The Age Of Resolution

January 2nd, 2012 by Tim Grimley

Not too many weeks ago, I caused much laughter and general hilarity around the office when I resolved that by the end of the summer season I would be the proud owner of a bronzed physique that would allow me to supplement my meagre income as a SBW double.

Being a slightly lardy Pom with flesh reminiscent of a bottle of Anchor, my colleagues’ comic disbelief was understandable. Not only did I have the inconvenience of an intensive sit-up regime and modification of my diet to match the calorific intake of a bulimic mouse to contend with, but also a fairly major raft of genetic inadequacies too.

However, with the foolhardy determination of one whose only previous association with the word ‘diet’ was as a prefix to ‘coke’ I set about my challenge with gusto. And without wanting to blow my own trumpet I made a fairly decent fist of it – thanks to a couple of sunny days at the beach my skin tone transformed to a weak beige and because I live in an area of North Shore where you need pitons to get up the average driveway, I shed a number of kilos through gentle exercise; things were looking good.

Sod the gym; let's all be more driven in 2012

Then, along came Christmas.

Thanks to well meaning but entirely misguided efforts at gift giving on behalf of my circle of friends, around 80% of my diet for the last seven days has been manufactured by Cadbury’s; with a similar proportion of my liquid intake coming courtesy of the good folk at the Tui brewery.

And because the weather has been changeable at best, my exercise regime has dwindled to become nothing more than lifting paint rollers during half-hearted efforts at renovating Grimley Towers. So because of this, in conjunction with my calorie intake ballooning to that of the average American, it’s no real surprise to find that the electronic scales now feel the need to remind me that they don’t take coach parties.

All of which has taught me a valuable lesson – making resolutions that require a) lots of physical effort and b) self deprivation of the almighty foaming ale is a really stupid idea.

But to find the silver lining in this particular cloudy vista, the 31st December is rather a good time to learn such a lesson. Because while the rest of the country will be crawling out of bed the following afternoon with a stinking hangover and the first gym payment looming, I’ll be on my way to putting a sizable chunk of my own resolution to bed.

At the crack of dawn (which is around 10am in my world) we – being myself, the current Mrs Grimley and a bag of acceptably clean underwear – are clambering into my sheddy Mercedes and chugging off in a Northerly direction. And unless the car decides otherwise, we are going to keep going all the way to Cape Reinga.

It can be all too easy for those of us whose working week and other commitments mean we often see little beyond our own home town or city to forget just how amazing New Zealand is. We know it’s pretty special and we know it’s out there, but somehow there’s never quite enough time to pop out and visit. Besides, we seem to get a lot of jealous karma from tourists just for being on the same landmass anyway.

But to take the place for granted in this manner is nigh on unforgivable; particularly when so many of these incredible places are at the end of some truly spectacular drives. And so, starting tomorrow, I resolve to get out there, drive the roads, see the sights and truly appreciate this astonishing country. I can only hope the Mercedes agrees.

And as soon as I get back I promise the sit-ups will start again.

Holden Barina 2009 Review

April 21st, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

When any team is missing a specialist player a ringer quickly needs to be found from any location. In 1985 when Holden wanted an entry into the subcompact market it had to look toward the greater General Motors stable for an eligible transfer. For the first two generations of Barina Suzuki provided the donor vehicle with its Cultus. Generation three and four were rebadged Opel Corsas. The Spanish built cars were quality but weren’t profitable for Holden, and worked only to maintain a presence in the entry level new car market. Since 2005 the generation five Barina has been sourced from Korean budget-brand Daewoo ready to wear Holden’s Lion crest. For 2009 the 5th gen Barina has been refreshed with cosmetic enhancements and safety upgrades to take its position as Holden’s specialist hatchback.

A low price point has always been a strength for the Barina, and with the current model being Korean—made, savings are passed on to the budget conscious. At $18,490 for the base model, the Barina is competitively priced and comes with the peace-of-mind of a three-year warranty. With the exception of the Suzuki Swift the Barina is cheaper than its other direct rivals; approximately $1500 cheaper than the Toyota Yaris, $3,000 cheaper than the Mazda 2 and a hefty $6000 less than the new Ford Fiesta. But what exactly do you get for your money?

The Barina boasts a competitive equipment list featuring the usual tricks like air con, power steering and electric windows and some more special moves like an MP3-compatible CD stereo with auxiliary port, height adjustable driver’s seat and handy steering wheel-mounted audio controls.

Safety credentials were an area of criticism for the Barina on its release in 2005, after only achieving 2 out of 5 stars in ANCAP safety testing. The 2009 facelift has rectified this and now the Barina scores a very respectable 4 stars. Four airbags are now standard with the addition of side-impact airbags and higher density steel now reinforces the B-pillar structure. So the 2009 Barina is stronger and has a few new tricks in the repertoire, but how does it look in the Holden strip?

