DriveLife New Zealand's Enthusiast Driven Motoring Publication, Automotive News, New Car Reviews and Used Car Reviews Mon, 15 Oct 2018 01:59:24 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 2018 Toyota Prius Prime – New Car Review- The wanna-be EV Sun, 14 Oct 2018 23:00:07 +0000 What happens when you take a successful hybrid car, and then add in some EV capability? The Toyota Prius Prime is born.

Out of the gate, let’s be upfront with Toyota’s fuel consumption claim for the Prius Prime: 1.0L/100km. Yep, you read it right, a combined rating of 1.0. That’s pretty low in any sort of terms, unless you are driving a full EV.

At the recent Toyota Corolla launch, Neeraj Lala, General Manager of Product and New Vehicle Sales for Toyota New Zealand, told me his wife has achieved 2,400km out of a tank of petrol in her Prius Prime. This had me salivating, and I was determined to try to get that sort of mileage out of our test car.

Not only that, but there were claims from a certain Toyota dealer that some Primes had the fuel going off, as it wasn’t being used. True story.

With 1.0L/100km in my sights, I spent a week with the Prime to see if I could get to this magical figure.

The Range

Get your fingers out and get ready to count – you’ll only need one. Well, two if you count the leather seat option.

At $48,490 the Prius Prime is good value. It’s not hugely kitted out, but it does have the vital things I like to see in a car, like adaptive cruise control, a heads-up display (HUD), blind spot monitoring, front seat heaters and Qi wireless charging.

There are other features too, like Lane Departure Warning, Vehicle Sway Warning, Steering Assist Function, auto headlights and wipers, auto high beams, Lane Sway Warning, rear cross traffic alert, hill start assist, road sign assist, auto-dimming rear-view mirror,  a speed limiter, a 7” central display, automatic parking (parallel or angle), front and rear sensors, keyless entry and start, climate AC, a 10-speaker JBL audio system, SatNav with SUNA traffic alerts, LED projector headlamps, LED turn signals, LED clearance lamps, LED DRLs, front LED fog lights, LED taillights, LED indicators, auto folding and heated exterior mirrors, and power driver’s lumbar adjust.

For the money and the hybrid/EV system, that’s pretty sharp pricing, and you can pay $1,500 more for the leather seat option – that’s the only difference. If you compare to the normal Prius, it’s actually very close in specs to the Prius ZR except for leather seats and a power driver’s seat – and the Prius ZR is priced at $46,490.

So at just $2K more, you’d be crazy not to go to the Prime – unless you needed 5 seats and a bigger boot.

First Impressions

At first, I wasn’t keen on the look of the front of the Prime, but it grew on me. The four-headlight treatment is different, and actually quite cool.

But it can look busy at the front with lots of angles and that big, wide grille. I have to say, the Prime turned heads while I was driving it. This felt weird in a Toyota – it’s something you’d expect to happen in a BMW M5 – but a Prius? Really?

And yes, it really happened – people looked.

The sides of the car are pretty inoffensive, and the sloping rear end with the floating roof looks particularly good. Opinions were divided on the split rear window. Driving it instantly reminded me of the Mitsubishi Eclipse. It looks good on the Prime too, and I love the taillight treatment almost completely circular around the split.

That rear window is actually a ‘double bubble’ rear windscreen – it curves down in the middle for less wind resistance.

The whole rear of the car looks less boat-like in my opinion, compared to the previous design of Prius.

One quick comment on the rear doors – they look very cool with that sweeping downwards design, but it does make it a little claustrophobic in the rear seats.

The Inside

Then you open the driver’s door and see the white lower steering wheel cover. That, along with the white lower centre console was a bit much for me. The rest of the cabin is pretty pleasant, there’s grey headlining and black cloth seats, as well as the 7” centre touchscreen display standing proud.

It’s almost a shame Toyota have stuck with the same design of gear selector in the Prime – for new drivers to the car, it’s confusing. There’s still the D, P, N and R modes, but you also have B mode and the operation of it can be a little clumsy – sometimes I thought I’d selected D but I hadn’t selected any gear at all. I say this to compare it to the VW e-Golf I had the other week – it had an absolutely normal-looking gear selector, complete with nice mechanical indents between the gears. I’m all for techy stuff, but this selector needs refining, or at least some usability testing.

There’s the normal Prius design of a central dashboard, so nothing to interrupt the driver’s view – great. Even better is the HUD – I wish all cars had a heads-up display, they are the best.

A glance around the back seat will give you a bit of a shock – the Prius Prime is a four-seater. In the middle of the car is a fixed console with two cup holders and some storage under a cover. I’m not sure how much this will impact buyers, if at all, but it’s sure something to be aware of. Uber drivers will not be buying the Prime, I expect.

Rear legroom is great, and apparently the seats back there are pretty comfy. The fronts too are great, with just the right amount of support in the right places.

Back in front, great to see that Qi wireless phone charging is standard, good on Toyota for doing this. Weirdly there’s just one USB in the front, along with an AUX port, and the back-seat passengers get a 12-volt socket but zero USB ports. I would have thought with the target market of the car that there’d be more USBs.

A welcome surprise in the front was the CD slot for the JBL audio system – I wasn’t expecting to see that there.

Lifting up the non-electric tailgate, and you see where the batteries in the Prime have been placed – on top of whatever was in the boot before. This does mean storage space is cut down quite a bit, and if you are using the parcel tray cover (I always have it on for security) then the gap is quite narrow, around 250mm.

Total load space with the rear seat up is just 360 litres, compared to the normal Prius at 502 litres. There are a couple of small storage pockets under the floor on the left and right of the car as well, and there is space under the floor to store the parcel tray cover when you aren’t using it.

Then again, the Prius Prime is really meant to be a town car, so hopefully this isn’t too much of an issue for owners.

The Drive

Before delving into just how much or how little petrol the Prius Prime uses, let’s talk about day-to-day stuff. A new feature here is Driver Priority air conditioning. There’s a button on the centre console that forces the air con to only focus on the driver, so if it’s just you in the car, you save power. Got to be a good thing.

I expect some people are going to find their first surprise when they go to indicate – they’re on the ‘wrong’ side of the steering wheel. Did I keep hitting the wiper stalk? Totally. I’m sure I’d get used to it in time, but it felt so wrong in a Toyota. Apparently we get the European version of the Prime, so there you go.

Pulling up at the lights for a long time, I went for the park brake – there isn’t one. If you are going to be a while, you’ll need to press the P button to put the car in Park, then move the lever down to D when you want to move off. Not the end of the world, but an electric park brake with auto hold would have been handy.

There’s auto parking on the Prime, and it works just as well as any other auto parking system. I don’t always use it, but when I do I appreciate it. They can really get you into some tight spots.

A bonus for the Prime is that it will also get you out of your parking spot again if you are challenged in that way.

Driving the car in rain on my first day with it, I went for the rear wiper – there isn’t one. I expect with the curved rear windscreen this just isn’t possible. A real shame as the rear window does seem to keep wet long after the rain is gone. Maybe something to do with the aerodynamics. It is heated of course – both the upper and lower glass – so in the mornings that’s a way to get it clear, but it does take quite a while to warm up.

The split rear window is great for visibility out the back – at times I thought the cars behind me were far too close, but it was the lower window allowing making them seem closer.

Visibility in general is very good, head checks allow you to see almost all the outside, and there’s always blind spot monitoring to help you along.

It’s been a long time since I’ve heard a JBL audio system in a car, and it was excellent overall.

There’s great separation, and high frequencies are clear and crisp. The bass was a bit lacking, but that was only in comparison to the higher frequencies.

Getting your phone to connect to Bluetooth was a breeze, as it generally is in a Toyota, and I was so happy that it reconnected quickly after getting back into the car – and remembered I had Bluetooth for audio before I turned the car off – and then went back to Bluetooth for audio. Too many cars still do not do this.

For adaptive cruise control, there’s Toyota’s normal stalk for its operation with a separate button on the steering wheel to adjust the distance between you and the car in front. We’ve mentioned lots of times how none of us like the stalk, and would prefer buttons on the wheel, so won’t go on about this again. One day, Toyota.

Adaptive cruise control can bring you to a stop, and then resume with a touch of the ‘gas’ pedal, and this makes for much easier driving. I hate to say ‘but’ again, but there’s is a but. Like the standard Prius, there’s a ‘B’ mode which gives the car extra regenerative braking – great! But adaptive cruise control doesn’t work if you have the car in ‘B’ mode, it has to be in ‘D’. I don’t understand why, but hey that’s okay. But my problem was that I had no idea why adaptive cruise would just not engage. I pushed the button on the stalk to turn it on, got a warning on the dash to say it should only be used on expressways, and then no matter how many times I pushed the stalk down to set my speed, it wouldn’t work. After a couple of days, I managed to get adaptive cruise to work as I had the car in D. A simple warning message on the dash to tell me it needed to be in D was all I needed. I couldn’t find this in the manual either.

Look, I really liked the Prime – really liked it – however there’s another ‘but’ coming up. Those who have driven any newish Subaru with adaptive cruise will know of the annoyance of those bloody beeps the Subarus make every time someone comes into your lane – or more simply, every time the Subaru speeds up or slows down under adaptive cruise, you get a beep.

The Prius Prime doesn’t beep, but every time it changes speed under adaptive cruise, a message comes up on the dash to ‘warn’ you. It’s simply not needed, and it covers up the info I want to see. Adaptive cruise control didn’t used to do this, so I’m not sure why the need to make cars tell you every time they are going to slow down or speed up. Please, just do it and leave me alone.

The Prime does have traffic sign recognition, which we at Drive Life always like – it’s a great safety feature to have in a car. I did have an issue with our test car though, where it would show the speed limit (in the form of a speed sign like you see on the road) on the central dash, and not the HUD, and at other times on the HUD and not the dash. And then, it wasn’t there all the time – it felt like the speed limit sign would only show if you exceeded the speed limit, but this wasn’t always the case. I looked for the settings for this, but there weren’t any. Really, I think this is by design, but I’d prefer to just have the current speed limit always shown and be done with it.

Ride is a plus in the Prime – that almost 1,600kg helps things along here. It’s a quiet ride too, with little suspension or road noise coming into the cabin. The tyres can be a bit noisy, especially on coarse chip seal, but this is often the case with the hard, low-rolling resistance tyres that manufacturers put on their hybrids/EVs.

Alright, enough of the day-to-day, let’s talk about power and petrol.

You get four different drive modes in the Prime, plus some other options. To be honest, it can get a bit confusing, but I’m sure an owner would get used to it. The four drive modes are HV, EV, EV City and Hybrid Charge.

  • HV is your ‘normal’ hybrid mode, which we see in your everyday Prius. The car will start the petrol engine when it needs to, and switch it off when it doesn’t need it. The owner’s manual suggests using HV mode when going uphill or on the motorway, as these will suck the battery faster if you are using EV mode.
  • EV forces the car into electric mode, as long as you have enough charge in the battery.
  • EV City is EV mode but more restricted – it controls the air con more carefully, and you get a more limited power delivery. Is also minimises operation of petrol engine.
  • HV Charge mode see the engine start and stay on to charge up the on-board battery.

But wait, there’s more. You can also change your car’s performance by selecting Normal, Power or Eco mode on another switch. I found I could easily drive in Eco mode all day long, and you have the insurance of knowing that using full throttle will revert to hybrid mode for power if you need it.

Power mode is just that – much more instant performance, but I found I didn’t need it – if I was in Eco or Normal mode, a stab of the gas pedal got me the temporary increase in performance I needed. According to the manual, Power mode is for “when crisp handling and enhanced accelerator response are required.” It does give the car a lot more push off the mark, and is a huge difference to the more leisurely standard Prius.

There’s one more feature, again similar to the standard Prius. You can select ‘B’ mode with the gear lever to give the car more regenerative braking, assisting you in charging up the battery. I’ve said this before, most recently about the VW e-Golf – I wish if you select B mode, it would stay on that mode even after you get out of the car, then back in. It gives you great braking down hills and the comfort of getting a free charge back into the batteries.

There’s a few caveats with the Prime. The petrol engine will start if you press the front window demister button. Not a biggie. As mentioned, the adaptive cruise control won’t work with the gear selector in B mode, neither will adaptive cruise work if you are in EV City mode. You are discouraged from using adaptive cruise around town.

