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Ferrari SP38 – A one of one.

The Ferrari SP38, the latest offspring from Ferrari’s One-Off programme, has been unveiled at Fiorano where, after the ceremonial handover to one of Ferrari’s most dedicated customers, the car was immediately put through its paces in a series of hot laps.

Designed by the Ferrari Design Centre on the chassis and running gear of the 488 GTB, this unique car reflects the specific vision of a client with a deep passion for racing. The result is a model that can be driven both on road and on track, while at the same time expressing all the beauty and innovation inherent in Ferrari’s road cars.

The all-new bodywork, in a newly conceived three-layer metallic red, marks a radical departure from the language aesthetic of the donor car. The twin-turbo, twin-intercooler set-up of the award-winning 488 GTB inspired the team to reference the mighty F40 as an icon from which to instruct the project’s general direction.

Compared to the 488 chassis, the visual mass of SP38 appears concentrated over the rear wheels as the wedge design sharply stretches towards the front. In plan view, the strongly tapered nose expands towards muscular wheel arches giving the car potency and agility. Specific inset headlights were designed to be as thin as possible, with the mandatory DRL (daytime running lights) units relocated to add character and functionality to a slim bumper lip reminiscent of the 308 GTB. On the side, the defining air scoop of the 488 GTB is completely concealed where the sheet metal folds in on itself from the low beltline on the door and into the rear wheel arch and three-quarter light.

The effect is dramatic, as it reinforces the importance of the rear volume while, at the same time, maintaining the air flow to the intercoolers at the base of the side window. The dynamic styling continues over the engine cover, which sheds its rear glass and is treated as a flip-up assembly in carbon fibre with shutlines slashing the flanks in a gesture directly reminiscent of the F40’s. Three transversal slats slash across the engine cover to evacuate engine heat, and the smooth integration of a substantial rear spoiler is a hint at the famous rear wing of the F40. The trailing edge of the spoiler links seamlessly with the wing and with the aerodynamic diffuser at the bottom, to create a suggestive frame surrounding the tail volume.

For more on Ferrari, click here

Lexus NX 300 Review – like a glove

Lexus NX 300 Review New Zealand

Gloves are amazing items. They have a history that’s as long as your arm and as a garment, have (pardon the pun), their fingers in a lot of pies. They have arguably been referenced back hundreds of years BC to Homer’s Odyssey and the History of Herodotus, and quite probably further, as I personally feel they would have kept caveman’s digits warm during the ice age. Gloves, Mitt’s, Mittens and Gauntlets (whatever you choose to call them), have been manufactured in everything from rubber and steel to wool, fur and leather, their versatility is vast and the common or garden glove can be seen quite literally on hands everywhere, from tradespeople to fashionista’s, astronauts to well, gardeners. In summation, gloves offer comfort, support, warmth and sometimes even fear (think customs officers), but I guess the big question you may have right now is, where is this all leading? Well the moment I sank my behind in the driver’s seat of the new Lexus NX 300 F Sport, I couldn’t help but think that it fitted like a glove.

The Lexus NX 300 is a compact (although not exactly) luxury SUV. With four models on offer, It’s proven to be a very successful vehicle for Lexus NZ and actually provided 25% of their total model sales in 2016 with half of those being hybrids, so it’s importance is fairly obvious – so how do they improve it?

The NX 300’s looks are as dramatic as the rest of their current range (well maybe not as much as the LC 500), with a multitude of sharp, shadow-inducing lines, however Lexus has taken a softer approach to the SUV’s nose with the spindle grille and front bumper blending in to the flow of the vehicle far more seamlessly. Since I had the F Sport to play with, the headlights were three low beam LEDs and it had an individual LED for the new adaptive high beam system with some attention-getting, sequential turn indicators. Round the back, chromed exhaust tips merge with the bumper that has been widened and the taillights have been elongated to offer an overall, gruntier, more masculine appeal.

