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2019’s Hot Picks

2019’s Hot Picks


It’s a New Year, with a new line-up of hotly-anticipated vehicles on the automotive horizon. While 2018 was pegged as the year of the SUV, it seems 2019 will be all about electrification, with a new crop of hybrid and full EV models in the pipeline.

 

2019’s Hot Picks

 

We’ve got our top ten picks that you can expect to see hitting the roads this year.

  1. 2019 Ford Ranger
  2. Mercedes GLA
  3. Audi A4
  4. BMW 1 Series
  5. Audi RS 7
  6. Honda CR-V hybrid
  7. Ferrari 488 Pista Spider
  8. Mazda 3
  9. Lexus LC F
  10. 2019 Mini Cooper


 

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

A Happy Hybrid: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV


Like a long awaited follow up to a band’s first big album, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is back. In 2014, I had the opportunity to be amongst the first in the country to drive the original Outlander PHEV and, for the time, the plug-in electric hybrid SUV had no equal. Now, with EVs and plug in hybrids becoming a common sight on our roads, can the Outlander PHEV still cut it? Mitsubishi NZ lent me a PHEV over the Christmas and New Year period to find out.

 

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

 

The new PHEV consists of two spec levels, the XLS at $60,990 and the range-topping VRX at a very special current price of $55,990. Both the XLS and VRX have a good selection of standard kit on hand. Features like adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and a reversing camera are much appreciated. Inside you get push button start, keyless entry, dual zone climate control and rain sensing wipers. A clear and concise 7’’ touchscreen Infotainment system supports Apple CarPlay & Android Auto and Bluetooth Connectivity too.

The VRX comes with leather heated electric seats, LED headlights, power tailgate, front and rear parking sensors, blind spot warning, lane change assist, multi around view monitor, rear cross traffic alert and ultra-mis-acceleration mitigation system.
The direct drive plug-in electric and petrol set up makes a welcome return. Both XLS and VRX come with Mitsubishi’s 2.0-litre DOHC MIVEC Petrol engine and twin motor 4WD electric drive system. Power output is 88kW/189Nm. As the PHEV has no gear box, drive is sent to all four wheels via the electric motors. The petrol engine then becomes a generator if needed.

Styling-wise, there is very little to distinguish the PHEV from its conventional petrol counterparts. Only the subtle blue PHEV emblem on the boot and front guards give the game away. The new Outlander is significantly better to look at than the previous generation.

Inside, the switch gear is easy to operate. Instead of a conventional rev counter you have an eco gauge which displays when you are using or charging the battery. A-Pillars are a tad intrusive but visibility itself makes up for this no end. Plus, 463 litres of boot space is nothing to be sniffed it.

On the move, the PHEV is still very car-like to drive. The shift paddles can be used to control the level of regenerative braking which in turn charges the batteries. Whether around suburbia or the motorway, the PHEV still provides you with sublime silent running, with average fuel consumption of 1.7-litres/100km.

While it no longer has the market all to itself, the Outlander PHEV is still a fantastic plug-in package. Plus, the VRX is pretty darn close to its petrol sibling when you factor in price. All in all, Mitsubishi has pulled the rabbit out of the hat once again with the Outlander PHEV.

 



 

Mercedes A250

Up a Notch: Mercedes A250


Picking up the vehicle from Armstrong Prestige, I went over everything before I left the yard. Easy to install the phone, check; a beautiful dash-based display with the standard Mercedes touch pad, check; silver metal trim and suede seating with really nice red stitching, check; 165kW, 350Nm 191cc, 4-cylinder, turbocharged engine, check; stunning 18-inch 5-star alloy rims with two-tone colouring, double check.

 

Mercedes A250

 

Now let’s see how she performs. Off up the hill to get that first heart-pounding acceleration, it offers superb cornering and plenty of power. After my last experience in the A200, the A250 takes it up a notch in both looks and drive experience. Increasing it by 45kW and 100Nm of torque may not sound like much, but it’s a definite improvement on agility and feel.

The A250 has a smaller feel but there’s plenty of room for four adults on a trip and it’s a good looker, with nice lines on the exterior. I liked the A200, but where it fell down for me was performance, which the A250 more than corrects, giving it the power to go with the looks.

