Honda Accord V6NT 2013 Review

November 9th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

The Accord V6 takes the NT and makes it better by putting a 206kW, six-cylinder motor under the bonnet. Now it’s got some overtaking credentials and doesn’t have the thin, strained engine sound that the NT has when you push it. In fact, it’s a pleasant, muffled V6 roar that’s accompanied by smooth, but not raging, acceleration.

honda-accord-v6-2013-rear-quarterThe 3.5-litre i-VTEC engine is hardly strained, and the 339Nm of torque is delivered in a progressive manner through a six-speed automatic transmission. The engine has VCM (Variable Cylinder Management) which shuts down cylinders that aren’t needed when you only require low power, thus reducing fuel consumption. Consequently the combined urban/extra urban fuel consumption is quoted at 9.2l/100km and that’s not far off what we achieved.

honda-accord-v6-2013-front-interiorWhile the NT gets a 5-speed ‘box, the V6’s six-speed is extremely smooth and well-matched to the engine. It learns your driving style so if you are aggressive with the throttle it will give you the lower gears earlier than if you’re just cruising.

Other than the engine and gearbox there’s very little that’s different in the V6, except that the passenger seat is now 8-way electronically adjustable as opposed to 4-way, you get a couple of chrome finishers on the exhaust at the back of the car as opposed to just one, and it’s a little heavier at 1667kg vs. 1572kg.

So let’s recap on the main points (and cover off some different information, so it’s a good idea to also read this review of the four-cylinder NT which will open in a new tab).

The three main safety features are:

  • Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) which monitors what’s ahead and will brake for you if it thinks you’re about to have an accident
  • Adaptive Cruise Control, which uses the same system as the CMBS to detect if you are approaching a slower vehicle ahead of you when using cruise control. If so, it will slow the car down to match their speed, keeping a safe distance, then can resume at the predefined speed once it’s out of the way. This is particularly useful in the rush hour crawl.
  • Lane Keep Assist System which uses a camera (LaneWatch Camera) to monitor the lanes and will provide gentle steering input back into the centre of the lane if it detects you are wandering out of the lane. This really is the first step towards having a driverless car because the system is good enough to keep you in a motorway lane for quite long distances with no steering input whatsoever, as long as the turns aren’t too sharp or the lines aren’t clear.

There are a number of other features that help with safety, too:

  • Active cornering lights – when you turn, additional bulbs illuminate in the direction you are turning. This makes it much easier to turn into darker driveways or parking spots.
  • Driver and passenger front i-SRS airbags, side airbags in the front seats with OPDS (Occupant Position Detection System) on the passenger seat, and full length side-curtain airbags
  • The full complement of Honda’s Vehicle Stability Assist (Electronic Stability Control plus Traction Control), ABS, Emergency Stop Signal (hazard light activation), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Emergency Brake Assist
  • Trailer Stability Assist
  • Tyre Deflation Warning System
  • Wing mirror-mount camera for blind spot monitoring. This is not as much use as you might think, and is bound to cost a lot if you break it.

honda-accord-v6-2013-sideAt the risk of this turning into some kind of features list, which you can get on Honda’s website, I’d better tell you how it drives. It’s smooth. And quiet. At any speed there’s really quite minimal road noise from the 235-width tyres, and even though they’re wrapped around 18-inch wheels there seems to be a good balance between it looking sharp, but not being bumpy.

honda-accord-v6-2013-screens

In the cabin the entertainment and vehicle parameters are centred around two screens, one of which is a touchscreen, and various functions can be controlled from it, such as the audio on your phone (if connected via USB or Bluetooth). The larger screen is used to display the reversing camera image which has three viewing modes, and the satellite navigation which, now I’ve got used to using Google Maps on my iPhone, seems very clunky (like most cars’ in-built sat nav systems). There’s a kind of joystick/jog wheel to control functions on this.

honda-accord-v6-2013-rear-seatsDriver and passenger comfort is excellent. There is plenty of legroom in the back, and in the front, both seats are heated and have 8-way adjustment. Instruments are easy to read and well laid out, and there are numerous cubbyholes for storage.

The design of the Honda is very ‘executive’, and the white pearl paint of our test car attracted some positive comments from passengers. From the side the look is very sleek with two strong forward-sloping lines forming a visual channel along the door.

Is there anything wrong with the Accord? Only really the ridiculous wing mirror camera. It’s not as useful as conventional blind spot monitoring system which would show an orange light in the wing mirror if a vehicle is in your blind spot. As soon as you indicate left the image takes over the large screen and it’s all just a bit distracting.

