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Looks, power and performance: Christchurch European


The Porsche Boxster needs no introduction to the sports car faithful. Since the original was launched in 1996, so many in the premium sports car market have been playing catch up to this mid-engine German soft top adrenaline pump.

 

This 718 Boxster, on loan from the team at Christchurch European, is probably the most underrated Boxster in recent years.

The 718 namesake harks back to the iconic Porsche 718 RSK which competed at Le Mans and the Targa Florio.

The 718 Boxster is a looker, especially when viewed from the rear.

The 2L turbocharged 220kW flat four found in the 718 provides more than enough oomph. Also, the fact this example comes with Porsche’s delightful six-speed manual gearbox is icing on the cake.

Turn the key and the 718 growls into life. Lower the roof, aim that svelte nose at the nearest piece of bendy bitumen, and the summer fun begins.

In Sport mode, you can push the 718 as hard as you like while never being out of control.

Heel and toe gearchanges are a joy and with an even weight distribution, the 718 can be easily coaxed into every corner, with that turbo flat four beautifully on song.

Whether cruising to your local, or wringing its neck on your favourite coastal pass, the 718 Boxster provides you with a driving experience few premium sports cars can match.

For more information on this Porsche 718 Boxster and other European exotica, check out Christchurch European.


 

Conquering the road: Jeep Gladiator review


For 70 plus years, Jeep have known a thing or two about off-road adventure. Oh, and believe it or not, pickup trucks. The first of these was the 1947 Jeep 4X4, and the last offering was the Cherokee based Comanche, which was discontinued in 1992. Now, the pick-up Jeep is back, and available in New Zealand.

 

 

Called the Gladiator, it steps into the arena of our ever popular mid-sized ute segment.

Styling wise, the Gladiator is certainly not subtle, carrying the rough and ready fascia of all lifestyle Jeeps.

From the B-pillar forward is carried over from the Wrangler, the rear deck is bespoke, and means the Gladiator is 780mm longer than its sibling.

The deck itself can haul around 620kg of whatever with ease and get this, you can even drive with the doors removed, and the windscreen folded down.

The Gladiator is available in two spec levels, the Overland at $89,990 and the Rubicon at $92,990.

Under the bonnet sits Chrysler’s 3.6L Pentastar V6 engine producing 206kW and 327Nm married to an eight-speed ZF automatic.

The Rubicon also manages 12.4L/100km, and Overland 11.2L, which is adequate for a big truck like this, and so is its 2.7 tonnes towing capacity.

My Gladiator was the Rubicon, which came with Jeep’s Rock-Trac Active On-Demand 4X4 system with four stage low and high range set up with Tru-Lok locking differentials, and Off Road Plus, which allows the driver to select from multiple options to suit whatever terrain they are devouring.

Inside, Jeep’s fourth generation Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto makes a welcome appearance.

The Gladiator also gets a tonne of safety gizmos – like blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, electronic roll mitigation, and speed collision warning plus.

On the move, the Gladiator is surprisingly supple on the smooth tarmac of inner-city Christchurch, though it’s not a slick as some of its more conventional ute rivals. However, off road is another story.

With those diffs locked in place, the Gladiator Rubicon is a revelation off the beaten track. Despite its girth, it doesn’t muck around about mucking in.

The Pentastar V6 provides plenty of low-down torque and thanks to 286mm of ground clearance, its ability to crawl along rocks and other large obstacles is staggering.

Despite being a tad pricey, the Jeep Gladiator takes the ute segment and gives it extra bad-ass cred. Adrenaline fuelled adventure junkies take note, this one is a good‘un.


 

Upping the game


After nine years, we have a new Toyota Yaris. The first of Toyota’s new TNGA “B” Platform, and it happens to be rather nice.

 

As far as looks go, the Yaris is more rakish and aggressive than its predecessor, with a gaping whale shark-esque grill and frowning headlights, it certainly looks like this urban supermini wants to be a sports car. It also sits 10mm lower and the wheelbase is longer by 40mm.

My test car was the base GX petrol priced at $25,990. Under the bonnet sits an all-new 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine producing 88kW of grunt and 145Nm of torque.

Transmission comes in the form of a rather slick CVT. Fuel consumption is also rated at a decent 4.9L/100km.

The new Yaris gets a fair amount of kit as is standard, such as dynamic radar cruise control, active lane keep assist, eight air bags, and a new Pre-Collision System.

The latter works by alerting the driver of crossing pedestrians or cyclists at hard-to-see intersections.

The cockpit itself is a mixture of durable plastics and funky design touches.

The driving position is low and comfortable, while visibility is decent all round.

My only gripe was slightly intrusive A-pillars.

On the move, the three-pot engine is incredibly refined throughout the rev range, and when you select PWR mode, a firm foot can bring the horizon closer at a brisker rate than first expected.

The Yaris GX has certainly raised its game and proved the old warrior has plenty of life left in it.


 

A model makeover: Honda Cars


The Honda CRV has been with us for many a moon, and for many SUV owners, it remains a crowd favourite. The CRV has been given an automotive nip and tuck for 2021, so what exactly has changed?

 

Well the outside benefits from a few styling tweaks, such as a redesigned front and rear lip, European style exhausts and new look 18-inch alloys.

Grunt for all models comes from a 1.5L turbocharged VTEC four-cylinder engine with 140kW/240Nm mated to Honda’s CVT transmission.

It is quite a refined power unit, and pulls strongly above 2,000rpm.

The range starts at $39,990 for the CRV Touring and tops out at the $51,790 CRV AWD Sport Premium. However, the level of kit you get as standard is quite impressive.

Hands Free Electric Tailgate, intelligent dual zone climate control, advanced display audio with 7-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Garmin Sat Nav, LED daytime running lights, parking sensors front and rear, reversing camera and lane watch camera.

Honda’s sensing safety gizmos also come as standard across the range. The Sport Premium, my test car, gets AWD, leather trim, and 19-inch sports alloys.

The Sport and Sport Premium also get wireless charging for the first time, too.

The CRV manages to still drive very nicely, although it is most at home commuting or motorway cruising.

All in all, these little tweaks have transformed the CRV from a decent SUV, into a very desirable package.


 

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.


 

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.


 

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.