes AMG GT Black Series, Alfa 8C Competizione, 2010 Morgan AeroMax, and maybe the best-looking, modern mid-engine sports car: a 2021 Ford GT Heritage.

A collection of Ferraris on display at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Friday, Sept. 15, 2023. Andy Morrison, The Detroit NewsA collection of Ferraris on display at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Friday, Sept. 15, 2023. Andy Morrison, The Detroit News

Mendelson exercises them all to keep them in shape.

“They have to be driven. Like humans, they’ll get old and stiff unless you move them around,” she smiled. “The Ferraris are elegant and powerful to drive, but the Ford GT is different. You really feel like you’re part of the road. Each car has its own personality.”

While the Ferraris will headline the Detroit show, there are other chances to ogle cars from Mendelson’s collection. Her cars have appeared at Eyes on Design, Concours d’Elegance, and her GT Black and Ford GT will be on display at the American Speed Festival at M1 Concourse later this month.

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

Payne: The best things to see at the 2023 Detroit auto show

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 21, 2023

Detroit — The 2023 North American International Auto Show is like a shopping mall — with rides.

In the new era of auto shows, it’s not about the vehicle reveals (for the most part, those are now independent manufacturer events); it’s about creating a good retail experience. If the Big Apple show is about premium rides and LA is about green vehicles, then the Motor City is about the auto manufacturers next door.

A Jeep Rubicon makes its way through the Camp Jeep track at the North American International Auto Show, at Huntington Place, in Detroit, September 13, 2023.A Jeep Rubicon makes its way through the Camp Jeep track at the North American International Auto Show, at Huntington Place, in Detroit, September 13, 2023.

Detroit is the only home to three automakers, and they are the anchor stores at Huntington Place Mall — er, convention center. General Motors and its brands anchor the southeast corner of the exhibition hall, Stellantis the northeast corner, and Ford is at the center. Displays are big, colorful, with lots of cars and digital screens.

Toyota also has substantial store space with Volkswagen, Honda, Kia, Hyundai, and Mini showing boutique spaces. Absent are full-line model displays from significant brands like Mazda, Subaru, Nissan, BMW, Mercedes, and Acura — a shortcoming of other shows as well.

The refreshed Cadillac CT5 is among the vehicles attendees can check out at the Detroit auto show.The refreshed Cadillac CT5 is among the vehicles attendees can check out at the Detroit auto show.

Like the Mall of America in Minneapolis, the Detroit show has amusement rides. Five in all, from electric vehicle tracks to Jeep and Ford rollercoasters. The icing on the cake is a premium car display anchoring the floor’s northwest center. The Detroit Auto Dealers Association has rolled in a cornucopia of exotica, including Ferrari, McLaren, Aston Martin, Lamborghini, Bentley, and more.

Bring the whole family and spend a day at the mall. Here are the must-sees at the North American International Auto Show.

Attendees look over a row of Ford vehicles at the Detroit auto show in Huntington Place on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023.Attendees look over a row of Ford vehicles at the Detroit auto show in Huntington Place on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023.

EV track. You might spend half the day here. Taking up 20% of the floor’s space in the southwest quadrant, the EV track features over a dozen electric vehicles to ride. And these aren’t granola-mobiles, but some of the fastest cars on the planet. The drivers are eager to show you what they can do. Pile the family into a GMC Hummer pickup (0-60 MPH in, ahem, 3.0 seconds) or Tesla Model S sedan (0-60 MPH in 3.1 seconds) and hold on. With instant torque, the EVs will leave your vertebrae imprint on the seats as you rocket to 45 mph on the back straight.

That’s right, Tesla is in the house. In a rare sight at a U.S. show, S, X, and Y models are on hand for rides. Smartly, organizers have arranged “pit stalls” so showgoers can choose the vehicle they want to ride in. Stalls include Tesla, GMC, Cadillac (Lyriq), Ford (Mach-E), VW (ID.4) and more. Expect lines, so plan accordingly. If it’s nice outside, check out the second EV track, which takes you along part of the Detroit Grand Prix course.

Ram Power Wagons make their way through the Ram Truck Territory track at the auto show.Ram Power Wagons make their way through the Ram Truck Territory track at the auto show.

Jeep, Ford, Ram tracks. For the best view of the show, climb into a doorless Bronco or Wrangler and ride into the rafters. The mini-rollercoaster isn’t as quick as the EV course, but it’s a taste of the capabilities of these off-road warriors. The ride also showcases vehicle capabilities over rough terrain and at steep side angles. The Ram activation won’t take you into the ceiling, but it will show off the 1500’s towing muscle.

A Ford Bronco makes its way down a steep slope at Ford’s Adventure Mountain track inside Huntington Place.A Ford Bronco makes its way down a steep slope at Ford’s Adventure Mountain track inside Huntington Place.

Ford F-150. Ford is making a habit of dropping big reveals on NAIAS, and this year, they’ve wheeled out the latest F-150 truck, the best-selling vehicle in America. The brute gets updates across its model lineup from a base XL to a six-figure Raptor. Ford is featuring the off-road Tremor model, and it’s a beaut. Check out the new “coast-to-coast” grille, modular front bumper armed with a winch, and knobby off-road tires. But the real fun is out back, where the bed (that’s why you buy a pickup, yes?) shows off the new Pro Access Tailgate with a built-in swing-gate for easier cargo access. Once in the bed, check out the new Bed Storage Box for your small tools and accessories.

A 2024 Ford F-150 on display after the reveal at F-150 Fest at Hart Plaza in Detroit on Sept. 12, 2023.A 2024 Ford F-150 on display after the reveal at F-150 Fest at Hart Plaza in Detroit on Sept. 12, 2023.

Ford Mustang GTD. Ford’s iconic Mustang enters the supercar stratosphere. The GTD is a street-legal race car injected with all of the Ford Performance division’s steroids. Using the same supercharged, 5.2-liter V-8 powerplant as the GT500, GTD (named after the IMSA racing class) cranks up the wick to over 800 horsepower. Like a scorpion’s tail, a huge wing sprouts from the rear for downforce to keep the beast planted. The ‘Stang also boasts a $300,000 supercar price. OMG GTD.

Performance. There’s plenty of horsepower on the floor beyond GTD. A Cadillac CT5 Blackwing lurks in the GM display, complete with 668 horsepower from its 6.2-liter V-8. The single-seater, 799-horse Ferrari Monza highlights the exotics. You want a super truck? The Ram 1500 TRX Final Edition cranks out 702 horses. And for those on a budget, check out the 300-horse, all-wheel-drive Toyota GR Corolla hot hatch for under $40K. That’s GR as in GRRRRRR.

Screen wars. Ever since the Tesla Model S debuted a 17-inch console screen, the screen wars have been on. Inspired by the Lyriq EV, the new Cadillac CT5 and XT4 both boast curved, 33-inch dash displays. Every automaker has its take, but the 2024 Lincoln Nautilus is the first U.S. vehicle to offer a pillar-to-pillar, full-dash display. Measuring 48 inches across, this jumbotron is so big that it needs its own command screen, which sits in the center console. Program jumbotron to your liking and all your data is at eye level to keep your head up.One more thing. Be sure to let the kids ride the toy, electric Jeeps. You’re never too young to drive.

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

GMC Acadia goes big with all-new version of SUV

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 21, 2023

Detroit — The GMC Acadia is going big.

General Motors’ premium brand unveiled an all-new version of its mid-size SUV at the Detroit auto show Wednesday, and it might have fit half the grandstand that attended. The third-generation expands its wheelbase by 8.4 inches, its overall length by 10.6, and its height by 3.2 inches — for a much larger interior. The Acadia now comes only as a three-row SUV with seating for seven or eight, and an 80% cargo increase behind the first row seats (a 36% increase if the third-row seat is stowed).

In the outgoing two-and-three-row Acadia, GMC skimped on third-row space. Now Acadia lavishes its third row customers with attention. Not only does the third-row seat provide enough head-and-legroom for six-footers, but designers re-engineered the C-pillar to accommodate a much bigger window for third-row passengers to count cows on long road trips.

Duncan Aldred, global vice president of GMC and Buick, introduces the 2024 GMC Acadia to the media at Huntington Place in Detroit.Duncan Aldred, global vice president of GMC and Buick, introduces the 2024 GMC Acadia to the media at Huntington Place in Detroit.

There’s more glass room overhead as well as the Acadia now options a panoramic roof in upper trims. Speaking of trims, Acadia ditches, entry-level alphanumeric trims for an Elevation base model followed by the Elevation Premium, rugged AT4, and posh Denali.

The pricey AT4 and Denali trims are expected to make up 50% of Acadia sales in the hot-selling mid-size gas segment — along with the huge Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave that are built on the same bones. Big margin, high volume gas SUVs from the GM trio are crucial at a time when Cadillac is expected to go all-electric with its next-generation, 2025 XT6 amid uncertainty about the future of large, battery-powered SUVs.

The pricey AT4 and Denali trims are expected to make up 50% of sales for the refreshed GMC Acadia.The pricey AT4 and Denali trims are expected to make up 50% of sales for the refreshed GMC Acadia.

Beginning with the 2017 model year, Acadia was built on the same, smaller, gas-powered chassis as the current XT6 — but GMC marketing since found that American crave more space and so the GMC has joined its Chevy and Buick siblings in offering a penthouse-sized interior.

“For this next generation, our mission was to reimagine the design and the proportions of the Acadia to create a bolder, more commanding presence,” said design lead Ben Zavala. “With its assertive, powerful stance, the 2024 Acadia evokes a truck-inspired persona, infused with the brand’s signature premium feel.”

The Acadia's interior features a dashboard with a screen similar to the 17-inch screen unveiled on the 2024 GMC Sierra EV pickup truck.The Acadia's interior features a dashboard with a screen similar to the 17-inch screen unveiled on the 2024 GMC Sierra EV pickup truck.

