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Author: Nicholas Henare

The Ultimate VW Challenge: Tiguan vs T-Cross R-Line


Here is the challenge: you’re loading up for a weekend trip with three women to go to Maruia Springs. You’ve got pillows, blankets, makeup bags, bags for shoes, bags for clothes, bags for swimming…basically everything bags.

 

They have had time to prep so it’s my job – while they have a few wines – to fill the Volkswagen Tiguan from Miles Continental, like a real-life Tetris video game.

Luckily for me, the 1395cc Tiguan TSI Comfortline 2WD has plenty of boot space for its $41,385 price tag. The rear tailgate opener also comes in handy.

On the road, the cabin space up front is amazingly comfortable and drive wise it handles beautifully – you wouldn’t even notice all the gear loaded up.

The 8-inch touch glass screen display with Apple CarPlay is making it easy for the girls to flick between Spice Girls and Beyoncé with the easy-access USB for charging.

It felt gentle to drive and comfortable over a long distance, the lane assist was there but not full on like some brands, and the climate control air conditioning worked impressively well.

With parallel park assist, a five-year 150,000km warranty and 17-inch Tulsa alloys making it look pretty, it has all the bells and whistles.

Before we got to Maruia for a beautiful platter (Tom Tulk is an exceptional chef) the girls wanted to visit Reefton Distillery to try the Little Biddy gin tasting. Now, this is quite a journey with some windy turns and uphill grades.

The Tiguan handled it beautifully, an incredibly smooth drive with the suspension perfectly in tune with the road. Back at Maruia, we parked up next to the pools and relaxed after a good five-odd hour drive.

Now here’s the tricky part: repeating the experience but with three teenagers in the Volkswagen T-Cross R-Line.

The T-Cross R-Line starts at $43,490, is a 4-cylinder inline turbo at 110kW and 250Nm front wheel drive 7-speed.

The exterior is a little boxier in shape with the R-Line having a funkier bumper system than the standard.

Now, the audio system is almost identical and what surprised me was the boy’s choice in sound was identical to the girls.

With everything packed up, there seemed like more available room in the T-Cross than the Tiguan, but the boys did pack a bit lighter. On the open road it handled well.

Which was better? They are almost the same price, they almost have the same features, they performed almost identically.

At the end of the day I think it’s going to come down to personal choice. I guess you must test drive it for yourself at Miles Continental.


 

An electrifying ride


When I picked up the Mercedes EQC 4matic from Armstrong Mercedes the only thing that rattled my head was that name, EQC. Something that, when I posted on Instagram, I got a few messages about.

Jack Prebble Media

 

But as this beautiful machine glided out onto the motorway and I placed my foot on the brushed alloy AMG accelerator, all bad reminders were left 5.1 seconds behind me as this beautifully lined, refined electric vehicle took off.

I had Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy pumping through the 13-speaker, nine-channel, 590w Burmester surround sound system with the interior AMG lighting system turning to a cool blue.

Gripping the multi-function Nappa leather sports steering wheel, that gnarly little smile crept onto my face and I knew I was in for a great day on the road.

Being fully electric, the EQC has a range of 354km, with the emergency AC-DC adapter for a backup option.

The electricity on a low output standard house plug just does not have the juice to power the battery fast enough if you are exceeding, like me, 80km a day.

You can recharge at stations around the city, but I highly recommend you install the Wallbox charging system.

This is a stunnin

g electric vehicle: a 300kw duel electric engine 0 to 100km on 5.1 (but it feels much faster than that), 4Matic all-wheel drive, 760Nm torque – all with a base price of $142,000.

 

I was going to write shocking to be funny but that would make it sound bad, and it is not in any way at all.

 

Jack Prebble Media

My model had some up-spec roller sun blinds and 21-inch multi-spoke wheels. The multi-spoke wheels are a total stunner as was the diamond white paint job.

Now it’s not often an up-spec spins my wheels, forgive the pun, but it really does give a bespoke look to an already outstanding vehicle.

Back to back with the standard model there is quite a different look to it and damn it, it is sexier.

I took my friend Lisa out to get a woman’s perspective on it. After a lovely lunch at Botanic we took a leisurely drive. Afterward I asked her what she thought.

The verdict? “Luxurious with impressive lighting and super sexy rose gold air vents, girls love that.”

She went on to wax lyrical: “A gorgeous car, great lines. I absolutely loved it and it’s the first car I’ve been in, in ages, that I would really like to own.”

