Blogs: Paradigm shift: pity me…

This is going to be like going from Roseanne Barr to Kate Moss. From Greek yoghurt to trim milk. From an F18 to a Cessna. I’m giving up the HSV GTS for (wait for it), a Nissan Micra. In my own warped way I figured this would be funny on several levels, particularly if Nissan are kind enough to give me a candy pink one. Not only do I drop 4.6 of the six thunderous litres of the GTS, but I drop over 235kW, trade rear-wheel-drive for front-wheel-drive, and a boot the size of a container ship for a boot the size of a hat box (relatively speaking).

As a goodbye to the GTS I turned traction control off on the way home from the office. You’d have to be an idiot to turn it off on the GTS in the pouring rain, but my mock suicidal feelings of loss and remorse drove me to flirt with death. Several minor twitchy moments (and two huge slidey ones) later, and I arrived home. I love this car…well, except for the fuel consumption.

So, maybe I should look on the bright side. The Micra’s claimed usage is under 7L/100km, whereas I managed 17L/100km in the GTS. And, I’m now a red-blooded male who can fit both cars in the garage. The GTS is currently parked on the drive in the pouring rain, and in the morning I’ll need to do the car shuffle again with Jen before she toddles lethargically off to work in her own Nissan. Wow, we’ll have a pair of Nissans! I hope they don’t breed while we’re not looking.

This is going to be like going from Roseanne Barr to Kate Moss. From G ...

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Blogs: Praising the absence of light

Greg and I dropped the HSV and the Force 8 off and picked up the Micra from Nissan in Wiri. We pulled into the carpark with trepidation. What colour would the Micra be? A sparkly candy hue suitable for female Japanese teenagers, or a safe off-white for the conservative population? No, my Micra is in bad-ass black. A sense of relief washed over me.

I drove the Micra to Ford while Greg drove the Force 8. Then we crammed into the Micra. “Greg,” I said, “I’m feeling close to you.” The Micra’s not as wide as the FPV, but at least it’ll fit in my garage.

Greg and I dropped the HSV and the Force 8 off and picked up the Micra ...

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Blogs: FPV Force 8 vs HSV GTS

Phil ‘p1′ Clark and I took the GTS and Force 8 to Champion Dragway, Meremere today to do a comparison. Phil’s lane had a bit of standing water when we did the run, but that kind of thing just makes it more exciting!! The GTS (on the marginally drier side) was squirming all over the place on the cold Meremere track into third gear. One things for certain, it’s nigh on impossible to get anywhere near the manufacturers’ quoted 0-100 times. We even took the Vericom down to see what we could do (only a couple of runs as not to fry the clutch!)

So, how did they do? Well, you’ll have to wait until we’ve finished writing the reviews and editing the video. The we’ll put them up on NZV8, and Car and SUV.

Phil 'p1' Clark and I took the GTS and Force 8 to Champion Dragway, Me ...

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Road Tests / Car Reviews: Subaru Outback 3.0R 2007 Review

Subara Outback 2007 fq

Subaru these days means a lot more that it used to. Yes, there’s still the distinctive boxer engine providing a lower centre of gravity, the renowned chassis properties and symmetrical all wheel drive, making quite a unique package. However, previous iterations often come with a bit of a legacy (pun most definitely intended), in the form of interior styling and build quality.

Of course with a moniker like Outback and its associated power of suggestion, one would be expecting something a bit rural or rustic, traditionally be fulfilled by a swathe of brown and the odd bit of recycled tree or didgeridoo. It was with this stigma that I entered the cabin of this revised Outback, boasting hi-intensity discharge (HID) headlights, tweaked looks, Subaru Intelligent Drive and drive-by-wire technology

Parking your bum in the black leather and Alcantara trimmed seat, you are immediately struck by the presence of the multi-button clad Momo steering wheel and ‘flappy paddle’ setup, a la F1. Following a quick sanity check that firstly you have actually just got in the ‘right’ car, and secondly that the name on the label sewn into your cardigan isn’t Michael Schumacher (more on the German theme later), it’s a real wake up call!

Conveniently placed at your disposal are cruise control settings, in-dash six CD and radio settings, trip computer and information display controls, a button akin to the ‘M’ power button found on the BMW M5, and, of course, the unmissable flappy paddles. Indeed, as you cast your eye around the cabin you will find it well appointed, tactile and sturdy, leaving you with the distinct impression that Subaru must have planted a few moles in Fritz’s back garden.

To backup that theory, a recent research report conducted in Germany revealed that Subaru was second only to Porsche in product satisfaction. Not a co-incidence then and we’re not done yet. With an ANCAP 5-star rating, a host of excellent safety features and handsome rugged good looks, it’s clear things have come a long, long way and reasons not to buy are starting to disappear West.

