I drove to Napier in BMW’s very accomplished 123d for the weekend. It’s a nicely balanced car with an engine that’s more than capable for overtaking at short notice. The handling is how a sporty coupe should be – you can feel the car moving underneath you as you push it through the bends as the chassis feeds back the undulations in the road surface. So this is what made my return trip on the Napier-Taupo highway annoying: two drivers who (at separate times) overtook me while I had the cruise control set to 107kph, then held me up through the bends. People, if you’re going to overtake someone who’s already exceeding the speed limit (but by an acceptable amount), make sure you’ve got the balls to stick with your decision in the corners. So, Mr Grey Cefiro with your skanky-looking girlfriend and her stupid little dog on her lap who let me overtake on the passing lane, then right at the end came by me at around 140kph only to slow down again to less than 100kph, please consider yourself virtually slapped. And Mr Red Civic who overtook me, then slowed down to 80-90 in places, again, but perhaps this time a virtual knee in the groin. Maybe common courtesy is being gradually beaten out of us by the plethora of crap American TV shows where anger and staunchness seem to be the only way to get things done. I might start a website called ‘virtual slap’ where you can upload your stories then people vote how many virtual slaps this person should receive. But that would just be perpetuating the anger. Virtually.
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Japan and Korea aren’t likely to go down to the pub for a few beers together any time soon. Despite the geographic proximity, these two countries have a history of conflict that strains relations to this day. Thankfully the arguments now only manifest themselves in economics; and the occasional dispute over small islands.
However it is the automotive arena that is the new battleground and cars like the Lancer better watch out because the Koreans are coming.
The Mitsubishi Lancer VR is a good car. Much as it pains me to say it, so is the Hyundai Sonata. This comparison wouldn’t have been a viable one a couple of years ago but times have changed and the fact that Mitsubishi has a Korean priced car is both a positive and a negative.
The positive is that you can now have the Lancer for the price of a ‘lesser quality’ Korean car. The negatives are two-fold however as cars like the Sonata and i30 are not the dodgy messes of cheap plastic they used to be and despite sporting new clothes and good driving dynamics, the Lancer’s interior is barely level with the quality of the Sonata’s.
So what does the Lancer have over the competent kimchi-consuming competition? Firstly the interior and boot space is almost unbeatable at this price point as the new Lancer is quite large inside and is pretty much perfect for the family with 2.2 children.
An interesting feature is the CVT automatic transmission which seamlessly offers forward motion in what is essentially one gear. Planting your foot from standstill is an interesting experience as the engine revs to around 5500rpm and stays there to 100km/h providing peak power all the way. While a novel feature there is a ‘tiptronic’ style self-shifting option for those who can get confused by such transmission trickery.
The exhaust note is not as sporty as you’d expect from a cousin to the all-conquering Evolution Lancer range, with an anodyne note that sounds like a petulant teenager whinging about having to do the washing up tonight. Despite the noise the engine itself is sprightly enough and really does like to rev given the chance. Put your foot down and the Lancer hauls with real gusto in an accelerative way that you can feel, which is quite something given that the highest priority manufacturers seem to give their designs these days is to insulate the driver from the driving experience. This is a feature I really liked about the Lancer. It’s an honest car that gives up ‘refinement’ levels for intimacy on the road. Sure it’s got more road noise than other cars in its segment, but the trade off for that is a lower weight and a better feeling of connection between you and the road, unlike the ‘steering through cotton-wool’ experience cars like the Camry/Sonata deliver.
This is a car that wants a driver, not someone only interested in a vehicle as a household appliance.
The styling of the Lancer is a solid ‘wedgy’ (not the bad kind) look that is quite handsome and which Honda used to great effect on the Accord Euro. As well as hints of the Accord there are glimpses of Alfa Romeo in the profile. While not a triumph of automotive styling, the high rear end is distinctive, featuring angular lights and a cool rear spoiler that unfortunately hinders rear vision. The gold colour of our test car didn’t really do any favours to the nice lines of the Lancer, but even in this hue it still managed to attract a few stares from those in the Car and SUV offices as well as those on the street.
