DriveLife New Zealand's Enthusiast Driven Motoring Publication, Automotive News, New Car Reviews and Used Car Reviews Fri, 23 Aug 2019 00:53:51 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 2019 BMW Z4 M40i – Car Review – Bigger is better Thu, 22 Aug 2019 23:45:31 +0000 There has been a lot of talk about the new Z4 and its distant cousin, the Toyota Supra. It’s getting a bit of a beating from the public without any of them actually testing it. Both cars might have been co-designed or cross developed, but it’s fair to say that the type of customer that looks to the BMW Z4 M40i is not the same customer who looks at the Toyota Supra.

As this was the first Z4 I have driven, and due height issues with the previous smaller Z4’s, I was keen to see what BMW were offering in this now niche market.

The Range (or the differences)
There is only one Z4 available in New Zealand, that is the BMW Z4 M40i (starting from $133,800)

Highlights for this model include 19″ M light alloy wheels double-spoke style, BMW head-up display, BMW live cockpit professional with 10.25’’ display, driving assistant, Harman/Kardon surround system, M Sport brakes, M sport differential and M sport seats. 

The engine is the 3.0-litre turbocharged straight 6, which generates 250kWs of power and 500Nm of torque. It’s connected to the rear wheels by an 8-speed sports automatic transmission and can propel the Z4 to 100kmph in 4.5 seconds. Fuel consumption is advertised at 7.4 L/100km. 

Standard features for the M40i includes: M Sport differential, electronically controlled limited slip differential and adaptive M suspension. Driving Experience Control with Sport, Comfort, Eco Pro and Adaptive modes, auto start/stop, electric power steering with Servotronic, launch control and performance tyres. 

Driver assist options includes: active cruise control, lane departure warning, lane change warning, front collision warning with brake intervention, crossing traffic warning rear, rear collision prevention and speed limit info. Parking assistant, which includes a rear view camera, parking assistant, reversing assistant and lateral parking aid.

Paint selections available are Alpine White, Black Sapphire, Misano Blue, Glacier Silver, San Francisco Red, Frozen Orange and Frozen Grey II. Our test car was in Misano Blue, which looked great. 

Some of the optional extras available includes: steering wheel heating, tyre pressure indicator, mirror caps black, soft top roof, anthracite silver effect, M seat belts and BMW Individual high-gloss black with extended contents. There is also a First Edition package which combines many of these options into one $7000 package.

The Z4 has a wide range of optional extras available, for a full list of standard and optional specs please check out BMW New Zealand’s website

First Impressions
The first impression was strong, as you can see by its Misano Blue paint selection. This car stood out for miles in Wellington’s BMW dealership amongst a sea of black, silver and white cars. This was perfect; cars like this should not blend in, they should stand out from the crowd, personally I think it looks amazing in blue.

This loud blue really helped to make all of the design lines push out, the cool shark-fin side grille behind the front wheels, and the line that ran back from the bottom of that all the way to the rear wheels. The body had a lot of shape to it, and you felt it enjoyed showing it off. 

The roof was up when collected, and due to the weather I would have to wait to see what it looked like with the roof down or how it was meant to be. 

The Inside
When inside the M40i, you feel like you’re almost sitting on the ground. It’s a rather low car, with a low seating position, which leaves you with a nice sports-car feeling. Even for a tall guy like me, my head was well below the top of the windscreen, something I have not been as fortunate with in other two-seat convertibles

The seats, door trims and centre armrest were all covered with the Cognac leather option, the rest of the surfaces were black. It would not have been my personal choice, but it was not bad. The seats are very comfy, I could see myself doing long drives without any discomfort. 

The interior is clean and free of clutter, the major feature is the central media display and driver’s cluster which are now running BMW Live cockpit professional. The main driver’s display is very clean and customisable. It displays speed, rpm, fuel efficient, petrol, heat, drive mode, gear selection, time, range, and a nav in the centre, all at the same time. I really liked how they have laid it out, everything works nicely together without feeling too much.

I would have liked a more sporty steering wheel, as the one in the M40i felt a bit bland and boring. Maybe something with a flat bottom, some alcantara, just something different. This is something BMW has done to some of its other performance cars, leaving you to option better wheels if you so prefer. Apart from that the wheel was kept clean and didnt have too many buttons on it, leaving the focus cleaner on driving.

The central media display is also nice and clean, with the home screen laid out into apps, which can be adjusted in any order you prefer. The nice part of this is that it allows you to have several things showing at the same time, like the Nav on one half, and then the other half split in two again, with media playing on top and phone connection on the bottom. It’s a really nice system, easy to navigate and find what you’re after without getting lost in menus.

To add to this, there has been another milestone reached, something I complained about in the 2017 BMW M2 Coupe – Car Review – No M Button Required. The car being displayed in the M2 was always grey, even though the car itself was blue. What might feel like a small things, I am happy to report that the car in the driver experience modes is the same colour as the car you’re in. Not a big win by any means, but I will take what we can get. Nice one, BMW.

Yet again BMW have decided to reinvent the layout of the controls around the gearstick. It seems like every BMW we test, this changes. I felt the one from that other models had a better layout as they have now moved the driver experience controls behind the gearstick. This actually makes it rather had to get at, as your hand is sitting nicely on the gear stick, so to make any selection you have to lift pull your arm back like a struggling T-Rex. Rather surprised that they didn’t see this issue before they want to market.

Above this area and under the dash is a small storage cubby, which has an area for coins or small loose items, a usb plug and 12-volt socket, and the wireless charging pad, Most of the time I have found these hard to deal with, sometimes they need perfect placement to get the charge working, others are so hidden that you always forget your phone, or they are hard to get in and out. As the one in the M40i was front to back with the car, it was super easy to drop in and see if the charging had started. Then if you wanted you could cover that area up, very nice.

Just beside the electric hand brake button you have the control to lower or raise the roof. As the roof neatly stores in a space just behind the seats, without the need for the boot to open or close, the entire operation happens in a blink of an eye. I think it takes 5 seconds in total to go from roof to roof down, and the same the other way around too.

The bonus to how the roof operates is that you never lose any boot space, like other convertibles do. Many have a tray that is required to be lowered so the roof can sit in the top of the boot space without crushing anything. This also reduces the boot space a bit more than you would expect. The boot in the M40i is not enormous, but it’s a good size at 281-litres and it has a good opening space. If you happen to have any long items, or skis, there is a hole in the boot that runs into the cabin, to allow you to load trick items in the boot and cabin, neither of which are affected with the roof down.

The Drive 
Now we get down to the nitty gritty, what’s the Z4 M40i like behind the wheel? Right off the bat you can tell it’s a bit of a cheeky car; in comfort mode it’s sedate but there power is there if you want it. Steering feel is nice and light and the car gives you a level of confidence about driving it.

The low seating position really feeds back a lot of information about how the car handles, the ride is firm, but not uncomfortable. With more spirited driving, you really felt the G forces pulling at the car from side to side as you swept through the corners. The servo steering was fantastic, so accurate, it always felt like I could place the car within centimeters of where I wanted it.

The note from the engine and exhaust was really nice, even in Comfort mode, there was a nice gurgle to it. This all got much better then you moved over to Sport mode, louder sounds, pops, crackles and gurgles.

In addition to the noise change when you switch to Sport mode, several things happen. The ride firms up, engine becomes super quick to react, steering feels sharper and the rear end pulls back a bit on the traction control. When in Sport if you pull out of an intersection and put your foot to the floor, the rear wheels will spin up, allowing you to skid for a short period of time, and finally feed in the traction control. This may sound a bit scary, but it’s not. You never feel like the car is going to spin around in a 360 uncontrollably. The resulting feel of this is really fun and it’s exactly what a sports car like this should be like. I never once felt like the car would over do it and spin out, it was always in control and the more I did it the more I enjoyed it. It really showed the dark side of the car’s design, and the heritage of BMW’s rear-wheel drive sports cars.

The other side was the sun soaked coastal cruiser, this is where this car shined (excuse the pun). Everytime the sun was out (which in winter in Wellington, is not often) I would do my best to get out into the M40i. With the roof down, you just wanted to drive until you ran out of roads. My only slight complaint would be that the only heating options you have are the seats and the normal vented heaters – something Mercedes-Benz has sorted with the air scarf system. 

I rarely drove the car in Eco Pro or Adaptive mode, both felt unnatural for this type of car. Over the week I had the M40i, I achieved 11.2L/100km combined fuel consumption, which is high compared to the advertised figure of 7.4L/100km. However it’s a sports car, and I am sure I could have achieved a much lower fuel consumption figure, however that would really defeat the purpose of the car in the first place.

I really enjoyed my time in the M40i, it’s a great car that has an exciting fun side to it. If It was not ironic, it would be a perfect mid-life crisis car. 

What it’s up against
If you thought the coupe market was shrinking, then you should check out the mid range convertible market. Less and less models seem to be available in the mid to high price range, which only 2 or 3 options in the sub $100k bracket and the rest or up in the high-end luxury supercar market.

Brand / ModelEnginePower, kW/Nm0-100kmh, secondsFuel Usagelitres/100kmTransmissionPrice Highest to Lowest
Jaguar F-Type Convertible3.0-litre, V6280 / 4604.98.6Auto$149,000
Mercedes-Benz AMG SLC 432.0-litre 4-cylinder180 / 5204.78.39G-Tronic$143,600
BMW Z4 M40i3.0-litre 6-cylinder turbo250 / 5004.57.48 Speed Auto$133,800
Alfa Romeo 4c Spider
1.8-litre, 4-cylinder turbo177 / 3504.56.8ALFA TCT Auto$129,990
Porsche 718 Cayman3.0-litre, 6-cylinder 257 / 4204.76.9PDK or Manual$123,900
Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged221 / 400 7.25.7Auto or Manual$119,900

Looks great with the top down
Interior is clean and modern
Suits loud colours
Sounds like a sports car
Drives like a sports car too
Multiple drive modes 
Perfect weekend cruiser
Really comfortable, for what it is
Good boot space
Roof folds nicely away without taking up valuable space
Perfect for taller people
The steering wheel is a bit boring for a sports car
Drive mode selection not placed ergonomically.
Not everyday practical

What do we think?
I was not sure what to expect from the new BMW Z4, as mentioned it has been taking a lot of heat from the co-developed Supra, while having to live up to its previous Z3 and Z4. I have yet to test any of those modes, so it’s hard to say how it stacks up,, but I really enjoyed driving the M40i. 

The Z4 M40i to me is a fun weekend drive, sporty track day or top down country cruiser. It’s the type of car you feel confident behind the wheel, as it will let you know early when you’re pushing the boundaries. 

Every time I drove the Z4 M40i, I was left with a grin on my face, it’s easy to drive, comfy while feeling a bit naughty and sporty too. You also don’t have to be pushing any speed limits to hear the great noise from the exhaust. 

It almost ticks every box, but it’s really the second car in my opinion, as the overall practicality of a car like this for everyday life is limited.

But as a fun toy, it’s damn near perfect.

Rating – Chevron rating 4.5 out of 5


2019 Z4 M40i

Vehicle TypeConvertible Sports Car
Starting Price$133,800
Tested Price$133,800
EngineBMW M Twin-Power turbo 6-cylinder petrol engine, 250kW power and 500Nm torque.
Transmission8-speed sports automatic
Kerb Weight, Kg1,568
Length x Width x Height, mm4336 x 1864 x 1306
Fuel Tank, litres52
Spare WheelNo spare
Fuel Efficiency Advertised Spec – Combined – 7.4L/100kmReal World Test – Combined – 11.2L/100km
ANCAP Safety Ratings5 Stars
Warranty3 years
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Ford Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo Coming to New Zealand Thu, 22 Aug 2019 20:42:15 +0000 Ford Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo Special Edition to join MY2020.25 line up with a distinctive identity, and offered in either 4WD or 2WD

The return of the Ranger FX4 to the line-up, now with the Bi-Turbo powertrain as standard, brings customers a unique Ranger that combines upgrades with enhancements and individualisation.

New Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo features include a unique Ebony Black finish mesh grille, darkened Bi-LED High Performance Lighting System, exclusive 18-inch mesh alloy wheels and FX4-specific extended sports bar.

Specific FX4 leather-accented seating sees Race Red stitching that’s also used on the FX4’s steering wheel, gear selector and padded, premium soft-touch instrument panel, providing with the cabin’s darker interior finishes.

The Ford Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo Special Edition will be offered as part of the 2020.25MY Ford Ranger line-up arriving from December this year. Based on the volume-selling, highly equipped Ranger XLT double-cab, Ford hopes the return of the FX4 nameplate brings with it an even more distinctive identity, with unique design elements inside and out for a fresh take on Ranger’s renowned versatility.  

“We are excited to be able to offer our customers the new FX4 with the Bi-Turbo engine alongside the class-leading ten speed automatic transmission.  To have the addition of both a 4WD and 2WD Ranger FX4 really steps things up for them and it is the first time we have offered the Bi-Turbo/10-Speed combination in a 2WD Ranger,” said Simon Rutherford, Managing Director, Ford New Zealand. “And it’s all wrapped in its very own design elements and features, to offer customers a Ranger with a genuine identity as a stand-alone model.”

The Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo sits between the Ranger XLT and Ranger Wildtrak models, giving customers greater choice with a package that offers the same capability and dependability for which Ranger is known.

Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo with more
The Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo brings a host of new features to the Ranger customer. The Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo has a unique front mesh grille, finished in Ebony Black, flanked by darkened versions of the Bi-LED High Performance Headlights introduced for Ranger XLT, Wildtrak and Ranger Raptor. The front-end view also brings an Ebony Black lower valence and mirror caps to create an FX4 identity.

