Subaru Impreza WRX 2009 Review

April 10th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

subaru-impreza-wrx-fq

“It’s gone soft”. It was the one point that motoring journos the world over agreed upon when the new generation Subaru Impreza WRX broke cover last year. All grown up and on the hunt for a new type of buyer, the five-door hatch lacked the raw attitude of its predecessors, widening the gap between it and its balls-to-the-wall Subaru Tecnica International (STI) fettled sibling in the process. I can kind of understand the logic of such a move. The WRX STI has always been measured against its arch nemesis, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, so why not change tack?

It seems, however, that Subaru has listened, acted and now delivered. The company’s ’09-spec car, available in hatch and now four-door sedan guises, has been re-evaluated and tweaked in the all the right places, making it faster and harder edged, all the while maintaining its newfound sophistication.

There are a few external upgrades, namely a new mesh grille, new WRX badges, red brake callipers and a sunroof that’s now factory fare on both the hatch and sedan models. Likewise inside, dark leather trim with red stitching has become standard issue.

But the real beauty of the new models is more than skin deep. The ’09 WRX shares the same EJ25T long block as its predecessor, but some factory tuning of the turbocharger, intercooler and exhaust have given the car a serious performance injection to leave it nipping at the heals of its big STI brother ” and all for no more cash than the ’08 car.

Bringing the engine up to task is the STI-spec turbo sucking on 15psi of boost ” 30 per cent more of the compressed stuff than the 11psi seen in the same car this time last year. The top-mount intercooler setup benefits from increased chilling capabilities and the exhaust system has seen a reduction in gas flow restriction to match the new turbo arrangement. It all adds up to an impressive 195kW and 343Nm ” more than enough poke to slingshot the WRX from zero to the legal limit in a manufacturer-recorded 5.3 seconds and feeling every bit that fast. Better still, combined fuel usage has been reduced in the process.

Improvements have also been made to the shift mechanism of the WRX’s 5-speed gearbox. A 6-speed would be nice here, but some things just have to be reserved for the STI. Significant upgrades have been achieved in the suspension department, and according to Subaru the new car provides, “sharper, sportier, more aggressive handling”.

Testing was conducted in Japan and Australia to tune the setup for local driving conditions and it seems to have paid off. The sedan we drove was noticeably firmer and less susceptible to wallow than the hatch we tested last year. This is all thanks to re-tuned dampers and stiffened coil springs, stabiliser bars and top mounts ” just what the doctor ordered. There’s also a bigger footprint on the road, with 225/45R17 tyres replacing the narrow 205/50s that were previously fitted.

All said and done, there’s a lot of car here for the $50,990 price tag. In fact, we’re pretty adamant there’s nothing else out there that comes close in terms of performance and styling for the same money. The new car best buy of ’09? This could well be it.

Click through to the next page for a full list of specifications

Price: from $50,990

What we like:

  • More grunt
  • Tighter ride and fatter bite on road than 2008 car
  • Rear Styling on sedan

What we don’t like:

  • Truck-sized side mirrors

Subaru Impreza WRX (2009) – Specifications

Engine: Subaru EJ25T 2.5-litre DOHC 16V boxer, AVCS, multi-point sequential fuel injector, ETC, STI turbocharger, revised intercooler, revised exhaust

Driveline: 5-speed manual gearbox, viscous limited slip diff, symmetrical all-wheel drive, VDC

Suspension/Brakes: Front — MacPherson struts, coil springs, Rear — Double wishbone, coil springs, ventilated disc front, solid disc rear, ABS, EBD

Exterior: WRX sports body kit, Bi-Xenon headlights, front fog lights

Interior: Leather sports bucket seats, leather-bound steering wheel, alloy pedals, titanium trim

Wheels/Tyres: 17×7-inch alloy wheels, Dunlop SP Sport 225/45R17 tyres

Performance: 195kW @ 6000rpm, 343Nm @ 4000rpm, 0-100kph — 5.3 seconds approx

Price As Tested: $50,990

Words Brad Lord, Photos Dan Wakelin

Suzuki Grand Vitara Ltd 2008 Review

January 1st, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

suzuki-vitara-my09-fq-on-slope-2

It was in the paper recently that Australians are being encouraged to eat camel meat. From an initial 6000 that originally trekked the north-south route through Australia in the late 19th Century, and helped build Australia’s great railway, the Ghan, the population has swelled to between 700,000 and a million — those camels sure like getting it ‘on’ in the stinking hot weather more than us humans do.

And to a chorus of ‘speak for yourself’ I proffer my next astute observation: if each camel is holding an average of 100 litres of water in its body (they’re known to drink up to 70 litres at a time and that’s all stored in the blood, not the hump as some people believe), that’s 100,000,000 litres of water walking around in belching, flatulating quadrupeds. That sounds like a huge amount, and it is — it’s 40 Olympic swimming pools’ worth — a small lake!

Why am I telling you this? Suzuki flew a batch of us journalists out to Ayers Rock and the surrounds to sample the new Grand Vitara in something a bit more challenging than the traffic-calming chicanes of Grey Lynn. It was a choking haze of red dust kicked up by our convoy of Grand Vitaras that concealed frequent salvos of cunningly place ruts in the arid landscape. Add into the mix a landscape that doesn’t vary significantly for several hundred kilometres, spattered with termite mounds and prickly Spinifex grass, it is anything but lush, the vegetation grasping for life and sipping through a very narrow straw.

Life’s tough in the outback, and therefore a good metaphor for the Grand Vitara. It is undoubtedly better than the previous model — especially the longer wheelbase version that’s our current test car. I drove all the models on some moderately challenging terrain. Only once did it fail to get up a slope, and that was on road tyres with an angle that made me think twice about attempting it.

But it’s not the ruggedness that will appeal to most Grand Vitara purchasers — it’s the comfort levels, fuel economy and safety. Fortunately these have also been improved. The new Vitara drives more like a car — not quite like a car, but not far off. This means it’s more stable through the corners, and the short wheelbase version doesn’t pitch so much on bumpy roads. The five-door long wheelbase version (like our test car), is the one to go for, though, with the 2.4-litre VVT four-cylinder engine. It’s gruntier than the previous car, shovelling 122kW of power through all four wheels. This new engine is mated to the four-speed automatic gearbox from the previous model. The engine range is said by Suzuki to be quieter than before, with the V6 showing a 2dB reduction in volume. Suzuki will tell you it’s significant, but 3dB is considered the threshold at which people notice a change in volume, so it’s probably only significant over very long journeys where noise fatigue would become an issue.

