News: LA Design Challenge sparks futuristic entries

Mercedes LADesign entrant s

The LA Design Challenge is a chance for the world’s car manufacturers to flex their design muscle, and this year has seen some highly creative entries. The futuristic theme is “Motorsports 2025″, Mitsubishi was first to bring out their entrant: the MM25 Rally Racer, now the others have released their far out concepts. Audi, BMW, General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen have different creations that include a baja racer with an aerial reconnaissance drone and a Le Mans racer with a robot co-pilot. Then there’s the globe-trotting speed machine that can compete on land, air and water, and a Wipeout style electric race car.

They’re all outstanding ideas and show just how much imagination automotive designers keep stored up between sketching mini-vans and redesigning cupholders.

Blogs: Summer’s coming, time to get out to some car events and talk about politics

It’s the increased number of motorbikes on the road that really signals the arrival of warm weather. After all, if all you had to grip in the corners was two credit card-sized patches of rubber, and no windscreen wipers, you’d shun the chance to be at one with the elements on two wheels when rain is more than likely.

Car clubs are now out in force and the pristine restored classics that are locked up in winter are emerging. I was in Mission Bay on Sunday when a parade of 20 or so Morris Minors spluttered past, spewing toxic fumes into the atmosphere in the name of ‘heritage motoring’. And that’s fun – good on them for getting out and doing something. More of us should belong to car clubs.

Except that I no longer belong to a car club. I used to belong to three at the same time (one was Motorsport NZ affiliated which allowed me to race on tracks, one was a karting club, and the other was for the marque of car I had). The thing is that now I deal with car stuff all day. I love it – I’m right on the cutting edge of everything that’s going on in the auto world. But I don’t want to talk about it on the weekends for fear of burning out. If a car club consisted of a group of people getting together to do an activity (driving somewhere, then doing something), that would be great, but often the conversation is just about the cars, as if nothing else is going on in the world.

Too often it’s a group of guys, standing around, arms folded, looking under the engine bay of one of the member’s cars talking about what spark plugs are in there. Well, I want a bit more than that – I want conversations about last night’s episode of Family Guy, which NZ government candidate would be best for our car clubs, and why garden gnomes are rubbish.

So, it’s over to you to get out there and broaden the conversation amongst car club members. Get out there and decide which is right for you – blue or red (and I’m not talking Ford or Holden).

Nissan: Nissan Navara DX 2008 — Road Test


Coming out of retirement is usually an activity reserved for poverty-stricken heavyweight boxers, but Nissan has proved that even a ute can return to former glory with its Navara DX. The D22 model Navara was a big seller for Nissan from the late nineties till 2004 when it was replaced by a cocky new model in the Navara ST-X. Utility vehicle sales dropped and Nissan decided to return its old champ to the ring to see if it could still be a crowd favourite. After some reconstructive surgery in face-lift form, the Navara DX is back, but is it still a true contender in the highly competitive pick-up truck division?

The Navara measures up well. Most of the new styling has been done around the front end with new lights, bumper and grille, giving the vehicle an honest-looking face, neither aggressive or soft. Recently utes have become overly concerned with aesthetics, pushing them toward being more car-like in their styling, this cannot be said of the Navara DX. A thick black plastic front bumper and guards show that it is still a working vehicle and the matching black bonnet scoop lets everyone know it’s packing a punch. It is exactly this decision not to have flashy chrome detailing and a more curvaceous shape that may appeal to many buyers in the niche utility vehicle market.

The Navara’s interior styling is consistent with the exterior, its spartan and purposeful, various plastics cover the entire cabin including footwells making the entire area easy to clean with a wet sponge if not a hose. The dashboard and instruments are one area where the Navara does show some age – the heater controls and two adjacent ashtray set up really required more revision. The steering wheel is thin and poorly suited for big rough farm-workers’ hands.. The velour front seats are comfortable and easy to jump into and out of. In the double cab the rear seat is a tight fit for an adult, but comfort can be found with some leg positioning. The back doors are narrow which makes entry and exit tricky, it is still useful having this extra seating as an option, if not for everyday use. Good cabin storage is provided between the front seats, in the large glove box and two cup holders. Air-conditioning, electric windows and a single CD player come as standard; airbags are optional. The tested Navara had central locking but no keyless entry — useful for rugged conditions where an electronic remote may get wet or damaged easily, but annoying if it’s used for regular stopping, vacating and returning to the vehicle.

