Fifth Gear gets first thrash in Mugen CR-Z (+video)

July 25th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

It was a few weeks back that we brought you news of Honda unveiling its latest concept car – the CR-Z Mugen at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

This hybrid-powered spiritual successor to the iconic CR-X sports coupe was built to make up for the shortcomings of the standard model with an injection of extra power and style from Mugen. This special CR-Z has retained the regular model’s mechanical hardware including the IMA electric motor and the 1.5-litre gasoline engine. But its internals have been upgraded and a supercharger introduced, there result is a power increase of more than 50% over the regular CR-Z.

Dynamic ability has also been improved by a widened track and a limited slip diff, there’s also 5-step adjustable dampers and larger stoppers. Continue reading “Fifth Gear gets first thrash in Mugen CR-Z (+video)” »

Peugeot 308 CC 1.6 2011 Review

April 1st, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

For some people buying a product is as simple as knowing it’s original manufacturer. If they want fleece-lined footwear they buy Ugg boots, if they want a flying disc they buy a Frisbee and if they want to hear Knocking on Heaven’s Door they buy a Bob Dylan CD. If these same people were in the market for a coupe cabriolet (CC) vehicle with a folding hard top, then they would have to buy a Peugeot. Why?

Peugeot has a long history as an innovative automaker and was responsible for the very first metal retractable roof vehicle in the mid 1930s. While the 1934 Peugeot 401 Eclipse is fairly basic by modern standards, the concept of open-top motoring with hard top practicality remains as relevant as ever. To see just how far coupe convertible vehicles have come, Car and SUV plays purist with Peugeot’s latest offering, the 308 CC.

When the 308 CC first touched down in NZ it was only available with a 2.0-litre diesel mill, now for 2011, Peugeot is offering the 308 CC with a peppy petrol powertrain. It’s an exciting prospect for those who want top down motoring but have a diesel phobia. More about the mechanicals later, firstly lets examine what really drives the 308 CC – dramatic style.

Peugeot’s convertible coupe is a visual feast of curves and shapes with a pouncing stance and sporty design cues. At the front, a chunky bumper features recessed fog lamps and an exposed middle section with a toothy chrome air intake. Squinting headlights, pronounced Peugeot badging and dipping bonnet lines round off a highly styled front aesthetic. At the rear, large jeweled taillights dominate with a distinctive LED illumination. A subtle boot spoiler houses a high brake light and a broad plastic diffuser signals speedy intent. Continue reading “Peugeot 308 CC 1.6 2011 Review” »

Honda Insight S 2011 Review

April 1st, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Honda’s new Insight hybrid is a little like the Terminator – a character made famous by the sci-fi films of the same name. Like the staunch film figure the Insight is here on earth to terminate something – excessive fuel usage. And like the film’s character the Insight isn’t the first model but is stronger, and more advanced than its predecessor. But unlike the Terminator we’ve seen on screen, the Honda Insight isn’t going to be killed off after two hours. The Insight represents a genre of vehicle that is here to stay and while Toyota’s Prius may be winning the battle so far, it feels like the hybrid wars are just beginning. Honda’s Insight is a machine that’s important for the future so Car and SUV enlisted for a test drive today.

The first generation Insight, a two-door coupe is a rarity on NZ roads, but is easily spotted because it looks odder than a $3 note. For the sequel, Honda has opted for a more practical four-door hatchback body shape and few of its predecessors styling cues remain.

Up front, Honda’s corporate face is accented by blue-tinted headlight lenses and a grinning front bumper with recessed fog lamps. Along the flanks, flattened wheel arches are partially filled by 15-inch 7-spoke alloy wheels – standard on our tested S spec model. At the rear an almost flattened rear windscreen works into a tinted vertical glass panel in a look that’s reminiscent of the second generation CR-X. Despite the aggressive styling, the windows are large and visibility is very good all around, including its radical rear. There are clear similarities in wedge like shape between the Insight and Toyota’s Prius caused by both cars’ designers chasing down optimum aerodynamics. Continue reading “Honda Insight S 2011 Review” »

Dodge Caliber SXT 2010 Review

October 29th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

In our highly competitive world sometimes you have to be that little bit different just to get noticed. Carmakers worked this out a while back and have recently given the automotive world some unique and progressive designs. This holds especially true in the hatchback segment where radical styling has almost become the norm. So how exactly does a new car cultivate a unique appeal in these diverse times? To get the answers, Car and SUV spent a week with the updated 2010 Dodge Caliber because it still looks like no other vehicle on NZ roads.

What makes the Caliber aesthetically different is a mixture of traditional Dodge DNA and a body shape that’s a mash-up of hatchback, crossover and sports coupe. Its styling talks loudly and offers a truly American take on the conventional hatchback. The Caliber announces its arrival with its signature Dodge crosshair grille. In profile it shows off pumped up wheel arches, a coupe like roofline and a front foot, pouncing stance. The squared-off rear features jeweled tail lamps a narrow back windscreen and a protruding chunky bumper.  Exterior changes to the updated Caliber are minimal but do include some subtle chrome trim and a new 17-inch alloy wheel design which helps give the 2010 model an even sharper edge.

Step inside the Caliber and the unique styling continues with a fully refreshed interior design. The instrument panel, centre console storage bin and door panel trims have all been redesigned using higher quality materials. The result is a cabin that is more modern and user-friendly. There are some nice touches like chromed surrounds for the instruments and air vents and smart LED lighting which illuminates the cupholders. The hot rod red plastic inserts in the centre control stack may not appeal to all tastes but it provides another unique feature and matches up with the stain-resistant red/black cloth used on the seats. The leather-wrapped steering wheel feels good to grip and has audio controls at your fingertips. Continue reading “Dodge Caliber SXT 2010 Review” »

BMW M3 GTS Testdrive

June 1st, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

BMW M3 GTS testdriving at the Nurburgring

FPV F6 E 2010 Review

May 21st, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

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

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

Continue reading “FPV F6 E 2010 Review” »

Mitsubishi Lancer ES 2010 Review

May 14th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

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

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

Continue reading “Mitsubishi Lancer ES 2010 Review” »

Toyota Corolla Diesel 2010 Review

May 7th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

The Toyota Corolla needs little introduction, the name ‘Corolla’ is Latin for small crown and is a fitting moniker for what is undoubtedly the king of hatchbacks. Since its introduction in 1966 the Corolla has become the best selling car nameplate in the world with over 35 million sales. That’s one Corolla sold every 40 seconds, but staggering statistics aside what exactly makes this car so special? It’s not any radical styling flair or break-neck performance but instead bulletproof reliability and legendary longevity that have earned its lofty position. Now in 2010, the Corolla is offered with a variety of power train options including a new diesel motor. Car and SUV took a drive in the diesel-sipping Corolla to see if the king’s crown still shines bright.

What makes our tested Corolla special lays under the stout bonnet in the form of Toyota’s 1.4-litre turbo diesel motor. Code-named D-4D, this 4-cylinder mill puts out 66kW of power and a healthy 205Nm of torque. Armed with the diesel engine the Corolla is certainly no rocket ship but when pushed to higher revs it’s capable of decent progress. While the torque figure is impressive on paper it doesn’t translate into lashings of low-down grunt but is noticeable through the mid-range when the turbo engages. The Corolla feels at home in urban traffic and is a capable motorway cruiser but open-road overtaking requires ample space and caution.

Continue reading “Toyota Corolla Diesel 2010 Review” »

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