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Author: Nicholas Henare

Infinity

Electrifying Performance: Infinity


Motoring writer Nicholas Henare dishes the automotive dirt on Infinity, a sub-brand of Nissan, and this year’s electrifying range of performance vehicles.

 

Infinity

 

AN INNOVATIVE CORE

 

Following on from a range of electric vehicles rolling out at Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the Infiniti Prototype 10 recaptures the spirit of early speedsters for an era of electrified performance. The concept represents a physical manifestation of Infiniti’s creative and ambitious plans.  Yet again this year’s range of prototypes have a familiar early 1900s feel to the vehicle, with a flash back to those incredibly well styled vehicles of the 1920s and 30s.
As a brand with technological innovation at its core, electrification is a natural next step for Infiniti. From 2021, every new Infinity model will be electrified, featuring hybrid or battery electric technology to enhance performance. The Prototype 10 provides a window into this desire to deliver driving pleasure, thrilling performance and range confidence. With prototypes built to please the eye as well as the desire to see innovation in driving requirements, Infiniti has produced something to rival even the purest of luxury brands on show at Concours d’Elegance.
“We all feel a certain degree of passion when talking about roadsters and speedsters,” Infiniti President Roland Krueger says. “We are equally passionate about the potential that electrification holds for the future of our cars – a daring speedster is the perfect study for our designers to explore an electrified future and ignite such excitement.”

Infinity

 

 

BACK TO THE FUTURE

 

The new concept follows two other design studies revealed by the company in the last 12 months: the Prototype 9 – first revealed in 2017 – and the Infiniti Q Inspiration concept, unveiled at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Where Prototype 9 – a sleek, open-wheeled, electric retro-roadster – imagined an alternative history for Infiniti, the Prototype 10 is resolutely focused on what the future holds for the brand. Utterly daring in its bold execution, the new concept is inspired by the spirit of early speedsters, its form and function evoking driving pleasure and thrilling performance.

“The Infinity Prototype 10 echoes the layout and design of early speedsters,” Executive Design Director for the brand Karim Habib says.  “This period saw the creation of some of the most evocative car designs of all time, where power was celebrated through high-powered single-seat competition cars. Our new concept speaks of an electrified future, something which is reflected in its form and details. It is appropriate that we found inspiration in an optimistic bygone era in which cars were characterised by the simple love of driving.”

A future vision realised by Infinity designers, Prototype 10 is informed by some of the most iconic car designs of all time. Its cool, clean forward looking design is further complemented by its electrical performance.
It seems that this year’s prototypes have that all familiar feel and it really is, back to the future.

 

 

FORM AND FUNCTION EVOKING DRIVING PLEASURE AND THRILLING PERFORMANCE



 

Mercedes A200 hatch

A Tiger Under the Hood: Mercedes A200 hatch


Picking up the Mercedes A200 hatch from Armstong Prestige, I was invited to be shown a few things about the connectivity in the vehicle but declined due to the fact I’m a bit “I’ve got this, how hard can it be” I must admit.

 

Mercedes A200 hatch

 

I was wrong and should have spent some time with their knowledge. It’s the next stage of driving with an intelligent interface. The statistics are all there, 1322cc, four-cylinder, 120kW, 250 Nm direct injection, turbocharged seven-speed automatic, with sports seats and 18-inch, five twin spoke alloys with duel exhaust. The front wheel drive starts at $60,900. It features hill start assist where if you take your foot off the brake while on a hill it gives you a few seconds to put your foot on the accelerator, so you don’t roll back. Simple ideas are sometimes the best.

The voice activation system gets a bit too eager. It turns on when you say, “My Mercedes” and while driving it logged on with “What can I help you with?” after we said, “My Monday’s looking busy”. Having spent the last few months driving more expensive, more powerful vehicles with more features, I was expecting the A200 to be a little ‘tame’ but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s got some good torque; being red must have made it quicker. But its speed is paired with great looks thanks to all that brushed aluminium, a great sunroof and those beautiful Mercedes slopping angles that make it look… sexy.

