FPV GT-P 2010 Review

April 30th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

The recent announcement that the Falcon Wagon will be discontinued may have left some enthusiasts worried about the future of this iconic Australian model. But at the top end of the Falcon range those concerns are unnecessary as FPV continues to unleash fierce V8-powered versions of the Ford mainstay. One of the current top-dogs in the FPV kennel is the high performance GT-P that comes stacked with the latest tech Ford’s performance arm has to offer. Car and SUV had a test drive in the GT-P to take it off the leash and see if its bite matches its loud bark.

The GT-P’s bark can be first heard in the loud exterior styling that leaves no one confused about the leery nature of this modern muscle car. Finished in a trademark Ford blue hue our test vehicle didn’t feature the ‘Boss’ decals set (available as a no-cost option), but still had a bullying athletic presence. The tone is set at the front where a “power bulged” bonnet lives above frowning headlights with war-painted grey accents and a massive lower air dam. The skirting is continued down the flanks and out back a high boot spoiler, black rear diffuser and dual exhausts confirm sinister intent. GT-P badging can be found on all four sides and bright red Brembo brake calipers hide behind distinctive 19-inch alloys. The GT-P is slightly more graceful and less in your face aesthetically than its HSV rivals, but still communicates its performance credentials with a menacing purpose.

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Subaru Legacy Sport CVT 2010 Review

April 30th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Balance is a relative skill and while it’s easy for most of us to stroll down a flat road walking a tightrope is something we leave to the professionals. Creating a successful modern four-door family sedan is another balancing act with pitfalls on either side. Styling should be distinctive but not ostentatious, handling should be dynamic but the ride comfortable and the engine needs strength but to still offer decent fuel economy. Like most carmakers Subaru has at times struggled to perform the balancing act required to appeal to the masses and has instead been viewed as a niche automaker. Now for 2010 Subaru has a new model Legacy that is attempting to appease badge fans while attracting new buyers. Car and SUV spent some time with the Legacy Sedan Sport to take in the show.

What’s immediately noticeable with the 2010 Legacy is the increase in size over its predecessor. Length, height, width and wheelbase have all seen varying increases resulting in a completely new profile. A raked character-lined bonnet pushes into the arched roofline, ending out back in a short, high boot lid. A strip of chrome trim accents the roofline and matched up well with 17-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels on our tested base-model Sport. Pumped out wheel arches, a chrome grille and XL-sized light clusters finish an exterior look that’s stylishly modern but still rather generic. in fact, it shares little resemblance to the Legacys of old and is closer aligned to the Nissan Maxima. That said, it’s a handsome machine especially considering it’s the base-model and has features often reserved for higher-spec versions like front fog lamps, colour-coded side mirrors and tinted rear security glass.

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Volkswagen Golf Variant 2010 Review

April 23rd, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

What happens when you grab the back of a VW Golf and take two steps backwards? It’s a riddle that Volkswagen has recently solved with its new MkVI Golf Variant. But the stretched Golf is no joke and is set to cater to fleet buyers and anyone who requires a larger cargo capacity and hybrid-rivalling fuel economy. The current Golf has been heaped with praise in its hatchback form but is the wagon set to follow suit. Car and SUV spent some time inside the Golf Variant’s expanded interior to find out more.

The dimensions of the Golf Variant don’t differ from the standard hatch as much as you’d initially assume. Obviously there is an increase in length of 44cm but all other measurements remain exactly the same, including the wheelbase. At the front very little distinguishes the Variant from the hatchback with both sharing a black plastic grille and gaping low air-intake in the bumper. In profile, there’s no hiding the Variant’s extra length that is concentrated in the rear overhang and highlighted by integrated roof rails. Rear styling is unique to the Variant and consists of slightly awkward taillights and a wide opening tailgate that when lifted creates a generous loading aperture.