Electronic stability control is standard, as is six airbags, ventilated disk brakes all round, and cruise control. A useful function (which also makes the Grand Vitara a proper four-wheel drive) is the locking differential and low-range ratios so you can really get axle deep in the sand. The V6 Ltd top-of-the-range model also features a hill descent mode, which we put to good use on a steep off-road track in the outback.

Passengers are accommodated nicely. There’s enough room for five people without too much problem, and a substantial boot which also features a marsupial-like hidden pouch in the floor so that you can put items like a laptop out of view.

This 2.4-litre Ltd version gets leather trim, a sunroof, mirror-mounted side indicators and a seven-speaker (plus subwoofer) sound system. In the hot desert sun, you’ll welcome the climate control air conditioning. The information display has been moved from the centre console into the instrument cluster – making it easier to keep an eye on instantaneous fuel consumption, average fuel consumption, driving range, temperature, trip meters or average speed – and freeing up some room in the dash for a centre speaker

Where the long wheelbase model excels is over the rutted roads. At one point, on an unrestricted road, we were going one hundred. Miles per hour. The Grand Vitara felt almost like Luke Skywalker’s Land Speeder in the arid Tatooine gliding unflustered over the corrugations. Fortunately there were no Womp Rats to worry about (Star Wars in-joke), and we just had to pay attention for kangaroos, and the aforementioned camels.

Except that in my whole time there, and despite taking a helicopter trip and keeping my eyes metaphorically peeled, I did not see one camel. I consoled myself with the fact that the Grand Vitara is an enjoyable drive, even on less-than-ideal roads, and that despite my disappointment, I wouldn’t get the hump.

Suzuki pretty much initiated the compact SUV segment, but it now has to contend with the likes of Honda’s CR-V and Toyota’s RAV4, both of which are excellent competitors. With a slightly better price and a good specification, Suzuki is proving it offers the value for money required in today’s market.

Click through to the next page to read the full specifications of the Suzuki Grand Vitara range.

Price: $40,400 (2.4-litre Ltd)

What we like

  • At this price, it’s great value
  • It’s better than the previous model

What we don’t like

  • Still a bit of body roll
COMFORT 2.0 JLX 2.4 JLX 2.4 Ltd 3.2 V6 Ltd 1.9  DDiS
Power steering O
Electric windows & exterior mirrors O
Remote central door locking O
Keyless entry, keyless start & security system - - O O O
4 speaker CD audio system O O - - O
7 speaker 6 CD audio system with subwoofer - - O O -
Illuminated steering wheel audio controls O
Climate control air conditioning O
Electronic slide/tilt sunroof - - O O -
Cruise control - O O O O
INSTRUMENT PANEL 2.0 JLX 2.4 JLX 2.4 Ltd 3.2 V6 Ltd 1.9  DDiS
Tachometer O
Digital clock & outside temperature gauge O
Fuel consumption display O
Lights-off reminder O
Door ajar & low fuel warning lights O
Digital tripmeter O
INTERIOR 2.0 JLX 2.4 JLX 2.4 Ltd 3.2 V6 Ltd 1.9  DDiS
Height adjustable steering wheel Urethane Urethane Leather Leather Urethane
Interior garnishes Silver Silver Silver/wood Silver/wood Silver
Map lights O
3 position cabin light with fade O
Sunvisor with vanity mirror & ticketholder x 2 O
Sunvisor slide-out shade extension - O
Seat lifter – driver’s side O
Reclining & sliding front seats O
Detachable head restraints – front & rear O
Seat material Fabric Fabric Leather Leather Fabric
Reclining & tumble-folding rear seats 60/40 O
Assist grips / coat hooks O
Driver’s footrest O
Remote fuel lid opener O
Cupholders 6
Overhead console with sunglasses storage O O - - O
Lockable glovebox O
Console box with storage / storage pockets O
Underfloor storage compartment & toolbox O
Rear luggage cover O
EXTERIOR 2.0 JLX 2.4 JLX 2.4 Ltd 3.2 V6 Ltd 1.9  DDiS
Green tinted glass O
Multi-reflect plus halogen projector  headlamps O O O - O
Self-levelling high density discharge headlamps - - - O -
Auto-activating headlamps with washers - - - O -
Front fog lamps - - O O -
Integrated door mirror turn signals O - O O -
2 speed & variable intermittent wipers/washer O
Rear window defogger/wiper/washer O
Roof rails O
Spare tyre cover Full cover
Wheels Alloy
SAFETY 2.0 JLX 2.4 JLX 2.4 Ltd 3.2 V6 Ltd 1.9  DDiS
4 mode 4WD O
SRS front dual airbags O
SRS side and curtain airbags O
ABS with EBD and brake assist O
Electronic stability programme (ESP®) - O
Hill hold and descent control - O -
Decoupling brake pedal mechanism O
Collapsible steering column O
Front seatbelts – ELR with pre-tensioners & force limiters O
Rear seatbelts – 3-point ELR x 3 O
Height adjustable front seat belt anchors O
ISO FIX child seat anchorage x 2 O
Child seat tether anchorages x 2 O
Engine immobiliser O
Side impact beams O
High-mounted stop lamp O
DIMENSIONS 2.0 Manual 2.0 Auto 2.4 JLX / Ltd 3.2 V6 Ltd 1.9  DDiS
Overall length mm 4500
Overall width mm 1810
Overall height mm 1695
Wheelbase mm 2640
Tread Front mm 1540
Track Rear mm 1570
Ground Clearance mm 200
Minimum turning radius m 5.5
Approach angle deg 29
Ramp breakover angle deg 19
Departure angle deg 27
WEIGHTS 2.0 Manual 2.0 Auto 2.4 JLX / Ltd 3.2 V6 Ltd 1.9  DDiS
Curb weight kg 1575 1590 1620/1670 1753 1660
Gross vehicle weight kg 2100 2170
Braked towing capacity kg 1850 1700 2000
ENGINE 2.0 Manual 2.0 Auto 2.4 JLX / Ltd 3.2 V6 Ltd 1.9  DDiS
Type J20A J24B N32A F9Q
Cylinders 4 6 4
Number of valves 16 16, WT 24, WT 8
Displacement cc 1995 2393 3195 1870
Bore x stroke mm 84.0 x 90.0 92.0 x 90.0 89.0 x 85.6 80.0 x 93.0
Compression ratio 10.5 : 1 10.0 : 1 17.0 :1
Maximum Output (EEC net) Kw/rpm 103/6000 122/6000 165/6200 95/3750
Maximum Torque (EEC net) Nm/rpm 183/4000 225/4000 284/3500 300/2000
Fuel distribution Multi-point injection Direct injection
Fuel consumption – Combined (L/100km) 8.8 9.1 9.9 10.5 7.0
CO2 emissions (g/km) 199 210 234 249 185
TRANSMISSION 2.0 Manual 2.0 Auto 2.4 JLX / Ltd 3.2 V6 Ltd 1.9  DDiS
Drive system 4-mode full time 4×4
Type 5-speed 4-stage electronic 5-stage electronic 5-speed
Gear ratio 1st 4.545 2.826 2.826 3.520 3.854
2nd 2.354 1.493 1.493 2.043 2.135
3rd 1.695 1.000 1.000 1.401 1.411
4th 1.242 0.688 0.688 1.000 1.000
5th 1.000 - - 0.717 0.784
Reverse 4.431 2.703 2.703 3.224 3.854
Final gear ratio Diff 4.100 5.125 5.125 3.583 4.300
Transfer gear ratio High 1.000
Low 1.970
CHASSIS 2.0 Manual 2.0 Auto 2.4 JLX / Ltd 3.2 V6 Ltd 1.9  DDiS
Power assisted Steering Rack & pinion
Suspension Front MacPherson strut & coil spring
Rear Independent multi-link & coil spring
Brakes Front Ventilated disc
Rear Ventilated disc
Tyres 225/70R16 225/65R17 225/60R18 (Ltd) 225/60R18 225/65R17
CAPACITY 2.0 Manual 2.0 Auto 2.4 JLX / Ltd 3.2 V6 Ltd 1.9  DDiS
Seating 5
Fuel tank Litres 66
Fuel type 95 RON 91 RON Diesel
Luggage capacity Max Volume (litres) 1386
Seats raised (VDA method) (litres) 398
Seats tumbled (VDA method) (litres)

