Range Rover Evoque TD4 Black Design Edition 2014 Review

March 12th, 2014 by Darren Cottingham

Hoi polloi: it’s the Ancient Greek word for the commoners, plebeians and the great unwashed. When you drive an Evoque Black Design Edition, you’ve elevated yourself above this, yet you still have credibility because it’s got the Land Rover badge which is a bastion of workhorse utility. But it’s not your typical boxy Land Rover you’d drive with a peak cap and a Swanndri. This is the Duchess of Cambridge: she’s got the cocktail dress, but you know there’s a pair of wellies in the boot.

range-rover-evoque-td4-dynamic-2014-rear-quarterAs you get comfortable with being one of the hoi oligoi – the few – you’ll need the ability to circumnavigate your dominion, and fortunately the Evoque comes with some off-road smarts to get you to all four corners. Continue reading “Range Rover Evoque TD4 Black Design Edition 2014 Review” »

Land Rover Discovery 4 Black Limited Edition 2013 Review

February 20th, 2014 by Darren Cottingham

land-rover-discovery-4-black-front-quarter

At $130,250 I’m as likely to go roving over the land as I am to wear my favourite business shirt while doing judo. However, with the limited off-roading I dare do in the Discovery 4 Black, which consisted of a verified ‘safe’ bit of beach and some fairly non-challenging rocks, I can confirm that it has abilities that normal cars don’t have on terrain that will throw you around and pin you to the mat.

land-rover-discovery-4-black-front-interiorFive Terrain Response modes help the air suspension adapt to the requirements. Leave it in the standard mode and you’ll get through most obstacles, but there are options for low gear ratios, raising the suspension up to 125mm for a total of 310mm for extreme off-road, and lowering it by 50mm to allow easier entry for passengers. Bashing through the rocks? Put it in the rock crawl mode which gives lighter braking. In ruts and mud? Put it in the mud mode for better ground clearance. On the beach? Put it in sand mode to give better launch control to stop you digging yourself a hole. Continue reading “Land Rover Discovery 4 Black Limited Edition 2013 Review” »

Nissan Juke Ti-S 2013 Review

February 11th, 2014 by Darren Cottingham

IMG_2746

We drove a Juke Ti back in April 2012 and our main complaint was that it was slow, and that’s not surprising seeing as the standard Juke has a piffling 86kW at 6000rpm. The gods of grunt have waved their hands over the Juke Ti-S, though, endowing its 1.6-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine with a turbocharger which lifts power to 140kW, and four-wheel drive to make sure it gets it all to the ground.

IMG_2742It’s like the difference between firing an air rifle and a bazooka.  Gone is the need to try to force the pedal through the firewall to get any kind of acceleration because torque is also substantially increased from 158Nm at 400rpm to 250Nm in a nice flat band from 2000-5000rpm. The Juke Ti-S seems like it gets to 100kph in around 8 seconds which is pretty respectable for this type of car; the Ti languishes like a tortoise, taking around 12 seconds to get to 100kph. Continue reading “Nissan Juke Ti-S 2013 Review” »

Hyundai ix35 2.4 Elite AWD Series II 2014 Review

December 28th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

The time to update the ix35 arrived a little before this new model. We last had an ix35 back in 2010 and since then the crossover challengers upped their game and the ix35 slipped down the rankings in terms of its competitiveness. We noted the strong engine, sharp styling, economy and equipment levels in the review (which you can read here), so how does this update treat the ix35?

hyundai-ix35-2.4-elite-awd-rear-quarterThe styling hasn’t changed significantly – headlights and alloys, both with more modern detailing, plus new colour options and roof rails – so you won’t notice much difference. Hyundai is working on colours that are branding statements themselves and you can have yours in Atomic Orange, Remington Red and a few other more muted tones.

The ix35’s styling has aged well in its short lifetime, and all that was needed was a freshen up. And so we have this model which is essentially a facelift.

hyundai-ix35-2.4-elite-awd-front-interiorOn the inside there’s a slightly larger LCD between the rev counter and speedometer which shows the trip computer. The steering wheel features a couple of buttons for answering a Bluetooth-connected phone, plus a button to change the steering feeling to one of three modes (Flexsteer) – something that helps fix the vague steering we noted in the previous review. The rest of the interior is virtually identical.

