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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.’




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.




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.




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.




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.



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


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.


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


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.”



Holden Equinox LTZ-V

Aussie Lion: Holden Equinox LTZ-V

The Holden Captiva wasn’t much to shout about. Against the competition, it sadly failed to cut the mustard in terms of design, function and driving dynamics. Clearly a re-think was required and Holden has responded brilliantly with the all-new Equinox.


Holden Equinox LTZ-V


Aimed squarely at the Mazda CX5 and Honda’s HRV, the Mexican built Equinox, which sits firmly between the smaller Trax and larger all-new Acadia, is leading Holden’s charge in the intensely competitive mid-sized premium SUV market, but is it any good? Styling wise the Equinox is a big improvement over its Captiva predecessor. Its unmistakable American lines certainly help the Equinox stand out. Inside and out, the Equinox is generously well equipped. My test car was the range topping LTZ-V AWD petrol at $56,990. This gets you 19-inch alloys, LED headlights, Hands Free Tailgate and Semi-Automatic Parking.

The LTZ-V contains a barrage of safety kit too. Lane Keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, are all a welcome addition to your commute. Plus, the driver’s ‘Haptic Seat’ will vibrate if a hazard in your path is detected. Inside there is a panoramic sunroof, heated/cooled front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, leather trim and Holden’s MyLink infotainment system with digital radio, sat nav and wireless phone charging. The standard Bose stereo also provides you with the closest audio experience to hearing Led Zeppelin live.

These aforementioned toys are all easy to get your head around, though interior quality is sadly lacking with a number of buttons and switches feeling a tad second rate. However, the Equinox claws back with a gargantuan amount of interior space. Whether you factor in the front and rear seats, or its 846-litre boot (which can be increased to 1798-litres with 60/40 split seats folded flat), this cat has more than enough room to swing one. On the move, the Equinox does rather well. The nine-speed automatic box shifts up and down smoothly, and the punch from its 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, with 188kW and 353Nm of torque is epic.

From low down to beyond the mid-range, the combination of power and torque left me barrelling along much quicker than expected. However, its combined 8.4L/100km fuel consumption figures mean it does like to drink and infrequent torque steer keeps you on your toes. The LTZ-V is actually a full-time front wheel drive car until you activate the AWD mode on the centre console. Steering can be vague, but in the corners themselves the Equinox, despite a kerb weight of 1778kg, tracks well and true, especially in AWD mode.

Despite the minor drawbacks, the Holden Equinox LTZ-V has a lot going for it. With plenty of grunt, features and class leading interior space, this Holden SUV is well worth considering and proof there is plenty of life in the Aussie lion yet.



Mercedes A200 hatch

Top of the Class: Mercedes A-Class

After months of anticipation, the all-new Mercedes A-Class is finally here. Able to be viewed at Armstrong Prestige at 6 Detroit Place, Addington, the new A-Class completely redefines modern luxury in the compact class, and brings a revolution in interior design.


Mercedes A200 hatch


The all-new A-Class’s clean and stylish design cues mean you are sure to stand out in traffic or in your favourite restaurant car park.
All models of the new A-Class are powered by a new selection of efficient petrol engines in conjunction with Mercedes’ proven seven speed DCT transmission. The A200 powered by the new M 282 1.3-litre four-cylinder engine which produces 120kW of power and 250Nm of torque. Combined fuel economy is just 5.7L per 100km.

The new A-Class gets a tonne of new kit as standard; new 18-inch aero alloy wheels, MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) multimedia system with widescreen cockpit made up of two 10-inch infotainment screens, in conjunction with a touchscreen central display with the latest in satellite navigation. LED headlights with Adaptive High Beam Assist also come as standard. The new A-Class also leads the pack in terms of safety. Nine air bags, Active Brake Assist, Active Parking Assist, Active Lane Keep Assist, Blind Spot Detection and the all-important reversing camera.

The A200 is priced at $60,900 and with the sportier A250 on the way, now is as good a time as any to visit Armstrong Prestige to secure yourself the new benchmark of the luxury compact segment.



Christchurch European

Drive the Best: Christchurch European

If you’ve had your eye on a sleek new Ferrari, or are in the market for an Aston Martin or a Porsche, Christchurch European can help make those dreams a reality.


Christchurch European


Founded in 2006, Christchurch European has built a nationwide reputation for providing the best range in late model and competitively-priced luxury European motoring. Offering one of New Zealand’s biggest selection of European vehicles, at any one time up to 200 vehicles will be on site for you to choose from. But, if it’s something particularly special you’re after, the experienced team can also source and import vehicles to order thanks to their access to Worldwide supply.

Christchurch European Director Niki Mills says the range features unique, high-spec cars, that cover all brands and bases, including Land Rover/Range Rover, Jaguar, BMW, Audi and Maserati to name a few. “We’re not aligned to any one brand, so we give people more choice and options in that respect,” he says.

Specialising in European vehicles to suit all budgets, finance and extended warranty packages are available. Many vehicles are also still covered under their respective factory new-vehicle cover warranties from new. On arrival, all vehicles are independently complied and inspected by VTNZ, detailed to a very high standard, and it also has its own specialist European vehicle mechanic and auto-electrician on-site.


Keep an eye on the company’s website,, which is updated daily with exciting new additions to the shop floor. For more information, phone 03 366 8328, or email


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.