Articles

Roadkill Nights: Dragsters light up Woodward for a day of thrills

Posted by Talbot Payne on August 13, 2022

Pontiac – That wasn’t an earthquake you felt this morning. It was dragsters on Woodward.

Motor Trend presents Roadkill Nights powered by Dodge kicked off at 11 a.m. with every Detroit motorhead’s dream: legal drag racing on public roads. Thousands of spectators flocked to watch 1,000-horsepower monsters dash down Detroit’s most storied street on a makeshift, 1/8-mile drag strip at the corner of Woodward and South Boulevard north of St. John’s hospital.

Shawn Fink's bright orange beast sports a 526-cubic-inch, hemi-head Chevy engine under the hood.

Shawn Fink, all the way from Casper, Wyoming, in his bright orange 1955 Chevy Bel-Air drag racer staged as one of the first down the strip. The beast sports a 526-cubic-inch, hemi-head Chevy engine under the hood. He recently won Sick Week in Florida, a tour of multiple Sunshine State dragways.

“We’re on the road a lot,” said Fink, flanked by his son who helps him crew. “You have to travel to a lot race tracks in street racing.”

Shawn FInk

The events really kick into high gear late Saturday afternoon when the Dodge Direct Connection Grudge Races are held. A diverse group of seven hot rods – including a Dodge Viper, Dodge station wagon, and a police car – are entered, all bearing common supercharged, 6.2-liter Dodge crate V-8s and manual six-speed transmissions.

Entered by mod shops from Tavarish to Demonology to Corruptt Builds, they will be seeking to dethrone last year’s Grudge champ, Alex Taylor in a rusted 1955 Plymouth Savoy sleeper-mobile.

Taylor and her Hot Rod Garage team built the 1,000-horsepower dragster in just 27 days using a tube frame and the original Savoy top hat. Only the front bumper is not an original part. Well, that and the beastly drivetrain underneath which benefits from a 10% supercharger overdrive and nitrous oxide fuel to produce 1,000 horsepower.

Taylor’s keys to victory?

“Traction, weight, horsepower, and my drag racing experience,” said the 25-year old pro drag racer who pilots a ’68 Camaro in the Unlimited class for her day job. Taylor has been racing since she was a 15-year old in Arkansas.

When the fans aren’t enjoying Woodward drag races, they are pouring into the adjacent M1 Concourse for thrill rides around Champion Motor Speedway in 700-horsepower Dodge Hellcats.

EVENT INFO

Where:

M1 Concourse, 164 South Blvd. West, Pontiac

When:

Saturday 10 a.m.-9 p.m.

Schedule:

10 a.m. — Gates open to the public, event begins

Photo opportunities as muscle/vintage/classic cars enter M1 Concourse

Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge event activities begin — Dodge Challenger and Charger SRT Hellcat thrill and drift rides, dyno testing, and Ram TRX Thrill Ride Experience off-road course

11 a.m. — Drag racing begins with open qualifying session (all drag racing can be viewed via livestream at DodgeGarage.com,Dodge.com,Dodge and MotorTrend YouTube channels)

4:45 p.m. — Dodge Direct Connection Grudge Races begin

5:45 p.m. — Top Eight shootout driver announcements

6:15 p.m. — Opening ceremony

6:30 p.m. — Top Eight shootouts begin (Small Tire & Big Tire)

8:30 p.m. — Top Eight winners’ awards ceremony

9 p.m. — Event concludes

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

Get ready to rumble: Roadkill Nights street-legal drag racing takes over Woodward Saturday

Posted by Talbot Payne on August 13, 2022

Pontiac — Get out the ear plugs, pack up the children and get ready to rumble.

Woodward will shut down at the intersection of South Boulevard here on Saturday as street legal racing takes over Metro Detroit’s most famous street for the seventh annual MotorTrend Presents Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge. Some of the country’s top, street-legal drag racers will descend on a makeshift, 1/8-mile strip of southbound Woodward in two classes — Small Tire, Big Tire — with the top eight shooting it out for victory as twilight descends.

The racing is part of a day-long celebration of car culture as Roadkill also takes over the adjacent M1 Concourse car club for thrill rides, hot-rod and trick-truck displays, dyno engine testing, food trucks, simulators, merchandise galore, and live entertainment.

Drag racing at 'Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge' on Woodward, across from the M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Michigan on August 14, 2021.

Among the highlights will be the second annual Dodge Direct Connection Grudge Race as competitors face off in drag machines made from Dodge’s specialty parts bin. Last year’s Grudge Race winner, Alex Taylor, will defend her title from a snarling field of mod builders, including Tavarish, Westen Champlin, the Throtl team, Christina Roki, Demonology, Corruptt Builds, Collete Davis and David Patterson.

The thrill rides allow families to ride shotgun with professional drivers as they melt the rubber off muscle cars around M1 Concourse’s Champion Motor Speedway — and on M1’s skid pad. Available vehicles include 700-horsepower Dodge Challenger and Charger SRT Hellcats, Challenger Hellcat Redeye, Durango SRT Hellcat, and 375-horse Challenger R/T Shaker.

If dirt is your thing, then you can climb into the right-hand seat of the 702-horse Ram 1500 TRX (pronounced T-rex) monster on a specially-made off-road course.

Roadkill MotorTrend TV personalities David Freiburger and Mike Finnegan will host the event along with Dodge Chief Donut Maker Preston Patterson, who won a one-year crown as the ultimate Dodge brand ambassador. Other motorhead celebs on hand include Steve Dulcich, David Newbern, Mike Cotten, Lucky Costa, Cristy Lee, Steve Magnante, and KJ Jones.

When not waiting in line for thrill rides (they get long), attendees can enter the Hellcat Simulators to digitally pilot the Dodge supercar down a quarter-mile of pixels.

“If you’ve ever dreamed of watching street-legal drag racing down Woodward Avenue, come to our event,” said MotorTrend Group revenue chief Eric Schwab. “Whether you’re a drag racer, car enthusiast or just looking for a fun day to spend with family, Roadkill Nights promises a dynamic experience.”

Drag racing at 'Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge' on Woodward, across from the M1 Concourse in Pontiac.

Drag racing likes cool temps (for better engine breathing) and dry conditions (for slick tire grip), and the mid-70s weather forecast delivers on half that promise. Rain, however, may be an unwelcome visitor late in the day according to Accuweather.

General admission tickets are $25, reserved seating is $60 for adult, $25 for children. Fans can also follow the action live at www.dodgegarage.com/roadkill-nights-2022 — or on social media channels with hashtags #RoadkillNights and #PoweredByDodge.

M1 Concourse, 164 South Blvd. West, Pontiac

When:

Saturday, Aug. 13, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.

Schedule:

10 a.m. — Gates open to the public, event begins

Photo opportunities as muscle/vintage/classic cars enter M1 Concourse

Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge event activities begin — Dodge Challenger and Charger SRT Hellcat thrill and drift rides, dyno testing, and Ram TRX Thrill Ride Experience off-road course

11 a.m. — Drag racing begins with open qualifying session (all drag racing can be viewed via livestream at DodgeGarage.com,Dodge.com,Dodge and MotorTrend YouTube channels)

4:45 p.m. — Dodge Direct Connection Grudge Races begin

5:45 p.m. — Top Eight shootout driver announcements

6:15 p.m. — Opening ceremony

6:30 p.m. — Top Eight shootouts begin (Small Tire & Big Tire)

8:30 p.m. — Top Eight winners’ awards ceremony

9 p.m. — Event concludes

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

With video: ‘High and wide’ GMC Canyon gets remake, rugged AT4X model

Posted by Talbot Payne on August 13, 2022

Detroit — The GMC Canyon is hitting the trail in fresh duds for 2023.

General Motors’ premium midsize truck gains a longer wheelbase, new engine and more rugged attitude with an all-new, AT4X off-road trim. The upgrades mirror those found on its twin Chevy Colorado pickup (with which the Canyon shares a ladder-frame platform), but the Canyon steps up the swagger with more tools, more interior décor and a range-topping Denali tuxedo trim.

2023 GMC Canyon AT4X pickup

The Denali dresses up with a fancy chrome grille, 20-inch rims, and quilted seats for a night out at the country club. But it’s AT4X that really sets the tone for Canyon’s “high and wide” theme. The Canyon is wider, higher — and higher priced — than the previous model with the entry Elevation model starting at about $40,000 (compared to the previous generation’s $32,200) and the AT4X stickering at $63,350.

The previous generation Canyon’s off-road AT4 trim rode in the shadow of Colorado’s tree-chewing ZR2 off-roader that brought Multimatic shocks, twin-locking differentials and gnarly Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain rubber.

“GMC is flexing the might of our off-road muscle,” said GMC Global Vice President Duncan Aldred of the AT4X trim that first dressed the Sierra full-size pickup.

The Canyon AT4X's redesigned grille incorporates standard LED headlights.

For 2023, AT4X catches up with Chevy’s ZR2 offering on all counts — then adds a standard front winch for when you get too deep in the mud. Integrated into the front bumper with a front bash and light bar, the COMEUP winch leads a comprehensive re-imagining of Canyon design. The grille is a departure from the traditional, chrome-framed GMC design — the grille integrating with bodywork and standard LED headlights to emphasize the pickup’s 37-degree approach angle.

So focused is Canyon on off-road that even Denali ditches its front air dam. Denali emphasizes off-road toughness with its high chin and front bash plate. The AT4X has three skid plates in all to complement its 10.7-inch lift.

The 2023 GMC Canyon lineup includes the off-road-focused AT4X, center, and upscale Denali, right.

All four trims of Canyon — including the base Elevation and AT4 models — get a widened, 3.5-inch track over last year’s model for better off-road balance. The widened track is accentuated by big, blistered steel fenders on the Canyon for a muscular look. The fenders are highlighted by yellow lights — usually found on heavy-duty tow rigs — that allow drivers to better locate their fenders in the dark off road.

Vehicle width is complemented by Canyon’s 3.5-inch longer wheelbase to smooth the ride on-road.

“That extra length means that benefits the AT4X, with 33-inch all-terrain tires, to ride better on-road as well as off-road,” said Cory Taulbert, Canyon performance variant manager, at a media preview.

The Canyon AT4X comes with 33-inch tires, the better to chew up off-road trails.

Like Colorado ZR2, the 33-inch Wrangler tires are augmented by Formula One-inspired Multimatic shocks that set AT4X apart. The capable suspension allows five dive modes: NORMAL, TOW/HAUL, OFF-ROAD,  TERRAIN and BAJA. Terrain focuses on low-speed, one-pedal precision driving, while Baja armors the pickup for maximum off-road speed. To aid in extreme off-road conditions, the AT4X also offers up to 10 cameras, including self-cleaning, under-body lenses. Drivers benefit from a blizzard of off-road data, including g-force, altimeter and pitch/roll stats.

Ground clearance is standard on al trims at 9.6 inches with a further 1-inch lift for the AT4X on 33-inch tires. The regular AT4 trim gets 32s.

Taking a page from Henry Ford and the Model T, the 2023 GMC Canyon offers whatever bed size you like, as long as it's 5.5 feet.

While off-road capability is the Canyon’s headliner, it also gets significant upgrades inside and out for daily chores. Bowing to customer preference, Canyon will only be available in Crew Cab with a 5.5-foot bed. An innovator in tailgate tech with the six-way Multi-Pro tailgate, GMC equips Canyon with a storage area in the rear tailgate that can be used for tools — even a cooler, complete with drain plug. The feature is shared with Colorado.

Befitting the truck’s off-road focus, a graphic of Telluride, Colorado’s peaked mountains and Moab, Utah’s sculpted sandstone is etched into the tailgate’s top.

Inside, Canyon addresses criticism that its interior design fell short of the Denali trim standards. “Therein lies our biggest complaint about the Canyon’s interior: even in Denali trim, it never feels like a premium environment,” wrote enthusiast magazine Car and Driver about the last-gen truck.

2023 GMC Canyon Denali pickup interior

The new Canyon is a big step up. In addition to all-new 11-inch instrument cluster (8-inch on Elevation/AT4) and 11.3-inch infotainment digital displays that echo big brother GMC Sierra, Canyon gains a Google operating system, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and premium dash-and-door materials. Head-up display and Bose audio come standard on AT4 trims.

Standard safety features include pedestrian detection, emergency braking and auto high beams. Additional packages include blind-spot assist and adaptive cruise control.

The rear seat did not benefit from the wheelbase’s 3.5-inch extension, so rear quarters remain tight for six-footers. But the interior gains a sunroof to let the sun shine in.

Propelling the new beast down the road is the same 2.7-liter turbo-4 found in the base GMC Sierra (as well as Colorado). The torquey turbo-4 has three configurations, with the AT4X boasting 310 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque. Some may miss last-gen’s diesel offering, though Taulbert says the turbo-4 actually producesd more torque.

2023 GMC Canyon Denali pickup

“We applied complexity where it matters,” he said of the Canyon’s simplification of engines/cab while increasing available technology.

The GM pickup twins seek to raise the bar in a class where they are perennially No. 2 in sales behind the Toyota Tacoma. The ‘23 Canyon goes into production early next year with AT4X to follow in spring.

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

Payne: A Nissan Z worthy of the letter

Posted by Talbot Payne on August 11, 2022

Elmira — One of the first sports cars I rode shotgun in as a kid was the 1970 Datsun 240Z. On a race track. Red. Fat tires. Manual shifter. Inline 6-cylinder engine. Bubble headlights. Two-door fastback. Hood that went on forever. Ooooh, I loved that car. No generation of Z has measured up since.

Until now.

The redesigned seventh-generation Z sitting in my driveway is a stunner. Perhaps because it’s inspired by the original ’70. Red. Fat tires. Manual shifter. V-6 engine. Bubble headlights. Two-door fastback. Long hood. Like Mustang returning to its design roots with the fifth-gen 2005 pony car, the Z updates the original 240Z design for the 21st century. Since photos of the sleek “Z Proto” concept car first appeared in 2020, anticipation has run high, and the production car doesn’t disappoint. When I drove it north to Lake Charlevoix for a weekend, it turned heads wherever it went.

“Oh, I would definitely take that over the Supra,” said one male admirer, referring to Z’s Toyota arch-enemy and its polarizing nose.

“THAT is a gorgeous car,” said a female pal.

“Cool, looks like the original 240Z,” said a racing buddy.

Walk around the sleek coupe and it’s apparent why Nissan decided to call it simply Z. This is a car in search of its roots. “The original 240Z was built to bring the joy and excitement of sports car ownership,” says Nissan’s media materials. “That spirit and heritage continue today.”