The new audio system will stream audio via Bluetooth, and you can plug your phone in as well as use more conventional audio sources. Continue reading “Hyundai ix35 2.4 Elite AWD Series II 2014 Review” »

Mitsubishi ASX Sport 2.2D diesel 4WD Review

December 5th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

We had an ASX Sport almost two years ago now, albeit a petrol one (read the review here). On the face of it, there’s not a huge amount of difference, except that it doesn’t seem as comfortable (more about that later). The reversing camera image has moved from the rear view mirror to the large screen in the centre of the dashboard. The central console area has been redesigned and utilises the space much better. The steering wheel has a slightly better feel and the buttons that control the cruise control and stereo are arranged to be marginally easier to use without looking at the wheel.

mitsubishi-asx-diesel-2013-rear-quartermitsubishi-asx-diesel-2013-front-interiorYou still get paddle-shifters behind the wheel which control the six-speed automatic gearbox that is hooked up to the 112kW, 366Nm 2.2-litre turbodiesel. That is plenty of torque and it results in competent overtaking performance and reasonably constant cruise control speeds (engines lacking in torque struggle under cruise control in hillier terrain). However, it sometimes feels like it holds a high gear too long as you slow down and you get that low frequency vibration that, if you were in a manual car, would signal that you should change down a gear. You can use the paddles to quickly flick it down or up a gear if you need to.

Fuel economy is quoted at 5.8l/100km combined. Our primary journey was four people and light luggage to Mount Maunganui in which it achieved low a 5l/100km figure.

There are seven airbags (including a driver’s knee airbag) plus four-wheel ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution and active stability control – pretty much the same as the previous model.

Rural owners will appreciate the scratch resistant bumpers. Ironically, someone backed into our test ASX while it was parked and definitely left a scratch on the bumper – perhaps it could have been worse. Continue reading “Mitsubishi ASX Sport 2.2D diesel 4WD Review” »

Subaru Outback 2.5i Sport 2013 Review

November 11th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

Skiing, mountain biking, kayaking, wakeboarding: they all need either long or cumbersome equipment, and transport to places where proper tarmac can be sparse. They need a vehicle that’s an enabler. The Outback 2.5i Sport is that vehicle. With four-wheel drive, plenty of ground clearance and a practical station wagon body, it’ll take a family or a group of mates for adventures.

subaru-outback-sport-2.5-2013-rear-quarterThe Outback 2.5i Sport is a raised version of the Legacy 2.5i Sport and is the step below the Forester in terms of off-road capability (the Forester has a few more mm of ground clearance and some extra driving modes to help in the real rough stuff).

subaru-outback-sport-2.5-2013-sideAs well as Symmetrical All-wheel Drive, Subaru’s main safety feature is its EyeSight Preventative Safety System. This consists of a camera either side of the rear-view mirror. The cameras capture a three-dimensional image and can tell if a car is braking ahead of you, or if you’re about to run into a pedestrian. If automatic braking intervention is required, EyeSight can make that decision before you’ve even had time to react to help reduce or diminish the severity of a frontal collision.

EyeSight also takes over the throttle pre-collision, and provides active cruise control, lane departure warning and lead vehicle start alert (when the car in front of you moves out of the way while you’re under adaptive cruise control, or you are stationary and the car in front moves away it beeps to let you know). Continue reading “Subaru Outback 2.5i Sport 2013 Review” »

BMW 320d Touring xDrive 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.

BMW-320d-xDrive-Touring-rear-quarterThe 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).