Not a bad price either for what you’re getting with fuel consumption of 6.6 Litres per 100km.  All in all, it’s a great car and if you’re a family traveller or a person wanting a smart, great technology-filled vehicle at a great price, this is the one.

 



 

Leading Edge Automotive

Getting the Automotive Edge: Leading Edge Automotive


At Leading Edge Automotive, it is years of experience that gives them the ability to repair prestigious brands like Audi, Mercedes, BMW, VW and all leading European automotive names. When taking your precious asset in for service or repair, you can rest assured that the knowledgeable team at Leading Edge not only has the know-how but also the technology to do the job right, first time.

 

Leading Edge Automotive

 

With the summer heat putting the real pressure on your air conditioning system, are you taking your system for granted? Does it seem like it’s not as cool as it used to be? Did you know that you should have it serviced every two years? On average you lose 10 percent of the refrigerant gas that’s required to condition your car every year. The team at Leading Edge checks this in a service. It’s knowledge like this that puts the team above others in the market.

Leading Edge not only services but takes care of warrants of fitness, auto electrics, tyre and wheel alignments, brakes, steering and suspension and so much more using the latest diagnostic equipment.  All work is guaranteed and the team of skilled, professional people with a wide, up to date European car knowledge base are going to know what your car needs to get the job sorted.

You can find Leading Edge at www.leadingedgeautomotive.co.nz or phone 03 366 3384. Find them at 480 Selwyn Street, just down from the Z Station on Moorhouse Ave; one of Christchurch’s leading automotive specialists.

 



 

 

Archibalds Motors

A high-performance rebuild: Archibalds Motors


One of the most highly respected vehicle brands globally, Porsche has long represented luxury in its high-performance sports cars.

 

Archibalds Motors

 

So not surprising then that Archibalds Motors would seek to capture these same elements in its new Porsche showroom in the city, the delivery of which was tasked to award-winning Map Architects and construction company Hanham & Philp.They have definitely delivered on that. The luxury vehicles that come under the Porsche marquee are certainly at home in their new flagship dealership on the corner of Tuam and Antigua Streets, where the floor space covers some 1500 square metres and is framed by steel and floor to ceiling glass.

Plans for the new development – which opened in November – have been on the drawing board for 10 years, with the post-quake need to rebuild its site and the area around it being rezoned as the Health Precinct ramping up a long-held vision for an innovative mixed-use building. Today the exceptional two-level high curved façade stands just 200 metres from where Alex Archibald founded his family’s Christchurch motor company a century ago.

 

Topped with three floors of medical tenancies, including the Christchurch Clinical Studies Trust on the top floor, the building covers a total of some 6700 square metres.  Much like the top of the range vehicles are right at home in the new surroundings, the exceptional space of the new Archibalds Porsche showroom is right at home in the rebuilding city. After all, what better fit than a world-leading marquee in a world-leading CBD?

 



 

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.’

 

IT CAN HANDLE THE ROUGH STUFF AND HANDLE IT WELL.

 

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.

 



 

BMW X5

The Beauty and The Beast: BMW X5


Traveling the gravel backroads of Tasmania in convoy with some of Australasia’s best automotive journalists can be a little intimidating. We were there to check out the sleek, sophisticated new offering from BMW – the new X5.

 

BMW X5

 

Not only beautiful on the inside, with a handmade crystal gear control and dial, giving the whole console a very ‘executive’ feel, lush colour schemes on the leather interior and spacious room for passengers, the first model I tried – the M50d – was also incredible to drive. It is pure power and raw thrust. Combined with 294kW and 760Nm of gut punching torque and priced at $177,900, its ability to go from 0-100 in 5.2 seconds had my heart going. Cornering was a breeze and as smooth as silk on acceleration. Driver assist has been improved, a new camera system is on board with great safety features, the 22-inch alloys and slightly lowered front end give it a great profile, but when it comes to this seamless 8-speed automatic, the experience really was in the drive.

