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Payne: Nimble Toyota GR86 gets more GRRRRR

Posted by Talbot Payne on May 5, 2022

Cave Creek, Arizona — The new Toyota 86 has been renamed GR86. That’s pronounced GREAT-6.

I took it to the flowing turns, blind hills and uphill straightaways of Cave Creek, 50 miles northeast of Phoenix. It’s a sports car’s natural habitat and the ideal place to explore the significant upgrades Gazoo Racing (thus the GR prefix) has made to fix the flaws of this wonderful, affordable toy:

1) A bigger, 2.4-liter Boxer-4 cylinder engine for more torque out of the twisties.

2) Stickier, wider tires for more cornering confidence.

3) Racier, upscale design to make the $100K sports car crowd jealous.

Just be sure to get it with a manual.

My tester came with a six-speed automatic and I ached for the stick every day I had the car on a weekend visit to the Grand Canyon state. Automatics have understandably taken over the market, given their ease of use. But in a Stradivarius like the GR86, you want to be able to tune it yourself — not sit back and watch the sheet music play. Especially now that Toyota (and its sister Subaru BRZ) have the formula right.

Gonna eat you up. The 2022 Toyota GR86's front fascia update is both more aggressive and more premium - evoking the 2023 Nissan Z.

I get to test lots of exotic sports cars — Porsche 911s, mid-engine Corvettes, Audi R8s — but there is nothing more satisfying than an entry-level sports car. It makes the joy of driving more accessible.

My young son coveted the original Toyota 86 (then called the Scion FR-S — remember Scion?) and its twin Subaru BRZ, when they were unveiled in 2014. He was so juiced that when a tester arrived in my Oakland County driveway in 2014, he jumped on a Southwest flight from Chicago to come see.

Low-slung, 200-horsepower, practical 2+2 seating, stick shift, rear-wheel drive. Alas, his balloon deflated when he stomped the gas pedal. The engine groaned, peak torque didn’t come until sundown, and — worse — it paled next to the high-revving, 197-horse 2006 VTEC Civic Si that we still had in the driveway. Sigh.

As the sage says, never buy a first-generation car. Wait until gen-2. This time, Subaru and Toyota nailed it.

The new 2.4-liter, flat-4 cylinder in the 2022 Toyota GR86 pumps out  228 horsepower, 184 pound-feet of torque - a significant improvement over the first-gen model's 2.0-liter engine.

All credit to Subaru, of course, which is the engineering lead on the Toyobaru. They swapped out the 2.0-liter flat-4 for a 2.4-liter flat-4. That means a healthy gain in power (228 ponies) but more importantly, a 33 pound-feet torque boost to 184. That’s nearly on par with the Civic Si’s 192.

Reaching for the steering-wheel shift paddles to get my manual fix, I rowed the box in TRACK mode between 2nd and 3rd gears through Cave Creek’s twisties — taking advantage of GR86’s fatter torque curve, which arrives at a usable 3,700 rpm (vs. 6,600 RPM in the old car). Gazoo’s chefs have also sweetened the exhaust sound and I wound the flat-4 all the way to 7-grand.

Save the manual. The 2022 Toyota GR86 comes in both manual and automatic transmission options.

The bigger flat-4 cylinder means GR86 loses none of its road-hugging goodness — the Toyobaru has one of the lowest center-of-gravity measurements in the industry as well as one of the lightest bods (2,833 pounds in Premium trim). Just for good measure, engineers also fortified the skeleton with high-strength steel, front cross members, a full-ring rear frame. My Premium edition was also shod with sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 4 shoes — a step up from the base Michelin Primacy H/P tires.

Let me recommend the $2,600 walk from the base GR86 to the $31,325 Premium model with those Sport 4 gummies wrapped around black 18-inch wheels and other goodies like heated leather seats, blind-spot assist and a Supra-like duckbill tail.

Upgrade to the $31K Premium model and the 2022 Toyota GR86 gets 18-inch wheels and sticky Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires.

The latter is testament to the GR86’s significantly more mature look. Squint your eyes and it looks like the 2023 Nissan Z. And that’s saying something for a Toyota brand that can be hit or miss on design these days (seen a Prius lately?). GR86’s design is sleek, minimalist, timeless. It’s the looker of the Toyobaru twins.

“That’s an attractive car,” said Mrs. Payne, picking our GR86 out in a crowded parking lot. She’s not prone to gush. Leave that to me. From the aggressive front to the dramatic rocker panels to the rear duckbill, GR86 has looks to match its athleticism.

Dressed in killer red, the low-slung roller-skate got a lot of stares around Phoenix — a notorious cars ‘n’ coffee town. It also attracted challengers. An all-wheel-drive Tesla Model Y sidled up at a stoplight. Oh, I knew that wouldn’t go well.

I took the bait, stomped the pedal and rowed the oars for all they were worth. The Tesla disappeared into the distance.

The manual would have done a bit better. Toyota says the automatic is a half-second slower 0-60 mph. Sudden acceleration also exposes the auto’s biggest flaw: poor tip-in. I tested the GR86 right after a silky-smooth, six-speed automatic Mazda CX-30 (Mazda engineers are obsessive about this stuff) and GR86 felt like a bucking bronco by comparison.

The automatic’s biggest benefit is adaptive cruise control — which I use a lot in cop magnets like GR86 to keep my speeds at the posted limit. But I’d still opt for the manual — especially since Toyota equips it with a handbrake. Oh, joy.

The tandem are nicely paired in the center console of a redrawn interior. It’s spartan, but everything is in its place — except the curious decision to locate the cupholders inside the butterfly console bin. This is also where the USB is located for wired, Android Auto navigation.

The 6-speed manual, 2022 Toyota GR86 is the better driver's car - but only the automatic (pictured) comes with adaptive cruise control (lower right stalk) and steering wheel-mounted shift paddles.

Happily, door cupholders are within easy reach so I could navigate and slurp Snapple at the same time. Aft of the front seats, Toyobaru offers a rear bench too small for adults, but — like the 911’s 2+2 arrangement — they make welcome cargo space. Picking up Mrs. Payne at the airport, I stuffed her full-size bag and a second carry-on in the boot — then threw my carry-on and briefcase in the rear seats. Try that in an MX-5 Miata.

Miata is the class icon, but now that Gazoo has fixed the 86, it is the better all-around car with storage, room and looks to match its performance. Toyota offers a complimentary one-year track membership to the National Auto Sport Association so you can test the limits.

Preferably with a manual.

2022 Toyota GR86

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

Price: $28,725, including $1,025 destination fee ($33,250 as tested)

Powerplant: 2.4-liter Boxer-4 cylinder

Power: 228 horsepower, 184 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: six-speed manual; six-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph 6.1-6.6 sec. (mfr.); top speed, 140 mph

Weight: 2,868 pounds (automatic as tested)

Fuel economy: EPA est. 20 mpg city/27 highway/22 combined (manual); 21 mpg city/ 31 highway/ 25 combined (auto)

Report card

Highs: Affordable performance; decent storage for a sports car

Lows: Adaptive cruise only comes in the automatic; get the manual, not the auto

Overall: 4 stars

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

What’s it like to drive and charge an EV in Michigan? Owners tell all

Posted by Talbot Payne on May 5, 2022

Detroit — Tyler Van Houten loved the acceleration, Yasmin Ponce wanted to save gas, and Jordan Khala’s 10-year-old said electric vehicles are da bomb.

EVs are the new, new thing in the automotive landscape, and Michigan residents are plugging into the growing market. Tesla made EVs cool a decade ago with neck-snapping acceleration and state-of-the-art electronics. Now, as other manufacturers try to recreate the Silicon Valley automaker’s success with their own battery-powered models, Michigan first adopters are branching out to their favorite brands and integrating EVs into their lifestyle.

“Driving a gas car feels clunky now," says Tyler Van Housen. "They’re slow to accelerate by comparison, and the EV is just a better driving experience."

EV adoption comes against the backdrop of historic government regulation of the auto industry as the EPA for the first time dictates the drivetrain technology automakers must use. But to these Michiganians, EVs offer a fresh take on personal transportation that’s been dominated for more than a century by the internal combustion engine.

The Detroit News drove across southeast Michigan talking with owners of Teslas, Mach-Es, ID.4s, Polestars, Bolts. From moms to motorheads and from Gen Y to Boomers, they shared why they went EV, how much it costs to charge, and whether they’ll ever go back to ICE.

“I love it. It’s everything I was looking for in an EV,” said Ford Mustang Mach-E owner Tyler Van Houten, 28, of Grand Rapids. “Driving a gas car feels clunky now. They’re slow to accelerate by comparison, and the EV is just a better driving experience. The best part of an EV is not having to visit a gas station.”

He does have to visit charging stations, though, like the Electrify America fast-charger in Novi when he is on the road. A mortgage loan officer, he was in town for a class and the EA charger in Walmart’s parking lot was the most convenient way to slake his steed’s thirst. His standard-range, 211-mile battery can charge from 10% to 80% in about 40 minutes after which the charging rate slows to a trickle.

“Filling up an EV is like filling a beer glass,” EV wags will tell you. It gets real slow at the end. Van Houten was the only EV at EA’s four stalls at 4:50 p.m. on a Friday but was soon joined by others leaving work for a quick charge. Typical of the Novi station, one of the stalls was out of order, frustrating drivers.

Van Houten has put a lot of miles on his ‘Stang over the last year, including road trips to St. Louis and Nashville. He initially looked at buying a Tesla, which has dominated EV sales with about 70% of the market in 2021, according to Cox Automotive. At 3% of market share, EVs are a small percentage of U.S. sales — 42% of those in California, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

With the $7,500 federal tax credit capped at 200,000 in sales, Tesla buyers long ago lost access to the full credit. But with Ford EV sales in their infancy, Van Houten got the full $7,500 off his $51K sticker price. A past owner of an Explorer SUV, he also trusts the Ford brand.

“I thought the Mach-E had better build quality. Ford is a car company, not a tech company making a car,” he said. “I also felt Tesla’s dealer network was limited and I would get better service with the Mach-E.”

To feed the pony at his house, he installed a 240-volt (Level 2) charger for cheap fill-ups of about 17 cents per kWh. That number jumps to 43 cents a kWh at EA stations, America’s most robust, non-Tesla (Level 3) fast charger network. With a $4-a-month subscription, Van Houten’s rate drops to 31 cents.

Van Houten has found fast chargers difficult to come by on road trips. Without a proprietary network like Tesla, he struggled to charge at third-party chargers on his Grand Rapids-to-St. Louis trip. An EVGo charger was out of order, and he had to rely on a 240-volt charger to get enough juice to limp into the next EA station — resulting in long delays. All told, his trip from Grand Rapids to St. Louis — a 7-hour trip in a gas-fired chariot — took him 11 hours.

Most owners we talked with used their EVs for local commutes.

Yasmin Ponce went electric because she was tired of paying to gas up her thirsty pickup truck.

Yasmin Ponce, 32, of Royal Oak drives an electric Volkswagen ID.4 and puts a lot of miles on the odometer taking care of her family, including boys ages 3 and 6, across Metro Detroit. She’s already logged 8,000 miles since she bought the SUV last October.

Filling a V-8-powered Ram 1500 pickup with $3.30 a gallon gas at the time had put a dent in her purse. VW gives her two years of free charging at Electrify America stations — and she frequently charges at one of four stalls managed by Chargepoint next to Beacon Park in Detroit, the closest fast chargers to her Royal Oak apartment.

Yasmin Ponce gets ready to open an app on her phone to pay for charging her electric Volkswagen in Troy.

“High gas prices sold me on going electric,” she said at Beacon Park after paying $7.02 for 84 miles of range after 32 minutes of charging — about half the cost of fueling the Ram to go that distance. Chargepoint bills 20 cents a minute.

Like Van Houten, she liked the sleek lines of the Mustang Mach-E. But when she went shopping at Carvana, Ford shelves were empty. So she opted for a rear-wheel-drive, $46K ID.4 instead. The full $7,500 tax credit also was easy on her purse.

 “I like that I can close the ID.4’s panoramic roof — unlike some other EVs — so that my boys can sleep in the back,” she said as her kids dozed behind her. “And I love the massage chairs.”

Apartment living is particularly challenging for EV ownership compared with homes where buyers can install 240-volt chargers. But for Ponce, the time spent charging at Beacon Park is welcome. “It fits in my day, and I take advantage of it for self-care as well,” she said with a smile. “I also meet people when there are events at the park, so there’s a sense of community.”

On a cold, snowy Monday afternoon in mid-April, she is the only Beacon Park user. EV owners are more likely to be found at indoor, Detroit parking lot chargers while working at, say, a Bedrock property.

It’s different in southeast Michigan’s more affluent suburbs where most EV owners live and where fast chargers are more plentiful.

At Tesla’s Livonia supercharger at I-96 and Middlebelt in Meijer’s parking lot, Jordan Khala, 41, charged his all-wheel-drive 2022 Tesla Model 3 Long Range to the 360-mile maximum. Five of the nine chargers are occupied at 1:30 p.m., snow accumulating on Tesla hoods.

Jordan Khala of Canton charges his Tesla Model 3 in Livonia. The financial adviser stops there twice a week to obtain the range needed to visit clients.

It’s part of Khala’s routine. A financial adviser, he stops here twice a week for electrons before visiting clients around the Metro area. In addition to its cutting-edge technology — over-the-air-updates, Autopilot, Ludicrous acceleration — Tesla’s secret sauce is its vast charging network.  Cars not only sync to it for trips — but at cheaper electric rates, too. Superchargers bill by the kWh, with rates anywhere from 12-to-33 cents around Michigan. A 250-mile fast charge over 50 minutes will typically cost about a third of the cost to fuel a comparable gas car.

Khala likes cars, and his 10-year-old son really likes Teslas.

“My 10-year-old said I had to get a Tesla,” he said, laughing. “He researched the Model 3, all the features. He really convinced me. So I rented one from Hertz for a week, and then ordered one. I like Autopilot — my son, of course, likes the whoopie cushion feature.”

Jordan Khala uses his Tesla Model 3 around Metro Detroit but keeps a gas-powered car for longer journeys.

He sold his Mercedes S-Class sedan, but still keeps a Ford Expedition XL for road trips. “The range of EVs is still too low for long trips,” he said. “So for now, I still have feet in both the EV and ICE camps.”

He hopes to install his own 240-volt charger at home so he can charge overnight, but — like so many goods these days amid supply chain issues — Tesla chargers are out of stock.

Tesla owners Sam Crudo and Ian Presses are going back to ICE.