Other than that, though, it’s very difficult to fault. You get a three-year unlimited kilometre warranty so that’s going to suit those that like to rack up the travel. The design is inoffensive and well-proportioned, and the performance is pleasing.

Price: $60,000

Pros

  • Executive looks
  • Comfortable
  • Lots of room
  • Plenty of performance

Cons

  • Wing mirror camera will be expensive to replace, and doesn’t work as well as standard blind spot monitoring

Main specifications and features

  • Engine Type: 3.5 litre, 24 valve, SOHC, i-VTEC
  • Maximum Power (kW @ rpm): 206kW @ 6,200rpm
  • Maximum Torque (Nm @ rpm): 339Nm @ 4,900rpm
  • VCM (Variable Cylinder Management) for optimising power and efficiency
  • ACM (Active Control Engine Mounts) for smooth operation under VCM
  • Compression Ratio: 10.5
  • Bore x Stroke (mm): 89 x 93
  • 6-speed automatic transmission
  • Honda Genuine Navigation System with USB audio integration
  • Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)
  • Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS)
  • Collision Mitigation Brake System (CMBS)
  • G-CON (G-Force Control) Collision Compatibility body design
  • Seatbelts: 3-point ELR seatbelts (front and rear). E-pretensioners and height adjustable anchor points for front seatbelts
  • Smart Entry with push-button start
  • Combined – Australian Design Rules (ADR) L/100kms : 9.2
  • Urban – Australian Design Rules (ADR) L/100kms : 13.9
  • Extra Urban – Australian Design Rules (ADR) L/100kms : 6.4
  • Combined – Australian Design Rules (ADR) CO2 (g/km): 217
  • Weight (kg): 1667
  • Max Weight (kg): 2130
  • Boot capacity seats up (litres, VDA method): 457
  • Wheels: 18″ x 8″ Pewter Grey alloy wheels with 235/45 R18 98W tyres.
  • Twin exhaust pipes with chrome finish
  • Active cornering lights (ACL)
  • 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat with Memory and lumbar support
  • 8-way power adjustable front passenger seat
  • Heated front seats with two heat settings
  • Cargo luggage floor hooks: 4
  • Leather upholstery
  • Independent driver and passenger climate control air conditioning with i-Dual zone
  • Electric glass sunroof with tilt/slide function and integrated sliding shade, with onetouch open/close function and anti-trap
  • Auto dimming rear view mirror

 

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

Holden Commodore SS 2013 Review

November 6th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

Three friends and I headed to Hamilton and one of our road trip topics was riddles. You can cover some distance figuring out some serious conundrums and it’s better than playing I spy.

holden-commodore-ss-2013-rear-quarterThe situation the Commodore SS finds itself in is a conundrum, too. To all intents and purposes it’s a dinosaur; a heavy, front-engined, rear-wheel-drive V8 that doesn’t pretend that it will go off-road.

holden-commodore-ss-2013-bootTaking a look at the supposedly more highly evolved competition you see entire genera of vehicles like compact SUVs and crossovers – they’re new and trendy. They’re ‘evolved’. We appear to have moved on from the 1980s and people don’t want big four-door sedans.

People are wrong. The Commodore is every bit as safe as an SUV with its 5-star ANCAP crash rating, it handles better due to its lower centre of gravity, for the performance it has comparable fuel economy with SUVs of similar acceleration, and at $61,490 you can’t get a ‘performance’ SUV. It’s not going to fit as much luggage, but it does come with a large boot that’s enough for four people’s gear (495 litres).

holden-commodore-ss-2013-reversing-cameraThe Holden will park itself in parallel or right angle parks using Automatic Park Assist. You just need to control the throttle, brake and transmission. If you’re reversing out of a right angle park, the Reverse Traffic Alert warns you if a vehicle is approaching in your blind spots. And speaking of blind spots, when you are driving along, the Commodore constantly scans them and warns you using an orange light in each wing mirror if another vehicle might be in a place where you can’t easily see it. Continue reading “Holden Commodore SS 2013 Review” »

Holden Trax LS 2013 Review

October 30th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

With people still lapping up SUVs when cars will do the same job often better, Holden has added a baby SUV to its range to pull people away from the Suzuki SX4 and Ford Kuga and get its share of the buying public’s hard-earned sovereigns.

Holden-Trax-LS-2013-rear-quarterThe South Korean-built compact SUV is available in other countries as the Chevrolet Trax or Opel Mokka, and it comes in two two-wheel drive versions, the LS and the LTZ. It’s based on the same platform as the Barina and takes its powertrain from the Cruze. That means you get a car that’s short and highly manoeuvrable that comes with a 103kW, 175Nm, 1.8-litre petrol engine and 6-speed automatic gearbox.

