First 2024 Mustang GT goes on the auction block to power diabetes research

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 24, 2023

Going once, going twice …

Ford this week will auction the first build of the all-new, seven-generation, 486-horsepower 2024 Mustang GT — VIN 001 — at Barrett-Jackson for big bucks. Proceeds from the most muscular GT model in the pony car’s storied history will help power research by JDRF to treat, prevent and cure global type 1 diabetes.

“We’re proud to offer the all-new Mustang GT to support worthy causes like juvenile diabetes research,” said Mustang marketing chief Jim Owens ahead of the Mustang’s 7:30 p.m. Jan. 28 auction block in Scottsdale, Arizona. “The winning bidder will not only support a good cause but become the owner of the first Mustang GT.”

The first model of the last, sixth-gen Mustang, with a V-8 output of 420 horsepower, sold at Barrett-Jackson in 2014 for $300,000. Other VIN 001 models followed, including the 2016 Mustang Shelby GT350 (for $1 million) and 2020 Shelby GT500 ($1.1 million), which also benefited JDRF.

The 2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse shows off the Mustang's new look for its seventh generation coupe - tech changes to the cockpit are even more dramatic.

The most expensive Mustangs sold at auction were the first 1965 Shelby GT350 for $3.85 million and the green 1968 Mustang GT driven by Steve McQueen in the movie “Bullitt” for $3.7 million. Both sold in 2020 at the Mecum collector car auction in Kissimmee, Florida.

The new ’24 model hearkens back to those classics with its fastback coupe, eight-cylinder power, and muscular haunches, but it is in another league when it comes to technology. The new car features twin, digital screen displays, rendered 3D graphics and an electronic brake for drifting,

The 2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse is a performance model like the Mach 1 and Bullitt before it.

The 2024 model’s 486 horsepower blows away even the legendary, 1965 Shelby GT350 – raced by Ken Miles of “Ford v Ferrari” fame, thanks to a modern, dual-air intake and throttle body design.

The winning bidder will be able to build their GT from the ground up including the option of manual or automatic transmissions, 11 exterior colors, alloy wheels, Brembo brake calipers, and a  Performance Pack that adds goodies like an active exhaust and Recaro sport seats.

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

First Detroit Snowfest off-road event blows into Holly Oaks Saturday

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 24, 2023

Southeast Michigan’s biggest annual off-road event, Detroit 4fest in September, now has a winter partner.

The first annual Detroit Snowfest Powered by Jeep kicks off Saturday with hundreds of off-road warriors in Wranglers, Rubicons, Broncos, Raptors, ZR2s, RZRs, 4Runners, 4X4s and side-by-sides expected to descend on Holly Oaks ORV Park.

Rock 'n' roll. At Detroit 4fest, a participant tests his vehicle's capability. This weekend, a winter off-road event roars into Holly Oaks.

At their disposal is a 185-acre playground featuring off-road trials, tracks and the vertical Mt. Magna obstacle course with Moab, Utah-inspired features like Potato Salad Hill and the Hot Tub. Detroit 4fest — which will celebrate its sixth year next September as part of Detroit’s September auto-palooza of events including the North American International Auto Show and American Speed Festival — has been a wild success with thousands of off-road enthusiasts descending on the Oakland County park.

“We wanted to provide the off-road community with a wintertime event based on the overwhelming response we have received from 4fest,” said 4fest/Snowfest CEO Tom Zielinski. “And winter brings its own set of fun challenges with more slippery climbs in the wet versus the dry.”

Snow isn’t forecast to make an appearance at Snowfest this year, with no flakes in the forecast until Sunday. But the tundra will be plenty challenging anyway. Zielinski and his team have been busy grooming the back 72 acres, which came on line last year.

Open to the public since the fall of 2020, Holly Oaks (off Exit 101 on I-75 50 miles north of Detroit) has dovetailed with Americans’ lust for all things outdoors. The auto industry has responded with a flood of new off-road vehicles and trims including the V8-powered Jeep Wrangler 392, Ford’s Bronco brand lineup, Chevy’s ZR2 off-road models, GMC AT4 models, Toyota TRDs, Ford Tremor pickups, even dirt-kicking electric pickups like the Rivian 1RT and GMC Hummer.

Holly Oaks offers enthusiasts the chance to try their new wheels (Snowfest only asks that four-wheel-vehicles — no motorbikes — attend) in their back yard without having to travel to remote parks like Drummond Island in the Upper Peninsula or Silver Lake on Lake Michigan. To that end, Snowfest will offer an Off-Road 101 session put on by Discover 4×4 Adventures as well as two guided tours of the park’s trails.

The Jeep brand is synonomous with off-roading and is Snowfest’s chief patron. There will be a Jeep display in the Holly Oaks paddock and Jeep boss and Stellantis Senior VP Jim Morrison, a rabid off-roader himself, will be on hand for a Jeep Talk with Wrangler product manager Scott Blum.

Detroit 4fest attracts extreme off-roaders in side-by-sides who want to conquer Holly Oaks ORV Park's terrain. Saturday, they can tackle wet, wintry conditions at the off-road playground.

Gates open for parking and safety flag sales at 8 a.m. High Octane Coffee will be served at 9 am., followed by lunch at 11 a.m. For more information and to register for the event, visit

“We have a great lineup of participants and are looking forward to a great day of off-roading,” said Zielinski.

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

Payne: Nissan Ariya EV turns over a new Leaf with silky style

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 20, 2023

Farmington Hills — Like the Kardashians on a budget, Nissan is a value brand with a taste for high fashion. Go to a Nissan dealership to buy a $25K Sentra loaded with standard goodies — auto high beams, adaptive cruise control, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto — but be sure to wander over to the $45K Murano Platinum SUV and ogle its sculpted grille and quilted albino leather seats.

The brand’s new electric vehicle, the Ariya, is of the latter stylish persuasion.

Draped in bronze, my $45K tester should be strutting down a posh Paris runway, not an uneven Detroit street. Its lines are toned, sculpted. A blackened roof floats above its copper physique. Chic. Check out the shard-like spokes on the 19-inch wheels, also dipped in bronze. Like Mrs. Payne negotiating grated city streets in high heels, I’m careful I don’t stumble into a Michigan pothole.

Step inside and Nissan wants to whisk you away to a club lounge. The unique cabin evokes a five-piece furniture set: four leather seats around a table. The console moves with the touch of a button so that different body types (I’m tall, my wife a foot shorter) can adjust the furniture to best operate the automatic shifter. There’s even a drawer in the dash for storage.

Haptic-controlled, colored climate controls are set into the lush wood of the tabletop — er, dash. The landscape is interrupted by a single knob — for volume.

It took me back to my 2014 Detroit News Vehicle of the Year, the Cadillac CTS, that tried similar bleeding-edge e-controls. They were controversial and ultimately abandoned — but the Ariya advances the art with a light touch to activate. Not so the console buttons.

Located aft of the shifter, Drive Mode, Self-Park and e-Step selectors all require a deliberate push to engage. Nissan assumes you won’t be accessing them often — and it wants you to look at them, not casually punch at them as you might climate control.

The stylish console of the 2023 Nissan Ariya with cube-sized shifter and haptic button controls.

As for the blocky shifter, it’s the only raised item on the console face. Like a TV controller sitting on a side table, it makes the device go. This simple elegance sits under the most conventional feature in Ariya’s cockpit — a single screen that contains twin 12.3-inch instrument and infotainment displays familiar to other EVs like the Hyundai Ioniq 5 or BMW iX.

Ariya’s flowing architecture is distinctive. In the age of EVs, drivetrains are all similar. Same lithium ion battery, same electric motors, same instant torque. Smooth? Yes. Quiet? Yes, but how do you create brand separation?

That’s a challenge for BMW, whose silky-smooth inline-6 cylinder engines separated it from the proles. But with an e-motor making a Nissan as smooth as a Bimmer (uh-oh), the Bavarian brand has resorted to piping into the cabin wild electronic sounds to set it apart. Think hard rock guitar versus a Japanese flute.

The copper, shard-like wheels of the 2023 Nissan Ariya complement the car's copper skin.

For Nissan, the serene EV experience is the whole point. As is the exterior — a much more pleasing symphony of lines compared to Bimmer’s in-your-face kidney grille. Ariya’s serenity dovetails with the exterior’s smooth, soaring lines and the interior’s comfortable furniture.

I put my foot into the Ariya through Oakland County’s lake country, but this isn’t a vehicle that wants to be flogged. It’s a warmblood horse aimed at the dressage competition, not a thoroughbred vying for the Kentucky Derby crown.

To this end, Ariya is technically proficient, performing its duties with poise. Cruising a crowded parking lot for a space, I pressed the SELF-PARK button for perpendicular parking. An arrow pointed at an open space as I passed. I stopped the car, put it in reverse and Ariya did the rest. Unlike competitors, however, Ariya won’t extract itself from the space — either perpendicular or parallel.

The instrument indicator shows the charge times required of the 2023 Nissan Ariya.

More comprehensive is Ariya’s self-driving ambition.

So nerdy is Nissan about this sci-fi stuff that it debuted an ad campaign touting its semi-autonomous moves along with the launch of Rogue One, the Star Wars prequel. But Rogue’s adaptive cruise system was a novice compared to Ariya’s semi-autonomous Skywalker.

Cruising along I-696, I toggled adaptive cruise and a green wheel appeared. After a few miles that changed to a blue wheel — the symbol of hands-free driving as I’ve grown used to with my Tesla Model 3’s Autopilot. While Tesla requires torque on the wheel so the system knows you’re present, the Nissan only needs a touch. As a result, the car is easy to self-drive for miles.

My brief time in the Ariya around Metro Detroit didn’t offer me the chance to see how routinely I can access the Blue Wheel mode — but I’ll do a more comprehensive road trip in the future.

A longer road trip will also allow me the chance to explore Nissan’s trip navigation software. Presently, Tesla is miles ahead of the industry with its dedicated charger network and parallel navigation system. Other automakers — Ford, for example — have been making strides in integrating their navigation systems with third-party networks from Electrify America, EVgo and Shell

I asked Ariya to navigate to, say, Charlevoix, Michigan (a common Payne family destination), and the system only responded with a direct route devoid of chargers. Ariya apparently assumes you’ll plan a route using a phone app. That won’t impress cross-shoppers with the Ford Mustang Mach-E or Tesla Model Y.

Speaking of cross-shoppers, Nissan realistically assumes that Ariya’s competitive set is other EVs like Mach-E and VW ID.4 and Kia EV-6 and so on. My $51K Engage AWD tester comes in 10 grand north of a loaded Nissan Roque Platinum. A comparable AWD Ariya Platinum will sticker for $20K north of its Rogue peer.

The stylish $44K 2023 Ariya is a big step up from Nissan's first EV, the $29K Leaf, at right.

This is quite a change from Nissan’s initial strategy when it pioneered the EV market 13 years ago with the nerdy-looking Leaf. Even with healthy government incentives, Leaf hasn’t caught on with budget-minded customers. With Ariya, Nissan seems determined to erase memories of Leaf with its more dashing Ariya sibling.

These are two vehicles that shop at different clothing stores — Leaf at Walmart and Ariiya at Nordstrom. Ariya has even rejected Leaf’s signature center-hood charging port for a right-side charger door.

For all the noise about governments mandating EV-only sales in just seven years, Ariya and its EV peers are aimed at premium niche buyers who appreciate its grace — and excellent taste in furniture. And those buyers will also have a Pathfinder or Murano in the garage for long-distance family adventures.

Next week: 2023 Honda Pilot

 2023 Nissan Ariya

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

Price: $44,485, including $1,295 destination fee ($45,180 Engage FWD as tested)

Powerplant: 63-87 kWh lithium-ion battery with single or dual electric motors

Power: 214-238 horsepower, 221 pound-feet torque (FWD); 389 horsepower, 442 pound-feet torque (AWD)

Transmission: Single-speed direct drive

Performance: 0-60 mph, 4.9-7.2 seconds (Car and Driver est.); top speed, 115 mph

Weight: 4,700 pounds est. (FWD as tested)

Fuel economy: EPA 98-103 MPGe; range, 214-304 miles (214 miles as tested)

Report card

Highs: Easy on the eyes; high-tech, fashionable interior

Lows: Navigate-to-chargers a work in progress; haptic touch controls not for everyone

Overall: 3 stars

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

E-Ray Q&A: Chief Engineer Juechter on the first hybrid Corvette supercar

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 20, 2023

Milford — The Chevrolet Corvette’s first chief engineer, Zora Arkus-Duntov, is rightly proclaimed “The Father of the Corvette” for establishing the sports car as a performance icon in the 1950s. But the ‘Vette’s fifth chief engineer in 70 years, Tadge Juechter, will be remembered as the man who brought Arkus-Duntov’s ultimate dream to reality: a mid-engine Corvette.

Executive Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter and his new toy, the 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray.

Arkus-Duntov pushed the mid-engine idea — prized for its balance and rear-wheel-drive grip — throughout his 1953-1975 tenure at General Motors with multiple prototypes beginning with the 1960 CERV I. Juechter finally got a mid-engine Corvette approved for the 2020 model year — in part by arguing that the midship architecture would finally birth an all-wheel-drive Corvette to compete against similar AWD exotics from European manufacturers like Porsche and Lamborghini.

The 2024 Corvette E-Ray, unveiled Tuesday with a 160-horsepower electric motor driving the front wheels and a good ol’ 495-horsepower V-8 driving the rears, is the culmination of that vision. The Detroit News sat down with Juechter at GM’s Milford Proving Grounds to talk about his latest toy.

TDN: The E-Ray is the third model of the eighth-generation Corvette C8 after the standard Stingray and Z06. Tadge, tell us about it.

Juechter: It’s a different mission than the Z06. Even though it is similarly priced, it represents a different value proposition. We’ve long heard from customers they really want AWD to make it a three-or-even-four-season car. We weren’t able to do that with front-engine architecture, but with mid-engine architecture, that freed up space to enable us to do it.

Starting at the inception of the C8, we thought an electrified front axle was the way to go. It’s compact, and gives us a lot of efficiency. It’s independent of GM’s commitment to zero-emissions. We thought this would be a good idea and pleasing to customers. And it brings a new, higher-level of thinking to the Corvette. The Z06 is mission specific: it’s focused on the track experience, whereas the E-Ray is an all-arounder.

The 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray is a grand touring model to complement the performance Z06. With all-wheel-drive, the E-Ray is suited for all-season driving.

We like to say the Z06 is the scalpel — a sharp instrument for a specific purpose. E-Ray is more of a Swiss Army knife — it’s good at all sorts of things. It’s capable on track, but a great daily driver, and it’s great in inclement weather. (It’s) a car for anyone who wants an all-around daily driver.

TDN: Other manufacturers have done hybrid, all-wheel-drive, mid-engine sports cars. There’s the $1 million Porsche 918 and $170,000 Acura NSX that just went out of production in Ohio. How do you make this thing for just $105,000?

