When Mercedes New Zealand offers you the chance to experience the new revamped E-Class Cabriolet, you don’t hesitate in saying yes – I certainly wasn’t going to!
Sitting squarely between the smaller C-Class Cabriolet and new flagship S-Class Cabriolet, the E Cabriolet line-up consists of two models, the E300 and E400. The E300 tested here, retailing at $133,500, comes with a variety of options and trim levels, just like its coupe counterpart. These include adaptive cruise control, 20-inch AMG multi-spoke alloys, Air Body Control Air Suspension, Mercedes Comand Infotainment System.
Inside, there is room for four full-sized adults in unparalleled comfort and under the bonnet is a turbocharged 2-litre four pot producing 180kW/370Nm. While the E400 has more grunt (245kW/480Nm), the E300 still feels pretty brisk. Zero to 100km/h takes a respectable 6.4 seconds and the power delivery itself, is refined and very linear. Also, in Sport Plus mode, the steering and throttle response is communicative and direct, while gearchanges on the 9-speed G-Tronic box are also pretty darn quick.
If things get chilly when the roof is down, simply turn on the heated seats and AIRSCARF fan mounted in the headrest, which blows hot air on the back of your neck. The E300’s trump card though, is that it makes for a sublime grand tourer. I would happily pootle down to Wanaka and back, just for the experience.
After spending a few days in its company, it’s difficult to think of any car in this class which offers the same level of comfort, equipment and quality as the Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet.
Straight off the bat, the all new Volvo XC40 and Jaguar E Pace are exquisite cars. Both are their respective firm’s first foray into the uber competitive small luxury SUV market, and I was given the opportunity to put them both to the test.
Following the flagship XC90 and mid -range XC60, the all-new smaller XC40 carries Volvo’s fluidic design philosophy to great effect. Styling cues like the LED headlights with Thor’s Hammer-like detailing and reverse L-shaped rear light cluster are totally unique and its square-jawed stance definitely looks the business.
The range is powered by a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder engine with 140kW/300Nm, though the range topping T5’s power is boosted to 180kW/350Nm. The XC40 T5 R-Design featured here comes with 20-inch alloy wheels, a unique R-Design grille, LED headlights, sunroof, keyless entry and ignition, leather and nubuck upholstery, R-Design treatment on steering wheel, pedals and gear selector as well as heated front seats, Harman Kardon premium sound system and a nine-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, digital radio and navigation.
Select Dynamic mode and everything tightens up, which means you have greater throttle response and shaper turn in.
Many cars have a ‘sport’ mode feature of some sort, but with the XC40, it completely transforms the driving experience. In fact, it feels more like a hot hatchback than small SUV, quite an accomplishment in itself. The only trade-off is, thanks to the R-Design package, the ride is not as smooth as it ought to be.
Jaguar E Pace
The Jaguar E-Pace is the baby SUV of Jaguar’s pride, shown brilliantly by the Jaguar cub door mirror courtesy light at night. Its bigger and extremely capable F-Pace sibling has been selling like hotcakes and the new E-Pace could easily repeat this trend on looks alone.
The planted stance and mesh front grille are iconic Jaguar and the rear three quarter mirrors its larger F-Pace counterpart; you would seldom find a better-looking car in this segment. Choose from a range of ‘Ingenium’ 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder engines, with two petrol and two diesels available.
Inside, Jaguar design attributes have been carried over to great effect. The layout is simple and intuitive, though the use of hard plastics is a tad disappointing. Standard features include Lane Keep Assist, 10-way electric seats, Sat Nav and Bluetooth connectivity, of course.
To drive the E-Pace is very much what you would expect from a Jaguar; comfortable, smooth and intuitive. Steering lacks in feel but still manages to be direct and responsive. Despite the sublime ride, the E-Pace does get a bit roly poly in the bends and feels heavy despite the size. The nine-speed automatic complements the power train well, offering crisp changes from gear to gear, and power delivery as a whole is refined and silky smooth.
In summary, if you choose the Jaguar E-Pace over the Volvo XC40 – bravo. It rides better and is even slightly better looking, but the Volvo would be my pick thanks to marginally better dynamics and a more involved drive. They are marginal differences though, so whichever you pick, you won’t be disappointed.
The man at the Rangiora Caltex was in awe. “Wow beautiful car mate! It’s a Stingray aye?” One could not fault him on his observation skills, for the car in my care for the day was a Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, one of the true giants of automotive Americana.
The Corvette is the definitive all-American sports car. Having been in continuous production since 1953, very few people, petrolheads or not, haven’t heard of Chevrolet’s wild child. While countless variants have come and gone, each of which have their equal share of fans, the second-generation Corvette Stingray represents, for many, the Corvette’s finest hour.
