Ford Focus Sport 2011 Review

November 30th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

I had a quick ride in an ancient Focus while I was testing the new Ford Focus Sport just to get my bearings on exactly what has improved. You tend to forget the pace of change in cars, and something that was perfectly fine 10 years ago now seems like it’s barely better than a carriage pulled by a flatulent horse.

That’s not saying that the vintage Focus should have been sent to the glue factory, but it just felt low budget. Enter the new Focus Sport, champing at the bit to prove it’s a cabello blanco and able to dance on its hind quarters.

The Focus Sport packs a 2-litre 125kW petrol engine that produces 202Nm of torque. It’s no racehorse, but there’s plenty to get it galloping along. You get 17-inch alloys which are shod in 215/50R17 tyres. There’s a space saver in the boot. Interestingly, the front brake discs on the Sport are smaller than on the Trend 2-litre diesel hatch, though this could be because of the diesel’s 1500kg towing capacity as opposed to the petrol’s 500kg. Continue reading “Ford Focus Sport 2011 Review” »

Building A Brighter Future – Can I Say That?

November 26th, 2011 by Tim Grimley

As I have a habit of trying to stitch an incredibly tenuous link between motoring and the news of the day together, you may have thought that the General Election would be an absolute God-send; I know I did. Simply make some sweeping, stereotypical generalisations about each party, throw in one or two snappy lines comparing those who don’t tickle my own particular political fancy to an Austin Allegro or similar and the job would be done. I could then get on to my usual Friday night routine of Mac’s Gold and advanced lethargy.

Unfortunately a spanner has been thrown in the works. Because most of my evening has been occupied by a wedding in the incredibly beautiful Waitakere ranges, there is every chance that once I’ve actually got a suitable work of literary genius cobbled together and uploaded onto the interweb, Friday night will have become Saturday morning. And because we are still governed by laws designed to stop people threatening one another with swords on their way to the polling booths, anything I say which could be construed as an attempt to influence the way people tick their boxes on Election Day itself could, in theory, land me in hot water with the boys in blue.

Why settle for just this....

Given that the P. M has already confirmed that our police force has more spare time than it knows what to do with, this is a chance that I don’t want to take. While voting is a key matter of national importance I’m certainly not prepared to do hard labour just for writing about it. I’m sure some of you would say being so risk averse is a little conservative and I will admit, it is against my usual manner to act in this way, but I’m not so green as to ignore the potential consequences. So politics in any shape and form is a no-go this week.

Instead I will talk about roads; or to be more specific, a road. On my little jaunt to the nuptials tonight, I took my first drive on the new Hobsonville extension of State Highway 18 and there is only one word that can sum it up. Brilliant. Utterly, utterly, brilliant.

It has never been much of a secret that the good folk of New Zealand are pretty handy when it comes to building stuff. There’s something about the ‘can do’ attitude ingrained in the national genotype that gets people rolling up their sleeves and making things work. Famously this is done by men in sheds, utilising number 8 wire to achieve an end result and there is nothing wrong with that – anyone worth their salt knows that men in sheds are the very cornerstone of a progressive society – but there is not enough credit handed out for the ability to produce on a grander and more professional scale.

I very rarely get excited about a motorway – German Autobahns excluded – as they are generally drab expanses of tarmac which expedite your journey from A to B by cutting out all forms of driving pleasure. And while our newest addition to the nation’s high speed road network can hardly claim to be a riveting test of man and machine, it does get the details just right.

To start with the road surface is excellent, providing a smooth ride and minimal noise. Then there are the surrounds which look neat and precise, giving the impression that the road was not so much laid as drawn on the countryside. Even the curvatures of the bends when it feeds into and from State Highway 16 are very pleasing indeed – possibly too pleasing for our speed limit – all of which means that the good Kiwis who worked on it, from the person who first penned the idea right down to the chap who painted the white lines, can pat themselves on the back for a job very well done.

In fact, we would do well to keep this talented team together, because if they can do this good a job on a mere motorway, they could seriously rock our world with some proper driving roads. While there is currently a lot of focus on ‘roads of national significance’, it may not be such a bad idea to consider pencilling in some ‘roads of national enjoyment’ too.