Words and photos Darren Cottingham

Holden Colorado LT 2008 Review

December 10th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

holden-colorado-lt-crew-cab-wellside-fqh

The Holden Rodeo has served 25 years hard labour here in NZ, but now a change in its business relationship with General Motors has seen Rodeo-maker Isuzu lasso back the famous name. It’s not pistols at dawn yet and Isuzu will continue to make the newly named Holden Colorado.

Rodeo can’t have been an American enough name for Holden, it had to cut straight to the vein and pick out an American State. Was Colorado chosen because it’s home to the rocky mountains and potential buyers may think of the ute as a peaky-engined tough nut capable of handling extreme conditions? Most likely, regardless of cheesy imagery the Colorado is the new sheriff in town, so let’s check what it’s packing.

Built on the tried and tested Rodeo platform the new Colorado has changes outside and in, but the spirit of its ancestor remains. What’s first noticed is an updated exterior design with reworked headlight units and a chunky front bumper giving the Colorado a resolute grimace. Body coloured wheel arches are a smart touch and a new look chrome-handled tailgate sits between vertically mounted rear lights. Overall the new angular styling at the front end and upgraded rear help the Colorado cast a staunch shadow.

The cabin has received more than a spit and polish with a new modernised dash layout comprising of a bulging centre console that performs all basic functions well and appears hard wearing. The same can’t be said for all the interior materials with some plastic coating already chipping away from one of the inside door surrounds on the tested vehicle.

Dials and gauges are typically no nonsense as is the vinyl flooring and thick-grip steering wheel. The seats have a nice-feeling cloth trim and provide solid support regardless of the Colorado’s direction. The driving position is relaxed and high with enough glass around the driver to give a commanding view of the road. The tested model was a crew cab and the back seat was an impressive size with enough room for 3 adult passengers and wide opening rear-doors to simplify their transition.

The state of Colorado leads America for fatal lightning strikes on people; the Colorado ute however isn’t as quick as a flash. The 4-cylinder, 3-litre turbo-diesel motor has 120kW of gallop with a generous 333Nm of torque. The engine has huge pulling power low down, but once the revs reach 3000rpm it’s time to change gear, as the acceleration tends to taper off. The state of Colorado also has the lowest rate of obesity in America; the Colorado diesel ute shares this low consumption, with achievable economy figures of 8.9l/100km. The four-speed auto transmission works hard through the gears in an attempt to extract performance but can be unresponsive and is no quick-draw when you push for full throttle.

Ride quality isn’t bad, and while the suspension is firm it’s lenient enough to ensure the Colorado stays straight even on rutted gravel roads. The suspension is naturally stiff at the rear to ensure a heavy load capability, this can result in the back bucking out slightly when turning tight corners unladen. This wasn’t a major issue but did highlight the Colorado’s lack of stability control. Steering has a welcome weight to it, and the hard-working power steering makes the vehicle easy to handle for drivers of any strength. When motorway cruising the Colorado goes about its work quietly and with total compliance.

Leave the tarmac and it becomes a very capable off-roader, with good ground clearance and push-button ability to shift into a low-range 4WD mode. A sump guard is included as standard, useful if the vehicle is going bush for a longer period. The Colorado is possibly one of the last new vehicles to still have drum brakes at the rear axle, but stopping power is still ample when you pull back the reins.

Towing is an important job for any ute and the Colorado has some muscle in pulling capacity. The 4×4 diesel model is capable of towing a 3000kg braked trailer or 750kg un-braked.

While the Colorado name is new, the vehicle will continue to sit on the previous Rodeo platform for a few years more. That’s ok as there are no serious flaws in its design or specification. The Colorado offers strong versatility and with the crew cab can easily be used as a family vehicle on weekends and an agricultural workhorse during the week. The upgraded styling like the name is a little foreign but still tough and sharp with the vehicle’s hardy credentials remaining intact. The price is fair if not ‘yee-haw’ fantastic but the Colorado’s heritage and multi-tasking nature make it well prepared for gunfights with competitors in the light-commercial marketplace.

Click through to the next page for specifications.

Price: from $42,190, tested vehicle $51,690

What we like:

  • Versatile
  • Capable off road
  • Strong diesel motor

What we don’t like:

  • No stability control
  • Unresponsive Auto transmission
  • Interior plastics

3.0 litre 4-cylinder Common Rail Intercooled; Turbo Diesel engine
4-speed automatic transmission (4×4 Crew Cab only)
Shift on the fly (4×4 only)
Limited Slip Differential
Front fog lamps
16-inch alloy wheels with alloy spare
6-speaker audio system with in-dash 6-disc CD player, MP3 compatibility and auxiliary input
4-way adjustable, deep-bolstered high quality cloth faced driver and front passenger seats
Leather wrap steering wheel and gear shift knob
Cruise control
Multifunction display
Front airbags for driver and front passenger
ABS anti-lock braking system with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD)
Roof storage console with map reading lamp
Power windows
Colour coded body and wheel arch mouldings
Engine immobiliser
Carpet floor covering
Air conditioning

Words and photos, Adam Mamo

The Holden Rodeo has served 25 years hard labour here in NZ, but now a change in its business relationship with General Motors has seen Rodeo-maker Isuzu lasso back the famous name. It’s not pistols at dawn yet and Isuzu will continue to make the newly named Holden Colorado.

