Should Max Mosley lose his FIA job because of his sexual proclivities?

March 31st, 2008 by darren

The News of the World ( has reported that FIA head honcho Max Mosley has been caught in some S&M scandal. Here’s an opportunity for Max to do what no other person would do in this situation. Tell everyone why he does it, that it’s just a harmless bit of fun, and that he’d do it again in a flash. With more hookers.

Max should stand up in front of the press and say “Man, those prostitutes are the best I can afford. Why wouldn’t I? You would! Come on, admit it. And that Nazi concentration camp thing – that’s just a bit of fun. I mean, how long do we have to keep making it so heavy. You should see what I do at home.”

But it won’t happen. Max will threaten legal action – come out blazing ‘F1 and F them all’ perhaps –  then he’ll issue a public apology, then he’ll resign, and if the press hound him long enough, probably commit suicide.

Of course, this could all be a carefully orchestrated attempt at starting his new career in hardcore porn. But that’s unlikely because he’s not exactly a sprightly young fellow any more.

Regardless of whether you agree with what he did, let’s look at it in the broader context of what goes on in the world. There’s seal clubbing, all kinds of environmental atrocities, rampant child abuse, and we’re worrying about a rich old guy with a penchant for welts on his buttocks. Priorities, people, prior

Subaru Tribeca 3.6R Luxury 2008 Review

March 31st, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Subaru Tribeca 36R 2008 fq

In the field of inductive reasoning let me explain what’s affectionately known as the ‘duck test’. It’s very simple and you’ve most probably heard it: If it walks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.

The test doesn’t usually mention whether it tastes like a duck. Mmmm. Duck. But before I start salivating on the keyboard, the test illustrates that a reasonable, logical person can figure out the true nature of something unknown by observing the subject’s readily identifiable traits.

Get to the point, though, Darren: what the hell does a duck have to do with Subaru’s revised Tribeca?

The generation-one Tribeca drove like an SUV, splashed around in puddles like an SUV, but didn’t look like an SUV. Therein was the problem. The optically challenging front end (and to some extent the back) weren’t really typically ‘SUV’. So, it didn’t sell very well, despite being quite good.

That’s all changed now. The Tribeca has a new bill, a louder quack and modified tail feathers. Starting with the new bill, sitting out front is a one-piece grille (the old one had three separate grille elements), revised bumpers and bonnet and xenon headlights. Its quack comes courtesy of 631cc extra engine volume. And the tail has a revised bumper, spoiler and tailgate design. New 18-inch wheels and roof racks complete the exterior revamp. It now looks like a proper SUV, so how does it drive? With the 3.6-litre, six-cylinder boxer engine you get 190kW (10 more than before), and 350Nm of torque (53 more than before). It’s quicker, but uses less fuel (11.6l/100km is the quoted, which is about 6% less than previously.)

If you (as a mallard and duck) need to transport five ducklings around, the Tribeca’s seven seats will be welcome as will the DVD player in the second row so that you can show a movie while driving (preferably not the 1933 Marx classic Duck Soup.)

This movie will also show through the screen in the dashboard if the vehicle is parked with the handbrake on, and the audio bathes you in nine-speaker wonderment, or passengers can listen via one of the two infrared headphones supplied.

This new screen serves two other purposes. It’s the full colour reversing camera display, and it displays information about the car. The screen is a touch-screen, so navigation is achieved by pushing the graphics on the screen. As well as fuel economy, radio functions and car setup, there’s a conversion calculator because every duck needs to know how many litres are in a gallon.

Without driving the old and new back-to-back it’s hard to make a direct comparison. The new Tribeca is certainly sprightly for its size, reaching 100kph in 8.9s, but it’s more of a commanding cruiser than a switchback master. Though, it has to be said that its handling did save me and a colleague from a head-on collision when we met a car on our side of the road around a long sweeping corner at 100kph. Putting two of the Tribeca’s wheels onto the grass verge didn’t phase it one bit.

The Tribeca, like all new Subarus, has VDC (Vehicle Dynamics Control) which consists of electronic stability control and traction control, and symmetrical all-wheel drive. Should the worst happen, the Tribeca scored five stars in ANCAP crash testing, and has six airbags, electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist.

Access into the back row has been improved — boarding passengers don’t have to ‘duck’ so much (pun intended) because of a new assist spring and the second row tilt and slide control.

Subaru says in its brochure that it is the ‘sensation of driving a sedan, now in an SUV.’ Well, almost. It’s certainly better than some SUVs, but don’t expect this to be a tall version of the Legacy. The Tribeca has tried better this time, and with a price that is five thousand less than the old Tribeca at its peak, the result is an improvement that should attract customers away from other brands.

