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New Bronco debuts Monday; a look at what made previous generations special

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 10, 2020

The fifth-generation 2021 Ford Bronco debuting Monday night will be the first new Bronco since 1996.

The original first-generation 1966 Bronco was the marriage of Ford’s legacy as World War II military vehicle manufacturer and its new ’60s Mustang spirit. The result was a rugged 4×4 truck fired by six- and eight-cylinder engines that populated a new segment shared by the International Harvester Scout and Jeep CJ-R (which would eventually be called the Wrangler in 1986).

“Bronco started in World War II when Ford built more than 270,000 jeeps for the U.S. Army,” said Ford archivist Ted Ryan. “We took that know-how in four-by-four equipment and … established a program in 1963 code-named Bronco.”

Alternate names for the Bronco included Bravo, Gaucho, Explorer, Rustler, Sprint, Trail Blazer, and, yes, Wrangler. A 1963 memo nicknamed the Bronco as the GOAT, short for “Goes Over Any Terrain.”

The project was green-lighted by the legendary Lee Iacocca, who was vice-president and general manager of the company’s Ford division.

The Bronco would evolve over four decades into a bigger, more-luxurious, mid-size SUV.

Resurrected for the 2021 model year, the two-door and four-door versions will be based on the Ford Ranger and will have removable doors and roof. The Bronco Sport — or “Baby Bronco” — will share the same chassis as the unibody Ford Escape.

Here’s a look at the Bronco and its predecessors through the years:

1941 Ford World War II GP

Ironically, Bronco’s roots lie with the Jeep, the military vehicles Ford helped produce in World War II using the Willys design. Known as the GP – short for “General Purpose” vehicle – Ford built 270,000 of these quarter-ton, four-wheel drive trucks for the military. Note the nine-slot grille; current Jeeps have seven slots.

1951 Ford M-151 MUTT

Following World War II, Ford built the MUTT as its next-generation 4×4 for the military. Come the early 1960s, it would be the model for Bronco as Ford considered production.

1966-1977 Ford Bronco

The first-generation Bronco was unveiled by then-Ford President Donald Frey as a “completely new line of sport utility vehicle” – the first time, says Ford, that term was officially used. Bronco was introduced in wagon, pickup and roadster body styles. It was assembled in Wayne, Michigan, and in Venezuela.

Built on a 92-inch wheelbase with solid rear axles front and rear, it would change little over its 12-year production run. It featured standard inline-six engines, with an optional 4.7-liter V-8 and (later) 4.9-liter a V-8.

1969 Bronco

With new market competition from the Chevy K5 Blazer, Bronco went racing under the wrench of Parnelli Jones and Bill Stroppe. Bronco won the legendary Baja 1000 in 1969, becoming the first production vehicle to do so — a feat that stands today. In 1971 Ford produced a handful of commemorative Baja Broncos tarted up in Stroppe’s red, white, blue and black racing livery.

1973 Bronco

Since its inception, the Bronco was available with a manual-transmission only. After seven years on the market, the bare-bones Bronco got some refinement. Modern touches included optional power steering and automatic transmission.

1978-79 Bronco

For its second act, the Bronco got bigger. It adopted the F-150’s large chassis, expanded by two-feet in length on top of 104-inch wheelbase, and adopted the pickup’s style cues like square headlights and an egg-crate grille. The Bronco’s round headlights and boxy shape were mothballed. “Positively awash in new features, its only real resemblance to the old box-basic Bronco of yesterday seems to be its name,” Car and Driver wrote in a review. The new Bronco also gained the F-150’s big-block engine and added air conditioning. A rear window that powered down into the tailgate would become a hallmark of future Broncos.

1980-86 Bronco

For its third-generation, the Bronco continued to move in lockstep with the F-150 pickup, becoming Ford’s truck-based family vehicle. In 1982, the Bronco for the first time wore a proper Blue Oval emblem on its kisser.

1983-90 Bronco II

While maintaining big brother’s signature two-door look, the Deuce was a smaller — by 19 inches in length — Bronco. The Ranger pickup-based model had a family focus that would eventually morph into the five-door Ford Explorer. Note the return to a self-contained grille like the original Bronco, though with square design cues.

1987-91 Bronco

The fourth-generation Bronco continued to evolve with wrap-around headlights and oval wheel arches. In 1991, Ford celebrated 25 years of Bronco with a limited-production, silver-anniversary edition. Electronic fuel-injection and rear anti-lock brakes were added.

1992-96 Bronco

For its fifth generation, the Bronco went upscale with an Eddie Bauer package featuring a two-tone exterior and more-luxurious interior. But the 1993 model-year Bronco may have been its most famous as one was owned by former football star OJ Simpson who infamously led police on a nationally televised slow-speed chase — viewed by 95 million Americans — after being charged with the murders of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman in 1994.

1996 Bronco

The last Bronco rolled off the line as Ford focused on the Explorer line of SUVs. It made room for the five-door Expedition based on the new-for-’97 F-150.

2004 Bronco Inspiration

The long tease begins as Ford introduced a retro-styled concept  at the 2004 Detroit auto show. It woke up Bronco Nation with its modern turbo-diesel engine and dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

2019 Bronco Baja racer

Ford celebrated the 50th anniversary of its legendary Baja 1969 win with the Bronco R prototype at the Baja 1000. The racer is based on the same production chassis and powertrain that is the backbone of the 2021 Bronco.

Payne: Up north puts the versatile GMC Sierra AT4 to the test

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 10, 2020

The 2020 GMC Sierra AT4 is made in America. In Fort Wayne, Indiana to be exact.

The 2020 GMC Sierra AT4 is made in America. In Fort Wayne, Indiana to be exact. Henry Payne, The Detroit News

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, goes the old saying. But when all you have is nails, well — it sure is good to have a hammer.

That’s the way I feel about pickups.

As a speed-addled sports car guy, hulking pickups are low on my list of performance vehicles. But when you need a tool to get things done, there is no substitute for a truck, as I found out when I escaped to northern Michigan recently in a 2020 GMC Sierra AT4.

As regular readers of this column know, performance cars have been my refuge during the shutdown: Cadillac CT5 V-Sport, Mazda Miata, Tesla Model 3, Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, BMW M8. These stallions took me away to Hell, Michigan and Woodward Avenue and the Huron River where I could social-distance at speed.

Heading north, I thought it would be great to exercise a sports car as well. I wanted to flog it over the roller-coaster hills of Antrim County on M-32. Or up the Lake Michigan coast through the Tunnel of Trees on twisty Route 119.

But when it came time to leave, the only thing in my driveway was … a truck. It would turn out to be an inspired choice. There would be lots of nails that needed a hammer.

While southeast Michigan remained on lockdown, our benevolent Tsar Whitmer decided to open up north for business May 19. Apparently her husband wanted to go boating at their second home. We set course for our family’s summer domicile as well.

Like a kind of mechanical centaur, pickups are half wheelbarrow, half auto. Travel with a family and the wheelbarrow half is useless — where does the luggage go? My recommendation: Buy a tonneau cover so you can use the bed for cargo when needed. Only Mrs. Payne and I would make this journey, so the Sierra crew cab’s enormous rear seat was enough for our bags — and coolers, blankets, athletic bags, beverages and everything else you want on the lakes.

Recognizing the wheelbarrow’s shortcomings, pickups have become ingenious about creating internal cargo space (my favorite is Ram trucks’ “basement” compartments under the second-row floor). But the Sierra (and cousin Chevy Silverado) have their own hidden compartment — behind the backseat. What’s next? A spinning door to a secret room?

This cleverness continues up front where the Sierra boasts twin glove compartments, center console storage deeper than the Mariana Trench — there’s even a storage bin on top of the dash.

GM has been shamed for its uninspired interior design compared to, say, the Ram 1500. For example, where Ram uses a compact rotary gear-selector, Sierra sticks to an old-fashioned, steering-column shifter. Nice for space-saving — but, compare Sierra’s stalk to modern variants found in a Tesla or Mercedes GLE, and the pickup seems oh-so-15-years-ago.

The interior blah is especially notable because the GMC’s exterior is typically awesome. Sculpted bod. Strong shoulders. Chrome grille. The AT4 got a lot of looks.

“Nice truck.”

“Handsome truck.”

The accolades just fell out of people’s mouths. Sierra is also the sports car of trucks. With its best-in-class chassis light-weighting, I’ve enjoyed pushing GMCs through the twisties since the first 2016 Sierra Denali I drove with a Corvette-shared 6.2-liter V-8 under the hood.

My 2020 Sierra was outfitted with a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel inline-6, but it provided plenty of giddyap — particularly its low end, 460-pound feet of torque. I had some fun through the Route 32 curves before my wife got tired of swinging from the A-pillar grab handle.

“Slow down!”

We arrived at our Charlevoix family cottage and there were plenty of nails needing a hammer after a long winter away. Like bicycles.

We share the cottage with family and eight bicycles were strewn about the garage, six in various stages of disrepair: flat tires, seized wheels, rotted seats.

We called the local Revolution Bike Shop who told us to bring them over. No problem, we had a pickup. Bike capacity: six.

I know it’s six because we stacked every last one into the GMC’s rear bed. Side-by-side. Try that in a sports sedan.

The loading was made easier by GMC’s six-function Multi-Pro tailgate. You know it from its jaw-dropping TV ads. Sports car motorheads like to wow friends by lifting the hood. I wowed neighbors with the Sierra tailgate. Push the button and …

1. The full tailgate drops.

2. A loadstop bar keeps boards from falling out the back.

3. An inner gate enabled a second-tier loadstop.

4. Drop the loadstop and you have a work surface — or bar.

5. Drop the inner gate to “walk in” to the tailgate and create a standing desk.

6. Drop a step that makes stairs into the bed

I used that last feature to walk the bikes into the bed — a task that would otherwise require two people.

It wasn’t just bike shops opening up north. Swiss Hideaway Canoe Rental was open for trips down the Jordan River — but with a catch. Due to social-distancing regulations, they couldn’t pick us (and canoes) up in their vans at the end of the journey.

“We’ll rent you the canoes at a discount if you can bring them back yourself,” they said.

No problem. We had a pickup.

We dropped the Sierra at the East Jordan pick-up point — then piled into my son’s rental car (he and his gal pal had flown in from Seattle) to drive to the put-in spot. After our two-hour canoe trip, we loaded the canoes into the pickup for the ride back to Swiss Hideaway.

The Multi-Pro tailgate proved its worth here, too, as the “walk-in” feature allowed me to better tie down the canoes. Meanwhile, my son used the GMC’s corner bumper steps (why aren’t all truck equipped with these?) to jump in and out of the bed around the canoes.

Up north is pickup country. Far from urban Detroit where vehicles are used for commuting to tight parking garages, big trucks have more room to maneuver. The Sierra AT4 is also lifted two inches to explore irregular terrain.

At a lifted $83,565, the Sierra costs the same as a, cough, a Mercedes GLE SUV. That’s one fancy hammer.

2020 GMC Sierra AT4

Vehicle type: Front-engine, four-wheel drive, 5-passenger pickup

Price: $54,995, including $1,595 destination charge ($83,565 as tested)

Powerplant: 3.0-liter inline-6 cylinder diesel

Power: 277 horsepower, 460 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 8.3 seconds (Car and Driver est.); towing, 9,000 lbs.

Weight: 5,270 pounds (base)

Fuel economy: EPA: 23 mpg city/30 highway/26 combined (in 2WD)

Report card

Highs: Best tailgate in class; sculpted good looks

Lows: Uninspired interior; gets pricey

Overall: 3 stars

After shutdown, mid-engine Corvette celebrates July 4 with first race win

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 7, 2020

The winner. The #3 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R driven by Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor took home the mid-engine 'Vette's first victory at Daytone July 4.

The winner. The #3 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R driven by Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor took home the mid-engine ‘Vette’s first victory at Daytone July 4. Richard Prince, Richard Prince for Corvette Racing

Piloted by Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor, the No. 3 Corvette C8.R race car was the first GTLM-class car to take the checkered flag at the Daytona 240 Saturday night as the Weathertech IMSA Sportscar series returned to the track after being sidelined for months by the coronavirus. The C8.R made its racing debut in January at the Rolex Daytona 24-Hour race before COVID-19 concerns temporarily shut down the race season.

Corvette’s race team, New Hudson-based Pratt & Miller, had just a month to prepare the car after engineers and crew returned June 4 from the coronavirus lockdown. Working at a breakneck pace between their Michigan shop and a North Carolina simulator, the team hit the track for the first time on July 3, just 24 hours before Saturday night’s green flag.