You see the same kind of material usage you’ve seen on Corvettes — composites like the battery cover is carbon fiber; our magnesium for the front-drive unit is probably the lightest in the industry; it only weighs a little over 80 pounds. This for a 160-horsepower motor.

Corvette’s value proposition is part of our history. Just because we are going electrified, we don’t feel like we can charge an arm and leg for that. We want to keep it a car that’s reasonably accessible. It’s not inexpensive, but we feel like we are giving you a really good value.

The E-Ray is a little less expensive than the Z06, but it’s got the battery pack, front-drive unit and carbon ceramic brakes standard. We think we are starting down the electrified road in a very appealing way. Being light is very, very important. Batteries and drive units tend to be heavy — this car is less than 300 pounds heavier than a Z06, which shares its proportion and size.

TDN: How heavy is it?

About 3,700 pounds dry weight. Heavy for a Corvette, but very light for an electrified vehicle. So we tried to keep it as elemental as we could — only use the technology in a way that enhances the driving experience. It does happen to enhance the efficiency as well, but we didn’t want to burden the car with so much wiring that we lost the basic element: the ride and handling, track capability, responsiveness. We didn’t want the car to feel more sluggish. We put the heaviest part of the unit, the battery, right at the center of gravity. Low, in the tunnel. So you still get that beautiful turn-in that you get from our mid-engine cars. We didn’t want to lose that.

The drive-unit is pushed rearward in the front — almost in the tunnel — so we’re not putting a lot of extra weight on the nose. So it still drives and feels like a C8.

TDN: You still have a full frunk. How did you package that?

Juechter: Everyone thought we would have to give up the front trunk. We didn’t want to do that. As an all-around vehicle, you want to be able to take this car cross-country. It’s available in coupe and convertible. You put the top down and you don’t lose any trunk space. We wanted to preserve the front and rear cargo for the customer, so you don’t have to leave anything at home. The frunk is almost exactly the same as the Stingray.

The frunk in the 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray maintains the same volume despite the addition of a front motor.

TDN: You also kept the pushrod, 6.2-liter V-8 in back like the Stingray.

The small block V-8 has been a part of the Corvette legacy since 1955 and we actually wanted to use electrification to enhance what people love about that small block. So you get all the sound and character — we don’t take anything away from that. However, we tell people this is a 6.2-liter, almost-500 horsepower small block, but the way this car drives is like an 8-liter small block with almost 650 horsepower. Except it has none of the downsides — you don’t feel the weight, you don’t lose the efficiency. This car gets fuel efficiency as good or better than a Stingray even though it has all the exotic proportions — (13.5-inch wide) rear tires. So you would think a car with this kind of looks, presence and performance would be a gas guzzler and it’s not.

TDN: I’ve been out here four-wheel drifting on Black Lake (the 67-acre asphalt testing pad at GM’s Proving Grounds) with your performance engineer Aaron Link. How do you tell E-Ray apart from a Z06?

There are some subtle differences. This car comes standard with more of a monochrome look, so fewer of the carbon accents pieces like you would find on a Z06. But the bodywork is the same as the Z06. Everybody loves it. We have unique badging, unique forged wheels. Because the outboard exhaust is ideal for the small-block V-8, we retain that. That is quite distinct from the Z06.

You'll be able to tell the 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray from the Z06 by the E-Ray's corner-mounted quad pipes (the Z06's pipes are center-mounted).

TDN: That’s because of the different engines?

Yes. The (5.5-liter, overhead-cam V-8 in the) Z06 really cried out for a different solution. We didn’t think we’d have two different solutions, but as we got into the hardware — and listened to the car — we realized we needed a unique solution. One good thing that came out of COVID is that it gave us down time — when the plants were shut down and we were working from home. We still had people coming into the Milford Proving Grounds trying to architect the exhaust and figure out what was the ideal exhaust for this engine. So there was a little pause in the program and we took advantage.

TDN: Let’s talk about the interior. Google Automotive Services is now running the infotainment system, and you’re doing something different with the drive modes.

We wanted to give people other feature functionality with the electric motor. Anybody who has driven a Corvette knows that when you start it, it’s not a subtle thing. The engines are very expressive, very powerful. They have a relatively open exhaust. So they are noisy, but there are times when you don’t want to wake your neighbors when you go into work early.

The driver-focused cockpit of the 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray includes a Z-Mode button on the steering wheel, a new Stealth Mode screen, and a Charge+ button on the side console for max battery regen.

So we thought: why not use the electric ability to be a neighborhood exit feature? We’ve had Stealth modes on Corvettes before, which tone down the noise — but we never went completely silent. So in this case, there is a mode where — before you start the car — you can actually put it in Stealth Mode and it will run on battery power alone.

You can back the car out, run a few miles, get out on the highway, and then when you step on the gas — or exceed 45 mph — the internal combustion engine will light off and you’re back to regular performance hybrid operation. We think a lot of people will really appreciate that feature.

TDN: Thanks, Tadge.

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

E-Ray: Chevy unleashes first all-wheel-drive, hybrid, 655-hp Corvette

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 20, 2023

Milford — The Chevrolet Corvette turned 70 years old Tuesday, and in celebration the iconic supercar gets its first hybrid, all-wheel-drive model.

The $104,295, 2024 Corvette E-Ray expands the mid-engine, C8 model’s offering with a grand touring version to complement its ferocious, rear-wheel-drive, $109,295 Z06 performance model and standard, $65,895 Stingray. The E-Ray and Z06 share a wider track and more aggressive body panels compared to the base car, but they diverge under the skin. With a Stealth mode that runs on the battery alone and all-season, AWD grip, E-Ray offers more refinement for the daily driver. A $111,2954 hard-top convertible version of the E-Ray will also be available when the hybrid ‘Vette goes on sale late this year.

Not that the E-Ray lacks performance. The Detroit News got a ride along in the E-Ray at General Motors’ Proving Grounds to witness its awesome power and all-wheel grip on a cold January day.

“We’ve long heard from customers they really want AWD to make it a three-or-even-four-season car,” said Executive Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter at Milford. “We weren’t able to do that with front engine architecture, but with mid-engine architecture, that freed up space to enable us to do it.”

With an electric motor up front and 6.2-liter V-8 driving the rears, E-Ray is the quickest Corvette in a straight line yet, accelerating from 0-60 mph in just 2.5 seconds. The hybrid-electric drivetrain makes a combined 655 horsepower and 595 pound-feet of torque (the e-motor’s 160 horsepower complementing the small-block V-8’s 495 ponies). The Z06’s high-revving, 8,500-rpm, GT3-racing-derived, 5.5-liter V-8 — the most powerful, naturally-aspirated production engine made — makes 670 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque for a 2.6 second 0-60 dash. The base, 6.2-liter, 495-horse Stingray also boasts a sub-3-second 0-60 number at 2.9.

The hybrid 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray has a 495-horse, 6.2-liter, push-rod V-8 amidships and electric motor in front.

Paired with Z06, Juechter says E-Ray “splits the family” in similar fashion to Porsche, which offers parallel grand touring and track-focused models. Think of the all-wheel-drive 911 Carrera 4 compared to the rear-wheel-drive 911 GT3, for example.

In prior generations, Corvette has expanded on its standard model with three performance variants: Grand Sport, Z06 and ZR1. With the addition of E-Ray, The Detroit News anticipates the eighth-generation Corvette lineup will include six trims — including a new Zora hypercar at the summit that will combine electric power, AWD and a twin-turbo 5.5-liter V-8 for more than 1,000 horsepower.

The 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray shares the same body parts as the Z06 — which are upgraded from the standard Stingray for better breathing in the front end.

The 70th birthday celebration is no coincidence. GM sees the hybrid ‘Vette not just as a game-changer with its unique talents, but as a bridge to an electric future where all of the General’s products will be battery-powered.

Corvette engineers say E-Ray was always at the center of plans to build Corvette’s first mid-engine car.

“Starting at the inception of C8, we thought an electrified front axle was the way to go. It’s independent of GM’s commitment to zero emissions,” said Juechter. “The Z06 is mission-specific. It’s focused on the track experience, whereas the E-Ray is an all-arounder. We like to say the Z06 is the scalpel — a sharp instrument for a specific purpose. E-Ray is more of a Swiss Army knife — it’s good at all sorts of things. It’s capable on track, but a great daily driver, and it’s great in inclement weather.”

Executive Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter and his new toy, the 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray.

Juechter noted the similarity to Porsche’s offerings, but for thousands of dollars less. A Porsche Carrera 4 starts at about $115K and a 911 GT3 at $170,000. Significantly, Porsche does not offer a hybrid version. And with the $170,000 Acura NSX hybrid exiting the market at the end last year, the E-Ray is the only electrified supercar in the market for less than $200,000. Other hybrid models range from the $237,500 McLaren Artura to the $2,640,000 Lamborghini Countach.

True to its “affordable supercar” calling card, the Corvette offers performance and comfort to rival European exotics.

“Corvette’s value proposition is part of our history,” said Juechter. “Just because we are going electrified, we don’t feel like we can charge an arm and a leg for that. We want to keep it a car that’s reasonably accessible. It’s not inexpensive, but we feel like we are giving you a really good value.”

At 2.5 seconds, the E-Ray beats the McLaren and Lamborghini to 60 mph, and nearly matches the $524,815, 969-horsepower, three-motor, twin-turbocharged, 4.0-liter V-8-powered Ferrari SF90 hybrid’s 2.3-second sprint.

The E-Ray achieves its “bargain” status by choosing carefully from the family toolbox.

The 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray is made of aluminum, then wrapped in fiberglass skin.

The hybrid ‘Vette shares its fiberglass body with Z06, which was widened 3.6 inches from the base Stingray to handle more power with bigger tires. E-Ray options the same massive, 11-inch front and 13.5-inch rear Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires that are standard on the Z06. The base tire is a Michelin Pilot Sport all-season wrapped around staggered, 20-inch front and 21-inch rear rims.

Obsessed with lightweighting — at 3,774 pounds, the E-Ray coupe weighs about 300 pounds more than Z06 — engineers kept the powertrain simple compared to three-motor, torque-vectoring systems found in competitive hybrids. The 1,609-horsepower motor and 1.9-kWh battery were developed exclusively for the E-Ray application. Even the lithium-ion, 12-volt battery (which operates the car’s electronics) is bespoke to reduce weight.

The compact electric motor of the 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray drives the front wheels.

Under the rear bonnet is Corvette’s workhorse, 6.2-liter, push-rod V-8 making 495 horses. E-Ray is the only hybrid model that GM offers.

“If you look at the way we do out electrification, it’s very Corvette-like,” said Juechter. “It’s not a replica of technology that you see in other electrified vehicles all the way down to the chemistry in the battery pouches. Everything about this car is designed for performance. You see the same kind of material usage you’ve seen on Corvettes — composites like the battery cover, which is carbon fiber. Our magnesium case for the front drive unit is probably the lightest in the industry — it only weighs a little over 80 pounds.”

Packaging is key to a supercar that promises utility and performance. In that spirit, Juechter’s team used a compact e-motor up front and re-engineered suspension so as not to compromise the “frunk” — front truck — space that fits a small bag. The rear hatchback retains its familiar two-golf bag capacity.

Badging aside, E-Ray is distinguished from Z06 by its tailpipes. E-Ray spits its quad pipes to each corner (like Stingray), while Z06’s quad pipes are centered under the rear license plate.

You'll be able to tell the 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray from the Z06 by the E-Ray's corner-mounted quad pipes (the Z06's pipes are center-mounted).

You may not hear the E-Ray coming either.

The Corvette offers a Stealth mode (along with Tour, Sport, Track, Weather, My Mode and Z-Modes), that runs on the lithium-ion battery under 45 mph. You can wake the neighbors in the morning with a healthy BLAAATT! from the V-8 — or creep around the neighborhood in Stealth mode, emitting only an eerie, federally-mandated electronic noise.“Anybody who has driven a Corvette knows that when you start it, it’s not a subtle thing,” smiled Juechter. “But there are times when you don’t want to wake your neighbors. So we thought: why not use the electric ability to do a neighborhood exit feature.”

Stealth Mode in the 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray gets a special screen.

The Corvette team developed a unique screen for Stealth mode, and an E-Ray Performance App in the infotainment display to monitor hybrid data. As with the standard Stingray, E-Ray’s twin, digital, driver-focused screens are graphically rich with the infotainment display run by Google’s operating system. You’ll want to keep your eyes glued to the speedo, too — E-Ray gulps landscape in a hurry.

I rode shotgun with engineer Erin Link on “Black Lake,” an enormous asphalt test pad at the north end of GM’s Milford Proving Ground. Link initiated launch control by burying the throttle and braking with both feet. Then he released the brake.

With a V-8 roar, the Corvette e-bliterated 60 mph, cresting at 100 mph moments later. There was no drama. No wheel spin. No fish-tailing. Just relentless acceleration interrupted by lightning-quick shifts from the 8-speed, dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

The electric motor assists with “torque fill,” enabling instant twist from the already capable 6.2-liter. Fink said highway mpg numbers should be impressive (when available later this year) as the e-motor works in tandem with 4-cylinder deactivation. The E-Ray doesn’t skimp on stopping power, boasting standard carbon-ceramic Brembo brakes.

The 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray comes standard with five-spoke wheels (carbon optional), carbon-ceramic brakes, and Michelin Pilot Sport all-season tires (Pilot Sport 4S summers optional).

Moving to the skid pad, Fink flicked the wheel left, then drifted the E-Ray in a huge circle. Like an AWD rally car, E-Ray makes for easier throttle management with power at all four corners. Magnetic Ride Control is standard, enabling multiple suspension settings.

Buyers can customize their E-Ray from a buffet of additional features, including four aluminum wheel finishes, three carbon-fiber wheel finishes, 14 exterior colors (including new for 2024 Riptide Blue, Seawolf Gray and Cacti), E-Ray-exclusive Electric Blue striping, black exhaust tips, bright badging and two carbon-fiber packages.

The 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray offers a twin stripe stretching from nose to tail.

Inside, E-Ray offers a choice of three seats and seven interior colors — including a deep-green, Artemis Dipped interior.

E-Rays start rolling off the assembly line in Bowling Green, Kentucky, this summer.

“In 1953, the enthusiastic reaction to the Chevrolet Corvette concept kicked off seven decades of passion, performance and American ingenuity,” said GM President Mark Reuss. “E-Ray, the first electrified, AWD Corvette, takes it a step further and expands the promise of what Corvette can deliver.”

2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray SpecificationsVehicle type: Mid-engine hybrid, all-wheel-drive, two-passenger sports car

Price: $104,295 for 1LZ coupe; $111,295 for 1LZ convertible

Powerplant: Mid-engine, 6.2-liter-liter V-8 combined with front electric motor and 1.9 kWh lithium-ion battery

Power:  655 horsepower, 595 pound-feet of torque (total system power)

Transmission: 8-speed, dual-clutch automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 2.5 seconds (mftr). Quarter-mile, 10.5 seconds at 130 mph

Weight: 3,774 pounds (coupe), 3,856 (convertible)

Fuel economy: NA

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

Payne: Muddin’ in the Ford F-150 Lightning EV

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 12, 2023

Holly Oaks — It’s only fitting that the last vehicle I tested in 2022 was a Ford F-150 Lightning at Holly Oaks ORV Park on New Year’s Eve.

