October 20th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham
The Legacy 2.5X sits in the middle of the range with the 2.5i Sport at the bottom and the GT Premium at the top. Safety is an ever-increasing buying factor and the 2.5X has the full complement of offerings from Subaru.
The two models beneath it don’t get Subaru’s EyeSight preventative safety technology, while the two models above add Subaru Intelligent Drive (SI-Drive) which allows you to adjust driving dynamics and throttle response.
Having owned a couple of Subarus in the past (one 1991 Legacy RS-RA and one 1996 WRX STI Type R) and being a definite advocate of the brand, it’s very noticeable to me how the character of the vehicles has changed.
Subarus used to have an aura, a sound and a driving manner all of their own; I liked it. Now, the Legacy just feels like any old large sedan that has lost its ‘Subaruness’, albeit a large sedan that rides exceptionally well. Some people might say this is good, though, because they have shed the boy racer image. Continue reading “Subaru Legacy 2.5 X Sedan 2013 Review” »
October 17th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham
Four-wheel-drive station wagons are good if you like skiing and other outdoor pursuits – you lead a life a little less boring. Your adventures might see you on softer or more slippery ground, but you don’t want to have the inconvenience, sloppy handling and poor fuel economy of an SUV.
The 320d comes with xDrive which is BMW’s all-wheel-drive system. This means that the 135kW 2-litre turbodiesel has no chance of overwhelming the available traction, even though there’s 380Nm on tap. It also means it scores a slippery 0.32 coefficient of drag which leads to some fairly frugal motoring: 4.5l/100km (when using the Eco Pro mode, which can reduce fuel consumption by 20% if you follow its tips, too).
Eco Pro adjusts the accelerator pedal and gearbox parameters. Shift points are changed, heating and climate control systems are modified to take less power from the engine, and you are given feedback on the display as to how much Eco Pro is contributing to fuel consumption savings.
Consumption is also enhanced by the auto stop/start function, which stops the engine when you are stationary, and brake energy regeneration which captures energy when braking and helps charge the battery. Capturing braking energy means that the engine has less load under full acceleration because it doesn’t have to charge the battery at the same time.
Put it in sport mode, and you should be able to achieve 0-100kph times of around 8 seconds as the 8-speed gearbox swaps its super-slick cogs. Continue reading “BMW 320d Touring xDrive 2013 Review” »
October 15th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham
Looking slightly more chiselled than its predecessor, the Golf GTI tempts you with a strong engine and handling setup to use those angles to slice through the wind at high speed. The six-speed DSG gearbox eggs you on with gear changes that seem impossibly fast, and acceleration that’s almost as rapid, repeating each rev range as you gain speed like a record skipping the groove. Depending on the quality of passenger the accelerator pedal will make them either swear or giggle. There isn’t any middle ground.
Five modes are available to fine tune the performance of the Golf: comfort, normal, sport, eco or individual (where you can choose from a number of settings and store your favourite combination). They are selected using the touchscreen in the centre of the dash.
Sport mode is a huge amount of fun, blipping the throttle automatically on the downshifts and making you sound like you know what you are doing with the heel-toe technique. It’s completely redundant in the city…except that it sounds brilliant.
Normal mode is what you will probably use the Golf in that majority of the time, unless you’re trying to be frugal (in which case, why would you buy the GTI)? Even using it in sport mode most of the time I didn’t notice that fuel economy was particularly bad. The other modes? Well, who cares because you buy a GTI to have fun, not save the planet. Continue reading “Volkswagen Golf GTI 2013 Review” »
October 5th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham
Look closely at the front grille and air splitter and you see the types of curves and air inlets that you expect on an F1 car. And it doesn’t stop there because there are vanes and little details all over the place like on the side of the rear lights. This is the IS300h F Sport, a 2.5-litre hybrid IS-series Lexus with all the fruit. That’s probably what the F stands for: Fruit.
But for similar money you could have the base model IS350 (shown on the left – the remainder of the images in the article are the IS300h). The purpose of this article is to tell you which one to go for: the lesser-powered IS300h plus the trimmings or the brawny but more basic IS350 which will smoke the tyres and give you grins with its 3.5-litre V6. The IS300h F Sport weighs in at $91,995, whereas the IS350 is $94,995 – barely a difference at this kind of money.
A beautiful line ascends gracefully from the side skirt through an imaginary chord across the rear wheel, along a panel intersection and into the rear light cluster. It’s one of the best executions of this design trick that I’ve seen and it draws your eye up around the rear of the car which is a perfectly executed tail that looks both executive and sporty.
Drop yourself into the bucket seat and it wraps itself around you. The seats are both supportive and comfortable, and a great balance between gripping you enough and not restricting your movement.
In the F Sport a central circular dial dominates the centre of the instrument cluster and in normal or eco mode it contains a gauge that measures how economically you’re driving and how much power is either being directed to the battery or drawn from it. Either side of the dial are information displays for the trip computer. Switch the Lexus into Sport or Sport+ mode and this centre ring slides to the right giving a larger screen area to the left. This will now show all manner of information ranging from what is playing via Bluetooth from your phone through to servicing information in an interface that is well-designed.