The victory was all the sweeter because Corvette nipped its Porsche nemesis at the finish by just two seconds.

“Knowing the cars were just sitting there idle was tough for everybody, but we had four weeks to get everything done,” said Pratt & Miller team manager Ben Johnson. “IMSA had a (track) testing ban through all of June (because they) understandably want to continue to protect everyone.”

The C8.R is the racing version of the 2020 Corvette C8 — the first Corvette in the badge’s 60-year history to put the engine behind the driver — that went into production this spring. Offered in coupe and convertible models, the C8 has been wildly popular with orders for the 2020 model sold out.

The Corvette crossed the finish line in front of some 5,000 fans as Daytona offered limited ticket sales for the event to Florida residents. The race was broadcast on NBCSN.

“This win is twice as special for Chevrolet, as Corvette Racing has now achieved 100 victories in IMSA competition,” said Chevy motorsports chief Jim Campbell.

The ‘Vettes dominated qualifying, starting the race 1-2 on the front row. But tricky weather conditions led to a variety of race strategies. The pole-sitting, silver No. 4 car led with just an hour to go, but ultimately dropped to 5th at the finish. Its No. 3 sister car played a perfect strategy and emerged from its last pit stop right behind the leading Porsche.

Garcia made the winning pass with 31 minutes left — setting the race’s fastest GTLM lap of in the process — and held off Porsche for the win. A Mazda in IMSA’s prototype class was the outright race winner.

“It is amazing,” said Garcia’s co-driver Taylor who raced a Cadillac prototypes in the IMSA series from 2014-17. “I think the off time gave the Corvette Racing guys some decent time to make some headway with our new C8.R. Our fuel mileage, engine and drivability at the beginning of the race was much better than the first race.”

Key to development during that time off was two driver simulator tests conducted on big North Carolina-based rigs in June. With engineers feeding in data remotely, the simulators tests enabled drivers to virtually test changes that had been made to the cars in New Hudson.

“After the Rolex 24, we really came out with a full notebook of things we wanted to work on and investigate,” said Pratt & Miller’s Johnson. “We started on that and (then) were shut down. So our main focus from engineering perspective were the simulator events. They were a big step forward.”

Still, the drivers wouldn’t be sure of how the cars performed until the heat of battle.

The C8.R race car has been integral in development of the production, $59,995 C8. The two cars share more parts than any previous generation of Corvette — including a high-revving, 5.5-liter, flat-plane crank V-8 that will debut in high-performance Z06, ZR1 and Zora versions of the Corvette in years to come.

While the race engine is limited to 500 horsepower by IMSA regulations, the production model could produce as much as 1,000 horsepower.

The Corvette C8.R competes alongside some of the world’s most notable performance brands — Porsche, BMW, Ferrari — in the GT series all over the world.

Bronco is more than a ute, it’s a brand

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 7, 2020

When Ford Motor Co. unveils the all-new, 2021 Ford Bronco on July 13, it will be more than a rugged SUV. It will be a brand.

Like Ford’s Mustang sub-brand which now includes an electric SUV in addition to a stable of two-door muscle cars, the four-wheel-drive Bronco brand will include a truck-based SUV in two-door and four-door trim, and a Bronco Sport SUV based on the unibody Ford Escape. Customers will also have access to off-road parks, driving instruction, an online community and apparel.

The outdoor SUV brand — complete with the “Built Wild” marketing tagline — will be a key ingredient of Ford’s evolutionary, three-pronged product strategy built on SUVs, the Mustang sport coupe and pickups. Ford will no longer produce sedans for the U.S. market.

Echoing Mustang, the Bronco brand will be emotionally anchored in 1960s nostalgia when Ford introduced the first “sport utility vehicle” as an off-road, Jeep-inspired lifestyle vehicle. The 1966 Bronco was introduced just a year after the Mustang set the performance world on fire with an affordable, drop-top muscle car.

“Bronco gave rise to the fun and versatile off-road SUV in 1966, becoming the first enjoyable sport utility vehicle for those who wanted to live, work and play outdoors,” said Jim Farley, Ford’s chief operating officer. “Like the original, the all-new Bronco family is engineered to take you to epic places, with capability to deliver confidence on any type of terrain.”

Like the original, the Bronco brand supports a race car — the Bronco R — for the grueling Baja 1000 off-road race. The Bronco R made its debut last winter at the famed Mexican endurance race. A Bronco won the Baja 1000 in 1969, the first time a production vehicle had ever won the race — a record that stands to this day.

Ford’s 1960s success runs deep through the brand. Its halo Ford GT supercar — in production since 2017 — builds on Ford’s historic 1966 Le Mans 24-hour win. The Bronco was launched in 1966 and the Mustang in 1965.

“The mid-1960s were very good years for Ford,” said IHS Markit principal auto analyst Stephanie Brinley. “If you’re a traditional automaker, you have to evolve your brands. Ford is talking about its past and future at the same time.”

Though the Bronco name has been out of circulation for 25 years, it still peppers popular culture. It’s appeared in 1,200 films, as John Paul II’s Popemobile in 1980, not to mention the infamous 1994 O.J. Simpson chase.

Under the Built Wild tagline, the Bronco brand will seek to build an off-road and virtual community for owners that includes outdoor adventure playgrounds and social media.

Dubbed Off-Roadeo, the playgrounds will have four locations around the U.S. starting in 2021 and will be a place where owners can test their steeds — or get driving instruction — on challenging terrain similar to public Michigan parks like The Mounds near Flint or Jerome’s Bundy Hill. No word yet on whether one of those locations will be in Michigan.

When they’re not at play, Bronco enthusiasts can tune into Bronco Nation (www.thebronconation.com), an independent online community. It’s a forum for owners and enthusiasts to share off-asphalt adventures as well as vintage Bronco vehicle information and event calendars. Ford promises Bronco brand apparel, too.

“Bronco delivers on the common thread desired by enthusiasts — authenticity,” said Ford marketing manager Mark Grueber. “Building Bronco as Ford’s distinct outdoor brand includes engagement that extends far beyond ownership.”

In addition to helping re-order Ford’s lineup for an SUV and electric future, Bronco brand wants to capitalize on the “overlanding” trend. Made popular by the Jeep Wrangler, overlanding is an outdoor lifestyle of traveling around the country to often remote locations.

“There is a commonality in American culture going back decades that we want to go places, we want to explore,” said IHS Markit’s Brinley. “The Bronco very much taps into  that American psyche.”

While more details of the Ranger pickup-based Bronco will be forthcoming July 13, we do know the two-and-four-door Broncos will come standard with 4×4 drive as well as removable body panels like the Wrangler.

The Bronco Sport, to be unveiled the same day, will seek to capitalize on this appeal as well, though it will be based on the same unibody architecture of Ford’s popular Escape crossover.

With the introduction of Bronco Sport, Ford will bifurcate the compact SUV segment. The sleek Escape will be aimed at urban commuters, while the Bronco Sport — complete with boxy design cues from the Bronco — will appeal to a more niche lifestyle owner.

“As Ford’s lineup changes, it’s not enough to offer another SUV,” said Brinley. “You have to do something different if you want to keep your buyers. People want to feel special about their vehicles whether they are sedans or SUVs. Bronco hopes to make that emotional connection using a great history.”

Ford Bronco targets Jeep Wrangler’s ‘overlanding’ appeal

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 7, 2020

When the long-awaited 2021 Bronco gallops into view July 13 Ford Motor Co. hopes to saddle up the “overlanding” generation.

The last decade has seen a heightened wanderlust for America’s great outdoors. The urge has been satisfied by a diverse group of vehicles including the Subaru Outback, Detroit Three pickup trucks, and an all-electric Rivian SUV/pickup that’s coming. But no vehicle has capitalized on overlanding more than Jeep Wrangler which has seen sales soar 120 percent, selling nearly 500,000 units in the last two years alone.

Ford wants a piece of the action, and thinks Bronco has the legacy to grab it. Bronco debuted in 1966 as a competitor to the truck-based Jeep Wrangler CJ and International Harvester before remaking itself as a big, F-150-based midsize ute from 1979-1996. Gone for 25 years, Bronco will be reborn in its original form — as a compact, Wrangler competitor.

“Society is looking to go overlanding. People want to go places,” said Doug North, president of North Brothers Ford in Westland. “Jeep has done a remarkably good job and has brought in a new generation. We’d like to have that, too.”

The new Ford sets up a showdown with its crosstown Jeep rival at a time when both brands are boasting all SUV/pickup lineups. Bronco vs Wrangler is a battle of icons. Both off-road focused. Both with removable body panels. Both with high-tech interiors.

A third player in the space — the aging, Tacoma pickup-based Toyota 4Runner —indicates the pent-up appeal for overlanding. The 4Runner, too, is putting up record sales, topping 130,000 units each of the last two years. Built on the same rugged frame as the Tacoma, the best-selling truck in a resurgent mid-size pickup class, the 4Runner offers a daily commuter that can also kick dirt on weekends.

“Overlanding has become a big thing,” said Roman Mica, publisher of TFL Truck YouTube channel, one the nation’s most popular truck sites. “We have an American culture of people who want to drive cross-country in the dirt. They want lifestyle vehicles like the Wrangler and Bronco that lets the world see what you are.”

Mica says the Wrangler has been a hit because it allows buyers to customize their off-road ride. He expects the Bronco will also be a hit.

“The question is: Why did it take Ford so long?” he smiles. “And the million-dollar question is: Why isn’t General Motors doing something like it?”

Always a key player in Jeep’s portfolio, parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV elevated the Wrangler to icon status after the Italians purchased the brand in 2009. Wrangler sales have been on hyperdrive ever since.

The remade Bronco follows the Wrangler formula, offering two-and-four door variants with removable body panels so customers can get closer to nature. According to spy shots, the Bronco will feature retro, round headlights and boxy bodywork harking back to its roots when it was produced as a wee two-door from 1966-1977. Unlike the old mare, however, the new kid is expected to be stuffed with the latest creature comforts while starting in the low $30,000 range.

Retired in 1996, the Bronco is back at a time when Americans are buying all things ute — and at a time when Ford is remaking itself as an SUV brand. Ford is in the process of discontinuing all its U.S. market sedans, confirming Wednesday the end of the Lincoln Continental. Bronco will share the small Ranger pickup platform — not the Ford F-150 architecture as the last Bronco made in 1996 did — as well as its engines.

North says the mid-size Ranger’s success is an indication of the hunger customers have for new truck and SUV segments. Rather than pirate sales from segment leader Toyota Tacoma, new additions like the Ranger, Chevy Colorado, GMC Canyon and Jeep Gladiator have just brought in new customers to the pickup class.

Tacoma sales have jumped 72 percent since 2015 — 22 percent in 2019 alone — despite new competitors from GM and Ford successfully entering the market. North said he expects Bronco will similarly bring new customers into the truck-based SUV segment, not merely steal sales from the Wrangler and 4Runner.

“Jeep has shown there is a market for off-road vehicles,” he said. “Clearly, there is a part of the U.S. population that wants to drive these vehicles. Many of them are young people. High school parking lots are full of Wranglers. It appeals to a new generation of buyers as well as the off-road enthusiast.”

The first generation Bronco saw sales take a hit when 1970s federal fuel economy regulations strangled its 6-cylinder and V-8 powerplants. Bronco eventually morphed into a mid-size SUV that competed against the Chevy Blazer.

This time, however, the Bronco will, like the Wrangler, debut with sippier, small-displacement engines that will comply with stringent mpg rules. North also believes Bronco is perfectly timed for a post-COVID economy.

“The Bronco’s personal, overlanding appeal lends itself to people who want to own their own private vehicles,” he said. “I think the industry has been putting the cart ahead of the horse on autonomous cars. Autonomous may be the future some day, but I think the Bronco and Wrangler will have an appeal for many years to come.”

Payne: Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid Tesla-fighter is different shade of green

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 7, 2020

The 2020 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid offers a dual personality of green, all-electric driving — and massive AWD, 455-horsepower when the driver has a need for speed.

The 2020 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid offers a dual personality of green, all-electric driving — and massive AWD, 455-horsepower when the driver has a need for speed. (Photo: Henry Payne, The Detroit News)

Tesla Inc. has set the luxury world on fire, challenging establishment automakers with compelling, all-electric products with Apple-like design simplicity. No one has been able to match them — not the Jaguar i-PACE, not the Audi e-Tron, not the Cadillac ELR.