Lightning was the talk of the pickup world in 2022 as the first volume electric vehicle — beating to market its Detroit Three competitors and the Tesla Cybertruck. Like the love child of a Tesla and F-series, Lightning strikes with instant, stealthy torque while offering a frunk the size of a Manhattan apartment. It comes with all the shortcomings of range anxiety, too. From pricing to towing to charging, Lightning helped us evolve our understanding of electric vehicles’ place in the world.

Pickups are Swiss Army knives, and I had the opportunity to test the Lightning’s tools throughout the year. I drove the base $45,284 Pro model in Texas ranch country in May, then its top-drawer $94,004 Platinum edition on a road trip up north in October. The last challenge? Off-roading. So I headed to Holly Oaks in a mid-range, Avalanche White $86,199 XLT on the last day of the year.

My road-trip experience taught me that Lightning is best-suited for metropolitan truck duty.

Charging is a chore on third-party charging networks. More significantly, Lightning drinks electrons when towing — getting just 30% of range when hauling 5,000 pounds, according to tests. That means the long-range 320-mile model may not make it the 120 miles between, say, Electrify America fast chargers on I-75. And even if you get to a charger, a truck ‘n’ trailer may not fit the space.

The handsome interior of the 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning EV.

Holly Oaks is an off-road park gem for many reasons — including that it’s just 50 miles north of Detroit, making for easy access to the state’s biggest urban population.

In May, I described Lightning as “fast, affordable and frunk-adelic.” Scratch affordable. Ford’s base Pro went from $39,974 to $55,974 by year’s end — a 40% price hike and about $22,000 north of its gas counterpart. Like most EVs, Lightning is aimed at luxury buyers. I still think it’s the coolest EV this side of Tesla.

My XLT tester starts at $65,269, but the long-range 320-mile battery adds a whopping $17,500 for a starting sticker of $82,769. When I headed north to Holly on a cold, wet 40-degree Dec. 31, I thought I might need every bit of it. EV battery range is a moving target.

The night before a trip to Holly Oaks for some off-roading, the F-150 Lightning XLT is charged to its full range of more than 300 miles.

Using my home 240-volt charger, I filled the Lightning XLT to 316 miles overnight, then headed out for morning exercise at my local athletic club. A seven-mile round-trip later and my range indicated 290 miles. What?

The range suck would continue on my 34-mile trip to Holly Oaks. At 75 mph in the rain, I took 67 miles off the battery. Still, this variability isn’t much concern within Metro Detroit’s 300-mile radius. Fast-charging stations abound and the Ford’s navigation system is quite good at locating them. It filters chargers by type, and I located an EVgo charger on my route (Great Lakes Crossing in Auburn Hills) should it be needed.

Range in an EV can be tricky as vehicles try to predict range based on use case. Driving up I-75 at 75 mph the 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning got just 50% of predicted range.

Of course, gas trucks have no such worries given their superior energy efficiency, but once you’ve figured out an EV’s radius, the driving experience is superb.

The Lightning has a ridiculous standard 775 pound-feet of torque (horsepower increases to 580 from 452 with the extended battery), and driving is effortless. The Ford overtook on the highway like, well, Lightning — ZOT! — with a jab of my right foot.

The 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning EV puts out a whopping 775 pound-feet of torque, which is good for flinging mud off-road.

The rest of the time I sailed along on adaptive cruise control (which centers the truck in lane while maintaining a gap from cars ahead) in luxury — listening to Sirius XM while cloth seats cradled my big frame. Luxury is a relevant term in Ford trucks, and a similarly-priced Limited gas model would land me in posh blue-leather seats with Blue Cruise self-driving capability.

I met a couple of Jeep Wrangler 392 Rubicon buddies at Holly Oaks. Rain had turned Holly’s 176 acres into a pigpen and they were licking their chops at the challenge. Their steeds were armed for off-road battle with 37-inch all-terrain tires, skid plates and 13-inch ground clearance. I would have to be more circumspect with the Lightning’s more casual wardrobe: 33-inch all-season tires, no skid plates, 8.4-inch ground clearance.

The 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning EV plays with a Jeep Gladiator with 37-inch Recon package for off-roading.

Expect more from the Lightning Tremor that is surely coming, but I still had fun without chasing my mates up 40-degree inclines or through rock-barbed trenches. Using a modified version of F-150’s tough ladder frame (batteries snugged between between the rails), Lightning was plenty competent over Holly’s heaving terrain. I selected OFF-ROAD mode, which locked the rear differential for better traction.

Lightning clawed up Mt. Magna’s Potato Salad Hill — the 8.4-inch ground clearance (the same as a Bronco Sport) proving useful. It navigated tight Darlene’s Ridge with easy torque. And on sandy flats, it made for a willing four-wheel-drift partner (though I couldn’t turn all the nanny systems off).

Got mud? The 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning EV after a day at Holy Oaks ORV Park.

Like tracking my Tesla Model 3, off-roading is hell on range. Nine miles around M1 Concourse’s test track (six laps on the 1.5-mile course) in the Tesla sucks 50 miles of range. My seven-mile, two-hour Holly adventure took 70 miles off the Ford’s battery. That’s some serious electron-guzzling.

With 151 miles of range, a mud-caked pickup and a smile as wide as Lightning’s signature front LED light, I headed home. Along the way, I topped up on electrons at that EVgo station. My experience with third-party fast chargers has been, um, spotty, and EVgo would be no different.

Located in the front of Great Lakes’ mammoth parking lot, the stalls were cramped (no room for trailers here). Two of the four chargers were 350-volt capable and I plugged in. It didn’t work.

The 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning EV charges at EVgo Great Lakes Crossing next to a GMC Hummer EV.

The second 350-volt charger was more welcoming, and I gained 75 miles in 20 minutes (a long way from a gas F-150’s 400 mile fill-up in 3 minutes) while I made a DQ run inside the mall. When I returned, a Hummer EV was alongside and successfully sipping from the other 350-volt charger.

The last leg of my journey brought one more surprise. At 70 mph, Lightning took just 27 miles off the battery over 36 miles as the onboard Intelligent Range software tried to predict range according to the day’s wide variety of driving styles.

The 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning comes with a 5.5-foot bed.

EVs are complicated. But if you drive locally and have deep pockets, Lightning is a treat.

2023 Ford F-150 Lightning

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

Price: $57,669, including $1,695 destination fee ($86,199 XLT big battery as tested)

Powerplant: 98 kWh or 131 kWh lithium-ion battery with twin electric-motor drive

Power: 452 horsepower (standard battery) or 580 horsepower (extended-range battery); 775 pound-feet torque

Transmission: Single-speed drive

Performance: 0-60 mph, 4.5 seconds for extended battery (mfr. as tested); payload, 2,235 pounds; towing, 10,000 pounds

Weight: 6,015-6,813 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA MPGe 68 MPGe standard range battery, 70 MPGe long range; range, 230 miles (standard), 320 miles (extended)

Report card

Highs: Looks sharp, go-anywhere toughness

Lows: Range limited, gets pricey

Overall: 3 stars

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

Payne: Why I voted differently for the 2023 NACTOY winners

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 12, 2023

The votes are in for the prestigious, 2023 North American Car, truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year awards and the Acura Integra, Ford F-150 Lightning, and Kia EV6 stand atop the podium with their gold medals. I voted on the jury with 49 of my colleagues, all independent auto journalists. I judged the same finalists. I tested the same vehicles.

I didn’t pick any of the winners. Oh for 3.

I’m like the Olympic skating judge holding up 6.0 when all the other judges are showing 9.0. My selections? The Nissan Z for best car, Chevy Silverado ZR2 for truck, the Cadillac Lyriq for SUV. Let me explain.

Let me start with the SUV category. This was the first year that an entire category’s finalists were electric vehicles. That was not my choice, especially with affordable, gas-engine SUV decathletes on offer like the superb, sub-$40k Mazda CX-50, Honda CR-V, and Kia Sportage. They do everything well. Smooth, torquey EVs are more expensive, less utilitarian, and a bother to drive on long trips (I know, I’ve owned two Teslas) and are therefore best suited for luxury buyers with more than one car in the garage.

The luxurious Cadillac Lyriq is in the meat of that market. GM’s luxury brand is going all-electric this decade, and Lyriq is an innovative ute with old school Caddy bling ‘n’ swagger. Lyriq went bold, moving the EV styling needle with a front-fascia light show outside and curvaceous, 33-inch screen inside.

It isn’t just bold; it’s affordable in its class. Equipped with all-wheel-drive, the base, $64,990 Lyriq comes standard with Super Cruise (the industry’s best, hands-free driving system), Google operating system, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, 19-speaker AKG stereo, and lovely detail. That’s competitive with a comparable, gas-powered Caddy XT5.

2023 Cadillac Lyriq EV front

And it’s priced right on top of the Genesis GV60 (the first EV from Hyundai’s lux brand) and just 7 grand north of a comparable Kia EV6. It’s also well below the $75k you’d pay for the best-selling Model Y EV. Don’t get me wrong, this was a close vote. The Korean pair are superb with fresh designs and clever electronic tricks — especially Genesis’s cool, remote parking features. And the Kia is a powerful statement (like the fastback Stinger sedan) of the brand’s premium potential.

My colleagues gave EV6 the nod with 258 points over the Lyriq (136) and GV70 (106). Each of the 50 jurors has 10 points to distribute in each category.

But if you’ve got $57,000-plus burning a hole through your pocket, you’re not going to want to arrive at the country club in a Kia. For a competitive price, the Caddy brings gravitas and Super Cruise wow its competitors can’t touch.

Is it a wagon or an SUV? The 2023 Kia EV6 GT has a look all its own.

As for best truck, I didn’t think anything could match the Ford F-150 Lightning when I first tested its $42k entry-level Pro model in May. The coolest affordable EV since the Tesla Model 3 blew the world’s mind in 2017, Lightning boasted face-flattening acceleration, silky-smooth operation, a frunk the size of Delaware, and state-of-the-art electronics.

But two things changed my mind on the way to the NACTOY vote: pricing and towing.

The Lightning’s price ballooned to nearly $60,000 by the end of the year —  a 40% hike that placed it in the lux realm (top trims of the Lightning are an eye-watering $90k-plus). For that kind of dough, Lightning lacks the Swiss Army Knife dexterity demanded of trucks. Namely, the Ford’s range shrinks below 100 miles when towing 5,000 pounds, limiting it to a metro truck.

The 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning EV puts out a whopping 775 pound-feet of torque, which is good for flinging mud off-road.

My jury colleagues were still agog, granting Lightning a landslide win of 433 points out of 500 cast.

I gave the Silverado (also pricey at $72k)  a 6-to-4 point edge due to its superior towing ability as well as off-road talent that can take it miles into the wilderness without fear of range anxiety. A distant third was the Lordstown Endurance truck — an admirable first volley from the startup automaker, but only available to commercial buyers.

The closest category was Car of the Year with the Integra sedan (174 points) nosing past the Genesis G80 Electrified (169 points) and Nissan Z (157).

The 2022 Chevy Silverado ZR2 follows the Colorado ZR2 with similar Multimatic shocks, twin-locking diffs and all-terrain tires for the outback.

For me, this was always a race between the iconic, born-again badges from Acura and Nissan. The $80,000 Genesis is a niche lux barge. Integra and Z are affordable toys aimed at enthusiasts everywhere.

My colleague and NACTOY president Gary Witzenburg crowned the winner: “Honda Civic-based Acura Integra looks good, drives well and is among the very few in its (or any) segment offering a slick-shifting manual transmission.”

The 2023 Nissan Z features a clean, aerodynamic shape like the original 240Z from 1970.

I, too, am thrilled to have the sporty Integra back after a 20-year hiatus. But it’s the “Honda Civic-based” part that brought me up short. The 11th-gen Civic on which Integra is based is sensational with its refined handling and an upscale interior. Though its snazzy exterior is instantly recognizable next to Civic’s more vanilla wardrobe, the pricier Acura doesn’t do enough to separate itself from its Honda brother. Same front-wheel-drive, same engine, similar interior.

The Nissan Z, on the other hand, is a one of a kind.

The 2023 Acura Integra is based on the same chassis as the Honda Civic Si - but with more stylish Acura looks.

Bearing the best Z design since the original, 1970s Datsun 240Z, the ’23 model also brought an all-new, twin-turbo V-6 and interior layout. In a market starved for affordable sports cars, Z is a reminder of how much fun can be had for $40k. I gave the Nissan 8 points to the Integra’s 2.

Put a Lyriq, Silverado ZR2, and Z in your three-car garage and you’ll never have a dull moment.

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

Winners: 2023 North American Car, Truck & Utility Vehicle of the Year

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 12, 2023

And the gold medals go to . . .

The Acura Integra, Ford F-150 Lightning and Kia EV6 took top honors in the 2023 North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year awards announced Wednesday morning. The awards were dominated by electric vehicles this year as two-thirds of the finalists were battery-powered. For the first time, all three finalists in a single category (SUV) were EVs.

The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning pickup can be managed by the cloud to charge at cheap, off-peak rates - then power a house at peak rates with the cheaper, stored electricity.

The field was marked by a series of firsts, including Ford’s first electric pickup truck, the first EVs from Korean makers Genesis and Kia, and startup-maker Lordstown Motors’ first vehicle. Only 5.8% of new vehicle sales were electric in 2022, but — reflecting government regulation and new market opportunities — 42% of new vehicles were battery-powered.

The car category was the most diverse, with a pair of iconic, gas-powered performance badges, the Acura Integra and Nissan Z, vying against the luxurious, all-electric Genesis G80 EV sedan. The car nominees were also the most affordable, with the Acura stickering at $31,895 and the Nissan starting at $41k.

For the first time since 2006, the Acura Integra is back in the US market as a 2023 model. Hot hatch, 200-horse, front-wheel-drive.

Two of three trucks nominated, the Ford F-150 Lightning and Lordstown Endurance, are also electric. All three finalists had a starting price north of $55,000, with the $65,000 Endurance an unusual entry given that it is only offered to commercial fleet buyers.

The three electric SUV finalists offered an interesting battle between a traditional luxury brand (Cadillac), an upstart lux-maker (Genesis) and a mainstream badge (Kia) that sees the electric market as a chance to take its brand upscale. All three entries cost above $40,000.

Is it a wagon or an SUV? The 2023 Kia EV6 GT has a look all its own.

Judged by a group of 50 independent journalists, the NACTOY is one of the industry’s most prestigious prizes. The jurors evaluated vehicles all year long, then whittled this year’s record field of 48 eligible vehicles to 26 semi-finalists. Those 26 — 10 in the car category, three in truck, and 13 SUVs – then underwent extensive juror testing in Ann Arbor in October 2022.