So, what’s it really like? I have to own up to some stupidity here. When I got the car home the first night, I went to plug it in as I had a 40km drive the next day, and the battery was totally flat. I saw the petrol flap on the driver’s side of the car, so went to the other side to pop the flap hiding the 240-volt charging socket.

But I couldn’t get it open. No amount of pushing on the flap would open it. I even did an RTFM and sure enough, it said push on the flap to open it. I gave up, not wanting to break it, and drove the next day in HV mode.

So in HV mode, how did it do? On a 40-minute drive covering 38km and averaging 59km/h, the Prime gave me 4.1L/100km. Sadly, my EV ratio was only 10% – I really needed to get it plugged in.

It wasn’t until the next day I got back to the Toyota dealer, who went and pulled the lever by the driver’s door to open the petrol flap. I was trying to open the wrong flap. Yeah, I felt like such an idiot. So that night, it was plugged in and charged up, ready for another 38km drive the next day.

The next day, I had a full battery – with 54km left to go. I drove in Eco mode all the way, and had 6.2km left when I got to my destination (after 38km of driving). The engine did turn on now and then, especially when I put the front window demister on, so it did use some gas – 0.4L/100km. I was pretty happy with that, and 1.0 now felt achievable.

Before I left for home, I RTFM again. I read that if I held the EV/HV button down for three seconds, the engine would start and charge my battery up – I didn’t need to plug it in. I did that, and by the time I got home, I had put 30km charge into the battery, and averaged 5.6L/100km. Ouch.

That night I charged it up fully with 240-volts, and saw the timer button to the right of the steering wheel. You can set the Prime up to only charge at certain times, to make the most of cheaper power in the early hours. One other thing I did notice – there’s a light inside the compartment where you charge the car up. The VW eGolf didn’t have this, and it was a matter of using your phone for light. It’s one of those small touches that makes a difference.

While reading the almost 800-page manual again, I see in Europe there is a solar roof option – you go to work, and the car charges up while you are parked. A shame Toyota doesn’t have plans for this option in New Zealand.

The next day, I was going to do exactly the same 38km trip. Fully charged, I left home and put the car in Power mode, instead of Eco. This time when I got to my destination, I had 6.1km left in the battery – just 0.1 of a kilometre less than in Eco mode, and fuel consumption was 0.5L/100km. Was it worth running the car in Eco mode to save just 0.1 of a litre over 38km? Your call on that one, but Power mode is a whole lot faster.

So overall, did I get it down to 1.0L/100km? No, sorry. Overall I did 464km in the Prime, and got 2.3L/100km out of it. That’s still pretty low, and that included my stuff ups of not charging it up.

Do I believe your average driver could get 1.0? Tough call, but it’s a maybe from me. If you lived in a flat city and didn’t do lots of motorway driving, then yeah, totally possible. In every other city in New Zealand, I wouldn’t think so, but still, 2.3 is a great result.

I think one of indicators is our test car – it had done almost 4,000km and the average over that time? 4.0L/100km. That’s likely because it’s been gone through by a lot of motoring journalists, and may or may not have fuel economy on their minds.

Then again, after driving 464km, I still had 648km in the 43-litre petrol tank. Not quite the almost-incredible 2,400km, but I was happy with that result.

The Competition

Brand/Model Power/Torque Est. range, battery only, km Battery capacity, kWh Seats Boot space, litres (3rd row down where fitted) Price – High to Low
MINI Countryman Cooper SR ALL4 PHEV 110kW/220Nm 40 5.7 5 405 $59,990
Hyundai Ioniq Entry Plug-In 77kW/170Nm 63 5 341 $53,990
Kia Niro PHEV 104kW/147Nm 55 8.9 5 324 $49,990
Toyota Prius Prime 90kW/142Nm 56 8.8 4 302 $48,490

The Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
  • Potential fuel economy
  • Value for money
  • JBL audio
  • Performance, even in Eco mode – especially for a Prius
  • Ride
  • Can be complicated – too many drive modes/configurations
  • Boot space
  • Strictly a four-seater

What do we think of it?

I loved the VW eGolf, but I know others would see the 220km range and shudder – even though (apparently) the average distance a New Zealand car travels each day is 27km.

So does the Prime fill a market need? Does it fit for those people with range anxiety? Could the Prime fill the void, as a stepping stone to a full EV?

1000%, yes. It feels like the perfect answer. Like the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, drive until you run out of battery, then either plug it in or use the engine to charge it up.

If we do truly only do 27km a day, the Prime is going to fit the needs of most of the population, and give them the ability to drive a lot further if they wanted to, without freaking out.

drivelife car review chevrons four and half




2018 Toyota Prius Prime

4.5 Chevrons

Vehicle Type 5-door small FWD hatchback
Starting Price $48,490
Price as Tested $48,490
Engine Hybrid/electric, driving front wheels only

Petrol engine 1.8-litre, 4-cylinder

Power, Torque Petrol engine: 72kw, 142Nm

Combined rating: 90kW

0-100km/h, seconds 11.1
Spare Wheel Tyre repair kit
Kerb Weight, Kg 1,550
Length x Width x Height, mm 4645x1760x1470
Cargo Capacity, litres 360 (seats down not stated)
Battery capacity, kWh 8.8
Fuel Economy, L/100km Advertised Spec – combined –  1.0L/100km

Real World Test – combined –  2.3L/100km

Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+

Fuel tank capacity, litres 43
Towing Capacity

Kg, unbraked/braked

Not rated
Turning circle, metres 10.2

Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+

Warranty 3-years, 100,000km

Batteries: 8-years, 160,000km

ANCAP Safety Ratings 5 Star



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2018 Jaguar F-Type P300 R-Dynamic Special Edition – Car Review – Reinventing the base model Wed, 10 Oct 2018 23:30:48 +0000 True, 2-seater sports cars are becoming a rather small niche market that is now split into three price brackets. Starting around the $50K mark, you can pick up the legendary Mazda MX5 all the way up to $80K which can get you a Nissan 370 Nismo.

The next bracket covers $110K to $150K which offers a range of European models from Porsche, Mercedes, Alfa Romeo and Jaguar. Above this, the heavens open and the sky is the limit, with supercars from every major brand at the appropriate eye-watering prices.

The team at DriveLife got the opportunity to test Jaguar’s first 4-cylinder F-Type, to see if it has what it takes to stand out from the crowd.

The Range

Including the F-Type P300 R-Dynamic, there are 4 models available within the F-Type range. The P300 Special Edition is your base model with a 2.0-litre turbo. The F-Type 380 PS Coupe has a 3.0-litre supercharged V6, and sharing the 5.0-litre supercharged V8 is the F-Type R Coupe and the F-Type SVR Coupe.

The price range for these models spans many pockets, starting at $119,990 for the P300, $149,900 for the F-Type 380PS, $204,000 for the F-Type R and finally $240,000 for the F-Type SVR.

Across the range you also have the choice of roof types. You start with the standard aluminum roof, which can be changed to one of the other options, a panoramic glass roof, carbon fibre roof and the convertible roof model.

Standard options across the entire range includes the 8-speed quickshift automatic transmission with sportshift selector, adaptive dynamics, cruise control with automatic speed limiter, dynamic stability control with ‘TRAC DSC’ mode, electronic park brake with drive-away release, intelligent stop/start, switchable active sports exhaust and winter & dynamic modes. Offered as standard for the interior there is a 10″ touch-screen display, Bluetooth connectivity – phone & audio, InControl Apps, InControl Touch Pro, Jaguar satellite navigation, Meridian 380W sound system with 10 speakers, InControl Protect, Wi-Fi hotspot and USB & auxiliary power socket.

The P300 comes as standard with the R-Dynamic body styling kit, which includes a body-coloured front splitter, lower sills and a rather aggressive and complementary rear spoiler. The other noticeable difference between this and the other models available is that the P300 comes with one large rectangular centre exhaust. Without knowing much about the car, this makes it look special and feels more like an expensive supercar.

Just as the price grows with each model, so to does the array of standard options available. If we even tried to cover them and additional options we may never get to the main review for the P300. For a full range of details on standard and additional options you can visit

First Impressions

Wow that blue is amazing. The Ultra Blue almost made everything around it look black and white. This is how you make a first impression: sporty aggressive looks, single large supercar-like centre exhaust and that colour.

Needless to say, when the car was driven out of the local Jaguar dealer for the official handover, I became rather excited as this is the first F-Type coupe DriveLife has had the opportunity to review.

There was a moment that dulled the excitement, when the Jaguar representative indicated that it was Jaguar’s first 4 cylinder F-Type. O.K, not what I was expecting at all. To be honest I didn’t check, but thought maybe a V6 not a 4 cylinder turbo. But the proof will be in the pudding, once we test it out on the open road.

The Inside

The cabin of the F-Type coupe is not a large one by any means, however I never found myself uncomfortable behind the wheel. The driver’s position is nice and low with a high dash and door enveloping you in a cockpit-like environment. This is a good thing, as the feeling of being part of the vehicle is what really makes a great sports car.

The seats dont look like there is much to them, but that’s far from the case. They are really comfy and had great side support. There was more than enough room for my height, even to go as far as pulling the seat forward to find that perfect driving position.

I was disappointed to see that the steering wheel was a bit ordinary, without a flat bottom. Considering how far Jaguar went to make a base model look amazing on the outside, this felt like a simple oversight. A flat bottom steering wheel with the same seat covering alcantara and a flat bottom would have been perfect.

Every surface had nice soft touch materials, which reflected its price tag and were nice to see. The centre console was covered with carbon fibre, adding to the sporty high-end feel. Most aspects of the console reflected the typical Jaguar, Land Rover setup. One of my favourite features was the central air vents at the top of the dash. Jaguar is known for trying to hide vents when they are not in use. The P300 is no different, when the aircon is turned off, the central air vents retract back into the top of the dash. When you want them back, they extend back up again. It’s a simple mechanical feature, but its cool, and it makes this car a little more exciting.

The driver’s dash is simple and uncluttered, rpm dial on one side and speed on the other. There is a small digital screen in the centre showing you some other info like temperature, fuel level and range. It’s not a full digital dash, and that’s a good thing. It’s not about the toys or gimmicks, this car is about driving.

The one big surprise for me was when I opened the boot. Taking up 80% of the visible and useable space was the spare tyre. It was just lying there, like someone had just thrown it in the boot. I would have thought it may get at least a cover. I checked out the specs for the boot, which is around 310 litres. There can’t be much more than 40 litres available, but maybe it becomes 310 litres  when you take the wheel out. That’s a first for me, where you’re left with the option of having luggage or a spare wheel. How exactly does Jaguar see this working on a weekend trip away?

The Drive

The big question many will ask is: if the first 4-cylinder F-Type any good. I must admit I was a bit sceptical about it, as Jaguar do not heavily associate themselves with small engines or turbos. The engine inside the P300 is a 2.0-litre turbocharged 4 cylinder that can produce 221kW and 400Nm of torque. Upon startup the engine has a nice sporty sound and settles back into a low drone, sounding very similar to a high performance hot hatch like the VW Golf R. A bit of random info, the 300 in the P300 name equals the horsepower generated by the engine.

There are 3 different driving modes and 2 different transmission settings available. The 3 driving modes can be selected via a sporty-looking switch beside the gear stick. When the car is started the P300 defaults to its normal mode, one push down gives you Dynamic mode and from there 2 pushes up brings you back past Normal mode into Winter mode. The transmission settings are selected with the gear stick. Like most performance cars it’s broken down in to D for normal drive transmission setting and S for a more sporty configuration. Personally I would like one action to switch both modes over.

I had no need to test the winter settings, so let’s just jump into what we all want to know. The P300 drives really well in its default/normal mode. There is a bit of a drone from the exhaust, but I never found this annoying like some other cars we have tested. The handling was light and effortless, this car feels so well balanced. Without pushing the car in anyway the P300 is, for want of a better word, a luxury coupe. One that I could happily drive daily, as long as I don’t need anymore than what I can carry in my pockets.

The great thing about the P300 in brilliant blue was that it stood out, it was a statement. It spoke like a high-dollar supercar, looking fast even when standing still. So many people came up to me and commented about the colour and how nice it was to see a Jaguar that was not black or silver.

This look followed through into the performance mode. The engine’s 221kW is not eye watering, but it’s not a big or heavy car. If I was to liken this to another car, I would say that the P300 is an expensive Mazda MX5. Not sure how Jaguar will take that, but as the world’s best-selling two-seater sports car, it’s a true complement. The P300 is flash while being everyday useable, and yet still exciting.