The penthouse includes the latest tech as Acadia gains an enormous, thin, 15-inch vertical screen that dominates the center console. It’s similar to the 17-inch screen unveiled on the 2024 GMC Sierra EV pickup truck. The lovely console screen combines the thin, vertical screen that wowed on the Jeep Grand Cherokee in 2021 with the Mustang Mach-E-like volume knob and classic GMC piano key buttons at the base as climate controls.

The infotainment screen features Google built-in5 compatibility for navigation similar to that on a Google Maps.

Members of the media take a closer look at the 2024 GMC Acadia.Members of the media take a closer look at the 2024 GMC Acadia.

GM’s Super Cruise drive assist is offered for the first time on GMC’s mid-size chariot (eat your lunch hands free behind the wheel! Watch it change lanes automatically!) and is available beginning with the Elevation Premium trim — as is a head-up display.

Move up to the top-drawer Denali trim and you can option a rear camera mirror and heated front and rear seats. But unlike past GM products, Acadia doesn’t skimp on standard safety features including blind-spot assist (with auto steer to avoid a side collision), adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, seven camera views, and more.

2024 GMC Acadia2024 GMC Acadia

About the only thing that hasn’t been supersized on the Acadia is the engine bay. Acadia choices have shrunk as the model dropped its V-6 engine (due to tightening federal emissions regulations) and now only offers a 4-banger mated to an eight-speed, automatic transmission. The 2.5-liter turbo-4 is a bear. It packs 328 horsepower and 326 pound-feet of torque — more than the outgoing V-6 — as well as increasing the SUV’s towing ability to 5,000 pounds.

That torque will be useful off-road in the AT4 model which sports Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain tires, a 1-inch lift, all-wheel-drive with a dual-clutch in the rear, and front skid plate should you want to take your family picnic off-road.

2024 GMC Acadia2024 GMC Acadia

You’ll know the AT4 by its signature, red tow hooks. Inside it gains Terrain mode and Hill Descent Control. The Denali, meanwhile, is distinguished by 22-inch machined aluminum wheels outside. Inside, that panoramic sunroof is available, as well as laser-etched wood, available second-row, heated seats, and one-touch folding second-row seats and power-folding third row

All this capability is wrapped in a new, bold design with a different grille for each trim framed by dramatic, C-clamp shaped headlights.

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

Here are the 25 ‘Best of 2024’ vehicles in the NACTOY awards

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 21, 2023

Detroit — The North American Car, Truck, and Utility of the Year awards kicked off Wednesday’s first full day of the Detroit auto show with the “Best of 2024” vehicles nominated for the 2024 prize. Ten cars, five trucks and 10 utility vehicles advance to the semifinal round of the prestigious contest.

The list is full of surprises.

In the SUV category, America’s iconic Jeep Wrangler did not make the cut, likely because its 2024 model was more update than remake. That, and electric vehicles are all the rage, and the jury was smitten by pricey EVs like the $56K Chevrolet Blazer EV and the $68K Genesis GV70 Electrified. Clever, compact SUVs like the all-new Chevy Trax and Buick Envista also were overlooked despite affordable, sub-$30K sticker prices at a time when Americans are struggling to afford inflated, $50K-average new vehicle prices. The 25 best were winnowed from a field of 52 eligible 2024 models.

The Chevy Blazer EV is among the 10 remaining SUVs in the running for Utility of the Year.

The affordable Subaru Crosstrek was also passed over (though its sister Impreza hatchback got a car nominee nod) as was the Alfa Romeo Tonale, the luxury brand’s peppy plug-in hybrid that marks a new era of electrification for the Italian brand. Notable Utility nominees include the first electric Chevrolet Equinox, quick Dodge Hornet, stylish Mazda CX-90 and the Kia EV9 — the first three-row electric SUV.

The NACTOY awards are among the industry’s most prestigious as 50 independent journalists from the United States and Canada render their judgment after a year of extensive testing. The 25 best will be furthered winnowed to three finalists in each category Nov. 16 at the Los Angeles Auto Show — and then winners will be named Jan. 4 in Detroit.

The 2024 Dodge Hornet made the semifinal list of 10 SUVs but its sister model the Alfa Romeo Tonale did not.The 2024 Dodge Hornet made the semifinal list of 10 SUVs but its sister model the Alfa Romeo Tonale did not.

“The value of these awards is in the expertise and diverse perspectives of our jurors,” said NACTOY president Jeff Gilbert. “We all evaluate vehicles in a different way. We look forward to learning more about them and comparing them with the competition.”

There were surprises in the truck category as well.

Perhaps the year’s most anticipated truck, the Tesla Cybertruck, did not make the list — likely because Tesla has not made the pickup available for media testing. Another surprise was the absence of the 2024 Toyota Tacoma, the much-ballyhooed remake of the mid-size segment’s best-selling pickup. However, Tacoma will be available for media testing this year — and will likely debut on the NACTOY list as a 2025 model next fall.

Without Tacoma in the mix, the truck wars will be settled by five worthy semi-finalists: the Chevrolet Colorado, Chevrolet Silverado EV, Ford Ranger, Ford Super Duty and GMC Canyon. While EVs are all the rage, the Silverado’s $50K-$106K price tag may raise eyebrows. Expect the Colorado and Ranger to fight to the death for top honors.

Tesla's Cybertruck has generated a lot of buzz but did not make the "Best of 2024" list of five trucks.Tesla's Cybertruck has generated a lot of buzz but did not make the "Best of 2024" list of five trucks.

While car demand has diminished in recent years in the face of Americans’ thirst for SUVs (Ford doesn’t even make sedans anymore), the best car category is loaded.

Nominees include everything from the iconic Ford Mustang to the first all-wheel-drive Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray to the venerable BMW 5-series and reborn Toyota Prius. Expect the Prius to be a favorite as the original hybrid nerd-mobile has been transformed into a swan — without sacrificing fuel economy.

The Mustang and Prius can expect strong competition from the handsome Honda Accord — which is targeting 50% hybrid sales — and the Hyundai Ioniq 6, one of the prettiest sedan designs to come down the pike. Performance enthusiasts will be disappointed that the Porsche 911 GT3 RS and 911 Dakar didn’t make the cut — but the snarling, all-wheel-drive Toyota GR Corolla will carry the flag for those with a need for speed.

The seventh-generation Ford Mustang, seen here in Dark Horse guise, is a strong contender in the Car of the Year category.The seventh-generation Ford Mustang, seen here in Dark Horse guise, is a strong contender in the Car of the Year category.

The auto industry is at a crossroads as government regulators are forcing automakers to go all-electric — or pay increasingly onerous fines from 2026 to 2035. Consumers, meanwhile, seem shy to EVs not named Tesla and so gas-fired trucks and SUVs continue to roll off assembly lines.

Over the last 30 years, NACTOY has honored automakers who have made substantial innovations in design, performance, technology, driver satisfaction and value. With the flood of new EVs, jurors are determined to recognize the best of the new breed while also balancing consumer needs.

Stay tuned for more NACTOY news as the awards season heats up.

2024 NACTOY semi-finalists

Cars

BMW 5 Series

BMW i5

Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray

Ford Mustang

Honda Accord

Hyundai Ioniq 6

Subaru Impreza

Toyota Crown

Toyota GR Corolla

Toyota Prius/Prius Prime

Trucks

Chevrolet Colorado

Chevrolet Silverado EV

Ford Ranger

Ford Super Duty

GMC Canyon

SUVs

Chevrolet Blazer EV

Chevrolet Equinox EV

Dodge Hornet

Genesis Electrified GV70

Honda Pilot

Hyundai Kona

Kia EV9

Mazda CX90

Toyota Grand Highlander

Volvo EX30

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

Payne: 5 things about the 2024 Ford F-150

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 21, 2023

Detroit — The 2024 Ford F-150 pickup is here and it is still gas-powered.

Time to adjust the reality meter. In 2015, Ford debuted the first aluminum-bodied truck, which was hailed as the tipping point for an all-aluminum pickup revolution. Didn’t happen. Its competitors today are still made of good ol’ steel. In 2022, Ford’s Lightning electric truck was hailed as a milestone in Americans’ embrace of EVs. Nope. Lightning sales have been slow as buyers balked at high sticker prices and low towing range.

The 2024 F-150 STX gives Ford's best-selling pickup a sporty appearance.The 2024 F-150 STX gives Ford's best-selling pickup a sporty appearance.

The 2024 F-150 focuses on meat and potatoes. America’s best-selling pickup for over four decades, the next-gen F-150 unveiled Tuesday night is all about the word “choice” — a contrast to government regulations forcing automaker eggs into a single, battery-powered basket by 2035. Ford hails the “power of choice” in its available powerplants, which include a 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine, 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, 3.5-liter PowerBoost hybrid V-6, 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6, 5.0-liter V-8, 5.2-liter supercharged V-8. And the Lightning EV, of course. There’s also endless configuration choices in cabs, box lengths, materials, tires, colors.

Here are five highlights from a pickup Ford is determined to keep on top in the Truck Wars and sell nearly a million units a year.

1) Pro Access Tailgate: GMC wowed the industry with its six-way MultiPro Tailgate (now available on Chevys too as the Multi-Flex) in 2019, and you know Ford was itching to respond. Say hello to the Pro Access Tailgate — a swing-gate built into the F-150’s drop-gate. Complemented by a big, central bumper step below, the new gate enables easier access into the bed. Ford claims it allows 19 inches of additional reach compared to a conventional tailgate in the down position. And engineers have designed it with indents so it can swing open by 100, 70, or 37 degrees (so as not to interfere with a trailer).

The swing-out tailgate on the F-150 Tremor, an off-road-focused version of Ford's full-size pickup.The swing-out tailgate on the F-150 Tremor, an off-road-focused version of Ford's full-size pickup.

2) Bed Storage Box: In keeping with the bed theme (which is what makes pickups different, after all), Ford offers a lockable storage box on the right interior of the bed. It’s big enough to hold accessories like tie-down straps, bungee cords, chains, jumper cables, tools, safety glasses, work gloves and so on. And if you don’t opt for Ford’s other cool bed accessory — the left-side 2.4-7.2 kW Pro Power Onboard electrical system to operate power tools/TV screens/grills — then you can get two storage boxes.

