Henry Payne Blog

Cartoon: Global Warming and Snow

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 16, 2018

Payne: Toyota’s new Avalon is a Lexus-beater

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 16, 2018

Avalon Fr3 4

Toyota and its luxury-brand Lexus dominated Consumer Reports’ reliability rankings again this year, and it’s easy to see why. While brands like Tesla (third to last) and Volvo (last) innovate with new but glitchy technology, the Japanese brands beaver along with proven, dependable hardware.

Take the big Toyota Avalon that I’ve been driving with its dependable gated shifter, dependable infotainment display and dependable V-6 engine. They should call it the Toyota Dependable.

But for all their metronomic reliability, the Tokyo titans are hardly vanilla. Bucking design tradition, they’ve reached into the Hollywood wardrobe and assembled some of the most radical designs in autodom.

Lexus in particular has walked off the deep end, wearing costumes with more angles than Dr. Strange’s cape and a face that only Darth Vader could love.

It’s even more bonkers inside. I was recently in a Lexus LX 570 ute with the infotainment system from hell. The remote dash screen is operated by a sort of mouse on the console that is impossible to operate standing still, much less when the car is moving. One wonders how reliable it would be if Consumer Reports tested it after frustrated owners have beaten it silly with a tire iron.

All of which is why I recommend Toyota over Lexus these days.

As regular readers of this column know, the electronic revolution has brought a conversion of mainstream and luxury-car features. Features like adaptive cruise-control — a gee-whiz luxury item just 15 years ago that’s now commonplace on even compact cars like the $20,000 Toyota Corolla hatchback.

Speaking of which, the Corolla has gone from one of the most disappointing cars in the market (tell me again why this numb wallflower was a best-selling compact?) to my favorite Toyota product. And it’s not just that the rousing Corolla hatch is loaded with features and has all the utility of a Toyota RAV4 without the compromised handling.

The hatch is a looker. From its aggressive haunches to its good c-pillar visibility to its coherent grille, the Corolla is evidence that not all Toyota designers are crayon-wielding teens that believe every grille should be made to resemble comic-book supervillains.

I was fond of the last-generation Avalon with its long lines and pleasing face. Indeed, the cute Corolla hatch is the last-gen Avalon’s Mini Me. Then papa went to a plastic surgeon and got a face-lift. Oh, that mouth!

The Avalon looks like a humpback whale ingesting a school of krill. The Tasmanian Devil’s kisser isn’t this big. It rivals Lexus for most outrageous face. Which is how CEO Akio Toyoda wants it. Like the best-selling Camry sedan, Akio wanted his new generation of cars to inspire buzz, not ZZZZs.

Look up “polarizing” in the dictionary and it reads “1. Lexus 2. Toyota.” Happily for those of us not named Vader, the rest of the Avalon is more tasteful.

The horizontal tail lights are conventionally fashionable — following Dodge, Lincoln, Audi, et al — and help tie together the big sedan’s rump. Speaking of big, Avalon is typically roomy for a Toyota, expanding its wheelbase two inches over the previous model. You don’t get to be a best-selling brand in the USA without listening to your triple-extra-large clientele.

The front door was apparently taken off a Delta Airlines hangar. I have arms like an orangutan, but I needed an umbrella handle to reach the handle to shut the door once inside. The interior is tomb-quiet, my Touring model’s leather and suede appointments swallowing my big frame. I could easily sit behind myself in back.

The interior dials back the exterior’s craziness. Whereas the Camry gives the console an (admittedly inspired) S-curve design, the Avalon falls back on a conventional, upright look — replacing the previous floating console shaped like a artist’s palette. An artist myself, I rather liked the old look — but the new design is businesslike and easy to use.

And it’s why I’d recommend this up-market-targeted sedan over its Lexus peer.

The interface is easy to use, while providing standard “Safety Sense” and infotainment features — backup camera, digital radio, blind-spot assist, even Apple CarPlay (finally) — that customers have come to expect from a premium car. Heck, these items are standard on a $23,000 Corolla.

But perhaps the most critical piece of my upsell of the Avalon to you, dear Lexus customer, is its handling. Previous-generation Avalons were boats. But on the company’s new Toyota New Global Architecture — which undergirds the excellent Camry as well as the Avalon and Corolla — the Avalon is surprisingly athletic.