But maybe the solution isn’t beating Tesla at its game. Maybe it’s providing different answers for a different customer. The 2020 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid SUV is the antithesis of Tesla.

Playing in the same price ballpark as the $86,190 Tesla Model X SUV, the $81,150 Cayenne plug-in boasts similar performance and range but in a more practical, more conservatively styled package.

This vehicle that doesn’t wow with gull-wing doors — but with high IQ scores in industry dependability rankings. Tesla is a brash newcomer that wants to throw out the rule book, while Porsche has built respect over decades of racing success. Their games are as different as Federer and Nadal. Old school vs. new age.

I spent some time with Cayenne to see what it’s got.

The E-Hybrid is Porsche’s third generation hybrid — a commitment on par with Honda’s Insight (the first hybrid on our shores in 1999), and nearly equal to the fourth-gen Toyota Prius. These guys know hybrids, and, like the Japanese, Porsche has priced the E-Hybrid competitively with its regular Cayenne lineup (unlike the premium hybrid pricing of some other brands).

Cayenne E-Hybrid comes with old school, de rigueur virtue signaling — phosphorescent Acid Green “E-Hybrid” badging on the its flanks and tukus, as well as radiant green brake calipers. Less flashy customers can choose white or yellow calipers as part of Porsche’s typically dizzying array of options to personalize your car. But I like the Acid Green as a way to bring flavor to Cayenne’s vanilla design.

Cayenne has come a long way since its first ungainly attempt to translate Porsche 911-like, sports-car styling to a five-door ute. The new gen exudes masculinity even as it’s still one of the most conservatively styled SUVs out there.

That’s in stark relief with the Tesla Model X with its unmistakable egg shape, big hips and signature gull-wing doors. Interestingly, E-Hybrid comes at a time when the sleek, all-electric Porsche Taycan sedan has debuted as a direct competitor to the Tesla Model S sedan.

Cayenne’s conservative approach is in keeping with its appeal to luxury shoppers who want a quick green machine, but without the sacrifices of the full-electric lifestyle.

Own a Tesla and you’ll only visit service stations to buy newspapers. So, too, the Cayenne E-Hybrid. Plug it in overnight and Porsche claims 20 miles of electric juice for local commutes. Make that, plug into a 240-volt, Level 2 outlet and you’ll get 20 miles. Invest $2,000 for Level 2 installation, because a 110 volt-wall is terribly inconsistent.

On my 110-volt garage outlet I got seven miles in nine hours of charging. Ugh. Welcome to the uncertainties of the electric frontier. Fortunately, the gas engine will recharge the battery while driving for more, pure EV opportunities.

Turn the Porsche’s old-school dash key — on the left just like Porsche race cars of old — and the E-Hybrid defaulted to E-Power mode, allowing fully electric driving around town. Porsche achieves this with a bifurcated throttle. Let me explain.

Maintaining moderate throttle, I could drive on an electric charge over 70 mph on local interstates. A digital instrument gauge flanked the Porsche’s center tac, allowing me to monitor the range on E-Power. Bury the throttle for a quick maneuver and you’ll feel a noticeable detent in the throttle as it grabs the gas engine for help.

Stay on the shy side of the detent and the V-6 never engages. EPA says that 20-mile charge actually only translates to real-world 13 miles traveled. I can vouch for that. Such eggshell driving, of course, denied me the instant torque thrill of electric cars. Mash the throttle in a Model X and you’re suddenly Han Solo in a Millennium-Falcon, light-speed blur to 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds.

The downside of that thrill is massive range suck. Drive Up North and Tesla drivers will get their own eggshell time as the charging network thins out. Model X promises 353 miles of electric range at perfect, 55 mph driving — but access your inner Han Solo (or travel at over 70 mph) and range plummets.

That’s where plug-in hybrids like Porsche shine. Combined gas-electric range is an impressive 430 miles. And with gas stations everywhere, there’s no range anxiety even when you want to have fun — which is often in this rhino in tennis shoes.

The E-Hybrid is built for speed.

The 5,000-pound beast (400 shy of the Model X) matches the Tesla from 0-60. Thank the standard Sports Chrono package and its cool, steering-wheel-mounted Sport Response button (just like a 911), which allowed me to instantly switch from egg-shell E-Power mode to face-flattening Sport Plus mode. Hold on, honey!

Sport Plus accesses the full, combined gas engine/electric motor output of 455 horsepower, 516 pound feet of torque, which ignores the throttle detent and launches you straight to the moon.

With its instant torque, the electric motor effectively acts like a supercharger on top of the turbocharged 3.0-liter V6, eliminating turbo lag. The car rockets off the line as the 8-speed auto tranny fires off quick shifts, and Sport Mode adds appropriately louder exhaust note theme music.

Around 180-degree cloverleafs the rhino remained remarkably flat, its all-wheel-drive digging in as I fed more throttle. This confident handling translates to twisty roads Up North as well. The Model X, its battery creating a low center of gravity, is no slouch in the cornering department either.

Old-school Porsche is the rare brand that can match new age Tesla for engineering curiosity. Ogle the Model X’s graphics and big console tablet. Cayenne E-Hybrid is an airline cockpit by comparison, with a button for everything from volume to shock damping to radio source. Or you can use the touch screen to explore the ute’s myriad setups.

On basic tech items, however, Porsche noticeably lags. Voice commands are a Stone Age behind Tesla, and my $90,000 E-Hybrid mule was naked of driver-assist items like blind spot-assist and adaptive cruise control that are standard on $25,000 Nissan Sentras. Adaptive cruise is (cough) $6,250 extra.

Such shortcomings will be deal-breakers for new age EV buyers. But for luxe shoppers who just want a taste of EV with their Porsche DNA, Cayenne E-Hybrid is your answer.

2020 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid

Vehicle type: Front-engine, all-wheel drive, 5-passenger SUV

Price: $81,150, including $1,250 destination charge ($91,220 as tested)

Powerplant: 3.0-liter turbo V-6 combined with AC motor and 14.1 kWh lithium-ion battery

Power: 455 horsepower, 516 pound-feet of torque combined

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 4.4 seconds (Car and Driver); towing capacity, 7,716 pounds

Weight: 4,950 pounds est.

Fuel economy: EPA 24 city/ 26 highway/ 25 combined

Report card

Highs: Hybrid long range; Sports Response button take me to the moon

Lows: Lack of standard safety assist features; infotainment tech lags competitors

Overall: 3 stars

Woodward Dream Cruise canceled over COVID-19 concerns

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 1, 2020

The 26th annual Woodward Dream Cruise is officially parked.

According to Woodward Dream Inc., community events planned for the occasion, including the Aug. 15 Dream Cruise itself, are canceled due to public health concerns over COVID-19, organizers announced Monday.

The decision was made Monday and comes after the Dream Cruise posted on Facebook earlier in the month that the event was still “in neutral.”

However, the inaugural Woodward Dream Show, a gathering of the best of the cruise at M1 Concourse in Pontiac, is still scheduled to go on in August.

“The Dream Cruise is the largest car event in the world, but there is not a cure for COVID-19, there is not a vaccine,” Woodward Dream board president Michael Lary. “We have to be responsible for the we, not the me.”

The announcement comes as Woodward was packed Friday and Saturday with cruisers as the summer ritual builds to its Aug. 15 summit. Muscle cars, European sports cars, and jacked trucks preened up Woodward in Royal Oak before taking a 180-degree Michigan turn and heading back the other way.

Other cruisers were content to pitch their hoods and socialize with friends and family in parking lots along the avenue. That scene likely won’t change through August. Enthusiasts like Rich Fasi took to the Woodward Dream Cruise Facebook page to voice support: “Before it became a big corporate affair we cruised Woodward — we will ride again!”

Jhan Dolphin, a cruiser and vice president of auto supplier Prefix Corp., said: “I know hundreds of people who are planning to go. Cruising is outdoors, and people are safe in their cars.”

What will be missing are the big media and corporate sponsors that normally pepper the sidewalks with concessions and car displays. Venues such as Ford’s Mustang Alley, Kids Play Zone, Berkeley Cruise Parade, and GM’s Birmingham display will be absent, as will many smaller corporate gatherings as communities deny permits for tents.

Cities on the route long ago canceled their community events like Ferndale’s Light & Sirens cruise featuring emergency vehicles.

The Woodward Dream Inc. board, the official sanctioning body for the Cruise, was under heavy pressure from cities to cancel the vent. Three of the nine municipalities along the 10-mile route passed resolutions urging cancellation. None demanded the show go on.

Board president Lary said the rise in cases in Florida and Arizona had an effect on the decision.

“At the beginning of the summer, the conversation was about how a warmer summer climate would help. But there is still concern in June,” he said.

“These cities are run by elected officials that have an obligation to their constituents and how a gathering of this size impacts them locally.”

Cruisers have flocked to Metro Detroit’s main street for decades, and Lary conceded car lovers still have a right to bring their rides and lawn chairs to public property.

He said the state will not shut down M-1 on Aug. 15 and that regulations along the route will vary by community. While governments cannot prohibit businesses from renting their property to cruisers, they will likely deny permits for tents and other installations.

With tens of thousands of cruisers descending on Woodward in August, enthusiasts say organizers missed an opportunity to get out ahead of the event to make it safer.

“No one wants more rules, but people do want guidelines,” Dolphin said. “We understand the public health concerns, but that’s part of the problem with canceling the Cruise. People don’t know what to do, they want a message.”

Organizers had planned to coordinate with sponsors to issue public service announcements — both on Woodward between Ferndale and Pontiac as well as over the airwaves — to issue guidance, such as to social distance.

Neighboring states have begun to open to similar events.

At Mid-Ohio race track in Lexington, Ohio, last weekend, the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association held its annual Vintage Grand Prix. Coupled with Trans Am and Formula 4 and Formula Regional pro races, the weekend attracted thousands of fans to the sprawling, raceway complex.

SVRA organized the event and the venue was chock full of signs for social distancing, officials taking temperature checks and clusters of port-o-johns.

While Dream Cruise organizers are discouraging attendance at their own event, the Mid-Ohio experience suggests pent-up demand for events even as 36 states have reported increases in COVID increases this month.

“I think it’s important to give people some sense of normalcy,” said Prefix’s Dolphin, whose company organized a cruise event earlier this spring in Rochester.

Another major event planned for the Aug. 15 weekend is unfazed by the Dream Crusie announcement. The Woodward Dream Show will continue Aug. 13-15 as planned.

Organized by the Pontiac Motorsports Exposition, the event will take over the M1 Concourse car club off Woodward in Pontiac and feature three days of racing, exhibits and food.

It will feature a judged display of the cruise’s best American hot rods Aug. 13. Then an auto-themed fashion show and after dark, afterglow party for charity will follow. Aug. 14 will be track-focused with performance car hot laps, wrapping up Aug. 15 with an open invitation to car clubs.

“The Woodward Dream Show is moving forward in planning,” CEO Tim Hartge said. “We are designing an event that integrates a variety of protocols, including social distancing and other safety measures. Our event is ticketed, and we are limiting the number of attendees according to guidance from officials.”

The Dream Cruise’s charitable mission will take a major hit with the event’s cancellation.

Originally organized in 1995 to raise funds for a community soccer field, the Dream Cruise has benefited charities large and small over the years. Mustang Alley typically raises $100,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, while the Dman Foundation offers charity rides in Birmingham to disadvantaged youth.

“There are many pieces to the Dream Cruise pie,” Lary sid.

“We are concerned about the non-profit organizations that are going to be negatively impacted. The cruise does a huge amount of good for the community.”

Payne: High-speed Jeep Gladiator Mojave conquers the Mounds

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 1, 2020

The 2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave is like its rugged Rubicon brother — except that its built for speed, with Fox shocks and a higher ride height.

There are two kinds of auto enthusiasts: those who get their thrills on-road, and those who get them off-road.

A sports car racer for decades, I’m an on-roader. But the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave pickup could convert me.

The Mojave is the latest variation of the tree-chewing, midsize Gladiator pickup designed for folks who want to explore the far corners of the earth. In this case, especially those with a need for speed. Unlike the Gladiator Rubicon which is built for rock-crawling, the Mojave wants to run. For a track rat like me, that sounds awfully appealing.