In Dynamic mode with the transmission in Sport the P300 started to sing. My standard test route takes me around a curving coastline, across some back roads, motorways and through some housing estates. The curving coastline is where its real character shines through, opening up the engine and listening to that sporty drone and popping through the gears up and down. You were rewarded with an exciting pop and gurgle on the down shift and a higher-pitched drone on the upshifts. I say drone, due to the size of the engine. It was a great sound, one that you wanted to hear more and more, which is why I spend the majority of my time in sports mode with the windows down.

The P300 would be a great track day toy; it’s setup for the track, easy to drive with great feedback. And it’s got enough power to be exciting without being scary or requiring more skill than your average driver.

Unlike the VW Golf R we spoke about earlier, Jaguar do not have the proven history with small sporty engines that have been fine tuned over many years. After spending a week with the P300 I have to say that I am rather impressed. This is a great little engine and it has no problem standing beside what’s on offer in the hot hatch and sports car market. I also would go as far to say that this engine really works well with this car, a perfect power to weight combination.

I would love the supercharged V6 or V8, but many of those powerful cars become unusable during day to day driving, while the 4-cylinder could be opened up while staying within the confines of safe driving conditions and speed.

What it’s up against

The true 2-seat sports car price bracket is a small one with only 4 models available. All European, from Alfa Romeo, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Jaguar.

Where the choice really opens up, is when you decide to include 2+2 coupe models as well. The decision making becomes a lot harder, as there are a so many options.

Luxury Sports Coupe

Brand / Model Engine Power kW/Nm Fuel L/100km 0-100km/h, seconds Boot Capacity Litres Price Highest to Lowest
Porsche 718 Cayman 2.0-litre Flat 4 cylinder turbocharged 220kW / 380Nm 6.9 4.7 275 $123,900
Jaguar F-Type P300 2.0-litre 4 cylinder turbocharged 221kW / 400Nm 7.2 5.7 310 $119,990
Alfa Romeo 4 Coupe 1.8-litre 4 cylinder turbocharged 177kW / 350Nm 6.8 4.5 110 $112,810
Mercedes-Benz SLC 300 2.0-litre 4 cylinder turbocharged 180kW / 370Nm 6.3 5.7 335 $112,810

Pros Cons
  • Looks like a supercar
  • A real coupe
  • Luxury interior
  • Every day performance
  • Exciting handling
  • Perfect power to weight combination
  • An expensive coupe
  • No real boot space
  • Luggage or spare wheel?
  • No flat bottom steering wheel

What do we think?

The styling and the colour made it feel like a real supercar. It handled and sounded like a true sports car, giving the driver that tactile feedback through every corner. The cabin felt like something special that you would look forward to driving on the weekend. The P300 is a great and somewhat economical sports car, which I imagine would be a great track day toy too.

I kept getting stumped at the price, and what else you can buy for $119,990. If you’re after a true two-seater coupe that stands out from the crowd, but if you include 2+2 sports car as well, it becomes a whole different kettle of fish.

If only this was a sub-$100K sports car, I think Jaguar might struggle to keep them in stock.

Rating – Chevron rating 4.5 out of 5

drivelife car review chevrons four and half

2018 Jaguar F-Type P300 R-Dynamic Special Edition

Vehicle Type Rear-wheel drive coupe
Starting Price $119,990
Price as Tested $119,990
Engine 2.0-litre Turbo inline 4, Direct-injection
Power, Torque 221kW/400Nm
Transmission 8-Speed Quickshift Automatic Transmission with SportShift Selector
Spare Wheel Space Saver in boot
Kerb Weight, Kg 1525
Length x Width x Height, mm 4482 x 1923 x 1311
Cargo Capacity, litres 310
Fuel tank capacity, litres 72
Fuel Economy, L/100km Advertised Spec – Combined – 7.2

Real World Test – Combined – 10.4

Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+

Towing Capacity

Kg, unbraked/braked

Turning circle, metres 10.6

Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+

Warranty N/A
ANCAP Safety Ratings N/A


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2018 Lexus RX350L – New Car Review – seven-seat luxury cruiser Sun, 07 Oct 2018 23:00:18 +0000 This year sees a refresh of the RX range from Lexus – and with one important change. They’ve extended the car by 110mm, which has made the L model a 7-seater.

There’s the usual facelift at the front and back, and an interior update.

Our test of the RX350L lined up nicely with a ski trip to Whakapapa. This happens at this time every year, as a group of teenagers are ferried up for a day or two of skiing – depending on the weather. Previous years have had us in the Nissan Pathfinder, the Kia Carnival, and a Toyota Prado. There’s a bit of a ‘V6 petrol’ theme running here.

How would the RX350L fare with 5 on board and a loaded-up boot? Time to find out.

The Range

There’s four models in the RX350 range; the RX350, the RX350 FSPORT, and the RX350L in either five or seven seats (tested). At $95,900, the base model is well equipped, with standard equipment like projector LED auto-levelling headlights, auto high beams, LED DRLs, LED front fog lights, blind spot monitoring, power folding mirrors, 8-way power front seats with 3 memory settings for the driver, heated and ventilated front seats, dual zone AC, keyless entry, 4-way power adjusting steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, rear cross traffic alert, electric tailgate, a 12.3” central display, DVD player, 12-speaker audio, GPS, hill start assist, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, and vehicle sway warning. And that’s the base model!

The next model up, the $107,900 RX350 FSPORT, ups the ante by adding corning lights, FSPORT seats, a heads-up display (HUD), wireless phone charging, and a panoramic view monitor.

Top of the tree is the RX350L, at $107,900 (or $108,400 for 7 seats). For that, it then adds 10-way power front seats, with passenger 3-memory function, heated second row, power folding rear seats, a heated steering wheel, and the sound system gets updated to a Mark Levinson Premium Sound System with 15 speakers. If you have 5 seats in the L model you get a power panoramic moon roof, while the seven seater makes do with a power sun roof.

First Impressions

Let’s start with the rear half of the RX350L, as that’s where all the good stuff is at. That floating roof design is quite stunning – the glass flows down just at the right angles right around the back, and there’s not much else on the road that can match that. We’ve seen other floating roof designs, but none that take it to this extreme.

The rear too is pretty nice, with sequential indicators and a tidy roof spoiler. The bumper is a bit too big for my liking, it doesn’t seem to match the rest of the rear design, but that’s just me.

The side view shows off that awesome floating roof, and also the stunning wheel design on the RX. It all just works.

Then we get to the front. I’ve never been a fan of the huge ‘gaping mouth’ look (my term for it), and I’m still not. Some like it, I know, but it’s not for me. The LED projector headlights look excellent, but there’s too much of….well, everything else at the front. That grille is enormous. Still, there’s some that call this a ‘statement’ or a ‘bold design’, and it is bold, no arguments there – and for me, galvanising.

There’s sequential indicators front and rear, and who doesn’t like those? They look excellent when on.

The Inside

While our test car had 6,000k on the clock, it still looks like new on the inside, and has worn well. There’s grey stitching over dash, steering wheel, console, seats and dash, and it looks good. I wish the stitching was in a different colour though, it sort of faded into the material surrounding it. Contrasting stitching in a brighter colour always looks good in my opinion.

Sitting in the driver’s seat, you know you’re in a Lexus when you see a CD slot – got to cater to the target market. Nice to see a real volume knob, which seems to be making a welcome comeback from touch-only volume controls.

There’s an electric sunroof in the RX350L, but the panoramic one has been removed in the seven seater and in its place is a normal-sized electric sunroof. I was a bit surprised to see a manual sunroof blind – I would have thought at $108,000, it’d be electric.

That’s not to say it’s not well equipped – far, far from it. The RX350L seems to have almost every possible feature as standard.

There’s some nice touches in the cabin, like the expanding bins in front doors (great for fitting in larger water bottles, and window blinds for the rear doors.

The central display at 12.3” is huge and this makes it very usable in everyday use, although the resolution seems on the low side. Lexus has stuck with the tacked-on look for the display, but it’s set low down in the top of the dash so doesn’t feel so intrusive.

There’s loads of rear legroom if the second row is slid right back, but this does mean zero legroom for the third row. But – move the second row forward to give your third row seat people enough legroom, and there’s still a decent amount of room.

The Drive

Heading out the dealership, the new RX350L doesn’t just feel longer than the old model – it feels bigger overall. The HUD is nicely clear, with speed, rev counter and SatNav directions shown (if you are using it).

Since it was a cold day, I turned on the heated steering wheel, as you do. I have to say some heated steering wheels feel like they are cooking your hands after a while, but the RX one is perfect – just enough to take the chill out of your fingers and hands.

It was great to see an auto hold function for the electric park brake, but a shame it doesn’t stay on when you get back in the car. Fair to say not many manufacturers do keep this on when returning to the car.

I went to try out the massive 12.3” central display, but like the IS200 we tested, the toggle switch is a little hard to use on the move. A simple dial like BMW’s iDrive works so much better.

The SatNav system is a breeze to use regardless of the toggle, and it was great to see that when you are on the motorway, the next three exits are shown along with the map. What’s great about this is that you get the exit name, how many kilometres away it is and how long it will take to get there. Handy stuff.

A shame though that there’s no traffic sign recognition, and even with GPS you don’t get the current speed limit shown on the centre display or the HUD. This is always appreciated, and missed when it isn’t there.

I headed home and loaded up the car. With the extra length, it feels like there’s a massive amount of boot space now. At 519 litres with the third row down, it’s pretty reasonable.

Hitting the rush hour on Friday (of course), it was slow going for a while. The RX’s adaptive cruise control came in very handy here, but it felt a bit jerky at times, as it accelerated too quickly if the car in front moved forward, then would put the brakes on quite hard. We’d see this happen over the whole weekend’s driving, so at times I’d turn cruise off to make for a smooth drive.

The RX has Lexus’ normal cruise control stalk, and I know we keep going on about it, but at Drive Life we all wish it was buttons on the steering wheel – they are much easier to use. It also means with adaptive cruise control, you use the stalk to turn it off and on etc, but adjust the distance between you and the car in front using a steering wheel button, which doesn’t feel too ergonomic.

On the plus side, adaptive cruise control will bring you to a complete stop, and start you off again with a touch of the gas pedal.

Ah, gas. Do I love a petrol V6 engine – who doesn’t? The sound when you wind it out a bit is so nice, and there is performance there if you want to wind it out. I left the car in Eco mode all the way from Wellington to Raurimu, to compare both for performance and economy.

The quality of the ride was a stand out for me – the RX350L rides beautifully, soaking up bumps as you would expect a Lexus to do.

As darkness fell, I switched the car’s auto high beams on, and let it do its thing. The headlights in the RX350L are LED projector, auto on, auto high beam and intelligent – so as good as it gets. We did have few too many drivers though who flashed their lights at us, thinking we were still on high beams. I’m not sure if this was a physiological thing, as they could still see some sort of high beam lights going but it wasn’t blinding them, or maybe they were being blinded. I’ve not had this happen on other cars with auto high beams, so not sure what was happening there.

So how did it go on the trip up to Raurimu? With five of us on board and the boot absolutely packed, it managed 11.7L/100km. A bit over Lexus’ stated 9.6, but realistically? Not too bad.

First fuel-up in Bulls

You can really feel the two ton of the car up the hills, and that’s without any gear. We must have easily been touching 2,600kg laden, on the trip up. With maximum torque at 4,600rpm and a load of gear, it’s going to be a struggle to use less fuel.

Driving the car around on the weekend showed off some of the characteristics of it when used as intended. There’s tri zone AC, but there are no roof vents – there’s two centre console vents in the second row, and vents in the sides in the third row. Most passengers prefer roof vents, but this isn’t the end of the world.

There’s a heated second row in this model, which is great – but the buttons are under the rear centre armrest. This means if you have a third passenger in the second row, you need to turn on the heated seats before leaving, and then can’t adjust them again until you stop somewhere. The actual rear-centre armrest does look very cool, with the heated seat buttons and USB ports, but it’s a little impractical. Putting the seat heat buttons and the USB ports in here isn’t the best idea.

For the front seats, there is an automatic mode for heating cooling. Simply seat either or both front seats to ‘auto’ and they will warm or cool your seat, depending on what the AC is set to. Quite nice, and saves mucking around turning them up or down.

