Henry Payne Blog

Cartoon: Obamacare Fines the Poor

Posted by hpayne on November 17, 2017

Cartoon: Moore for Senate

Posted by hpayne on November 14, 2017

Cartoon: Hollywood Harass Oscar

Posted by hpayne on November 10, 2017

Cartoon: Tax Reform Senate

Posted by hpayne on November 10, 2017

Payne: Tesla’s Model X is an SUV/sports car cross

Posted by hpayne on November 9, 2017

tesla_fr3-4-doors-red

The new Tesla gallery in the Somerset Collection mall is next to the Apple Store. Which is appropriate because, just as the iPod, iPhone and iPad re-imagined familiar devices as high-tech luxury objects, so have Tesla products re-thought the automobile.

Tesla products are singular vehicles in today’s market.

Like Apple, they’ve introduced new terms into the automotive lexicon — Ludicrous acceleration, 17-inch Google map displays — and vaulted an American automaker to the forefront of global luxury. In the 21st century, European makes like Porsche and BMW benchmark to Tesla.

Unobtainable to most Americans, $70,000-plus Teslas have nevertheless captured the public’s imagination and whetted its appetite — 450,000 orders and counting — for the more affordable $35,000-$59,000 Model 3. To put that in perspective, BMW’s Model 3 competitor, the 3-series, sold 70,458 units in 2016.

The Tesla gallery (don’t call it a “store” because, by Michigan franchise law, Tesla can’t sell directly to consumers) entrance features a bright red Tesla Model S, a car I have driven many times. But overshadowing the Model S at the back of the store is the Model X crossover. Like a male peacock in full tail-fan next to its female mate, the X’s falcon-wing doors wow. This is a show car in the grand tradition of auto show prototypes. Except the X got built.

Out of its cage in the wild, the peacock does not disappoint. This paparazzi-magnet is a cross between SUV and sports car.

Premium, performance SUVs are all the rage these days — just look at $100,000 Porsche Cayennes and Maserati LeVantes that borrow design cues from their long-hooded, sports car kin but are made on different platforms with different dynamics.

Not the Model X. Its fundamentals are the Model S down to its aluminum bones: Same 50-50 weight distribution. Same switchgear. Same 75-100 kWh batteries. My two X testers — a P100D and 100D — were instantly familiar to Model S P100D and P90Ds I’ve driven (alphanumeric check: P is for “Performance” rear motor. 100 is 100kWh battery. D is for dual-motor AWD). The X’s added plumage adds about 500 pounds.

The effect is a 5,531-pound hippo that runs like a cheetah.

There is no SUV — and few cars — that can hang with a top-trim, P100D Model X off the line. So addictive is the Model X’s acceleration that my buddies drove it like the Model S. Or a McLaren. Every stoplight is a drag race.

Its 2.9-second, zero-60 acceleration is on par with a Corvette Z06. The torque is so concussive, you have to do a U-turn at 60 mph to go back and pick up your stomach.

The interior is a Model S clone, too: same mesmerizing 17-inch display. Same steering wheel-based controls. Same over-the-air computer upgrades. One morning the X offered a software upgrade to my smartphone. I concurred and 90 minutes later I had an upgraded vehicle, including an “Automatic Lane Change” self-driving feature.

Approach the X with key in pocket and the driver’s door cracks open. Hello. Another step and it swings open by itself. Climb in, push the brake and … the door thunks shut.

Welcome to the X-rated show. Never seen that before, even in the $80,000-$130,000 market the Tesla shares with the Cayenne Turbo, Range Rover HSE and Mercedes GLS.

The panoramic front glass is like seeing an Apple screen for the first time. Arcing over the front passengers like a fighter jet canopy, it’s the best view for skyscrapers — or M-119’s Tunnel of Trees. Be sure to store a pair of sunglasses in the voluminous center console storage for long, sunny drives.

Reach into the center console’s touchscreen controls and open the doors. The huge second-row wings rise majestically to the sky. I half expected a Martian to emerge, so unusual is the experience. Rugrat passengers who will never tire of the experience — even when the doors sense my cramped garage ceiling and stop short of full spread.

Less impressive was the groan in my right door hinge, a reminder of quality issues that have plagued the X. And rear adult passengers who found the bucket seats narrow and lacking in armrests.