Holden-Trax-LS-2013-side103kW isn’t that much to produce for a 1.8-litre engine but you really have to work it to get decent acceleration and that causes the engine to scream. And, it still doesn’t exactly light up the tyres in a frenzy of acceleration. It’ll cruise happily at highways speeds and drinks 7.6l/100km on the combined cycle – around average for a car this size. You can’t tell this, though, because Holden has omitted a trip computer, which is a suspicious choice. Continue reading “Holden Trax LS 2013 Review” »

Lexus IS300h F Sport and Lexus IS350 2013 Review

October 5th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

Look closely at the front grille and air splitter and you see the types of curves and air inlets that you expect on an F1 car. And it doesn’t stop there because there are vanes and little details all over the place like on the side of the rear lights. This is the IS300h F Sport, a 2.5-litre hybrid IS-series Lexus with all the fruit. That’s probably what the F stands for: Fruit.

Lexus-IS350-2013-fqBut for similar money you could have the base model IS350 (shown on the left – the remainder of the images in the article are the IS300h). The purpose of this article is to tell you which one to go for: the lesser-powered IS300h plus the trimmings or the brawny but more basic IS350 which will smoke the tyres and give you grins with its 3.5-litre V6. The IS300h F Sport weighs in at $91,995, whereas the IS350 is $94,995 – barely a difference at this kind of money.

Lexus-IS300h-f-sport-2013-rear-quarterA beautiful line ascends gracefully from the side skirt through an imaginary chord across the rear wheel, along a panel intersection and into the rear light cluster. It’s one of the best executions of this design trick that I’ve seen and it draws your eye up around the rear of the car which is a perfectly executed tail that looks both executive and sporty.

Drop yourself into the bucket seat and it wraps itself around you. The seats are both supportive and comfortable, and a great balance between gripping you enough and not restricting your movement.

Lexus-IS300h-f-sport-2013-rangeIn the F Sport a central circular dial dominates the centre of the instrument cluster and in normal or eco mode it contains a gauge that measures how economically you’re driving and how much power is either being directed to the battery or drawn from it. Either side of the dial are information displays for the trip computer. Switch the Lexus into Sport or Sport+ mode and this centre ring slides to the right giving a larger screen area to the left. This will now show all manner of information ranging from what is playing via Bluetooth from your phone through to servicing information in an interface that is well-designed.

Look inside the IS350 and you get a more standard-looking set of dials without the fancy graphics that accompany the change in driving mode – they’re a bit too Camry-ish in my opinion. The IS350 only gets three modes (eco, normal and sport) whereas the IS300h F Sport adds a Sport+. Continue reading “Lexus IS300h F Sport and Lexus IS350 2013 Review” »

Nissan Pulsar SSS 2013 Review

September 8th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

Bringing back a historic name is fraught with danger. Our memories tend to be dulled over time and we just remember what we want to. If the strongest emotions we experienced with a car were good, we’ll remember the car as being good. This is why people often want to buy something truly terrible like a VW Kombi to relive their youthful road trips.

nissan-pulsar-sss-2013-rq

But, if we got back in one of those older cars with an objective brain we would realise that cars have moved on, and in the same way you wouldn’t go back to having an outdoor toilet, or using acacia leaves as a contraceptive, you probably shouldn’t idolise the name of a vehicle that, at best, was tepid in its heyday.

Even if you conceived your children in a 1991 Pulsar SSS the reality is that it has not stood the test of time. It is really a very tedious Pulsar with a boomerang spoiler and slightly bigger wheels. You might have thought it was exciting back in the day, but if you go back far enough in history, so was showing some ankle.

nissan-pulsar-sss-2013-front-interiorNissan put the SR20DE engine in it which dribbled out an anaemic 105kW. They could have given it some balls like the scary GTi-R, or even treated us to the SR16VE N1 which was the highest output naturally aspirated engine of its day until Honda’s F20C engine debuted in the S2000.