It was great that if I left the car in Eco mode (and I did all weekend until the return trip), it stays in Eco mode until you pick another mode. This is how it should be, but it isn’t always the way.

The 8-speed auto in the RX is perfect – silky smooth and perfect changes. On the open road, there’s almost no tyre, road or wind noise – conversations at 100km/h are done with normal voices, as there’s little noise coming in from outside at all.

On the sound side of things, the 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system can certainly pump out the volume and quality. There’s not much else to be said here – it’s a quality unit.

Visibility out of the car is mostly good; that floating roof doesn’t mean the actual interior window goes all the way back to the car, even though it looks like it does. It’s still a good size, but I was thankful for blind spot monitoring to watch out for cars on the sides.

The steering wheel is a nice, small leather unit and the controls for the audio system and phone etc are a pleasure to use, and I didn’t need to look down very often to see what button I was pressing. There are the buttons here too for the driver’s information display, which has a load of settings you can scroll through.

One of these settings is the graphic of the front and rear wheels, showing you were the drive is going – and at what percentage – at any given time. It’s quite interesting to watch how often this changes, and when the computer decides you need more rear-wheel drive than front. We didn’t really need AWD while up the mountain, but nice to know it’s there, working away anyway. You don’t get any AWD modes to choose from in the Lexus, but you do get a centre diff lock if you want to get serious.

All too soon it was Sunday and time to head home – this time, I’d be leaving the RX in Normal mode nearly all of the way. Heading away into the sunshine, I love love love how the RX350 has sliding sun visors. I wish these were fitted to all cars. It was so good to be able to simply block the sun from my eyes on my door by sliding the visor along. Brilliant stuff, and this feature isn’t seen enough.

I’ve got to say, driving the car in Normal mode felt no slower than in Eco mode. I couldn’t pick up any difference, but maybe that was because of the weight, I’m not sure. On the return trip, we had four people on board and just as much gear, so slightly less weight. I was keen to see our L/100km when we got home, to see just how much more petrol Normal mode would use.

One highlight for this car are the seats – all of them. So freaking comfortable. The fronts especially so, with so much adjustment and heating/cooling, they are perfect for a long trip. Any second row passengers over the weekend – and there were many changes – always mentioned the seat comfort as soon as they sat down.

On one of the windier bits of road, I switched the car to Sports mode to test it out. The steering is supposed to get heavier, along with some chassis changes in this mode. Here’s the thing for me; yes the steering does get heavier, but it feels fake – like added weight just for the hell of it.

There’s no extra feel through the steering – which on the whole, doesn’t have a lot – so it was back to Normal mode for me. Performance does feel crisper in Sport mode, and changes happen sooner, but I think Normal mode is where it’s at.

And so, to Normal mode and fuel consumption. We left Raurimu, after using 11.7L/100km to get there running entirely in Eco mode. On the way back with one less person and running in Normal mode…9.0L/100km. I couldn’t believe it either. This car was more economical not running in Eco mode. I wondered about this – maybe it’s something to do with torque being so high, perhaps in Eco mode the car is holding the gears longer, and then there’s no performance until it changes down and uses more gas to get back to speed.

I’m no engineer, but that’s my theory. It was an interesting comparison though, and I’m still surprised by the result. My average over just on 1,000ks of driving was 10.5L/100km, which wasn’t too bad in the scheme of things petrol V6.

The Competition

Brand/Model Engine Power/Torque Fuel, L/100km Seats Boot space, litres (3rd row down where fitted) Towing capacity, Kg (unbraked/braked) Price – High to Low
Land Rover Discovery SE 3.0-litre, V6, turbo petrol 250kW/450Nm 10.9 7 1,137 750/3500 $115,900
Volvo XC90 R-Design 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo, petrol 177kW/500Nm 5.7 7 1102 n/a $108,900
Lexus RX350L 3.5-litre V6 petrol 221kW/370Nm 9.6 7 519 750/2000 $108,400
Audi Q5 TSFI Quattro Sport 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo, petrol 185kW/370Nm 7.1 5 550 750/2400 $99,900

The Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
  • Engine sound, performance
  • Space
  • Seat comfort, adjustability
  • Serenity inside when on the move
  • Ride
  • Standard equipment levels
  • Fuel economy
  • Some jerkiness when using adaptive cruise
  • Some ergonomics

What do we think of it?

The RX 350L is designed for its target market perfectly, and matches it. It’s luxurious, fully featured, and goes very well indeed.

It’s also spacious, quiet, rides very well, and has loads of space. Didn’t I say it fitted in perfectly with its market?

Yes, it likes a drink, but if you are spending over a hundred grand on a Lexus with a petrol V6 engine, you will not care.

Current Lexus RX owners will enjoy this car, even with the few niggly things that I picked up.

2018 Lexus RX350L



Vehicle Type 5-door, AWD, large luxury SUV
Starting Price $95,900
Price as Tested $108,400
Engine 3.5-litre, quad cam, V6 petrol
Power, Torque 221kW/370Nm
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Spare Wheel Space saver (under vehicle)
Kerb Weight, Kg 2085
Length x Width x Height, mm 4890x1895x1690
Cargo Capacity, litres 519/1592
Fuel tank capacity, litres 72
Fuel Economy, L/100km Advertised Spec – combined –  9.6L/100km

Real World Test – combined –  10.5L/100km

Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+

Towing Capacity

Kg, unbraked/braked

Turning circle, metres 11.8

Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+

Warranty 5 years warranty

3 years free servicing

5 years Roadside Assist

ANCAP Safety Ratings 5 Star


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2018 Hyundai Santa Fe – launch Fri, 05 Oct 2018 19:00:26 +0000 This must be one of the most hotly-contested market segments in the country: Large SUV. Not only that, but there are some stunningly well-designed cars in this segment – for example, the Mazda CX-9 and the Toyota Highlander – both stand proud as an excellent choice if you are looking for a 7-seater SUV.

Then there’s the Hyundai Santa Fe – this car too has a loyal following, and those that own them, love them. This is dangerous territory – get it wrong, and when those loyal owners come to upgrade, they may look elsewhere.

Has Hyundai got it right? We went to the launch to find out.


The whole SUV market segment makes for interesting reading. By the numbers, YTD for 2018, Large SUVs make up 11.4%, then Small SUVs at 12.9% and Medium SUVs taking top spot at 16.5%. Utes make up the rest of the numbers (25%).

The Santa Fe so far this year has lagged behind the leaders, with the Highlander, Captiva and Outback outselling it. Mind you, the Outback is only 40 or so units ahead, so it’s a close race for third spot.

Even more interesting were the numbers over the last ten years. For the last decade in this segment, 67% have been business buyers, and 33% private – and that hasn’t changed. For Hyundai, they buck this trend with an almost even 50/50 split.

No change too across powertrains, with 54% petrol and 46% diesel. What about 2WD/AWD? Same thing. 88% AWD, and 12% 2WD – for the last ten years. If only lotto numbers were that easy to predict.

But some things have changed. Ten years ago, 7-seats made up 66% of the Large SUV market segment, while that number is now 80%. We must be having more kids, or something. For this reason, there’s no 5-seat option for the new Santa Fe – 7 seats only.

The age of buyers has changed too, with the Over 40s outnumbering under 39 Year-Olds 3 to 1 in 2008. Now? That’s almost reversed, with under 39 Year-Olds outnumbering ‘older’ buyers.

Hyundai also showed us some future releases, including an updated Tucson in Q4 of 2019, with updates in tech, design, safety and drivetrains. There’s a new i30N Fastback coming too – same powertrain as the i30N, but with a fastback body. Hyundai NZ is undecided if they will bring this car here, or not.

In 2019, Hyundai will release a Fuel Cell Electric Truck, with a 400km laden range – that’s pretty impressive. Apparently there’s a hydrogen station going in in Auckland shortly, and this will help drive demand for the truck.

Like other manufacturers, Hyundai are getting into the Connected Services market, with an app to control different aspects of your car. The new Santa Fe will feature AutoLink Bluetooth and AutoLink Premium, which allows for things like accident assist, emergency assist, driving stats, geo fencing, roadside assist, driving history, vehicle health reports, recalls, service bookings and estimates, also fuel level and efficiency.

The Bluetooth version is standard in the Entry and Elite models, while the Limited has the Premium version. If you have the Premium version, it means the car is fitted with a SIM card, and you can remote control certain aspects of the car from anywhere. These include remote start, remote AC set etc. The Bluetooth version does not allow for any remote features – but the Premium option is available on the Entry and Elite models. For Premium, this is a free service for the warranty period of vehicle.

Gavin Young, Service Manager for Hyundai New Zealand, was next up to explain more around the design and features of the new model.

It does look a little Kona-ish at the front he says, and this is by design. There are projection headlights across the range, and side on there is a longer wheelbase (by 65mm), it’s longer overall, and the rear of the car contains “more design cues from Kona”.

Still at the rear, there are lower placed indicators and reversing lights. Wheel-wise, there are 18” alloys on the Entry level car, and 19” on other two models.

On the inside, apparently there are lots of soft touch materials, and the rear (third) row window is a lot deeper than the previous version, with visibility up 41% for third row passengers.

The car is also higher and wider than the outgoing model, with a slight Increase in boot space, at 130/547/1625 litres. The tow rating is unchanged at 750 unbraked/2000 braked kg.

There’s been lots of NVH improvements he says, but only a drive will prove if this is true.

For the powertrains, the existing 2.4 Theta II GDi petrol engine is retained, making the same 138kW of power and 241Nm of torque. Petrol versions of the Santa Fe are fitted with the same 6-speed auto as the current model, and it returns 9.3L/100km in fuel economy.

The new 2.2-litre diesel sounds like where it’s at, with an 8-speed auto, and 147kW/440Nm. This engine should give you 7.5L/100km.

There are some drive modes for us to play with today, which include Eco, Comfort, Sport and Smart. Eco sends most of the drive to the front (90%), while Sport will send more to the rear (only 60% front).

The new Santa Fe spent lots of time and thousands of kilometres in Australia, being tuned in the suspension and steering department, and Gavin went on to point out that the different powertrains have different suspension settings.

There is no ANCAP rating for the car just yet.


SmartSense makes an appearance in the new Santa Fe, after its debut in the Kona EV. This includes things like Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) and on top of that, RCTA Assist, where the car will stop you changing lanes if there is another vehicle there.

There’s also Lane Keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning, adaptive cruise control (with stop and go ability), Leading Vehicle Departure Alert, Driver Attention Warning, Forward Collision Avoidance Assist (which also identifies cyclists), high beam assist, Safe Exit Assist (where the SmartSense system will not allow rear door lock to unlock if there is a car coming, saves kids getting run over), and a new one I hadn’t seen before – Rear Occupant Alert.  This system is for animals or children who get left in car unknowingly. The first thing it will do is give you an alert on the instrument cluster, then will sound horn if left behind and car locked. It’s a great safety feature.

The base (Entry) model has most of the safety features of SmartSense, except RCTA Assist, Blind Spot Collision Assist, Safe Exit, and Rear Occupancy Alert.

There is a heads-up display in the new Santa Fe, but it’s only on the Limited model. There are many features available in the range, like heated and vented front seats, heated wheel, heated second row seats, and Qi wireless phone charging.


Entry $59,990 petrol; Diesel $66,990

Elite $69,490 petrol; Diesel $75,490

Limited $76,990 petrol; Diesel $82,990


Day One would see us driving north from Auckland up to the Hokianga. Our Santa Fe for this day would be an Elite model, in the Stormy Seas colour – a nice, deep metallic blue.

This would be a diesel model – actually, Hyundai NZ only brought diesel cars for us to drive, and no Entry model: only the mid-spec Elite and the top-spec Limited.

I jumped in as passenger first, and immediately you can see some changes – the textures and fabrics used inside the cabin are a big change from the previous model. There’s also the ‘knit’ headlining, which looks and feels great. The build quality is as always, top of the class.

We hit the motorway, and found almost no wind noise at all. There’s some from the mirrors, but you have to listen hard to pick it up. General NVH is superb, with only the tyres letting the side down, when they are on coarse-chip seal. However, the same can be said for most cars on that type of road. The new Santa Fe reminds me of that benchmark in NVH, the Mazda CX-9. It really is excellent.

The central display is extremely high definition, noticeably above others in this segment. Crystal clear and simple to use.