Holden Colorado LT crew cab wellside r openRodeo can’t have been an American enough name for Holden, it had to cut straight to the vein and pick out an American State. Was Colorado chosen because it’s home to the rocky mountains and potential buyers may think of the ute as a peaky-engined tough nut capable of handling extreme conditions? Most likely, regardless of cheesy imagery the Colorado is the new sheriff in town, so let’s check what it’s packing.

Holden Colorado LT crew cab wellside fBuilt on the tried and tested Rodeo platform the new Colorado has changes outside and in, but the spirit of its ancestor remains. What’s first noticed is an updated exterior design with reworked headlight units and a chunky front bumper giving the Colorado a resolute grimace. Body coloured wheel arches are a smart touch and a new look chrome-handled tailgate sits between vertically mounted rear lights. Overall the new angular styling at the front end and upgraded rear help the Colorado cast a staunch shadow.

Holden Colorado LT crew cab wellside interiorThe cabin has received more than a spit and polish with a new modernised dash layout comprising of a bulging centre console that performs all basic functions well and appears hard wearing. The same can’t be said for all the interior materials with some plastic coating already chipping away from one of the inside door surrounds on the tested vehicle.

Holden Colorado LT crew cab wellside dashboardDials and gauges are typically no nonsense as is the vinyl flooring and thick-grip steering wheel. The seats have a nice-feeling cloth trim and provide solid support regardless of the Colorado’s direction. The driving position is relaxed and high with enough glass around the driver to give a commanding view of the road. The tested model was a crew cab and the back seat was an impressive size with enough room for 3 adult passengers and wide opening rear-doors to simplify their transition.

Holden Colorado LT crew cab wellside rqThe state of Colorado leads America for fatal lightning strikes on people; the Colorado ute however isn’t as quick as a flash. The 4-cylinder, 3-litre turbo-diesel motor has 120kW of gallop with a generous 333Nm of torque. The engine has huge pulling power low down, but once the revs reach 3000rpm it’s time to change gear, as the acceleration tends to taper off. The state of Colorado also has the lowest rate of obesity in America; the Colorado diesel ute shares this low consumption, with achievable economy figures of 8.9l/100km. The four-speed auto transmission works hard through the gears in an attempt to extract performance but can be unresponsive and is no quick-draw when you push for full throttle.

Holden Colorado LT crew cab wellside wheelRide quality isn’t bad, and while the suspension is firm it’s lenient enough to ensure the Colorado stays straight even on rutted gravel roads. The suspension is naturally stiff at the rear to ensure a heavy load capability, this can result in the back bucking out slightly when turning tight corners unladen. This wasn’t a major issue but did highlight the Colorado’s lack of stability control. Steering has a welcome weight to it, and the hard-working power steering makes the vehicle easy to handle for drivers of any strength. When motorway cruising the Colorado goes about its work quietly and with total compliance.

Holden Colorado LT crew cab wellside 4wd badgeLeave the tarmac and it becomes a very capable off-roader, with good ground clearance and push-button ability to shift into a low-range 4WD mode. A sump guard is included as standard, useful if the vehicle is going bush for a longer period. The Colorado is possibly one of the last new vehicles to still have drum brakes at the rear axle, but stopping power is still ample when you pull back the reins.

Holden Colorado LT crew cab wellside sTowing is an important job for any ute and the Colorado has some muscle in pulling capacity. The 4×4 diesel model is capable of towing a 3000kg braked trailer or 750kg un-braked.

While the Colorado name is new, the vehicle will continue to sit on the previous Rodeo platform for a few years more. That’s ok as there are no serious flaws in its design or specification. The Colorado offers strong versatility and with the crew cab can easily be used as a family vehicle on weekends and an agricultural workhorse during the week. The upgraded styling like the name is a little foreign but still tough and sharp with the vehicle’s hardy credentials remaining intact. The price is fair if not ‘yee-haw’ fantastic but the Colorado’s heritage and multi-tasking nature make it well prepared for gunfights with competitors in the light-commercial marketplace.

Click through to the next page for specifications.

Price: from $42,190, tested vehicle $51,690

What we like:

  • Versatile
  • Capable off road
  • Strong diesel motor

What we don’t like:

  • No stability control
  • Unresponsive Auto transmission
  • Interior plastics

Words and photos, Adam Mamo

Mazda RX-8 2008 Review

December 7th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

mazda-rx-8-fq2

In Japan there is an old saying, “A nail that sticks up is a nail that is knocked down.” Mazda boss Tuneji Matsuda didn’t care much for this expression back in 1961 when he broke away from his piston-preferring peers and brought the fascinating but (at that stage) flawed Wankel Rotary engine to Japan. Matsuda was thirsty for the success of the rotary engine, so he solved its problems, put it into production and let it dominate the Mazda range in the Cosmo.  When the 1973 global oil crisis hit it was the rotary’s thirst that forced Mazda back into conventional engines.

Matsuda’s desperate grasp at individuality within a conformist industry within a conformist society was an act of rebellion that enriched the motoring world. Now, over forty years after the first mass-produced rotary vehicle and numerous generations of Mazda models later there is only a single currently produced survivor of Matsuda’s rebellious rotary legacy, the Mazda RX-8.

In 2003 the most advanced version of the rotary engine, the 13B Renesis, was dropped into the then new RX-8. For this year’s 2008 model tweaks have been made to the Renesis engine, but Mazda has chosen to focus on improving low-rev engine response and torque delivery rather than increasing raw power. The engine remains strong, producing 170kW@8200rpm of power with 211Nm of torque, and will rocket the RX-8 to 100km in 6.4 seconds. These figures don’t tell the whole story of how rapid the RX-8 can be. The Renesis engine is a high revving temptress that draws the driver into the renegade rotary attitude. To get the most from the RX-8 you need the tacho up around a totally unsociable 8,500rpm but this smile-inducing fun comes at a price.

