2012 Jeep Cherokee arrives with new diesel engine

October 7th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

The new 2012 Jeep Cherokee goes on sale in New Zealand this month with a new diesel engine option and a range of upgrades.

The 2012 Jeep Cherokee is available in NZ in a single specification level – the high grade Limited. It goes on sale with a choice of diesel or petrol engine variants.

As well as the familiar 3.7-litre V6 petrol engine which produces 151 kW @ 5,200 rpm and 314 Nm of torque @ 4,000 rpm, the Cherokee now offers the new 2.8 DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder Common-Rail Diesel (CRD) engine which produces 147kW at 3600 rpm and 460 Nm of torque at 1600 rpm.

The new diesel engine offers improved performance and economy with 13% more power over the previous model yet uses 12% less fuel. Jeep’s quoted combined fuel consumption figures for the Cherokee diesel are 7.9 L/100km and 206g/km CO2.

Jeep continues to push its 4×4 heritage in the Cherokee by offering the Jeep Trail Rated four-wheel-drive system –Selec-Trac II.

Selec-Trac II is a shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive system. Select-Trac II operates in 2WD, 4WD Auto, 4WD Low and Neutral. To back it up the Cherokee features independent front suspension with rack-and pinion steering and a five-link rear suspension set-up. Continue reading “2012 Jeep Cherokee arrives with new diesel engine” »

Suzuki Swift Ltd 2011 Review

June 17th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

The Suzuki Swift may be a lightweight in stature but it’s a heavyweight in terms of new car sales. Since 2005 when the compact hatch first reached our shores it’s battled hard with the much-loved Toyota Corolla for new car sales supremacy. Some months it won, some months it finished runner up but along the way more than 20,000 Swifts found their way into kiwi garages. That’s an impressive figure, but it’s just a fraction of the more than 2 million Swift’s that have been sold globally. So how did a one-time minnow car company like Suzuki do it? Simple really, with the Swift, Suzuki got the value-for-money ratio absolutely perfect. Now for 2011, the next-generation Swift has arrived in NZ and is already generating sales of more than 10 vehicles a day. Car and SUV joined the masses in getting behind the wheel of a new Swift to find out if Suzuki can really improve on a winning formula.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is how the old saying goes and it must have been in the minds of Suzuki designers when they penned the new model. The design is a safe evolution of its predecessor and only a keen eye will catch the differences at a glance. But take a closer look and the new model is more curvaceous and dynamic with a new front end including new wave-shaped headlights and a widened front grille. Along the flanks the glass profile narrows from the front windows to the rear, giving the Swift a more athletic stance. A- and B-pillars are still blacked out for a floating roof look and side mirrors and door handles are smartly colour matched. Rear design is defined by new red and clear tail lamps that push towards the back doors, a subtle hatch spoiler and bulky bumper. Our tested high-spec Swift Ltd was further dressed up with 16-inch alloy wheels and front fog lamps as standard kit. The Swift is available in 7 different colours with our test subject looking particularly dapper in ‘Boost Blue’. Continue reading “Suzuki Swift Ltd 2011 Review” »

Lexus IS350 2011 Review

May 6th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

In 1989 Toyota decided to create its Lexus premium division and many fans of the dominant European brands scoffed in unison. They wondered and doubted exactly how Lexus would develop class overnight. But Lexus was running a different playbook and knew that class would come with time, what it needed from the offset was character. It’s this distinctive character that has charmed many buyers over the years including those who purchased the popular second generation IS250. But as elegant, distinctive and well appointed as the IS250 is, for some it just didn’t pack a sluggers punch in terms of performance. Lexus recognised the opportunity to introduce a more powerful IS model and now the better-endowed IS350 has reached NZ shores. With a larger engine and two specification levels the IS350 is cutting a new edge into Lexus’ character. Car and SUV took a drive in both the IS350 Limited and F-Sport to experience their charms first hand.

Under the bonnet both IS350 variants are the same, sporting a longitudinally mounted 3.5-litre V6 engine. While many performance-focused machines are now turbocharged this V6 stays naturally aspirated and has a suitably smooth feel. It’s strong too, utilising tech like direct and port injection to achieve a power output of 233kW with 378Nm of torque. That’s good enough to take the IS350 from standing to 100kph in just 5.6 seconds and it feels every bit as rapid as this figure would suggest. It’s a far angrier and more purposeful machine than its IS250 stablemate and with 80kW more power and a full litre more displacement, visual appearance is the only characteristic the two IS models share. Continue reading “Lexus IS350 2011 Review” »

Toyota Highlander 2011 Review

January 28th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

“There can be only one” is the tagline from the cult classic Highlander movies of the 1980s and 1990s. Unfortunately for Toyota’s SUV which shares the same name, there are many more than just one in the market segment it occupies. In fact, the mid-size car-based SUV battleground is one of the hardest fought in the current automotive climate and it’s only getting fiercer. After a recent mid-life update the Toyota Highlander is going back to war, fresh-faced and with some new moves. But will it be enough to slash away rivals to become NZ’s SUV champion? Car and SUV mounted up with the Toyota Highlander to find out more.