We did a driver swap, so I got my first taste of the new car. That new 8-speed auto is a real gem – perfect changes at the right time.

We took the road from Dargaville to Opononi, and those that know that road will know just how bumpy it is. The Santa Fe took these bumps – many mid-corner – in its stride, and the chassis is a highlight of the new model. It actually handles quite well, and the ride is bordering on outstanding. That road is a pig for bumps, but they didn’t unsettle the Santa Fe in the slightest.

The 440Nm of torque from that diesel engine was put to great use, punching the car out of the corners. Midrange performance is great, but it felt like it was running out of steam closer to the maximum RPM for peak torque.

Dinner that night was at the Copthorne on the Hokianga, which was a great location for a photo opportunity, as the sun went down. Hyundai NZ Ambassador, Sir Graeme Henry was on hand to regale us both with funny and uplifting rugby stories, and to try and get us all to buy a Hyundai.

Something we haven’t covered yet is the look of the new car – it’s one of those cars that look as good in the flesh as they do in photos. Yes, there’s hints of the Kona at the front and back, but that’s no bad thing; there aren’t many people who don’t like the look of the Kona.


Today we’d be moving up to the Limited model, so vented seats, a panoramic sunroof, a heads-up display, and the active dashboard. This was finished in…Stormy Seas. Yes, the same colour as the Elite model. Interesting that other than the wheels, it’s almost impossible to pick the difference externally between the two models.

There’s also the 360-degree view camera in the Limited model, great for parking, although it has auto-parking anyway.

We headed out of the hotel and drove for a few minutes, then off-road onto some farm land and then onto the beach. A great bit of fun, it’s always great to drive on the beach. After a few photos, it was time to head back to the road, now driving up a smallish sand dune to get there.

The first cars were fine, but after than the ruts were too deep for the tail-enders. There was some minor damage done, as cars had to be driven at speed up and onto firmer ground. Other than loss of mana, no real problems.

We left our off-roading area, and headed to Kawakawa for a coffee break. I was driving again now, and this car – only a two-day drive so far – impresses with its overall refinement. It’s quiet, easy to drive, great visibility, excellent handling…so far it’s ticking all the boxes.

From Kawakawa, we drove to Mangawhai Heads, and Te Whai Bay Wines for lunch. This was a great drive, heading inland at Waipu and taking the coast road. A lot of fun, and again the Santa Fe impresses with chassis dynamics.

All too soon we were back in Auckland. The car we had for day two had averaged 7.9L/100km for fuel economy over the two days, and after a reset at Te Whai Bay Wines, it averaged 6.8L/100km on the slower drive back to Auckland. These figures seem to be inline with Hyundai’s claims, but most of this was on open road.

So what next? We wait for a test car, and spend a week with it. Hopefully it’s as good as it was for our launch. If it is, then there are some large SUVs out there that should be worried – this is a very refined, lage SUV. It may only be the pricing that Hyundai NZ struggles with.

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2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 AMG S – Car Review – Operation Overkill Sun, 30 Sep 2018 23:00:28 +0000 Back in June of 2017 we reviewed the Mercedes-Benz AMG GLC 43 Coupe. Like many of the AMG’s we test, it’s hard not to like how crazy they are. But they are not perfect, far from it. AMG models from Mercedes-Benz usually combine extreme luxury and excess performance and are usually much more about the want than the need.

The AMG 43 we reviewed hit all of these points around the 8.5 of the madness scale. A 10 on this scale is usually left for the models that bear the badge numbers 63 beside AMG, and this can be pushed to 11 for those with AMG 63 S.

The Range

The Mercedes-Benz GLC SUV starts with two shape variants. Your more typical SUV with a square rear end, and the Coupe – sloped or fastback model. They designate the difference by GLC SUV, and the sloped back is the GLC Coupe.

Within the lineup you have 4 models; two petrol and two diesel. It begins with the GLC 200 which starts at $82,900 for the SUV and no coupe option available. Next is the GLC 250 which starts at $96,900 for the SUV and $106,900 for the coupe. Then we have a diesel option, the GLC 250d which is $98,900 for the SUV and $108,900 for the coupe. The AMG 43, which begins at $120,500 for the SUV and $126,300 for the coupe. And last but not least is the AMG 63 S which begins at $184,900 and the coupe at $189,900.

The GLC is available in 10 colors, two of which are standard: Black Non-Metallic and Polar White Non-Metallic. Every other paint option however, comes with an additional cost. Obsidian Black Metallic, Iridium Silver Metallic, Cavansite Blue Metallic, Brilliant Blue Metallic, Diamond Silver Metallic and Selenite Grey Metallic are all $990 extra. And designo Diamond White BRIGHT Metallic and designo Hyacinth Red Metallic are $1,990 extra.

Add to this the interior trim inlays options, of which there are 5: black ash open-pore wood, black piano-lacquer look – light longitudinal aluminium trim, dark brown line structure high-gloss Wood (Only available as part of designo Package $5590) and light brown high-gloss lime wood which are standard. The AMG Carbon fibre/longitudinal aluminium trim is $1,490 extra.

The standard equipment for the GLC range is impressive and would take up an entire page to list. So I will just say that the AMG 63 has everything the all the other models have, plus the following options as standard: AMG Performance seats, AMG Performance steering wheel in Nappa leather / DINAMICA microfiber, THERMOTRONIC automatic climate control, AIR-BALANCE package, AMG instrument cluster with AMG main menu and RACE TIMER. And for the exterior, you get the AMG Night package, AMG Panamericana grille, AMG Spoiler lip, AMG Performance exhaust system.

Under the car, you get the additional AMG Electronic rear-axle limited-slip differential, AMG Sports suspension based on AIR BODY CONTROL, • AMG High-performance composite braking system, AMG Performance 4MATIC+ With fully variable torque distribution and AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT 9-speed sports transmission with RACE START function.

First Impressions

Thankfully the GLC was in my mind a proper SUV, none of this 4-door coupe business. I am sure some people like them, but they are not my cup of tea at all. I just can’t see why you would take a practical shaped SUV and then put a fastback slope on it. Anyway, less about that and more about the car I was collecting.

If you didn’t know much about the GLC 63 AMG S you could easily have overlooked it in black. In this colour the big intakes, body kit and arches were not as loud as white. It still had a muscular strong stance, while having a nice sleeper quality to it. I think it looked great, not sure I would have picked black, but it still looked pretty damn good to me. The 21-inch alloy wheels popped against the black body and red AMG calipers were a great touch. For those who knew what to look for, they would be able to tell that this is not a typical family SUV.

The Inside

Once in, it was clear that the GLC 63 AMG S was a luxury model. It has the right look and feel, with no surface or detail being overlooked. 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 in some way. The carbon fibre option felt a bit too plastic for this kind of vehicle, not as elegant. 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 AMG sport seats were great – very comfy and supportive. They have endless ways to adjust until you find the right spot that worked for you. I have never been a fan of the Mercedes seat controls on the doors, as I feel you just set these and never need them again, so why not hide them away like everyone else.

The steering wheel was flat bottomed with alcantara side grips, which I really loved, giving it a very sporty and luxurious feel. The paddles on the 43 AMG Coupe felt a bit pointless, however this was not the case for the AMG 63 S. Even though it had the same number of gears (9), I found that I used the paddles a lot more than I expected. It didn’t hurt that this generated a lovely sound from the engine and exhaust on each downshift, which was intoxicating.

The dials behind the wheel where simple but exactly what you needed. I like how sunken they were into the dash and it felt more sporty due to the checker pattern inlay. It displayed speed on one side and rpm on the other. The small central digital screen showed a selection of info that could be customised.

My old nemesis: the COMAND media screen, still looks like it’s stuck on with velcro. Mercedes, please blend this in, everyone hates it, and it’s the only thing in the cabin that feels cheap. Can’t wait to see the dual displays from the S and E class make it way into the GLC. It would complete the luxury package they currently offer in the GLC SUV.

On the flip side the COMAND media system is well laid out and easy to navigate with the touch pad 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 colour available for the LED interior lighting. There was a fun display screen in the performance menu which showed you a selection of dials. This shows 3 dials, one for oil temperature, one for coolant temperature and a central one that shows the real time usage of torque and kW. I am going to be fooling no one in saying that I did not try to see how high I could get the dial. To my surprise, if you floor it from standstill, you get easily get the top torque figure of 700Nm.

The back seats had a lot of space and I was glad that I could get in and sit comfortably even behind my own tall driver’s seat position. My 9-month old daughter loved the rear space and the panoramic glass roof, where she could look up at the buildings as we travelled through the city. I was a bit surprised to see that our baby seat did not fit in the back without having the front passenger seat really far forward. It is a big baby seat, but it’s not the biggest we found when shopping for them. Something to keep in mind as It’s only due to the fact the seat has to be rear facing for her age.

The boot is a good space, and deep. When out on a family day in Wellington, the boot handled our daughter’s buggy and additional bags without any struggle. There was even room for additional shopping if required. This was good too see as buggies these days are massive.

There were additional buttons in the boot, one when pressed, lowered the rear of the vehicle, making it easier to lift items in and out of the back. The other two triggered the electric folding rear seats, that could be triggered from the rear in case you required additional storage space instantly.

The Drive

The minute you start up the GLC 63 AMG S, you know this is won’t be a Driving Miss Daisy experience. With a press of the button – thanks to keyless entry and keyless push-button start –  the mighty V8 engine roars into life with a short rev of the engine and grumble of the exhaust. This is not going to be a boring review at all.

Before we go into much more detail, I will cover the driving modes. There are 4 available: Standard, Sport, Sport+ and Race. I respect that Mercedes-Benz has not tried to insult the driver by offering an Eco mode in this beast. I can only describe the 4 drive modes available as the schizophrenic characteristics of the GLC.

Sport and Sport + are best described as two levels of aggression. 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 daily driving. In this mode, you could also select to go from all-wheel drive to rear-wheel drive thanks to the 4matic+ system. I know why you would want to do this, but for such a big SUV, you would need to know what you’re doing before selecting that option.

You can only be impressed with the mighty V8 in the GLC. Its a 4.0 litre bi-turbo V8 that produces 375 kW and 700Nm of torque. Yes, 700Nm from a family SUV, that’s crazy. It’s the right sort of crazy for me, as this engine can propel the GLC to 100km/h in just 3.8 seconds. It’s eye-wateringly fast for a SUV, leaving you wondering if gravity even affects this machine.

Driving the GLC 63 AMG S was rather invigorating – even in the standard mode, it made the most boring of journeys exciting. More often than not, I found myself in Sport or Sport+ mode due to the additional sound from the engine and exhaust. It was like a drug, the more I used it, the more I wanted it. The bark and grumble from the GLC was so head turning, that in many occasions it was louder and more aggressive than many boy racer cars. It did not have that tinny noise, it was loud grunty and powerful.

Any boy racer that was unfortunate to cross paths with the GLC 63 AMG S was first surprised and then impressed, with several thumbs up as I drove around or through some of the tunnels in Wellington. The only downside to this SUV was that the sound was heavily linked to the speed. The more sound you wanted, the faster the SUV propelled itself forward. It was so powerful that you needed to keep a close eye on the speed at all times. Thankfully I daily drive a twin-turbo v10 Audi RS6, I am used to excessively powerful engines.

Considering the power on hand and the size of the engine. I was not surprised that it would drink a decent bit of fuel. I did, however, expect the usage to be higher than it was. I had my fun in it, so there was a mix of normal and more spirited driving during my time with the GLC. And the combined fuel rating at the end of the week was 13.6km per 100km. That not at all bad, and I think if I was to live with it on the day to day over many months, I could get this figure much closer to the factory figure of 10.9km per 100km

I was somewhat disappointed that I never got a chance to test the Race setting in a proper race track environment. I can only imagine that it would be amazing if the handling, sounds and performance from the Sport + mode was anything to go by, Race would be exceptional: maybe one day our paths will cross again, on an empty track. I know I have a better chance at winning the lotto, but if that happens i will buy one and hire a track.

There was one issue that was not yet resolved from the 43 AMG. On full lock of the steering wheel, the huge 21” wheels skipped when first moving off. It’s a little bit annoying, but once you know it’s due to full lock of the steering wheel I just avoided turning it that far.

I am not sure that I can convey how much fun I had driving this SUV. Even in traffic, or just going with the flow of other drivers, it made the simple experience of driving somehow special, Which is exactly what an AMG should do.

