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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.


 

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.


 

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.


 

X Marks the Spot


Tesla is just Elon Musk’s side project to SpaceX yet it’s become the benchmark in the automotive industry when it comes to electric vehicles.

 

 

I once said it’s the iPhone of cars, the game-changer. It has made a dynamic impact on how the rest of the industry now performs. I was fortunate enough to drive the X and S models and they really do stand out as something quite special – 0-100 in 3.7 seconds in Ludicrous mode is a great example, not only of a good vehicle but good marketing.

Meanwhile 250 kmh on top speed is also another feature, hopelessly lost on New Zealand roads but pure power on an SUV. I’ve driven a lot of SUV vehicles, but the X really is in a field of its own. And that’s what you’re buying – something unique. There’s a number of the S models around town which suggests Tesla is making inroads in New Zealand.

Its quality and performance are right up there with the best in the luxury ranges. It’s good to see the prices have finally come down to allow the competition to really begin. It will be an interesting race.


 

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

A Happy Hybrid: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV


Like a long awaited follow up to a band’s first big album, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is back. In 2014, I had the opportunity to be amongst the first in the country to drive the original Outlander PHEV and, for the time, the plug-in electric hybrid SUV had no equal. Now, with EVs and plug in hybrids becoming a common sight on our roads, can the Outlander PHEV still cut it? Mitsubishi NZ lent me a PHEV over the Christmas and New Year period to find out.

 

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

 

The new PHEV consists of two spec levels, the XLS at $60,990 and the range-topping VRX at a very special current price of $55,990. Both the XLS and VRX have a good selection of standard kit on hand. Features like adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and a reversing camera are much appreciated. Inside you get push button start, keyless entry, dual zone climate control and rain sensing wipers. A clear and concise 7’’ touchscreen Infotainment system supports Apple CarPlay & Android Auto and Bluetooth Connectivity too.

The VRX comes with leather heated electric seats, LED headlights, power tailgate, front and rear parking sensors, blind spot warning, lane change assist, multi around view monitor, rear cross traffic alert and ultra-mis-acceleration mitigation system.
The direct drive plug-in electric and petrol set up makes a welcome return. Both XLS and VRX come with Mitsubishi’s 2.0-litre DOHC MIVEC Petrol engine and twin motor 4WD electric drive system. Power output is 88kW/189Nm. As the PHEV has no gear box, drive is sent to all four wheels via the electric motors. The petrol engine then becomes a generator if needed.

Styling-wise, there is very little to distinguish the PHEV from its conventional petrol counterparts. Only the subtle blue PHEV emblem on the boot and front guards give the game away. The new Outlander is significantly better to look at than the previous generation.

Inside, the switch gear is easy to operate. Instead of a conventional rev counter you have an eco gauge which displays when you are using or charging the battery. A-Pillars are a tad intrusive but visibility itself makes up for this no end. Plus, 463 litres of boot space is nothing to be sniffed it.

On the move, the PHEV is still very car-like to drive. The shift paddles can be used to control the level of regenerative braking which in turn charges the batteries. Whether around suburbia or the motorway, the PHEV still provides you with sublime silent running, with average fuel consumption of 1.7-litres/100km.

While it no longer has the market all to itself, the Outlander PHEV is still a fantastic plug-in package. Plus, the VRX is pretty darn close to its petrol sibling when you factor in price. All in all, Mitsubishi has pulled the rabbit out of the hat once again with the Outlander PHEV.

 



 

Vision EQ Silver Arrow

Piece of Automotive Art: Vision EQ Silver Arrow


On 18 to the 26 August, Pebble Beach in California was privileged to host the Mercedes-Benz unveiling of the Vision EQ Silver Arrow show car during Monterey Car Week. The event attracts car afficionados and collectors from all over the world.

 

Vision EQ Silver Arrow
COMBINING TIMELESS AESTHETIC APPEAL WITH FUTURISTIC VISION

 

The one-seater vehicle also pays homage to the successful record-breaking W 125 car from 1937. A work of art as much as a high specification vehicle, the paintwork in alubeam silver is reminiscent of the historic Silver Arrows which, for weight reasons, did not have a white paint layer. The interior is dominated by traditional, high-quality materials such as genuine leather, polished aluminium and solid walnut. The digital cockpit, meanwhile, points directly into the future; it includes a curved panoramic screen with back projection, as well as a touchscreen integrated into the steering wheel. This year’s Monterey Car Week was a real flashback to early 1900s in style, with several models unveiled harking back to that time.

“Over 80 years ago, the historic Silver Arrows demonstrated that Mercedes-Benz was a pioneer when it came to speed thanks, among other things, to their streamlined shape,” says Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer at Daimler AG.
The EQ brand is shaped by a distinctly avant-garde aesthetic. This arises from the combination of a previously unknown beauty, the conscious clash of digital and analogue elements, as well as the seamless merging of intuitive and physical design.
Falling in the fine space between tradition and modernity, the interior of the Vision EQ Silver Arrow represents the values of Progressive Luxury, a constant theme with Mercedes in its core brand but even more effervescent in its prototypes. The design idiom combines timeless aesthetic appeal with futuristic vision. When the driver’s cockpit is folded forwards, it provides a view of the surprisingly wide interior.