 

BMW X5

 

Launceston has some great roads for a drive and my co driver, Tony Verdon, is an old hand automotive writer. Together we would try out all the driving aspects we could while at the same time trying to keep up with the lead vehicle. There are three versions, 30d, 40i and 50d and the X5 is a stunner of a vehicle in all three of its incarnations but the 50d had won my heart from the start. The car parking assistance features are the stuff of science fiction. Push a button and the car will reverse out of its park and to your original position; a feature not lost on someone who has a nightmare with supermarket shopping.

 

BMW X5

The grille fins close and open when needing heat or needing to release it, the control panel is refined, a lot of thought has gone into the new interactive control panel layout and there are improved sensors and an ‘autonomous’ backing system. Despite all the bells and whistles, it hasn’t lost the clean lines and minimalist interior, while the drive is as exhilarating as anything with 600Nm and above.  The safety features are top of the line with what we’ve always come to expect from BMW. It’s a pleasure to drive and, by bringing forward many great features from previous models, with a mix of the new, it’s not lacking in any area.

Great for the boat, great for exploring back country alpine roads, great for picking the kids up from school and there’s still plenty of room and features to keep the drive interesting and enjoyable.

 



 

2019 Aston Martin Vantage

Aston’s Perfect Storm: 2019 Aston Martin Vantage


The plan was simple: spend three days in Auckland driving the most eagerly anticipated Aston Martin for years – the 2019 Vantage.

 

2019 Aston Martin Vantage
MAKE NO MISTAKE, THE NEW VANTAGE IS AN ALL-OUT SPORTS CAR

 

The new car is the first completely all new Vantage since the first generation launched in 2006, and boy they did not muck around with the rebuild. Aston Martin claims the new hard-charging baby in the line-up is a full-on Porsche 911-beater.

Styling-wise the new Vantage, like pretty much all Astons for the last half century, is a real stunner. Chief Designer Marek Reichman has always been handy with a pencil and paper, but the Vantage is easily one of his greatest hits.

Marrying form and function in an exceptional package, it takes inspiration from the DB10 Bond car and the ballistic Vulcan track car. At 4465mm long and 2153mm wide, it’s actually 286mm shorter than the DB11. Make no mistake, the new Vantage is an all-out sports car.

However, the biggest change comes in the form of it’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine producing 373kW of power and 680Nm of torque. Coincidentally, this engine comes from Mercedes AMG, and is a real peach.

Mated to a new ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox, rear-mounted electronic diff and weighing in at 1530kg, the new Vantage is no slouch, with zero to 100km/h achieved in 3.6 seconds and a top whack of 314km/h.

Three drive and damping modes, sport, sport plus and track are on offer. Sport is for normal driving while sport plus increases the exhaust noise, sharpens the throttle response and quickens the gearchanges. In track, everything is the same, but times 10; the same goes for the damping. However, you can easily have the suspension in sport and the engine in track, which for some New Zealand roads is a handy tool in one’s automotive arsenal.

Inside you get a truly sumptuous, bang up to date cabin. The driving position is low and, thanks to a high transmission tunnel, you feel really cocooned by your surroundings. All interior features are easy to operate via a very familiar looking touchpad system. While the digital dials are clean and crisp, I do miss the chronograph watch style dials of old.

On the move, the Vantage gives acceleration to rearrange your fillings, a V8 bellow that would wake the dead and sharp handling seldom seen anywhere else. The eight speed ZF transmission is so much slicker than previous sport shift set-up, the steering is perfect and precise, and the combination of 50-50 weight distribution and sticky Pirelli P-Zero rubber, means the Vantage will eat up every bend with ease.

Prices start at $249,000, not cheap but few cars out there give you the same level of performance, comfort, practicality and exclusivity. The idea that I had to give it back, filled me with dread. Bravo Aston Martin, bravo.

 



A Pocket Rocket

A Pocket Rocket: Volkswagen Polo GTI


The year 2018 was a great one for me driving some spectacular cars. My small car pick for last year was the Volkswagen Polo GTI and I wasn’t alone in that decision, with the latest model generation of the Polo being selected for the renowned ‘World Urban Car of the Year’ award at the New York Auto Show.

