Henry Payne Blog

Cartoon: Supreme Kavanaugh

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 11, 2018

Cartoon: Strawless Seattle

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 11, 2018

Cartoon: Restaurant Trump Section

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 6, 2018

Cartoon: Swamp versus Pruitt

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 6, 2018

Payne: Think sedans are sunk? Try a snazzy Mazda 6

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 5, 2018

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Here’s the thing about extinction — it concentrates the mind. America has gone ute crazy and sedans are in a fight for their life. It’s survival of the fittest. Evolve or die.

And so we are getting the best sedans I’ve ever seen.

I was ZOOM ZOOM ZOOMing the new Mazda 6 all over Metro Detroit this June and I think I’m in love. It’s the same feeling I had when I got out of the 2018 Honda Accordlast fall. A Rolex watch with a Timex price tag.

Like Honda, Mazda has a lot of mileage under its belt on race tracks and its quick handling is no surprise. What surprises are the luxury amenities.

Fast and luxurious, the Mazda improves on the one gripe I had about the Honda: great bod, but put a bag over its face, please. Not the Mazda. This beauty turns heads from head to tail. My Audi-owning friend Dicran lingered over the elegant, chrome-jeweled front end, the grille smiling seductively.

That is a good looking car!

Yes it is. Better looking than many luxury models. Automakers are taking a hard look at sedan viability in the Age of Ute, but the 6 begs the question: Do we need so many luxury brands?

Regular readers know I’ve been writing about the shrinking gap between mainstream and luxury ’til my fingers turned blue, but you could always count on the premium boys flexing more power.

Take the Mazda CX-5, for example. It’s a heckuva compact ute, right there with a BMW X3 in handling and accessories. But put your foot on the gas and … oh. Just 187 normally aspirated gerbils compared to the Bimmer’s 248 galloping, turbocharged horses — and the sound! Oh, my. Like Maria Sharapova hitting a forehand — HUUGGGH! — you can hear the effort. A silky turbo and the BMW badge will get help you cough up the extra 10 grand for the German.

But now here comes my $36,140 Mazda 6 with a 250-horsepower (on premium gas, 227 on regular) 2.5-liter turbo that goes toe-to-toe with, say, a comparably equipped $56,000, 252-horse Audi A6 out of a stoplight.

Zot! The Mazda 6 hit 60 mph in 6.4 seconds — just shy of the Audi’s 6.1.

Mazda is a stickler for detail and they zeroed in on their noise issues for the sixth-gen 6. Padded panels, recrafted-pillars, the works. Like Noah preparing for the storm, they plugged every leak in the cabin to make it more livable.

The result is a quiet, buttery smooth drivetrain under the cane. But no how matter how many pillows Mazda has stuffed in the cracks, the real story here is the new-for-2018, 2.5-liter turbo-4.

The same powerplant found in the lovely CX-9, three-row ute, the new engine puts out a whopping, best-in-class, 310 pound feet of torque with 63 more horses than the old 2.5-liter, normally-aspirated mill. The new engine is programmed (this is the electronic transmission era) for nearly the same 60 mph run, but then it runs away from the competition where you really want it — in 30-50 and 50-70 acceleration. True to its ZOOM ZOOM roots, the turbo-4 still makes a satisfying thrum at hard throttle — not unlike a turbo-4 Golf GTI, one of my favorite 4-bangers.

The old powerplant is still offered in the 6 as a base-engine $22,845 bargain. But the real bargain here is in the loaded, upper-trim models.

And I do mean loaded. My Signature tester undercuts the Audi A6 price by $20,000 despite boasting a two-tone leather interior, wrapped console, seat memory, head-up display, tablet screen, auto high-beams, and so on. Dicran and went back and forth between an Audi A6 and Mazda 6 interior to see the fine differences.

That’s no accident. Mazda benchmarks its interior to the Audi right down to the remote rotary infotainment controller and piano-key dash buttons. The Audi fits more chrome and wood decoration, but the Mazda gains points with more storage space compared to the Audi’s over-engineered console.

