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Author: Ben Selby

A Sweet Set Up


The C-HR has been a mighty strong seller since Toyota lifted the lid on the first-generation compact SUV way back in 2017. The C-HR wowed us willing engines, levels of equipment and that edgy love it or hate it styling. For 2020, the C-HR has been enhanced to cope with its mid life crisis, so here is what’s what.

Available from a Toyota guaranteed price of $32,990, the C-HR still retains its 1.2 litre, 85kW, turbocharged petrol engine but also becomes the eighth model in Toyota’s family to be available with a hybrid powertrain.

The hybrid is a sweet set up, while the 1.2 petrol pulls well, the 1.8 petrol electric combo, also used in the Corolla Hybrid, is a peach, especially when returning fuel consumption figures of 4.3L/100km. Drive is channelled through a slick eight speed CVT gearbox.

You can also have your C-HR with AWD, but you need to go the whole hog and get the range-topping Limited spec.

Styling wise, it still retains its funky coupe lines, but now features revised LED head and taillights, a new front bumper design and new 17 or 18inch alloys, depending on the spec level.

The new C-HR comes with a gaggle of standard kit, including Toyota’s new eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system which at last incorporates Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Safety kit includes pre-collision warning, lane departure warning, radar cruise control, hill descent control, rear cross traffic alert, reversing camera and blind spot monitoring, to name a few.

Limited spec cars get the addition of heated leather seats, 360-degree rear camera and black gloss dash finish.

Rear seat passengers have average head and legroom and entry and exit are easy enough, just mind your head on the sloping roof line. Boot space is rated at 318L, not the biggest, but this is no wagon for lugging all in sundry around for days on end.

On the move in the hybrid, don’t expect a rapid response after giving it a boot full.

The C-HR is much more at home silently zipping along.

Minor tweaks to the suspension and dampers have resulted in the C-HR petrol and hybrid handling very well indeed.

Through the bends you can corner well with little effort required on your part to keep things level.

Parking is a doddle too, though rear visibility is average at best.

Also worth mentioning is ride comfort, it is quite frankly peerless.

After a couple of weeks with petrol and hybrid versions, one can say the little tweaks bestowed by Toyota really complement the C-HR well.

The one you want, in this writer’s opinion is the base Hybrid at $34,990 TGP.

With great levels of kit, silent running, comfort, refinement and the fact it can be quite fun to drive, the 2020 C-HR manages to do nearly everything very well indeed.


 

Waxing Lyrical


Many have been waxing lyrical about the Subaru XV. With a new XV due out later in the year, Subaru have given the current generation a few tweaks, here’s what’s what.

From $36,490, the XV comes with a strong 2.0L four-cylinder boxer engine with 115kW/196Nm. Add this to Subaru’s asymmetrical all-wheel-drive and a seven speed CVT gearbox, and you get 7.0L/100km, with the same good looks and 17-inch alloy wheels unique to the premium spec vehicle.

Inside, everything feels solid, and just very well put together when compared to others in this class.

In terms of space, there is oodles of it. Boot space is commendable at 310L.

The XV comes with Appale CarPlay and Android Auto as standard, along with lane change assist, high beam assist, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot detection, electric sunroof, heated leather seats, and Subaru’s latest generation Eyesight Driver Assist System.

At speed, the four-pot boxer pulls well.

The CVT box is actually more responsive than first expected. With some CVT gearboxes, the feeling of performance gets lost in translation, but Subaru’s unit is actually rather good, providing crisp changes.

Ride comfort is also very good, with the XV managing to soak up the bumps nicely.

Thanks to the all-wheel-drive which Subaru have honed over the years, you can get down and dirty with ease.

The XV Premium still represents great buying for those after a five-seater soft roader, thanks to great tech and refinement and it can tackle the moderate rough stuff like few others.


 

Staggering Superleggera


THE ASTON MARTIN DBS SUPERLEGGERA IS NOTHING SHORT OF STAGGERING. ASTON MARTIN’S NEW FLAGSHIP IS WINNING FANS EVERYWHERE, INCLUDING THIS WRITER AFTER A MERE TWO DAYS IN ITS COMPANY.