The nine finalists were selected and the winners were announced at M1 Concourse car club in Pontiac.

The field was unusual in its lack of affordable mainstream badges. The popular, gas-powered Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-50 — both finalists in years past — were passed over this year, even though they are affordable volume sellers in America’s biggest mainstream segment. A year ago, two of the three winners — the Honda Civic sedan and Ford Bronco SUV — stickered for under $35,000.

By contrast, jurors this year — tasked with evaluating vehicles based on automotive innovation, design, safety, performance, technology, driver satisfaction, user experience and value — appeared to put an emphasis on innovation and design as EVs disrupt the marketplace with novel designs and electronic features.

A juror poll at the October test predicted EVs will make up 10% of new vehicle sales by 2027, 25% of new buys come 2030, and 50% of new vehicles purchased by 2035.

2023 NACTOY finalists

Car of the Year: Acura Integra, Genesis G80 EV, Nissan Z

Winner: Acura Integra

Truck of the Year: Chevrolet Silverado ZR2, Ford F-150 Lightning, Lordstown Endurance

Winner: Ford F-150 Lightning

Utility Vehicle of the Year: Cadillac Lyriq, Genesis GV60, Kia EV6

Winner: Kia EV6

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

Chevy teases the first electrified ‘Vette coming Jan. 17

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 12, 2023

The next model of the mid-engine Chevy Corvette is about to break cover. It will break new ground as well.

Chevrolet teased its Corvette E-Ray on Instagram Tuesday ahead of the car’s reveal on Jan. 17. That date marks the 70th anniversary — to the day — that the first Corvette was introduced to the world. The Harley Earl-designed, 1953-model ‘Vette was the first mass-produced, fiberglass-bodied sports car in the U.S.

Clearly GM thinks the E-Ray is a game changer as well. It will be the first electrified Corvette as the iconic supercar moves toward an all-electric future.

“After 70 years, we’re introducing one like none. 01.17.23. #Corvette,” reads the Instagram post. The teaser video shows a blue Corvette drifting on ice, signaling the E-Ray will be all-wheel-drive with an electric motor turning the front wheels and a big V-8 driving the rears. The car lets out a fierce growl in the video signaling its gas-hybrid power. “ONE LIKE NONE,” scrolls at the end of the clip.

GM insiders have told The Detroit News that electrifying the Corvette was one of the reasons that the eight-generation sports car was engineered with a mid-engine layout for the first time in its 70-year history. With the engine amidships, the front is available to house an electric motor.

Chevy’s teaser comes nine months after the brand teased an electrified Corvette winter-testing in camouflage on YouTube. And it confirms a leak of the E-Ray’s configurator from the website in December. The leaked web pages showed the E-Ray with a wide-body version of the C8 similar to the 2023 Z06, the first performance model of the C8.

While GM did not confirm the model at the time, it issued a statement to Corvette Blogger (which broke the news) saying that it “looks like the holidays came early for a few astute Corvette fans. Stay tuned for more.”

The E-Ray is one of at least five different models coming from the eighth-gen Corvette.

GM President Mark Reuss has consistently teased new variants. Last April, he teased the E-Ray and a next-generation, fully-electric version of the Corvette on LinkedIn.

“This morning I sat down with Phil LeBeau of CNBC and finally answered the question I’ve been asked countless times,” said Reuss. “Yes, in addition to the amazing new Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and other gas-powered variants coming, we will offer an electrified and a fully electric, Ultium-based Corvette in the future. In fact, we will offer an electrified Corvette as early as next year.”

That time is nearly here for the electrified E-Ray (the Ultium-based ‘Vette will likely be the ninth-gen car), which seems aimed at an all-season customer as a grand touring (not hard-core performance) model. The Instagram teaser shows the driver selecting a STEALTH mode for quiet driving.

But the base Corvette Stingray, Z06, and E-Ray are not the end of the story. As The Detroit News first reported in April 2020, the Corvette also has two more performance variants in the wings: a ZR1 beast as well as an over-the-top, Porsche-roasting, 1,000-horsepower, Zora hypercar.

Reuss confirmed the latter two at last November’s GM Investor Day, though he did not drop model names. While the E-Ray is expected to carry the Stingray’s 6.2-liter LT2 V-8 engine in its hybrid package, the ZR1 and Zora are expected to house an insane twin-turbocharged version of the high-revving, normally-aspirated, 5.5-liter LT6 V-8 found in the Z06. At 670 horsepower, the Z06 is already the highest-output, normally-aspirated engine conceived.

Apparently referring to Zora, Reuss said at Investor Day that “the C8 at the very top of the line (would be) something you won’t be able to imagine from a performance standpoint. . . . We’ll put the world on notice with this car, it’s our platform of excellence.”

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

Hummer EV SUV auction to benefit Tread Lightly’s outdoor mission

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 12, 2023

Weighing nearly five tons, the battery-powered, 2024 GMC Hummer SUV won’t tread lightly, but it will benefit Tread Lightly.

Proceeds from the Barrett-Jackson auction this month of the first electric SUV will go to the Utah-based nonprofit, which is committed to promoting responsible outdoor recreation through stewardship and educational programs. The 2024 Hummer is the sport utility version of the $110k, 9,640-pound Hummer EV pickup super-truck that debuted in 2022.

The first build of GMC’s 2024 Hummer EV SUV will be auctioned Jan. 28 at Barrett-Jackson.

VIN001 of the Hummer pickup fetched $2.5 million at Barrett-Jackson, with proceeds going to the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which aids injured veterans, first responders and the families of those who died in the line of duty. Estimates are that the SUV auction might also crest seven figures, with proceeds going to maintaining trails across the country for off-road vehicles from Hummers to Wranglers to Broncos.

“GMC is auctioning the build slot for VIN001 of the first 2024 model in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Jan. 28 at 6:30 p.m. Eastern,” said Tread Lightly executive director Matt Caldwell in an interview. “The proceeds will go in part to hiring new program managers as we expand our mission of boots-on-the-ground trail restoration.”

The Hummer is part of an industry boom in off-road vehicles as manufacturers cater to Americans’ lust for the outdoors. With off-road-focused features like all-terrain tires, adjustable ride height, trail-mapping, all-terrain tires and four-wheel-steer, the electric Hummer SUV is a stealthy off-road beast. Tread Lightly’s mission is to help maintain and create the trails to help vehicles like the Hummer roam.

As motorized recreation has boomed, Tread Lightly’s budget has soared in the last two years from $400,000 to over $4 million. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the outdoor recreation economy accounted for 1.9% ($454 billion) of U.S. GDP in 2021 — increasing 18.9% year over year

Tread Lightly is involved in trail maintenance across the country, with 90 projects in 2022 including hot spots like Sedona and the Rubicon Trail. In Michigan, it has been active in off-road parks like Holly Oaks and Drummond Island, where it has helped secure the rock face in the much-traveled area around the iconic Steps at Marble Head.

The VIN001 super-ute will be a top-trim, $105,595, triple-motor Edition 1 model with an estimated 300 miles of range and 830 horsepower. Like the standard model, which will go on sale for $79,995, the Edition 1 is based on the same, 800-volt Ultium battery platform as the Hummer pickup. The SUV has a nine-inch shorter wheelbase for better maneuverability. Despite its girth, the Hummer SUV is capable of neck-snapping 3.5-second zero-60 runs to get passengers to the trails in a hurry.

For more information on the auction, visit Barrett-Jackson’s auction page. For more on Tread Lightly, visit

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

U.S. in F1: GM and Andretti team up to go Formula One racing

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 6, 2023

Formula One is poised to get a dose of red, white and blue.

Two icons of U.S. auto sports, Andretti Global and General Motors Co.’s Cadillac, are teaming up to race in the world’s most prestigious, open-wheel motor-racing series. The bombshell news Thursday comes as Formula One and Cadillac are making major pushes into new markets — and dovetails with Andretti Global CEO Michael Andretti’s ambition to follow in the footsteps of his famous father, Mario Andretti, to conquer F1 with an American team.

The time seems ripe for both GM and Andretti. F1 has surged in interest in the United States in recent years with three Grand Prix on the schedule for 2023: Austin, Miami and Las Vegas. Furthermore, the hybrid-powered series has championed electrified racing with a promise for zero-emission racing by 2026 — an ambition that dovetails with GM’s Zero-Zero-Zero mantra (zero crashes, zero emissions, zero congestion) and with Cadillac taking the lead as GM’s first global, all-electric brand.

The partnership did not announce a date for entry into the sport but said it has begun the formal application process with Formula One’s FIA organizing body. If selected, Andretti Cadillac said it is seeking to compete as soon as practical with at least one American driver. The team would be based in the United States with a support facility in the United Kingdom.

“Today is the first step in what we hope to be the historic entry of General Motors into F1. Never happened in our history — it’s very, very exciting for us to be with Andretti,” GM President Mark Reuss said in a press briefing. “And if given the opportunity, GM and Cadillac will compete with the very best at the very highest levels with passion and integrity that will continue to elevate the sport for the FIA and race fans around the world.”

"GM and Cadillac will compete with the very best at the very highest levels with passion and integrity that will continue to elevate the sport for the FIA and race fans around the world," GM President Mark Reuss said of the Detroit automaker's Formula 1 partnership with Andretti Global.

The Formula One partnership is separate from the Detroit Grand Prix, which will race downtown in June this year. The Grand Prix here is an open-wheel IndyCar series race with Chevrolet as a title sponsor. Formula One last raced in the streets of Detroit in 1988.

U.S. automaker involvement in Formula One in recent decades has been sporadic and fraught. Ford Motor Co. was the last American F1 competitor with its then-Jaguar brand from 2000-04 (under the management of American Bobby Rahal for 2001). And Mario Andretti was the last American to win an F1 championship in 1978. No U.S. driver currently races in the series. The lone U.S.-based team in F1, North Carolina-based Hass, uses Ferrari engines.

“I feel very strongly that we are suited to be a new team for Formula One and can bring value to the series and our partners, and excitement for the fans,” Indianapolis-based Andretti Global CEO Michael Andretti said in a statement. “I’m proud to have GM and Cadillac alongside us as we pursue this goal.”

Michael Andretti, now heading the partnership with General Motors Co. to race in Formula 1, won the Detroit Grand Prix on June 17, 1990.

It’s an investment Cadillac is determined to make as it recasts itself for a global, 21st-century market. The F1 announcement complements other recent brand moonshots including the introduction of a hand-built, $300,000-plus Celestiq sedan and all-electric lineup by 2030.

GM gives Andretti the crucial backing of a major manufacturer in a sport that demands brand prestige — Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, Aston Martin and Honda all compete — as much as it demands their financial resources. Formula One budgets are notoriously stratospheric, and insiders suggest the Andretti Cadillac partnership will need to make a $1 billion investment to be competitive.

“If you’re going to be a true luxury brand, you need to appeal to a number of different customers,” said Rory Harvey, vice president of Global Cadillac, in an interview. “You need … to demonstrate the ability to be there with the best in the world. And I think this is a great addition in terms of the announcement of the expression of interest in Formula One.”

The series’ explosive growth in the United States also helps Cadillac in its backyard, added Harvey: “We’re now up to three races in the U.S., and F1 is certainly growing in popularity here. The U.S. market is massively important to Cadillac. There’s no doubt that (Andretti Cadillac is) complementary to some of the growing focus fans put on F1.”

The coming 2026 F1 rules are tailor-made for manufacturers eager to show off their electrification chops. Global government emissions rules are forcing manufacturers towards battery-powered drivetrains. Formula One’s ‘26 rules increase the battery component of the F1 drivetrain from 80-20 gas-electric to 50-50 at the same time reducing development costs.

Those sweeteners have unleashed rumors that rival Ford might partner with the Red Bull team in F1 as well. The move also comes as Cadillac’s parent, GM, is deepening its commitment to global motorsport. Cadillac is pursuing victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year with a new, prototype sports car. And the Chevrolet brand’s Corvette Z06 GT3 race car will be available for private teams to race across the globe in 2024.

“Mark Reuss is on a mission for Cadillac,” said Steven Cole Smith, a veteran racing writer with Hagerty. “He wants to bring the Cadillac brand back to what it was. Successfully racing in Formula One would be Cadillac’s crowning glory.”

Still, Formula One is a major step as the world’s most expensive and technologically advanced form of motorsport. Annual budgets can soar to as much as $500 million a year for top teams, though F1’s new rules are intended to cap annual engine development costs at $100 million.

Andretti Global currently participates in six series across the globe including the FIA’s battery-powered Formula E series which is a distant cousin to Formula One. Andretti is best known in the United States as one of the open-wheel IndyCar series powerhouse teams. Since its founding in 2003, the team has won five Indy 500 races and four driver championships. The team fielded three cars in the 2022 season, winning twice with American drivers Colton Herta and Alexander Rossi.

Andretti Autosport team owner Michael Andretti, right, congratulates his driver Colton Herta after winning the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Herta is on the short list of American drivers that Andretti Cadillac would look at for its F1 team.

Andretti’s interest in Formula One has been a constant source of chatter in the IndyCar paddock in recent years with Herta’s name consistently in the conversation as a young, dynamic American driver that would increase American fan interest.

Andretti unsuccessfully tried to buy the Alfa Romeo-Saber team in 2021. A year ago, Andretti filed an application with the FIA with Renault as its engine supplier for the 2024 season, but the application stalled.

“Formula One has been very tightly controlled with 10 teams splitting the pie, so it’s been difficult for F1 to see how Andretti adds value,” Hagerty’s Smith said. “Now with Cadillac behind Andretti, I don’t see how Formula One says no.”

Andretti and GM last paired in the 2012 IndyCar season when the team was powered by Chevrolet engines. Andretti IndyCars currently uses Honda engines.

Finish line: A gaggle of Corvettes marks the Finish Line of the 2023 Detroit Grand Prix to be held June 2-4. To the right: IndyCar's only dual pit lane.

Cadillac’s push into Formula One comes on top of its ambitious plans to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year — the first time the brand has competed in the world’s most prestigious endurance race since 2002. Caddy has been a contender in the American IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series since 2017, and its all-new, earth-shaking hybrid-V-8 Cadillac V-LMDh, will take the fight global this year in IMSA and FIA World Endurance Championship.

“Our commitment to this program goes beyond the Cadillac livery,” Reuss said. “GM’s vast engineering resources will bring proven success and valuable contributions to this partnership. This includes all the talent and capabilities of GM racing staff and facilities in Michigan, at the Warren Tech Center and North Carolina.”

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

How Ken Block and Ford Motor Co. ruled the hooning world

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 6, 2023

Rally race driver and legendary Hoonigan Ken Block died tragically this week at 55. He likely entered the Pearly Gates sideways in a Ford Fiesta, smoke pouring from his tires.