The door handles sense your approach and welcomes you with a gentle glow (obviously more apparent at night), and from then on in, you’re embraced by Lexus luxury and in my ‘F Sport’ case, sporty leather redness. From door card to the centre console, virtually all the trim has contrast red stitching while chrome accents surround vital markers (such as the start/stop button) and Lexus has also added a ‘scale’ effect to some of the larger trim statements. In Lexus speak, the cabin offers ‘Flare Red leather accented upholstery along with the Naguri style aluminium’, so now you know. The infotainment screen has been increased to 10.3” and can be controlled by steering wheel buttons or the ‘polarising’ Lexus touchpad. Then there’s that driving seat. Now I know we are all different shapes and sizes but for me, slipping into the NX’s control seat was how I assumed a baseball would feel being completely cosseted inside a high-quality leather Akadema ProSoft series Catchers Mitt – it immediately felt right.

From then on, it was a simply a case of getting better acquainted with the new refinements of this luxury SUV. The cabin is filled with driver’s aids and safety, with nearly all of it within arm’s reach. It has plenty room for rear passengers and ample stowage cubicles, that are good sized and practical (especially as this is a compact SUV) and I even discovered a mirror hidden under the leather top on one of these storage areas – just so you can see how good you look in this NX 300 I guess.

Underfoot power comes via a two-litre turbo engine which has peak outputs of 175 kW and 350 Nm of torque, all through a six-speed automatic gearbox, it feels sweet on a run but slightly lumpy in heavy traffic (I may have been in Sport+ though), either way, in hindsight I should have used the  SUNA traffic avoidance information – doh. The NX300 F Sport comes with driving modes that range from Eco to Sport+ but also gives you a custom drive mode option (powertrain, steering, air conditioning, and suspension settings) that allows this SUV to ‘fit you’ even better. Behind the scenes, the adaptable variable suspension now has continuously variable control, featuring 650 levels of damping that can automatically adapt to changing conditions – which sound very fancy, but all you need to know is that the ride feels strong and confident with great ‘turn in’ ability.

As usual, the vehicle became the family chariot for the week’s review and it fitted in nicely. It was good to know that the Lexus Safety System + was watching over us, (pre-crash safety with autonomous emergency braking for vehicles and pedestrians, lane departure alert with steering assist and vehicle sway warning systems, all-speed dynamic radar cruise control etc), but just as important, the Cobalt blue SUV made the neighbours curtains twitch more than once.

The Lexus NX 300 is maturing and very much finding its feet. The softening design flow combined with a lower centre of gravity I feel, offers a much greater kerb appeal and the sweet scent of leather inside never fails to excite the luxury senses. Of course, it’s not an overtly apparent sports car but it offers up a fair amount of fun when wanted (I’d look to make a beeline for it at a Lexus Summer of Performance event) all while being quite the family town and country vehicle. I can happily say, that for a small family or upwardly mobile couple, it would certainly fit like a glove.

For more on Lexus, click here.

Will this be the best SUV ever?

Rolls-Royce Cullinan

Probably the most anticipated Rolls-Royce ever has just been unveiled – the Cullinan. Named after the largest diamond ever discovered which now resides in the British Crown Jewels, the Cullinan is an all-terrain high-bodied car that makes the idea of authentic, luxury off-road travel a reality.

The 6.75 litre twin-turbo V12 Rolls-Royce engine delivers 420kW and 850Nm of torque to the all-new all-wheel drive, all-wheel steer system needed to overcome any challenge.

Tested to destruction all over the planet, Cullinan is an incredibly capable off-roader that sees the development of the ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ for off-road enjoyment, without sacrificing any Rolls-Royce on-road behavior.

Luxury travel is now Effortless, Everywhere.

For more on Rolls-Royce, Click here

A Pick me up for Swindon

HONDA REVEALS CIVIC TYPE R PICKUP TRUCK CONCEPT AT SMMT TEST DAY

Honda UK has stolen the show at the annual SMMT Test Day this year by showcasing a Civic Type R Pickup Truck concept, almost a year after the launch of the standard road car.

Built by a specialist team from the Product Engineering department at the Honda of the UK Manufacturing (HUM) factory in Swindon and codenamed ‘Project P’, the Civic Type R Pickup Truck has been modified and developed from the standard road car to create potentially one of the fastest pickup trucks on UK roads.

To create the Project P concept, the team used a pre-production version and adapted the design rearwards from the B-pillars of the car, with sweeping lines from the roofline to the back hiding a flatbed loading area in the centre of the car where the rear seats and boot space would normally be.