Though it sits on the same ol’ chassis as the last-gen, Z reaches back to the lean looks of its famous ancestor. The design is simple, purposeful. The bubble headlight theme is repeated in the door handles and fuel door.

Nissan Z is more than a pretty dress.

Below decks is a modern interior strapped to a rocket of an engine. The old nail 3.7-liter V-6 has been tossed for a glorious twin-turbo, 3.0-liter mill putting out 400 horses and 350 pound feet of torque. That’s a gain of 20% and 30% respectively. Mmmm, Z-esty.

All new for 2023, the Nissan Z's engine bay gets a 3.0-liter, twin-turbo V-6 engine making an impressive 400 horsepower.

Pulling onto M-32 east of Elmira — my favorite northern, twisty road — I downshifted Z into third, then blitzed a series of S turns, emerging onto a short straightway with the six howling.

The twin turbos (assisted by a lightweight, carbon-fiber driveshaft) do their job, providing the engine with good low-end torque — but it doesn’t stop there. WHAP! The tach hits the 7,000 RPM redline before I can shift into fourth, pulling strong across the rev range. The V-6 roar encourages high revs even if it’s not as distinctive as other songbirds in its class: Camaro-Mustang-Corvette V8s, Supra inline-6, Porsche Cayman GTS flat-6.

Pushing hard along M-32, I’m aware this is a 3,536-pound sled. It lacks the knife-edge precision of the class standard, 3,200-pound Cayman GTS — but it also costs, ahem, $45K less. Handling is predictable with welcome push at the limit.

Returning home along M-32, a downpour swept in from Lake Michigan. Wet roads are tricky for rear-wheel-drive sports cars, but Z was unruffled. The electronics provided welcome stability even when I tried to fluster the car with excess throttle.

The 2023 Nissan Z shows off its neutral handling in the rain thanks to excellent electronics and chassis balance.

In dry conditions at M1 Concourse’s Champion Motor Speedway in Pontiac, Z’s neutral handling was an unexpected delight. It was poised through Turn 10’s difficult off-camber sweeper. But its Bridgestone Potenza S007 tires and brakes hold it back. Coming out of the Turn 5 hairpin onto the back straight, traction was limited, and after a few laps the brakes got squishy under hard braking.

Seems Nissan is holding something back for the rumored track-focused NISMO edition. Add Michigan Pilot Sport Cup 2s, Brembo brakes and stiffer shocks, and Z would make a fine track rat. For now, playful arch-rival Supra and Mustang Mach 1 (complete with adaptive dampers) have better track tools.

The 2023 Nissan Z is limited on track by its tires and brakes. For track rats, wait for the NISMO track version which is sure to come with upgraded tools.

More problematic is my Performance model’s six-speed stick. In a coupe that loves to be rowed, the shifter felt rubbery, especially in crucial 3-to-4 shifts. Once again, Porsche sets the bar on manual shifters, but Z also pales next to an Acura Integra.

I’m a member of the #SaveTheManuals club, but in the case of the Z, the automatic with steering column-based paddle shifters is worth a look. On the plus side, the stick’s “S-Shift” button enabled rev-matching for flawless manual downshifts.

Not only does it sound bold, but S-Shift saves heel-and-toe shifting on busy tracks like M1. S-Shift is part of a unique set of carry-over controls from the last-gen Z like FORWARD/AFT buttons on the console side of the seat.

The 2023 Nissan Z comes with a 6-speed manual (shown) or a 9-speed automatic.

Clearing the squashed greenhouse on entry ain’t easy for us six-footers. That coupe looks cool on the outside, but inside it’s a pillbox with limited windshield space. Thank the mirror and front-facing camera behind it. C-pillar visibility? Fuhgeddaboudit. Happily, blind-spot assist is standard — in line with Nissan’s typically generous safety packages.

My reward, once folded inside, was a reworked interior with three dash-mounted classic analog pod gauges mixed with the latest digital display tech. I preferred the customizable SPORT setting that rotates the tachometer so the 7,000 RPM redline is in the 12 o’clock position.

The standard tech upgrades are good news for Z drivers who want to hit the road. On my long trip up I-75 to Charlevoix, Z’s standard adaptive cruise control (a rare feature for manuals) made for easy highway cruising. As did the seats — not a given in a class of sports car where heavily bolstered seats can eat your kidneys. My Performance model’s red leather and Alcantara seats (also available in blue) fit like a glove.

The 2023 Nissan Z features comfortable, sport seats with red leather and suede inserts.

Some shoppers will regret the lack of a rear seat (which, even in cramped ’Stangs and Camaros welcome small passenger or luggage). But the rear hatchback is roomy and easily swallowed the baggage I needed for my trip north.

The rear of the car is as pleasing as the retro front with its twin pipes and blacked-out light bar punctuated by horizontal corner lights. That latter is another nod to the OG Datsun — and welcome improvement from the sixth-gen car’s awkward boomerang lights. Check out my lights, do they make me look fat? Coming and going, the Z-exy Nissan gets noticed. And at a price that puts it at the affordable end of the mid-level sports car segment.

That’s what attracted me to Z 50 years ago. Welcome back, Z.

2023 Nissan Z

Vehicle type: Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive sports car

Price: $41,015, including $1,025 destination fee ($53,610 Performance model as tested)

Powerplant: 3.0-liter, twin-turbo V-6

Power: 400 horsepower, 350 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: 6-speed manual (as tested), 9-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 4.5 seconds (Car and Driver); top speed, 155 mph

Weight: 3,536 pounds (as tested)

Fuel economy: EPA, 18 mpg city/24 highway/20 combined

Report card

Highs: Striking looks; balanced handling

Lows: Lacks tires, brakes for track duty; porky chassis

Overall: 4 stars

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

EV vs. ICE: Road trip showdown in the electric Kia EV6 and best-selling Kia Sportage Hybrid

Posted by Talbot Payne on August 9, 2022

Bay City — Electric vehicles are the future, if they can break Americans’ love affair with gas cars.

Case in point is mainstream automaker Kia, which has one of the most aggressive plans to bring EVs to market. The Korean manufacturer plans 14 electric vehicles by 2027 to parallel its internal-combustion engine lineup. Their first vehicle in this strategy is the silky-smooth EV6 SUV, which shows the challenges ahead for EV adoption.

In Gaylord, Payne tops up the Kia EV6 for the last run to Charlevoix where fast chargers are scarce.

The Detroit News tested a $57,410 EV6 GT-Line against a comparable $38,000 Sportage Hybrid SX-Prestige, Kia’s best-selling ICE SUV. The pair are two of the most acclaimed new SUVs for 2022, with both in contention for North American Utility of the Year.

Featuring the brand’s cutting-edge tech ‘n’ style, the siblings share a lot — market segment, length, interior room, all-wheel-drive, South Korean assembly — except their drivetrains. The EV6 is driven by twin electric motors on an 800-volt battery platform, while the Sportage is powered by a 1.6-liter gas engine mated to a front electric motor.

The Detroit News took them on parallel, 500-mile road trips from Oakland County to Charlevoix and back. True to its electric promise, the EV6 proved smooth and more exhilarating to drive. But in addition to the $20k cost premium over the Sportage, buyers need to adjust their driving expectations depending on infrastructure and weather conditions.

The 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid is a compact SUV with similar dimensions to the Kia EV6.

The 520-mile gas range Sportage Hybrid required one fuel stop, whereas the 276-mile-range EV6 made six stops, including an emergency stop when warming temperatures started to degrade battery range. Used locally (and after a $2,000 investment in home charging hardware), the EV cost significantly less than the ICE to charge at home. But on the road trip, the Kias’ fueling costs were similar even with gas hovering near $5 a gallon — challenging EV advocates’ claims that high gas prices mark a turning point for EV adoption.

Trip planning

A common knock on EVs is that they lack infrastructure, but electricity access is actually easier than gasoline. What is difficult is figuring how long it takes to charge.

The Kia EV6 GT-Line can be refueled from your home (unlike a gas car), but will take 68 hours on a 110-volt wall socket to fill, according to Kia. Better to equip your garage with a 240-volt charger to speed full charge in 7 hours, 10 minutes. That increased speed comes at a premium. I purchased a $700 Juice Box charger, then paid an electrician another $1,600 to safely connect it to my house via copper wire.

The KIa Sportage Hybrid fills up in Charlevoix for its one stop on the 500 mile round trip.

Thus equipped, the EV6 was at 100% charge when it left my Oakland County abode for the trip north. By contrast, the Sportage filled at a local gas station for its full gas range. Given gasoline’s 125,000 BTUs per gallon of energy, it only took three minutes to fill the Sportage.

Are we there yet?

Given the ICE’s superior range, Sportage didn’t need to stop on the 260-mile trip north, making the trip in four hours. This despite the fact that Sportage fell short of its claimed, EPA-estimated 38 mpg. Traveling at a consistent 80 mph on I-75, the Kia registered 29 mpg.

The EV6, on the other hand, required planning given the uncertainties of battery range in heat and at speed. The good news is Kia has one of the most advanced systems in the industry with an 800-volt platform (similar to six-figure sleds like GMC Hummer EV and Porsche Taycan) capable of faster charging times than 400-volt platforms found on, say, the Cadillac Lyriq or Tesla Model 3. I consulted the popular ABRP app (A Batter Route Planner) for the best roads. ABRP suggested that I make two stops — at an Electrify America charger in Bay City for 6 minutes to charge from 42% to 63% and then again in West Branch at a Green Lots charger for 15 minutes to charge from 27% to 74%.

Electrify American chargers are often out of order. Fortunately, there is more than one of them at a station to fill the Kia EV6.

I arrived at the Bay City charger to find the 350 kWh charger was out of order. After a few minutes of dithering, I moved to a 150 kWh charger, which got me to 80% charge in 17 minutes all told.

The Electrify America outage was a concern, but at least I was assured EA (the country’s largest, non-Tesla fast charging network) had other chargers available. Not so my next, Greenlots stop in West Branch — run by a subsidiary of Shell oil company. The ABRP app showed only one charger available. Would it be out of service? Would there be a line?

I gave the Greenlots charger a go, though finding it was difficult. I eventually located it in the back lot of a Ford dealership. Ten minutes later and I was on my way. However, if I drove straight to Charlevoix, ABRP told me I would have just 10% of charge left in a town without a fast charger.

I made one last stop in Gaylord — at another EA  charger — to ensure I had enough juice when I got to Charlevoix to do daily errands. All told, my trip north in the EV6 took six hours compared to the Sportage’s four. Of course, if EV trips to my family’s Charlevoix house became a habit, a garage charger there would be the best solution — but at a cost of another $2,000-plus.

How they drive

The EV6 wows with its smooth operation. No gear swaps, no buzzy four-banger engine. Just instant, smooth toque when you nail the accelerator pedal. EV6 also boasts cool features like single-pedal driving thanks to its twin electric motors. The electric’s 4,661 pounds is noticeable compare to the Sportage’s 3,896 pounds — a consequence of the big, 77.4 kWh battery that also inflates the EV’s sticker price.

Powertrain aside, the Kia siblings are very similar. They are instantly recognizable: the EV6 with its slanted, Porsche-like nose and the Sportage with boomerang-shaped LED running lights. Their sci-fi styling is complemented by cutting-edge interior electronics.

Both SUVs sport curved, 24-inch digital displays you would expect to find in a Mercedes, not a mainstream brand. EV6 carries the lux theme further with a floating island console like a Caddy Lyriq. Both Kias showcase configurable screens, rotary shifters and state-of-the-art driver assist programs.

I drove the EV6 and Sportage hands-free for significant portions of my I-75 trip. And when I arrived, I stepped out and self-parked both using buttons on the key fob. Remarkable.

The return home

Ahead of my trip back in the Sportage after an active weekend, I quickly topped up in Charlevoix. The 432 miles (the computer adjusted its range estimate for the lower mpg number) would get me back with room to spare.

As for my EV6 weekend journey, I recharged at the most convenient 240-volt charger overnight so that I would have enough charge for side trips to Petoskey and other coastal attractions. Located at a Ford dealer two miles out of town, the charger necessitated that I load a bicycle in the EV6’s roomy hatchback so I could return to the car the next morning and pick it up, fully-charged.

At the end of the weekend, I decided on a one-stop strategy back to Oakland County — recharging at Gaylord’s 350-volt Electrify America charger. It’s worth noting that the cost of filling the Sportage – even at $4.59 a gallon for regular gas — was roughly the same as the EV6 at 43 cents per kW. The Sportage cost 14 cents per mile, the EV6, 15 cents.

I arrived at Gaylord with 61% of battery and charged to 100% in 33 minutes. That was enough for 254 miles of range (like the Sportage, the car adjusted to real-life range) — with 40 miles of cushion for the 214-mile trip home.

Or so I thought.

Running low on battery range, Payne ditched his one-stop charge strategy and made a second stop to top up on electrons in Bay City in the Kia EV6.

As I drove south on I-75, the outside temperature warmed from 76 to 85 degrees and the battery began to guzzle electrons. Speed and weather are the biggest variables in battery range, and — even as I slowed from 80 to 70 mph — it became apparent I would not make it home.

I pulled off the interstate for a quick, 10-minute top-up of electrons to 203 miles (80% of battery capacity). I arrived home after five hours, compared to four in the Sportage.

Conclusions

The twin Kia experiment indicates the superiority of gas cars over the EV counterparts on road trips. Sportage is not just quicker to its destination than its EV6 peer, but more affordable. Even with the federal $7,500 EV tax credit, my EV6 tester would cost about $10,500 more than the Sportage.

Many folks who can afford $57k SUVs, will have a second car (a Sportage Hybrid?) in their garage for long trips — using the EV locally. In that case, the cost of EV6 fueling is considerably less — $1.64 per gallon (at Michigan’s average 17 cents per kWh hour electricity cost) compared to this summer’s $4.59 a gallon. Or 5 cents per mile versus 15.

Though it would take awhile to make up the EV6’s sticker premium plus installation cost of a 240-volt home charger.

Model specs:

2022 Kia EV6

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

Price: $57,410, AWD, GT-Line as tested

Powerplant: 77.4 kWh lithium-ion battery with dual electric-motors

Power: 320 horsepower, 446 pound-feet torque

Transmission: Single-speed direct drive

Performance: 0-60 mph, 5.1 seconds (mftr, AWD); towing, 2,300 pounds

Weight: 4,661 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA 117 MPGe; range, 274 miles

2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid

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

Price: $38,000 Hybrid SX-Prestige AWD as tested

Powerplant: 1.6-liter turbocharged, inline four mated to single front electric motor and 1.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack

Power: 227 horsepower, 258 pound-feet torque

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, (8.0 sec., Car and Driver est.); towing, 2,000 pounds

Weight: 3,896 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA est. 38 city/38 highway/38 combined; range, 521 miles (29 mpg and 432 mile range as tested)

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

Payne: Kia EV6 spins heads with high style, tech — and price

Posted by Talbot Payne on August 4, 2022

Charlevoix — My friend Jamie wants an electric car — in particular, one with a hatchback so he can stow his bicycle for ride excursions. There are plenty of roomy EV hatches available, including the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Tesla Model Y and Cadillac Lyriq. And the Kia EV6 that I just used to haul a bike here.