The new F-150 offers a lockable storage box to secure your gear.The new F-150 offers a lockable storage box to secure your gear.

3) Tech galore: Ford has always prided itself as a tech leader (see that Pro Power Onboard), and the ’24 model offers more toys. A head-up display is offered for the first time (just like Caddys and Bimmers) so you can keep your eye on details like navigation instructions, speed limits, drive modes and BlueCruise operation without taking our eyes off the road (or trail). Speaking of BlueCruise, Ford’s highway drive-assist feature continues to improve with automatic lane changes and in-lane repositioning that automatically shifts to the outside lane to give, say, semi-trucks room.

The XLT trim is in the heart of the F-150's sales market, popular among commercial customers.The XLT trim is in the heart of the F-150's sales market, popular among commercial customers.

4) The new luxe: F-150 XL, XLT and Lariat pickups are the heart of F-150 sales, thanks in part to generous tax breaks when bought for business use. But pickups are also the new American luxury and F-150 offers premium and performance trims stretching into the six-figures just like European luxury brands. There’s the new, luxurious, F-150 Platinum Plus trim (replacing Limited at a likely $85K-plus) available with “a new Smoked Truffle interior featuring Dark Smoked Truffle accents.” La-di-da. King Ranch interiors include updates like a “bi-metallic Sinister Bronze paired with chrome color scheme, and interior trim “micro-texture reminiscent of a bullwhip.” Step up to the $110K, 700-horsepower Raptor R and Ford options a modular front bumper and insane, dual live-valve Fox shocks. Eat your heart out, Mercedes AMG.

The F-150 Raptor offers 700 horsepower, dual live-valve shocks and a price tag north of $100K.The F-150 Raptor offers 700 horsepower, dual live-valve shocks and a price tag north of $100K.

5) Standard goodies: For all the glitz of Raptors and Platinums, the base, sub-$40K F-150 is loaded with standard equipment. Twin 12-inch instrument and infotainment screens are standard, as is a 2.7-liter, 325-horsepower, 400-torque turbo-6. All models also now come standard with an extended range fuel tank, Class IV trailer hitch, blind-spot assist and cross-traffic alert.

If you want to tow a trailer while riding in luxury, the F-150 Platinum accommodates on both counts.If you want to tow a trailer while riding in luxury, the F-150 Platinum accommodates on both counts.

Oh, yes, and the F-150 goes back to the top of the class in max towing (13,500 pounds) and payload (2,455 pounds). That’s a lot of meat and potatoes.

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

As government EV mandates near, automakers introduce parallel product lines

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 12, 2023

California City, California — In 2020, Kia introduced the affordable, V-6-powered, three-row Telluride with upscale design, a suite of standard features, and a price tag $5,000 south of a comparable Ford Explorer or Toyota Highlander. It flew off dealer shelves and brought Kia the 2020 award for North American Utility of the Year.

Now Kia is bringing a second SUV to the three-row segment: the pricey, battery-powered EV9 that Car and Driver estimates will start at $56,000 — $20,000 more than the Telluride — when it hits dealer lots in the fourth quarter of 2023 to take on luxury EVs like the Tesla Model Y and Cadillac Lyriq. Though it shares the Telluride’s design cues and interior software, it sits on an entirely different battery-electric platform and introduces cutting-edge tech like haptic-touch dash buttons and self-driving assist.

The parallel product strategy in the same segment is evidence of the uncertain crossroads that today’s auto manufacturers face with massive, multibillion-dollar fines looming from California and the Environmental Protection Agency if they don’t meet new emissions standards.

The 2024 Kia EV9 electric vehicle starts at $56K — or about $20K more than the similar, gas-fired Kia Telluride.The 2024 Kia EV9 electric vehicle starts at $56K — or about $20K more than the similar, gas-fired Kia Telluride.

The Telluride/EV9 double team covers a lot of bases: It satisfies consumer demand, conforms to looming government EV mandates, and recasts the Korean mainstream brand as a luxury player in the emerging, pricey EV market.

After the success of the gas-powered, 2020 Kia Telluride (pictured), the brand is launching a similar, three-row SUV — the 2024 Kia EV9 electric vehicle — to comply with government EV mandates.After the success of the gas-powered, 2020 Kia Telluride (pictured), the brand is launching a similar, three-row SUV — the 2024 Kia EV9 electric vehicle — to comply with government EV mandates.

It’s a trend that other automakers are following as well. Kia is the first mainstream automaker to double up in the three-row segment, but expect Chevrolet to introduce two — gas and battery-powered — versions of the Chevrolet Blazer later this year in the mid-size SUV segment, much like the subcompact SUV Chevy Trax/Bolt EV and Silverado/Silverado EV pickup trucks before it. Ford is expected to follow with parallel versions of the Ford Explorer. Luxury automakers like Cadillac (gas XT5/battery Lyriq), BMW (gas X5/electric iX) and Mercedes (gas GLS/electric EQS) have already been working this parallel strategy.

The Cadillac Lyriq is the GM luxury brand's counterpart to the gas-powered Cadillac XT5.The Cadillac Lyriq is the GM luxury brand's counterpart to the gas-powered Cadillac XT5.

In a consumer-driven market, automakers might roll out new EVs in a measured manner to gain an understanding of EV demand — particularly in a market where Tesla dominates 60% of EV sales. But like utilities, today’s manufacturers are governed by government mandates, and the hammer is about to drop with tough 2026 EV sales requirements that could cripple automakers if they don’t build electric models.

In 2026, the nation’s biggest auto market — California — will require, under its new Advanced Clean Cars II (ACCII) rules, that 35% of automaker sales be battery-powered vehicles. Failure to meet that goal will cost them a whopping $20,000 per vehicle that they are below that threshold. The percentage jumps to 43% in 2027, 51% in 2028, 59% in 2029, and 68% in 2030 on the way to outlawing the sales of gasoline cars in 2035. Fourteen other states — including Washington and New York — have adopted the standards set by the California Air Resources Board regulatory body.

The 2024 Kia EV9 electric vehicle has a frunk (front trunk) where the engine would be on a gas-powered Telluride.The 2024 Kia EV9 electric vehicle has a frunk (front trunk) where the engine would be on a gas-powered Telluride.

Currently, just 17% of California sales are electric — and Tesla makes up 72% of those sales. Remove Tesla, and a mere 5% of sales are electric. And, according to data from S&P Global, 50% of EV buyers return to a gas car when they go back into the market.

California’s rules are one in a three-legged stool of regulation with the EPA and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration also punishing gas-fired autos. Proposed EPA greenhouse-gas (GHG) based auto emissions limits of 82 grams of carbon dioxide/mile by 2032 would — similar to the CARB rules — require that 67% of automakers’ sales be battery-only by 2032. Only Tesla would meet that standard today.

Thus, the headlong rush of automakers to create a parallel fleet of Tesla-like EVs to their current gas models.

Kia’s product plans parallel those of government — not consumer — trends. The automaker intends to increase its EV offerings to seven vehicles by 2027 — a 250% increase over its EV lineup today — by 2027. In line with government rules, Kia says its fleet will be 70% electrified by 2030 on the way to a full transformation to EVs.

The door handles of the 2024 Kia EV9 electric vehicle recede for better aerodynamics.The door handles of the 2024 Kia EV9 electric vehicle recede for better aerodynamics.

Meanwhile, EV sales, according to analysts, appear to be plateauing in the U.S. at 7-10% with EVs taking 103 days to sell on dealer lots, according to a Cox Automotive survey, compared to 45 days for gas cars. “Our analysis shows a natural resistance somewhere between 7% and 10% of local market share in a given state,” said iSeeCars analyst Karl Brauer. “That seems to be where it gets much harder to grow EV share after early adopters have bought in.”

Kia Marketing Vice President Russell Wager acknowledges that the brand’s initial EV offering, the mid-size EV6 (which was NACTOY Utility of the Year for 2023) is sitting on lots like other EVs.

“The early adopters got it,” he said. “Now we’ve got that next group — the next 25%. They want to know — is 300 miles enough for me? How quick does it charge? Where am I going to charge? It’s on us and the other (automakers) to continue to educate that you don’t need more than 250-300 miles of range because the average person is driving less than 100 miles round-trip.”

The Telluride was a breakthrough product for Kia. That success gave it the confidence to launch the sci-fi EV9, the first mainstream three-row electric SUV.

The 2024 Kia EV9 electric vehicle is part of the Korean brand's strategy to comply with California edicts that 35% of new sales must be EV by 2026.The 2024 Kia EV9 electric vehicle is part of the Korean brand's strategy to comply with California edicts that 35% of new sales must be EV by 2026.

Its blocky, upright proportions look like it drove out of the movie “Tron.” No grille, vertical lamps, huge aero wheels. The interior is sleek, anchored by a mega 25-inch screen display and haptic-touch menu controls. The high-tech features are endless, from highway driver assist to massage seats to head-up display to voice commands.

With 240-300 miles of range, it could travel from Los Angeles to Vegas in a single stop on the platform’s 880-volt architecture. And to make sure other cities are as accessible, Kia — and six other automakers — are taking a page out of Tesla’s book and building a proprietary charging network.

Kia says that dealers are excited about the new electric product — just as long as Kia also keeps the Tellurides coming.

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

5th annual Detroit 4fest: A celebration of automakers, dirt and off-roading

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 9, 2023

Holly — If the Detroit auto show is an indoor showcase of the auto industry’s latest trends, then Detroit 4fest is an outdoor showcase for the industry’s hottest segment: off-roading.

Thousands of off-road enthusiasts from all over the Midwest will descend on Holly Oaks ORV Park’s 235 acres this weekend to play in one of Michigan’s best sandboxes, with 200-foot elevation changes, swampy courses, and epic trails. Where there are consumers, companies follow, and there will be display tents and vehicles from title sponsor Jeep as well as from Chevrolet, GMC, Ford and Toyota. Michigan dealers LaFontaine and Szott are also on site with new chariots as well as eye candy like the Ford Bronco DR desert racer.