The Navara DX packs a tidy punch with a 2.5 litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel powerplant that produces 98kW and 304Nm of torque. This unit offers some grunt when worked well through the gears and cruises smoothly at motorway speeds, if noisily. The high level of torque generated makes the Navara DX a true brawler-hauler with an impressive load potential of over 1,000kg for the double cab and 1,300kg for the single. Towing is a breeze too with a pulling capacity of 2,800kg.

Handling? The Navara leaves you in no doubt that it’s a truck, dealing with corners more like a punch drunk has-been than a heavyweight champ. Independent suspension at the front and heavy-duty rear-leaf suspension at the back is set-up for heavy loads so quick cornering with an empty load-bay isn’t advised. Potholes and dips can cause a bouncy ride and driving over judder bars is an easy indication that the Navara is more suited to a rural setting. The grip is generally good, even in the wet the tyres shouldn’t slip if driven sensibly so footwork isn’t the Navara’s weakness. Off road credentials are good with a ground clearance of 230mm, an approach and departure angle of up to 31 degrees and it can cope with a climb of 39 degrees.

The Navara DX has had a big career and Nissan has done well to extract so much from this platform, but it doesn’t have any title fights left. That said, the Navara does score points for being no-nonsense, highly functional and strong in the working duties that utes are expected to perform. The age of the model and its no-frills appearance are reflected in its pricing so it offers good value for money. The ride could be more refined and the interior is dated but the Navara remains a competent journeyman if no longer a king hitter.

For the full specifications of the Nissan Navara DX click through to the next page.

Price: from $32,995

What we like

  • Good load capacity and towing power
  • High clearance
  • Hard-wearing interior
  • Reasonable price

What we don’t like

  • Ride comfort
  • Dated styling
  • Noisy engine

Nissan Navara DX – Specifications


2.5 Litre Diesel DOHC, 4Cyl In-line Turbo

Capacity cc: 2488
Power kW:
@ rpm 98 @ 3600
Torque Nm: @ rpm 304 @ 2000
Bore and Stroke mm: 89 x100
Compression Ratio:16.5:1
Fuel System:Common-rail Diesel


Direct Injection, Common Rail

Fuel Type:


Fuel tank capacity litres: 75
Fuel economy L/100km: 9.2
CO2 Emissions g/km: (LTNZ Standard) 239.7
Emission Compliance Standard: Euro 4


5 speed Manual
Gear Ratios:

Transfer Ratio Low
2.02 : 1
Final Drive


Front Suspension: Double wishbone with stabiliser bar

Rear Suspension: Leaf spring with telescopic shock absorbers


Overall Length mm: 5090
Overall Width mm: 1825
Overall Height mm: 1715
Wheelbase mm: 2950
Track – Front / Rear mm: 1525/1505
Ground clearance mm: 230
Minimum Turning Circle m: 12

Weights and Capacities

Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) kg: 2860
Kerb Weight kg: 1765
Total Payload kg: 1095
Gross Axle Front kg:1380 Rear kg: 1800
Towing Capacity Brake kg: 2800
Unbraked kg: 750

Words Adam Mamo, photos Darren Cottingham

News: MINI goes electric

Mini Electric fq

BMW have been making noise about introducing an electric version of its MINI for a while now, and photos of the special vehicle have just been released.

Equipped with a 572-pound lithium ion battery of unknown capacity, the MINI should have a range of 240km after an 8-hour charge. Its electric heart puts out 204-horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque, which will be enough to get the MINI going well. The run to 100 should take a little over 8-seconds and the top speed has been limited to 150kph.

The entire car weighs in at 1,450 pounds and regenerative braking is used to extend its range. Body modifications are minimal, with unique badges and paint separating the E from its gas-powered siblings. On the inside, the gagues have been switched up, with a multi-function unit in front of the driver, though the speedometer is still front and center in the middle of the dash. The MINI E will go on show officially next month at the LA Auto Show.

News: HUMMER on verge of extinction

Hummer H3 12

General Motors is moving full steam ahead on its hopeful sale of HUMMER, hoping to make a decision on the SUV marque “as quickly as practical.”

Shortly after appointing Jim Taylor to the head of the brand, the automaker has contacted interested parties with a full sales prospectus. Recent sales of the oversize trucks have been very slow, posting massive declines this year in the states. GM has too many other problems so it comes as little surprise that its anxious to get the former military-spec brand off its books.