I’ve been hustling performance cars to Hell, Michigan, and back in the COVID-19 lockdown to test their limits. But for the Gladiator Mojave, I headed north from my coronavirus hideout to the Mounds off-road vehicle park near Flint. The Mounds has everything an off-road rebel needs: rock piles, swamp trails, sandy hills, high-speed dirt flats.

The Mounds is thick with Jeep Wranglers exploring every inch of its 118-acre playground. They mingle with giant, jacked pickups and swarms of ATVs and dirt bikes crawling over its hills and gullies. With its detachable front sway bars and front-and-rear locking axles, the Gladiator Rubicon — like the Wrangler Rubicon — loves the tight, uneven stuff.

The Gladiator Mojave, on the other hand, dreams of being a Ford Raptor. Ford’s high-speed, Baja-desert-friendly F-150 is a singular warhorse. In the saddle with 450 horsepower under the hood and sophisticated Fox shocks under the fenders, I conquered the Borrego desert in Southern California a few years back, hitting triple-digit speeds on the sandy flats.

It was extraordinary. But like a killer whale, the Raptor needs a lot of ocean to feed, and southern California — or the Baja peninsula — is a long way to go to stretch the big Ford’s legs. Gladiator Mojave aims to bring those pleasures closer to home. Like Flint.

Unlike the Raptor, the new Gladiator doesn’t have a new engine or get-outta-the-way bodywork. But it did feature Jeep’s throaty 285-horse V-6 and a unique hood scoop that sets it apart from brother Rubicon pickup. More important, it is raised an inch above Rubicon with trusty Fox performance shocks.

I shifted the Mojave’s transfer case to four-wheel drive, turned traction-control off and nailed the V-6 across the Mounds’ open, northwest trails. This is terrain where the dirt bikers like to open it up, and I picked up speed quickly, the Fox shocks absorbing the trail’s imperfections.

This might be hairy stuff in the ginormous Raptor, but the Mojave was in its element. A 75-degree left-hander loomed, and I slowed — then slewed it sideways across a water-filled dip. Gladiator’s dimensions allowed me to rotate the pickup beautifully, then I was back on the throttle as the big, 33-inch knobby tires sprayed the cabin with water.

Good thing I kept the doors on.

When you’re not splashing through Mother Nature at high speed, you can remove the doors and roof of the Mojave just like the Rubicon to get closer to nature. Just don’t wear your dinner clothes.

With the pickup bed out back, the panels are easy to stow. Of course, the dirt bikers I was riding with were eyeballing that bed as potential bike transport. They had arrived in regular, light-duty pickups, but the Mojave adds the tantalizing twin possibility: When you’re tired of running the hills in isolation on your bikes, you can pile into the Mojave for some communal dirt-kicking on the trails.

“Hey, can we come with you?” said one of the bikers who had already figured this out.

The Mojave is happy at low speeds, too. The Mounds has a number of tight scramble areas that favor Jeeps over big trucks. With the transfer case in four-wheel low, I flipped a console switch to lock the rear axle and gain better traction. The Gladiator Rubicon takes this capability one step further with twin locking axles and decoupling sway-bars for serious rock-crawling, if that’s your thing.

Naturally, all of this scene-chewing hardware doesn’t come cheap. The base Gladiator starts at $35,000 and the base Mojave at $45,000. My tester was an eye-watering $60,945, just $7,500 cheaper than the Ford Raptor I tested a couple of years ago.

What you get for that coin is a unique vehicle that is good at addition as well as subtraction. Subtract the doors and hood for that unique outdoors experience. Then ogle the additions that Jeep has brought to its console.

The Uconnect infotainment system is one of the industry’s best, with easy-to-use menus so you can blast your favorite Sirius XM station while pulverizing trails in the middle of nowhere. Where Uconnect is shy of the industry’s best is in the navigation department, Jeep has thoughtfully made Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard on the Mojave.

Leaving the house for my off-road adventure, I plugged my Samsung phone into a USB port in a dash festooned with connectivity. The infotainment screen now duplicated my phone screen. A long hold on the steering wheel awakened Google Assistant. I asked her to chart a course to the Mounds. We were off.

Like my performance car trips to Hell, the hour drive to the Mounds gave me a chance to assess the Mojave’s livability on a long trip. I hope you like loud.

With all those removable panels, roll bar and cloth roof, the Jeep is hardly equipped for sound insulation like some of its mid-size truck peers. A Ford Ranger is a sealed tomb by comparison. Go topless on your ride and good luck hearing Google Assistant’s directions (fortunately the instrument display graphics are fine). The big, knobby tire howl adds its own soundtrack.

But the advantage of those high-tech, multi-valve Fox shocks is the Gladiator Mojave rides more smoothly on the road than the Rubicon. Smooth as in mattress smooth. The Mojave does tend to wander in lane thanks to its high ride height, but the overall experience is good for your backside when you arrive at your destination.

If that destination is a metropolitan area, you’ll find the Gladiator easier to maneuver than a huge, full-size truck. Then, like a sports car, it can transform into a weekend off-road thrill ride. Which this on-road racer finds very appealing.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave

Vehicle type: Front-engine, four-wheel drive, 5-passenger pickup

Price: $45,370, including $1,495 destination charge ($60,945 as tested)

Powerplant: 3.6-liter V-6

Power: 285 horsepower, 260 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: 6-speed manual, 8-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 8.3 seconds (Car and Driver est.);

Weight: 4,974 pounds (automatic as tested)

Fuel economy: EPA: 17 mpg city/22 highway/19 combined

Report card

Highs: Comfortable ride on road; carries dirt bikes or hits the dirt itself

Lows: Noisy on-road; gets pricey with add-ons

Overall: 4 stars

American Festival of Speed aims to be major car event in Pontiac

Posted by Talbot Payne on June 18, 2020

A group of 1970s Shadow Can Am cars do laps around M1 Concourse. The 2021 American Festival of Speed will feature similar cars on the track.

A group of 1970s Shadow Can Am cars do laps around M1 Concourse. The 2021 American Festival of Speed will feature similar cars on the track. Henry Payne, The Detroit News

Pontiac – Imagine the sounds of supercars on the track. The sights of people ogling the latest cars for charity. Manufacturers spinning their muscle cars on the skid pad. Imagine it, not in Detroit, but in Pontiac.

The American Festival of Speed is coming in fall 2021 as Pontiac’s M1 Concourse aims to become the site of one of the premier automotive events in the U.S.

Paired with another new event called the Woodward Dream Show — which debuts this August during what is supposed to be Woodward Dream Cruise week — the events will be coordinated under the umbrella of the Pontiac Motorsports Exposition. They will be explicitly modeled after the Goodwood Festival of Speed and Goodwood Revival, England’s world-renowned motoring exhibitions.

The events come as the North American International Auto Show tries again in June 2021 to reinvent itself in downtown Detroit as a Goodwood-like outdoor festival after the pandemic shut down its first event this year.

Pontiac Motorsports Exposition CEO Tim Hartge acknowledges what he sees as the friendly rivalry between the shows.

“But we have a race track,” he said while overlooking the 1.5-mile Champion Motor Speedway here. “We’ve got an experiential marketplace. It hits all the senses. The NAIAS doesn’t have that.”

Where Goodwood’s events takes over the estate of English nobleman Lord March, the Motorsports Exposition events will occupy M1 Concourse, a private club for auto owners.

“We’re modeling it after Goodwood, and we want manufacturers to come, too. The theme of both shows is ‘Past, Present and Future,’ which is cool because we want to bring electric-sports racing out here, too,” said Hartge, a motorhead who drives a Ford Mustang Bullitt. “We want to have a demonstration of these kind of cars. And we’ll give the manufacturers a chance to do a demo day if the want to bring out their Hellcats or their GT500s.”

M1 gave a glimpse of its Festival of Speed future when it hosted four classic Shadow Can Am race cars on the track last Friday. The foursome — one of them fired by a 1,000-horsepower Chevy V-8 – made the earth shake at M1, which has broken ground on a fancy events facility that will be a festival centerpiece.

Goodwood’s Festival of Speed is a Disneyland of automotive attractions — past shows have featured everything from race cars suspended on giant Popsicle sticks, to the premiere of the 2020 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 — that attracts some 150,000 people each year.

The American Festival of Speed will sport its own automotive royalty next year when it honors Jim Hall, the legendary race driver and entrepreneur who powered his 1960s Chaparral Can Am cars with Chevy engines. Hall will bring three of his priceless Chaparrals and will be honored with the festival’s first Master of Motorsports Award. Hartge says the Chaparrals will make a tour of the track between regular, timed runs of international supercars just like the hillclimb course that anchors Goodwood’s weekend.

European luxury-makers have vacated the Detroit auto show, but as the 2020 Cayman intro suggests, they might find the upscale digs of M1 more enticing.

“Static car shows have a problem. Manufacturers and the public want experiential events,” said Hartge. “We have all the senses engaged here on 87 acres.”

Pontiac Motorsports Exposition has ambitions beyond just sleek chariots. Like the NAIAS has benefited Detroit, Hartge says the American Festival of Speed — to be held Sept. 30-Oct. 3, 2021 — is part of a much larger vision for Pontiac. The festival will even have a major charity event, called the Charity Ball, like the Detroit auto show.

For a taste of what the facility can do, the Woodward Dream Show will debut this Aug. 13-15 during what is traditionally Woodward Dream Cruise week. But with cities from Ferndale to Birmingham canceling Dream Cruise events because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dream Show could become a focal point.

M1 Concourse has already become the unofficial launch of Cruise week with the annual Roadkill Nights blowout — though the event has been sidelined this year. Sponsored by Dodge for the last five years, it showcased drag racing on Woodward for about 47,000 attendees while offering hot laps on the race track and drifting around M1’s skid pad.

Acknowledging concern about the coronavirus, Hartge said tickets will help regulate crowd size and will be sold online to minimize hand-to-hand contact. The Dream Show will conform to government and social distancing guidelines. M1 will offer sanitizing stations, gloves and masks.

Three days of racing, exhibits and food are planned. The Dream Show will open Aug. 13 with a judged display of the Dream Cruise’s best American hot rods. An auto-themed fashion show and After Dark-Afterglow party will follow. Aug. 14 will be track-focused with single-lap, timed runs featuring performance cars. Aug. 15 is an open invitation to car clubs to take over M1’s lawns and asphalt.

The event will be capped off Aug. 15 with a Woodward Avenue parade to Pontiac’s downtown loop and Wide Track Drive.

“Pontiac is the next place besides Detroit that is natural for rehabilitation,” said Hartge who notes M1 Concourse sits on the site of a former GM plant that dates to 1908. “Let’s help the businesses here. The goal is to put Pontiac back on the map as an automotive capital.”

Woodward Dream Show

Aug. 13: noon to 8 p.m.

Aug. 14:  9 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Saturday, Aug 15: 9 a.m.-7 p.m.

Tickets (on sale in July): $35, single day. $57.50, 2-day pass. $85, three-day pass. All-day parking is $15.

For tickets, visit WoodwardDreamShow.com.

American Festival of Speed

Sept. 30-Oct. 2, 2021

Details pending.

Roadkill Nights is the latest Woodward Dream Cruise casualty of COVID-19

Posted by Talbot Payne on June 18, 2020

There will be no drag racing on Woodward this year. At least not legally.

The sixth annual Roadkill Nights has been canceled for Aug. 7-8, the latest victim of the COVID-19 pandemic. Roadkill, which shut down a section of Woodward Avenue in Pontiac for legal drag racing, has been the official kickoff for Woodward Dream Cruise week.

It joins staples like Mustang Alley and Ferndale’s Lights & Sirens Cruise on the sidelines as cities up and down Woodward have canceled their events scheduled for the Aug. 15 Cruise.

The exception is the inaugural Woodward Dream Show which is scheduled to go on as planned Aug.13-15 at Pontiac’s M1 Concourse, making it a focal point of attention when cruisers and their families gather later this summer.

Dodge has been a sponsor for Roadkill Nights. Tim Kuniskis, Fiat Chrysler’s global chief of passenger cars — and a dedicated cruiser — lamented the cancellation given its status as a “must-attend event for performance enthusiasts for the past five years.”

The rash of cancellations has stoked speculation that the Dream Cruise itself would be canceled, and the Dream Cruise board says it will decide by June 29 whether or not it will give the green light. Civic leaders from Birmingham, Huntington Woods and Ferndale — who have long had a love-hate relationship with the world’s biggest traffic jam — have voted for a resolution to cancel the Cruise.