Not because they haven’t enjoyed their EVs, but because other cars make more sense to them. Crudo, 60, of Shelby Township, is trading in his 2018 Model X SUV for a gas-fueled Lincoln Aviator.

“For now, EVs are metro cars,” he said. “The Tesla advertises 300 miles, but I have a heavy right foot and it doesn’t get that. When I travel up north, I don’t want to stop for 45 minutes each way to recharge. I want to fill up for gas in three minutes.”

He and his wife use her Ford Edge for long trips and have left the Tesla in the garage. She’s intrigued by the Mustang Mach-E but can’t make sense of the long-range charging issue, either.

Presses, 68, of Bloomfield Hills likes to get a new performance car every few years, and it’s time to give up his Model 3 Performance. Model 3s haven’t changed much since he bought his four years ago, and most new EVs are SUVs or pickup trucks like the Model Y and Mach-E or the GMC Hummer and Rivian R1T.

“Like in the movie ‘Casablanca,’ I’ll round up the usual suspects,” he smiled about the petrol-powered toys on his shortlist. “The Audi RS5, BMW M4, Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio. Maybe a Porsche 718 Cayman.”

He hasn’t given up on EVs. The Tesla has cost him almost nothing to operate save the cost of a home charger, where he plugs in every night. But he was concerned about a battery-powered car whose general maintenance warranty expires after four years, and he’s been unimpressed by Tesla’s service. “They need to beef up the service with better human support,” he said.

Volvo’s electric brand, Polestar, produces a sleek sedan that is the closest competitor to the Model 3. The Polestar 2 caught the eye of Farmington Hills designer Alex Alexanian, 47.

While it doesn’t have the gob-smacking performance that Presses craves, the Polestar isn’t obsessed with interior minimalism like Tesla.

Alex Alexanian charges his Polestar 2 EV at an Electrify America station in Novi.

“I’m a big proponent of electrification. I’ve been waiting a long time for the right vehicles,” Alexanian said while his EV charged up at Electrify America’s Novi supercharger. “I test-drove the Polestar. The dealer had the specs I wanted. And it has the right kind of physical interface — it’s minimalist but with less reliance on the touchscreen than the Tesla.”

He’s been frustrated in getting a home charger — one electrician quoted him an outrageous $5,000 for installation. In the meantime, he’s dependent on Electrify America’s nearby Novi charger and other local stations to call on his metro clients. Like Ponce’s VW, Polestar gives Alexanian two years of free charging at Electrify America.

It’s a chance to spend time with his 11-year-old daughter, Maven, who thinks Dad’s new car is cool. “She likes it when I accelerate fast,” he said. “And she likes electric cars — she’s into the whole eco thing.”

Alex Alexanian uses charging visits to spend time with his 11-year-old daughter. But for road trips, he drives a Toyota Sienna minivan: "Range anxiety is real," he says.

When his family hits the road, however, they take a Toyota Sienna Hybrid minivan. “Range anxiety is real,” he said. “I just use the Polestar around town.”

Alex Janowski, 28, of Sterling Heights is restoring a 1998 Chevy S-10 pickup and keeps a 2011 Chevy Malibu for long trips to, say, the Upper Peninsula. But he’s found his ideal daily driver: a Chevy Bolt EV.

A metal trades worker for General Motors in Warren, he charges for free at work every day on a 240-volt charger. That adds up to a whopping $200 in fuel savings a month.

“I don’t have to pay for gas, I don’t have to pay for oil changes,” he said. “I like to work on cars, but it’s kind of nice not to have to work on my daily driver. My next car will definitely be another EV.”

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

Payne: Doin’ donuts in The D in the Mustang Mach-E GT

Posted by Talbot Payne on May 4, 2022

Pontiac — I like Skittle-colored Mustangs. Red, blue, orange, yellow. Especially yellow. The bright color turns heads on Woodward Avenue, accentuates the muscular hips, stands out against the snow.

Snow? What kind of Mustangs like to be driven in snow?

The all-wheel-drive, all-electric, 600-torque, Mach-E kind. After a snowy, wintry day in southeast Michigan, I jumped in and headed for the nearest parking lot to do donuts. You’re never too old to feed your inner 16-year-old, and let’s be honest, we’ve all wanted to do Mustang donuts in rear-wheel-drive, V8-powered GT coupes since we got our driver’s license.

With AWD and all-season tires, the 2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E GT is a four-season performance ute.

But on dry pavement, not snow. Not that I haven’t tried. I took a ferocious, green Bullitt V-8 out in a Detroit blizzard (do we have global warming yet?) a few years back and it wasn’t pleasant. Rear-wheel-drive, 480-horsepower and snowdrifts don’t play well together. I struggled to make it up grades, rear tires squirming, traction-control straining, heart beating.

When I found my favorite snowy parking lot, the pony car was hard to control. The rear slewed on cue, but the front tires didn’t bite. And if I had drifted into a snow drift? Heaven help me getting out. Not so my AWD yellow GT tester.

Seasonal weather is what performance SUVs are born for. A fellow motorhead bought a rear-wheel-drive, 505-horse twin-turbo V-6 Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio hellion a few years ago — arguably the best-handling sedan on the planet — and traded it in a year later. Why, you ask? Because it was a fair-weather car. He bought a ferocious, AWD 505-horse twin-turbo V-6 Alfa Stelvio Quadrifoglio SUV instead so he could drive it year ’round.

I charged up to Pontiac in the Mach-E GT, its AWD system churning happily through snow and slush. Electric motors, as I’ve found on my Tesla Model 3, are efficient at handling slip and Mach-E was no different. Which is a good thing because the GT has gobs of grunt.

Like Tesla, the 2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E GT has a big frunk for added cargo.

Arriving at a snowy parking lot, I buried the throttle and the ute spun like a top — all four corners spinning. With ground clearance to spare, I never bogged down in snowdrifts like the low, mean Mustang coupe.

Not that the Mach-E GT doesn’t look mean.

After having my fun in the snow, I got out and admired the stallion’s muscled lines. Is there a better-looking SUV? Signature Mustang taillights, coupe-like roof, muscular haunches, bowed rocker panels, phone-dial wheels, and capping it off — a wicked black face.

I know, I know, it’s just a plastic shield — an echo of the functional grilles that adorn its internal-combustion-engine brethren. But it works as a heritage piece so much better than the old plastic grilles on Tesla Model S sedans which, well — had no ICE heritage. Heritage matters, and that’s why the Mach-E is the best EV out there not named Tesla.

The 2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E GT comes equipped with a leather interior and yellow stitching.

Where the Tesla brings authentic, shocking, electric performance to the table, Mach-E GT also knows exactly what it is: a pony car-inspired ute with brute power.

Embracing electrification, Mach-E puts more torque through its four claws than even an AWD F-150 Raptor. The power is slightly dulled by its sheer, battery-laden bulk — a porky 4,962 pounds. Floor the gas pedal (we need a new name. Juice pedal anyone?) on asphalt and the GT is not nearly as explosive as my 4,072-pound Model 3 Performance. Model 3 hits 60 in an eyeball-flattening 2.9 seconds, while the Mach-E takes another three-quarters of a second to get there.

No shame in that. It’s similar to the Model 3’s taller Model Y Performance SUV sibling, which has inherently worse aerodynamics and more pounds to carry. But once the ‘Stang EV is up to speed it is noticeably better than the Tesla at managing that weight.

A product of years of Mustang engineering, Mach-E GT is sharp and predictable at the limit where the Tesla feels numb and uncertain. That’s confidence-inducing in a sled this size. More precision is on tap in the summer months if you opt for Ford’s sticky Pirelli tires, but this being winter, all-seasons are preferred.

For the winter months, the Mach-E GT is best shod in all-seasons.

My speed-addled pal Rick, who has had a few muscle cars in his time, was also impressed by the GT’s looks, feel and interior moxie. Ford tore up the Mustang rulebook in the cabin — with good results: Mach-E GT brings Mustang heritage outside, sci-fi modern inside.

Rick’s biggest beef was the car’s girth.

That number contributes to his greatest worry: range. The GT has just 270 miles of it, and a sparse charging network if you want to leave Metro Detroit. He’ll stick with 3,700-pound, 288-mile-of-gas-range Mustang GT coupes, thank you very much.

The 2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E GT is excellent for Metro Detroit commuting. Just be sure to install a 240-volt charger in your garage.

But as a metro commuter, Mach-E GT is in its element, assuming you’ve installed a 240-volt charger in your garage.

I have two — one proprietary charger for my Tesla and another for other EVs I test (about a $3,400 total investment). After charging around Metro Detroit’s snowy tundra, I filled the ‘Stang from 84 miles of range back up to 229 overnight (the recommended 80% of capacity).

Mach-E GT boasts a clean-sheet interior design -- a dramatic departure from its Mustang coupe-inspired exterior.

While Ford has tended to its heritage on the outside, it had the good sense to go with a minimalist, clean-sheet design inside. The interior is dominated by the 15.5-inch vertical console screen. A small information display is tucked behind the steering wheel.

Though Mach-E is inferior to Tesla in charging infrastructure, it one-ups the Silicon Valley maker with a more solid build, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto — meaning the GT seamlessly integrates your phone’s Google navi when you slip into the car. Google Maps can’t chart a long distance journey using the nearest Electric America chargers — whereas Tesla Autopilot has your back. But, ahem, surely Google is working on that?

Big screen, big presence, big yellow car. Like the ol’ Mustang Coupe, the Mach-E GT looks good in a loud wardrobe. All that’s missing is the loud exhaust note.

Under the cane in Unbridled mode, the GT pipes in a low, electronic gurgle. It’s OK, but there’s got to be more up Ford’s sleeve. May I suggest a deafening, 100-decibel gas engine-like soundtrack? Call it V-8 mode.

2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E GT

Vehicle type: Battery-powered, all-wheel-drive four-door SUV

Price: $61,00, including $1,100 destination charge ($63,885 as tested)

Powerplant: 88-kWh lithium-ion battery driving twin electric motors

Power: 480 horsepower, 600 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: Single-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 3.8 seconds (mfr.); top speed, 124 mph

Weight: GT: 4,962 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA est. range, 270 miles

Report card

Highs: All-season performance; good looks

Lows: Heavy; louder, please

Overall: 4 stars

These are Michigan’s most-stolen vehicles. See if yours made the list

Posted by Talbot Payne on April 27, 2022

If you’ve got a Dodge Charger, you may want to keep a close eye on it.

The Charger takes the dubious prize as first among the Top 10 Most Stolen Cars in Michigan, according to the latest crime data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ford F-150 are the second and third most-snatched. Detroit Three models dominated the list, with Chevy the most-stolen brand with five models in the Top 10.

The Dodge Charger was Michigan's most-stolen car in 2020.

Nationally, a car is stolen every 36 seconds with the F-150, Chevrolet Silverado and Honda Civic topping the charts. The statistics are compiled by the NICB in their annual “Hot Wheels” report with the latest data coming from 2020. Chargers were picked 755 times in Michigan with 583 Grand Cherokees stolen and 569 F-150 pickups.

“Auto thefts saw a dramatic increase in 2020 versus 2019 in part due to the pandemic, an economic downturn, law enforcement realignment, depleted social and schooling programs, and, in still too many cases, owner complacency,” said NICB president David Glawe. “No matter what kind of vehicle you have, take steps to protect your investment — lock your car and take your keys.”

The Jeep Grand Cherokee was a favorite target of auto thieves in Michigan in 2020.

Dodge’s Charger sedan and sister Challenger coupe have been red-hot properties in recent years as the “Brotherhood of Muscle” has seen strong sales in a muscle car-friendly market.

“Hellcat cars are particularly popular due to the high price of many key components, but Scat Pack, R/T and V-6 models are key targets of car thieves in several metropolitan areas around the country (including) Metro Detroit,” says the Dodge Forum, which also attributes high theft rates to the fact that the Charger does not have a steering lock system, making rollaway thefts easier.

The Ford F-150 is not just the best-selling vehicle in the country — driving demand for parts — but chip shortages are likely to continue to make the pickup a thief magnet, say experts.

The Ford F-150 was the top target of thieves nationwide in 2020 and the third-most stolen vehicle in Michigan.

Rounding out Michigan’s most-stolen vehicles are:

4. Chevrolet Malibu (562)

5. Chevrolet Silverado (558)

6. Ford Fusion (526)

7. Chevrolet Impala (514)

8. Chevrolet Equinox (407)

9. Chevrolet Trailblazer (381)

10. Ford Escape (356)

Michigan ranked 37th nationally with a theft rate of 192 thefts per 100,000 residents. Colorado led all states with a theft rate of 502, followed by California’s 475. In raw numbers of vehicles stolen, California lad by a big margin (187,094) over Texas (93,521) and Florida (44,940). Michigan ranked 13th in total thefts with 19,105.

Nationally, 4 of the 10 most stolen vehicles were Detroit Three pickup trucks, while Japanese sedans took the other top slots. The Ford F-150 topped the national list for the second year with 44,014 thefts, while the Civic was the most snatched sedan with 34,144 units gone missing.

The nation's most-stolen sedan in 2020? The Honda Civic.

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

Move over, little red Corvette: Chevy’s electrifying its iconic sports car

Posted by Talbot Payne on April 27, 2022

General Motors Co. is electrifying its most iconic sports car, the Chevrolet Corvette, with plans for an electrified version followed by a fully electric model.

President Mark Reuss announced the news Monday in a LinkedIn post that GM “some time ago” moved the Corvette team into the electric vehicle space at the automaker’s Warren tech campus. The electrified version will be offered as early as next year, Reuss said. Names and additional details on the products will be released later, he added.

GM revealed its coming electric products a day before crosstown rival Ford Motor Co. is set to celebrate the launch of its electric F-150 Lightning on Tuesday, the same day GM releases its first-quarter earnings. Both automakers are investing billions to transition their fleets for an electric future and prove to Wall Street they have what it takes to compete with EV leader Tesla.

Electrifying the Corvette will mean not just being as good as the current gas-powered versions but better to attract sports car and EV enthusiasts alike, experts say. Chevrolet will look to win over new customers, and experts think these variants have that potential.

“This is definitely going to refresh Corvette’s image,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights for Inc., a vehicle information website. “For a long time, it kind of has had an image of the more middle-age crisis type of vehicle.”

The Tesla Model S has shown “there is a bit of demand for a sleek, cool electric sports car,” Caldwell said.

An electrified Corvette will add to Chevrolet’s electric Silverado pickup, arriving next spring, and the Bolt EV and Bolt EUV, which are both back on the market after a mass recall of the products for battery fire risk. GM has also said it will offer electric Blazer and Equinox SUVs in 2023.

