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Author: Ben Selby

Subaru Forester

Built for the Tough Stuff: 2019 Subaru Forester

Growing from rugged wagon to mid-sized SUV, the Subaru Forester has become a firm favourite with families and adrenalin junkies alike. What made the Forester unique in this ever-growing segment is that it can handle the rough stuff, and handle it well. For 2019, we have a new Forester gracing our roads and it’s good, very good.


Subaru Forester


At first glance the new car is barely distinguishable from the model it replaces. Take a second look however and you notice a more chiselled front and re-designed rear light cluster, providing a sharp no-nonsense look. Subaru’s styling gurus have always given us form and function and the Forester is no exception.  The 2019 Forester comes in three variants – sport, sport plus and premium. The new car is 28mm longer than before inside, so there is more room to slob out and taller folk have more head room too.

Under the bonnet is a 2.5-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated boxer engine (136kW/239Nm), mated to an upgraded seven-speed SLT automatic transmission, which happens to be miles better than the outgoing model. All models get an upgraded version of Subaru’s proven all-wheel-drive system with X-Mode. This allows you to choose between drive modes like normal, light snow/dirt, and deep snow/mud.  In terms of tech, the Forester has you covered. Its Driver Monitoring System with Facial Recognition detects when the driver is not concentrating or feeling a bit under the weather and will provide an audible ‘wake up.’




Subaru’s Eyesight active safety system also makes an appearance with adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, pre-collision braking, lane keep assist and pre-collision warning. All this kit is standard across the range, along with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, reversing camera, tyre pressure monitoring, Bluetooth and dual zone climate control. In the back, the Forester contains 520L of boot space which expands to 1060L with the rear seats folded flat. Rear passenger entry and exit is also improved by rear doors which open at an almost 45-degree angle, making loading up with valuables and wee ones a breeze.

On the move the Forester is comfortable and refined. Plus, with 220mm of ground clearance and 18-inch alloys (17-inch with the sport model), you would be hard-pressed to find a better riding SUV. The boxer engine pulls exceptionally well and the all-wheel-drive system never puts a foot wrong. Leave the asphalt and the Forester is unlike any other mid-range SUV. With X-Mode on tap, we were able to power through the rough stuff with ease.

After a week with its company, we can safely say Subaru’s most popular model is showing no signs of slowing down, and with prices starting at $39,990 for the entry level sport and top out at $47,490 for the flagship premium, the new Forester represents astonishing value. In other words, the 2019 Subaru Forester is the new top dog.



Holden Equinox LTZ-V

Aussie Lion: Holden Equinox LTZ-V

The Holden Captiva wasn’t much to shout about. Against the competition, it sadly failed to cut the mustard in terms of design, function and driving dynamics. Clearly a re-think was required and Holden has responded brilliantly with the all-new Equinox.


Holden Equinox LTZ-V


Aimed squarely at the Mazda CX5 and Honda’s HRV, the Mexican built Equinox, which sits firmly between the smaller Trax and larger all-new Acadia, is leading Holden’s charge in the intensely competitive mid-sized premium SUV market, but is it any good? Styling wise the Equinox is a big improvement over its Captiva predecessor. Its unmistakable American lines certainly help the Equinox stand out. Inside and out, the Equinox is generously well equipped. My test car was the range topping LTZ-V AWD petrol at $56,990. This gets you 19-inch alloys, LED headlights, Hands Free Tailgate and Semi-Automatic Parking.

The LTZ-V contains a barrage of safety kit too. Lane Keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, are all a welcome addition to your commute. Plus, the driver’s ‘Haptic Seat’ will vibrate if a hazard in your path is detected. Inside there is a panoramic sunroof, heated/cooled front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, leather trim and Holden’s MyLink infotainment system with digital radio, sat nav and wireless phone charging. The standard Bose stereo also provides you with the closest audio experience to hearing Led Zeppelin live.

