Henry Payne Blog

Cartoon: Trump Nanny Ecigs

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 16, 2019

Cartoon: McCarthy NYTimes and Kavanaugh

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 16, 2019

Cartoon: Texas Democrat Debate

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 13, 2019

Cartoon: Google Antitrust

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 12, 2019

Payne: In Outback’s shadow, Subaru Legacy is a bargain AWD sedan

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 12, 2019

The 2020 Subaru Legacy Sport is an aggressive-looking beast with black wheels and trim - but it doesn't come with Subaru's  more powerful turbo-4 engine.

The 2020 Subaru Legacy Sport is an aggressive-looking beast with black wheels and trim – but it doesn’t come with Subaru’s more powerful turbo-4 engine.

Pity the Subaru Legacy sedan.

It has a hard enough time competing for dates in SUV Nation, but it also has to compete against its sibling Outback. Separated at birth, the Outback and Legacy share the same DNA, platform and electronics — except the Outback got jacked up by 8.7 inches to SUV status and became the fun, outdoors-loving, best-selling big man on campus. Its dance card is full every weekend.

To make matters worse, the Outback went out and got plastic surgery.

Legacy was always the better-looking sibling with its sleek roofline and Sport trim and athletic stance. But for its sixth generation, the Outback got Botox shots that cleaned up its lumpy face, toned down its love handles and — this one really hurts — picked up the same Sport trim as Legacy.

The new Outback has cool black highlights, black wheels, blacked-out window pillars, the full Sport treatment. And to rub it in, the Outback calls its sport trim Onyx.

The Legacy could wallow in self-pity, but it knows its strengths and builds on them for its own next-generation makeover.

For 2020, Legacy is more athletic, more attractive and more of an all-wheel-drive bargain than ever. The Outback may have more rugged sex appeal than Russell Crowe, but it comes at a $4,000 premium. The Legacy is a cheap date with quick moves that will get you to dinner and a movie on time.

Sedan sales may be down compared to sport utilities, but the Legacy is evidence they are still the best bargain on the showroom floor. For us aesthetically minded penny pinchers, the midsize sedan is one heckuva deal.

Like the best-in-segment Honda Accord sedan, the Legacy offers standard luxury features and handling for about $25,000. Indeed, these sedans’ amenities are so good that luxury buyers have to think long and hard whether Audi’s four-rings ($54,000 for a base A6) or Acura’s caliper logo ($33,000 for a base TLX) are worth the hit to the bank account.

For the same price as a base Honda LX, the $25,895 Legacy Premium echoes with standard — standard! — adaptive cruise-control, lane-keep assist and 11.6-inch, Tesla-like console screen. Good luck finding those features on equivalent luxury models for under $50,000.

With a press of the adaptive cruise-control button on the steering wheel, the Legacy competently self-drove through heavy California traffic (is there any other kind?), with lane-centering, braking for the car in front of me and accelerating automatically. It allowed me to negotiate the big console screen to adjust temperature, seat heater, navigation directions (Apple CarPlay/Android Auto also standard) and … um, the start-stop button.

For a brand synonymous with its “Love” ad campaign, Subaru is surprisingly obtuse about Americans’ hatred of start-stop, which makes cars stall at stoplights in order to get credits toward federal fuel-economy regulations.

BMW, VW and Mercedes love their customers so much they put the start-stop button right next to the on-off button so drivers can shut it off as soon as they get in the car. Subaru buries it deep in the infotainment screen. Sigh.

Love returns when you hit the gas pedal. Built on Subaru’s excellent new Global Architecture, the Legacy benefits just as the compact Impreza sedan and Outback before it.

With an impressive 70% improvement in torsional rigidity thanks to high-strength steel and lots of glue (the new, new engineering thing), Legacy rotated nicely through California’s Ojai Mountain twisties (like Hell, Michigan, except miles longer).

Venture off-road and the Legacy can go confidently where few other sedans dare with its standard (there’s that word again) all-wheel drive. Muddy, pockmarked national-park dirt roads are no problem with Legacy’s torque-vectoring AWD — all four corners are always spinning to get you out of trouble.

This is Legacy’s secret sauce. And though the sedan segment may be shrinking, Subaru sees it as a tasty alternative as Detroit manufacturers leave the segment. Chrysler long ago headed for the weeds and the fetching Ford Fusion (with Altima, the only other automaker that offers all-wheel drive in the segment) is scheduled for the scrap heap. Only the Subaru comes – yup – standard with AWD in the segment.