Block had a successful racing career, but it was his antics off-track for which he will be most remembered. He took “hooning” — “the act of driving recklessly, racing, doing burnouts etc.” according to the Urban Dictionary — mainstream with his wildly successful Gymkhana videos.

Skateboarders cheer as DC Shoes President Ken Block, center, wearing black shirt, smiles after pledging $1 million to support skateboarding in Philadelphia's LOVE Park on June 1, 2004. Block, the co-founder of DC Shoes and a pro rally driver who won multiple medals at the X-Games, died Monday, Jan. 2, 2023, in a snowmobiling accident near his home in Park City, Utah, authorities said. Block was 55.

At the height of his fame, he teamed with Ford Motor Co. for 11 years — a partnership that raced across the globe while also thrilling millions with videos of Fiestas, Hoonicorn Mustangs and F-150 Hoonitrucks doing breathtaking stunts through the streets of cities like San Francisco and Detroit.

Block lived large and on the edge and his death came suddenly on his Utah ranch after he lost control on a snowmobile. Though he and Ford had parted ways in 2021, the reaction from his old comrades was swift.

Ken Block does donuts around the Fist on Jefferson Avenue for Gymkhana 10.

“We lost a legend today in Ken Block,” said Ford in a statement. “Ken inspired generations of auto enthusiasts, and in the process he came to inspire all of us at Ford as well. Ken personified the joy of driving, drifting and racing. He had a boundless imagination for creating special cars and special moments.”

Added CEO and amateur racer Jim Farley on his Twitter feed: “This is heartbreaking. I was lucky enough to call @kblock43 a friend. He was truly a legend and inspiration to all of us at @Ford.”

Block’s career reached beyond the automotive world. Born in Long Beach, California, his early fascination with skateboarding led him to co-found DC Shoes apparel in 1994 — a company he sold for a reported $87 million a decade later. With money in the bank, he turned to his new love, race cars.

Ken Block's No. 43 Hoonigan race car catches air on a ramp.

Rally racing’s tail-out, extreme environment seemed to suit his swagger. Despite taking up the sport at 37 — many years older than his competitive set — Block instantly showed promise, winning Rookie of the Year in the 2006 Rally America National Championship driving a Subaru WRX STi.  Two years later, his first Gymkhana video — showcasing his raw hooning skills on an open airfield — went viral, generating an healthy 14 million views (and counting), mostly in the coveted 17-to-25-year-old demographic.

A star was born. Two years later, he inked a contract with Ford.

“He was a heck of a driver. The videos speak for themselves,” said Ford Performance boss Mark Rushbrook, who worked with Block for years, in an interview. “I rode with him a couple of times . . .  and it just blows your mind at the speed at which his brain was able to process going down this rally road.”

Ken Block exits a turn at the wheel of the No. 43 Hoonigan racing car.

Rushbrook was just as impressed with Block’s marketing and business mind. “He was a marketing genius. He figured out how to not just be a driver, but also how to bring all his partners together — Ford or Toyo Tires or Monster Energy — in a way that lifted all of us. He was the hub.”

Block and Ford built synergies across a multitude of disciplines, whether winning races, creating driver schools in Utah and New Hampshire, or preparing insane, unbridled cars for the next Gymkhana video.

“(It was) a very natural relationship where we were able to find things that worked for both of us,” said Rushbrook. “We’re a performance car company and he had a passion for performance machines and putting them out in front of people in a very spectacular way. At the beginning of every year, we’d plan: what did he want to accomplish for Ken Block for Hoonigan? What did we want to accomplish for Ford?”

Block competed in multiple Fords. At the wheel of a Fiesta hatchback racer from 2011-15, he finished 2nd, 3rd, and 5th in the U.S.-based Global Rallycross Championship. In 2016 he set his sights on the world’s best, campaigning an all-new Focus RS in the international FIA World Rallycross Championship.

But his most memorable cars are the unlimited hellions he drove in his highly anticipated Gymkhana videos.

Ken Block's Ford Fiesta jumps San Francisco's steep streets in Gymkhana Five.

In his first video with Ford in 2010, “Gymkhana Three, Part 2: Ultimate Playground,” he tore apart the steep, 51-degree bankings of France’s Linas at l’Autodrome de Linas-Montlhery in a 650-horsepower, all-wheel-drive Fiesta hitting 60 mph in just 1.9 seconds. In 2015, he went to an urban environment — the streets of San Francisco — to perform astonishing Fiesta feats like doing donuts around trolleys and jumping the city’s vertical streets. Gymkhana Five has attracted a staggering 114 million views.

In 2018’s “Gymkhana Ten: The Ultimate Tire Slaying Tour,” Block took to the streets of Detroit in a 1,400-horsepower, all-wheel-drive Hoonicorn Mustang that smoked Michigan Central Station, then did donuts around The Fist.

Rushbrook’s favorite Block creation? The 914-horsepower Hoonitruck (based on a Ford F-150) that starred in the 2018 sequel to the Gymkhana series: “Climbkhana TWO: 914hp Hoonitruck on China’s Most Dangerous Road.”

“For the Hoonitruck, we wanted to do something different,” said Rushbrook of the beastly pickup that dashed up Tiananmen Mountain’s formidable 99 turns. “Let’s take the EcoBoost V-6 like we raced in the Ford GT. Working with Roush, we were able to really uncork that thing to make over 900 horsepower out of an engine that was only allowed to make 500 horsepower in the race car.”

Block’s legacy lives on in his videos, his 16-year-old, hooning daughter Lia, and at The Henry Ford’s “Driven to Win” exhibit.

There sits the #43 Ford Fiesta Block piloted in the Gymkhana San Francisco video — complete with the suit, helmet, sunglasses and shoes he wore during the shoot. In memory of Block, the museum has hung a black ribbon on the driver-side door.

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

Payne: Mercedes’ personality split, electric EQE and gas C300

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 6, 2023

Detroit — The luxury segment is in the midst of a massive identity crisis. Startup automakers Tesla and Rivian have done giant cannonballs into the country club pool, turning over the lawn chairs and turning the heads of swells from their establishment dates. Oh my, who are those handsome young hardbodies?

The establishment has responded with a rush to the wardrobe department. BMW has emerged with kidneys the size of the Fox Theatre marquee. Cadillac is going all-electric behind grilles with more lights than a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert. GMC bench-pressed a 9,000-pound Hummer pickup. And Volvo birthed a whole new EV brand called Polestar. Phew.

The grand dame of them all, Mercedes, however, just doubled down on making more of its outrageously elegant jewelry.

For 2023 Mercedes has rolled out the electric EQE and the mild-hybrid, internal combustion engine-powered C300. They flaunt similar interiors that are best in luxe — lovely layouts updated for the electronics revolution sweeping the industry. But while the interiors remind that the German maker is autodom’s best tailor, the exoskeletons indicate the different drivetrains behind the signature three-star logo on each grille.

Mercedes envisions different customers for my EV and ICE testers. The EQE is a smartphone on wheels; the C300 bristles with animal aggression to match its engine’s growl.

The 2022 Mercedes C300 4MATIC competes in the compact sedan segment.

Following the Mercedes brand’s six-figure halo EQS, the EQE debuts Mercedes’ electric look in the mid-size sedan class for the eye-watering standard price of $75,950. That’s $20K north of the gas-fired E-class, and Merc doesn’t even pretend that the pair are competitors.

On its website, Mercedes separates EVs into a separate “Electrics” category, indicating the EQE’s desire to compete against vehicles like the Tesla Model 3 and BMW i4.

“I think this is the most compelling competitor to Tesla,” said my 30-year-old son Sam after negotiating a tight turning radius with the Merc’s four-wheel-steer feature.

Sure, Tesla wows with its “Summon” feature — but is it as practical as Merc’s steering function?

The infotainment screen in the 2023 Mercedes EQE 350 4MATIC is housed in a bezeled tablet that sweeps up toward the dash.

From 4WS to auto-lane-changing, EQE goes head-on against Tesla’s signature sci-fi tech while maintaining its reputation for elegance. The interior’s centerpiece is a gorgeous 12.3-inch console screen housed in a silver-framed tablet that rolls up the dash like a wave. A 17.7-inch-wide Hyperscreen — which dominates the dash with a separate 12.3-inch screen for the passenger — is also available, but the standard screen is plenty. The screen runs on Merc’s latest MBUX software and the graphics are mesmerizing, the response instant, its ergonomics superb (flipping through radio channels, for example).

“Hey, Mercedes” I barked and the vehicle intently took down directions. It’s good, if not on par with Tesla/Google Maps. Happily for customers who prefer their phone, Android or Apple phones can take over the screen via wireless, smartphone apps.

The benefit of Merc’s native navigation system is its use of EQE’s head-up display (a feature not available on Teslas) to full effect. The massive display projects detailed directions in the driver’s line of sight. Though Mercedes’ driver-assistance system is shy of Tesla’s Autopilot and GM’s Super Cruise in capability, it will entertain you on your journey with features like auto lane change. The interior is the anti-Tesla with lush materials, ambient lighting and beautifully detailed instruments throughout.

The interior of the 2023 Mercedes EQE 350 4MATIC is simpler than its gas counterparts (like the exterior), but features similar screens and MBUX operating system.

Heading downtown to the Fisher Theatre, I pulled the console stalk into DRIVE, then set adaptive cruise control on the steering wheel. EQE glided along like a magic carpet with whisper-quiet, buttery-smooth acceleration. My phone charged in the center console on a wireless pad.

I barely drove the car — just keeping my hand on the wheel to assure the system that I was awake.  Occasionally, I flicked the turn signals for automatic passes when balked by slower traffic. Mercedes complements this laptop-on-wheels experience with an exterior design that looks like a giant computer mouse.

Though punctuated by a big three-star logo in front, the design feels generic — a contrast to the unique bling-tastic interior.

You'll know the 2022 Mercedes C300 4MATIC is gas-powered by its big rear exhaust pipes.

For those who ache for exterior drama, the C300 delivers.

The compact Merc sat on its rear-wheel-drive haunches in my driveway. Long snout sniffing the turf. Big grille, meaty jowls. A predator waiting to pounce.  It’s a dramatically different statement than the Giant Mouse.

Enthusiasts will blanche at the turbo-4 drivetrain (a $60K jewel with a similar engine to a Volkswagen GTI? Really?) but at least Merc massages it with the latest goodies. A mild-hybrid, 48-volt battery provides low-end torque until the turbos kick in. Speaking of kicking in, I punched the Mode selector to SPORT + and the C300 did a credible launch control, complete with engine growl that warmed my heart. For all its instant electric torque, the EQE can’t inspire that emotion.

As with the EQE, allow me to recommend the C300’s all-wheel drive for Michigan winters.

The posh interior of the 2022 Mercedes C300 4MATIC includes leather seats and panoramic roof.

The C300’s real revelation is an interior on par with the sci-fi EQE. Even the rear seats are reasonably roomy despite that long hood and gas-powered engine in front. The same MBUX infotainment system is here, and it’s just as impressive in a compact cabin as in a mid-sizer.

The Mercs suffer from that old German habit of over-engineering. Rather than put simple, efficient scroll wheels on the steering wheel for adaptive cruise (see the intuitive GMC Yukon Denali I was testing at the same time) and volume controls, Merc insists on smartphone-like swipe technology that is hit or miss — especially when you’re at speed.

The high-tech head-up display in the 2022 Mercedes C300 4MATIC even shows a detailed navigation map.

You could spend weeks in the Mercedes exploring their electronic goo-gaws. But the bottom line of this review of siblings is the bottom line.

The E300 delivers a similar buttery-smooth drivetrain (including identical 5.3-second, 0-60 mph acceleration) and interior experience to the buttery-smooth EQE EV for $30,000 less. Not to mention all the inherent travel advantages of a gas car versus an EV. In sync with its impressive navigation software, EQE can identify charging stations on the way to your long-distance destination. But the E300 will get you there more quickly with America’s ubiquitous gasoline infrastructure.

Impressively, Mercedes doesn’t break stride in offering these two electrified gems. Compare them to, say, BMW electric-vehicle creations like the i3 hybrid and iX EV — polarizing vehicles that challenge customer loyalty. Whether you’re a new or longtime customer, Merc’s 2023 models display a brand very comfortable with its identity.

Next week: Taking the Ford F-150 Lightning off-road

2022 Mercedes C300 4MATIC

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

Price: $46,600, including $1,050 destination fee ($63,440 AMG Line as tested)

Powerplant: 2.0-liter turbo-4 cylinder with 48-volt mild-hybrid assist

Power:  255 horsepower, 295 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 5.3 seconds (Car and Driver). Top speed, 130 mph

Weight: 3,957 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA, 23 mpg city/33 highway/27 combined

Report card

Highs: Modern, lovely interior; sexy exterior

Lows: Over-engineered controls; 4-banger doesn’t match luxury wardrobe

Overall: 3 stars

2023 Mercedes EQE 350 4MATIC

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

Price: $78,950, including $1,150 destination fee ($93,840 as tested)

Powerplant: 90.6 kWh lithium-ion battery with dual-electric motors

Power: 288 horsepower, 564 pound-feet torque

Transmission: Single-speed direct drive

Performance: 0-60 mph, 5.3 seconds (Car and Driver); top speed, 130 mph

Weight: 5,488 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA MPGe 97 (est.); range, 300 miles (est.)

Report card

Highs: Modern, lovely interior; all-wheel-steer maneuverability

Lows: Generic exterior; gets pricey

Overall: 3 stars

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

Payne: Tremor carries Ford Maverick pickup to higher ground

Posted by Talbot Payne on December 29, 2022

Holly Oaks — The base hybrid-electric Ford Maverick is one of the best bargains on the auto shelf. For just $23,670, you get pickup utility, SUV-like headroom, rad steely wheels, cool interior, digital screens and 42 mpg in town. How can you beat those specs?

Well, let’s start with 250 horsepower and all-wheel drive.

BWAAAAAHHHHH! I stomped the gas of the rugged Maverick Tremor and it slung dirt across Holly Oaks ORV Park’s 175 acres. Whump! Armed with a steel bash plate, the front chin bounced off a mogul and kept on truckin’.

That’s right, the popular Maverick trucklet has a Tremor model for 2023 just like big brothers Ford F-150 and Ranger. Call it Maverick’s Top Gun — at least until they release a Raptor model (please?). It’s as compelling as the base model (the 2021 Detroit News Vehicle of the Year).

Where base Mav offers pickup utility with the gas mileage of a Prius, Tremor expands the truck’s playground with a growly, 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-banger mated to all-wheel drive that is not available in the standard trim.

The 2023 Tremor replaces the base Maverick's hybrid engine with a strong 250-horse turbo-4.

You’ll know it by its orange tattoos.

There are orange grille highlights, tow hooks and wheel cutouts. This isn’t your average Maverick. For an extra $2,995, Tremor comes armed with some serious hardware in addition to its upgraded drivetrain. There are all-terrain tires, front bash plate, upgraded shocks and twin rear clutch packs. Holly Oaks is a convenient metro detour to play with Maverick’s new weapons. This place is a treat.