These aforementioned toys are all easy to get your head around, though interior quality is sadly lacking with a number of buttons and switches feeling a tad second rate. However, the Equinox claws back with a gargantuan amount of interior space. Whether you factor in the front and rear seats, or its 846-litre boot (which can be increased to 1798-litres with 60/40 split seats folded flat), this cat has more than enough room to swing one. On the move, the Equinox does rather well. The nine-speed automatic box shifts up and down smoothly, and the punch from its 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, with 188kW and 353Nm of torque is epic.

From low down to beyond the mid-range, the combination of power and torque left me barrelling along much quicker than expected. However, its combined 8.4L/100km fuel consumption figures mean it does like to drink and infrequent torque steer keeps you on your toes. The LTZ-V is actually a full-time front wheel drive car until you activate the AWD mode on the centre console. Steering can be vague, but in the corners themselves the Equinox, despite a kerb weight of 1778kg, tracks well and true, especially in AWD mode.

Despite the minor drawbacks, the Holden Equinox LTZ-V has a lot going for it. With plenty of grunt, features and class leading interior space, this Holden SUV is well worth considering and proof there is plenty of life in the Aussie lion yet.



Volkswagen Amarok

A Firm Foothold: Volkswagen Amarok

In less than a decade, the Volkswagen Amarok has gained a firm foothold in one of this country’s most competitive segments, the ute.


Volkswagen Amarok


For 2018, VW has breathed new life into the Amarok with an updated V6 Highline and flagship Aventura. Miles Continental allowed me to compare both these models back to back to see how they stack up. The 2018 Amarok V6 range starts at $69,990 for the base model, the Highline at $78,990 and the new Aventura at $89,990. Getting up there yes, but there is certainly a lot of truck for your buck, especially when up to 3.5 tonnes of whatever can be towed to your heart’s content.

Under the bonnet lies the 3.0-litre TDi V6 juggernaut. Both Standard and Highline Amaroks make do with a hefty 165kW/550Nm, while the Aventura gets 190kW/580Nm, with 200kW available on over-boost. The Aventura will also reach the national limit in a mere 7.3 seconds too, making it the fastest and most powerful ute on sale in New Zealand. VW also claims 9.0L/100km (Highline) and 8.6L/100km (Aventura) respectively. Features like dual zone climate control, auto driving lights and reversing camera come as standard on the entry model, while the Highline benefits from LED daytime running lights, parking sensors front and rear, sat nav, chrome highlights and leather trim.

The Aventura gets even more with shift paddles, chrome side steps, 20-inch alloys, stop/start technology, sports bar and the option of the striking Ravenna Blue colour scheme as featured on my test car. The Amarok also is able to lug around more then a tonne of stuff courtesy of that sizeable rear deck. Starting up with the conventional key (no keyless entry here), the V6 purrs very un-diesel like into life. Getting up to speed, the immense get-up-and-go of the V6 becomes all too real. Between 3500 and 4000 rpm, the extra 10kW overboost kicks in, making overtaking a breeze.

The eight-speed automatic box is simple and straight forward, offering slick changes from gear to gear. In the bends, the combination of VW’s 4MOTION four-wheel-drive system and ‘Servotronic’ steering, means the Aventura corners more car-like than you would initially expect. The only trade off is a slightly firmer ride. Off the beaten track in off-road mode, the Amarok is also very capable. Climbing every mountain and fording every stream will soon become your forte.

In summary, for those wanting to make a statement, the new Aventura is the only way to go. However, I’d be more than happy with the V6 Highline. Either way, you still end up with one of the most rugged, yet refined utes on our roads today.



Toyota Corolla

An Oldie but a Goodie: Toyota Corolla

When Toyota invites you to the national launch of a new Corolla, it’s not an offer to refuse. So, I found myself flying to Toyota New Zealand’s HQ in Palmerston North to be among the first to get acquainted with the newest edition of New Zealand’s favourite car.