If you’re a Midwesterner facing all-season weather, that’s a welcome sight for a $23,000 base sedan.

Dress the Legacy in my favorite Sport trim and it’s ready for a night on the town for about $30,000. And bring friends. I could sit behind myself comfortably in the back seat, 6-foot-6 frame and all. Continuing the interior upgrade, the Legacy has gained a healthy 1.4 inches of rear leg room despite no wheelbase length change.

While the interior has had a full remake, the outside is familiar save for a rimless grille here, a higher beltline there. The biggest exterior alteration is – typical Subaru – value-driven. The rear trunk opening has been stretched allowing for four full-size bags to fit in the trunk where only three did before. Clever.

The conservative styling bucks the segment trend in which Accord, Hyundai Sonata, and Toyota Camry sexed up their offerings to keep their customers’ cheating eyes riveted on sedans. If Legacy were ice cream, it would be vanilla. That’s a gamble, especially in light of brother Outback’s better looks.

Also a gamble is the bet that performance-minded customers (like me) won’t miss its flat-6 engine.

In a crowded segment, the six’s throaty roar was a siren song for customers looking to upgrade from the base 2.5-liter four-banger’s dull buzz. To improve fuel economy, pricier Legacys (designated LX) get turbocharged 2.4-liter fours to match the Accord’s 2.0-liter turbo-4.

But the turbo remains mated to the same CVT transmission as the standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder, whereas the Accord moves to a 10-speed and the Mazda 6 boasts one of the silkiest 6-speeds you’ll ever encounter.

Even King Accord’s own Sport model shows up my favorite Subaru Sport with a more powerful standard engine and optional stick shift. Price? The same. Both cars are made in the midwest (Accord in Ohio, Legacy in Indiana). Both have more rear seat room than Delta Comfort.

So Legacy makes its case with that secret-sauce AWD. It is catnip in the upper Midwest, save for one thing: Sibling Outback also has AWD. And that lah-dee-dah Onyx model, unlike Legacy’s Sport, gets the 260-horse turbo engine.

Curse you, twin brother.

2020 Subaru Legacy

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

Price: Base price $23,645 including $900 destination charge ($30,090 Sport as tested)

Powerplant: 2.5-liter 4-cylinder or 2.4-liter turbo 4-cylinder

Power: 182 horsepower, 176 pound-feet of torque (2.5-liter); 260 horsepower, 277 pound-feet of torque (turbo-4)

Transmission: Continuously variable transmission (CVT)

Performance: 0-60 mph, 6.1 sec. (manufacturer estimate for turbo-4); top speed, 130 mph

Weight: 3,523 pounds (Sport as tested)

Fuel economy: EPA: 27 city/35 highway/30 combined (2.5-liter); 24 city/32 highway/27 combined (turbo-4)

Report card

Highs: AWD sedan bargain, Tesla-like screen

Lows: Vanilla exterior; start-stop switch off hard to find

Overall: 3 stars

Cartoon: Jagger Trump Climate

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 12, 2019

CARtoon: Construction Cones

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 7, 2019

Taycan unveiled: Porsche goes electric with a Tesla-fighter

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 7, 2019

Porsche introduced its first-ever electric vehicle, the Taycan, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, in Niagara Falls, Canada.

Niagara Falls, Canada – The two most-anticipated performance cars of 2019 are the Chevrolet Corvette C8 and Porsche Taycan — but for very different reasons. While the Corvette reaches for new performance heights with its first-ever mid-engine layout, the Porsche is out to prove its first-ever electric vehicle isn’t compromised by battery power.

As governments from Europe to China to California mandate EV production, Porsche is determined to put its performance stamp on battery-power just as it has for high-horsepower gas engines.

“We want to be the benchmark. That is a good word,” said Porsche executive board member Detlev von Platen as he unveiled the stunning Taycan on the edge of Niagara Falls Wednesday morning. “The Taycan sets a new standard. It is the sportiest EV in class. Just like every other Porsche.”

The performance specs on the all-wheel drive Taycan are nearly as spectacular as the Niagara Falls backdrop. In top Turbo S trim (the EV maintains the brand’s “Turbo” trim nomenclature though it lacks turbochargers), Taycan hits 60 mph in a face-flattening 2.6 seconds. That’s on par with the gas-fed Porsche 911 Turbo supercar.

Credit twin electric motors and the massive 93.4 kilowatt-hour battery that sits under the Taycan’s seats. The battery is nearly on par with Tesla’s 100-kWh Model S sedan which (in Performance trim) can hit 60 mph in just 2.4 seconds.