New FX4 specific 18-inch alloy wheels, an inch larger than the Ranger XLT’s 17-inch alloys, continue the black detailing, with black DLO, door handles and front guard fender feature contrasting the red ‘FX4’ lower front door and tailgate decals, all with a 3D effect.

Completing the look, the FX4’s tray hosts a protective bed liner and an extended black-finish sports bar.

The extensive black treatment applied to the outside is designed to impress with the five exterior colour choices for Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo, which consist of Shadow Black, Arctic White, True Red, Meteor Grey and Aluminium Metallic.

To summarise the Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo exterior enhancements:

  • Darkened Bi-LED High Performance headlights
  • FX4 mesh front grille in Ebony Black finish
  • 18-inch FX4 alloy wheels
  • 3D effect FX4 front door decal in distinctive red
  • 3D effect FX4 tailgate decal
  • Black-finished FX4 extended sports bar
  • Ebony Black exterior mirrors, door/tailgate handles and fender features

Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo interior: distinctive upgrades 
The Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo’s cabin has specific FX4 front seating. The sports bucket seats are leather-accented with a special pattern design, and are embossed with red FX4 logos on the seatbacks. These compliment the contrasting Race Red stitching that’s been applied to the gear selector, handbrake boot and the Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo’s steering wheel, door trim and special FX4-branded floor mats. 

Bolstering the overall effect is the Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo’s premium black ‘soft top’ instrument panel, inspired by Ranger Wildtrak, while the door tops are finished in Tinted Graphite to further bring out the Race Red detailing throughout the cabin.

Specific interior treatments for the Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo:

  • FX4-designed front-row leather-accented seating with contrasting Race Red stitching and embossed FX4 logos
  • Leather-appointed second-row seating with FX4 Race Red stitching detail
  • FX4 carpet mats in both front and second rows
  • Premium soft-touch instrument panel top
  • Tinted Graphite accents on instrument panel and door trim
  • Race Red contrasting stitching on instrument panel, steering wheel, gear selector, centre console

In addition to the FX4-specific appointments, the Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo brings standard cabin features including SYNC 3 with voice-activated sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto[i] smartphone compatibility, a full-colour reversing camera and digital instrumentation.

5 Star Safety: Driver Assist Technologies standard

Driver Assist Technology standard on Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Active Park Assist, Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Keeping Aid (LKA) with Lane Departure Warning and Driver Alert, Traffic Sign Recognition and Automatic High-beam headlights.

The Adaptive Cruise Control reduces driver workload by maintaining a pre-set distance to the vehicle ahead. The Active Park Assist is a segment first. This advanced system takes account of the dimensions of the vehicle, and helps ease the burden of parking. The driver needs only to apply the throttle and brakes, as the system steers the Ranger into the parking space.

The current Ford Ranger line-up has been rated at five-stars by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP).

Under the bonnet: power with precision
For the first time, Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo is offered with the latest generation 2.0 litre Bi-Turbo, 10-speed powertrain as standard on either the 4WD or 2WD.

With 157kW/500Nm, the Bi-Turbo powertrain was first introduced on the Ford Performance Ranger Raptor and is fitted with the specifically tuned, new generation 10-speed paddle shift automatic. The 10-speed automatic includes a lock-out feature to hold specific gears when towing, giving the Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo a towing capacity of 3500Kg braked. The Bi-Turbo has a fuel efficiency figure of 6.7 litres/100km combined for the 2WD and 7.4 litres/100km combined on the 4WD. 

The Ranger FX4 Bi-Turbo Special Edition will be available alongside the full 2020.25MY Ford Ranger line-up in Ford Dealerships from December 2019. Ford NZ will announce pricing closer to arrival.

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2019 Mazda3 – New Car Review – 6 million buyers can’t be wrong? Mon, 12 Aug 2019 00:00:00 +0000 I can’t believe it – that last time I tested the Mazda3 GSX was three years ago. The thing is, I still remember it being a great drive.

There’s been a lot of hoo-haa over the new Mazda3, but you know us at DriveLife – we use these cars as our Daily Driver for the week we have with them, and we don’t mince words on things we like, or don’t like. But then, since its introduction, there’s been six million sales of the Mazda3 worldwide. Surely those buyers can’t all be wrong.

Will the new Mazda3 stand up to our scrutiny?

The Range

Prices have gone up slightly across the range, but that’s to be expected with the increased levels of standard safety equipment.

Gone is the old base model GLX, now the GSX is the base model. From there, there’s the GTX and then the Limited. All are available in a 5-door hatchback or sedan, and prices are the same for both body types.

The GSX runs at $36,595 and comes with the same engine as the outgoing model. It’s a 2.0-litre, four cylinder Skyactiv-G 2.0L unit that develops 114kW of power at 6,000rpm and 200Nm of torque at 4,000rpm, and is fitted with Mazda’s i-stop engine feature.

The GTX at $40,795 and Limited at $48,795 both have a Skyactiv-G 2.5L unit, developing 139kW of power at 6,000rpm and 252Nm of torque at 4,000rpm. This engine is equipped with both i-stop and cylinder deactivation.

We’ll have to wait until 2020 to get the new SkyActiv-X engine, a crossover between a petrol and diesel engine, with compression ignition.

All models are fitted with a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Standard equipment levels are pretty high, especially on the safety side of things. Kudos to Mazda for making adaptive cruise control (Mazda calls it Mazda Radar Cruise Control) standard across the range. Let’s hope other manufacturers follow suit, although some have already done this, like Toyota with the new Corolla.

If you buy a GSX, you’ll get 16” alloy wheels, a 7” driver’s display, an 8.8” centre display, a heads-up display (HUD), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, DRLs, an electric park brake with auto hold, automatic LED headlamps, hill start assist, keyless entry and start, a leather steering wheel and gear shift knob, rear parking sensors, all auto up/down windows, SatNav, LED taillamps, and automatic wipers.

Yup, you read it right; even a HUD is standard on every new Mazda3. It’s a proper windscreen HUD too, not one that pops up from the dashboard.

Mazda’s safety package (i-Activesense) gets an upgrade, with additional items. New additions on the Limited model include Front Cross Traffic Alert (FCTA), Cruising and Traffic Support (CTS) and Driver Monitoring. Front Cross Traffic Alert operates on the same basis as Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA). It uses front-sided radars to detect and warn drivers when approaching intersections where the view is partially blocked.

The full iActiveSense package in the GSX model includes Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM), Driver Attention Alert (DAA), Forward Obstruction Warning (FOW), High Beam Control (HBC), Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane-keep Assist System (LAS), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Secondary Collision Reduction (SCR) Smart Brake Support (SBS) with night-time pedestrian and cycle detection, Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR), and tyre pressure monitoring. That’s pretty impressive for a base model.

If you ramp up to the GTX model, wheels go up to 18”, keyless entry changes to a proximity type, aircon becomes climate controlled, the interior mirror is auto dimming, front parking sensors are added, and the iActivesense package gets Rear Smart Brake Support and Rear Crossing Smart Brake Support. The engine changes to the 2.5-litre version as well, with cylinder deactivation.

At the top of the tree is the Limited version; on top of the GSX and GTX features, the daytime running lights become LEDs, exterior mirrors are now auto-dimming with reverse tilt-down function, headlights are LED, you get a 12-speaker Bose premium sound system, privacy glass for the rear and back glass, a 10-way power driver’s seat with memory, heated front seats, leather trim, gearshift paddles and LED taillamps. iActivesense gets adaptive headlamps, Cruising and Traffic Support, and Front Cross Traffic Alert (FCTA).

You can read more about the Mazda3 on Mazda’s New Zealand website.

First Impressions

The old 3 looked pretty darn good, and the new model is even sharper. It’s taken on that current Mazda family look, and for the better. The front looks modern and aggressive, and the rear looks brilliant, especially with those sexy taillights that are almost standard across the Mazda range.

A shame though, for me, that our test car was finished in Polymetal Grey. This shade of grey is reserved only for the hatchback models of the Mazda3. Did it look different than other greys? To my eyes, not at all. It was especially harder to drive off in it when it was parked next to another new Mazda3 in Soul Red. That was the one I really wanted. Another time, hopefully.

Side on, that big, fat C pillar certainly gives the 3 a distinctive look, along with those teeny tiny quarter windows on the rear doors. At the rear, the taillights are new and are “designed to convey elegance”. They look superb, and really set off the rear of the car.

In a sea of small hatchbacks, the Mazda3 is a standout in design.

The Inside

There’s been a freshen up of the interior too, with an updated dash. It feels a lot higher than the previous model, making the car feel more cocoon like, or if you have a bit of claustrophobia, more tomb like.

Still, it’s a nice new design, with almost a split level approach, and a welcome integration of the centre display. Not quite integrated, but much better than before. The screen itself is bigger too (now 8.8”), and Mazda’s MZD infotainment system has been upgraded, along with a lot better definition.

But it’s the quality of the interior materials that stands out. Not only is the interior tightly put together, the materials used don’t look like they should be in a small Japanese hatchback. This interior puts some euro cars to shame. There’s black leatherette on the doors, dash and centre console, and then a piano black on the top of the centre console.

It’s the touch points in a car that counts – what you feel under your fingers when you are sitting at the lights. That’s where this car feels like it’s a lot more expensive car than it is. Well done, Mazda. Nailed it.

Unfortunately, making the car feel even more like a tomb inside is the use of black headlining. Both previous models I tested had beige headlining, which was perfect for keeping the interior airy.

Then there’s the rear doors. The amount of glass in the rear doors is heavily on the small side, making the back seat a great place for celebrities who want to go about unnoticed, but for kids, they aren’t going to see much out the windows.

Going back to the front, it was a surprise to see standard AC in the GSX model – not climate control. I can’t remember the last test car we had that didn’t have climate AC. There’s a reason for this; the old base model GLX has disappeared, and the new base is now the GSX. A little confusing maybe, as for most Mazda models, the GSX has always been the mid-spec model. For the Mazda3, now that’s the GTX model.

Storage-wise, there’s some good options for a small hatch. The glovebox borders on huge for the size of the car, and there’s another small cubby to the right of the steering wheel. The centre console has been changed, so you can now slide the arm rest back and forth for comfort, or to reveal storage, and when it’s right back, lift it to reveal the main storage section. Pretty nifty. The armrest is almost twice as long as that in the previous model, and has been lifted to match the height of the armrests on the doors. The cup holders have been moved from behind the gear lever to in front of it, to make it safer to grab that coffee, and this is what allows the centre console cubby to be larger as well as the larger armrest.

Inside the centre console cubby is a 12-volt socket and a single USB port. There’s another USB port up front on the centre console. Like the previous Mazds3 we tested, there’s no 12-volt socket up front, so the cord for your dash cam or whatever else is going to have to stretch right back to the centre console cubby.

Rear legroom is very good, although headroom in the rear is pretty tight.

The boot is reasonable at 295 litres – that’s almost 100 litres bigger than the new Corolla, and I’m sure Mazda dealers will be very quick to point this out to potential buyers.

The Drive

Mazda has been banging the drums about a big reduction in Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) in the new model. There’s been structural adjustments which “guarantee reduced NVH and road noise”, and lots of little improvements like reducing the amount of holes in the body, use of enhanced sound insulation, new engine mounts, and particular attention to the tyres – and other improvements.

This includes being first Mazda to feature a “two-wall” structure which leaves space for air between the floor carpeting and body panel beneath it to greatly improve insulation quality. It’s also the first Mazda to feature a seal inside the parting lines between the roof panel and tailgate on the hatch or the rear window and boot on the sedan. This greatly reduces noise caused by wind blowing into the gap and delivers rear seat passengers a far quieter ride when travelling on the open road.

But has it paid off? Handsomely; The Mazda3 is a model of small-car excellence for NVH. It’s smooth, mostly very quickly, and vibrations are almost non-existent. It’s an extremely classy, quiet ride for the size of the car. Refined is a word that keeps popping up when you are driving this car.

I’m going to add a ‘but’ here, as much as I don’t want to. The reduction in NVH has paid off, but this does mean you hear that SkyActiv-G engine even more than before. The noise of the engine in the previous model was always distinctive – as are any Mazda models. They have a tone to them that you can easily identify. On the motorway and at steady speeds, the engine is almost inaudible, but up hills or under load, it’s not so quiet. I wouldn’t say it’s bad or unbearable – it’s just that you can hear it more now that the rest of the car is so quiet.

In fact, on the motorway, there’s almost no noise of any sort. Wind noise is well subdued, as is tyre noise, and the engine is at a whisper.

The engine in the base model is a carry-over from the previous car, and that’s not a bad thing. Stick it in Sport mode, and it’s an eager, fun little car to drive. When it’s not in Sport though, it does feel like you’ve gone straight to an Eco mode. It all feels a little too sedate. It will get up and go in Normal mode if you plant it, but daily driving doesn’t feel that lively. It’s like it’s got the torque there (200Nm in a car this size is more than reasonable), but doesn’t want to use it. I guess this is really a fuel-saving feature, and interestingly I made exactly the same comment in the previous test.

Driving the car, it feels like every part of it has been redesigned, and I guess it has – right down to the brake pedals. According to Mazda engineer, “the pedal parts were redesigned to effectively leverage the movement of only those muscles best suited to pedal operation, which results in reduced fatigue and greater control.” It’s the touches like this that show you just how much attention has been put into this new model.

Other engineering changes? The brake callipers were redesigned and the movement of the piston seals that push the brake pads optimised. Apparently, the new design maintains constant clearance between the brake pads and rotors, regardless of whether the brakes are lightly or firmly applied. This reduces rolling resistance and significantly improves controllability.