The model is named after Zora Arkus-Duntov, the legendary “godfather of the Corvette” who developed the first mid-engine Corvette prototype in 1960. The News reported the Zora version would come after the recently debuted 2023 Z06 and future ZR1 variants.

The coming, all-wheel-drive hybrid Corvette - likely named E-Ray - will be the second performance variant of the C8 Corvette. The first is the 2023 Chevy Corvette ZO6 (pictured) with a 670-horse, normally-aspirated V8.

Since then, a fourth performance variant has been reported, called the E-Ray, that would follow the Z06 in 2023, slotting between the Z06 and ZR1. Traditionally, that model has been called the Grand Sport — a sort of cross between the standard Corvette and the track-focused Z06. Given the E-Ray’s ambitions as the first hybrid, all-wheel-drive Corvette, however, it gained a new name for the C8-generation car.

GM filed two trademarks applications to register “E-Ray” and “Corvette E-Ray” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2015.

The electrified Corvette that Reuss referenced appears to be the E-Ray, which would follow on the Z06’s heels next year. GM AuthorityMuscle Cars & TrucksMotor Trend and numerous spy shot photos have reported the hybrid will mate a front motor to the same 6.2-liter, LT2 V-8 engine as found in the standard C8 Stingray. The combined horsepower of the engine and electric motor is expected to top 600 horsepower — well north of the base Stingray’s 495 horses.

The E-Ray will be the first AWD Corvette — similar in operation to the Acura brand’s mid-engine Acura NSX hybrid supercar. Introduced in 2016, the $171,495 NSX will be discontinued after this year. Expect the E-Ray to be less expensive.

“Where I get concerned about performance on a performance car is when you start making them weigh more,” said Karl Brauer, executive analyst for, a vehicle search site. “We saw in the NSX lot of this same philosophy that we’re about to see in the Corvette. And the NSX had very good numbers in terms of acceleration and track lap times, but it’s also a heavy vehicle. It’s still not pulling lap times like Porsche 911 GT3s.”

The Corvette’s mid-engine layout allows for the addition of an electric motor in front to drive the front wheels. When The News broke news of a mid-engine Corvette in 2016, sources said electrification was a key factor in moving the engine rearward so the sports car could take advantage of rapidly evolving hybrid-electric capabilities found in European supercars. The hybrid, mid-engine Ferrari SF90 Stradale, for example, makes 986 horsepower.

Beyond the current, C8 generation ‘Vette, rumors have swirled of an Ultium-based Corvette for some time. The 800-volt battery platform is used across many GM brands, from the 2022 GMC Hummer EV to the forthcoming 2023 Cadillac Lyriq. The Hummer launches from 0-60 mph in just 3.0 seconds (on par with the V8-powered Corvette Stingray ), so the Corvette EV’s acceleration should be staggering.

President Joe Biden has made repeated references to an electric Corvette after meetings with GM brass over the past two years.

“I’ve got a commitment from (GM CEO Mary Barra), when they make the first electric Corvette, I get to drive it,” Biden said last year. “You think I’m kidding, I’m not kidding.”

Chevrolet released a 30-second teaser video that appears to show a prototype of the “electrified” — read hybrid — Corvette that Reuss referenced in his LinkedIn post.

“We’ll outline the specifics on the level of electrification as we get closer to reveal,” Chevrolet spokesman Kevin Kelly said.

The video’s audio is a cryptic combination of a camouflaged sports car in snow and music overlay — but it appears to show a silent launch of a mid-engine Corvette consistent with a hybrid V8-powered car that can be operated in battery-only mode for up to 25-30 mph.

All four wheels are clearly spinning at launch, indicating all-wheel-drive with an electric motor in front driving the front tires. Also of note are the lime green brake calipers similar to how Porsche outfits the brakes on its hybrid vehicles.

Out back, four exhaust pipes — consistent with the current C8 Stingray’s four outboard-mounted, square exhaust tips — are clearly present. The car performs an extreme slide on snow consistent with the dexterity of an AWD system.

Crosstown rival Ford Motor Co. released the electrified version of its Mustang, the Mach-E, in late 2020. The vehicle has performed so well for the Dearborn automaker that its increasing production capacity for it.

Ford in December 2021 said it will use its entire Cuautitlan plant in Mexico for production of Mach-E. The company plans to increase production of Mach-E there starting in 2022 and expects to reach 200,000 units per year by 2023 for North America and Europe.

Ford last year posted its best-ever sales for full electric vehicles, second only to Tesla for 2021 with Mach-E sales coming in at 27,140.

Kalea Hall  Henry Payne

The Detroit News

Payne: Smooth, comfy bZ4X is an EV for the Toyota faithful

Posted by Talbot Payne on April 21, 2022

Encinitas, California — Toyota pioneered the green auto segment 20 years ago with its egg-shaped Prius, expanding its customer base from Camry shoppers, Tacoma off-roaders and Supra speedsters to include hybrid tree-huggers.

These loyal green customers then watched over the last decade as Tesla stole Toyota’s green eco-mantle with the all-electric Model 3 and Model Y.

The faithful have finally been rewarded with the all-new 2023 Toyota bZ4X, the first all-electric Toyota built on a skateboard chassis. Just like a Tesla, but Toyota-fied.

Stepping on the gas (electric?) pedal, I surged out of a stoplight on Carlsbad Highway north of San Diego, leaving traffic behind. Tesla made macho acceleration an EV trademark — contrary to the snail-like Pious — and the bZ4X doesn’t disappoint. Liquid smooth and quiet as a beach breeze, the SUV is pleasant to drive around town devoid of a droning CVT transmission or gutteral V-6. Toggle the regen button (conveniently located right next to the rotary shifter) and you can one-pedal drive. Just like a Tesla.

The 2023 bZ4X EV shares the rear headlight design with other Toyotas like the Camry. The long wheelbase gives it more interior room than a RAV4.

But the top-drawer, Michigan-friendly all-wheel-driver’s 214 horsepower pales next to the AWD Model Y’s neck-snapping 384 ponies — good for 4.4 seconds 0-60. My Toyota arrives two seconds later.

That puts it at the back of the pack of Model Y pretenders (Tesla dominates the EV market with some 70% of sales) that have flooded the market, including the Subaru Solterra (which shares the bZ4X’s skateboard platform), Volkswagen ID.4, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6, Volvo C40 and my favorite, Ford’s Mustang Mach-E.

The battery skateboard chassis of the 2023 Toyota bZ4X EV carries a 355-volt battery platform for slower charging than some EV peers.

Like the Camry sedan and RAV4 SUV, bZ4X’s game plan revolves around reliability and room. Vroom? Not so much. Unlike some automakers that have set dates for their all-EV future, Toyota recognizes EVs are a niche for now. You want thrills? Check out the all-new gas-fired GR86 sports car and twin-turbo V6 Tundra — also released this year.

Like its stablemates, bZ4X will turn you head. Borrowing design cues from an alphabet soup of sources — fascia from the Model X, flanks from Lexus NX, fender classing from RAV4, taillights from Prius — it poses a coherent, premium design statement. And that’s a good thing since bZ4X starts at $42K (on par with ID.4, Ioniq 5 and Co.), well north of a RAV4 hybrid.

Less appealing is its alphabet soup of a name: bZ4X. No worries, I speak Alphanumeric.

Translation: BZ is short for Beyond Zero (important to its righteous image, but a dubious claim of zero emissions since the SUV’s battery is mined from the world’s lithium deposits, then charged via America’s fossil-fuel-fired energy grid). Then things get really obtuse. The 4 stands for midsize vehicle (3 is for compact, 2 for subcompact, and so on). And X is for crossover.

Toyota turned RAV4 (Translation: Recreational Active Vehicle with 4-wheel-drive) into a winner, so who am I to judge?

The unique interior of the 2023 Toyota bZ4X EV offers a cloth dash, deep console, and awkward steering position.

A bigger issue is bZ4X’s mixed bag of tech beneath an appealing interior design package. I ogled the center console’s striking tidal wave of black trim cresting in a broad 12.3-inch screen, then barked: “Hey, Toyota! Take me to Boulders Resort, Scottsdale, Arizona.”


The Tesla would have understood my Southern accent, mapped the 504 miles to destination, and included charging stops on the way complete with restaurants and shops where Mrs. Payne and I could graze while the car slurped electrons. Not the Toyota.

I turned to the trusty touchscreen keypad and located Boulders, but my e-guide hadn’t a clue where fast chargers could be found along the way. Finding fueling stations is my job, apparently.

Toyota says that charging station updates are scheduled for future over-the-air updates (another Tesla innovation), but it will be tough sell to California greens desperate for something different than the six Teslas on their block. Toyota knows its target audience; six-figure households with a multi-car garage that have a Nowhere-Near-Zero Land Cruiser for when family road trips are required.

While competitors like Ioniq 5 boast quick-charging 800-volt platforms, Toyota has settled for a 355-volt platform that will fast-charge from 10-80% in a leisurely 60 minutes. Range puts it in the low end of the segment with 228 miles for my AWD XLE tester. That’s better than a standard-battery, AWD Mustang Mach-E’s 211 miles, but shy of an AWD Model Y’s 330 miles and 256 miles for a comparable Hyundai Ioniq 5. Don’t even think about towing something behind the Toyota.

The cockpit of the 2023 Toyota bZ4X EV shows off the recessed, hoodless instrument panel and large center screen.

Like Mach-E, bZ4X features a clever recessed, unshrouded instrument display behind the steering wheel because EVs don’t need big displays with RPM dials. Essentials like mph, speed limit, adaptive cruise indicator and auto high beams (the Toyota is typically loaded with standard safety features) are displayed in what is essentially a non-reflecting head-up display.

Unfortunately, it is, um, obstructed by the steering wheel. I had to lower the wheel into my lap, which compromised aggressive driving maneuvers. Again, Toyota knows its buyers: this is city cruiser, not a corner carver.

A panoramic roof comes standard in the 2023 Toyota bZ4X EV.

Ergonomic tics aside, the cabin is as comfortable as your sun porch.

Letting the sunshine in is a premium panoramic roof, a standard item that Tesla made a signature of the SUV class. Under the glass dome is a palatial rear-seat couch with Land Cruiser-like 47.1 inches of legroom — 10 more inches than a RAV4. My giraffe legs loved it, and they dig the heated rear seat option, too. Not to be left out, front passengers get heated/cooled seats — and a special space heater (like your sun porch in the winter) where the glove compartment used to be.

That’s right, bZ4X nixes the glove compartment — innovating on the passenger side just as it does the driver dash.

Instead of a glovebox, the 2023 Toyota bZ4X EV offers a passenger leg/foot heater under the dash.

Expect more such breakthroughs as interior designers recognize the benefits of EVs that no longer have driveline tunnels through the middle of the cabin. BZ4X ditches the glove compartment because it has a bottomless center console into which you can drop air gauges, insurance cards — it’s so deep Toyota offers a top bin so you can segment it. Under the electronic shifter is more space for your purse, tissue box and small dog (I hear they’re all the rage these days).

The emphasis on space does not extend to a frunk, which is another Tesla-pioneered feature (for those counting, that’s liquid torque, OTA, pano roof, big screen, frunk) that Ford has embraced with the Mach-E and Lightning pickup. Mach-E was hell-bent on creating a Tesla clone to steal away Model 3/Y buyers. Toyota? Not so much. They’re content to make an approachable EV for brand loyalists.

They’ll give it a big tree-hugger hug.

2023 Toyota bZ4X

Vehicle type: Battery-powered, front- and all-wheel-drive four-door SUV

Price: $43,215, including $1,215 destination charge ($49,970 Limited FWD and $52,050 Limited AWD as tested)

Powerplant: 71.4/72.8 kWh lithium-ion battery driving single/twin electric motors

Power: 201 horsepower, 196 pound feet-torque (FWD); 214 horsepower, 248 pound-feet-torque (AWD)

Transmission: Single-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 6.1-7.5 seconds (AWD-FWD, mfr.); towing, fuhgettaboutit

Weight: 4,266-4,464 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA est. range, 252 miles (XLE FWD), 228 miles (XLE AWD), 242 miles (Limited FWD), 222 miles (Limited AWD)

Report card

Highs: Spacious interior; liquid-smooth ride

Lows: Odd steering wheel position; spare long-distance charging info

Overall: 3 stars

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

Lincoln goes electric with Star Concept

Posted by Talbot Payne on April 21, 2022

In a glimpse of its electric ambitions, Lincoln introduced the Star Concept vehicle Wednesday. With its sleek proportions, cabinet doors, and high-tech interior, the Star evokes classic show car concepts of Lincoln’s past.

But with its skateboard battery platform and promise of driver-assist systems, the Star is more a rolling penthouse suite than a traditional automobile.

The Lincoln Star Concept is distinguished by a electro-magnetic glass frunk.

The concept previews three new electric models by 2025, when Lincoln expects half of its global volume to be battery-powered. Currently, Lincoln doesn’t sell an electric vehicle in a US market segment that is about 3% of U.S. sales volume.

To signify the radical change in drivetrain philosophy, the Star introduces a new face of Lincoln with a digital, jewel-like light show across the front fascia where Lincoln’s arched, metal-lattice grille used to be. That arched grille was introduced on the 2017 Continental sedan which was discontinued just three years later as customers rushed to SUVs.

“As Lincoln enters the next chapter in our transition to a zero-emissions future, the Lincoln Star Concept will lead the way,” said Lincoln boss Joy Falotico. “It is an excellent example of how we are redefining luxury for the next generation as we work to transform the vehicle into a third space — a true place of sanctuary.”

The sleek exterior and front light show are reminiscent of competitor Cadillac’s Lyriq SUV, the GM luxury brand’s first electric EV that will go on sale next month as a 2023 model. Both Lyriq and Star feature edgy, minimalist designs with narrow greenhouses sitting over rear-wheel-drive battery platforms.

In addition to new lighting signatures front and rear (a laced, horizontal light spans the rear), the Star is distinguished by a electro-magnetic glass frunk (the front of the truck where the gas engine once resided) that is transparent when the vehicle is in motion — opaque when stopped to hide the contents below.

Building on the Quiet Flight theme embodied in Lincoln’s just-refreshed Navigator full-size SUV, the concept’s new design language emphasizes what the Ford luxury brand calls its core “tenets of beauty, human, gliding and sanctuary.” The Navigator and its SUV siblings helped lead Lincoln to its best global sales in 21 years — up 7% in 2021.