Boy, how I wish I could just roll up to Waterford Hills Raceway off U.S. 24, hand over $30 and take hot laps in, say, the affordable Toyota GR sports car. That’s the opportunity Holly Oaks offers to anyone — not just those with purpose-built dirt chewers or $70,000 Bronco Raptors. Holly Oaks may be public, but like private M1 Concourse-like car clubs, it’s a community of enthusiasts. You can walk up to anyone to tell tales — or get pulled out of the swamp that just swallowed your 4-wheeler.

The 2023 Ford Maverick Tremor gets special monogrammed seats.

I picked up my favorite Uncle Joe’s chicken in Southfield and hoofed it 40 minutes up I-75 on a crisp December weekend. I attached an off-road flag, bought my $30 ticket and had a sprawling sandbox at my disposal. But first, lunch.

From Badger Head (one of Holly’s highest spots), I enjoyed my chicken and Texas toast while watching Jeeps, 4x4s and motorbikes crawl like ants over the trails below. I took in the nifty Tremor interior — this is no generic, plastic truck cabin.

Floating armrests are not just easy to grip for door closings, but they open space for tall Thermos storage. Heated seats and steering wheel? Check. The digital instrument and console display are right out of an iPhone store. Speaking of smartphones, I’d hooked up my Samsung on entry to the Android Auto app for navigation.

The 2023 Ford Maverick Tremor offers Sirius XM - controlled via the brand's excellent SYNC3 layout.

There are shortcomings. While Maverick’s only segment competitor, the unibody Hyundai Santa Cruz pickup, comes standard with wireless Android Auto (as does Ford’s state-of-the-art SYNC4 system), the ‘23 Tremor is a generation behind with wired SYNC3. And while Maverick offers a nifty Trail Control feature for off-roading, it doesn’t offer adaptive cruise for the highway, a standard item on compact cars like the $25K Nissan Sentra and Mazda3. Neither does its backup camera beep when approaching an object, a drawback when maneuvering in tight spots like parking garages or narrow ORV park trails.

On the hatchback side of the compact aisle, the Mazda3 Turbo is the enthusiasts’ choice of affordable, all-wheel-drive fun and comes loaded with similar 250-horsepower turbo-4 plus adaptive cruise control, head-up display and blind-spot assist standard for a whopping $5K less than my $39,000 Tremor Lariat tester. Back off the Lariat trim to XLT and the sticker is a more manageable $34.5K (though that’s still $11K north of the base Maverick).

So Maverick Tremor puts you in a different price class. But unlike the hybrid and its utilitarian bed/fuel economy combo, Tremor offers on-road/off-road dexterity.

I finished my meal and plunged into the Holly fray.

I came off my Badger Head spot using TRAIL ASSIST, a kind of low-speed cruise control that allowed me to focus on navigating the narrow trail. Once on the open flats, I prepared Tremor for battle.

The 2023 Ford Maverick Tremor features multiple drive modes. MUD/RUTS is best for off-roading at Holly Oaks ORV Park.

Off-road features are in a digital toolbox on the console. I punched the Mode key and the instrument screen illuminated with colorful drivetrain options. I selected MUD & RUTS. The engine note dropped an octave to a growl, and traction control turned off. I selected the AWD LOCK tool and we were in business. I attacked the Glen dirt track with a vengeance, using the throttle liberally while churning through deep soil.

For all its swagger, Maverick Tremor is no Bronco Raptor (the last Ford bruiser I took to Holly), so I approached trails more cautiously, mindful of Mav’s lesser breakover angle (19.9 degrees vs. 30.8 degrees for the Bronc), not to mention unibody construction, which can’t take the punishment of Bronc’s ladder frame. An extra inch of lift over the base Maverick helps.

I was braver in flat sections, where the turbo-4’s grunt and signature torque-vectoring rear clutch packs (capable of throwing grip to the rear wheel that needs it most) combine so Mav can really kick up its heels.

Like Big Brother F-150, the 2023 Ford Maverick Tremor has useful storage under the rear seats.

WHACKITY WHACK WHACK went something in the back seat. I stopped to collect a rogue snow scraper (handy for clearing fresh snow that morning). Tremor has useful storage under the flip-up rear seat (just like Big Brother F-150). I secured the scraper and went back to dirt-kicking.

Out back, the bed is a useful space for owners who want to bring along a motorbike to go deeper into Holly Oaks trails. With its smooth unibody chassis — the same bones that fortify the Escape and Bronco Sport SUVs — Tremor transitioned easily to the road. I returned my little warrior to NORMAL mode, set Google Maps to Home and purred home down I-75.

The 2023 Ford Maverick Tremor exits Holly Oaks ORV park after a good day. The trucklet is smooth on road with its unibody chassis.

Is the premium-priced Tremor deserving of Maverick’s value label? It’s a tougher sell, especially as my Lariat’s $40K price tag is the same as the mid-size unibody Honda Ridgeline pickup. But price my Tremor with the cloth-seat XLT package and it’s a $34K bargain next to a ladder-frame Ranger Tremor asking $46,495, similarly equipped. It’s also the only game in town from the Detroit Three — in addition to the stylish unibody-based Santa Cruz Night model that is more sport oriented than off-grid bruiser.

Big Brother F-150 is king, but Maverick Tremor expands little brother’s appeal.

Next week: 2023 Mercedes EQE or Mercedes C300?

2023 Ford Maverick Tremor

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

Price: $32,305, including $1,495 destination fee ($39,560 Lariat as tested)

Powerplant: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder

Power: 250 horsepower, 277 pound-feet torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Payload: 1,500 pounds; Towing capacity: 4,000 pounds with tow package

Weight: 3,731 pounds

Fuel economy: 22 city/29 highway/25 combined

Report card

Highs: Sophisticated drivetrain; cool interior

Lows: Adaptive cruise and blind-spot assist not standard; wireless Apple CarPlay, please

Overall: 4 stars

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

Auto New Year: EVs, muscle and SUVs galore on tap for 2023

Posted by Talbot Payne on December 29, 2022

Happy New Year, happy new wheels.

Automakers ring in 2023 with an array of fresh sleds from pickups to SUVs to electric vehicles. New offerings will come from startups and legacy automakers alike — including established brands looking to remake themselves with premium electric badges.

EVs have found the premium market the most fertile soil for growth as battery costs are high and heading higher. Ford’s base F-150 Lightning Pro, for example, started 2022 with a sticker price of $42,000 then ballooned to $59,000, a 40% price hike. Mainstream badges like Kia (the EV6 GT) and Chevy (Blazer SS) are going luxe with $60,000 EVs. The flood of new electrics is key to automaker plans to meet stringent government emissions rules so they don’t get tripped up with big fines like, say, Stellantis suffered in ‘22.

Automakers are hardly neglecting their bread-and-butter internal combustion engine-powered vehicles. They pay the bills for big EV investments and are aimed at the 80% of the market that is non-luxury. Familiar ICE badges coming in 2023 include hot-sellers like the Chevy Colorado, Ford Super Duty pickup, GMC Canyon, Honda Accord, and Ford Mustang.

Here are the new vehicles we expect from automakers in the next 12 months.


The ZDX, Acura’s first EV, will be built alongside the Cadillac Lyriq EV in Tennessee on GM’s Ultium battery platform. It joins a sporty brand that said goodbye to the Acura NSX supercar in 2022 and hello to the entry-level Integra hot hatch.

The U.S. version of the Alfa-Romeo Tonale plug-in hybrid SUV can be seen during a media event in Detroit, December 6, 2022.

Alfa Romeo

Alfa’s entry-level Tonale SUV takes on segment peers BMW X1 and Mercedes GLA with sexy styling, standard AWD, and a plugin drivetrain. The plug-in model boasts best-in-class, hybrid, 272-horsepower turbo-4 engine.


Audi’s vast lineup of sedans, SUVs, and e-trons will gain assorted upgrades for 2023. In a nod to Audi’s expanding EV lineup, the singular e-tron SUV will become the range-topping Q8 e-tron and Q8 e-tron Sportback — two body-style variants with the same AWD electric drivetrain underneath.


BMW’s most talented athlete, the redesigned M2 coupe squeezes another 48 horsepower from its high-revving, turbocharged, 3.0-liter, inline-6-cylinder engine. At the top of the Bimmer range, an all-new 7-series will debut an electric variant.

Prefix will paint the exclusive, 2024 Cadillac Celestiq EV.


The brand reinvents itself with the $300,000-plus Celestiq halo sedan. Each model will be custom-built by craftsmen similar to bespoke Rolls-Royce production. Jaw-dropping inside and out, Celestiq dazzles with colored leather and 55-inch digital dashboard.

Chevrolet calls the Silverado EV “a category-defying, boundary-breaking game-changer” that marks “a seismic shift.”


It’s Chevy’s Year of the EV. The Silverado EV will (finally) launch in the first half of ‘23 with a Work Truck version. The retail RST (starting at a nosebleed $105,000) follows in the second half. Battery-powered Blazer and Equinox SUVs are also on tap — crucial steps in GM’s march to an all-electric future. On the internal combustion side, Chevy is offering a lower-priced Trax starting at just over $21,000 and a new, mid-size Colorado pickup.

The 2023 Dodge Hornet GLH peers through fog during a Dodge event held at the M1 Course in Pontiac.


The 710-horsepower Durango SRT Hellcat (a family SUV!) is back!— but Dodge closes down the V-8-powered muscle-car era with the high-horsepower, special-edition Challenger Black Ghost and Charger King Daytona models. Fresh meat comes in the form of a compact, $30K-something Hornet SUV based on the same nimble platform as the Alfa Tonale. Hornet comes standard with AWD and options a plug-in, R/T-badged hellion with 285 ponies.

LA Auto Show: Henrik Fisker unveils the Fisker Ocean EV.


An original Tesla competitor with its luxurious, 2012 Karma hybrid, Fisker has been reborn with the all-electric, 2023 Ocean. The compact ute is distinguished by a 17-inch screen that can rotate to landscape or vertical positions.


Ferrari’s Purosange, will drop jaws — and not just because it’s the Prancing Horse’s first SUV. You’ll hear it coming with a singing, 6.5-liter, 712-pony V-12 — the brand’s most powerful, naturally-aspirated engine. Purosange (English translation: thoroughbred) will boast unique attributes like scissor doors, dual cockpit screens, and electric motors at all four corners to control body roll — eliminating traditional sway-bars.

The 2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse sports the first, normaly aspirated, 5.0-liter V-8 in a Mustang to achieve 500 horsepower.


Iconic badges take center stage in ‘23. The ginormous F-series Super Duty gets a makeover with new exterior, interior, and powertrain options. Highlights include a 12-inch console screen and 1,200-pound-feet of diesel torque. Mustang is back with a new face, big screens, and more muscle. In addition to standard Ecoboost and GT models, ‘Stang will birth a track-focused Dark Horse badge with a 500-horsepower V-8 and optional rear wing. The GT supercar ends its six-year run with a track-only, 800-horsepower, $1.7 million, winged cyborg called the Mk IV.


Hyundai’s luxe brand gets its third EV, the Electrified GV70 SUV. Nestled between the GV60 SUV and Electrified G80 sedan, the newbie converts the gas-powered GV70 chassis to electric with twin motors and a 77.5 kWh battery pack.

2023 GMC Canyon AT4X pickup


The Hummer EV SUV is in the house, as is the upgraded, mid-size Canyon pickup. The latter gets a butch AT4X trim with performance shocks and 33-inch tires to compete against segment dirt-kickers like the Toyota Tacoma TRD.

The 2023 Honda Accord gains a more modest grille like the CR-V SUV.


Honda’s relentless new product rollout continues with the mid-size Accord sedan and Pilot SUV following the 2022 Civic and 2023 CR-V and 2023 HR-V. The 11th generation Accord sports an elegant wardrobe and hybrid, 204-horsepower powertrain for its upper trims. The Pilot is boxier, more aggressive — which suits the macho, AWD Trailsport model and its all-terrain tires.

LA Auto Show: Hyundai Ioniq 6


Hyundai adds two more EVs to its broad lineup. The kissing cousin of the angular Ioniq 5 EV, the Ioniq 6 gets a longer, more aerodynamic shape that should deliver better battery range. The Ioniq 7 goes big as a three-row EV option alongside the gas Palisade.


Hyundai’s sister brand also gets three-row, electric SUV: the EV9. The handsome, three-row, gas-powered Telluride has helped remake Kia as a premium brand and the $50,000-plus EV6 and EV9 SUVs want to solidify that image.


Ford’s luxury brand will release a refreshed Corsair in ‘23. The SUV will debut with available ActiveGlide 1.2 — Lincoln’s hands-free, driver-assistance system.


Lotus follows other sportscar makers like Porsche and Lamborghini into the performance SUV space with the China-assembled, 600-horsepower Eletre “hyper-SUV.”


The lovely Air sedan set new standards of EV envy, and Gravity hopes to do the same for the SUV market.


The Zoom-Zoom brand isn’t giving up on its MX-5 Miata sportscar, but Americans want SUVs. So here come the mid-size CX-70 and three-row CX-90 built on the brand’s all-new, longitudinal-engine, rear-wheel-drive-based architecture. X-pect the CX siblings to offer hybrid powertrains.


EQE and EQS sedans debuted Merc’s sleek new EV lineup, and now come the utes. The EQE/EQS SUVs bring hatchback utility (and third-row seating in the case of the EQS ute), while sharing tech-tastic interiors with their sedan cousins. The gas-fired GLC follows its sedan stablemate with a new, 2023 design.


The Polestar 3 is the first SUV from Volvo’s EV brand. Like the Polestar 2 sedan before it, the 3 runs on a Google operating system. It may debut Volvo’s lidar technology — aimed at beating Tesla to full-self-drive capability. Not to be outdone, Volvo’s new flagship is an electric, three-row EX90 to be sold alongside the gas-powered XC90.

2024 Subaru Impreza


For its sixth generation, the entry-level Impreza comes in hatchback only. Impreza comes stuffed with the brand’s latest, big-screen infotainment and 182 horsepower for its new RS sport trim.


The popular Highlander SUV gets a stretched, three-row, Grand Highlander stablemate. Look for its debut at the Chicago Auto Show powered by a hybrid, AWD powertrain. Ugly duckling-turned-swan Prius hybrid extends to a plug-in model promising over 35 miles in electric-only mode. The long-awaited, hush-hush Tacoma pickup could steal the show as recently published spy shots have sent the faithful in a frenzy. The battery-powered Lexus RZ SUV is aimed at loyal, hybrid customers eager to try all-electric. Lexus’ first EV shares the same platform as the Toyota bZ4X.

Good morning, Vietnam! BMW, Audi, and Mercedes aren't at the show. Vietnam's VinFast VF6 EV wants to fill the void.


The first Vietnamese manufacturer to sell here, VinFast aims to make a splash with the compact VF6 and mid-size VF7 SUVs. Both SUVs feature elegant, European (think Citroen) exterior styling while going full-Tesla inside with single-screen layouts.