Poor fuel economy almost killed the rotary during the ‘70s and although now improved it still remains the RX-8’s Achilles’ heel. An average consumption figure of 12.5L/100km isn’t great, but get those rotors spinning around the 9,000rpm redline and the RX-8 will drink like an arts major on student loans day. Despite Mazda’s work on low-end torque, getting caught in the wrong gear remains frustrating. However, gear changes are a pleasure using the RX-8’s 6-speed manual transmission, shifts are short, neat and have a fulfilling mechanical feel. The revised model’s gearbox offers closer-ratio lower gears and a higher sixth-gear for motorway cruising. The RX-8 is perfectly capable running the straight line of the motorway, but get it on some twisty roads and it will groove to its own beat.

Handling is exceptional, the rear-wheel-drive RX-8 grips the road with flawless balance and poise, proving that much of the magic from Mazda’s MX-5 has found its way into the RX-8. This is largely helped by a perfect 50/50 front/rear weight distribution that allows the tail end to be lively on request, but ultimately controllable. The already sharp steering has been further improved in the 2008 RX-8 and underbody aerodynamics has also received treatment reducing high-speed lift and aiding stability. So Mazda’s outsider knows how to sprint and knows how to dance, but how does it look?

The rotary spirit has smashed its way out of the engine bay and exploded all over the rest of the vehicle. The RX-8 has interior and exterior aesthetic tributes to its rotary motor starting with a rotor shape set into the bonnet line. The car’s oversize front fenders have been toned down but still pull away from the rest of the vehicle and follow a low line underneath the rounded doors over widened rear guards to link up with a bulging rear bumper. New 18-inch rims add to the bling and twin exhausts sitting below intricate rear-light clusters finish the look. Overall the RX-8 sits sleek and flat with more curves than Nikki Watson holding a beach ball and a flagrant disregard for any so-called styling rules.

The RX-8’s rear-hinged suicide doors work equally for form and function, helping any unlucky passenger who needs to shoehorn into the small back seat. Symbolic rotor-shape cues are continued on the inside with a custom gear knob and plastic inserts in the front seats headrests. The interior has been improved for the 2008 model with modified seating and harder wearing materials used on high impact surfaces. Grand piano glossy black plastics and contrasting silver surrounds give the rogue rotary a touch of class, but the plastics seemed to scratch easily. Seats are well bolstered and comfortable with eight-way power adjustment for the driver. An electric sunroof, a 6-disc CD player with 300-Watt amplifier, and side airbags are standard fare on the 2008 RX-8.

The RX-8 deserves some credibility as a hard-nuts sports car, but it can also be quite docile in unsporting scenarios; a light clutch makes stop-start commuting bearable, and while it’s low-slung and low-roofed, all round visibility is good.

In 1961 Tuneji Matsuda had greater plans for the future of the rotary engine than just a single Mazda model, but the RX-8 remains the final disobedient outpost of his vision. Now the RX-8 is a unique prospect, not just to those who crave the alternative, but also to anyone who enjoys exciting motoring. The RX-8 sticks out with its style, engine sound and pace, if you want to knock it back inline, you better be coming with a large hammer and even then you won’t catch it.

Click through to the next page for a list of specifications.

Price: $55,350

What we like:

  • Exciting driving experience
  • Unique vehicle
  • Exceptional balance and handling
  • Affordable sports car

What we don’t like:

  • Low-end torque
  • Poor fuel economy
  • Platform could handle more power and speed
  • Auto is slower

Mazda RX-8 (2008)  – Specifications

Engine

Front midship Renesis
2 rotors in-line, naturally aspirated, multi-sideport

Engine capacity cc: 1,308 (654 x 2)
Compression ratio: 10.0:1
Maximum power kW: 170 @ 8,200rpm
Maximum torque Nm: 211 @ 5,500rpm
Fuel system: Multipoint electronic injection
Fuel tank capacity L: 65
Fuel consumption L/100km: 12.9
Recommended fuel: Premium unleaded (min. 95 RON)

Chassis and Suspension

Weight distribution Front:Rear: 50:50
Brake type – Front and Rear: Ventilated disc
Brake diameter Front mm: 323 Rear mm: 302
Suspension Front: Double wishbone with mono-tube shock absorbers and torsion bar stabilisers
Rear: Multi-link (five links per side) with mono-tube shock absorbers and torsion bar stabiliers
Steering: Rack drive electric power assisted (engine revolution sensing) rack and pinion
Turning circle – Kerb to kerb m: 10.6
Tyres: 225/45R18 91W
Wheels: 18 x 8.0 JJ (alloy)

Dimensions

Overall length mm: 4,470
Overall width mm: 1,770
Overall height mm: 1,340
Wheelbase mm: 2,700
Ground clearance – Laden mm: 101
Track Front mm: 1,500
Rear mm: 1,505
Cargo room Volume L: 290
Kerb weight kg: 1,402

Words and Photos, Adam Mamo

Honda Legend 2009 Review

December 5th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

honda-legend-sh-awd-fq

78 years is the average life span for a kiwi male before his spark plugs finish firing and he is taken up to the great wrecking yard in the sky. In his lifetime he may own many different cars; an old bucket of bolts could be his first, a station wagon to carry a young family, and a sports car during his mid-life crisis. But when he becomes a citizen of the senior variety, what is left to look forward to? Honda has answered this age-old question with the 2009 Legend. There is no reason why a young man wouldn’t like the Honda Legend, but if you’re an old fella you will flat out love it.

With an equipment list long enough to make its European competitors feel inadequate, the Legend also impresses with clean-cut good looks. Redesigned for the 2009 model the styling is more understated elegance than blinged-up and bolshie. A large chrome grille nests between two wrap around bi-xenon headlights that push upwards into a muscular aluminum bonnet. The windscreen slopes back (for improved visibility and aerodynamics), connecting to a flat roof that tapers off with wide C-pillars and a well-matched rear end. It’s a look that won’t demand jealous stares from the boy-racer lot, but cruise past an R.S.A and all the blue-rinsed ladies will be asking who’s the new player in town.

A tranverse-mounted engine requires only minimal space in the engine bay so more is available for the cabin. Seating is very good and the Legend can pack in five adults comfortably with no broken hips. The generous leather fit-out is soft and a sweeping maple wood finish teams up tightly with brushed metal gauges. The Legend’s master-stroke is delivered in its superior equipment level as standard, this includes satellite navigation with a built in reversing camera, 10-way power adjustable front seats, auto-dimming rear-view and external mirrors, Active Front Lighting that swivels as the vehicle turns corners, and wing mirrors that dip when the car is in reverse so you can watch out for your 18-inch rims.