“Electrification is removing many traditional vehicle design constraints, allowing us to reimagine what a vehicle can be,” said Ford design chief Anthony Lo. “The Star is a study of experiences and themes that push the boundaries of Lincoln design.”

The Star Concept seats four and in an interior that features digital displays, crystalline lighting and backlit doors.

The new design canvas is most obvious inside with a spacious cabin undisrupted by a an ICE driveline. The flexible space could be used for multiple layouts. For example, the Star’s rear cargo space boasts a lounge mode that transforms into an outdoor seat for tailgate parties or enjoying an outdoor destination.

The Star Concept’s four seats are wrapped in digital displays, crystalline lighting, and backlit doors that would embarrass a First Class Delta cabin.

The cabin is run by the Lincoln Intelligence System, a digital assistant designed to connect to other vehicles and charging infrastructure — as well as provide drive and park-assist features. In a nod to a self-driving future with common electric drivetrains, Lincoln’s Star intro made little mention of driving dynamics or system power.

The emphasis is on a passenger sanctuary while in traffic or on a long trip.

Animated digital displays combine with light, smell and sound to create unique interior moods aimed at bringing “the romance of travel back in a uniquely Lincoln way.” Moods include:

– Coastal Morning: features gentle, oceanic sounds, a fragrance of sea mist, and the warm glow of the sun with dynamic lighting to replicate a stroll on the beach at sunrise

– Mindful Vitality: meant to re-energize the senses, with invigorating, upbeat audio, dynamic  abstract artwork, soft, glowing lighting and a flowery fragrance.

– Evening Chill: mirrors dusk using a calming night soundtrack coordinated with night sky video and evergreen fragrance

The driver accesses drive modes via a floating console with a rotary shifter. Rear-seat passengers can recline in first class comfort with individual leg rests, curated storage for devices or slippers, and a fridge. A digital briefcase also provides safe storage, charging, and connectivity for digital devices.

Like the frunk, the A and D-pillars are transparent with a unique, 3D-printed metal latticework design. A panoramic roof bathes the interior in light.

The Star concept was introduced in Hollywood California where luxury EVs are all the rage and nearly half of the country’s EVs are sold.

“The Lincoln Star Concept has been a true labor of love for our team and provides us with a platform to test our design philosophy as we evolve our Quiet Flight DNA,” said Lincoln global design director Kemal Curic.

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

Payne: Here’s the 10 best new cars of the 2022 New York auto show

Posted by Talbot Payne on April 15, 2022

New York — The Big Apple’s auto show is a smaller bite this year as manufactures like Honda, BMW, GMC, Cadillac, Mercedes, Audi, Porsche and Mazda are missing. The main floor is a hybrid of legacy automakers, startups and shrubbery to fill in the empty spaces.

To draw you in, there’s eye candy like Elvis’s 1956 Lincoln Continental (to celebrate the brand’s 100th anniversary). Radwood is a show-within-a-show celebrating cars of the ’80s and ’90s, and there is New York’s signature display of exotics. My favorite? The jaw-dropping Ford GT, turning heads since 2015.

But our focus here is on the newest hardware, and they crave attention as shows reopen post-pandemic. New York state will ban the sale of new gas-powered cars sales by 2035, so there’s an emphasis on EVs here — but America is a vast, diverse market and there are drivetrains aplenty on offer. My Top 10 most significant new cars of the 2022 New York Auto Show:

The 2023 Chevy Corvette Z06's 670-horsepower V-8 is a show-stopper.

Chevrolet Corvette Z06. The king is here. The first performance variant of the first mid-engine Corvette, the Z06 doesn’t disappoint. Like Simba on Pride Rock, Z06 introduces the Chevy display. Its flanks are swollen by air ducts to feed the V-8 monster within: the most powerful normally-aspirated production engine to date with 670 horsepower at 8,600 RPM. When Chevy fired it up on Wednesday, the whole place stopped in its tracks to listen.

The 2023 Ford Bronco Raptor is a mountain goat with lots of grunt.

Ford Bronco Raptor. Showgoers can get a ride in a Mustang Mach-E or F-150 Lightning, but Bronco Raptor looks like it could climb Mt. Everest. With expanded fenders engorged with yuge, 37-inch all-terrain tires, Raptor is so wide it needs three amber lights like a heavy-duty truck. Its twin-turbo V-6 engine spits out more than 400 horsepower, and its $68,500 price tag is just south of big brother F-150 Raptor.

The 2023 Nissan Z combines power, sleek looks, modern tech and a proud sports-car heritage.

Nissan Z. Like Ford, Nissan is going electric, but it’s not ditching its two-door legends on the way. Like the Mustang coupe, Nissan Z is an icon and gets remade for 2023 with sleek looks and a 400-horse twin-turbo V-6. The interior gains all the latest electronics since the Z’s last remake a decade ago. Catnip for enthusiasts: you can row that powerful engine with a six-speed manual.

The 2024 Chevy Silverado RST EV goes fast and charges fast.

Chevy Silverado RST EV. GMC didn’t make it to this year’s show, which will disappoint Hummer EV fans. They should check out the Silverado EV instead. Chevy’s first electric truck sits on the same Ultium battery platform as Hummer, also costs north of six figures, and boasts the same all-wheel-steer. Its 664 horsepower will get you to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds and its 800-volt battery system can add 100 miles of range in 10 minutes at a fast charger.

Toyota gets into the hot hatch segment with the 2023 GR Corolla.

Toyota GR Corolla. Gonna’ sell like hot cakes. The Corolla (finally) enters the hot hatch market with this muscle-bound, 300-horsepower, turbo-3 cylinder, all-wheel-drive, manual-shift-only hellion developed by Toyota’s Gazoo Racing arm. On display here is the special-trim Circuit model with big spoiler, domed hood, and dual limited-slip differentials. At night it probably slips out to New York streets to eat Priuses.

The 2023 Kia Telluride is a refreshed version of the Korean brand's hot-selling halo vehicle.

Kia Telluride. Kia hopes to attract upscale EV customers with its swoopy EV6 and sci-fi EV9 concept on display. If they are successful, it will be in no small part due to the Kia Telluride, the brand’s 2020 mega-hit that brought premium style to mainstream SUVs. Loaded with standard features and an exterior as elegant as a Caddy, the Telluride flew off shelves, hitting nearly triple-digit sales within its first two years of production. For its ’23 refresh, Kia doesn’t mess with success, but the interior gains bigger screens and the lineup grows to include more rugged X-Line and X-Pro trims.

The 2023 VW ID. Buzz draws its inspiration from the German brand's original Type 2 Microbus, but this electric van is more maxi than mini.

VW ID.Buzz. The VW Microbus is back as the electric ID. Buzz (Buzz is the latest Bus, get it?). Riding on ’60s nostalgia, the $45k ID. Buzz is a three-row minivan with a longer wheelbase than the Atlas SUV (heck, it’s even longer, at 127.5 inches, than a Chevy Tahoe). It’s hard to believe it’ll fit in Europe’s narrow city streets. But the Germans will get it first later next year before it jumps the pond in 2024.

The 2023 VinFast VF 8 will be one of a Vietnamese EV startup's first U.S. products.

VinFast VF 8. EV startups stole the show with impressive debuts from INDI One, Deus Vayanne hypercar, and VinFast VF 8 and VF 9. But it’s the latter that are likeliest to make the biggest U.S. splash. The compact VF 8 and three-row VF 9 look ready for prime time with mature looks and big-screen interiors. They are also backed by big money from Vietnamese conglomerate Vingroup with an eye on building a North Carolina production facility. Ask about their plan to sell you the car, lease you the battery.

The 2023 Alfa Tonale gives the Italian luxury brand an entry in the subcompact ute class.

Alfa Tonale. Alfa wowed with the Tonale concept at the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show, and the production version is finally here. The 2023 model carries through on the concept’s sleek looks, and Tonale should challenge the BMW X1 for best-handling subcompact luxury ute. Tonale also features best-in-class, 272-horsepower, thanks to twin electric motors mated to a 1.3-liter turbocharged engine. The entry-level ute is likely the last new, gas-powered Alfa model introduced before the brand goes all-electric in 2028.

The 2023 Subaru Outback gets fresh looks and a fresh engine option targeted at price-conscious buyers.

Subaru Outback. Is it the display or the car? The Subie sits in the coolest stand in show — a throwback to the days when manufacturers built $5 million displays. The brand’s icon, Outback gets a cool facelift that matches its off-road vibe along with a second, cheaper, 2.5-liter Boxer-4 engine option.

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

Payne: EV startups steal the New York International Auto Show

Posted by Talbot Payne on April 15, 2022

New York — Shoot virtual zombies while driving through New York! Get a full battery replacement from your electric-vehicle manufacturer! Launch zero-60 in a face-flattening 1.9 seconds!

Auto shows in recent years have been launch pads for new EV companies including Lucid, Fisker, Byton, Qiantu and Rivian. This year’s New York International Auto Show is no different, showcasing three new EV players spanning the breadth of the auto market from the gaming-focused INDI EV’s SUV to the VinFast VF 9’s innovative battery subscription to the insane performance of the Deus Vayanne hypercar.

Whether another tech bubble or a genuine revolution, the sky-high valuations of electric vehicle makers are attracting more startups than the auto industry has seen in a century. Some, like China’s Byton and Qiantu, have yet to realize their promise in the U.S. market, where Lucid and Rivian have completed initial public offerings and started deliveries to customers.

Hoping to follow the latter examples, the three startups made a big splash at the New York show’s media day on Wednesday. Armed with industry-savvy personnel and mature partners, they hope to be the next big thing.

The INDI One emphasizes computing power as well as drivetrain power. It's expected to start around $45,000, competitive with other compact battery-electric SUVs.

INDI EV. Short for Independent EV, the Los Angles-based startup showed off its INDI One here — a compact SUV starting at $45,000 and swimming in the same shark tank as other $45K utes like the Tesla Model Y, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Volkswagen ID.4, Toyota bZ4X, Subaru Solterra and so on. So what makes the INDI One different?

“Gaming,” says chief designer Andre Hudson.

At the 250,000-square-foot EV Test Track in Javits Convention Center, I was a passenger in the backseat of the INDI One — wearing a virtual reality helmet. While being chauffeured around the track, I played the first-person shooter game Z-Crew from Snail Games, adapted for use in the car (which in the VR looked like the interior of a military vehicle) with zombies coming at me from all directions. The ones I couldn’t shoot, the car ran over.

Detroit News Auto Critics Henry Payne goes VR gaming in the backseat of the INDI One EV during a test ride Wednesday at the New York International Auto Show.

The INDI One performs this trick compliments of founder and Chinese entrepreneur Shi Hai, who also founded Snail Games. Three of its games have been adapted for use in the SUV with more to come. Processing power comes compliments of “the VIC” (Vehicle Integrated Computer), a Windows-based computer in the front of the car (visible beneath a transparent hood) running a state-of the-art Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 graphics card.

The hood tease is meant to be reminiscent of gas-engine hood scoops — think the Shaker protruding from the Dodge Challenger Hemi V-8.

“The future auto standard is not going to be engine power, it’s going to be processing power,” says Hudson, a 25-year industry design veteran who has penned such notable cars as the Saturn Sky Roadster, 2011 Hyundai Sonata and Genesis G90. He adds that the INDI One will still have plenty of drivetrain power with 475 horsepower and standard all-wheel drive.

Doing a simple, clean sheet EV design on top of a skateboard chassis intrigued Hudson, but the real focus is inside, where the INDI One Premium trim ($69,000) boasts three big screens: one behind the wheel, and two 15-inch displays for driver and passenger. With the dedicated computer behind them, INDI One promises a mobile office where owners have a digital toolbox for work, programming and gaming.

The interior of the INDI One features multiple screens for driver and passenger.

INDI EV opened orders at the New York show with deliveries expected in the second quarter of 2023. Note to customers: the VR headsets only come with the Premium model.

VinFast. Backed by the Vietnamese industrial conglomerate Vingroup, VinFast is en route to fulfill its ambitious plans: bring four SUVs — VF and a North Carolina manufacturing plant to the U.S. in the next couple of years.

The VinFast VF 8, on the test track at the New York auto show, will be sold sans battery, which will be available separately through a monthly subscription.

But it’s an unconventional route compared to previous, U.S.-bound Asian transplants. Whereas Hyundai and Toyota got a foothold in America with affordable, entry-level cars like Elantra and Corolla, VinFast will debut as an affordable luxury carmaker targeting powerful brands like BMW and Audi.

“We’re coming into the U.S. market focused on offering premium quality at a reasonable price, and with outstanding customer service,” said Deputy CEO of Global Marketing Emmanuel Bret. It’s a sector that Bret knows well as former managing director for BMW Norway.

“I saw the future when I was in Norway,” said Bret. “The majority of new cars there are EV, and we saw tremendous customer satisfaction with EVs. Ninety percent of owners said they would buy an EV again as their next car.” Norway has pushed the adoption of EVs by subsidizing 50% of sticker price by waiving import taxes and fees.

Emmanuel Bret, VinFast's deputy CEO of global marketing, with the VF 9 SUV on the floor of the New York International Auto Show.

VinFast manufactured its first domestic car in 2019, a modified version of the BMW X5 SUV, and begins production on its three-row VF 9 and compact VF 8 later this year with planned delivery to the U.S. market in 2023. Emmanuel said the the company is exploring a U.S. IPO to finance its North Carolina manufacturing facility.

VinFast is highly visible at the New York show, with a large stand neighboring Toyota, Kia and Subaru. The VinFast VF 8 sports a twin-line graphic grille similar to a French Citroën — interrupted by a V for VinFast. Exterior styling is conventional, but the interior is right out of the Tesla design book with a single console screen running the car.

VinFast is targeting 30 dealerships in EV-crazed California by year’s end with more planned for the rest of the country. Like INDI EV, it will rely on home and third-party superchargers — announcing a partnership with Electrify America at the show.

Deus (pronounced Day-oos).

The Deus Vayanne EV hypercar is built for speed, topping out at 248 mph and rocketing to 60 mph in under 2 seconds.

The first hypercar to sport (ahem) 2,200 horsepower, the Vayanne is a carbon-fiber missile and also has 1,475 pound-feet of torque to go 0-60 mph in 1.9 seconds. Top speed? 248 mph. The Vayanne EV aims to eclipse the gaudy numbers put up by the 1,241-horse Rimac EV hypercar that debuted in New York in 2017 — and which Top Gear personality Jeremy Clarkson famously said “is faster than anything else I’ve ever driven by a huge, huge margin.”