Click through to the next page to read specifications of the 2008 Subaru Tribeca 3.6R Luxury

Price: from $67,990

What we like

  • Comfortable
  • Styling is more palatable
  • Reversing camera helps
  • Price is better

What we don’t like

  • Boring colour choices

Words and photos Darren Cottingham

Dimensions & Weight 5AT
Overall length (mm) 4865
Overall width (mm) 1880
Overall height (mm) 1720 (including roof rails)
Wheel base (mm) 2750
Tread front (mm) 1580
Tread rear (mm) 1580
Min. ground clearance (mm) 210
Cargo space — 3rd seat folded down (litres) 450
Cargo space — 2nd and 3rd seat folded down (litres) 1495
Unladen mass (kg) 1942
Type DOHC with Dual AVCS
Number of cylinders – horizontally opposed 6
Bore x Stroke (mm) 92 x 91
Displacement (l/cc) 3.6/3630
Compression ratio 10.5:1
Fuel tank capacity (litres) 64
Fuel system Multi-point sequential injection
Min. Fuel octane rating requirement (RON) 91-98
Max. Output DIN (kW/ RPM) 190/6000
Max. Torque DIN (Nm/ RPM) 350/4000
Fuel consumption (ADR81/01) Combined (l/100km) 11.6
CO2 emissions (ADR81/01) (gm/km) 275
Transmission type Auto
Gear ratio (1st) 3.540
2nd 2.264
3rd 1.471
4th 1.000
5th 0.834
Rev. 2.370
Final reduction ratio 3.583
Steering Engine speed sensitive power assisted rack & pinion
Suspension – front Coil suspension, McPherson strut type
Suspension – rear Double wishbone
Brakes – front Ventilated discs
Brakes – rear Ventilated discs
Min. turning circle (curb to curb) (m) 11.4
Tyres (steel belted radial, tubeless) 255/55R18 104H
With brakes (kg) 2000
Without brakes (kg) 750
Max. roof load (kg) 80
Max. tow ball down load (kg) 160
5-star ANCAP safety rating Y
ABS brakes / EBD / 4-wheel disc brakes / Brake Assist Y
Active headrests (driver and front passenger) Y
6 Airbags – Dual front, dual front side, curtain front & rear Y
All Wheel Drive full time – Variable Torque Distribution Y
Child seat anchor points Y
Front seatbelts – pretensioner & load limiter Y
Rear door child lock Y
Rear view reverse camera Y
Ring-shaped reinforcement frames & roll-over sensor Y
Seatbelt warning lights (driver & front passenger) Y
Shock absorbing brake pedal Y
UV protected window & glass² Y
Vehicle Dynamics Control (VDC) – electronic stability control Y
2 remote central locking keys Y
3 point A/ELR rear seatbelts Y
Adjustable height steering column Y
Air-conditioning – dual-zone climate control & rear seat control Y
AM/FM radio / 6-stack in-dash CD / 9 speakers / MP3 and WMA compatible Y
Audio steering wheel controls Y
Auxiliary audio jack and 12v/120W power jacks Y
Cabin/cargo/map lights Y
Console box & tray / 10 cupholders in cabin Y
Cruise control Y
Electroluminescent multi-function display Y
Manual Schukra lumbar support (driver & front passenger) Y
Leather upholstery³ & steering wheel Y
Power steering, mirrors & windows Y
Rear centre arm rest Y
Rear DVD entertainment system  with 94 display screen & remote control Y
Rear underfloor storage compartments (concealed) Y
Seat heaters & seat back pockets (driver & passenger seats) Y
Seats – 2nd row 40/20/40 split, fold flat, mid-way lock, slide & recline functions with access to 3rd row Y
Seats – 3rd row with 50/50 split, fold flat functions Y
SPORTSHIFT¹ 5-speed automatic transmission Y
Illuminated vanity mirrors (driver & front passenger) Y
Wireless headsets (2) for rear seat entertainment system Y
8-way power driver’s and front passenger seat with dual memory function Y
18-inch alloy (4×10-spoke) & space saver Y
Dual exhaust system Y
Front fog lamps Y
Front wipers with de-icer & speed sensitive intermittent mode & rear intermittent wiper Y
Headlights – Xenon auto levelling (HID) Y
Large heated door mirrors with indicators Y
Rear tinted windows Y
Rear roof spoiler Y
Roof rails Y
Electric sunroof Y
Other Features
Auto tailgate (unlock on key) Y
DataDot security system Y
ETC (Electronic Throttle Control) Y
Immobiliser security system with remote central locking Y
Foot activated parking brake Y
3 Year/unlimited km warranty Y

Peugeot 308 HDi 2008 Review

March 29th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Peugeot 308 HDi 2008 fq

I’ve been telling people I’m driving a 308 hoping they’ll think it’s a Ferrari 308, but it’s unlikely. Ferrari had a few models that featured a zero as the middle number (the 206 for example), but now Peugeot has an exclusive monopoly on that way of naming cars.