....when we could do THIS?

Ask anyone who has tackled the Alpine passes of Europe and they will tell you that there is not much more fun to be had on four wheels. The thrilling roads, epic scenery and constant whiff of danger make for an intoxicating driving experience. Well we have our very own Southern Alps and we’ve certainly proved a talent for road construction, so there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t get started and build ourselves some fun that is the envy of the motoring world.

Actually I tell a lie – there is a reason we can’t start and that’s money. Roads do not come cheaply and to pull that kind of money together you’d need to do something pretty drastic; like selling off a state owned Energy Company or two for example.

But, let’s be honest, it would almost certainly be worth it, so get out and vote for…… hang on; there are blue lights outside the window.

Volkswagen Tiguan 2011 Review

November 21st, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Volkswagen’s updated Tiguan 4×4 has new TDi diesel technology driving through a six-speed Tiptronic transmission making it more frugal by 0.5l/100km and with less emisions (by 10g of CO2 per km). Other performance figures remain the same, with the Tiguan taking 10.7 seconds to reach 100kph. With the 4Motion all-wheel drive and 235/55 tyres on 17-inch wheels it’s got plenty of grip on all surfaces, and it’s capable of towing up to two tonnes (as long a the trailer is braked). It also comes, as standard, with a trailer stabilization system to stop any speed wobbles.

So, it’s a city-style compact 4WD SUV, but with the toughness credentials to back it up. Our test car was brown, which seems to be staging a resurgence in popularity. You might remember the brown Ford Cortinas and Escorts of 30 years ago with moderate disdain, but the new metallic brown hues look quite sharp.

Volkswagen has designed the Tiguan to appeal to small families. There are fold-up tray tables behind the passenger and driver’s seat which have integrated cup holders. These seats are ‘cinema style’ – they’re slightly raised to give the rear passengers a better view. The seats are covered in hard-wearing upholstery. Continue reading “Volkswagen Tiguan 2011 Review” »

Thinking Outside Of The Box. And The Tunnel

November 17th, 2011 by Tim Grimley

As the fervour surrounding the Rugby World Cup has died away, the subsequent vacuum created in the national press has been slowly filled with a matter of secondary excitement, although almost certainly greater consequence; the forthcoming general election. So it saddened me greatly this week to find that the nation is not particularly engaged with who is best set to take care of our finances, who will bring food to the mouths of the ‘underclass’ or who can ensure our education system pumps out young minds that can take on the world. No, instead we’re all focussed on what the Prime Minister and his Epsom crony John Banks gossiped about in a café.

Thanks to judicious stirring from the press and opposing political forces, people now seem to think that because of a bit of idle banter we will somehow see John Key in an entirely new light. Well unless he admitted to popping out for a night of dwarf tossing with the Pommie rugby squad or decided to confess his long term desire to open up Otago for the Iranians to test their fledgling nuclear programme then I doubt it.

Why dig up Queen Street......

Yes it might be mildly embarrassing if it turns out our esteemed leader said some less than complimentary things about Don Brash or the coffin dodging element of society, but to be honest, so have the rest of us at one point or other and if that is the criteria on which you judge someone’s fitness to govern then frankly you need your head looking at. In reality, when it comes to placing your tick in the box, you should be concentrating on the policies on which the contestants are basing their campaigns.

And one policy is piquing my interest more than most; the proposed Auckland rail loop which is set to cost the nation a cool $2.4 billion. Having recently had my bathroom redeveloped – which is about the same size of a shoe box – I’m fully aware that $2.4 billion doesn’t go all that far these days when tradesmen get involved. Nevertheless it is still a fair old whack and what I find absolutely terrifying is the lack of apparent discussion on alternatives.

It seems that the main drive behind the project – unless you count the Green party who are happy to lump their slight weight behind anything that cocks a snook at the evil deity of motoring – is the desire of Labour to stop Len Brown’s ridiculous pre-election pledge coming back to crush his ego into powder form and throw it in the Waitemata. And it seems a silly idea to devote billions of dollars and the upheaval of the nation’s biggest city just to stop our idiot mayor getting a downer on himself before at least eying up some other options.