The Competition

It’s king of the hill when it comes to the competition. It’s all about who can provide the most excessive and somewhat insane product available. As mentioned before, it’s more about the want rather than a need, but it’s cool to see manufacturers still pushing the boundaries now with SUV’s as they did some years ago with sedans and wagon.

Mid SIze SUV

Brand / Model Engine Power kW/Nm Fuel L/100km Seconds to 100km/h Boot Capacity Litres Price Highest to Lowest
Porsche Cayenne Turbo 4.0L V8 TwinPower Turbo 404kw / 770Nm 9.5 4.1 670 $261,200
BMW X5 M 4.4L V8 TwinPower Turbo 423kw / 750Nm 11.1 4.2 650 $206,700
Maserati Levante GTS 4.0L V8 Twin-Turbo 423kw / 750Nm 11.8 5.2 650 N/A
Mercedes-Benz AMG GLC 43 Coupe 4.0L V8 biturbo 375kw / 700Nm 10.9 3.8 550 $184,900
Audi SQ7 4.0L V8 TFSI 320kw / 900Nm 7.2 4.9 705 $181,900
Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk 6.2L HEMI V8 522kw / 645Nm 16.8 3.7 782 $169,900

Pros Cons
  • So much power and speed
  • Such great sound, so angry
  • Smooth and comfy ride
  • Performance handling for an SUV
  • Love the new AMG GT front grille
  • Easy to drive, even for its size
  • Quality, luxury AMG interior
  • LED Headlight is amazing
  • Big boot
  • A top shelf sound system
  • Big price difference to the 43 AMG
  • Skipping front tyres
  • Drinks its fair share of fuel
  • Cheap-looking COMMAND Screen

What do we think?

What makes an AMG an AMG? It’s usually 3 things,: barking mad power, face-melting speed and crotch-wetting sound. These to me are the basic ingredients in making the perfect AMG.

Does the GLC 63 AMG S ticks all the boxes? Barking mad power, oh yes, check. Face-melting speed, another big yes, check. And last but definitely not least, crotch-wetting sound, oh my god yes, double check. This GLC has it all when it comes to bonkers performance.

I want one, simple as that. It’s a big practical family SUV that sounds like its powered by dark magic and has the performance figures most 911 Porsches gloat about. It’s not cheap, nor is it economical, but it’s not trying to achieve credit here either. It’s a super desirable want, that all of us probably would never really need.

This vehicle is everything that an AMG should be – good looking, a bit of a sleeper, extremely mad, great performance, amazing sound, and the height of luxury.

The sound experience pushes the GLC over the BMW X5 M as the best performance SUV I had driven to date, and I think it’s a rather hard one to beat.

Rating – Chevron rating 5 out of 5

2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC 63 AMG S

Vehicle Type All-wheel drive luxury 5-door SUV
Starting Price $184,900
Price as Tested $184,900
Engine 4.0-litre Bi-Turbo V8, direct-injection
Power, Torque 423kW/750Nm
Transmission 9G-TRONIC automatic transmission
Spare Wheel None
Kerb Weight, Kg 1815
Length x Width x Height, mm 4656 x 1890 x 1644
Cargo Capacity, litres 550 litres

1600 litres (rear seats down)

Fuel tank capacity, litres 66 litres
Fuel Economy, L/100km Advertised Spec – Combined – 10.9 L / 100km

Real World Test – Combined – 13.6 L / 100km

Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+

Towing Capacity

Kg, unbraked/braked

Turning circle, metres 11.9

Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+

Warranty 3 years warranty
ANCAP Safety Ratings 5 Star


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2018 VW e-Golf – New Car Review –  Power to the People Thu, 27 Sep 2018 00:00:36 +0000 We seem to be on a roll at the moment with a large number of hybrids or EVs coming up for review. Is that good, or is it too early days still?

The Prius has been around for what feels like forever, so there’s no evidence for the claims of ‘early adopters’ for those cars.

But EVs? That’s a whole new ball game. Sure, the Leaf has been around for a while now, and there are more and more of them being imported. We’ve had the odd new one pop up here and there; the BMW i3, Hyundai Ioniq and Renault Zoe for example.

Now with the e-Golf and the Hyundai Kona, people are starting to take notice. The Golf has always been a respected car in New Zealand, so is it an easy transfer to make, from your petrol Golf to an electric one – especially an electric one that claims to have a 220km range?

A week with the e-Golf as my Daily Driver and a couple of longish trips was going to give me the real evidence. Regardless of materials mined to make EV batteries – is it time to sit up and take notice?

According to VW NZ, the e-Golf has a real-world range of 220km – could it replace my Daily Driver?

The Range

Well this is going to be short. There’s just the one electric Golf model, and it’s simply labelled e-Golf and is priced at $65,990.

That’s not to say it’s not fitted out well. As standard, it does come with an electric park brake with auto-hold, tyre pressure warning system, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, City Emergency Brake, and the Side Assist Plus package (which includes lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert).

16” alloys are standard, as well as LED headlights, LED DRLs, rear fog lamps, auto headlights, auto wipers, electrically folding and heated mirrors, Park Distance Control (front & rear), reversing camera, 9.2” colour touchscreen with 8 speakers, gesture control, DVD player and hard disk. There’s also Apple CarPlay and android Auto as standard, and a 12.3” Active Info instrument display.

A bummer that the e-Golf doesn’t come with heated seats as many other electric vehicles do, that’s a $3,500 option which includes full leather seating.

Keep in mind that for the electric side of things, there’s the electric motor in the front of the car driving the front wheels only. Some people assume all electric cars are all-wheel drive.

First Impressions

Look, the Golf is normally a great looking car. Why mess with a good thing, right? Uh, yeah. There’s an elephant in the room we need to talk about: those hideous wheels. I’m not sure what it is with manufacturers and hybrid/electric cars – they seem to go out of their way to make some part of them (or all of them) ugly. They may be designed for good aerodynamics, but those wheels belong in the 1980s.

There’s exceptions to the rule of course, the Tesla is a great looking car, but on the whole there seems to be some agenda to make electric cars look bad/terrible.

Case in point: the Hyundai Kona is a great looking car. The EV version? Hideous wheels.

Now I’ve got that off my chest, the Golf still looks good if you ignore the wheels, especially in the black our test car was finished in. There’s an extra grille bar on the front and e-Golf badges on the front, side and rear but otherwise she’s still a looker.

The Inside

While I’ve moaned about the wheels, it’s time to give VW some credit. Thank you Volkswagen for putting in a standard-looking gear selector. It’s nothing different than what people expect, and I expect that’s how people want it. They don’t want to go trying to figure out some weird looking stick thing (I’m looking at you, Prius) and the one in the e-Golf is perfect. It might as well be hooked up to a normal gearbox, as it also has nice indents and a real ‘mechanical’ feeling when you change ‘gears’.

The rest of the interior is standard fare for a Golf; build quality is excellent, and the plastics used also feel like quality items.

The central touchscreen is crystal clear – fantastic clarity here, and the menu system is still VW’s standard, and works simply and easily – I can’t see anyone having an issue with driving it.

Up front, there’s just one USB port and an AUX port. You’d think there’d be more USB ports looking at the target market for buyers, but there isn’t.

There’s some blue stitching on the steering wheel and gearshift gaiter, and it looks great.

Rear leg room is good too – the batteries for the e-Golf are under the floor, so no sacrifices have been made for interior room.

This means the boot is normal size too, which is a bonus. There is a false floor and if it were my car, I’d be tempted to just leave this out of the car all the time and have a deeper boot 24/7, but that’s just me.

There’s no spare back there, you get a tyre pump with the car instead.

The Drive

Let’s get straight into the electric side of things, ‘cause that’s what you’re here for. You get three drive modes with the e-Golf: Normal, Eco and Eco+.

Really, you could consider Normal as Sport mode in a petrol car – this is the mode that gives you the most performance, but obviously drains your battery more quickly. You can still comfortably (re range) use Normal mode if you are just cruising around the city, and know you are going to be charging up that night. In fact, I would. Normal mode gives you that solid ‘instant torque’ feeling, which is great in around-town traffic. Performance is just fine in Normal mode, and while it’s not fast – 100m/h comes up in 9.6 seconds – it’s more than capable.

As always with electric cars, it’s the 0-50km/h zone where the car shines, as it leaves those petrol monsters in its silent wake.

Eco is a good middle of the road option – you still get reasonable performance and an increase in your range of say 20km when the car is fully charged up.

And then there’s Eco+. The warning on the screen when you select this mode says, “Performance and Comfort severely affected”. That’s because you lose control of the air con – even the display showing the temperature goes off (I thought it was broken to start with). And yes, performance becomes a lot more leisurely, to the point where you are speed limited to 95km/h.

Well, sort of limited. I found I could drive in Normal or Eco mode and cruise at 100km/h, then switch it to Eco+ and put cruise control on, and it would stay at 100km/h. That was until your speed dropped below 100 because of other traffic, then the adaptive cruise control would set itself down to 95km/h.

This all isn’t a bad thing, and if you want to save energy then the e-Golf goes all out to help you. Actually cruising along the motorway silently at 95km/h was just fine for me.  I spent a lot of my time with the car driving it in Eco+, just to see how usable it was.

Here’s the thing with Eco+ or Eco mode – if you need to, you can just floor it at any time to get full power, so there’s always performance available if you need it.

I mentioned the gear selector earlier on, and just how great it was to find a normal looking shifter in the car. With the e-Golf, you can move the shifter left or right (once you are in Drive) to increase/decrease the amount of engine braking that will be applied while driving. VW calls this Brake Recuperation. There’s 5 levels – None, 1,2,3 and then maximum regenerative braking can be applied by moving the shifter down (where L or 1st would be in a normal car) to ‘B’.

This is great as you can determine how much you want the car to give you extra charge, but I would have thought just on 100% or off would have been just fine. Also, it’s a shame that the car doesn’t remember what setting you had it on before when you restart the car. So if you had it on 3, when you restart the car you need to move the gear lever over three times again to set it back.

Or, you could just move the lever down to Drive, then a quick flick to B mode – that’s what I always did. I don’t understand the reasoning to want less than maximum charge, as it saves your brakes – you barely use them – and you get the maximum charge back into the batteries possible.

So for me, every time I got in the car and started it, I’d move the lever to B. It’d be nice to be able to set this as a default for one of the driver profiles that the e-Golf allows you to pick. The other thing that resets with every start of the car is the drive mode. I’d like to be able to have it always go to Eco mode, for example, but the car always defaults to Normal mode.

You can download the VW smartphone app, Car-Net, which will allow you to do different things like setup your charging times and have the car heated or cooled at certain times of the day, so quite handy, but it doesn’t look like you can alter any drive mode settings.

So with a claimed range of 220km, how far can you really go in the e-Golf? First, let’s talk about that 220km range. That was achieved by two people from the AA who drove the car (in Normal mode) from Auckland to Tokoroa – 220km – without running out of battery. All credit to VW, that’s a great story and a reflection of the car’s capabilities.

But…that is one of the easiest drives in the country. It’s not flat, but it’s not a difficult drive by any stretch of the imagination. There wouldn’t be much changing of the ‘throttle’, and a good chunk of that drive is on the motorway/expressway. I’d be giving it the ‘real world’ test, and when you talk about Wellington’s hills, it’d be as real as it gets.

Day Two with the e-Golf, and a trip to Paekakariki loomed. I’d charged up the car overnight, and we had 174km of range when we left home. We don’t have a fast charge outlet at home, so it was a matter of plugging into a normal 230-volt outlet. Anyway, I drove the car in Eco+ mode all the way, and after our 48km drive our range sat on 169km. The maths isn’t hard on this one – we drove 48km and used 5km of range. Things were looking very good indeed.

The return trip wasn’t as good, and we used about the same amount of range as we did driving, mainly I’m guessing to a bit of a head wind.

Day Three was a trip to the Wairarapa, over that EV killer that is the Remutaka Hill. A solid overnight charge and sticking the car in Eco+ mode, and we had 217km of range leaving the house. We were expecting to do around that much, so – real world test coming up.

We drove 90km to Caterton via Martinborough, and had 80km range left. Wasn’t quite going to get home – we might, but we might not. A quick check of the PlugShare app showed that Paua World in Caterton had a charging station. We cruised in and paid our $3, and plugged in.

