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A refreshing highlander


For some, a Highlander is a rugby player from the deep south, to others, an 80s fantasy film starring Sean Connery. To Toyota, a Highlander is a mid-sized SUV, and a big seller.


Sarah Weber


For 2021, the Highlander has been refreshed for the fourth time, with a recent launch in Auckland and Paihia to show what’s new.
The new Highlander is being built at Toyota’s US plant in Indiana, and New Zealand and Australia are the only right-hand-drive markets getting it. Styling wise, with its wide grill and wing-like spindle, it does have a whiff of “the land of the free”.

The range starts at Toyota’s Driveaway Price of $60,990 for the entry level GXL 3.5L V6 Petrol and finishes at $74,990 for the high end 2.5L four-cylinder Limited ZR Hybrid. Two variants of the petrol are on offer, but Toyota is championing the three GXL, Limited and Limited ZR Hybrid options to spearhead its sales.

Longer by 60mm and 5mm wider, it also weighs 75kg less than the previous generation. The interior is well laid out, with all the switchgear for the infotainment system being very intuitive. It comes with a plethora of standard kit including LED headlights, rain sensing wipers, hill start assist, parking sensors all around, reversing camera, blind spot monitoring, keyless entry with push button start, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.

Toyota’s safety sense package is standard across the range with pre-collision system with autonomous emergency braking, emergency steering assist, lane tracing assist, lane departure alert, radar cruise control, curve speed reduction, and road sign assist. The ZR Hybrid has other goodies such as a marvellous panoramic roof, heated and ventilated leather seats, sat nav and an impressive 11-speaker JBL sound system.

Our drive started at Emirates Team New Zealand HQ on Auckland’s Viaduct and we made our way north to Paihia. The Hybrid was certainly frugal on the juice, however it felt distinctly softer in the corners despite the torque delivery of petrol and electric power being linear and responsive. By contrast, both the GXL and Limited petrol models felt sportier in the corners, but you don’t get the same level of straight-line grunt.

Then again, as we made our way from Paihia to the amazing sight of 2000-year-old kauri tree, Tane Mahuta, the Highlander showed it was never about devouring bendy bitumen, but more about being a comfortable and solid performer on a long trip, which it managed quite well.

As far as first impressions go, the latest Highlander, thanks to the levels of kit and the inclusion of Hybrid could very well tip the segment in favour of Toyota. I’m looking forward to testing it out on Canterbury roads soon.



Storm the Palisade

Big seven-to-eight-seater luxo SUVs are fast becoming the cash cow of many automotive brands. This is the Palisade, Hyundai’s spearhead at this segment.



The turbo diesel engine in my Limited felt very strong and eager to get going. Keep it between 1600 and 4000rpm, and you make brisk progress despite the girth. The Palisade’s eight-speed auto box on hand sending drive to all four wheels via Hyundai’s proven HTRAC AWD system is very smooth. However, the gear selector buttons on the centre console were not terribly responsive.
As far as cabin refinement goes, the Palisade shows just how far Hyundai has come in the last decade. Features like the 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system are easy to use and everything you touch feels akin to some in this segment costing twice the price.
The on-board kit is a Palisade triumph too. Heated and ventilated seats, power sunroof, heated steering wheel, wireless charging, Apple carPlay/Android auto, blind spot collision avoidance assist, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision avoidance, which at speeds of up to 80km/h, will put the brakes on quicker than you could yourself. Though I was not tempted to try it! The rear ‘Captains Chairs’ were another treat, able to recline and move forward and back so one could strike the optimum Captain Kirk pose.
The Palisade is probably not the most engaging of drives, but then again it is not meant to be. Off the beaten track, its multi terrain control drive modes sends optimum torque to which ever corner needs it most. It is a great system and a doddle to use.
All in all, there is much to like about the new Palisade. The price is up there, but those after a luxurious yet frugal SUV, should definitely keep the brochure on this one.




Price: $114,990
Engine: 2.2L Four Cylinder Turbo Diesel
Power and Torque: 174kW/440Nm
Transmission: Eight Speed Automatic
Drive System: All-Wheel-Drive
Fuel Consumption: 7.3L/100km
Wheels: 20inch Alloys
Weight: 2057kg
Towing Capacity: 2200kg
Dimensions: 4980mm (L), 1975mm (W), 1750mm (H)


Size doesn’t matter

It’s not often I get taken off guard but my visit to Avon City Ford to pick up the Ford Puma, ST line, had me scratching my head. Sam Baker and I were going over the top things about the vehicle when out came the words: “It’s a one litre, three-cylinder engine…”



The silence was deafening. Gone are the thoughts that a mid-range SUV with great interactivity features with an application where you can preheat or cool your car via your phone, your wireless phone charging in the console storage area, automatic tail gate opening with foot or remote, sports seats and cool metal floor pedals and priced at a good $37,990 plus on roads.