 

A Pocket Rocket

 

The Volkswagen Polo starts at $25,490 for the TSI manual up to the GTI at $38,490. I was driving the GTI so, I’m going to focus on that, because that car really made me smile. As far as statistics go, it’s a 2L petrol, 147kW, 320Nm, 6-speed DSG, 17 inch Milton Keynes alloys, LED headlights & DRL, dark red LED taillamps, Discover Media & Nav, keyless entry, sports suspension, driver profile selection. Now I can go on and on about the statistics, but what you don’t get unless you’re driving it, is the sheer exhilaration that comes with taking to the road in this beauty.

I love the road up to Sugarloaf to test how a car handles and both the power and the suspension make this one feel like it’s driving on rails. Just a tap on the accelerator has you rocketing forward and in total control. The sound system is fantastic, and the sports seating makes you feel like you’re driving a much more expensive vehicle. I drove the Ferrari Portofino the same month and had a similar feeling.

 

Sounds like a bit of an OTT reaction? No, it really is a great driving experience. Adam Smith from Miles Continental had told me it was a step up from last year’s model and I thought it was just ‘sales speak’ but no, this really is a driver’s car. Don’t get me wrong when I say ‘small car’. There is plenty of room in the car for the family; plenty of boot space and everything you want in an interior for the modern driver.

VW is only second to BMW for my award for interactive dashboard connectivity and the 8-inch touch screen. Combine that with the GTI Polo and you really do have a winner. It’s also damn cute with those Milton Keynes 17-inch alloy rims just making the outstanding lines on the polo not only look good, but also clean. The honeycomb grille and red spoiler just finish off what is a great car.

So there it is – it looks great, it’s a fantastic drive and it’s great to ride in. I call it the pocket rocket, but no matter what you call it, it’s worth its place at number one. Well done Volkswagen.

 



 

Mazda CX8

A handsome SUV: Mazda CX8


Mazda has a real knack for making well-equipped, attractive and fun to drive SUVs. With the five-seater CX5 leading its class and the larger flagship CX9 selling well, Mazda bring us its all-new CX8, a full seven-seater medium SUV which fills a gap for Mazda in a fiercely competitive segment.

 

Mazda CX8

 

Prices start at $53,495 for the entry level 2WD GSX. This increases to $55,955 if you want four-wheel drive. My test car was the range topping 4WD Limited at $62,495. Both GSX and Limited come standard with Mazda’s newest SkyActiv 2.2-litre diesel engine with 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque. This is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. On the outset, the CX8’s fluidic styling takes the best bits of the CX5 and CX9, creating a rather handsome SUV. Though at first glance it would be hard to distinguish the newcomer over its smaller brother.

Inside the same feeling of quality and refinement which adorns Mazda’s range, makes a welcome return. The leather trim is sumptuous and the high transmission tunnel leaves you cocooned by your surroundings. Interior fit and finish are first rate, though headroom is quite restrictive, especially in the rear.  Mazda has been very generous in providing the CX8 with a tonne of standard kit. The base model gets all of Mazda’s latest i-ACTIVSENSE safety technologies, including a new Traffic Sign Recognition system and Intelligent Speed Assistant. There’s also Smart City Brake Support, Forward/Reverse autonomous emergency braking, Lane-keep Assist, Departure Warning System and Blind Spot Monitoring.

 

Mazda CX8

Other standard features include Mazda’s 7.0-inch infotainment system, head-up display, automatic LED headlights, three-zone air-conditioning, digital radio and Bluetooth, satellite-navigation and rear parking sensors. In fact, the only feature missing is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The CX-8 also contains 209 litres of boot space and, with the those extra two seats in the rear folded down, this increases to a sizeable 742 litres. On the move, the Skyactiv diesel engine is a gem. At cruising speed at 1600rpm, the noise is almost non-existent, while the linear powerband means the power is always there when you need it. Acceleration itself is brisk and remarkably refined, plus around town, I was averaging 7L/100km, which is pretty impressive.

In the great wide open the CX8 continues to impress. It features the same suspension and steering set up as the CX9. This includes Mazda’s new G-Vectoring Control set up, which means corners require no real effort to negotiate. Body roll is kept at a minimum which is great for a high riding car and ride quality is sublime too.

So, is the Mazda CX8 worth considering? Of course. Despite no petrol option and slightly restrictive headroom for those extra seats, the CX8 provides Mazda with yet another hit in this ever-growing and vastly competitive market.