 

Aston Martin DBS | Photo: Drew Gibson

 

The DBS Superleggera is based on the same platform as the DB11, but don’t think for a moment it’s the same car.

The giveaway is in the name, Superleggera, which in Italian means Super Light.

The DBS weighs in at 1800kg, but thanks to lots of carbon fibre bits and bobs, it weighs 75kg less than the DB11.

Its textbook coupe lines are some of the most muscular and toned of any Super GT.

Think of the DBS as the car equivalent of Jason Statham in a Saville Row suit.

However, the handiwork of Aston Martin design guru Marek Reichman features function as well as form.

Side vents, which hark back to Aston design of yesteryear, channel air up over the wing mirrors, through gaps in the rear three quarter, and out through the lip spoiler at the rear.

This ‘Aeroblade’ system provides 180kg of downforce at speed.

Providing said speed is a 5.2L twin-turbo V12 and Aston’s slick ZF eight-speed auto box.

This engine and gearbox combo are an all-conquering powerhouse, with a gargantuan 533kW and 900Nm of torque.

You could attach that to your garage and still reach 100km/h in 3.4 seconds. Top speed? The far side of 330km/h!

Inside you still get Aston’s incredible quality and craftsmanship, and looking ahead you see that long muscular bonnet stretching to the horizon.

The switchgear is all previous gen Mercedes, which does the job fine, but feels a tad last week in a car costing $465,000.

On the flipside, once you fire up the DBS, the ensuing V12 bellow is nigh on one of the most primeval soundtracks of any car on sale today.

Around town it is incredibly docile, just watch the low nose on speedbumps, but when you hit the great wide open, you need to be awake.

To say the DBS is quick would be a severe understatement, all it takes is for you to stray above 2,000rpm, and you are fed the kind of acceleration capable of rearranging your fillings.

Each shift is crisp and you realise the car you wanted to overtake is now a spec in your rear-view mirror.

The carbon brakes slow you down with breath-taking precision and in Sport Plus, despite being a big Grand Tourer, you can eat up bendy bitumen with pinpoint accuracy.

The Aston Martin DBS Superleggera is lightyears ahead of its DB11 and Vantage counterparts in Aston Martin’s family of supercars. It might be too much oomph for some people, but those wanting the ultimate in refinement, luxury and earth-shattering speed, should look no further than what is very possibly, the greatest Aston Martin road car yet.

Aston Martin DBS | Photo: Drew Gibson

 

Not just another car club


THE AVID CAR CAFFE IS NOT JUST ANOTHER CAR CLUB. SINCE INCEPTION IN 2018, THANKS TO CHRISTCHURCH AUTO DETAILERS – AVID GROUP – AND A CORE GROUP OF PASSIONATE PETROL HEADS, IT IS NOW 250 OWNERS STRONG.

 

 

The reason why Avid Car Caffe is so popular is simple, the group does not pander to a particular brand or type of car.

So, whether you have the latest supercar, or a lovingly cared for five-door hatch, the passion you have for your car is what Avid Car Caffe is all about.

“The goal is to bring people together and share their love of cars and bikes in a casual non-competitive environment, support other owners and offer ways to enhance ownership through gatherings, car care tips and product advice,” says founding member Bryn Thompson.

Avid Car Caffe meets up every month to experience each other’s cars, over a piping hot cup of complimentary coffee.

“Our gatherings are held on the last Sunday of each month in the early morning, so owners can plan and then have family time in the afternoon.

We have also been supported by some of Christchurch’s leading dealerships and car related companies and many have invited the group to be hosted at their premises,” Bryn says.

Joining in on their most recent car meet, gave us a unique chance to meet fellow members and find out more about why they love Avid Car Caffe.

According to member Alan McKinney, the group is a breath of fresh air for local petrolheads.

“The Avid Car Caffe is all about loving cars and promoting car culture in Canterbury. We are united by our love of all things automotive,” Alan says.

