Holden: 2014 Calais-V Sportwagon review

June 18th, 2014 by Darren Cottingham

holden-calais-2014-frontEvery time I read Calais, I immediately think Dover. They were the two ports at either end of the ferry across the English Channel to France, until it was superseded by the Channel Tunnel, which was wholly more efficient (than the ferry, that is, not France…although France has a reputation of being inefficient).

I wonder whether that’s how the Holden Calais-V feels: usurped by changing technology and a move towards smaller, more efficient cars. It would be wrong, though. There’s something noble about being on the waves, using brute force against the elements. Continue reading “Holden: 2014 Calais-V Sportwagon review” »

Skoda: 2014 Superb Ambition Hatchback vs Elegance Wagon Review

May 8th, 2014 by Darren Cottingham

skoda-superb-tdi-125-elegance-wagon-rear-seatsIf you live in America and you know a man aged between 20 and 40 who is 7 feet tall (2.13m) there’s a 17 percent chance that they play professional basketball in the NBA right now. That means 1 in 6 males 7 feet tall or over in that age group play professional basketball. Continue reading “Skoda: 2014 Superb Ambition Hatchback vs Elegance Wagon Review” »

Subaru Legacy GT Spec B Premium Wagon 2013 Review

December 2nd, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

Mention a Legacy GT Spec B to anyone of my generation (born in the ‘70s) who had an interest in cars when they were in their 20s and you’ll be regaled usually with fond memories of either ownership, mates who owned one, or the intoxication of the throbbing boxer engine. For those of you who remember the Friday night cruises up Queen Street, those old four-cylinder turbo Legacys in both sedan and wagon form were a fixture of the scene from 1989 through to the early 2000s. It was the mixture of capacious storage and the power to win the traffic lights grand prix that made them so appealing. subaru-legacy-gt.b-2013-rear-quartersubaru-legacy-gt.b-2013-front-interiorBut times move on and the Legacy isn’t any longer the fantasy car of practical boy racers. But should it be? We drove the Legacy X just a few weeks ago. It was quite good, but lacked the old Subaru character and certainly wasn’t fast. Now we’ve got our mitts on this Legacy GT B Premium spec, and it somewhat redresses the balance. It harks back to those original performance Legacys with the bonnet scoop and the kind of acceleration that frightens your granny. Neither the scoop or performance are extreme like they were on some of the Subaru WRX STI models in the past, but they’re there to remind you that in this Legacy the engine needs more than just the air that flows through the grille, and it will reward you with smiles. This vent channels cold air onto the top-mounted intercooler, which improves the turbo’s performance. Power is 195kW and 350Nm from the 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol motor, and it’s driven through a five-speed automatic. This is much better for this type of car than Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT gearbox, but it’s not the most responsive of gearboxes, especially when you compare it to, say, a DSG gearbox in a Volkswagen. 0-100kph feels like it’s in the low 6-second range, though no figure is given by Subaru. It’s not lightning fast off the line, but better when you’re moving. Gear shifts need to be anticipated because they’re a little slow even in manual mode. Continue reading “Subaru Legacy GT Spec B Premium Wagon 2013 Review” »

Subaru Outback 2.5i Sport 2013 Review

November 11th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

Skiing, mountain biking, kayaking, wakeboarding: they all need either long or cumbersome equipment, and transport to places where proper tarmac can be sparse. They need a vehicle that’s an enabler. The Outback 2.5i Sport is that vehicle. With four-wheel drive, plenty of ground clearance and a practical station wagon body, it’ll take a family or a group of mates for adventures.

subaru-outback-sport-2.5-2013-rear-quarterThe Outback 2.5i Sport is a raised version of the Legacy 2.5i Sport and is the step below the Forester in terms of off-road capability (the Forester has a few more mm of ground clearance and some extra driving modes to help in the real rough stuff).

subaru-outback-sport-2.5-2013-sideAs well as Symmetrical All-wheel Drive, Subaru’s main safety feature is its EyeSight Preventative Safety System. This consists of a camera either side of the rear-view mirror. The cameras capture a three-dimensional image and can tell if a car is braking ahead of you, or if you’re about to run into a pedestrian. If automatic braking intervention is required, EyeSight can make that decision before you’ve even had time to react to help reduce or diminish the severity of a frontal collision.

EyeSight also takes over the throttle pre-collision, and provides active cruise control, lane departure warning and lead vehicle start alert (when the car in front of you moves out of the way while you’re under adaptive cruise control, or you are stationary and the car in front moves away it beeps to let you know). Continue reading “Subaru Outback 2.5i Sport 2013 Review” »

BMW 320d Touring xDrive 2013 Review

October 17th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

Four-wheel-drive station wagons are good if you like skiing and other outdoor pursuits – you lead a life a little less boring. Your adventures might see you on softer or more slippery ground, but you don’t want to have the inconvenience, sloppy handling and poor fuel economy of an SUV.

BMW-320d-xDrive-Touring-rear-quarterThe 320d comes with xDrive which is BMW’s all-wheel-drive system. This means that the 135kW 2-litre turbodiesel has no chance of overwhelming the available traction, even though there’s 380Nm on tap. It also means it scores a slippery 0.32 coefficient of drag which leads to some fairly frugal motoring: 4.5l/100km (when using the Eco Pro mode, which can reduce fuel consumption by 20% if you follow its tips, too).

BMW-320d-xDrive-Touring-front-interiorEco Pro adjusts the accelerator pedal and gearbox parameters. Shift points are changed, heating and climate control systems are modified to take less power from the engine, and you are given feedback on the display as to how much Eco Pro is contributing to fuel consumption savings.

Consumption is also enhanced by the auto stop/start function, which stops the engine when you are stationary, and brake energy regeneration which captures energy when braking and helps charge the battery. Capturing braking energy means that the engine has less load under full acceleration because it doesn’t have to charge the battery at the same time.

Put it in sport mode, and you should be able to achieve 0-100kph times of around 8 seconds as the 8-speed gearbox swaps its super-slick cogs. Continue reading “BMW 320d Touring xDrive 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” »

Mazda Mazda6 GSX 2013 Review

May 13th, 2013 by Darren Cottingham

When you want one of the best-looking station wagons out there to have a little more pep than the base model GLX, but not the largesse of the top-of-the-range LTD, then you go for the GSX.

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This review outlines the differences between the base model GLX and this mid-range GSX. Check out the GLX article for a more comprehensive overview of the Mazda6 model itself (clicking opens it in a new window so you won’t lose your place here).

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With 500cc more than the GLX Mazda6, the engine is now a shade under 2.5 litres. You’ve got 24 more Continue reading “Mazda Mazda6 GSX 2013 Review” »

Mazda Mazda6 GLX Petrol 2013 Review

April 19th, 2013 by darren

Has Mazda made the perfect station wagon? I liked the previous Mazda6, but I like this one more. A lot more. It’s got the kind of lines that only premium executive grand tourers used to have. It’s a large car. In fact, it’s quite a lot larger than the previous model at 4870mm long – is Mazda going after the space that the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon are struggling with?

Mazda-6-sHowever, because of Mazda’s SkyActiv technology and engineering philosophy, it’s lighter and more economical. The body is around 30% more rigid but because Mazda uses ultra-high strength steel, it can manufacture it more economically to weigh less.

Mazda-6-rqAdding to the fuel economy benefits of it being lighter are the new two-litre, four-cylinder engines and their stop/start technology that turns the engine off when you’re stationary; finally, the Mazda6 has Continue reading “Mazda Mazda6 GLX Petrol 2013 Review” »

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