The A pillar has been looked at as well; often, the A pillar in cars now are so huge (for safety) that it makes it almost dangerous, and introduces a blind spot to the driver. Mazda revised the A pillars, for better vision for the driver.

Of course, there’s been some suspension and steering adjustments to the car – not that it needed it. The previous model can hold its head high, that it is a brilliant handling car, and along with that, reasonable ride quality too. Well, the new model has made it even better in the handling department. The Mazda3 is even more of a chuckable car than the previous one, with reasonable steering feel and still a very good ride quality. Its handling characteristics are easily at a European standard, in my opinion.

The previous gen Mazda3 was the first of Mazda’s cars to receive G-Vectoring Control (GVC) and now it’s fitted to almost every model. The new Mazda3 has the latest version of (GVC), which was the world’s first control system that varies engine torque to optimise the vertical load on each wheel, providing more precise handling and improved comfort. It truly makes a difference, and as I say, the new model is better again than the previous one.

Enough about the driveability of the Mazda3, what about the Daily Drive? First up – no proximity entry. Like the lack of climate AC, I can’t remember the last car I tested where you had to get the remote out of your pocket to lock/unlock the doors. Sure, it’s the base model, but it still costs near on $37K.

The seats have had some attention too in this new model. There didn’t seem to be much wrong with the previous model’s seats, but they have been redesigned to support the pelvis and maintain the natural S-shaped curve of the spine. How were they? Excellent. There’s nothing wrong with cloth seats in a car, and the new model’s were spot on for comfort and side support.

The Driver Monitoring technology on the Limited models uses a camera to observe how attentive the driver is behind the wheel. It monitors how wide open the driver’s eyes are at any given time, the number of times they blink and also the angle of the mouth and face and uses this information to assess their level of drowsiness or fatigue. If the system detects that the driver is falling asleep or is unaware of a possible collision with the vehicle in front, it provides an audible and visual warning followed by a second warning and deployment of SBS (Smart Brake Support) if no action is taken by the driver.

The system applies both an infrared camera and infrared LED to monitor the driver’s condition day and night. It even functions properly when the driver is wearing sunglasses. Mounted within the centre display’s bezel, the camera’s ability to consistently monitor the driver is not affected by actions such as the driver’s hand movements when operating the steering wheel.

Speaking about the steering wheel, there’s some revised steering wheel controls with chrome finish and raised centre buttons. The centre buttons control audio mute, audio source, and on the right hand side, cruise control cancel or resume. The old controls were great – simple, and functional. The new ones, a source of frustration for me. I lost track of the amount of times I went to turn the volume up or down (or skip a track) and instead muted the volume (or changed the source). After a few days of trying really hard, I gave up and solely used the volume knob on the centre console. Steering wheel controls on the whole are well designed, but these new ones didn’t do it for me at all.

On the + side, Mazda have changed the centre console’s audio knob which previously only did volume/mute, so that it now can skip tracks/stations by flicking it sideways to the left or right. Brilliant. There’s also the option of using the jog dial to do this, but it does mean turning on the Playback Settings on the media screen every time you want to use the jog dial to control tracks/stations.

Also on the + side for the audio, is the sound quality of the base model GSX. The engineers did major work on sound quality, and especially on the positioning of all speakers. This has really paid off; for a base model, the audio quality is excellent. I can’t wait to see what it’s like with the 12-speaker system in the Limited model. The base model also allows you to adjust for driver only, or driver and passengers.

There’s the new Mazda MZD infotainment system in the Mazda3, and it’s undergone a welcome update. It wasn’t bad before, it just looked a bit dated. Now it’s fresh and clean, and the definition is a lot crisper. A big improvement over the previous gen. I love that when using SatNav and you are near water, the water itself is animated, and almost looks real. Nice touch.

Still on that Daily Drive, there’s those new, higher C pillars. According to Mazda, the “Powerful C-pillars help to achieve a unique rear design in which the cabin and body appear to form a single solid mass”.  The result of this is a huge C pillar, which can severely limit your vision – especially when reversing out of an angle park. This is an exercise in faith in the blind spot monitoring system, as you can’t see a thing on that rear quarter angle. Added to this is a smallish rear window, and rear seat headrests that block some of your rear view. For me, this was the biggest negative of the new model.

The new Mazda3 must be the first base model car I’ve driven to have a heads-up display (HUD). The previous model had sort of a HUD, where a small piece of plastic listed up out of the top of the dash. It worked, but not as well as one projected onto the windscreen. The new model has a proper HUD, and for the money, it’s superb, complete with the current speed limit (using Traffic Sign Recognition – so this includes things like stop signs), your current speed, the speed you’ve set adaptive cruise control on, SatNav directions, and warnings of any cars in your blind spots. Huge credit to Mazda New Zealand for having this as standard. It’s one of those few things I miss, when you switch from a car with a HUD to one without one.

On the economy side of things, I did around 600km in my week with the car, and averaged 7.2 litres of petrol per 100km. Mazda says it’s 6.2 on the combined fuel economy side of things, so I wasn’t too far off. For a 2-litre car, 7.2 is very reasonable.

The Competition

Brand/ModelEnginePower/TorquekW/NmNumber of seatsCargo capacity, litresFuel L/100kmBase Price – High to Low
Skoda Octavia TSI Ambition liftback1.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-petrol110/25055905.0$38,490
Mazda3 GSX hatchback2.0-litre, 4-cylinder petrol114/20052956.2$36,595
Hyundai i30 hatchback1.6-litre, 4-cylinder petrol94/15653816.8$35,990
Honda Civic SX hatchback1.8-litre, 4-cylinder petrol104/1745420 6.4$32,990
Holden Astra R hatchback1.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-petrol110/24053605.8$32,490
Kia Cerato LX hatchback2.0-litre, 4-cylinder petrol112/19253857.4$31,990
Ford Focus Trend hatchback1.5-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-petrol134/2405 n/a5.9$31,990
Toyota Corolla GX hatchback2.0-litre, 4-cylinder petrol125/20052086.0$29,990

The Pros and Cons

Quality interior materials
Exterior design
Standard adaptive cruise control
Standard heads-up display
Lots of standard equipment
Sheer driveability
Low levels of NVH
Audio quality for a base model
Huge blind spot
Cost on the upper end of the scale
Steering wheel controls
So dark inside

The Verdict

The new model is a big leap from the last one, which is still a great car. Sometimes when manufacturers claim to have made big changes in something, we don’t really see the result. Not so with the new Mazda3; it’s so refined, quiet and smooth, it’s probably the new benchmark for this in a small hatchback.

But that C pillar – it can be scary backing out of an angle park, and I consider myself to be a pretty confident driver. Thankfully BSM is there to help you, but it still leaves me anxious as you reverse out.

Still – I’d buy one in a heartbeat. It’s a driver’s car as well as a family car; it’s fun, the chassis is excellent, build quality superb, and the level of safety equipment high.

The last time I tested one, I gave it a 4.5 chevron rating. As much as I want to, I can’t give the new model the full 5.0 rating. That blind spot, and the steering wheel controls irked me enough to take it down a notch.

It’s still a fantastic car, and I can see Mazda doing extremely well with the 2019 Mazda3.


2019 Mazda3
4.5 Chevrons

Vehicle Type5-door, front-wheel drive
Starting Price$36,595
Price as Tested$36,595
Engine2.0 litre in-line 4 cylinder 16 valve DOHC S-VT petrol(Skyactiv-G) with i-stop
Transmission6-speed Skyactiv-Drive automatic
Power, TorquekW/Nm114/200
Spare WheelSpace Saver
Kerb Weight, Kg1338
Length x Width x Height, mm4460x1795x1435
Cargo Capacity, litres295
Fuel Economy, L/100kmAdvertised Spec – combined – 6.2
Real World Test – combined – 7.2Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Fuel tank capacity, litres51
Towing CapacityKg, unbraked/braked600/1200
Turning circle, metres10.6
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
 Warranty5 years free servicing (100,000km max)
5 years warranty unlimited km5 years roadside assist  
ANCAP Safety Ratings5 Star
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2019 Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG S Estate – Car Review – The family F1 car Wed, 07 Aug 2019 23:45:23 +0000 No one really needs to introduce the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, it’s a well-known model that laughs in the face of many sports and supercars. Combining mind-blowing performance and estate practicality, your kids can wave goodbye to most performance sports cars as you pull away from them in a thunderous roar from its mighty V8. 

For those who don’t know, those very reasons are why Formula 1 use the C63 AMG S Estate as the official on-track medical car. It can bring all the equipment needed at breakneck speed, wherever it’s needed on the track. If it’s good enough for F1, then it’s got to be pretty good for everyday life. 

We can’t just take the F1 doctors’ word for it, we need to test it for ourselves, and compare notes. That’s right, we are taking one for the team, spending a week behind the wheel to review the Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG S Estate for you. I’m sure our sacrifice will be appreciated…

The Range
There are 5 variants of the C-Class estate available in New Zealand. Starting with the C 200 Estate (starting from $77,300), it then moves up to the C 220d Estate (starting from $78,800) and finishes with the C 300 Estate (starting from $91,400). The two remaining variants are both AMG spec. The AMG variants available are the C 43 AMG Estate ($126,400) and finally the C 63 AMG S (starting from $170,800). The 9-speed 9G-TRONIC transmission behind the engine and 4MATIC (all-wheel drive) is standard across the range.

As you’d expect, standard equipment levels are high. The C 63 S comes loaded with a lot of bells and whistles, heads-up display (HUD), AMG 19-inch alloy wheels, Multibeam LED intelligent lighting, panoramic sunroof, a performance steering wheel with Nappa leather, AMG sports pedal cluster in brushed stainless steel, black ash open-pore wood trim, a Burmester surround sound system with 13 speakers and 9-channel DSP, COMAND online infotainment system with SatNav, heated front seats with memory function (3 settings including exterior mirrors), Qi wireless phone charging, keyless entry and start, electric boot operation, auto wipers and lights, dual-zone AC, paddle shifters, AMG Night Package, AMG Ride Control sports suspension, AMG speed-sensitive sports steering, a sports exhaust system, a 360-degree camera, auto parking, traffic sign assist, and a tyre pressure monitoring system.

Mercedes-Benz, offer a wide range of driver assists to help you along the way. These include the Driver Assistance Package Plus which includes Active Lane Change Assist, Enhanced Automatic Restarting in traffic jams, and Route Based Speed Adaptation.

Our test car was optioned with AMG performance seats for $3700, apart from that, everything else was stock. 

There’s a huge amount of different options to up-spec your AMG C 63 S – check out Mercedes-Benz New Zealand website to check them out.

First Impressions
Fred, one of DriveLife’s car reviewers will not approve, but it’s silver. However, he would have approved of the bright yellow CLA 45 AMG that was in the dealership, which I must admit was pretty cool looking. 

Yes the C 63 AMG S is silver, which to me is the perfect/iconic colour. It works well with the black contrasting trim all over the car. From the overall stance and look of the car, you can tell it’s a serious machine. The black 19inch wheels, lightly covering the massive bright red brakes, indicates high performance. The lower front grills massive intake and front diffuser is really aggressive, almost angry. Even standing still the C63 looks fast, sleek and menacing. 

As I looked around the car, I really liked everything I saw, the entire car was a feat of engineering and design. It is stunning.

The Inside
As mentioned this C 63 S was optioned with the AMG Performance seats. It’s $3,700 for this upgrade, and I must admit, they looked the business, and are worth the additional cost. Being performance seats, the support up and down and side to side was amazing. They would be perfect for country back-road driving or even better a track day. As cool as they looked, I did find them firmer than most seats, not uncomfortable, but they had less padding.  When you mix that with the firm suspension, low profile tyres, it can send more vibration from the road through to your body than preferred.

The rest of the cabin had the right look and feel, with no surface or detail being overlooked, except for one new feature, which I will come back too. The interior trim was my own personal favourite; black ash open-pore wood. This trim has a very nice rich feel to it, soft touch, but it feels handcrafted too. I suggest the open pore wood over the piano black option, as it’s very easy to get the piano black one dirty and covered in fingerprints. If you like to keep the inside of your vehicle clean like I do, then this is something to consider. 

The steering wheel was from the S-Class, a very sleek and feature rich steering wheel at that. It’s a nice flat bottom, alcantara side stitched wheel, which looks and feels expensive and sporty. Lot of buttons, even touch sensitive swipe buttons. I have not been the biggest fan of these, but I am getting used to them. I wouldn’t mind seeing less buttons on the steering wheel, which leads me to my next point.

Now for a bit of negativity, and to address that one new feature that does not belong. Mercedes, what the hell have you done to this steering wheel? The steering wheel has come down from the S-Class, and overall looks the part. But there are two leech-like add-ons at the bottom of the steering wheel, both of which look like something you buy from Wish for $20 and stick on yourself. On the right there is a circular dial/button LCD screen that allows you to select the drive modes. On the left you have two buttons that both have an LCD screen above them.

Ok, first off I get what you were trying to achieve, but it feels like the design team ran out of money, and went online to buy the parts. They look and feel cheap and just pull down the overall look and feel of the steering wheel. Maybe some people will like them, but so far, everyone I showed, has used a string of expletives before saying, who thought that was a good idea? and that they should be shot. It’s fair to say, this is the only thing about the entire car that I really hate. Before I move on, I just wanted to touch on the fact that I see what Mercedes were trying to do, they wanted driver mode buttons on the steering wheel like some current supercars. Ok, that’s cool, but make it out of the same material the wheel is, just like the supercars do. 

The driver’s display was great, very sporty/futuristic feel to it. The central RPM gauge with the central speed indicator made it modern and in keeping with other tech-focused vehicles. The left and right sides of the display could be changed to display a lot of different options, from fuel consumption, range, tyre pressure, nav and many more.

