Nissan 370Z Roadster 2010 Review

June 7th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Nissan’s Z cars have a lengthy history that’s been groundbreaking, if not always successful. It all kicked off back in the late 1960s when the 240Z was launched and changed the way the world viewed Japanese performance cars. Before this break-through vehicle Japanese sports cars were often seen as too small, uncomfortable and worse — underpowered. The 240Z threw that perception into its six-cylinder engine and burnt it up, but not every Z car since has been as well received. Now the new 370Z is the sixth vehicle to wear the iconic ‘Z’ badge and the coupe has received raving reviews, but can the roadster variant keep pace? Car and SUV spent some time with the 370Z’s soft-top sibling to find out if it’s pure Japanese sport car or just a very expensive hair dryer.

From the outside the Roadster isn’t a large departure from the Coupe: it’s brawny, bold and, while curvaceous, isn’t at all feminine. The 370Z has ironed out much of the awkwardness that the preceding 350Z was criticised for. The shark tooth look up front is purposeful and a long bonnet with raked back headlight clusters ooze style. At the rear it’s big booty time with a high deck and wide swollen guards that are pinched off by a nearly vertical rear bumper. With so much visual mass at the rear the 370Z is athletically stanced and possesses massive road presence. The look is finished off by perfectly matched 19″ Rays alloys and a Z badges on the front guards that moonlight as indicators.

When it comes to the roof, the 370Z looks better with it dropped, but it remains a commendable effort. It’s longer and tapers off more gradually than the roof on the 350Z roadster. It also uses a lined high-quality fabric rather than vinyl and houses a glass rear window. To lower or raise the roof requires no latches or manual input and is done with the push of a button by an electro-hydraulic system. It’s a busy affair as the roof clunks through its movements. It can also be performed from the outside of the car by holding down the door unlock button. There is a solid feel to the roof and its mechanism, once in place, up or down, there is no creaking or noise from any joining points.

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Skoda Yeti 2010 Review

June 7th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Why don’t we have Yetis in New Zealand? That’s a question seldom asked here. I mean we have enough crazy people to see them and it was Sir Ed Hillary that first climbed the highest peak in their native Himalayan region, surely he could have organised safe passage for at least one. But we still don’t have any Yetis¦ until now.

Skoda has come to the rescue and made its new Yeti crossover vehicle available to all curious kiwis. So is this latest product from the world’s most underrated automaker really a dynamically competent, uniquely styled and keenly priced specimen? Or is that just fantasy? Car and SUV tracked down one of NZ’s very first Yetis to find out more.

At first glance the Yeti is distinctive and modern but probably won’t scare anyone. Its nose is the Skoda corporate grille that sits between uniquely designed headlight clusters. Character lines crease the bonnet and a colour-coded B-pillar breaks up the wraparound glass house. It’s neutral in stance and is fairly restrained but still displays soft roader styling cues like enlarged wheel arches, black plastic protective skirting, integrated roof rails and nudge plates front and rear. The rugged yet refined look is finished off with 5-spoke, 17-inch alloy wheels. Overall, it’s a well-defined vehicle, while it won’t suit all tastes, it’s square back, chunky bumpers and four-eyed face have an unorthodox charm.

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Hyundai ix35 CRDi Elite 2010 Review

May 31st, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

So what’s new about the Hyundai ix35? Well, pretty much everything, including the name. The ix35 is an all-new model for the Korean carmaker and is set to replace the popular Tucson here, in the NZ market. The ix35 is a sheet-metal representation of Hyundai’s bold charge from bare-bones carmaker to a builder of stylish and desirable product. But even for an in-form Hyundai the compact soft roader market segment is hard fought by established competitors like Toyota’s Rav4 and the Honda CR-V. The ix35 has got the fresh-faced looks to get into the ring, but does it have the ability to come out on top. Car and SUV tag-teamed with the new ix35 CRDi Elite to test its metal and its mettle.

