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Author: Ben Selby

Baby Aston is born


Developed by Aston Martin and The Little Car Company, the DB5 Junior is a two thirds-scale electric DB5 which the young, and young at heart, can whiz around in ‘til their heart’s content.

 

 

The detail is staggering, with all the details found on the real DB5 replicated with incredible authenticity. It even has working headlights, brake lights, indicators and a horn. Double Wishbone suspension is featured and the whole car weighs in at 270kg.

Sitting at 3-metres long and 1.1-metres wide, the DB5 Junior is made to accommodate parent and child. Grunt comes from an electric power unit sending 5kW to the rear wheels.

Novice mode limits the top speed to 19km/h, perfect for when junior is driving the Junior, and expert mode is for when the parent takes over, which means a top whack of 48km/h. Range is up to 32km/h depending on driving style.

Vantage mode operated by a hidden “missile switch” which doubles the power output to 10kW / 13.4bhp and increases the top speed to a still unconfirmed level.

This output is now delivered to the wheels through a Limited-Slip Differential (LSD) to improve traction at high speed.

Performance is further enhanced by the lightweight carbon fibre body and a second battery pack, doubling the range to 32-64km depending on driving style.

The cost? Well, production begins next year with a starting price of $63,000, gulp.

Then again, with a real DB5 costing setting you back at least $1 million, this baby Aston is a bargain.


 

Very sweet turbo


When we think of big SUVs from Mercedes AMG, big V8-bellowing all terrain missiles spring to mind.

BRAD LONGWORTH

 

In curry terms, the range topping GLE 63 AMG is the full chicken vindaloo, hot and spicy.

Whereas the $180,100 GLE 53 AMG is more of a chicken madras, in other words, a milder offering in terms of performance. Under the bonnet sits a very sweet turbo 3L straight six.

The turbo part of the equation refers to a single turbo, electric compressor and EQ Boost generator, making the GLE 53 a mild hybrid.

Grunt is rated at 320kW/520Nm. Also, Mercedes’ Speedshift 9-speed automatic gearbox and 4-Matic four-wheel drive make a welcome appearance. Fuel consumption is rated at a combined 9.4L/100km and zero to 100km/h is despatched in 5.3 seconds.

Styling wise, AMG’s tentacles are everywhere. The front spoiler is more aggressive, and the optional matte black AMG alloys on my test car look epic. Inside, AMG sports leather chairs make for a comfortable yet supportive place to sit and the AMG performance steering wheel is lovely to hold.

Standard kit includes the latest MBUX infotainment and voice recognition system, side-by-side 12.3-inch digital screens, a head-up display, heated front seats, ambient lighting with 64 colours and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. Safety kits provide active parking assist, active brake assist with cross-traffic alert, steering assist, lane change assist, active blind spot assist and traffic sign assist.

On the move and you do make brisk progress, but as this is the AMG Lite, things aren’t as rapid as you would first expect, not slow but not rapid. However, selecting Sport or Sport Plus makes a big difference, especially as it activates AMG Active Exhaust, allowing you to hear more of that glorious sounding turbo six.

On the straight and narrow, the AMG Ride Control with air suspension offers a supple ride but feels a bit soft in the bends. Putting the adaptive dampers in Sport Plus will firm things up well enough. If you decide to leave the beaten track, then trail and sand modes are available, that said the average GLE 53 owners won’t be climbing every mountain and fording every stream.

There is plenty to like about the new Mercedes GLE 53 AMG, however if I wanted a GLE with some AMG goodness, I would go whole hog and get the V8 every time.


 

Premium all-rounder


The Mazda CX30 blew us away a few months back when we tested the mid-range GTX and flagship Limited. So, what about the base GSX? Is the bare essentials CX30 worth your time?

 

The GSX at $41,490, gets a very refined 2L four-cylinder Skyactiv engine with 114kW/200Nm. Mazda’s i-Activsense safety comes as standard which features lane-keep, active cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and active emergency braking.

Front and rear passengers can slob out in comfort, but 430L is average boot space at best.

However, the feel of a premium cabin for this kind of money is peerless. On the move, the 2L four pot pulls well, but the 2.5L petrol in the GTX and Limited, is that little bit more refined by comparison.

Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control steering is light and still manages to be direct and communicative. Plus, with the smaller alloys on the GSX, ride comfort, while very supple before, is even more comfortable.

The GSX is a great all-rounder as starting point in the CX30 line-up, but thanks to the higher spec $44,990 GTX’s 2.5L Skyactiv engine, forking over the extra $3K would be a no brainer.


 

Power delivery


It has been a long time coming, but finally Subaru has added a spot of hybrid drive to its line-up. Meet the XV e-Boxer Hybrid. But how does it stack up?

The XV is already a great soft to medium off-road practical package, but now thanks to Subaru’s e-Boxer Hybrid setup, you can throw in economy, too.

The 2.0 four-cylinder boxer engine produces 110kW and the addition of a 12.3kW battery pack. Like most hybrids, it is self-charging and regenerates energy when braking.

Subaru’s SLT gearbox perform really well and, with the hybrid package, achieves a claimed 6.5L/100km.

Inside sits a 6.5-inch infotainment display, which could be a tad bigger to be honest.

However, you do get niceties like Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Digital Radio, and Bluetooth.

Your surroundings are also quite cushy and comfortable. Subaru’s Eyesight driver safety system is also in attendance.

Power delivery from the e-Boxer is very smooth and you feel quite planted at speed, especially in corners. Activate Subaru’s X-Mode and you are climbing every mountain and fording every stream (within reason).

At $42,490, the Hybrid is $5000 more than the petrol XV Sport.

However, the combination of frugal economy and fine handling characteristics makes this long overdue addition to Subaru’s family very welcome.


 

Sublime wagon, cool ride


Wagons will always be much cooler than SUVs. One manufacturer whose history is littered with wagons is Volvo. Here is their new V60 Estate T8 AWD R Design, and it is something mighty special.

 

Volvo V60 T8 Test Drive in Luleå, Sweden

The T8 part means a 2.0 four-cylinder petrol engine with supercharging and turbocharging, coupled to a plug-in 64kW battery pack, electric motors, and eight-speed Geartronic automatic.

Power figures of 311kW/670Nm are very generous, and 0 to 100km/h time of 4.5 seconds is sports car quick.

Being a plug in, the V60 can run up to 40km on just electric power, ideal for the daily commute.

Outside there are no flashy bits or carbon fibre add-ons here, just subtle details like the “Thor’s Hammer” daytime running lights.

The R Design 19-inch five triple spoke alloys, front grille, gloss black wing mirrors are the only indication of hidden sporting prowess.

Inside, a very clear and concise 9-inch touchscreen infotainment system greets you.

Kit includes Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, 360 Reversing Camera, Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Information System with Steer Assist, Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Keep Assist, Oncoming Lane Mitigation, Park Assist, and Volvo’s City Safe braking system.

My test car, valued at $114,900, also came with the optional $6500 Premium Pack.

This means tinted windows, full panoramic sunroof, and a rather epic Bowers and Wilkins Premium Sound System, which is the closest you will get to hearing the works of Hans Zimmer live. Pop the boot and you find another Volvo wagon hallmark, space, 529L of it.

On the move, you barrel along in distinct quiet. Weighing in at 2200kg, it is a hefty fella, but very planted. Select “Polestar Engineered Mode” and the barrelling becomes a rapid waft, while no track day hero, the T8 can cover ground in quick succession.

In the bends, her steering is responsive but somewhat lacking in feedback.

That said, blasting point to point is not what the V60 T8 is about. Will the V60 T8 R-Design be a big seller for Volvo? Probably not.

Is it still a sublime wagon for those who want something totally unique? Absolutely.


 

Definitive one-stop-shop: Hammonds


We have all been there. A slight lapse of concentration by you or someone else and before you know it, your pride and joy is no longer factory fresh. Hammonds Collision Centre knows these things can happen, which is why it’s still Christchurch’s leading panel and paint repair shop.

 

Located at 46 Battersea Street, Sydenham, Hammonds Collision Centre has prided itself as being the Garden City’s definitive one-stop shop for all things panel, paint and mechanical.

