Mitsubishi Challenger tow capacity raised for NZ market

November 22nd, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Recent engine and chassis upgrades to Mitsubishi’s Challenger range have raised its towing capability to 3.0 tonnes. The significant improvements bring Challenger’s performance into line with the rest of Mitsubishi’s 4WD diesel range, which now boasts the largest number of models capable of towing 3.0 tonne and over in New Zealand.

Challenger has accounted for over 240 sales since its launch in January and head of sales and marketing strategy Daniel Cook says the improvements are a direct response to consumer feedback.

“Challenger has had a strong following since it was first sold in New Zealand in 1999,” said Mr Cook. “Upgrades have further refined the 2.5 L common rail turbo diesel engine and structural work on the ladder-frame chassis has increased the tow capability to 3.0 tonnes.”

“We now have three diesel models – Triton, Challenger and Pajero – comprising 11 variants capable of towing 3.0 tonnes or in the case of the range topping Pajero 3.3 tonnes,” says Mr Cook. “The refinements of modern diesel engines and Mitsubishi’s long history in off-road vehicle development provide drivers with comfort, performance and the torque to hook almost any commercial or recreational toy to the tow ball.

“All covered by Mitsubishi’s industry-leading 10/5 Diamond Advantage warranty, our range of tow vehicles is hard to go past.”

Further upgrades to the 2011 Challenger Exceed include paddle shifters and sports mode transmission, rain sensing windscreen wipers, power passenger seat and dusk-sensing and auto levelling headlights. The range also gains the Iron Bark colour, popular in Pajero.

Click here to read a Car and SUV review of the 2010 Mitsubishi Challenger.

BMW X5 xDrive 40d 2011 Review

November 19th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

The first generation BMW arrived ready to party, and so it did. It partied like it was 1999, because it was. The good times didn’t end there either, and in the following years the X5 helped trailblaze what we now know as the luxury SUV category. Naturally it had its haters, those who said it had been beaten with the ugly stick and those who called it a “insert posh local area” tractor. But it proved resilient and broadly appealing and just recently clocked up a very impressive 1 million units sold worldwide. It was in 2006 that the X5 entered its second generation, while already well established it further built on the strengths of the first model. Now for 2010 the X5 has been given a visual refresh and a reworked engine line-up. Car and SUV spent a week with the new X5 xDrive40d to see exactly what’s new and find out if the big BMW has still got it.

Styling on the X5 has only been changed subtlety since the first-generation with the 2010 updates being a further tweak. Although the changes are minor they are effective and the X5 looks every bit as modern as competitors. The X5 nose hosts the most noticeable changes with a new front bumper sporting larger side intakes and repositioned fog lamps. There’s more colour coding in the sheet metal and LED tail lamps now feature a smart L-shaped design. Elsewhere it’s business as usual with clean, tidy lines and handsome styling that will offend very few. Our test vehicle looked particularly striking with its Alpine White hue maximizing the X5’s bulky dimensions and the optional aluminum running boards and 20-inch (19s as standard) alloy wheels.

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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.

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Dodge Caliber SXT 2010 Review

October 29th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

In our highly competitive world sometimes you have to be that little bit different just to get noticed. Carmakers worked this out a while back and have recently given the automotive world some unique and progressive designs. This holds especially true in the hatchback segment where radical styling has almost become the norm. So how exactly does a new car cultivate a unique appeal in these diverse times? To get the answers, Car and SUV spent a week with the updated 2010 Dodge Caliber because it still looks like no other vehicle on NZ roads.

What makes the Caliber aesthetically different is a mixture of traditional Dodge DNA and a body shape that’s a mash-up of hatchback, crossover and sports coupe. Its styling talks loudly and offers a truly American take on the conventional hatchback. The Caliber announces its arrival with its signature Dodge crosshair grille. In profile it shows off pumped up wheel arches, a coupe like roofline and a front foot, pouncing stance. The squared-off rear features jeweled tail lamps a narrow back windscreen and a protruding chunky bumper.  Exterior changes to the updated Caliber are minimal but do include some subtle chrome trim and a new 17-inch alloy wheel design which helps give the 2010 model an even sharper edge.

Step inside the Caliber and the unique styling continues with a fully refreshed interior design. The instrument panel, centre console storage bin and door panel trims have all been redesigned using higher quality materials. The result is a cabin that is more modern and user-friendly. There are some nice touches like chromed surrounds for the instruments and air vents and smart LED lighting which illuminates the cupholders. The hot rod red plastic inserts in the centre control stack may not appeal to all tastes but it provides another unique feature and matches up with the stain-resistant red/black cloth used on the seats. The leather-wrapped steering wheel feels good to grip and has audio controls at your fingertips. Continue reading “Dodge Caliber SXT 2010 Review” »

Nissan Qashqai +2 2010 Review

October 22nd, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

It’s always nice to have a little bit more. Like chocolate bars that come in ‘king size’ allowing that all-important extra bite. Or that mini-series on TV that begins with a double episode. Whatever way you look at it, a good thing is only really bettered by more of a good thing. With that in mind Nissan has taken its current good thing, the big-selling Qashqai and given it just a little bit more size. The enlarged Qashqai +2 now has the space for a third row of seating, allowing two more passengers and boosting total potential capacity to seven occupants. While the Qashqai was a gamble at the start being billed as a modern alternative to the traditional hatchback it was a risk that paid off handsomely, with more than 500,000 sales globally. Then it was facelifted for 2010 and has since been well received again. But is this larger +2 model a step too far? Car and SUV spent some time with the part crossover, part people mover to get the answers.