Suddenly there’s an elephant in the room.

Okay! I decided to pick up a friend drive to Sumner on a beautiful autumn day. A simple heating/cooling system, nice stitching on interior panelling and good storage space/feature.

Leather wrapped gear stick and steering wheel, complete a great looking, simple interior.

The exterior was appealing also. So, the big test was how did it perform at 92kW.

I dropped my foot straight down from start and it took off, surprisingly well. Open road to 100Km/h and it’s flying along, effortlessly.

There you go, technology did the job. I dropped it back with half a tank of gas a week later and walked away thinking for the first time, size really doesn’t matter. Nice one Ford.


Classy Euro Cars: Christchurch European

The journey from street side to the main office goes something like this. BMW X5s on the left, Range Rover Sport on the right. A few steps forward. Wow, Porsche 911 in front, Audi RS6 at the rear. Finally, to top it all off, a yellow Lamborghini Gallardo and bright red Ferrari F12 soaking up the admiring glances. Want to know the most amazing thing of all? They are all for sale at Christchurch European.



Christchurch European. It means exactly what it says. Very possibly, it’s one of the biggest ranges of European vehicles to suit any budget or preference in New Zealand.

The choice is staggering, Jaguar, Land Rover, BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Porsche, Volkswagen, Aston Martin, Maserati and as mentioned before, even the raging bull of Lamborghini and the prancing horse of Ferrari make up the stable.

Niki and his team take into account just what kind of European vehicle you are after and will happily steer you in the right direction. With finance, insurance, and a comprehensive on-site workshop, you get all the advantage of a main dealer but with the best of all the major brands on one site.

After a European family run-around? A terrain conquering luxury SUV? Or a low-slung automotive adrenalin pump? You know where to go.


All that Jazz: Honda Cars

It’s not every day Honda gives us a new Jazz. Few cars in this segment are lapped up as much by consumers ever since Honda released the first Jazz almost 20 years ago. For 2021, the Jazz has more tech, a new face, and the addition of electrification.



2021 Honda Jazz Crosstar

Price: $30,000/$30,800 two tone
Engine: 1.5L DOHC VTEC Petrol
Transmission: CVT Auto
Power/Torque: 89kW/145Nm
Fuel Economy: 5.8L/100km
C02 Emissions (g/km): 133
Alloys: 16-inch Cross Design
Warranty: Five Years with Unlimited Ks


The range kicks off at $28,000 for the entry level Life and finished at the electric hybrid e: HEV Luxe at $35,000. My test car was the mid-range $30,000 Jazz Crosstar. This middle child is the first Jazz with an urban crossover stance.

Honda has raised the ride height by 33mm and additions like roof rails, water resistant upholstery, redesigned steering and a nose which distinctly has a whiff of adventure about it. I also loved the optional two-tone colour scheme.

The new interior is spot on. The first things you notice are the two spoke steering wheel, larger windscreen and much thinner a-pillars.

A clear digital instrument cluster stares at you and all the switchgears feel solid and well put together.

The new nine-inch infotainment screen is a peach too.

The 1.5L VTEC petrol engine pulls strongly and despite the raised ride height, you can still carry a decent pace through the bends while remaining relatively planted.

All in all, Honda’s new Jazz is an even more tempting proposition.


Lost your keys? Access Lock Specialists Ltd

The way we keep our cars locked up, secure, and still in our driveways, has changed dramatically within the last 20 years. Two men who know this are Roger Barriball and Richard Nind, who established Access Lock Specialists Ltd in 2007.



At this time, laser cut transponder keys and keyless entry into vehicles were just starting to take off, but so many cars were yet to fully embrace this technology.

Today, not only do most cars come with these keys, most have also moved into proximity (smart key) technology using “push to start” ignitions.

The car simply recognises you have your key or fob with you and allows the car to be unlocked and started without inserting a key.

However, while this technology makes fumbling in our pockets for our car keys a thing of the past, it still cannot prevent keys being lost or stolen.

Roger and Richard know transponder keys and smart key fobs better than anyone and can help if you require a new smart key or spare for your car.

Staff can programme the required key to match your individual car’s on-board computer. The specialists also recommend having two key fobs handy.

Operating from its showroom and workshop at 170 Waterloo Road, Hornby, and its mobile workshop vehicles staff will come to your rescue, not just for automotive keys, but also the home and business locks and safes.