Finished in Rallye Red, the concept retains the iconic rear wing associated with both the FK2 and FK8 Civic Type R, which, in a clever piece of engineering, is movable to allow direct and unfettered access to the rear of the truck.

Using the same powertrain, suspension and gearbox as the standard road car, it is estimated Project P will complete the 0-62mph sprint in under six seconds and reach a top speed of over 165mph. It also possesses the same driving modes of comfort, Sport and +R, Project P offering both ride comfort as well as a unique racing capability on track.

Alyn James, project lead, commented: “We have a special projects division at the factory in Swindon and this project was a fantastic opportunity for the team to show just what their creative minds could do. The passion that our engineers have for Honda is shown in our latest creation and we are even considering taking it to the Nurburgring to see if we can take the record for the fastest front wheel drive pickup truck!”

Phil Webb, head of car at Honda UK, added: “This Civic Type R Pickup Truck concept by the special team at our Swindon-based plant demonstrates the passion and commitment of the team there – going above and beyond outside working hours to deliver the final product. There are no plans to put this in to production but we will be using it to transport our lawn and garden products as and when required!”

For more on Honda, click here

Holden Commodore VXR review – some of the people

Holden Commodore VXR review – New Zealand

It’s hard to please everyone. After all, aren’t we all supposed to as unique as a snowflake? Aside from our physical appearance, size, shape, looks and so on, our tastes differ, attitudes range (often quite severely), dress sense, what we opt for in terms of entertainment – I could go on and on. On top of all this, the world in which we live in continues to evolve and so do the social attitudes that surround it, don’t get me started on the PC police. Ahem, in short, it’s impossible to please all the people all of the time – so why do we (and more specifically car makers) continue to try?  

Let me first point out that whether or not we choose to believe it, there is substantial evidence that our planet is experiencing climate change and the boffins have assigned the blame to CO2 gases and the like. Emissions are definitely in the crosshairs, everywhere from cattle to cars, and since our bovine friends refuse to wander around with catalytic converters strapped to their rear end, it’s the automotive industry that is well and truly under the microscope – and in turn, the poor old gas-guzzling relics of the past. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a very big fan.

Electric and Hybrid vehicles are being touted as the future and they may just be (there are other options of course), but in the meantime, car makers have been urged to make their fossil fuel burners more efficient and in many cases, this means the demise of industry icons such as the V8.

Following the release of Holden’s all-new Commodore, there has been a backlash of social stoning that quite frankly, defies logic, particularly since many of these comments are from people that haven’t even set foot inside this new model!

Like the majority of vehicle nameplates (and other V8 stalwarts), the Holden Commodore is moving with the times and adopting 4 and V6 cylinder hearts. They are moving away from rear wheel drive only vehicles to front and four-wheel pedalers while keeping to their sedan and wagon sizing, and modernising the styling while they’re at it – but this has not gone down well with some people. Holden NZ handed me the keys to their liftback VXR to see what I thought.

To me, the new look has a lot of class to it. Of course, there will be those that don’t like the sleeker euro styling. They won’t want the more sculpted nose or upmarket grille. LED matrix Headlamps may be more efficient and brighter but is that really so important?  The 20” alloy wheels will be too big for a certain few, and gently kicking under the rear and having the liftback raise automatically will seem unnecessary, and the 1450L of (seat down) luggage space that lies within will undoubtedly be way too much.

Having Brembo brakes, ABS, ESC, EBD, EPS,TCS, Hill Start Assist, Lane Keep Assist, Blind Spot Alert, Forward Collision Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Alert are just for pussies, so no point in bringing them up either. Luxuries such as adaptive cruise control, Apple and android connection, heated seats are only more things to go wrong and do modern cars really require a 360-degree camera? Because let’s face it, very few of us need assistance with those tight parking manoeuvres.

Then comes the inevitable shaking of certain heads when the bonnet is lifted and the 3.6L V6 engine is exposed, regardless of the fact that it produces a very usable 235kW and delivers that power to all four wheels via an accomplished 9-speed auto box. And I believe that the key word here is usable.