Open to anyone with an off-road-capable vehicle — and to those who want to test the latest from Jeep’s Wrangler stable — 4fest takes over Holly Oaks ORV Park 30 miles north of Detroit for a weekend of filthy fun.

Detroit 4fest takes over Holly Oaks this weekend with any and all off-road vehicles and their drivers welcome to play in the sand and mud.Detroit 4fest takes over Holly Oaks this weekend with any and all off-road vehicles and their drivers welcome to play in the sand and mud.

“This is an event where u can bring your own vehicle and enjoy the adventure lifestyle,” said Detroit 4fest CEO Tom Zielinski. “For new attendees, we have Off-Road 101 lessons this weekend. This all started very organically — it was some people off-roading on the weekend, then all of a sudden we had thousands of people joining us. All the manufacturers are here with their finest off-road wares.”

In addition to manufacturer displays, 4fest’s Vendor Village features some 60 off-road equipment makers with accessories, performance parts and more to make off-road bruisers even more capable. Vendors include Bilstein, General Tire, JKS Manufacturing, General RV Center, Blacklake Research and more.

The event’s kick-off event Friday night? Twilight off-roading from 7-9 p.m. over Holly Oaks’ 40 miles of trails and tribulations.

From left, Robin Johnson, 64, of Rochester Hills; April Gala, 59, of Shelby Township, and Melissa Tomassi arrived early at Holly Oaks for 4fest.From left, Robin Johnson, 64, of Rochester Hills; April Gala, 59, of Shelby Township, and Melissa Tomassi arrived early at Holly Oaks for 4fest.

Three members of the Jeep Babes off-road club came early Friday to help with organization and play in the mud. “I can’t wait to take my Wrangler 392 out on the trails,” said Melissa Tomassi, 44, of Troy. “I love the Tetons rollercoaster hills and the technical Mt. Magna.”

Mt. Magna is a recreation of some of Moab, Utah’s most fearsome obstacles, including Mashed Potato Hill, Gravy Bowl and the Golden Crack. Tomassi was joined by fellow Jeep Babes April Gala, 59, of Shelby Township and Robin Johnson, 64, of Rochester Hills. The Babes are 4,300 strong in Michigan — 14,000 nationally — and are planning their own weekend at Holly next month.

Such events are testimony to the explosion in off-road interest across the country as automakers have responded to Americans’ pandemic wanderlust with more overlanders like the Ford Ranger Raptor, Bronco Sport Heritage Edition, Chevy ZR2, Toyota Tacoma TRD, GMC Canyon AT4X, Land Rover Defender, Ram TRX and so on.

The torrential rains of recent weeks challenged Zielinski’s team as they manicured the park to be safe and secure for the weekend. In addition to Mt. Magna, drivers will enjoy Holy Oaks staples like Darlene’s Ridge, Flat Top, Bathtub, the Big Easy and Holly Glen.

“Holly Glen is my favorite section,” said pro race car driver Aaron Bambach, who has competed in everything from Indy Lights racers to the Super Truck series. “I took a 480-horse Wrangler 392 with 37-inch tires down there once and really put it to the test.”

At Holly Oaks this weekend, it's a Jeep thing.At Holly Oaks this weekend, it's a Jeep thing.

Master the Glen and Mt. Magna and Zielinski will point you to even more challenging corners of the Oakland County Park that rose from an abandoned sand and gravel mine. “We got the notch, which is pro-level off-roading,” said Zielinski.  “It’s all sorts of sketchiness.”

In addition to production mules, organizers expect a flood of ATVs, buggies, side-by-sides, and even race trucks over the two-day event. Four Ultra4 race trucks will put on an exhibition Saturday afternoon featuring local off-road racing hero, Casey Gilbert.

Everyone has a chance to learn at Holly Oaks, including students from the Jalen Rose Academy. The ex-Michigan basketball star himself will help introduce kids to the off-road world along with Jeep CEO Jim Morrison.

Rough riders like the Ford Bronco DR will be tackling Holly Oaks during 4fest.Rough riders like the Ford Bronco DR will be tackling Holly Oaks during 4fest.

Detroit 4fest has spawned a Winterfest in January at Holly Oaks as well as spinoffs in Jay, Oklahoma, and Austin, Texas. Total national 4fest attendance last year? Over 50,000 people.

“This is a very engaged audience , they are very committed to what they do. Everybody wants to be part of this,” said Zielinski. “If you’re new, come out. If you’re a veteran, we have stuff to challenge you.”

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

Everything you need to know about Detroit’s auto show: Rides, reveals and electrics

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 8, 2023

Detroit — Indoor and outdoor test tracks, 35 brands, a new Ford F-150, even a Jeep kids test track is in the house. After a couple of experimental transition years, the fall Detroit auto show is finding its lane in a new auto exhibition era.

The annual Detroit auto show circus opens at Huntington Place for media days Wednesday and then welcomes the public from Saturday, Sept. 16, to Sunday, Sept. 24. With colorful fall weather outside and polished displays inside on the convention center’s main floor, NAIAS promises to be one of North America’s best shows of the year.

A 2023 Corvette Z06 convertible garnered plenty of attention at last year's North America International Auto Show at Huntington Place. This year's show runs from Sept. 13-24 at the convention center in downtown Detroit.A 2023 Corvette Z06 convertible garnered plenty of attention at last year's North America International Auto Show at Huntington Place. This year's show runs from Sept. 13-24 at the convention center in downtown Detroit.

The exhibit boasts the most brands of any show — headlined by Detroit’s own hometown automakers. Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Stellantis NV will each unveil two new vehicles, including America’s best-selling chariot, the Ford F-150, in an event Tuesday night that will take over Hart Plaza.

“Not many shows can put up 35 brands,” said Detroit auto show Executive Director Rod Alberts during a preview of the show floor this week. “We are getting back to the core of what the auto show is.”

This is a show focused on vehicles — without the distractions of giant yellow ducks and dinosaurs at last year’s event. “After the pandemic and the supply chain issues of recent years, this year is a rejuvenated show,” Alberts said. “We’ve made great strides. The show is more robust with more activations and energy all around you.”

Workers prepare display areas for vehicles to be shown starting next week in Huntington Place during the auto show.Workers prepare display areas for vehicles to be shown starting next week in Huntington Place during the auto show.

Twenty percent of the show floor (an estimated 100,000 square feet) is occupied by NAIAS’s first main-floor electric-vehicle track — the so-called Powering Michigan EV Experience, sponsored by International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 58 and the National Electrical Contractors Association.

Like visitors to an auto amusement park, show attendees will have the choice of four indoor rides — plus a test track for kids to ride in toy Jeeps. Stellantis will have a 90,000-square-foot display dominated by (actual) Jeep and Ram activations that look like something out of Disneyland. Attendees will ride along while Ram shows off its tow muscle and Wranglers scale a hill for a bird’s-eye view of the show floor.

Speaking of hills, Ford’s display will feature Bronco Mountain rides. Nearby will be the redesigned F-150, fresh from its Hart Plaza reveal; a matte-wrapped, limited-production Lightning Platinum EV truck and Ranger Raptor pickup first-look. Visitors will also get a first look at the 800-horsepower Mustang GTD supercar, which anchors a Mustang display featuring every member of the seventh-generation pony car’s family, including Mustang Mach-E Rally, Mustang Dark Horse, and GT3 and GT4 race cars.

Along the hall’s spine will be stations for different brands to show off their EVs. Government is more involved in the auto industry than ever, and manufacturers are determined to get reticent customers into electrics as regulations push to eliminate gas car production. One of the benefits of electrics is they can cruise indoors free of tailpipe emissions. There will be plenty of EV toys to ride in — GMC Hummer, Mustang Mach-E, VW ID.4 — on a twisty track with a long, fast back straight.

While the electric test track inside will offer only right-hand seat drives, customers can get behind the wheel of GM EVs outside on a test course that makes partial use of the Detroit Grand Prix route.

Tesla will not be at the show, but organizers managed to get the Austin-based automaker’s full Model S/3/X/Y lineup for the test track. With a flood of EV competitors from Ford to Hyundai to Cadillac ramping up EV production, the brand still accounts for some 60% of EV sales nationwide.

Tesla's display at the Detroit auto show will feature its full lineup of vehicles, including the Model Y.Tesla's display at the Detroit auto show will feature its full lineup of vehicles, including the Model Y.

“Every auto show has its own personality, every show has had to change their game plan,” said NAIAS Chairman Thad Szott, president of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association. “Because we are the home of the Detroit Three, we have a different relationship with our automakers. This is a dealer-run show with more access to vehicle inventory because of that special relationship.”

Ford bills its show-opening Hart Plaza event on Tuesday evening as a celebration of America, with pickup trucks, Mustangs and country musicians taking the stage. Grammy-winner Darius Rucker will perform before an exclusive audience of Ford employees.

Beyond the Detroit Three brands, vehicles on display include models from Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Lexus and Volkswagen as part of corporate/regional-supported vehicle displays. Toyota will have a manufacturer-sponsored display front-and-center in the Exhibit Hall with 30 vehicles, including its bZ4X EV, hybrid Prius, and gas-engine models like the new Tacoma pickup and GR Corolla hellion.

“As a dealer association-backed auto show, one of our main goals is to display all the brands that are sold in our region,” Alberts said.

Gone are the big, multimillion-dollar displays of yesteryear — a victim of the social media revolution where brands now introduce vehicles on their own time via digital platforms. That trend has altered every auto show — not just Detroit — so NAIAS has focused on getting butts in seats via activations like the EV Experience.