One thing that Ferrari owners will be jealous of is the 308’s frugality (and probably reliability). The 1.6-litre version of the 308 has just set a fuel economy record for driving around Australia in the hands of John and Helen Taylor. I wonder about the reasons for doing this in the same way I wonder if Nandor Tanczos’s hair is prehensile like a monkey’s tail because by far the best way to travel around Australia is to fly between the bits that aren’t vast barren expanses of orange dust and thorny plants.

I’m not here to set fuel economy records though because I’ve got the 2-litre HDi (turbo-diesel) with a 6-speed Tiptronic auto and a tempting ‘S’ button for Sport mode, which changes down earlier and up later.

This gives the 308 plenty of wallop. It’s not so much the power (100kW), but the torque (320Nm) that gets you going quickly. Fortunately the 308 has 215/55R16 wheels and well-calibrated traction control otherwise vaporised tyres would be on the menu. Tempting as it is to use this I still managed 7.1l/100km (against a quoted 6.8 from Peugeot) without it, and somewhere in the high 8-second range with it.

The panoramic glass roof has all the benefits of a convertible without the sunburned forehead and bad hair. I will guarantee that while travelling around Australia the Taylors (if they had had it) would have kept the sunroof’s electric blind firmly closed because in strong sun it’s significantly warmer, and you don’t want to be using the air conditioning when trying to sip the diesel frugally. I personally loved the roof, though, and the enormous Mitsubishi Pajero I swapped it for felt positively claustrophobic in comparison.

In the 407 HDi we tested last year, we found that it was a good car but with an interior where elements fought against one another. This is not the case in the 308. The interior flows nicely and the white-faced dials integrate with the whole understated experience, rather than feeling a bit ‘try-hard’ like they do in the 407, where they clash with the über-modern stereo.

French cars are often quirky, but this Peugeot is much less so than others. Of course, it’s still French — the cigarette lighter is easier to reach than the gear knob — but it does things in a very orderly Japanese way.

An example of the quirkiness is the indicator. While most cars have a click-clack when the indicator is activated, the Peugeot has a two-tone electronic blip — very Atari. Someone must have spent hours determining the pitch.

While it may be French, the inside has a positively marsupial feel about it. As well as the included cargo net in the boot which makes a nice pouch, there’s a very clever hidden compartment in the parcel shelf that hinges either from the front or the back, and a very unexpected sunglasses compartment where the grab handle usually is.

Seats are stylish and comfortable with metallic grey inserts and unlike some Peugeots it’s easy to get a comfortable driving position straight away. In an age of multifunction steering wheels the Peugeot’s looks naked in comparison. Controls for the audio and cruise control are on stubby European-style wands on the steering column.

An athermic acoustically laminated front windscreen helps keep out the hot sun as well as deaden the diesel drone (which is sufficiently refined, but suffered from a bit of turbo whine or resonance in our test car at certain speeds). The engine has a FAP (particle filter) so exhaust particle emissions are significantly reduced.

Safety features haven’t been skimped upon. Seven airbags and all the acronyms under the sun for driver aids contribute to a five-star Euro NCAP

The 308 is well-proportioned and athletic from the rear, but move around to the front and something’s not quite right. It’s like an overly fragranced French beauty — you catch a glimpse from a distance, the briefest whiff, and you’re drawn to her, but get up really close and your eyes water. It’s the space below the droopy nose just doesn’t quite work close up. But everything else about the car is extremely good — handling, features and fuel economy. This is the best Peugeot we’ve driven.

Click through to the next page for the full specification of the Peugeot 308 HDi

Price: from $42,990

What we like

  • It’s the best Peugeot we’ve driven
  • Glass roof
  • Frugal on the open road

What we don’t like

  • Nose styling doesn’t work close up
  • At about 95kph there’s a harmonic vibration in the engine/turbo (could just have been our test car)

Words and photos Darren Cottingham

Now that the Indians own Jaguar and Land Rover, will there still be leather seats?

