Jeep: Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 2007 Review

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 2007 fq

Hmmm. What to do on a Sunday afternoon. Perhaps I should shoot a rap video…nope¦maybe I could go hunting¦no, for me that consists of picking the best cut out of the supermarket freezer. Well, there’s always climbing a mountain, but there’s not many to climb in Auckland, and they’re all paved anyway. How about wearing some army fatigues and getting all M*A*S*H? These are just a few of the plethora of options with the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara.

Steve the Wizard, our Land Rover-driving Content Editor quipped that if I should get it stuck in a bog he’d come and pull me out. But I think not. You see, the Jeep is a geologist’s dream. Not a sandal-wearing, bearded geologist, but a hip, bling-laden geologist who listens to gangsta rap through the enormous subwoofer in the boot, and drags his rock-breakin’ homies along for the ride. This Jeep is tough enough for the badlands, and rugged enough for the really bad lands. It has 2WD and high- and low-range 4WD, and with eminently capable suspension, ground clearance of 238mm, disc brakes all round, and approach and departure angles exceeding 30 degrees, it’s built for exploring the dirt and rocks.

Conveniently for our geologist, there’s a built-in sample collector under the front bumper in the form of the sump guard. Then when you look close you realise that the bumper and all those flared guards are plastic — this is good for weight-saving, but if you’re in the middle of the forest on a muddy path tighter than a Scotsman’s wallet they might not take the really hard knocks.

But I’m not giving it the hard knocks in my review because I’m guessing that the worst the majority of Wrangler Unlimited drivers will throw at it would be a metalled driveway or a boat ramp, and that really it’s about image and practicality. Towing and load capacity are big drawcards for the Jeep. 2300kg is a significant amount to drag along and the total luggage area is big enough to fit several limestone boulders.

So, what is the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara like to drive? Well, if the roads are like wide, gently cresting dunes that you can ponderously monster your way down, without having to negotiate tight bends at speed, it’s a huge amount of fun. Not that the Jeep isn’t capable of taking the corners with its 255-width tyres, but like many rugged off-roaders, the steering rack has a large number of turns lock-to-lock — 3.1 — so when the going gets windy, the arms get frenetic.

Still, while gathering the armfuls of turning action, you do sit in a kind of upright comfort, casting an eye over the surrounding cars. If you want to see more, immediately above you are two panels that can be removed to make the Jeep a convertible at the front. The whole rear canopy also comes off — you’ll need a sizeable space to store this optional extra, though. And, just like the good ol’ days, you can take to the doors with an allen key and remove them as well. There’s a soft top too for more convenience, but it looks much cooler with the hard top.

As well as the integrated padded rollcage, the Jeep has plenty of airbags, ABS, EBA, Brake Assist, Electronic Roll Mitigation, on-/off-road brake lock differentials and traction control. The traction control doesn’t get much use on the road. With 130kW to play with at 3800rpm and 400Nm (automatic version), the 2.8 common-rail diesel with variable geometry turbocharger makes a cruisy dash to 100kph of a fraction under 12 seconds, while the rock and roll comes courtesy of a 368W amplifier and seven Infinity speakers. Our test Jeep was fitted with the optional six-CD/MP3 compatible, DVD-compatible stereo with auxiliary input jack for portable music devices.

This is a design-by-ruler machine — straight lines are de rigueur. It’s not sculpted in the wind tunnel, or moulded with soft, feminine curves — it’s a 4×4 that looks like a block of granite with the corners knocked off. This is why the Jeep is cool. It has a total disregard for air resistance, political correctness and subtlety. It’s for rock stars. I like it, but can I have one in camo?

Price: $55,990 as standard, $60,880 as tested with dual top, bigger alloys, deep tint and 6-disc changer

Looking to buy a Jeep Wrangler? Click here (opens in a new window)

What we like:

  • Very cool
  • Practical
  • Lot of car for the money

What we don’t like:

  • Plastic bits all over
  • Driver’s footwell needs more room, and brake pedal is too high
  • Performance doesn’t set the world on fire: SRT version would be nice

Words Darren Cottingham, photos Quinn Hamill

Hmmm. What to do on a Sunday afternoon. Perhaps I should shoot a r ...

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Blogs: Bioethanol: the other manufacturers fight back

This morning the NZ Herald ( reports that car firms are warning of biofuel fire risks and that it will damage a million Japanese imports. That would be why I didn’t receive self-congratulatory press releases from some of the manufacturers yesterday. But they’re not addressing the fundamental problem of biofuel: to produce enough to make any real difference you’d have to convert all the world’s agricultural land to grow biomass to convert to ethanol. You can’t have your cake and eat it – I mean, how would you create the flour?