Believe me, this woman knows what she wants so this is a five-star rating.

It gets a five-star from me with the reminder that you must install the Wallbox home charging system.

If you’re making a choice on electric vehicles this year, please finish with the Mercedes EQC 4matic. It is an electrifying vehicle. Badumdum.

Jack Prebble Media

 

Top of its automotive game: Skoda Karoq


Skoda was founded in 1850 as an arms producer before later moving into transportation in 1895.

 

 

It was Skoda that produced the velocipede bicycle and the later Czech-designed Panzer 38(t) armored vehicle became one of the world’s best at the time.

The 1960s saw an increase in exporting from Czechoslovakia, with models like the Octavia Super and in the 70s and 80s it was the Rapid and Estelle that were the big sellers.

Today Skoda is one of the world’s best car developers, with revenue in the billions.

Now part of the Volkswagen family, Skoda is at the top of its automotive game.

The 2018 Superb was my personal car of the year with some outstanding features and ‘bang for buck’. It’s a theme that has continued with the new Skoda Karoq 110kW MY20.

With a price point of $44,990 for petrol and $50,990 for diesel, you can start going over the list of features and it’s got everything it takes to tick the box as a great value, strong performing family SUV.

Automatic tail gate opening is also a good start. The turbo petrol version seems to be quite economical on gas.

The 110kW provides enough power and 250 Nm, enough torque; 0-100 in 8.8 isn’t a Ferrari but it’s not meant to be one!

The cabin has a simple but elegant interior with lots of room and expansive windscreen and Apple car play and connectivity are downright easy.

The lines are so good, it took me a good five minutes to find the USB point hidden under a cover near the centre console.

With a five-year warranty up to 150,000km, it seems like a pretty simple buy.

Electric folding, heated side mirrors are great for the winter days and the Skoda carpet lighting on the doors allow you to look for the puddles when stepping out after a good rain.

Leather seating isn’t standard, but you can up spec the whole car including alloys and steering wheel for an extra $3,500.

The breaking assist is nice and gentle too, airbags, side assist and reversing camera are all there, so for the safety conscious, you get a lot for this low price point.

It’s simple and cost-effective and these days, simple and cost effective are very important. Check it out at Miles Continental for your own test drive.


 

Simple but elegant


When you’ve driven every Mitsubishi over the course of a year, one thing seems to be constant – simplicity, despite this simplicity, every vehicle from the Triton to the Pajero is packed to the brim with everything you need from a modern vehicle.

 

 

The Pajero Sport is no different.

This seven-seater has loads of room, quite the step up from its predecessor and that extends upwards, with my son Tom and I both gasping as we drove into the second floor of the Westfield Riccarton mall carparking building, convinced we were going to scrape the roof!

The Pajero Sports 20 MY’s power tail gate is always an asset and great for loading groceries, sports gear or school kit on a wet day.

A cool feature is you can use a smart phone app to open it too!

That same app can also be used as a vehicle locater, operation assist and vehicle information device.

How many times do you forget where you’re parked at said car park?

Front heated seats are good on the drive on the chilly mornings as well.

The new grille design gives the front end a little bit more polish and the lines on the vehicle have changed too.

It’s the wheel clearance on it that gives it such height and I’ll be honest, I took it for a little off-road test and it performed well, both in 4-wheel drive and 2-wheel drive.

There’s a 220-volt power plug in the back which means that if you take it off-road, you can power an electric pump for air beds or a little cooker or… whatever.

The 8-inch multi-functional display is adaptable for what you want to prioritise and, as always, Apple Car Play makes it easy on the iPhone user.

The sensor technology is also great, with a reversing camera and three-dimensional display so you know exactly where your car is in relation to curbs and obstacles.

There’s nothing worse than damaging your precious alloy wheels on curbs and this function will help you avoid this.

You’ll find 135kW of power and a whopping 437 Nm of torque on this beast, so towing the boat won’t ever be a problem.

Mitsubishi has a real knack for refining all the necessities into a simple but elegant package.

All that even comes at a good price, currently $59,000 plus on roads.

I could wax lyrical about the little details about the Pajero Sport but at the end of day, Mitsubishi really does have a version of the SUV/Utility vehicle for everyone.

What do YOU need?


 

Triumph of tech


I WAS HAVING A GREAT CONVERSATION WITH KAROL ABRASOWICZ-MADEJ FROM BMW RECENTLY ABOUT WHERE HE THOUGHT THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY WAS HEADING AND I WALKED AWAY WITH THE WORD INNOVATION AS KEY.