Carving through my favorite Metro Detroit ess-curves, Avalon is planted, allowing me to get into the 3.5-liter’s growly V-6 throttle early off the turn. Mated to a quick-shifting eight-speed tranny, the big sled is a worthy dance partner.

Love that six-holer. While automakers have fled to turbo-4s to meet both emissions controls and customers’ need for speed, Toyota has stuck with its loyal six. It’s dependable as a collie.

Dependability also rhymes with affordability in Toyota’s case. My Touring tester came in at $44,913 — $8,000 cheaper than a comparable Lexus GS with the same V-6, but without that maddening mouse controller. My only reservation is Toyota starves the Avalon of an all-wheel drive option for Michigan winters, a feature that the GS (and every SUV) options.

The Avalon is not deprived of a Toyota-Lexus signature hybrid model, however, and here again value is impressive. With its electric-assisted, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, the 3,718-pound sedan gets a remarkable 43 mpg for just a grand more than the V-6 model. That’s not much of a hybrid premium — and in just a year’s driving you’ll make it all back in gas savings. Helpless motorhead that I am, I would still opt for the visceral satisfaction of the V-6.

It’s a tough slog these days for sedans, especially big sedans like the Avalon. Without all-wheel drive, they are easily passed over for large utes. But for traditionalists who still value a sleek, punchy sedan with fuss-free ergonomics, the old-school Avalon’s new-school architecture is a contender.

Just be sure and park it nose-first into the garage so its humpback whale mug doesn’t scare the neighborhood kids.

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 Toyota Avalon

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

Price: $32,000 base including $920 destination fee ($44,913 Touring as tested)

Powerplant: 3.5-liter V-6; 2.4-liter inline-4 cylinder with nickel-metal hydride battery assist

Power: 310 horsepower, 267 pound-feet torque (V-6); 215 horsepower (hybrid)

Transmission: 8-speed automatic (V-6) or continuously variable automatic (hybrid)

Performance: 0-60 mph, 6.0 seconds (Motor Trend)

Weight: 3,704 pounds (V-6)

Fuel economy: EPA fuel economy: 22 city/31 highway/25 combined (V-6); 43 city/43 highway/43 combined (hybrid)

Report card

Highs: Roomy, athletic sedan; screen controls with nice knobs

Lows: Oh, that face; AWD, please

Overall: 3 stars

Cartoon: Stan Lee RIP

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 13, 2018

Cartoon: CNN Clown

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 13, 2018

Cartoon: Trump Nudist in Paris

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 13, 2018

Payne: Genesis G-pulling G70 is a bargain athlete

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 13, 2018

G70 Fr3 4 Bushes

At the same time Audi announced this summer it was ditching the manual transmission for its A4 sports sedan, Genesis said its G70 competitor would not only have a manual variant — but that it would be offered as an upscale Sport version unto itself.

That tells you a lot about Hyundai’s aggressive new luxury brand. This Seoul-produced entry-level sedan has soul.

The G70 is rightly baselined to the compact segment icon, the BMW 3-series. Stealing away BMW M-class engineering guru Albert Biermann and Lamborghini design director Luc Donckerwolke, Genesis put the G70 on its own rear-wheel drive platform and trained it in the German makers’ Nürburgring racetrack backyard.

But BMW, Audi and Mercedes are no longer the segment performance leaders. That honor now goes to the terrific Cadillac ATS, Alfa Romeo Giulia and Tesla Model 3 sedans.

Indeed, the irony of the market’s shift away to lookalike SUVs today is that entry-level sedans are incredibly, head-turningly good.

Not only are the establishment players at the top of their game, but there are three 21st-century upstarts: Genesis, Alfa and Tesla. EV-maker Tesla and Italian diva Alfa are niche brands. Genesis aspires to be the traditional volume player of the group, following the Toyota model of accessorizing a popular mainstream brand (Hyundai) with a premium marque.

Genesis’ challenge is establishing an identity in a cramped athletic-shoe aisle that includes such high-tops as the aforementioned German, American and Italian makes — and near-luxury sneakers like the Mazda 6 and Kia Stinger.

Most G70 buyers will approach the $32,000 base Genesis as a value-play over costlier alternatives, but my sophisticated 2.0-liter Sport manual demands to be measured against the best performers in luxury.. That said, how can they ignore Korean cousin Kia — which produces the bigger, five-door Stinger hatchback based on the same architecture and offering the same turbo-4 and twin-turbo V-6 powerplants?

A compelling aisle for sure. I took the very different 2.0-liter manual and 3.3-liter automatic for a run.

