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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.

 



 

Ferrari Portofino

An Italian beauty: Ferrari Portofino


The sound of a Ferrari Portofino V8 engine when you drop back into second gear on the motorway as the 591-horsepower engine prepares for what you are about to do is exhilarating.

 

Ferrari Portofino
AN ITALIAN BEAUTY WITH JAW-DROPPING REFINEMENT

 

The top is down on a beautiful Canterbury day. You’ve been at a winery up near Waipara enjoying the company of not just car enthusiasts, but Ferrari enthusiasts. You put your foot down on the accelerator and those ponies thrust you past the car in front with total accuracy and speed. I was fortunate enough to be invited to be part of Continental Ferrari’s visit to Christchurch in early October and got the opportunity to take a Ferrari GTC4Lusso and a Ferrari Portofino out to see what they could do. The Ferrari GTC4Lusso is 507 kW and ramps up from 0-100 in 3.4 seconds. A stunning 4-seater, tourer, it is an Italian beauty with jaw-dropping refinement. Everywhere you look it’s like a work of art. Everything can be refined to your specification.

I noted some of the other vehicles, about 12 in total, had been personalised. There were a couple of 458s that I had a hard time recognising and Neil from Ferrari explained that, “If you own one, you want it to be YOUR one, so we bespoke them for the client”.I spent some time with Doug Price who owns a 1995 Ferrari F355 GTS; the first Ferrari with power steering and gear linkages. Doug was fantastic, briefing me for a good half hour about his F355 and explain the ethos of the club. “We all love Ferrari Nick. Old or new, it doesn’t matter; the drive, the sound, we just love them.”

He pretty much personified all the club members; approachable, down to earth men and women who are totally passionate about the Ferrari brand. I was joined on the drive back by Robert Pegg from Ferrari in the Ferrari Portofino; a two-door convertible twin-charged V8 3,855 litre, seven-speed dual clutch, 0-100 in 3.5 seconds with a top speed of 320kph. The only official dealer for Ferrari in New Zealand since 1973, Continental Cars officially opened a dedicated Ferrari Service Centre here in Christchurch last year. It also operates as a base to display the very latest Ferrari models and hosts local drive activities with its South Island Ferrari owners.

I got given the nickname ‘showpony’ once. But the only showpony that day was the prancing pony that is Ferrari. It is the ultimate in automotive style and performance. Getting back into my car was completely deflating. But I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity. Everyone should drive a Ferrari at least once in their life, shouldn’t they?

 



 

Lexus UX

Dynamic Attitude: Lexus UX


It’s Lexus’ answer to the compact SUV segment; a segment which has an offering from almost every single car brand.

 

Lexus UX

 

But the new Lexus UX, which will be introduced to the New Zealand market early next year, manages to stand out in the crowded market with a raft of brave new design elements and the efficiency of a petrol and self-charging hybrid system. Designed to appeal to younger buyers who seek what is new and exciting and relevant to their lifestyle, the UX is infused with dynamic attitude.

“The UX is likely to be the first Lexus for many customers, but also their first luxury vehicle,” Senior General Manager of Lexus New Zealand Paul Carroll says. “It is designed for the modern urban lifestyle with a fresh, contemporary and dynamic take on luxury driving.”

 



 

Volkswagen Amarok

A Firm Foothold: Volkswagen Amarok


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

 

Volkswagen Amarok

 

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

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

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

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

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

 



 

Toyota Corolla

An Oldie but a Goodie: Toyota Corolla


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

 

Toyota Corolla

 

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

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

 

ONE IS SOLD SOMEWHERE IN THE WORLD EVERY 15 SECONDS

 

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

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

 

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

 



 

yoogo Share

Sharing is Caring: Yoogo share


As the electric car movement heats up in New Zealand, a local start-up has chosen Christchurch as the first city in the country to launch its innovative, future-focused car sharing initiative. Cantabrians using Yoogo Share have already saved 50 tonnes of carbon, or the equivalent of more than 20,000 litres of petrol being used.

 

yoogo Share

 

For Kirsten Corson, getting behind the wheel of a traditional combustion engine vehicle is akin to driving an old tractor. But put her behind the wheel of an electric car and she’s a happy woman. Not surprising then that she is helping more Kiwis experience the thrill of going electric, as the General Manager of Yoogo Share, the company behind New Zealand’s first 100 percent electric car sharing service.
Launched in Christchurch in February, Yoogo Share has brought 100 pure electric vehicles (EVs) to eight (and counting!) locations throughout Christchurch. It’s free to join and there are no membership fees; simply sign-up (membership criteria applies), get sent a Yoogo Share access card, then book and drive the vehicles as and when needed.