March 27th, 2008 by darren

There’s a bit of a cow-worship conundrum when it comes to Tata’s ownership of Jaguar and Land Rover, as reported in the news today. The Indian company has purchased the marques from Ford for a few billion. The cow is revered in many parts of India, so how are the two luxury marques going to source the leather? Perhaps crocodile skin could come back in fashion. Or goat?

Land Rover/Jaguar in New Zealand will make a statement this afternoon. Probably not about the leather, though.

Tribeca – generation-two is much better

March 26th, 2008 by darren

Apart from the very odd aviation-styled front end of the old Tribeca there wasn’t that much wrong. It did only have a 3-litre motor to lug its vast mass around, but it was comfortable and had a handy DVD player to keep the rear seat passengers occupied. The new Tribeca gives us another 600cc of acceleration pleasure, and a natty touchscreen in the dash with a calculator/converter so I can tell how many acres in a square millimetre. That is very useful, but not as useful (or welcome) as the reversing camera is to make backing much more pleasant in such a large vehicle.

It wasn’t Swift, but it was quick enough

March 25th, 2008 by darren

In my last post I mentioned my imminent trip to Napier in the Swift. Well, having survived a rockfall (quite a large one ten metres from where we were sitting near Cape Kidnappers), an angry stingray less than two metres away and Corn Evil’s haunted maize maze I can now report back that the Swift was extremely tame in comparison. An Ariel Atom would have seemed tame, too.

It performed admirably in the stop-start traffic of getting out of Auckland, and reasonably well on the long open stretches of road, except where overtaking was required, or the ability to accelerate up hills.

Ultimately it was better that I take the Swift than the Subaru Tribeca I just collected – for my wallet, anyway. The Subie would be using at least 60% more fuel than the relatively thrifty Swift, and taking a seven-seater for two seems insane. Just as insane as running around a field of maize in the darkness with monsters and zombies around every corner.

Suzuki Swift XE 2008 Review

March 25th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Suzuki Swift XE 2008 fq

An Easter break was what I needed to soothe my aching wrists and blurry eyes so off we headed to Napier. The Art Deco capital is guaranteed sunshine pretty much all year round but is 425km away, the last third being the hilly Napier-Taupo highway. If I’d had more foresight I could have organised a car with twice as many ponies under the bonnet — I was feeling like I was Hannibal, the road was the Alps and I’d neglected to organise elephants, instead having to settle for an asthmatic Labrador with a gammy foot. We packed light, and I’d implored Jen to go on a crash diet so that we weren’t left crawling up the hills like a house bus, spewing toxic plumes.

Leaving on the Thursday at 12 from the North Shore the Swift’s first test was spaghetti junction which was crammed with other people who had a similar idea to us. Nudging along in stop-start waves the Swift had no chance to live up to its name. At this rate we would reach Napier tomorrow, and tomorrow never comes as the saying goes.

Traffic cleared substantially after the Coromandel turn off and the Swift could stretch its legs. My expectation of the first large hill was that we would end up slipping backwards down the ranks as streams of traffic shuffled us like a croupier to the back of the pack but it wasn’t the case. Frequently a hill would see us gradually drop from 100(ish) to 90kph, at which point the Suzuki changes down and acceleration resumes, as long as the pedal is buried into the firewall. We would have struggled with more luggage and/or passengers, though.

The Swift was a pleasure to drive as long as overtaking wasn’t a top priority. On the open highway and in the city, the Swift’s handling is perfect. Around town the Swift’s 75kW gives it a useful turn of speed. And, if the word didn’t evoke crabs, Suzuki perhaps should have called it the Nippy, because that’s what the Swift is — highly manoeuvrable with good visibility and the right size to fit in tight car parking spaces.

On the inside my main gripe is the sea of greyness that stretches like the hide of one of Hannibal’s elephants across the dashboard. In a car of this price you have to expect fairly hard plastics, but at the Swift desperately needs some accenting to spice up the blandness and the only respite is the Sony head unit with detachable face. This single-CD stereo is MP3 compatible and has an input for an external portable music player, and unfortunately crows all kinds of visual messages constantly on its LCD even while turned off. Other than that, this base Swift model just comes with the basic requirements: air conditioning and a couple of airbags.

Passengers can be carried in the rear if they have short legs, or the driver and front seat passenger have short legs.