Firing up the 3.0 flat six is an understated affair, but hey it’s not an Impreza, and once cruising on the open road there is minimal fuss with engine and tyre noise. Even with twin exit exhausts there’s not much of an aural impression of grunt from the 180kW (at 6000rpm) lump.

On-road for now and time to try out one of three ways to change gear and one of three settings in SI-Drive. To change gear, choose from normal full auto drive mode, sport-shift (like tiptronic) and paddle-shift (like Schumacher, but without the $800 million). On the centre console, in pride of place, is the SI-drive control with a normal (read Granny) setting, ‘S’ for sporty engine response, or ‘S#’ for warp drive. The latter is the one to use with the paddles and a choice bit of tarmac and it’ll give you a 0-100kph time of around eight seconds.

Being a softroader with its elevated disposition, it does feature a nicely damped ride but ultimately leaves you with a sense of disconnection from what’s really happening on the road. The steering doesn’t help, being over assisted, and you will really need to press further and harder to find its core personality.

So if you want a decent family wagon, one with abundant safety features, good off-road dynamics, a sporty edge to entertain, the ability to cruise easily whilst being ruggedly practical, and the capacity to tow the boat (up to 1800kg) while fitting up to 459 litres of your other toys in the boot, then look no further.  So what have we got then for the price tag of $57,990? Answer: A Kiwi classic with a side order of Bratwurst. In my books that’s a recipe for success.

Price: from $57,990

Click here to view Subaru Outbacks for sale on Cars For Sale NZ’s website (opens in a new window)

What we like:

  • Rear seat-belt connection display (ensuring those forgetful kids are belted up)
  • Removal cup holder bases (for cleaning)
  • Grunt is just an S-button away
  • All-round excellent visibility (for overtaking maneuvers etc)

What we don’t like:

  • Drivers seat height adjust pump — what’s that about?
  • Keyfob remote buttons to lock/unlock — will leave you swearing at night in the rain
  • Limited choice of colours — how many silver does one need?
  • Removed driver experience

Words Phil Clark, photos Darren Cottingham

Subaru these days means a lot more that it used to. Yes, there’s s ...

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Blogs: A V8 pushchair

Following on from my comments yesterday about protective mothers’ dislike of the sound of a 6-litre LS2, I thought I should find out whether there are people into modifying their pushchairs / prams / strollers. So I found the image at the bottom of this post (from An AT-AT from Star Wars. It looks like Jabba the Hutt is riding in it. (Ouch! Never criticise a baby!)

I’m totally surprised that we don’t have a thriving ‘pimp my pushchair’ scene. When I was a kid all you got was a canvas chair on an aluminium frame with tiny wheels. Hardly bling. Now there are ergonomically created off-road pushchairs with tractor-sized wheels and all the rugged image to go with it.

A quick search on the web brought up a large number of listings for powered pushchairs, particularly in the US where there’s a market for everything (particularly if it reduces the amount of actual effort required to do a job.) 60% obesity rate…I wonder why.

Following on from my comments yesterday about protective mothers' disl ...

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Blogs: Why the GTS is great

I took the GTS for a drive to the office on Saturday. I should have been filming it, but because the weather forecasting in this country is so useless I had cancelled the shoot. I had to go to the office because Vodafone’s Vodem (which is both the best and worst thing I’ve ever bought) crapped out yet again. Anyway, a 6-litre, 420hp V8 burbling in front was begging me to thrash it, but I couldn’t. You see, on a sunny Saturday morning lots of couples with pushchairs are out for some fresh air on the city pavements, pushing their tubby little offspring, getting them used to a life in front of the Playstation. Give the GTS too much gas and I get an appreciative (if secretive) smile from the guys, but the women stare daggers like I’m a murderer.

I took the GTS for a drive to the office on Saturday. I should have be ...

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Blogs: An enormous shuffling of cars

Today was mammoth:
Took the Hitman to pick up the Kia Magentis Diesel. Did the photoshoot. Took the Kia to Phil Clark’s and swapped him for the Captiva. Swapped the Captiva for an HSV GTS (oh yeah!). Took the GT back to Ford and swapped it for a Force 8. Took the Force 8 to do a photoshoot.

So, I’m looking forwards to driving home in the GTS. The extra $12k you pay over the FPV Force 8 is noticeable. It’s quicker, louder (in a nice way), and has more toys. The Ford’s easier to drive, though.

Photo by Sean Craig.

Today was mammoth: Took the Hitman to pick up the Kia Magentis Diesel ...

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Blogs: The allure of tyre pressure

The Dodge Nitro has a handy readout letting you know what the tyre pressures are. Cool? Kind of. Distracting? Yes. Does it go up significantly when they’re warm? Well, I increased the pressure by 0.1bar on the way to the office. But I spent time with my eyes off the road that I could have been using to type a text message (only kidding).

The Dodge Nitro has a handy readout letting you know what the tyre pre ...

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