Porsche Panamera S 2010 Review

March 5th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Porsche makes great sports cars and that’s a fact. It’s why the company has experienced longevity and why the 911 is the world’s most recognisable ride. But Porsche knew it had more to offer the automotive world and developed the Cayenne SUV. The Cayenne has proved a sales success for the German firm but it’s still not enough. Now Porsche is filling out its range with an ambitious entry into the luxury sedan segment with the new Panamera. Rather than making a confined four-door coupe the Panamera is designed to be a true ‘gran turismo’ automobile, uncompromising in its cabin space and road trip practicality while still offering traditional Porsche driving characteristics. It sounds great on paper but has this demanding ideal been achieved? Car and SUV slid into the Panamera’s leather driver’s seat to seek out the answers.

For all the technology and power a modern Porsche has on offer it’s the styling that is always called into question before a key is turned or a spec sheet browsed. From when the first concept sketches were revealed critics have been shouting ‘ugly’ at Porsche’s first four-door sedan but in the flesh it’s not so simple. What’s noticed first is the car’s dominant size and presence; it’s a big machine that’s 1931mm wide, just 1418mm in height but almost 5 meters in length. The Panamera has typically elegant Porsche styling cues at the front and rear particularly around the light clusters and bumpers. However, view the vehicle in profile and elegance turns to awkwardness. While the front end is low the rear is high with a fastback look that is muscular but ultimately unbalances the Panamera. An upswept window-line and thick rear pillars help ease the odd overall shape but it’s the rear styling that will polarize opinion. Exterior quality is excellent with gleaming paintwork, tight shut-lines and 5-spoke 19-inch rims finishing the look. Love it or hate it, the Panamera is a true head-turner that offers the eye both familiarity and novelty the same glance.

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Holden Commodore Omega 2010 Review

February 26th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

The Commodore Omega has long been seen as the budget base model brother to the rest of the range. A true fleet special used by sales reps and the Police to help make sales calls or collar crooks. Being used in this capacity probably won’t change for the Omega but what has changed is the addition of a new engine and gearbox for the 2010 model year. Is this update enough to push the Omega further into the consciousness of the private car buyer? Car and SUV spent a week searching for evidence with the upgraded Holden Omega.

The 2010 updates to the Commodore range are all about the new powertrains and the Omega has benefitted from a new six-cylinder engine. Codenamed LF1 the new motor has a 3.0-litre capacity and a 210kW power output with 290Nm of torque. It’s a modern bent-six and is equipped with Holden’s fancy Spark Ignition Direct Injection (SIDI) system that directly injects fuel into the combustion chamber. The result is more power from less fuel.

Compared to the outgoing engine there is a power increase of 10kW but a 20Nm drop in torque because of the new units smaller capacity. Anyone who thinks this will make evading the Police easier is mistaken because the new engine has some pace and accelerates the Omega smoothly and with strength. It’s also very flexible, remaining well mannered in stop start traffic but still capable of decent mid-range grunt making for confident overtaking at open road speeds.

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Great Wall X240 2010 Review

February 26th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

As a nation China has presented the world with many great gifts. These include the compass, fireworks and Jackie Chan. But when it comes to the automotive realm China’s contributions have been limited, a fact that could be changing. There are currently over one hundred car manufacturers operating in China, a number that should prove too large even for a country of mammoth numbers. As these companies jostle for sales it was inevitable that the keen players would glance toward international markets and ultimately find their way down to NZ. One of the first to travel the waves and attempt to make them here is Great Wall Motors and one of its initial offerings is the X240 SUV. Car and SUV climbed aboard the X240 to see what this new vehicle is all about and just how well it stacks up against Japanese opposition.

The first questions most Kiwis ask about this pioneering Chinese vehicle is: How much does it cost and what do you get? The answers at first seem equally elementary. It costs $28,990, and you get loads of stuff. While that doesn’t tell the whole story, perceived value for money is the key to the Great Wall sales pitch and it’s the X240’s most defining characteristic.

The X240 is a compact 4WD SUV and with sub $30K pricing undercuts smaller 2WD SUV’s and is up to $20,000 cheaper than many rivals offering similar specification levels.

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Suzuki Alto 2010 Review

February 19th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Often being successful means playing to your natural strengths, which is why you never see 7-foot tall jockeys and likewise with 5-foot tall basketball players. For Suzuki, its strength is in small cars, it’s where success has been found in the past, currently with the Swift, and where opportunities exist for the future. Suzuki’s latest weapon in the increasingly city car battleground is the new Alto. Now in its seventh-generation the Alto is an international success story having sold more than 10 million units over a 30-year period. Not all models have made it to NZ but this writer’s mother once owned the first generation and spent many childhood holiday road trips wondering why large trucks were overtaking our car when I was sure it should be the other way round. Now, with any flashbacks well-repressed Car and SUV spent a week with the fresh-faced Alto to find its strengths and uncover any weaknesses.

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Volkswagen Polo 2010 Review

February 19th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

One of the best things about playing mini golf is that you get much of the pleasure of golf only condensed down into a simpler form. While the concept of mini golf works well as an activity for dating teen couples it hasn’t always worked so well for Volkswagen’s Polo. The Polo model has been around for 35 years making it only slightly younger than its Golf big brother. The Golf has gone on to be one of the most successful cars in history while the Polo has seen solid sales but has still shivered in its shadow as a smaller, less attractive substitute. Now, the Polo has entered its fifth-generation and unlike the Mark VI Golf is an all-new vehicle designed entirely from scratch.