I had hoped not to see the COMAND media screen still looking like it’s stuck on with velcro. Mercedes, please blend this in, like you have with other new models. Can’t wait to see the dual displays from the S and E class make it way into the C Class. Apart from how it looks, the COMAND media system is well laid out and easy to navigate with the touchpad and rotation control wheel in the centre console. There are many menus available, from your standard media options like radio or MP3, performance customisation to the array of colours available for the LED interior lighting. 

The rear seats had a lot more space than I had expected, my wife even mentioned it when she decided for one trip to sit in the back with our baby daughter. I feel that the performance seats gave this extra room, normally reduced by larger more bulky front seats. It was easy enough to have our rear-facing baby seat in the back too. It did not even push the front seat that far forward, unlike many other vehicles we had tested. 

Our almost 2 year-old daughter loved the panoramic glass roof, she loved it when it rained and when she could look up at the buildings as we traveled through the city. Both glass panels could be covered over with a fabric blind, which helped when she was having a midday nap. The tinted rear windows also aided with this. 

The boot is a good size, 490 litres with the back seats up. The back seats are split in three, so you can have either side down with or without the centre seat down too, making it more versatile. With the rear seats down, the boot space opens up to an impressive 1510 litres. There were additional buttons in the boot that could trigger the folding rear seats, that could also be triggered from the rear in case you required additional storage space instantly. On our trip over to Masterton, we had the baby seat in the back, luggage for 2 adults and a baby, portable cot, and stroller, all the while keeping a good visible view out the rear window. 

The Drive
Starting up the AMG C 63 S is an event in itself. The sound of the startup says one thing, and one thing clearly: this is a powerful vehicle. Thanks to keyless entry and keyless push-button start –  the mighty V8 engine roars into life with a short rev of the engine and grumbles of the exhaust. The noise in comfort mode is pretty good all the time, however, it gets even better in the other sport modes. 

There are now 6 available drive modes: Slippery, Individual, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Race. I had not expected 6 modes, several of which we won’t be able to test due to the environment of our road tests. 

As I have mentioned in many Mercedes reviews in the past, Sport and Sport + are best described as two levels of anger. If you wanted a bit more instant power and a nice livable grumble from the exhaust you chose Sport. If you wanted a lot more instant power, some really loud noise and stiffer suspension then Sport+ is for you. Race is where you set everything to 11: engine, gears, suspension, exhaust. It’s the maddest of modes, one I found to be far too much for real world driving. In race and slippery you could also select to go from all-wheel drive to rear-wheel drive thanks to the 4matic+ system. 

The overall handling of the C 63 S is impressive, it doesn’t feel like a big long car. And based on where I had my seating position, you felt low to the ground. Which makes it feel sporty and agile. Even in comfort mode the car is as sharp as a tack in corners; you feel so in control, with a nice level of driver feedback too. Sport and Sport + improve on this, by firming up the suspension. The Air Body Control helps to keep the car level in almost any corner, such a great feeling. When combined with the power from that V8, you could almost believe you’re in a two-seater sports car.

The sound is it for me, and this is what I had said in the past too. AMG have an angry nature about them, and this one sounds perfect. In Comfort there is nice rumble from the engine and exhaust, which get ever more aggressive when dialed to Sport and Sport+. This and the AMG GLC 63 S have to be two of the best sounding cars available in the market today. 

The New Zealand roads caused a bit of a drone in the cabin, due to the low-profile tyres, firm suspension, any slightly uneven road left you with a decent road noise in the cabin. It went in and out of bothering me, and when it did I just flicked on the powerful exhaust button to help drown it out. 

The updated cruise control is another great feature. Much like other cruise control systems, when you push resume, you go back to the speed previously set. However when you press resume twice in succession, it changes your speed to the speed limit sign that was last identified by the front facing cameras. This simple feature was great, as you could with a button just move up and slow down with the limit changes as they happen.

The mighty V8 made everyone grin. It’s a 4.0 litre bi-turbo V8 that produces 375 kW and 700Nm of torque. Yes, 700Nm from a family car, it is as crazy as it sounds. That’s also more than most supercars have, even today. For me it’s the right sort of crazy, as this engine can propel the C 63 S to 100km/h in just 3.9 seconds. That’s fast, like really fast, and when you’re doing it, everyone knows about it, due to the thunderous exhaust.

I have always loved power wagons/estates. I daily drive a twin-turbo v10 Audi RS6, so I am used to excessively powerful engines. But my RS6 does not sound like this beast and I wish it did. When compared to a 10 year-old car, the only big difference I can say is that the C 63 S feels light compared to my Audi, which will be thanks to new innovations in construction and design, lighter and smaller engines. Apart from that, both are pretty fast, my 10 year-old car is only 0.6 seconds slower to 100km than the new Merc, not bad really.

Fuel consumption is expectedly high, more so when you do a lot of urban driving. Across a few days just driving within my local areas, combined fuel consumption was up to 20.1L/100km. However, once I went on a couple of longer trips, this dropped considerably. Over the weekend I took a trip over the hill to Masterton, and on that trip I was able to average 10.9L/100km, which is rather impressive, more so when the manufacturer’s advertised combined consumption is 10.7L/100km. By the end of the review, the combined consumption was 11.9 L/100km, which is not bad at all when you consider the type of car it is.

Unfortunately and to my disappointment we never really had a chance to test the Slippery or Race setting in a proper environment. I can only imagine that they would be amazing, if the handling, sounds and performance from the Sport + mode was anything to go by, Race would be exceptional. As for Slippery, I live in hope for future opportunities.

The Competition

There once was a massive market and options for high-performance estate or wagons. But those days are gone. We only have options from Audi and Mercedes left to us. Interesting to see that the Audi RS4 Avant is $18k cheaper, the main difference now is that the Audi has the twin-turbo V6 and the Merc is holding on to that bi-turbo V8.

High-Performance Estates/Wagons

Brand / ModelEnginePower kW/NmFuel L/100kmSeconds to 100km/hBoot Capacity LitresPrice Highest to Lowest
Mercedes-Benz AMG C 63 Coupe 4.0L V8 biturbo375/70010.73.9490$170,800
Audi RS4 Avant3.0L V6 biturbo331/4508.84.1490$152,500
The power and speed
Amazing sound, so angry
Comfy ride, while firm
Performance handling of a sports car
Love the new AMG front grille
Easy to daily drive
Quality, luxury AMG interior
Headlights are amazing
Good size boot
Top shelf sound system
Last of the performance wagons/estates
Cheap addon steering wheel buttons
Firm ride, creates high road noise due to the quality of many New Zealand roads.
That price tag
Estates or wagons over SUV’s

What do we think?
I love it; I have always been a bit power wagon/estate fan and will always be one. I love how it looks, I love how it drives, I love how it sounds. I do however hate or maybe detest the new LCD steering wheel add-ons. Come on, such a quality product and Mercedes-Benz tack those one to it. Hopefully a fad that will be gone as quickly as its appeared. 

As more AMG models become available, we can see a split appearing; some models are looking for a good balance of power, performance and every-day living and others have barking mad power, face-melting speed and crotch-wetting sound. If you had read any of my reviews, I look for the latter, and for me they are the basic ingredients in making the perfect AMG. 

The C63 AMG S ticks all of the boxes for me, and if you’re after a performance wagon, it’s hard not to like. However, the price is something that raises some questions. It’s expensive, which is to be expected, but is it value for money? At $170,800, it’s not far away from my other personal favourite the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S at $185,765. $15k might seem like a lot, but at this price range it’s just an 8% difference, for what I think is a whole lot more vehicle.

It was nearly a home run for the C63 AMG S, but those tack on steer and the price level to other models raised some questions, which pushed it back from a 5 chevron review. 

Would I have one, Oh god yes, and I would love it. Would I buy one, Maybe, but I might also pushed to the GLC if I was dropping that kind of money. 

Rating – Chevron rating 4.5 out of 5


2019 Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG S

Vehicle TypeAll-wheel drive luxury 5-door estate
Starting Price$170,800
Price as Tested$170,800
Engine4.0-litre Bi-Turbo V8, direct-injection
Power, Torque375kW/700Nm
TransmissionAMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT 9-speed
Spare WheelNone
Kerb Weight, Kg1800
Length x Width x Height, mm4702 x 1810 x 1457
Cargo Capacity, litres490 litres 1510 litres (rear seats down)
Fuel tank capacity, litres66 litres
Fuel Economy, L/100kmAdvertised Spec – Combined – 10.7L/100kmReal World Test – Combined – 11.9L/100kmLow Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Towing CapacityKg, unbraked/braked750/1850
Turning circle, metres11.9Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
 Warranty3 year warranty
ANCAP Safety Ratings5 Star
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2019 Rolls-Royce Dawn Black Badge – Car Review – Money Torques Sat, 03 Aug 2019 20:00:04 +0000 What is there to say about a Rolls-Royce? When one thinks of Rolls-Royce, the epitome of automobile excellence comes to mind. It’s hard to fathom how a car with the same amount of doors, windows, and wheels as your car could be something so completely different.

A Rolls Royce isn’t just a car, it’s a statement and a grand statement at that.

The Rolls-Royce you see here isn’t like the traditional “old style” Rolls-Royce you may be familiar with. This one is sinisterly called the ‘Black Badge’. The Dawn is the third model in the Rolls-Royce line to receive the Black Badge treatment. It was inspired by risk takers and disputers like Charles Rolls, who was an aviation pioneer and subsequently was the first person in the United Kingdom involved in an aeronautical fatality. There was also Sir Malcolm Campbell, who broke the world speed record on land and on water, and in many occasions using Rolls-Royce powered vehicles. These guys were, as Rolls-Royce describes them, “restless spirits”. The aim of Black Badge is to channel some of that spirit at “today’s generation of young, self-empowered, self-confident rule breakers”. 

The Black Badge may look like a Dawn with a few bits and pieces changed but the small changes have made a huge difference in its personality. 

The Range 

Rolls-Royce don’t do trim levels like mainstream car companies. There’s no SE trim or GLI Edition. You either get the Dawn or the Dawn Black Badge, depending on your mood. If having a soft top isn’t your deal then the Wraith is also available, essentially coupe version of the Dawn. If you need even more space the Ghost is essentially the sedan version of the Wraith and of course both are also available as a Black Badge. 

The Ghost, Wraith, and Dawn families are powered by the same 6.6-litre twin-turbo V12, the difference being the Dawn having to make do with 562hp while the Black Badge ups that to 601hp. Like all Rolls-Royces, the Dawn doesn’t go on about numbers. Yes, it can do 0-100 km/h in 4.9 seconds and will go on to a top speed of 250 km/h, but it doesn’t shout about it like other high-end V12 exotics might. 

First Impressions

That’s because the Dawn doesn’t need stats and figures to speak for it, iIt can happily speak for itself without having to say a word. This thing makes an impact the moment you lay eyes on it. In most cars it’s all about the journey, but in the Dawn it’s all about the arrival. Everywhere you go this draws attention to it like a flame to moths. 

The bright red paint didn’t help making it more discreet. While the non-Black Badge Dawn looks elegant in an old fashioned way, the Dawn Black Badge has a sort of thuggish charm to it. Perhaps it’s the black chrome grille or the blacked out Spirit of Ecstasy or perhaps it’s the 21-inch carbon composite wheels but there’s an intangible ‘badass’ feel. 

Regardless of what spec it’s in, the sheer size of the Dawn commands attention. It really was a case of people looking at the car and who’s inside. Because let’s face it, anyone who’s going to be in a Rolls-Royce is going to be someone of significance. So you can imagine the disappointment on people’s faces when they saw a pleb like me behind the wheel. This isn’t a car for introverts. 

The Inside

It’s very much a traditional British interior brought over to the modern age. I like how Rolls-Royce went down the restrained, timeless route rather than going for something distinctively modern that might not age as well. The infotainment system is a Rolls-Royce version of the BMW iDrive, which looks good now but in a few decades when it really shows its age, you can hide it away behind a carbon panel at the touch of a button. 

Speaking of technology, the Dawn carries a lot over from BMW, so it’s got most of the modern gizmos such as radar cruise control, bluetooth/iPod connectivity, and a reversing camera though it lacks the newest all-round view camera system. But by far the most impressive piece of technology in the Dawn Black Badge was Rolls-Royce’s own in-house developed Bespoke Audio system. It’s up there with one of the best OEM systems I’ve encountered that manages to keep the same audio quality top up and top down.

The materials are all the finest available with real stainless steel, aluminium, leather, and carbon. Weirdly, for a Rolls-Royce, there’s no wood but no doubt that can be optioned. I guess it’s to highlight the youthful image of the Black Badge series. Up until getting to experience a Rolls-Royce extensively, I was adamant just how it could be so much more expensive or luxurious than say an Aston Martin or Bentley. But boy, how wrong was I. This truly is another level of luxury that transcends anything else you’ve experienced. It’s the little details like the incredible sound insulation, roof down but especially roof up. The six-layer fabric roof manages to cut out any sort of outside interference, making it feel like a more like a hardtop coupe.

There’s all the little reminders that you’re in something special like the analog clock with the ‘RR’ logos, the soft wrinkle-free leather that smells rich (in every sense of the word), and the power closing suicide doors. How can you not feel like a million-dollar rockstar while closing your suicide door at a push of a button?

Then there’s the comfort. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in low-slung sports cars and as fun as those were, I’m partial to a bit of comfort and luxury. The seats in the Dawn were one of the best experiences I’ve had. They’re by far the most comfortable seats in any car, yet there was a familiarity to them. They were so plush and so comfortable, like sitting on your favourite armchair at your grandparent’s home. You just sink in and all is well in the world. Your heart rate decreases sitting inside a Rolls Royce. All your cares disappear, the little things that bother you are forgotten, as this car cocoons you from the outside world in your own personal bubble of luxury. It harks back to the days of grand convertibles. 