Automakers have traditionally offered manuals as entry-level fuel sippers or high-end enthusiast toys. Both are getting squeezed — by the inferiority of manual fuel economy relative to automatics at the low end, and by the performance of quick-shifting, multi-ratio boxes at the upper range.

The $38,895 Sport is targeted at enthusiasts somewhere in between who want an attractive pocket-rocket they can afford. At its core, the 2.0-liter Sport is a runner. With the four-banger driving the rear wheels only, it’s the lightest Q70 configuration.

It reminded me immediately of the ATS, Giulia and Model 3. And since the Tesla EV is a unique animal, I’ll concentrate on the gas-engine Caddy and Alfa: turbo-4 athletes, both more fun than the Midnight Screamer at Six Flags.

Attacking area interstate cloverleafs, the 252-horse Genesis is right there with the Caddy’s nimble handling — telepathic steering, tossable chassis — but shy of Alfa’s sexy looks and best-in-class 280 horsepower.

G70 is carving its own design path — away from the slavish, Audi-like styling of big brothers G90 and G80 — but it doesn’t have the personality of the Italian dish or sculpted Caddy. It’s muscular, no doubt — its wide rear stance ready to pounce — but hard to distinguish from a 3-series or Infiniti Q50.

Hard acceleration exposes the 2.0-liter’s biggest flaw — an initial dead spot on throttle that feels like turbo lag. Or something. “What is that?!” asked my motorhead friend Rick as he rowed through the gears.

Once on throttle, the 2.0-liter is plenty feisty, the engine pulling hard over 3,000 rpms. Upshifts are crisp, the car beautifully balanced on corner entry.

The Genesis makes its mark in true Hyundai fashion — value.

The G70 starts with standard comfort amenities like a 12-way driver’s seat, then adds a best-in-class standard suite of automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise-control, automatic high-beams, blind-spot assist, lane-keep-assist and automatic emergency braking. This is important stuff at a time when mainstream cars from the $25,000 VW Jetta and $32,000 Mazda 6 have similar goodies.

The days when luxe cars (and luxe trucks) can upcharge for such features is coming to an end, and it’s good to see G70 at the head of the game. That said, Mazda’s sensory system is better with its Tesla-like, 360-degree instrument graphics.

Upgrade to the G70’s honkin’ twin-turbo V-6 pushing out an impressive 365 ponies, and the value equation multiplies versus competitor brands. Save one: fellow Korean, Kia Stinger.

Stinger is another superb vehicle brought to life by Mr. Biermann. And that’s not the only thing it shares with G70. They are built on the same platform, have the same engines, boast quad-exhaust, are Nürburgring-tested, get smartphone connectivity and 5 year/100,000 drivetrain warranties and …

And then the Stinger goes further.

At the same entry price as the 3.3-liter G70, the Kia offers five doors instead of three. Its fastback hatchback was one of the revelations of 2017 — offering the utility of an SUV with the handling of a sedan. It’s an Audi A7 — for $25,000 less. An Audi A7 for the same price as a G70. Is that what Hyundai-Kia intended?

The styling and interior of the Stinger are world class, and when you get in back, it exposes the other glaring flaw of the G70 — its tiny rear seat.

Though stretched across the same architecture, the Kias get a longer wheelbase than its Seoul cousin. At a leggy 6-foot-5, I can sit behind myself in the Kia. The G70? Not so much. Which is another reason I lump the 2.0-liter with the equally backseat-challenged Caddy ATS and Alfa.

Genesis North America chief Irwin Raphael says that Genesis and Kia are separate entities (sharing Mr. Biermann) within the Hyundai-Kia empire. And maybe they are appealing to different customers.

I’m struck by the difference in Genesis and Kia Stinger branding, for example. Genesis introduced itself with the lovely voice of blues singer Audra Day. The Stinger, by contrast, was debuted at the 2017 Super Bowl by Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler burning rubber backward to make himself 30 years younger.

Which soundtrack fits you, performance sedan enthusiast?

Stinger has the formidable task of selling folks a $40,000 Kia. But Genesis’ task is no less formidable. Both will appeal to customers looking for a bargain car that looks different than the Audi A4s and BMW 3s in the cul-de-sac.

The biggest difference between G70 and Stinger may be that the Stinger is Kia’s halo car — while Genesis’ halo is the forthcoming Essentia supercar. These are good times, indeed.