The sheer variety of cars was astonishing, from a Morris Minor Drophead, right up to a one–of–a kind Ferrari 250 Testarossa.

Group member Craig Ryan owns a new Tesla Model X and what impressed him the most is just how open the group is to accepting all cars, even if they produce zero emissions.

“I love coming to the group because of how welcoming everyone is. It’s great to have people recognise why I love the Tesla and I love being able to share it with like-minded people,” Craig says.

“Everyone is so open and gets so excited about so many different types of cars,” says another member, Nick de Lautour.

After a day in the company of some of the most passionate car fanatics in Canterbury and experiencing some truly amazing cars from all makes and eras, needless to say this motoring scribe will be back for seconds really soon.


 

Pretty darn brisk


THE NEW AUDI SQ7 IS A POWERHOUSE OF AN SUV.
LET’S DIVE STRAIGHT INTO IT AND SEE HOW GOOD IT IS.

 

 

On the outside, the standard Q7 has been given a stylistic nip and tuck by Audi’s S department, giving you a more square-jawed looking front and rear, along with a set of blasting tailpipes. The HD Matrix LED headlights also look the business.

Under the bonnet lies a 4.0-litre V8 Bi-Turbo diesel engine with 320kW/900Nm of torque, mated to Audi’s excellent eight-speed Tiptronic box sending that epic grunt to all four wheels by quattro all-wheel drive.

Inside, Audi’s latest gen MMI infotainment system and virtual cockpit is just as slick as ever and the nav utilises Google Earth, which gives you accurate traffic reports.

The SQ7 is also a full seven-seater, with the rear seats folding away to reveal a cavernous boot.

You can raise and lower the car at will thanks to air suspension.

Having the 20-inch wheels over the optional 22s makes for a softer ride.

Audi’s ride comfort has certainly improved from previous generations, with the SQ7 soaking up all the bumps with considerable ease.

Plant boot and 900Nm of torque comes in one big lump above 1600rpm, resulting in this leather-clad cathedral reaching the national limit in 4.8 seconds, which is pretty darn brisk in anyone’s book.

There is a slight delay as the turbo pressure builds but if you leave it in sport, the power delivery is more seamless.

The V8 burble is torrent of symphonic bliss but somewhat subdued compared to the previous gen.

The SQ7 is a hefty fella, but despite the girth, it can corner and handle the bends very well indeed, thanks to four-wheel steering which comes into play while at speed.

The rear wheels turn in the same direction as those at the front, allowing you to eat up copious amounts of bendy bitumen, all with as little body roll as possible.

The SQ7 is also a peach when soaking up motorway miles; the level of quietness and refinement while cruising at the national limit is almost peerless.

Prices start at $184,900 and even in standard spec, the new SQ7 is a great all-rounder of a premium SUV, but the extra grunt and sportier edge takes a great package and runs with it, putting it squarely on anyone’s SUV shortlist.


 

Easy to impress


It’s hard not to like the Lexus RX. The large SUV has been the biggest seller for the premium Japanese brand for many moons now and, for 2020, the people’s choice has been tweaked and updated. We got stuck into two variants of the new car over a two-week period. So, the 2020 RX, is it still good? Well, yes actually.

 

 

Eight models, petrol and hybrid, make up the range, with petrol and hybrid powertrains available.

Things start at $97,400 for the base RX 350 petrol, and top out at $127,500 with the flagship RX 450hL hybrid. In between, you have the F SPORT and the high-end Limited options for the RX 350 and RX 450h, but Limited only for the roomier seven-seater L spec cars.

Power for the RX 350 and RX 350L comes in the form of a 3.5-litre petrol V6 putting 221kW/370Nm through all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic, while returning 9.6L/100km respectively. The RX 450h and RX 450hL naturally get the petrol-electric hybrid set up, with 230kW/335Nm and a CVT box. Economy is more frugal at 5.7L/100km.

The new RX gets some more goodies. Apple Car Play and Android Auto now come as standard, along with the same 12.3-inch infotainment system as before, albeit now with touchscreen capability.