There’s space for four adults comfortably inside. In fact, it’s possibly the only four-seater convertible I’ve experienced that can actually comfortably fit adults in the back. There’s the same amount of rear legroom in a midsize premium sedan, but more comfortable of course. Luggage space was generous though an awkward shape. It goes in quite deep but there’s a narrow opening so that means if you throw something to the very back of the boot, you’ll struggle to get out in a dignified manner. Space can be increased or decreased depending if you have the roof up or down.

The Drive

Ironically for a car with Rolls in its name there’s hardly any body roll. A roller, this is not. The air suspension has to work overtime to keep this from happening but it does an incredible job at balancing the mass of the car. Okay, that’s not to say there’s zero body roll but it doesn’t wallow about as much as you’d expect it to. However, don’t think just because it doesn’t roll around means it’s a flat cornering speedster. It isn’t. It’s still a Rolls-Royce so don’t think this can be a car you can drive to a track day and do serious driving. Though that said, a Dawn on the track might be fun in other ways. 

Wherever you might decide to go in your Dawn Black Badge one thing is certain; you’ll get there in comfort. Whatever your benchmark for comfort is, the Dawn will surpass it and moves the benchmark further. It’s a big heavy old thing and as such it doesn’t simply drive over bumps so much as flatten them out of existence. That’s why the ride is so sublime. There are five-star hotels that are less comfortable than the Dawn. It truly is the perfect car for crossing continents in.

Don’t let the size and weight fool you, this thing can fly. 0-100 km/h in under 5 seconds is respectable for what’s essentially Downton Abbey on wheels. When you do accelerate hard, the front end lifts up like a speedboat. But it’s not a car that encourages you to go fast, though fully capable of blasting down the autobahn, you get the sense it’d much rather cruise down the coast with the top down. Ultimately, so would you. That’s why you’d get the Dawn instead of the Wraith or Ghost. 

Another reason to get the Dawn over the other two is you get to hear the Black Badge’s bespoke sports exhaust better. Press the ‘low’ button on the column-mounted gear stalk and suddenly it goes from Bruce Banner to Hulk. So it’s not going to scream like a Ferrari or make silly farting noises like a Lamborghini, but there’s a nice gruff burble from the backend that you wouldn’t expect to come from a Rolls-Royce. It’s a bit cheeky and encourages you to embrace the darker side of the Black Badge. 

The speed, comfort, and body control aren’t the most unusual part of driving the Dawn. No, it’s the attention you get. Driving around town in a car as big as this is difficult enough without everyone’s eyes on you. The width of the Dawn is manageable, it’s about as wide as an Aston Martin DB11, but the length and mass of the Dawn becomes noticeable as soon as you’re trying to manoeuvre it around town. It’s a big car, stretching over 5.2 metres long, but you sit so far from the front end there’s so much car around you it’s hard to get used to where to place it. Luckily the SUV-like driving position means you get a good view all round. 

The Competition

Brand/ModelEnginePower/TorqueFuel, L/100km0-100 kph, secondsPrice – High to Low
Rolls Royce Dawn Black Badge6.6-litre V12 twin-turbo petrol442kW/820NM14.74.9$700,000 (est)
Bentley Continental GTC6.0-litre W12 twin-turbo petrol467kW/900NM12.24.0$395,000
Mercedes-AMG S63 AMG Cabriolet4.0-litre V8 twin turbo petrol450kW/900NM18.34.9$330,100

The Pros and Cons

• An automotive experience unlike any other
• Space for four adults to sit comfortably
• Feel good factor
• Flies like a bat out of hell 
• Unsurpassed comfort and luxury 
• Handsome classic-yet-modern styling 

• It’s a huge thing to drive around town   
• Don’t get one if you’re shy
• Could do with BMW’s brilliant 360 degree camera

What do we think of it?

The Rolls-Royce Dawn Black Badge isn’t just any car, it’s an exquisite automobile experience. There’s nothing quite like it on the market. There’s luxury and then there’s Rolls-Royce luxury. The cars I listed as ‘competition’ aren’t really the Dawn’s natural rivals. That’s just to show how this car is on another level. It should really rival yachts, planes, and villas. 

Rolls-Royces have always been known as the finest automobiles in the world and that most definitely stands true with the Dawn. It’s more than just a car. It’s a thing that makes you feel truly special, a car that wherever you go you arrive feeling like a superstar and it’ll take you there in unrivalled comfort and luxury. 

The way it manages to take you out of the outside world and into your own piece of moving paradise is therapeutic. It does have little niggles but all minor things you can get over once you remember the fact you’re behind the wheel of a Rolls-Royce. 

The question is whether you should get a Dawn or a Dawn Black Badge will depend on your taste and style. For me, I liked the cheeky brutish nature the Black Badge brings to the Dawn without losing any of the luxury or comfort. It’s a win-win. 

Vehicle TypeConvertible Grand Tourer
Starting Price$669,000
Tested Price$700,000 (est)
Engine6.6-litre V12 twin-turbo, petrol engine
Transmission8-speed automatic
0 – 100 kph, seconds4.9
Spare WheelNone
Kerb Weight, Kg2,560
Length x Width x Height, mm5285 x 1947 x 1502 mm
Cargo Capacity, litres480
Fuel Tank, litres82
Fuel EfficiencyAdvertised Spec – Combined –  14.7L / 100kmReal World Test – Combined –  17.2L / 100kmLow Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Turning circle12.7mSmall: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
ANCAP Safety RatingsN/A
Warranty4 year, unlimited km

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USA Road Trip 2019 Part 4: the unicorn appears! Fri, 02 Aug 2019 20:00:48 +0000 In the last article on our upcoming Route 66 road trip across the USA, we made a decision to stick to looking for one type of car only; a C4 Corvette from the years 1990-1996. 

The C4 Corvette fits our criteria and our budget of US$5,000 (hopefully), and so the hunt was on to find the perfect C4. More days and weeks of trolling Craiglists and other USA car websites went past, finding the odd car worthy of a second look, like these ones:

Looks great, but too pricey for us
Another nice one, but over $9,000

Then one day, a 3-owner 1990 model appeared, finished in Polo Green Metallic, and shock-horror – it had the rare saddle-coloured interior. The good news? The car had only done 28,000 miles, and the seller was asking US$8K. Yes, it’s way over our budget of $5K, but still, is it too good to pass up?

And the cruncher? The advert says, “I’d drive it to New York tomorrow.” Since we will be taking whatever car we buy to New York, I’m not sure the flags could wave any higher.

The last line says, “This is the unicorn you’ve been hunting!” So that was it then – time to contact the buyer.

Alarms bells rung in my head, but I couldn’t get my hopes up. I had to keep in mind Craig from Kiwi Shipping’s statement that 90% of cars he looks at on Craigslist are rubbish and would never get compliance in New Zealand, without spending a boat load of cash.

But 28,000 miles? Surely it would be good?

I started emailing the owner, asking more questions, and hoping no one else leapt in there before me and bought it. He’s had it for two years, and driven only 1,000 miles in that time. Since owning it, he’s only used it to take his wife out to dinner once a month-ish, and has never even driven it out of LA. Yes, he says, it’s as original as you can get, except that he replaced the original Bose stereo for a single DIN unit. The Bose’s are known to die, eventually.

I manage to get some more details from him; he still has both keys for the car, it’s had a new steering column and steering wheel installed (the dealer said that’d fix the airbag light that’s on), and everything works – the adjustable lumbar support for the front seats, the adjustable suspension control, and everything else.

Some more emails later, I sent Craig from Kiwi Shipping a message, asking him to go look at the car. After what felt like weeks, but was only days, Craig met with the seller, taking along his trusty trolley jack. The pre-purchase inspections that Kiwi Shipping offer includes a thorough check of the car, and around 80 photos, and of course a drive too.

Craig reports back that this is one of the best C4’s he’s seen. All the owners have looked after it, and it looks as good as in the 80 photos he sent me a link to. That’s not to say it is perfect. It needs new tyres (or tires, for American readers) for a starter. It’s that Catch 22; the tyres have heaps of tread, but are old. Craig says he wouldn’t trust them for a cross-continent trip, and neither would I. A quick check on Google and I can pick up 4 Goodyear Eagles for the Corvette for US$600 plus taxes. Not too bad, and at least I’d know they were brand new.

There’s some chips around the headlights when they are up, no doubt caused by hitting something under the bonnet. Not too worried about that, we can touch them up and you can only see them when the headlights are flipped up anyway.

Craig mentions a couple of oil leaks, looking like they are coming from the valve covers. Easy fix, and regardless we’d be getting the car fully serviced before our road trip, so can get things like this sorted out. Since it hasn’t been out of LA for years, we’ll also get the radiator flushed at the very least. We do not want an overheated Corvette at the side of the road in the desert somewhere.

The handbrake light is on all the time, but that’s more than likely a bad switch or just needs a switch adjustment. The headlining on the removable roof has drooped like it does on all C4 Corvettes, but this should be a matter of removing the headlining and applying some spray-on glue.

But there’s a worrying airbag light on, on the dash. I checked some of the Corvette forums, and it looks like this is a result of a bad connection between the chassis and a sensor. The contacts need to be cleaned, and it looks like it’s around a 4-hour fix. This is something I can do myself, and I can do this in the USA or when the car gets back here. I know I can’t get compliance here with that light on.

Other than those things, this car is an automatic. Not what I wanted, but originality was at the top of my list, and this car is surely original.

I rang the owner, and offered him US$7k, making an allowance for new tyres. He counters with US$7500, and I agree. I’m not about to let this car go.

Blown our budget? Yup.
Worth it? Totally.

The insurance pain begins

I arranged payment with him, and then started on the hunt to insure the car. Although it’s going to be in storage from now until September when we arrive, there’s no way I want it to be uninsured in that time, and many storage facilities in the USA will not store your car without insurance – you have to provide evidence of it.

Before I get to insurance, I have to update you on our travel plans. We had planned to do what’s left of Route 66, up in to Canada, down into New England, then New York and Philadelphia, then ship the car home. Since we’d only have a few days each in places like Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, my wife suggested we do that next year instead in a different car, and just ship the Corvette back at the end of our trip this year. Fine by me.

Latest version of our route

And so the fun searching for insurance began. And the frustrations, let’s not forget about the frustrations. I emailed the large US insurance company State Farm, who we used to insure our new Dodge Challenger in 2016. That car cost US$500 a month to insure, but that was for a value of US$40,000. Surely, surely this car would be so much less, since we now had an insurance history with State Farm, and this car is valued at a much lower $7500?

State Farm emails me back, happy to insure the car for US$371 a month. That’s over half the value of the car in 12 months of premiums. I asked why this was, and how we could reduce the cost, but never heard back from them.

So Google it was. I stumbled upon some travel blogs of people doing the same thing, and they found that the massive insurance company Progressive would insure a non-resident. Perfect! I put a call into Progressive, and went through the process of giving them all the information they needed, and included the storage location as the address for the car. They came back with an email quote (a quote, keep that in mind) of $58 a month, including roadside assistance.

As you can imagine, I was so happy. I rang back to say, yes, I’d like it right now. This was the next day after I received the quote. The girl on the phone pulled my “quote” out, and told me that it was fine, they can insure the Corvette for US$113 a month. There was silence from my end. Once the shock wore off, I asked her how come I had a quote, and yet it’s gone up almost double?

I was told it’s not really a quote, but more an estimate as insurance costs change from day to day. For a New Zealander, a quote is a quote. But I had to bite my tongue, and say ‘that’s fine’, and went on. Then another stumbling block. When she put the VIN of the Corvette into the system, it came up with an alert, and I’d have to email their Verifications team, and supply some info. I’d already done a CarFax check on the Corvette, so I knew there was no money owing, and the title was clear. But still, I’d need to go through this verification process. At this time, the seller is waiting on me to organise the insurance, so I can get the car picked up by Kiwi Shipping.

So I emailed the Progressive Verification team, and waited. Two days later, I got a reply from them – it was nothing to do with the car, they wanted a huge list of documents to verify who I was, and so much more. Some of these were things like a driver’s license, but no more than six months from date of issue/renewal. There was a whole email full of requirements, and it wasn’t your average “pick three things from this list” scenario – they wanted everything on the list.

So it was a no go for Progressive, and I’d lost precious days of time. So it was back to Google, for far too long. But I did stumble across another blog, that said the huge US insurance company Geico not only insured non-residents, but they’d insure visitors as well. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but it sounded good. But if I’ve learnt anything so far, it’s not to get your hopes up when dealing with large US companies.

Nice and clean underneath

I put a call into Geico’s freephone number and got an extremely helpful guy on the end. I was totally straight up with him, saying I’m from New Zealand, we’ve bought a car and it’s going into storage, then we’ll drive it 6,000 miles in September.

The guy on the phone couldn’t have been more helpful, and told me that Geico is the only US insurance company that will take your driving record from your own country into account. This was sounding good, but still – no price yet and no commitment.

We chatted some more, I gave him all the details he asked for. The price? With roadside assist, US$73 a month. I can do that. This includes coverage for when the car is in storage (some insurance companies won’t insure a car in storage). But the deal wasn’t done yet, what was the next step to get this done?

“Give me your credit card number, and I’ll insure you right now.” So I did, and less than a minute after that I got all the documents on email, including my much-needed insurance card that I need to present to a cop if I got pulled over.

It was done.

This took almost two weeks to get organized, in between life and waiting on email replies. But it was over. Our Corvette had insurance.

