Whitney Houston Death – The Full Story…oh, and something about cars, too

February 18th, 2012 by Tim Grimley

Congratulations, you’ve just become the latest unwitting volunteer in a study to add weight to a discussion between myself and Editor Cottingham. Although there is a core following of die-hard ‘Car & SUV-ers’ who return week in, week out for their fix of this column, the Editor in his infinite wisdom has hypothesised that we could quite easily boost readership levels – or at least page views, which is what matters to the advertisers – by adding a dash of celebrity spice to things. The death of poor old Whitney for example.

I have to admit, there was more than a touch of scepticism on my part. No matter how promising a headline may appear, the prospect of anyone actually believing they could find a factually accurate, blow-by-blow account of the super diva’s last moments on what is very obviously a motoring publication hailing from a small island in the Pacific seemed an unlikely prospect. But it does have to be acknowledged that people in general are quite predisposed to being suckered in by a juicy sounding promise and nowhere is this truer than when cars are involved.

Take the now ubiquitous Sports Utility Vehicle which essentially uses the first two parts of the name to lie about its capabilities. I appreciate that ‘Sports’ now covers a pretty broad spectrum of activity, but the athletic prowess of most of these vehicles is somewhere in the region of darts players. Certainly anyone changing between an ostensibly sporting car and the motoring equivalent of a fat lad in a tracksuit would struggle to make a link between the two.

Then there are the claims of utility, which are also a little on the far fetched side. If cream carpets, leather upholstery and hundreds of miscellaneous storage bins in which children can hide sticky objects that in the fullness of time evolve into furry objects are that utilitarian, can someone please explain why no-one has yet thought to bedeck the rear of a Toyota Hiace with them?

Even more disingenuous are the Multi Purpose Vehicles, or MPV’s, which are nothing more than vans with removable seats. And whether you pile them with boxes or employ them for shifting what the airline industry refers to as ‘self loading freight’, the purpose is essentially the same – getting something from A to B. In fact I’ve yet to come across a mainstream car – MPV or otherwise – which has been designed with much more in mind than the purpose of conveying itself and contents. Sure, there are people with a bit of imagination who have gone on to find auxiliary purposes for vehicles – mine usually looks like it’s supplementing its income as a skip – but in general they are all cut from very much the same cloth, with variations in space, pace and opulence the only differentiating factors.

As a rule of thumb, if the motoring industry deems it necessary to employ an acronym when selling a vehicle, you would be safe to assume that it is being done to prevent the potential buyer from detecting the overpowering whiff of bovine excrement. But it still seems that as a sales tactic it works and people are happily seduced by a glamorous sounding title, no matter how fatuous it may actually be.

And if it turns out that this rule applies to motoring articles as well as the vehicles themselves, brace yourself for next week when I’ll be revealing exactly who Madonna plans to adopt next.

Name for new Porsche SUV is Macan

February 17th, 2012 by Karen Joy Provo

Stuttgart’s new sports car in the SUV segment has been given the name Macan. The name Macan is derived from the Indonesian word for tiger and combines suppleness, power, fascination and dynamics – core characteristics of the new off-road car.

“The Macan combines all sports car characteristics with the benefits of a SUV and is a genuine Porsche”, said Bernhard Maier, Member of the Executive Board Sales and Marketing of Porsche AG.
“The name of a new Porsche has to fit with the brand, sound good in very many languages and dialects and evoke positive associations.”

As the fifth Porsche model line, the Macan is a central plank of Strategy 2018, by which the sports car manufacturer wishes to expand its model portfolio. Porsche intends the Macan to emulate the success
of the Cayenne. The SUV will start coming off the production lines in Leipzig in 2013. To that end, the site in this city in Saxony is being expanded into a fully-fledged production plant including body assembly line and paint shop – with 500 million euro of investment one of the biggest building projects in Porsche’s corporate history. In the medium-term, the sports car manufacturer will be creating more
than 1,000 new jobs there.

Word names at Porsche have a concrete connection with the corresponding model and its characteristics: the name Boxster describes the combination of boxer engine and roadster, Cayenne stands for sharpness, the Cayman is snappy and agile and a Panamera is more than a Gran Turismo, capable also of winning the Carrera Panamericana long-distance race.

Peugeot 4007 Allure SE 2012 Review

January 27th, 2012 by Darren Cottingham

Funnily enough, when I walked up to Peugeot to pick this 4007 up, I casually glanced in its direction and thought, why has someone parked an Outlander there? You see, I’d only seen the 4007 in front three-quarter and rear-three quarter view, and both of those slightly obscure its Outlander origins.

If you’ve read any of the Mitsubishi Outlander reviews we’ve written then you’ll know that it’s a solid SUV contender, and the 7-seat option adds practicality. However, what Peugeot does to make the 4007 is take it and make it better. It’s like a ‘finishing school’ .

Gone (praise the deities) is the slightly annoying CVT gearbox (the main thing I don’t like about the Outlander). In its place is a conventional 6-speed, dual-clutch automatic with a sport mode and a leather-bound gear shifter. The sport mode, as you would expect, changes down earlier and up later, but in typical French fashion it’s fairly ambivalent, and this actually works well. Some manufacturers overdo it on the sports mode; Peugeot has given it just enough extra verve to make it useful.

Second, possibly because of the revised weight distribution it definitely feels slightly less wallowy, but doesn’t compromise on comfort. The suspension setup on the two vehicles is the same – a Macpherson strut up front and multi link with stabilizer at the rear.