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 Genesis G70

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

Price: $32,000 base including $995 destination fee ($38,895 RWD manual Sport as tested)

Powerplant: 2.0-liter turbocharged-4 cylinder; 3.3-liter, twin-turbo V-6

Power: 252 horsepower, 260 pound-feet torque (turbo-4); 365 horsepower, 376 pound-feet torque (V-6)

Transmission: 8-speed automatic or 6-speed manual

Performance: 0-60 mph, 4.3/6.0 seconds (Car and Driver est.); top speed, 130/155 mph

Weight: 3,550-4,050 pounds (est.)

Fuel economy: EPA: 22 city/30 highway/25 combined (Turbo-4); 18 city/25 highway/20 combined (V-6)

Report card

Highs: Nurburgring-tested athlete; bargain luxury

Lows: Cramped rear seat; cousin Kia Stinger hatchback an even better bargain

Overall: 4 stars

Cartoon: Pirate Democrats and the Election

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 12, 2018

Cartoon: Media and Trump Derangemant

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 12, 2018

Cartoon: Suburbs Turn on Trump

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 12, 2018

Cartoon: Election Midterm Pit stop

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 12, 2018

Cartoon: Economy Dragster

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 5, 2018

Payne: Volvos defined safety, the S60 adds sexy

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 1, 2018

Volvo Red Fr3 4

Flashing down the canyon roads north of Los Angeles in a red, all-new 2019 Volvo S60 sedan, I nearly ran over a red 1980s-vintage Volvo 240. Instantly recognizable from the rear with its skeleton rear headrests, the ol’ Swede lumbered along. Built like a tank with the aerodynamics of a cardboard box.

Ugly duckling, meet swan.

The new, South Carolina-manufactured S60 is a fashion plate: Thor’s hammer headlights. Body of Chris Hemsworth. Powerful turbocharged engines. Alternately fun to drive on mountain roads and quiet as a sofa-bed on the freeway, the athletic Volvo is no longer a role player, but a well-rounded all-star in the mold of Audi or BMW.

Volvo has come a long way from its roots as the safety-obsessed Swede. Introduced to Americans in the 1950s, the brand was a pioneer in passenger protection. It was first with the standard three-point safety belt, rear-facing child seats, childproof locks and collapsible steering column. Volvo was Ralph Nader in the back seat on your family trip.

Ralph has been replaced by Mario Andretti. Volvo has an engine lineup that encourages bad behavior: Take your choice of a 250-horsepower, turbo-4; 315-horse supercharged turbo-4; or 415-horse, supercharged turbo-4 hybrid powertrains.

Farther along the L.A. canyons, I crowd a Porsche Boxster through the twisties. Thor’s hammers looming in his mirrors, drive mode dialed to Dynamic for maximum torque, chassis taut through the switchbacks. What’s next? A Volvo race team?

The S60 is fine not boring you with a safety lecture, though sometimes I wish it would.

In this era of galloping digital advances, Volvo is not the cutting edge of safety anymore. Acura class competitor TLX offers the same standard suite of adaptive cruise-control, lane-keep assist and collision-mitigation braking as the Volvo. Heck, even the smaller, 2019 ILX offers it — for $10,000 less.

I recently tested a loaded Mazda 6 for the same price as the base Volvo with the same horsepower, same safety systems — plus. Plus blind-spot assist, plus head-up display, plus driver-display mounted 360-degree monitoring system.

The old Volvo would have made these features standard and reminded you on billboards. But the new, more well-rounded Volvo has other talents it wants to share.

Like a standard panoramic moonroof. Ooooooh. Get the wagon version of the S60 — called the V60 — and it’s the biggest moonroof I’ve ever seen, stretching beyond the rear seats into next week.

While we’re on the subject of wagons, let me note that the gorgeous V60 is prettier, faster and cheaper than the Volvo XC60 SUV with more hatchback space and better roof access. Just in case you want to climb down from the taller XC60 and take a look.

Back to the S60. Volvo no doubt wants its pano-roofs to shed light on other standard features in the cabin like digital instrument display, elegant, 10-way seats and two-zone climate control. And, of course, a signature 9-inch, Tesla-like touchscreen.

The touchscreen is another vote for sexy over nanny Volvo.

Uncluttered by buttons, the screen is integrated into Volvo’s spare, Scandinavian cabin design: rich landscapes of wood, matte black, and aluminum accents.