It got picked up by Kiwi Shipping, and is now patiently waiting for us to arrive in September for our cross-continent Route 66 road trip.

(Almost) Time to spend some money

Once we land in LA, there’s no way we’ll be getting in the car, and driving across Route 66 to Chicago without a load of maintenance being done. I’ve started a bit of a list, and may add to it as I remember more things. So far, I intend to:

  • Oil and filter change
  • New tyres
  • Wheel alignment
  • Change of belts
  • Replace spark plugs
  • Replace spark plug leads
  • New air filter
  • Fix oil leaks
  • Radiator flush, or if it’s at all dodgy, buy a new one
  • Check/replace any hoses that look dodgy
  • Transmission service
  • Check all brake lines
  • Check all fuel lines

Some of these things, like changing the spark plug leads, may seem a bit overboard, but here’s the thing; parts prices in the US are still bloody cheap. There are multiple suppliers of everything, and things like parts for a Chevy small block are plentiful.

So for now, that’s it. We sit and wait for September to roll around, and then pick up our Corvette.

Can’t wait!

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2019 Audi e-tron – launch Tue, 30 Jul 2019 20:00:48 +0000 “Electric has gone Audi”, we are proudly told. The most important Audi to be launched this year, DriveLife was invited to Queenstown to see the car in its natural habitat, and take it on some of the South Island’s excellent roads.

In May, we attended the release of the car, and came away impressed. An electric SUV with an actual towing capacity and good looks? Bring it on.

But I could only take the pre-launch cars for a 20-minute drive, as they were left-hand drive. Now, as promised, the first shipment of right-hand drive e-trons have arrived.

Should Jaguar, with its I-PACE, be worried? Should Mercedes-Benz with its yet to launch EQC be worried? All the signs say yes, but as always, we need more time behind the wheel and more details to make a real decision.


First up, we heard from Dr Brendan Koehler. He is the Audi Product Manager e-Solutions, and was brought in from Germany especially for this launch. He discussed urbanisation and sustainability as main focus for Audi at the moment, and covered off topics like Shared Mobility, autonomous driving, Vertical Mobility, and a Robo Taxi (yes, you read that right).

Audi is also in cooperation with Airbus and Italdesign as part of Urban Mobility – for example, to develop an air shuttle for two people to travel across a city.

He covered off the future Audi models, including the now launched e-tron (a BEV, or Battery Electric Vehicle), FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles) that will use hydrogen to recharge on-board batteries.

On the BEV front, there’s much desire to see the e-tron GT coupe that is to launched next year. It looks stunning.

By 2025, Audi will have ten fully electric models he says, and by that same year, a third of Audi cars will be electrified. Interestingly, they are also looking at the g-tron – a car that runs on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), a fuel that New Zealand used in the 1980s.

The h-tron – a fuel-cell vehicle using hydrogen to recharge batteries, will be in production by 2025 he said. That’s not too far away.

“For the e-tron, our predominant focus will be on charging, creating attractive BEVs, getting Charge Point Operators to invest in charging facilities, the Government on reducing barriers, and then lastly consumer awareness over options,” said Brendan. “e-tron is the first step to our electric future. The e-tron drives like normal car – you just get in and drive it.”

Due to a number of factors, New Zealand is the first country in the Asia Pacific region to get the e-tron. We’re the first market outside of Europe and USA, before China and rest of world.

On the New Zealand side of the market, sales of Plug in Hybrid Vehicles (PHEV) and BEV were shown. In 2015 new BEV and PHEV sales accounted for just 0.30% of the new car market. In 2019, this is expected to reach 2.2%. Still tiny, but growing steadily.

Still in 2015, there were 10 new PHEV & BEV models available. In 2019, this number is 36.

The allocation of 100 e-tron to the New Zealand market were pre-sold in 8 days, which was the whole of this year’s allocation.

That’s not to say Audi New Zealand has leapt into this. They’ve spent 5 years investigating the market, and solutions to go with the market. These solutions include looking at charging at home, or on the road.

Audi New Zealand has partnered with Vector and HRV, to develop home and business charging and energy management solutions for e-tron owners.

For those on the road, Audi have also partnered with ChargeNet, who have over 155 charging stations dotted throughout the country. E-tron buyers will receive a radio frequency ID tag (RFID tag) that can be used at ChargeNet charging stations to kick the process off.

As well as this, the built-in Satnav in every e-tron will display charging points around the country – those are all charging points (not just ChargeNet ones), and is complete with live updates so the list is always up to date.


Jarrod Ho, Sales Operations Manager for Audi New Zealand, gave us the full run down on the e-tron.

This is Audi’s first BEV, and for that there’s a whole new plant in Belgium for the car, and it’s the only car produced in that plan. Every e-tron comes with a 5 year, 150,000km warranty, and a 3 year motoring plan. There’s also an 8-year/160,000km battery warranty.

They’ve tried to keep the car as ‘normal’ as possible, and this includes 660 litres of boot space with the second row up, and around 400km of range. There’s even a front grille, with a normal radiator behind it to assist in cooling the batteries when required.

Size-wise, the e-tron sits between Q5 and Q7/Q8. It’s slightly narrower than a Q7, and 30mm lower than a Q5 – but it’s still a full-size SUV.

On the outside, there’s blistered arches to give it a bit of an early quattro look, and “Stylised side sills”, showing where the batteries are on the car. A nice feature are the LED taillight across the rear of car, and these look brilliant at night.

The e-tron’s cD is about 0.7 less than a normal SUV, to give around 35km range extra. To achieve this via weight reductions would be losing 500kg, Jarrod tells us.

There’s been a lot of importance placed into aerodynamics development, including things like dimples over the plate that covers the batteries under the car, the rear suspension is covered, there’s a lower rear spoiler under the car, rear axle covers, sill covers, front axle covers, and a splitter for directing air around the front wheels.


Lots of people are interested in the Virtual Mirrors. As an option, these are around $6,000, and are used mainly to reduce aerodynamic drag, and also to reduce blind spots. They don’t stick out far past body of vehicle – far less than a normal mirror – and this reduces the chance of collision to the mirror.

They also reduce the drag coefficient (cD) of the car – the standard mirrors have a cD of 0.28, while the Virtual Mirrors drop this to 0.27, to get an 5km extra range in normal driving conditions.

Reduced wind noise is another benefit, and there are 3 modes for the mirrors; highway driving, turning, and parking. These modes are selected automatically. The picture on the screens is excellent, and even in low light, the screens are enhanced to show a clearer picture. If water gets on to the camera lens, digital processing will remove the drops automatically. You can also pinch and zoom on the drivers screen, which controls both “mirrors”.


The e-tron has the Q8’s dual screens, and in the place of a transmission shifter is a hand rest with the ‘Power Lever’, to control forward, reverse etc.

As far as power goes, there’s twin electric motors for true AWD. The result of these two motors means 300kW of power in total, and 664Nm of torque (in Sport mode.) If you drive the car in anything but Sport model, you have 561Nm of torque available.

The capacity of the batteries is 95kW, with a usable capacity of 84kWh to enable longer battery life. Performance is good for such a heavy car, with 100km/h coming up in 6.6 seconds, or 5.7 seconds in Sport mode. The electronics of the car are processing data while driving 10,000 times per second to adjust all driving parameters, which is 50 times quicker than a mechanical quattro system.

The e-tron is predominantly rear-wheel drive for efficiency purposes, switching to AWD as needed.


The battery pack is made up from 36 individual cells, each weighing 11kg to make for 700kg of battery weight. This is all positioned down as low as possible, under the floor pan.

A lot of emphasis has been placed on battery temperatures, with a Battery Thermal Management System in place. This is via thermally conductive gel to disperse heat, along with indirect cooling system via fluid which can be cooled by a traditional radiator in the front of the car. There’s also a separate chilling unit that can be used when necessary. This battery thermal management system is on 24/7, even if the car is just sitting there. You’d think this would be a big battery drain, but later Brendan tells me it’s only about 3% of battery capacity per month.

That 84kW (usable) battery capacity should be good for around 400km, according to Audi, using the WLTP system of measurement. The battery can be diagnosed and repaired, and if one cell goes faulty, a single cell can be replaced.


The e-tron is also the first EV of all with full by-wire braking system. Apparently this shortens stopping distances by 20% over conventional braking systems, while delivering a normal brake feel. During our two days with the car, we certainly couldn’t pick that everything was controlled by wire, rather than hydraulics.

The brakes themselves have had a lot of development too, and can build up brake pressure twice as fast as normal braking systems. This means that the brake pads sit out from discs a bit more than normal, to reduce drag. It may be a small amount of drag saved, but it all adds up.


The charging plug is a Type 2 CCS, that can do 11kW AC charging, or 150kW DC. Audi suggests charging at home is expected to meet 85% of the need.

Within the charging menu, you can program the GPS location of your home, tell the car what a charging target would be (e.g. 80% for longer battery life, or 100% for a long trip). You then define charging time slots to save money on your power, making the most of cheaper power in the early hours.

Or you can use the myAudi app to control charging, and can also analyse charging data, turn on heated seats etc.


We grabbed a white base 55 quattro model to drive first (there’s just the two models), so no virtual mirrors just yet, and a few other niceties like electric steering wheel adjustment and a heads-up display missing. Heading south from Queenstown, the Audi drive team took us to the start of the Hawksburn “Road”, with an ominous sign at its beginning:

This was mainly a cycle track, but is also open to cars – but not recommended. All credit to Audi for taking us this way, rather than sticking to the tar seal. First things first, we selected the off-road mode, which raised the suspension up. As we descended down some pretty steep hills, I spotted the wet, slippery mud halfway down. 2.5 ton going downhill through mud? I needn’t have worried, as the e-tron cruised on through without any drama. Yes, we were running Pirelli Scorpion Winter tyres on the cars, but still – that’s a lot of weight to get down any muddy hill.

We switched spots, my turn to drive. We got to yet more muddy spots down hills, and I tried a bit harder to get the car to slide, but no go. I’m sure with road tyres it would have moved around more, but it was still bloody impressive for such a heavy car.

After 9 kilometres on this road, two things stood out: the electronic traction systems on the e-tron are excellent, and with that weight, it crushes bumps out – the ride is excellent on the bumpy stuff.

Back on the seal again, and time to check out the interior. The centre console is quite high, but is very deep since there’s no transmission. This means a decently-sized centre console cubby, and just generally more room to store your stuff. The e-tron comes standard with qi wireless phone charging, with a twist. Instead of being a flat surface, there’s a slot you put your phone in, so it sits vertically and this stops it sliding around.

The interior feels very much like a Q8, but with the power lever instead of a normal shifter. The entire ride is serene, as you’d expect, and the car simply floats along the road with little fuss. After two days behind the wheel, you get the feeling that it’s a very relaxing car to drive, and is never stressed, and this translates to the driver too.

Next stop for the convoy of electric SUVs was Clyde Dam, the second biggest in New Zealand. We got permission to drive across the top of the dam, which was pretty cool, and then drove down to the base of it, for a guided tour. If you are in the area, definitely check it out. As a special treat, Audi lined up the e-trons and the spillway opened up for a ‘spillover test’ at the same time. 

Clyde Dam lets loose one of the spillways right above some new Audi e-trons. An impressive sight!

Posted by DriveLife NZ on Sunday, 28 July 2019

It was a sight to see, and was a great way to highlight that 85% of all New Zealand’s power comes from renewable energy of some sort.

We stopped in the township of Clyde for lunch, and this gave me the chance to take a drive in one of the e-trons that had a trailer hooked up to it, complete with 1.6 tons of car parts inside. Since the e-tron is rated at 1.8 tons for towing, this was a good test, even if it was a short drive. 

e-tron charging up under the Clyde Dam

How did it go? Very well. Instant torque – and loads of it – make for great towing, and was a much smoother experience than a diesel engine. I barely noticed the trailer behind the car, as the suspension kept the car completely level. A new way to tow, but a nice way. Naturally, all that extra weight is going to use more energy to pull, and that means less range. Audi suggested around 200km if you are towing a trailer with max, or near to max towing weight.

Lunch over, it was time for me to drive the car back to Queenstown. Those who know that road will know it’s pretty twisty, but the e-tron handled it beautifully, with all that weight of the batteries down low contributing to an almost flat stance on the corners. It really does handle well, and it’s easy to get the car to keep everything smooth and nicely lined up between the corners.


The next morning, we were told we were heading to the Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds, where we’d be taking the 2.5 ton cars onto the ice to see what they handle like in that situation. I for one, was a bit unsure about this. Even with electronic systems, 2.5 tons on ice? Sounded like a recipe for damaged panels.

As another world first, we would be the first ‘public’ drivers to take an EV to the Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds. They’ve had others there for testing all camouflaged up, no doubt), but Audi decided this was the perfect time to grab another ‘first’ before someone else did.

So, still with the Pirelli Scorpion Winter tyres on, we hit the road to Cardrona, the car again so smooth and effortless. Five e-trons cruised up the hill to the proving grounds, and after a driver’s briefing, we headed out to the ice.

First up was a demonstration of getting the car to understeer. It’d be nice to know the electronic systems were keeping things in check, but we were instructed to turn off traction control, so we could get the car sideways easier. Sounded good to me!

After everyone had two runs at the understeer part, we moved on to getting the cars to oversteer, by crawling, turning hard and flooring it, allowing the huge amount of torque to get the car sideways. This part, I liked. Another two runs at this, with all the e-trons performing well.

Event three was a slalom, again with traction control off. This was a lot of fun too, and it was interesting that even with all that torque and no traction control, you still had to nail the ‘gas’ pedal to get the car to go sideways – if you wanted it to. My fears about all that weight on ice disappeared on this part of the day.