As I’m neither a civil engineer or transport planner it would be pointless for me to make suggestions about infrastructure alternatives such as multiple rail termini, trams and new ferry options – the logic and science behind them would be thinner than a politician’s promise – but I can do some basic maths and I think it would be entirely possible for us to have a system which could transform the Auckland transport nightmare almost overnight and at a fraction of the cost.

Firstly, we need to take a lead from other major world cities and introduce a congestion charge for the area encased between the sea and state highways 1 and 16 during the hours of 7-5, Monday to Friday. And not one of the pathetic $10 per day ones that people moan about, but still begrudgingly pay – I’m talking about a prohibitive fee that only the very rich heads of business can afford. $100 per day would be an absolute minimum. This would serve to make the rich people very happy, as wafting around the city in their flash cars would allow the rest of us to see just how rich they are – which is pretty much the only point of being rich as far as I can tell.

The rest of us would then have one of two choices; either get on the existing public transport or – and this is the genius of the plan – apply for a low cost government-leased scooter.

......when you can dig being part of the scooter revolution?

If you scour the pages of Trademe, you will find that it is possible to buy a brand new scooter for $1000, which means that if we bought one for every man, woman and child in Auckland we could have around a billion dollars left compared to the rail loop. In reality, the number of people who commute into the centre of the city is closer to 200,000, so even if all of these suddenly wanted a moped, we’d still have a spare $2.2 billion compared to letting Len play fat controller. And if we wanted to get really eco-conscious, we could splash out a bit more for the flash electric ones and then watch the value of our power companies soar prior to the big National-led sell-off as everyone plugged in at night.

And there would be no problems putting the low-powered peds on the motorway either – thanks to rush hour this morning, it took me a full hour and seven minutes to do the 23 km commute from North Shore to Mt Wellington today, which means an average speed of under 21kph. Even if that was doubled, the scooters could happily keep up.

OK, so I will admit that mopeds aren’t the most fun form of transport when it’s wet, but a decent set of waterproofs would be small beans compared to the commuting savings and it really wouldn’t be such a big deal rocking up at the office suffering from the dreaded helmet hair if you knew everyone else was going to be in the same boat. And let’s face it; these are small prices to pay for what has the potential to be an overnight revolution in the way central Auckland operates.

In fact I would encourage Len to put this one out to the Auckland public, because if they go for it then he could lay claim to instigating an idea that genuinely transformed the city. And if a bit of bad hair and damp weather does prove enough to put everyone off, then it would be all the proof needed that people’s hearts really aren’t that into change. In which case, he should just be a good boy and get on with building some decent roads as and when the coffers allow.

Because while playing trains and tunnels may seem a jolly nice idea, having Len run out of office and leave us holding a $2.4 billion dollar baby is a consequence I’m not all that interested in.

Volkswagen Golf GTI Edition 35 2011 Review

November 16th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

It’s been 35 years since Volkswagen’s Golf GTI trail blazed a new automotive sub-genre – the hot hatch. To celebrate the birthday of the iconic GTI badge VW has released a special anniversary model named the Edition 35 and the good news for kiwi Golf fans is that 60 of the 5-door cars are heading down to NZ.

So what’s so special about the Edition 35? Well, it’s built for true GTI enthusiasts and comes packing a boost in power, some subtle styling treats and an air of exclusivity. It’s for Golf GTI junkies who crave just a little bit extra GTI. Car and SUV took a dose of the Edition 35 to test if its effects are mellow or mind mashing addictive.

Any special edition will find itself graded in three core areas over the standard model it’s based on. These are; how much harder it goes, how much sleeker it looks and what extra features are included. The Edition 35 improves on the Mk VI Golf GTI in these three areas but by varied strengths.