But they didn’t and this isn’t supposed to be too much of a history lesson because we’ve got a brand spankers 2013 Nissan Pulsar SSS to evaluate. At first glance, it’s a Pulsar with a body kit…keeping in line with the original, then. It does succeed in elevating the conservative Pulsar slightly. Very slightly. Continue reading “Nissan Pulsar SSS 2013 Review” »

Honda Accord NT 2013 Review

August 27th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

Some things get simpler in life while some things get more complex. In the case of the Honda Accord NT, it has got both simpler and more complex in this latest iteration.

honda-accord-nt-2013-rqIt’s more complex because there are just so many more features than the previous model, and you will need to sit down with the instruction manual to find them all. I could write a couple of thousand words just describing all the bells, whistles and jangly bits it has. It’s simpler to drive, though, because it has some features that mean you don’t need to think. Or even look where you are going.

honda-accord-nt-2013-steering-wheelI am not lying when I say that I drove the Accord NT from the top of the Bombays all the way to Mt Wellington off-ramp only touching the steering wheel four times. No, I don’t have telekinetic powers (although that would be useful), and I definitely didn’t trust the car enough to put my hands behind my head and kick back. However, if you are driving on a relatively straight motorway the Honda will steer itself, keeping the car between the white lines (albeit in a slightly meandering way) using Lane Keep Assist System (LKAS).

It deals with gentle curves with ease, and I only had to take control when it either lost the lane marking (it was missing on the right for a short stretch once), or the corner was too sharp for it to cope (three times). Each time this happens, you get an orange warning light on the dash telling you to steer. Convenient…unless you’ve fallen asleep. Continue reading “Honda Accord NT 2013 Review” »

Ford Focus Trend Hatchback 2013 Review

August 11th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

There’s a theory that is used to explain why people can sometimes be extremely productive late at night. The fact is that the majority of tasks we have to perform are often mundane and don’t require that much of our brainpower. Consequently we get distracted by pictures of cats on Facebook. As we get more and more tired, our ability to process information diminishes and the tasks that once took up, say, 60% of our brainpower now take up much closer to 100%, and therefore the room for distracting thoughts is less.

ford-focus-trend-hatchback-2013-rqThat’s why I’m writing this article at 2:33am on a Sunday morning after first playing a gig in my band, then going to karaoke for a couple of hours for some post-gig socialising. It’s all about focus, which neatly segues into what this article is about: the Ford Focus Trend Hatchback.

ford-focus-trend-hatchback-2013-front-interiorWhile other guys are out chasing hot girls, I’m in writing about a hot hatch. I haven’t used the expression ‘hot hatch’ recently because I hadn’t felt like I’d been surprised. I’ve driven cars you could classify like that, but I didn’t expect to get into the mid-range Ford Focus and get the same feeling as an older Golf GTi or a sporty Renault Megane. The steering is crisp, the gear changes are sharp, and the engine revs willingly.

Despite the perky two-litre petrol engine, Ford reckons you’ll get 6.6l/100km. I didn’t even try because I was having too much fun keeping the six-speed PowerShift gearbox in Sport mode where it runs up and down the gears with a speed of change that feels a little like VW’s DSG. However, Ford does recommend you quench its thirst with Continue reading “Ford Focus Trend Hatchback 2013 Review” »

Holden Commodore VF Evoke Sportwagon 2013 Review

August 10th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

The weight and thickness of the boot floor gives away that this Commodore can carry a serious amount of kit. Fold the rear seats flat and there’s enough room for a mosh pit of meerkats. I’d tell you exactly how much but Holden’s flash new website makes it really difficult to find any meaningful data (even though it looks nice).

holden-commodore-evoke-2013-rqSuffice to say that, if you were having problems attracting enough meerkats to fill it, you could use the space for something more productive. I assisted someone moving on the weekend using the Commodore’s capacious boot to cram a large number of items in. So far so good if you’re into carrying lots of gear.

holden-commodore-evoke-2013-sTo haul that gear you’ll need a strong engine and the Commodore Evoke comes with a 3-litre SIDI V6 bolted to a six-speed automatic transmission. It feels like a good gearbox and engine. You get 185kW and 290Nm, but the Holden is on the heavy side and it feels a bit restrained; like it’s being held back. The flip side is that there’s an aura and sense of solidity and, as I’ve said before, with a Commodore you do feel like it is enveloping you slightly while you are driving it, which further adds to the impressions of being protected by the car.

holden-commodore-evoke-2013-interiorIt handles well given its size, and rides comfortably on the 16-inch wheels. Holden has introduced a suite of major changes that improve refinement over the previous model. Noise, vibration and harshness levels are low at speed, and at idle the engine is barely noticeable.  Put your foot down and the transmission takes on an almost supercharger-like whine. Even though there’s traction control, it’s completely unobtrusive in the dry.

Overall, even though this is the base model with its Continue reading “Holden Commodore VF Evoke Sportwagon 2013 Review” »