There will be plenty of eye candy other than EVs. When the kiddies are done taking a ride in toy Jeeps, they’ll drool at the Exotic and Luxury Showcase in the hall’s northeast corner. These treats were once only available to an exclusive Saturday night casino audience ahead of media days. Now they are on view all through the public days, with models from Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, BMW, Infiniti, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Land Rover, Maserati, McLaren, Mercedes, Polestar, Porsche, Rolls-Royce and Volvo.

Even more exotic is a futuristic flying car from California-based Alef Aeronautics.

Other events during the Sept. 13-14 media and technology days include the North American Car Truck and Utility of the Year announcement of the “Best of 2024” nominees (aka semifinalists), Mobility Global Forum, and AutoMobili-D, a look at future mobility platforms.

Friday night, Sept. 15, is all about the Charity Preview, which will command an expensive ticket for a good cause funding children’s charities. Attendees will watch Detroit’s beautiful people and hear the soaring voice of singer Jennifer Hudson. In keeping with the show’s Detroit-branded theme, Shinola — the show’s official timekeeper — will debut its new Canfield Speedway Lap 06 timepiece at the charity event.

“We started a watch factory in Detroit 10 years ago because this city knows how to make things,” Shinola CEO Awenate Cobbina said. “The Detroit auto show celebrates that same grit and know-how.”

Detroit auto show details

Media Day: Wednesday, Sept. 13Technology Days and AutoMobili-D: Sept. 13-14Mobility Global Forum: Sept. 13-14Charity Preview: Friday, Sept. 15Public show: Saturday, Sept. 16-Sunday, Sept. 24Tickets: Adults $20, seniors $12, kids $10Information: https://naias.com

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

Unveiled: Ford Mustang Mach-E Rally goes off-road

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 8, 2023

The Ford Mustang Dark Horse will tear up the track. The Mustang Mach-E Rally wants to get dirty.

Taking advantage of the Mach-E’s higher ride height and all-wheel-drive, Ford on Thursday announced an off-road version of its first electric Mustang SUV. The result is the Mach-E Rally.

The off-road beast shares similar performance specs to the twin-motor Mach-E GT with 480 horsepower and a muscular 650 pound-feet of torque (Ford estimates the Rally will get to 60 mph a little quicker than the GT’s 3.8 marker). Expect a similar starting price for the Mexico-assembled Rally at $65,000 when it goes on sale early in 2024.

But what makes the Rally unique are upgrades to the suspension and chassis. The electric ‘Stang is raised nearly an inch for better ground clearance, its twin motors shielded from off-road debris, and offers available mud flaps — though the Rally does not come with the skid plates found on more extreme, ladder-frame-based, Ford off-road vehicles like the Bronco and F-150 Raptor.

“Mustang Mach-E Rally puts Ford’s decades of passion for rally championships around the world right in the hands of our customers.’ said Ford CEO Jim Farley, who raced a Mustang GT4 coupe at Daytona earlier this year. “It takes Mustang where it hasn’t been before — to gravel and dirt roads.”

The Rally sits on meaty-sidewall 235/55/19R Michelin CrossClimate2 tires to absorb more off-road punishment. Select RallySport drive mode and the Mach-E adjusts its MagneRide shocks for a more compliant off-road ride. Fifteen-inch-rotor Brembo brakes and special springs enhance the vehicle’s athletic capabilities.

The 2024 Ford Mustang Mach-E Rally has AWD and a big rear spoiler.The 2024 Ford Mustang Mach-E Rally has AWD and a big rear spoiler.

Mach-E Rally merges with the industry trend toward off-road vehicles. But unlike dirt-caked bruisers such as Bronco, Jeep Wrangler and a score of jacked pickup trucks, Rally was inspired by Rallycross, the off-road racing series that has inspired gas-powered vehicles like the Subaru WRX, Audi Quattro and Porsche 911 Dakar. Ford brought in rally racing veterans to develop the Mach-E over 500-mile trials on a rally course at its Michigan Proving Ground.

Ford estimates the range on the Rally to be 250 miles from its low-slung, 91 kWh battery, but that number may decrease significantly when playing hard in the dirt. Don’t expect the Rally to be in any long-range rally competitions just yet. Recharging from 10% to 80% range (175 miles) will take a lengthy 36 minutes.

You’ll know the Rally by its Focus RS-inspired rear spoiler, unique upper-and-lower body moldings, front splitter, black roof and front fog lights. The car’s wow factor is enhanced by dual-racing stripes and brash colors including Grabber Blue, Shadow  Black, Eruption Green, Start White, Glacier Gray and Grabber Yellow.

Interior of the 2024 Ford Mustang Mach-E Rally.Interior of the 2024 Ford Mustang Mach-E Rally.

Inside, passengers will strap into gloss white seatbacks with “Mach-E Rally” debossed into the seating surface. Rally options the latest version of Ford’s BlueCruise 1.3 driver assist so that owners are comfortable taking the interstate to their favorite remote location. The system offers auto lane changes and in-lane re-positioning when next to big trucks.

“We have always explored new areas of performance, and the combination of a rally-tuned suspension, dual motor electric powertrain, and wicked styling makes the Mustang Mach-E Rally a different kind of performance vehicle that will excite customers chasing their next adventure,” said Mach-E chief engineer Donna Dickson.

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

Payne: Subaru Impreza makes the case for the family hatchback

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 8, 2023

Bowmanville, Ontario — Subaru has carved out a niche in the competitive U.S. landscape against full-line behemoths like Chevrolet, Toyota and Ford by offering competent cars like the Impreza to consumers who want reliable, affordable, all-wheel-drive vehicles.

Consumers like Mrs. Payne.

So when Subie comes to market with a new Impreza every five years, I get the chance to see the customer buying experience up close and personal. When the 2024 Impreza arrived in my driveway this June, my wife wanted to put it through the paces on a road trip to Ontario, where I would be racing sports cars at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (or, simply, Mosport to race fans).

For 2024 the Subaru Impreza is only available in a hatchback - but still comes with standard AWD and affordable, sub-$24k sticker price.For 2024 the Subaru Impreza is only available in a hatchback - but still comes with standard AWD and affordable, sub-$24k sticker price.

She was not just interested in the latest Subaru take on tech goo-gaws that her husband writes about all the time (big touchscreens, wireless Apple CarPlay, driver-assistance systems) but also whether the new model suffered from the same bug that has plagued her current 2017 car.

On the cusp of buying her third-generation Impreza, this is a make-or-break generation for my wife. While the Impreza has met her needs — to the point where she is a missionary for Subaru to friends and family — the ‘17 model has failed in one crucial area: it has an electronic hiccup that is driving her bonkers.

When left unattended for a few days, her Impreza Sport’s battery will drain — leaving her stranded at, say, the airport upon return from out of town. Ouch. After multiple visits to her dealer and multiple new batteries, the problem hasn’t been resolved.

Happily, the ‘24 Subie has improved other details that annoyed her. Kind of like upgrading the 20-year-old microwave in your kitchen that takes 15 minutes to heat leftover lasagna.

With AWD and a low cetner of gravory thanks to its Boxer 4-cylinder engine, the 2024 Subaru Impreza offers good handling on and off-road.With AWD and a low cetner of gravory thanks to its Boxer 4-cylinder engine, the 2024 Subaru Impreza offers good handling on and off-road.

On I-94 east to the Port Huron crossing into Canada, Mrs. Payne activated adaptive cruise control (oh, she loves this feature) in the new Impreza and cruised along between 70 and 77 mph — adjusting the speed with a simple toggle on the steering wheel. That’s a noted upgrade from the ‘17 feature that would speed up in 5 mph increments. Want to adjust in 1 mph increments? That requires an awkward, loooooong button hold. It drove her batty.

Problem solved. On such little things does loyalty hang, and Mrs. Payne appreciated Subaru’s attention to details. It was like product managers had been listening in on to our conversations for five years.

Motorheads like me like to buy different stuff — the most wicked-looking sports car here, the latest self-driving EV there — and my influence on my wife’s buying habits is not trivial. I’ve been an Impreza WRX and STI fanboy for years, and my wife — who still prefers sedans over SUVs — knew that I was impressed with Subaru’s performance engineering. She also knew I wouldn’t let a Subaru into our house until they hired a competent design team — which they finally did for the fourth-gen 2012 Impreza.

But fundamentally, she wants an appliance that fits her life. All-wheel drive that gets her up the driveway in January, heated seats for Michigan winters, a hatchback to fit our luggage when we go up north after winter finally ends.

The big interior change for th 2024 Subaru Impreza is a 11.6-inch, vertical console screen.The big interior change for th 2024 Subaru Impreza is a 11.6-inch, vertical console screen.

She liked the modest tweaks designers had made for the ‘24 hatchback, like the frameless grille inspired by an athletic shoe. But she was more impressed by the redesigned center console, which replaced the hand brake with an e-brake to open up room for staggered cupholders, and a wireless charger so she could navigate with wireless Apple CarPlay.

Now we’re talking. No more wires crisscrossing the console. No phone-draining battery while navigating for hours. Mrs. Payne simply set our destination to Bowmanville, Ontario, on her phone and the car automatically picked it up on Impreza’s new 11.6-inch vertical screen.

As she chugged across Canada in wireless adaptive-cruise heaven, I related to her that we were driving the Impreza RS.

“It’s a new model featuring a 2.5-liter Boxer-4 engine with 30 more horsepower than the standard 152-horse, 2.0-liter engine it carried over from your Sport model and, um . . . ”

Too much motorhead talk. She hadn’t noticed the power difference. Didn’t care. What did matter to her was that the cabin was quieter and the continuously-variable transmission improved from last gen, making for smooth acceleration as she merged into traffic on Canada’s 401 highway.

The 2024 Subaru Impreza fule tank gains 3 gallons for a total highway range of 564 miles.The 2024 Subaru Impreza fule tank gains 3 gallons for a total highway range of 564 miles.

Which is why Subaru has made evolutionary drivetrain changes for 2024. Consumers are content with its performance, reliability, 29 mpg efficiency. Which is why government mandates to force Subaru to go electric (along with the rest of the industry) make little sense to Subaru’s core customers.