Look inside the IS350 and you get a more standard-looking set of dials without the fancy graphics that accompany the change in driving mode – they’re a bit too Camry-ish in my opinion. The IS350 only gets three modes (eco, normal and sport) whereas the IS300h F Sport adds a Sport+. Continue reading “Lexus IS300h F Sport and Lexus IS350 2013 Review” »
September 30th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham
Given the hypothetical situation that I had six children I could drive a Mazda Bongo Friendee, or I could give a child away and plump for the Kia Carens with only seven seats. I realise that the Bongo Friendee, which was produced from 1995 to 2005 would be a lot cheaper to buy than a brand new Carens, but the Carens does sit at the bottom of the price range for new seven-seat vehicles and as it’s not a minimum of eight years old like the Mazda, it comes with a raft of safety features like vehicle stability control and better crash protection (5-star EuroNCAP) that will be much more preferable for my remaining five children.
Plus, if I was out at a dinner party and someone asked me what I drove I would have to make my excuses and leave immediately if the phrase I had to mumble was ‘a Bongo Friendee’. How embarrassing!
So, people with prodigious loins, stop producing when you get to five children and you can own the quite astoundingly adorned Kia Carens for the sensible price of a smidge under thirty-eight grand. Sounds great, right? Well, it is and it isn’t.
Because it’s so cheap you will have to accept slightly less engine refinement and fuel economy than you might expect from its 2-litre, 122kW petrol engine. 7.9 litres per 100km on the combined cycle sounds alright, but in reality it’ll be in the 9s. However, when you do the calculations compared to other seven seaters, like the Toyota Prius V, even if they’re a litre or two per 100km more efficient, you’ll have to do a lot of driving for them to be better in the long run.
The engine can sounds a little strained when you’re trying to wring some overtaking performance out of it when loaded (but then it would, with only 213Nm of torque).
The (only) other problem with the Carens is Continue reading “Kia Carens EX 2013 Review” »
September 27th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham
When there are 120kph winds forecast and you need to get across a mountain range, what car will you turn to? You definitely wouldn’t want to be driving one of those ‘popular’ SUVs because you’d be knocked around like Mohammed Ali was using you for sparring practice.
You also don’t want something small and light. No, you want something powerful, sleek and solid, like a BMW M6 or Audi R8. Or, if you only have $55,000 to spare rather than $250,000, this Holden Commodore SV6 will do quite nicely, too.
On that night I traversed the Kaweka Range from Taupo to Napier, the trees were bending like peasants would bow to an Emperor, and there was already significant foliage littering the road. Heavy rain was forecast and I’d brought the journey forward to avoid the likelihood of a slip. The big Commodore took a beating but rarely missed a beat. Sometimes the gusts were strong enough to push it a third of the way across the lane but, in general, it held onto the road admirably.
In fact, there was more grip than I expected, even for a heavy car in the wet. When I applied too much power, the traction control reined the back end in. With the limited slip differential, grip out of all types of corners was fantastic. Add to the LSD electronic stability control (ESC), anti-lock brakes (ABS), and sports suspension and it creates a formidable handling package.
Other electronics include trailer sway control, and hill hold control. There was more grip from the 245/45R18 tyres than you’d need to explore under most circumstances Continue reading “Holden Commodore SV6 2013 Review” »
September 18th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham
When you get a car that’s only got 18km on the clock you know it’s going to be better 2000km later once it’s run in a little. We’re not allowed to do that many kilometres in the cars, though, so by the time I took the VW Golf TSI back it was barely getting warmed up.
Given another 1500km and the engine should have started to free up and everything would start to feel smoother. Hopefully, also the seats would soften up because I don’t have a whole lot of padding of my own in that department.
Volkswagen claims 5 litres per 100km fuel economy (combined) with the 7-speed DSG gearbox. I took an 80km jaunt up the motorway at night with the cruise control set to 105kph and I would say 5l/100km is optimistic at best (probably achieved on a test track, not Auckland’s hilly motorway system), let alone 4.3l/100km which is what VW claims for extra urban (i.e highway driving). At the speed I was doing, you’d get around 870km out of a tank (50 litres). Continue reading “Volkswagen Golf TSI Comfortline 2013 Review” »
September 8th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham
Bringing back a historic name is fraught with danger. Our memories tend to be dulled over time and we just remember what we want to. If the strongest emotions we experienced with a car were good, we’ll remember the car as being good. This is why people often want to buy something truly terrible like a VW Kombi to relive their youthful road trips.
But, if we got back in one of those older cars with an objective brain we would realise that cars have moved on, and in the same way you wouldn’t go back to having an outdoor toilet, or using acacia leaves as a contraceptive, you probably shouldn’t idolise the name of a vehicle that, at best, was tepid in its heyday.
Even if you conceived your children in a 1991 Pulsar SSS the reality is that it has not stood the test of time. It is really a very tedious Pulsar with a boomerang spoiler and slightly bigger wheels. You might have thought it was exciting back in the day, but if you go back far enough in history, so was showing some ankle.
Nissan put the SR20DE engine in it which dribbled out an anaemic 105kW. They could have given it some balls like the scary GTi-R, or even treated us to the SR16VE N1 which was the highest output naturally aspirated engine of its day until Honda’s F20C engine debuted in the S2000.
But they didn’t and this isn’t supposed to be too much of a history lesson because we’ve got a brand spankers 2013 Nissan Pulsar SSS to evaluate. At first glance, it’s a Pulsar with a body kit…keeping in line with the original, then. It does succeed in elevating the conservative Pulsar slightly. Very slightly. Continue reading “Nissan Pulsar SSS 2013 Review” »