Road manners are decent in the Lancer and it makes a good cruiser across town or out on the open road. The seating position is low and the steering wheel complete with audio and cruise controls is decent to hold despite looking like it came from a mid-90s Mitsubishi FTO. The rest of the interior is happily of this century and looks quite good with the dash featuring smooth styling and soft touch plastics.
The keyless entry system is a great feature to use for getting into the car but not as user-friendly when starting it. Instead of a start button there is a plastic switch connected into a conventional ignition barrel which you twist (like a key) to start the engine. A strange system, but Mitsubishi probably has a few ignition barrels lying round that need to be used up.
The Lancer better watch out as the Hyundai Sonata is a similarly priced competitor that has become a decent enough ride to compete with and possibly beat the Mitsubishi.
The Lancer is a good car but the interior quality needs to come up half a notch to be able to compete with its Korean rivals before focusing on home town opposition like the Mazda 6 and sublime Honda Accord.
If the slightly dated interior doesn’t faze you then the combination of quality engineering, good looks and low sticker price could make the Lancer a real bargain.
Click through to the next page for full specs on the Mitsubishi Lancer VR
Price: from $28,990. As tested $32,490.
What we like
Smooth CVT transmission
Dated steering wheel
Interior and boot space
What we don’t like
Keyless starting ‘key’
Spoiler obscuring rear vision
Whinging exhaust note
Dated (but functional) interior
Engine Displacement (cc) 1,998
Max power (DIN) kW @ rpm 115 @ 6,000
Max torque (DIN) Nm @ rpm 201 @ 4,250
Bore and stroke (mm) 86.0 x 86.0
Compression ratio 10.0:1
Fuel consumption – l/100km 8.2
CO2 g/km (LB model) 191
Fuel tank capacity (litres) 59
Dimensions / Weights
Overall length (mm) 4,570
Overall width (mm) 1,760
Overall height (mm) 1,490
Wheelbase (mm) 2,635
Track front (mm) 1,530
Track rear (mm) 1,530
Turning circle (m) 10.0
Kerb weight (kg) 1,350
GVW (kg) 1,850
Head room – front (mm) 950
Head room – rear (mm) 895
Trunk volume by VDA (litres) 400
Towing capacity with brakes (kg) 1,000
Towing capacity without brakes (kg) 550
Words Ben Dillon, photos Darren Cottingham
Alfa Romeo have decided to give its stunning Brera the full Turismo Internazionale treatment for the Paris Motor Show. Named the Brera TI, the car gets a few choice modifications that separate it from the standard coupe, stiffer springs and dampers, 19-inch wheels with 8C-derived rims, red Brembo one-piece front calipers, and TI logos on the front fenders for the outside.
The interior now boasts seats that are made highly bolstered and top-stitched, aluminum console trim or optional carbon fiber, aluminum pedals, perforated leather throughout, and the option of a leather dash. It also offers a long equipment list that includes a dual zone climate control system and VDC stability system with optional extras such as a radio navigation system, xenon headlights, sky window, adjustable door mirrors with memory, luggage retaining net and sensor pack.
The car will go on sale later this year with either the 185-bhp 2.2 JTS engine or 3.2-liter V6. We are unsure if such an exotic beauty will make it to NZ, but fingers crossed.
Tuning company Katech have come to the party with a lightweight version of the popular Corvette Z06. The Z06 Clubsport incorporates an array of aftermarket products that, in unison, reduce curb weight to 1,322 kg, while improving grip, cornering, braking and downforce.
“The Z06 is already light weight,” commented Jason Harding from Katech Performance. “We knew, however, that we could improve the power-to-weight ratio with several select modifications. Lamborghini has its Gallardo Superleggera, Ferrari its F430 Scuderia and Dodge its Viper ACR. Now the Corvette Z06 has the ClubSport package.”
To keep weight down Katech have made some serious modifications to the basic vehicle. A Brembo brake kit with 14-inch rotors replace standard brakes, 15-spoke alloy rims connect power to tarmac, a performance exhaust system and a complete Moton Clubsport suspension set up take over from the stock offering. Carbon fibre has replaced body parts at the rear and front and a new Exedy twin-disc clutch reduces drivetrain weight.
