Top Gear given the hard word about fake Ferraris

March 9th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Apparently, word got out to Ferrari that Top Gear Live was not using real Prancing Horses for its stunt driving routine here in NZ a few weeks back, (read news item) and the Italian automaker is far from happy about it. But before any three-piece-suited men carrying violin cases were sent around, Ferrari asked Top Gear to cut it out.  A spokesperson for Ferrari said, “We asked them to change it… for the Hong Kong [Top Gear Live] show (the last stop on the world tour). We said please use real Ferraris.”

The Ferrari spokesperson also said that Top Gear Live had admitted to using replica Ferraris. BBC’s head of communications, Philip Fleming, says that he’s been in contact with Ferrari but stops short of admitting that the show’s Italian machinery was fake. Whatever the case, the Top Gear Live show in Hong Kong didn’t use Ferraris at all, real or fake. Instead, the sequence in the show was changed to incorporate unspecified drift cars that Top Gear believed are more in keeping with the the interests of the local audience. A suitably slippery answer to the problem.

Toyota RAV4 Diesel 2009 Review

March 5th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

toyota-rav4-fq

In 1994 the first generation RAV4 (Recreational Activity Vehicle 4WD) was released and rapidly swept into the consciousness of New Zealand’s female population. The RAV4 possessed an uncanny ability to change a women’s perception of a car as just something to go from A to B, to seeing it as a lifestyle accessory. Carrying Toyota’s reputation for reliability and its obvious exterior durability was enough to gain husbands, boyfriends and fathers ticks of approval, and that’s why so many Kiwi men have wives, girlfriends and daughters who at some stage have owned a RAV4. Through the late 90s the RAV4 was rivaled only by the Suzuki Vitara for Kiwi women’s 4WD affections. Where the Vitara had a more traditional 4WD 2-box shape, the RAV4 had more colourful styling with a rounded shape and large-windows for being seen.  Now, the third generation RAV4 has sauntered into the NZ marketplace, but are its moves smooth enough to make it a real hit with the ladies, or has its sex appeal been sacrificed for modern practicalities?

Good looks count and while the RAV4 has kept its curved charm, dimensions have noticeably swelled. Extra length and width have resulted in a vehicle that sits now firmly in the small-medium 4WD segment, and with only a 4-door version on offer those seeking a cute micro 4WD will have to look toward Suzuki or Daihatsu. That said, the RAV4 is well proportioned and sleek carrying a low 0.33 coefficient drag – impressive for an SUV-styled contour. Well-rounded front and back, the RAV4 achieves a sporty look thanks to a raked-back windscreen and large headlights that are reclined into the front guards. The generous windows still feature but are tapered off at the back leaving a wide rear pillar. Ruby-jeweled headlights flank a usefully large tailgate. While the black/grey bumpers were part of the older model’s charm, now colour-coded exterior moldings and spare wheel casing give the RAV4 more formal attire. Exclusive 17-inch alloys finish off the new look. Overall, there is no argument the RAV4 has gained in size but the accompanying makeover is effectively disguising, and the lower, wider stance looks sharp and adds greater stability than its predecessors.

With its clean-cut passable looks, the RAV4 will inspire many to find out what’s on the inside. The larger exterior dimensions pay dividends with a light and spacious cabin, which can seat three adults comfortably in the back.  The rear seat can be slid back and forward to adjust available boot space, and the seat can be folded flat with a quick-pull leaver giving an impressive 1469-litre capacity (586 litres with seats up). The interior quality is markedly improved over that of former RAVs with many soft touch materials used and firm movement to everything that opens and closes. Brushed aluminum look trim mixes with dark plastics on a two-tier dashboard that creates a sense of functional flair. There is an overall feeling of strength to the cabin’s appointments so the RAV4’s reputation for long-term durability should be maintained. The seats are supportive and although the driving position allows for excellent visibility it is very upright and perched making it difficult for taller drivers to get comfortable.

The RAV4’s equipment list is impressive with a 6-disc CD changer, cruise control, trip computer, climate control, fog lamps and a glove box cooler. An on/off switch for the passenger airbag furthers the vehicle’s family appeal.

Once well acquainted with the RAV4 why not check out under the bonnet. A 2.2 litre 4cyl turbo-diesel sits up front, producing 100kW of power at 3600rpm. With common-rail injection and a healthy 310Nm of torque, the RAV4 offers ample mid-range pulling power. It’s no rocket ship off the line but will reach 100kph in a reasonable 9.3 seconds. The motor is a very useful unit around town but on the open road the RAV4’s porky 1585kg kerb weight is more noticeable and will require the driver to work the gears frequently. Fuel economy is very frugal only sipping away 6.6l/100km combined – one of the RAV4’s greatest strengths.

An automatic transmission is not available on the RAV4 yet, something Toyota will be working overtime on. The manual transmission does have a long throw, but finds the gear easily and partnered up with a light clutch pedal is totally user-friendly.