Cruisers are expected to flock to Woodward whether the Dream Cruise is officially canceled or not. Woodward has already been busy, despite COVD-19 concerns, as cruisers have hit the strip and congregated with friends who have a long winter in hibernation.

RoadKill Nights had turned the heat up a notch by shutting down Woodward north of St. Joseph Mercy Parkland hospital and inviting 140 of the top drag racers from around the country to compete for a $30,000 purse in their street-legal rods. Roadkill Nights also offered interactive opportunists for fans to take thrill rides in 700-plus horsepower Dodge muscle cars around the adjacent M1 Concourse.

Organizers say coronavirus protocols will be followed.

“We will encourage distancing and masks,” said CEO Tim Hartge. “Ticketing will be online. Sanitizing stations, gloves, and masks will be available.”

Payne: Hyundai Sonata Hybrid has OMG mpg and looks, ho-hum performance

Posted by Talbot Payne on June 18, 2020

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid comes in three trims: Blue, SEL and Limited. The Limited, pictured here, gets 47 mpg, while the sippy Blue version tops out at 52 mpg.

They should have named the Hyundai Sonata the “Hyundai OMG.” The mid-size sedan is a non-stop wow emoji.

There was the February Super Bowl ad featuring Boston celebrity jaws dropping in unison as actor John Krasinski demonstrated the Sonata’s self-parking feature. “Smaht pahk!” We couldn’t get it out of our heads. OMG.

I couldn’t get the Sonata’s good looks out of my head the first time I saw it. It still turns my head — like the other day when an all-black Sonata rolled my way in Oakland County, its signature LED running lights giving it a sinister look. The black Audi A4 behind it looked … almost as good. OMG.

Now comes the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid boasting the best fuel economy in class: 52 mpg. OMG.

At least on paper. In practice the hybrid is the least OMG feature of the Sonatas I’ve tested. And it still leaves me thirsting for the Sonata N performance version that will couple the car’s tight handling with an alleged 295 horsepower. I tasted the N earlier this year on windy roads through Arizona and it was a treat.

Until its arrival, drivetrains aren’t the Sonata’s strong suit. And that’s not just because I’ve got a lead foot instead of a green thumb. Indeed, I’ve been impressed by the industry’s latest hybrids, particularly new value entries from compact SUVs like the Ford Escape, Honda CRV and Toyota RAV4, which have exhibited feisty character even as they sipped gas from the pump.

But the Sonata Hybrid was surprisingly tepid. Especially since it gains 12 more horsepower than the regular Sonata’s turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder. The regular Sonata’s 1.6-liter made me yearn for the Sonata N — and the Sonata Hybrid made me yearn for the 1.6-liter.

Where the Escape and CR-V hybrids use their electric motor for an electrifying kick off the line, the Sonata seems to maximize the battery for that OMG mpg. The Hybrid’s acceleration is sleepy. The hand-off from electric to gas is as smooth as a middle-school track relay, with the 2.0-liter engine shouting as if someone stepped on its foot.

But Payne, you say, no one buying a green car is going to drive it hard. And sure enough, the Sonata cruises effortlessly at speed, its electronics maximizing the drivetrain for 30% fewer shifts. Green fans will also geek out on the car’s active grill flaps, underbody cover and unique rear spoiler to achieve a remarkable 0.24 drag coefficient so the sedan cuts through the air like a knife.

But I’ve been spoiled, dear reader, by the Ford and Honda hybrids’ dexterity, and the Sonata is not in their league. What’s more, my week in the premium Hyundai Hybrid Limited returned just 35 mpg — a far cry from the advertised 47 mpg.

That 52 mpg I spoke of belongs to the starter Hyundai Hybrid Blue model, which retails for $28,725 — with a $30,875 SEL and Limited model clocking in at $36,275. The latter pair achieve 47 mpg.

Those prices are in contrast to, say, the Honda CRV Hybrid, which is a ridiculous bargain at just $27,000 with lots of pep, 38 mpg and all the inherent advantages of SUVs like hatchback storage, all-wheel-drive and rear-seat headroom.

So the Sonata Hybrid will have to sell itself on sex appeal. And in that area it is loaded.

Every time I got annoyed with the Hybrid’s awkward drivetrain, I would stand back and ogle its curves.

The heavily sculpted sides (with this much stamped sheet metal how does the standard Sonata start at just $23,000?) sweep rearward to a gorgeous tail-section, a Lincoln-like horizontal taillight graphic providing the perfect punctuation. There is exquisite detail — like the delicate winglets on the taillight to aid aerodynamic flow and the signature LED running lights that parallel the hood.

The standard Sonata grille is distinctive like the mouth of a carp. Too big. The hybrid tones it down with some elegant chrome piping and a sweeping lower chrome piece that echoes the rear taillight. But the Hybrid Limited exterior’s OMG feature is the solar roof. Yes, a solar roof.

Embedded in the black sweep of the coupe-like greenhouse you can make out subtle traces etched to and fro to catch the sun. Dramatic looking, though less dramatic in operation. Hyundai says the solar roof will gain the driver 2 miles on a tank of gas. Like the drivetrain, it’s not worth the premium price in my book … but it’s a talker.

The interior on my Limited model was even more stunning, the seats swathed in tanned leather, the instruments fully digital.

The dash reminds of a Mercedes, which indicates just how high this mainstream sedan has aimed. A fully digital cockpit and infotainment display flows across the horizontal dash. The Hyundai can’t match the Mercedes’ exquisite detail — what can? — but the graphics are engaging and Sonata Hybrid does it all for tens of thousands of dollars less. No other sedan in class can match it.

The console offers more luxury touches, including a so-called “trigger shifter” that I first encountered on the Acura NSX supercar, of all things. I fell in love with it on the Acura and find Hyundai’s version just as useful. It’s different without being annoying — while also saving console space for knick-knack and smartphone storage.

The infotainment system features are useful, particularly Apple CarPlay and Android Auto navigation that allow the sedan luxe-like navigation skills. Drill deeper and you’ll find — yes, another OMG moment.

While most drivers will be content to play their own music, streaming services or Sirius XM’s multiple channels, Hyundai offers another escape: Sounds of Nature.

There are the soothing sounds of Snowy Village and Warm Fireplace. And Open Air Cafe, Calm Sea Waves and Lively Forest. Mrs. Payne balked at Rainy Day because she found it dreary. But the sounds are a reminder of Hyundai’s determination to make the Sonata a unique experience.

Available with the nav package, the feature’s also available on other Sonatas — not just the hybrid. Which brings me back to the question of the hybrid’s value. Indeed, the hybrid is oddly missing the “Smaht pahk” feature that got everyone all worked up about the Sonata in the first place.

Sonata says it’s coming, which is good thing because when you’re paying 36 grand for a sedan you want all the OMG you can get.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Vehicle type: Front-engine, front-wheel drive, 5-passenger sedan

Price: $28,725, including $975 destination charge ($36,275 Limited as tested)

Powerplant: 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder mated to AC motor and lithium-ion battery

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Power: 192 horsepower (combined system output)

Weight: 3,530 pounds as tested

Performance: 0-60 mph, 8.0 seconds (Car and Driver est.); top speed, 120 mph

Fuel economy: EPA est. mpg: 50 city/54 highway/52 combined (Hybrid Blue); 45 city/51 highway/47 combined (Hybrid SEL and Limited)

Report card

Highs: 47-52 mpg; luxury-class interior

Lows: Granola performance; pricey compared to competitive SUV hybrids

Overall: ★★★

Ford rolls out its first Mustang Mach 1 since 2004

Posted by Talbot Payne on June 16, 2020

With signature matte-black hood stripe, howling V-8 engine and extensive handling upgrades, the legendary Mach 1 Ford Mustang has been reborn for 2021.

Purists might miss the hood shaker and grille lights, though.

Ford unveiled the special edition Mach 1 in its birthday suit on Tuesday after teasing the car in camouflage two weeks ago. With 480 horsepower (nearly double that of the original, 250-horse coupe that debuted in 1969) and 420 pound-feet of torque like the outgoing Mustang Bullitt special edition model, Mach 1 features a unique fascia, paint scheme and performance pieces from its sibling GT350 and GT500 track monsters.

“It is the new pinnacle of 5.0-liter, Mustang performance,” said Mustang marketing chief Jim Owens, who says Mach 1 is defined by three criteria: handling, straight-line speed and style.

Likely to start around $50,000 when it hits dealers next spring, the Mach 1 is the most capable, 5.0-liter V-8 engine-fired stallion in the sixth-generation Mustang stable. It will reside in the middle of a performance lineup that ranges from the affordable 2.3-liter Ecoboost High Performance turbo-4 cylinder model all the way to the track-stomping $70.000, 760-horsepower GT500. The last Mach 1 was produced as part of Mustang’s fourth-gen, 2004 lineup.

The retro-inspired Mach 1 returns, not uncoincidentally, as Ford launches its Mach E, the first electric SUV ever with a Mustang badge. If the Mach 1 symbolizes Mustang’s dominance of pony car’s past, Ford hopes Mach E represents promise for its all-electric future.

Mach 1 and Mach E were spied circulating Pontiac’s M1 Concourse race track together last week, gaining footage that may appear in future marketing campaigns.

The 2021 Mach 1’s wardrobe pays homage to previous generations that sold from 1969-1978 and 2003-2004. A signature, low-gloss black stripe is prominent on the hood, as are rocker panel stripes down the sides. Unlike the ’69 original, the Mach 1 logo is separated from the stripe to stand alone behind the front fenders. The rear fascia is also painted matte black similar to predecessors.

An appearance package is available in Fighter Jet Gray with a choice of three stripe colors: white, red, and orange. Brake calipers are painted orange.

Purists will be disappointed that the 2021 Mach 1 is not optioned with a shaker (a hood scoop poking through a hole in the hood) for better engine breathing as in previous generations. “The 5.0-liter engine is focused on performance output, and it didn’t need (the shaker),” said Owens.

Budget issues may have been in play given massive amounts of money Ford is spending to bring the Mach E to market.

Another signature piece of hardware – twin lights in the grille – also are compromised compared to past models. Where the 1969 Mach 1 used the grille lights for extra lighting at night, the round inserts are plastic-capped and for show only on the new car.

“We have no doubt some of our customers will punch them out for increased cooling modifications,” smiled Owens.

The Mach 1 will be track ready.

Cooling the 305-cubic inch beast within was a priority of engineers. Two heat exchangers and other hardware are added behind the unique Mach 1 fascia for better breathing. A huge, new underbelly pan with special airfoils for cooling and downforce is the vehicle’s most significant aero upgrade, and the Mach 1 gets extensive suspension upgrades like bigger sway bars and stiffer springs.

Out back, bazooka-sized, 4.5-inch chrome exhaust tips signal the Mach 1’s intentions.

Buyers who want even more capability can add a Handling Package that consists of sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires (a step up from standard Michelin 4S treads) wrapped around unique 19-inch wheels. Also included are a rear spoiler taken from the GT500, upgraded front splitter and aero tweaks around the fenders. Ford says it will increase downforce on track by 150%.

Inside, purists will revel in the standard, manual, six-speed shifter (with rev-matching for the first time) topped off by a cue ball. An automatic 10-speed transmission is also available. Behind the fat steering wheel is a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and the dash is stamped with a chassis number badge.

In addition to Fighter Jet Gray, the Mach 1 can be dressed in an array of Skittle colors including Velocity Blue, Twister Orange and Grabber Yellow.

Seating can also be had with right-hand drive in foreign markets where the Mach 1 will also be sold. Mustang is the best-selling two-seat sports car in the world across 147 countries.

Remade Nissan Rogue SUV headlines looks, tech while ignoring hybrid

Posted by Talbot Payne on June 16, 2020

Nissan introduced a comprehensively redesigned model of its Rogue compact SUV Monday, the second best-selling SUV in America.

The descendent of the stunning X-Motion Concept Car that debuted at the Detroit Auto Show in 2018, the Rogue embodies the concept’s ambitions of bold SUV styling with a suite of high-tech innovations. Interestingly, the Rogue eschews the trend toward hybridization that has marked the recent launch of its close competitors, the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and top-selling Toyota RAV4.

By contrast, the made-in-Tennessee Nissan comes with one engine option, an upgraded version of its reliable, sippy 2.5-liter 4-cylinder. While adding a premium Platinum trim for the first time, Rogue seems intent on pursuing Nissan’s strategy to offer best-in-class value at the cheaper end of the biggest segment in autodom. By contrast, Toyota offers a plug-in hybrid model that starts at nearly $40,000.