This 67 Stingray, supplied by Waimak Classic Cars, has all the muscle and style of Muhammad Ali. Whether you take in the beefed up rear haunches, pop up headlights, shark gill like side air vents, text book long bonnet with sloping rear coupe lines, or the wrap around rear window (earlier models had a split rear screen), a Stingray is a car you can gawp at for hours.
Like Ali in the ring, the Stingray’s 5.2-litre 327 Cubic Inch V8 packs a punch. While many lust after the 427 Big-Block, the workhorse 327, in this writer’s opinion, provides more than enough grunt than is needed. Producing a claimed 300 hp, it’s mated to a three-speed automatic box, which happens to be silky smooth.
The Stingray’s cabin is one of simplicity. The wood rim wheel and simple white on black instruments stare at you, while the oversized analogue clock takes centre stage. Other options include a sideways mounted push button AM radio and electric windows.
Hold the brake pedal, turn the key and that delicious V8 triumphantly fires. At idle you can almost hear every single cylinder firing. Ah the grumbling bliss of a simple small block.
Once in drive and on the move, you quickly remember you are driving a fifty-year-old American car, and all which that implies. Steering is very vague and you won’t be coming to a stop quickly, but you forget all that the moment you give it stick.
Feed in the power and that muscular bonnet, which seems to stretch to the horizon, rises with ease. In the bends it actually tracks well despite the complete lack of steering feel and its prehistoric leaf spring suspension set up.
However, the Corvette comes into its own when out for a cruise. Whether rumbling around your local suburban stomping ground or at 100km/h along a straight North Canterbury road with one arm on the wheel and one out the window, the Stingray makes you giggle as it turns heads and devours the miles.
Then as soon as it arrived, it was gone. And, as this writer watched it rumble away, the words from the man at Caltex rang loud and clear, “What a beautiful car”. And the Corvette Stingray is just that. Beautiful.
The last time we saw a Mitsubishi ‘Eclipse’ it was during early noughties and it was a soft, wallowy coupe built for the American market. Now though, like it did with the Mirage, Mitsubishi has resurrected the Eclipse brand to showcase its latest sports soft roader, the Eclipse Cross.
For those after something smaller than an Outlander, yet bigger than an ASX, the Eclipse Cross fills a gap in an ever-growing niche market for the Japanese manufacturer.
Visually the Eclipse is the Marmite of the motoring world – its edgy styling won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the distinctive sharp angles and one of a kind tail section brings a real statement to the Mitsubishi family.
The range consists of four models, starting with the entry point 2WD XLS at $41,690 and finishes with our test car, the top of the range AWD VRX at $47,590.
All variants come standard with Mitsubishi’s infotainment system with seven-inch screen, Apple Car Play and Android Auto. All infotainment functions are controlled by a mousepad in easy reach of the driver, though it does require a frim press. Other standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels, lane departure warning, and reversing camera.
The VRX we tested, thanks to its $5,900 premium, over-the-entry-level XLS, comes with adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, heated electric seats and a very clear and concise head-up display.
The interior itself, for driver and passengers, is a nice place to be. Leather chairs are very supportive and sitting upright makes for a good driving position. Rear passenger headroom is a tad restrictive due to the sloping roof line and 374 litres of boot space is modest at best. However, drop the 60-40 split rear seats and this increases to 653 litres.
All models also share Mitsubishi’s all-new 1.5-litre MIVEC turbo petrol engine with 112kW of power and 254Nm of torque. Mated to an eight-speed CVT auto, you will be returning fuel figures of 7.3L/100km.
On the move, power delivery from the MIVEC Turbo is linear and very smooth. Electric power steering does lack in feel but still manages to be sharp and precise. The high riding stance means you aren’t as planted in the bends and it does get a bit wobbly, but thanks to the AWD system, there is plenty of grip on hand to keep you out of the trees.
The Eclipse Cross shines best when cruising motorways and suburbia. On the former, simply set the adaptive cruise control at 100km/h and the engine just hums as you waft along on a wave of torque. Plus the addition of suspension and damper tweaks makes for a sublime ride.
All in all, thanks to a sweet power unit, good levels of equipment, and that love or hate styling, the all-new Eclipse Cross, despite a few niggles, is well-worth considering.
Let’s be honest, the closest most of us get to experiencing a million-dollar member of supercar royalty is when saying “On the way to work this morning, a brand-new Lamborghini went past me”.