Toyota Corolla


More than 44 million Corollas have been built over 50 plus years and these days, one is sold somewhere in the world every 15 seconds. In our neck of the woods, 25.6 percent of our national car fleet are Toyotas and close to 155,000 of those are Corollas.  On the first day of the national launch, we were given a tour of Toyota New Zealand’s parts warehouse. It is mind-boggling to see all the Toyota parts and accessories packaged and ready for delivery to dealerships throughout the country. We also got to see the 2018 Corolla up close for the first time.

There are three spec levels on offer for the new Corolla; the entry point GX, mid-range SX and top end ZR, with the choice of petrol (GX, SX, ZR) or hybrid powertrains (GX, ZR). The range starts at $29,990 for the GX Petrol and tops out at $38,490 for the ZR Hybrid.
Styling wise, the new car has a lower and wider stance than before. Chiseled edges, a more rounded rear and steeply raked screen gives a more muscular presence, which in this writer’s opinion is a good thing. The GX and SX get 16-inch alloys, while the sportier looking ZR gets some very pretty 18s.




Inside, the Corolla exudes a new level of upmarket feel. A simplistic design contrasts to a clear and concise infotainment system and buttock-hugging chairs, which on the ZR are leather and suede, are certainly very comfortable. Head and leg-room are good too. Safety kit, including Lane Departure warning, Dynamic Radar Guided Cruise Control and Road Sign Assist, also adorn the new car.
The next day of the launch event, it was drive time. I started out in the range-topping ZR Hybrid. The 1.8 litre hybrid system, shared with the new Prius, (90kW) is the most economical in its class at 4.2l/100km while emitting 97g/km of C02.

The steering is a tad vague however, thanks to Toyota’s new TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) platform, the lower centre of gravity makes for a more planted feeling in the bends. The eight-speed Direct Shift CVT changes well and the ride is supple and refined.
Swapping over to the SX Petrol, I found the new 2.0-litre Direct Force four-cylinder engine to be quite perky and eager to go, making driving round the Wairarapa a real giggle.


Power has gone up 21 percent to 125kW and torque up 15 percent to 200Nm. As far as first drive impressions go, the 2018 Corolla did not disappoint. Can’t wait to give both petrol and hybrid versions an in-depth evaluation on Canterbury roads real soon.



Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder

Automotive adrenalin pump: Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder

The man out for a walk came up to me and asked, “wow, how many houses is this thing worth?” The ‘thing’ in question was this 2008 Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder.


Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder


When the Gallardo was launched in 2004, it was Lamborghini’s first small car since the 1980s’ Jalpa. It would go on to become Lamborghini’s most popular car ever, with 14,022 being produced before production ended in 2013. Countless special variants also evolved, such as the gorgeous open-top Spyder. Designed by Belgian, Luc Donckerwolke, the Gallardo’s lines still look crisp and modern. Sure, there are no scissor doors, but the Gallardo still makes for a stunning looking piece of kit. Sitting inside, you are surrounded by a sumptuous cabin. Plus, the rampaging bull on the steering wheel is a stark reminder of Taurean company founder, Ferruccio Lamborghini.

As the Gallardo was made under Audi ownership, the switches and buttons for the centre console all come from the A8. Everything has a quality feel to it, from the sat nav to air con. Though in the Spyder, the best air con comes from putting the roof down.
Twenty seconds later, with the roof stowed away behind you, it’s time to hit the blacktop. Turn key and the 5.0-litre V10 with 382kW, awakens. This beating heart, coupled with either a six-speed open gated manual, or paddle shift E-Gear gearbox, allows the Gallardo to reach the national limit in 4.3 seconds and see the far side of 315 km/h flat out.

The Gallardo Spyder is still a true automotive adrenalin pump, thanks to acceleration that would re-arrange your fillings, gorgeous looks and that amazing spine-tingling noise. A grand day out it certainly was.



