October 1st, 2010 by Darren Cottingham
BMW’s 5-Series has never been ostentatious, it’s never screamed out for attention or keenly elicited pedestrian glances. Instead, it’s flown under the radar of many since its inception back in 1972, but for those who know better the 5-Series is one executive saloon that’s hard to beat. Now in 2010 the 5-Series has entered it’s sixth generation and remains low key but is stronger and more advanced than ever before. Car and SUV spent a week behind the wheel of the top spec (below the M Division’s M5) 550i to see what’s new and what’s stayed the same. On paper, the 550i is the true stealth bomber of the range, equipped with a full payload of raw power, cutting edge technology and bulletproof build quality.
Exterior aesthetics were a heated talking point of the previous E60 5-Series penned by controversial designer Chris Bangle. The new 550i sees a return to the understated strong looks that defined earlier models. While there remains a clear resemblance to the E60 model the muscular creases in the bonnet and along the flanks combine with the prominent kidney grilles to better create a modern example of a familiar bloodline. Critics could argue that the new 5-Series hasn’t done enough to break new design ground, but few would blame BMW for playing it safe this time around. That said, the new 550i does stand out as an athletic machine with wide 19-inch wheels and gaping twin chrome exhaust tips offering a subtle hint to the power hiding underneath its contemporary sheet metal.
Even the harshest design critic would struggle to fault the 550i interior, with high quality leathers, metals and plastics that cosset the driver. There are a wide variety of artistic shapes and textures but all switchgear is thoughtfully placed and easily operated. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is thick to the grip and houses audio and phone controls. There are numerous class touches including illuminated climate control displays that disappear into their surrounds when not required and a large high-def colour control screen that’s recessed into the dashboard for good visibility even in harsh lighting conditions. The i-Drive jog dial control system is excellent, it’s very simple to use and has functions for a variety of applications, from playing music stored on the in-built hard disk to checking oil levels and tyre pressures. There’s too much standard equipment to list but some tricks to show off to friends include a heads up speed display, a booming 12 speaker stereo system, 4-zone air conditioning with backseat controls and a voice recognition system. If you want to get into the lengthy (and pricey) options list, high-tech gems like seat mounted rear DVD screens, active cruise control or a night vision safety system are available.
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September 17th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham
Sharp styling is always nice, and strong performance can be exciting, but nothing speaks to new car buyers as loudly as price. The Korean carmakers have known this for decades and now Mitsubishi has cottoned on and released a new entry-level model in its very successful Outlander range. Like buying ‘home brand’ at the supermarket the Outlander LS forgoes some of the fancy packaging to chase down a more attractive price – $37,990. That’s a tempting sum to swap for NZ’s best selling medium SUV especially coming with Mitsubishi’s 5-year/10-year warranty. But in achieving this price what concessions have been made on this brazen base-model? Car and SUV opened the packet on the Outlander LS to take a closer look at the contents within.
Visually the LS, like all Outlanders has a more traditional boxy SUV shape when compared to the highly curved new-school SUVs like the Hyundai ix35 and the Mazda CX-7. Classic good looks aside, it’s only under close inspection that the LS differs from its more expensive siblings. Mitsubishi’s ‘jet fighter’ grille, first used on the Lancer then on the facelifted Outlander range, hasn’t filtered down to the LS model. While this leaves it a facelift behind other Outlanders the overall styling on the LS is modern and gives it genuine presence. Tough black plastic mouldings protect the underside and it rolls on 16″ steel wheels with silver covers. Overall, it’s a smart looking machine with its high beltline, tinted rear glass and subtle chrome touches. With the exception of the steel wheels there is nothing about the Outlander LS that really screams ‘base model’.
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September 10th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham
Hyundai has established itself as the true giant-killers of the automotive world, with good-looking, quality product served up at a palatable price. Currently there isn’t a carmaker around that doesn’t pay attention when the Korean firm releases a fresh offering. But for Hyundai it’s no longer about the journey from mediocrity to earning a seat at the head table, it’s about reinforcing position and feasting on the fruits of its efforts. Hyundai’s new i45 represents the latest stone to be loaded into the sling and as it’s launched into the competitive mid-size sedan market keen observers are wondering if it will strike its target or fall in the dust. Car and SUV spent a week with the i45 to chart its flight-path towards success.
The first step towards winning over buyers and opposing badge snobbery is with sharp styling and the i45 delivers in full with a busy blend of razored lines and raked-back surfaces. Clearly drawing from European inspiration the i45 makes a statement at the front with a blinging chrome grille, teardrop headlights and a gaping front air dam with deep-set fog lamps. Along the sides a deep rising crease runs front to rear finishing in wrap around rear light clusters. At the back twin chrome exhaust tips sit below a short boot deck and a long, swooping rear windscreen. Overall the i45 is a genuine looker, with an ultra-modern and exclusive look. The high beltline and coupe-like roof also work in a practical sense with ample headroom inside, and the long rear doors provide for easy entry. The executive look is finished off with smart 18-inch alloys in Elite trim – as tested.