Electric chargers are scarce in Charlevoix, where my wife and I often visit family. The most convenient is a 240-volt charger at the LaFontaine Ford dealership on U.S. 31 south of town, which kindly allows me to charge overnight. Running low on juice in my $57,410, 2022 EV6 tester one summer weekend, I plugged into the charger for a six-hour feeding.

But how to get back and forth from our cottage 2.3 miles away? A bicycle, of course.

As with Hyundai’s similar Ioniq 5, the Kia EV6 has used its skateboard chassis to maximize interior room. That means expansive rear legroom of 39 inches — just 2.5 inches shy of a three-row Ford Expedition mega-ute, for goodness’ sake — and a cargo hatch that swallowed my bike easily with the second-row seats down.

The following morning, I pedaled 15 minutes to the dealership, unplugged the Kia, loaded in the bike and returned home for breakfast.

The 2022 Kia EV6 GT-Line AWD costs $57,410 and is loaded with goodies like driving assist, leather seats and head-up display.

So the EV6 has the hatchback Jamie requires, but with the usual EV charging challenges. Which is why most EVs remain a niche product aimed at customers with multi-car garages and $50K-$80K burning a hole in their pockets.

Which begs another question from another friend, Ron: If I have $57K in my pocket, why would I spend it on a Kia and not on, say, a comparably equipped $64,990 Cadillac Lyriq or $60,090 XC40 Recharge Twin Ultimate? Or even the segment’s volume king, the $67K Tesla Model Y?

Based on folks I talked with, the Kia brand name is a big challenge. But this is an ambitious brand determined to wow … one vehicle at a time.

Take the Kia Stinger GT sportback, which offers style, power and handling for $55K — a whopping 20 grand below a comparable Audi S7. Or behold the Kia Telluride, a three-row SUV with the looks of a Caddy but a sticker price $5,000 below a comparable Ford Explorer. The sheer audacity of these handsome mainstream vehicles means they can’t be ignored.

So, too, the Kia EV6. I mean, just look at it.

“Oooooh, what kind of car is THAT?”

“Fancy, fancy.”

“Wow, look at these people in the swish car.”

Those comments came from passersby as I pulled up in front of a Charlevoix restaurant for a family night out. The EV6 looks like Porsche and Lexus had a baby with its sloped front end, sculpted rocker panels and a hippy, mono-light rear. You can fuss that the car looks overweight — but it turned heads wherever I went.

The 2022 Kia EV6 GT-Line AWD has a distinctive hatchback style with dramatic rear taillights and big wheels.

EV6 also likes to put on a show.

Like the Tesla Model Y, the Kia is loaded with tech tricks. On a narrow street, I held down the console camera button to engage the self-parallel-park feature. The SUV pulled past an open space, identified it, then stopped … waiting.

Well, Payne, do you want me to parallel park with you in the car or out of it?

Out of it. I put the shifter in PARK, exited the car, then held down the REVERSE button on the key fob and watched EV6 park itself. It also works in perpendicular parking garage spots. Oh, the kids will go wild over this stuff.

The Kia won’t come to you across a parking lot like Tesla’s Summon — but frankly, I’m not courageous enough to try that in my own Model 3. Speaking of Tesla, EV6 offers five regenerative modes (one-pedal driving, for you EV experts) via two paddles on the steering wheel (Tesla offers only two). I used them constantly.

The 2022 Kia EV6 GT-Line AWD will self-park into a space with the driver inside -- or outside -- the car.

Kia also offers the best driving-assist feature this side of the Silicon Valley automaker and Cadillac’s Super Cruise.

The EV6 self-drove for long portions of my I-75 trip north, the system allowing me to relax and eat lunch hands-free without constant nannying like other systems. Opt for this $6,000 feature on the $67K Tesla Model and it balloons the sticker to more than $73K. The system came standard on my $57K GT-line Kia.

EV6 also goes big with an 800-volt battery system (like the $100K Porsche Taycan and Hummer EV) that advertises faster charging than Tesla’s 400-volt system. My experience was a wash. If you can find an Electrify America 350 kW unit that is, ahem, working, the actual charging speed is only 230 kW, the same as Tesla.

Charging is quickest to 80% of range, after which it slows to a crawl like other batteries. On my way back to Detroit, I refueled in Gaylord for 33 minutes to 100% of charge (254 miles) to make it 215 miles to home. But as temps warmed to 85 degrees on my journey south, the car drank electrons and I had to make a second 10-minute stop in Bay City.

The 2022 Kia EV6 GT-Line AWD will fully charge on a 240-volt home outlet in just over seven hours.

Kia-philes may not be as wowed by all this tech given that a loaded $38K Kia Sportage hybrid offers similar parking and driving assist (see my June review of the Sportage up I-75).

The EV separates itself from the Sportage with a gorgeous premium interior. Indeed, it was remarkably similar to the bling-tastic Caddy Lyriq I tested recently in Utah: floating island console with rotary shift knob. Storage tray on the floor below. Curved 24-inch display atop the dash (33 inches for Lyriq). It even outdid Caddy with a big head-up display. Was there a Kia mole in the Cadillac design studio?

All this tech distracts from the fact that the EV6 can’t handle with the Caddy — much less the sharper Model Y and Mach-E. The EV6 is a boulevard cruiser. But with a SPORT mode that armors the 4,600-pound EV for 4.5-second 0-60 mph dashes, the Kia takes full advantage of its instant 446 pound-feet of torque. That’s, ahem, 80 more than the gas-powered $55K hatchback Stinger’s powerful twin-turbo V-6.

Think of my EV6 GT-line as a silent Stinger GT for the EV set that will sell few copies in rural Charlevoix County. LaFontaine Ford has only sold a few Mach-Es here. Expect pickups to be the volume EV sellers Up North.

As I unplugged from the Ford charger, the dealership’s first F-150 Lightnings were rolling in. Huge frunk, 230-miles of range, 0-60 in 4.5 seconds.

Dealer orders are backed up for them.

2022 Kia EV6

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

Price: $42,695, including $1,215 destination fee ($57,410, AWD, GT-Line as tested)

Powerplant: 55-77.4 kWh lithium-ion battery with rear or dual electric-motors (77.4 kWh as tested)

Power: 320 horsepower, 446 pound-feet torque (as tested)

Transmission: Single-speed direct drive

Performance: 0-60 mph, 5.1 seconds (mfr., AWD); towing, 2,300 pounds

Weight: 4,661 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA 117 MPGe; range, 232-310 miles (274 miles as tested for AWD GT-Line)

Report card

Highs: Striking, cool tech

Lows: Gets pricey; lacks useful frunk

Overall: 3 stars

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

How bonkers is demand for rugged SUVs? Even sporty Mazda is making a CX-50 Meridian dirt-kicker

Posted by Talbot Payne on August 4, 2022

The American consumer has gone wild for SUVs, especially rugged SUVs. In addition to dedicated dirt-kickers like Ford Broncos, Jeep Wranglers and Toyota 4Runners, brands are now equipping mainstream SUVs with off-road packages like Ford Explorer Timberline, Subaru Outback Wilderness, and Toyota RAV4 TRD.

How bonkers is off-road demand? Even ZOOM ZOOM performance carmaker Mazda is going all-in with an outdoors trim.

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 Meridian Edition is aimed at adventurous, outdoors customers.

The Japanese manufacturer introduced the Meridian Edition this week, offering a rugged package of Falken all-terrain tires, roof platform and fashionable black hood to its compact CX-50 SUV.

The package builds on the successful, U.S.-made CX-50 which had already signaled Mazda’s new, off-road focus. Just as Ford recognized the off-road phenomenon and split its compact segment offerings in two — the suburban-focused Escape and outdoorsy Bronco Sport — so has Mazda expanded its compact SUV lineup beyond its best-selling, suburban CX-5 with the rugged CX-50.

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 Meridian Edition can tow up to 3,500 pounds with 310 pound-feet of torque.

Mazda is still defined by its wee Mazda MX-5 Miata sports car (Zoom! Zoom!) but the CX-50 Meridian Edition will be a new halo for the brand aimed at the 70% of the non-truck U.S. market that buys SUVs.

Produced in Huntsville, Alabama, with a starting price of $41,225, the CX-50 Meridian Edition is aimed at the market’s most adventurous customers. It’s an increasingly crowded market with the Ford Bronco Badlands, Subaru Forester Wilderness, Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness, Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk and others.

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 Meridian Edition adds a black hood graphic.

The Meridian model builds on the CX-50’s already macho upgrades over the stylish CX-5 with more fender cladding, more cargo room and 8.6-inch ground clearance.

Available standard with the CX-50’s upmarket, 256-horspower, 2.5-liter turbo-4 engine, the CX-50 Meridian wraps its all-terrain tires around black 18-inch alloy wheels. You’ll know Meridian by its new headlight garnish, matte-black hood graphic (the better to deflect sun glare) and side rocker panels (to ward off stones and other off-road projectiles). Meridian Edition will be dressed in fashionable Polymetal Gray or Zircon Sand exterior paint, with a Terracotta leather interior.

Add the Apex package to the 2023 Mazda CX-50 Meridian Edition and you get a roof rack and crossbars.

With 310 pound-feet of torque driving all four wheels, the 2.5-liter turbo will get customers to the outback in a hurry towing up to 3,500 pounds. Once off-road drivers can choose from four modes including Off-Road.

If the Meridian package isn’t enough, Mazda has more accessories on offer.

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 Meridian Edition adds all-terrain tires, hood graphic -- and options an Apex package with roof rack.

An Apex package adds roof-mounted black crossbars, a roof platform (for a tent) and front/rear splash guards. Or buyers who don’t want to pay full boat for the turbo-4 engine can opt for the Meridian Choice Package — available on the standard, 187-horse, 2.5-liter engine as well — which includes roof crossbars, roof platform, splash guards, side rocker garnish, headlight garnish and matte-black hood graphic.

The Meridian Edition is the latest offering in a blizzard of 10 CX-50 trims starting with the CX-50 S at $28,825. The Turbo Premium and Turbo Premium Plus are the SUV’s top trims, the latter starting at $43,575.

The CX-50’s slogan is “tough but powerful” as the SUV strives for a balance between Miata sportiness and SUV utility. With Meridian, the needle moves a little further towards tough.

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

Wee Ford Maverick gains big Tremor off-road capability

Posted by Talbot Payne on August 2, 2022

Maverick is bringing in a new Top Gun.

Ford’s entry-level, compact pickup truck will gain a Tremor off-road performance trim for the 2023 model year. The little dirt-kicker will be available on the XLT and Lariat trims with Maverick’s spunky, 250-horse turbo-4 engine and torque-vectoring, dual-rear clutch pack drivetrain standard — the same tools as the Bronco Sport Badlands with which Maverick shares a unibody chassis.

The Tremor trim was introduced on the F-series Super Duty trucks in 2019 and also is available on the full-size F-150 and mid-size Ranger trucks. You’ll know the Maverick Tremor by its signature orange tow hooks, Maverick bed graphic, and orange-trimmed wheels and grille. To better conquer off-road obstacles, Tremor gains a 1-inch lift and front skid plate.

2023 Ford Maverick Tremor gets dirty

“Ranger, F-150 and Super Duty customers have embraced the unique capability found across our Tremor family of trucks,” said Ford truck marketing chief Todd Eckert. “Maverick Tremor delivers on this same promise with new features designed for off-roading.”

The wildly-successful Maverick starts at $22,470 and is Ford’s entry-level drug to its full truck lineup. The only Ford truck offering built on a unibody platform, Maverick has sold out for the 2022 model year as orders outstripped capacity. A segment-busting compact pickup, Maverick is one of the 20 fastest-selling vehicles in the U.S. market with 38,753 in sales through June (49% of those hybrid sales) — outstripping even Ford’s venerable mid-size Ranger pickup.

The $2,995 Tremor package goes above and beyond the FX4 off-road package offered for all-wheel-drive Mavericks equipped with the turbo-4 engine (the base, hybrid model is front-wheel-drive only). FX4 options underbody skid-plating, 17-inch rims wrapped with all-terrain tires, hill descent control, and Mud/Rut and Sand off-road drive modes.

Tremor brings those goodies plus an exclusive rear, twin-clutch rear-drive unit that is both lockable — and can throw nearly 100% torque to either wheel when necessary for more grip. The Tremor gains new shocks, heavy-duty transmission cooler, and upgraded half-shafts.

Maverick Tremor also offers Trail Control, which is a sort of low-speed cruise control that allows consistent acceleration and braking while the driver concentrates on navigating gnarly off-road terrain.

Inside, the Tremor gets Code Orange-stitching and seat graphic on black seats. The XLT has cloth seats while the Lariat features ActiveX vinyl. For an additional $1,495, customers can opt for the Tremor Appearance Package which adds Carbonized Gray-painted roof, mirror caps, and black graphics for the hood and lower body. If that’s not enough bling, then Ford offers 154 after-market accessories for Maverick.

2023 Ford Maverick Tremor

If you want to bring more toys to the trails, the Maverick Tremor puts its 277 pound-feet of torque to good use with a towing capacity of 2,000 pounds and payload rating of 1,200 pounds.

Maverick Tremor will be available for orders in September, and will go into production this fall as a 2023 model. The Maverick’s trim lineup now mirrors that of the Ranger, save for the high-performance Ranger Raptor coming to market next year. Maverick Tremor will fuel speculation that the trucklet will gain a high-flying Raptor version as well.

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

With video: All-new 2023 Chevy Colorado pickup boasts major interior, engine updates

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 30, 2022

The Chevrolet Colorado is getting an extreme makeover.

General Motors’ mainstream brand unveiled an all-new, 2023 model of its mid-size pickup truck that expands in length, interior tech, and model trims even as it shrinks its engine and bed options. Responding to America’s thirst for all things off-road, the Colorado lineup will add a rugged Trail Boss trim to its lineup of base Work Truck, LT, Z71, and ZR2 models.

