Henry Payne Blog

Cartoon: Fat Cat Obamacare

Posted by hpayne on October 17, 2017

Cartoon: Media and Trump Derangement Syndrome

Posted by hpayne on October 16, 2017

Cartoon: Left Warmongers

Posted by hpayne on October 13, 2017

Cartoon: Trump Insults the Team

Posted by hpayne on October 12, 2017

Cartoon: Weinstein Clinton Women

Posted by hpayne on October 11, 2017

Cartoon: Obamacare Flying Nun

Posted by hpayne on October 10, 2017

Cartoon: Tonight Show Hillary

Posted by hpayne on October 6, 2017

Cartoon: Gun Vultures Vegas

Posted by hpayne on October 6, 2017

Payne: New Honda Accord’s affordable luxury

Posted by hpayne on October 6, 2017

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The traditional sedan’s struggle to stay afloat amidst an SUV sales tsunami has dominated headlines. But is has obscured another trend: the blurred line between luxury and mainstream autos.

The ute’s reign has been driven by a multitude of factors from five-door utility and command seating, to more fuel-efficient drivetrains. The narrowing luxe-mainstream gap hinges on two big developments: electronics and style.

The convergence has come with significant mile-markers: Ford Fusion’s premium Aston Martin face. Chevy Malibu’s Audi A7-like bod. Mazda 6’s suite of digital gee-wizardry. But this fall it hits full force in one complete and astounding package: the 2018 Honda Accord.

Yes, the dependable Accord, a car as genial and predictable as its inoffensive, peace treaty-evoking name: Oslo Accords. Geneva Accords. Honda Accords. All are excellent accomplishments. Genial. Hopeful. Um … what were they about again?

My wife’s 1992 Accord was typically Accord-like. We bought it because it was reliable, efficient, had four doors, four wheels and … um, doggonit, I’m going to have to Google “1992 Honda Accord” to remember what it looked like.

Not so the stunning, all-new 2018 car in top-drawer Touring trim which arrived in my driveway (at your local dealer this November) looking like someone swiped an Audi Sportback and stuck a Honda logo on its tookus. Priced at $36,675 — walking up the trim ladder from a $24,445 base LX — it is a glorious recipe containing the best auto ingredients baked to perfection.

My focus in this review is on the Touring trim, but it’s icing on top of what is a very good cake. In chassis dynamics, interior room and standard features like auto-brake safety systems and auto headlights, the Accord is a new mid-size standard.

We knew it was coming when Honda announced the all-new Accord would share a platform with the sensational 2016 North American Car of the Year Honda Civic. Like King Civic, which has more trophies than Tom Brady, the Accord is longer (two inches), wider (one-third inch), stiffer (32 percent more torsional rigidity) and with a lower center of gravity than the previous gen car.

Forget about its class competitors, Honda engineers base-lined the chassis to Audi. No wonder the luxury-mainstream gap is closing.

While front wheel-biased (most luxury chariots are rear-wheel drive), Accord handles with the confidence of a premium car. I tested Accord against an $82,000 BMW 540i X-drive and $46,000 Lexus IS 200 F-Sport (I have a big driveway), and the samurai was a worthy competitor.

Let me count the ways.

The Honda attacks corners with gusto, as predictable on turn-in as the Bimmer even without the BMW’s all-wheel drive advantage. A size smaller, the compact, tightly-sprung F-Sport was easier to rotate — until I hit the throttle.

The Honda’s 252-horse, 2.0-liter turbo-4 — a detuned version of the Tasmanian Devil that possesses the track-ready Civic Type-R — blows away the Lexus’ 241-horse turbo-4. Mated to Honda’s first 10-speed tranny, the Accord beats the 8-cog Lexus off apex. Power has long been the ace in the hole for luxury brands, but this is a mainstream driveline that is superior to one of the world’s premier luxury brands.

The Bimmer (remember this is car that stickers for $45,000 more) suffers no such embarrassment. Its 335-horse turbo-inline six is a rocket — as you would expect with two more cylinders and all-wheel-drive that gives the German better grip than the Accord. But so torquey is the Honda engine off the line that it routinely squeals the rubber. This provoked stern warnings from Mrs. Payne who was doing her best “National Lampoon Vacation” impersonation of Chevy Chase’s wife — to “SLOW DOWN!” Like the BMW, this kind of performance deserves all-wheel drive (please, Honda?).