Our last event was a ‘dog bone’ run, like a figure of 8 but with no crossover. It took a lot of control with the accelerator and sometimes the brake pedal, but we all managed to get some nice control or the cars, except for the occasional spin out. Great fun, and a great way to learn about the capability of the car.

All too soon our time on the ice was over, but Audi New Zealand had one more thing planned. An ‘economy’ run back to Queenstown, with a prize going to the team who used the least amount of battery capacity to get to the airport.

With our car sitting on 80% capacity and 201km of range, we set the Drive Control to Efficiency, turned off the AC and seat heaters, and lowered the suspension down as low as possible. With me driving, we hit the road to travel the 50km back to Queenstown from the proving grounds. 

Using as much driving skill as possible, we husbanded our momentum where we could, and only once had to use over 25% of the available power, to get up to the top of the Crown Range. It wasn’t too hard, mainly a matter of using the recuperative braking where we could, as well as coasting as often as possible.

The end result was we used 6% of our battery capacity, and our range went from 201km to 231km. Not too bad! However, the surprise came when the results were read out – every car used 6% to do the return trip. So the result came down to the amount of power used in kWh/100km. Ours was set down at 16.5kWh/100km, so I thought we had a chance, but we were beaten by 0.2 by another team. It does go to show even with different driving styles, your power economy can be very similar.

We definitely used these $150,000 cars…


At the moment, Audi almost has this segment of the market to itself. There’s the Jaguar I-PACE, but it’s smaller and the towing capacity is not rated at all. There’s the new Mercedes-Benz EQC, but this isn’t available until around December, although it too has a tow rating of 1.8 ton. Some people might not care about towing capacity, but for others it’s all about how much it can tow – or even has a rating to be able to tow.

But the problem may be supply; the first shipment is all but sold out, and while orders are being taken, there’s still supply issues. This is a car that’s in demand, and for good reason, if the launch drive is anything to go by.

In September, we will be testing the car properly, and then can tell all. Stay tuned.

Audi e-tron

  • 55 quattro, $148, 500
  • advanced 55 quattro, $157,000
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DriveSense Ranger Duo Dash Cam – Product Review – Unboxing and install Fri, 26 Jul 2019 20:00:45 +0000 Like many guys who are into cars and maybe just a little geeky, I’ve always wanted a dash cam. Not only because they seem quite cool, but there’s always that sense that if something hits the fan and it happens right in front of you, you’ve got it recorded.

I long for that day in court when someone has crashed into me and I wasn’t at fault, and I play the dash cam footage for all to see, then…bazinga! Case closed. Judge Judy would be proud.

And like many, I’ve dipped my toes into dash cams, starting off with some cheap ones from well-known Chinese websites. How were they? Rubbish, if I’m being honest. One lasted a month, then died. I bought it as it didn’t have a screen, which I thought was a benefit. I could simply use an app to view the footage via a wifi connection to the camera, any time I wanted. 

Well, that was how it was supposed to work. Most of the time I couldn’t get the connection to work, and the app was crap. It was poorly designed, some of the features just didn’t work, and often crashed.

The other one I bought had a screen, and seemed to work, but it didn’t have the functions I really wanted. But the price was oh-so-tempting, so I ignored the features I needed for cost. 

That was a mistake. Yes, it sort of worked, but the menu system sucked and it was pretty basic in what it could do. There was more it couldn’t do, and that frustrated me.

But it did have a rear camera as well – sort of. The rear facing camera was mounted to the body of the windscreen camera, so all you really saw was the driver and passengers. Sometimes, that would make it interesting, but if someone crashed into the rear of me, there wasn’t enough view to actually make out anything. After 3 months, that one died too. No one went to the funeral.

And then…

Then DriveSense sent me an email about one they were selling – the Ranger Duo, and it got me interested all over again. Finally, what looked like a decent dash cam, but with the features that I did need, like GPS, a G-Sensor, a proper rear camera and 1080p/30 frames per second recording.

So I emailed them for a review model, and they sent one. Come late on a Sunday afternoon, I took to my wife’s daily driver, a Mazda Premacy, and installed the front camera – daylight beat me to it for the rear camera, as it’s a bit more involved to install, so that can wait until next weekend.

On opening the box and removing the contents, this is what you get:

Overall, the install of the front camera was a piece of cake; the Ranger Duo has a nice mount system compared to others I had tried, where you mount a base plate via a sticky adhesive, then (by magnets) simply attach a small GPS unit to the mount on the side, then the camera underneath – again using a magnetic system. A huge bonus – worried your dash cam will get stolen? Give it a light yank, and it pulls straight off. Apparently dash cams are hot property (along with radar detectors) so having such a simple system is brilliant. Stick it in your pocket or the glovebox when are you aren’t using the car. At just 63 grams, it’s pretty easy to carry it about.

The same goes for the tiny GPS unit – stuck on by magnets. I’ve not bothered to pocket that when parking the car, I’ve only taken the actual camera itself, as that seems like the target item.

Putting the camera back on the mount is just as easy, and the whole system already feels like it has a lot more quality than the other two units I had bought. The one drawback to this is that the rear camera connects to the front camera unit, so you do need to remove the USB cable from the rear camera each time you remove the front one, then plug it in again when you put it back on.

One thing I did prior to deciding where the front camera would be was to make sure the actual lens was looking through a ‘wiped’ part of the windscreen. Since the windscreen was dirty at the time, it was easy to spot how low it needed to go. No point mounting a dash cam where it looks through a part of the windscreen that isn’t cleaned by wipers.

Getting there

It’s also good to check that if you are mounting it behind the mirror, that the mirror can be adjusted for other drivers without hitting the dash cam.

Anyway, back to the install. I routed the USB cable up under the headlining, then down the A pillar, and into the cut-your-hands area behind the dashboard. This is the not-fun part, as I squeezed my fingers up behind the dash to grab the cable. It only took minutes, but no one likes this part of the process.

I then routed the cable into my glovebox, where I already had a USB cable from my aftermarket stereo, ready to plug in. Feeling pretty smug, I plugged the camera into the USB port, and nothing. My USB port from my stereo wasn’t grunty enough to power the dash cam. This isn’t the dash cam’s fault, as USB ports from a stereo aren’t made to power one.

So it was plan B, as I routed the cable down behind the dash some more, then popped it out on the floor, and around to my 12V socket.

The Ranger Duo comes with a 12V USB adaptor, quite a sexy looking thing, with two USB ports on it – one for the camera and a spare for your phone. At some point, I’ll put a new 12-volt cable up behind the dash, and then get it all out of sight, but for now this will work.

Front camera is done

Since I’m not running the rear camera just yet, I turned the ignition on, and set the date and time.

I shut the whole lot down, and then turned on the ignition again; this unit starts up extremely quickly. Nice. Before it starts recording, there’s a time shown in white that the amount of recording time left on whatever micro SD card you have installed. Once the unit starts recording, the time changes to count from 0.00 and goes red, so you know it’s working. On the other hand, the camera overwrites the card anyway, so this isn’t such a big deal.

The 64-gig micro-SD card I put in the dash cam (it doesn’t come with one) can record up to 8 hours of footage from both cameras, at 30 frames per second and 1080p resolution (with no sound), so that’s plenty enough for me. Half of that would still be enough.

There’s also functions through the buttons on the unit to take a photo, or maybe kick off recording manually if you have got Motion Detection turned on, which means it will only record once the car starts moving. You can also turn on recording of sound inside the vehicle, and I guess some people would like this feature. I thought about recording my daughter and her friends when out in the car, but then thought I’d rather not know what they said anyway.

Hit the road

Time for a road test. As mentioned, the Ranger Duo boots up very quickly, and is recording in less than ten seconds. The picture on the display is pretty clear, and having a unit with a display showing you what it’s seeing is the only way to go.

I spent the week checking it now and then, the reliability factor was there, and already I was appreciating not having an el-cheapo dash cam.

The next weekend came along, and time to install the rear camera. This was a lot more involved than the front one, mainly due to the rear door design on the Premacy. I could not get the rear panel to remove or even budge enough to get the cable behind it, and down into the door.

Argh, like a plastic Fort Knox

I spent far too long on this, and in the end I gave up; I drilled a hold through the removable panel that covers the centre rear brake light, and routed the cable through that. The Premacy is 10 years old, so I wasn’t too concerned about a small hole, and I didn’t want to spend more time on this one thing.

Not pretty, but functional

Of course, I made sure that the rear camera was viewing out part of the rear window that was wiped by the rear wiper too, to make sure it had the best possible view.

That done, routing the cable to the front of the car was a ten-minute job. I routed it along the top of the trim above the doors, around the centre pillar and to the front windscreen. Japanese cars make this so easy.

As mentioned earlier the cable for the rear camera connects to the front camera, and not the base unit (that sticks to the windscreen). This wasn’t a biggie, but something to keep in mind. I plugged the rear camera in, and cranked the ignition up, and bingo! It worked instantly. The front camera display was now split, and showed me the rear camera view in the top-left quarter of the screen, and the front camera view takes up the rest.

As you are driving the view actually changes – sometimes it’s half and half, other times the rear camera takes up three quarters of the display, and the front camera the remaining quarter. It’s a good way to keep an eye on the rear camera, so you know it’s working.

The Ranger Duo also has a G-Sensor system. This has three functions; if the car comes to a sudden halt, the motion detector will lock the related video file so it can’t be accidentally wiped. The second function is that it will only record once the car is moving, if you did want to save space on your memory card. The third part of it is when the car is parked. If someone hits you while you are out of the car, the motion detector will pick this up and start recording with both cameras.

There’s a caveat on this of course; the Ranger Duo has a built-in battery which is charged by the USB cable, and it this runs out while the car is parked, you aren’t going to get any footage. If your 12-volt source is on all the time, then this isn’t going to be a problem, but it does mean you’ll be recording 24/7, which will put a drain on your car’s 12-volt battery. Battery life of the actual dash cam is listed in events – claimed to be able to record 5 to 10 incidents at 15 seconds. If your car gets hit 5 times while parked, you’ve got more problems than the amount of recording time.

So install over and a few weeks gone by, it was time to check some of the footage. At low light levels, the image is excellent – far better than the previous two dash cams I had tried, even though one of them claimed to have the same resolution – 1080p @ 30 frames per second. In fact, it’s low light levels where the Ranger Duo really excels; many dash cams have a problem with low light levels, and I guess this is where the result comes from a more premium product.

Handily, when you put the SD card into your computer, the folders are already organised by Event, Normal driving, Parking, and Photo, so its pretty simple to navigate. Once you go into a folder, its separated by front camera and rear camera, and then by date. Couldn’t be easier.

Keep in mind the next two video samples are in low light.

Night time too is excellent, with a clear picture, even in the rain.

Files are saved in the MOV format, and you can download a viewer for free from the DriveSense website, or use your own video viewing software. I downloaded the DriveSense GPS Video Player and tested it out. I wasn’t expecting much – maybe just a video player, and a basic one at that – but it does more than simply play your recorded drives. While watching, you get the longitude and latitude readings of where the vehicle is at the time, and also its speed.

But, it needs work. Even when stopped at the lights, I was shown as going at 43km/h in the software, and other times on the motorway, the speed was zero on the right-hand panel, but 90km/h on the recorded video.

On the right side of the player, there’s a car with a Google Map view of your journey, but it doesn’t work. Zooming in and out does nothing, and as mentioned the speeds shown don’t match up at all.

There’s the option to drag the pegman onto the map to get a Google Street View of where your car is, but when I did this, I got a view of someone’s living room. Whose living room? I have no idea. I did manage to cruise through the entire inside of someone’s house this way.  As I say, this area of the app needs a lot of work.

Still, the basic functionally is there, and you can slow down the footage to 1/4 or 1/2 speed, or speed it up by 2, 4 or 8 times. It’s a handy and quick way to view your footage if you ignore the Google Maps side of it.


  • Quality of recording, especially in low light
  • Great mount system, so easy to remove for anti-theft
  • Proper rear camera


  • Google Maps part of software needs work

The Verdict

Yes, the free app to view your videos needs work, but it still does exactly what you need anyway – to review any videos for whatever reason. You can of course just use the video player you already have on your computer, so no big deal at all.

Do I believe it’s worth bypassing the cheaper dash cams and going straight for quality? Totally. As happens too often, I wish I had just gone and bought a decent one to start with. I don’t know about you, but it happens like this; I see something I want/need, but start with an el-cheapo version and I know at the time it will be a mistake, but I do it anyway.

If you are going to buy a dash cam, go for quality. And for that, I don’t think you can go wrong with the DriveSense Ranger Duo.

More information

Andatech’s two dash cam models comprise the DriveSense Ranger Dash Cam with WiFi and GPS (A$249) and the DriveSense Ranger Duo Dash Cam (A$299), which has both a front and rear dash cam with GPS.

Read more about the DriveSense Ranger Duo here

DriveSense features

Features of the DriveSense Ranger dash cams include:

  • Recording in high resolution super HD 1080p at 30 frames per second to ensure it will pick up details such as licence plate numbers.
  • 1.5 or 2-inch LCD colour screen that is lightweight and compact without blocking the field of view.
  • A built-in accelerometer that records the speed of the vehicle while driving and is shown in every video recording.
  • 150-degree wide angle view with six-layer glass and infrared vision that provides an excellent field of view, comfortably covering up to five lanes of traffic.
  • 4x digital zoom to check details of licence plates, road signs and street names and large f/2.0 aperture, which provides vivid recordings under low light conditions and clear images even at night.
  • Ability to record videos in 3, 5 or 10 minute segments or continuously.
  • Once the memory is full, the dash cam will start writing over older files seamlessly (excluding locked files).