 

 

Electric vehicles, yes but more in the very way we use the technology and how that will interface with individuals.

We already have UBER, but imagine a future where the UBER is driverless and you can choose the type of vehicle you want to be picked up in.

With 5G communication availability, this scenario is no longer the stuff of science fiction, but it’s actually technology that many of the large motoring companies already have in development.

I can already see a future where the average person doesn’t require a garage, insurance or vehicle maintenance; one where the roads are less congested and the vehicles safer.

Some of the interfaces I’ve had with the latest vehicles on the road demonstrate just how close this reality is. What does surprise me is how quickly it is happening.


 

A luxury lifesaver


FORTUNATE TO HAVE THE MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER SPORT FOR TWO WEEKS, I REALLY GOT TO USE IT TO ITS FULL CAPACITY.

 

It’s one thing getting to drive something small and sporty, but when push comes to shove, the opportunity to take on a seven-seater with heaps of space ended up being a lifesaver.

Throw the seats down and you’ve got an extreme amount of space to carry everything you could possibly need.

Taking a group of friends to Diamond Harbour’s Sunday music festival, there was plenty of room for picnics and people.

That’s also where the 4×4 comes in handy, crossing paddocks and rough terrain with ease.

It’s also when you figure out how stable she stays fully loaded on the open road, just how pleasant the sunroof is, that the automatic boot is a godsend when trying to juggle picnic baskets and gear, and that power and simplicity of design make for a great experience, not just a good one.

Can you believe that all this comes in at under $39,900 without on-road costs?

I really pushed the boat out sharing the experience with family and friends, but it was such a good one, with the comments of those that joined me including “Oh this is nice” or “It feels great in the back!”

Now I’ve driven 7-seaters that cost four times as much in the last few months, but if you’re looking for a great looking seven-seater family option with class, you’ve found it here.


 

Plenty of power


ONE COULD BE CONSIDERED LUCKY WHEN MERCEDES INVITES THEM TO ITS AUCKLAND OFFICE TO TEST DRIVE THE NEW MERCEDES GLS 400D 4MATIC.

 

Ushered into to the boardroom, we were given an extensive breakdown of the specifications.

It’s a seven-seat SUV with more spin than a very spinny thing! With a 3.0-litre six-cylinder, 243 kW and 700Nm, it also has plenty of power.

The Burmester surround sound system with 13 speakers blows your mind, with 590 watts of sound and ambient internal lighting in 64 shades, beautiful leather interior with oak wood trim and a sunroof for that wonderful open-air breeze.

To be honest, there is a hell of a lot of luxury packed into what doesn’t feel like a seven-seater.

Its increased size is more than made up for in the power and handling capabilities, but the increased room makes for a REAL seven-seater, not like most of the tiny rear two seats of other brands.

The test drivers were given the keys to take the vehicle for a drive to The Glass House, the home of Brick Bay Wines in Warkworth, north of Auckland, a stunning restaurant and the gateway to the Brick Bay Sculpture Trail.

With the Mercedes GLS 400D, you simply insert the location into the navigation system and away you go; very easy to use!

It was a hot day, making the seat cooling device with a back massage system a very welcome addition.

That’s right, passenger and driver get a back massage by using hand signals, so you can turn this function off and on without losing sight of the road.

After a couple of hours of driving, I felt better than when I got in the car!

It’s a very solid drive and you can actually get a variation with an increased suspension if you really want to go hardcore off-road.

The design features vents in the front grille which increases it aerodynamically and it’s got a lovely line for such a large SUV.

A standout feature for me was the one button push that folds all rear seats down electronically; and no, it has sensors so it won’t squash the kids in case of accidental ignition.

With all rear seats stowed away and loaded to the roof, the capacity reaches 2400 litres; that makes for a whole lot of options.

I said to Jarrod from Mercedes that I could put a mattress in the back and go camping.

He didn’t look impressed; the Mercedes GLS 400D is, after all, much too classy for such an endeavour.

It comes in at $166,700 before on road costs which isn’t everybody’s price point but if you want the ultimate luxury of Mercedes SUV, it’s hard to look at anything else.

 


 

Fun with power


THE MITSUBISHI 20MY OUTLANDER HAS BEEN ONE OF THE MOST SURPRISINGLY ENJOYABLE DRIVES I’VE HAD THIS YEAR.