From the moment you hand your car to Scott Blackadder and the team, you can be safe in the knowledge of their decades of expertise and award-winning bodywork know-how.

Whether it’s your faithful Toyota Starlet, or your Concours-winning Mustang, Hammond’s Collision Centre offers body and mechanical repairs, WOFs, servicing, and insurance repairs.

Also, if you have just purchased a car which needs a thorough ground up restoration, Hammond’s can do that, too.

Hammond’s also can deliver you to your place of work in the CBD and pick you up again once your vehicle is ready to go.

They also have a fleet of loan cars and even e-scooters to make sure your busy life is not interrupted.

So, give Hammond’s Collison Centre a call today on 03 366 1809 and experience for yourself why Hammond’s is the definitive choice for all things panel, mechanical and paint.


 

Spirited drive a nice surprise: Honda


The Honda Civic RS Sport Sensing Sedan was one of the biggest surprises of last year. A strong turbo VTEC powertrain, oodles of kit, and great driving dynamics put it on par with the very best in the small sedan segment. Now for 2020, the Civic Hatch gets the RS Sport Sensing treatment, and here is how it stacks up.

 

The tenth generation Civic has always been striking, and for the Sensing, there are subtle styling tweaks which have a certain whiff of Civic Type R about them.

These include a new rear diffuser, lower roofline and 18-inch sports alloys. Oh, and a new sports exhaust.

Under the bonnet sits the same 1.5L turbocharged VTEC four pot in the Sensing Sedan.

This means 127kW and 220Nm of torque. In Sport mode, the torque kicks in at low revs when you plant your boot, which makes for a nice surprise when sauntering through the twisty stuff.

Honda’s seven-speed CVT box is back, and performs well enough, though I would love to be able to swap cogs myself.

Honda claim fuel consumption of 6.1L/100km. I found myself averaging 7.2L/100km most of the time.

Quite frugal indeed, especially in ECO mode. Inside you sit low and snug. The driving position is nigh on perfect and everything is within easy reach.

The Sensing part of the name stands for Honda’s Sensing Safety package.

This means active cruise control, lane keep assist, forward collision warning, lane departure mitigation, and automatic high beam headlights.

Other tech includes Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, reversing camera, parking sensors all round, and a left-wing mirror blind spot camera which activates on the infotainment screen every time you indicate left.

You can cram 340 litres of whatever into the boot and rear seat passengers, providing you aren’t of the lanky kind, can find good head and legroom.

The Honda Civic Hatch RS Sport Sensing is not a hot hatchback, but more a “warm” one.

Its level of tech, comfort and the ability to give you a spirited drive on command means this one certainly needs checking out.


 

Great things come in small packages


Since Chinese firm SAIC resurrected MG, the British namesake has been increasing its New Zealand presence in a big way and the most popular MG on Kiwi streets right now is the MG3 Supermini.

 

At a seriously low starting price of $17,990, the MG3 offers astonishing value.

Under the bonnet sits a 1.5 litre four-cylinder petrol engine with 82kW, mated to a four-speed automatic gearbox.

It’s not the most refined engine and trans combo, but the power gets put down well enough for city driving.

Standard kit across the range includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, a four-speaker Yamaha Digital Sound system, reversing camera, cruise control and rear parking sensors.

Styling wise, the MG3 looks clean cut, but seems to mimic the style of its Japanese rivals.

However, touches like the 16-inch alloys, chrome bumper accents and rear spoiler on the top spec Excite, look good.

On the move, the steering is weighted well and in the twisty stuff, the MG3 can be a bit of a giggle.

Plus, while some interior plastics are quite hard, the MG3 still provides decent surroundings.

The MG3 shows real promise and manages to epitomise bang for your buck. All we need now is a sportier MG3 GT.


 

Chevrolet’s Latest Coup


When GM made the decision to pull out of all right-hand drive markets after the demise of the Holden brand, needless to say a few gearheads were less than overjoyed with the news. Therefore, there is a chance this facelift Chevrolet Camaro could be the last new GM product we get through HSV dealers in New Zealand. Oh, and it also happens to be a beast of a muscle car.

 

On the outside, the facelift Camaro 2SS has been given a stylistic nip and tuck.

