Jeep ute gets postponed… for now

June 29th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

If you’re a fan of the ute and also a Jeep enthusiast then you would have been pretty excited when Jeep announced it may bring out a pickup truck. The bad news is that the Jeep ute project has ben put on the backburner for now, but hey, it might still come to fruition.

Jeep CEO Mike Manley said in a recent interview, “We’re still in recovery mode and have to be very careful with our investments. We have so much going on. Our resources are fully dedicated to small vehicles and working with Fiat. There are none left to work on the Jeep pickup at this time.”

He went on to add, “There’s clear interest in the U.S. for a pickup” and “It could also give us potential for some of our international markets even though the pickup market is slightly different outside of the U.S.” Continue reading “Jeep ute gets postponed… for now” »

Mazda releases fresh images of new BT-50 ute

June 13th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Mazda has just dropped a couple of images of it’s upcoming BT-50 Freestyle ute. The Freestyle is an extended-cab version of the standard BT-50, offering a smaller cabin and a slightly larger deck than its double cab stablemate. To get crew into the back the BT-50’s cab features two reverse-hinge half-doors in addition to the two standard front doors. There is a pilarless design to make things a whole lot easier for those attempting to squeeze in the rear seat.

Mazda’s new design language has been used extensively on the exterior of the BT-50, but it retains traditional cab proportions giving it a good balance. Like the Ford Ranger, which uses the same chassis, the BT-50 was designed in Australia. It will be exported to numerous countries including NZ with first deliveries expected later this year. Continue reading “Mazda releases fresh images of new BT-50 ute” »

Don’t Judge Me, Man!

May 14th, 2011 by Tim Grimley

Prejudice is a bad thing. Much is made of the various ‘ists’ and ‘isms’ that make the world a nastier place, but this week I have been learning that on a day-to-day basis, people make many little ill-informed calls based on nothing more than preconceived notions.

Take the small, wrinkled, near-death dog attached to a small, wrinkled, near-death old lady that I encountered whilst out jogging on Tuesday. As it was slightly patchy in the fur department, walked with a limp and sounded heavily asthmatic, I simply dismissed it as being incapable of rapid motion without the aid of electric probes. It was only after the old biddy had mysteriously chosen to release its lead and – despite my best efforts at a sprint after 5km of waddling and sweating – fifty yards down the road I still had a furious ball of fur and teeth attempting to remove my ankle bones, I realised that an error of judgement may have been made on my part.

Then there was the e-mail received from my sister informing me that she had bought a new flat in Blackheath, London. This is a pretty salubrious area of England’s capital where even the most broom cupboard-esque of crash pads commands a serious price tag. She assumed I would find the sums involved staggering because being in remote little New Zealand, where civilisation cannot possibly exist because we are a good twelve months behind in Coronation Street, I could purchase a house for what most people would splash out on a Chinese takeaway.

This is of course, ridiculous. As anyone who is currently trying to scrape together enough money to put a deposit down will tell you, Aotearoa isn’t exactly giving houses away at the moment. Prejudice sets you up for making bad decisions and looking a bit silly; particularly if it means you attempt to enter Auckland’s housing market with change found down the back of your sofa.

And all of this is why I’m very excited about the day I can finally get behind the wheel of a Great Wall ute.

Thanks to my experiences with early Japanese and Korean cars, I have some niggling doubts about certain aspects of the output from the fledgling international arm of China’s motor industry. While they may be cheap, I suspect that it will be a good number of years before their products become as polished as more established competition. Continue reading “Don’t Judge Me, Man!” »

Holden marks ute 60th anniversary with Thunder Edition

April 12th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Holden’s ute is celebrating its 60th anniversary and to mark the occasion the Thunder Ute is back for the Aussie market.

This new VE Series II take on the previously popular special edition looks sharp with some light cosmetic additions and is set to go on sale across Australia from next week.

The Thunder Ute will be available in SV6 and SS trim with plenty of extra kit included. Special features in both models include 19-inch alloy wheels, satellite navigation, leather seat bolsters and special-edition Thunder badging inside and out.

“It is a really bold, tough looking ute which we think will appeal to many of our traditional sports ute buyers,” Holden Australia Executive Director of Sales, Marketing and Aftersales John Elsworth said.