That electric power was the inspiration for the Taycan’s introduction at Niagara. The hydroelectric plants around the falls produce enough electricity to supply one-quarter of the power used in Ontario and New York state. The Taycan was simultaneously unveiled in China and Europe, two important markets for Porsche where governments are targeting gas engines for elimination.

Porsche is the first foreign automaker to challenge Tesla on performance after the Model S stunned the auto world seven years ago with its electrifying acceleration. But the German automaker does not try to compete with Tesla on price.

Where the Model S starts at $85,000, the cheapest Taycan Turbo that debuted here starts at $152,250 (including $1,350 destination fee). The Turbo S stickers at an eye-watering $186,350.

These prices are in line with top-trim 911 coupes and Panamera sedans, and well beyond that of Tesla’s sedan. Expect a base single-motor, rear-wheel drive version of the Taycan to eventually start closer to $100,000.

Raw speed is where the Taycan seeks to separate itself from Tesla and other EVs like the Jaguar i-Pace and coming Audi e-tron GT (with which the Taycan shares a platform and LG Chem-supplied battery).

“This car does things that no other Porsche has ever done in terms of acceleration, braking and the ability to change direction,” said Porsche North America CEO Klaus Zellmer in reference to the Taycan Turbo S’s prodigious 774 pound-feet of torque, electric motors and 16.5-inch, 10-piston brakes.

Taycan has already set the fastest, four-door EV time around Germany’s legendary 12.8-mile Nurburgring race track at 7 minutes, 42 seconds. That’s just 10 seconds off the fastest gas-engine production sedan record clocked by the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio.

This despite the Taycan weighing a porky 5,132 pounds, nearly a ton more than the Alfa and on par with a Ford F-150 Super Crew.

Unlike the Model S which has famously struggled to make laps around U.S. tracks, Taycan was designed to run blistering track laps with its Porsche kin.

The hardware required to do that — extensive liquid-cooling for the battery and massive electric cables — takes up significant space in the 194-inch long sedan. Yet, despite being 3 inches shorter than the Panamera (Porsche’s gas-powered sedan with which the Taycan is competitively priced), the EV has similar interior space due to the lack of gas engine under the front hood. Similar to Tesla’s skateboard chassis, the Taycan’s battery is located under the floorboards.

Like all EVs, Taycan will face consumer resistance on range and charging infrastructure.

The German maker seeks to quell these concerns with a range of up to 279 miles (compared to the Model S’s 370) and the unique ability to charge at 270 kilowatts (Tesla can charge up to 200 kW) on Electrify America’s nascent U.S. charger network. Porsche says that at 270 kW, the Taycan can charge to 80% of capacity in 22.5 minutes – or about 9 hours on a home, 240-volt plug.

Outside, the EV sedan is unmistakably Porsche with its blunt nose and sleek coupe roofline. The production car largely adheres to the signature elements of the futuristic Mission-E concept car that dropped jaws when it debuted at the 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show. Aerodynamic gills flank the front, four-point optic headlights and a horizontal taillight spans the rear deck lid.

But physical changes required to meet regulatory rules and budget ceilings have compromised the production design. Gone are the Mission-E’s doors; the racy, conceptual rocker panels have been trimmed.

Inside, Porsche has crafted a sci-fi digital cockpit to match the car’s futuristic ambitions. The console is adorned with digital touchscreens including an industry-first, curved-glass instrument display. Porsche teamed with Apple to create the first Apple streaming service with access to over 40 million songs. “Foot garages” are carved in the rear floor between batteries for for better foot room, and the trunk and “frunk” combine for 15.7 cubic feet of cargo space.

Taycan development set Porsche back $6.6 billion, the most expensive project the automaker has ever undertaken.

To spread costs, Taycan shares its EV platform with Audi. Porsche promises more electrics in the years to come: first up, the Taycan Cross Turismo, a crossover due next year.

“By 2025, 50% of Porsches will be sold with a plug,” says Zellmer. “(Taycan is) more than just one new model. It’s a milestone as Porsche enters the age of full electrification.”

As Porsche test-drives an EV future, Taycan is one leg in a three-legged drivetrain strategy that includes EVs, hybrids and Corvette-fighting, gas-powered sports cars like the 911.

Payne: Mercedes-AMG G63 is like a Wrangler on steroids

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 7, 2019

Vroom. With all-wheel-drive capability, locking differentials, and big departure and approach angles, the 2019 Mercedes-AMG G63 likes to hang out with ATVs.