For more information and a full list of services, or to purchase online visit the website.


Beaming all the way

If you are a car enthusiast, the BMW M Town is the ultimate in driving experiences; a global event that has BMW devotees fizzing at the opportunity to experience all elements of the new releases. As Metropol’s motoring writers, Ben Selby and I were lucky enough to be invited to Hampton Downs Racetrack near Hamilton last month to try out the best that BMW has to offer.



The slalom (taking road cones as fast as you can) was an agility test and I had a great time in the convertible Z4. Highly responsive and fun with the roof down, it handled well.

Next was the off-road in the X7 M50i. The all-terrain four-wheel drive featuring X-drive made this all too easy, although incline descent using the automatic decent feature and speed control plus the camera system had me doing things I wouldn’t try at home. Seeing just how much untapped potential there is in a beast like that was great.

The racetrack element was – of course – what we were all most looking forward to. International BMW drive instructor, Mike Eady and his team kept us safe.

The car range included the M5 Competition sedan, a V8 petrol capable of 0 to 100 in 3.3 seconds, with 750 in torque and 430 kW of evil at $234,300.

The M8 Competition coupe has similar specifications but a price point of $342,900 The shape on this is just hotness and the performance and holding were something else.

I was driving all models in a tweaked sport mode, giving me softened steering but acceleration and breaking at top performance.

The M8 stood out as the best performer, but it was the new M3 and M4 Competition models which took my eye and my drive experience.


The M xDrive system and Active M differential – complete with M – specific traction control, link up with the dynamic stability control (DSC) system to ensure precisely judged interaction for the driving situation in hand.

The M4 is certainly quick off the mark, and a touch bouncy at speed. Insert big smirk on my face here.

The new larger “kidney” grills and flared rear wheel arches have prompted mixed reaction. But, change is good and I think it is going to grow on everyone.

Coming in at $168,990 for the M3 and $172,990 for the M4, the models sell in a range of colours named after the world’s racetracks.

I love the M4 in Sao Paulo yellow and the M3 in Isle of Man green. It just pops.

With 260 participants taking part in the week-long event, it was great to be a part of a well-organised motoring occasion.

Ben took out the premium award, scoring a wonderful BMW race helmet, but I was the bad boy who drove too fast and hit to many road cones in the slalom. Next year Ben, next year!


This is no old goat

Prior to Subaru New Zealand’s marketing campaign for the new Outback, I am ashamed to admit I hadn’t realised what the acronym GOAT meant. It does of course mean, ‘Greatest of All Time.’ With the new Outback, Subaru claims it is the GOOAT. So, is this the ‘Greatest Outback of All Time’? Let’s see.



The new Outback gets a few styling tweaks front and rear. This is probably the best looking Outback for some time.

Under the bonnet is a 2.5L boxer four-cylinder petrol engine like before, but this one is 90 percent all new. Power has risen to 138kW and 245Nm of torque. The SLT gearbox gains a gear, making it now an eight-speed set up. Subaru also claims a combined fuel figure of 7.3L/100km, and towing capacity increases to two tonnes.

Standard kit is generous with Subaru’s fourth generation EyeSight safety system combining lane centring function, speed sign recognition and lane departure warning. There are also directional LED headlights, rear cross traffic alerts, blind spot monitoring, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and reverse automatic braking.

While the interior itself is very similar to before, the first thing you notice when inside is the large tablet-style 11.6 touchscreen infotainment system. This is by far the highlight of the new Outback’s cockpit, as it was very clear and intuitive.

My test car was the flagship Outback Touring which boasts niceties such as heated Napa leather, electric sunroof, heated steering wheel, and a rather good Harman Kardon sound system which gives one the closest experience to hearing Pink Floyd live.

The driving position is more natural this time around and the level of quality materials used for the switchgear and trim is much improved too. This is easily the most refined Outback yet.

On the road, that refinement translates well into the drive itself. Honestly, the new Outback feels a completely different animal to the previous generation.

The nearly all new boxer four-pot is quieter and peak torque comes in low down in the rev range, leaving you seldom exceeding 2500rpm. Tweaks to the suspension and dampers have resulted in less body roll. Ride comfort has been improved too.

Heading on to the gravel trails and dusty inclines behind McLeans Island, it was time to play with X-Mode.

Subaru’s off-road modes deal with all manner of terrain well, with X-Mode sending power and torque to where it is needed most. You also gain the addition of deep snow/mud settings to the mix.

The entry level Outback kicks things off at $49,990, the mid-range Outback X is $54,990, and my flagship Touring tops out the range at $57,990. In summary, the new Outback exceeds all expectations. Honestly, I was not expecting to like it as much as I did. The GOOAT? Absolutely.


