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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.

 



 

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

Honda NSX

Engineering genius: Honda NSX

The Honda NSX is not everyone’s first thought when it comes to a super sports car, but for those in the know, it’s up there amongst the very best. Launched at the 1989 Chicago Motor Show, the NSX (New Sports Cars eXperimental) was Japan’s first mid-engine production supercar aimed squarely at the likes of Ferrari and Porsche.

Honda NSX

 

Combining low slung aerodynamic lines, a screaming VTEC V6 engine producing between 201kW and 216kW of power, a lightweight aluminium body and design input by the late great Ayrton Senna, the NSX appealed to the enthusiast drivers of the day, who weren’t phased about badge prestige.

This 1995 example, on loan for a day by Dutton Garage, was a rare chance to get up close and personal with a cemented member of Honda’s greatest hits album.
Get into the NSX for the first time and you quickly notice how sumptuous the cabin is. The leather clad seats offer plenty of lateral support and levels of comfort usually found on something with twice as many doors. The driving position is low slung though head room is a tad restrictive. Rear visibility is very generous, thanks to the F16 fighter jet inspired cockpit.

 

Honda NSX

 

Turn the key and the 3.2 litre VTEC V6 growls into life before purring comfortably at idle. Moving off is more of a workout than expected due to the lack of power steering and laughable turning circle. Around town the NSX is extremely usable. Once the steering lightens up, you are quickly slicing through traffic with ease.However, once you plant boot on the open road, Honda’s engineering genius becomes all too real. While not rapid and sharp by today’s standards, the NSX is still a proper giggle factory. Thanks to the blood curdling howl of that amazing V6 engine, all the way up to its 8,000 rpm redline, short shifting via the short throw bolt action rifle-esque five-speed gearbox is seldom practiced.

 

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

As spine tingling its straight-line oomph and noise is, the NSX plays its ace card when those straights turn into fast, tight corners. The NSX tracks well and true, the lack of power steering means that steering feedback is quick and communicative.
Having the Senna developed chassis on hand means you can devour tight hairpins at an alarming rate. Simply stand on the anchors, down-shift to second, turn in and you rocket out of every bend grinning from ear to ear with that torrent of symphonic bliss echoing behind you.

The NSX was never a sales success for Honda, with customers rarely exceeding triple figures during each year of its 15-year life. Despite this, its exclusivity, real world practicality and thrill-a-minute driving experience, add up to one hell of a package. The Honda NSX is not perfect but shows that you don’t need a flash badge to make a proper supercar.

Honda’s new Civic Type R

All Good Things: Honda’s new Civic Type R


All good things come to those who wait. Such is the case with Honda’s new Civic Type R. Though the Civic Type R’s history dates back over two decades, the new 2018 Type R is the first to be sold new in New Zealand. Needless to say, I couldn’t sleep the night before picking it up.

Honda’s new Civic Type R

 

Like a cross between a transformer and an Imperial Stormtrooper, its striking looks are not just for show. Its spoiler, carbon splitter, rear diffuser, and air scoops are all functional, and blacked out 20-inch alloys housing those big Brembo brakes are pretty epic.
Inside, lashings of red interior trim, seatbelts and those hip hugging sports seats are a stark reminder of Honda’s Type R heritage. The driving position is spot on and, despite that gargantuan rear wing, rear visibility is just like a Civic, in other words, great.

Along with the usual infotainment accoutrements, the Type R allows you to cycle through a variety of menus depicting your boost pressure, the G-forces generated by accelerating and braking, and you can even record your lap times when on track.
Under the bonnet lies a 2.0-litre turbocharged VTEC four-cylinder engine boosting power to 228kW and 400Nm of torque. Mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, it is a real peach.
Driving through suburbia, the Type R is a doddle and has surprisingly good ride quality for a hot hatch. Plus, indicate left and you can view your blind spot on the screen via a camera hidden in the passenger wing mirror.

Type R purists more used to the screaming naturally aspirated on/off power of previous models, may scoff at the progressive power delivery of the new car, but that turbo in this writer’s opinion, is a welcome presence when commuting.
However, select R+ mode and the Type R goes completely nuts. At full throttle above 4,500rpm, you find the horizon rapidly and you will reach the national limit from a standstill in 5.7 seconds. The six-speed box is very slick and each down change is met with computer-controlled blip of the throttle, to keep the changes race car quick.
In the corners, the Type R’s Adaptive Damping System is constantly talking to the suspension, to ensure you have maximum stability, and the Limited Slip Diff means the dreaded torque steer, which plagues many FWD performance cars, is non-existent.

Add all this together and you will be devouring bits of bendy bitumen quicker than just about anything. Small wonder the Type R holds the lap record for FWD cars around the Nurburgring at 7 minutes 43 seconds.
With this new model, those smart cookies in Honda’s engineering department have created not only a worthy addition to the Type R lineage, but a driver’s dream. Plus, you still get all the real-world practicality of a Civic, and at $59,990, it undercuts its main European rivals considerably.
All in all, without doubt the most exciting FWD car I’ve ever driven.

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.