Christchurch City Council initiated the service when they put out a tender in 2017 for electric car sharing as part of the city’s rebuild. Fast forward to early 2018 and Kirsten found herself officially launching Yoogo Share alongside Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Yoogo Share business members love driving the electric cars for getting to meetings and running errands. A more convenient option than ride hailing or public transport, they’re also great fun to drive. Plus, you only pay for the time you use the car, with all other costs including insurance and storage covered by the hourly rate.

 

Get the first hour of your booking free for up to five bookings to test drive the electric cars

 

Meanwhile, for private members, the shared electric cars are a great alternative to a second car, with many families choosing to sell their second car that often sits unused. For people who commute to work via public transport, walking or cycling, the cars are ideal for those times when you do need a car such as picking up shopping or longer journeys when public transport isn’t an option. So why share? With petrol prices higher than ever before and the high cost of purchase for electric cars, you can drive an electric car without having to buy one. In fact, no insurance, WOF, registration, repairs, maintenance or fuel costs. Plus, with no tailpipe emissions, Yoogo Share is helping improve Christchurch’s air quality.

With 50 tonnes of carbon savings already under their belt, Yoogo Share’s members are expected to make 100 tonnes of carbon savings by Christmas. To mark the milestone, the company partnered with the Department of Conservation, Meridian Energy and Hyundai to help restore the Evans Pass valley, planting 1,000 native trees to represent the kilometres travelled by Yoogo Share members.

To try out the electric car sharing experience, the first hour is free for 1,000 bookings for Yoogo Share private members, thanks to their energy partners in Canterbury, Meridian Energy. Private members can get the first hour of their booking free for up to five bookings, giving everybody the opportunity to try Yoogo Share cars. So what are you waiting for? After all, sharing is caring.

 

 

Yoogo Share


yoogoshare.co.nz


 

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.

 



 

Vision EQ Silver Arrow

Piece of Automotive Art: Vision EQ Silver Arrow


On 18 to the 26 August, Pebble Beach in California was privileged to host the Mercedes-Benz unveiling of the Vision EQ Silver Arrow show car during Monterey Car Week. The event attracts car afficionados and collectors from all over the world.

 

Vision EQ Silver Arrow
COMBINING TIMELESS AESTHETIC APPEAL WITH FUTURISTIC VISION

 

The one-seater vehicle also pays homage to the successful record-breaking W 125 car from 1937. A work of art as much as a high specification vehicle, the paintwork in alubeam silver is reminiscent of the historic Silver Arrows which, for weight reasons, did not have a white paint layer. The interior is dominated by traditional, high-quality materials such as genuine leather, polished aluminium and solid walnut. The digital cockpit, meanwhile, points directly into the future; it includes a curved panoramic screen with back projection, as well as a touchscreen integrated into the steering wheel. This year’s Monterey Car Week was a real flashback to early 1900s in style, with several models unveiled harking back to that time.

“Over 80 years ago, the historic Silver Arrows demonstrated that Mercedes-Benz was a pioneer when it came to speed thanks, among other things, to their streamlined shape,” says Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer at Daimler AG.
The EQ brand is shaped by a distinctly avant-garde aesthetic. This arises from the combination of a previously unknown beauty, the conscious clash of digital and analogue elements, as well as the seamless merging of intuitive and physical design.
Falling in the fine space between tradition and modernity, the interior of the Vision EQ Silver Arrow represents the values of Progressive Luxury, a constant theme with Mercedes in its core brand but even more effervescent in its prototypes. The design idiom combines timeless aesthetic appeal with futuristic vision. When the driver’s cockpit is folded forwards, it provides a view of the surprisingly wide interior.

Double screen and virtual racing, the driver of the Vision EQ Silver Arrow is encompassed by a large panoramic screen on which a 3D image of the surroundings is projected from behind, giving it an almost computer game feel from the cockpit. For this a virtual racetrack is superimposed onto the real roadway on the panoramic screen and the driver sees their opponent either ahead of them or behind them as a “ghost”.
The Virtual Race Coach assistance function helps you become a better driver by giving instructions during the race. This soundless Silver Arrow has an output of 550 kW (750 hp). That’s about 25 percemt faster than a Ferrari 458, so not one to be trifled with. Retro art at its finest. Now, how do I get a test drive?

 



 

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.