2019 Lexus RX 450h Sports Luxury interior with Rich Cream trim and Bamboo ornamentation.

 

It also sits 138mm closer than before, but the touchpad interface can be a tad unresponsive at times.

Safety kit includes lane tracing assist, lane centring, road sign assist and cyclist detection.

Also, let’s not forget BladeScan. It may sound like a prequel to ‘Blade Runner’ but it is in actual fact, a world-first in headlight tech.

Both the F SPORT and Limited models have 12 individual lights incorporated into each headlight and BladeScan utilises tiny mirrors spinning at 100 times a second which help reflect the light through each headlight.

Lexus claim this shines more light on the road ahead than having 200 individual LED lights; a bright idea indeed.

First to test was the V6 petrol F SPORT, which from the get-go was rather nice on the move.

The howl of the 3.5-litre V6 was stimulating to say the least, and a linear torque curve above 2000rpm made for a smooth delivery of power.

The eight-speed box provided slick changes and perfectly weighted steering means plenty of feedback was on offer.

The RX 450h provided all the silent running you could expect with Lexus’ hybrid set up.

You can remain in EV mode up to speeds of 50km/h, but give it too much foot and it defaults to petrol power.

The choice of petrol or hybrid can be a conundrum for some however, for this writer, the hybrid represents the best choice for its frugality, refinement and efficiency which few in the game can do like Lexus can.

However, whichever you choose, the new look RX, like its predecessors, is easy to be impressed with.

The changes might be minor, but they bring the RX up-to-date in great style.


 

A Dynamic Drive


It is really hard not to be at least a little bit impressed with the new Honda Civic RS Sensing. While the last bit of the name does seem a tad strange at first, it becomes clear the tenth generation of one of Honda’s most cherished models, makes more ‘sense’ than ever before.

 


The $39,990 RS Sensing is extraordinary value considering what you get. Under the bonnet sits a 1.5 litre Turbo VTEC four-cylinder engine mated to Honda’s seven speed CVT auto with paddle shift.

While not much to look at, you still get 127kW and 220Nm of torque, while returning 6.3L/100km respectively.

Honda has also crammed the RS Sensing into the kit too.

Settle into those leather clad sports seats and you find adaptive cruise control, auto high beam, parking sensors front and rear, reversing camera, lane keep assist, collision mitigation braking, which sends you a visual alert on your instrument cluster if you are approaching the car in front too closely, and a wing-mounted camera which allows you to monitor your blind spot while changing lanes from the infotainment screen.

Thanks to upgrades to the suspension and bushings, the Civic RS Sensing is a much more dynamic drive than before.

Steering is nicely weighted and you can coax the Sensing into the twisty stuff with little effort required.

All in all, the Civic RS Sensing is a solid effort from Honda and represents stunning value for money. This one is definitely worth a look.


 

Grand Tourer with attitude


THE ASTON MARTIN DB11 IS ALREADY A FINE CAR, BUT IN THIS WRITER’S OPINION, A BIT TOO SOFT AND GT-ESQUE.

Aston Martin has gone two steps further to separate the V12 from the V8 in the line-up. Enter the $355,000 DB11 AMR; the Grand Tourer with the attitude that the DB11 V12 always should have.

Where does the AMR come in? These three initials stand for Aston Martin Racing, a name given to faster, race-inspired Astons of recent years.

The AMR also officially replaces the standard DB11 V12 in the range.

Under the bonnet, the 5.2-litre twin turbo V12 gets 22kW more than the outgoing DB11 V12, bringing total power output to 470kW/700Nm.

Coupled to Aston’s slick eight-speed-automatic gearbox, zero to 100km/h is dealt with in 3.7 seconds. Sure, you will be doing 11.4L/100km, but that is not why you bought one is it?

The AMR gets a larger front anti-roll bar, the rear suspension has been retuned to give a sportier feel, the dampers both front and rear have also been revised for the same reason, and that V12 is even louder.

