Volkswagen Amarok Highline 2011 Review

June 24th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

It’s never easy being the new kid in class, if you want proof just ask Volkswagen’s new Amarok. As the first European entry into NZ’s hard fought ute segment the road ahead is rocky and steep for the Amarok. With the Volkswagen Group as a parent and some advanced tech in the Amarok’s genes it’s arrived loaded with interest and high expectations. But there are some established names and large egos to measure itself against in the NZ ute playground. So will the other kids like the new Amarok? Probably not. Should the other kids be worried? Absolutely. Car and SUV spent some time in the top spec Amarok Highline to see if this upstart has brought its A-game.

Under the Bonnet
The word Amarok means ‘wolf’ in the Inuit language and this is one wolf not content to just join the pack, it wants to do things its own way. Firstly, it has a smaller engine than its peers and is powered by a 2.0-litre twin turbo diesel unit. But that doesn’t mean its caught short on output figures; there’s 120kW of power on tap and 400Nm of max torque available from 1500rpm. That’s a fair whack of grunt for a ute of any engine size. It nearly matches the torque of the larger displacement mill in the Mitsubishi Triton (407Nm) and beats the Hilux’s 2.5-litre unit (343Nm) but can’t knock the Nissan Navara (450Nm) off its lofty perch.

The Amarok gets its high torque output from a linear twin turbo system that has the turbos engaging at different points in the rev range and overlapping briefly. The advantage of the smaller displacement engine comes with increased diesel economy. Official figures rate the Amarok at using just 7.8 litres per 100km and while that may prove a tough figure to chase down when carrying a heavy load or travelling gravel roads, it stacks up favourably against those same rivals. Continue reading “Volkswagen Amarok Highline 2011 Review” »

Renault facelifts Koleos SUV for 2012

June 24th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Renault has just revealed the facelift version of its Koleos SUV for the 2012 model year.

The refreshed Koleos features a thoroughly revised front end with a new chrome grille and slimmer, sportier headlamps. The side mirrors now include LED turn indicators.

In terms of power the Koloes will be built with three engine variants. Two diesel mills, the dCi 150 with a 110kW power output and the dCi 175 which pumps out 129kW.  For petrol fans there is a 125kW TR25 petrol engine that completes the small range. Exactly what Koleos variants will be offered in the NZ market hasn’t been announced.

The Koleos will continue to be built as either a 4×4 all-wheel drive or a 4×2 front drive model. There’s also a new colour on the Koleos palette, Cayenne Orange as pictured. Continue reading “Renault facelifts Koleos SUV for 2012” »

Peugeot 308 HDi 2011 Review

June 10th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

While it’s never managed to kick the same foothold into the NZ car market as its 207 supermini sibling, the 308 hatch has diligently chipped its way into the consciousness of kiwi car buyers. In our hardest fought market segment, dominated by Japanese metal, the 308 remains a refreshing alternative and has won its fans accordingly. It reached showrooms for the first time back in 2008 and now, has been updated with a reworked Euro 5 compliant diesel engine. Car and SUV had some seat time in the French family hatch to reconnect and feel the impact of the cleaner, greener 2.0-litre diesel motor.

With European emissions regulations changing to the stricter Euro 5 standard earlier this year Peugeot has got with the program on its 308 diesel range. The results have reached us here in NZ with the new 308 diesel hatch not just releasing less emissions (down to 120g) but with more power too. The turbocharged 2.0-litre diesel mill has had a power increase of 20kW to 120kW and a torque bump of 20Nm to a solid 340Nm in total. Can you notice the difference? You bet. The 308 HDi is a livelier performer, it gets off the line quickly and the high torque output makes it responsive at most speeds. There is a slight hesitation waiting for the turbo to spool up, but you won’t be left hanging long. While you wouldn’t call the 308 HDi a hot hatch, the power bump up has certainly given it a more muscular bend. That said, it remains a nicely refined diesel motor with very little vibration and noise once warmed up. Continue reading “Peugeot 308 HDi 2011 Review” »

BMW X3 xDrive 20d 2011 Review

June 3rd, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

BMW’s first generation X3 had life fairly well sorted. It was comfortably placed in the X-Series range beneath established big brother the X5 and the sportier X6. But life changed for the X3 with the birth of the X1 into the X-family. In response the new X3 would have to grow in size and refinement to create itself a new groove in the range. With this realignment in mind BMW has launched its second-generation X3 model for 2011. In the role of middle child the X3 is now bigger, handles sharper and has improved fuel economy. Car and SUV had a test drive in the new diesel-powered X3 20d to document its coming of age.