2023 Chevy Colorado models (left to right): LT, Trail Boss, ZR2

The Colorado is Chevy’s starter truck and the 2023 model benefits from hand me-downs from big brother, full-sized Silverado — most significantly the 2.7-liter turbo-4 engine that is now the core of the lineup as well as a modern, dash-mounted, 11.3-inch digital touchscreen. As GM pours capital into an uncertain, all-electric future, its gas-fueled truck lineup is key to profitability and the Colorado — like Silverado — is loaded with new trims and features that can goose sticker prices over $50,000.

“The all-new Colorado is enhanced in every way,” said Chevy vice president Scott Bell. “With its rugged and sporty styling, enhanced capability, new technology and customization options, it’s designed to do more for discerning customers.”

Those discerning customers embraced the last-generation Colorado’s crisp handling — a signature of Chevy trucks — as well as its tree-chewing ZR2 model. Customers also noted the truck’s dated, plastic interior and base engine offering, and fixing those shortcomings is high on the list of 2023 upgrades.

“While the interior is overrun with cheap plastics, and even the biggest cab size has a small back seat, the truck maintains a pleasant driving position and athletic handling,” noted auto enthusiast magazine Car and Driver of the outgoing model. “Colorado has a good enough resume to suit many pickup shoppers, but it lacks the qualifications to interest a wider audience.”

2023 Chevy Colorado Trail Boss

That wider audience has an array of choice in a segment that has expanded significantly since Colorado was introduced in 2015. There’s sister GMC Canyon as well as Ford Ranger, Jeep Gladiator, newly-redesigned Nissan Frontier and perennial sales-leader Toyota Tacoma. In addition to these ladder frame bruisers, the midsize segment has added unibody pickup like the Hyundai Santa Cruz and Honda Ridgeline. In 2021, the GM twins sold 97,133 units — second only to the Taco’s 252,520.

To stay ahead of the stampede, the ‘23 Colorado brings a significant interior makeover with standard, high-resolution, configurable, digital instrumentation alongside biggest-in-class infotainment screen. The setup mirrors a Silverado dash that itself was remade for the 2022 model year. The touchscreen upgrade includes a new Google-based software system that will make smartphone users feel right at home when using features like maps and music. The 2023 model will also offer a sunroof for the first time.

“Across all trims, the exterior’s presence and attitude is reflected in the interior, which is designed around the large center stack screen,” said design boss Phil Zak.

The Colorado sits atop a ladder frame redesigned for better interior space and dirt-chewing. Chief engineer Nick Katcherian said the truck gains 3.1 inches in wheelbase — some of which goes to increased rear legroom — as well as a front axle that has been moved forward for better approach angle.

2023 Chevy Colorado interior

Behind the front bumper and aggressive blacked-out maw, the engine bay welcomes GM’s torque-rich 2.7-liter turbo, which is also used in the Silverado and Cadillac’s CT4 performance sedan. The turbo-4 has three different configurations in the new pickup and replaces the previous model’s base 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, as well as the 3.6-liter V-6 and 2.8-liter diesel. Truck buyers are fond of diesels, and the oil-burner will be missed.

The 2.7-liter will be offered in the Work Truck and LT models with 237 horsepower and 259 pound-feet of torque. In the off-road Z71 and Trail Boss models, it will produce 310 ponies and 390 pound-feet of torque, and in the range-topping ZR2, the four-banger will replace the 308-horse, 275-torque V-6 with 310 horses and 430 pound feet of torque (the same numbers as in the Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickups). Like the Silverado (and unlike the Cadillac’s 10-speed), the turbo-4 in the Colorado will be mated to an 8-speed transmission.

Unlike other brands, Chevy does not offer a hybrid variant — its electrification options are based on a separate, Ultium battery skateboard chassis. The Colorado is not yet offered on Ultium.

“The industry is not going to convert to EVs overnight,” said Bell. “We are going to stay true to our customers who want an internal-combustion-engine variant.”

2023 Chevy Colorado ZR2

In addition to sporting the lineup’s most powerful engine, ZR2 is the most capable, from its twin-locking differentials to its Formula One-inspired Multimatic shocks (though its 6,000 towing capability trails the other trims’ 7,700 pounds). So you know that it’s the alpha male of the lineup, it comes equipped with a power dome hood, 33-inch all-terrain tires and wider stance.

ZR2’s personality has inspired ruggedness throughout the lineup. The truck features a class-best 10 camera views — including an underbody lens on Z71 and ZR2. The cameras compliment trailering tech pioneered on the Silverado like Hitch Guidance. Meeting customer demand for more custom options, Colorado’s off-road accessory portfolio has more than doubled from previous model years.

“The new Colorado is a lifestyle enabler,” said engineer Katcherian. “Because outdoor activities are a big part of our Colorado customers’ lifestyles, we’ve made the truck even more capable to support them.”

Offered for the first time on Colorado, the Trail Boss trim boasts 32-inch tires, a 2-inch suspension lift, and chassis widened 3 inches beyond the standard Work Truck and LT. But wait, there’s more: a special edition ZR2 Desert Boss model will be offered with 17-inch bead-lock wheels, light bar, and underbody camera standard.

Complementing Colorado’s mud-bathing and trailering ambitions, five drive modes are on offer, including Normal, Tow/Haul, Off-Road, Terrain and Baja. The truck’s new electric architecture also enables a suite of standard safety goodies such as forward collision alert, lane keep assist and automatic high-beam assist. Options include rear cross traffic braking and adaptive cruise control.

Running against the vehicle’s customization theme, Colorado will only be offered as a Crew Cab with a short, 5-foot 2-inch rear box. The long box option has been canned.

2023 Chevy Colorado ZR2

The pickup, however, does option a new Tailgate Storage Box (a narrow cargo space within the tailgate) that measures 45 inches wide and 4 inches deep. The tailgate also has a mid-level setting in order to carry longer items in the bed, and the bed featurs grooves for bicycle and motorcycle tires in the front wall.

Colorado rolls off the line in the first half of next year at Wentzville Assembly in Missouri. Pricing and more details to come.

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

Payne: Dancin’ in the rain with the nimble Subaru BRZ

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 30, 2022

Oakland County — The last time I drove the Subaru BRZ was at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut, one of America’s great race tracks. I flogged the rear-wheel-drive skateboard mercilessly around the 1.5-mile circuit (and accompanying infield autocross track), rowing the gears to 100-plus mph on the front straight, pushing the envelope around the Turn 2-3 Carousel.

You’ll be happy to know the $30,555 sports car is entertaining around Metro Detroit at 55 mph, too.

The affordable ’Ru is an outlier in today’s premium performance environment. These are the days of super-performance with track-focused, six-figure cyborgs like the Porsche 911 GT3 and Corvette C8 and Ford Mustang GT500. Ooooh, my knees are getting weak. These monsters are a joy to drive on track with operatic exhaust notes, sophisticated electronics and race-car-inspired suspensions. But how many track days can you manage in a year? Driving them around town is like walking King Kong on a leash.

The sleek 2022 Subaru BRZ has much improved, more mature looks than the first-gen model.

For sports car lovers on a smaller performance envelope — and smaller budget — there are affordable treats like the Mazda MX-5 Miata and BRZ and its sister Toyota GR86.

For just $30K, my Ice Silver tester was nearly as playful on public roads as on track. On a rainy weekend morning, I took the Subie out on north Oakland County’s deserted public roads for some fun. Turn on TRACK mode, turn off traction control. Taking a Michigan U-turn, I goosed the throttle and the rear end stepped out — my right foot managing the slide easily with the BRZ’s 184 pound-feet of torque. Try this on slick roads with the 470-torque Corvette and you might swap ends.

I repeated the fun as I headed north through low-speed, 90-degree turns and out into lake country on S-turns and switchbacks. Subaru and Toyota co-developed the BRZ and GR86 twins, and this second generation’s biggest improvement comes from the upgraded 2.5-liter flat-four engine pulled from Subie’s toolbox. Where the first generation car was underpowered, the new 228-horse mill allows drivers to take advantage of the chassis’ sublime handling.

The 2022 Subaru BRZ is available with a $1500 auto shifter - but the base 6-speed manual is more fun.

I powered merrily out of turns using the paddle shifters to maintain revs since the non-turbo engine’s rev band is fattest over 3,000 RPM. For such reasons, the 6-speed manual is preferred over the automatic (75% of BRZ sales are stick) — and it’ll save you the $1,500 upgrade to the automatic.

Styling is also a major improvement for this second-gen BRZ — maturing nicely so that it looks like it belongs next to the Porsche Boxsters and BMW Z4s that inevitably populate the tennis club parking lots where I spend my leisure time.

I admit, however, that I have had a couple hot affairs with the BRZ’s GR86 twin in the year since my first date with the BRZ in Lime Rock. And, ahem, I must admit I prefer the Toyota’s looks. It’s leaner, meaner, more timeless.

The interior of the 2022 Subaru BRZ.

The interiors are identical, with cupholders awkwardly placed in the center console, which makes it difficult to keep a drink and a smartphone connected by wire to the console. I quickly made a habit of storing my bottled Snapple in the door cupholders because, when you have a sports car, you are constantly navigating to the countryside to find twisty roads.

The BRZ has a small competitive set, as previously noted, but Michigan Subaru fans eyes may also wander across the showroom to the excellent Subaru WRX. Ooooooh.

The 2022 Subaru BRZ makes a big engine upgrade with 2.4-liter, 228-horse, 184-torque Boxer engine.

With all-wheel drive for all-seasons, a whopping 271 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque from the same 2.4-liter boxer-4 and roomy rear seats, the WRX pocket rocket is the better all-around car. And since its platform was developed by Subaru, not Toyota, it has all the latest ’Ru tech features like a big center screen. It’s why there are few small sports cars offered these days — electronics and suspension advancements have made compact cars nearly as compelling to drive as smaller, less utilitarian sports cars.

But like a junior 911, BRZ is determined to offer its own form of utility. No, its rear seats can’t swallow six-footers (I had to take my legs off to fit back there), but at least they exist. Unlike, say, the Mazda MX-5, the ’Ru’s second row complements its rear boot so you can load it with extras on a trip north. It offers daily utility to complement its daily drivability.

So BRZ has more bandwidth than you first realize. In the end, though, you buy the Subaru for what it unabashedly is: a lightweight, 2,864-pound sports car that — in its second generation — truly justifies its place in the auto world.

Sleek lines that no pocket rocket can match. A low center of gravity to make even an electric car jealous. Stick shift so you can row it through the twisties. Rear-wheel drive so you fling it around an autocross course.

Or dance in the rain on an overcast day.

2022 Subaru BRZ

Vehicle type: Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive four-passenger sports car

Price: $29,615, including $960 destination fee ($30,555 Premium, automatic model as tested)

Powerplant: 2.4-liter Boxer 4-cylinder

Power: 228 horsepower, 184 pound-feet of torque

Transmissions: 6-speed manual; 6-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 5.4 seconds (Car and Driver, automatic); top speed, 140 mph

Weight: 2,864 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA, 20 mpg city/27 highway/22 combined (manual); 21 mpg city/30 highway/25 combined (auto)

Report card

Highs: Fun, affordable daily driver; 2.4-liter power

Lows: Quirky console; not as attractive as cousin Toyota GR86

Overall: 3 stars

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

Payne: Five things to know about the 2024 Chevy Blazer EV

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 27, 2022

Warren — The mid-size, gas-powered Chevrolet Blazer lineup is getting an electric model. But don’t call them twins.

The Blazer and Blazer EV share a few things: They will be built alongside each other in Mexico and share styling cues like bold fascias, muscular hips, and Camaro-inspired, rotary air vents. Otherwise, the 2024 Blazer EV is a completely different animal that doesn’t even have the same steering wheel. The Detroit News got a sneak peak at the SS model at GM’s Warren Tech Center.

The SS version of the coming Chevrolet Blazer EV offers customers a performance all-wheel drive propulsion configuration designed to produce up to 557 horsepower and up to 648 pound-feet of torque.

Blazer EV will be based on General Motors Co.’s 400-volt Ultium platform — and will sticker nearly 9 grand more than Blazer with its top SS model topping out $23,000 north of its gas sibling’s $43K Premiere trim. Get in the Blazer EV, touch the brake and it’s on. No turn key, no push button. Blazer EV offers Super Cruse self-drive assist, regenerative braking, and 78 miles of charge in 10 minutes on a DC fast-charger.

Beyond the specs, here are five notable Blazer features:

Performance SS. Blazer marks the return of Chevy’s legendary SS performance badge. SS as in Super Sport. SS as in lots of power. The badge first appeared in 1961 on an Impala sedan. Over the years it would adorn famous models including Camaro, Chevelle, El Camino, Nova, pickup truck — and finally its own standalone, V8-powered SS sedan from 2014-17. Dubbed the “four-door Camaro,” the latter was the most powerful Chevy sedan ever made with 415 horsepower, 415 pound-feet of torque and a 0-60 time of 4.7 seconds.

The Blazer SS aims to make a statement by crushing the SS sedan’s numbers with a whopping 557 horsepower, 648 pound-feet of torque, and a 0-60 sprint under 4 seconds. It will achieve this with the largest of three Blazer batteries, three electric motors, and performance Brembo brakes to bring it back to earth.

Aimed squarely at the $66,095 Ford Mustang Mach-E GT (480 horsepower, 630 torque in Performance trim), the Blazer will be a rocket ship with numbers — and sticker price — outpacing Cadillac’s first all-wheel-drive electric SUV, the $62,990 Lyriq.

The 2024 Chevrolet Blazer EV comes in four different trim options with varying mileage on a single charge. The RS model gets the most mileage at an estimated 320 on a charge.

So quick is the Blazer SS that it has the attention of police departments that want to use it as a Police Pursuit Vehicle (Chevy dubs it the Blazer EV PPV). Currently, Chevy offers cops a hopped-up, Brembo-shod, V8-powered Tahoe with 355 horses/383 lb.-ft of torque as a pursuit pod.

Front and all-wheel drive. Showing off the dexterity of its Ultium platform, Blazer EV is the first Chevrolet to ever offer front-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-power. Internal combustion drivetrains are one or the other — depending on whether power is sent through a differential to the front or rear tires.

Since Ultium is powered by electric motors, the drive unit can be placed in either the bow or stern. The base, 1LT and 2LT models will be available with FWD. The top-trim, performance-oriented RS comes standard with RWD. All four trims can be optioned with all-wheel-drive.

The new Chevrolet Blazer EV will offer unique interior design options for the RS and SS models, including blue and red contrasting stitching on the RS, and sueded microfiber seating on the SS, with Adrenaline Red seating surfaces and available Argon Orange accents.