When it comes to ride and handling the RAV4 has favourable on-road manners, and would be hard to match for true car-like feel within the 4WD segment. The suspension doesn’t feel floaty even with the vehicle unladen and absorbs potholes and bumps well. On twisty roads, body roll is evident but the RAV4 never feels out of its depth changing direction at reasonable speeds. While cruising the RAV4 maintains a decent level of refinement, wind and road noise are minimal and the diesel motor, although audible remains generally unobtrusive.

Most RAV4s will only leave the tarmac to get two wheels on the kerb of a narrow city street, but if you must get dirty with your RAV4 it has legitimate off-road capability. An Active Drive System is standard including Active Torque Control (ATC) that automatically transfers torque between the front and rear wheels whenever necessary for optimum traction. Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Electric Power Steering are also ready to get involved. My only gripe with this system is the electric steering that I found to be over-lightened and vague therefore negating driver input.

Safety credentials are all in check with driver and passenger front airbags, side airbags, front and rear curtain shield airbags and a driver’s knee airbag all standard equipment.

So has the RAV4 still got it? Yes it does, it has much more in terms of equipment, refinement and pulling power now than it did in the past but a price has been paid. It’s not the lady-killing lothario it once was because the RAV4 has matured into a sensible 4WD at the cost of the fun attitude that attracted many to the first generation. Without a 2-door variant on offer its official – the RAV4 has grown up. The increased dimensions and practicality show it no longer desires single women and now requires a family to put it to full use. That said, it remains a very good vehicle and will prove popular for the many buyers looking to hit that sweet spot between car-based station wagons and truck-based 4WDs.

Price: from $38,690

What we like:

  • Strong exterior and interior quality
  • Great fuel economy
  • Favourable on-road manners

What we don’t like:

  • Vague lightweight steering
  • Diesel motor lacks power
  • Lost some character

Words and photos: Adam Mamo

Toyota RAV4 Diesel (2009) – Specifications

Engine

Model Code 2AD-FTV
Type: In-line, 4 Cylinder, 16 Valve, DOHC Chain Drive
Aspiration: Turbo Charged
Capacity: 2231 cc
Engine Size: 2.2 Litre
Bore: 86.0 mm
Stroke: 96.0 mm
Compression Ratio: 16.9 : 1
Number of Cylinders: 4
Number of Valves: 16
Max. Power: 100 kW
Max. Power: Max. 3600 rpm
Max. Torque: 310 Nm
Max. Torque: Min. 2000 rpm
Max. Torque: Max. 2800 rpm
Fuel System: Induction Type Common Rail Direct Injection
Fuel Type: Diesel
Tank Capacity: 60 Litres
CO2 Emissions – EU directive 70/220/EEC (Combined) 173 g/km
Fuel Consumption – EU directive 70/220/EEC (Combined) 6.6 L/100km

Electrical

Battery: 12 volts
Alternator: 130 Amps
Starter: 2.0 kW
Ignition Type: Electronic Direct Ignition System (DIS)

Transmission

Transmission Code: EA64F
Transmission Group: 6MT
Description Active Torque Control 4WD System with 6 Speed Manual Transmission and Lockable Rear Coupling
Drive Type: On-Demand 4WD with Lockable Rear Coupling
Rear Differential: Type Standard with Electronically Controlled Coupling
Clutch Type: Single Dry Plate with Diaphragm Spring

Suspension

Front: MacPherson struts with hydraulic shock absorbers and stabiliser bar
Rear: Double Wishbone Trailing Arm type with hydraulic shock absorbers, coil springs & stabiliser bar
Steering: Description Engine speed sensitive power-assisted rack and pinion steering
Ratio Max. 14.4
Min. Turning Circle (Tyre): 10.2 m
Turns Lock to Lock 2.8

Brakes

Brake Type Power assisted with tandem master cylinder & dual diagonal split hydraulic system
Front: Ventilated Disc
Rear: Solid Disc
ABS Standard
Mechanisms Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), Hill-start Assist Control (HAC), and Vehicle Stability Control + (VSC+)
Hand Brake Centre Floor Type Mechanical Parking Brake

Wheels and Tyres

Wheels: 7J x 17″ Alloy Wheels
Tyres: 225/65 R17 Steel Belted Radial Ply Tyres
Spare Tyre: 225/65 R17 Steel Belted Radial Ply Tyres
Tyre Brand: Bridgestone

Dimensions

Overall Length: 4395 mm
Overall Width: 1815 mm
Overall Height: Std. 1685 mm
Wheelbase: 2560 mm
Track – Front 1560 mm
Track – Rear 1560 mm
Overhang – Front 860 mm
Overhang – Rear 975 mm
Min. Ground Clearance: 180 mm
Approach Angle: 28 degrees
Departure Angle: 24 degrees
Interior – Length 1820 mm
Interior – Width 1495 mm
Interior – Height 1240 mm
Loadspace Length: 785 mm
Loadspace Width: 1335 mm
Loadspace Height: 991 mm
Seating Capacity: 5
Luggage Capacity Boot: 450 litres
Gross Vehicle Weight: 2190 kg
Kerb Weight: 1585 kg
Max. Towing Capacity Braked: 2000 kg
Max. Towing Capacity Unbraked: 750 kg

Toyota HC-CV created for the Melboune Motor Show

February 24th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Toyota HC-CV fq

In 2010 Toyota Australia will begin local production of the Camry Hybrid. To celebrate this Toyota Style Australia has created the HC-CV (Hybrid Camry Concept Vehicle) for the 2009 Melbourne Motor Show.