 

SLIGHTLY FEMININE WITH A LITTLE TIGER UNDER THE HOOD

 

The dashboard interactivity is where the A200 is really dynamic though with a massive amount of options available from a 26cm touchscreen, kind of like a giant iPad. Navigating this is a little sensitive for my liking, with a centre console touch pad rather than the old dial system, but that could just be that I’m a bit old and not quite as cool as I should be. The only thing that did give me the odd question was the aggressive lane assist system that gave a rather jarring brake when I ‘deviated’ from my lane. Here in Christchurch we are all aware that sometimes you just can’t stay in a lane with the roadworks around and, when you get a braking system cutting in, that can get a bit annoying. Still, it is there to keep you safe, so I’ll let them away with it.

The interior is black leather with great stitching and cool LED lighting trim. All in all, my week with it showed that as we get further on with technology, luxury car brands like Mercedes will keep pushing more and more options for you to make your experience more responsive. At this price range, there is a lot going for the A200. I think it a great option up against the Audi A3; slightly feminine with a little tiger under the hood.

 



 

Dux De Lux

An iconic anniversary: Dux De Lux


Christchurch has some iconic places that resonate amongst us. Dux De Lux is possibly the definition of this and has been a core part of Christchurch life since 1978, starting on the ground floor in the Arts Centre, before expanding into a bar in 1987 Live music, coffee and fresh fruit juice, yes fruit juice, were unique selling points back then.

 

Dux De Lux

 

 

 

Oh how far we have come. and it’s amazing to think that we are celebrating the 40th anniversary this month. It’s hard to think of Christchurch hospitality over those years not having the Dux as a core part of its hospitality fabric. It’s where the likes of Salmonella Dub and Shapeshifter got their start. It’s where Bic Runga was found by Sony Music and The Feelers by Warner. Dux was a hotbed of New Zealand music right in our own backyard.

Recognising there was a need for beer that was a bit different, the team started selling European styles. In 1989 Richard Sinke had a craft brewery humming along just as America was having its craft beer renaissance and well before it took off here.
The year 1990 saw its move away from a purely vegetarian menu to incorporating seafood, which has become such a staple in Dux Dining now and something the restaurant is well recognised for doing well at. I remember the moment I sat down for a fantastic Mexican dish which became a prime motivator in my career as a chef.

 

“We’re extremely excited to see what the vibrancy and life will look like in Christchurch in 10 years.”

So many of us have a Dux story to share. How many of us enjoyed the courtyard next to the Arts Centre on a balmy afternoon to meet friends or family over pizza and a pitcher of Ginger Tom, protected from a ghastly southerly or easterly wind?
Richard Sinke is proud of what he’s achieved over the years, but as he says, “Dux’s future is tied to Christchurch. We’re extremely excited to see what the vibrancy and life will look like in Christchurch in 10 years.”

Yes, our future in Christchurch is exciting, but I think it’s great to look back on the milestone that is Dux de Lux on its 40th anniversary and congratulate the business on not only surviving in such a challenging industry, but becoming the iconic gamechanger that it has been over the years. It has shaped what we’ve come to expect from hospitality in Christchurch. Here’s looking at you Dux De Lux. Cheers for the memories.

 

 



 

Hulbert House

Sumptuous Southern Spot: Hulbert House


There are hotels and then there is Hulbert House; a luxury boutique hotel in central Queenstown restored from an 1888 Victorian villa that comprises of six beautiful double suites, each with their own individual flair.

 

Hulbert House

 

All the suites have a stunning view over Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding alps. You can relax and enjoy everything that is good about Hulbert House – and there is so much. Breathtaking in its ornate furnishing and classic styling, the Palm Lounge is lush and rich. Breakfast is served here by the wonderful hosts, Jade and Jay, who also doubles as chef de cuisine.  With leather couches to recline in and have a beverage or two, and a kitchen/servery which plays host to just a few sumptuous morsels in the cookie jar, it’s not really a hotel but a place that feels more like the home of someone incredibly rich who just happens to be letting you use it.