Fuel was never an issue during our 800-mile, five-day round trip. We made a single fuel stop for five minutes at a Petro Canada next to our hotel on Friday night. That’s all we needed (in addition to more power, the RS gets a bigger gas tank for 2024 and a 100-mile increase in gas range to 564 miles). A year ago, we thought about driving my Tesla Model 3 to Mosport but abandoned the idea because recharging would have added significant inconvenience to a tightly timed weekend in Bowmanville — a town that does not have fast chargers where we could charge overnight.

Instead, we drove a Volvo XC90 plug-in tester in 2023 (reviewed here) so we could use the gas engine on the long trip — and the 23-mile reserve battery for local trips from our hotel to the race track. We plugged in every night on a 110-volt charger in a nearby Hyundai dealer, but the battery wasn’t nearly enough to make the daily 44-mile round-trip to the track and back.

Running back and forth to the charger each night made Mrs. Payne wonder what made the $84,000 Volvo a better appliance than the $28,000 Subaru.

Speaking of battery issues, the 12-volt lead acid battery will dog my wife’s purchase of the new 2024 model. Will the 12-volt system have the same drain as her current Subie? Will the residual trade-in be hurt by the Impreza’s battery issue?

The 2024 Subaru Impreza (left) gets a frameless grille and thinner headlights over the last-gen model (right).The 2024 Subaru Impreza (left) gets a frameless grille and thinner headlights over the last-gen model (right).

The questions led her to shop the compact car market (no EVs on her list), but the AWD choices are few. VW’s Golf-based AWD AllTrack has exited the market, which leaves only the Mazda3 Turbo.

Motorheads like me love the Mazda but its small, remote touchscreen is a turn-off to my wife — especially now that the new Impreza Sport comes standard with the big touchscreen. The Impreza’s rear seat/cargo room is also bigger than the Mazda to hold more Paynes and their stuff.

The new ‘Ru isn’t perfect — budget constraints mean the backup camera doesn’t sound an audible as it approaches an object, and there is no heated steering wheel option. Mrs. Payne had hoped for both. But overall she liked the upgrades to her microwave — er, auto — appliance.

And we didn’t experience an overnight battery drain. Looks like Subie still has a loyal customer.

Next week: 2023 BMW 760i

2024 Subaru Impreza

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

Price: $24,085 base including $1,095 destination ($29,239 RS as tested)

Power plant: 2.0-liter Boxer 4-cylinder; 2.5-liter Boxer 4-cylinder

Power: 152 horsepower, 145 pound-feet of torque (2.0L); 182 horsepower, 178 pound-feet of torque (2.5L)

Transmission: Continuously-variable

Performance: 0-60 mph, 8.2 seconds (Car and Driver est.); gas range, 564 miles

Weight: 3,275 pounds (as tested)

Fuel economy: EPA 27 mpg city/34 mpg highway/30 mpg combined (2.0L); 26 mpg city/33 mpg highway/29 mpg combined (2.5L)

Report card

Highs: Rare all-wheel-drive compact sedan; upgraded screen/tech

Lows: No heated steering wheel; no backup camera audible

Overall: 4 stars

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

Payne: Ford Performance 700 F-150 is Frankenstein’s monster

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 8, 2023

Pontiac — If the Mustang GT500 and F-150 Raptor R F-150 had a child, it would be called the Ford Performance 700 F-150.

This insane, supercharged 700-horsepower V8-powered pickup could star in “Meg 2: The Trench.” Or maybe “Oppenheimer.” It’s a nuclear bomb strapped to a Ford F-150 chassis. Fishtailing onto M1 Concourse’s back straight, I dropped the hammer and hung on for dear life. The three-ton beast exploded down the straightaway — the speedometer mercifully limited to 110 mph before we took off for the moon. Or before the Goodyear Grabber tires vaporized off the 22-inch wheels — whichever comes first.

That’s right, I took an F-150 to the race track. Apparently, Ford found that making a 700-horsepower supercharged $109K Raptor R off-road hellion wasn’t enough to satisfy buyers’ appetites for all things V-8. Ford says the future is electric pickups, which is like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse introducing a vegan menu. They know their customers still come for the red meat.

Indeed, the Ford Performance 700 package was introduced at the annual Carlisle Ford Nationals red meat-fest in Pennsylvania this June amongst a celebration of Ford hot rods, aftermarket mod shops, drag racers and more. If my week with the Meg is any indication — it should sell like hot cakes. Make that hot steaks.

My friend Kevin took one look at my Regular Cab two-door stealth weapon and called his dealer on the spot.

Order: I want a standard $40K XLT pickup with extra beef, quad pipes and a side of 22s.

Dealer: Boom. Done. That’ll be 67 grand.

Ka-ching.

Ford must have been sick of seeing all that V-8 accessory business going out the door to Hennessey, Saleen and Roush. So it’s made the FP700 package available on any F-150 trim. You read that right, any trim you want. XL, XLT, Lariat, Platinum. Rear-wheel or all-wheel drive.

Those wheels are a tell. The Ford Performance 700 F-150 pickup comes equipped with 22-inch, low profile wheels in addition to the 700 horses under the hood.Those wheels are a tell. The Ford Performance 700 F-150 pickup comes equipped with 22-inch, low profile wheels in addition to the 700 horses under the hood.

Plenty of upscale customers who could afford a $109,145 Raptor R — but who don’t want the rugged, look-at-me off-road wardrobe — will opt for, say a loaded $66,650 Platinum Crew Cab stuffed with the smokin’ supercharged V-8 FP700 package. For such customers, adding $27,000 — $12,350 for the engine plus installation — will be pocket-change totaling $93,000-plus.

But if you don’t have that kind of coin, then outfitting a base F-150 is not only half the price of a Raptor R — but a serious, muscle-car-slayin’ sleeper supertruck.

The Ford Performance 700 Regular Cab was the first time I have taken a pickup on the track. The closest thing to that was a Dodge Durango SRT that I terrorized Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a few years ago. The Ford Meg was surprisingly manageable around M1’s technical 1.5-mile course. Credit the two-door’s relative light weight, rear-wheel drive and short wheelbase (you can only option a 5.5-foot bed) compared with the volume four-door Crew Cab F-150.

Bringing the cruise missile back to earth after the back straight was a challenge for the F-150’s standard brakes (the FP700 package is a drivetrain option only) and General Grabber tires, so driver beware. But the one suspension modification — a lowered rear end — seemed to keep the Meg planted through the long, almost-180-degree, Turn 7 right-hander. More impressive was that I could keep it floored through M1’s uphill Turn 8 right-hander — a test for any sports car — before I properly backed off for the 90-degree righthander to follow.

Light weight aside, the short wheelbase XLT model had its drawbacks — most obviously some serious rear tire squirm thanks to the solid rear axle. Outfitting my pickup with limited slip out back would make tight parking lot turns more comfortable. Hit the highway, however, and you can let the big boy roam.

The Ford Performance 700 F-150 pickup (right) takes a page from the Mustang GT500 with a supercharged V-8 making 700 horsepower.The Ford Performance 700 F-150 pickup (right) takes a page from the Mustang GT500 with a supercharged V-8 making 700 horsepower.

I took the FP700 to the Celebrate Lutz event in Ypsilanti (it feels like something Maximum Bob would have designed, yes?) and it was no secret to some of the motorheads there.

“I heard you drive up. That’s the Ford Performance V-8, isn’t it?” said one industry insider, his face lit up with a smile as wide as the Ford’s chrome fender.

For all of its grins, the FP700 demands respect. Put the similar 700-horse 5.2-liter V-8 in the Raptor R and it will hit 60 mph in an astonishing 3.7 seconds. My XLT can’t be far off, and the truck gulped traffic on I-696 like a killer whale devouring goldfish.

Triple-digit speeds come in a hurry in a truck that, remember, is still sitting on stock suspension.

Beyond the visceral thrills, the FP700 pack comes in two flavors: Black Edition (mine) and Bronze Edition. The Black features black wheels and graphics, the Bronze boasts appropriately colored accents. Both come with the aforementioned 22s, rear lowering kit, a black painted grille, fender vents and special graphics. Other available goodies include sport exhaust, roof spoiler, tailgate spoiler and tires to wrap around the big wheels. While the pickup lacks rear seats, it boasts a healthy 8,200-pound towing capacity.

The Ford Performance 700 F-150 pickup ate up M1's straightaways with its supercharged V-8. Corners were more of a challenge with leaf springs and solid rear axle.The Ford Performance 700 F-150 pickup ate up M1's straightaways with its supercharged V-8. Corners were more of a challenge with leaf springs and solid rear axle.

I figured my $48,000 XLT — which included features like adaptive cruise control and 360-degree camera — pushed $76K when outfitted with the FP700 package. While that’s a bargain compared to a 700-horsepower Raptor R, it’s only about five grand shy of the standard 450-horse, turbo-V6, terrain-chewing Raptor supertruck, which is loaded with SuperCrew cabin and top-line F-150 interior amenities.

Dealer installation means the pickup is, like its F-150 stablemates, backed by Ford’s full 3-year/36,000 mile warranty. So don’t be shy with your right lead foot when you pull up next to a 495-horse Corvette at a Woodward stoplight.

Next week: 2024 Subaru Impreza

2023 Ford Performance 700 F-150

Vehicle type: Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, five-passenger pickup

Price: Estimated $75,775 as tested ($48,755 XLT plus estimated $27,000 FP700 dealer upgrade)

Powerplant: Supercharged 5.0-liter V-8

Power: 700 horsepower, 590 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, NA; top speed, 110 mph; towing, 8,200 pounds

Weight: NA

Fuel economy: 10 city/15 highway/12 combined (Detroit News estimate)

Report card

Highs: Sleeper truck; Raptor R power for two-thirds the price

Lows: Lacks amenities of a $70K truck; nearly as expensive as a V-6 Raptor

Overall: 3 stars

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

Payne: EV or gas car? The cost of refueling in Michigan

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 5, 2023

Charlevoix — Electric vehicles are flooding the market this summer just as Michigan gas prices have hit a $3.86 high for 2023. While customers see EV costs and charging infrastructure as barriers to purchase, a recent study from the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago and the Associated Press–NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 74% of Americans say saving money on gas is a major reason they’d consider purchasing a battery-powered vehicle.