However, on 13 May, the inaugural Christchurch Cars and Coffee event took place at Garden City Helicopters’ new state of the art helicopter and private-jet facility. This gave fellow petrolheads the chance to see not just three or four, but 60 plus rare and exotic classic and supercars up close and personal. Naturally, we couldn’t pass this up.
Cars and Coffee is a worldwide phenomenon, with regular events taking place globally every year. Each event is designed to bring together owners and enthusiasts of dream cars for a meet and greet over a coffee or two.
Flushed with the success of Cars and Coffee’s New Zealand launch at Auckland’s Viaduct last year, car obsessed event founders Ian Chan and Sean Young were determined to bring that action south. “We were blown away at the success of the first New Zealand launch in Auckland back in 2017, so we had no doubts that Christchurch would be just as successful, if not greater,” Chan says.
“Our mission was always, and still is, to bring the C&C brand to all of New Zealand. We all know that little old New Zealand has a great presence of supercars and classics and our goal is to give New Zealand the opportunity to shine on the global C&C platform.”
Lined up for all to see were so many greatest hits of current and classic automotive mecca. Thoroughbreds like Ferraris 458 and F12, Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera, McLaren 650S Spyder, a gorgeous Lancia Stratos Replica, and countless Porsches, including a very tasty 911 RSR, kept Euro enthusiasts, and myself, very happy.
Lovers of American Iron were also spoiled, with ZR1 Corvettes, Mustangs, a Cobra, and a 600 Horsepower Camaro attracting green eyed stares. Also, the new Honda Civic Type R and legendary NSX showcased Japan’s fastest toys.
Sean has a deep knowledge of Christchurch’s supercar scene and knew there would be a big turnout. “Well we know for a fact there is a high calibre of cars present in Christchurch. Anything from your latest Astons, Lamborghinis, Ferraris such as the F12, Porsche GT3s, to the likes of true classics such as Lancias, 930 turbos, Morgans, Fords… the list goes on. We want to bring out the best of Christchurch, that’s for sure.”
Can we expect another Christchurch Cars and Coffee in the future? “We are aiming to make the event bi-annual at least but would love to see more in the calendar year,” Sean says.
All in all, Cars and Coffee Christchurch provided all the entertainment a passionate petrolhead could have on a Sunday morning. Oh, and the coffee was terrific too.
Ever since the 2CV, Citroen’s resume is filled to the brim with fun compact cars full of character. Being a former Citroen AX GT owner, I am happy to supply a reference for this. However in recent times, Citroen’s small C3 range, which began in 2002, began to slowly lose that ‘joie de vivre’ which made the line up unique. Now though, the all-new C3 is here with more tech, willing engines and, of course, plenty of character and style from $26,990.
Whether you factor in the two tier light cluster coupled with thin LED daytime running lights, or the floating roof design, available in contrasting colours, the C3 is a funky visual return to form for the French manufacturer. This form is also functional, with the air bump panels on the driver and passenger doors, first seen on the C4 Cactus. This means that shopping mall car park door dings are a thing of the past.
The Puretech 1.2-litre turbocharged three cylinder engine is the C3’s sole engine choice, producing 81kW and 205Nm of torque. This coupled with a six speed automatic box gives you combined fuel figures of 4.9L/100km.
Inside we find a simplistic and stylish cabin. The luggage strap inspired door handles really stand out and the amount of head and legroom is certainly generous. The new C3 is 82 mm longer than its predecessor and bootspace has increased to 300 litres. The centre 7-inch touchscreen infotainment unit houses the controls for the climate control, media interface and Bluetooth, and is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Other tech includes Lane Departure Warning and Citroen’s optional ConnectedCam system. This utilises a HD wide angle camera with 16GB memory to take photos and record videos while on the move. Perfect to prove any accident you may have wasn’t your fault.
On the move, the C3’s award winning turbo three cylinder engine is a real peach. Its raspy exhaust note sounds mechanical and alive above 3,000rpm. A sweet reminder you are driving a car, not a hairdryer. Power delivery is relatively brisk but not rapid by any means. That said, it comes alive when you give it a boot full while overtaking.
A bit of body roll in the bends shows the C3 is definitely geared more for ride comfort. Its soft suspension manages to soak up all the potholes and bumps you could imagine. Steering does possess a lack of driver feedback but is certainly quick and precise, ideal when negotiating those often treacherous multi storey car parks.
In summary, the 2018 Citroen C3 will not be everyone’s cup of tea. However it still manages to hold its own in a fiercely competitive market, providing a well-priced, spacious, refined, fun little package with all the zest and charm that small Citroens of recent times have been lacking. Put simply, Citroen is back.