The Rogue’s upright, sculpted body is dramatically different from the outgoing 2020 model with its rounder, more potato-shaped lines. The upright grill and big shoulders of the compact ute reflect the X-Motion Concept as well as Americans’ preference for truck-like designs. The RAV4’s recent remake cribbed heavily from its Tacoma pickup.

Signature Nissan design touches like the V-Motion grille and floating roof are still in evidence, but otherwise the third-gen Rogue is a break from the past. Even the headlights have moved, with the Rogue deploying its peepers in the middle of the front-fascia underneath daytime running lights – a style made popular by Hyundai and the Chevy Blazer.

The Rogue’s engine is also offered in the mid-size Altima sedan. Unlike the Altima, however, the Rogue does not offer a more-powerful, turbocharged 2.0-liter. The Rogue is content to see its mill get a 6% bump in power to 181 horses to drive both front-wheel and all-wheel drive models.

The Rogue gets 30 mpg combined EPA fuel economy in front-wheel drive and 29 mpg in all-wheel drive.

Open the doors and Rogue turns up the high-tech.

Rogue cleverly piggy-backed on the “Star Wars” franchise in 2017 to offer a limited “Rogue One: Star Wars Limited Edition” model as well as introduce its ProPilot Assist feature. There will be no “Star Wars” movie to co-brand with this fall when the 2021 Rogue hits dealerships, but the SUV continues to push sci-fi, self-driving capabilities in the family segment.

Standard on the Nissan is a suite of driver-assist systems called Nissan Safety Shield 360 which includes auto high-beams, lane-keep assist, automatic emergency-braking with pedestrian detection, and blind-spot assist. Nissan says its adaptive-cruise ProPilot Assist system has been improved with less abrupt braking.

Taking it up a notch, ProPilot Assist with Navi-link (available on higher trims) will automatically adapt speed to road conditions. When deployed, it uses GPS to slow for curves as well as interstate off-ramps. Adaptive cruise will automatically start driving again after 30 seconds if stopped at a light  – safety technology familiar to high-end luxury cars like Audi and Tesla. Nissan says their Gen Y target audience prizes safety in the SUV class.

Other luxury features like a 12.3-inch digital instrument display and Cadillac-like head-up display will also be available.

Passengers can enjoy these treats encased in a roomier cabin made quieter by acoustic front glass and underbody panels. Headroom, rear-seat legroom, and cargo space are all enhanced even as the Rogue’s length has contracted slightly.

The dash is crowned by a tablet infotainment screen with 9.0-inch option available. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard. The center console has been remade with a Nissan-first electronic shifter that opens room for sub-console storage as well a rotary terrain-mode selector. Again mimicking luxury cars, the console storage box features a “butterfly” door so internal USB ports can better be connected to backseat passengers.

Backseat occupants get their own amenities like reclining and heated seats as well as  tri-zone climate control. Leave anything in the back seats and a Rear Door Alert reminder sounds. This latest feature was innovated by GMC a few years back, but Rogue is not shy in adopting useful innovations pioneered by others.

Like the Honda CR-V, Rogue’s rear doors open to nearly 90 degrees for better ingress and egress. And, borrowing from the Ford Escape, the rear tailgate can be kicked open as an option on upper trims. More cleverness abounds in the cargo area where has placed a tray to store milk cartons so they don’t tumble under aggressive driving.

Likely starting around $26,000 when it hits dealer lots, the 2021 Nissan Rogue will be aiming for the 411,000-unit record it sold in 2019.

Payne: The mighty Ram 2500 Power Wagon is a beast, on-road and off

Posted by Talbot Payne on June 11, 2020

Positioned above light duty variants like the Ram Rebel and Ford Raptor, the 2020 Ram 2500 Power Wagon is a heavy-duty beast.

Positioned above light duty variants like the Ram Rebel and Ford Raptor, the 2020 Ram 2500 Power Wagon is a heavy-duty beast. Henry Payne, The Detroit News

You want a monster Hemi V-8-powered, stump-pulling Ram 1500 pickup truck? You wimp.

Real men and women drive Ram 2500 Power Wagons.

The heavy-duty version of Ram’s light-duty truck that arrived in my driveway could pull my house off its foundation — assuming I can get in it. I walked out into my driveway and looked up.

Dressed entirely in black and an alleged 6-foot-7 tall (it seemed taller than that next to my mere 6-foot-5 frame), the Power Wagon loomed over me with a face that would make Thanos flinch. It’s a beast. I think the designers took their inspiration from a humpback whale swallowing an ocean of krill.

I stepped up on the rocker rail, then hoisted myself into the passenger seat with the A-pillar handle. On the passenger side, the 5-foot-5 Mrs. Payne needed our roof ladder to get in.

The 2500 reminded me of an older off-road Ram pickup — mega-modified with five-inch suspension lift and 38-inch tires — that dragged our Jeep Wrangler out of a ditch at the Mounds off-road park a few years back. But this beast doesn’t need after-market mods.

The Power Wagon comes from the manufacturer fully equipped to take on the outback. That’s the badge’s calling card, having carved out a new heavy-duty segment above and beyond famed light-duty performance trucks like the Ford Raptor, Chevy Silverado Z71 and sibling Ram Rebel. When a hammer isn’t enough, the Power Wagon offers a sledgehammer.

Ram’s crosstown rivals have followed suit with their own truncheons, the GMC Sierra AT4 and the Ford Super Duty Tremor.

The Power Wagon stands tall with massive 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires inside swollen fender wells. They add additional ground clearance over the usual 30-inchers for a total of 14.2 inches. Armed with armadillo-like skid plates, the Power Wagon has a ridiculous front approach angle of 29 degrees (the iconic Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is 33) and is rated for wading through 30 inches of water.

Power Wagon is a truck nerd’s dream. Behold the twin locking-differentials, like a Jeep Rubicon’s. There’s a separate floor-mounted four-wheel-drive transfer case for low-speed rock crawling. And for when the going really gets tough, the 2500 adds an extra link to its upper axle mount — call it Articulink — which combines with electronically disconnecting front anti-roll bars to give the monster 26 inches of front-wheel articulation for crawling over rocks. Dude!

But all my wife and I needed to do was get some mulch, a basic pickup task.

That’s the quandary of the auto enthusiast. How much is enough? A sportscar-holic myself, I find a $30,000 Mazda MX-5 Miata plenty of enjoyment for a two-seat sports car. But if I had the coin to buy an $80,000, 495-horse Corvette C8? I’d buy even if I never took the thing to a track. I’d buy it because it exists.

When I drove up to English Gardens in the Power Wagon, a staffer’s jaw dropped.

“That’s a killer truck,” he said.

We motorheads live or an invitation to talk power, which we did while loading 10 bags of mulch into the 6-foot-4 box. That’s right, this beast is taller than its bed is long.

Power Wagon shrugged off the added weight as we hustled back home. It can shoulder a payload of 1,510 pounds and tow 10,580 pounds. That tow number, however, isn’t anywhere close to the 2500 Heavy Duty’s 19,780-pound capability since Power Wagon has softer springs for playing off-road.

If you want mega-towing, get the Ram diesel. The Power Wagon’s more playful character means a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 under the hood and a tailpipe the size of Alaskan pipeline. The big V-8 loves to run, and I was more than happy to give it the gas — WAUUUUUGHHH! — through Oakland County while drinking half the oil reserves of Texas. There’s a glut of crude during the coronavirus crisis so I did my part to draw it down.

Back at the ranch — well, cul-de-sac — we unloaded the mulch into a wheelbarrow that exposed one of the Power Wagon’s rare flaws: How to climb into the bed easily?

Chevy and GMC offer the best solution — a corner bumper-step. But this being the truck wars, it would be sacrilege to follow GM’s lead. Nossir. Ford has invented a sort of Noah’s staff that sprouts from the bumper to help owners into the bed. Cool, but wouldn’t a bumper step be easier? The Tesla Cybertruck will allegedly kneel in back to allow access.

Ram just ignores the idea altogether. Which means you’ll have to clamber up into this thing like your childhood bunk bed. The good news is the side-bed toolboxes remind you how clever Ram can be. They provide a place for tools so they don’t bounce around.

But the real show is inside, where Ram sports the best interior in truckdom. Like Tesla, the cabin is oriented around a huge 12-inch vertical screen that communicated the cabin’s larger refinement. Gears are accessed not by a steering-mounted stalk, but by a space-saving rotary dial. Back seats are massive — Lew Alcindor and Walt Chamberlain could play a comfortable game of cards back there — and there is more storage beneath the floor if needed.

The Ram is festooned with the latest electronics, from adaptive cruise-control to blind-spot assist to 360-degree surround camera.

The latter two are helpful since the Power Wagon is to urban areas what Moby Dick is to a pond. Too big.

I wandered over to Auto Europe to drop off wheels from one of my sports cars and treaded carefully lest I accidentally crush the odd Lotus Esprit or Mercedes Coupe in the parking lot. I picked up fast food from the Clarkston Culver’s and the person at the window looked up at me.

But Clarkston felt more comfortable than Birmingham: No gridded streets. No tight parking lots. Just miles of country road for opening up the big V-8, and farms and woods that need stuff loaded into the back.

When the urge hits and you want to go exploring, off-road parks like the Mounds aren’t too far away. Because you never know when some city slicker in a Jeep Wrangler might need a tow out of the mud with the Power Wagon’s 12,000-pound winch.

2020 Ram 2500 Power Wagon

Vehicle type: Front-engine, four-wheel drive, 5-passenger, crew-cab pickup

Price: $55,045, including $1,695 destination charge ($69,890 as tested)

Powerplant: 6.4-liter Hemi V-8

Power: 410 horsepower, 429 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 8.4 seconds (Car and Driver); towing, 10,580 pounds

Weight: 6,996 pounds

Fuel economy: NA

Report card

Highs: Rules the road; best interior in truckdom

Lows: Too big for urban America; drinks petrol

Overall: 3 stars

Flop of BlueIndy car-share reflects broader ride-hailing challenges

Posted by Talbot Payne on June 10, 2020

The electric-car sharing future has got the blues.

BlueIndy, a pioneering car-sharing service in Indianapolis that launched in 2014, quietly closed last month. Beset by losses, the decision to pull the plug on BlueIndy’s electric cars came before the global coronavirus pandemic – and as other similar services have also shut their doors.

Now the post-pandemic landscape is creating more uncertainty for the nascent industry as the public pulls back from the idea of sharing potentially contaminated vehicles.

“The challenge is the same for everyone in the mobility space over the years, particularly car-sharing,” said Guidehouse Insight auto analyst Sam Abuelsamid. “It’s a really hard business to make money in. BlueIndy is not the only one to go under. We’ve seen a number of these go out of business over last few months – GM announced they shut Maven down after scaling back last year. And Share Now, that BMW/Daimler venture, announced they were pulling out of North American market.”

Widely hailed when it was introduced in 2014 as the Midwest’s first adoption of green city cars like Europe (BlueIndy featured the same Pininfarina-designed Bollore BlueCars that populate the electric car fleet in Paris), the service never caught on.

In its wake, Blue Indy leaves 250 battery-powered cars, electric-charging structure and recriminations over a city council that spent $7 million on the program without voter approval. Half of the cars have been sent to a scrapyard for dismantling while the other half have reportedly been relocated to Los Angeles for use in a similar car-sharing operation.

Blue Indy made the announcement to close last December, but the service stayed operational through May 21 when current subscriptions ran out.

The program’s cute little EVs were sprinkled throughout Indianapolis and available to rent and return. The service was available for a one-time fee or annual membership. One-time users paid $8 for 20 minutes; an annual membership was $9.99 per month, not including additional charges for more time at the wheel.

The service had hoped to reach 15,000 members, 500 cars and 200 charging stations, but peaked instead at 3,000 members, 250 cars and 92 stations as interest waned after a well-publicized start. France’s Bolore was the primary investor, but the program also received support from Indiana institutions including Indianapolis Power & Light utility, which invested more than $3 million to extend electric lines to the chargers.

Former Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard hoped to give to give the Midwest city a progressive feel. Car-sharing and ride-hailing services like Uber have been touted as modern alternatives for less-dense cities without expensive, public-transit rail systems.