Suzuki Swift

A Hot Match: Suzuki Swift

Every time Suzuki announces a new Swift, people notice. But when Suzuki raises the curtain on a new Swift Sport, many sit up like meerkats keeping watch. There is a good reason for this kind of reaction, the Swift Sport is, and always has been, a cracker of a hot hatch. Now into it’s third generation, it’s time to give Suzuki’s newest pocket rocket a good going over.


Suzuki Swift


For 2018, the Swift Sport has been on a diet with the new model weighing in at 970kg; 90kg lighter than before. The Sport also sits on lower springs and the 17inch sports alloys and new honeycomb grille are nice touches. Rear door handles are now hidden in line with the windows and the Sport still retains its lovely rear diffuser and twin exhausts.

Under the bonnet, the Swift Sport leaves behind its naturally aspirated roots in favour of turbo power. The Boosterjet 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine, despite having a name like a toddler’s car seat, is a real peach. Power and torque have also gone up to 103kW and 230Nm respectively, while returning 6.1L/100km.

Inside, the semi-bucket seats feel and look the business while still managing to house your rear in relative comfort. You sit relatively high but despite this there is still sufficient headroom. All interior features feel slightly angled toward the driver too which is a nice touch.

Moving off and you realise that extra torque thanks to the turbo was long needed. At speed I found myself short shifting below 4,000rpm most of the time. A stark contrast from the previous 1.6-litre N/A model, which left you ringing its neck right to the redline in order for you to make serious progress. Plus, heel and toe shifting via the short throw six speed box is great fun.

The term go-kart was invented for a car like the Swift Sport. With acceleration likened to a jack russell pulling at the lead, well weighted direct steering, and the ability to corner almost flat thanks to its lowered stance and Suzuki’s new HEARTECT chassis, you have the confidence to push hard and know it won’t bite back. Rides much better too.

At $28,500, 2018 Swift Sport ticks so many boxes, more so than any of its predecessors. By making the new car easier to live daily without sacrificing the fun, Suzuki has churned out yet another epic little all-rounder. In terms of bang for your buck, they seldom come better than this.



Schenk Ltd

A Powerful Portfolio: Schenk Ltd

For Schenk Ltd, the building business is not only a profession, but a passion. Whether you are starting from scratch, undertaking renovations, extensions, upgrading your kitchen and bathroom or even a garden nip and tuck, Schenk Ltd does it all.


Schenk Ltd


“We don’t build houses, we build homes,” says founder and Manager Callum Schenkel. With more than 25 years building experience under his belt, Callum’s knowledge of the building industry is second to none. “We work closely with the customer to find out exactly what they want. We are able to translate between the home owners and the architect/designer and suppliers at the other end. We also collaborate and work closely with all professions and trades to make sure we produce the best possible outcome for our client.”

With Callum and his team of builders hard at work, it’s Bonnie behind the scenes who helps to make sure everything runs smoothly. It’s this level of dedication which gives Schenk Ltd a considerable portfolio, containing many high-quality building projects. A recent highlight is the new home of Jude and Geoff Marks.

Situated in the growing Rolleston community, the two-storey home contains plenty of features to give this home a totally unique character. Inside, the unique application of Formance panelling not only gives the home a stylish edge but is more durable and warmer than traditional framing. This exterior is complemented by rustic cedar panelling surrounding the front door. Plus, a four-car garage with a panelled door optimises space with a pull-down ladder allowing access to an upper storage area.

Inside there are four bedrooms, two up and two down, each illuminated from dawn till dusk due to the expansive windows; across the hall, an open plan kitchen and dining area, with a 4.8 x 2.4m pantry. The stairs are simplistic and contain pelmet lighting, capable of illuminating your ascent at night. Upstairs the living area is complete with a spectacular view of your surroundings. The downstairs features underfloor heating. The luxurious comfort of this heat is amazingly inexpensive. It completely transforms the feeling of the home as it slowly uses the stored heat in the slab.


