Three future Dream Cruise classics: BMW i8, F-150 Raptor, any Tesla
The Woodward Dream Cruise is a celebration of Motor City past with earth-shaking V-8s, chromed cruisers and modified rat rods.
But it’s also a buffet table of everything automotive.
While we revelers bow to 20th-century majesty, we also hail the 21st century’s future classics. Like the 1960s, the 2010s are a historic period of innovation, performance and good old-fashioned over-indulgence.
This year, I hot-footed three modern, instant classics down Woodward that — 25 years hence — will be remembered as fondly as the epic Ferraris, Continentals and DeLoreans of yore.
“I thought that was a new Ferrari!” yelled a cruiser as he rolled down his window next to my 2019 BMW i8 Roadster.
Born in 2014, the sexy i8 is easy to mistake for mid-engine Italian supercars. It’s the first mid-engine BMW since the iconic Giorgetto Giugiaro-penned 1978 M1. Like the M1 — which launched BMW's performance M badge — the i8 has big ambitions. Where the spartan M1 was about raw speed, the exotic i8 is about signaling BMW’s electrified future.
It’s a rolling technology lab. The three-cylinder turbo engine is mated to electric motors front and rear, with a lithium-ion battery running down the the car’s spine. Like the Ford GT or McLaren supercars, the central chassis is a lightweight carbon tub. Interior is state of-the-art from its Pixar-perfect digital graphics to flowing dash lines.
Expensive and complex, the future of plug-in drivetrains is uncertain. It’s the sci-fi design that ensures this $164,298 car will be coveted for decades.
Like a space pod, butterfly doors rise for passenger entry. With the push of button, the roof disappears into the rear deck making the i8 a topless Dream Cruiser in just 15 seconds.
“It’s something out of the movie ‘Tron,’” shouts another cruiser-by.
Dressed in copper tone, the i8 was a Cruise showpiece. I rolled into Birmingham’s annual D-MAN Foundation charity rides for the disabled and was swarmed. I could have given rides all weekend.
Ford F-150 Raptor
Cruise in traffic in the low-slung i8 and you feel like you’re in a canyon next to all the Dodge Challengers, Chevy Bel Airs and tail-finned Cadillacs. The canyon walls are getting taller.
Americans buy nearly 3 million new pickups a year. With a growing subset catering to us muscle car fans, pickups are changing the topography of Woodward. There are the jacked-up swamp monster, knobby-tired Jeep Gladiator, and the king of off-road speed, the 450-horse Raptor.
The $55,000 Raptor, based on the best-selling F-150, is outfitted with intimidating grille graphics, hood scoop and terrain-shredding tires. The body armor hints at the capable technology underneath. Ten times cheaper than the epic Ford GT supercar, the Raptor is no less fun in its element. The Raptor bristles with skid plates, upgraded suspension and Baja-worthy Fox shocks that can propel the three-ton truck to obscene outback speeds. On-road, its EcoBoost V-6 provides plenty of thrills.
Hitting Woodward, I stomped the throttle and the twin-turbo V-6 roared like, well, a prehistoric reptile. “Awwwwesome!” squealed a young passenger riding shotgun.
But not as awesome as the T-Rex-roar of the previous generation Raptor’s 411-horse V-8. Though down on power to the EcoBoost V-6, many Raptor faithful prefer the original eight-cylinder. Either way, it’ll be ripping up Woodward asphalt for decades.
In the early 1980s, ex-GM wunderkind John DeLorean sought to shake up the auto industry with his gull-winged DMC-12 sports car. Decades later, the stainless-steel wonder still wows even if its business model didn’t.
DeLoran’s spiritual successor, Elon Musk, has sold more cars than DeLorean ever dreamed. He has created some of the most coveted luxury cars on the planet, with the battery-powered Model 3 even besting Mercedes and Lexus last year as America’s best-selling luxury vehicle.
Behind the wheel of my own Model 3, I joined a squadron of Model 3, S and X variants at Catalpa and Woodward for a Friday evening cruise. The intersection was particularly meaningful because it was also the site of Ford’s Cruise display — Musk’s badges are inspired by Henry Ford’s transformational Model A and T designations of a century ago. Tesla fashions itself the 21st-century Ford.
“You know these are the fastest cars on Woodward!” exclaimed one lawnchair-bound bystander as we rolled past.
Yessir. The instant-torque Teslas are shockingly fast from a standstill. Sub-3 second zero-60 times for performance Model S sedans are not uncommon. I nailed a few silent burnouts that shamed tire-burning, ear-splitting Ford V-8s.
Like Ford, Tesla has created a brand that will resonate for years. But like DeLorean, Tesla needs to figure out how to survive without government subsidies.
Folks often ask if the Dream Cruise will outlast the baby boom generation that created it 25 years ago. If my classics-of-tomorrow are any indication, it has a healthy future.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at email@example.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.