“We think it’s the perfect city to do this,” BlueIndy General Manager Scott Prince told the Indianapolis Business Journal in 2014. “If we had the world’s greatest mass-transit system today, this arguably would not be the first city we’d be launching in in America.”

GM’s Maven pulled out of eight of its 17 markets — including Chicago and New York — last year before the COVID-19 outbreak halted the business in its tracks this April. The BMW-Daimler joint venture Share Now was focused on major American and Canadian cities like Seattle, New York and Montreal, but folded its cards late last year.

As BlueIndy indicates, the car-sharing services were struggling before the COVID-19 crisis. The post-pandemic landscape looks even more challenging.

“The concern a lot of people have now, and this applies to car-sharing, ride-sharing — all the transit options — is when you get into one of these vehicles and you don’t know when it was last cleaned,” said analyst Abuelsamid. “There might have been somebody in there 15 minutes before who was sick.”

A survey taken this May by the IBM Institute for Business Value of 25,000 U.S. adults found significant change in attitude toward ride-sharing services, The survey found a shift away from public transit and ride-sharing toward individual transportation.

“More than half of people surveyed who used ride-sharing apps and services said they would either use these less or stop using these services completely,” concluded the IBM study. “More than 17% of people surveyed said that they intend to use their personal vehicle more as a result of COVID-19, with approximately 1 in 4 saying they will use it as their exclusive mode of transportation going forward.”

BlueIndy got mixed reviews from users.

Green advocate Mary Beatty, 65, told the IndyStar she was drawn to BlueIndy becasue of her belief in renewable energy. But they encountered issues when they took the EV to the airport.

“It was so difficult trying to put our luggage in, and we couldn’t figure out how to open the hatch,” she told the newspaper. “The quality of the car was not good and kind of frightening because it is a lightweight car and did not handle well on the highway.”

Abuelsamid said that the cars did not meet federal safety standards, so they could be used in a ride-sharing capacity. Some customers complained of the car’s cheap build. Others complained of poor customer service as well as lack of convenience.

“There was a pretty big learning curve, and it didn’t make it a user-friendly experience, even for someone who was motivated,” said Beatty. “After our membership expired we didn’t renew.”

1st Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid gets best-in-class 100 MPGe

Posted by Talbot Payne on June 10, 2020

The 2020 Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid starts at $34,425.

Ford announced the first-ever plug-in model of its Escape SUV today, part of the brand’s full-court press to bring electrification to its lineup.

Based on the $26,130 compact Escape that is the best-selling truck that isn’t a pickup in the Blue Oval’s lineup, the Escape Plug-In Hybrid will start at $34,285 and achieve best-in-class100 MPGe. On a full charge, the Escape Plug-In can go 37 miles on battery power alone before the gas engine kicks in.

The plug-in is the second hybrid model offered in the Escape lineup after the Escape Hybrid, which starts at $29,000.The plug-in model runs on the same electric motor-assisted, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine as the Escape Hybrid, but then adds a more-robust 14.4-kWh lithium-ion battery beneath the second-row seats for extended battery range.

Escape pioneered hybrids in the SUV segment in 2005, but the 2020 models are the first offered since 2012.

Ford is ditching its sedan lineup including the Ford Fusion Energi, which was a mid-size plug-in car.Ford says green-oriented customers won’t miss it as the Escape Plugin’s 37-mile, all-battery range trumps the Energi by 11 more miles while offering a hatchback with four times the cargo volume.

The Escape Plug-In will go head-to-head against the pricier $39,220 Toyota RAV4 Prime with an estimated 42-mile battery-only range and 94 MPGe. The RAV4 Prime offers 302 horsepower, versus the Ford’s 221 ponies.

The Plug-in Hybrid will only come in front-wheel drive, unlike the RAV4 Prime and Escape Hybrid which have available all-wheel drive.

In addition to its green chops, the Escape features a sliding rear seat which adds 6 inches of legroom. It comes standard with Ford Co-Pilot360 safety features including blind-spot assist and autonomic high-beams.

On a standard, 110-volt Level 1 wall outlet, the the Escape Plug-In can reach full charge in 10-11 hours. Install a 240-volt Level 2 charger, and that charge time drops to 3.5 hours.

The Escape Plug-In Hybrid is part of Ford’s investment of more than $11.5 billion in electrified vehicles. The plug-in model available on every Escape trim level except S and SE Sport, and hits dealer lots this summer.

Against the odds: Detroit 3, foreign transplants play to strengths in COVID crisis

Posted by Talbot Payne on June 5, 2020

The challenging COVID-19 auto market has been a tale of two camps: the Detroit Three and foreign transplants.

Defying many predictions that consumer demand would collapse amid pandemic lockdowns, both have recorded better-than-expected sales in the months of April and May even as they have pursued different strategies playing to their strengths.

Detroit manufacturers have focused heavily on pickups, a market they dominate, to maintain profitability. Asian and European automakers have minimal presence in the uniquely American truck market. Instead, they have focused on sedan markets — largely vacated by Detroit makers — while also flooding SUV segments with more product.

Detroit Three pickup sales, for example, surged to five percent more than forecast pre-COVID, a remarkable achievement given that industry forecasts were for 80% industry sales declines at the beginning of March. So strong were pickup sales that the Detroit Three in April achieved 50% market share — a whopping 13% higher than average.

Meanwhile, Korean automaker Hyundai experienced the industry’s strongest gains in retail market share — alongside Ford — for May as it poured on incentives for its all-new Sonata and Elantra sedans as well as its Tucson compact SUV. Compact utes are the biggest volume segment outside pickups.

As a whole, industry retail sales were off only 12% as of June 1 compared to pre-COVID forecast — and a March 29 bottom of -59%. While tanking media markets like New York and California got the headlines, Hyundai actually gained year-over-year sales in 37 states.

“At the beginning of (April) we expected a doomsday scenario … that predicted the industry was going to be down roughly 80%,” said Hyundai North America sales chief Randy Parker. “The good news is the industry performed much better than we expected. We were only down 13% (total) in May. Take out fleet and our retail was actually flat.”

Like all automakers, Hyundai has seen fleet sales (down 79%) crater along with the travel industry: “We went to 84-month loans on our Tucson and Elantra models,” continued Parker. “We dialed that back a bit in May. Tucson’s a hot seller for us — crossovers and SUVs are selling very, very strong. We want to fish where the fish are — we wanted to make sure we got our fair share.”

Like other foreign automakers, Hyundai — which has hovered around 4.5% market share over the last decade — has flooded the U.S. market with SUVs. All-new Venue, Kona, and Palisade badges have been introduced in the last two years.  Outside of pickups, the best-selling vehicles in America are the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue SUVs.

Continuing pre-COVID trends, SUV share of the market is now at a record 55.3%. Next to pickups, the volume compact SUV segment showed the smallest decline — 11% — from pre-virus forecasts.

That is the common battleground in the U.S. market.

The Detroit Three — which invented the SUV going back to the Jeep Cherokee, Ford Explorer and Jeep Wrangler — try to defend their territory against surging foreign competitors. Toyota is dropping three new family vehicles this year and next alone: the Highlander and Venza SUVs as well as the Sienna minivan.

Hyundai’s Palisade SUV has drawn a bullseye around the Ford Explorer, long a midsize sales leader, and the Palisade has been one of the hottest-selling vehicles this year. Its cause was helped by the fact that its production in South Korea only shut down for a few days, allowing continued shipments to the U.S. while competitor plants sat idle.

“Palisade production coming from South Korea (had) no hiccups,” said Parker. “One of the advantages of Palisade is plants have been up and running.”

Volkswagen, once synonymous with cars like the Beetle and Golf, also thrived with such new SUV entries in the U.S. market as its Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport.

“Demand in April was stronger than expected, and we’re seeing that trend continue in May,” said Duncan Movassaghi, VW executive VP of sales. “Our share of sales from SUVs has grown from 15% in 2016 to more than 50% now. We’ve had strong deals in the market, so it’s been a good time to buy.”

But while foreign makers shy from taking on Detroit’s Big Four of Ford F-150/Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra/Ram in the pickup aisle, so has Detroit ceded the sedan market to foreign makers.

Smelling opportunity to bring in new buyers and gain market share, all foreign makers have new compact and mid-size sedans in U.S. showrooms. For Hyundai’s part, it has been aggressive during COVID with its Elantra compact and midsize Sonata.

“We gained share in both segments. Those are our bread and butter. We are gaining share in segments where consumers still want to buy passenger cars,” said sales chief Parker.

As diverse as their segment strategies are, both domestic and foreign automakers pursued similar, heavy incentive pricing and online programs to keep inventory moving. Zero percent financing on 84-month loan deals hit record levels for the last two months with incentive levels per vehicle hitting a record $5,000 in early May.

As states began to open in late May and factories got back up to speed, manufacturers began to pull back on incentive deals which analysts say could cool sales into the usually hot summer months.

“Reduced incentives are being driven by lower inventories but pose a threat to the sales recovery,” said J.D Power data analyst Tyson Jominy. “We may see much tougher month of June compared to May.”

But carmakers are also eyeing consumer shifts forced by the unprecedented COVID crisis that may benefit their business in the long run.

“I think his pandemic is reminding people of the value of individual mobility,” said VW sales chief Movassaghi. “The appeal of getting into a crowded subway train or the back of someone else’s Uber is diminished for the time being. A car has always been a sanctuary, and I think we’re seeing a resurgence of that.”

Payne: Turning back the clock in a ’64 VW Beetle

Posted by Talbot Payne on June 5, 2020

The 1964 VW Bug's distinctive profile in front of the classic Vinsetta Garage on Woodward Avenue, Royal Oak.

The 1964 VW Bug’s distinctive profile in front of the classic Vinsetta Garage on Woodward Avenue, Royal Oak. Henry Payne, The Detroit News

The year 1964 seems like yesterday. And a lifetime ago.

Its highlights still reverberate through our culture today. The Beatles first tour of America. The release of Mary Poppins, just remade in 2018. The 1964 Civil Rights Act. Carroll Shelby’s triumph over Ferrari at LeMans, setting in motion the war that would be Ford v Ferrari. The debut of the Ford Mustang.

Yet, I just drove a ’64 Volkswagen Beetle, and 1964 couldn’t seem more remote. The automobile has been utterly transformed in the last six decades.

Chugging across Oakland County’s twisty roads, the Bug felt heavy despite weighing only 1,728 pounds, about 1,200 pounds lighter than its modern successor, the Jetta. The Bug didn’t have power steering, now a standard item. That’s not the only thing.

A lot of that absent weight is lack of safety equipment and sound insulation, and my Beetle was LOUD. Its signature 40-horsepower, 1.2-liter flat-4 cylinder engine may be behind the rear wheels, but its warble was ever-present in the cockpit. I rowed all four gears with a stick shift as long as an oar protruding from the floorboards as I merged onto I-75. If you owned a Beetle in 1964, you learned to drive a manual — no automatic available.

No tachometer either — you had to shift by sound. Man, we have it easy today.

After what seemed an eternity I reached the Beetle’s top speed of … 72. Just above the speed limit. I kept to the right lane as traffic whizzed by me at 80 mph, the Bug wandering unsteadily in its lane, the bubble roof buffeted by crosswinds.

But it wasn’t nearly as tall as the vehicles around me, most of them Detroit Three pickups … and something called SUVs, the best-selling vehicles in Michigan. You couldn’t find the term SUV in a ’64 dictionary. Webster’s didn’t adopt the term until 1986.

The first Beetles arrived for sale in the U.S. market in 1949. Two were sold. From those humble beginnings, the Bug would become on of the world’s all-time bestsellers and lay the foundation for what is today the world’s biggest-selling automaker, Volkswagen AG.

By 1964, six of 10 foreign cars sold in the United States were a Bug. Mine sold for $1,563, the equivalent of 13 grand in today’s greenbacks. Try to find a new car for that price.

But the entry-level Bug — competing against the likes of the Chevy Corvair (also featuring a flat-cylinder, rear-engine design) — was hardly the best-selling vehicle in America. That crown belonged to the Chevy Impala, which sold nearly 900,000 models that year. In 1965, the Impala would set an all-time, single-year sales record of 1,074,925 units.

As I steered the Bug onto Woodward Avenue, I saw few Impalas. The nameplate expires this year. The top-selling non-pickup in the U.S. now is the Toyota RAV4 SUV, and the Impala’s production plant is being converted to make electric vehicles to compete against EV-maker Tesla Inc.