Vroom. With all-wheel-drive capability, locking differentials, and big departure and approach angles, the 2019 Mercedes-AMG G63 likes to hang out with ATVs. (Photo: Henry Payne, The Detroit News)

If I didn’t know better, I’d think Mercedes was an aftermarket performance-mod shop for Jeeps.

Consider the fire-breathing all-road beast prowling my driveway, the 2019 Mercedes-AMG G63: Boxy shape like Jeep Wrangler. Ladder frame like a Wrangler. Round headlights. Square fenders. Locking differentials. Rear-door mounted spare. Dash-mounted grab handle. Even the door locks go WHAP!  when you shift into Drive.

A Wrangler, yes?

If I didn’t know better, I’d think Mercedes shipped the Jeep off to Austria, gutted it, and then rebuilt it as a luxury hot rod. It has gorgeous twin digital screens, remote rotary controller and touchpad and red leather and Nappa seats (oooohh!). The engine compartment is stuffed with a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 that churns out 577 horsepower. Quad exhaust pipes exit the side rocker panels like a Dodge Viper, and let out a VROOOOMMM! when you press the start button.

If I didn’t know Mercedes-Benz was a Stuttgart-based luxury automaker, I’d think they were the Jeep equivalent to the Lingenfelter, Callaway and Roush mod shops that inject steroids into Dream Cruisin’ Chevy and Ford cars and trucks.

But the G63 is German from the ground up.

It was just a year ago that Mercedes stole the Detroit auto show with the all-new G-Class truck on which the AMG G63 performance model is based.

The first remake of the iconic truck in three decades, the 2019 G-Class — popularly known as the G-Wagen — was thoroughly reworked from stem to stern with Mercedes’ state-of-the-art drivetrain, interior and electronics.

If the Land Rover Sport is the $100,000 equivalent of the Jeep Grand Cherokee for well-heeled customers, then the G-Wagen is the six-figure Wrangler for the well-to-do. At a nose-bleed price of $125,000, the base G-Wagen is a Wrangler in a tuxedo with an interior so rich you want to lick it, and a 417-horse V-8 to hammer asphalt into submission.

But, God bless them, Mercedes is not content with a base G-Class. Like the Challenger Hellcat, the BMW M or the Audi RS, the German luxury-maker has gone off and made a fiendish AMG performance version of the G-Class called the G63.

My $166,000 tester is the most bonkers vehicle I have driven. Ever. It’s even more insane than the Hellcat-engine-infused, 707-horse Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk or GMC Hummer that migrated from Mideast battlefields to American roads.

Interestingly, the latter was popularized by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who also debuted the G-Wagen in Detroit in 2018. Seems they share an Austrian birthplace. Nothing says intimidating like the Terminator.

The G63 is no mere Jeep Trackhawk that wants only to terrorize race tracks. Not content to set asphalt on fire with 3.9-second zero-60 launches, G63 also wants to go off-road with three — count ’em, three — locking differentials. It’s the first vehicle that I’ve taken to the Mounds Off-road Vehicle Park in Flint and drag racing on Woodward … in the same day.

The G63 is pure conspicuous consumption. (Maybe that’s why Mercedes has debuted its Q-class EV: to atone for its sins). On my hour drive to the Mounds, I blew a Challenger off the road, idled loudly in a construction zone and consumed about half of Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves.

But I didn’t sweat the 12.7 mpg because I knew there would be gas stations just miles from the Mounds. When Rivian comes out with its $150,000 all-electric, all-terrain SUV next year, the G-wagen will be tough competition.

Entering the Mounds, I armed my off-road tank for battle. Toggle the low gear setting, shift into neutral, then lock up all three differentials. I’ll leave the why of three differentials to the engineers, but all I know is this thing will climb trees.

Even outfitted with low-profile, sporty Goodyear Eagle 22-inch tires (for Woodward burnouts) rather than more appropriate off-road knobbies, the G63 grunted around the Mounds like it was its backyard sandbox. The Jeepish grab-handle is wrapped in leather (natch), so if Mrs. Payne were along for the ride, she’d have something to hold on to.

The Mounds is Wrangler, ATV and dirt bike territory. Jaws dropped as I rumbled by, rear-end slewing sideways, quad side pipes snorting obnoxiously. I don’t think anyone had ever seen a Mercedes there before.

“That is a gorgeous vehicle,” said one mud-caked ATV rider, drinking in my equally mud-caked chariot.