Penned at Hyundai’s European Design Centre in Germany the ix35 has a distinctive Euro flair to its aesthetic. Using Hyundai’s new ‘fluidic sculpture’ design language the ix35 is busy with dramatic crease lines and multi-sided shapes. Up front an aggressive grille, raked windscreen and pumped up bonnet signal dynamic intent. Swollen wheel arches and an ascending belt line dominate the profile view and out back wrap around jewel-stone tail lights and a roof spoiler finish the modern look. The Elite tested model is given added appeal by chrome work on the front grille and door handles with 18-inch 5-spoke alloys filling the guards. Overall it’s a curvaceous modern looking vehicle which will appeal nicely to image conscious buyers, it also isn’t overtly feminised — a potential hazard within the class.

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Toyota Land Cruiser 200 VX 2010 Review

May 28th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

The Land Cruiser 200 is the King Kong of the Toyota range, boasting all the strengths of normal SUVs but with a physical presence and brute force all its own. As a descendent of the original Japanese military spec Land Cruiser the 200 has six decades worth of dirt running through its veins. But as the Land Cruiser has matured, some badge fans have said all the new luxuries and fancy styling has distanced the LC from its mud-munching roots. So is the Land Cruiser 200 still king of the jungle, capable of thumping its chest and cutting through any terrain? Or has it become softer than a beer-bellied slug? Car and SUV spent a week on the move with the 2010 Land Cruiser 200 to find out more.

The first thing that strikes you with the 200 is its bulky presence; for NZ it’s a giant of an SUV. Over the various generations the Land Cruiser has got larger and larger and now cuts an intimidating shadow. Up front it has a wide gaping grille with wrap around halogen headlights and a flat bonnet line. Flared guards and a high waist dominate the flanks and it’s a squarer look at the rear with a split tailgate and red-jeweled lights. Luxury exterior touches include chrome bright work on the side mirrors, grille and hatch grab bar. 18-inch alloys and tinted glass finish off the look.

Climb inside and there is an impressive amount of space on offer. The dark leather seats are flat but wide and separated by a massive centre storage box/armrest. All three rows of seating get air vents and 3-point seat belts, meaning 7 occupants can travel in comfort. The third row seating offers ample headroom and decent leg room for anyone under 6-foot it also has cup holders and handgrips. The back row is side mounted and splits in half to fold away while the second row is slide and recline adjustable. With the third row stowed away there’s a huge 700-litre cargo area available.

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Mitsubishi Challenger Exceed 2010 Review

May 21st, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

In the automotive world there are still some tough tasks waiting to be truly mastered. Like making a V8 engine that’s economical, or designing a cheap convertible sports car that isn’t labelled as a hairdressers ride. For Mitsubishi, the new mid-size SUV Challenger represents another difficult venture. Slotting into the range between the Outlander and the Pajero, the Challenger is designed to offer the elusive correct mix of soft roader comfort and cabin feel with fierce off road prowess. Car and SUV got into the all-new Challenger to see if it’s solved this complicated equation.

Visually the Challenger leaves no doubt about its off road aspirations with a chunky, tough look all round. Based on the Mitsubishi Triton’s tough ladder chassis it has a neutral ute-type stance and is tall (1,840mm) with a high ground clearance (220mm). Front-end styling is shared with the Triton but the top spec Challenger Exceed (as tested) receives chrome trim on its Mitsubishi family grille. Chrome and silver touches also feature surrounding the fog lamps, on the door handles and side mirrors, side steps, front scuff plate and17-inch alloys. Elsewhere exterior practicalities include a wide vertical-opening rear hatch, integrated roof rails and rear tinted glass. Overall, the Challenger’s ute underpinning give it the size and elevated stance of a serious off roader, it has a rugged high-waisted appeal that’s modern but not overly rounded or extravagant.