The premium treatment with fluidic lines and solid build quality continues inside. Cool blue illumination and a silver-ringed instrument cluster look great, as do the brushed aluminium and chrome highlights. The dark plastics feel quality and are pleasant to the touch. The curved dashboard feeds into a gloss black centre control stack and while the switchgear is unorthodox in appearance it’s logically laid out and is easily operated. Audio and cruise controls are repeated on the leather-wrapped steering wheel and there’s a range of small storage options. On the i45 Elite the seats are trimmed in supple high-grade leather and would prove comfortable on long journeys.
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September 3rd, 2010 by Darren Cottingham
Is your home full of family members and pets but your bank account isn’t packed full of cash? If you answered yes, then read on because the Dodge Journey SXT may be the family hauler for you. The 2010 model year has brought some small updates for the American SUV and being priced just below the $40k mark it’s ready to continue forcing itself into the consciousness of thrifty kiwi buyers. Car and SUV played mum for a week in the Journey to find out if it had the durability and versatility demanded by New Zealand families.
From the outside the Journey’s styling and proportions are striking but difficult to define. It looks like a cross between an SUV and a people mover with a chunky face surrounded by pumped up sheetmetal. There’s a definite road-focus to the styling and its relatively low ride height and colour-coded body kit make no promises of any off-road credentials. Out front there’s the chrome Dodge signature grille with the Ram’s head logo stamped in, quad halogen headlights and fog lamps mounted in the square-jaw front bumper. In profile the Journey shows off a large glasshouse, and pushed-out wheel arches that house 17-inch alloy wheels in base-model SXT form. The rear design is a touch softer boasting jeweled four-piece taillights and a lightweight single panel lift-gate with integrated roof spoiler. While the overall design isn’t as polarizing as the Nitro or Chrysler 300C the Journey is a handsome machine and looks more expensive than its price tag suggests.
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August 27th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham
It’s a fact that not all crossover vehicles are created equal, not just in terms of quality and appeal but also in their focus and job description. It’s a broad market segment with some crossover’s spinning all four wheels almost equally well on tarmac as on dirt tracks. Others are far more directed at suburban duties relying on looks and ride comfort to build a loyal fan base. Then there’s Mazda’s CX-7 which has been an enigma since its release back in 2007. With curvaceous styling and a focus on performance and dynamics the CX-7 blazed its own trail and built its own niche. Now for 2010, the CX-7 has received a mid-life facelift and is rediscovering its slot in the competitive crossover market. Car and SUV got into the driver’s seat of the reworked CX-7 to find out exactly what makes it tick.
Aesthetically, the CX-7 defies any SUV squareness, instead opting for full-figured curves and swooping lines. The 2010 refresh uses some minor styling changes to bring the CX-7 into line with the rest of Mazda’s current lineup. The most obvious change is the redesigned front end that boasts a larger five-point grille and new fog-light housing. On our lower-spec tested GSX model there were some classy touches like silver trim framing the windows and indicator repeaters in the side mirrors. The GSX has 17-inch alloys that are an attractive design but struggle to fill the arches. The top model CX-7 Limited comes fitted with 19-inch wheels which are better matched to the pumped up sheet metal.
Inside the CX-7 there’s a new high-grade dark cloth trim lining the supportive and well positioned front seats. The instrumentation has also been reworked to include Mazda’s latest display screen that shows fuel usage, audio information and doubles up as a monitor for the onboard reversing camera. All switchgear is sensibly laid out and the orange/blue nighttime illumination is a real feature. Stereo and cruise control buttons are neatly housed in the leather-wrapped steering wheel which will prove handy for shorter drivers who will have to stretch to access the centre control stack. Everything feels well screwed together and while interior quality has improved, the contrasting silver trim may not have the same long-term durability as the main surfaces. In terms of occupant space there is plenty of shoulder and leg room for front passengers, the back seat provides ample head room and leg room is adequate but not class leading. Standard equipment for the CX-7 in GSX trim includes a tilt and rake adjustable steering wheel, remote central locking, climate air-con, one-touch power windows and a 6-disk CD player with aux input. A Bluetooth hands free phone kit is available as a dealer-fitted accessory.
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August 20th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham
When Nissan launched its current model Navara ST-X ute a few years back it came packing 403Nm of torque — the most in its class. It was a mighty figure that allowed ST-X owners bragging rights on building sites and rural pubs around our great country. Then Mitsubishi fought back unleashing its Triton ute with 407Nm of torque and there was a new sheriff in town. But the importance of this mini arms race clearly hasn’t been lost on Nissan because the 2010 Navara has been given a mild facelift, 450Nm of torque and a special badge branded on its hind quarter to let everyone know. Car and SUV saddled up with the refreshed Navara ST-X to see if it makes for a wild ride.