Parked in my garage next to the black Beetle was a black Tesla Model 3, which has made the term “frunk” fashionable for the 21st century. The term is derived from “front truck” — an added storage convenience made possible by EVs opening the front engine bay by storing their electric motor/battery drivetrain in the floor. Original Beetle owners know what a frunk is.

With its engine out back, I popped the Bug’s frunk and stuffed in my groceries — just behind the spare and on top of the gas tank. More storage abounds inside. Despite the tight interior, the two-door Bug provided a full shelf under the dashboard for additional sundries.

That dashboard is the most obvious difference between the ’64 Bug and today’s chariots. And I’m not just talking about the Tesla’s radical, tablet-dominated interior. Modern compacts are stuffed with electronics from Sirius XM to auto climate controls to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto navigation apps.

The Beetle’s dash was still innovative. The Bug featured sidentical glovebox cut-outs at each end of the dash so the steering wheel could be located on either side for sale abroad.

Glovebox aside, my ’64 Bug had a radio to hear the Beatles. Period. No traction control button. No head up display. No climate controls. Want to heat the cabin? A valve on the floor let in hot air from the engine bay. My ride had a sunroof option introduced for 1964.

My racing buddy Jim grew up in a ’62 Bug in New Hampshire. His family took it to the ski slopes in the wintertime — ski rack (now a collector’s item) mounted on the back while the weight of its engine over the rear wheels helped it gain traction through the snow.

That rear-wheel drive also made the Bug a surprisingly fun car to drive. With a well-engineered unibody chassis and rear-drive, I could naturally drift it around tight corners. I set up a mock autocross course in an Oakland County parking lot and had a blast (to the limits of my sliding around in the un-bolstered couch seat). Still, the car’s upright aerodynamics never made it a natural performance car despite its Herbie the Love Bug movie racing legend.

I grew up racing a 1966 Porsche 906 — with a comically giant steering wheel just like the Bug’s — from the same era. Like the Bug, the ’60s cemented Porsche’s international reputation as supreme engineering made it the brand to beat in 24-hour racing. Porsche still references its ’60s icons to sell today’s production cars.

There’s gold in these 1964 legends. One of the Shelby Daytona Le Mans cars that took it to Ferrari in ’64 has sold for $7.25 million at auction. 1964 was the last year of production for the Ferrari 250 GTO, a model that fetched $32 million at auction last decade.

My ’64 V-dub might become a collector’s item as well.

Though the Bug was re-introduced in 1998 as a Jetta-based, front-engine “New Beetle” with modern amenities, the rear-drive original will forever be the brand’s touchstone. My Beetle was one of three meticulously restored to star as “Max” in VW’s 2009 “Das Auto” commercials. Speaking with a German accent into a microphone, Max the Beetle introduced the brand’s all-new Tiguan SUV to the U.S .market.

With its big peepers and beetle shape, everybody loves the Beetle. I got regular waves from passersby. Maybe the Beatles’ 1964 smash hit, “Can’t Buy Me Love,” had it wrong.

1964 Volkswagen Bug

Vehicle type: Rear-engine, rear-wheel drive, 5-passenger coupe

Price: $1,563 in 1964 ($13,000 in 2020 dollars)

Powerplant: 1.2-liter, “boxer” flat 4-cylinder

Power: 40 horsepower, 56 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: 4-speed manual

Performance: 0-60 mph, an eternity

Weight: 1,728 pounds (curb weight)

Fuel economy: 31.5 mpg

Report card

Highs: Adorable; rear-drive handling

Lows: Zero-60 in eternity; where’s the infotainment system?

Overall: 4 stars (I’m a sentimental fool)

Out of Ohio, remade Acura TLX challenges Cadillac, BMW performance

Posted by Talbot Payne on June 5, 2020

The 2021 Acura TLX brings back Acura's Type S performance model equipped with a high-powered turbo-V6.

The 2021 Acura TLX brings back Acura’s Type S performance model equipped with a high-powered turbo-V6. (Photo: Acura, Acura)

The Cadillac CT4 and CT5 aren’t the only important luxury sedans being built in the Great Lakes states this year.

Acura has introduced its all-new, 2021 Acura TLX, one of only two Asian luxury sedans made in the USA (Lexus’ ES sedan is Kentucky-produced). The TLX will be bolted together in Marysville, Ohio — just down the road from the Performance Manufacturing Center which produces the Acura NSX, the only mid-engine supercar made in the U.S. in addition to the Corvette C8.

Though SUVs dominate the American market, the athletic TLX — like the Lansing-made Cadillacs — is key to defining its brand’s performance aspirations. With all-new, turbocharged 4- and-6-cylinder engines, dramatic styling and a BMW M-fighting Type S badge, the TLX completes Acura’s return to performance prominence.

“It’s one of the most important pieces for us as we rebuild the brand for the future of Acura,” said Acura North America chief Jon Ikeda.

Once an enthusiast brand with such icons as the Integra and free-revving RSX Type S, Acura lost its way in the early 21st century. With the NSX supercar introduced in 2016, Acura began its return to performance under a new brand mantra — Precision Crafted Performance — and a new leader, Ikeda, who came to the company as a designer in 1989 inspired by its performance cred.

To underline its renewed focus, Acura partnered with Troy-based Penske Corp. to race in the IMSA Weathertech sports car series.

The Acura Precision Concept car, introduced at the 2016 Detroit auto show, and Acura Precision Interior Concept defined the brand’s new design direction. The TLX sedan — along with the popular RDX SUV introduced in 2019 — are the first manifestations of those concepts.

The TLX is longer (by 3.7 inches) and wider (by 2.2) than the outgoing model with signature “Jewel Eye” headlights staring out from under a long, low hood. Body panels are deeply sculpted with the car sitting back on wide haunches like a predator ready to pounce. The 113-inch wheelbase now exceeds the BMW 3-series though it is shy of the Cadillac CT5’s class-leading 116 inches.

“We doubled down on the things that sports sedans do best: styling, performance, emotion,” said global development boss Max Ernst.

The interior takes cues from the NSX with “trigger”-style gear and drive mode selector anchoring the console.  A tablet infotainment screen, recessed in the dash, is controlled by a touch pad. The pad has received mixed reviews in the similarly equipped RDX, which Acura hopes to alleviate with a hand-rest pad located at its base.

But the key to the TLX’s transformation lies under the skin. The chassis has been stiffened by 50 percent, and a race car-like double wishbone suspension added to the front end for better handling.

“The new TLX platform shares nothing with its predecessors, and not with anything else in our model lineup,” said Ernst, referencing past Acuras that shared the same bones as Hondas. “It’s an Acura-exclusive sports sedan.”

Despite its makeover, TLX remains a front-wheel-drive biased car with transverse-mounted engines, putting it at a disadvantage to class rear-wheel-drive athletes like the Caddy, Bimmer, Genesis G70 and Alfa Romeo Giulia. But the new suspension should help — as will its highly regarded, optional SH-AWD (super-handling all-wheel-drive) system.

SH-AWD is standard on the much-anticipated Type S performance model. This hottie — dressed in 20-inch wheels, Brembo brakes, and huge, corner front air intakes — also introduces an all-new turbocharged, 3.0-liter V-6 engine so the Acura can run with the big dogs. The base turbo-4 engine is no slouch either, boasting a best-in-class 272 horsepower for 4-cylinder engines (a whopping 66 more horsepower than the last gen’s 2.4-liter 4-banger).

Targeted at the U.S. market, the TLX has deep American roots. Its body was styled in California and engineered in Ohio. It will be manufactured exclusively in Marysville with its engines coming from Anna, Ohio, and its 10-speed automatic transmission from Tallapoosa, Georgia.

For all its performance ambitions, the TLX will retain Acura’s claim as one of the best values in class. Its RDX SUV sibling comes standard with AcuraWatch, which offers such safety goodies as adaptive cruise control and blind-spot assist for thousands of dollars less than competitors. AcuraWatch will be standard on TLX also.

The TLX will also offer 27 programmable, interior light themes, 16-way leather seats and four drive modes.

Expect the TLX to arrive this fall with a starting price around $35,000 — thousands less than BMW and Cadillac competitors and competitive with Korea-made Genesis. The Type S model will follow in spring 2021.

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Ford Mustang brings back iconic Mach 1 alongside electric Mach-E

Posted by Talbot Payne on June 3, 2020

Ford Motor Co. is reviving the storied Mustang Mach 1 badge for 2021, just in time to go on sale next to the futuristic Mach E electric SUV.

The fire-breathing, V8-powered Mach 1 will be the old-school bookend to Ford’s performance lineup as it introduces its stealthy, high-torque Mach-E — which Ford says is the battery-powered future of the company. The Mach-E is the first electric SUV ever produced by Mustang as it expands the legendary pony car beyond its two-door sports car roots.

Ford says the Mach 1 will be Mustang’s most track-focused coupe. It will replace the Bullitt badge as a limited-edition, V-8 performance model slotted between the $36,725 GT and top-of-the-line, supercharged $71,495 GT500. Mustang is the world’s most popular sports car with over 100,000 copies sold globally each year.

“Mach 1 has a special place in Mustang history,” said Dave Pericak, director of Ford icons. “Like the original, the all-new Mustang Mach 1 will be true to its heritage, delivering great looks and as the most track-capable 5.0-liter Mustang ever.”

Just as the iconic, fastback Mach 1 helped define the 1960s muscle car era when it was introduced in ’69, so does Ford hope the Mach-E will define the emerging electric car era of the 2020s.

“The timing is undeniable with the introduction of the Mach-E,” said Karl Brauer, auto analyst, muscle car enthusiast and executive publisher of Kelley Blue Book. “The heritage of the Mach I invokes a sense of speed, and the Mach-E brings a distinctive name to the electric space with that heritage behind it.”

Badging aside, the Mach 1 and Mach-E couldn’t be more different. The iconic fastback coupe that debuted during the ’60s golden era of muscle cars returns as Mustang’s ultimate, naturally-aspirated, 5.0-liter V8 beast. When it debuted in 1969, the Mach 1 set design cues that would carry through three generations of the Mach 1. The last Mach 1 was produced from 2003-2004.

The original Mach 1 featured quad headlights with the inner pair inset in the grille. Camouflaged shots of the 2021 Mach 1 released by Ford show round air intakes in the grille reminiscent of the ’69 car’s lights. The inlets might take the place of the Mach 1’s traditional hood scoop in order to cool the 5.0-liter V-8 beast within.

The Mach 1 traditionally features a hood scoop and a “shaker” option (a hood scoop that sticks through a hole in the hood), though Ford gave no indication of the latter. Rear photos do indicate that the 2021 Mach 1 will, however, continue the traditional rear wing and bazooka-sized quad tailpipes. Expect the new Mach 1 to also feature a signature matte black hood stripe and front spoiler.

By contrast, the battery-powered Mach-E will not exhale through rear tailpipes because it will be powered by either one or two electric motors. The latter version will get the performance GT moniker and boast 459 horsepower and 612-pound feet of torque — competitive with the Mach 1’s power stats which should be similar to the Bullitt’s 480 horsepower and 420-pound feet of torque. The Mach 1 will have to hustle to stay with the EV’s sub-4 second zero-60 time.

Expect dramatically different interiors as the Mach 1 will feature Mustang’s familiar dash and instrument displays with round, aviation-style air vents, while the Mach-E EV interior will be spartan with a big tablet center screen like its chief Tesla Model Y competitor.

In an indication of the expense of electric cars versus their gas-powered cousins, the Mach-E will start at $44,995 ($61,600 for the GT) while the Mach 1 will likely start at a price similar to the $48,905 Bullitt it replaces.

With the Mustang Bullitt and GT350 models slated for the chopping block at the end of the 2020 model year, the 2021 Mustang Mach 1 should take its traditional place as the most capable, normally-aspirated V-8 Mustang in the showroom.

“Starting in 1969, the Mach 1 was the best-known, highest-volume, highest profile performance version of the Mustang,” said KBB’s Brauer.

The first generation Mach 1 was re-imagined in 1974 as a hatchback version — a body style that the Mach-E EV will revive in SUV form. The Mach 1 badge returned for a third generation in 2003-2004 with a more athletic suspension and performance Brembo brakes. Photos indicate the new Mach 1 will also feature Brembos.

“Mach 1 has always been that bridge between base Mustangs and the Shelby models,” said Ted Ryan, heritage brand manager, Ford Archives. Now, Ford hopes it will help build a bridge to a new electric era of the performance automobile.

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