Vayanne aims to be faster when production models arrive in 2025. “We are focused on delivering a new, vibrant driving experience for the EV segment,” deadpanned managing director Dierk Schroeder at the media unveiling.

To infinity and beyond: This is the view you'll get of the Deus Vayanne as it speeds away.

The Austrian brand is a collaboration of two icons of speed: Italdesign and Williams Advanced Engineering — an offshoot of the Williams Formula One team that also supports Jaguar Formula E racing. With the battery located amidships like its mid-engine hypercar peers, the Vayanne has distinctive styling punctuated by its infinity symbol-shaped front and rear fascias.

With only 99 copies planned, its price will be as stratospheric as its top speed.

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

Detroit GP: CCS student Miriam Wong wins 2022 poster contest

Posted by Talbot Payne on April 15, 2022

The 2022 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Pix presented by Lear will be the last IndyCar race on Belle Isle, and Miriam Wong’s poster design will commemorate it.

Wong won the annual Detroit GP poster contest Wednesday with a drawing of a family waving the checkered flag over a pair of screaming race cars.

Winner, Detroit GP poster contest.

“The poster tells a great story. It shows emotion, family, and the iconic Belle Isle Fountain,” Detroit GO chairman Bud Denker said. “And that waving checkered flag closes a chapter in our history. The next generation of spectators will be throwing a green flag for our downtown race.”

The annual poster has been a collector’s item since the first Formula One Detroit Grand Prix in 1982, and has continued on Belle Isle with the IndyCar calendar. For the 10th year, the winner was selected in a Grand Prix contest from designs created by students at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.

Detroit Grand Prix will leave Belle Isle. But will concrete paddock go too?

A senior at CCS, Wong was joined by her mother and grandmother to celebrate her win. Wong is a first generation American born in Detroit with parents from Mexico and Canada. Her father has worked with General Motors for years, but she has never been to the Belle Isle race. That will change this year thanks to her historic poster.

“In my work, I like to portray inspiring, heartfelt moments,” said the illustration major, who wants to pursue a career creating artwork for publications. “I wanted the poster to focus on the community and family aspects of the event.”

Denker said that Wong’s artwork will be refined over the next few days for publication — and then produced in a limited run of official 2022 posters. They will be available in May for purchase online via the event’s official website,

The Grand Prix will be held June 3-5 a week following the Indy 500 on Memorial Day weekend.

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

Hyundai Ioniq 5 electrifies at World Car Awards

Posted by Talbot Payne on April 15, 2022

New York — Hundai Motor Company’s first electric vehicle, the Hyundai Ioniq 5, pulled a hat trick at the 2022 World Car Awards, bringing home trophies for World Design, Electric and overall Car of the Year awards.

With global economies from Europe to China targeting the end of gas-fired automobiles, this year’s finalists were all EVs, with the Ioniq 5 beating out the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Kia EV6 for World Car.

The 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5, center, won World Car of the Year honors at the 2022 World Car Awards.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul kicked off the awards, promising that New York state will soon follow global economies in eliminating the internal combustion engine. “The assault on this planet will finally stop,” she said from Javits Convention Center on New York City’s west side. “In 2035, all new cars sold in New York will be electric.”

The Ioniq 5 has won praise for its innovative packaging as well as its sharp, sci-fi styling. The compact crossover with a longer wheelbase than Hyundai’s three-row Palisade SUV features a range of up to 303 miles on a full charge. With its big battery located below the passenger compartment, the Ioniq 5 opens up vast interior space for leg and cargo room.

All-electric IONIQ 5 honored by World Car Awards at New York International Auto Show in all three categories in which it was nominated

Based on similar skateboard platforms, the Mach-E and EV6 are also the first all-electric efforts from their respective manufacturers.

Judged by some 100 journalists from across the globe, the World Car of the Year Awards traditionally kick of the New York show. Other winners this year include the electric Audi e-Tron GT for best performance car and the Mercedes EQS — both exotic, six-figure electric sedans.

In a nod to affordability — and to the embattled gas engine — the wee Toyota Yaris Cross (which is not sold in the U.S.) won for World Urban Car.

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

New York auto show: Bollinger Motors snags Con Edison EV contract, displays Class 3 truck

Posted by Talbot Payne on April 15, 2022

New York — Electric-vehicle startups are everywhere at the New York International Auto Show.

While VinFast, INDI EV, and Deus showed off new consumer vehicles, Oak Park-based Bollinger Motors announced it will build Class 3 trucks for New York’s Con Edison and showcased a prototype at the utility’s show display.

Bollinger shifted its business focus in January from consumer to commercial vehicles as large corporations seek to buttress their Environmental, Social Governance (ESG) goals by buying EVs for their fleets.

Bollinger will produce a Class 3 truck for New York utility Con Edison.

“We are committed to providing revolutionary, all-electric vehicles for fleet customers,” said Bollinger CEO Robert Bollinger, who founded the company in upstate New York in 2015 before moving to Metro Detroit. “I look forward to supporting innovative companies like New York Con Edison and growing our relationship with them as they seek to lead by example in pursuit of their sustainability objectives.”

Con Edison’s so-called Clean Energy Commitment plans an all-EV light-duty fleet by 2035. Bollinger Motors is key to that strategy with a Class 3 prototype based on a rugged, battery skateboard platform. A black prototype service vehicle is on display at the New York show through April 24. The utility plans to integrate similar vehicles into its Classes 3-6 fleet by 2024.

“Our all-electric platforms and chassis cabs offer a wide variety of commercial applications that are highly adaptable to the specific use cases and duty cycles that today’s commercial fleets require,” added Bollinger chief of commercial sales Frank Jenkins.

The Michigan-based startup’s announcement is the first significant commercial news after its January decision to cancel consumer orders for its distinctive, $125,000 B1 SUV and B2 pickup EVs. Bollinger had intended, like Ford and its F-150 Lightning EV, to pursue both personal and commercial applications. But for a startup like Bollinger, volume — and cash flow — are strongest in the commercial sector.

“We’ve been in development on the commercial front for quite some time. This has been growing and growing,” Bollinger told The News in January. “We’ve had large fleets looking at (our battery-powered platform). We just read the writing on the wall.”

Bollinger’s rear-drive battery platform — with good low-end torque and loads of cargo room — can be scaled to different wheelbases and battery sizes for use with heavy-duty utility vehicles, tow trucks and municipal buses.

Bollinger's Class 3 truck on display at the New York International Auto Show.

Medium-duty Class 3-6 trucks are capable of gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWR) from 10,000-26,000 pounds — much more robust than, say, the Lightning or Chevy Silverado EVs that are targeted at Class 2 GVWR pickup applications (6,000-10,000 pounds) like Amazon delivery trucks. Electric Ford E-Transit and GM BrightDrop vans serve the Class 1 market (0-6,000 pounds GVWR).

Corporate and government ESG policies are driving fleet purchases — backed by the promise of government subsidies so they can build out needed charging infrastructure.

“(Commercial EV fleets) are where everything is going as far as regulations from states,” said Bollinger in January. “The expectation on the commercial side is really going to be the driver for the volume of vehicles turning electric.”

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

Payne: Conquering the Mojave in the burly Chevy Silverado ZR2

Posted by Talbot Payne on April 15, 2022

Joshua Tree National Park, California — At 4,200 feet above sea level here in the arid Mojave desert, not much survives. The landscape is raw, rocky, brown. Except for the enduring Joshua Tree. As if taken from the pages of a Dr. Seuss book, its hydra-like branches extend from the trunk — each topped by a head of sharp needles. Thanks to a deep root system and the ability to go months without water, the interloper is uniquely equipped to survive in this hostile environment.

Kind of like the 2022 Chevy Silverado ZR2 performance truck I’m driving.

Armed with fearless Goodyear Wrangler Territorial MT tires, Multimatic shocks, three bash plates, two-speed transfer case, twin-locking differentials and a relentless 6.2-liter V-8 engine, this stubborn pickup is remarkably well-suited for the rocky desert.

Amongst the green groves of Joshua trees, a media-piloted caravan of red, blue, sand, and white ZR2s added welcome color to the scorched landscape. A winding dirt road cut to extract gold from a solitary mine stretched out in front of us.

Transfer case on 4-wheel-drive high. Terrain mode selected. Wrangler tires aired down to 25 PSI. I nailed the throttle and the beast awoke. WAAAUUUGGHHHRGH!

I tested a GMC Hummer EV in similar Arizona desert terrain a few weeks before, its silent drivetrain creeping through Boulders ORV Park’s low brush. Hear the crunch of rocks below. The rustle of leaves. SSSHHHHH.

The 2022 Chevy Silverado ZR2 features comfortable, bolstered seats for off-roading and a sunroof.

The ZR2’s V-8 is a different sensory experience. WAAAUUURGH! You want to keep your boot on it to hear its heavy metal beat. Carbon prohibitionists despise it, of course. It’s fun. Loud. Ban it.

But like Brian Johnson screaming “Hell’s Bells,” ZR2 sends goosebumps up my spine. Windows down. Sunroof open. I crested 65 mph on the open road, pushing through the cloud of dust created by the ZR2 in front of me, another link in our speeding truck train.

It’s an experience that Liana Prieto and her Dirt Days crew share with off-road customers in Joshua Tree and Salton Sea and the Baja Peninsula, home to some of the world’s greatest off-roading over thousands of acres of desert wilderness. Dirt-kickers welcome: super trucks, Wranglers, Broncos.

Before organizing trips like our ZR2 train for Chevrolet, she drove a Tesla Model S in LA. Then she experienced the joy of F-150 Raptor super trucks in the desert and she was addicted. Goodbye EV, hello 4WD.

The ZR2 is a latecomer to the performance truck game. Notably, it lacks the steroid-induced power (Ram TRX has a supercharged, 702-horse powerplant), width (Raptor is 86.6 inches wide) and tires (37s on Raptor) of its more ripped competitors.

Its 6.2-liter V-8 is not supercharged, but it’s a welcome voice in the choir. Raptor long ago abandoned its V-8 for a twin-turbo V-6. More torque, more applause from the Prohibitionists. But less enthusiasm from enthusiasts. Many Raptor owners held on to their gen-one V-8s, and Ford is expected to bring a supercharged V-8 back in the Raptor R.

GM felt the eight-holer’s 420 horses were enough for desert sprints and Michigan off-road parks like Holly Oaks and The Mounds. Chevy’s engineers have augmented it with a sport exhaust that’ll wake the neighbors on start-up — BRAPPPA! — and upshift with authority — BRAP! BRAP!

Like its competitors, the ZR2 has killer off-road shocks.

The 2022 Chevy Silverado ZR2 features excellent Goodyear Wrangler Territory MT tires for where the asphalt ends - but they are quiet on-road as well.

Sophisticated Multimatic shocks and 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territorial MT tires absorb the brutal washboard bumps and dips of the Joshua tree mining road like Kong shrugging off arrows. They are the same Formula One-inspired shocks pioneered by the midsize Colorado ZR2, which I punished on an off-road race course in 2017.

Truck expert and Muscle Cars & Trucks scribe Manny Katakis rates the supertruck segment this way: “I’d take the ZR2’s shocks, Raptor tires and TRX engine.”

The ZR2’s interior shines, too. Embarrassed by Ram’s upscale living quarters, ZR2 introduces an all-new dash for 2022 that brings rich 12.3-inch instrument cluster and 13.4-inch console digital displays. My driving experience was aided by comfortable bolstered seats, a head-up display the size of Oklahoma and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The latter is a must for when you take the big dog for a run.

The roomy interior of the 2022 Chevy Silverado ZR2 seats five with a standard 10-speed transmission, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

At about 5,500 pounds — 40% lighter than the $112,595 Hummer EV! — my $72,560 tester was easy to drive at high speeds even if it lacked Raptor’s insane 14-inch front/15-inch rear suspension travel (ZR2 clocks in at 9.6 inches front/10.6 rear). Chevy’s target is to make the ZR2 an all-around athlete with on-road manners, off-road macho (thus the Multimatics), 9,500-towing capability (thus the V-8) and low-speed rock crawling.

To achieve the latter, ZR2 is armed with a 32-degree approach angle, camera views and class-exclusive front-and-rear locking differentials (like little brother Colorado ZR2) compared to the high-speed focused Raptor and TRX’s rear-only lockers.

Tight canyon-crawling is usually the domain of narrow Wrangler Rubicons — but the Silverado defies the stereotype. Like 6’10” Kevin Durant, dude wants to shoot threes and dunk.

Climbing to reach Joshua’s high plains, I crawled through narrow rock canyons and scrambled up twisted canyons cut by rainy season floods. With lockers activated and one-pedal drive enabled (think one-pedal, Tesla regen driving), my mule crawled effortlessly over rock and mogul.

With its twin-locking differentials, 11.2-inch ground clearance, 4WD and Terrain mode, the 2022 Chevy Silverado ZR2 can go places usually reserved for Wrangler Rubicons.

GRONCH! The front bash plate absorbed a quick descent. PFISHZZZ! A plant’s scraggly branches scraped along ZR2’s muscular shoulders. The sounds might make an owner cringe after laying out $70K for this chiseled truck — but the pickup is built for durability.

A robust top paint coat absorbed relentless branch “pinstriping” across all the trucks in our train. Bash plates are made of steel just like Silverado’s signature bed. And ZR2 innovates a three-piece bumper for cheaper repairs should any piece be damaged.

Washed and waxed after my adventure, ZR2 looked good as new.

Pickups are the new luxury. Basketballer Durant could comfortably lounge in the rear seats of my ZR2 condo. Out back, a six-way Multi-Flex tailgate rolls out steps for easy bed access (if you’re not spry enough to use the corner bumper steps).

Like a supercar, this supertruck must be taken off-road to be appreciated. So call up Dirt Days, or your Midwest pickup buddies. Then head to the Outback, put on U2’s “Joshua Tree” album, and turn up the V-8.

This is pickup (and Joshua Tree) country.

2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2

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

Price: $69,295, including $1,695 destination charge ($72,560 as tested)

Powerplant: 6.2-liter V-8

Power: 420 horsepower, 460 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Performance: towing, 8,900 lbs.; payload, 1,440 lbs.

Weight: 5,500 lbs. (est.)

Fuel economy: EPA: 14 mpg city/17 highway/15 combined

Report card

Highs: Much-improved interior; Multimatic magic

Lows: No 35- or 37-inch tire option; gets pricey

Overall: 3 stars

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

NYC Show: Outback, Telluride, Wagoneer SUVs and EV-mania

Posted by Talbot Payne on April 15, 2022

New York — Automakers say the future is electric, but the present is gas (if you can find it here for under $4 a gallon).