Double screen and virtual racing, the driver of the Vision EQ Silver Arrow is encompassed by a large panoramic screen on which a 3D image of the surroundings is projected from behind, giving it an almost computer game feel from the cockpit. For this a virtual racetrack is superimposed onto the real roadway on the panoramic screen and the driver sees their opponent either ahead of them or behind them as a “ghost”.
The Virtual Race Coach assistance function helps you become a better driver by giving instructions during the race. This soundless Silver Arrow has an output of 550 kW (750 hp). That’s about 25 percemt faster than a Ferrari 458, so not one to be trifled with. Retro art at its finest. Now, how do I get a test drive?

 



 

Suzuki Swift

A Hot Match: Suzuki Swift


Every time Suzuki announces a new Swift, people notice. But when Suzuki raises the curtain on a new Swift Sport, many sit up like meerkats keeping watch. There is a good reason for this kind of reaction, the Swift Sport is, and always has been, a cracker of a hot hatch. Now into it’s third generation, it’s time to give Suzuki’s newest pocket rocket a good going over.

 

Suzuki Swift

 

For 2018, the Swift Sport has been on a diet with the new model weighing in at 970kg; 90kg lighter than before. The Sport also sits on lower springs and the 17inch sports alloys and new honeycomb grille are nice touches. Rear door handles are now hidden in line with the windows and the Sport still retains its lovely rear diffuser and twin exhausts.

Under the bonnet, the Swift Sport leaves behind its naturally aspirated roots in favour of turbo power. The Boosterjet 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine, despite having a name like a toddler’s car seat, is a real peach. Power and torque have also gone up to 103kW and 230Nm respectively, while returning 6.1L/100km.

Inside, the semi-bucket seats feel and look the business while still managing to house your rear in relative comfort. You sit relatively high but despite this there is still sufficient headroom. All interior features feel slightly angled toward the driver too which is a nice touch.

Moving off and you realise that extra torque thanks to the turbo was long needed. At speed I found myself short shifting below 4,000rpm most of the time. A stark contrast from the previous 1.6-litre N/A model, which left you ringing its neck right to the redline in order for you to make serious progress. Plus, heel and toe shifting via the short throw six speed box is great fun.

The term go-kart was invented for a car like the Swift Sport. With acceleration likened to a jack russell pulling at the lead, well weighted direct steering, and the ability to corner almost flat thanks to its lowered stance and Suzuki’s new HEARTECT chassis, you have the confidence to push hard and know it won’t bite back. Rides much better too.

At $28,500, 2018 Swift Sport ticks so many boxes, more so than any of its predecessors. By making the new car easier to live daily without sacrificing the fun, Suzuki has churned out yet another epic little all-rounder. In terms of bang for your buck, they seldom come better than this.

 



 

BMW i3

Electrically charged: this little electric BMW is all powered up and ready to go

In 2011 BMW introduced its ‘i’ brand to incorporate all of its electric plug-in vehicles or hybrids. Last year I was fortunate enough to drive the exceptional i8. This month I was introduced to its zippy little cousin, the unique BMW i3.

BMW i3

 

The base model of the i-range, the i3 also has a bigger brother: the i3s. Looks-wise, it’s a bit like a ‘cube’, with unique suicide doors that open up, revealing no centre pillar and rear seats that can be laid flat to allow an amazing amount of storage space in the boot area. It also has a surprising amount of leg room and a large front windscreen.
It’s packed with loads of great details like the carbon fibre chassis and hemp interior panelling, making it not only light, but also a little bit greener.
The concierge system is a BMW service that allows you to connect with someone to assist you if you are lost or need assistance. Yes! Even if you’re looking for good Indian food in another city! Crazy, huh? The Li-ion battery is 33kWh and, although that doesn’t sound very powerful, I felt it was more than enough for getting around town.
And that’s really what this is; an easy to park, no petrol cost, rear view camera, turn cycle of 9.9 meters, town mobile. With petrol prices around $2.30 a litre, most of us are thinking of options. Charging from your garage wall socket, easy to use, a $77,200 starting price, all with a 200km range.

BMW i3Although comments about how it looked were not super complimentary, I found it cute with its 19-inch BMW i-light alloy wheels, turbine styling, easy connectivity and simplicity of use being great features. Its keyless entry and start were good, but the ignition switch, park and gear lever sit behind the steering wheel on what people would call a column shift.
That was a little annoying, I thought, though the reasoning I guess is so that you are constantly thinking about being on/off or driving so you don’t make the mistake of leaving it in drive and having it roll away. Unlike a fuel car, it doesn’t give you clues when you take your foot off the accelerator that it’s still in gear.
Charging time is not long but like your phone, you’re going to have to make sure it’s put on the charger at the end of the day. Even though it has regeneration power options when driving, you do have the option of quick charge and that takes about 15 minutes at locations that offer them. This is BMW’s mass production electronic offering for the day to day vehicle and in my opinion, it’s good! To take a test drive, go and see the wonderful Mary or Lorenzo at Christchurch BMW to try for yourself. Good driving.