A coffee and lunch in Caterton, and an hour and half later we went back to pick up the car. I didn’t realise Paua World didn’t have a Fast Charger (my fault) and we’d only gained 30km extra range – but it’d be enough.  And it was – we got home driving normally (in Eco+ mode, just to be safe) and made it back with 15km to spare. Plenty! I plugged the car back in at home, and away it went.

So – you are going to ask how much does it actually cost to charge up the e-Golf? This depends on your power company, and what you pay. I’m with Genesis and the plan I’m on means I pay $0.21/kilowatt. The e-Golf has a 38.5kW battery pack. Let’s say it’s down to 3.5kW of power left, which is almost empty – so you need to put in 35kW of power overnight to completely charge it up.

At 21cents/kilowatt, that’s $7.35. You decide if that’s cheap enough for you. From dead flat, if you ever got to that, it would cost $8.09 to ‘fill it up’ based on my power rate.

If you were on a power plan that allowed for cheaper charging overnight, then it’s going to cost you even less if you charge the e-Golf (or any electric car/plugin hybrid) at the right time of night.

One thing with plugging the e-Golf in – there’s no light in the ‘fuel filler’ area, so it was a matter of getting my phone out to have some light when plugging the cable in at night. It would have been nice to have some sort of light in there (other than the green LED light that shows it’s charging).

So enough of the electric driving experience – what about everything else? On the down side, the seats are comfortable but do need more side support – it’s easy to slip a bit sideways when pushing on. And again, like some other electric cars, with the batteries down so low, you can really push this car along on the bends. It sits flat, flat, flat. That low centre of gravity is the e-Golf’s friend, and makes it a pleasure to go around corners in, with turn-in being perfect.

Ride is one word: excellent. Any bump, any road surface, it rides so well. Part of this may be down to its weight of over 1,600kg – on the heavy side for a small car. But it’s one absolute highlight of the car.

Still on small niggly things, the Blind Spot Monitoring warning on the mirror glass, and the light on the mirror body that shows the indicator on – they’re too close together. This might be by design, but sometimes an orange light on the mirror would grab my attention and I’d think it was a car as I was changing lanes, but it was only the indicator light warning thing going.

The leather steering wheel is small, and feels great under your hands – definitely one of the better ones. Interesting to see that the volume control is on the left side of the wheel, and track up/down is on the right. I’m used to them being on the same side of the wheel, but soon got used to it.

Due to the quietness of no engine, you do hear much more road noise in the e-Golf, but this could be said of most electric cars. Noise in electric cars can also be added from manufacturers putting low-rolling resistance tires on the car, which are made from a super hard compound.

There’s some wind noise from the A pillar on the motorway, but on the whole it’s as quiet as you’d expect it to be.

Stereo quality is just fine, with some good bass, and separation is above average. There’s gesture control in this car, but as always I simply couldn’t get it to work. That’s more me than the car though, this is something I always struggle with.

The Competition

Brand/Model Power/Torque Est. Range, km Battery capacity, kWh Seats Boot space, litres (3rd row down where fitted) Price – High to Low
BMW i3 125kW/250Nm 200 33.0 5 260 $77,200
Hyundai Kona Electric 150kW/395Nm 400 64.0 5 332 $74,900
Renault Zoe 68Kw/220NM 400 41.0 5 338 $68,990
VW e-Golf 100kW/290Nm 220 35.8 5 341 $62,990
Hyundai Ioniq EV Entry 88kW/295Nm 200 28.0 5 350 $59,990

The Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
  • Handling
  • Around town performance
  • Ride quality
  • Cheap to run
  • Build quality
  • Seats need more side support
  • A lot of cash for a small car

What do we think of it?

Well? Could the e-Golf replace my Daily Driver? You know, I really think it could. I believe after a short amount of time, your driving style would change and you’d subconsciously drive differently, and get more range without even trying to.

I said this of the last car review I did, for the BMW X2: it’s difficult to fault the e-Golf. Ignoring the cost, there are a few small things, but these aren’t deal breakers at all.

Somehow I doubt any e-Golf buyer would regret their purchase – it’s a great little car.

drivelife car review chevrons four and half




2018 VW e-Golf

4.5 Chevrons


Vehicle Type 5-door small hatchback
Starting Price $65,990
Price as Tested $65,990
Engine Electric, driving front wheels only
Power, Torque 100kW/290Nm
0-100km/h, seconds 9.6 Normal Mode

13.0 Eco Mode

19.0 Eco+ Mode

Spare Wheel Electric pump
Kerb Weight, Kg 1,615
Length x Width x Height, mm 4270x2027x1482
Cargo Capacity, litres 341/1231
Battery capacity, kWh 38.5
Fuel Efficiency 12.7kW/100km
Towing Capacity

Kg, unbraked/braked

Turning circle, metres 11.1

Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+

Warranty 3 year unlimited km warranty

3 years Roadside Assist

12 year anti-corrosion

8 year/160,000km battery warranty

ANCAP Safety Ratings 5 Star


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New Citroen C3 Aircross – details Wed, 26 Sep 2018 22:00:59 +0000 I’ve always had a fondness for the C3 Aircross – it’s looks different without being ugly, and it has that awesome, award-winning three-pot 1.2-litre Pure Tech turbo motor that is just sublime to drive. I think the last car we tested this in was the Peugeot 2008, and it was excellent.

As well as that, it’s extremely practical, with the front seat being able to be folded flat so on that weekend run to Bunnings you can get a 2.4-metre length of timber in the car.

Those with Skoda Yetis looking for a replacement? This could be the answer. Looking at the spec sheet, it’s pretty well equipped for the money – things like auto parking at sub $34K is a new benchmark.

Read below on the details for the new model, and be warned, this is from a press release so take things like “unrivalled spaciousness and passenger comfort” with a grain of salt.


After the successful launch of the C3 earlier this year, Citroën now welcomes a new addition to the New Zealand range with the arrival of the all-new C3 Aircross SUV. This new small SUV is bursting with personality and offers unrivalled spaciousness and passenger comfort while also allowing owners to express themselves with an extensive choice of exterior colour combinations. Along with its striking sense of style, the C3 Aircross SUV delivers a full complement of advanced safety features and comes with a top 5-star safety rating. Efficient power is delivered by Citroën’s 1.2 Pure Tech engine enabling effortless driving while keeping fuel consumption to a minimum. In short, the C3 Aircross is the perfect SUV for you.

Unique Personalisation
The C3 Aircross SUV sets itself apart in an increasingly popular small SUV sector with its unique body styling. Owners can assert their personalities further, thanks to the unprecedented levels of personalisation with the choice of up to 60 exterior colour combinations and five different interior designs.

The generous palette includes eight body colours, three roof colours (Ink Black, Natural White, Spicy Orange) and three Colour Packs (Orange, White, Black) which is applied to the roof bars, door mirror caps, headlamp trim and centre wheel caps. Owners can also choose the ambience of the interior with five trim themes offered. C3 Aircross SUV comes standard with Mica Grey cloth seats, a black dashboard décor and chrome trim highlights.

A lighter cabin tone comes via the $500 Metropolitan Grey option which adds an orange stripe to the seats, a driver’s seat armrest, a grey cloth-wrapped dashboard and orange trim inserts. The $750 Urban Red design mixes grey tones with a red stripe and details along with orange overstitching and a black dashboard décor. Leather is added with the $1000 Hype Mistral option, the seats trimmed in a mix of grey hide and cloth with a black finish for the dash and the $1500 Hype Colorado adds a premium approach with a light brown leather contrasting tastefully with grey cloth trim and a leatherette dashboard in the same colour as the leather.

The Citroën Advanced Comfort® programme
The C3 Aircross SUV features the new Citroën Advanced Comfort® programme, an innovation which enhances interior spaciousness and a feeling of well being for passengers. With its ingenious architecture, the C3 Aircross SUV has an urban friendly compactness but offers outstanding roominess in its cabin. It’s a small SUV that eases your everyday life with absolutely no compromise to comfort or functionality.

A welcoming environment is created by the horizontal design of the dashboard, freeing up space, and by the wide, comfortable seats. Rear passengers aren’t forgotten with generous legroom, a tall ceiling height for ease of entry and window blinds. Need more light? There’s an optional opening panoramic glass sunroof. Added versatility comes by way of the rear bench which features sliders and a 60/40 split. With a flat-folding front passenger seat, a load length of 2.40m can be realised. The boot’s standard volume of 410 litres can be increased to 520 litres with the rear bench in its forward most position. Total load volume with the rear seats folded is an impressive 1289 litres.

Designed for Seamless Use
The C3 Aircross SUV line has one highly specified variant packed with intuitive technologies to make life on the road easier and safer. The C3 Aircross SUV has been awarded a 5-star ENCAP safety rating and features Autonomous Emergency Brake (active between 5 and 85km/h), Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Monitoring, Speed Limit Recognition and Recommendation, a reversing camera with front and rear parking sensors, Intelligent High-Beam Assist and Driver Attention and Coffee Break Alert.

Keyless entry and push button start is a standard feature as is Park Assist for parallel and bay parking. A 7-inch touchscreen is the control centre for vehicle functions such as the automatic air conditioning, radio, phone and media. It also features 3D Satellite Navigation, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink.

Fuel Efficient Award Winner
The new C3 Aircross SUV features the latest generation of Citroën’s award winning PureTech engine, which delivers new gains in fuel consumption and efficiency. The three-cylinder 1.2-litre PureTech produces 110HP (81kW) of power and 205Nm of torque. With the benefit of stop/start technology, it has a combined fuel consumption from 5.5L/100km and CO2 emissions of just 126g/km. It’s an engine that a panel of 65 judges from 31 countries has awarded the International Engine of the Year for the past four years in the 1.0 to 1.4-litre engine category.

The PureTech features Citroën’s EAT6 (Efficient Automatic Transmission 6-Speed) automatic gearbox as standard. Offering the ultimate driving experience, it features ‘Quick Shift’ technology for quicker, smoother gear changes and optimal driveability.

The Citroën C3 Aircross SUV is priced from $33,990 including GST. Please visit the Citroën website for more information or configure your own C3 Aircross SUV on

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New Zealand Hydrogen Association steps it up Wed, 26 Sep 2018 02:03:47 +0000 The advancement of hydrogen energy as a low emission fuel source in New Zealand took a significant step forward today with the announcement of the formation of the New Zealand Hydrogen Association, by the Association’s Chairman, Michael Fulton.

Mr Fulton says the Association was established with significant input and funding from a number of private sector companies, as well as seed funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

“The New Zealand Hydrogen Association grew out of a private sector consortium of companies that were progressing the use of hydrogen in New Zealand as a low emission fuel source”, he says.

“MBIE recognised the important leadership role the consortium was providing, and together we developed the concept of widening the scope to form an overarching body to support the progression and uptake of hydrogen energy in New Zealand,” says Mr Fulton.

“The New Zealand Hydrogen Association aims to support the use of New Zealand’s renewable energy resources to decarbonise our domestic energy needs and reduce our reliance on imported fossil fuels”, he says.

Mark Pickup, Principal Policy Advisor at MBIE, says that the Ministry sees the hydrogen economy as an exciting prospect for New Zealand, not only to reduce our own carbon emissions but also in developing the potential for a key export industry.

“The Ministry welcomes the formation of the Association and congratulates everyone involved to date.  We encourage other parties working in the hydrogen space to join and support the Association.  We see this as an important development in the Government’s plans for a zero carbon and sustainable future,” Mark Pickup says.

Hyundai’s Fuel Cell NEXO travels 609 kilometers on a single charge that takes less than five minutes.

Richard Lauder, CE of Real Journeys, one of the founding members of the Association, says his company is looking forward to exploring the possibility of reducing carbon emissions by using renewable hydrogen for some of New Zealand’s most iconic tourism offerings.

“Our specially designed fleet of bullet coaches travel 1.3 million kilometres each year between Queenstown and Milford Sound and the prospect of low emission hydrogen fuel cell coaches running this route would put Real Journeys at the forefront of tourism globally,” says Richard  Lauder.

Brent Esler, Chief Executive of the HW Richardson Group says the formation of the Association is an important step forward for industry. “HW Richardson Group is one of New Zealand’s leading transport companies employing over 2,500 people.  The group operates a fleet of more than 1000 vehicles in heavy transport, including businesses involved in fuel distribution and readymix concrete.  We believe hydrogen will become a critical part of our energy mix in the future. We are pleased to be a founding member,” he says.