So what’s the final verdict? A power-to-weight ratio of 2.47kg/horsepower, and one hot looking Vette.
To find out more visit Katech’s website www.katechengines.com/katech_inc
The new Dodge Journey goes on sale in New Zealand this October. It’s a crossover designed 7-seater which boasts having the practicality of a people mover, the flexibility of an SUV and the overall fuel efficiency of a passenger car.
The powertrain choices for the Journey are a 2.7-litre V6 petrol engine linked to a six-speed automatic transmission, which is standard across the range. Also on offer is a 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine matched to a Chrysler-Getrag six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The vehicle features six airbags, ESP, storage combinations including underfloor storage bins, and a new dual-clutch transmission are standard across the range. Under the hood the 2.0-litre turbo diesel puts out 103kw and peak torque is 310Nm, it achieves fuel consumption ratings of 7.0 L/100km. The bigger 2.7-litre V6 engine produces 136kw and 256Nm of torque, and a fuel consumption rating of 10.3 L/100km (combined).
To view our Dodge vehicle reviews please see below
Ford have just pulled away the covers on its new Fiesta Panel Van at the 2008 IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hanover, Germany. Based on the three-door Fiesta hatchback, the new Panel Van is designed for both commercial and private users who need to haul small goods and require a ridiculously economical vehicle. Photocopier technicians the world over are delighted.
Under the bonnet the Fiesta offers a choice of gas or diesel engines ranging from a 60hp 1.2-liter gas unit to the big boy 1.6-liter diesel outputting 90-horsepower and 150 lb-ft. Fuel economy is frugal with results of 4.2l/100km for the most economical diesel engine option while sending just 110 g/km of carbon out of the tailpipe.
Set to launch in early 2009, the Fiesta may become a popular commercial fleet vehicle for environmentally conscious companies, or a solid run about for anyone who likes to move unhuman objects in style.
Summer arrived the day after I picked up the Audi A3 FSI Cabriolet S Line. A perfect weekend, the Saturday spent playing a gig at Ponsonby Market Day and dancing with a transvestite (we’ll leave that story to another day¦unless incriminating pictures appear in other media), and the Sunday spent lazing in the garden before a mid-afternoon jaunt to Orewa, cruising along the waterfront. It was the ideal car both for the Ponsonby Road set, and the beachfront cruise.
However, my lack of opportunities to dance with transvestites, and my usual shunning of the sun due to my inherent inability to tan left me wondering whether I would plump for the cabriolet when the hard top Sportback is a better car both dynamically and practically.
But I’ve got the cabriolet, so it’s best that I give you an honest appraisal of that.
The new A3 was launched at Pukekohe Park Raceway in June at the same time as the quite remarkable TT-S quattro (read the review of the TT-S here). I drove most of the variants except (from memory) the 3.2 quattro at the time around the back roads of the Franklin District, and the improvements over the outgoing A3 (which was a bit tired) were very welcome.
The new A3 features the 118kW/250Nm 1.8-litre turbo mill from parent Volkswagen Group’s range, mated to the fast-changing, six-speed S tronic (DSG) dual-clutch gearbox. This will get you from zero to a messed-up hairstyle in just eight seconds if you leave it to do its thing, or you can control the gears using either the gearstick or the paddles behind the steering wheel.
The A3 is a good-looking car with the soft-top folded down (a process that takes a stupendously quick nine seconds to open and only eleven seconds to close.) The hood will operate at up to 30kph.
This S Line variant has some additional body trim such as 18-inch wheels with 225/45R18 tyres (the standard car gets 17-inch wheels with 205/55R17), S Line badging, sports suspension and sports seating. The remainder of the car is the same, including the performance, with the fuel consumption a sensible 7.6l/100km combined, and 180g/km of CO2.
The usual Audi safety features are present, including ABS, electronic brake force distribution, electronic brake assist, traction control (ASR), electronic differential lock, electronic stability program (ESP), and hill start assist which holds the brakes on for a short while as you engage a gear to stop you rolling back on a hill.