What the new Commodore lacks in tyre squealing, tail drifting, licence losing rawness, it makes up for in being a taut and precise, sophisticated ride. The adaptive all-wheel drive has the ability to tame the tightest of corners and the V6 engine delivers a confident, reassuring note throughout the power band. It’s an enjoyable ride.

I totally get the fact that this brave new world is not for everyone, (and I’m sure deep down, car companies such as Holden would prefer to keep their beloved V8 forever), but, and maybe this is wishful thinking, seriously folks, drive this vehicle before picking up a stone. The VXR, in fact, the new Commodores in general, offer up a refined yet spirited drive, that IS different from the previous models – mind you, not everyone liked them either. What it all boils down to I guess, is that you can only please some of the people some of the time.

For more Holden reviews, click here

New BMW M5 with added x-factor.

BMW M5 Launch Review – New Zealand

First introduced to the automotive world in 1984, the BMW M5 was an overnight sensation. It brought together a myriad of driving emotions by combining the luxurious freedom of a large European 4-door sedan with the racing spirit of a track-ready sportscar. This year sees the new, sixth-generation BMW M5 taken into all new territory, as for the first time, M xDrive all-wheel drive now features at the core of this high-performance sedan. This change of tack sees the M5 exploring new dynamic dimensions and offering greater everyday practicality in all driving conditions.

This M-specific all-wheel-drive system brings together the outstanding agility and precision of the standard drivetrain configuration familiar from other M models with the supreme traction in all conditions offered by all-wheel drive. The various M xDrive modes (4WD, 4WD Sport, 2WD) take the driving dynamics of the new BMW M5 to a whole new level. 2WD mode even switches the car to rear-wheel drive, allowing the driver to pick their own drift angle and treating connoisseurs to driving dynamics in their purest form.

Under this performance sedan’s aluminium, M-specific designed bonnet, lies the latest generation of the 4.4-litre V8 engine with M TwinPower Turbo technology. It develops 441 kW and peak torque of 750 Nm, and channels this power through the new eight-speed M Steptronic transmission with Drivelogic. It accelerates from 0 – 100 km/h in a lightning-fast 3.4 seconds and has a top speed that is electronically limited to 250 km/h. By the way, it also boasts a combined fuel consumption of 10.5 l/100 km and CO2 emissions of 241 g/km (but obviously not while on the track).

As with all performance cars, along with upping the power and control, the vehicle’s weight has been lessened too. Even with the addition of the xDrive system, by incorporating things like a lightweight carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) roof and a weight-minimised exhaust system, the new M5 weighs less than its predecessor!

Like all M models, the new BMW M5 was honed on the world’s most challenging race circuit, the Nürburgring Nordschleife and although the suspension features M-specific kinematic and elastokinematic elements as part of its commitment to dynamic excellence, we have been assured that it will still be very comfortable when riding along the unforgiving Kiwi roads.

The new BMW M5 represents a unique blend of compelling track potential and the everyday usability and comfort of a luxurious business sedan – in short, it’s a prestigious ride with added x-factor appeal.

For more BMW reviews, click here

Skoda Octavia RS 245 – Wagon Squeals (but not where you’d think)

Skoda Octavia RS 245 review New Zealand

As I have stated on numerous occasions, the Skoda Octavia offers a welcome respite to the automotive world’s ever-increasing need to drive SUV’s. It blends saloon car good looks and handling with vast luggage space at (what some people would deem old school) knee level height. However, our insatiable desire for more speed and performance has prompted the Czech car maker to add an RS to the range and then trump it (not the Donald type) with an RS 245. We took to the mean streets of Auckland with the grin-inducing latter.

With the likes of its strongly channeled bonnet lines and quad front lamps, Octavia’s stoic design lends itself well to being sportified and the RS 245 has seized this opportunity boots an’ all. Aside from the VRS badging, the RS 245 has LED head and fog lights, the signature grille has been gloss blacked (along with the door mirrors and roof rails), the rear windows have been ‘sunset’ tinted, the exhaust pipe tips have been glossy black finished and the wheels have been increased to 19” and ‘terrifyingly’ include an Xtreme anthracite version that would make any kerb salivate (I opted to parking in the middle of the road, or used the self-park assist just to be safe).

The cockpit has received just as much attention. With Alcantara leather interior and RS sports seats. D-shape sports leather wheel and a Canton 10 speaker sound system, this, of course, is over and above its already well equipped and technologically advanced ‘simply cleverness’.