We (don’t) want the frunk. Like the Cadillac Lyriq, Blazer EV will not offer extra storage in front where the gas engine usually resides. The front trunk — “frunk” — was popularized by Tesla and has been a selling point for EVs showing off extra cargo space. Blazer competitor Mustang Mach-E advertises its frunk for everything from a baggage hold to a drainable, tailgate-party ice cooler. The coming Chevy Silverado EV and Ford Lightning offer gigantic frunks that can hold luggage and golf bags to complement their rear pickup beds.

Chevrolet product planners said that, rather then engineer a front trunk, they sought to use the EV platform to maximize interior space. Blazer EV boasts larger interior legroom than gas Blazer.

The Silverado screen. When it debuted in January, the $107,000, 2024 Chevy Silverado EV RST wowed with a huge, horizontal screen spanning the dash. Blazer EV offers the same screen. The display combines an 11-inch instrument screen with a 17.7-inch infotainment screen. Neatly joining the two is a big volume knob with the infotainment screen angled toward the driver like the mid-engine Corvette.

Super Cruise, General Motors Co.'s self-driving system, will be standard on the SS version and available for on the RS trim for the new Chevrolet Blazer EV.

Powered by Google. Tesla has dominated the EV segment in part because of its proprietary charging network integrated with its vehicles’ navigation software. GM hopes to shrink that gap with Google Automated Services paired to its MyChevy app. Chevy says that, like Tesla, its navigation system will not only route your journey — but will also communicate to the driver which charging stations to use, how long each stop will take to charge — even assist you by locating nearby restaurants and retail stores to help pass the time while Blazer fuels up.

In a patchwork network of third party chargers, Chevy hopes its Google system will ease customer concerns about taking the family on long road trips.

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

Auto-palooza 2022: The Dream Cruise gets ready to rock Woodward

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 27, 2022

Birmingham — Here comes Detroit’s annual auto-palooza.

The annual Woodward Dream Cruise presented by Ford will rock M-1 on Aug. 20 with the glorious music of thousands of V-6s, V-8s, V-12s (and even a few electric motors) as the epic, rolling auto enthusiasts’ gathering celebrates its 27th year. The event caps off a week of festivities — starting with Roadkill Nights in Pontiac Aug. 13 — that includes charity events, car club parades and the Detroit Three showing off their latest wares.

Stretching across 16 miles — and nine participating Oakland County communities from Pontiac to Ferndale — the Dream Cruise attracts some 1.5 million people to Woodward to watch the world’s biggest rolling car show with more than 40,000 vehicles offering everything from Granddad’s restored ’50s sedan to the latest Hummer EV to classic muscle cars to the Batmobile.

Two Plymouth Satellites roll down Woodward near Square Lake Road and Woodward Avenue at the Woodward Dream Cruise on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021.

“We’re the grand finale of the week,” said Dream Cruise President Michael Lary, whose day job is Ferndale director of special events and projects. “Everything is coming together this year. Our biggest challenge is always Mother Nature.”

Rain or shine, the official event is the highlight of an unofficial summer of cruising along “America’s main street” as enthusiasts gather to celebrate the automobile on weeknights and weekends. The Cruise really gets rockin’ a week before with Motor Trend Presents Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge at M1 Concourse in Pontiac.

Parallel to the M1 Concourse Car Club at the intersection of South Boulevard, Pontiac closes down a section of Woodward for street legal drag racing. Some of the country’s top drag racers are invited to bring out their rocket ships — past participants have included everything from dragsters to V-8-powered Priuses — for a daylong competition down a 1/8-mile track.

Drag racing at 'Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge' on Woodward, across from the M1 Concourse in Pontiac.

There will also be a Grudge Match competition with a bracket-full of hot rod shops — Tavarish, Westin Champlin, Demonology among them — squaring off with drag racers built for the event from Dodge Direct Connection parts.

Behind the Woodward grandstands, attendees can also enjoy a variety of experiences on M1’s 87-acre property. Take a tire-smoking, tail-wagging, supercharged Dodge Hellcat thrill ride on M1’s 1.5-mile race track and skid pad. Or digitally pilot a Hellcat on a simulator. Or ogle displays of Metro Detroit’s finest hot rods, muscle cars and trick trucks while noshing a hot dog and cola.

“If you’ve ever dreamed of watching street-legal drag racing down Woodward Avenue, come to our event,” said Motor Trend’s Eric Schwab. “Going strong for seven years, the event has something for everyone whether you’re a drag racer, car enthusiast, or just looking for a fun day with family.”

But wait, there’s more.

Roadkill Nights kicks off a Dodge “Speedweek” with reveals each day from Aug. 15-17 including a new Hornet plug-in hybrid vehicle and muscle car EV concept as Dodge winds down production of its legendary Hellcat V-8 and redefines itself as an electric brand. For Saturday’s Cruise, Dodge will have a display near Pontiac with fan activities and more eye candy.

Dodge isn’t the only manufacturer with a big presence at the Cruise. With so many car people on Woodward, the event is catnip for companies seeking to show off their latest toys.

Ford is also going electric and will show off its new F-150 Lightning pickup and Mustang Mach-E at its Ferndale activation. Ferndale is also home to Mustang Alley, a sprawling buffet of every generation of the iconic pony car — and the largest car show on the 16-mile stretch of the Dream Cruise.

Ford Mustangs line 9 Mile Road for the famed Mustang Alley in Ferndale on Saturday, August 21, 2021 for the Woodward Dream Cruise.

Ford will have a second display in Berkley, where it traditionally shows off its latest performance vehicles. Past cruises have showcased everything from the mid-engine Ford GT to the 7-electric-motors Mustang Mach-E 1400 (as in 1,400 horsepower).

Further north on the avenue will be Chevrolet’s Birmingham display. Expect the new, 670-horsepower Corvette Z06 — engorged with the most powerful, naturally aspirated V-8 production engine ever produced —  to anchor a lot-full of the brand’s car and truck offerings.

Chevrolet will have a big presence at this summer's Woodward Dream Cruise.

But wait there’s even more. Gatherings of car clubs, old friends and old jalopies will meet up and down Woodward.

M1 Concourse will host its second annual Woodward Dream Show on Friday, August 19th in Pontiac with some 600 examples of the Cruise’s finest vehicles. In particular, the event will celebrate 90 years of the 1932 Ford “Deuce”, 100 years of the Lincoln brand, and 55 years of the Pontiac Firebird.

The Dream Show is “a dedicated facility for the auto enthusiast,” said custom-car design legend Murray Pfaff, whose 2022 Dodge Charger and Imperial Speedster – last year’s Best Hot Rod Custom Car – will be on display. “You can see the level of detail put into the shows from the different classes of cars to the curated displays and attentive staff.”

Pfaff will be on a panel at the Dream Show including designers Kevin Byrd, Adam Genei, and Steve Mank. Tickets for the Show are $50 if you are over 18 years of age, $25 for 13-17, and free for kids under 12.

One of the biggest gatherings will be at the Cruise’s epicenter, Memorial Park at 13 Mile and Woodward, where a variety of car clubs congregate. You’ll see anything from a hot pink 1955 Ford T-bird to a 1,000-horse Chevy Nova dragster to a striped 427 Shelby Cobra.

Shoulder-to-shoulder down Woodward will be clubs like the Woodard Tri Five Cruisers, which celebrates Chevrolets made from 1955-57, at Beaumont’s Urology Center parking lot just south of 13 Mile.

“We’re going to have a record turnout this year. We’re expecting 51 Tri Five Chevys,” said Roger Posey, who is president of the 20-year-old group. “We’ve got pickups, Nomads, wagons, even a 1955 Bel Air souped up with 800 horsepower.”

Groups like Tri Five are the backbone of the Cruise, with members attending in 2020 during the pandemic even as risk-averse corporations backed out with the official event canceled. With the pandemic in the rearview mirror, Posey says Tri Fivers from all over the country will be coming this year, including members from Florida and New York.

Dream Cruise president Lary confirms the classic car extravaganza is back to normal. “No one has mentioned COVID as an issue this year,” he said. “As an outdoor event, the cruisers never stopped cruising. This year we’ll be having our usual, traditional event.”

People watch the Light and Sirens parade on Woodward Avenue at the Ferndale Dream Cruise in Ferndale, Mich. on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021.

Ferndale officially kicks off the Dream Cruise on Friday, Aug. 19, with its annual Emergency Vehicle Show, 5 p.m. ribbon cutting, and Light ‘n’ Sirens Cruise. In addition to those familiar events, Ferndale will also have a Storyland of Floats featuring Detroit Thanksgiving Day parade floats, live rock music and an electric go-kart play zone for the rug rats.

Other community events along the route include a classic car parade in Berkley and the Pontiac Classic Car Show on Friday, and a Saturday Ford Bronco Show in Pleasant Ridge. Find more info at the official website.

Beside offering fun, nostalgia and camaraderie, the cruise benefits charities like the D-MAN foundation, which raises money to help provide transportation for disadvantaged kids. D-MAN signs up convertible muscle car cruisers, then loads in disadvantaged children so that they, too, can join the procession up and down Woodward.

“This event is all about providing the opportunity for our wheel-chair bound friends to get out of their chair and cruise down Woodward in a convertible,” said the foundation in its annual call for drivers who bring out Mustangs, Camaros and Ferraris.

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

Payne: Audi RS3 hellion wants off its leash

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 21, 2022

Boyne City — My Audi RS3 is hungry.

Hustling along County Road 56 west of Boyne in PERFORMANCE Mode, I come upon two slower cars. Adaptive Cruise Control slows me to 50 mph behind an SUV but the automotive gearbox doesn’t upshift — holding at 3,500 RPM in 4th gear with all 369 pound feet of torque at the ready. OK.

At the first broken center line, I stomp the throttle. The gearbox automatically downshifts ANOTHER gear to 3rd and the RS3 devours the SUV instantly, settling back into line at 50 mph behind the next victim, a minivan. Sensing its next prey (and my willingness to oblige its appetite), the RS3 incredibly remains in 3rd gear — the engine quivering at 5,500 RPM.

BOOM! The minivan is toast in the blink of an eye, the Audi sprinting by at 7,000 RPM redline in 4th gear. The Audi obliterates the next pair of ess turns before I rein it in. The tailpipes crackle and pop, satisfied burps after a quick meal.

In this era of electronic wizardry, the gap between luxury and mainstream has shrunk rapidly. With mainstream athletes like the $52K Kia Stinger GT, it becomes harder to justify the $30,000 brand jump to, say, a comparable Audi S7. In the VW Group, the Golf R is the pinnacle of V-dub performance with sensational handling, power, all-wheel drive. I wondered if its cousin Audi RS3 — built on the same MQB platform — could justify its $30K premium hike over the V-dub.

It makes its case the old-fashioned way: with raw speed and wicked looks.

Golf R is a sleeper car, a hellion in drag that will surprise muscle cars at a stoplight. You won’t recognize its signature quad tailpipes until it’s past you. Ooooooh, so that was a Golf R! My Kemora Gray metallic RS is about as subtle as a rocket launcher.

The 2022 Audi RS3 made quick work of the M-32 twisties with dual-rear-clutch, torque-vectoring AWD that provide excellent road traction.

This is the junior member of Audi’s RS (short for Rocket Ship?) family that includes the 591-horse RS and RS6 Avent monsters — the latter the most awesome station wagon I’ve piloted. Junior RS3 doesn’t want to be ignored at the dinner table.

The front fascia is covered in black as if it’s been stuffing its face with asphalt all day. Under the hood is not the Golf R’s 315-horse turbo-4, but a mighty 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-5 making 401 horsepower. The beast needs air — lots of it — so every inch of the front is covered with intakes, including center grille and two massive gills.

Then Audi paints everything black — even the Audi rings — for added menace.

Aft of 19-inch black (natch) wheels wrapped in gummy Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires is air scoop — shades of the Civic Type R. Indeed, Audi RS3 has more styling in common with the loud Type R than the stealthy Golf R. There are huge rocker panels and lots of fake black cladding and …  what, no rear wing?

RS3’s lack of rear hatchback is a disappointment (only the sedan is offered here, while Europe gets hatch and sedan). Rear boot storage is less than Golf, as is rear headroom. But twin exhaust pipes the size of ship cannons at least give the rear menace like the front. Speaking of room, however, RS3’s four doors are an upgrade to its similarly equipped predecessor: the 400-horse TT RS coupe.

The 2022 Audi RS3 offers quilted leather seats and a sunroof for premium comfort.

The Rocket Ship’s all-wheel-drive system is up to task of channeling the engine’s power.

RS3 not only wants to play with its big brothers, it wants to play on the race track. This is a track-focused production car like the Porsche Cayman GTS or BMW M2. Riding around town in COMFORT or AUTO modes, and the beast is docile. The driveline is not so laid back. It’s often on edge — its shifts abrupt, its throttle touchy.

There is also lots of turbo lag. Only at speed does RS3 feel truly content as the high-strung PERFORMANCE mode keeping the shift points high in the rev range.

Over my favorite, M-32 twisty road in northern Michigan, I alternately used paddle shifters and PERFORMANCE mode — the AWD system rock solid all the while. No torque-steer, no excessive push. A sophisticated twin-clutch assembly in rear (shades of the glorious Ford Focus RS track rat. I miss it so) replaces the old single-clutch Haldex unit, allowing for true torque-vectoring at each wheel. Take RS to the track where you can find the limits of car’s limits.

On back-country public roads, the combination of 401 ponies and AWD grip launched me to insane speeds, and I made liberal use of adaptive cruse control to keep me legal through small towns and bustling burgs. ACC also came in handy on I-75, where the system did a reasonable job as an assistant driver which allowed me time to learn the car’s ergonomics.

Like Golf R, RS3 is quirky. That is, it is nearly devoid of rotary knobs.

The 2022 Audi RS3 shows off its red, performance brake calipers.

A haptic touchscreen dominates the console with wireless Android Auto (and Apple CarPlay) which I put to good use on my travels north. Climate? Controlled by toggle switches. Volume control? Move your finger in a circular motion on an iPod-like button.

Anchoring the console is my favorite feature: a chicklet shifter similar to Golf R or Porsche 911, which easily selects REVERSE-NEUTRAL-DRIVE with flicks of the wrist. The simplicity is a contrast to the cluttered Audi consoles of old, with shifter, rotary controller and volume knob all arguing for space.

Audi has been a pioneer in locating more information in front of the driver via steering wheel buttons (a redundant volume scroll wheel, for example) and configurable instrument display. RS3’s cockpit is typically excellent. An RS3 button sat at my itchy right thumb ready to toggle between DYNAMIC, INDIVIDUAL and PERFORMANCE modes — each changing the instrument RPM display.