In addition to a flock of new electric vehicles on the floor and on its 250,000 square-foot test track, this year’s New York International Auto Show is headlined by updates of some of the most popular internal-combustion SUVs in the business, including the Subaru Outback, Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, and Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer.

The dashing utes are flagships of their respective brands and bring in big bucks to their manufacturers in a market where 99% of vehicles on the road are still powered by gas.

They are also in segments viewed as the least amenable to electrification — whether the adventure-focused Outback or the thirsty, family-focused Wagoneer. Popular with consumers, they are the focus of Washington efforts to bring down gas prices this week by waiving the ethanol mandate, even as federal agencies force adoption of the EVs that are the focus of the New York show.

For 2023, the Subaru Outback gets a new front look and added technology, among other upgrades.

Subaru rolled out significant upgrades to its iconic Outback SUV with a redesigned fascia, increased engine options and more tech. Starting at $28,320, the Outback has led the industry surge into outdoor-focused SUVs followed by entrants like the Ford Bronco Sport and Mazda CX-50. Subaru’s perennial bestseller along with the Forester, Outback now comes in six models: Base, Premium, Onyx, Wilderness, Limited and Touring.

Not content to let segment newcomers poach on their territory, the all-wheel-drive Outback gets a facelift — including, no surprise, a bigger grille — and new fender cladding on all trims but the Wilderness.

To keep up with the furious pace of electronics development, models receive wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability and an update to Subaru’s acclaimed EyeSight Driver Assist Technology that brings a suite of standard features like 4G WiFi, smartphone connectivity apps, adaptive cruise-control and limited autonomous driving capability. The top-shelf Touring model gets a new Wide-Angle Mono Camera for better safety detection of, for example, pedestrians and bicycles at an intersection.

The Outback's freshened models offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, WiFi and a suite of driver-assist features.

Add blind-spot detection with lane-change assist, and Eye Sight will automatically steer to help avoid collision at speeds up to 50 mph. The popular, blacked-trimmed Onyx Edition — once available only with the premium, 2.4-liter, turbo-4 engine — gains a normally-aspirated 2.5-liter 4-banger to better manage those $4-a-gallon fill-ups.

Subaru has struggled with regulations pushing electrics and the Outback is a test case as to why. With its long range, 9-inch ground clearance and rugged capability, it offers superior, 600-mile overlanding capability for Subaru’s core customers – while stickering for 10 grand below the brand’s forthcoming, similarly-sized, 300-mile-range Solterra EV.

The 2023 Kia Telluride is available in X-Pro trim that increases towing capacity to 5,500 pounds.

There are few SUVs hotter in the U.S. market than the Alabama-assembled Kia Telluride, which debuted in 2020 to rave reviews and customer hunger for its upscale looks and affordable price — cheaper than a comparable Ford Explorer by $8,000 in some cases and undercutting even perennial segment leader Toyota Highlander.

It quickly became the brand’s family halo, collecting an armful of industry awards, and attracting 75% new customers to the Korean brand. Tough act to follow.

The ’23 mid-cycle refresh treads lightly in upgrading the vehicle’s good looks. Even three-row utes aren’t immune from Americans’ thirst for the outdoors and the Telluride gains X-Line and X-Pro off-road trims — the latter featuring increased ride height and standard, low-profile all-terrain tires for where the asphalt ends.

Dual 12.3-inch screens and smartwatch compatibility are among the high-tech features offered in the refreshed Telluride.

The Kia gains significant interior upgrades to complement its best-in-class space and clever innovations like a first-to-third-row speaker system. The interior is now available with luxurious dual curved 12.3-inch display screens — more likely to be found in lux vehicles costing tens of thousands of dollars more. In addition to a blizzard of standard safety features, Telluride offers clever tricks like Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy smartwatch compatibility to remote-control interior climate, and stolen vehicle tracking-and-immobilization capability.

The Telluride’s 291-horse V-6 remains untouched, but its tow limit increases to 5,500 pounds with the X-Pro. Towing is a key reason automakers are nervous about going electric in large SUVs. Already inferior for long-range trips, EVs drink range when towing.

The 2023 Hyundai Palisade, aimed less at outdoors enthusiasts than sister Telluride, gains a less-polarizing face as part of a mid-cycle refresh.

Hyundai makes its sister Palisade on the same platform as the Telluride and shares many of the same upgrades. The more metropolitan-themed Hyundai, however, does not go the all-terrain-model route.

2023 Hyundai Palisade

In addition to the big screens inside, the Palisade gets a more modest fascia compared to its polarizing 2020 mug. Rear passengers will appreciate the second-row armrest angle adjuster, third-row seats and in-car WiFi.

“More than ever, Palisade is the ultimate family vehicle for daily use and memory-making road trips,” said Hyundai North America VP for mobility Olabisi Boyle, touting the SUV’s new tow mode for easier hauling.

Born to tow: The 2023 Grand Wagoneer L Series III can haul up to 10,000 pounds.

Towing is also a key ingredient of the Jeep Wagoneer L and Grand Wagoneer L — stretch versions of the truck-based, three-row SUVs to compete against segment leader Cadillac Escalade.

Despite the introduction of major competitors like the Wagoneer twins and the Lincoln Navigator, Escalade has maintained its edge in the segment — accounting for 60% of sales in Q1. The Wagoneer L twins gain 12 inches in overall length and 7 inches of wheelbase. The increased proportions also mean the Wagoneer L delivers best-in-class passenger volume at more than 179 cubic feet.

Towing a best-in-class 10,000 pounds, don’t expect the Wagoneers to go electric anytime soon. But in a nod to the feds’ coming, 2026 fuel economy rules, the huge Stellantis utes are the first vehicles to get the automaker’s Hurricane V-6. The twin-turbo mill is slated to replace the Wagoneer’s hemi V-8s with more power and fewer CO2 emissions frowned on by regulators.

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

Small Apple: New York Auto Show back with fewer exhibits, more startups, EV test track

Posted by Talbot Payne on April 15, 2022

New York — The New York Auto Show is back in the Big Apple. Though this year’s show more resembles a Big Cherry: smaller but with plenty of color.

There will be fewer manufacturers and vehicle debuts, but a rush of electric vehicle startups and a 250,000-square foot indoor test track on which to test them and their battery-powered peers. Canceled the last two years due to pandemic concerns, Gotham’s largest public event by attendance is navigating — not just a return to post-COVID normal — but major changes in how vehicles are powered and how manufacturers are unveiling them.

Vietnam’s Vinfast debuted at the Los Angeles media show and hopes to make a splash in New York. The electric-car company has been aggressive about the U.S. market, with plans for a North Carolina production facility and an IPO to finance it.

In 2019, the last show before the pandemic, there were some 20 new North American car and concept reveals, including significant models from Mercedes and Cadillac. This year, Merc and Caddy won’t even be at the show as luxury automakers (including BMW, Porsche and Audi) are focusing their marketing dollars elsewhere. Fewer than 10 new vehicle intros are expected at this week’s April 13-14 media days with headliners as likely to come from startups like Deus as from mainstream automakers like Kia.

Yet organizers say that public interest is strong given customers flush with cash and the buzz surrounding a flood of new autos. Organizers say the city’s lifting of mask and vaccine on businesses last month also helps.

“There has definitely been a shift in auto show debuts,” said the president of the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, Mark Scheinberg, who runs the country’s oldest auto show. “But the New York show is still a major consumer event. It’s an opportunity for people to come shop for new vehicles shown under one roof. Our advance ticket sales are neck-and-neck with 2019.”

In addition to the EV test track, there will be outdoor test tracks for dirt-kickers like the Jeep Wrangler.

With all the brand no-shows, New York presents an opportunity for startups trying to ride the wave of EV-mania.

Startup automaker Fisker stole the media show in Los Angeles, and Vietnam’s Vinfast hopes to do the same in New York. The electric-car company has been aggressive about the U.S. market, with plans for a North Carolina production facility and an IPO to finance it.

“It’s a chance for automakers like Vinfast to show a new product in front of a lot of people and media,” said Scheinberg. “They get respect showing alongside established auto manufacturers.”

Vinfast has promised four affordable SUVs for us Yankees called the VF6, VF7, VF8 and VF9. The compact VF6 was shown in Los Angeles, and the VF8 is expected to be on display in New York.

Southern California startup INDI EV will also join the big boys for a news conference on Wednesday to show off its first car, the INDI One — and to announce the opening of pre-orders. Starting at $45,000, the compact SUV is targeted at the Mustang Mach-E, VW ID.4 and Tesla Model Y.

Taking a page from the latter, INDI EV says that its INDI One will be a smartphone on wheels with a powerful, onboard computer to run a “portfolio of game engine technology, content development, global publishing, mobile platforms, SIM cards, hardware, and Virtual Reality products.”

If the INDI One promises a new era of processing power, then the Deus Vayanne promises good ol’ supercar power. The Austrian-based firm has partnered with the respected Italdesign shop and Williams Advanced Engineering, an offshoot of the famed Formula One team that has helped engineer Formula E electric race cars. Expect a low-slung missile with electrifying speed.

Once a showcase for luxury automakers preening for deep Wall Street pockets, New York’s loss of big hitters like Mercedes, BMW, Maserati, Buick, Acura and Cadillac hurts.

Mainstream manufactures will have will have a few major reveals of their own. Chrysler will a design concept for its first Airflow EV. Kia will unveil updates of its Niro and the wildly-popular three-row Telluride SUV, while Korean sibling Hyundai will show off a refreshed Palisade ute.

As if to emphasize the shift away from auto show reveals, GMC will not have an exhibit at the show and will tease its new Canyon pickup virtually this Thursday. Lincoln will have a floor display, but did a virtual tease of its first electric car ahead of the show on Monday.

Once a showcase for luxury automakers preening for deep Wall Street pockets, Gotham’s loss of big hitters like Mercedes, BMW, Maserati, Buick, Acura and Cadillac hurts. Other notable MIAs are Honda and Mazda, which once had prominent floor displays.

“There’s been so much uncertainty relative to COVID that automakers have struggled over how much to commit to auto shows,” said IHS Markit auto analyst Stephanie Brinley. “But there is a risk of disappointing consumers by not showing up. If buyers don’t see see their brand, then they might forget about you. For example, Mazda has a new CX-50 that will not be there, and Honda’s new HR-V will not be there.”

Consumers will have a chance to touch vehicles that they have only read about in Internet debuts: vehicles like the retro, electric VW ID.Buzz minivan, hulking Chevy Silverado and Ford Lightning EV pickups, wee Alfa Romeo Tonale SUV and insane Toyota GR Corolla hot hatch.

Showgoers won’t be limited to touching either.

The combination of fewer stands and a 90,000-square-foot expansion of the Javits Convention Center on the Hudson River leaves room for a 250,000-square-foot test track — nearly a quarter of the show space — for visitors to test drive EVs.

“They don’t have any emissions, so we can have them inside,” Scheinberg said with a smile. “There has been such a huge change in the products that are out there since before the pandemic. The world is seeing a seismic shift and electrification has just blossomed.”

The push in battery-powered cars comes as the federal government is forcing automakers to produce electric drivetrains. Automakers take hope from Tesla, which has blossomed as an EV-only brand — though EVs only made up 4.5% of U.S. sales in 2021, with Teslas purchased in California the largest group. Scheinberg says the New York show has pushed electrification for years with little impact, but he says this year feels different.

“All buyers saw in Super Bowl ads was EVs,” he said. “Now every manufacturer is in the game. That’s what has been missing.”

EVs available to ride include the Chevrolet Bolt, the INDI One, Kia EV6, Nissan Leaf, VinFast VF8, VW ID.4 EV, and Volvo XC 40 Recharge.

In addition to the EV test track, there will be outdoor test tracks for dirt-kickers like the Jeep Wrangler. Ford and Hyundai will have their own electric test tracks as part of their floor stands. Ford will likely offer rides in the Mustang Mach-E and Lightning. Hyundai has its new Ioniq 5 to show off.

Ford’s stand will also showcase the Ford GT supercar — still one of the most stunning chariots on the floor seven years after its introduction — in a new wardrobe. The 2022 Ford GT Holman Moody Heritage Edition pays tribute to Ford’s sweep of the podium at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. The GT will be on display next to the original 1966 Holman Moody Ford GT40 MK II race car.

More eye candy will be on display in New York’s signature exotic car “bull ring,” where fans can ogle six-figure Lamborghinis, Porsches, Bugattis and other unobtainables. Not to be outdone, Lincoln will celebrate its 100th anniversary with a little bling. Alongside its new Navigator SUV will be Elvis Presley’s iconic 1956 Continental Mark II.

“We thought initial ticket sales might be soft,” said Scheinberg. “But the public senses it’s time to get out and do things again. Our research shows that 72% of show attendees are in the market for a car.”

The New York Auto Show will open its doors to the public April 15-24 after press days, April 13-14.

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

Payne: To the moon in the GMC Hummer EV supertruck

Posted by Talbot Payne on April 8, 2022

Phoenix — Enter the Chandler Fashion Mall southeast of Phoenix and a big, vertical advertisement stops you in your tracks with three white letters highlighted against a black background: WTF.

Step close and faint gray letters explain the acronym: WATTS TO FREEDOM.

The GMC Hummer EV supertruck has landed. Imagine 205-kilowatt-hour battery, 1,000 horsepower, 9,000 pounds, 35-inch all-terrain tires. Three electric motors. All-wheel steering. Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. WTF, indeed.

Strapped into my Hummer tester outside Phoenix, I tug the TRACTION CONTROL button on the dash twice and supertruck enters WATTS TO FREEDOM mode. My seat rumbles, the chassis crouches, the digital screen flashes ARMED. Launch control ready.

Flatten the brake pedal.

Flatten the accelerator pedal.

Release the brake.

The truck explodes forward like a rocket, crushing my body into the seatback. The horizon blurs. Three electric motors shriek. Four Goodyear Wrangler tires squawk in pain as they transfer instant, 1,200 pound-feet of torque into the pavement. I blow past 60 mph in just over 3 seconds on my way to the moon.

GM calls Hummer its moonshot — a warp-speed, 18-month development program to explore the electric performance frontier. Here on Earth, Arizona is a perfect market for Hummer, because like Superman, the electric supertruck needs lots of space to show off its other-worldly capabilities. Straight highways, off-road trails, beautiful vistas. Michigan fits the bill, too.

The 2022 GMC Hummer EV First Edition is built on GM's Ultium battery platform. The First Edition has three electric motors - two in the rear - and a steering rack at both ends for all-wheel-steer.

