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In Focus


The team at Ford are always delivering a great range of vehicles to suit everyone’s needs. The Ford Ranger currently sits at number one in New Zealand, but now it’s time to drop the spotlight on the Ford Focus ST, a hatch with the exhilaration of a Mustang.

 

This is a multi-award winning car in AA New Zealand Car of the Year Awards.

Not only does it have multiple drive modes, it also ticks the aesthetic boxes.

A panoramic sunroof with visor; exceptional lines starting from the bonnet all the way to its hot rear; Porsche-style alloy rims in metallic grey just accentuate the great colour of ruby red. I just had to test drive.

Recaro sport seating was another brilliant feature with the wonderful white stitching on exquisite leather. Even the door panels were that little bit more lush.

Operationally, dial gear change is always a challenge for me as I have a manual as my personal car and I’m a bit of a control freak. Fumbling around to do three point turns on a busy Christchurch street can be a challenge. You can say it makes the interior “cleaner” – but I still love a gear lever!

You can change gears at your fingertips with the paddle shifters, which help when cornering, and it has got some real up and go.

With an eight-speed automatic, 206 kW and 420 Nm it doesn’t feel like a four cylinder, 2.3L – and you certainly need those front ventilated disc brakes!

There’s a heads-up display which makes you feel like a fighter pilot not taking your gaze off the road.

Combine that with all the added sports features and you’ve got a little rocket.

There’s also improved acceleration from the last model, and the very smooth gear changing made for a great test week.

Taking a trip on my favourite test road to the Sign of the Kiwi put it next to the VW Golf GTi as one of my favourite agile performance vehicles.

Hill start assist is also an asset, even though I’m old school on hill starts. And even though I really don’t need the satellite navigation system, I can imagine it’s a great addition for those that do.

The interior is tidy and very sporty with leather trim. There’s a lot of bang for buck with the price at $59,990 plus on road costs.

With the options on this, it would be hard to go past a test drive with Hemi Peek and the team out at Avon City Ford. It’s great hatchback at a great price.


 

Join the Rayvolution


Being an automotive writer, I’ll have a go at anything; especially when it has an element of fun – and wheels.

 

With the advance of technology and capability of new and improved battery life we are seeing a surge of cost-effective electric vehicles.

This of course brings into the limelight the electric bicycle.

I have not ridden one before so when Greg Sneddon from Rayvolt offered me the opportunity to test one for a bit, I did. On a beautiful day in the garden city, I had a run through with the Rayvolt Cruzer.

Rayvolt are based in Spain and produce a wide range of what I would call bespoke, steampunk-style bicycles.

Think gun metal, Clockwork Orange and English racing green, along with leather seating and carrier bags to provide a very “yesteryear” feel.

Download the ELVA app to customise all your settings, from speed right through to effort ratios. It also has music and a GPS.

I decided to just go with the fastest option with the least amount of effort and I was off on a thrill of a ride. Using 13 electric cells with 48V and 10.5 Amp Hours (ah) on the standard battery and 48.21 on the duel – you have quite an amazing range of 120km.

Sailing round North Hagley park was sheer exhilarating fun. Overall, the experience was well worth it; 10 out of 10 and that’s just for fun.

Yesterday’s charm, tomorrow’s technology, today’s fun. If you’re looking at an electric bicycle, you might as well join the Rayvolution.


 

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.


 

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

 

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.