My only beef was that PERFORMANCE mode triggered an awkward, ladder-like RPM display. Better is DYNAMIC mode’s horizontal band — like a race car.

The 2022 Audi RS3 gets 401 horsepower from a high-strung, 2.5-liter 5-cylinder engine.

The RS3 muscles its way into a highly-competitive $60K pocket bull ring that includes the Tesla Model 3 Performance, Mercedes CLA AMG-45 and BMW M2. The latter is peerless in its handling and the Model 3 addictive with its electric torque — but with all-season AWD, eager engine and aggressive attitude, the RS3 can trash talk with any of ’em.

Just be sure and feed it the occasional minivan.

2022 Audi RS3

Vehicle type: All-wheel-drive, five-passenger performance sedan

Price: $59,995, including $1,095 destination fee ($71,390 as tested)

Powerplant: 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-5 cylinder

Power: 401 horsepower (requires premium gas), 369 pound-feet torque

Transmission: 7-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 3.6 seconds (mfr.); top speed, 180 mph

Weight: 3,649 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA 20 city/29 highway/23 combined

Report card

Highs: VW Golf R on steroids; RS button

Lows: Quirky control ergonomics, gets pricey

Overall: 3 stars

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

Payne: Road tripping to a Georgia raceway in the Cadillac XT5

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 14, 2022

Braselton, Georgia — Three years ago, I watched here at Road Atlanta Raceway as a blood red, V-8-powered Cadillac DPi-V.R prototype streaked ahead of a snarling pack of IMSA race cars into Turn One on its way to a convincing victory at the Petit Le Mans 10-Hour endurance race.

The Cadillac was the class of the field.

This year I returned to Road Atlanta driving an XT5 SUV, the best-selling Caddy in the luxe maker’s lineup. There is an unmistakable similarity between the DPi-V.R and XT5. They share Caddy’s signature tear-drop headlights, vertical taillights and brand logo on the nose. And that’s about it.

These are the bookends of the Cadillac brand: the single-seat, 600-horsepower, championship-winning race car and the five-seat, entry-level luxury utility vehicle. They are part of Caddy’s multiple identities formed from navigating the crazy, shifting winds of the auto industry over the last decade.

How crazy? Consider: the DPi-V.R is the V-8-powered halo for the V-series CT4 and CT5 Blackwing sedans that are soon to be retired because Cadillac is going all-electric beginning with the Lyriq later this year — the model that will replace the XT5. Yet, Cadillac’s racing program will live on with a new, V-8-powered hybrid race car coming in 2023, the same model year as the battery-powered Lyriq. The race car will be the fiercest V-8 this side of a 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V.

Confused? Join the club. But as I drove through Road Atlanta’s gates in the XT5 — the ute loaded with four family members and our luggage — it had an undeniable cool factor.

Like a Porsche Macan or a BMW X3 or an Audi Q5, the Cadillac basks in the glow of its brand’s successful racing heritage.

Which is a good thing, because SUVs are really hard to tell apart. Indeed, my favorite compact SUV is the Mazda CX-5. Stuff it with all-wheel-drive, head-up display, 250-horse turbo-4 and leather seats, and it’s a $42,000 bargain. And its sleek styling echoes that of the Mazda RT24-P IMSA race car that, ahem, once competed against the Cadillac DPi-V.R.

At $70,365, my Caddy tester was loaded with similar features — plus.

The compact 022 Cadillac XT5 swallows luggage for Payne's family weekend trip in Atlanta.

My family and I were at Road Atlanta because we have a team of three sports racers that compete in amateur motorsport. “The Mitty” at Road Atlanta is one of the country’s most famous gatherings of classic race cars competing in classes from our 2-liter sportscar-class to Indy Lights open-wheel cars.

We loaded four carry-on suitcases, a briefcase, and backpack under the rear hatch with room to spare. We three Payne boys are all north of 6 feet and were able to sit comfortably behind ourselves — though I resisted the rear seat due to the compromised headroom caused by the panoramic roof.

Six-foot plus Detroit News auto critic Henry Payne fits comfortably in the back seat of the 2022 Cadillac XT5.

Our weekend round trip to Atlanta’s northeast Braselton exurb would cover some 350 miles, a peek at the challenge of Cadillac going all-electric this decade, led by the 312-mile range Lyriq. Our Best Western hotel had no charging stations. The only hotel in the area that did was a La Quinta with two, 240-volt Level 2 chargers. On a busy weekend’s racing schedule, only overnight charging made sense.

But with 462 miles of gas range and gas stations everywhere, we didn’t give the Caddy XT5’s fuel needs a second thought as I merged into 80 mph Atlanta interstate traffic for our 65-mile drive to Road Atlanta.

The 2022 Cadillac XT5 comes with a turbo-4 or this 310-horse V6.

With a 3.6-liter V-6 under the hood, the XT5 Sport model spits out a healthy 310 horsepower (an upgrade from the car’s standard, 235-horse turbo-4). But the engine is EV-quiet — a stealthy attribute I came to appreciate when I broadcast my Car Radio Show on 910 AM-Detroit from the Caddy’s interior. On Saturday. In the middle of a loud race track.

The quiet cabin made a superb radio studio.

On road, the XT5 is competent but didn’t inherit any DPi-V.R DNA. Which is just as well given the groceries we stored in back — and the grocery bag we put in the XT5’s useful, sub-console storage space.

Wireless Apple CarPlay proved wonky on our trip so we connected the phone via cord for navigation. The dash design is tasteful, though it won’t impress those looking for fashionable, expansive dash screens. The smallish, 8-inch console screen was useful for tight parking in the Road Atlanta paddock.

The cockpit of the 2022 Cadillac XT5 will give way to the screen-dominated, next-gen interior of the Lyriq EV.

The $2,275 tech package offers a bird’s-eye view of the SUV as well as crisp forward-and-rear cameras. Racers tend to leave body parts on the ground — tires, car noses, drills — so the cameras came in handy for parking in the paddock.

In addition to the action on track, the Road Atlanta grounds attracted thousands of spectators — some of them queuing in Shelby Cobras, Acura NSXs, Porsches, Corvettes and so on.

I saw a classic, bling-tastic, 1950s Cadillac Eldorado — an icon the fancy Lyriq intends to recreate. The XT5? Not so much. It will never achieve Eldorado’s legendary status, but it offers a comfortable daily driver experience . . . so you can go check out cousin DPi-V.R when it comes to your local race track.

Next week: 2022 Audi RS3

2022 Cadillac XT5 Sport

Vehicle type: All-wheel drive, five-passenger SUV

Price: $57,090 including $1,195 destination charge ($70,365 AWD Sport as tested)

Powerplant: 3.6-liter V-6

Power: 310 horsepower, 271 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 6.5 seconds (Motor Trend est.); towing capacity, 3,500 pounds as tested

Weight: 4,338 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA 18 mpg city/26 highway/21 combined; 463 miles range

Report card

Highs: Distinctive looks; good storage

Lows: Aging interior design; gets pricey

Overall: 3 stars

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

Payne: Plug-in faceoff, Volvo XC90 Recharge vs. Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 7, 2022

Clarington, Ontario — The federal government is forcing automakers to go all-electric, but even some of my green friends are balking at the idea.

“Why not plug-in hybrids so we can use electricity around town and gas on trips?” asks one.

“Electric doesn’t make sense. Are there plug-in hybrids?” asks another.

“I’ve heard plug-ins are a good middle ground,” says another.

Washington ain’t much for middle ground these days, so plug-ins are a nonstarter because (horrors) they use the demon gasoline. But manufacturers are listening to their customers, and for those who like the EV driving experience — but appreciate the efficiency of gas — there are good choices in the premium market.

Detroit News auto critic Henry Payne took the 2022 Volvo XC90 Reharge on a road trip to the famous Mosport Raceway in Ontario.

Consider the 2022 Volvo XC90 Recharge and Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe I recently put to the test.

Big and roomy, they are midsize family SUVs designed to do everything from haul the groceries home to haul the family on long excursions. For customers who need this kind of diversity, EVs don’t make sense. Who wants to wait for 45 minutes at a supercharger while the kids scream: “Are we there yet?”

Volvo has been particularly aggressive at going all-electric with compact around-towners like the XC40 Recharge and (sister EV brand) Polestar 2. But its midsize XC90 better fits the plug-in market given its road trip ambitions . . . road trips like my summer journey from Detroit to Ontario, where I was scheduled to race my Lola at one of North America’s epic tracks: Mosport International Raceway just north of Lake Ontario.

Battery power fits the Scandinavian brand that has long appealed to tree-huggers. A century after alcohol Prohibition, America is in the midst of a second temperance movement — this time focused on limiting carbon consumption. For luxe buyers who crave a Tesla Model X but need a plug-in’s versatility,  the XC90 Recharge satisfies moral and practical concerns.

The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk combines a 2.0-liter, turbo-4 cylinder engine with an electric motor for 375 horsepower.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe fits the bill too.

Jeep’s enormous brand bandwidth allows it to appeal to everyone from mainstream buyers shopping for a $25K Renegade to swells who want to arrive at the country club in a $110K Jeep Wagoneer.

Mention the Jeep Grand Cherokee in the same breath as Volvo, BMW, Audi and Cadillac. and my friends don’t flinch. The Jeep name has that kind of cachet. So Jeep has shrewdly brought its 4xe plug-in drivetrain to the Grand, where it offers a premium ride at $63K while still coming in well short of the Volvo Recharge’s (cough) $84K.

My testers were similar yet different. These brands play to their strengths.

Preparing for my trip across the border, I juiced both the Jeep and Volvo batteries on my garage-mounted, 240-volt charger. At about $2,000 to install, the 240-volt is an expensive but necessary accessory for plug-in buyers. It’s also a major reason battery-powered vehicles are best-suited for a high-income demographic.

Once charged, both Volvo and Jeep gave me the option to save the battery range for when I want to use it. With a 300-mile journey ahead to Mosport, I chose the Volvo and its superior 36 miles of battery-only range.

Like European nations, Canada is more militant than the United States on carbon prohibition, with plans to ban gasoline by 2035. Cities are proposing “zero-emission zones” allowing only battery-powered vehicles. While I would encounter no such zones on my trip to metropolitan Toronto, the XC90 Recharge could qualify — assuming I could switch over to EV power only.

The Jeep has a similar feature — which could be saved for, say, a silent run through Holly Oaks off-road park an hour up I-75. However, it’s only good for 26 miles compared to the Volvo’s 36. That’s a big difference — and the first of many reasons that the XC90 Recharge is priced $20K higher than the Grand.

After crossing the Canadian border at Sarnia, I selected the Volvo’s driver-assist mode and set the speed to 78 mph (Canadian speed limit is 60 mph but natives ignore it like Americans used to ignore 55). The green steering wheel icon in the digital ash indicated the car needed limited input from me.

The interior of the 2022 Volvo XC90 Reharge comes with panoramic roof, leather seats, and excellent materials. The immovable headrests, however, can be uncomfortable.

Casting my eyes around the cabin, I saw the Volvo was a lovely piece of work with its white leather interior, Orrefors crystal shift knob and big panoramic roof. Lovely, but uncomfortable for this 6-foot-5-inch driver, given that the headrest was immovable and forced my head forward. Fortunately, placing a pillow behind my back helped alleviate the discomfort.

The posh interior of the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk includes digital screens and tasteful materials.

The Grand Cherokee’s interior has come a long way from the previous gen and is a big reason I recommend it to luxury buyers. The design is upscale with a cascading black console that houses a small infotainment screen — not unlike the Volvo. These brands have eschewed the trend to ginormous screens. The Jeep also gave me choice of cruise controls — standard cruise or adaptive — though not an ambitious drive-assist system like the VC90.

After a lunch stop with Mrs. Payne, I put the pedal to metal and the Volvo merged with authority onto the interstate — its combined supercharged, turbocharged inline-4 and electric motor putting out a beastly 440 horsepower. This is a hot Swedish meatball.

When the 36 mile range battery gives out in the 2022 Volvo XC90 Reharge, there is 510 miles of gas-engine range on hand.

That acceleration is tempered in EV mode. Upon arriving at Bowmanville, Ontario, I switched over to my saved battery power. The resulting EV mode is all-electric — but doesn’t offer torquey, kick-in-the-pants acceleration like a big-battery, 75 kWh Polestar 2. Instead, the 14.9 kWh battery enabled smooth driving around town, if not lively performance.

In contrast, the Grand Cherokee 4xe’s EV mode only provides limited battery-only driving. Speed up over 60 mph and the gas engine kicks in to help. The Jeep apparently thinks you’ll use the battery at low off-road speeds (like a Wrangler 4xe) or in delivering the kiddies to school on moderate, 45-mph secondary roads.

The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk charges at night on a home, 240-volt charger.

For both plug-ins, the estimated battery range proved optimistic. I used up the Jeep’s 21 miles quickly around Metro Detroit, whereas the Volvo’s 36 miles only took me about 22 miles in real-world driving. For all Canada’s talk of an electric future, charging stations were rare east of Toronto.

I found a Hyundai dealership next to my Comfort Inn with a public 110-volt outlet that recharged my VC90 Recharge each night so that I could drain the battery the next day on my 22-mile round trip commute to the track.

I filled up the Volvo on the way back home from Mosport — the plug-in proving its worth with a big gas tank. The Grand Cherokee, too, would have been suited for the Ontario trip. But with its blue tow hooks, matte-black hood, and meaty off-road tires, the Trailhawk trim is better for an off-road rally driver instead of an asphalt, road-course jockey like me.

Heck, the Jeep could even do the rally itself.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe

Vehicle type: All-wheel-drive, five-passenger SUV

Price: $57,660 including $1,795 destination fee ($64,280 Grand Cherokee Trailhawk as tested)

Powerplant: 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline-4 cylinder mated to AC motor and 14.0-kWh lithium-ion battery pack

Power: 375 horsepower, 470 pound-feet torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 6.8 seconds (Car and Driver); towing capacity, 6,000 pounds

Weight: 5,600 pounds (est.)