Too bad more G-Wagen owners don’t exercise their $100,000 animals up here. Maybe it’s because they would get the red leather interior muddy. With a whopping 9.5 inches of body clearance between the axles and 38-degree departure angle up front, the AMG 63 bounced along the Mounds moguls like a big puppy.

Its appetite for mud satisfied, G63 headed south for Woodward.

The G-Wagen is outfitted with Mercedes’ latest interior — twin instrument and console screens under one horizontal plane of glass, silver steering-wheel spokes festooned with controls including mini-touchpads to scroll the instrument display, rotary air vents, rotary infotainment controller with a touchpad that can read your handwriting.

But the G-Class doesn’t have the state-of-the-art infotainment system — triggered with a hearty “Hey, Mercedes!” — that debuted on the A-class this year allowing for direct, phone-like navigation commands. I entered an address on Woodward, then settled back into rouge-seated luxury.

The G63’s new electronic systems are oddly nervous for a car so indestructible. Proximity sensors went berserk at the sight of curbs, walls and drive-thru windows. I turned off the auto lane-keep system given its annoying habit of slamming the brakes whenever I diverged from a lane.

I’m particularly grateful for Merc’s placement of the engine start-stop button right next to the ignition button — so I can immediately turn off the annoying stall feature when I get in.

The G63’s handling is remarkably good for a rolling, solid-rear-axle shoebox, and I enjoyed some twisties on my way to Woodward Avenue.

Woodward is all about stoplight hole-shots.

A Mercedes-AMG CLA45 sedan, recognizing its big brother, shadowed me at a stoplight. On paper they do similar 0-60 times. But my V-8 monster got the jump and that was that.

Other muscle cars were less suspecting of the might beneath the skin of the big toaster. I dragged a Camaro SS and Audi RS5 that disappeared in my mirrors before they knew what hit them.

With its boxy proportions, the cabin comfortably fits four. Who knows, maybe Mercedes will bring a G-Wagen pickup to the U.S. someday just like a Jeep Gladiator.

With 577 horsepower.

2019 Mercedes-AMG G63

Vehicle type: Front-engine, all-wheel drive, luxury sport utility vehicle

Price: G-Class base price $125,495 including $995 destination charge ($166,095 AMG G63 as tested)

Powerplant: 4.0-liter, bi-turbo V-8

Power: 577 horsepower, 627 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 3.9 sec. (Car and Driver); top speed, 137 mph

Weight: 5,842 pounds base

Fuel economy: EPA: 13 city/15 highway/14 combined (12.7 mpg observed)

Report card

Highs: On- and off-road power, state-of-the-art interior

Lows: What, no Wrangler-like swaybar disconnect? Needs its own fuel tanker

Overall: 4 stars

Cartoon: Sanders Population Control

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 7, 2019

Cartoon: Labor Day

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 3, 2019

Cartoon: Comey, Inspector General Ref and Trump

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 3, 2019

Cartoon: Cortez and Global Warming Diseases

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 3, 2019

Payne: It’s the most powerful VW GLI ever — and it has a stick

Posted by Talbot Payne on September 3, 2019

The 2019 VW Jetta GLI on the long, flat, 300-mile trip to Indy from Detroit. The seats were comfortable, the Apple CarPlay nav unflappable, and the turbo-4 sippy.

The 2019 VW Jetta GLI on the long, flat, 300-mile trip to Indy from Detroit. The seats were comfortable, the Apple CarPlay nav unflappable, and the turbo-4 sippy. (Photo: Henry Payne, The Detroit News)

You could hear the teeth gnashing this summer when Chevy introduced the eighth-generation Corvette without a manual transmission option.

Heresy! Off with their heads! God save the manual!

But to paraphrase Mr. Twain, the death of the manual has been greatly exaggerated.

For those willing to pay less than half the price of a new Corvette, the next-generation Volkswagen Jetta GLI is not only the most powerful GLI ever — it also comes with a stick.

Not that I don’t understand the concerns of the Corvette faithful. Super sports-cars with manuals are surely on their last legs. There is something deeply satisfying about being able to slowly unleash 500 horsepower at a stoplight, the rear wheels smoking as you work throttle and clutch together like bow and strings. WAAAWWHHRRGH!

Or the satisfaction of a buttery, 4-to-2 downshift into a 90-degree turn after a perfect heel-and-toe downshift. AWROOOMYEAHHH!