The middle seats work in concert with the front seats to move forward to allow third-row access. These aren’t Lincoln Navigator rear seats — they’re kid-size only. I recommend opting for middle-row bench seats both for larger seating, and so you can flatten the seat back to make for cavernous cargo room as in the Model S. Just check the bench seat box on the online order form; eschewing auto trim tradition, Tesla allows customers to order features a la carte.

For all its attributes, however, the Model X doesn’t make the case for an electric future. I have friends who own the Model S as their urban mobile — for work, for weekend cruising — but who rely on their SUV as the family-trip car.

With less range than the Model S due to its girth, the Model X is a difficult sell for the long-range demands of an SUV. Given its performance capabilities, I drove it like I drive any performance vehicle — but at significant range sacrifice. Sixty miles on the odometer doing stoplight drags and 80 mph interstate speeds took 100 miles of range off the battery.

Even if I drove the X at G-rated speeds, the maximum, 295-mile range (100D) is a limitation for going up north or away for extended weekends. Tesla promises to double Superchargers nationwide by the end of this year, but that still leaves huge holes in the X’s travel abilities. Like the S, the X remains a niche luxury vehicle.

But what a vehicle. Among a sea of performance iron — Z06, Lamborghini Diablo, Porsche 911s — at Lingenfelter’s Halloween Cars ’n’ Coffee in Brighton, the Tesla wowed.

I parked it wings-up (with a 100 kWh battery on board, there’s no fear of draining the battery!) and watched people swarm to it, ogling the doors, the interior, the crisp displays.

Tesla has delayed orders for its Model 3 due to production difficulties. Similar delays hampered the X — and today it’s in high demand. I’m guessing Model 3 customers will wait, too. Tesla is that different.

In the meantime, they have a gallery to visit.

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-1 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.

2017 Tesla Model X

VEHICLE TYPE

ELECTRIC, ALL-WHEEL DRIVE, SIX- OR SEVEN-PASSENGER SUV

Powerplant

75-100 kWh lithium-ion battery with

electric motor drive

Transmission

Single-speed transmission

Weight

5,531 pounds (Model X P100D)

Price

$79,500 base ($102,000 100D and $140,000 P100D

as tested)

Power

532 horsepower, 713 pound-feet torque

Performance

0-60 mph, 4.9 sec. base (2.9 sec. P100D/4.7 sec. 100D as

tested); top speed: 155 mph

Fuel economy

Range: 237 miles, base (289 mi. P100D/295 100D. 100 miles of range to cover

60 miles as tested in 100D)

Report card

HIGHS

HIGH-TECH SHOWCASE; ROAD-HUGGING, 5,500-POUND BOWLING BALL

Lows

Tight third row; EV range limits SUV practicality

Overall:★★★★

Cartoon: Greens Clock Back

Posted by hpayne on November 9, 2017

Cartoon: Trump GOP elections

Posted by hpayne on November 9, 2017

Payne: Audi’s Q-uintessential Q5 raises the bar

Posted by hpayne on November 3, 2017

q5_road-fr3-4

Alphanumeric luxury SUV nameplates have me baffled. There’s the BMW X3 and X4 and X5 and X6, with the even numbers connoting a coupe-like roof (or is it the other way around?). Lincoln’s SUVs start at MKC and are followed by the MKX and MKT (but doesn’t X come after T in the alphabet?). And Mercedes’ new lineup features the GLA, GLC, GLE, and GLS (which is at least an improvement over the previous alphabet soup of GLK, ML and GL). When Alfa Romeo bucked the trend to name its new SUV the Stelvio, I hugged it.

But Audi’s alphanumeric Q system hasn’t bothered me.

Maybe because, beginning with the flagship, three-row Q7 in 2007, the badges haven’t changed. Or because Q is sufficiently different from A — the letter that connotes Audi sedans. Or because the nomenclature is logical — Q3, Q5, Q7 — in ascending order from compact to full-size.

But Q also makes sense because it represents these very good SUVs. Take the second-generation, 2018 Q5 I’ve been testing across Metro Detroit the last few months.

Q is for “quick.” Common to Audis (and their VW Golf GTI and Golf R cousins), the turbo 4-banger at the heart of the Q5 is a pepper pot. Mated to a snappy dual-clutch, 7-speed tranny, the 252-horse/272 pound-feet of torque turbo-4 calls on deep reserves on grunt for quick acceleration. That power — a gain of 32 ponies and 15 torques over the last generation — vaults the Q5 from 0-60 miles per hour in a class-best 5.9 seconds.

