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Author: Ben Selby

Supra speedy, supra slick


The Toyota GR Supra has been the subject of plenty of gushing reviews by the motoring press since its launch in 2019. There is a good reason for this mind you, it is a properly fantastic sports car and continuation of the Supra name which laid dormant within Toyota’s family for far too long. Now, within a year of being on sale, Toyota have powered up the GR Supra even more for 2021. We went to Hampton Downs Raceway to have a play.

 

 

The GR Supra has been the spearhead of Toyota and Toyota Gazoo Racing’s efforts to reinvigorate the performance arm of the brand.

Power from the GR Supra’s 3.0L twin scroll turbo straight six has been increased by 35kW, bringing the power figures up to 285kW.

This is the result of manifold redesign and relocation of those meaty twin turbos.

Torque figures stay the same at 500Nm, but a piston redesign means you get it all from idle right up to the north side of 5000rpm.

Add this together, along with the eight speed ZF automatic gearbox and kerb wight of 1570kg, and the GR Supra will reach the New Zealand speed limit in 4.1 seconds, 0.2 seconds quicker than before.

Little else has changed over the outgoing car, the GR Supra still comes with Active Differential, Variable Ratio Steering, Active Sound Control, Performance brakes package with red callipers and Toyota’s Safety Sense Package.

However, a GR Supra Limited edition is available in a rather tasty looking Horizon Blue paint scheme.

The standard car is now $98,990, whereas the Limited Edition is the same $99,990 as the outgoing car.

So, out onto a rain-soaked Hampton Downs we went, first in the outgoing model, then in the new car, and boy can you tell the difference between the two.

That extra 35kW becomes apparent once you give it what for. From a low 1650rpm right to the redline, the next corner arrives much sooner than first expected.

Up shifts from the ZF auto box are still very slick, and that turbo six pot gives you a sweet-sounding bellow when shifting down.

Despite the wet weather, we were able to see the far side of 180km/h before standing on those performance brakes and turning in.

The steering is still so communicative and when the back comes out to play, which it often did during our wet laps, you can catch it again with relative ease.

The new GR Supra is not a hard car to drive fast, and very easy to handle when you get near the limit.

So, has extra grunt made the Toyota GR Supra better? You bet. Can’t wait to test it off track on Canterbury roads in the new year.


 

Powering up the Mazda: Blackwells Motors Ltd


Mazda’s Skyactiv-X powertrain has been making headlines all over the motoring world. There is a good reason for this, as it has boldly gone where no internal combustion engine has gone before. We had a play with the new Mazda CX-30 Takami thanks to Blackwells Mazda.

 

The CX-30 is one of two models in Mazda’s range to benefit from Skyactiv-X, the other being the Mazda3 hatch.

So Skyactiv-X, what exactly is it? Well, the 2L four-cylinder petrol engine is world-first in commercial engine design, combining petrol power with all the benefits of a compression ignition you would find in a diesel. So you get high-end power, and all the low-down torque, resulting in the best of both petrol and diesel engines in one petrol unit.

Let’s break it down a bit further.

Mazda’s new Spark Plug Controlled Compression Injection, or SPCCI, allows the 2L Skyactiv-X petrol engine to get the right amount of fuel and air mixture into the combustion chamber during the intake stroke of each cylinder.

Petrol is then injected directly around the spark plug, creating a bigger bang.

This results in a richer and more immediate surge of power when the spark fires after combining the air and petrol, instead of the gradual build up you would get with a conventional petrol engine.

Skyactiv-X models like the CX-30 are also a mild hybrid thanks to Mazda’s new M Hybrid system.

This works by storing up electricity from the starter motor generator when you lift off the throttle. It then sends the electric drive to wherever it works best, meaning less stress on the petrol engine.

Put these two ground-breaking systems together, and you get a petrol car which produces less carbon emissions, 135g/km, and greater open road efficiency.

There is more power under the bonnet too, with the CX-30 Takami Skyactiv-X producing 132kW of grunt, 18kW more than the regular petrol CX-30.

Fuel consumption is less too, at a claimed 6L/100km.

While that is a bit to take in, one can safely say you notice the fruits of Mazda’s labour when one is at the helm. Moving off and you quickly notice the more immediate delivery of 224Nm of torque.

From idle to high in the rev range, the Skyactiv-X works its magic, providing you with crisp throttle response and top end power.

At cruising speed, there is no droning to speak of and if you keep it in the sweet spot of around 1800rpm around town, it’s almost electric quiet.

Plus, with Mazda’s G-Vectoring steering on hand, you can slice and dice through traffic too.

Also, being the range topping Takami, the CX-30 gets all the niceties like heated leather seats, premium Bose stereo, 360-degrees reversing camera, heated steering wheel, and power tailgate.

Also, everything you touch and operate has a very satisfying click to it.

The CX-30 Takami Skyactiv-X can be yours for $54,990 plus ORC, making it $4000 more than the regular petrol CX-30 Limited.

However, once you get a chance to experience just how clever this revolutionary new engine is, you would be hard pressed to go back to a regular petrol engine.

If this is the future evolution of internal combustion, then count us in.


 

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.


 

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.