The visual changes to this weekend warrior are fairly subtle. There’s a more defined nose with frowning headlights and a new chrome grille. At the rear restyled tail lamps flank replaced bumper trim. The rest of the Highlander’s sheetmetal remains unchanged. Our tested Limited model had some high-spec extras like rear privacy glass, front fog lamps, integrated roof rails and striking 19-inch five-spoke alloys. Overall, the upgraded Highlander is a sharp looker, it’s well proportioned with a safe, neutral design that avoids being either too rounded or too boxy.

Step inside the Highlander and you’re greeted by a spacious environment with three rows of seating ready to accommodate seven occupants. Even the third row will fit smaller adults comfortably and there are plenty of small storage areas and cupholders throughout the cabin. The centre row of seating is versatile and can be slid forward and back, it also splits 40:20:40 allowing the middle seat to be removed creating a luxury feel for six people. Luggage room is useful in five-seat mode with 580-litres on offer. There isn’t much cargo space left with all seven seats required but no less than other vehicles with three seating rows. Continue reading “Toyota Highlander 2011 Review” »

Suzuki Kizashi Ltd & Sport 2010 Review

November 12th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Changing brand perception isn’t an easy task; consumers often have strong mental associations that can be difficult to break down. Suzuki is well known by most for its motorbikes and successful range of small cars like the Swift. But Suzuki decided a few years back that this image wasn’t enough and it wanted to be seen as a full strength carmaker. The only way Suzuki could see to show it’s a heavy hitter was to move up a weight division into the mid-size sedan segment. Now, after learning the ropes with a series of concept cars Suzuki has unleashed the production version of its Kizashi sedan for the NZ market. But will it have the deft moves and raw firepower to trouble the established journeyman of this hard fought category? Car and SUV spent some time ringside with the Kizashi Limited and the Kizashi Sport to find out more.

So how does it look?

The Kizashi’s Euro-inspired styling is athletic and handsome with a strong road presence and clever branding. A large Suzuki logo is framed at the front by a wide mesh grille and large HID headlights. A curved bonnet pushes back into lean shoulder lines and thick C-pillars add to the muscular look. But it’s the Kizashi’s rear design which is most distinctive with its curved boot lid, wrap around taillights and integrated stainless steel exhaust covers that pay homage to Suzuki’s motorcycle designs. The stumpy boot and minimal rear overhang help make the Kizashi look compact but boot capacity is surprisingly large at 461-litres.

Continue reading “Suzuki Kizashi Ltd & Sport 2010 Review” »

2011 Toyota Highlander SUV launched into NZ market

October 8th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Toyota New Zealand has just launched the latest iteration of its mid-sized SUV – the 2011 Highlander.

The new 2011 Highlander arrives with the choice of two drive trains and two equipment grades. There are 2WD and 4WD entry level models, plus the flagship 4WD Limited.

Toyota New Zealand General Manager of Sales and Operations, Steve Prangnell said, “As well as all of the attributes New Zealander’s expect in an SUV, such as powerful performance, 4WD capability, utility, and ground clearance, the 2011 Highlander is the most versatile vehicle in our entire model line-up. It has something to offer for everyone.”

The 2011 Highlander is powered by a 3.5 litre dual VVT-i petrol engine with an electronically controlled automatic transmission. The Highlander’s 3.5 litre quad cam V6 petrol engine delivers 201kW of power and 337Nm of torque via a five-speed automatic transmission with a sequential manual-style gear selection.

All models offer driver and passenger front, driver’s knee, front side and three-row curtain shield airbags. An Anti-lock System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA) is standard, as is steering assisted Vehicle Stability Control Plus (VSC+) and Traction Control (TRC).

Standard equipment also includes seating for seven passengers, air conditioning, reversing camera, electronic power-assisted steering, cruise control, alloy wheels, steering wheel audio and multi-information display controls, MP3 compatible CD tuner with audio input and Bluetooth handsfree telephone and audio streaming capability, split-fold second row seats with stowable centre seat, glass hatch in the tailgate, glass-mounted radio antenna and Optitron instruments.