Where the Mazda really wows (did I mention it’s just $36,000) is in the premium details. Allow me to point out three:

1. Blind-spot information system. This is my list of must-have digital innovations. I’ve come to depend on a glance at mirror-based blind-spot system rather than twisting my neck into a pretzel every time I want to change lanes. It’s a technology that, like adaptive cruise control (another must), has rapidly migrated into mainstream cars from luxury.

The Mazda takes it up a notch. Adapting a graphic-based blind-spot system innovated by premium automakers like Tesla, the 6 keeps a digital image of your car in the instrument panel — right in front of you — at all times. Is there a vehicle in your quarter panel? The graphic displays “wavy lines” off your starboard stern so you know another car is there. Cars to your right and left? Twin waves off each quarter.

2. Head-up display. In another steal from cars costing thousands more, the Mazda nixes last generation’s el cheapo, dash-mounted head-up display for a state-of-the-art, windshield-projected system. The configuration includes useful info like mph, speed limit and navigation instructions.

Speaking of nav, the Mazda’s ethic of keeping info in front of the driver extends to the high-mounted infotainment screen — which displays the name of the road you are approaching. On dark nights when street signs are hard to read — or placed on black backgrounds (looking at you, Bloomfield Township) — you won’t miss a turn thanks to Mazda engineers.

3. Air vents. Yes, air vents. Most ventilation system require two controls — one for air direction, the other to close it off. The Mazda 6 cleverly combines them into one, making vent operation a cinch.

It’s details like these that give you confidence that the whole vehicle was endlessly fussed over. Which gets you luxury for $36,000. Speaking of details, Mrs. Payne says the only reason not to buy the peppy, roomy, sexy 6 over the CX-5 ute is all-wheel drive.

And if the CX-5 eventually gets the 6’s 250-horse engine, it’ll be one more challenge sedans will have to overcome. In the meantime, Mazda’s 6 is a 10.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.

2018 Mazda 6

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

Price: $22,840 Sport base ($36,140 Signature as tested)

Powerplant: 2.5-liter inline-4 cylinder; 2.5-liter, turbocharged inline-4 cylinder

Power: 187 horsepower, 186 pound-feet torque (non-turbo 2.5-liter), 250 horsepower (93 octane fuel, 227 with 87 octane), 310 pound-feet torque (turbo-4)

Transmission: 6-speed manual (base Sport model only), 6-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 6.4 seconds (Car and Driver); top speed: 149 mph (mnftr.)

Weight: 3,560 pounds as tested

Fuel economy: EPA fuel economy: 26 city/35 highway/29 combined (non-turbo 2.5-liter); 23 city/31 highway/26 combined (turbo-4)

Report card

Highs: Easy on the eyes; tech-tastic interior features

Lows: AWD please?

Overall: 4 stars

Cartoon: Kennedy Supreme Speech

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 5, 2018

Cartoon: Happy July 4th

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 3, 2018

Cartoon: Harley Tariffs

Posted by Talbot Payne on June 28, 2018

Cartoon: Labor Free Speech

Posted by Talbot Payne on June 28, 2018

Payne review: Mercedes S560 Coupe, king of beasts

Posted by Talbot Payne on June 28, 2018

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My former Detroit News colleague, Scott Burgess, once advised that auto reviewers schedule a regular Porsche 911 test — as a reminder of how good a sports car can be. The same might be said of a Mercedes-Benz S-class and its place atop the luxury kingdom.

Everyone is in luxury these days because there’s money to be made. Tesla, Genesis and Alfa Romeo offer new meat; Lincoln and Acura are rediscovering their mojo; Cadillac, BMW and Audi run the Nurburgring like greyhounds.

But for pure majesty, Mercedes rules.

Its perfect cheekbones and polished manners are handed down the family tree all the way to the little CLA. SUVS, sedans and coupes spring from its loins. Its sinewy V-8 inspires the AMG performance badge and GT race cars — muscled mutants that shred tracks like Marvel’s Juggernaut.

S is for Simba on Pride Rock.