In terms of powertrains there is no additional grunt over the standard models with Thunder ute offered with Holden’s 210kW/350Nm 3.6 litre SIDI petrol V6 and 270kW/530Nm 6.0 litre petrol V8. Continue reading “Holden marks ute 60th anniversary with Thunder Edition” »

VW Amarok Highline first ute to score ANCAP 5-star safety

March 14th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

ANCAP (Australasian New Car Assessment Program) has awarded its first 5-star safety rating to the Volkswagen Amarok 4WD Highline ute.

The Amarok is now the first double cab ute in the New Zealand market to achieve this rating and is a huge sign of confidence in this new contender to the ute market which was officially launched in New Zealand on 14 February 2011.

Utes often double as both workhorse and family transport and so this 5-star rating of the Amarok Double Cab Highline comes as a boost to VW’s expected sales in the NZ market. For the record, the vehicle scored 16 out of 16 in the side impact crash test and is the first dual-cab utility to ever receive a 5-star rating from ANCAP.

The Amarok is based on an internally developed rugged ladder frame. High-strength steel gives this chassis an exceptionally high level of crash safety,de-coupling the cab from the frame results in optimal torsional resilience which is especially advantageous for the Amarok‟s driving behaviour on rugged roads, providing strength especially in the area behind the passenger compartment.

The Amarok has ESP (Electronic Stability Programme) including off-road ESP as standard across the range. ESP prevents the vehicle from breaking away and also takes into account information on load status. Off-road ESP is activated by the touch of a button and gives more control as well as reducing stopping distances on loose surfaces. Continue reading “VW Amarok Highline first ute to score ANCAP 5-star safety” »

Isuzu NZ drops prices on D-Max ute range

January 19th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Christmas has come just a couple of weeks late for Kiwi ute buyers with the announcement that Isuzu NZ is reducing prices on its D-Max range. From Jan 17th prices have been dropped on every model in the range.

“With support from the factory we have been able to reduce the landed cost in New Zealand, and we are passing that straight on to Kiwi owners,” said the General Manager of Isuzu, Greg MacDonald.

It means that, for example the LS 4WD model which previously sold at $54,990 now costs just $52,490 including GST.”

“It’s rare to see vehicle costs coming down these days and, as a wholly New Zealand-owned and operated network, we are very happy to be able to support Kiwi buyers this way,” said Mr MacDonald.

Click here to read a Car and SUV review of the Isuzu D-Max LS ute.

Mazda releases fresh images of 2011 BT-50 ute

December 8th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Over the ditch, Mazda Australia has just released a swag of new images for its upcoming 2011 BT-50. Unfortunately the Japanese carmaker is staying tight-lipped on the details like powertrain options and performance figures and an official launch date in NZ or Australia is yet to be announced.

The new BT-50 was officially unveiled a couple of months back at the Australian International Motor Show to a mixed reception with opinion polarized by the ute’s radical exterior styling. The production debut is expected sometime next year with both single and dual-cab variants in cab chassis and veilside configurations.

Despite the secrecy Mazda has revealed that production for the new BT-50 will begin in June 2011 and the range is expected to be diesel only. Mazda’s will be launching both its Sky-G petrol and Sky-D diesel engines in 2011, making it very likely the new BT-50 will be powered by the new Sky-D diesel engine.

Check out the new images of Mazda’s BT-50 in the gallery below. Continue reading “Mazda releases fresh images of 2011 BT-50 ute” »

South African tuner builds high-power Holden/Chevy ute

November 12th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

While their rugby may of turned to jelly that’s still not going to stop the men of South Africa from enjoying hairy-chested V8 sports utes. One of the meanest ute machines to be conceived over there is a high-powered version of what we call the Holden SS Ute but is badged in S.A as the Chevy Ute SS.

Turning the screws is South African tuner LupiniPower which has pumped up this Chevy pickup to an output of 399 kW with 799 Nm of twist from the supercharged 6.0 litre V8 power plant. Performance is very impressive with the 0 to 100 km/h sprint taking just 4.5 seconds and a top speed of 282 km/h.

LupiniPower also provides a suspension ‘tweak’ for better handling and race-spec front disc brakes and calipers. Packing the guards are 20-inch alloy wheels, with 8.5 x 20-inch rims at the front and 10 x 20-inch at the back, wrapped in Bridgestone Potenza RE050 ultra-high performance tyres. A full Bilstein suspension and a limited-slip differential for can be fitted as an option.

All this power and those fancy Chevy badges don’t come cheap and the tuner’s all-inclusive price for the SportUte SS is $117,000 NZD. Continue reading “South African tuner builds high-power Holden/Chevy ute” »