With convertibles there is often a compromise, and it’s usually the boot space and additional road noise. The A3 doesn’t seem to suffer that much from road noise because the roof has noise insulation, but I have a slight change to one of the Bible’s more famous quotes: it’s easier for a camel to go through eye of a needle than it is to get a bulky load into the A3 Cabriolet’s boot. Because of the roof folding mechanism, the boot aperture is impractically small to the point of being annoying because it is not even a foot high. This isn’t a problem for your groceries, but you’ll be using the back seats for more than passengers on some occasions. One consolation is that the rear seats fold forwards so larger (but not taller) loads can be accommodated. The boot lid also requires more of a solid push than you’d expect to get it to close properly.
But you’ll undoubtedly give up a smidge of practicality in return for the joys of roofless motoring. Driving at motorway speeds with the roof down gives a small amount of buffeting — nothing major, as it’s actually better than having the front windows open with the roof up, which gives a noticeable fluttering and more apparent wind noise!
Audi’s speed-dependent power-assisted steering is standard, making for easier manoeuvring at lower speeds. Parking radar is included for the rear, which is an absolute necessity because the rollover protection hoops and rear seat headrests block much of the view through the back window. The Audi A3’s rear seats have a more generous amount of legroom than many cars of this size have in convertible guise — I am a gnat’s kneecap under six-foot and I can sit in the back with enough legroom even when the driver’s seat is also set up for me.
So, four people can be transported in atmospheric admiration, whisked along by the smooth engine, confident in the car’s abilities and safety features. I could go on about how it handles well, how it’s got a good dollop of overtaking power, and how the S tronic gearbox is fabulous as ever. But I think that will fall on uninterested ears. I’ll guarantee that 99.9% of people who buy an A3 Cabriolet won’t care because they won’t be the type of people who like to push a car to the limit.
This is a car aimed at the image-conscious — the type of people who don’t care that a Fiat 500’s suspension is hideous or that the new Mercedes-Benz CLC 200 is based on a seven-year old platform. Nope, they just want an optically pleasant car to cruise the beachfronts, and perhaps return to Ponsonby Road to sip a latte and watch fools like me dance with a transvestite.
Click through to the next page to read the full specifications on the Audi A3 Cabriolet S line.
Price: from $68,900 (S Line), or from $59,500 for the base Cabriolet
What we like
- Rear seats are functional with plenty of legroom as opposed to token
- Rear seats fold down to increase load space
What we don’t like
- Boot aperture isn’t friendly
- Rearward visibility very restricted
Audi A3 Cabriolet 1.8 TFSI
|Engine / electrics|
|Engine type||Inline four-cylinder spark-ignition engine with petrol direct injection, exhaust
turbo-charger with intercooler, 4 valves per cylinder, double overhead camshafts
|Valve gear / number of valves per cylinder||
Chain drive / roller cam followers / 4
|Displacement in cc / bore x stroke in mm / compression||
1798 / 82.5 x 84.1 / 9.6
|Max. power output in kW (bhp) / at rpm||
118 (160) / 5000 – 6200
|Max. torque in Nm / at rpm||
250 / 1500 – 4200
Direct injection/fully electronic with drive-by-wire throttle control,
|Exhaust emission control||
Close-coupled ceramic primary catalytic converter and ceramic underfloor catalytic converter with catalyst heating function via homogeneous split dual injection
|Alternator in A / battery in A/Ah||
140 / 280 / 60
|Drive / transmission|
Two electro-hydraulically controlled multi-plate clutches in an oil bath