The homestead has a rich history, from the Boult Suite named after Philip Burbage Boult, who was granted the land in 1876, to the Firth Suite, the beautiful room I resided in, named after Horatio Nelson Firth, whose family lived here between 1889 and 1901.
With its proximity to town there’s no need to stress about travel time to one of the stunning restaurants; the prestigious Rata is only a leisurely five-minute walk.  Located at 68 Ballarat Street, just a hop skip and a jump from central Queenstown, it’s the perfect location to explore Queenstown but also to host an engagement, wedding or function.  Not only does Hulbert House have the perfect venue, but also a welcoming staff who introduce you to the quintessential Queenstown experience – one of style and elegance. Reserve your room at Hulbert House, you won’t regret the experience.

 



 

Part of a legacy

Part of a legacy: Refurbished Town Hall


The opportunity to get an exclusive preview of the extensive refurbishment of the Town Hall saw me standing on the old site of the Crowne Plaza one fine spring day.

 

Part of a legacy

 

Now a Gap-Filler-style area full of food caravans with happy, relaxed locals meandering through, memories came flooding back, reminding me of the prominence of this central city block – both historically and architecturally. The Christchurch Town Hall represents a core part of the heritage fabric of Christchurch and one which has served as a gathering place for performances, cultural events and meetings since 1972. Watching the work underway to bring back one of Christchurch’s last standing heritage buildings can only be described as a powerful experience.
The improvement of the ground has taken almost 11 months alone, with the insertion of new piling systems that are necessary not only to repair, but also to future-proof the building and protect it should we ever face another seismic event. A new raft slab has been well-planned to ensure that if anything happens, damage should be focused on the surrounding exterior and not on the interior system.

 

In October 2012 the recommendation came through to demolish everything but the main auditorium; a hard call for the people of Christchurch but Christchurch City councillors voted to restore the building. Work is progressing well as those behind this mammoth task work hard to meet the February 2019 deadline. The hard yards are done, and constant chatter of power drills, hammers and skill saws is a reminder that we are on a building site in full swing. With several new spaces for events areas and a multifunctional capability, the new Town Hall has more muscle for the future, while remaining respectful of the poignancy this vestige of Christchurch’s built heritage represents.

 

Part of a legacy

 

Sir Miles Warren and Maurice Mahoney from Warren and Mahoney Architects designed the Town Hall and completed the project on 30 September 1972. Since then it has been a hub of performing arts and an iconic part of Christchurch’s architecture. The Town Hall is one of the first buildings in New Zealand to be remediated using jet grouting; the 150mm thick floor slab has been replaced with a new concrete raft slab, helping to bring the building up to 100 percent of the New Building Standard. Above ground, instead of adding extrya concrete to reinforce the building, a new method of applying fibre-reinforced polymer to the original walls has been used. The new material is thinner but as strong as concrete.

Everyone who knows the Town Hall has a story; I personally have a multitude, including enjoying a tipple with Paul Young and Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet, to having champagne with Kiri Te Kanawa, and even my first stage show of Cats. This is, in my opinion, why the Christchurch City Council voted to restore it; the need to retain something of cultural importance to Christchurch which is at risk of becoming a contemporary city full of concrete tilt slabs and glass façades; something to remind us that we have a vibrant, relevant and important history.

 

Part of a legacy

 

According to Andrew Trevelyan from Ōtākaro, the Crown-led initiative giving direction to the rebuild in Christchurch, the Garden City rebuild is in full swing, as we head towards the completion of major projects and the Town Hall is integral to that narrative, as we put the puzzle pieces back together. With new marble floors, sweeping staircases and lush carpets, the Town Hall will once again take her place as a centre of entertainment to enable the people of Canterbury to once more enjoy her delights.