With Schenk Ltd, no job is too small nor project too tough, captured in their motto of ‘from pile to ridge’. For more information, phone Callum on 027 935 4290 or email


Mazda CX5

Automotive Nip and Tuck: Mazda CX5

You have got to admit, Mazda has a real knack for giving us great all-round cars in a variety of segments – the CX5 is no exception. Since the original was launched in 2012, the CX5 left so many of Mazda’s national clientele, and motoring scribes like yours truly for that matter, utterly smitten. This was down to a great blend of willing engines, refinement, technology and value.

Mazda CX5


For 2018 Mazda has built on that winning formula to great effect. The CX5 has undergone a sleek stylistic nip and tuck. This has been achieved by lower centre of gravity, a wider, cleaner grille and thinner LED head and taillights, giving a more powerful stance than before.
Under the bonnet you get a multitude of engines to choose from, in either FWD or i-ACTIV AWD. These range from the 2 and 2.5-litre petrol units, to the 2.2 litre diesel producing 129kW.
My test car was the range-topping 2.5-litre petrol (140KW) with Mazda’s new Cylinder Deactivation Technology. This system allows the engine to shut off two of the four cylinders when not needed, ie. traffic or low speed parking etc.

All engines are coupled to Mazda’s silky smooth SKYACTIVE transmission. This contains a new shift logic programme which will predict the driver’s intentions based on throttle or vehicle and engine speed, ensuring that each shift is perfectly matched to however you drive.
In terms of safety, with the new CX5 you are well catered for. On both GSX and range topping limited models you get i-ACTIVSENSE technologies with Advanced Smart City Brake Support – Forward (ASCBS-F), Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) and Traffic Sign Recognition.
Hop inside and you notice the sheer visibility front and rear, thanks to a higher driving position and smaller A-pillars. While taller folk may find it a squeeze in the back, there is still plenty of room to slob out for most.

Quality and refinement has been a CX5 hallmark for years and its business as usual in 2018. Every switch feels solid and well built. The infotainment system and its features are also easy to understand and operate.
On the move, the CX5 is totally unique amongst its competitors. There is little to no road noise and the Cylinder Deactivation at low speed is not noticeable at all. In fact, you would think it wasn’t there. Ride quality is supple and comfortable too.

Steering is a tad vague but still manages to be direct. At high rpm, the 2.5-litre petrol sounds harsh, but quickly settles down to a reassuring hum at speed. Also, the AWD system works hand in hand with engine data and wheel speed to ensure you have plenty of grip on every road surface.
Prices for the CX5 start at $39,475 for the entry point GSX 2WD. Not flawless, but will certainly leave plenty of its competitors playing catch up in years to come.

Honda NSX

Engineering genius: Honda NSX

The Honda NSX is not everyone’s first thought when it comes to a super sports car, but for those in the know, it’s up there amongst the very best. Launched at the 1989 Chicago Motor Show, the NSX (New Sports Cars eXperimental) was Japan’s first mid-engine production supercar aimed squarely at the likes of Ferrari and Porsche.

Honda NSX


Combining low slung aerodynamic lines, a screaming VTEC V6 engine producing between 201kW and 216kW of power, a lightweight aluminium body and design input by the late great Ayrton Senna, the NSX appealed to the enthusiast drivers of the day, who weren’t phased about badge prestige.

This 1995 example, on loan for a day by Dutton Garage, was a rare chance to get up close and personal with a cemented member of Honda’s greatest hits album.
Get into the NSX for the first time and you quickly notice how sumptuous the cabin is. The leather clad seats offer plenty of lateral support and levels of comfort usually found on something with twice as many doors. The driving position is low slung though head room is a tad restrictive. Rear visibility is very generous, thanks to the F16 fighter jet inspired cockpit.