It’s beautiful. And like Sweden’s Alicia Vikander, it’s distracting. The screen is low in the console, not high like tablets in the Audi or Acura RDX. While its logic is quick to master, it requires diverting your eyes from the road. Screens are accessed by swipes of the hand. Features controlled by buttons on other cars — lane-keep assist, head-up display, temperature controls — are located in the screen.

Volvo is aware of the distraction and has constructed helpful commands you can bark at the voice command. “Set the temperature to 70 degrees!” for example. I suggest setting your preferences at the house, then using voice commands to tweak settings on the road.

More in Volvo’s safety character is its Pro Pilot Assist, an adaptive cruise sidekick (for $2,500) that works as a semi-autonomous system in rush-hour traffic. Descending from LA’s canyon roads into its interstate-traffic hell, I toggled the Pilot Assist button. Below 30 mph in stop-and-go traffic, the system left me alone (like Cadillac’s SuperCruise, and unlike other nanny systems) so that I could check email and texts on my phone — or, um, fiddle with the touchscreen settings and navigation.

Speaking of navigation, the Volvo nicely integrates smartphone apps Apple CarPlay and Android Auto into its big screen so you don’t have to pay the $2,500 navigation upcharge for Volvo’s glitchy nav system.

It’s one of a few, rare glitches in this all-around athlete’s debut. Despite its German-stomping horsepower, the S60’s drivetrain still lacks the Teuton’s refinement. Downshifts can be lazy or abrupt.

Opt for the S60’s all-wheel drive T8 plugin-hybrid model, and the rear electric motor smooths out the drivetrain kinks like a comb through a blond Swedish mane. With healthy total system power of 400 ponies, the hybrid is a joy to drive fast.

Upgrade to the wicked-looking black Polestar T8 and you get 15 more horses, gold brake calipers and gold seat belts that look like they came right out of Q’s lab. Mr. Bond, your Polestar is ready.

Like safety, Volvo is synonymous with green, but the plugin-hybrid model contradicts that simple stereotype just like the safety boilerplate. Goosed with turbo and supercharging steroids, my hybrid, four-cylinder S60 averaged less than 20 mpg over a day of fairly civilized Metro L.A. driving.

As tempting as the pricey plugin may be, Detroit buyers will be perfectly content with a T5, AWD R-Design S60. Allow me to translate the Swedish alphanumerics:

AWD means all-wheel drive for Detroit snow
T5 means the 250-horse engine option
R-Design means the sporty trim package with 19-inch wheels

And S60 means the best Volvo sedan you have ever seen for about $46,000.

Divorced from Ford and now owned by China’s Geely, Volvo produces the sedan out of its first U.S. plant for export to countries around the globe. No longer a Naderite, Swedish curiosity, Volvo has matured to a global automaker with the S60, V60, XC60, S90, V90 and XC90 all built on the same, so-called SPA global platform.

As the brand’s entry-level product, the S60 retains its Swedish personality while speaking the universal language of style and power. Just like the BMW 3-series. Just like the Audi A4.

Just ask the ol’ Volvo 240 receding in my mirror.

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 Volvo S60 sedan and V60 wagon

Vehicle type: Front-engine, front and all-wheel drive, five-passenger sedan/wagon

Price: $36,795 base including $995 destination fee ($41,995 R-Design as tested)

Powerplant: 2.0-liter turbocharged-4 cylinder; 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged-4 cylinder; 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged-4 cylinder, plug-in hybrid

Power: 250 horsepower, 258 pound-feet torque (turbo-4); 316 horsepower, 295 pound-feet torque (turbo, supercharged 4); 400 horsepower (415 in Polestar edition), 494 pound-feet torque (turbo, supercharged 4 plug-in with electric-motor assist)

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 6.3 seconds for turbo-4 (mfr); top speed, 145 mph

Weight: 3,657-3,907 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA fuel economy: 21 city/32 highway/25 combined (Turbo-4 AWD R-Design as tested)

Report card

Highs: Swedish beauty; standard panoramic moon-roof

Lows: Touchscreen can distract from safety; power sucks gas

Overall: 4 stars

Cartoon: Violent Rhetoric Left

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 1, 2018

Cartoon: Birthright Citizenship and Trump

Posted by Talbot Payne on November 1, 2018

Cartoon: World Series Versus NFL

Posted by Talbot Payne on October 30, 2018

Ford wows Vegas with Carbon Series GT supercar, mod trucks

Posted by Talbot Payne on October 30, 2018

Dhf18043 C1

Take the week off, Celine Dion. Las Vegas is home to the dazzling Specialty Equipment Market Association show through Friday, and Ford opens the extravaganza Tuesday with the latest version of its Ford GT supercar.