Continue reading “2011 Toyota Highlander SUV launched into NZ market” »

Mazda CX-7 GSX 2010 Review

August 27th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

It’s a fact that not all crossover vehicles are created equal, not just in terms of quality and appeal but also in their focus and job description. It’s a broad market segment with some crossover’s spinning all four wheels almost equally well on tarmac as on dirt tracks. Others are far more directed at suburban duties relying on looks and ride comfort to build a loyal fan base. Then there’s Mazda’s CX-7 which has been an enigma since its release back in 2007. With curvaceous styling and a focus on performance and dynamics the CX-7 blazed its own trail and built its own niche. Now for 2010, the CX-7 has received a mid-life facelift and is rediscovering its slot in the competitive crossover market. Car and SUV got into the driver’s seat of the reworked CX-7 to find out exactly what makes it tick.

Aesthetically, the CX-7 defies any SUV squareness, instead opting for full-figured curves and swooping lines. The 2010 refresh uses some minor styling changes to bring the CX-7 into line with the rest of Mazda’s current lineup. The most obvious change is the redesigned front end that boasts a larger five-point grille and new fog-light housing. On our lower-spec tested GSX model there were some classy touches like silver trim framing the windows and indicator repeaters in the side mirrors. The GSX has 17-inch alloys that are an attractive design but struggle to fill the arches. The top model CX-7 Limited comes fitted with 19-inch wheels which are better matched to the pumped up sheet metal.

Inside the CX-7 there’s a new high-grade dark cloth trim lining the supportive and well positioned front seats. The instrumentation has also been reworked to include Mazda’s latest display screen that shows fuel usage, audio information and doubles up as a monitor for the onboard reversing camera. All switchgear is sensibly laid out and the orange/blue nighttime illumination is a real feature. Stereo and cruise control buttons are neatly housed in the leather-wrapped steering wheel which will prove handy for shorter drivers who will have to stretch to access the centre control stack. Everything feels well screwed together and while interior quality has improved, the contrasting silver trim may not have the same long-term durability as the main surfaces. In terms of occupant space there is plenty of shoulder and leg room for front passengers, the back seat provides ample head room and leg room is adequate but not class leading. Standard equipment for the CX-7 in GSX trim includes a tilt and rake adjustable steering wheel, remote central locking, climate air-con, one-touch power windows and a 6-disk CD player with aux input. A Bluetooth hands free phone kit is available as a dealer-fitted accessory.

Continue reading “Mazda CX-7 GSX 2010 Review” »

Mazda6 Limited 2010 Review

August 13th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

It’s no secret that the second generation Mazda6 is a very good car. It’s known for being dynamically proficient, well equipped and sharply dressed. So when it came time for a mid-lifecycle facelift how could Mazda fix a car that just ain’t broke? Car and SUV spent a week with the refreshed top-spec Mazda6 Limited to get all the answers.

In an attempt to enhance the 6’s successful formula rather than complicate it Mazda has kept the facelift light with some subtle cosmetic and mechanical updates. Exterior styling sees the inclusion of the current Mazda corporate face. This includes new raked-back headlights, matching fog lamps and a new grille with a more prominent Mazda badge. Plenty of hints from Mazda’s sports cars are in place on the Mazda6 with angular shapes and strong character lines. At the rear there are minimal changes but the clear LED two-piece taillights, and the curved boot lid spoiler extend the highly styled appeal. Our tested 6 in Limited trim came with a new 18-inch alloy wheel design that set off the vehicle’s lines well and matched up nicely with the elegant ‘Clear Water Blue’ paint work. Overall, the Mazda6 styling is class-leading and while it may be too curvaceous for timid tastes, its fluidic design demands attention.

Inside, the Mazda6 receives revised materials including new main plastics and contrasting silver trim. Piano black plastic surrounds the centre stack and the dashboard is nicely tactile and symmetrical. The instrument cluster is now easier to read with larger numbering on the silver rimmed dials. Although the 6’s interior looks great uniformly illuminated in orange, the main centre digital display is still cluttered and can be difficult to read without taking your eyes off the road despite its high position. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is also very busy with the integration of more than a dozen buttons and toggles that function well but a simplified approach could have created a more upmarket feel. That said, the build quality feels excellent and there is generous head and shoulder space for front occupants. The back seat allows for excellent legroom and in hatchback form can be split 60:40 and folded forward by simply pulling a latch in the boot. Cargo capacity is 519-litres in the hatch; fold down the backseat and this increases to an impressive 1,702-litres.

Continue reading “Mazda6 Limited 2010 Review” »

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