With its amazing overhaul featuring the new Avon Room and its stunning view of the new Victoria Square and Avon River, the Town Hall is coming back, better, stronger and more dynamic than ever before and we have not long to go before we can all take in her outer and inner wonders – it’s going to be a beautiful thing.

 



 

Josh Emett

Josh Emett’s Long Lunch: Q&A with Josh Emett


This year’s Veuve Clicquot Long Lunch at Rata in Queenstown celebrated 200 years of the champagne and featured the theme Colourama. One of New Zealand’s most beloved celebrity chefs – Josh Emett – unleashed his culinary creativity on the prestigious event. I managed to get a few questions to the maestro himself.

 

Josh Emett

I watch as you are instructing your team in the kitchen. How much does team play a part in serving up 100 people at the same time?

Teamwork in the kitchen is hugely important and is how the kitchen at Rata executes successful events like this one. At a glance you see a number of individual chefs managing different aspects of a dish, but at some point, they all need to come together to execute the finished dish, so timing and planning is everything. It is a great feeling when the team is performing at their full potential and a huge amount of fun.

How do you find new inspiration for the event?

This year for inspiration we drew heavily on the Colourama theme, which Veuve Clicquot focused on for much of the event. The great thing about this theme is it allowed us to play with colours and textures in the kitchen, and plate up four beautiful and natural dishes. I’m not into coloured dyes in food – I think you can achieve beautiful, multi-coloured dishes using natural ingredients and that what’s we did. Inspiration for events like this can come from anywhere. In Queenstown, it’s impossible not to have the menu at Rata draw from the beautiful landscape of the South Island and that comes out in every aspect of the dining experience, from the suppliers we use, to the produce we feature and the decor in the restaurant.

 

By the time it comes to presentation all the hard work’s been done. How hard are the days in the kitchen prior to Clicquot?

When running an event on such a scale that requires numerous intricate and detailed dishes being plated up all at once, it does put a huge amount of pressure on the kitchen to be organised and prepared. We have a new Head Chef at Rata, Jonathan Williams, who did an amazing job organising the prep in the lead up to the event, which allowed both lunches to flow smoothly and go off without a hitch.

 

How many years has it been now and how do you feel about your relationship with Clicquot in the Snow?

I think it’s a relationship that just keeps growing and proving more powerful. I feel lucky that my business partner, Fleur Caulton and I have been able to be a part of Clicquot in the Snow for many years now and it’s got to the point that the Rata Long Lunch is a staple in many people’s annual calendars. We have seen more and more demand for the event each season – which gives me confidence that we’re on the right track and offering people a unique and genuine dining experience that they really look forward too and enjoy.

 

I’m currently driving the new BMW X2 courtesy of BMW. They had good presence in this year’s event as a sponsor. What do you like about your affiliation?

I have been a BMW ambassador for six years now and it is an association that I am extremely proud of. We support each other’s brands on many different levels and in many different ways. I have owned several BMWs over the years and love the driving experience they offer. Their on-board technology is outstanding.

Mini Cooper S Hatch SE

A little beast: Mini Cooper S Hatch SE

John Cooper was born 17 July, 1923 so there was no better excuse to grab the new Mini Cooper S Hatch SE to see what it could do. When John Cooper and Sir Alec Issigonis sketched out the initial design on a table cloth in 1956, they really hit on what would become an iconic automobile.

Mini Cooper S Hatch SE
Agile is an understatement

 

From 1964-1967 it went on to win international races, including three wins at Monte Carlo – no small feat for such a little beast. Growing up with the 1969 movie, The Italian Job, the first thing I wanted to do was test its ‘Go Kart’ style abilities, so I hit the hills.

Agile is an understatement. It’s a six-speed manual transmission, 141 kW nimble mover. Louis Warburton from Christchurch Mini had set the Halo lighting to flare as a rev-metre and the entire interior lighting system was very impressive. The 8.8-inch touch screen has a split-screen option, allowing your passenger to use the screen while you use it to focus on the drive. My two sons loved it.
I’m not sure if it was its low centre of gravity or just its incredibly stable power, servotronic speed related steering, but the handling on uphill and downhill corners was stunning, handling everything I threw at it with ease.