The Honda’s athletic confidence is externalized in its coupe-like roof and sculpted torso. The rocker panels are scalloped upwards like the Lexus, but Honda’s designer eclipsed the IS with a subtle chrome signature that dovetails nicely with the rear bumper line.

From a rear, three-quarter view, the Accord holds its own with the iconic BMW 5-series. Both showcase handsome rooflines tapering to chrome-tipped rectangular tailpipes. Low profile tires frame artful, 19-inch, multi-spoke wheel designs.

Only the Accord’s face disappoints. Under an elegant, chrome monobrow and LED headlights (reminiscent of EV-maker Lucid’s signature look) — the grille reverts to mainstream form with a gaping black maw. It reminds me of a base Dodge Charger, only without the restraint. Like other Honda grilles (think the CR-V ute) it is a riot of too many conflicting details.

Given Honda’s history of righting wrongs, I’m hopeful a future Accord will get a face-lift. Kind of like its interior.

Step inside the Accord, and the fascia is forgotten because the car’s living space is a masterpiece. Talk about righting wrongs.

The previous generation Accord contained a confusing, two-tiered infotainment system that put the navigation screen on the top plane and the radio on the bottom (or was it the other way around?) That confusion still afflicts Acuras, Honda’s luxe brand.

But the ’18 Accord has gone to Audi school and transformed its interior into something worthy of the Teutons. A single, tablet screen rises out of a horizontal dash underlined in wood trim. The graphics are crisp, the leather stitched. Accord wants for nothing. You want a heads-up display? Both Bimmer and Honda got it. Programmable seat memory? Got it. Adaptive cruise control with 5 mph increments? Got it. Configurable driver instruments? Yup.

The Accord even one-ups the 5-series with more intuitive buttons to control its cornucopia of features, a roomier cabin and a better digital gearbox shifter. The BMW uses a confusing monostable while Accord sports the same intuitive “trigger buttons” used in the Acura NSX.

Speaking of Acura, I’d buy the Accord Touring over its luxury lineup. The back seat is huge (I could set behind myself with ease), the trunk could swallow an elephant, and the rear seats are heated. Yes, just like the Bimmer.

The only comparable mainstream car I’ve driven is Mazda’s CX-9 midsize SUV which is as gorgeous and capable as any premium SUV. Or VW’s European Passat wagon. Punchy, handsome and fuel efficient, it beats an Audi for $10,000 less. The Euro-Passat is not yet available in the States. But it will be.

Premium buyers will buy their Bimmers and Lexi because badges matter. But mainstream buyers can drive around in their Accord Touring with no class envy. They aren’t missing a thing.

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

2018 Honda Accord

VEHICLE TYPE

FRONT-ENGINE, FRONT-WHEEL DRIVE,

FIVE-PASSENGER SEDAN

Powerplant

1.5-liter turbocharged, inline-4

cylinder; 2.0-liter V-6

Transmission

6-speed manual; continuously-

variable transmission (CVT;

10-speed automatic

Weight

3,131 pounds (3,428 Touring trim

as tested)

Price

$24,445 base ($36,675 Touring

as tested)

Power

192 horsepower, 192 pound-feet

torque (1.5-liter); 252 horsepower,

273 pound-feet torque (2.0-liter)

Performance

0-60 mph, TBA

Fuel economy

EPA est. 30 city/38 highway/

33 combined (1.5 liter);

TBA (2.0 liter)

Report card

HIGHS

LUXURY CLASS INTERIOR AND

FEATURES; SMOOTH TURBO-4 AND

10-SPEED TRANNY MAKES GREAT

DANCE PAIR

Lows

Oh, that grille; will make Acura’s

comeback more difficult

Overall:★★★★

Cartoon: NFL Protest

Posted by hpayne on October 6, 2017

Cartoon: Saudi Women Drivers

Posted by hpayne on October 2, 2017

Cartoon: Tax Reform States

Posted by hpayne on October 1, 2017

Cartoon: Price Flights

Posted by hpayne on October 1, 2017

Cartoon: McCain’s Promise to Repeal Obamacare

Posted by hpayne on October 1, 2017

Cartoon: NFL Flag Dissing

Posted by hpayne on September 26, 2017

Cartoon: Tump NFL Penalty

Posted by hpayne on September 26, 2017

Cartoon: Kimmel and Obamacare

Posted by hpayne on September 22, 2017

Cartoon: ToysRus CH11

Posted by hpayne on September 21, 2017

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Payne: Cadillac CT6 Plug-In vs. Tesla Model S

Posted by hpayne on September 21, 2017

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At a single-price, $76,090, the Cadillac CT6 Plug-in

Cadillac established itself as the luxury-car standard at the dawn of the 20th century for innovations like electric self-starting, closed-body styling and powerful V-8 engines.