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Holden: Holden SV6 Commodore 2007 Review

Holden SV6 Commodore 2007 fq

It’s widely (and incorrectly) believed that the late US Republican Senator Everett Dirksen once said, “A billion here, a billion there, sooner or later it adds up to real money.” He did say the first half of that statement, and a billion here (or there) is what Holden injected into the development of the VE Commodore range. Fortunately it added up to some real improvements. The most visible result of the rather surreal level of sovereigns invested in the VE is the new aggressive, wide-arched styling. Complementing this is a set of 18-inch alloys wrapped in 245/45 rubber and sports suspension, with a sports body kit and spoiler, all coming as standard.

The SV6 looks like it’s moving forwards even when standing still. It has the muscular presence of its more well-endowed V8 cousins, but packs a more frugal 3.6-litre Alloytec V6 pumping out 195kW and 340Nm. You get a respectable mid-7 seconds to 100kph, but the SV6’s claimed fuel usage of 11 litres per 100km trounces that of its V8 brethren. Perhaps another Dirksen quote is relevant here: “The oil can is mightier than the sword!”

And that quote is more apt than it seems at first. You’d think a billion bucks would be prohibitive money for the Aussies until you realise their big market is the Middle East, and there they are competing for the sales that petrodollars will buy. Our equivalent could be milk-dollars — ‘white gold’ — but it’s not specifically farmers that the SV6 is aimed at: it’s families and fleet buyers.

The SV6 feels like a spacious car — if you’re basketball player you would have enough room to stretch your gargantuan legs. In fact, when I put the seat the furthest back I could barely reach the pedals, and I’m a gnat’s hair under six feet. The leather-wrapped steering wheel houses controls for the stereo, and they don’t intrude when driving vigorously, unlike some cars that cram as many buttons on the wheel as possible. These switches control the 80W Blaupunkt stereo which comes with seven speakers. The six-disc, MP3-compatible changer is optional, though.

Rear passengers get their own aircon vents, and there’s a ski hatch that folds down to form an armrest with a couple of cup holders. Which brings me to the disadvantage of the six-speed manual version: where you would usually put your arm when changing gear is exactly where the cups go for the driver and passenger. It’s even worse if you’re a water bottle-toting, hydration junkie like me because those bottles are tall. You want to have your arm perfectly placed, and well out of the way of liquid-carrying vessels to get the best out of the sporty gearbox, but unless you put your drink in the passenger’s side cup holder that just isn’t going to happen.

Motorway cruising, when you don’t have to change gears while remaining optimally hydrated, is excellent. It’s quiet, smooth and easy to drive. Cruise control and a trip computer that has four different selectable speed warning levels help keep you on the right side of the law. When the road surface isn’t smooth, you can feel the hardened suspension. It’s not a sports car, but it is capable of dealing with fast and slow corners. Antilock braking, electronic brakeforce distribution and electronic brake assist help you shed the speed before a tight turn, then after the apex it’s most fun to be in first or second because in the upper gears the acceleration is fighting too hard against the Commodore’s 1700kg.

So, you get V8 Supercar-inspired looks, but with a sensible V6. Like Republican versus Democrat, there are going to be people who just have to vote V8, but who know that a V6 might be better for their personal economy. It’s a question of what you need versus what is best for you, and that’s not saying that a V8 Holden isn’t the right choice over the SV6. It’s apt, then, to close on another Dirksen quite, “I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times.”

Price: from $48,990

If you’re looking to purchase a Holden SV6, click here (opens in a new window)

What we like:

  • Styling
  • Standard kit is excellent
  • Cavernous boot (489 litres total cargo area)

What we don’t like:

  • Mid-range performance is thwarted by the car’s weight
  • The handbrake lever, and cup holder positioning

Words and photos Darren Cottingham

It’s widely (and incorrectly) believed that the late US Republican ...

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FPV (Ford Performance Vehicles): Ford FPV F6 Typhoon 2007 Review

FPV Typhoon 2007 fq

There are often hugely coincidental events that happen to me when testing cars, and this week’s was the biggest: I picked up the Typhoon, New Plymouth conjured up a gaggle of twisters, Northland experienced severe flooding, and in Auckland the roof of an apartment building was blown off. It’s probably a good job that FPV don’t make a car called the Apocalypse (they do make one called the Tornado, though!)