How can any other mere luxury brand hope to compete? For pure presence and power, my favorite S is the Mercedes S560 4MATIC Coupe, a vision on wheels. It’s like living in Dwayne Johnson’s tuxedo: handsome, graceful, muscled shoulders out to here.

After some tired styling years in the ’90s, the new century has awakened Stuttgart designers from their slumber. Walking through a Mercedes auto show display (alas, it will visit Detroit no more) is like attending a DIA masters’ sculpture exhibit. The bodies are exquisite. King S560’s bold face — punctuated by a tri-star logo bigger than your head — is backed up by toned flanks and rocker panels with stampings so deep they might have been cut by the Colorado River.

The style is familiar across the brand’s body of work, perhaps most significantly in the entry-level, $32,000 CLA coupe and sedan. The CLA flaunts papa’s DNA right down to the exquisite, jewel-flecked grille. For Mercedes wannabes who can’t yet afford the three-piece suit, the CLA is a lovely jacket.

But the interior is where the S560 Coupe sets the standard. I’m often asked to name the nicest car I’ve driven. The S is it.

Even the $400,000 Rolls-Royce Dawn coupe I sampled last year (only Rolls can make a $157,000 car look like a bargain) can learn from the king. No, the S doesn’t come with umbrellas tucked into its doors (Rolls’ signature), but the Benz offers a more comprehensive, premium experience.

Slip into the quilted first-class leather thrones and be spoiled. An arm extends at the driver’s left shoulder, handing over the seat belt. Visibility is superb thanks to a non-existent B-pillar. The doors are encrusted with stitching and etched stereo speakers, while recessed lighting bathes the cabin in color. Rear-seat space is tight for giraffes like me, but Benz makes the accommodations livable with auto-sliding rear seats and deeply scalloped front seatbacks for the knees.

The cabin is wrapped in premium materials, from the quilted albino seats and mauve dash to an iPhone-like glass pane that stretches across twin 12.3-inch instrument and infotainment displays.

The screen is another brand trademark and can be found across the Mercedes lineup from sport utilities to compact cars.

The decadent interior isn’t just for show. Like furniture in Q’s James Bond lab, the S-class is a showcase for futuristic gizmos.

Fifteen years ago, Burgess took me for my first ride using adaptive cruise control. We marveled at the early autonomous technology as the big Mercedes floated to and fro in traffic, its radar reading traffic speeds up ahead. Today, adaptive cruise control is common on most mainstream cars. For the early 21st century, Benz follows Tesla with self-driving technology that can automatically change lanes with the toggle of a turn-stalk (appropriate, since Tesla borrowed Mercedes’ steering wheel stalks for its Model S).

Neither is the high-class S too proud to adopt other proven technologies: Kick-open rear trunk innovated by Ford. Head-up display from Cadillac. It’s all here. It even has millennial-friendly Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Mercedes’ engineers stretch their creativity with devices like night-vision pedestrian detection and miniature mousepads on the steering wheel. The pads are part of a suite of redundant center console controls, including a touch pad, rotary wheel, even push buttons. My accessory of choice was voice command that understood direct verbal commands — Navigate to Le Petit Dejeuner on Jefferson Avenue — like my smartphone.

With this upholstered apartment stuffed inside, the S Coupe tips the scales at over 4,700 pounds. But don’t let its weight fool you. This beast can move.

Credit an all-wheel drive, all-wheel steer system (the 4MATIC part of the Benz’s dizzying alphanumeric nameplate) that constantly keeps its four paws planted. I took ess-curves in Oakland County much faster than I thought possible, the big locomotive cornering as if on rails.

Mercedes has been dominating GT racing in recent years with ground-pounding V-8s. No sissy sixes for the king of beasts. Under the S560’s breast beats the heart of a lion.

I pressed the throttle of the twin-turbo, 4.0-liter, 463-horsepower V-8 and gulped traffic like Simba running down herd of antelopes. Credit 516 pound-feet of torque and a liquid-smooth, 9-speed automatic for the instant thrust. The transmission was nearly seamless as it swapped cogs to catapult past mere mortal cars. See a traffic opening? Voom! You’re there.