Spin forward 100 years and upstart Tesla has become the 21st-century innovator.

By reinventing the electric vehicle as a sleek performance machine, Tesla’s Model S has captured the imagination of America’s premium buyer to become one of the best-selling luxury sedans in the States. It has forced its chief rivals — BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Cadillac — to develop their own electron-charged chariots to keep up. Indeed, Cadillac is not only a shadow of its former self, it is in danger of being rendered an anachronism. Tesla has transformed the auto into a smartphone on wheels complete with supercar acceleration, iPad-like touchscreen and spacious interior.

Where young Americans once aspired to Cadillacs, today they covet Tesla.

The brand is omnipresent in big, premium-car coastal markets. Mention to my locker-room pals that I have a Tesla tester and they’ll line up like kids at Cedar Point’s Top Thrill Dragster roller coaster. Aware that its future is at stake — from German and Yankee alike — Cadillac has moved its headquarters to New York City, hired Audi-meister Johan de Nysschen and introduced its best luxury sedan ever.

Its Tesla fighter is the $76,090 Cadillac CT6 Plug-In and I took it had-to-head with the formidable Model S in back-to-back, long-distance tests this summer.

With its lightweight construction, gorgeous styling and battery-assist, the plug-in hybrid version of the CT6 is a thoroughly modern Caddy. It’s also a bargain next to similar Mercedes S-class and BMW 7-series hybrids. But next to the state-of the-art Tesla, it feels sooo 15 minutes ago.

To be clear, my Tesla tester was the top-of-the-line, $152,700 P100D. This legend-in-its-own-time speedster can spring from 0-60 mph in just 2.4 seconds in “Ludicrous” mode. That’s the same time as Ferrari’s $1.2 million LaFerrari supercar. But strip away the P100D’s bigger battery, all-wheel drive, carbon-fiber trim and expensive add-ons like “Bioweapons Defense Mode” (ahem, cabin air-filter) and you get a Model S 75 for the same price as the Caddy.

Nothing else is the same. The Model S crushes the Caddy in every metric — performance, interior space, cool factor — save one: range anxiety, the EV’s kryptonite. The CT-6 Plug-In’s 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline-4 cylinder gasoline engine will get you home even if the battery gets low.

The Tesla lets you know immediately it’s not the usual blind-date. Seductive, wide hips taper to a long front hood anchored by almond-shaped LED headlights. Gone is the original ill-considered, plastic faux-grille (EVs need grilles like animals need gills), replaced by a simple, Tesla graphic. The Tesla’s beak is like a falcon trolling for prey.

Step toward the Model S and its flush, silver door handles step out to meet you. Slip inside and it starts itself (assuming you haven’t already prepped the cockpit with a remote app — a feature the Cadillac shares). The design is Apple-like — elegant and spartan. It’s Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s vision of the iPhone on wheels.

The CT6 is the prettiest Cadillac I’ve laid eyes on, the mature realization of the brand’s edgy Art & Science design language. Its pentagon-shaped grille dominates the front canvas, the headlights artfully pushed to the edges. The theme is repeated inside with an 8-inch pentagon screen, crafted dash, and yacht-like T-shifter. But it looks conventional compared to Tesla’s rendering.

With its simple driveline in the floor, the Model S’s luggage space is yuuuge. Where the Cadillac’s front hood is stuffed with an engine block, the Tesla offers a suitcase-swallowing “frunk.” The CT6’s battery eats up half the trunk and freezes the rear seats in place. The Tesla’s hatchback configuration can seat three or fold flat for acres of space for luggage or on-your-back star-gazing.

Six years after its introduction, the Tesla’s giant 17-inch console screen still gets gasps from the neighbors. There’s nothing like it on the market. Also unique is Tesla’s Google maps navigation, just like a smartphone. It’s the best navigation system on the planet. Why every automaker doesn’t contract with Google is beyond me. Instead, they (including Cadillac) insist on inferior, homemade navigation systems complemented by apps that mimic your phone’s nav. Awkward.