But high-end dual-clutch automatic boxes do it all so much better that it’s pointless to resist. The faithful want 2.9-second zero-60 runs? Gotta have a dual-clutch automatic tranny. Want a car that stops on a dime with lightning quick downshifts? Same answer. Want a $70,000 ‘Vette that can compete with a $190,000 Porsche on track day? Once you’ve gone dual-clutch auto there is no going back.

But in Budgetville where most car enthusiasts still live, dual-clutch automatics are unaffordable and sticks are still where it’s at for the enthusiast.

The new Mazda 3 is offering the manual as a premium option, the Mazda Miata is a manual icon, and VW’s Jetta may be the best bargain this side of — well, its sibling Golf GTI.

As readers of this column know, the GTI is my favorite all-around player. For four decades the total package of hatchback value, interior comfort and performance fun.

The Jetta has always been the more affordable, sedan version of Golf. It’s the nerd to Golf’s party boy, the vanilla to Golf’s Rocky Road, the Teller to Golf’s Penn. Jetta never got a GTI performance equivalent.

That changed in 2011 with the first Jetta GLI stuffed with GTI goodies. For its seventh generation, Jetta has brought back the GLI again. I took the manual version on a road trip to Indianapolis Motor Speedway where I was racing my (manual, of course) Lola sports racer.

I expected the trip to measure Jetta GLI’s relevance compared to the GTI — and to automatic transmissions in general.

From the first press of the Jetta GLI’s clutch pedal, it was a different barrel of monkeys. Forget to press the clutch pedal and brake pedal, and the car won’t start at all (automatics require only pressing the brake to start). With a whopping 258 pound-feet of torque from its 2.0-liter turbo-4 and a tidy six-speed box, the GLI rekindles the joy of manuals.

It’s the same torquey 228-horse engine found in the Golf GTI. Torque comes on strong at 3,000 rpms, and with the Sport mode engaged (is there any other?) the turbo-4 makes a satisfying grunt when flogged. Unlike high-horsepower manuals (the Camaro ZL1) that require the strength of Zeus to shift, the VW six-speed is light to the touch for quick shifts.

Mrs. Payne was my co-driver. Though she prefers automatics (especially on long trips to, um, Indy, where an automatic transmission and adaptive cruise-control is particularly handy) she was content with the GLI stick, especially the hill-assist feature which makes first-gear hill starts a cinch.

Only the second to third shift is mushy (careful, or you’ll grab fifth by mistake and bog the engine). Rush a corner, and the gas and brake pedals are nicely aligned for heel-and-toe downshifts. The Jetta rotates nicely on it its award-wining MQB chassis screwed down with a stiffer suspension than the base Jetta.

The recipe is all GTI including multi-link rear suspension, flat-bottom steering wheel, limited-slip differential (perfect for autocrossing) — even big 13.4-inch brakes borrowed from the top-of-the-line, all-wheel drive, smokin’ hot-hatch Golf R.

Whew! You can see the vanilla melting. Especially as my GLI tester was wrapped in a very GTI-ish red coat with red war-paint grille. Twin pipes in the rear also signal competitors to keep their distance.

All this… and less.

True to Jetta’s entry-level spot in V-dub’s lineup, VW offers this manual treat at just $26,890, a significant $1,600 discount over the 2019 GTI. Trade up to the loaded, GTI Autobahn edition, and the delta between GLI and GTI grows to a yawning $5,000.

So is the GLI worth it?

On my 600-mile round trip to Indy, the differences reveal themselves. In between the handsome silver-rimmed gauges, the GLI gets away with a cheaper, pixelated digital display. The cloth seats never chafed, but they aren’t the bolstered, plaid thrones of the GTI. That means less body grip on high-G turns.

But the big differences are body style, and here’s where the GTI earns its premium. The Jetta is a big car with the same cargo and rear leg room as the mid-size Passat of just two generations ago. But while its cavernous 14.1 cubic feet of trunk space made for excellent airport runs (to pick up my sons and a friend), it paled in dexterity to the GTI’s 22-cubic-feet hatchback.

The GLI back seat gains two inches on the GTI but gives up an inch of precious headroom. And while VW has tried hard to sex-up the Jetta’s exterior with some nicely sculpted shoulder lines, it doesn’t have the character of the Golf classic.

I’ll pay the extra $1,600 for GTI, but I won’t pay the extra 800 clams for the GLI’s automatic transmission.

The six-speed manual was a reminder of the joys of the stick. Unless you’re stuck in three-hour Los Angeles traffic jams, the manual is a wonderful way to explore the torque range of the excellent VW engine.