But are EVs cheaper to fuel than their gasoline-fired counterparts? The Detroit News went on the road to find out.

Much of the answer depends on how you use your vehicle, so The News compared refueling costs both for road trips as well as daily commutes. EV early adopters tend to come from higher income households with multiple vehicles and a garage. Electrics are typically used for daily commutes and are refueled overnight from the utility-run, AC electric grid, while companion gas-powered cars are used for road trips. Single-vehicle households, on the other hand, use their EVs as multi-purpose mules — charging on higher-cost, DC fast-charging stations near the nation’s highways as well as plugging in locally on AC outlets.

The Kia EV6 equaled the gas-powered Dodge Hornet as the most expensive road trip car at $80 over 500 miles.The Kia EV6 equaled the gas-powered Dodge Hornet as the most expensive road trip car at $80 over 500 miles.

I drove four different cars to north Michigan and back — a 500-mile round trip — in addition to extended driving around Metro Detroit to compare costs: an electric-powered, $57,410, 2022 Kia EV6 and $60,000, 2019 Tesla Model 3; and gas-powered, 2017, $28,000 Subaru Impreza and 2024, $44,160 Dodge Hornet. All are similarly-sized, all-wheel-drive models.

The Tesla was the cheapest at $50 for the 500-mile round-trip thanks to a 30 cents per kWh charging cost at its proprietary Superchargers in Meijer parking lots along I-75. Tesla rates can be highly variable from 25-43 cents-per-kWh depending on location.

The Kia EV, on the other hand, was—along with the Hornet—the most expensive of the four cars to refuel since it relies on third-party, fast chargers that range from 40-48 cents per kWh hour to recharge (Rivian vehicles, like Tesla, have exclusive access to a Rivian network along the route). I used Electrify America fast chargers, the nation’s largest fast charger network outside of Tesla, that services all-comers with a CCS charging port. EA’s charging network has followed Tesla’s into similar shopping centers and this year upped its cost from 43 cents/kWh to 48 cents.

The Kia cost $80 to charge on the round trip which would be similar to EVs from other brands like the Cadillac Lyriq, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Ford F-150 Lightning pickup and BMW iX.

At just $12.50 a week, the AWD Tesla Model 3 is more than twice as cheap to charge on a 50-mile work commute as a 30-mpg Subaru Impreza. On the other hand, the $28k Impreza stickers for half as much.At just $12.50 a week, the AWD Tesla Model 3 is more than twice as cheap to charge on a 50-mile work commute as a 30-mpg Subaru Impreza. On the other hand, the $28k Impreza stickers for half as much.

The gas-powered Impreza and Hornet cost $67 and $80, respectively, filling up on $3.99 regular gas. The Impreza slurped 30 mpg and the Hornet 25 mpg.

It should be noted the EV vs. gas journeys were very different. Due to their inferior range and refueling ability, the EVs take more trip planning.

“We have built a world around driving gas vehicles. Driving an EV is a lifestyle change,” said Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions. “You have to plug it overnight when you get to your destination, then unplug it when you leave. You have to plan road trips around chargers so that you get a bite to eat while you charge for 20 minutes.”

Whereas I only refilled the gas pair once on the 500-mile round trip, I had to stop and fuel the EVs three times each. The Subaru has a range of 462 miles — nearly enough to make the entire round trip before a short, five-minute refueling stop. Depending on speed, I found the Subie’s range could vary by about 12% (30 mpg instead of 34 mpg).

The Tesla EV, by contrast, had much greater range variability — losing up to 30% of range, for example, if I traveled at 80 mph on I-75 instead of 70. That means its 300-mile range may not be enough to get to the destination. What’s more, EVs — unlike gas cars — fill up much more slowly (think a mug of beer) once you reach over 80% of capacity. And when I got to Charlevoix, my charging options were limited. So I stopped twice on the way north for a total of 45 minutes — and then again on the way back.

The Subaru Impreza got 30 mpg combined and cost $67 to fuel over 500 miles.The Subaru Impreza got 30 mpg combined and cost $67 to fuel over 500 miles.

“The physics of a battery is that it’s not going to give you 300 miles in five minutes,” said Fiorani. “Society is going to have to sacrifice in order to make (the EV) transition. This is not a full step forward like other consumer product advances — people are going to notice the negatives.”

The best way to travel is to make sure your destination (hotel, friend’s home) has a 240-volt charger so you can charge at your destination. Just like home.

It’s local commuting where the EV really shines.

The cost of fueling the Subaru (30 mpg) and Hornet (24 mpg) were nearly the same whether commuting or traveling. The EVs, on the other hand, got much more efficient when home charging on a 240-volt outlet (same voltage as a dryer).

If I home-charged the Tesla at DTE Energy’s overnight, 15 cents-per-kWh off-peak rate, a 50-mile round trip to The Detroit News downtown office would cost just $2.50, or a total of $12.50 a week. The Impreza, on the other hand, would cost $6.66 a day for a total of $33 a week.

The Tesla Model 3 charges on proprietary Tesal Superchargers - but can charge on third-party, CCS chargers, too, with an adapter.The Tesla Model 3 charges on proprietary Tesal Superchargers - but can charge on third-party, CCS chargers, too, with an adapter.

As with long-distance travel, there is a wrinkle. A typical charger-plus-installation at a home runs about $2,000. So an EV would take about two years to get the charger cost back in fuel savings. And the $10,000 premium of an all-wheel-drive Model 3 would take about 10 years to make back over a similarly-equipped Impreza Sport.

The refueling advantage of an EV lies in the assumption that owners have access to a garage at work or home.

“While there is plenty of interest in purchasing an electric vehicle, the high upfront cost of owning one and concerns about the country’s charging infrastructure are barriers to more people driving them,” said Jennifer Benz, deputy director of the AP-NORC Center. “Policies that alleviate these concerns will be a key component of building support for an EV future.”

The 2024 Dodge Hornet gets 25 mpg combined fuel economy.The 2024 Dodge Hornet gets 25 mpg combined fuel economy.

Accordingly, automakers target higher-income demographics for EV sales. There are more EV options in the market, with 30% of new vehicle offerings this year being electric. According to data from Cox Automotive, the average EV transaction price was $53,469 in July compared to $48,334 for gas chariots. Apple to apples, EVs are much pricier than their segment counterparts. A 2024 Chevrolet Blazer EV, for example, starts at $56,715 — about $20,000 north of its gas-fired stablemate. Automakers say such premiums are mostly due to battery cost.

Governments from Washington, D.C., to California are targeting the elimination of gas-engine sales by 2035. To help EV adoption, many states are offering tax discounts in addition to the federal tax credit of $7,500 which the Tesla qualifies for since it is Made in the USA (the Korean-made Kia does not). Leading the way is Colorado with a $5,000 EV state credit that is due to expand to $19,000 later this year. Michigan does not have a state tax credit for EVs.

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

Payne: Cruisin’ Plum Crazy in the last Charger Hellcat

Posted by Talbot Payne on August 24, 2023

Birmingham — It was a Plum Crazy Dream Cruise week.

I drove a Plum Crazy-painted 2023 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Jailbreak on Woodward all weekend. Plum Crazy fun to drive. And it’s Plum Crazy that this is the last year Dodge will sell this popular, iconic popular sedan.

If Corvette is Cruise King, then the Charger Widebody (and its Challenger sibling) is the Duke of Brawn. As I drove up and down Metro Detroit’s main street last week, few sedans had more presence. Widebody fenders like Dwayne Johnson biceps, dish wheels like Captain America’s shield, sinister LED running lights.

Freight train. The 2023 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Jailbreak is a terror out of Woodward stoplights. But its sophisticated suspension also enables high performance when the roads gets twisty.Freight train. The 2023 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Jailbreak is a terror out of Woodward stoplights. But its sophisticated suspension also enables high performance when the roads gets twisty.

No one was more entertained than young kids. In Pontiac Cruise traffic, I saw the eyes of two boys in a pickup bed widen at the sight of the Purple People Eater on their bumper. Their fingers formed spinning air wheels and I obliged by shoving the Hellcat’s T-shifter into NEUTRAL, then revving the engine.

WHEEEERAWWWRRR! WHEEEERAWWWRRR! WHEEEERAWWWRRR!

The Hellcat’s sinister combination of supercharger and V-8 was intoxicating. More so with open road in front of it. Stoplight challenges from Mustangs, Camaros (even V6-powered Chargers wanting to know how they measured up to Brother Hellcat) invariably ended with their doors blown off into the grass. Plum Crazy.

Since it was introduced in 2015, the Dodge SRT Hellcat has captivated American enthusiasts. It reduced a pack of media to giggling children at its first Challenger coupe test at Portland International Speedway. With more power than Thor and that shrieking, supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi V-8 sending chills up your spine, naming these beasts after a kitty seemed an understatement. Was Godzilla copyrighted? Kraken not available? Smaug?

“The Hellcat has 650 pound-feet of torque,” said Dodge ringleader Tim Kuniskis at the time. “Top speed of 182 mph. Quarter-mile in 11.2 seconds. It’s loud, obnoxious, pure evil.”

The Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Jailbreak can launch from 0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds, according to Car and Driver.The Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Jailbreak can launch from 0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds, according to Car and Driver.

And pure gold for Dodge. SRT Hellcat did the improbable: carrying Challenger to No. 1 in segment sales over the iconic Mustang and Camaro. I’ve always preferred the Charger sedan version because I’m a family man: with four doors, you could pick up the kids at school during the day, do launch controls out of Woodward stoplights by night.