In terms of body proportions there’s definitely been a growth spurt for the X3 with a 28mm increase in width and a 11mm higher ground clearance at 212mm. There’s minimal change in height but at 4.65 metres in length and a widened track the X3 is dimensionally very close to the original X5. Despite the extra bulk and more equipment the new X3 is 25kg lighter than its predecessor – an impressive result for BMW engineers. Continue reading “BMW X3 xDrive 20d 2011 Review” »

Mini slashes pricing on most NZ models

June 2nd, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Mini has just released details of an aggressive new pricing strategy spanning most of its NZ model range. The entry price for a new Mini will now start at $27,900 and the recommended retail price of most new models will be reduced by between four or five thousand dollars.

This new competitive pricing will make Mini a more accessible option for those looking at purchasing a small, economical hatch in the NZ market.

“This price realignment will mean many more Mini fans can share in the dynamic go-kart like driving experience of this premium small car,” said the Managing Director of BMW Group, Mark Gilbert.

“Mini is renowned for its fun to drive and playful, boundary pushing nature, and is one of only a few brands which has an iconic 50 year plus heritage. Most people have a special memory or experience with Mini and this will give more motorists the opportunity to re-engage with their Mini experience.”

The entry model to the range, Mini Ray, is powered by a 1.6-litre petrol engine and weighs just 1135kg. Fuel economy is frugal at 5.4-litres per 100km combined. Continue reading “Mini slashes pricing on most NZ models” »

Volvo V60 D5 2011 Review

May 27th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Volvo station wagons reached a point when they achieved such a high level of safety and practicality than they became a bit of a cliché on wheels. The boxy-back shape had evolved to perfection for packing in gangs of children and wet Labradors. It was also an ultimately dependable machine that would keep moving forward in even the harshest climates. But someone told Volvo that these virtues just weren’t enough, they wanted sharp dynamics and even sharper styling. Could Volvo respond with a new excitement-injected wagon while still keeping its diehard family-focused fans content? The Swedish carmaker decided to find out with its new midsize V60 sport wagon. Car and SUV played Dad for a week to discover more.

The ‘boxy but good’ persona has been vacated with the V60, the good part remains, but the boxy, well that’s history. While Volvo’s curvaceous SUVs have been around for some time now the V60 represents a revolution in design for its station wagon body shape. At the front, it’s a carbon copy of its S60 sedan sibling with a lightly creased bonnet dipping into a corporate grille and purposeful dual headlights. Along the sides, the V60 cuts a mean profile with a flowing full-length shoulder line and a glasshouse that tapers away. With blackened-out pillars and a gradually sloping roof the V60 has a long, low coupe-like look but it’s at the back where the new design language is heard loudest. With hints of the C30 hatch the rear is framed by stretched vertical tail lamps a roof-mounted spoiler and a chunky bumper. A broad rear windscreen helps with visibility and the tailgate opening is as wide as the design allows. Our tested mid-spec V60 D5 model was finished with 17-inch alloys, integrated roof rails and dual exhaust tips. Aesthetically, the V60 has the look of a true sports wagon, it’s progressive and acts as a rolling public service announcement that buying a Volvo wagon can now be a decision based on visual appeal. Continue reading “Volvo V60 D5 2011 Review” »

Toyota Hilux SR5 2011 Review

May 24th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Toyota’s long-serving Hilux ute is a bit of a legend really. Not just for its ongoing sales success but also for the stories of ridiculous robustness and unlikely war zone application. Crossing the Sahara desert without a drop of oil or having surface-to-air missiles launched off their decks, some Hiluxs certainly have to earn their reputation.  But the Hilux’s battles aren’t just fought by militias in Africa or the Middle East it’s caught up in a war right here in NZ. The dominance of Toyota’s pickup is no longer total, it faces threats from all sides, the torque thumping Nissan Navara, Great Wall’s low rent V240 and the slick VW Amarok.

How can the Hilux best arm itself for the challenges ahead?

With a new safety package on its top spec SR5 model double cab, that’s how. Sure, it’s not as exciting as another 50Nm of torque from its diesel mill or some fierce new exterior styling but safety upgrades extend the Hilux’s appeal as a true work/play proposition. It’s also reason enough for Car and SUV to get back behind the wheel of a Hilux and revisit this ageing superpower of the ute segment. Continue reading “Toyota Hilux SR5 2011 Review” »

Ford NZ confirms 2011 Territory pricing and range

May 13th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Ford New Zealand has confirmed pricing and model range for its new 2011 Territory. Prices start from $49,990 for the rear-driving petrol TX model and finish at $69,990 for the top-spec Titanium all-wheel-drive diesel model.

A broad seven model range will cater to different requirements and budgets. The big choice for Kiwi buyers is if they want diesel or petrol powering their Territory. The Diesel variants come at a premium and if all-wheel-drive is desired it has to be a diesel model with both petrol offerings being RWD only.

The all-singing Titanium model replaces the Ghia range-topper from the previous line-up and comes packing fruit like 18-inch alloys, full leather trim, LED lights, unique front bumper, satellite navigation and a rear DVD player for the kids. Continue reading “Ford NZ confirms 2011 Territory pricing and range” »