As I tell my friends with Corvette C8/Porsche 911/Ferrari 456 supercars, you can’t understand their incredible capabilities until you take them on track. The same is true of the growing class of supertrucks: Hummer, Rivian R1T, Ford F-150 Raptor, Ford Bronco Raptor, Ram TRX.

You can’t truly appreciate the Hummer EV until you take it off-pavement.

An hour north of Phoenix is Boulders ORV (Off-Road Vehicle) Park, similar to Holly Oaks ORV Park an hour up I-75 from Detroit. If you’re one of the 65,000 reservation holders for a Hummer, go straight to an ORV park after you pick it up from the dealer. And bring three friends. The Hummer experience begs to be shared.

The 2022 GMC Hummer EV supertruck goes topless in the desert.

As a rule of thumb, off-road trails are not friendly places for full-size pickups. Their tight confines, narrow trails, steep hills and sharp crowns make big trucks uncomfortable with their poor breakover angles and solid rear axles. Other supertrucks like the Ram TRX and F-150 Ratpor are built for high speed, wide-open spaces where their throaty engines and sensational sport shocks can really stretch their legs.

Consistent with its limited 329-mile range (I burned 178 miles of battery range on a 112-mile trip), Hummer is a hoot on nearby off-road parks.

Sure, its 80-plus inch width requires three amber lights by law (as do Raptors and TRX), but that width brings balance that complements its inherent EV athleticism. That 205 kWh of battery is a lot (is Hummer the only full-size pickup that weighs more than it tows?), but it’s below decks for a low center of gravity. Its electric drivetrain means no vulnerable gas tanks, mufflers or pigs (rear differential) protruding from its belly.

SMACK! I misjudge a ridge and bottom out. No worries, the armored beast shrugged it off. Starting with 10 inches of ground clearance, Hummer sports 9.5 inches of suspension travel in top trims, thanks to air suspension. Like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, the GMC’s EXTRACT MODE can ratchet itself 16 inches off the ground to clear obstacles. Or crouch to 6.5 inches for WTF sprints. Like a supercar, there are multiple performance modes to explore — and 18 camera angles for what you can’t see.

The 2022 GMC Hummer EV can "crab walk" with all four wheels turned in the same direction.

But my favorite tool is all-wheel steer — a feature previously found on supercars like the Porsche 911 for quicker track turn-in. Available beginning with the $89,995 2x trim, 4WS enables Hummer’s CRAB WALK mode. It’s a cool party trick, but 4WS’s more practical application is in navigating, say, tight turns through Boulders. I can’t wait to use it in the twisted canyons of Holly Oaks.

On-road, 4WS enables 37-degree, Chevy Spark-like turning circle for easy mobility around parking lots — another nemesis of full-sized trucks.

Such toys make Hummer nearly as much fun getting to an ORV park as playing there.

Where supercars must be mindful of weight lest they be slow on track, supertrucks suffer no such modesty. The GMC is loaded with gadgets that would make a supercar blush.

The Unreal game engine provides unreal graphics for the 2022 GMC Hummer EV supertruck.

I self-drove to Boulders using Super Cruise. Look ma, no hands! GMC has hung huge screens across the dash like paintings in a boardroom. They are gorgeous and Hummer contracted with the Unreal game engine for state-of-the-art graphics and Google for navigation as easy as your smartphone.

Interior room is palatial, and you can go topless — just like a Wrangler or Bronco — by unlatching roof panels and stowing them in the frunk. Oh, your three friends are gonna’ love it. There are moonshot homages everywhere from Sea of Tranquility maps on the floormats to astronaut footprints on the dash.

The pickup bed out back is five feet long and punctuated by GMC’s signature six-way Multi-Pro tailgate so you can easily extract motor bikes — or just hang out with a cooler and drinks.

There are hiccups, to be sure.

The upright windshield means no head-up display option and lots of A-pillar wind noise when you hit 70 mph on the interstate. Long-distance trips might be daunting due to GM’s oversight in not incorporating Tesla-like navigation between third-party superchargers. I asked my Hummer to navigate to Seattle and it just plotted the route without detailed charging stops — something that has eliminated range anxiety for Teslarati.

The 2022 GMC Hummer EV supertruck features a removable roof to get close to nature.

Yeah, yeah, the Hummer EV smacks of GM groveling to atone for its sins. Hummer was pilloried at the turn of the century for its cigar-chewing, Arnold Schwarzenegger celebrity and Gulf War gas-swilling. “What would Jesus drive?” shouted the prudes. It’s no less decadent now with D.C. pols imploring us commoners to be more like Hollywood swells and buy an EV to avoid $5 a gallon gas. Let them eat Hummers!

But like Tesla’s Made-in-America Model S, Hummer EV is much more than another meme in the culture wars. It’s a serious leap in showing off EV performance. Take it to an off-road park and enjoy it for what is: an ambitious achievement accomplished in an impossibly short time to explore the tech frontier.

An achievement only an American truck brand could pull off. Moon shot landed.

2022 GMC Hummer EV

Vehicle type: Battery-powered, all-wheel-drive, four-door pickup

Price: $79,995, including $1,595 destination charge ($112,595 First Edition as tested)

Powerplant: 205-kWh lithium-ion battery driving two or three electric motors

Power: 1,000 horsepower, 1,200 pound-feet of torque (First Edition)

Transmission: Single-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 3.0 seconds (mfr.); towing capacity, 7, 500 pounds

Weight: 9,000 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA est. range, 329 miles

Report card

Highs: All-wheel steer; unique design inside/out

Lows: A-pillar wind noise; no head-up display

Overall: 4 stars

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

EV OMG: Eight cool things about the GMC Hummer

Posted by Talbot Payne on April 8, 2022

Phoenix — The GMC Hummer EV is a big kid’s toy.

The first electric vehicle on General Motors’ Ultium battery sled, it offered a huge canvas on which its team of engineers and designers could experiment with new technology. Its headliner features are well known. There’s Crabwalk mode, currently being showcased by celebrity basketball player LeBron James in national ads (and attracting celebrity buyers like actor Ashton Kutcher and chef Wolfgang Puck).

The 2022 GMC Hummer EV starts at $79,995, though the$112,595 First Edition model will only be offered in model year 2022.

All-wheel-steer enables tight turning radiuses to get you out of trouble off-road — or in a Meijer parking lot. And Watts-to-Freedom mode will accelerate you to 60 mph in just 3 seconds.

But there is so much more. Here are eight more cool things in the supertruck’s toy box:

The 2022 GMC Hummer EV features Easter Eggs like this dash footprint to signify GM's "moonshot."

1) Moonshot. Vehicle development programs usually take four years. The Hummer program launched in March 2019 with the impossible goal of delivering a supertruck by the end of 2021. That’s 2½ years. The production team called it GMC’s “moonshot.” To commemorate the feat, the Hummer EV is littered with moon references.

A map of the Sea of Tranquility, where Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon from the Apollo 11 Lunar Module on July 20, 1969, is found in numerous places, including the instrument display, available hood graphic, floor mats and Bose stereo door speakers. Astronaut footprints litter the dashboard. And an American flag is planted just above the C-pillars.

Microscopic reflectors in the 2022 GMC Hummer EV's light bar reflect recessed LED lights to create the vehicle's signature running light.

2) Light show. Signature LED running lights are nothing new, but the way Hummer does them is. The pickup lights up the six, H-U-M-M-E-R blocks on the front facia with a thin, white film made up of microscopic lenses that reflect the illumination from recessed LED lights. “When we saw the technology, we thought we had to make use of it,” said chief exterior designer Brian Malczewski, whose resume includes some other cool exteriors like the Corvette.

3) Go topless. An off-road-focused vehicle, Hummer gets you closer to nature with four removable roof panels. Blessedly lightweight, they are easily extracted with rotating latches — then easily stored in the front eTrunk (or frunk, as EV owners like to say). The rear window can also be automatically rolled down. Unlike the Jeep Wrangler, however, the front windshield does not flop down — and neither can you take the doors off.

The 2022 GMC Hummer EV has three windshield wipers.

4) Tri-wiper. That upright front windshield offered challenges for wiper coverage given the truck’s narrow greenhouse and expansive width (measuring 87.6 inches wide, the pickup requires three amber roof lights, typical of heavy-duty trucks). So the Hummer is outfitted with three blades.

The 2022 GMC Hummer EV features 18 camera views including this one out back.

5) Cameras. Like the mansion you’ll store the Hummer in, the EV gets lots of camera angles to monitor things. Eighteen camera views allow you to keep an eye on everything from the ground ahead to the rocks beneath, to the tires on each side.

In Extract mode, the 2022 GMC Hummer EV can be jacked up 16 inches for extreme off-roading.

6) Jacked. Thanks to its air suspension, Hummer has 9.5 inches of variable ride height. From 10 inches of ground clearance in Normal mode, the beast can crouch to 6.5 inches off the turf for insane, Watts-to-Freedom launches. Or it can be jacked up 16 inches in Extract mode when the off-road terrain gets really sketchy.

To go 3 seconds zero-60 mph, the 2022 GMC Hummer EV must first be prepped in Watts to Freedom mode - indicated by the screen graphic.

7) Unreal. GMC hired New York-based Perception, famous for its design work in Marvel films like “Iron Man” and “Black Panther,” to pen Hummer’s user experience in the instrument and infotainment displays. Using Epic’s Unreal game engine — a familiar tool in the gaming world — Perception designed rich graphics like the intro sequences to Terrain and Watts-to-Freedom modes.

8) The sound of silence. Hummer is an electric vehicle, but chief engineer Al Oppenheiser and team were determined that it come with enhanced sonic emotion (this is a guy who built the blood-curdling Camaro V-8, after all). So GMC partnered with Bose to create Vehicle Sound Enhancement (EVSE). Using the truck’s 14-speaker sound system, EVSE sends subtle, custom-designed propulsion sounds into the cabin with each drive mode — and also hides undesirable motor sounds. Normal mode is quiet, but select Terrain mode while off-roading, for example, and you get a low, rumbling soundtrack.

EVSE is most pronounced with Watts-to-Freedom. Various audio cues fill the cabin, including a mix of electric guitar riffs while the Bose subwoofer creates vibrations to prepare occupants for launch.

“The sense of sound is an important element,” said Oppenheiser. “We looked to Bose for expertise in helping balance the appropriate level of acoustic precision with driver input, yet not compromising the enjoyment of a near-silent EV experience.”

Unveiled: GR Corolla transforms Toyota compact into an all-wheel drive hellion

Posted by Talbot Payne on April 1, 2022

The Detroit Three automakers have abandoned small cars, but foreign manufacturers continue to embrace a compact market full of first-time buyers and enthusiasts.

Toyota unveiled a U.S.-focused performance variant of its best-selling Corolla compact car Thursday night called the GR. That’s pronounced Grrrrr.

Based on Corolla’s hatchback model, the GR will feature aggressive styling and an insane, 300-horsepower, turbocharged 3-cylinder engine shared with the wee GR Yaris that has been setting European streets on fire.

Developed by the brand’s Gazoo Racing arm, the hot hatch joins other all-wheel-drive hellions in the compact performance space like the Subaru WRX and Mazda3 Turbo. Other rivals include front-drive pocket rockets including the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Jetta GLI, Honda STI and Type R, and Hyundai Elantra N.

Ford once competed in the segment with its raucous, front-wheel-drive Focus ST model and all-wheel-drive Focus RS. They have since retreated from U.S. shores along with the Focus sedan, which is still sold in Europe. The RS’s turbocharged, 2.3-liter turbo-4 lives on in the Mustang High Performance model.

The 2023 Toyota GR Corolla comes with a 6-manual only.

Detroit brands have focused on the two-door, muscle-car segment with models like the Mustang, Dodge Challenger and Chevy Camaro to attract performance enthusiasts. Toyota has also flooded the sports car space with its affordable GR86 corner-carver (which also wears the Gazoo Racing (GR) badge) and the Corvette-fighting Supra.

The GR Corolla, however, marks a major expansion of Toyota’s ambitions in the car space. Like the mid-size Camry, the popular Corolla has been perennial best-seller in its segment — but Toyota has resisted the siren call to build performance variants like competitors Honda and Hyundai. Only more stylish trims like the Corolla XLE were offered, but with little change to the oily bits.

The GR Corolla changes all that.

Like Honda’s wildly successful Si and Type R models, the GR stuffs Corolla with an entirely new engine: the ferocious, 1.6-liter turbo-3 cylinder. King Kong in a suitcase, the small mill is the first three-holer in a class dominated by four-bangers. But its numbers are segment competitive with 300 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque.

Under the hood of the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla is a raucous 300-horse turbo-3.

The GR Corolla will come with a manual transmission only, which will be catnip for enthusiasts. It will also come exclusively in all-wheel-drive — another big departure for a brand that has resisted four-wheel propulsion in its sedans. AWD is common in Toyota’s SUV and truck lineups.

Called GR Four, the AWD system will be configurable so that drivers can choose 70-30 torque split for better grip — or 50-50 for better track handing. A sophisticated McPherson front/double-wishbone rear suspension will help keep the pocket rocket planted.

The 2023 Toyota GR Corolla comes in a standard Core model with AWD, 300-horses, and aggressive bodywork.

The GR Corolla dovetails with Toyota president and chief motorhead Akio Toyoda’s ambitions to make his company more appealing to enthusiasts. Toyota is one of three manufacturers in NASCAR, it has won the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race four years running, and the GR is production proof of Gazoo Racing’s GT racing efforts at the 24 Hours of Nurburgring — with none other than President Toyoda at the heel.

GR Corolla has done extensive track testing at top Japanese circuits, including Fuji Speedway, Suzuka Formula One track, and Tsukuba.

GR will come in two trims — the Core and Circuit editions. The latter will be exclusive to the GR Corolla’s launch year and will come with significant enhancements like a swollen hood, suede seats, bigger rear spoiler, carbon-finer hood and dual limited-slip differentials.

The 2023 Toyota GR Corolla Circuit Edition shows off its big rear spoiler.

Along with the pending, all-new, winged Civic Type-R, the muscled Circuit Edition should take some of the sting out of Subaru’s decision this year not to offer a WRX STI model.

Both GR models will be easily distinguished from the standard Corolla with swollen fenders, aggressive front facias, and three exhaust pipes out the rear. The GR will come with fat, Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires and beefy, 14-inch brake calipers to bring them to a stop.

Inside, GR Corolla will be nicely appointed with GR logo-tamped seats and digital displays — including an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. True to the Toyota brand, the hot hatch will be loaded with standard safety features, including adaptive cruise control, blind-spot-assist, auto high beams and collision avoidance detection.