Having put the Swift through its paces for the best part of a thousand kilometres and achieving an average of 6.9l/100km it’s not hard to see why it is the top selling small car in New Zealand. Personally I’d have the manual Swift Sport reviewed here, or even the cheaper manual XE to give me a bit more control, but for $18,500 the price is right, the styling is right, and the handling and performance are great if a funky new car with a responsive chassis and city-friendly automatic gearbox are on your wishlist.

Price: from $16,990 (manual), $18,500 (auto)

What we like

  • Stylish
  • Nippy
  • Good price

What we don’t like

  • Passengers + hills
  • Grey dashboard
  • Kia Picanto beats it for specification level

Words and photos Darren Cottingham

Power steering O O
Tilt steering O O
Electric windows – front & rear O O
Electrically adjustable exterior mirrors O O
Central door locking O O
Remote-controlled door locks with hazard answer-back O O
Audio – Radio/CD 4 Speaker 6 Speaker
Air Conditioning with pollen filter O O
Tachometer O O
Light-off/key reminder O O
Driver’s seatbelt warning lamp O O
Fuel warning indicator O O
Door ajar warning lamp O O
Tripmeter O O
3-spoke steering wheel & Steering lock O Leather
Information display :
Digital clock O O
Outside temperature gauge O
Fuel consumption gauge O
Cabin light – 3 position / Luggage area light O O
Cupholders – front 2 / rear 1 O O
Sun visors – both sides O O
Ticket holder & vanity mirror – driver’s side O
Centre console box O
Day/night rear view mirror O O
Cloth seat material / Cloth-accented door trims O O
Height adjuster – driver’s seat O
60:40 split tumble-folding rear seat O O
3 rear seat head restraints O O
3 assist grips O
Front door trim pockets O O
Front seatback pocket – passenger’s side O
Front seat undertray – passenger’s side O
12 volt accessory socket O O
Convenience hook on passenger’s seat back Grey
Rear luggage shelf O
Remote fuel lid opener O O
Halogen headlights O O
Body-coloured bumpers, mirrors, door handles Bumpers only O
2-speed wipers with variable intermittent O O
Rear window demister & wiper/washer with intermittent O O
Rear centre aerial O O
Electromagnetic tailgate opener O O
UV cut glass – front doors O O
Black coloured A & B pillars O O
Front fog lamps O
Wheels & tyres :
185/60R15 steel wheels with wheelcaps O
185/60R15 alloy wheels O
Dual Airbags O O
Side Airbags O
Front and rear curtain airbags O
Head impact protection pad O O
Shift lock & key interlock – AT only O O
ABS with EBD and Brake assist O O
Decoupling mechanism for brake and clutch pedals O O
Height-adjustable seatbelt anchorages O O
Seatbelts – Front – 3 point ELR with pre-tensioners O O
Seatbelts – Rear – 3 point ELR x 3 O O
High-mounted stop lamp O O
ISO-FIX child seat restraint system O O
Child seat tether anchorage – 2 seats O O
Child-proof rear door locks O O
Immobiliser O O
Side impact beams O O
Overall length mm 3,760
Overall width mm 1,690
Overall height mm 1,500
Wheelbase mm 2,380
Track Front mm 1,470
Track Rear mm 1,480
Minimum turning radius m 4.7
Ground Clearance mm 140
Curb weight kg 5M/4AT 1040/1060
Gross vehicle weight kg 1,485
Type M15A with VVT, 16 Valve
Cylinders 4 in line
Displacement cc 1490
Bore X stroke 78.0 x 78.0
Compression ratio 9.5:1
Maximum Output (EEC net) Kw/rpm 75/5900
Maximum Torque (EEC net) Nm/rpm 133/4100
Fuel distribution Multi-point injection
Fuel type 91RON
Type Manual 5 speed all synchromesh
Automatic 4-stage electronicallycontrolled
Final drive ratio 5M/4AT 4.105/4.144
Steering Power assisted rack & pinion
Suspension Front MacPherson strut & coil spring
Rear Torsion beam & coil spring
Brakes Front Ventilated disc
Rear Drum, leading & trailing
Tyres 185/60R15
Seating 5
Fuel tank (unleaded 91) Litres 45
Luggage capacity Rear seatback raised 201L
Luggage capacity Rear seatback folded 494L

The oxymoron: Swift

March 20th, 2008 by darren

I’m picking up a Swift XE today and driving it to Napier to see what it’s like. I’m sure it will be anything but Swift. With 75kW (which is 11 toasters’ more than the 48kW Kia Picanto), we might be struggling on the hills. I’ve asked my partner to slim down for the trip, and not to take any unnecessary baggage.

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