BMW-320d-xDrive-Touring-front-interiorEco 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” »

Toyota RAV4 Limited (Diesel) 2013 Review

August 26th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

A few weeks ago we tested the Toyota RAV4 GXL petrol. We commented that it was good, but definitely not class-leading. Now we’re dealing with the top-of-the-line RAV4 Limited diesel. It carries a substantial price tag at $62,790 (over $11,000 more than the GXL petrol), so is it worth it?

toyota-rav4-diesel-limited-rqIf you want to compare, read the GXL review here (opens in a new window). The Limited adds a lot more fruit, as well as the diesel engine, which I’ll get to in a minute.

toyota-rav4-diesel-limited-interiorThe RAV4 is pitched into a crowded marketplace that includes the Mazda CX-5, Holden Captiva, Hyundai Santa Fe, Subaru Forester, Kia Sorento R and more. While the level of gear you get for the money compared to the price of the RAV4 Diesel Limited is variable, they’re all going to provide you fairly spacious and well-equipped motoring.

More features

Satellite navigation is included in the Limited and displays in the 6.1-inch colour touchscreen. Its operation is reasonably intuitive.

A Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) warns you in your wing mirror if a vehicle is travelling in your blind spot by using radar sensors.

toyota-rav4-diesel-limited-bootFor the truly weak (and the very short), the powered rear door is handy. Actually, it’s handy even if you’re a basketball player and strong because you can easily close the tailgate while carrying things to and from the boot. One thing I would improve is how quick it closes because you can’t lock the RAV4 until it is fully closed, and by the time that lethargically happens I can walk almost out of range of the remote central locking.

The driver’s seat gets a few more motors in it to help with the electric adjustment of height, cushion tilt and lumbar support, plus both driver and passenger seats are heated. The seats are also leather, and you can get optional terracotta trims, as shown in our photos.

The cabin’s spaciousness is enhanced by opening the moon roof to let more light in.

On the exterior the headlights are HID (high intensity discharge) to accompany the LED park/daytime running lights and the Limited comes with 18-inch wheels vs. the GXL’s 17-inch alloys.

The engine

toyota-rav4-diesel-limited-rear-seatsTowing capacity is 300kg better than the petrol, at 1800kg on a braked trailer as there’s more torque from the diesel engine (you can get the diesel version in GX, GXL and Limited models, not just the limited). The engine produces 110kW and 340Nm and Toyota reckons that’s good for 6.5l/100km (if you’re using the eco mode).

It’s connected to the same 6-speed automatic gearbox with SIEC (Super Intelligent Electronic Control), AI (Artificial Intelligence) and sequential S mode, as well as Flex Lock Up control.

toyota-rav4-diesel-limited-reversing-camera

The engine is the main problem with the RAV4. It’s noisy; agriculturally noisy and harsh sounding. There’s a nautical saying: to spoil the ship for ha’porth o’ tar. It means that you have a good product then you compromise it by omitting one simple thing (i.e. you’re compromising the ship by not putting a half-penny’s worth of tar on it, which means it’ll leak in that spot). This is what I feel has happened with the RAV4. Now, I’m not saying that it’s class-leading even if it had a better motor, or that a motor is a ‘simple thing’. The RAV4 is an SUV which will undoubtedly perform, but it doesn’t lead the way even with the petrol version, and with the diesel I just couldn’t see myself putting up with the motor.

So, as I mentioned in the review of the GXL, there are some nice features such as the cargo hammock in the boot; it’s extremely comfortable and spacious, and of course you’ve got some four-wheel drive smarts with the lockable differential so it’ll be useful for light off-roading and areas that see snow. In general, I like diesels, and some manufacturers do them very well, but I’m not sure about this engine. Add into the mix the fact it’s still a little wallowy and unwieldy feeling on the road, and I think I’d be looking hard at the competitors like the 2.2-litre diesel Hyundai Santa Fe, and more so the diesel Mazda CX-5. The engines in Holden’s Captiva and Kia’s Sorento R and Sportage aren’t really any better and the Captiva’s seats are well outclassed by the RAV4, so unless you want to save $15,000, I wouldn’t go there. You could even consider a Subaru Forester as a competent all-rounder.

Price: $62,790

Pros

  • Well-appointed
  • Comfortable

Cons

  • Noisy engine
  • Needs to up its game

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

Page 1 of 41234