Time to get to the business end. Under the bonnet is a 2L TSI engine that directs (via a 7-speed DSG gearbox), 180kW and 370Nm to the wagon’s front wheel drive system. I’ll let those numbers settle for a while as I throw in a 0-100kph time of 6.7seconds and an efficiency of 6.4L/100k’s. To me, having that much power bearing down on two front wheels would equal a long time at junctions losing tyre tread as the wheel squeal, but this is simply not the case. Even in the wet, the RS 245’s traction control system engages with a bit of a bang (sorry about that Skoda NZ, but purely for research purposes) and along with an orange traction light flashing in sharp looking instrument cluster, the only squeals heard are the one of delight that burst forth from your wide smile. (I subsequently found out that the RS 245 possesses an active Electronic Diff Lock for the front Axle). From there it really is ‘game on’.

As the rev needle heads rapidly clockwise the 2L engine sends a reassuringly warm note through the entire cabin, it actually sounds like a V6. (Alright so this is enhanced by the Performance Sound Generator that comes with the RS mode selector but still, it’s cool).

Heading out to the hills meant that I could give the RS 245’s chassis and steering a bit of a going over. There are a few roads that I am growing accustomed to guiding vehicles around and the Skoda seemed to enjoy them too. The wagon comes across and light and responsive and overall very grippy. The gear selection is seldom caught out (I think it’s not built for some of my poor driving performance displays), however, there is paddle shift at your disposal should you require.

Taking the Skoda Octavia RS 245 wagon up to 180kW is an idea tantamount to genius. It allows owners the option to be both civil in their daily routines and yet release the hounds when the need for undiluted fun overcomes them. Directing that much power to a front wheel drive was a bit of an eyebrow raiser yet (through smart tech and mechanics) Skoda have pulled it off. The RS 245 does emit plenty of squeals but they appear to be restricted to just ones of delight!  

For more Skoda reviews, click here.

Jaguar E-PACE review – a Jeepster for your love

Jaguar E-PACE review New Zealand

Back in the early 70’s, the hair was big, the shoes were platformed and the trousers were bell-bottomed wider than Cheshire Cat’s Smile. It was a flamboyant and expressive time where collars were long and the attention span wasn’t. Popular music was Disco and more importantly Glam Rock, with one of the Glamest being Marc Bolan or T-Rex. Despite what his dinosaur moniker would suggest, T-Rex was a sensitive soul and although he was a singer-songwriter, in many ways he was also a poet. Among his long list of hits (and I strongly recommend you hunt them out) was Jeepster.

Jaguar E-PACE Review New Zealand

A Jeepster is a guy that pursues the object of his desire with unfettered tenacity, and through the song’s lyrics T-Rex sets about wooing his girl with adoration, ‘You’re so sweet, You’re so fine, I want you all and everything just to be mine’. But one line has stuck with me from the moment I first heard it, and now (after driving the new E-PACE) it seems fitting to share – after all, it is the basis of this piece.

‘Just like a car, you’re pleasing to behold, I’ll call you Jaguar if I may be so bold.’

You see, when T-Rex released Jeepster in 1971, the Jaguar du jour was the V12 Series III E-type, so being compared to ‘The most beautiful car in the world’ was by no means a bad thing!

Since then, the British marque has continued its tradition of performance vehicles both on and off the track. With their endurance and sprint racing cars at the core of models such as the XJ-S (of The Saint fame), the jaw-dropping XJ220, the XK8, S-type, and of course the F-type. And this flow on effect has now been introduced to their new E-PACE SUV.

The Jaguar E-PACE merges certain aspects from the World Car of the Year F-PACE and blends this in with styling cues from the F-type, not a bad way to begin creating a mid-sized (although I believe Jaguar refer to it as a compact performance) SUV ‘Cub’.

In many ways, it could be easier to call the E-PACE a practical sports car and here are some of the reasons why. The new cub takes its exterior good looks and driver-focused interior from the F-type. Enhanced powerful bonnet lines and muscular rear quarters bring out the SUV’s racing DNA, while its big eyes (LED headlights) and big paws (21” Alloys) are very ‘cub like’ on its smaller frame.