VW ID.4 in front of VW Chattanooga manufacturing plant.


V-dub’s ID.4 EV begins stateside production in Tennessee with its 208-mile-range, sub-$40K Standard model. Location, location, location — the ID.4 is now eligible for the $7,500 US EV tax credit.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at or Twitter @HenryEPayneKalea Hall can be reached at or Twitter: @bykaleahall

Payne: Kia EV6 GT, the discount Tesla dragster

Posted by Talbot Payne on December 29, 2022

Las Vegas — In 2015, videos appeared on YouTube of Tesla Model S sedans blowing away Corvettes and Mustang GT500s on drag strips. The videos remade electric vehicles’ image as objects for enthusiasts, not just tree huggers. The Tesla numbers were staggering. The all-wheel-drive Model S P90D was shredding the quarter mile in less than 12 seconds at 116 mph. Also staggering was the sticker price: $140,000 for the top line trim.

It’s 2022 and I just smoked the quarter-mile at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in an EV at 11.6 seconds at 117 mph. A Tesla? Nope, a $62,000 Kia EV6 GT.

Like Tesla before it, Korean automaker Kia is determined to make a brand statement with its first electric vehicle. Unlike the Silicon Valley startup which achieved meteoric success — not through advertising or media tests, but through a rabid fan base on social media — Kia invited a pack of journalists to Vegas to put its top-trim EV6 to a test.

Sin City suits the EV6 GT.

Dressed in red with wicked-looking 21-inch tires, the GT features a devilish 567 horsepower from front and rear motors. GT wants to boogie.

Echoing Tesla, the EV6 performance model’s appearance is not significantly altered from the $50,000 base SUV. Indeed, EV6 GT looks identical to the AWD 360-horsepower GT-line that I flogged up north this summer, and that was no slouch in the performance department with a 0-60 mph time of 5.1-seconds. Its price/footprint are in line with a Tesla Model 3 Performance, but with interior dimensions on par with a Model S — its deep 39 inches of rear legroom will comfortably fit two Las Vegas Raiders offensive linemen.

Unlike the iPhone-simple Tesla, EV6 is covered in bling, punctuated by a dramatic ducktail that is rimmed with red LED lighting. Inside, EV6 bears a close resemblance to the Cadillac Lyriq, the fanciest EV this side of the Mercedes EQE.

Vegas, take notice. Across the pin-striped dash, a single hoodless pane of glass houses twin 12.3-inch displays for the instrument console and infotainment. A floating console between the seats juts forward like a ship’s bow (underneath is open space for tablets, purses, maps) with a rotary shifter on its leading edge.

But what’s this? Manual seats?

With its focus on performance, the GT’s sporty thrones must be adjusted just like a Porsche 911 GT3. When you’re shooting for sub-12 seconds in the quarter mile, you save weight where you can.

Is it a wagon or an SUV? The 2023 Kia EV6 GT has a look all its own.

Still, this is a porky vehicle tipping the scales at 4,795 pounds. GT’s girth was palpable on the writhing curves of Route 167 to Lake Meade — one of many natural wonders to the east of Vegas’s desert mirage. The GT has been upgraded with massive, lime-green 15-inch brakes and suspension tuning to manage its power, and I pushed it hard thought the twisties. Just 30 miles away, Lake Meade was an easy EV commute even in cold 40-degree winter temps.

For trips further east to spectacular Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon, you’ll want to, um, take the gas-powered Kia Telluride SUV.

While the Model S P90D has an upgraded battery (90 means 90 kWh), EV6 GT sticks with the standard car’s 77 kWh lithium ion pack. Now you know why it costs so much less than the Tesla. Range drops from 274 miles for the AWD GT-line to just 204 miles in the electron-guzzling GT. You’ll be lucky to get to Zion on a full charge, and Electrify America fast chargers (free to Kia customers) are scarce.

So the GT — like many premium electrics in today’s market — is a second or third car best suited for metro duty. Especially metro areas like Vegas and Detroit with drag strips nearby.

The interior of the 2023 Kia EV6 GT features exclusive bucket seats.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a delightful campus just 18 miles outside Vegas (closer to home, southeast Michigan’s Milan Dragway is just 22 miles south of Ann Arbor). It houses a NASCAR oval road course, and ¼ mile dragstrip which occasionally opens for public racing.

This is GT’s natural playground.

I’ll never forget the first time I floored a 2015 Model S P90D. Its instant, 100% torque snapped my neck, crushing my back into the seat on its way to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds. EV GT is like that.

On the Vegas (drag) strip I slowly staged, watching the Christmas tree lights change blue to indicate the timer had me locked in. Then I released the Kraken. No launch control. Just toggle the GT button on the steering wheel for maximum response, floor it, go. As I blew though the quarter-mile lights at 117 mph, the GT wanted more. I repeated the run three times, the Kia never tiring or complaining of heat issues.

It has more tricks up its sleeves for the street. Its 800-volt system (compared to its Mustang Mach-E GT and Tesla Model Y Performance competitors’ 400 volts) means quicker charging. Kia-Hyundai have been aggressive in driver-assist systems, and EV6 boasts the same adaptive cruise system I’ve raved about on the Kia Sportage. Its lane-keep and auto-follow systems formed a safety cocoon around the car in Vegas traffic.

More toys? Kia has always experimented with sound (see its Sounds of Nature feature) and GT rocks three drivetrain audio options — STYLISH, DYNAMIC, CYBER — if you like a sound track with your stoplight launches.

The instrument display also changes depending on drive mode — ECO, NORMAL, SPORT, GT — and icons can be moved around the screen like a smartphone depending on your preference.

You can set the sound level in the 2023 Kia EV6 GT to stealth - or to a series of sci-fi sounds to compliment the drivetrain.

Looks, speed, tech, comfort. GT’s biggest challenge may be ID. Where Tesla was instantly recognizable as a new breed, Kia is trying to evolve from an economy brand to a premium brand. That includes a new logo on the hood that has left people scratching their heads.

“What is KN Motors?” asks many a Google query. Mistaking KN for KIA is so common that the company bought “KN” for Google search optimization.

Stomp the throttle and you’ll confuse it for a Tesla.

Next week: 2023 Ford Maverick Tremor unleashed

2023 Kia EV6 GT

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

Price: $62,865, including $1,295 destination fee ($49,795 for base, RWD Wind model)

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

Power: 576 horsepower, 545 pound-feet torque

Transmission: Single-speed direct drive

Performance: 0-60 mph, 3.4 seconds (mfr.); top speed, 161 mph

Weight: 4,795 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA 79 MPGe; range, 206 miles

Report card

Highs: Hard-core acceleration; high-tech, roomy interior

Lows: Looks fat; fat price for a Kia

Overall: 3 stars

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

Ho-Ho-Horsepower: ’24 Mustang gets most powerful 5.0-liter V-8 yet

Posted by Talbot Payne on December 16, 2022

The new, 2024 Ford Mustang will deliver 500 horsepower, making it the most powerful, 5.0-liter V-8 engine in the muscle car’s 60-year history.

Merry Christmas and a Howling New Year.

That power will come from the pony car’s track-inspired, 5.0-liter V8-powered Dark Horse, a new badge in the tradition of Mustang’s performance Mach 1, Bullitt and Shelby models that will debut next year alongside the standard EcoBoost and GT models. To put the 500 horsepower in perspective, that’s the same grunt that powered the legendary 1967 7.0-liter V8-powered Ford Mark IV (on display in the Henry Ford) to victory over Ferrari at Le Mans.

The Dark Horse’s achievement leads a horsepower boost across all three models.

The 2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse shows off the pony car's new look for its seventh-generation coupe.

“Mustang has always pushed the envelope. From Mustang GT to Dark Horse, this is our best 5.0-liter V-8 yet. It’s naturally aspirated awesomeness,” said Ed Krenz, Mustang chief engineer. “EcoBoost fans are also getting a boost in power to make every Mustang more fun to drive.”

Credit the Dark Horse’s new-found power to modifications to Mustang’s fourth-generation Coyote engine: dual throttle bodies, twin air intakes and forged piston connecting rods out of the supercharged Shelby GT500. The V-8 will be mated to a six-speed manual transmission.

“With the increased responsiveness you get from the new dual throttle bodies, we’re wringing every ounce of performance we can out of our engine so Mustang enthusiasts can have that experience,” said Suzanne Robinson, Coyote engine program supervisor.

Dark Horse builds on the V8-powered GT coupe’s 480 horsepower (which can be amped up to 486 with an available active-valve exhaust) — up from 460 horses from the last-gen coupe. Torque is also at a new high of 415 pound-feet.

The 2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse will be joined in the lineup by the Mustang EcoBoost (left) and GT (right).

The entry-level, 2.3-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine will make 315 horsepower —up five ponies from the last-gen model. Expect the Mustang to start around $30k when pricing is announced closer to production, with the Dark Horse likely pushing $60,000.

While the engines get upgraded, the interior has been overhauled with the latest in auto technology. The cockpit will feature a large screen across the dash housing two customizable digital displays — a 12.4-inch digital instrument cluster and 13.2-inch infotainment stack powered by Ford’s state-of-the-art SYNC 4 system with goodies like wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Other digital goo-gaws include a wireless phone charging pad and overhead USB ports.

The 2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse is a performance model like the Mach 1 and Bullitt before it.

That digital tech enhances the drivetrain, too. The Mustang can be revved remotely using the key fob, and drivers can access multiple drive modes, including Track, Drag and Custom. A so-called e-Brake option is also available so you drift the rear end.

All this will come wrapped in a new, more muscular body style including separate front fascias for the EcoBoost, GT and Dark Horse models. The latter will get plenty more mods as well, including smoked headlights and taillights, a fixed rear wing, rear diffuser, quad-tupped tailpipes, Brembo brakes, optional carbon-fiber wheels, distinctive Dark Horse badges on the front fenders and decklid, and exclusive Blue Ember metallic paint.

The 2024 Ford Mustang Dark Horse boasts a unique fascia, blue hue, and 500 horsepower.

The Dark Horse is timed with Mustang’s entry into global GT3 racing alongside other powerhouses like the Chevy Corvette and Porsche 9l1.

Assembled in Flat Rock, the 2024 Mustang coupe and convertible go on sale in the U.S. next summer.

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

Payne: 2022 Detroit News Vehicle of the Year, Ford Maverick Tremor

Posted by Talbot Payne on December 16, 2022

This has been an unusual year at the auto box office.

There were a record number of premieres as the industry celebrated multiple trends: SUVs, EVs and OMG electronics. Consumers demand sport utes and automakers rolled out big-volume blockbusters to audiences, including all-new Honda CR-V, Honda HR-V, Kia Sportage, Jeep Wagoneer, Toyota Sequoia and Lexus RX models.

Electric vehicles are the new-new thing as legacy automakers test fresh recipes and a basket of startups hope to replicate Tesla’s success. But even as governments force EV production, electrics’ cost and charging limitations limit their appeal to a niche market. If I were a movie critic, EVs would be eclectic films debuting at, say, the Sundance Film Festival, where their qualities would appeal to elite audiences who live in single-family homes with multi-car garages.

There are some delicious autos here — Cadillac Lyriq, Ford F-150 Lightning, Mercedes EQE, Kia EV6, BMW iX, Genesis GV60 — but they are aimed at the 17% of Americans who buy luxury vehicles. Indeed, the average price of the new vehicles eligible for this year’s North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year award (I’m a juror) was a whopping $65,000. Of those entries, 24 cost more than $50K. Only nine cost less than $40,000, and only three were under $30,000.

Value was hard to find. Among them were a couple of delicious, gas-fired remakes — the $37K Acura Integra and $40K Nissan Z, sequels that, like “Top Gun: Maverick,” updated beloved names for the modern world.

But three vehicles stood out for their affordability, all-around performance, and integration of the latest tech. Befitting the offbeat list of new models, we have an unusual winner. For the second year running, I picked a Maverick as the 2023 model year offered a very different riff on the wee pickup.

The Toyota GR Corolla is an AWD, 3-cylinder hellion.

Third place: Toyota GR Corolla

The year’s biggest surprise was Toyota’s Corolla pocket rocket. I never thought I’d use those words in the same sentence. The Corolla, of course, is America’s perennially best-selling compact car with an obsession for reliability and the sex appeal of vanilla.

The GR (short for GRIN) rips the shirt off the unremarkable Corolla and reveals a tattooed Dwayne Johnson torso underneath. With hatchback utility, all-wheel-drive, and a sub-$40K sticker, the wicked-looking GR adds to my favorite car class: the multi-talented hot hatch. Sporting an innovative, King Kong-in-a-box, three-cylinder engine blown out of its mind with 300 horsepower, Corolla can pick up groceries in downtown Ann Arbor in the morning, then shred Hell’s twisties with a six-speed manual in the afternoon. #SaveTheManual.

At a time when bureaucrats want everyone to drive the same electric drivetrain, the turbo-3 Corolla is a glorious rebel’s yell.

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 splits the compact segment with the CX-5. The CX-50 brings a more rugged off-road look with cladding and squared-off fenders.

Runner-up: Mazda CX-50

I have a short list of cars that are industry benchmarks. The Porsche 911 is the world’s sports car standard. The Tesla Model Y is the EV gold standard. The VW Golf R the best compact. Mazda’s CX-5 is my benchmark for best compact SUV, and with its Made-in-Alabama CX-50 stablemate, the brand has raised the bar even higher.

With fashionably rugged cladding (if the CX-50 were male, it would wear chin stubble) and more rear-seat room, CX-50 does everything well. It’s easy on the eyes, and when you slip inside, it fits like a glove. Though nearly 9 inches off the ground, the SUV has the DNA of brand halo Miata and is more fun to drive than any ute short of an Alfa Stelvio. Stuff it with the optional 256-horse turbo-4 engine, and it’s Stelvio’s match for power too — for 15 grand less.

The car’s real value is in the stylish cabin, where Mazda loads up standard features like adaptive cruise control, blind-spot assist, automatic headlights, wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and more. This is a premium car with a mainstream price.

2023 Ford Maverick Tremor gets dirty

Winner: Ford Maverick Tremor

Maverick is the entry-level pickup that just keeps on giving.

Last year, I named the $23K Maverick hybrid The Detroit News 2021 Vehicle of the Year in appreciation for its 42-mpg city efficiency, stylish interior, steely wheels and pickup bed utility. For 2023, Maverick is back with a completely different model — the 2.0-liter turbo-4 powered, all-wheel-drive, all-terrain-tire Tremor that is just as enticing for off-road adventure-seekers.

I admit I began the year certain that Maverick’s big brother, the F-150 Lighting, was a shoo-in as Vehicle of the Year. And if I were judging EV of the Year, Ford’s first electric truck would win, taking its place alongside the Mustang Mach-E and Tesla Model Y/3 as one of the segment’s best. It’s frunky, powerful and a hoot to drive.