No wonder Charger outsells Challenger 3:2, maintaining 80,00-90,000 in annual sales for the last nine years even as other sedans disappeared from the landscape. Kuniskis and his elves kept hammering out new, more outrageous models — Demon, Redeye, Jailbreak (which unlocks a flood of custom options) — dressed in outrageous colors: Destroyer Gray, Go Mango, Sinamon Stick, Sublime, Plum Crazy.

The SRT lineup peaked with the limited-edition, 1,025-horse Challenger Demon 170 that only a lucky few will own. One of them is Jay Leno, who picked up the keys for his 170 at Vinsetta Garage on Aug. 19 to kick off the Cruise.

I asked the comedian what other models in his 180-car, $52 million collection had over 1,000 horsepower. He rattled off four hot-rod mods like the biofuel EcoJet and a Rolls Royce Merlin-powered Franken-Bentley. But the Dodge was the only production car to achieve that distinction.

Heady stuff, but my base 717-horse Charger SRT Hellcat Jailbreak will do just fine, thank you. I chased Leno and Kuniskis up Woodward to Pasteiner’s hobby shop and I swear my Charger got more looks. Paint it green and you’d swear it was the Hulk.

The Jailbreak's supercharged, 6.2-liter V-8 engine produces 717 horsepower.The Jailbreak's supercharged, 6.2-liter V-8 engine produces 717 horsepower.

My customized $89,907 model came standard with the latest electronic goodies embedded in a distinct, bezeled carbon-fiber dash display that stands out in this day of hoodless tablet screens.

With goodies like Android Auto, audio controls on the back of the steering wheel, shift paddles, blind-spot assist, and rear-backup assist, Charger lacked few of the gizmos found on the $153,000, 617-horsepower twin-turbo-V8-powered BMW M8 that was also in my driveway for Cruise week.

“Which one shall we take to Woodward?” I asked my motorhead son, who was in town. “We’d be Plum Crazy not to take the Hellcat,” he smiled.

Alas, the killjoys in Washington, D.C., have decided Dodge V-8s are mortal enemies of the polar bear. The last Hellcat will roll off the assembly line in Brampton, Ontario, at the end of this year lest Dodge incur the wrath of the pencil pushers (by the way, if you don’t have $90K laying around, let me recommend the $56K Scat Pack. Same Widebody. Same 20-inch wheels. Same Plum Crazy paint).

If only I could have taken the bureaucrats for a ride in the country.

Midweek, I took Hulk up north to M-32 (the gas guzzler’s 18.5-gallon tank meant I had over 300 miles of range), where the beast proved it could tap dance through the twisties as well as obliterate spotlights. Tap the SRT button on the center console and a menu of Drive Mode options appears. I haven’t seen so much red meat since I ate at Fleming’s.

AUTO mode is muscle enough, but TRACK mode takes Hulk to another level.

The Charger, thanks to models like the SRT Hellcat Widebody Jailbreak, is the best-selling large sedan in the U.S.The Charger, thanks to models like the SRT Hellcat Widebody Jailbreak, is the best-selling large sedan in the U.S.

The suspension noticeably stiffened. Did it paw the earth as I aimed it at M-32? I destroyed a set of S-bends, the 4,500-pound chassis glued to the pavement before torching a short straight leading to another suite of bends. A special nod goes to the widebody fenders, which allow wider 12-inch Pirelli P Zero tires versus the standard body’s 10.8-inchers.

Upshifts were brutal, however, belting me in the back. Electronics to the rescue again. I pulled to the side of the road and accessed CUSTOM mode. I selected TRACK settings for everything but the transmission, which I kept in STREET mode. Much better. Hulk continued to bound through the countryside but without knotting my spine with each upshift. As I grew comfortable with the eight-speed gearbox, paddle shifters worked nicely too.

All this on a dated 2005 chassis. Imagine what Hellcat could have accomplished had Dodge been updated like other sports cars in recent years — BMW M, Ford Mustang, Toyota Supra — with the latest metallurgy and tech.

The 2023 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Jailbreak is sure to be a Cruise classic along with hot rods and Corvettes.The 2023 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Jailbreak is sure to be a Cruise classic along with hot rods and Corvettes.

So the sun sets on the 28th annual Woodward Dream Cruise — and the last model year Challenger and Chargers. They will live on at the Cruise for years to come, their muscled torsos a reminder of the second golden era of V-8 muscle cars.

My son and I swapped the driver’s seat so he could enjoy Hellcat launch control. WHEEEERAWWWRRR! roared the engine as the 650 pound-feet of torque overwhelmed the rear tires and we laid a patch of rubber down a secondary road. Plum Crazy.

Next week: 2023 Ford Performance 700 HP Package F-150

2023 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Jailbreak

Vehicle type: Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive five-passenger sports sedan

Price: $81,150 base, including $1,595 destination ($89,907 as tested)

Power plant: Supercharged 6.2-liter V-8

Power: 717 horsepower, 650 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 3.5 seconds (Car and Driver); top speed, 196 mph

Weight: 4,594 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA est. 12 city/21 highway/15 combined

Report card

Highs: Bodybuilder good looks; visceral thrills all day long

Lows: No adaptive cruise control offered; pricier than a Corvette

Overall: 4 stars

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

Payne: Some of my favorite things at the Woodward Dream Cruise

Posted by Talbot Payne on August 21, 2023

Detroit News Auto Critic Henry Payne spent Saturday at the Woodward Dream Cruise. Here are some of the cars, trucks and boats and shirts (no, not kidding about that last one) that caught his eye at Metro Detroit’s 28th annual autopalooza.

F1 on M-1

Just follow the kids. Buzz spread quickly on Woodward Saturday morning that there was a state-of-the-art, 2023 Formula One car on Woodward.

Sure enough, Golling’s Alfa Romeo Fiat auto dealership had brought in the brand’s C43 F1 chassis developed with Sauber Racing for the open-wheel racing series. The world’s premier motorsport, F1 has taken the U.S. by storm in recent years – three Grand Prix are on the 2023 calendar in Miami, Las Vegas, and Austin.

The 2023 Alfa Romeo C43 F1 drew lots of onlookers at the Cruise.The 2023 Alfa Romeo C43 F1 drew lots of onlookers at the Cruise.

“We got it in the showroom from Aug. 14-26 to promote our new Tonale SUV,” said Golling General Manager James Houfley, 37, of Silver Lake, as families ogled the red racer. “This is the busiest I’ve ever seen it here during the Dream Cruise.”

Like the Tonale, the Alfa F1 car is a hybrid — the race car has a 1.6-liter V-6 engine mated to electric motors. Unlike Tonale, the carbon-fiber F1 car produces up to 1,000 horsepower. The show car, however, was a “roller” — stripped of its drivetrain for easy transport as a demo.

Vega muscle

From 1971-77, Chevrolet made the Vega subcompact to compete against Ford’s Pinto and the VW Beetle. It was praised for its sporty, hatchback styling and won Motor Trend’s 1971 Car of the Year. However, Motor Trend noted that its four-cylinder engine’s “power was meagre at highway speeds.”

Henry Smith's 1976 Chevy Vega is a standout, both for its orange paint job and the 6.2-liter LT1 V-8 monster stuffed under the hood.Henry Smith's 1976 Chevy Vega is a standout, both for its orange paint job and the 6.2-liter LT1 V-8 monster stuffed under the hood.

So Erik Smith fixed it.

The 56-year old from West Bloomfield Township stuffed a 455-horsepower, 6.2-liter, LT1 eigne from a Corvette under its orange hood. Say hello to Chevy’s new muscle car.

Boats ‘n’ ice cream trucks

The Cruise has it all from muscle cars to off-roaders to ice cream trucks to boats — yes, boats.

The Sea-Burban at the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise.The Sea-Burban at the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise.

The Detroit News couldn’t catch up to the boat on four wheels that cruised past in Birmingham, but we did chase down the Captain Kool 1998 Chevy Step Van that was selling ice cream up-and-down the strip.

Kelley Isaacs was a popular driver on a warm, sunny day at the Dream Cruise.Kelley Isaacs was a popular driver on a warm, sunny day at the Dream Cruise.

Kelley Isaacs, 39, of Sterling Heights, has gotten a permit for Dream Cruise Saturday the last 13 years to drive the strip. The Chevy may not have a high-horsepower V-8 under the hood, but it has some tasty ice-cream treats in the back. The best-sellers? Drumsticks, Bomb Pops and Strawberry Shortcake pops.

Three wheelin’

Not everything was on four wheels at the Cruise. Slingshot three-wheelers have become commonplace, and this year Morgan added to the mix.

Nathan Struck behind the wheel of his 2023 Morgan Super 3.Nathan Struck behind the wheel of his 2023 Morgan Super 3.

Nathan Struck, 22, of Rochester Hills was giving rides in the English brand’s latest three-wheeler, the 2025 Super Three.

Morgan has ben making three-wheelers sine 1911 and the wee Super 3 sports a 1.5-liter, 3-cylinder Ford Dragon engine and luggage racks on the rear — and sides! — to make up for its lack of internal cargo space. Priced from $73,000, the Morgan is marketed exclusively through Birmingham’s Auto Europe in Michigan.

A tee for thee

Birmingham —You could buy the Official 2023 Woodward Dream Cruise T-shirt this weekend. Or you could buy the official Pasteiner’s T-shirt.

The official 2023 Pastenier's Dream Cruise shirt featuring a 1973 Lancia Stratos (modeled by owner Steve Pasteiner himself).The official 2023 Pastenier's Dream Cruise shirt featuring a 1973 Lancia Stratos (modeled by owner Steve Pasteiner himself).

The famed Woodward hobby store has been publishing its own Cruise T-shirt since 2000. But where the official Cruise shirt pictured a conventional graphic of a classic Detroit sedan, Pasteiner’s shirt featured a Lancia.

A what? The 1973-75 Lancia Stratos was an Italian-made mid-engine sports car purpose-built for rally racing. Only 500 production versions were made per the homologation requirements for racing. It dominated rally racing of the era, winning the World Rally Championship in 1974, 1975 and 1976. Good luck trying to find one today.

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