The problem with really bad weather is getting out exploring the envelope of a car, particularly with the Typhoon’s prodigious amount of power and torque. In the wet the traction control light blinks H E L P in Morse code as it tries to reign in 270kW and a cyclonic 550Nm of torque. This level of torque is unusually high for a petrol inline-6, but it comes courtesy of a turbo (and probably the psychological need by FPV for some level of parity with the V8 options in the range.)

I love turbocharged cars, and the way they feel quicker than they are because of the slight lag before the storm of power is unleashed. That’s not to say the F6 isn’t quick — 100kph comes up in around 5.3 seconds — or laggy, because it’s not. It’s a punchy delivery accompanied by a whistling mayhem underneath the bonnet. In fact, bury the throttle then lift off and the wastegate sounds like a missile of compressed air has whooshed by your head. This is the fastest Ford you can buy, and it easily eclipses FPV’s GT, which is a thundering V8 with 20 more kilowatts!

Inside, the central console houses a screen that displays the aircon settings, trip computer and stereo settings. A couple of years ago when I first drove the FPV’s GT I commented on how the screen was a retro throwback to Windows 95. It hasn’t changed in the Typhoon but, while not being pretty, it is very functional.

There is dual climate control. You can have fun trying to create a mini hurricane by setting the driver’s to hot and the passenger’s to cold. The seating position is too high, even on the lowest setting, although it does mean you get good visibility and can see the nose of the car (something that’s handy for a car that is this long).

Finally the weather cleared and I got to give the FPV what it (and I) deserved: a good fanging through the Waitakeres. I can only say that the F6 is a fantastic drive. The 245-width tyres wrapped around 19-inch rims give such huge grip and a progressive and controllable breakaway that it inspires confidence.

You’re buying the performance and handling that FPV bestow upon a standard Falcon, not a car packed with fripperies. Everything is focused on the engine and handling. You get a stereo — a fairly good one with a 6-CD stacker — but it’s not an excellent stereo like the 350Z has, for example. You get some creature comforts (reversing sensors are a welcome inclusion), but the driver’s seat is only partially electric, there are no heated seats or photochromic mirrors, and you can’t even fold the wing mirrors in electronically.

We shouldn’t let those minor points cloud the experience. The Typhoon is about nature’s raw power. But unlike inclement weather you’ll want to be out in the Typhoon as much as possible. It’s a car that manages to be a competent cruiser as well as being an absolute laugh on the back roads.

Price: from $67,990

We like:

  • Hedonistic prods of the throttle
  • Wheels
  • More hedonistic prods of the throttle
  • Very comfortable drive
  • Vixen red colour is fabulous

We don’t like:

  • Lack of ‘bits and bobs’ like a rear window wiper
  • Seating position
  • Ummmm

Words and photos Darren Cottingham.

There are often hugely coincidental events that happen to me when ...

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Blogs: This bioethanol thing

I’ve now had Ford, Holden and VW send me a media release about this morning’s launch of bioethanol at Gull on the North Shore. Congrats to Clare at Ford who got it to me first. Brodie at Holden wasn’t far behind, but Jarrod at VW came a distant third. Still, that’s better than the other manufacturers! Where are your releases, eh? It’s 5:30 and the junket was at 10:30am. All the releases came resplendent with cheesy-grinned photos of the PM in a fluoro safety jacket. That’s why I wouldn’t be the PM: bright orange and lime-green/yellow just don’t suit me.

I've now had Ford, Holden and VW send me a media release about this mo ...

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Blogs: Big cars and small garages

I’ve taken to parking the bigger cars outside my garage. Our garage fits 2 small cars, and the Territory is enormous. I had 4 inches either side of Jen’s car, and when she tried backing out, she left some paint on the side of the garage (good job it wasn’t on the Territory!) So, it’s the early morning driveway shuffle for me as Jen leaves for work. And that’s the problem with a lot of 70s and 80s houses. You’d think the double garages would be designed for enormous Holdens, Fords, or Yank tanks, but they’re designed for one Ford Anglia (who the hell needs a second car?), and a work bench for the real man’s DIY proclivities. Pity then I can’t get the skillsaw to the Territory and make it 6 inches narrower.

I've taken to parking the bigger cars outside my garage. Our garage fi ...

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Mazda: Mazda6 Sport Hatch 2.3L Limited 2008 Review

Mazda6 Sport Hatch 2007 fq

I’ve always liked the shape of the Mazda6, it blends futuristic with sporty, in a cool Dr Who in Adidas Trainers kind of way. The Sport Hatch variant with the full bodykit and 17 inch wheels certainly adds to the effect. Step inside and you will immediately get the sense that it feels bigger on the inside than it looks from outside. By all accounts a bit Tardis-like, then.