This brute power happens with remarkable calm in the cabin where the eight pistons sound like velvet hammers deep under the hood. Though hardly necessary, the hammer octet can be put on high alert with Sport and Sport+ modes — the latter offering rev-match barks with each downshift.

Whatever. This engine could tow the QE2 in Eco mode and not break a sweat.

Pity the competition which has to cope with not just one, but three S-class coupes on top of its formidable S-class sedan. Lincoln’s Continental interior rivals the Mercedes’ comfort. Cadillac this year unveiled its first twin-turbo V-8 CT6 V-Sport. Fetching, but they must jockey for air space with the S450 sedan, S63 sedan, S65 sedan as well as my S560 tester and its S63 and S65 coupe stablemates. The CT6 doesn’t even offer a coupe — not to mention just three SUV offerings versus Mercedes’ seven.

S560 is a magic carpet with animal thrust. Intoxicated by the quilted-leather seats’ “heated back massage” mode, my wife barely noticed as I pushed 100 mph merging onto I-94.

“I’d be afraid of smudging this gorgeous white interior,” she mused.

Such are life’s trivial worries when being chauffeured by the lead ship in Mercedes’ star fleet.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.

2018 Mercedes S560 4MATIC Coupe 

Vehicle type: Front-engine, all-wheel drive, four-passenger sports coupe

Price: $125,495 base ($152,195 as tested)

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

Power: 463 horsepower, 516 pound-feet torque

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 4.0 seconds (Car and Driver); top speed: 130 mph (electronically limited)

Weight: 4,751 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA fuel economy: 17 city/27 highway/21 combined

Report card

Highs: Rolling Rembrandt; AWD balance

Lows: You can’t afford it — so buy the mini-S-class CLA

Overall: 4 stars

Cartoon: No Trump Restaurant

Posted by Talbot Payne on June 27, 2018

Cartoon: Immigrant Labor

Posted by Talbot Payne on June 26, 2018

Payne review: More-refined Hyundai Veloster keeps its attitude

Posted by Talbot Payne on June 21, 2018

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The Hyundais seem like such a nice family. A full-line automaker from the wee Accent sedan to family patriarch Santa Fe SUV, the brand is well-mannered and ranks No. 1 in Kelley Blue Book’s Cost to Own awards. It’s civilized, handsome and reliable.

And then there’s the mutant Veloster hatchback. I’d like to be at the family table when this thing shows up.

Like a three-headed Cerberus hound from hell, the three-door-plus hatch Veloster is a growling, spitting mutt that wants to pick on every sports car in the neighborhood. New for 2018, the compact Veloster is back for its second generation and I guess you could say it’s cleaned up a bit.

The Rottweiler-sized front maw has been tweaked and the severe cuts to the rocker panels and rear hatch have been field-dressed like wounds to Conor McGregor after a UFC cage fight. But saying the Veloster has changed is a little like saying Dennis Rodman dressed down by removing one of his lip rings.

Like Mazda’s Miata, Hyundai’s “reverse halo” sporty car is at the affordable end of the lineup. This hot hatch demands attention.

The grille upgrade has gone from Rottweiler to pit bull. See the difference? Me neither. The (slightly less) rounded haunches are still there. The (slightly less) muscled rockers. The twin tailpipes (why not three?) out the back. The squashed greenhouse with the visibility of a tank turret. The huge nose sniffing the ground hunting for the scent of prey.

The Veloster comes in a base model with a 147-horse, 2.0-liter inline-4 and a $29,000 Ultimate trim with 1.6-liter turbo and more options than a Mercedes: head-up display, rain-sensing wipers, auto-headlights, smartphone app connectivity, Alexa connectivity and so on.

Nice. But if you’re in the market for a rowdy pocket rocket, I recommend the R-Spec turbo.

Hyundai is the rare brand that splits its compact offerings between hatch (Veloster) and sedan/coupe (Elantra). Most competitors — Honda Civic, for example — offer a stepladder of variations on their compact car — Sport, Si, Type-R — to satisfy more performance-oriented customers. Hyundai says the heck with that and spliced DNA to mutate a different pet. So if you’re gonna opt for Veloster quirkbox over conventional Elantra sedan, I say go all the way.