6-speed S tronic dual-clutch gearbox with electro-hydraulic control
|Gear ratio in 1st gear / 2nd gear||
3.462 / 2.050
|Gear ratio in 3rd gear / 4th gear||
1.300 / 0.902
|Gear ratio in 5th gear / 6th gear||
0.914 / 0.756
|Gear ratio in reverse gear||
|Final drive ratio||
|Final drive ratio in 1st – 4th gear / 5th, 6th and reverse gear||
4.375 / 3.333
|Suspension / steering / brakes|
McPherson struts with lower wishbones, aluminium subframe, tubular anti-roll bar, track-stabilising steering roll radius
Four-link rear suspension with separate spring/shock absorber arrangement, subframe, tubular anti-roll bar
|Steering / steering ratio / turning circle in m (D102)||
Electromechanical steering with speed-dependent
|Brake system, front/rear||
Dual-circuit brake system with diagonal split. ESP with electronic
205/55 R17 tyres
|Performance / consumption / acoustics|
|Top speed in km/h||
|Acceleration, 0-100 km/h in sec||
Super unleaded, 95 RON
|Fuel consumption: urban / extra-urban / combined, l/100 km||
10.6 / 5.8 / 7.6
|CO2 mass emission, g/km||
|Standing / drive-past exterior noise level in dB (A)||
80 / 73
|Servicing / guarantee|
15,000kms or 12 months
|Audi Cover/ Vehicle/paint/rust perforation guarantee||
3 years / 3 years with unlimited mileage / 3 years / 12 years
|Weights / loads|
|Unladen weight in kg||
|Axle load limit at front / rear in kg||
|Trailer load limit on 8%/12% gradient, braked/unbraked in kg||
|Roof load limit in kg / permissible nose weight in kg||
|Cooling system capacity (incl. heating) in l||
|Engine oil capacity (incl. filter) in l||
|Fuel tank capacity in l||
|Body / dimensions|
Unitary steel body
|Number of doors / seats||
2 doors with additional side protection / 4 seats
|Drag coefficient Cd / frontal area A in m2||
0.33 / 2.12
|Length (L103)/ width excl. mirrors (W103)/ height (H100), mm||
4238 / 1765 / 1424
|Wheelbase (L101) / track at front/rear (W101/W102), mm||
2578 / 1534 / 1507
|Height of loading lip in mm (H195)||
|Luggage capacity in l, acc. to VDA block method (V210)||
1) depending on driving style and operating conditions
A3 Cabrio Specification and Option Sheet
Electro – mechanical power steering – speed dependent
Audi Cover Assistance – 3 Year Cost Free Motoring
Galvanised Body – 12 Year Anti-Corrosion Warranty
Safety and Security
ABS with EBD (Electronic Brake Pressure Distribution) and Electronic Brake Assist
Active Front Head Restraints
ASR with EDL (Electronic Differential Lock) and ESP (Electronic Stabilisation Program)
Front Driver & Passenger Airbags with Side Airbags in the in the Front Seats & Sideguard Head Airbag
Front Passenger Airbag Deactivation
Front Ventilated Disc Brakes
Hill Start Assist
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchorages Front & Rear
Rear Disc Brakes
Anti Theft Alarm With Interior Surveillance and Vehicle Immobiliser
Alloy Wheels: 18″ 7-twin spoke design
Tyres: 225/45 18
Automatic Hood, Fully Automatic With Acoustic Insulation, Activated Up To 30km/h
Auto Headlight with Rain Sensor, Coming-Home and Daytime Driving Mode
Body Coloured, Electrically Adjustable Exterior Mirrors
Front Fog Lights
Headlights with Headlight Range Adjustment: Halogen
Metallic Paint Surcharge: no-cost option
Rear Parking Aid
Spare Wheel: Space Saver
Sports Suspension: S line
S line Door Trim Strips in Body Colour
S line Rear Spoiler Integrated into Boot Lid
Sports Front and Rear Bumper Design
Sports Front Grille with S line Badging
Air Conditioning: Automatic
Audi Factory Audio System: Concert
Auto-Dimming Interior Mirror
Dashboard Inserts: Aluminium
Driver information system
Height Adjustable Front Seats
Height And Reach Adjustable Steering Columnl
Interior Trim: Alcantara /Leateher
Leather Multifunction Steering Wheel: 3-spoke S line with paddle shift
Outside Temperature gauge
Split Folding Rear Seat
Windscreen with Grey tinted strip
Words and photos Darren Cottingham