The show-stopping, 2019 Ford GT Carbon Series is the lightest version of Ford’s performance halo car – and punctuates the point with acres of exposed carbon fiber including dual exposed stripes, A-pillars and lower body panels. Ford will also show its range with truck acts including eight custom F-150 and seven modified Ranger pickups.

The GT Carbon Series hits the market at the same time that Ford is re-opening the application process for its 647-horse, twin-turbo V6-powered, Le Mans-winning legend on Nov. 8. Ford had previously capped GT production at 1,000 but has added 350 units to be produced through 2022.

“The Ford GT Carbon Series stands out on the road with its striking carbon fiber-rich design and on the track with its athleticism,” said Hermann Salenbauch, chief of Ford’s Performance Division, which oversees the GT and other earth-pawing models.

Where the Ford GT’s previous lightweight track star, the Competition series, stripped the GT of daily amenities like radio and air conditioning, the Carbon Series maintains both (while still dropping 39 pounds) so that owners can run hot laps on track – then cool off with AC on the ride home.

“While the Ford GT Competition model appeals to hardcore racing enthusiasts, we found more customers asking for more exposed carbon fiber with the air conditioning and radio still intact,” said Lance Mosley, marketing ringmaster for Ford Performance. “So we developed the Carbon Series to satisfy that need, while providing a distinct look.”

It’s not the first time that Ford has used SEMA — a sprawling trade show featuring aftermarket, performance-enhancing steroids like supercharged engines and off-road truck lift kits — to showcase its state-of-the-art muscle. At the 2008 show, Ford debuted the F-150 Raptor, the fastest off-road pickup on the planet.

The $500,000-base Ford GT, the production version of the IMSA race car that took home the IMSA Weathertech GTLM manufacturer’s trophy this year, headlines the Performance division.

Featuring state-of-the-art aerodynamics technology like a Formula One-style keel-nose and retractile rear wing, the GT is motivated by twin-turbos spinning a 3.5-liter V-6 to 647 horsepower and a top speed of 216 mph.

To hit its dietary goal, the Carbon Series boasts light-weighting innovations like carbon fiber wheels, titanium exhaust and lug nuts, and a polycarbonate rear hatch. That, and Ford tossed the cupholders.

If all that carbon fiber isn’t enough to stand out from the exclusive GT crowd, the new edition can be accented with mirror caps, center stripes, and calipers in four colors: silver, orange, red, or blue.

For all the GT’s drama, however, the Performance division’s sales have been turbocharged by Mustangs and trucks. Sales were up a whopping 70 percent in 2017 to over 205,000 units globally. And that’s before Ford invaded two new segments this year with its Edge ST SUV and Ranger Raptor small truck — the latter available only in overseas markets. An upgraded F-150 Raptor will also bow later this year.

The model flood continues in 2019 with the expected debut of a 700-horsepower-plus Mustang GT500, the most powerful ‘Stang ever, and an Explorer ST ute. To keep buyers salivating, Ford is bringing eight customer F-150 builds to Vegas as well as seven modified Rangers.

As for GT buyers, your application can be found at www.FordGT.com beginning Nov. 8.

Cartoon: Halloween “Blame Trump”

Posted by Talbot Payne on October 30, 2018

Payne: To Hell (and Ohio) and back to pick up my Tesla Model 3

Posted by Talbot Payne on October 30, 2018

Henry Payne deposited $1,000, along with 450,000 other customers, to get a first-row seat to the production of the first volume vehicle in the first viable auto startup in a lifetime.

Henry Payne deposited $1,000, along with 450,000 other customers, to get a first-row seat to the production of the first volume vehicle in the first viable auto startup in a lifetime.

Each step in my 31-month journey to buy a Tesla Model 3 has been an adventure. Delivery was no different.

Since configuring my car June 26 online, I waited through four months, multiple delivery date changes, an extra 30-day delay, and CEO Elon Musk smoking weed in a radio interview. Then I saddled up a 3-ton Nissan Armada rental mule to travel 200 miles to Cleveland to pick up a car Lansing bans from sale in Michigan.