The Golf Variant is available in NZ with only one trim level: the lower-spec ‘Trendline’. While the only exterior evidence of this basic fit-out is the hub-capped 16-inch wheels, the cabin is fairly Spartan. However, the Golf is known for its high quality interior and even in its most simple form remains impressive. Soft touch plastics integrate with subtle aluminium and chrome highlights to create an excellent overall surface quality. A thick leather-wrapped steering wheel and large easily read instruments help make driving a pleasurable experience. The central control stack is basic and logically laid out with separate stereo and climate controls. The seats are finished in a dark durable-looking cloth and although supportive may not prove too comfortable on longer journeys. Head and legroom is ample all around with rear passengers receiving slightly raised seating and their own air vents.

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Ford Focus XR5 Turbo 2010 Review

April 23rd, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Like many Kiwis, this writer long had a thing for Ford’s hotter versions of its small passenger vehicles. This fancy has over the years been partially satisfied, once by owning a Laser S and soon after an Escort XR3i. But for each occasion my wants were appeased there have been other fast Fords that I have regrettably never tasted. I’m not alone in my passion either, there’s something in the sporty Fords that really appeals to us here in NZ. Is it the reasonable priced attainability? Or is it the sleeves-rolled-up, blue-collar nature of these machines?

The answers may lay with Ford’s current go-fast offering in NZ – the Focus XR5 Turbo. While it’s not the top-spec Focus RS, which never made it here, the XR5 is no softie and I had a weeklong date with the hot hatch. So we set off on a quest to see if the XR5 shares the same assets of its revered ancestors.

Now in its second generation the Focus has undergone a facelift that has brought with it a more purposeful aesthetic. While only sharing minimal design DNA with its Escort forefather the XR5 has a refreshed face with reworked headlights and a flatter looking grille. At the rear it’s all business with a new tailgate and diffuser-styled bumper sitting above the twin exhaust outlets that signal speedy intent. Finishing the athletic look is a wide body-kit and distinctive Y-spoke 18-inch alloys. Overall, the XR5 is a real looker; it encompasses all the muscular styling cues hot hatch buyers look for and despite being in the latter stages of its lifecycle appears modern and suitably aggressive.

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Jeep Cherokee Sport 2010 Review

April 16th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Building a Jeep can’t be an easy task. Mixing 67 years of brand DNA with all the modern practicalities and technologies demanded by SUV buyers is no simple feat. But Jeep has built a reputation on being rugged and uncompromising in both the vehicles it produces and its attitude towards gaining success in a segment that was once a niche but is now brutally competitive. To combat the competition Jeep has a solid range of off-road inspired vehicles to cater for a variety of needs. Sitting in the NZ line-up between the top dog Grand Cherokee and the pureblood Wrangler is the Cherokee Sport. This mid-size model is currently in its second generation and with a recent facelift is set to continue its assault on the NZ market. Car and SUV got some seat time in the revised Cherokee to see if it’s well positioned to invade the consciousness of Kiwi car buyers.

Little has changed in terms of looks for the updated Cherokee, much of the chrome work has now given way to colour-coded paint cutting down the visual bling. Our test vehicle looked smartly uniformed with door handles, roof rails, mirrors and even the iconic 7-slot grille finished in black. Wide wheel arches, a high waist and distinctive angular lines give the Cherokee a bulky presence while continuing Jeep family styling traits. A chunky front bumper and indicator lights built into the guards create a squared jaw look while at the rear it’s more about function with vertical jeweled lights and a split tail gate. Standard wheels are 5-spoke alloys which are good looking rims but at 16-inches don’t really fill out the arches. Overall, the Cherokee has a boxy charm that’s distinctly Jeep and appears well screwed together.

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Volkswagen Golf R 2010 Review

April 16th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

In 1976 Volkswagen practically invented the hot hatch with its first Golf GTi, but despite its peppy nature it wasn’t really enough. VW then reinvented the hot hatch as a V6 with the Golf VR6 and the following Golf R32 but that still wasn’t enough. Now, still hunting down hot hatch perfection, VW has returned to its four-cylinder roots with devastating results. What’s spawned from VW’s latest efforts is an evolutionary machine that can lay claim to being the most powerful and hardest accelerating Golf ever built. Car and SUV took a drive in the simply named Golf R to sample its distinctive formula of practicality and pure excitement.