Visually, it’s a ‘Spot the Difference’ game to find every exterior styling tweak the Edition 35 has over its stock sibling. Perhaps most noticeable are the new “Watkins Glen” alloy wheels, which at 18-inches fill out the guards and are well suited to the Golf shape. Harder to spot is the remodeled front bumper and bi-xenon headlights with LED running lamps. Along the flanks there are discrete “35” badges on the front fenders, there’s lower side skirting and gloss black wing mirror caps. The unique exterior design is finished at the rear with darkened tail lamps. Overall, the updates are subtle but fitting for the GTI, a model known for deft styling touches and a sleeper aesthetic. The Edition 35 is available in four colours – Tornado Red, Deep Black, Carbon Steel Grey and our sweet-looking test car was finished in Candy White. Continue reading “Volkswagen Golf GTI Edition 35 2011 Review” »

Toyota unveils Prius C hybrid small hatch

November 16th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Toyota has officially revealed its new standalone hybrid hatchback model that will be called the Aqua in Japan and be known as the Prius C in the rest of the world.

The Prius C is set to be the fourth entry into Toyota’s expanding range of Prius-badged hybrid models. There’s the regular Prius, the new plug-in Prius PHEV and the Prius V minivan. The new Prius C five-door hatchback will occupy a position as the base model of the Prius family.

The Prius C is only slightly bigger than the Toyota Yaris but packs a hybrid drivetrain, consisting of a “high-output” electric motor with a 1.5-litre gasoline engine. The 1.5-liter petrol unit produces 55kW at 4,800 rpm and 111Nm of torque, with the electric motor adding in up to 45kW and 169Nm.

Toyota said that it expects the Prius C to return a fuel economy of around 4.7lt/100km when used in the city. Continue reading “Toyota unveils Prius C hybrid small hatch” »

Jaguar XF Diesel becomes most efficient Jag ever

November 16th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

A British team has crossed the U.S.A, from New York to Los Angeles, in a Jaguar XF 2.2 Diesel averaging an incredible 4.49 litres/100 kms over 4,480 kms – making it the most efficient Jaguar ever built.

Finishing in Los Angeles, California, the journey – the equivalent of travelling from London to the Sahara – took in 11 states, three time zones and eight days. Yet the XF only required four stops for fuel – its peak economy of 4.21 litres/100 kms being achieved on the penultimate day of the trip.

Paul Alcock, XF Project Manager, Jaguar Cars, who was present throughout the journey, commented: ‘This project was designed primarily to test the potential economy of the XF 2.2D. The incredible figures achieved by the car were accomplished through making every element of the new XF as efficient as possible – from its aerodynamics to its four-cylinder 2.2-litre diesel engine linked to an eight-speed gearbox.’

Driven by independent testers, David and Alexander Madgwick, the XF 2.2D was a standard UK registered, right-hand drive vehicle. In the course of the coast to coast adventure, the car maintained an average speed of 85.2 km/h incorporating a multitude of real-life scenarios including the busy roads exiting New York and, towards the end of the trip, entering Los Angeles, road works, high winds and a climb to 2217 metres above sea level. Continue reading “Jaguar XF Diesel becomes most efficient Jag ever” »

Mercedes-Benz reveals hardcore 2012 ML63 AMG

November 15th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

It was back in 1999, that Mercedes-Benz revealed its first AMG-worked ML SUV – the ML55 AMG. During the following 12 years the performance SUV has sold over 24,000 units worldwide. Now the German brand is ready for the third generation of the series that will be called the 2012 ML63 AMG and will be officially revealed at this week’s 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show.

Powering the family-friendly beast is Mercedes’ 5.5-litre V8 biturbo engine that delivers 386kW of power and 700Nm of torque, representing an increase over the 375kW/630Nm output of its predecessor. If you need to do the school run even faster, there’s also an available AMG Performance Package boosts the V8 engine’s output to a crazed 410KW of power and 780Nm of torque.

With the “standard” package, acceleration from zero to 100 km/h takes just 4.7 seconds while top speed is quoted at 280 km/h. Estimated combined fuel is hardly frugal at 14.7l/100km.

Power is put to the tarmac through a permanent all-wheel drive system that operates at a ratio of 40:60 to the front and rear axle, and a standard AMG SPEEDSHIFT PLUS 7-speed automatic transmission featuring three driving modes – Controlled Efficiency (C) for improved fuel economy, Sport (S) and Manual (M). Continue reading “Mercedes-Benz reveals hardcore 2012 ML63 AMG” »

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