What exactly is it?  Well, it’s essentially the recently-updated 2010 Camry Hybrid, dolled up with a custom white paint color, a modified fascia, some snazzy wheels, blue decals and accents, and leather seats that incorporate the Hybrid Synergy Drive wave logo. The production Hybrid-Camry has already been unveiled, but this new concept looks smart and is an attractive way of gaining attention for the birth of Australia’s hybrid vehicle production capability.

Top Gear Live caught using fake Ferraris

February 17th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Top Gear has often been accused of being a show solely about entertainment and little was done to change this view with the recent Top Gear Live event in Auckland. The Ferraris driven by precision drivers at the event didn’t exactly come from Maranello, in fact they originated from Sagamihara, Japan. In a classic move of motoring trickery the two Ferrari 360s were actually rebodied Toyota MR2s, which of course are not quite the real thing.

Showgoers reported that the heart-racing sounds they expected from Italian small-bore V8s were notably absent, replaced by deafening music instead. At least one fan was interested enough to snoop backstage, where he noticed that these specimens lacked the rear air intakes and the transparent engine cover of the real thing. Further inspection revealed mid-mounted engines with half the expected number of cylinders.

No one likes being tricked but is it a big deal or not? You decide, but why not just have two tidy MR2s pulling the stunts? It could have been the price of tickets and the expectation of the audience to see more exotic machinery.

Over 1.3m Toyota Yaris models to be recalled

January 30th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

The 2006 and 2007 model Toyota Yaris is being recalled over a seat belt problem. In severe frontal crashes, a foam pad attached to the seat belt pretensioner could reportedly ignite. The recall affects 1.3 million Yaris units worldwide, with over 3000 vehicles in New Zealand affected.

A Toyota spokeswoman said 3027 Yaris models manufactured between June 2005 and April 2007 would require modification. All affected owners would be notified by Toyota and the problem rectified free of charge, she said.

There have been no reports of problems of the seat belt pretensioner igniting in New Zealand models but there have been three cases reported overseas.

Sales of hybrid vehicles slide

January 27th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Despite all the ‘big-ups’ for hybrid vehicles sales of battery-pack-transporters are down nearly ten percent for 2008. At the beginning of 2008, it looked like hybrids were going to have their best year ever, driven by high fuel prices and a recessive economy. That recession, however,has caused consumers to cut way back, leading to dramatic drop in fuel prices, removing much of the argument for a hybrid’s price premium. Consumers shy away from hybrids when fuel prices drop causing the issue of fuel efficiency to fall out from the limelight.

Toyota is still the hybrid sales king, with 241,000 units shifted in 2008. Honda managed to ring up 31,000 sales, and Ford came in third with nearly 20,000 vehicles sold.

Toyota to cut Japanese production in half

January 21st, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

As the economic slowdown intensifies and people continue to buy fewer cars, most manufacturers are starting to hit the brakes a little harder on production levels. Toyota is shutting down plants in Japan for 11 days, and more closures could come as the company says it will only make half the number of cars from February to April as it did last year. That would take Toyota down to 9,000 cars per day as it grapples with an increasing inventory. With the near future predicted to be even bleaker and the urgent need to align production with sales, more factory stoppage announcements are likely to come.

Toyota reveals 2010 Prius at Detroit Show

January 13th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Toyota Prius 2010 fq

Toyota officially revealed the much anticipated third generation 2010 Prius yesterday at the Detroit Motor Show. We already heard many of the mechanical details over the past year or so, but today it was confirmed that the Prius will get a combined EPA rating of 50 mpg. The engine has been up-sized to 1.8L with an output of 98 hp and the total net output of the hybrid drive system is 134 hp.

The basic design is still recognisable as a Prius, but the body has some slick changes. The shape is smoother with drag coefficiency of just 0.25. The peak of the roof has now been moved back 4 inches giving the car a more reclined profile and increasing rear headroom. The optional extras include LED headlights and lane departure prevention, but the most innovative new option is the solar roof. A roof-mounted photo-voltaic panel will power the air recirculation system when the car sits in the sun, reducing the internal temps and the subsequent load on the air conditioning system. The new Prius will go on sale in the states in the middle of the year.