Third, there’s an aftermarket satellite navigation system by Pantera which forms part of the rear view mirror. In theory (and when it’s working), this is a really good system. It’s easy to see – you’re used to glancing at your rear view mirror – and it’s touch screen, with a fairly intuitive interface. It didn’t work all the time though; the signal dropped out occasionally and I couldn’t find the reason why as it was a clear, sunny day. The system also includes phone integration and will play music.
Fourth, Peugeot has some customleather seats made here in NZ, and they’re wide and comfortable. Continue reading “Peugeot 4007 Allure SE 2012 Review” »

Maserati details ambitious plans for new model range

July 28th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Maserati has detailed its ambitious plans to shift up a gear and increase annual sales to 50,000 units. There are new products that will push the growth with concepts scheduled to debut at the upcoming Frankfurt motor show.

What Maserati expect to become its volume seller is an all-new entry-level sedan (code-named the M157) it may be launched as early as next year and will compete directly with the Audi A6, BMW 5-Series and Mercedes E-Class. Expect luxury appointment on the inside but a Chrysler-sourced engine under the bonnet. The rumoured power source is a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 – based on the current Chrysler 3.6-litre V6 and alternatively, a 224 kW 3.0-litre V6 diesel currently shared with the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The new sedan is expected to cost between €55,000 to €70,000. Continue reading “Maserati details ambitious plans for new model range” »

Renault facelifts Koleos SUV for 2012

June 24th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Renault has just revealed the facelift version of its Koleos SUV for the 2012 model year.

The refreshed Koleos features a thoroughly revised front end with a new chrome grille and slimmer, sportier headlamps. The side mirrors now include LED turn indicators.

In terms of power the Koloes will be built with three engine variants. Two diesel mills, the dCi 150 with a 110kW power output and the dCi 175 which pumps out 129kW.  For petrol fans there is a 125kW TR25 petrol engine that completes the small range. Exactly what Koleos variants will be offered in the NZ market hasn’t been announced.

The Koleos will continue to be built as either a 4×4 all-wheel drive or a 4×2 front drive model. There’s also a new colour on the Koleos palette, Cayenne Orange as pictured. Continue reading “Renault facelifts Koleos SUV for 2012” »

Chinese brand Chery to launch in NZ with two models

April 1st, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Chinese carmaker Chery Automotive is about to make its launch into the New Zealand vehicle market with its J11 SUV and J1 hatchback.

Chery is China’s largest independent vehicle manufacturer. It has five car assembly lines, two engine plants and one transmission plant that combined to produce over 680,000 cars in 2010. Chery is also a prolific exporter of vehicles from China, exporting over 40% of all vehicles sold out of China in 2010. Total exports of Chery vehicles now amount to almost 500,000 units with cars and components sold into 80 countries.

Now it’s NZ’s turn to receive Chery vehicles with the J11 SUV and J1 hatch leading the way.

The J11 is a 2.0-litre compact 2WD SUV available with either manual or automatic transmission. Its features include leather trimmed seats, air conditioning, power windows, MP3 compatible four speaker stereo, power mirrors, 16” alloy wheels and remote keyless entry.

The J11’s 2.0 litre engine produces 102Kw power and 182Nm of torque, while safety features include ABS, EBD, dual airbags and front seatbelt pre-tensioners.

Retail price for the J11 is $21,990 plus on road costs with the automatic transmission a $2000 option.

The Chery J1 is a 1.3 litre manual five door hatchback with a retail price of $12,990 plus on road costs. This J1 is set to be NZ’s cheapest car when it goes on sale.

Standard equipment on the Chery J1 includes power steering, air-conditioning, alloy wheels, power windows, MP3 compatible four speaker stereo, power mirrors and remote keyless entry. Safety features include dual airbags, ABS, EBD and front seatbelt pre-tensioners. Continue reading “Chinese brand Chery to launch in NZ with two models” »

2011 Ford Territory – first teaser image revealed

December 15th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Ford Australia has given blue oval fans a treat today with the first teaser image of the new-look 2011 Territory. Due out in around six month’s time the new Territory is set to breath life back into the well aged name plate.

First launched back in 2004 the current Territory is based on the underpinnings of the Falcon sedan and has only received subtle updates throughout its long production life. Now Ford Australia has committed to the Territory until at least 2016.

The new 2011 Territory will continue to make use of the Falcon platform but will use updated global styling inside and out, plus a number of new technologies, including the introduction of turbo-diesel power.

“The Ford Territory set a new benchmark when it was first released and it is set to achieve this again — and more,” said Bob Graziano, President and CEO of Ford Australia. “This is an exceptional SUV. It wears an exciting new look and will boast an extensive list of technical highlights. The Ford Australia team is taking the Territory to an all-new level of performance, refinement and quality, and customers will definitely experience these advancements when they drive it.”

Ford hasn’t released official details on powertrain options for the new Territory but the company had previously announced that the updated Territory would benefit from the introduction of the Ford and Peugeot-Citroen PSA co-developed 2.7-litre V6 turbo diesel motor. It’s also likely that Ford will make use of its 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder EcoBoost engine in this application, as the new powerplant has already been confirmed for the Australian market Falcon. Continue reading “2011 Ford Territory – first teaser image revealed” »

Porsche confirms smaller ‘Cajun’ SUV for production

December 1st, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Rumours of a smaller Porsche SUV have been circulating the web for years now but Porsche has finally ended speculation and officially green-lighted its entry-level Cajun crossover.

Designed to increase sales volumes and attract new, younger customers, the Cajun will be an “efficient and sporty model” with design goals of “typical Porsche features such as light weight, ease of handling and agility.” The new crossover will share a platform with the Audi Q5 and feature styling influenced by VW design boss Walter de’ Silva. It will be given sportier themes and priced around five to ten percent higher than the Audi.

The Cajun is expected to be launched in 2014 and will be a direct and fierce competitor for the Mercedes GLK, BMW X3, and Land Rover Evoque.

Click here to read a Car and SUV review of the 2011 Porsche Cayenne