The GTI/GLI torque numbers dwarf anything else in class, especially the manual Mazda 3 which soars in aesthetic appeal at just $28,420 — but then doesn’t offer an engine option beyond the merely competent standard 2.5-liter four-banger. Talk about vanilla.

By combining a sporty chassis, good power and a stick, the Jetta GLI is a cure for the common SUV. Or the $60,000, automatic Corvette.

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI manual

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

Price: Base price $26,890 including $895 destination charge ($26,890 as tested)

Powerplant: 2.0-liter turbo-4 cylinder

Power: 228 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Performance: 0-60 mph, 5.8 sec. (Car and Driver); top speed, 126 mph

Weight: 3,217 pounds base

Fuel economy: EPA: 25 city/32 highway/28 combined

Report card

Highs: Manual fun, torque-tastic turbo-4

Lows: Vanilla styling, not a hatchback GTI

Overall: 3 stars

Cartoon: G7 Climate

Posted by Talbot Payne on August 28, 2019

Cartoon: New York Times Trump Narratives

Posted by Talbot Payne on August 25, 2019

Cartoon: Password Madness

Posted by Talbot Payne on August 25, 2019

Cartoon: Israel and Jewish Loyalty

Posted by Talbot Payne on August 23, 2019

Payne: Lush Lincoln Aviator is an all-American land yacht

Posted by Talbot Payne on August 23, 2019

Back to the future. With big engine power, a palatial interior and bling-tastic design, the 2020 Lincoln Aviator resurrects the Detroit land yachts of yore. But as a hi-tech SUV.

Another Dream Cruise is in the books, and it was a glorious indulgence of 1940-1970 muscle cars and land-yacht nostalgia.

For American muscle, the nostalgia is sweet because Detroit continues to lead into the 21st century with updated versions of the Corvette, Camaro, Challenger and Mustang.

But land yachts have always left me wistful because U.S. luxury makers surrendered their crowns decades ago. Cadillac Brougham tail fins no longer slice through downtown traffic. Oldsmobile Ninety-Eights the length of oil tankers are gone. Huge Chrysler New Yorkers have sailed into the sunset. The boulevards today are ruled by sleek, athletic Germans.

But I’m happy to report there is hope.

The Lincoln Aviator SUV is here and is a welcome throwback to the future. Aviator is an unabashed embrace of all that once made American luxury great: design, size, power and comfort, updated for the 21st century.

Aviator leads an army of real names. Gone is the German-like alphabet soup of MKC, MKX, MILK (OK, I made that last one up). They’ve been replaced by proper names like Navigator, Nautilus and Corsair.

Turbo-4s are for politically correct Euro-utes. The new Aviator swaggers into your rearview mirror with a standard 400-horsepower (best in class) twin-turbo V-6, and a rear-wheel drive based chassis, gaping chrome grille and an interior quieter than a public library and more wooded than an Upper Peninsula forest.

Where 1940s Lincoln Continental Cabriolets lowered a massive 292-cube V-12 into their engine room, the Aviator boasts a range-topping, twin-turbo V-6-powered Grand Touring model mated to an electric motor generating a stump-pulling 630 pound-feet of torque. Post-war luxury owners wanted a big V-8 to drag home the bear strapped to their rooftop. Today’s 21st-century scion is more woke — they want to bag the bear and save the planet.

So Lincoln gives ’em power with a conscience. I got 22.1 mpg in the hybrid versus 18.7 mpg in the standard V-8. Drive like there’s an eggshell on the accelerator and you can do 20 miles on the battery alone. But make no mistake, this hybrid is no pious Prius.

With its massive torque, the Grand Touring model came out of stoplights like a steam locomotive. Indeed, the hybrid’s general character differed little from its standard little brother, except that it sucked the world’s oil reserves through a smaller straw.

Flying low through the California wilderness, Aviator struck fear in slower traffic just like the chrome-caked grilles of Motor City yore. Of course, this being a Ford product, the grille these days looks more Bentley than Continental Cabriolet. Blue Oval designers have fallen in love with Brit designs of late. Fusions look like Astons, Mustangs like Mondeos, Explorers like Range Rovers — but it could be worse; they could look like a Lexus.

Besides, Lincoln is trying to inspire brand cred, so borrowing from gold-standard Bentley is shrewd.