When Lexus launched the NX back in 2014, it very quickly became hot property for buyers in the luxury compact SUV market, with its groundbreaking design, quality and attention to detail. Fast forward to 2018 and the old favourite has been given new life by way of a few updates, so we went to find out exactly what’s what.
Lexus has a unique design philosophy that couldn’t be more Japanese. The same striking Transformer like angles and curves carry on, but it offers an updated front end, accompanied by the trademark wide grill and LED headlights are fitted as standard.
There are four models that make up the revised NX range. The entry level NX300 in two-wheel drive, the NX300 in four-wheel drive, the F-Sport and the Limited spec, with the latter two available with an optional hybrid set up.
The NX300 AWD featured in our test, is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four cylinder engine producing 175kW of grunt and 350Nm of torque. Mated to a six speed automatic box, the AWD returns 5.7L/100km respectively. A 2.5 litre petrol engine works in conjunction with hybrid models and eco, normal and sport drive modes still make an appearance.
The major overhaul as far as tech is concerned is with driver safety, with all models now coming standard with adaptive cruise control, automatic high beam headlights, lane keep assist, lane departure alert, rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring.
The 7-inch infotainment screen, displaying sat nav, air con, media and other bits and bobs has grown to 10.3 inches, giving much more clarity. Plus the Mark Levinson sound system, which has been a regular feature in past models, makes a welcome return. All features can be controlled via Lexus’ laptop like touchpad, though this is not quite as cutting edge as I was expecting.
The sumptuous heated/air-conditioned leather chairs are perfect for slobbing out on the commute home. For rear seat passengers, head room can be a little restrictive however, this can be remedied by titling the electric reclining 60/40 split folding rear seats.
On the move, the turbo four pot pulls well, with most of its 175kW coming to life low in the rev range. The new NX range benefits from retuned suspension so cornering smoothly is an effortless pastime.
Select sport mode and flick down a paddle for the often mandatory overtake and the NX performs this task with ease. The NX’s coup de grace is ride quality, even the pothole-ravaged roads of Christchurch are hardly noticeable. Simply stick it in eco mode and waft away.
Prices for the 2018 NX range start at $82,400 and, after spending a week in its company, the Lexus NX’s little updates all add up to make a better all rounder and leaves little doubt that it’s future in this very competitive market is secure.
Volvo’s history is littered with the wacky and wonderful, but in musical terms, its greatest hit single of recent years has to be the XC60 SUV, the Swedish firm’s best selling model ever. Now, there is a new XC60 on the block, boasting more tech, more comfort and more style than ever before.
The new XC60 is built on Volvo’s ‘Scalable Platform Architecture’ which it shares with its bigger sibling, the XC90 and, both inside and out, the XC60’s stunning lines leave it almost identical to its flagship brother, apart from some rear light cluster tweaks.
The XC60 shares a range of 2.0 litre engines made up of two diesels (D4 and D5) and the T5 and T6 petrol. The addition of a very clever top of line T8 Twin-Engine utilising plug-in electric hybrid technology has also contributed to the new XC60’s bragging rights. Our test car was fitted with the T5 petrol engine with 187kW of grunt and 350Nm of torque, while returning a very respectable 7.3litres/100km.
Our car also featured the range topping R-Design style package, which includes a sportier chassis, gorgeous 5-triple-spoke alloy wheels, matte silver door mirrors made for a visual feast when passing shop windows.
Interior appointment is something Volvo does extremely well. Every button you press oozes quality and the centrepiece touch screen infotainment system is clear and easy to operate. The XC60 comes with plenty of kit as standard but the optional Premium Pack would definitely be worth considering, which includes air suspension, heated front seats, tinted glass and the truly epic Bowers and Wilkins Sound System, which endured plenty of Hans Zimmer while on test.
Front and rear, the XC60 is very spacious with copious amounts of head and legroom. Boot space is good but not massive at 635 litres, though unless you are hauling tombstones, this is not really an issue. Plus the size increases to 1,432 litres with the rear seats folded flat.
Moving off and you feel snugly cocooned within the cabin, leaving it easy to see that Volvo is pathological about your safety. Volvo’s proven City Safe system is always on alert, ready to detect if a car is too close in front and put the brakes on quicker than you would yourself. Coincidentally the XC60 was named 2017’s safest car by Euro NCAP with their coveted five star safety rating.
On the move in comfort mode and despite the sporty Pirelli P-Zero rubber, every pothole and rough surface feels almost non existent. Performance can best be described as brisk but not super sporty. Then again, the XC60 is more about relaxed progress. In the bends the car does feel heavy, but turn in is crisp and sharp in dynamic mode. One would happily head to Wanaka and back in one of these.