Fuel economy: EPA 23 mpg city/24 highway/23 combined; 26 miles on battery only

Report card

Highs: Attractive interior/exterior design; off-road moxie

Lows: Drivetrain lacks refinement; pure-EV mode limited to low speeds

Overall: 3 stars

2022 Volvo VC90 Recharge

Vehicle type: All-wheel-drive, five-or-seven passenger SUV

Price: $66,895 including $1,095 destination fee ($84,090 XC90 Recharge T8 Inscription as tested)

Powerplant: 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged inline-4 cylinder mated to AC motor and 14.9-kWh lithium-ion battery pack

Power: 455 horsepower, 523 pound-feet torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic/direct-drive

Performance: 0-60 mph, 4.5 seconds (Car and Driver); towing capacity, 5,291 pounds

Weight: 5,121 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA 25 mpg city/27 highway/26 combined; 36 miles on battery only

Report card

Highs: Pure-EV range; good power

Lows: Lacks latest Google-based infotainment system; 36-mile battery range is over-estimated

Overall: 3 stars

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

Porsche Motorsport, Team Penske seek Daytona/Le Mans glory with Porsche 963

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 2, 2022

The race for world sports car racing domination revved up in the last month as manufacturers Cadillac, BMW and Acura unveiled concepts of their first hybrid race cars. But the Porsche program — run by Bloomfield Hills’ legendary Team Penske — seems to be well ahead of everybody.

Porsche Motorsport and Team Penske unveiled their 680-horsepower, 963 prototype race cars at Goodwood Festival of Speed this month in full racing livery with eight drivers and already 4,900 miles of testing to their credit.

The Porsche 963 LMDh prototype is the second collaboration between Porsche and Team Penske.

It puts 85-year-old Roger “The Captain” Penske in the driver’s seat as he seeks to add the twin jewels of sports car racing — the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 24 Hours of Le Mans — to his already illustrious trophy case. Penske will field two factory cars for 2023 while Porsche also announced a private entry run by Minnesota JDC-Miller through its customer racing program. JDC-Miller has run Cadillac IMSA prototypes for the last four years.

The 963 marks a return to glory for Porsche, which dominated prototype podiums in the 1970s to 1990s — establishing its reputation as one of the world’s great performance brands.

“Over the past few months, Porsche Motorsport and Team Penske have grown into an efficient and committed squad — the Porsche Penske Motorsport Team,” said Porsche Motorsport LMDh chief Urs Kuratle. “We’ll have powerful driver crews in the factory cars. The Porsche 963 should be homologated this autumn. Until then, we want to make further progress with test drives and gain additional insights.”

LMDh stands for Le Mans Daytona Hybrid and will replace the current DPi class next year in North America’s IMSA series, where it will also be known as the GTP class. Cadillac and Acura compete in DPi, with Cadillac winning at the Detroit Grand Prix in June.

The new LMDh category has been endorsed by both IMSA and the international World Endurance Series, rekindling a global war of performance brands not seen for decades. The first-ever hybrid-powered prototype series — the world’s fastest sports car class — offers an opportunity to prove brand superiority in electrification at a time when manufacturers are introducing battery-powered production cars.

In addition to Porsche, Cadillac, BMW, Ferrari, Toyota, Peugeot and Acura, Lamborghini and Alpine are expected to join in LMDh racing come 2024.

While manufacturer cars and teams have been solidifying this summer, Porsche Penske Motorsport has been noticeably aggressive in getting its horses on track. The team’s concept car was unveiled in May with a top-drawer driver lineup already putting test miles on the test mule.

“It’s a typically efficient Penske operation. They got started well ahead of anyone else,” said veteran Hagerty racing correspondent Stephen Cole Smith in an interview. “If I were to put money on a team to win Daytona next January, I’d put my money on Penske.”

The sleek white, red and black machine took a run up the hill climb at Goodwood, trailing its signature, whispery exhaust note from a twin-turbo V-8.

“We’re on a very good path but there is still work to be done before the start of next season,” said Thomas Laudenbach, Porsche Motorsport vice president. “Our new Porsche 963 should continue the legacy of legendary models such as the 917, 935, 956, 962 and the 919. I’m positive that we’ll be well-positioned for wins in the thrilling competition between many manufacturers.”

In addition to its IMSA series debut next January, Porsche Penske Motorsport has targeted a noncompetitive dress rehearsal at the final WEC round in Bahrain this November.

Hagerty’s Cole Smith said Penske’s test schedule has allowed it to share technical information with IMSA, WEC and other teams proving the nascent hybrid technology that will be shared across brands. Under class rules, each manufacturer will campaign its own unique engine, but to reduce costs and encourage close racing, the hybrid system developed by Bosch, Xtrac and Williams Engineering will be common technology.

At the wheel of the twin 963 will be France’s Kévin Estre, Michael Christensen of Denmark, André Lotterer from Germany, Belgium’s Laurens Vanthoor, Aussie Matt Campbell, Mathieu Jaminet of France, American Dane Cameron and reigning IMSA champion Felipe Nasr of  Brazil.

Porsche Penske Motorsport has established two race bases: one in Mooresville, North Carolina, for the IMSA series and one in Mannheim, Germany, for the WEC.

The LMDh chassis has ben developed for Porsche by Canadian manufacturer Multimatic, which also developed the Ford GT for the Dearborn brand’s Le Mans win in the GT class in 2016. Mated to the spec hybrid components will be a 4.6-liter, twin-turbo V8 based on the engine in Porsche’s million-dollar 918 Spyder hypercar.

Porsche and Team Penske last teamed up from 2005 to 2008 with the RS Spyder prototype that scored multiple victories. The design of the new Porsche 963 echoes that of the iconic 956 and 962 racers of the 1980s and early 1990s.

Other suppliers of significance to the global program are tire manufacturer Michelin, Mobil1 oil, and software specialist Ansys. Sponsors include luxury watchmaker TAG Heuer, Hugo Boss clothing and Puma.

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

Hyundai breaks ground on $51.6 million Metro Detroit safety facility

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 2, 2022

Drawing on Metro Detroit’s extensive engineering talent, Hyundai broke ground this week near Ypsilanti on its new Safety Test and Investigation Laboratory, its first such facility in North America.

STIL expands on the Hyundai America Technical Center, one of six Hyundai R&D centers worldwide. The new facility, which satisfies a consent order from the National Highway Safety Administration, will augment existing safety testing and analysis for Hyundai and Genesis luxury brand vehicles. The facility will include a field crash investigation lab, high-voltage battery lab, forensics lab, and 3/10-mile test track.

Brian Latouf, left, chief safety officer, Hyundai Motor North America and Jose Munoz, president and CEO, Hyundai Motor Company, break ground June 27 on a new Safety Test and Investigation Laboratory (STIL) in Superior Township.

The $51.6 million facility, being built in Superior Township, is expected to employ 150 people and be operational in the fall of 2023.

“Safety is the top priority at Hyundai and is embedded throughout the entire organization,” Hyundai Motor Company President and CEO José Muñoz said at the Monday groundbreaking. “We excel in third-party crash testing and ratings, and strive to be a leader in the latest safety features. The new laboratory will enable us to even more effectively protect our customers.”

Hyundai this year earned eight 2022 Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick Plus awards from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, placing third in the industry behind Volvo and Audi. Each of its SUVs won a Top Safety Pick award: the Venue, Tucson, Palisade, Santa Fe and Santa Cruz. Together with sister brands Kia and Genesis — which also placed in the IIHS Top Ten — Hyundai Motor Group had 21 Top Safety Pick awards.

The STIL comes in the wake of a consent order Hyundai agreed to with the federal government after NHTSA determined Hyundai and Kia had moved too slowly in an engine recall involving more than 1.6 million vehicles from 2011-2014. The Theta II four-cylinder engines were prone to seizing, and NHTSA faulted Hyundai for inaccurately reporting recall information. In total, Hyundai-Kia paid $210 million in fines.

The order required Hyundai to spend at least $25 million in the U.S. to “build and develop a fully-functioning U.S.-based outdoor test laboratory and vehicle tear down facilities.”

Munoz was joined at the event by Hyundai North America Chief Safety Officer Brian Latouf and Hyundai America Technical Center president John Robb, as well as government officials including U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II.

“This investment by Hyundai is critically important not only to southeast Michigan but to our entire country,” said Dingell. “This new Safety Test and Investigation Laboratory will save lives, and I applaud Hyundai for their commitment to keeping passengers safe.”

Hyundai's new Safety Test and Investigation Laboratory (STIL) in Superior Township is expected to open in fall of 2023 and employ 150.

Gilchrist added that “Hyundai’s cutting-edge Safety Test and Investigation Laboratory will create good-paying, high-skilled jobs right here in Michigan. Michigan put the world on wheels, and I am grateful for Hyundai’s partnership in building on that tradition with a $50 million investment in Superior Township.

In addition to being home to Detroit Three headquarters and tech centers, Michigan has a technical workforce that has attracted large operations from foreign automakers.

Toyota’s largest research center outside of Japan (the Toyota Motor North American R&D Purchasing and Prototype Development Center), for example, is in York Township in southern Washtenaw County. And the Honda Research Institute-Detroit is next to the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor.

Hyundai’s Michigan lab comes in addition to the Hyundai Motor Group’s planned $10 billion investment in the U.S. by 2025, including its Georgia manufacturing facilities building electric vehicles and producing batteries.

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

Payne: Ford Bronco Everglades conquers Drummond Island

Posted by Talbot Payne on June 30, 2022

Drummond Island — So this week I’m chewing up Drummond Island’s labyrinth of soggy off-road trails in a Ford Bronco Everglades. It’s the latest in a stream of Bronco trims aimed at conquering every corner of God’s green earth.

First there was the base Bronco optioned with ginormous 35-inch Sasquatch trim tires and dual-locking diffs so you could commute via the Rouge River bed to work.

Then came Bronco Badlands with detachable front sway bar and rock-resistant armored plating so you could climb Mount Rushmore.

Next up: the Bronco Raptor with ridiculous live-valve Fox shocks so you can avoid L.A. traffic and take a shortcut through the desert at 75 mph.

What’s next? Maybe Bronco Sleeping Bear Dunes so you run a shuttle up and down the world’s most formidable sand dunes?

Or the Bronco Moon so astronauts have something to drive through the Sea of Tranquility?

My latest, $54,595 Everglades tester fills a nice off-roader’s niche between the Black Diamond trim and the purist’s Badlands.

Narrower than the 86-inch-wide Bronco Raptor, the 2022 Ford Bronco Everglades crawls through Drummond Island's narrow tree trails.

Built on the same bones as Black Diamond — five skid plates, rock rails, seven GOAT (Go Over Any Terrain) modes, standard 35-inch tires — Everglades then adds more standard features for customers who want an extreme off-roader without having to dig deep into the Badlands toolbox and assemble accessories themselves.

Significant Everglades upgrades include WARN winch, engine intake snorkel, plastic bumpers and roof rails. Dude, you’re ready to chase Star Wars’ speeder bikes through the forests of Endor.

But let me recommend Drummond Island. It’s closer.

The 2022 Ford Bronco Everglades heads to Drummond Island via quick ferry ride.

Just five hours up I-75 from Detroit, cross the mighty Mackinac Bridge, then hook a right and go to the east end of the U.P. Hop the ferry and five minutes later you’re on Drummond, the seventh largest lake isle in the world — and the only island in the Manitoulin island chain that belongs to the USA (the rest of the archipelago is Canadian).

Once aboard Drummond, I joined a convoy of Everglades and headed to the island’s eastern forests. Drummond’s 134 square miles is covered by 100 miles of off-road trails — one of the largest closed-loop ORV parks in the United States. And for some reason, the trails are wet all the time, which is perfect for a vehicles named Everglades sporting a snorkel.

Bronco engineers Seth Goslawski and Jamie Groves played Lewis and Clark and guided us through the labyrinth. Let me recommend downloading the GAIA GPS app if you come here with your own groups of trailblazers — it provides good trail guidance. Here’s another tip: bring waders.

Take the 2022 Ford Bronco Everglades to wet Drummond Island and you might want waders. Detroit News auto critic Henry Payne did.

Swampy Mounds ORV park in Flint is the only park I’ve found comparable to Drummond, but the latter is much bigger and combines swamp with spectacular views of Lake Huron.

I shifted Everglades to Neutral. Spun the GOAT mode selector to Mud/Ruts putting me in 4WD High. Shifted back to DRIVE. Punched it.

With the 35-inch Goodyear Territory tires aired down to 33 PSI (from 40) the beast romped happily thought the woods. Splashed through puddles. Danced over rocks. Sliced between trees.

This ain’t the 75-mph desert running I did in the Bronco Raptor earlier this month.

Stuck? Get out the 2022 Ford Bronco Everglades' winch.

Everglades doesn’t have Raptors’ 418 horse, twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 beast under the hood. Heck, the 87.5-inch wide Raptor wouldn’t have fit through some of the tight Drummond trails, which were apparently cut by years of Jeep Wrangler and side-by-side owners. Nor is Everglades optioned with the 2.7-liter, 330-horse V-6 available on the Badlands buffet. For the Everglades’ simplified menu of options, the standard 300 horse, 2.3-liter turbo-4 is enough.

Ford’s logic? With that 100-pound winch hanging off the front bumper, the 2.3 saves 100 pounds from the V-6 for good weight balance. Which makes sense when you’re front end starts sinking in Drummond mud and needs to power out. This is the same peppy engine found in the Mustang High Performance model.

To guard against water damage while fording nearly 40 inches of water, the 2022 Ford Bronco Everglades' 300-horse, 2.3-liter turbo-4 engine is fed by an air intake snorkel.

A spirited run through the forest suddenly opened into a beautiful beach, Lake Huron’s crystal-clear water lapping at the stones. Sprayed with mud, our Everglades Broncos were equipped with washable vinyl seats and drain plugs so you can hose down the interior.

They are also equipped with Rock Crawl, which would come in handy for our next trail: Drummond’s famed Marblehead Steps.

The 2022 Ford Bronco Everglades comes with a 35-inch Goodyear Territory spare. Just in case.

Shift to Neutral. Spin GOAT to Rock Crawl mode, enabling 4-LOW for extreme rock crawling. Engage both front and rear lockers for max traction. Time to climb.

This is where the Badlands and Raptor editions excel, thanks to detachable front sway bars allowing their craft to walk up steps like a horse. Without the detachable sway bar option, Everglades is less deft, but that’s where its truck-like rock rails prove their worth.

GRONK! The rails landed on a marble step. ROWWWRRRR! Deft use of the accelerator pedal spun the rear end around, allowing for better grip. RROOOMP! The beast was on to the next step. We gathered around to help each other up the steps. Coaching. Directing. Congratulating.

The steps reward their visitors with a spectacular cliff view of the lake. Freighters dotted the horizon, and beyond that, Cockburn Island, the next step in the archipelago.

At the Marble Steps on Drummond Island, the 2022 Ford Bronco Everglades gets a cliff view of Lake Huron.