At first glance it’s difficult to distinguish the Qashqai +2 from its standard sibling, but look closer and its dimensions are clearly chunkier. The +2 is 211mm longer to allow for the extra seat and the wheelbase has increased by 135mm. Additionally the body is taller with a flatter roofline allowing for better headroom throughout and there’s a handy 55-litres of extra cargo space.  In terms of exterior design the +2 differs little from the standard model and benefits from the smoother look brought with the recent mid-cycle facelift. Raked headlights at the front and LED two-piece fittings at the rear help give the Qashqai a distinctive look but the standard 16-inch alloys struggle to fill the raised guards. The larger Qashqai boasts some practical features like integrated roof rails, tough black plastic mouldings all round, and longer rear doors than the standard model to help entry and exit from that third row of seats.

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Porsche Cayenne S 2011 Review

October 15th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

In 2003, Porsche surprised the motoring world and shocked badge fans with the introduction of the first Cayenne. Critics at the time thought the Cayenne would prove a modern day ‘Spruce Goose’ for the German carmaker but fortune favours the bold and Porsche were quickly on to a sales winner. Despite grumblings about the Cayenne’s styling and plus size figure it has gone on to sell almost 300,000 units worldwide and rescue Porsche from the brink of financial hardship. But the Cayenne was more than just a sales success; it showed that a full size SUV could genuinely push the sensory buttons of a driver seeking a sporty steer. Now for 2011, Porsche has unveiled its second-generation Cayenne and despite the large boots to fill its built to be more advanced in every area. Car and SUV took flight in the next-gen Cayenne to find out just how good it really is.

Porsche has clearly taken many of the criticisms of the first-generation Cayenne to heart, not least the attacks on the exterior styling. The overall design looks sleeker and lower so the Cayenne can no longer be described as an obese 911 wearing a Mumu. Porsche has stuck with sports car design cues borrowed from the Carrera like the front guards but there are also elements of the new Panamera included, particularly in the headlight shape. The gaping front air intake now has a more menacing look and the Porsche badge has been repositioned on to the dipping bonnet. While it’s easy for the eye to be fooled, the new Cayenne is actually slightly larger in all directions. With the wheelbase extended there is little rear overhang and the back doors are longer for easier entry and exit. The rear also appears trimmer with a new lighter one-piece tailgate design.

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BMW 330d Coupe 2010 Review

October 8th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

With the Commonwealth Games in full swing it’s easy to waste away a few hours watching athletes from around the globe battle it out in their chosen sports.  One of the more popular events is the gymnastics where buffed up competitors have tailored themselves mentally and physically to cope with the various disciplines. A mighty upper body for hanging from the rings, powerful legs for vaulting and a mix of grace and flexibility for the floor routine. But what’s most impressive is not the athlete’s ability to master a single area but to have absolute competence in all of them.  Among the various athletes in the automotive world the BMW 3-Series would surely be the gymnast.

Known as a consummate all-rounder the 3-Series embodies athleticism, low-key style and progressive technology. Diesel power is a more recent move in the 3-Series repertoire but one that’s quickly being mastered, resulting in some of the finest performance-focused diesel vehicles built to date. Could BMW’s newest example continue this growing reputation for dynamic diesel delivery and further the 3-Series dynasty. Car and SUV hit the mats with the new 330d Coupe to mark its form and find out more.

So what’s special about the 330d?

Many things, but what’s first noticeable is the low-slung coupe sheetmetal. Like a zip-up sheep costume the coupe’s inconspicuous clean lines nicely conceal the wolf within. At the front BMW’s wide kidney grille sits prominently between excellent LED element headlights. A sharp crease line tracks along the sides below elegantly curved windows and a raked forward C-pillar. The rear proportions are just right with minimal overhang, a black diffuser and twin chrome exhaust tips hinting at performance intent. Our test vehicle was further upgraded with the M Sport body kit and nicely matched 19-inch double spoke alloys (17-inch is standard). Overall, the 330d Coupe has an understated elegance that may not appeal to the ostentatious, but will still illicit plenty of sideways glances at the lights.

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Peugeot RCZ 2010 Review

October 8th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Peugeot’s only used the RC moniker for one other car — the RC Cup — and it has revived the racing-inspired denomination for its sports coupe, the RCZ. Is this car going to be a winner, though? Car and SUV takes Peugeot’s bold cab-forward two-door sports car for a thrash to the coffee shop.

The RCZ looks a lot more expensive than it is. Enormous wheels wrapped in sensibly low profile tyres fill the wheel arches like a cake in a tin; the proportions allow you to see Audi TT and Porsche Cayman, but then when you’re on the inside it’s lacking some of the refinements you’d expect (satellite navigation, for example) because you’re under the illusion you’ve paid $20,000 more than you actually have.

Like most other Peugeots, it requires a bit of faffing around to find a comfortable driving position. The steering wheel is too big when it feels like it’s at the best angle, but the seat’s electric motors will eventually find an adequate position. Having said that, I still felt good driving it. You wouldn’t buy a car like this if you didn’t want to achieve a certain amount of ‘look at me’ while driving through Ponsonby, and that makes up for any minor ergonomic issues.

Let’s talk about practicalities, though: the RCZ’s boot space is at least twice what I expected. Anticipating only being able to take the piss, I was amazed that it was possible to take at least enough luggage for a week’s camping. Space is helped by Peugeot’s inclusion of an electronic ‘emergency spare’ which is basically a small air compressor that pumps sealant into the tyre in the event of a puncture. This also frees up some hidden compartments under the boot floor in which you could leave valuables, or store a first aid kit and jumper cables long term if you’re more practical.

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