Where the outgoing Golf R32 had a naturally aspirated V6 hiding under the bonnet the new Golf R comes packing a turbocharged four in what’s best described as a ‘more from less’ approach. The hard-tuned 2.0-litre engine thumps out 199kW of power a 15kW increase over the outgoing R32 and 350Nm of torque a 30Nm increase. Maximum boost runs at 17 psi and all available grunt comes on at 6000rpm.

The engine isn’t an improved version of the current Mk VI GTi’s unit but is based on the older Mk V GTi mill. The block has been reinforced and the cylinder head replaced, new pistons, conrods, injectors and a new turbo are all used. The results are impressive and the Golf R will sprint from standing to 100 kph in just 5.5 seconds and won’t give up till it reaches a top speed of 250 kph.

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Peugeot 4007 Luxury 2010 Review

April 9th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Taking Japanese reliability and dressing it up in the latest French fashions is more than just a novel idea, it’s the answer to a pressing need. While Peugeot have a solid line-up covering most vehicle segments, it has never, till now, produced a 4WD. With the steadily growing popularity of compact crossovers Peugeot has taken action by teaming up with both Citroen and its far-east connection Mitsubishi. The end result is three different vehicles coming out of the same Japanese factory. While the Citroen version hasn’t made it to NZ, the popular Mitsubishi Outlander provides the underpinnings for Peugeots own offering — the 4007. Stretching into the crossover segment is a gamble for Peugeot but by using Mitsubishi’s proven platform it might just pay off. Car and SUV got into the fresh-faced 4007 to find out more.

The 4007 is offered in NZ in three variants, a base model version with five seats and a manual transmission, and two 7-seat automatic vehicles. For our road test with the 4007 we high-rolled in the top spec ‘luxury’ model.

While the 4007 rolls on the Outlander platform and shares almost all its sheet metal, the ace in Peugeot’s sleeve lays under the bludging bonnet. Where Mitsubishi only offers two petrol engine options in the Outlander, a slick turbocharged diesel unit powers the 4007. With a 2.2-litre displacement and Bosch common-rail injection the motor produces 115kW of power and 380 Nm of torque. Thanks to the full compliment of torque being available from just 2000rpm the 4007 accelerates with good urgency for a crossover vehicle. It also remains smooth at cruising speed and returns an impressive 7.3l/100km fuel economy.

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Kia Cerato Koup SX 2010 Review

April 1st, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

‘Fortune favours the bold’ is how the old Latin proverb goes and Kia’s new Cerato Koup is attempting to prove a new relevance for the dated sentiment. The two-door coupe is a body shape that many carmakers have dabbled with in the past but in the current economic climate are weary of. Kia has recognised a gap and seen an opportunity to reinforce the message of its Soul model — that Kia now makes design-focused vehicles. The Koup represents Kia’s first foray into the two-door sports car market and while there is little doubt it’s a ballsy move, is it one that will see fortune follow? Car and SUV got the tyres spinning on the low-slung Koup to find out the bottom line.

Exterior styling is without doubt the Koup’s biggest strength and even the harshest badge snob will admit it’s a handsome machine. The Koup is lower, shorter and lighter than the four-door Cerato sedan on which it’s based and shares a single body panel — a scalloped bonnet. The ascending beltline, high rear deck and low roof give the Koup genuine presence and an athletic stance. The aggressive styling kicks off from the front with Kia’s corporate grille sitting above a gaping lower bumper inlet and fog lamps. Out back, flattened rear lights and a pronounced boot lip draw the eye, with a twin exhaust tip blowing out street cred. The sporty look is finished off with bespoke silver/black 17-inch alloys that highlight the black exterior trim. Overall, the Koup’s styling is boldly unique and works as a rolling billboard to inform the world just how far Kia has developed.

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