At this point, I felt like Superman. Is there nothing this Bronc can’t do? I started playing with other electronic toys on Everglades. Trail-turn assist, which brakes the inside wheel to enable quicker rotation on tight trails. One pedal-drive, which allowed me to drive Everglades like the electric Mustang Mach-E.

And my favorite: Trail Control to manage the car’s speed feet-free. Traversing an 800-foot stream bed — 30-inches deep in water — I used only my left hand on the steering wheel’s cruise button.

Then we were on back on our way. The beauty of Bronco and its independent front suspension, of course, is that it makes a good commuter as well as off-road driver. And so we headed back to the ferry at the end of our day. But does the Bronco really need to take a ferry back to the mainland?

How about an amphibious trim so the Bronco can swim across Huron? Maybe they’ll call it the Bronco Mackinac.

2022 Ford Bronco Everglades

Vehicle type: Four-wheel-drive, five-passenger SUV

Price: $54,595, including $1,595 destination fee

Powerplant: 2.3-liter turbo-4 cylinder

Power: 300 horsepower (with premium gas), 325 pound-feet torque

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 7.0 seconds (Car and Driver); towing capacity, 3,500 pounds

Weight: 5,220 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA 17 city/18 highway/18 combined

Report card

Highs: Well-equipped for off-roading; washable interior

Lows: Plan on doing a lot of washing; pricey

Overall: 4 stars

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

Payne: Cadillac brings bling to the EV race with the Lyriq, the anti-Tesla

Posted by Talbot Payne on June 28, 2022

Park City, Utah — Inevitably, every Dream Cruise season, someone sidles up to me, points at a passing, bling-plated 1950s Eldorado shouldering aside Woodward traffic and says:

“Why doesn’t Cadillac make cars like that anymore?”

Say hello to my bling-tastic 2023 Lyriq tester, the first all-electric Caddy. I mean, just look at it. Chiseled bod right off a designer’s sketchbook draped over huge 22-inch pinwheels. Under the single-panel panoramic roof, a 33-inch screen arches across the front cabin. Below the screen, a royal blue-lined sunglasses drawer rolls out of the dash like a palace carpet … greeting a floating center console as long as the Queen Mary’s bow. The console comes equipped with a silver-crusted rotary dial and knurled cupholders that should hold wine glasses, not cups.

I adjusted my front throne with chromed, door-mounted seat avatars protruding from real ash wood, then stomped the accelerator pedal with my size 15s. The 5,610-pound sled surged forward with liquid-smooth power.

Yes, Cadillac is making cars like that again.

Actually, it never stopped, as owners of the magnificent Escalade land yacht know. But Escalade was an outlier, a properly-named land yacht out of place in an alphanumeric soup of CTs, XTs and Vs. Though flawed (more on that later), Lyriq signals that ol’ Cadillac swagger will be standard across the lineup as General Motors Co.’s iconic luxury brand transitions to electric vehicles.

Startup ingenuity led by Silicon Valley electric automakers Tesla, Lucid and Rivian has stirred interest in a new generation of luxury automobiles powered by batteries and giant screens, and it turns out Cadillac is perfectly suited for the new electric wave.

This is a brand, after all, that made its mark innovating technical advances like the electric starter and automatic transmission while introducing the world to jet-age design. That’s not to discount the athletic advances Caddy made in the last two decades chasing German rivals with weapons like the ATS-V and CT5 Blackwing. But the EV lets Cadillac be Cadillac.

If the austere Tesla Model 3 is an Apple smartphone on wheels, then the exotic Cadillac Lyriq is a rolling jewelry box. The anti-Tesla.

To make sure I noticed that Escalade style now rules The House of Caddy, my Lyriq was wrapped in more lights than a Trans Siberian Orchestra show. Spot a Lyriq in your rear-view at night and it looks like you’re being followed by the Fox Theatre marquee. Vertical headlights frame a faux Cadillac shield of white light. When the Lyriq slips past, the rear vertically-lit marquee recedes into the distance.

Cadillac is understandably targeting the Lyriq at young, techy Gen X and Yers, but I think Lyriq will naturally draw boomers, too. The older we are, the more sensitive we get to noise — even my Porsche-racing, flat-6-obsessed father wanted a break from the world’s cacophony when he reached his 60s — and Lyriq is a silent sanctuary.

Yes, Cadillac makes cars like that again. Driving along Utah Route 138 south of Salt Lake, wind noise was nonexistent (in contrast to the noisy Hummer EV’s A-pillar) a testimony to extensive sound-deadening, four wheel-well-mounted accelerometers, noise-canceling speakers and, of course, that electric drivetrain.

Even the sunglasses drawer is lined with blue cloth.

Rolling jewelry boxes exact a cost in weight. Lyriq’s nearly three tons of mass is 1,200 pounds more than a Model Y and just 500 pounds shy of an Escalade.

Where Eldorado once growled like the king of beasts, the Lyriq’s stealthy power was welcome on Park City roads. I performed repeated 0-60 launches to test the 325 pound-feet of torque from Lyriq’s Tesla Model S-sized, 102-kWh battery — which would have awakened every officer in the surrounding county if it had been a V-8.

Complementing stealth with tech, the Caddy struts its technical know-how with innovations like one-pedal driving, steering-paddle regenerative braking and rear aerofoil that channels air over the rear window — enabling a wiper-less design that clears rain and snow. Years of know-how gained from going toe-to-toe with the German Trinity are apparent. Despite its girth, the Lyriq’s low center of gravity and sophisticated shocks made for neutral handling in Utah’s mountain twisties. Surely there’s a Lyriq V-series Backwing in the wings?

With a gem so polished, imperfections stand out.

The 2023 Cadillac Lyriq EV sits on an 800-volt Ultium battery platform with 102 kWh battery.

Cadillac’s signature cut-and-sew dashboard has been replaced by — imposter! — a vellum material right out of a Ford Explorer. And Lyriq lacks a front trunk like Tesla or Mustang Mach-E. Indeed, despite its skateboard construction and a wheelbase nearly 10 inches longer than the comparably priced gas-powered XT5 SUV, the Lyriq’s cargo and seating capacities are similar. A head-up display — technology pioneered by General Motors — is not available on 2023 models. Blame a rush program to get Lyriq to market nine months ahead of schedule.

Cadillac’s 800-volt Ultium battery platform promises quick charge rates on 350 kW fast chargers, but its capability’s been dialed back to 190 kilowatts (unlike, say, Porsche’s 800-volt system. which charges to 270 kW) so you only get 187 miles of charge in 40 minutes as opposed to a Taycan’s 169 in 22 minutes. For quick stops around town, the Caddy will gain 76 miles in 10 minutes.

I plotted a trip from Park City to Denver, and charging would have added 4.5 hours to the eight-hour trip. Better to stay close to home, as I figure most Lyriq owners will do with 312 miles of battery range (versus an XT5’s road trip-friendly 462 miles of gas range).

The Lyriq does not have a frunk cavity like the Tesla Model Y or the Ford Mustang Mach-E.

Lyriq’s range will also get you the 250 miles from Ann Arbor to, say, your Glen Arbor summer cottage Up North. A suggestion: take advantage of Cadillac’s $1,500 offer for home charger installation and put it in your second home.

That trip will be made easier later this year when Lyriq gets an over-the-air update to Super Cruise update, the semi-autonomous system competitive with Tesla’s Autopilot. That’s right, my $62,990 rear-wheel-drive tester ($64,990 with all-wheel-drive) comes standard with Super Cruise as well as Google Maps, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, 19-speaker AKG stereo system, blind-spot assist and a Windows-like configurable screen start bar.

That’s a lot of bling on a luxury SUV priced just $7K north of the $55,725 Hyundai Ioniq 5 — and well below the $75,440 you’d pay for a comparable Model Y with its $6,000 Autopilot system.

The interior of the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq EV sits under a single-pane, panoramic glass roof with 33-inch screen and floating console wrapped in leather. Oddly, the dash is not cut-and-sewn leather but is a soft vinyl material.

That leaves behind other midsize lux contenders like the Audi e-Tron and BMW i-4, which lack the technical ambition of Lyriq/Tesla.

The question mark is Cadillac’s ambition. A decade ago, Caddy beat the Model 3 to market with the gorgeous, compact ELR plug-in. But it was overpriced and under-sold. Then GM followed up with the electric Bolt — but badged it a Chevy, not a Caddy.

Lyriq is just a start, but it’s got Papa Eldorado’s DNA.

2023 Cadillac Lyriq

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

Price: $62,990 including $1,195 destination fee for RWD model; $64,990 for AWD

Powerplant: 102 kWh lithium-ion battery with rear electric-motor drive

Power: 340 horsepower, 325 pound-feet torque

Transmission: Single-speed direct drive

Performance: 0-60 mph, 5-6 seconds (mfr., AWD-RWD); top speed, 118 mph

Weight: 5,610 pounds (RWD as tested)

Fuel economy: EPA MPGe NA; range, 312 miles

Report card

Highs: Lovely cabin; road presence

Lows: Cheap dash material; no frunk or head-up display

Overall: 3 stars

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

Payne: More than a new car, Lyriq EV is a redefinition of Cadillac

Posted by Talbot Payne on June 25, 2022

Park City, Utah — Cadillac is going back to the future.

The new, battery-powered Lyriq SUV is more than a new car, it is a return to Cadillac’s 20th century, “Standard of the World” iconography. For all its high-tech wizardry, Lyriq is a throwback to a time when the Cadillac brand was the pinnacle of American style, its craftsmanship a hallmark of the brand.

Capitalizing on  21st century advances in electronics and electrification, Lyriq wants to set the tone for a return to Caddy’s brand heyday. Designed with extraordinary detail from climate-control knob knurling right down to windowpane monogram fonts, the midsize chariot struts with high style and big brand ambitions.

2023 Cadillac Lyriq EV at night

“Lyriq is a really big project. Not only from delivering this car through the production pipeline, but envisioning a brand new future for Cadillac,” said interior design chief Tristan Murphy. “It’s an opportunity to pivot a brand and really go into the future with EV technology and all the things that enables from a design standpoint.”

There are no tailfins on the $59,990 Lyriq or missile-shaped chrome bumper like the ’50s Eldorados that ruled American streets and inspired Aretha Franklin songs, but there is an embrace of fashion different than the sleek, more austere XT5 and CT4 models that have led sales in recent years.

The Lyriq is lit up with lighting and chrome accents from the outside in.

“We’re really not being shy about it,” said Murphy. “You go back to some of (the 1950s icons) and there was nothing shy about those original tailfins and the colors we used to do. It’s not about looking back and being retro, but taking some of that swagger into the next generation of cars and leaning into what it means to be American luxury.”

To communicate this swagger to buyers, Cadillac in six weeks put together a sassy ad campaign that pairs Lyriq with strutting fashion models in eyeball-burning outfits.

“The ads catch your attention. You see luxury and design in these people; it’s aspirational,” said Lyriq marketing guru Kristin Lewis. “Cadillac has been an icon in our culture. The Lyriq is a return to that iconic status.”

2023 Cadillac Lyriq window monogram

The transformation began with an obsession with detail. Consider the simple, universal, microscopic glass monogram usually stamped with a General Motors logo.

“All automotive glass have monograms that with a manufacturer’s logo on it. This is standard across every vehicles globally,” said Murphy. “We used our own Cadillac-specific font . . . and replaced the GM logo with the little Cadillac crest in there. It’s a subconscious thing that helped say this isn’t just a GM vehicle — it’s a Cadillac.”

Murphy’s team was determined to carry that obsession throughout the interior.

“We have no bin parts in this car. No more parts shared with a Buick or a Chevy,” said Murphy. “There is that subconscious level of detail (here) that makes it feel ‘wow.’ Everything is bespoke in here — you’re not going to see it in any of our other products.”

2023 Cadillac Lyriq EV rear 3-4

If Tesla created the luxury EV segment with its Apple-simple smartphone on wheels, then Cadillac’s team wanted to bring their own Detroit swagger. At night, the grille lights up like a Christmas tree. Inside, passengers can use a touchscreen color wheel to create 36 different combinations in the interior lighting.

“We had a lot of conversations about that,” said Murphy. “There are things that (Tesla does) great, and they have moved the industry forward in a different way. But it is not Cadillac to be a smartphone on wheels. It’s not true to the brand, it’s not creating a unique experience.”

Where many EV screens dominate their interiors, Lyriq’s huge, curved, 33-inch dash display is but one element of a cabin full of jewelry.

2023 Cadillac Lyriq EV lighting

“The screen is. . . a technological showcase, the first in the industry with this advanced LCD display. It’s fantastic and has beautiful features — but we fell like when you talk about a luxury product and how you can tie it into human emotion — it’s the little physical things.”

Physical things like exquisite, curved sliver door speakers integrated into the armrests. Or a floating console punctuated by a knurled, radial screen controller. Or an industry first, laser-cut wood door trim.

“We take a piece of black ash wood and then we come through with a blue light laser. It comes through twice to cut the pattern, then we overlay that over a very thin — almost a film of metal veneer — that fills in the holes. It’s so thin that at night we are able to shine light through (the) holes. We think that gives it emotional wealth that customers are always looking for.”

2023 Cadillac Lyriq EV screen and floating console

Marketing chief Lewis said this emotional connection is a key piece of Cadillac luxury. “It’s like staying in a luxury hotel. It’s the secondary elements you discover during your stay. We want to run everything through the lens of being iconic. In the Lyriq you see boldness, color saturation, humanity.”

At the Lyriq’s media introduction here in Park City, the Cadillac display was anchored by design sketches and the brand’s cutting-edge, 800-volt battery platform. But it was also littered with symbols of Cadillac’s glorious past: an elegant 1936 hood ornament here, a 1975 hood ornament there.

“Details are how you create those little memories that stay with you,” Murphy said. “It’s a deeper philosophical question that we had about making these very deliberate decisions on what the engagement was going to be and (which) becomes a very different experience than Tesla.”

Murphy points to the past decade in which Cadillac gained industry respect for its athletic, corner-carving V-series and Blackwing sedans that could hang with German icons like the BMW M-class at the famed Nurburgring test track. But despite those cars’ technical progress, the brand struggled to gain sales.

2023 Cadillac Lyriq EV door detail

Meanwhile, Cadillac — which in the early 20th century pioneered technology like the automatic transmission, steering column shifter and electric starter — failed to capitalize on innovations like the plug-in, compact ELR that came to market eight years ahead of the $40,000 Tesla Model S, but was priced at an uncompetitive $80,000.

“We proved to ourselves that we could make world-class cars like the Blackwing,” said Murphy. “It allowed us to go back to really embrace who we are and be confident about that. . . not try to chase like we’ve maybe done in certain aspects.”

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