Though not as spec’d out as the Ultimate, R-Spec is still a recipe for fun: black 18-inch wheels, blind-spot detection, heated seats, wireless phone-pad charger, AppleCarPlay/Android Auto connectivity to navigate where you’re going.

And then comes the icing: a 201-horse/195 torque, 1.6-liter turbo-4 mated to a six-speed manual for just $23,785.

That’s a grand below the manual Civic Si coupe and $3,500 shy of the VW Golf GTI while offering the same performance as the Si and the hatchback utility of the Golf. It’s a steal.

A car this unique demands engagement — no autonomous features here — so the R-Spec only comes in a manual. The six-speed isn’t as precise as the V-dub or Honda (call it Ford Focus-like right down to the pull-up-ring reverse gear) but it’ll do just fine for Michigan country roads or a weekend autocross.

The pedals are nicely placed for heel-and-toe downshifting, and the meat of the torque is at low rpms (unlike my ol’ high-revving, 2006 Civic VTEC). Rowing through the gears on to Interstate 75, my pit bull sprinted past 100 mph without breathing hard. A Drive Mode switch offers 500 more revs in Sport mode and the Michelin Pilot Sports — gummy tires unique to R-Spec — provide tenacious grip in the twisties.

The driver’s seat is comfortably bolstered (compared to, say, the Camaro 1LE I recently tested that hugs like a girdle) and the ride comfort noticeably improved from Veloster 1.0, which felt like it might rattle apart on Metro Detroit’s washboard roads. I expected more bark from those twin pipes out the rear, but the interior insulation is much improved. The electronic steering is firm, if numb, but the short wheelbase R-Spec is wonderfully tossable thanks to a multi-link suspension upgrade from Gen One’s torsion beam.

Aiding in that grip is front torque-vectoring which brakes the inside wheel for better rotation. I’d prefer a proper, mechanical, limited-slip differential (you’ll miss it under hard acceleration around autocross pylons) like the Civic Si, but that’s the budget sacrifice a $23,000 sticker requires.

Hyundai buyers will have to wait for the top spec, Civic Type-R-fighting Veloster N for limited slip — which will be key to reining in its expected 275 ponies.

R-Spec customers will find other corner-cutting details like a hard-plastic dash and door sills. But the carefully tailored surfaces mask the hard plastic. And the interior ergonomics are surprisingly good for such an unconventional car.

The 8-inch tablet screen is intuitive, as are the crisp dash buttons. The rear seat is accessible only via the right rear since Hyundai forgot to install a left rear door. Hyundai says this was done on purpose — you know, to give the car the dual personality of a coupe that still welcomes rear passengers.

Whatever. The curb access-only doesn’t seem so odd now that I’ve been in GM’s midsize SUV triplets — Buick Enclave, Chevy Traverse, GMC Terrain — that only allow third-row access via the curb-side middle seat. Maybe the GM models should also only come with three passenger doors.

Open the back door and Hyundai makes good on its rear-seat promise. After sliding all the way across to the left-side seat, my 6-foot-5 frame actually fit! … though my neck wouldn’t fancy a long journey stuffed into the headliner. Even more encouraging, the hatch manages to swallow as much cargo as the Jeep Renegade or Chevy Trax SUVs despite a roofline that looks like it was sat on by Andre the Giant.

I love pocket rockets and Hyundai’s all-new Veloster is a wonderful addition to the genre. It may fall short of the Golf GTI and Civic Si in pure driving ability, but its unique wardrobe and outstanding ergonomics complement the segment’s best value play.

Heck, its fun-loving nature has even caught the attention of Hollywood, where it will be starring in Marvel’s “Antman and the Wasp” this summer alongside the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer and Paul Rudd. “The Veloster totally exemplifies the energetic, no-holds-barred attitude that accompanies this franchise,” says a Marvel Comics representative.

Totally. Dude, having a mutant in the family ain’t a bad thing at all.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.