The interior trim continues the space-age theme, with splashes of aluminium and smoked silver contrasting nicely against black. Add to this the circular multipoise air vents, neatly arranged controls and the atmospheric red backlit displays and you have all the makings of a successful command centre from which to monitor your progress. So far, so good then for any prospective distance (or time) traveller.

Whilst en route to your next encounter you can relax in comfort levels more commonly found in your favourite Gentleman’s and Time Lords’-only club. As you sink into the soft leather seats and bathe yourself in the sumptuous aural experience emanating from the six CD (in dash) 200 watt Bose Sound system, you get a real sense of ‘everything’s under control’. And it is too.

The Mazda in 5-speed Activematic form goes about everyday life without much drama or fuss, requiring little from the human at the controls. This is good, because you are going to need to spend more time paying attention to the highly italicized speedo display.

At low speeds there is a distinct lack of velocitorial sensation one normally associates with progress. If this wasn’t a car I’d swear the inertial dampers were over-compensating. It’s just too easy to pass lower speed limits without knowing, which presents the real danger of attracting unwanted attention (is there any other kind?) from the Rozzers patrolling that part of space. Let’s be careful out there.

So how does this Tardis-like device get about? Well, the core power of this Mazda 6 (2.3 Ltd) presents something of an anomaly, even to the Dr. Displacing 2.3 litres, with twin-cams and four valves per cylinder it’s certainly at the beefier end of the four cylinder powerplant universe, but only manages to produces 122kW @ 6,500rpm. As you’d expect from the capacity it’s a bit lumpy at the lower end, almost like a refined diesel à la Mercedes Benz.

As you accelerate (0-100 takes 9 seconds) it only really shows interest in generating ‘Impulse power’ after 4500rpm, by which point you’ve already had your 207Nm of torque served up. Navigate quickly through some twisty stuff and you’ll be pleased to find there is an excellent chassis underneath you. Combined with accurate steering there is some fun to be had, with only the slightest whiff of understeer.

So its easy to drive, yes, even the Doctor’s Great Granny could manage a respectable blast to another universe, deal with the Daleks and get back in time for tea. Zoom zoom zoom? Well not quite, but in order to get the best from the engine and the most from the chassis, you will need the 6-speed manual to up the grin factor.

So in summary, the Mazda6 is very similar to a black hole with its ability to swallow up time and distance easily. Probably not quite Dr Who in trainers, but maybe more junior executive or sales rep in slippers.

Oh yes, and next time you look up at the stars in the night sky and wonder ‘where to next’ consider this, Mazda have now produced more cars than you can see visible stars. That’s a staggering 40 million.

Price: from $49,915

There are Mazda6s for sale on this website (opens in a new window)


  • Exterior design — one of the best looking around
  • Bose sound system – every car should have one, especially with speed adjusted volume control
  • Handling — chassis is a delight
  • Steering — sharp and responsive
  • Economy — 8.9 L/100km


  • Engine — sounds strained at higher revs
  • Stealth-like capabilities on lower speed limits – seriously
  • Lack of traction control
  • Cruise control — wanders a bit slightly +/- km/h at times

Words Phil Clark, photos Darren Cottingham

I’ve always liked the shape of the Mazda6, it blends futuristic wi ...

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Opinion Pieces: Noisy cars are like ugly people

The furore over loud cars is ridiculous. For the vast majority of people when a noisy car goes past, it takes a few seconds at most. So, noisy cars are really like ugly people. When I’m driving (in my very quiet Mazda station wagon) and I pass someone with an unfortunate genetic lineage do I jump up and down at the visual abhorrence? No, I simple wait for the moment to pass.

Should the government mandate that the ugly be measured by some yardstick — symmetry, body mass index, height, hair colour, and so on — or be made to hide until they have been modified from their stock bodyshell? Should they be chastised, fined and slapped with a sticker if they don’t comply? While it would undoubtedly improve the aesthetics of the country’s shopping malls, it’s not the answer. In the same way that mandating low noise emissions from exhausts is not the answer to whatever question it was that needed answering.

Actually, do we even know the question? It seems a minority of intolerant people have taken offence to a minority of enthusiasts. What they do not take issue with is that buses, trucks, lawnmowers, aeroplanes, ferries, jetskis, speedboats and a variety of other mechanical objects we deal with in our daily life are actually louder than all but the most extreme of cars.

It seems like a small few are being penalised under a system that is not equal because the media can hook onto a ‘definition’ that polarises people’s opinion. One rule for all vehicles is all that’s needed.

The furore over loud cars is ridiculous. For the vast majority of peop ...

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