Upgraded front and rear styling is highlighted by large curved and jewelled headlights and new clear rounded tail lamps. Prominent character lines flow from the bonnet into the A-pillar, side air vents feature on the front guards and a roof-spoiler sits out back. Finished off with 15-inch alloys the Barina has a clean, likeable Euro-aesthetic. That said, the overall exterior look is quite generic and understandably reflects little of the Holden design language seen on its larger vehicles.

Step inside and the Barina offers very good interior space for it’s diminutive size, legroom in the back seats is ample and there is minimal capacity for knocking your head even for tall occupants. The feeling of spaciousness is enhanced in no small way by generous use of glass giving the cabin an airy feel and making for excellent visibility out the front and sides. The chrome-detailed instruments are easy to read and dark dash plastics are broken up with silver touches. Fit and finish is varied with some materials feeling quality to the touch, but many of the moving knobs and buttons appear light and flimsy. There are touches of character in the high-mounted clock and round air-vents that work to maintain a general circular theme. The seating fabric feels durable and the front seats are soft and comfortable but could benefit from more bolstering for lateral support.

Under the Barina bonnet sits an inline 1.6l 4-cylinder motor with 16 valves. This unit puts out 76kW of power and 145Nm of torque. It’s a peppy powerplant that offers more torque than its competitors and when mated to the 5-speed manual transmission it advances well and offers usable power for city driving. At motorway speeds the motor feels comfortable, but like most smaller engines requires decent space for overtaking manoeuvres. It returns a 7l/100km fuel economy which is frugal but still thirstier than the Toyota Yaris and Suzuki Swift which can both achieve 6.7l/100km.

Shift the Barina on to twisty roads and it’s a capable machine offering a reasonable degree of grip when turning in and exiting corners. However, at only 1.68m wide it’s quite a narrow car, which is handy in constricted city streets, but does result in body roll when changing direction at speed.

Ride quality is generally sound with an acceptable level of road bumps and dips being transferred through to the cabin. Road and wheel noise can be heard in the cabin but remains generally unobtrusive, engine noise is prevalent under acceleration but is relegated to a low hum while cruising.

On city duty Holden’s import hatch does the business, its no frills, no nonsense approach will suit entry-level buyers. The Barina is easy to drive and has an engine capable of keeping up with general traffic. Fit and finish are ok but can’t compete with others in the segment and although the driving dynamics are good they can’t match the Mazda2 or Toyota Yaris. Overall, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the Barina and it generally functions well, but it’s still sitting inside the boundaries some of its direct competitors are beginning to push outward.

Click through to the next page for a full list of specifications.

Price: from $18,490 as tested $20,490

What we like:

  • Spacious interior
  • Peppy motor
  • Good equipment list

What we don’t like:

  • Overall quality
  • Body roll
  • Generic styling

Words and Photos: Adam Mamo

Holden Barina (2009) – Specifications

Engine
1.6 litre engine. Four cylinders. Double overhead camshafts operate four valves per cylinder. Aluminium head. Multipoint fuel injection. Variable intake manifold. Adaptive knock control system
Bore x stroke (mm)  79 x 81.5
Capacity (cc)  1598
Compression ratio (:1)  9.5
Power (ECE, kW)#  76kW @ 5800rpm
Torque (ECE, Nm)#  145Nm @ 3600rpm

Recommended petrol   ULP Alternative PULP for slightly higher performance
Fuel economy* (L/100km) 3 dr and 5 dr hatch 7.0 7.6
Petrol tank capacity (L)  45

Brakes
Front ventilated disc brakes. Rear drum
Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)  4-channel, 4-sensor

Suspension
Front: MacPherson strut with offset coil springs, gas pressure dampers and stabiliser bar
Rear: Torsion beam with trailing arms, coil springs and gas pressure dampers

Steering
Power assisted rack and pinion
Track (mm)  Front Rear
3 dr and 5 dr hatch 1450 1410
Turn circle (m)   10.06
Wheelbase (mm)  2480

Dimensions
Exterior dimensions (mm)  Length Width (inc. mirrors) Height 3 dr and 5 dr hatch 3920 1680 1505
Interior dimensions (mm)  Leg Shoulder Head 3 dr and 5 dr hatch front 1048 1362 998 3 dr and 5 dr hatch rear 898 1340 955
Cargo volume (L)  Rear seat up Rear seat folded  3 dr and 5 dr hatch 220 980

Kerb weight (est. kg)  Includes A/C and all fluids Manual Auto 3 dr hatch 1135 1140 5 dr hatch 1145 1150

Service  The complimentary inspection is due at 3,000km or 3 months (whichever occurs first). The first service is due at 15,000km or 12 months (whichever occurs first) and then every 15,000km or 12 months (whichever occurs first) since the last service. Additional services may be required under certain driving conditions

Audi Q5 3.0 S Line 2009 Review

March 26th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

audi-q5-fq1

It was my first time to Taranaki. I was hoping the angry weather gods would have hangovers and forget to create cloud around the summit so I could get some great shots of the Audi Q5 S Line so very kindly loaned to me for the trip. The reason for going to Taranaki was to attend WOMAD. It seemed that while the weather gods were slumbering peacefully, the technical gremlin gods were all in attendance at Bowl of Brooklands.