I bark my destination to the Tesla and we’re off like lightning. Talk about merging with authority. Floor the pedal and — ZOT! — instant torque shoots the S into traffic like a harpoon from a gun.

The Caddy is more laborious. Even when fully charged to 31-mile EV range, the battery defers to the turbo-four gas engine for hard acceleration causing a momentary balk as the transmission downshifts (the buzz of a four-cylinder doesn’t become a $75,000 chariot, either).

Through the hills, both vehicles feel a size smaller. Like 6-foot-10 Kevin Durant knifing through the lane, these are athletes. Despite topping the lightweight CT6 by 400 pounds, the battery-powered Tesla feels more grounded thanks to its Porsche-like, low center-of-gravity.

But the Tesla’s playpen is only as big as the nearest supercharger. The gas-assisted Caddy’s range is limitless.

After electrifying the Pacific Coast with its handling and acceleration, my P100D drank 157 miles of range while covering 90 miles. Arriving at a Mountain View supercharger at 9:30 p.m., all 12 chargers were used with a waiting line four-deep. I shuddered at the thought of tens of thousands of cheaper Model 3s flooding the market next year — even as Tesla doubles its network. I retreated to my son’s apartment complex where a 240-volt Chargepoint station refueled the S for $21 over 101/2 hours.

The CT6’s charge lasted just past Clarkston up Interstate 75, but then I hoofed it the rest of the way to Charlevoix on gasoline.

A Tesla friend from Chicago met me there, sans Tesla. Up North would be a dead end for his Model S (not to mention the hassle of an hour-long, supercharger delay along the way). Charging the Tesla on the 120-volt socket in our weekend cabin would have taken a lifetime (heck, it took 19 hours to fully charge the 30-mile Caddy!), while recharging it on the local utility’s 240-volt teat would render the car nearly useless for the weekend.

So the Caddy wins the long-distance prize. And everyone else learns the limitations of mass-market EVs.

But for those who can afford a $76,000 Tesla or Caddy, they can also spare change for a second, multi-purpose vehicle. For daily use, Tesla is the 21st-century standard.

Once the teacher, the handsome Cadillac is now the student. It has some learning to do.

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

2017 Cadillac CT6 Plug-In

VEHICLE TYPE

FRONT-ENGINE, REAR-WHEEL DRIVE,

FIVE-PASSENGER LUXURY SEDAN

Powerplant

18.4 kWh lithium-ion battery pack with

AC motor; 2.0-liter, turbocharged,

inline-4 cylinder

Transmission

Continuously variable automatic

Weight

4,530 pounds

Price

$76,090

Power

335 horsepower, 432 pound-feet

torque (total system power)

Performance

0-60 mph, 5.2 seconds (mftr.);

78 mph top speed in EV mode

Fuel economy

31 miles on full charge; EPA est.

62 MPe (34.7 total mpg as tested on

383 mile-trip)

Report card

HIGHS

COMPETITIVE PRICE; GAS ENGINE FOR

LONG-RANGE TRIPS

Lows

Disappointing acceleration;

battery robs trunk space

Overall:★★★

Grading scale

Excellent ★★★★Good ★★★Fair ★★Poor ★

Tesla Model S

VEHICLE TYPE

ELECTRIC, FRONT AND ALL-WHEEL DRIVE,

FIVE-PASSENGER LUXURY SEDAN

Powerplant

75-100 kWh lithium-ion battery with

electric motor drive

Transmission

Single-speed transmission

Weight

4,469 pounds (4,941 P100D as tested)

Price

$74,500 Model S 75 base ($152,700

P100D as tested

Power

382 horsepower, 325 pound-feet

torque (605 hp, 687 torque P100D

as tested)

Performance

0-60 mph, 4.3 seconds base model

(mnftr.); 2.4 sec., P100D

Fuel economy

Range: 249 miles, base (315

mi. P100D. 157 miles of range to cover

90 miles as tested)

Report card

HIGHS

LUXURY REINVENTED; MASSIVE CARGO

SPACE FROM FRUNK TO REAR

Lows

Less range when driven to capability;

charging infrastructure limitations

Overall:★★★★

Cartoon: Hurricane Sins

Posted by hpayne on September 21, 2017

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