Want more quick? Then opt for the SQ5 (OK, the alphanumerics are making my head hurt again, but at least S is literally for “Sport”) performance grade, which gains two cylinders and a whopping 40 percent more torque (to 389 pound-feet). I’d call it a rocket ship — but I think that’s what the “RS” in RS Q5 denotes. That meteor — with a redonkulus 442 pound-feet of torque — is rumored to flash across our skies next year.

Connecting 389 torques to the ground in a high-riding, 4,200-pound SUV might seem a recipe for disaster. But Q also stands for “Quattro”: Audi’s signature all-wheel-drive system that is standard on all Q5s.

With all four paws churning, I stomped the gas pedal with my size 15s and the SQ5 took off like Secretariat slapped with a two-by-four. The grip was sensational, keeping the beast poised through the twisting, undulating roads of Washtenaw County near Hell.

Quattro comes in two flavors for the Q5 and SQ5. The former brakes the inside wheel for better cornering, while the performance-oriented SQ5 opts for full outside-wheel-accelerating torque-vectoring — its electronically sophisticated traction control optimized to aggressively rotate the ute around, say, 180-degree cloverleafs.

Sound crazy? Consider that I’ve already tested the three-row Dodge Durango SRT and Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk on racetracks this year.

Shaving some 200 pounds from the first-gen Q5, the Audi’s diet has made it more manageable in turns. The same electronics that allow the modern coach-wagon to handle like a sedan, however, can also slap your hand. Audi’s safety systems are among the industry’s most advanced and the nannies intervened hard to break my momentum when I really leaned on the door handles in the Q5. Similarly equipped BMW X3s and Alfa Stelvios are less quick to judge. Don’t say that your crazed, race car-driving, ute-flogging reviewer never tested the limits for you.

More importantly, the Quattro system will be crucial when Hell freezes over in Michigan’s legendary winter.

Which leads me to another reason to remember Q: IQ. Audi’s intelligence quotient is off the charts these days. Thank its electronics quotient.

The Q5 gains 3 mpg in fuel efficiency on the previous generation thanks to its ability to sense when AWD is needed. Running around town, the system gives the rear wheels a rest for better fuel economy — but when it senses the need for something more, all-wheel drive activates in milliseconds.

It’s inside where Q5 really leads the pack. The Audi’s exterior is an evolution over Q5 1.0, but hardly threatening to the dramatic, curvy BMW X3 and Mercedes GLC. Open the door however, and the Audi’s Virtual Cockpit is in a different league. I first experienced VC in the Audi Q7 and sensational Audi TT, and now it is tucked into each model in the lineup including the Q5.

Standard on the $45,000 Premium Plus trim, VR’s gorgeous, Google Earth-rendered vistas are addictive. It’s the best system this side of a Tesla Model S — a car that costs double the Q5. And it’s right in front of you in the Q5’s big, 12-inch instrument display, helping keeping your eyes where they belong: on the road.

Augmented by steering-wheel buttons and wheels easily within a thumb’s reach, VR allows you to configure and scroll through its multiple features with ease. Take a bow, engineers.

But sometimes (like the AWD nannies) they go too far. Audi’s simple, elegant interiors are widely copied (looking at you Kia and Honda Accord). But Audi jumps the shark when it comes to consoles. The Q5 clogs the center with a mouse touch-pad that is redundant at best and a space hog at worst. Zipping around town, I had no place to store simple items like a smartphone and side of fries. I yearned for the simple cubbies of a Mazda CX-5 or Chevy Equinox.

Speaking of the CX-5, the Audi also ignores the fact that electronics have become ubiquitous in the cheaper, mainstream class. Where the CX-5 offers adaptive cruise-control, blind-spot assist and automatic headlights for $34,000, the Q5 insists you move up to the Premium Plus before you get the same features. It’s like luxe hotels charging you for room Wi-Fi when it’s free in every Best Western on the planet.

Electronics safety systems should be standard at $40,000.