2019 Hyundai Veloster

Vehicle type: Front-engine, front-wheel drive, four-passenger sport hatchback

Price: $19,385 base ($23,785 R-Spec and $29,160 Turbo Ultimate as tested)

Powerplant: 2.0-liter inline-4 cylinder; 1.6-liter turbo-4

Power: 147 horsepower, 132 pound-feet torque (2.0-liter); 201 horsepower, 195 pound-feet torque (1.6-liter turbo)

Transmission: 6-speed manual; 6-speed automatic; 7-speed automatic (with Turbo and Turbo Ultimate only)

Performance: 0-60 mph, 6.2 seconds (Car and Driver est., Veloster Ultimate); top speed, 135 mph

Weight: 2,912 pounds (R-Spec); 2,987 (Turbo Ultimate automatic)

Fuel economy: EPA fuel economy: 27 city/34 highway/30 combined (base 2.0-liter); 26 city/33 highway/29 combined (1.6-liter R-Spec); 28 city/34 highway/30 combined (1.6-liter R-Spec)

Report card

Highs: Hatchback utility; distinctive styling

Lows: Mediocre manual shifter; limited-slip differential, plastic dash are sacrifices for affordability

Overall: 3 stars

Cartoon: Trump Steel Tariffs

Posted by Talbot Payne on June 21, 2018

Payne review: Camaro 1LE is a joy to drive hard

Posted by Talbot Payne on June 19, 2018

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I usually review a sexy coupe each May to celebrate the first muscle car of spring. Like a Mustang convertible galloping across a green landscape. A colorful Dodge Challenger on Woodward. Or a drop-top Camaro with its V-8 singing like a robin.

But spring never came this year. Michigan went straight from winter to summer.

April was a cruel, cold, wintry mistress, the coldest in 140 years. As May tentatively stuck its head out the front door, temps jumped from 40 to 80. One day the branches were barren, the next they were covered in leaves.

In part that’s because May brought more rain across the middle states than Noah’s worst nightmare. A weekend race of mine was canceled at Summit Point, West Virginia (old slogan: Take me home country roads. New slogan: Take me home swollen rivers.) due to flooding. Never seen that before.

So I’m still a little shy about the convertible thing. A hard-top Camaro SS 1LE will do, thank you very much.

In fact, its brooding, black hood — the 1LE’s signature — suits my mood.

Once inside this beast, my outlook brightened. Which is odd since the Camaro is an ergonomic nightmare. I can’t see out of it, the infotainment screen is cantilevered down and the front door pockets are in the back seat. Speaking of the back seat, there isn’t one — unless you take your legs off, because there is zero room. Think of the seats as shelf storage.

Then I push the starter button and all is forgiven.

The 6.2-liter eight comes to life like a bear out of hibernation. GRRRUMBUMBUMBUM. The earth shakes.

“What’s that?” a friend exclaimed as he drove tentatively into my driveway — the black-hooded, musclebound Camaro guarding it like a 3,700-pound Doberman.

But the real thrills begin when the 1LE hits the road.

Chevy introduced the 1LE package back in the third-generation 1988 car to make it more competitive in showroom stock racing. By the fifth-generation, the package had matured to a bona fide “track package” complete with that matte-black hood fronting a big V-8, stiffened suspension and fat (10-inch front, 11-inch rear) tires.

The sixth-generation $37,000 V8-powered Camaro SS options the $7,000 1LE package with magnetic dampers, Brembo brakes, electronic limited-slip differential, Recaro seats, and 11-inch front and 12-inch rear Goodyear gummies.

But the 2018 1LE’s secret sauce is GM’s Alpha architecture, the same bones that make the Cadillac ATS the best-handling compact premium sedan.

The car is simply a joy to drive hard. Only the deliberate, manual six-speed transmission seems out of step with the car’s athleticism.

My week with this toned athlete was enormously unproductive as every trip turned into an excuse to find interesting roads where I could stretch the 1LE’s legs. Trip to the grocery store? Tack on a half hour while I detoured through lake country in search of side-Gs. A trip to the art supply store? Tack on a half-hour while I cruise Woodward, lay rubber at stoplights, and acknowledge the muscle brotherhood.