Build quality and refinement are nearly flawless, the doors close with a Mercedes-like thud, and everything is screwed together harder than a boiled lolly. What impressed me most was the sound deadening – it is exceptionally tranquil in the cabin. Providing perfect conditions for bringing out ‘back in my day’ speeches or for listening to Piano by Candlelight CD’s through the sharp ten-speaker Bose stereo.

The centre stack controls are easy to learn even for the technophobic and dementia-defying Satellite Navigation has various useful functions. The Legend’s computer is controlled by a jog-dial that gives you access to the climate control, a calendar, calculator and trip information.

What is the Legend packing under the hood? Only the most powerful engine in the Honda range: a 3.7-litre VTEC V6 that produces 226kW of grunt. With a 0-100km time of 7.1 seconds the Legend is much quicker paced than an episode of Murder She Wrote and about a thousand times more exciting. Straight-line performance is spirited but never blistering and with an 1855kg kerb weight the Legend can feel burly at times. However, a drive-by-wire throttle means power delivery is instant. The five-speed automatic transmission offers a sporting-touch with the inclusion of a steering wheel shift option.

Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) is the jewel in the Legend’s crown. In demanding cornering situations the SH-AWD will boost torque delivery to the outside rear wheel, vastly improving the handling and balance of the vehicle. The Legend is so sure-footed it can dance the waltz on the most uneven dancefloors, shifting power from the front to the rear wheels as much as 70% either way. The SH-AWD technology is so good that it feels unnatural to push the Legend to its handling limits, which are high enough to rarely be exposed.

If senior moments strike the Legend is stacked with safety counter measures, these include six airbags, active head restraints and a pyrotechnic device that pops up the bonnet 100mm should a pedestrian be struck, reducing the chance of serious head injury.

Overall, the Legend is safe, has exciting handling abilities, good pace, masses of equipment and more than enough luxury to guarantee eager team members for cross-town lawn bowls tournaments. The $93,000 price will seem expensive to those who have an ‘it’s just a Honda’ attitude, but the Legend represents the battleground for Honda to unload everything it’s got. This makes it one of the most hi-tech luxury sedans on the market. I’m not a sensible senior citizen just yet, but it still makes no sense to me to pay $50k more for a European badge and some arguably sharper styling.

Click through to the next page for a full list of specifications.

Price: $93,000

What we like:

  • High equipment level as standard
  • Great handling
  • Many luxury touches

What we don’t like:

  • Styling is too conservative for youngsters
  • Can feel heavy

Honda Legend (2009) – Specifications

Powertrain

Engine: 3664cc SOHC V6 VTEC with 4 valves per cylinder, and PGM-Fi
Maximum Power: 226kW @ 6,300rpm
Maximum Torque: 370Nm @ 5,000rpm
Transmission: 5-Speed Automatic with Sequential SportShift by gear knob or steering wheel paddle shifters and Gear Logic Control.
Gear Ratios:
1st     2.520
2nd     1.606
3rd     1.071
4th     0.765
5th     0.612
Reverse     1.888
Final     4.312

Chassis

Suspension – Front: Independent double-wishbone with coil springs, gas shock absorbers with progressive valve technology and anti-roll bar (30mm dia)
Suspension – Rear: Independent multi-link with coil springs, gas shock absorbers with progressive valve technology and anti-roll bar (20mm dia)
Wheels: 18 x 8J alloy
Tyres: 245 / 45 / R18
Braking System: ABS with EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution) and EBA (Emergency Brake Assist)

Dimensions

Overall Length (mm): 4995
Overall Width (mm): 1845
Overall Height (mm): 1450
Wheelbase (mm): 2800
Track – Front/Rear (mm): 1575 / 1585
Ground Clearance (mm): 143
Kerb Weight (kg): 1865
Boot Capacity (VDA Litres): 452
Turning Circle – kerb-to-kerb (metres): 11.6
Maximum warrantable towing weight (kg): 1300

Fuel

Tank Capacity (litres): 73
Recommended Fuel: 96 Octane Premium
Emissions Control: Falls within LEV II (Low Emission Vehicle 2), EURO 4
ADR Combined Consumption: 11.3L/100km

Fuel Saver Information

Make and Model: Honda Legend
Star Rating: 3 stars out of 6
Yearly Cost: $2,930
Mileage: 11.3 Litres per 100 km     Reference: 9151

Words, Adam Mamo Photography, Darren Cottingham

Holden Epica CDTI Diesel 2008 Review

December 1st, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

holden-epica-cdti-fq

A wise kiwi man once said, “it’s business¦ it’s business time.” When these words were uttered he may not have been thinking of the Holden Epica Diesel, but he should have, because the Epica isn’t just a car, it’s a business proposal. Like any good fictitious business proposal it requires a five-step guide to let potential buyers discover if the Epica is right for them.

Step One – Face Value. The Epica is a foreign commodity within the Holden range, as was the Vectra that it replaces in Holden’s mid-size sedan slot. The Epica is made in Korea under the Daewoo brand, but to think it was cheap because it’s Korean would be like assuming the Vectra was high class simply because it was European; it’s cheap because it’s priced for fleet buyers, with a specification that suits.  While the Vectra was distinctly Euro styled the Epica has a more visible Holden influence. Resembling an adolescent Commodore the Epica has familiar lines if not proportions. Handsome faced with curved headlights that wrap into the front fenders the Epica’s shape maintains straight edges all the way back to a boot line that sits high giving the vehicle an advanced stance.

Step Two — Insider Trading. The Epica’s interior is welcoming if not entirely blue chip. Dark fabrics stage mergers with matt silver plastics to create a corporate atmosphere that is acceptable for the price but lacking any true points of interest. The front seats are finished in a durable cloth and are comfortable with good side bolstering. The dash layout is easy to use but the climate controls are positioned very low and although basic to operate still create a distraction for the driver. The instrument display is large and easily read and the steering wheel has useful audio and cruise controls. A central LCD screen is mounted in the central control tower in overseas models, but it’s omitted for NZ; in its place is a strange, lidded storage box not shaped for any obvious purpose (other than to fit an LCD screen and related electronics).

The back seat offers decent legroom for passengers and boot capacity is a very useful 480litres.  Overall the Epica’s interior is functional and moderately sized but may lack the pizzazz to win over some investors.

