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Author: Ben Selby

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 warmth.nz 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 schenk_ltd@yahoo.co.nz.


 

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
A GREAT BLEND OF WILLING ENGINES, REFINEMENT, TECHNOLOGY AND VALUE

 

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
YOU DON’T NEED A FLASH BADGE TO MAKE A PROPER SUPERCAR

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.

E-Class Cabriolet

‘E’ for Exceptional

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!

E-Class Cabriolet

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.

Volvo XC40 VS Jaguar E Pace

Volvo XC40 VS Jaguar E Pace

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.

Volvo XC40 VS Jaguar E Pace

 

Volvo XC40

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.

Verdict

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.

Stingray

Chevrolet’s wild child: The Stingray

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.

Stingray

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.

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

Resurrecting a classic: Mitsubishi brings back the Eclipse and our writer Ben Selby has given us the run-down on it

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.

Mitsubishi 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.

Mitsubishi Eclipse CrossThe 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.