The new Polo was created as a poster boy for VW to show its current focus on technology and simple modern design. It’s working well with the new Polo already winning the European Car of the Year Award for 2010. Car and SUV had some seat time in the latest Polo to see just what makes it so special.

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Subaru Outback D 2010 Review

February 12th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Across various media and product forms there are occasionally cases of an unlikely oddball gaining a cult following and then reaching major commercial success. The film that cost 300 grand to make and then grossed 150 million at the box office or those rubber shoes that look ridiculous but are sold by the truckload. If this notion were translated into the car world the most title for the most unlikely success story would belong to Subaru. Once a fringe player, Subaru is now an automaker making serious sales in many markets including our own. Its Outback model has played a major role in this transformation and has now reached its fourth generation. Car and SUV had a private viewing with the new diesel powered Outback to see if it’s strictly for Subaru fans or if it has a much broader appeal.

While the Outback doesn’t depart from Subaru’s trademark symmetrical all-wheel-drive and boxer engine combination a main change comes with the inclusion of a diesel engine option for the first time. It’s not just any diesel engine either, the 2-litre unit is the first time a horizontally opposed diesel engine has been used in a passenger vehicle. It’s by no means a rough first effort and took more than a decade to fully develop. The end result is 110kW of power and 350Nm of torque that’s delivered smoothly and quietly. It’s an advanced motor that is surprisingly petrol-like and revs freely, pushing past 4500 rpm. But it does have a tendency to lag slightly lower in the rev range before the turbo kicks in and can’t match the low-rpm gusto of some competitors. That said, the Outback will hit 100kph in under 10 seconds and is brawny through the mid-range enabling worry-free open road overtaking.

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Toyota Aurion Sportivo 2010 Review

February 12th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

The word Aurion has the ancient Latin meaning of ‘first light’ or ‘tomorrow’ and Toyota Australia had the future in mind when it developed, produced and released its large car effort back in 2006. Based on Camry underpinnings and sheet metal but with a larger front and rear the Aurion was set to cut into the large sedan market dominated by the Falcon and the Commodore. Offered exclusively with a V6 powerplant the Aurion wasn’t optimally positioned for the current climate where smaller more fuel-efficient vehicles have rapidly gained in popularity. But Toyota is pushing on with the Aurion and the 2010 range has received a mid-life refresh. Car and SUV spent some time with the sports-focused Aurion variant the Sportivo to see what’s new and what lays ahead for this Aussie born battler.

The 2010 model year changes to the Aurion range are all appearance and equipment based with the vehicles’ mechanicals remaining the same. In terms of exterior looks the Sportivo has been sharpened up and the sporty persona maintained over its more conservative siblings. Frontal styling changes are the most obvious with a wider honeycomb grille and trapezoidal low air intake. Black plastic framed fog lamps also feature strongly as do new halogen headlamp lenses. At the rear new clear taillights are distinctive in their modern, after-market style. Rounding off the refreshed look are smart 17-inch split five-spoke rims. All up, the changes reinforce the Aurion’s athletic presence, and maintain its look of a steroid pumped Camry.

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Volkswagen reveals reworked 2011 Touareg

February 12th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Described as the most technically innovative Volkswagen ever created, the 2011 Touareg makes use of many modifications to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.

The exterior design remains familiar but dimensions have changed 4.3 cm longer, 2.0 cm lower, and has a 4.0 cm longer wheelbase -  width remains unchanged. Design details include a new corporate face grille, a reshaped profile, and distinctive taillights.

Inside, the cabin has higher quality materials, more comfortable seats, and additional rear leg room. The rear seats can be folded down via a press of a button to free up 1,642 liters of cargo space (it has 580 liters of space with seats up). Other equipment includes a standard 6.5 inch touch-screen, a 6-disc CD changer, an available GPS navigation system (with an 8-inch touch-screen), and a variety of different trims.

Weighing in at 208 kilograms less than the outgoing model, the 2011 Touareg offers a choice of FSI, TDI, TSI, and Hybrid engines. The V8 petrol, V10 TDI, and W12 engines are no longer offered.

The Touareg Hybrid is motivated by a supercharged V6 TSI petrol engine that produces 245 kW and an electric motor with 34 kW. With a combined output of 279 kW and 580 Nm of torque, the Hybrid can accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 6.5 seconds and push on to a top speed of 240 km/h. Combined fuel consumption is rated at 8.2 L/100 km, while CO2 emissions come in at 193 g/km. The hybrid can also drive up to 50 km/h in pure electric mode.

The 3.6-liter V6 FSI has 206 kW of power and 360 Nm of torque. It drinks 9.9 L/100 km, and has a CO2 emission rating of 236 g/km.

On the diesel side Volkswagen offers two TDI engines. The V6 TDI cranks out 176 kW and 550 Nm of torque. It consumes 7.4 l/100 km. On the other hand, the new 4.2-liter V8 TDI has 250 kW and a whopping 800 Nm of torque. Fuel consumption is rated at 9.1 L/100 km.

The engines send power through two all-wheel drive systems. The base 4Motion version has a Torsen limited-slip differential and an off-road driving program. If that isn’t enough for your off-road adventures, the V6 TDI offers an available 4XMOTION all-wheel drive system.  It allows the Touareg to climb grades of up to 45 degrees thanks to reduction gearing, locking differentials (center and rear), and a rotary terrain switch (which offers five modes – On-Road, Off-Road, Low, centre differential lock, and rear differential lock).

The new Touareg will start arriving in dealerships globally from April.