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FPV F6 E 2010 Review

May 21st, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Did Dirty Harry ever wear a police uniform when following leads and cracking heads? No, he wore brown sports jackets. And did James Bond ever wear a fully camouflaged jump suit when attending a cocktail party? No he didn’t. We all knew Bond had the firepower to shoot up the place, and he often did, but why signal leery intent too early. Ford Performance Vehicles isn’t usually known for styling restraint, but has followed this low-key image concept with its new F6 E model. FPV’s regular F6 turbocharged six-cylinder machine has become a success and accounts for more than 40% of all FPV sales, but the conspicuous styling hasn’t been sweet to all tastes. Enter the F6 E that offers the same thundering performance albeit wrapped up in a bespoke suit rather than a wife-beater singlet and black jeans. Car and SUV went undercover with the F6 E to investigate further.

From the outside less is more for this sleeper-styled sedan but there are still styling clues that distance it from lesser Falcon-based models. It has the same burly front and rear bumpers as its flashy F6 brother but the ‘racoon eye’ light surrounds and black rear diffuser are now colour coded.  The rear wing from the F6 has been dropped in favour of a boot lip spoiler and the 5-spoke 19-inch alloys are finished in shadow chrome. The front grille is blacked out and there are classy chrome touches on the bonnet’s front edge, boot grab bar and framing the windows. At a glance it’s a smooth looking sedan but a closer look reveals a massive intercooler hiding behind the front air dam and huge brake rotors with bright red Brembo callipers. Like a heavyweight boxer in a tuxedo, it’s impossible to completely hide the power within.

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Mitsubishi Lancer ES 2010 Review

May 14th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

There’s more than one way to create temptation among potential car customers. You can offer more features for the same price or you can tempt by offering less for a discounted price. At Car and SUV we often review high-spec, bells and whistles cars but for this road test that’s all changed and we got some seat time in the cut-price cruiser Mitsubishi Lancer ES. The ES is Mitsubishi’s base-model Lancer that has achieved an attractive price point that will give it strong appeal to fleet customers and budget conscious consumers alike. But creating true temptation is about more than saving money, especially in the hard-fought compact sedan segment. We spent a week with the Lancer ES to uncover its allure.

In terms of price the Lancer ES is scalpel sharp at undercutting its direct Japanese competition. Costing $27,990 for the manual and $29,990 for the CVT auto, the base spec Lancer is $3-5k cheaper than its rivals. The lowest model Honda Civic ($33,800) and Subaru Impreza ($32,990) can’t match the Lancer ES, while the Mazda3 ($30,895) comes closest but only in hatch form. You would have to go Korean and consider the Kia Cerato LX with its $28,990 price as the specification is higher and the Cerato is arguably as good looking.

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Subaru Outback 3.6R Premium 2010 Review

May 7th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

It does seem a touch odd that Subaru’s crossover wagon is named after a flat, dry, straight expansive centre of Australia, when it takes oppositional conditions to reveal its true strengths. But the new 2010 Outback isn’t just about using its trademark boxer engine and all wheel drive system to expertly negotiate twisting mountain passes, it has serious intent as a spacious, family-hauling all rounder. The three previous generations of Outback have developed a reputation of Swiss-army-knife practicality for the new model, so can it raise the bar even higher? Car and SUV opened up the new top-spec Outback 3.6R Premium to check if it has all the tools for success.

Sitting 70mm higher than its Legacy stable mate, the Outback casts a burly purposeful shadow. An increase in width over its predecessor helps negate the raised ride height and creates a balanced stance. A thick strip of black plastic cladding protects the bottom edges of the car and houses silver-ringed fog lamps out front. The winged grille and frowning headlights give the Outback road presence and the 17-inch 6-spoke alloys are a good match despite struggling to pack out the high wheel arches. Aesthetically, the Outback isn’t a natural beauty and has clearly been styled with the American market in mind. That said, it has a modern, clean look that’s well colour-coded and has some nice touches like tinted rear glass, integrated roof rails and subtle use of silver trim.

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