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Leading Edge Automotive

At the Automotive forefront: Leading Edge Automotive

Leading Edge Automotive needs no introduction. With years of experience, the latest in diagnostic equipment and hundreds of satisfied customers, it’s your quintessential European service and repair agent, based at 480 Selwyn Street in the heart of Christchurch.

Leading Edge Automotive

Whether you own a BMW, Volkswagen, Audi, Mercedes or Porsche, the latest diagnostic equipment and the expert hands that operate it, are able to pin point the problem and give you a full run down on the work required. Plus, work will not begin until you are satisfied.
The company is also embracing the future, with the addition of electric vehicle servicing. With a charging point on site and the fleet of 10 free courtesy vehicles now including a popular electric Nissan Leaf to encourage the electric experience, Leading Edge is at the forefront of emergent automotive technology.

Its experienced team of technicians are always acquiring new skills and attend advanced training seminars, such as specialised electric vehicle training, to build on their already vast knowledge of technology and how complex components work and interact.
At the recent Auto Super Shoppe Conference, Leading Edge Automotive was the selected winner from workshops all over New Zealand of the MTA’s Best Practice Award for 2018, proof its reputation for excellence and quality customer service is second to none.
For more information visit their website www.leadingedgeautomotive.co.nz or phone 03-366 3384.

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.

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.

2018 Audi R8 V10 Plus

Automotive Superpowers: 2018 Audi R8 V10 Plus

If you are prepared to work hard, be prepared to reap the rewards. Such is the case for local company director Marty, the proud owner of this stunning 2018 Audi R8 V10 Plus.

2018 Audi R8 V10 Plus
Powered by a monstrous mid mounted 5.2-litre V10 engine

“I had a good year in business and decided I wanted to buy a modern supercar,” Marty says.
“I tried various models but the Audi R8 V10 Plus had everything that I wanted in a fast car.”
Powered by a monstrous mid mounted 5.2-litre V10 engine with 449kW of Germanic grunt and mated to Audi’s legendary quattro four-wheel drive system, Marty’s R8 is no slouch.

“The R8’s power and noise are so addictive. Plus, when you pop it through the gears, it doesn’t miss a beat, never gives you the impression it doesn’t like it and when my wife and I do long trips, it also can be quiet, comfortable and refined.”
Naturally when on the road or parked up, Marty’s bright blue R8 grabs attention. “I love being able to share it with people. Many people who wander past my driveway start staring and pointing. When that happens, I invite them in to see it up close or take photos. I love it when they get as excited as I do.”
With no plans to ever sell, expect to see Marty in his Audi R8 V10 Plus devouring bitumen for some time yet.

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.

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.

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.

Cars and Coffee

A clever automotive combo: Cars and Coffee

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”.

Cars and Coffee

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.”

Cars and CoffeeLined 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.

The Ford Endura

Automotive eye candy: Driving the Ford Endura through the Crown Range to Wanaka

The chance to drive the new Ford Endura range around Queenstown earlier this month was a great opportunity to put the five-seater, twin turbo, 2 L performance diesel through its paces on some great terrain.

The Ford Endura

Winding through the Crown Range to Wanaka, I got a real feel for how smooth the new generation platform will run in New Zealand conditions.
Called the ‘Edge’ in the northern hemisphere, the Endura is an SUV that can provide the power and torque needed for a great drive and will fill an important space in the Ford product range.
Refined and spacious, yet with a very capable boot space, I could see a strong resemblance to the Landover Discovery Sport in both looks and performance, with a price tag starting at $73,990.
The high profile of the bonnet and the 20-inch rims make for appealing eye candy but with an 154kW/450Nm engine and electronic stability program (ESP) that made cornering and drive through very pleasurable on such a challenging drive, it’s much more than just a good looker.
I was going to try it on the rough gravel road to Cardona ski field but was way laid at the Cardona Distillery, a must see when in Otago, testing the orange liqueur, vodka and gin. The silver-lining of this hold up was that I got the opportunity to find out what the passenger experience is like while my companion on the trip drove back.
Key features include leather trim and seating, Apple CarPlay, eight-inch colour touch screen, heated seats – great for those cold Queenstown mornings – and with a great satellite navigation system in such a quiet cabin, you hardly heard the drive. Overall the experience was brilliant; a worthy addition to the Ford line-up and a great option for someone looking for a quality SUV.