A more pronounced mouth with the Chevy bowtie badge as the centre piece makes for a more aggressive front, and the revised taillight cluster and new alloys look the business.

Under the bonnet sits the hefty LT1 6.2L V8 with a fairly substantial 339kW of grunt and 617Nm of torque.

The biggest change mechanically is the addition of a new 10 speed automatic gearbox. It’s very good by the way, but more on that in a bit.

Inside you get a very driver-focused cabin, containing nods to Camaros of the past while still feeling up to date.

You sit very low and sports car like in the seat and the small steering wheel feels good clasped in your mitts.

Standard kit includes 20-inch alloys, Brembo brakes, LED running lights, Apple Car Play/Android Auto and dual zone climate control.

Fire up the LT1 V8 and you make everyone within a few 100 metres of you aware of your presence.

Blip the throttle and it bellows like a proper V8 road burner should. Touring mode allows you to cruise along in comfort with the V8 burble slightly subdued in the background.

The LT1 V8 also shuts down four cylinders if they aren’t needed, returning combined fuel consumption of 11.5L/100km.

Change up to Sport and things get racier and louder; put it in Track mode and the steering and throttle response sharpens up, plus the shifts on the 10 speed box become quicker.

In Track mode you can make mincemeat of bendy bitumen; a welcome sensation as Camaro’s of old were never that great at the twisty stuff.

The 2SS stays planted and gives you the confidence to push harder. Sure, you can cruise in the Camaro, the ride is comfortable too, but it feels more at home having its neck wrung.

Despite niggles like some excessive tyre roar and intrusive wing mirrors when turning at a junction, the 2SS Camaro is a damn fine continuation of a muscle car legend.

Fingers crossed it will stick around in the New Zealand market for some time yet.


 

A compelling package


When the all-new Mazda CX30 made its debut in New Zealand, it was launched online, thanks to COVID-19. However, after waiting patiently, we finally got a taster of Mazda’s new SUV. Mazda says the new CX30 slots perfectly between the CX3 and CX5 in its SUV line-up. However, with the CX3 and CX5 offering such a compelling small and mid-sized SUV package, do we really need an SUV in between?

 

 

The CX30 is essentially a raised version of the Mazda3 hatch.

However, despite looking almost identical to the more grounded 3, the CX30 has actually shrunk by 70mm and features an entirely new rear end.

Like the Mazda3, the CX30 is available in three trim levels, the GSX at $41,490, GTX at $44,990 and the top end Limited at $49,990.

The GTX featured here is, according to the team at Blackwells Mazda, the most popular model in the range.

The entry level GSX gets FWD and a 2.0L four-cylinder Skyactiv engine with 114kW/200Nm, but the GTX and Limited get the bigger 2.5L unit and AWD.

With 139kW/252Nm, it is nothing short of sublime. Plus, you will be sipping the juice at 6.8L/100km thanks to the aid of cylinder deactivation.

Toys are something the CX30 is very generous with.

All models get the i-Activsense safety package as standard kit, which gives you a plethora of gizmos keeping you on the straight and narrow.

These include lane-keep, active cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and active emergency braking.

The GTX also gets Intelligent Speed Assistance, front parking sensors and off-road mode.

The latter is down to the fact the GTX and Limited are AWD. The Limited also gives you leather trim and a thumping Bose stereo system.

Head and legroom are not as generous compared with the CX5 and, with 430L, neither is boot space.

That said, the seats themselves cocoon you like few others and the overall ambience of the CX30’s cabin feels like the car costs double its asking price.

Plus, all the switchgear actually feels satisfying to touch.

Once you are up and running, you quickly realise just what an utter peach that 2.5L Skyactiv engine really is.

Coupled with the uber slick six speed automatics transmission, cruising around suburbia has never been so refined in this price bracket.

Acceleration is not rapid thanks to the lack of a turbo, but from 2,000 to 4,000 rpm, you are able to waft forward at a considerable rate.

Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control steering allows you to have a sublimely comfortable ride without being wobbly in the bends. It really is the best of both worlds.

Despite the space niggles, the CX30 still manages to be a sublime all-rounder. The CX30 is the Mazda SUV we didn’t think we needed, but really glad it exists.