Inside, you do get all the fruit as before, but the Mercedes switchgear and infotainment screen feel a tad out of place in a car which costs in excess of $350,000. Sure, it is very responsive and will do the job of working the nav, Bluetooth etc, but it just doesn’t feel bespoke enough for the AMR.

With a high transmission tunnel and hip-hugging leather chairs, you do feel rather cocooned by your surroundings. In fact, the driving position as a whole is nigh on perfect. Though, the lack of a glovebox is odd.

As per the Vantage, you can fiddle about with the damping and engine modes by pressing the two buttons on either side of the wheel, with three modes, GT, Sport and Sport Plus, available for

With a wheelbase of 2802mm, and 4739mm from nose to tail, the DB11 is certainly no point-and-shoot sports car.

That said, around town, the AMR, despite its sportier pretensions and feeling bigger than it actually is, manages to be quite easy to manoeuvre and doesn’t feel daunting by any means.

With the engine and dampers in GT mode, the AMR can eat up the miles, but in the flowing twisting country backroads, the AMR tweaks make themselves known.

You can carry a great deal of speed into each bend, with little effort required to coax it into the corner. Plus, when you lift off, the exhaust crackles like a far-off battlefield.

Switch the dampers and engine into Sport Plus, and the AMR gets serious. Those mods to the chassis and the suspension makes it live and supple.

Steering weights up beautifully and standing on the anchors means you come to a dead stop in quick succession.

The DB11 no longer suffers from middle child syndrome. The AMR package turns the DB11 V12 from a fine tourer into a seriously desirable sporting package.


 

Ferrari California: A serious supercar


Pressing the red starter button, your immediate surroundings are engulfed by a torrent of mechanical symphonic bliss; press the throttle and the revs rise, bringing with them a fiery Italian bellow. You are pinned back in the seat as you unleash the Ferrari California, one of the best value Ferrari supercars on the market today.

 

 

 

The California was first launched in 2009 and was the start of a new era for the Italian marque. With a 4.3-litre V8 mated to a seven-speed dual clutch gearbox, the California is the best package of sports car and open road tourer around. With a 2+2 layout, a folding metal hard top, and a big boot, you and your significant other can have a blast on your way to Queenstown.

Whether on wide open motorways or tight switchback mountain passes, the Ferrari California is nothing short of a luxurious cruiser which transforms into a snarling Ferrari with all the adrenalin that comes with 70 years of passion and motorsport pedigree.

At $169,995, this 2011 example has to be one of the best Californias on sale anywhere in New Zealand. With 35,000km and that gorgeous black with cream leather and carbon trim combo, this beast is nothing short of stunning. Oh, and it drives even better than it looks.

Get in touch with Christchurch European before this prancing horse leaves its stable. The team also have a red and blue example coming real soon, so be sure not to miss out on an Italian icon.

 

 


 

The future of design


Kia Motors has revealed its new Futuron Concept, an illuminating all-wheel drive SUV coupe which proposes new designs for future electric vehicles.

 

The Futuron Concept represents the modern and confident image of a progressive electric SUV coupe envisioned by Kia. The Futuron name itself is a portmanteau of ‘future’ and ‘on’, hinting at the switched-on, electric nature of future SUV designs from the brand.

Electric vehicles are the future, yes, but the way we use the technology and how that will interface with individuals will be the key. The Futuron’s design leads us one step further towards science-future becoming science-fact. Autonomous driving is coming and with New Zealand bringing 5G soon, it’s closer than we think.

The Kia Futuron is very much a reality that all large companies currently have in development as they look forward to the autonomous platform. Hardware and software in vehicles is constantly adapting, resulting in a tsunami of innovation. It’s not only that one step closer to the future of design, it would be fantastic to drive and looks hot, don’t you think?

With a design based around the notion of dynamic purity, the Futuron concept merges elegant proportions with pure shapes and surfaces. Its lightweight SUV coupe body incorporates a fully electric all-wheel drive powertrain, wrapped in bold yet modern exterior surfaces, and with a flexible, high-tech interior. It’s the perfect base for an autonomous future and one that I would personally love to own.