Natacha Atlas almost had a tantrum and stormed off the stage, the world seemingly on her shoulders, after some minor sound problems. Fat Freddy’s Drop had to descend from the stage for five minutes while power was restored to the on-stage foldback monitors (the speakers the musicians use to hear themselves). Anika Moa’s lead vocals were so quiet they were almost extinct.

All this was really quite unacceptable in a festival that already had a weak lineup of international acts. But this isn’t the forum to bash WOMAD (he says, looking for a different forum to bash WOMAD). The sun shone brightly, and best of all, I had the Q5 to look forward to on the return trip (especially the twisting Mt Messenger and Awakino Gorge roads).

I’ve driven all of Audi’s range except the R8, and that irks me more than a slightly disappointing weekend music festival. So I’m in a good place to state that the standard (non S Line) Q5 3.0 diesel is probably the best value car Audi produces if you’re looking for the ideal combination of performance, price, interior comfort and versatility, handling and styling.

Built on the A4 platform, the Q5 is a mid-sized SUV that handles like a car, and even more engagingly than the slightly dull A4. Four-wheel drive quattro sure-footedness works fabulously with the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox to deliver a seamless surge of diesel power to speeds beyond your requirements. With 176kW and 500Nm of torque, overtaking was a breeze – the Q5 gets to 100kph in just 6.5 seconds, a full 3 seconds quicker than its 2-litre diesel little brother. Quoted consumption is 7.7l/100km. We managed 8.2l/100km with three people, luggage and lots of full-throttle overtaking bursts.

Despite being diesel, you’d be hard pressed to realise it unless you get out and stand near the bonnet. Like I said with the 4.2-litre Q7, it’s quiet enough on the inside that you hardly notice the engine is running.

As it was my first trip to Taranaki, the optional MMI navigation system was welcome, with only one minor hiccup as it directed me via Te Kuiti’s town centre rather than the adjacent bypass. It’s an improvement on previous Audi navigation systems, though, and will have 3D map support eventually.

External styling is sporty, especially with the S Line package. It has a sleek, low roof contour and this leads to a coefficient of drag of only 0.33 – the best in its class. The S Line 20-inch wheels, which are 255mm wide on all four corners were confidence-inspiring, but created road noise which seemed to sap the bass out of the stereo, negating the $2,500 Bang & Olufsen unit’s increase in fidelity over the standard unit.

One option you should be ticking if you’re a road warrior is the adaptive cruise control. It maintains a safe following distance, matching your speed to slower traffic if you catch anything up. And you will, because the Audi Q5 gives you the kind of grip in the corners that you just don’t expect from an SUV.

Are there really any downsides? Well, for the same money there are plenty of cars that will do an equal or better job on account of their lesser weight and lower centre of gravity, but SUV people like SUVs, and in luxury medium SUV-land you’re really talking Land Rover Freelander (long in the tooth), BMW X3 (harsh ride), and perhaps the Mercedes ML320 (slow with some odd interior ergonomics). Driving a sports SUV is about sitting above the riff-raff, gazing down. Just like the weather gods.

Click through to the next page for a list of specifications.

Price: $106,500 plus options (navigation ($5,500), Bang & Olufsen stereo ($2,500), Audi side assist ($1,500))

What we like:

  • Ample performance
  • Confidence-inspiring drive
  • Better than the Q7
  • Good level of gadgetry

What we don’t like:

  • Bang & Olufsen sound system didn’t seem like it was worth an extra $2,500
  • Not enough room for driver’s left leg
  • Integrated navigation is good, but expensive compared to commercial third-party alternatives

Audi Q5 3.0 S Line – Specifications

Engine
Cubic Capacity: 2967
Power (KiloWatts / rpm): 176
Torque (Nm / rpm): 500 / 1500-3000
Cylinders / Valves Per Cylinder: 6 / 4
Fuel Injection system: Common Rail

Drive Train: quattro
Transmission: - S tronic 7 Speed
Suspension: Sports

Acceleration: 0-100 km/h sec 6.5
Top Speed (km/h): 225

Fuel consumption combined in l/100 km (CO2 emission): 7.7 (199)
Audi Cover Assistance - 3 Year Cost Free Motoring
Galvanised Body – Twelve Year Anti-Corrosion Warranty
Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