These days bespoke versions of the car you want are pretty much stock standard but with the Mini Cooper S, three-door hatch version, I really don’t see the need for adapting the standard. With the air intakes in the bumper and the bonnet, rear apron diffuser, central twin pipe exhausts and custom rear spoiler with the metallic Satellite Grey paint job, 17-inch alloys, there are 15 variations on rims alone, and lounge leather seating, it was just too darn cute.
The interior cabin is simple and stylish with a quality finish. The innovative technology built into the navigation system and the LED headlights driving assistant system were the only things I didn’t spend enough time investigating; I can see they’re great, but I was just having to much fun driving it!

Mini Cooper S Hatch SE
There’s not much difference in room between the three-door and the five-door, so it really comes down to convenience when choosing between the two models. John Cooper’s son, Michael Cooper started the John Cooper Works to maintain the integrity of Mini moving forward and its alliance with BMW means that Mini has a character of its own, with the integrity of solid background engineering.
Looking where the brand is now and how the performance was on my little drive, I really think it has everything right. It’s a fun car, for people who want to have fun driving it

Top Truffles

Top Truffles: The Perigord black truffle

Last July I found myself on the side of a hill, nose down in the dirt with the delightful truffle hunting dog, Sophie and the team from Amuri Truffiere by my side. Truffles have a unique taste, one not easy to describe but one that adds something special to a dish.

Top Truffles

With the Perigord black truffle a delicacy worthy of its prestige, I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to head to The Tannery for this year’s Truffle Festival with Chef Michael Maguire.
Five dishes were prepared. The first – roasted groper with green herb and truffle crust paired with Waipara Hills equinox Sauvignon Blanc 2015 – offered a wonderful way to start and made a fantastic pairing.
Next was the petite baked potatoes with truffle butter, crème fraiche and beef carpaccio, with the Waipara Hills Equinox Pinot Gris 2015. But then it came, the quintessential BBQ bone marrow with roasted carrot, red onion and truffle toast with the Waipara Hills Equinox Chardonnay 2015.

Wood fired pizza was up next with truffle honey and ricotta, Pinot Noir 2014 and desert was the vanilla, honey and panna cotta with caramelised figs and poached pears and the Waipara Hills Equinox Noble NV.
With truffles selling at $3 a gram and a 1.5kg truffle being found in North Canterbury this week, the industry is thriving and chefs and great restaurants have the opportunity to present a wonderful truffle experience like The Tannery and Amuri Truffiere’s Truffle Festival opening.

M-Class

An Automotive Blueprint: Mercedes-Benz M-Class

It was in 1998 that Mercedes-Benz New Zealand first offered a new vehicle that helped to redefine the brand and significantly grow its appeal. The M-Class (now known as the GLE) marked the brand’s entry into the emerging SUV category and set a blueprint for a family of high-riding vehicles.

M-Class

The M-Class and the GLE, have become firm favourites all over the world. A combined total of more than 2.4 million have been built over 20 years and the two ranges jointly became the best-selling SUV in the Mercedes-Benz range in New Zealand.
Last year I got my hands on it to do a tour to Queenstown and get a handle on its performance in some of the worst winter driving conditions you can get. Sitting quite high with a reasonable clearance, it handled like it was a summer day.
Now there’s a new variant of the GLE 250 d 4MATIC and GLE 350 d 4MATIC, known as the ‘Edition 20’. In addition to standard equipment, the Edition 20 adds the AMG Line interior package, the Night Package featuring black exterior accents, 21-inch AMG twin-spoke alloy wheels, AIRMATIC air suspension, sports seats and a three-spoke AMG multifunction steering wheel.
The GLE 250 d model utilises a 2.1-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine producing 150 kW and 500 Nm, while the 3.0-litre, six-cylinder turbo diesel engine in the GLE 350 d model outputs 190 kW and 620 Nm. Both engines are paired to a 9G-TRONIC nine-speed automatic transmission and drive all four wheels – great for handling that Lindis Pass ice rink.