Step Three- Power of economy. In the engine room a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo diesel runs the show, shouting out 110kW of power and 320Nm of torque to the front wheels. Probably the biggest selling point of the Epica proposal is its economy, being capable of achieving 7.6l/100km combined. These figures would be very attractive to a buyer looking for a mid-size sedan that only sips on the fuel. While driving, the Epica’s diesel motor feels and sounds economical, almost refusing to be pushed hard and maintains low-revs while cruising.  Once the Epica is up to speed it is responsive and can offer some mid-range punch, but getting off the mark is slow. Throttle response is sluggish when accelerating from stationary; unfortunately this can make negotiating crossroads or areas where fast predictable acceleration is required, difficult.

Step Four- Balancing the books.  The Epica offers predictable front-wheel drive handling characteristics, grip is very good and the four disc brakes perform well. There is however very little sense of a sporting drive in the Epica and although the ride is reasonably supple when in a suburban role, at higher speeds road bumps and changing surfaces are more noticeable. That said, the Epica is well screwed together and while there is some road noise there were no rattles or knocks in the cabin. With a lot of torque going through the front wheels, there is good feedback through the steering, letting the driver feel in control. Once the Epica is off the mark the auto transmission is a very hard worker and it pays off in solid use of all the available power.

Step Five- Doing the maths. Priced at $37,490 the Epica isn’t going to bankrupt buyers and it has a good standard equipment list that includes six airbags, climate control, ABS and traction control.

Despite being well equipped the Holden Epica diesel isn’t an entirely convincing business proposal, but those who want to decrease fuel overheads and do some high mileage in relative comfort may be willing to sign on the dotted line. The Epica is potentially a very capable fleet car for businesses, but if it’s not business time then other proposals in mid-size sedan segment should be heard.

Click through to the next page for a full list of specifications

Price: from $37,490

What we like:

  • Good sized comfortable interior
  • Very economical
  • Grip

What we don’t like:

  • Slow throttle Response
  • Driver controls layout
  • Bumpy ride at cruising speeds

Holden Epica CDTI (2008) – Specifications

Engine

In-line SOHC 16 valve 4 cylinder. Cast Iron block, camshafts operating four valves per cylinder. Variable intake aluminium head. Twin balance shafts to reduce vibration. Variable-Geometry. Turbocharger for wider torque band. Charge Air cooler. High-Pressure Common-Rail Direct. Injection. Zero-maintenance Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF).

Bore x Stroke (mm): 83 x 92
Capacity (cc): 1991
Compression ratio: (:1) 17.5
Power (ECE, kW): 110kW @ 4000rpm
Torque (ECE, Nm): 320Nm @ 2000rpm
Gear ratios    6sp Auto
1st    4.449
2nd    2.908
3rd   1.893
4th   1.446
5th   1.000
6th   0.742
Reverse gear ratio — 2.871

Recommended petrol octane: Diesel
Petrol tank capacity (L): 65L
Steering: Speed sensitive power assisted rack and pinion
Electronic Stability Control (ESC) Incorporating: Traction Control System (TCS), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD)

Suspension

Front: Independent MacPherson Strut with coil springs and stabiliser bar.
Rear: Independent Multi-Link with coil springs and stabiliser bar.
Track (mm): Front: 1550  Rear: 1545
Turn circle (kerb to kerb, m): 10.78

Dimensions

Wheelbase (mm): 2700
Exterior dimensions (mm): Length Width Height 4805 1810 1450
Boot volume (L): 480
Towing (kg): 1,200 braked trailer.
Service: The complimentary inspection is due at 3,000km or 3 months (whichever occurs first). The first service is due at 15,000km or 12 months (whichever occurs first) and then every 15,000km or 12 months (whichever occurs first) since the last service.

Words, Adam Mamo, photography, Darren Cottingham

Nissan Navara ST-X 2008 Review

November 30th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

nissan-navara-st-x-fq

WC Fields once said “Never work with children or animals”. Fields was an actor, and never (as far as we know) drove a ute on a farm for the purposes of a photoshoot (despite his rather coincidental surname).

His prophetic words echoed in my head as three farm dogs were loaded onto the back of the Nissan Navara ST-X. It was the dogs, two pregnant horses and a decaying earthmover 50m up the paddock that I was interested in. Conveniently all located on the Matakana farm of a friend-of-a-friend, I was there for a ‘relaxing’ weekend of intensive, blister-splitting drum workshops, so I had to get on with it because time was limited.

Animals know this. They have a sixth sense when it comes to foiling the best-laid human plans — like the cat that conveniently disappears when you need to take it to the cattery so you can catch your flight, the dogs would not stay on the back of the ute. Try as I might to get said canines, aforementioned pregnant mares, and the rusting machine in the same frame, the dogs had other ideas.

Fortunately the Navara is more reliable and controllable than 12 legs of barking belligerence. Ours featured a king cab (suicide doors provide access to the rear fold-down seats) and a flat deck, though it comes in other configurations, such as double cab wellside. A towbar comes as standard. Three engines are available — a 198kW 4-litre V6 petrol or 128kW 2.5-litre turbo diesel on the 4×4 models, and a 106kW turbo diesel on the 4×2 model, mated to a six-speed manual or five-speed auto. Our 4×4 auto drove very much like a car, though low speed tight corners in the wet resulted in some occasionally lairy moments with the unladen tray. Blame that on a very healthy 403Nm of torque — useful for towing up to 3000kg in a braked trailer. Luckily there’s ABS to assist the stopping, backed up with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution, and even a couple of airbags (something you don’t get in the lower specification DX).

The Navara is a big car — 5220mm long and 1850 wide, excluding the mirrors. This leads to a fairly large turning circle of 13.3 metres. Ground clearance on the king cab is not as good as the double cab -  at 205mm it gives up 30mm — but  the angle of approach is 32 degrees (compared to 29) and angle of departure almost 30 degrees (compared to 22). And, the flat deck has a much better load size capacity than the wellside, with a significantly larger tray (600mm longer and 240mm wider), though it loses 100kg against the wellside version in the weight it can carry (820kg as opposed to 920kg in the king cab variant).

For a two-tonne ute, the fuel economy is ok, but not stellar — Nissan quotes 10.5l/100km with the auto; 9.8l/100km with the manual.

The hour’s drive to Matakana might well have been made in a car, with the Navara eating up the motorway miles like a mid-sized sedan, albeit one that allows you to see over the traffic in front of you while carrying seven bales of hay. Compared to the DX we tested a couple of months ago, the ride is more refined, and the interior is, too. In the back there’s a couple of fold-down seats — you wouldn’t want to ride on them for long, though. The fit-out other than that is very car-like, even getting a reasonable quality stereo, cruise control, power mirrors and a leather steering wheel. Externally, you’ll see 16-inch alloys, colour-coded mirrors, a towbar, side runners and side steps as standard.