Audi Q5 3.0 S Line – Specifications

Engine
Cubic Capacity: 2967
Power (KiloWatts / rpm): 176
Torque (Nm / rpm): 500 / 1500-3000
Cylinders / Valves Per Cylinder: 6 / 4
Fuel Injection system: Common Rail

Drive Train: quattro
Transmission: - S tronic 7 Speed
Suspension: Sports

Acceleration: 0-100 km/h sec 6.5
Top Speed (km/h): 225

Fuel consumption combined in l/100 km (CO2 emission): 7.7 (199)
Audi Cover Assistance - 3 Year Cost Free Motoring
Galvanised Body – Twelve Year Anti-Corrosion Warranty

Volvo working hard on green vehicles

December 12th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Volvo Green fq

Volvo’s product development unit is still hard at work, even after Ford desperately put a price tag on the brand (click here to read news item). Volvo is busy developing more environmentally-friendly vehicles capable of meeting tough new  emissions regulations on the horizon, the Swedish automaker has been working on some new highly-efficient vehicles.

In addition to the DRIVe trio of ultra-efficient diesel-powered models, Volvo is working on an all-new micro-hybrid model. Set to join the lineup in 2011, the vehicle will be available in gas or diesel powered form, and a manual or automatic transmission. Fuel-saving technology will include a start-stop system plus brake-energy regeneration to cut consumption by nearly 5 percent. We’ll see a full hybrid (with the ability to run on electric power only) in 2012 with the D5 diesel engine. A plug-in electric is also expected to follow in the future.

Volvo shows DRIVe C30, S40 and V50

September 10th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Volvo DRIVe logo

Volvo will be unveiling the new economical, sub-120g/km diesel variants of the C30 SportsCoupe, S40 saloon and V50 Sportswagon at the Paris Motor Show in early October. All three models are equipped with a special set of efficiency-enhancing features and marked with the DRIVe emblem to signal their uprated environment properties. Production of these new models will start mid-November 2008. New Zealand release dates have not been established.

The new 1.6D DRIVe models will offer outstanding fuel consumption of 3.66l/100km on the C30 and 3.74l/100km in the S40 and V50, with VED Band B CO2 figures of just 115g/km for the C30 and 118g/km for the S40 and V50.  These new low emissions mean that the Volvo C30 and V50 offer best-in-class CO2 in their segments.

The reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions was brought about by analysing the cars’ total potential for more efficient, more economical driving. The cars were then optimised within four areas:
1. Reduced air resistance:

* Chassis height reduced by approximately 10mm to help reduce drag
* A front spoiler on the S40 and V50 which is the same spoiler currently on T5 models.
* Covered radiator grille. Behind the characteristic Volvo grille there is a wind-deflecting panel that provides better aerodynamics inside the engine compartment.
* Wind deflectors in front of the front wheels to steer the airflow.
* Aerodynamically optimised wheels with a unique ‘Libra’ rim. The diamond cut finish adds to the unique design and the large unobstructed area that goes all the way out to the tyre makes the rim look considerable larger than it actually is. The total drag reduction of 10-15% is due to the design of the Libra rim.
* Underbody panels on the Volvo C30 for more efficient airflow under the car.
* A unique rear spoiler has been developed for the Volvo C30 which adds both to the aerodynamics and to the visual appearance. The Volvo S40 features the same ‘ducktail’ spoiler as found on the current T5 and D5 models.
* New rear bumper on the Volvo C30.
2. Lower rolling resistance:

* All the cars are equipped with a new generation of Michelin tyres with low rolling resistance.
3. Higher ratios:

* Gearbox with altered ratios for third, fourth and fifth gears. The longer gear ratios contribute to a 1.5% reduction in fuel consumption without affecting the drivability of the car.
4. More efficient driveline:

* Optimised engine cooling, engine management and power steering.
* New transmission oil which creates much lower friction will be used in the gearbox.
* Gearchange indicator in the information display to tell the driver the ideal time to change gears.

“Changing the transmission oil gives us a 0.75 percent lower fuel consumption. Tyres with low rolling resistance save another 2 percent. Each of these measures may seem rather modest, but it is important to look at the whole picture. Taken together, all the small adjustments have helped us achieve our aim, with emissions below 120g/km for all three cars, without in any way compromising on either driving properties or comfort, which was an important requirement,” says Magnus Jonsson, Senior Vice President, Research & Development at Volvo Cars.
Benefits for the environment and economy

Reducing fuel consumption and dropping below the 120g/km CO2 emission level offers a range of benefits, both for the environment and the buyer’s pocket. With lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, these cars reduce the net contribution to global warming. All new diesel models from Volvo are also fitted with a maintenance-free particle filter that traps about 95 percent of all soot particles.

Volvo Cars expects to sell over 20,000 1.6D DRIVe cars next year in Europe