What’s most impressive about the jump forward in torque is that Nissan have retained the same engine with the same displacement and still achieved it. The 2.5-litre turbo diesel motor has received a new cylinder head design, an upgraded direct-injection system and a new variable-nozzle turbocharger. The end result is a 12kW increase in power to 140kW and the 12 percent gain in torque to 450Nm. Surprisingly fuel economy has also improved and is rated at 9.0l/100km combined with the automatic box that our test vehicle used.
The figures are impressive and so was the drive with the effortless and generous supply of torque being a defining characteristic. Almost anywhere in the rev range and at all speeds a prod on the gas pedal would bring on rapid acceleration and only minimal turbo lag. At open-road cruising speeds the Navara is settled and easily capable of quick overtaking manoeuvres. The motor while brawny is also fairly refined and happily potters along in urban traffic with minimal engine rattles or vibration entering the cabin.
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August 13th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham
It’s no secret that the second generation Mazda6 is a very good car. It’s known for being dynamically proficient, well equipped and sharply dressed. So when it came time for a mid-lifecycle facelift how could Mazda fix a car that just ain’t broke? Car and SUV spent a week with the refreshed top-spec Mazda6 Limited to get all the answers.
In an attempt to enhance the 6’s successful formula rather than complicate it Mazda has kept the facelift light with some subtle cosmetic and mechanical updates. Exterior styling sees the inclusion of the current Mazda corporate face. This includes new raked-back headlights, matching fog lamps and a new grille with a more prominent Mazda badge. Plenty of hints from Mazda’s sports cars are in place on the Mazda6 with angular shapes and strong character lines. At the rear there are minimal changes but the clear LED two-piece taillights, and the curved boot lid spoiler extend the highly styled appeal. Our tested 6 in Limited trim came with a new 18-inch alloy wheel design that set off the vehicle’s lines well and matched up nicely with the elegant ‘Clear Water Blue’ paint work. Overall, the Mazda6 styling is class-leading and while it may be too curvaceous for timid tastes, its fluidic design demands attention.
Inside, the Mazda6 receives revised materials including new main plastics and contrasting silver trim. Piano black plastic surrounds the centre stack and the dashboard is nicely tactile and symmetrical. The instrument cluster is now easier to read with larger numbering on the silver rimmed dials. Although the 6’s interior looks great uniformly illuminated in orange, the main centre digital display is still cluttered and can be difficult to read without taking your eyes off the road despite its high position. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is also very busy with the integration of more than a dozen buttons and toggles that function well but a simplified approach could have created a more upmarket feel. That said, the build quality feels excellent and there is generous head and shoulder space for front occupants. The back seat allows for excellent legroom and in hatchback form can be split 60:40 and folded forward by simply pulling a latch in the boot. Cargo capacity is 519-litres in the hatch; fold down the backseat and this increases to an impressive 1,702-litres.
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August 6th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham
Sometimes if you can’t find a path you just have to make a new one and that’s exactly what Nissan did back in 1986 when it released the first generation Pathfinder. Now, three generations of Pathfinder later Nissan are still cutting that same path towards a large SUV that mixes a comfortable, well-equipped interior with rolled-up-sleeves off-road ability. For 2010, the third-gen Pathfinder has received a facelift that has brought aesthetic and mechanical upgrades to the single-variant model. So how good is this refreshed bastion of boxy styling? Car and SUV made tracks in the new Pathfinder 450T to find out.
Externally, it’s not immediately obvious that anything has changed with the no-nonsense design, but a closer look reveals some subtle differences. The facelifted Pathfinder is 80mm longer than its predecessor thanks to a new, more pronounced front bumper. The bonnet and grille are also new and Xenon headlamps have been added which boast auto leveling and headlight washers hidden in the bumper mouldings. Elsewhere the Pathfinder’s styling is generally straightforward and almost timeless in its traditional SUV two-box shape. One interesting design detail is the high, vertically mounted rear door handles that certainly look cool but may prove difficult to reach for children or midgets. Our NZ-spec Pathfinder is better dressed than most and comes with integrated roof rails, front fog lamps, side-steps and 17″ alloys which finish off the distinctive look.
Jump into the Pathfinder cabin and what’s immediately noticeable is the cavernous space, it’s wide and very long. Three passengers can fit on the rear seat with plenty of shoulder and legroom and air-con vents in the ceiling will keep them cool too. If that’s not enough the Pathfinder also comes with a third row of seats that easily fold flat into the floor to create a massive luggage area. The middle row can also be folded flat to make a 2-metre long loading bay — perfect for large cargo or taking a nap.
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