With rear-wheel drive and a wheelbase just an inch longer than the Cadillac ATS, the SS 1LE is always composed. Always nimble. Always easy to control around corners. In short, it’s more in the competitive class with a BMW M4 than the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger.

I didn’t take it to M1 Concourse for test laps, but Car and Driver did track it at their Virginia International Raceway Lightning Lap. The numbers tell the story. The loaded, $46,295 SS 1LE threw down lap times around the epic 4.1-mile “American Nürburgring” comparable to a $97,000 Porsche Cayman GT4 and $194,000 Audi R8 V-10. I’m not making this up.

That’s what marrying a premium sports chassis to a 455-horse, push-rod V-8 gets you. Take a bow, Chevy. But also take a look at lil brother Camaro V-6 1LE.

Offered for the first time in 1LE track trim, the V-6 wowed Car and Driver’s Lightning Lap, blowing away other $40,000-something competitors like the Nissan 370Z NISMO, VW Golf R, and, ahem, Mustang.

“(The Camaro V-6 1LE) absolutely stomps its current Blue Oval rival, the Mustang EcoBoost equipped with the Performance package,” thrilled the buff mag. “And it gets worse for Mustang acolytes: Despite a 100-hp deficit, the 1LE laps VIR faster than the eight-cylinder Mustang GT.”

Ouch. Camaro has taken muscle-car performance to a new level, but — now that it’s dicing with the elites — it also begs the question: Is it a better value than a Caddy?

My SS 1LE certainly answers the question: What would an ATS coupe be like with a V-8? Around Lightning Lap the $46,000 Camaro bests the $65,000, twin-turbo V6-powered Cadillac ATS-V, the best driver’s car Cadillac has made.

But all things considered, the V-6 1LE would be my choice as a daily driver.

While the SS 1LE puts up the gaudier track numbers, the V-6 is much more balancedwithout the V-8 boat anchor up front. Its manners are like the V-6 Cadillac, and though it gives up 100 horsepower to the ATS-V (335 vs. 446), that’s still a lot of grunt for the street — or a weekend track day.

Not only is the V-6 1LE $20,000 cheaper than the ATS-V (that’ll buy you a Chevy Trax ute for the 16-year-old), it’s also well shy of a comparably equipped, $53,000 ATS coupe with performance suspension and the same 335-horse engine. Apples to apples, it’ll also save you $4,700 over the V-8 while offering the same wicked matte-black wardrobe.

Of course, there’s more to sport coupes than performance numbers. Like interior comfort.

The Cadillac ATS somehow manages four more inches of rear legroom than the Camaro despite its shorter wheelbase. But I am also a fan of the Camaro’s unique console — aviation-style temperature vents and tablet touchscreen. And this being GM, the Camaro shares a head-up display and 4G Wi-Fi and smartphone connectivity found on the Cadillac.

Ooooh, I’m feeling warmer already. Spring — er, summer — is finally here and the Chevy Camaro SS and V-6 1LE track editions are here to play.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.

2018 Chevy Camaro 1LE 

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

Price: $40,590 V6 1LE base ($46,295 SS 1LE as tested)

Powerplant: 3.6-liter, V-6; 6.2-liter V-8

Power: 335 horsepower, 284 pound-feet torque (V-6); 455 horsepower, 455 pound-feet torque (V-8)

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Performance: 0-60 mph, 5.2 seconds (V-6 1LE, Car and Driver), 4.1 seconds (SS 1LE, Car and Driver); Top speed, 155 mph (V-6), 165 mph (SS)

Weight: 3,532 pounds (V-6); 3,747 pounds (SS)

Fuel economy: EPA fuel economy: 16 city/28 highway/20 combined (V-6); 16 city/25 highway/19 combined (V-8)

Report card

Highs: Affordably wicked; athletic V-6 1LE balance

Lows: Can’t see out of it; can’t fit in rear seat without removing legs

Overall: 4 stars

Cartoon: IQ Scores

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Cartoon: De Niro Trump Movie

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Cartoon: Alexa Auto

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Cartoon: G7 and Global Warming

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Cartoon: Trump Kim Warheads

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