The interior of the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla will come with an 8-inch screen, digital display, and wireless smartphone connectivity.

Manual-shift enthusiasts will be thrilled to hear a hand brake will be standard, as will hill-start control. A one-year membership in the National Auto Sport Association (NASA) will be offered with on-track driving instruction to learn the GR’s capabilities.

The new Toyota will be built at Gazoo Racing’s Motomachi, Japan, facility and will go on sale stateside later this year. Pricing will be announced closer to launch, but expect the GR to start around $30,000.

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

Payne: Gas above $4? No fear, 113 MPGe Toyota Prius Prime is here

Posted by Talbot Payne on April 1, 2022

Southfield — Gas has jumped to an average of $4.25 a gallon here, and the Toyota Prius Prime plug-in is ready for prime time. I plugged it into my home 240-volt wall charger and filled my battery with 25 miles of charge in two hours at a cost of $1.50. When the battery was spent after a day chasing errands, the gas engine kicked in with another 640 miles of range at my disposal at 54 mpg. Enough to drive nonstop to New York City to visit my son if necessary.

The Toyota what? Prius? Dude, that’s so 15 minutes ago.

The 2022 Toyota Prius Prime has been nicknamed the Pious for its owners' often smug claims of planet-friendly efficiency.

The last time gas hit $4 a gallon in 2008, the Prius hybrid was all the rage. Sales soared to 158,884 units a year on their way to a record 234,228 by 2013. All the cool kids had one. Leo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz and Tom Hanks arrived at the Oscars in a Prius. Presidential candidate Barack Obama swaggered into Detroit and berated Detroit automakers for not making a Prius. So morally righteous were owners that the Japanese hatchback gained the nickname “Pious.”

Today, despite soaring gas prices, the Prius is all but forgotten despite the addition of a plug-in model in 2013. Green elites have moved on to other shiny toys. Pols shame Americans for not buying electric vehicles. Leo drives a Polestar 2 and Stephen Colbert brags he never has to visit the gas pump in his Tesla. Model 3 is the new Pious.

But for Americans tired of shelling out $60 each time they fill up their Toyota Camry, the Prius is an appealing bargain.

The sippy 2022 Toyota Prius Prime is made for $4.29 gas prices.

Indeed, my loaded, top-trim Limited tester clocked in at $35,000 — that magical, affordable number that Tesla’s Model 3 sedan once promised but never delivered. Of course, there is always a better value, and Prime is pricey compared to one of my all-time favorite Detroit fuel sippers: the $15,000 (in today’s dollars), 1995 Geo Metro three-cylinder that returned an impressive 47 mpg. It didn’t last.

Prime presents itself in a package as instantly recognizable as a Tesla: Angular profile, split-rear window, vertical running lights. That, and my tester was as bright blue as a newly-dyed Easter egg.

I flung it around Oakland County, the Prius’s compact, stiffened chassis much-improved over the first-gen’s pasta noodle.

But you won’t mistake it for a Tesla. I floored Pious out of a stoplight and the front-wheel-drive electric motor briefly woke up as if startled, then settled into a slow trot. When the gas engine kicks in, it drones on like John Kerry at a Davos climate change conference. Prime offers a POWER sport mode to complement NORMAL and ECO, but I couldn’t tell the difference.

Leave it in ECO because the real charm of this fuel sipper is its double life as a daily EV/640-mile gas burner. Today, greens tout EVs with 500-mile electric range — but that’s for a $140,000 Lucid Air. For that price, you can buy four Primes that go farther.

Plug-ins are a solution GM once believed was the Holy Grail. Embarrassed by Prius hybrid getting all that Oscars attention, the Volt plug-in promised 53 miles before the gas engine kicked in, and 420 miles total range. But Volt ultimately joined the Geo Metro on the scrap heap.

“Hybrids didn’t sell very well,” GM President Mark Reuss told Fox News in explaining the General’s decision to abandon plug-ins. “You’re still carrying two propulsion systems. That’s not very efficient.”

The slow-selling Bolt EV followed. Next up? The Model Y-beating Chevy Equinox EV.

Meanwhile, Prius Prime plug-in soldiers on.

As satisfying as its gas price-defying range is, however, it comes at a cost if you want quick, two-hour recharges. A 240-volt Juicebox charger plus installation could set you back $2,000 in a 1970s-vintage-house like mine.

The Toyota Prius charges at home on a 240-volt plug next to a Tesla Model 3. Once the darling of greens, the Prius is now overshadowed by Tesla.

Better to plug in to a standard 120-volt wall socket for 5 ½ hours every night. That’s because a comparably-equipped $25K Corolla compact hatchback also comes in Easter egg blue and also answers your gas budget woes with 35 mpg. Prius Prime, EPA tells us, gets a whopping 54 mpg. Let’s do the math. If you’re traveling an average of 15,000 miles year, that means Prime will save you a whopping $640 annually with petrol at $4.25 a gallon.

Here comes the “but” you’ve been waiting for.

Gas prices would have to continue at $4.25 a gallon for nearly 16 years before you would recoup the costs of your Prime premium over the Corolla. What if you only (improbably) used the Prime on electric charge? EPA says you’d get 113 MPGe and save $1,061 — in which case gas prices would have to continue at $4.25 a gallon for nine years before you would recoup the costs of your Prime premium over the Corolla. Qualify for the federal $4,500 tax credit and payback is in five years.

That’s a lotta math, which is why battery-powered vehicles remain a market niche. Last year, Prius only sold 60,000 units. Prius faithful enjoy a unique driving environment.

The 2022 Toyota Prius Prime features a modern, big screen - but lacks some tech like Android Auto.

Prius beat Tesla to market by remodeling the vehicle dashboard. It removed the instrument display behind the steering wheel, then relocated it at the base of the windshield with digital graphics so you can watch the powertrain transition from electric to gas power. Redundantly, Prime offers a head-up display for 2022. I barely noticed it was there. The Toyota’s signature stubby, dash-mounted shifter frees up console space for a smartphone charging pad.

If it’s an Android smartphone like mine, however, it is useless for navigation on the Prime Limited’s big 12-inch screen, which doesn’t offer Android Auto. That’s a drag as disappointing as the Prius’s lethargic acceleration. Despite the promise of its Tesla-sized screen, Prime is half-hearted about tech. I craved Android Auto because the native nav system is stuck in the last century.

Toyota clearly understands customers want SUVs and it has equipped its best-selling RAV4 ute with a plug-in model featuring more power and electronic capability (yes, it has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto). I could see my little Prius smiling with fatherly pride in the driveway. It may not be as hip as it was 20 years ago, but it has spawned a new generation of plug-ins.

The bigger RAV4 Prime is a chip off the ol’ block with 94 MPGe and range of 20 miles on a charge. It has significantly better acceleration, too. But it’ll cost you, ahem, $49,000 for a loaded, top trim model. That’s a $13,000 premium over a comparable gas-powered RAV4. More math.

My guess is the average Toyota buyer is yelling: Drill, baby, drill!

2022 Toyota Prius Prime

Vehicle type: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive, five-passenger hatchback plug-in

Price: $29,245, including $1,025 destination fee ($35,284 as tested)

Powerplant: 1.8-liter inline-4 cylinder with two AC motors and 8.8-kWh lithium-ion battery pack

Power: 121 horsepower

Transmission: Continuously variable automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph 10.2 sec. (Car and Driver); top speed, 101 mph

Weight: 3,375 pounds (Limited as tested)

Fuel economy: EPA, 113 MPGe (electric and gas combined); 54 MPG combined (gas only)

Report card

Highs: Easy on the gas; 25 electric miles for daily commute

Lows: Slug-like acceleration; no Android Auto

Overall: 3 stars

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

Payne: Toughened CX-50 takes Mazda fun off-road

Posted by Talbot Payne on April 1, 2022

Cuyama, California — What’s better than a Mazda in the compact SUV segment? Two Mazdas in the compact SUV segment.

Say hello to the CX-50, the more adventurous brother of the venerable CX-5.

The CX-5 has been my benchmark for the segment since the second-gen model hit it out of the park in 2017. Stylishly designed with the best handling this side of an Alfa Stelvio, CX-5 offered luxury appointments for the price of a Subaru. Its success as Mazda’s best-selling vehicle in the USA’s most-popular segment (over 3 million unit sales) opens the opportunity for CX-50 to explore the segment’s lifestyle-conscious overlander customer.

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 brings the brand's excellent driving dynamics to the off-road space.

It’s a trail that Subaru blazed with its rugged all-wheel-drive, go-anywhere vibe and other brands (think Ford and its Bronco Sport, 2020 Detroit News Vehicle of the Year) are eager to follow. For CX-50, that means following fast.

The Maricopa Highway north of Santa Barbara boasts some of America’s most beautiful roads with glorious vistas and stunning destinations like the Carrizo Plains and Los Padres National Forest. Think the U.P. but with mountains.

So much fun is the CX-50 to drive that I was soon distracted from the view by Maricopa’s roller-coaster curves. Long sweepers, diving hairpins, writhing S turns. With little traffic, it’s a sports car haven.

Ahem, Payne, you’re driving an SUV.

That’s what Mazda has done to the ute. It’s taken the DNA of the Miata and Mazda3 performance cars and somehow translated it to high-riding SUVs — an SUV that rides 8.6 inches off the ground, for goodness’ sake. I must admit some skepticism when Mazda unveiled CX-50 last year tattooed with hip black fender cladding, wide stance and roof rails.

Such touches signal gravel road resilience — but often a softer ride tuned for off-road flexibility. Mazda has made its living as an asphalt fun machine, and I feared that might be compromised. Nope. As Mazda dynamics engineer and chief hot shoe Dave Coleman is quick to point out, you spend most of your time on road even if you’re escaping to the Outback. Cue CX-50’s slogan: “tough but powerful.” Zoom zoom.

The tasteful interior of the 2023 Mazda CX-50 includes remote controller and premium materials.

CX-50’s meaty, weighted steering wheel immediately instills confidence. Despite a higher seating position than the Mazda 3, CX-50 shares the same sweet platform. With all-wheel drive and a mighty 310 pound-feet of torque at my disposal, the Premium Plus tester just ached to be flogged.

There’s no manual here like the Miata, but the 6-speed tranny is a model of smoothness. Jump on the accelerator out of a turn and the “tip-in” is buttery smooth — unlike many 9-speed gearboxes that hunt for the right gear. No bucking, no head twerking, just go.

Before long, my speedometer was registering Mazda3-like numbers as I floored the ute between corners. Grab the brakes and, with all-wheel-drive grip, the CX-50 rotated easily into apexes. Hey Coleman, thought of optioning Michelin Cup Sport tires?

Actually, an all-terrain tire will be optioned on high-profile 18-inch rims when the top-drawer Meridian trim debuts later this year. Gotta keep CX-50 on brand. That brand benefits from Mazda’s years of handling perfection. G-Vectoring Control (GVC to Mazda faithful) cleverly cuts engine torque to help handling — and Mazda’s elves have tweaked the formula for CX-50 with a unique OFF-ROAD mode.

With standard AWD, the 2023 Mazda CX-50 likes to get dirty.

Mimicking rally drivers who left-foot brake into corners to help transfer grip to the front wheels, GVC helped me keep CX-50 tidy as I smoked some off-road trails near Los Padres. Fun, but in more practical applications GVC will help the car settle when drivers misread a trail. That said, CX-50 can’t compete with Bronco Sport’s sensational dual rear clutch pack that makes the Ford a true off-road weapon.

Mazda figures if you’re that serious about off-roading, you’ll get a Bronco or Wrangler armored with skid plates, dual transfer case and plastic fenders so you don’t scratch the paint. CX-50 offers fore and aft cameras so you don’t drive off a cliff.

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

The latter comes in particularly handy if you want to trailer a dirt bike — or U-Haul a go-kart racer as I used to do with my kiddies. Three camera views are available, one of which keeps an eye on your trailer sides. The 2.5-liter turbo-4 will tow up to 3,500 pounds; the standard, 186-torque 4-banger can haul 2,000.

The latter is no stripper entry model.

Like CX-5, the base CX-50 is a bargain at $28,025. Standard everything that would cost thousands more on a luxe brand: all-wheel drive (Mazda SUVs are now standard AWD like Subies), blind-spot assist, adaptive cruise control, emergency braking, auto tranny, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 features wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

A word about the latter. I love wireless tech, but Android Auto drains phone battery. Miles from anywhere in Los Padres National Forest, my phone ran out of juice, leaving me direction-less. Lesson: use the cord on long trips to keep your phone charged while navigating.

The roomy console is dominated by a nifty remote controller to operate the infotainment screen, but — true to Mazda’s obsession with detail — the screen automatically turns to a touchscreen when Android Auto is activated so you can use it like your phone.

Want more obsession? The rear doors open wide to 90 degrees for easier car-seat access — and the roof to store bikes and gear.

Mazda fans have rightly argued their steeds are as good looking as Bimmers, but the CX-50’s nod to off-road culture is a radical departure for a brand that has prized sleek lines.

Lower and wider than CX-5, CX-50 looks aggressive but extra bodywork is everywhere from the wheel arches (though the cladding is not as intrusive as on the smaller CX-30) to the rocker panels to the expansive grille. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and the 50 blends into the SUV crowd more than the sculptured CX-5.

The interior, however, is premium goodness and now suitable for four, where the CX-5 has always been cramped in the rear seat. Credit a wheelbase stretched five inches, which adds generous cargo and rear seat room for big Americans.

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 gains 5 inches of wheelbase over the CX-5 - so 6'5" Payne can sit behind himself in the rear seat.

Mazda seems to have figured us out with 322,756 sales last year — the most for the brand since ’94. Hungry for more, CX-50 is Made in ‘Bama on Mazda’s first U.S. line since the ol’ Ford joint venture days in Flat Rock.

Now it goes head-to-head with Ford’s Bronco Sport for my favorite compact SUV. Life is good in compact ute-land.

2023 Mazda CX-50

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

Price: $ 28,025 base, including $1,225 destination ($41,170 Premium Plus as tested)

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

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

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 6.2-8.0 seconds (Car and Driver est.); towing capacity: 2,000 pounds (2.5L), 3,500 pounds (turbo-4)

Weight: 3,907 pounds as tested

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

Report card

Highs: Butter-smooth drivetrain; standard features galore like CX-5 but with more interior room, 90-degree rear doors

Lows: Less-distinct Mazda styling; handy remote controller requires time to learn

Overall: 4 stars