Honda NSX


Turn the key and the 3.2 litre VTEC V6 growls into life before purring comfortably at idle. Moving off is more of a workout than expected due to the lack of power steering and laughable turning circle. Around town the NSX is extremely usable. Once the steering lightens up, you are quickly slicing through traffic with ease.However, once you plant boot on the open road, Honda’s engineering genius becomes all too real. While not rapid and sharp by today’s standards, the NSX is still a proper giggle factory. Thanks to the blood curdling howl of that amazing V6 engine, all the way up to its 8,000 rpm redline, short shifting via the short throw bolt action rifle-esque five-speed gearbox is seldom practiced.


Honda NSX

As spine tingling its straight-line oomph and noise is, the NSX plays its ace card when those straights turn into fast, tight corners. The NSX tracks well and true, the lack of power steering means that steering feedback is quick and communicative.
Having the Senna developed chassis on hand means you can devour tight hairpins at an alarming rate. Simply stand on the anchors, down-shift to second, turn in and you rocket out of every bend grinning from ear to ear with that torrent of symphonic bliss echoing behind you.

The NSX was never a sales success for Honda, with customers rarely exceeding triple figures during each year of its 15-year life. Despite this, its exclusivity, real world practicality and thrill-a-minute driving experience, add up to one hell of a package. The Honda NSX is not perfect but shows that you don’t need a flash badge to make a proper supercar.

Honda’s new Civic Type R

All Good Things: Honda’s new Civic Type R

All good things come to those who wait. Such is the case with Honda’s new Civic Type R. Though the Civic Type R’s history dates back over two decades, the new 2018 Type R is the first to be sold new in New Zealand. Needless to say, I couldn’t sleep the night before picking it up.

Honda’s new Civic Type R


Like a cross between a transformer and an Imperial Stormtrooper, its striking looks are not just for show. Its spoiler, carbon splitter, rear diffuser, and air scoops are all functional, and blacked out 20-inch alloys housing those big Brembo brakes are pretty epic.
Inside, lashings of red interior trim, seatbelts and those hip hugging sports seats are a stark reminder of Honda’s Type R heritage. The driving position is spot on and, despite that gargantuan rear wing, rear visibility is just like a Civic, in other words, great.

Along with the usual infotainment accoutrements, the Type R allows you to cycle through a variety of menus depicting your boost pressure, the G-forces generated by accelerating and braking, and you can even record your lap times when on track.
Under the bonnet lies a 2.0-litre turbocharged VTEC four-cylinder engine boosting power to 228kW and 400Nm of torque. Mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, it is a real peach.
Driving through suburbia, the Type R is a doddle and has surprisingly good ride quality for a hot hatch. Plus, indicate left and you can view your blind spot on the screen via a camera hidden in the passenger wing mirror.

Type R purists more used to the screaming naturally aspirated on/off power of previous models, may scoff at the progressive power delivery of the new car, but that turbo in this writer’s opinion, is a welcome presence when commuting.
However, select R+ mode and the Type R goes completely nuts. At full throttle above 4,500rpm, you find the horizon rapidly and you will reach the national limit from a standstill in 5.7 seconds. The six-speed box is very slick and each down change is met with computer-controlled blip of the throttle, to keep the changes race car quick.
In the corners, the Type R’s Adaptive Damping System is constantly talking to the suspension, to ensure you have maximum stability, and the Limited Slip Diff means the dreaded torque steer, which plagues many FWD performance cars, is non-existent.

Add all this together and you will be devouring bits of bendy bitumen quicker than just about anything. Small wonder the Type R holds the lap record for FWD cars around the Nurburgring at 7 minutes 43 seconds.
With this new model, those smart cookies in Honda’s engineering department have created not only a worthy addition to the Type R lineage, but a driver’s dream. Plus, you still get all the real-world practicality of a Civic, and at $59,990, it undercuts its main European rivals considerably.
All in all, without doubt the most exciting FWD car I’ve ever driven.