Eventually, threats and shouting by the dogs’ owner saw them take up a relaxed position in the ute’s tray, but the horses had moved on to greener pastures. The digger sat there impassively. So, I didn’t get the shot — it had to be all separate. WC Fields was right — imagine what a nightmare it would have been if I had had to get three children on the back!

Click through to the next page for a list of specifications for the Nissan Navara ST-X

Price: from $45,000; as tested $51,900

What we like

  • Excellent towing
  • Drives like a car

What we don’t like

  • Be careful in the wet with an empty tray in 2WD mode
  • Toyota Hilux is more stylish

Nissan Navara ST-X (2008) – Specifications

Engine

2.5 litre intercooled turbo diesel, DOHC
Displacement (cc)  2488
Bore x Stroke (mm) 89 x 100
Compression ratio 16.5:1
Max power (kW @ rpm) 128@4000
Max torque (Nm @ rpm) 403@2000

Transmission

5 speed auto
Transfer case — Dual range 4×4 w/ electric 4WD selection

Rated Towing Capacity

Trailer with brakes (kg) 3000
Trailer without brakes (kg) 750
Gross front axle (kg) 1365
Gross rear axle (kg) 1720

Fuel

Fuel type — diesel
Fuel tank capacity (litres) 80
Fuel economy (manual)  9.8
Fuel economy (auto)  10.5
C02 Emission LTNZ Standard (g/km)   Manual  235 Automatic 248
Emission Comp. Std Euro 4
Fuel Consumption to ADR 81/01

Mechanical

ABS brakes with BA & EBD
Front suspension — independent, double wishbone with coil over shock
Rear suspension — rigid axle with leaf spring
Rack and pinion power assisted steering
Limited Slip Differential

Wheels/Tyres

16×7 JJ alloy wheels with 255/7OR16 tyres
17×7 JJ alloy wheels with 255/65R17 tyres
Steel spare wheel

Words and photos Darren Cottingham

BMW 135i 2008 Review

November 25th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

bmw-135i

If there was ever a car that wasn’t completely upfront about its ability, that car would be the BMW 135i. There’s little about the new coupe’s benign styling that hints at its true nature and a bloodline that flows back to a brutal BMW of the early 1970s, and it’s not until you get up close to the 135i that you can spot the traits of an alter ego. Chunky twin exhaust pipes, 245-wide rear rubber, giant front brakes and a discreet front-mounted intercooler set the car off from its executive-spec siblings. These are the underpinnings of a purebred performance machine, and that’s exactly what the understated but highly rated 135i is all about.

Built on the celebrated 1 Series front engine, rear-wheel-drive chassis, the coupe is a special car designed to capture some of the true essence of the quirky 2002 Series BMWs of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Those cars were all about an unadulterated driving experience ” and none more so than the evil 2002 turbo version born in ’72 that this 135i was modelled upon.

From a design perspective, BMW has seemingly achieved what it set out to do, creating a unique-looking coupe with compact dimensions and strong (albeit somewhat awkward) angular lines. We like it.

But this BMW’s beauty is more than skin deep. For a car with proportions as petite as the 135i’s, you’d expect to find a four-cylinder engine slotted between the uprights ” a fact true of all the other 1 Series variants. But just like it did with the wicked 2002 Turbo of yesteryear, BMW has taken it to the extreme and instead squeezed in something a little more fitting for a performance car ” the 3.0-litre twin turbo from the ruthlessly quick BMW 335i. The straight six DOHC 24V mill is an impressive piece of technology-rich kit that literally blew away the competition in 2007 to win the coveted International Engine of the Year award. That’s thanks to a pair of low-mass turbochargers and a front-mounted air-to-air intercooler providing the grunt, and BMW’s famed High Precision Injection ” which sees fuel injected at just two milligrams per injection through a piezo injector centrally positioned between intake valves ” that keeps fuel usage to a minimum. It also just happens to be one of the best sounding engines ever. And the numbers speak for themselves. In the power stakes the boosted six generates 225kW (305hp) at 5800rpm. Torque arrives from a lowly 1300rpm to deliver a whopping 400Nm right the way through to 5000rpm. It’s this linear delivery that makes the 135i such a stunning thing to drive and able to eclipse the 0-100kph sprint in just 5.3 seconds flat ” less than half a second off a new BMW M3’s pace. Keep your foot right up it and the 135i will wind out to a factory-governed 250kph top speed. In our G-Timer tests the standing, straight line quarter mile was dispatched in around 13.5 seconds, which isn’t bad at all for a fully optioned (and we mean fully optioned) car that tips the scales at a rotund 1500kg.

Where the 135i really excels, however, is through the corners. For a high-power rear-wheel-drive machine it hangs on well ” something to do with a perfect 50/50 weight balance, rigid chassis, M-tuned suspension and its big bite on the road. Punch out of the bends is outstanding, and the brakes ” big six-pot jobs on the front end ” are equally superb. Switch off the DTC and the 135i has the all the aptitude to satisfy the cravings of those with a penchant for opposite lock action ” and it does it in style.

With an $80,000-odd price tag the BMW 135i is not for everyone, myself included, unfortunately. But for the money, you’re getting an immense amount of car, and one that, just like the famed 2002 Turbo, is sure to become a future classic.

BMW 135i (2008) – Specifications

Engine: BMW 3.0-litre DOHC 24V inline six, alloy block, 10.2:1 compression ratio, variable valve timing, 2x low-mass turbochargers, air-to-air intercooler, High Precision Injection, twin exhaust system

Driveline: BMW 6-speed Steptronic auto

Suspension: Front — independent, MacPherson struts, coil springs, dual-pivot split lower control arms, stabiliser bar, Rear — independent, multilink, coil springs, stabiliser bar

Brakes: Front — BMW 6-pot callipers, 338mm ventilated discs, Rear — BMW 2-pot callipers, 325mm ventilated discs, ABS, EBD, EBA

Exterior: BMW M front/rear bumpers, M boot spoiler

Interior: Full leather trim, M steering wheel, M sill strips, BMW Professional series CD/iPod audio system

Wheels/Tyres: Front — 18×7.5-inch BMW lightweight alloys, Bridgestone Potenza RE050A 215/40R18 tyres, Rear — 18×8.5-inch BMW lightweight alloys, Bridgestone Potenza RE050A 245/35R18 tyres

Performance: 225kW, 0-100kph — 5.3 seconds, Top Speed — 250kph (limited)

Price As Tested: $81,500 auto ($78,500 6MT)

Words Brad Lord, Photos Dan Wakelin