Stingray

Chevrolet’s wild child: The Stingray

The man at the Rangiora Caltex was in awe. “Wow beautiful car mate! It’s a Stingray aye?” One could not fault him on his observation skills, for the car in my care for the day was a Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, one of the true giants of automotive Americana.

Stingray

The Corvette is the definitive all-American sports car. Having been in continuous production since 1953, very few people, petrolheads or not, haven’t heard of Chevrolet’s wild child. While countless variants have come and gone, each of which have their equal share of fans, the second-generation Corvette Stingray represents, for many, the Corvette’s finest hour.
This 67 Stingray, supplied by Waimak Classic Cars, has all the muscle and style of Muhammad Ali. Whether you take in the beefed up rear haunches, pop up headlights, shark gill like side air vents, text book long bonnet with sloping rear coupe lines, or the wrap around rear window (earlier models had a split rear screen), a Stingray is a car you can gawp at for hours.
Like Ali in the ring, the Stingray’s 5.2-litre 327 Cubic Inch V8 packs a punch. While many lust after the 427 Big-Block, the workhorse 327, in this writer’s opinion, provides more than enough grunt than is needed. Producing a claimed 300 hp, it’s mated to a three-speed automatic box, which happens to be silky smooth.
The Stingray’s cabin is one of simplicity. The wood rim wheel and simple white on black instruments stare at you, while the oversized analogue clock takes centre stage. Other options include a sideways mounted push button AM radio and electric windows.
Hold the brake pedal, turn the key and that delicious V8 triumphantly fires. At idle you can almost hear every single cylinder firing. Ah the grumbling bliss of a simple small block.
Once in drive and on the move, you quickly remember you are driving a fifty-year-old American car, and all which that implies. Steering is very vague and you won’t be coming to a stop quickly, but you forget all that the moment you give it stick.
Feed in the power and that muscular bonnet, which seems to stretch to the horizon, rises with ease. In the bends it actually tracks well despite the complete lack of steering feel and its prehistoric leaf spring suspension set up.
However, the Corvette comes into its own when out for a cruise. Whether rumbling around your local suburban stomping ground or at 100km/h along a straight North Canterbury road with one arm on the wheel and one out the window, the Stingray makes you giggle as it turns heads and devours the miles.
Then as soon as it arrived, it was gone. And, as this writer watched it rumble away, the words from the man at Caltex rang loud and clear, “What a beautiful car”. And the Corvette Stingray is just that. Beautiful.

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

Resurrecting a classic: Mitsubishi brings back the Eclipse and our writer Ben Selby has given us the run-down on it

The last time we saw a Mitsubishi ‘Eclipse’ it was during early noughties and it was a soft, wallowy coupe built for the American market. Now though, like it did with the Mirage, Mitsubishi has resurrected the Eclipse brand to showcase its latest sports soft roader, the Eclipse Cross.

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

For those after something smaller than an Outlander, yet bigger than an ASX, the Eclipse Cross fills a gap in an ever-growing niche market for the Japanese manufacturer.
Visually the Eclipse is the Marmite of the motoring world – its edgy styling won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the distinctive sharp angles and one of a kind tail section brings a real statement to the Mitsubishi family.
The range consists of four models, starting with the entry point 2WD XLS at $41,690 and finishes with our test car, the top of the range AWD VRX at $47,590.
All variants come standard with Mitsubishi’s infotainment system with seven-inch screen, Apple Car Play and Android Auto. All infotainment functions are controlled by a mousepad in easy reach of the driver, though it does require a frim press. Other standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels, lane departure warning, and reversing camera.

Mitsubishi Eclipse CrossThe VRX we tested, thanks to its $5,900 premium, over-the-entry-level XLS, comes with adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, heated electric seats and a very clear and concise head-up display.
The interior itself, for driver and passengers, is a nice place to be. Leather chairs are very supportive and sitting upright makes for a good driving position. Rear passenger headroom is a tad restrictive due to the sloping roof line and 374 litres of boot space is modest at best. However, drop the 60-40 split rear seats and this increases to 653 litres.
All models also share Mitsubishi’s all-new 1.5-litre MIVEC turbo petrol engine with 112kW of power and 254Nm of torque. Mated to an eight-speed CVT auto, you will be returning fuel figures of 7.3L/100km.
On the move, power delivery from the MIVEC Turbo is linear and very smooth. Electric power steering does lack in feel but still manages to be sharp and precise. The high riding stance means you aren’t as planted in the bends and it does get a bit wobbly, but thanks to the AWD system, there is plenty of grip on hand to keep you out of the trees.
The Eclipse Cross shines best when cruising motorways and suburbia. On the former, simply set the adaptive cruise control at 100km/h and the engine just hums as you waft along on a wave of torque. Plus the addition of suspension and damper tweaks makes for a sublime ride.
All in all, thanks to a sweet power unit, good levels of equipment, and that love or hate styling, the all-new Eclipse Cross, despite a few niggles, is well-worth considering.