But a $54,000 pickup truck must be a Swiss Army knife and the Lightning is lacking in the towing department. found its tow range to be less than 100 miles, which isn’t enough to get it between fast chargers on I-75.

Orange trim helps the Maverick Tremor stand out.

Little brother Maverick Tremor can tow up to 4,000 pounds all day long and has Swiss Army knife features no other $32,000 truck has. Indeed, Tremor has no real peer outside the more citified Hyundai Santa Cruz Night model. Riding on the same smooth unibody chassis as the Bronco Sport and Escape, Tremor is an easy daily driver. But if you’re looking for adventure, it is more than willing to take a detour off road.

Detour to, say, Holly Oaks ORV park up I-75 and the trucklet will show off its sophisticated twin-clutch rear differential, 31-inch approach angle, four-wheel-drive toolbox (locker, Trail Assist and more), all while offering a 4.5-foot bed that can do the dirty work around the yard. This utility is dressed in an orange-lined wardrobe that will turn the heads of even the hardcore off-road Bronco and Wrangler guys. Think tow hooks, 29-inch all-terrain tires and a Tremor tattoo — just below the Maverick tattoo on the tailgate, dudes.

It makes for an outgoing personality that complements the more metropolitan, front-wheel-drive, fuel-sipping base Maverick. In a year when inflation is hitting everything from groceries to autos, the Maverick Tremor is just the ticket.

Next week’s review: Off roadin’ in the 2023 Ford Maverick Tremor

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

Payne: Here are the best auto features of 2022

Posted by Talbot Payne on December 16, 2022

Like elves in Santa’s workshop, auto engineers are busy every year making new toys.

With a new digital toolbox to play with they have more opportunities than ever to make their elfin dreams come true. Electronics, electric motors and Wi-Fi are transforming the auto landscape. Increasingly integrated with smartphones, auto cabins are juiced with voice command features, wireless charging, graphic displays and more.

Heck, sometimes you don’t even need to drive the car at all. I tested dozens of new chariots this year from $170K EVs to $23K pickup trucks. They are engorged with new gizmos, but also some cool, old-school mechanical goodies.

Here are my favorite auto features of 2022.

The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning frunk carries 14.1 cubic feet of cargo - about the same as the boot of a Ford Fiesta.

Mega-frunk. Ford F-150 Raptor R owners will wow Woodward Dream Cruisers by propping open their hoods to show off the 700-horsepower V-8 underneath. F-150 Lightning owners will pop their hoods to reveal … lots of space. With no engine up front and its batteries under the floorboards, Ford’s first electric truck boasts the biggest frunk (front trunk) in the industry — dwarfing Tesla frunks that pioneered the feature. Customers that like having a pickup bed but miss an SUV’s hatchback utility have the best of both worlds. The Mega Power Frunk (Ford’s term) can hold 14.1 cubic feet of cargo — two golf bags, for instance — weighing up to 400 pounds.

The sunroof of the BMW iX can be opaque, as above, or clear, thanks to Polymer Dispersed Liquid Crystal tech.

Opaque sunroof. The BMW iX is a rolling science lab, including the electrochromic roof. The largest glass opening ever fitted on a Bimmer, the panoramic glass spans the cabin without any struts. Poke the ceiling button behind the rear-view mirror and the roof transforms from opaque to transparent. Park the car and it will automatically default to opaque to keep the cabin cool. Its secret? Polymer Dispersed Liquid Crystal tech, which applies voltage to a layer of film in the glass.

The Tesla Model 3 will make right/left turns on its own with Full Self-Driving (FSD).

FSD. Tesla’s Full Self-Driving feature is finally available to any owner who wants to download it — assuming they have the hardware to support it (a $15,000 option). FSD has been available to select customers since 2020, and the company is now confident enough to make the technology widely available. The Level 2 system (Level 4 means the car can actually drive without human supervision) hardly lives up to its name, given that a driver must be engaged at all times. But the system is a fascinating glimpse at autonomous car progress as it takes turns on its own, navigates traffic and even turns right on red.

The infotainment and climate controls are combined in a single black strip in the 2023 Kia Sportage.

Hidden climate/radio controls. I love Easter eggs, and one of my favorites is in the handsome console of the Kia EV6 and Kia Sportage SUV. For aesthetic simplification, the infotainment and climate controls have been combined in a single black strip. Select the volume/fan button and the controls will change for the features you want to access. For those who prefer rotary dials, however, the feature may drive you mad.

The 2023 Honda Civic Type R offers a clever cargo cover solution - it pulls across the cargo area like a blind.

Pullover blind. Honda invented this nifty shade in its 10th generation Civic hatchback and it returns for the 11th gen. It’s highlighted this year by the relentless Civic Type R that thrills with is sporty suspension and 315 horsepower. But the hatch shows off the car’s utilitarian side: You can store valuables in back — then just pull the blind across the cargo bay like a window shade. No cumbersome hooks or snaps required.

The GMC Hummer EV uses four-wheel-steer for a tighter turning radius.

Four-wheel-steer. Once the domain of whip-quick Porsches, all-wheel-steer is found in other applications this year. The ginormous GMC Hummer EV got AWS to help negotiate tight trails off-road. The Mercedes EQE is hardly a Porsche when it comes to handling, but its AWS system makes U-turns and tight city parking garages easier to handle. AWS requires adding a steering rack in the rear, so it ain’t cheap, but I’m betting engineers will figure out how to make the feature more available to mainstream vehicles over time.

The passenger screen in the Mercedes EQS sedan can control massage seats among other things.

Third screen. Our vehicles are turning into moving theaters with screens everywhere, including the rear seats so kiddies can enjoy movies on endless road trips. The latest screen innovation comes from the Jeep Grand Wagoneer and Mercedes models that add a third screen for the right-seat front passenger. Integrated into the dash above the glove compartment, the screen allows the co-pilot to set navigation and radio stations (and, of course, watch videos).

The 2023 Toyota GR Corolla pumps out 300 horsepower from its 3-cylinder mill.

Three-headed monster. Three-cylinder engines have generally been deployed to gain better fuel efficiency. Think my favorite ol’ Ford Fiesta 3-banger, which got 43 mpg highway and helped the brand meet fuel economy standards. The Toyota GR Corolla hellion begs to differ. Corolla’s pocket rocket model squeezes 300 horsepower from its 1.6-liter, 3-cylinder mill (that’s a gobsmacking 185 horses per liter). Fuel efficiency? A thirsty 20 mpg.

The BMW M4 features a head-up display option with a tachometer so you can shift at redline without ever taking your eyes off the road.

Tachometer head-up display. Speaking of screens, head-up displays are getting more common — and more innovative. You can now find HUDs — which project car information onto the windshield — on daily drivers like the common Mazda3. Higher on the food chain, models like the BMW M4 offer multiple HUD configurations, including a horizontal RPM display so enthusiasts never have to take their eyes off the track while paddle-shifting through the gears.

The 2023 Genesis GV60 can remote self-park into parallel or perpendicular spaces - though this angled perpendicular space confused it.

Remote parallel park. Tesla has been at the forefront of remote vehicle manipulation with its Summon feature so you can pull your car out of tight garage spaces using a phone app. The Genesis GV60 this year took the technology to its logical next step: allowing customers to self-park their car into perpendicular/parallel parking spaces using their key fob.

Vehicles like the VW ID.4 offer both wireless charging and wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto so you don't drain your phone while navigating on Google Maps.

Wireless navigation and charging. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are must-have features these days, but the drawback is they are a drain on the phone’s battery without a cord attached. Here comes wireless charging — an option on a growing list of vehicles — to save the day. Set your destination on your phone, throw it onto the charging pad and the car will wirelessly charge while navigating to your destination.

Transparent Trailer View as seen from a GMC Sierra pickup truck.

Transparent Trailer View. This bit of stage magic has been around for a couple of years, but it is becoming more common on light-duty trucks like the GMC Sierra. Though complicated to set up, the system uses multiple cameras on the vehicle to — poof! — make your trailer disappear on your center console screen so you can see the traffic behind you.

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

Payne: Riding along with my self-driving Tesla student driver

Posted by Talbot Payne on December 10, 2022

Detroit — I’ve put a STUDENT DRIVER sticker on my trunk. Not for me, it’s for the car.

My Tesla Model 3 has downloaded Full Self Driving, the Austin, Texas-based company’s ambitious beta software that enables its products to drive themselves on public roads. It’s a major upgrade over Autopilot, which pioneered self-driving features in production vehicles, but has been limited to driving in a linear direction and stopping at stoplights.

With FSD, my car makes all the decisions. Freaky, yes? Give it a destination (“Navigate to Eastern Market, Detroit”) and it will do the rest — a blue steering wheel graphic on the big console screen’s top left indicating it’s in control. It autonomously negotiates right-or-left turns at stoplights. Highway merges. Highway exits, cloverleafs, roundabouts, ess turns, traffic jams, Michigan turns. Oh, the Michigan turns are tough.

Because just like a 16-year old, my Tesla is a very cautious driver still learning the ways of the road.

Heading north on Telegraph Road, Tesla moves across two lanes — properly turning on its left turn signal — and enters a Michigan turn in order to U-turn south on Telegraph before taking an immediate right onto 12 Mile headed west toward my favorite Crispelli’s pizza joint on Orchard Lake. Like a hesitant student driver, it slows considerably into the designated Michigan turn lanes, trying to decide which of the two lanes to take. Cars behind us respectfully keep their distance as my student driver figures things out.

FSD chooses the left-hand lane and stops at the light. You know the drill: other cars come to a stop to our right, while others stack up behind me. When the light changes, the car rolls forward into southbound Telegraph with the intent of turning across all five lanes in order to reach 12 Mile. But the cars turning next to me impede my student’s route. The car slows to a crawl, the steering wheel twitching madly back and forth looking for an opening — and I take over so as not to impede traffic (or get rear-ended). Ah, never a dull moment.

For Tesla, autonomous driving is the Holy Grail and it has aggressively pursued that goal using owners like me as beta testers. “The overwhelming focus is on solving full self-driving,” CEO Elon Musk told the Tesla Owners of Silicon Valley club in June. “That’s essential. It’s really the difference between Tesla being worth a lot of money or worth basically zero.”

My student driver makes its decisions using data from eight external cameras, a forward radar and 12 ultrasonic sensors that is then crunched by a powerful onboard computer using software including neural networks, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and the global positioning system.

“Tesla could benefit from crowd-sourced mapping software as well,” observes Guidehouse Insights analyst and engineer Sam Abuelsamid, who came along for a ride with us one day. “That would help the GPS better locate and understand how to handle Michigan turns and complicated intersections.”

Like a training vehicle with two steering wheels, I can take over from my student any time.

The Tesla Model 3 will make right/left turns on its own with Full Self-Driving (FSD).

The pattern repeats itself at other Michigan turns. In Pontiac on Telegraph Road, the car inches out into the lanes before speeding up into the middle lane. At another it turns into the immediate left lane. On Woodward, it slows for a Michigan turn — then reconsiders and moves on to another. Negotiate the Orchard Lake and M-10 roundabout? Fuhgettaboutit.

In such instances, I take control. As the adult in the room — er, cabin — Tesla demands certain things from me. No taking smartphone videos from the driver’s seat. And if I ignore the car’s pleas to take over more than five times, I will be locked out of FSD.

It’s fascinating to experience, but as a Level 2 system (a truly autonomous car is Level 4) it requires constant vigilance. When Google introduced its autonomous marshmallow robot car in 2015 in Silicon Valley, I asked engineers how it co-existed with human drivers. “The Google car is a good driver, but it gets rear-ended a lot,” was the reply.

Michigan turns aside, Tesla FSD is pretty good at intersections. It evens turns right on red.

At Jefferson and Griswold, the Tesla picked the M-10 tunnel 2 out of 3 times.

It negotiates interstates, highways and two-lane roads adeptly just as I’ve experienced in Autopilot for four years. What’s new is the Model 3 will continue driving when it exits a divided highway — rather than returning control to the driver.

FSD is a stickler for highway rules. It always defaults to the speed limit, always defers to the right (or middle) lane on a highway, always passes on the left, always stops a few feet before a stop sign before inching forward. Textbook.

But being on the road with humans means having to anticipate human behavior, something with which robots (like 16-year olds) must learn. On the Lodge south to Detroit, Tesla moved left to pass a slower car. In the rearview mirror I noticed a pickup driver approaching at a high rate of knots. My student was oblivious — but my reaction would have been to speed up in order to clear the lane.

Detroit News auto columnist Henry Payne demonstrates the Full Self Driving mode on the Tesla Model 3, December 8, 2022.

Encountering three cars abreast, the pickup driver refused to slow but instead veered right and took the right median to pass all three of us at once. Yeesh.

Tesla introduced FSD beta to select customers in 2020 — employees, Tesla club presidents, investors — before slowly rolling it out to the public. In November, the company decided to offer it to anyone.

“You can see gradual progression with over-the-air updates over two years,” said Joel Szirtes of Royal Oak, an early Tesla adopter, who downloaded FSD in October, 2020. “Initially, the visualization graphics (on screen) were crude, and the car would tend to clip curbs on turns. Al of that has improved considerably.”

And it will continue to improve as student testers like mine send streams of data back to HQ where engineers will feed it to its neural network. Competitors are also getting better too with General Motors Co., for example, using similar systems but with different tools — crowd-sourced map updates, camera-monitored drivers — as they expand their systems to secondary roads.

The Full Self-Driving (FSD) Tesla stops at Slows-to-Go so Payne can pick up a Yardbird sandwich.

In addition to the original Google bot, I’ve ridden in Level 4 robotaxi services in Tempe (Waymo) and San Francisco (Cruise) which boast expensive, LIDAR and mapping tech that occupies the entire vehicle trunk. Tesla’s FSD does not compromise interior space with extra hardware, but neither its hardware as sophisticated.

On a trip to Eastern Market via M-10, Tesla negotiated the diabolical Lodge-to-I-94 exchange (crossing four lanes to exit onto I-75 South) with aplomb. The return route via Jefferson Avenue to M-10 back to Oakland County would not be as smooth.

Where Jefferson Avenue splits at Griswold — left into the tunnel under Huntington Place or right to stay on the surface towards the convention center entrance — my student driver chose the latter under the apparently mistaken impression it could drive straight through the convention center and continue to the Lodge freeway.

At Huntington Place’s front doors, Tesla realized its mistake and slowed to a stop at the sidewalk. It gave the steering wheel back to me, the blue wheel graphic disappearing from the screen. Intrigued by this miscalculation, I tried the exercise again — and the car correctly chose the tunnel in subsequent efforts.

The Full Self-Driving (FSD) software came like any Tesla OTA update.

Is it learning in real time? No, says autonomous expert Abuelsamid. It’s likely just seeing the split more clearly due to better lighting, or even its relationship to other cars. Neural networks are complicated beings.

So I’m letting my student driver drive. Most of the time. I’ll, ahem, do the driving through roundabouts and Michigan turns. Maybe after a few more OTA updates, I’ll be able to remove the STUDENT DRIVER sticker.

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