BWM

Highway to the Danger Zone: BMW xDrive

I can’t express the exhilaration of drifting a BMW M2 at the Southern proving grounds in the Crowne Range, marking the lead up to one of the quintessential driving days of my lifetime.

 

The invitation to BMW’s Alpine xDrive experience had arrived about a month before the event. The invitation comprises two nights’ accommodation at the stunning Millbrook Resort, including airport transfers and a helicopter ride to the Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds, that features some of the world’s most advanced winter testing facilities.
There was an amazing range of BMW vehicles, including the BMW X Range and M series and you get the full BMW driving experience on the snow and ice, being taught key driving techniques by qualified professional BMW driver trainers and much, much, more. At the incredible Millbrook Resort in Arrowtown, the bed was wider than I was tall. All amenities are available for you to use and you truly get spoilt.

BWM
The first day involved discussions on how the day would proceed and prepping for the event. When dawn broke we were flying over the Crowne range, the sun glistening off the fresh powder snow. I had Kenny Loggins’ ‘Danger Zone’ rattling around in my head and couldn’t quite believe what was happening.
When we landed, we were met by top driving instructor Mike Eddy. A great guy and very well known in the industry, he has a plethora of knowledge, not only on racing, but also on teaching someone how to drive well.
Our modules consisted of drifting, slalom and drag racing, all on the fresh powder snow. We broke up and were handed a comprehensive range of the new BMW X and M series vehicles to drive. We would change over vehicles at random intervals, allowing us the opportunity to experience the intricacies of each model. What surprised me is how much variance there was.

BWM

I found myself drag racing against New Zealand journalist and television personality Carly Flynn. We left the start gate and I sailed past her 640i xDrive in my black 5 series 540i. Well I thought I was the bee’s knees… ‘till we changed cars. And there’s the rub. Her hysterical laughing as she waved goodbye, taking with her my dream of race car glory, had me plotting my revenge.
One of the great things about the day was how it ran so smoothly. Everything had been planned down to the most minute detail. As a driver you wanted for nothing and all the tutors were not only accommodating with knowledge but had great skill in dealing with drivers of different abilities.

There was a whole lot of love between drivers by the end of the day. Drifting had me in a metallic M2 turning off the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and just using my rear wheels to fang it round an ice track as fast as my foot could take me. You are taught how to counter-steer and accelerate to make the best of the situation – pure adrenalin fun!
Slalom has you in an X2 using the knowledge you have gained throughout the day to run through a course of orange road cones. I excelled at this, likely because of my experience navigating Christchurch’s post-quake roading system in winter. Taking away the gold trophy in the end of day finale is an honour I will cherish for the rest of my life.
I lost count of the spin I got up to on the track, but when I stopped, I found myself laughing hysterically like a man possessed. At the end of the day you’re wishing you could do it all again, knowing that tomorrow it was someone else’s turn to have the drive of their life.
The xDrive on the new BMWs is quite an experience. When you start up on a hill, it allows you to move your foot from brake to accelerator, while keeping the brake engaged for a few seconds. Heading downhill, you can push the descent button, which can be pre-set to allow the car to drive downhill while you do nothing but steer.

BWM
The xDrive provides variable torque split between the front and rear axles through the use of a multi-plate wet clutch located in the gearbox on the output to the front drive shaft. What this means is that the power is distributed between all four wheels automatically. So, if one wheel isn’t gripping on ice, the power is sent to the other wheels and you have constant traction moving forward in the most hazardous of scenarios.
Relaxing back in the spa to ease my aching bones, I reflected on how truly incredible the BMW Alpine xDrive was and how lucky I had been to have taken part. For the learning experience alone, it was a stunner. For the adrenalin kick, it just can’t be beaten. BMW, I love you.