 

The plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) gave a range of 55km and the average person drive 32kn a day in Christchurch, according to Christchurch Mitsubishi Fleet Sales Manager David Boyce. The sunroof was great and the drive was fantastic.

So I was looking forward to moving into the ASX VRX. 2.4L in Sunshine Orange.

No sunroof but a moonroof option – most of the roof is glass! Priced at $34,990 with cool alloy pedals and 18-inch alloy rims, plus 125kW and 226 Nm, it gave me a wee thrill to drive.

It also has some cool little fender side guards, Apple Car Play with six speakers, and elegant leather seating.

Now this is the top model with the lesser versions, the LS and XLS, coming in with a bit less flash and grunt but overall its got a pretty great feel to it…. other than Sunshine Orange. I mean I know it’s a press model, but as someone said, you have to be brave to drive that colour.

There’s also LED lighting and an 8-inch touch screen which, coming in at that price, equates to a lot of bang for your buck.

The piano black and satin grille is nice, and I like the lighting set up. It’s a bit old fashioned with a manual handbrake but then again, I’m a bit old too.

Yes the Outlander 20MY PHEV may have stolen my heart for a fun, well-powered SUV in a hybrid model, but I’m not complaining about the ASX…. just the colour. It’s time to take it for a test drive!


 

As good as it gets


Mitsubishi is renowned for being a solid, sturdy build – especially when it comes to their Outlander range.

 

 

It’s increasingly going from a rural vehicle to an urban one; ideal for the family that needs something to tow the boat, caravan, jet ski or bikes. The new PHV has increased handling, power and off-road capabilities; its 2.4L engine delivers to even the most discerning SUV expert.

As a hybrid, its EV range is up to 55km. There is a fast-charge option and it’s ideal if you want a day-to-day vehicle that is electric, but with the peace of mind that you can flick to fuel should you need to.

With a starting price of $52,990 it provides a lot of bang for buck when it comes to an SUV with real off-road capabilities. A fleet vehicle for quite a few companies, it’s an SUV that can be relied on to get the job done, which is why it’s an award-winner.

Style-wise it’s got some fine lines and the interior is as good as it gets. With 130kW and 332Nm of torque there’s nothing I can say that’s bad about it. It handles well and has great hybrid performance in day-to-day running. Mitsubishi, you just keep getting better.

 


 

Toast to champagne


At this time of year, we are turning our heads to celebrations; Christmas parties and family get-togethers. Regardless of the event, nothing says celebration like the most prestigious of wines: champagne.

 

 

A severe set of winters in the 49th parallel north in the 1600s saw the French offloading late-fermenting, sweet – about 30 grams of sugar per bottle – slushy pink bubbly stuff to the English. Surprisingly, they started to really love it.

It wasn’t until Dom Pérignon refined the process in 1662 and the invention by the English of a bottle that could take the pressure of the bubbles that the beverage began to take its modern form.

Today there are 260-odd champagne houses in France and each has a rich history; from the story of Clicquot, a woman widowed at 30 with a young baby who invented the riddling process and built a fierce empire, to the tale of Jean-Rémy Moët who became famous as a supplier to Napoleon and his armies.

Most champagne is comprised of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier, but what champagne is best, and why? What do you choose for that special moment when you celebrate?

I’ve been fortunate enough to taste some of the best that the world of champagne has to offer and it all comes down to personal taste and style. At a recent Laurent Perrier masterclass, I sampled the Cuvée Rosé, Grand Siècle, the Ultra and La Cuvée; all stunning champagnes but I found base champagne the Ultra was my favourite. My go-to is Veuve Clicquot but many of my friends prefer Moët or Dom Pérignon. The choices per brand are also wide. Do you go for a vintage? A rosé? A Brut? Here are some highlights that stand out for me this Christmas.

Moët & Chandon is set to unveil its holiday-season collection to mark the 150th anniversary of its flagship expression, Moët Impérial. This limited-edition bottle is dressed for the holidays in a shimmering gold leaf sleeve. Veuve Clicquot Pencil and Clicquot Pencil Rosé also have special cases, one that keeps your bottle chilled for up to two hours! Then there’s the biggie, the new limited-edition collaboration between Dom Pérignon and Lenny Kravitz. Dom Pérignon is 2008 vintage only – it’s hard to get hold of and retails for $300.

Napoleon Bonaparte would take Moët to each battle. After all, he was said to say, ‘In victory you deserve it; in defeat you need it’. Salut!