Though GM claims it is not necessarily committed to selling the marque, they have few other options. An entire revamp of the HUMMER line would use up precious resources that would surely be better spent on more fuel efficient, forward thinking products like the Chevy Volt. In any case, there should be an announcement soon about the future (if any) of the HUMMER brand.

News: U.S fuel prices experience biggest ever drop

The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the States has recorded its largest drop ever as consumer demand decreases and oil prices slide.

The national average price for self-serve, regular unleaded gas fell 35.03 cents to US$3.3079 (NZ$5.60) a gallon (NZ$1.48/litre) on October 10 from US$3.6582 two weeks earlier, according to the nationwide Lundberg Survey. This was the lowest average price since March 21, 2008.

“Plummeting oil prices and caving gasoline demand have combined to bring the biggest retail gasoline price cut in the history of the market,” Trilby Lundberg, who controls the  survey, said in an interview. “We’ve been doing this 58 years. This is truly the biggest price drop.”

On Friday, fears of a global recession helped drive down US crude oil futures prices more than 10 percent to the lowest settlement since September 2007. US crude for November delivery settled on Friday at US$77.70 a barrel, down US$8.89, or 10.27 percent, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

News: Avis exposes road sign misreading

Avis Rent A Car has just published the results of its latest survey, which makes for worrying reading. The car rental company surveyed international motorists to see whether they could correctly identify domestic and foreign road signs and 53% answered incorrectly.

In the UK testing results were frightening “It is well known that foreign roads signs can cause motorists headaches, but we were shocked to see that even the simplest of UK signs had drivers stumped,” says Daniel McCarthy, Commercial Director, Avis UK.

Straightforward UK signs such as ‘No Waiting’, ‘No Cycling’ and ‘No Overtaking’ were misinterpreted by motorists. Most interestingly, over 20% of drivers thought the ‘No Overtaking’ sign indicated two lanes ahead, while 54% of those questioned identified the ‘No Motor Vehicles Allowed’ sign as ‘All Motor Vehicles Permitted’.

Today’s worldwide drivers are typically aged between 40-49 years old, meaning that many motorists have not studied their Road Code for over 23 years.

Avis did not conduct the survey in New Zealand making it difficult to project out possible results. A quick drive around the Auckland suburbs will show that it may not be the misreading of road signs that we struggle with, we just require more specific signs. These could include a don’t text message while driving sign and a don’t double park outside schools sign.

Blogs: Lamborghini vs Labrador

I’m not a massive fan of speed record attempts, I appreciate the engineering that goes into the vehicles, but I always thought they were just a bit dull. That’s until I heard of Luc Costermans breaking the world Blind Speed record at an airstrip in France.

The Blind Land Speed record is exactly as it sounds, Luc Costermans is fully blind. His bravery and ability to overcome his disability if only for a few moments, must be comended. But what impresses me most is Costerman’s awesome skills of persuasion, because he achieved the 309kph record in a Lamborghini that was borrowed.
Here in NZ we have so many young men who have their balls busted every time they want to borrow the drab family wagon just to go for a cruise. They can see perfectly and have no chance at exceeding 300kph no matter how hard they might try. So next time any of you young fellas are struggling in your efforts to get some wheels for the night, tell your folks about Mr Costermans and the trusting owner of a Lamborghini supercar.

So how did Costermans avoid steering off the airstrip and destroying his expensive borrowed vehicle, well that’s where the story gets a bit sad. Costerman’s seeing-eye Labrador Millie was harnessed up to run in front of the Lambo, Costermans had a long lead that fed into the car’s cabin. Unfortunately more forward planning was required and Millie could only maintain a speed of 55kph running flat out. Sadly Costermans had to mow her down in his attempt to break the record. Afterwards, despite the tragedy Costermans put on a brave front “I’m very, very happy. It was a team effort.”

Costermans can’t be getting complacent in his triumph. Rival blind speed demon Mike Newman is planning to break Costerman’s new record in a Keating TKR, running an ex-champion greyhound out front.

I don’t know how fast these blind competitors will go, or what exotic cars they will borrow next. However, I do know that speed records have got just a little bit more interesting.

Oh and I was only joking about Millie the seeing-eye dog, Labradors can’t reach 55kph. That’s just stupid.