Just as this was annoying me, however, my eye was diverted by the Q5’s long, sculpted shoulder-line. My cold hands gripped the heated steering wheel. And my lead foot punched the wide accelerator pedal. In an instant, the gutsy turbo-4 surged from a stoplight like butter, the 8-speed, dual-clutch tranny effortlessly — quietly flicking off upshifts. Quite a Qar.

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-1 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.

2018 Audi Q5/SQ5

VEHICLE TYPE

FRONT-ENGINE, ALL-WHEEL DRIVE, FIVE-PASSENGER SUV

Powerplant

2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 cylinder; 3.0-liter,

turbocharged V-6 (SQ5)

Transmission

7-speed automatic; 8-speed automatic (SQ5)

Weight

4,045 pounds; 4,398 pounds (SQ5)

Price

$41,500 (base Q5); $54,300 (base SQ5)

Power

252 horsepower, 273 pound-feet torque (Q5); 354

horsepower, 369 pound-feet torque (SQ5)

Performance

0-60 mph, 5.9 sec. (Q5, mfr.); 5.1 sec. (SQ5); top speed:

155 mph (SQ5)

Fuel economy

EPA mpg est. 23 city/27 highway/25 combined (Q5);

EPA mpg est. 19 city/24 highway/21 combined (SQ5)

Report card

HIGHS

ALL-AROUND ALL-STAR; VIRTUAL COCKPIT

Lows

Crowded center console; more base technology, please

Overall:★★★★

 

Cartoon: Tax Simplification

Posted by hpayne on November 3, 2017

Jeep teases next-gen Wrangler in Vegas

Posted by hpayne on November 1, 2017

wrangler_rubicon-side

The wraps come off the hotly anticipated, all-new, 2018 Jeep Wrangler at the Los Angeles Auto Show on Nov. 29. But Jeep can’t help but tease us a little.

At a news conference at the Specialty Equipment Market Association show in Las Vegas on Tuesday afternoon, Jeep showed three exterior pictures of the iconic off-road Wrangler that defines the rugged brand.

“The most capable SUV ever delivers even more legendary Jeep 4×4 capability, a modern design that stays true to the original,” said Jeep in a statement.

Sure enough, the fourth-generation maintains its familiar boxy shape, two- and four-door trims, signature, seven-slot grille, round headlamps and removable roof panels. But the sneak-peek pics also suggest subtle differences. The four-door Sahara model displays a bigger grille and headlights as well as a more sculpted front bumper. Two pictures of a blood red, plastic-fendered, two-door Rubicon — the rock star of rock-crawlers — suggest more open-air options.

Wrangler was first introduced in 1987 with roots going back to World War II Willys “Jeep” military vehicles. The compact SUV makes up in toughness for what it lacks in finesse. Available with twin locking axles, removable doors and roof, the Wrangler is capable of going anywhere and often does. It is a fixture in the American southwest, where owners and tour companies use the Jeep to climb rocky canyons far from paved roads.

In addition to evolutionary exterior upgrades, Jeep says the Wrangler will gain “advanced fuel-efficient powertrains, more open-air options and … more safety features and advanced technology than ever before.” Translation: the Wrangler will get its first hybrid powertrain and more electronic upgrades to its infotainment system.

Starting at just over $24,000, the Jeep is coveted by young males and females alike, making it not just a halo for the brand but an affordable entry point.

Jeep CEO Mike Manley spilled the beans on the Wrangler’s L.A. Show debut to the English publication, Auto Express, in mid-October. Then FCA financial chief Jeff Bennett revealed that the Wrangler would begin production later this year from the Toledo South plant.

Cartoon: Russian Dossier and Hillary

Posted by hpayne on November 1, 2017

Cartoon: Truck Control

Posted by hpayne on November 1, 2017

Cartoon: Halloween Treat

Posted by hpayne on October 30, 2017

Cartoon: Amazon Headquarters Halloween

Posted by hpayne on October 30, 2017

Cartoon: Halloween Pig

Posted by hpayne on October 24, 2017

CARtoon: Jeep and the Moon

Posted by hpayne on October 24, 2017

Cartoon: Kelly Medal with a Hat

Posted by hpayne on October 24, 2017

Cartoon: Hillary Women Weinstein

Posted by hpayne on October 21, 2017

Cartoon: Soldier Exploit

Posted by hpayne on October 21, 2017

Cartoon: Bush Obama Divide

Posted by hpayne on October 19, 2017