Lavish restoration

Enzo Ferrari described the Jaguar E-type when launched at the Geneva Auto salon in March 1951 as “the most beautiful car in the world.” If you take a look from pretty much any angle, it is easy to see Enzo was right.


Now I am an Avengers fan. The 1961 English TV series, not the Marvel version, and that’s where you first see the E-type in the marketplace. Fast at 240km/h and sexy as hell, this isn’t your go to the supermarket to pick up a loaf of bread…or is it?

Jaguar Classic has unveiled its first matched pair of E-type 60 Collection cars and revealed full specification details for the 12 expertly restored and sympathetically uprated 3.8-litre E-types built to celebrate 60 years of the iconic sports car.

The E-type 60 Collection cars are restored and refined by the experts at Jaguar Classic in Coventry, and combine flawless quality and exceptional engineering know-how.

The most significant mechanical upgrade is a specially developed five-speed manual gearbox which features synchromesh on all ratios, helical cut gears and a reinforced cast aluminium casing for enhanced reliability and greater durability as well as closer gear ratios and smoother changes.

The 265bhp 3.8-litre six-cylinder XK engine benefits from an authentic 1961-style alloy radiator, with electric cooling fan and electronic ignition for everyday usability, as well as a polished stainless steel exhaust system.

This new exhaust system is dimensionally identical to the standard mild steel system but produces a slightly deeper tone and offers greater longevity.

In addition to the centre console, the bonnet badge, clock face within the tachometer, fuel cap and chassis plate are all finished with a commemorative E-type 60 logo created by Jaguar Design, featuring the years 1961 to 2021. A light beech-rimmed steering wheel, as fitted to 1961 cars, features a 24-carat gold horn push.

Every car is supplied with a tailor-made E-type 60 car cover, tool roll and jack storage bags to complete the enhancements and exemplify the attention to detail lavished on each vehicle.

In summer 2022, the six customers and their guests will take part in the ultimate E-type pilgrimage, creating their own set of E-type memories in classic English style. Now, if someone could loan me one, there’s a loaf of bread in a supermarket in Timaru I need to go and get.


Top down, revved up

The Lexus LC500 Coupe caused quite a stir when it was launched. Now Lexus have chopped the roof, resulting in the LC500 Convertible. However, is it any better topless? After being on display at Lexus Urban Polo, Lexus New Zealand gave me the keys for 28 hours to find out.



The LC500 Convertible’s 5L V8 is shared with the RC F coupe and GS F saloon. It is also naturally aspirated with power rated at 351kW/540Nm.

A 10-speed automatic box with paddles sends drive to the rear wheels. All in all, Lexus have kept it brilliantly simple. No turbos, no AWD, just a tonne of power and V8 thunder.

Inside it is probably one of the most attractive places to sit of any car I’ve seen on sale. Lately, all the toys found in a car of this type can be found, even the epic 15-speaker Mark Levinson sound system, though the mousepad control is a bit vague at times.

You quickly forget that the second you lower the roof, and press that starter button. The sweet sound of a naturally aspirated V8 engulfs your surroundings before settling to a soft burble at idle.

Pointing the LC500’s nose to Akaroa, it shows itself to be a sublime tourer. In Comfort or Eco mode, you can devour kilometre after kilometre in almost electric quiet, and despite being so low to the ground, ride comfort is pretty much perfect.

Every bump is soaked up and you sit low and far back, resulting in the perfect driving position. Rear visibility is so-so with the roof up, but most of the time you want that roof down, especially as you can raise and lower it at speeds of up to 50km/h.

Zero to 100km/h in five seconds isn’t rapid fire by today’s standards, but the LC500 Convertible isn’t about acceleration and top speed that can re-arrange your fillings. It’s more about big power under control.

Many have made the mistake of regarding the LC500 as an out and out sports car. It isn’t, it’s a sporting tourer, but when you want to have some fun, the LC500 Convertible will still give shots of adrenaline the moment you give it stick. Plant boot and a butterfly valve in the exhaust opens up.

Weighing in at a snip over two-tonnes, the LC500 is no lightweight, but it can still dance the sports car dance really well.

Downshifts at high RPM are accompanied by a crackle and boom from the exhaust like a far-off battlefield and despite not being super sharp, it isn’t long before you are giggling as you blast out of another corner with that V8 on full song.

At $234,000, the LC500 Convertible is considerably less than its nearest rival, the new Aston Martin Vantage Roadster. All in all, the LC500 Convertible gets the blend of long-distance cruiser and back road blaster just right. This one is very good indeed.