“Delivery logistics hell,” Musk calls it. Yet, waiting on the other side of the River Styx (well, Lake Erie) was a stunning, athletic Model 3 electric vehicle that is still the most fascinating car on sale today.

In April, 2016, I put down my $1,000 deposit along with 450,000 other customers to get a first-row seat to the production of the first volume vehicle in the first viable auto startup in my lifetime. Detroit News readers have been with meevery step of the way.

I’m no eco-geek, but a race car-driving, gas-guzzling motorhead with multiple cars in his garage and a need for speed. When Musk introduced the 3, I coveted it as I have desired BMWs, Fords, and Porsches. And as a journalist, I was also intrigued by an entrepreneur that is the early 21st century’s Henry Ford: driven, visionary, controversial.

Musk is also like other West Coast tech geniuses — Amazon’s Bezos, Uber’s Kalanick, Facebook’s Zuckerberg — in redefining industries. But he is most like Apple’s Steve Jobs in taking a fresh design approach to product. In this case, the car.

Deluged with more orders for the 3 than BMW sells across 14 model lines in a year, Tesla was not only promising a competitive luxury player in 18 months — but assembling it for delivery through its own, nascent dealer network. Dude, that’s a tall order.

The fires of Tesla “production hell” — missed deadlines, problematic build quality, manufacturing tents — have been well documented. Delivery hell, where customers like me interact with Tesla, is a more variable climate.

After configuring my rear-wheel-drive, Obsidian Black-with-19-inch-wheels Model 3 in June, Tesla predicted the car would arrive between September and November. I was optimistic, however — based on deliveries to Michigan friends — that it could arrive in less than a month.

Six weeks crawled by.

I called Las Vegas — Tesla dispatch central — on Aug. 8 for an update. Dispatch told me they had been deluged by orders at the end of July as Tesla ended free, LTE cell service. The new cost? $100 a year. Proof that even folks paying $50K for a car smell a deal.

But other smells were sowing concern. On Aug. 7, Musk tweeted in apparent violation of SEC rules that he was taking the company private. Tesla forums brimmed with customer tales of delivery dates gone awry. Tesla HQ was a revolving door of executive departures. Then Musk stunk up the joint (pun intended) in September with a pot-fueled interview.

Not the kind of news that inspires confidence in customers holding $50,000 luxury car orders. On Sept. 17, the call (well, text) finally came from Vegas:

Hey, Henry, this is Jackie from Tesla. I am reaching out about your Model 3 order. I am able to offer you delivery as soon as this month. Can I schedule you for September 27th?

That proved optimistic, too. After some delivery date ping-pong, my pick-up was pushed back to Oct. 26. A Tesla contractor told me the company’s rush to meet third-quarter (Sept. 30) profit deadlines had jammed the pipelines.

In Jersey Oct. 18 for my son’s wedding, I got a call from Robert at Tesla Cleveland. Can you pick up your car Monday the 22nd? I would be there, with insurance and the $57,450 balance in hand.

What happened to the promised, $35,000, affordable Model 3? It won’t be delivered until early next year — assuming customers still want it after the federal $7,500 tax credit runs out this winter.

As chaotic as delivery hell was, the Tesla dealer process is a model of efficiency.

Tesla handed me the keys to a gratis Enterprise rental to make the one-way trek to Lyndhurst (outside Cleveland) to pick up the future of sustainable transportation. My ride? An ironic, ginormous Nissan Armada SUV. Half-a-tank of gas. Range: 200-something. Gas infrastructure everywhere. I made it in three hours flat.

Since Tesla dealers are factory stores, the dealer process is a formality. All cars on the lot are spoken for — delivered to customer spec. No haggling. Indeed, to help with the flood of September deliveries, the Cleveland store brought in existing Tesla owners to help with vehicle check out.

My salesman spent his time explaining the spaceship’s tech-tastic features to me — automatic lane change, streaming audio services, regenerative braking, voice commands. We went over every inch of the car including build defects (Tesla quality still lags).

Before I rocketed home on 307 pound feet of electric torque, Tesla topped up the battery with 300 miles of range. Unlike the Armada, charging infrastructure for the 3 is spare.

Cooling my heels in the waiting room, I talked with another Tesla owner. He had first approached a Chevy dealer about buying a Bolt EV. The lot was littered with Bolts, but he said the salespeople were light on details and wouldn’t negotiate price.

Frustrated, he sought out Tesla online and placed his order. “It’s been a fantastic journey,” he said.

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