Design is just one part of a long journey by Lincoln that has culminated in the Aviator. Like the brand-redefining Acura RDX that was the spawn of the Acura NSX supercar and two design concepts, the Aviator is the most important Lincoln this century. On its back it carries the hopes of a new Lincoln generation.

I like to call it “Baby Navigator” because the similarities to Lincoln’s flagship are unmistakable: bling-tastic grille, tablet infotainment screen, luxurious graphics.

But the significance of Aviator is more than skin deep.

Along with the Ford Explorer, Aviator debuts a state-of-the-art rear-wheel drive based architecture. The platform allowed Explorer to introduce the apex-carving ST model that I raved about in July. But Lincoln chief engineer John Davis makes clear that Aviator was the impetus for the new platform.

The longitudinal engine layout takes Lincoln back to its rear-wheel drive glory days when land yacht sedans ruled Woodward. This being the 21st century, of course, SUVs are the new land yachts. But rear-wheel drive brings luxury cred — just ask European hits like BMW and Rover.

Next to Bentley, Range Rover is Lincoln’s (and just about everybody else’s) favorite Brit with its saucy proportions, short front overhangs and loooooong roofline. The Aviator (and Navigator) has been to Rover school and has the sculpted bod to prove it.

But unlike the truck-based Navigator, the Aviator sits on a more athletic unibody made of aluminum and high-strength steel that can cut some rug on the dance floor. It’s not as athletic as the lighter, tighter Cadillac XT6 I recently flogged — but the Aviator is a far more comprehensive vehicle. I love the Cadillac’s design and handling, but it’s just another ute in Caddy’s lineup. The Aviator is Lincoln’s masterpiece.

The Cadillac raids the GMC/Chevy toolbox for the workhorse 310-horse, 3.5-liter V-6. The Aviator starts with the aforementioned 400-horse twin-turbo V-6, and  then goes to a different level with a hybrid asphalt pounder.

Inside, Aviator brings in the Vanderbilt’s interior designers.

Ditching the old Lincoln’s nice-if-dated vertical dash, Aviator’s horizontal interior has more layers than a wedding cake. Acres of wood laid over stitched leather are set off by delicious color combos like mocha and ebony.

Class-leading 30-way adjustable thrones will massage you to jelly. Second-row seats are hardly second-class with their own climate screen and available console island. Roomy third-row seats are accessed as easily as pulling a tab, and — with the rear rows folded — you can gaze up at the stars through the yawning panoramic roof.

Which reminds me of my biggest Aviator complaint, the lack of a wow standard feature. The panoramic roof isn’t standard. Why not? It is on a $38,000 Acura RDX. Lincoln’s answer is, you have to climb the price ladder to $60,000 before Audi or Volvo will offer you a 300-horse engine option.

At $52,000. Lincoln gives you 400 horses standard mated to a class-exclusive 10-speed tranny. It’s good ol’ American power at a good ol’ American value.

Lincoln has its own personality again. Open the driver’s door and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra welcomes you with a chime. Dealers provide red carpet, door-to-door service.

Will it work? Stay tuned. For this year’s Dream Cruise, the 1993 Lincoln Mark VIII coupe qualified for its antique plates. When it debuted that year, the Mark VIII claimed dramatic proportions and a daring, wraparound interior. It died five years later.

Now comes Aviator. It’s not a coupe. It’s a three-row ute aimed at the meat of the market. Motor City luxury is back, baby.

2020 Lincoln Aviator

Vehicle type: Front-engine, rear- and all-wheel drive, 6- or 7-passenger SUV

Price: Base price for standard V-6 model $52,195, including $1,095 destination charge ($83,540 Black Label AWD as tested); hybrid model $69,895 including $1,095 destination charge ($83,670 Grand Touring Hybrid AWD as tested)

Powerplant: Twin-turbo, 3.0-liter V-6; twin-turbo V-6 hybrid mated to DC electric motor/lithium-ion battery

Power: 400 horsepower, 415 pound-feet of torque (V-6); 494 horsepower, 630 pound-feet of torque (hybrid)

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 5.3 seconds (V-6); maximum towing, 6,700 pounds (V-6)

Weight: 4,892 pounds (AWD V-6 as tested); 5,673 pounds (AWD hybrid as tested)

Fuel economy: EPA: 17 city/24 highway/20 combined (AWD V-6); Hybrid — 400-mile-plus range

Report card

Highs: All-American value, power; good looks

Lows: Pricey hybrid; standard adaptive cruise, please

Overall: 4 stars

Cartoon: California Airport Bans

Posted by Talbot Payne on August 20, 2019