DriveSense dash cams have auto start up and shut down and users can enable or disable motion detection.


SensorFront Dash Cam: SONY imx307Rear Dash Cam: RG321
LensFront Dash Cam: ⌀17.5 F1.6 150° wide angle 6G+IRRear Dash Cam: ⌀14 F1.6 135° wide angle 5G+IR
LCD2.0″ IPS 240 x 320 dots (tempered glass)
GPSExternal GPS module (magnetic connection)
Resolution / FPSFront Dash Cam: 1080p 30fps / 720p 30fpsRear Dash Cam: 720p 30fps
BatterySuper Capacitor, 2.5F, 5.5V
Power In5V 1A 3P POGOPIN
Speaker8Ω 0.5W
Storage Capacityup to 64GB microSD card
Image TechnologyH.264 / MOV / WDR
Video ProtectionG-Sensor / Motion Detection
Video Lengthoff / 1 / 2 / 3 / 5 / 10 minutes loop recording
Working Temperature-20 – 70°C
WeightFront Dash Cam: 63gRear Dash Cam: 25g
DimensionsFront Dash Cam: 70 x 44 x 34.55mmRear Dash Cam: 50 x 24 x 25.35mm
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2019 Ford Escape ST Line AWD EcoBoost – Car Review – The middle of the road Wed, 24 Jul 2019 23:45:07 +0000 Now in its third generation, the Ford Escape has proven to be a well-rounded cost-effective family car. Sitting right in the middle of the market, the Escape range offers customers a wide range of options. 

We were keen to see what the latest Escape had to offer, and how the new EcoBoost engine performed.

The Range
The Ford Escape has seven variants across 4 trim levels available in New Zealand. There are two front-wheel drive and five all-wheel-drive models. The four trims levels available are Ambiente, Trend, Titanium, and ST-Line. 

Pricing across the entire range starts from $38,480 and goes up to $49,495 plus on-road costs. Starting with the two FWD variants the Escape Ambiente FWD EcoBoost from $38,480 and the  Escape Trend FWD EcoBoost from $41,990. The rest of the range are AWD models, starting with the Escape Trend AWD EcoBoost from $44,990, Escape Trend AWD Diesel from $46,490, Escape ST-Line AWD EcoBoost from $49,495, Escape Titanium AWD EcoBoost from $53,490 and finishing up with the Escape Titanium AWD Diesel from $54,990.

For a mid-range mid-size SUV, the list of standard features is impressive, which only grow as you step up through the range. Standard feature available for the Ambiente model include active city safe, cruise control with adjustable speed limiting, rear-view camera with rear parking sensors, smart key with keyless start, hill launch assist, electric power-assisted steering, torque vectoring control, daytime running lights, dual climate control, leather steering wheel, 8.0” colour touch screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite navigation and SYNC 3 Bluetooth connectivity.

The Trend spec adds in blind spot information system, intelligent AWD, privacy glass for rear passenger and black windows, automatic headlights, headlights follow me home, power-adjustable auto-folding mirrors that are heated with side indicators and puddle lamps, rain-sensing wipers, roof rails, rear-view mirror with auto-dimming and leather gearshift

Titanium and ST-Line go a little further and both get active park assist, adaptive cruise control, sensors – front parking, smart key – keyless entry and start and a premium audio system with 9 speakers.

However, there are several features that are solely available for the Titanium only, they are adaptive cruise control, driver alert driver drowsiness detection, forward alert, lane-keeping aid, headlight automatic high beam, headlight adaptive Bi-xenon HID, rear LED taillights, tailgate – hands free power tailgate, panoramic power roof, ambient lighting, front heated seats, 6 way manual passenger seat, 10 way power driver seats, and leather trim

And for the ST-Line alone you get sports suspension, sports body kit, rear spoiler, dual chrome tailpipes and partial trim – Salerno leather. 

The list of options for all Ford Escape variants can be found on the Ford New Zealand website. LINK

First Impressions
I had seen plenty of Ford Escapes around but never gave them much notice. They are not a bad looking vehicle, nor are they loud and attention-seeking. I quickly realized I was wrong about the attention-seeking comment, as I saw that the Escape I would be testing. It was bright red, a colour Ford called Race Red. It was rather loud, and in the sunlight, it changed from red to blood orange. I could see this colour being a love/hate thing.

The model I was collecting was the top of the range ST-Line AWD EcoBoost, which is the more sporty looking of the range. The ST line comes with all black trim, black grille surrounds, and black roof bars and a set of 19” dark grey alloy wheels. 

Overall it was a nice looking vehicle, I would not have chosen the red myself, maybe Frozen White or the darker Ruby Red. 

The Inside
Inside, the Escape has a clean modern feel, boarding on a bit chunky in areas, but overall it’s good. I really liked how the driver information cluster was set lower into the dash, which means the front screen felt bigger and more open. The info in the driver’s cluster was well presented too, with a nice menu that showed you not only one bit of info, but traveled distance, fuel economy, real-time fuel use and range in one display menu. I like to have more info displaying, compared to cycling through pointless menus. 

Seating in the Escape is a mix between and car and an SUV. I can see that a lot of people will like this, those who like the idea of an SUV, but are not keen on their overall size. The front driver and passenger’s seats are both upright, resembling the seating position of a normal chair. With the low access of the Escape, it’s pretty easy to just step in and out of. The seats had a good solid feel to them, with nice bolster support too, with a mixture of leather and suede, giving them a bit of a sporty feel.

Rear seat space was pretty impressive for a midsize car, as the front seats did not need to go back due to their upright position. I was able to sit in behind my own tall driver seat position without any difficulty.

I am on the fence with Ford’s central media display system. It’s current and old school at the same time. I mentioned this in my review of the Endura; it’s a full-colour screen, but they only use white and blue, which feels 80’s. Time for a refreshing, modern look here Ford. The system itself is ok, giving me access to audio, phone, navigation and mobile apps. My only bugbear was that when my phone connected each time, the recent call list got refreshed. It’s like the car only gave you the recent call list you made from the car, not from your phone, which was kinda useless.

The audio system is another kettle of fish, it’s really good. Most of the time I am a bit of an easy listening kinda guy, but I will play a few specific tracks to keep the audio tests controlled between vehicles. The 9-speaker premium audio system in the Escape is much better than I would have expected.

The front cabin also lacked additional storage locations. The central console was big and chunky, due to the high position of the gearstick. This left no room for anywhere to put your phone, keys or wallet. You only really had the door pockets and the central console cup holders to use.

Speaking of the gearstick, why is it so high? This also got in the way of the air conditioning controls. It did feel odd where it was, more an industrial position than a consumer vehicle. Even trying to take a photo of the air-con controls I had to put the gear stick into drive to pull it out of the way – not something I have had to do before.

The boot was ok, bit smaller then I would have hoped for. Some space is lost on either side from the rear wheel arches. There were two small hooks on the left and right side, which could be useful for keeping bags upright when there is not a lot in the boot. The rear seats fold down with a 60/40 split to the right-hand side. Once down space grows to an impressive 1603 liters, which is a pretty good size for a midsize SUV.

The Drive
The engine if the 2.0L inline 4-cylinder with EcoBoost. This engine is able to produce 178kW of power and 345Nm of torque – not bad for a small 4-cylinder engine, EcoBoost combines turbocharging and direct injection technology to maximise power from every compression. This gives you lots of low-end torque for effortless take off when under an every-day family load. The engine’s performance made it feel like it was a bigger engine, the only indication it isn’t is the sound. The sound was also my only negative point about this engine. The Escape is no Mustang, nor is it trying to be, but there is a noticeable whirring from the engine’s turbo which I was not a fan of. It was not annoying, but due to the cabin’s built quality and sound insulation, it became something you were always aware of. It may just be a personal thing, and won’t bother anyone who tests it.

The Escape is not an exciting vehicle to drive, but it’s not trying to be either. I found my time in the Escape rather good. It’s a pretty smooth ride and handling, a little body roll and sharp steering. It’s light on its feet and pretty sprightly too when you want to give it a bit of power. I was not in love with the Escape, but don’t mind driving it either. This was a really good, everyday runabout. 

Fuel economy was ok, if not a bit higher than expected. Over the week I had the Escape, I managed a 60/40 split of city and motorway driving, which achieved a combined average of 11.7 L/100km. That’s a damn sight higher than the 8.6 L/100km that’s advertised. I was pretty confident if I had emptied the tank over the week it would have been lower as there are several other features targeting fuel efficiency. The Escape has Auto Start-Stop which works really well, 90% of the time I didn’t even take much notice of it, very smooth start-up. It also has active grille shutters, which close to reduce aerodynamic drag and opens to cool the engine. 

The Competition
Overall the Ford Escape offers up a pretty good package while being really good value. Sitting around the bottom of the top-spec mid-size SUV’s, it’s one you can’t really afford to ignore and test drive.

Mid size SUV (5 Seats)

Brand / ModelEnginePower kW/NmFuel L/100kmNumber of seatsBoot Capacity LitresPrice Highest to Lowest
Volkswagen Tiguan TSI R-Line AWD2.0-litre, turbo-petrol 4-cylinder162/350 7.85615$65,990
Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4WD3.2-litre, V6 petrol200/31510.25N/A$64,990
Mazda CX-5 Takami AWD2.5-litre, turbo-petrol 4-cylinder 170/420 8.25455$61,495
Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD1.6-litre, turbo-petrol 4-cylinder130/2657.75488$59,990
Holden Equinox LTZ-V AWD2.0-litre, turbo-petrol 4-cylinder188/3538.25846$57,490
Skoda Karoq TSI Sport Line FWD2.0-litre, turbo-petrol 4-cylinder140/3207.65521$55,990
Ford Escape ST Line AWD2.0-litre Turbo Ecoboost178/3458.65406$49,495
Nissan Qashqai Ti2.0-litre 4-cylinder106/2006.95430$44,990
Clean, modern interior
Build quality
Smooth ride
Good seating positions
Open and spacious interior
Good leg room for rear
Great headroom for all
Nice visibility all around
Good value
Gearstick was too high,
Gearstck blocked air con controls
Central console display felt a bit dated
Turbo whirring from engine
Lack of interior cubby spaces
Location of cruise control buttons

What do we think?
I sometimes feel I can be hard on a car with things like how the central media screen looks. However, we do see and test a wide range of cars and have to say what we feel.

The Escape is a middle of the road sort of vehicle for me. Apart from the colour, It has some pros, it has some cons, but overall it ticks many of the standard boxes that the average Joe looks for.

I can see this car ticking many of the right boxes for small families, looking for a practical, no-fuss daily driver.

Rating – Chevron rating 4 out of 5

2019 Ford Escape ST Line AWD EcoBoost

Vehicle TypeAll-wheel drive 5-door SUV
Starting Price$49,495
Price as Tested$49,495
Engine2.0-litre Turbo Ecoboost
Power, Torque178/345
Transmission6-speed automatic transmission
Spare WheelSpace Saver
Kerb Weight, Kg1,777
Length x Width x Height, mm4524 x 2086 x 1736
Cargo Capacity, litres406 1603 (second row seats down)
Fuel tank capacity, litres60 
Fuel Economy, L/100kmAdvertised Spec – Combined – 8.6L / 100kmReal World Test – Combined – 11.9L / 100kmLow Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Towing CapacityKg, unbraked/braked750/1500
Turning circle, metres11.1Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
 Warranty5 year unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Ratings5 Star
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Holden to bring Corvette Stingray to New Zealand Sat, 20 Jul 2019 23:45:07 +0000 The internet is ablaze with info on the newly released mid-engine Corvette Stingray. To add to this, General Motors Holden confirmed that the next-generation mid-engine Corvette will be built in right-hand-drive (RHD) and will also be for sale in New Zealand.

“Like anyone with a hint of petrol in their veins, we were glued to our screens watching the reveal of the new Corvette,” said Marc Ebolo, Managing Director of Holden New Zealand.

“The news that Corvette will now be built in right-hand-drive for the first time ever – and will be exported to New Zealand – is hugely exciting for our team at Holden and any Kiwi who loves high-performance cars.  With our long history in motor-racing, performance vehicles are an indelible part of the Holden brand. Our team is totally revved up to build on Holden’s performance legacy with the most technologically advanced Corvette ever built.  We look forward to taking on the European and Japanese performance vehicles with some highly sophisticated American muscle.”

It’s very exciting news, as every Corvette in New Zealand has been imported. Now you will be able to get one, but for what price?

The new mid-engine Corvette claims to bring better weight distribution, with the rear weight bias enhancing performance in a straight line and on the track. There’s also better responsiveness and sense of control due to driver positioning closer to the front axle, almost on top of the front wheels. The fastest 0-60 (0-96km/h) time of any entry Corvette ever — approximately three seconds when equipped with Z51 package, also a racecar-like view of the road due to lower positioning of the hood, instrument panel, and steering wheel. Last but not least, an enhancement of Corvette’s traditional utility strengths with dual trunks, ideal for luggage or two sets of golf clubs

Vice President of Global Design, General Motors said, “It is now the best of America, a new arrival in the mid-engine sports car class. We know Corvette can stand tall with the best the world has to offer.”

The new Corvette’s engine is Chevy’s next-generation 6.2L small block V-8 LT2 engine, the only naturally aspirated V-8 in the segment. It’s able to produce 495 horsepower (369 kW) and 470 lb-ft (637 Nm) of torque when equipped with performance exhaust — the most horsepower and torque for any entry-level Corvette.

We think it’s a great looking machine and hope it lives up to all the hype. Our whole team is very excited about this news and look for to any future appearances we have to experience the new Corvette Stingray

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