The cabin has been designed for both driver and passenger bias. The cockpit has a sense of encapsulation with tactile controls and fingertip access to the gears. For me, the steering wheel felt a hint oversized in diameter but I’m sure this would become very normal very quickly. Stowage and storage is class leading and with its deep centre console and angled door compartments, there is room enough for 1.5-litre bottles and ever increasingly large smartphone.

On the subject of connectivity, the E-PACE comes with vehicle WiFi and a raft of connected technology. Jaguar’s InControl infotainment system comes to you via a 10” colour touchscreen. This, combined with the 12.3” hi-def interactive driver display and very clear head up display means that you have no excuses for not being reliably informed as to where, how or why to go – banish thee back seat drivers! In fact, there is sooo much technology inside the E-PACE, that Jaguar now has an app to explain it all. Needless to say, Meridian supply the sounds, and you can also connect up your Apple and Androids.

Jaguar’s remote technology is also available, where you can find the SUV, check fuel levels and even start your car (to control the cabin’s climate) without having to go through the ‘drama’ of having to be inside – a bit of tech humour there for you.

There is an additional sense of fun that surrounds this SUV too. A Jaguar parent and cub graphic is strategically placed on the windscreen, the base pads on some of the storage compartments are animal patterned and have skin feel to the touch. Chicane lines appear in areas such as the LED tail lights and cabin stitching, some are more apparent than others but they’re there if you ‘hunt’ for them.

We took the E-Pace on a run out to the ‘wilds’ of Piha. Swapping from diesel to petrol powertrains and S and R-Dynamic models (all with 9-speed boxes). They hungrily consumed the tarmac and (thanks to Jaguar’s smart torque vectoring tech) felt secure on the road even as the heavens opened up.

With its cute (but practical) size, great looks and star performance, Jaguar’s new cub the E-PACE is sure going to grab the attention of the insatiable SUV buyers market, and when you add to this the marque’s strong heritage and wooing Glam rock love song, there’s sure to be a whole host of Jeepsters out there that are going to adore this new Jaguar.

For more Jaguar reviews, click here

 

What happens when life gives you Lemons?

Actually, the title should read ‘what happens when you register for 24 Hours of LeMon’s’ but it’s not as catchy.

As many of you car/racing nuts are probably aware, this weekend will be the 3rd 24 Hours of LeMon’s event for NZ and we (our team) will be there (Hampton Downs) with bells on – well plumbing pipe but that’s another story.

As with the good ol’ US of A, 24 Hours of LeMons is rapidly becoming a New Zealand institution. It’s a place for people to take the serious nature of Motorsport and add a big slice of fun. In essence, you grab a sub $1000 car (aka Lemon), make it safe, theme it and race it around a track for 24 hours (currently spread over two days).  It’s the thrill of Motorsport, without the hefty price tag.

Anyway, having just spent last weekend crawling over our lemon, I am happy to share a couple of tips:

First of all, don’t be too precious – if like me, you have a love of all things automotive and grow attached to cars very quickly, you will find it hard to drill holes in perfectly straight body panels or paint said paintwork with a can of ‘nearly the same colour’ paint. Try to bear in mind, that in reality, your (one step away from the scrap yard) Lemon is lucky to have you.

Secondly – the more outrageous (and ridiculous) your theme, the better your chance of actually winning a trophy. This is a race and it is (a form of) Motorsport, but I’ve seen thimbles bigger than the checkered flag cup! So theme people, theme.

C – Attention to detail. Make sure you get the basics of your car right. It’s going to (hopefully) spend a long time going round and round a track – make sure you double and triple check what makes your car go and stop.

Forth – Bribery. Despite what you may think when you see them, the management team and judges are human (barely; but they are) and as such can be bribed. All (ahem) proceeds go to a good cause – so take cash, lots of it.

Fifth – a helping hand is better than a whinge or a whine – Helpers get rewarded, whingers get shunned like rabid dogs – enough said

And last but not least – buy duct tape, lots of it. It is the essential, cure all for the weekend.

There is plenty more to tell – but we need a competitive edge (believe me).

So what happens when life gives you Lemons – You Duct tape the hell out of it!

See you on the track this weekend – fingers crossed.

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