Todd Spencer, Head of Commercial and New Ventures at Contact Energy, says Contact Energy is delighted to be a founding member of the New Zealand Hydrogen Association. “Our company is always looking to the future and we see potential for hydrogen energy playing a significant role in a low emissions economy in New Zealand.  There is also strong potential for the development of renewable hydrogen exports using low carbon, locally produced electricity,” he says.

Michael Fulton says the New Zealand Hydrogen Association has appointed Dr Linda Wright as Chief Executive.

“Dr Wright has been the driving force behind the formation of the Association from day one, as well as firstly forming the private sector consortium. She has the passion, commitment and skill-set to take the Association forward and deliver something of real enterprise and value to New Zealand businesses who are seeking to explore a low emissions future,” says Mr Fulton. “Membership is open to all businesses, organisations, individuals and academic institutions.”

Mr Fulton, who is also the National Development Manager for Fulton Hogan, says his own company is currently evaluating the use of renewable hydrogen to replace the fossil fuels used in its day-to-day operations.  Fulton Hogan employs over 7,500 people across the transport, infrastructure, water, energy, mining and land development sectors in New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific, and is committed to being part of a low carbon economy”, says Mr Fulton.

The founding members of the Association are Hyundai New Zealand, HW Richardson Group, Siemens (NZ), Green Cabs, Venture Southland, Real Journeys, Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds, Fulton Hogan and Contact Energy

* Cover Photo: Dr Linda Wright, Chief Executive, New Zealand Hydrogen Association at the Seoul launch of Hyundai’s Fuel Cell Nexo, which travels 609 kilometers on a single charge that takes less than five minutes.

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Project FZ12 : Fraser & Zac’s Hand Built Supercar – Part 39: Fluids Tue, 25 Sep 2018 00:00:21 +0000 It’s great to be finally getting to the stage where I’m having to consider things like brake and power steering fluid etc as it’s a sign we’re getting close to this car being able to move, stop and steer under its own power, one of those rare watershed moments in such a build.

With that said however, it turns out that this isn’t as straightforward as it would usually be, surprise surprise !   The reason is down to the fact that because the front end of this car is so low, it doesn’t leave any headroom for the fluid reservoirs to sit above the items they need to feed.   These are usually gravity fed and so have to sit above the items they feed or else the fluid will never make it there.

With the lack of headroom a clear issue the only real solution was to move the reservoirs to the rear of the car where I could mount them higher than the brake, clutch, power steering etc.   It does mean I have to have long pipes to take the fluid down the side of the car, but technically there is no reason this can’t work and to be honest it’s my only option.   So the next step was to design something up in Fusion 360 and get O.L.S to laser cut it and then ask Zac nicely to TIG it up for me so it was nice and tidy.

We started off by welding in some steel fittings to the bottom plate.   The top side of the fittings are where the reservoirs themselves fit to and the other side has a standard AN6 fitting where the braided line will run to feed the units at the front of the car.

Despite all of the holes cut into this unit, it still ended up heavier than I’d like due to being made from steel, but I felt it was the easiest choice to make rather than making it from aluminium and then having to make some kind of mounting mechanism to mount it to the chassis itself.


The reservoirs have a o-ring seal on the bottom to help seal against the fitting, however there is no real pressure in these reservoirs so it’s not super critical.

There is one for the brake / clutch fluid, one for the power steering / brake booster and the other 2 are for the ride height pump which allows the car to have a computer controlled ride height as it will need quite a bit of fluid.

The reservoirs themselves were actually really cheap ($12 each) but I think they look great and are really nicely finished.    Next I needed / wanted to find a nice clean seal for them.   I hunted high and low to find someone that made a perfect side rubber seal and could only find one place in the USA and I needed to buy 20 for them to bother to sell them to me as they were a manufacturer not a retailer.   They were really good about the pricing though so it made it worth while, but needless to say I’ve now got a lifetime supply of them !


The lids of the reservoirs came with a really nice little rubber seal too, so all in all I’m really happy with the end result.


Next it was just a matter of tack welding it to the chassis behind the driver and we’re ready to run lines to the front.


The lines run down the side of the car.   They’re a bit messy now since I haven’t made any clamps to hold them, but once they’re made they will have to hold the pipes every 300mm in line with the LVVTA regulations.


Everything is all being fed now apart from the clutch as we don’t have the clutch hydraulic release bearing fitted until the new gearbox turns up, but we’ll run a line ready for it.  Here you can see the power steering and ride height pump feeds.   The last part of the puzzle is to fit the hard and braided brake lines to the ABS pump, but I’ll cover that in a separate episode.  It’s starting to look busy up front, but we will tidy it up once we know it all works.

Another area that I got onto was to fit the oil cooler.   It’s not required for operation at the moment and might not be required for operation at all, but it’s easy to fit and it seems pointless to not fit one to cover things considering it might not run so cool once it’s closed in with bodywork.


It’s not plumbed into the oil system yet, but it’s only a matter of making up a couple of braided lines which is a 10 minute process, but I don’t think I’ll bother with that until we put it back together for the final time (it’s still got to be fully disassembled yet).


Please feel free to comment or ask questions,  I really love sharing and discussing our build and cars in general with other readers.

If you’ve missed the last part of our story then click here FZ12 – Part 38

or if you want to go right to the beginning then click here FZ12 – Part 1

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2018 BMW X2 sDrive18i – New Car Review – Triple Treat Mon, 24 Sep 2018 00:00:45 +0000 Not long ago I tested the BMW X2 sDrive20i, and loved it more than I thought I would – far more. It handled, went, drove, looked.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been in the base model, the sDrive18i version of the X2. This review, there’d be no awesome twin-scroll turbo 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine. Nope, I’d be stuck with three cylinders and 1.5 litres.

This time, I really wasn’t sure I’d like this X2. I didn’t want to taint my awesome memories of the xDrive20i by lowering myself to just three cylinders.

Then I reminded myself that this was the same motor we experienced recently when the MINI Hatch was updated, and it went well in that car.

Could it do just as well in the 250Kg-heavier X2?

The Range

For the X2 range, you get three models to choose from; the base sDrive18i at $60,900 (FWD), the sDrive20i at $70,900 (FWD) and the all-wheel-drive XDrive20i at $73,900.

The base model (tested) runs a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbo motor putting out 100kW of power and 220Nm of torque. For a three-cylinder motor, that’s a lot of torque.

Both the sDrive20i and the xDrive20i have a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder twin-scroll turbo motor, which manages a healthy 141kW of power and 280Nm of torque.

The FWD models run a 7-speed automatic transmission, while the AWD model has an 8-speed.

For the base model’s money, you’ll get 18” alloy wheels, LED headlights with cornering lights, SatNav, Parking Assistant with rear-view camera, an electric tailgate, Driving Assistant, keyless entry and start, auto-parking electric mirrors, LED fog lights, auto wipers and lights, LED rear lights, lane departure warning, parking sensors, a 6.5” central display, ‘ConnectedDrive’ (Concierge Services, BMW Connected+, Intelligent Emergency Call, Real Time Traffic Information, Remote Services and TeleServices), 2-zone climate AC, and Sensatec upholstery.

Other than the bigger motor, the sDrive20i adds 19” alloys, Driving Assistant Plus with active cruise control, the M Sport X package, and heated front sports seats, and Alcantara trim.

Obviously for the extra $3,000, the xDrive20i gets AWD, and a change to an 8-speed automatic.

Our test car was fitted with $5K worth of extras, including Apple CarPlay, metallic paint, heated front seats, and the Comfort Package which includes electric front seat adjustment with memory, lumbar support and Comfort Access (or keyless entry to you and I).

First Impressions

Finished in Sunset Orange metallic, our test car looked superb. Not quite the same level as the Galvanic Gold the sDrive20i was finished in, but still very eye-catching. The wet weather the entire two weeks I had the X2 didn’t help – I’m sure under actual sunlight it would look even better. I’m not sure the photos here do it justice, as it’s almost bronze in colour, and far from any sort of orange like the name suggests.

There were lots of comments from passengers and others around this car – the design is spot-on, and the colour choices are fresh and modern.

There are many that would say your average BMW looks like any other BMW SUV, and to a point they’d be right, it’s sometimes hard to pick between models. But when I went to get the X2, it was easy to spot – that little BMW badge on the C pillar is such a small, simple thing, but it’s genius; it really defines the car as being apart from an X1 or X3, or even a 1-Series.

The Inside

Deja vu. Look, not many people are going to complain about a BMW interior; they are all very similar with the same sort of shifter, the same iDrive controller, the same dash and central touchscreen. Our test X2 was the same too, and I felt right at home in a few minutes. That’s not a bad thing. As always, fit and finish is top of the class. Quality is not a problem in the X2.

Our test car didn’t have a sunroof, so did feel a little tighter and smaller inside, compared to the sDrive20i. Not badly, but noticeable. At least the whole interior isn’t black – the headlining and pillars are beige, which breaks things up.

At night, I do love the LED strips that run along the doors. Call me a magpie, but I like a bit of bling. I switched them to a blue hue and cranked the brightness up to 100% using the iDrive controller. Why not?

I’m still surprised there’s only one USB in the front of the car, but not the end of the world.

One thing I did notice was the glovebox. Not worth mentioning? It was for me. Lots of gloveboxes now are part of the glovebox door – that’s your storage. It means (sometimes) that if you put too much in that door, it won’t shut, or doesn’t shut properly, and it all feels a little bit flimsy. The X2’s glovebox is an actual box – part of the dash – and the door is simply that. I could easily fit my full-size iPad in there (width/depth) and a whole lot more other stuff.

It’s interesting how BMW do plastics. This is the base model X2, and yet it was difficult to find any hard plastics, and those that were there were so well done it just wasn’t a problem. This was in contrast to the E-PACE I had the other week, which had too many hard plastics.

Rear legroom is good, but not great, and one shortish trip with five of us in the car was quite, uh, friendly. Lots of shoulder rubbing in the back seat. Then again, it’s not made to carry five people over a long distance.

The boot is pretty much on the money for this segment of SUV, if not a little bigger at 470 litres.

The Drive

Since the review of the sDrive20i was pretty detailed, I’m going to stick to a couple of main things this time, along with some observations since I had the sDrive18i for a couple of weeks – this brings out both good and bad points in a test car.

Mainly though, I expect the engine is the Number One thing most people would want to know about. Can a three-cylinder move the X2 along acceptably? The answer is yes, and then some.

In the Mini, this same engine leaves you wondering why on earth we need four cylinders – it really is that good. In the X2? Almost as good. That extra weight over the Mini Hatch is noticeable, but only if you’ve driven the Mini. Otherwise, this powerplant will surprise you – and make you smile.

If there was one thing I took away from my few weeks and 700km with the sDrive18i, is that it makes driving a whole lot of fun. Maybe not Mini Fun, but this is a BMW, and it delivers smiles every drive. That engine is just so willing, it wants to go and go. I’m not saying you should head off and break the speed limit in it, but the way it delivers its power and torque is, well, fun.

The sDrive20i was fun too, don’t get me wrong, but that was almost to be expected – a twin-scroll turbo 2.0-litre should be. But the 1.5 turbo? It’s like a naughty boy with a secret.

But wait, there’s more. Wind this engine out past 4,000rpm, and it will give you a sexy, growly noise, adding to your smile. Up around 6,000rpm, it sounds freaking amazing, right out to the redline at 7,000rpm. This is one of the highlights of every drive in the sDrive18i. Call me a heathen, but at times this motor sounds just like an old twin-cam Fiat 125, and I mean that in a very good way.

There are those that say a three-cylinder car is too lumpy to drive. From cold, there’s a bit of shudder when the car starts, but after that? Smooth all the way. Quiet too. Simply put, you won’t believe how good this motor is until you drive it.

And then you switch it from Comfort to Sport mode, and fun takes on a whole new meaning. The engine goes from eager to drive-me-hard. Gear changes are quicker, performance is lifted and it’s fun-time all over again.

That’s the good points, and yes there are a few downsides. In Eco Mode, acceleration is a bit lethargic. You need to be very patient if you want to use Eco mode since it’s quite painful, to be honest. I tried it a few times, and didn’t use it too much after that. On the motorway it’s okay, but around town when sometimes you need that snappy acceleration, it doesn’t give it, or even close to it. Comfort mode is perfect for all-round driving.

Now in saying that, I had a trip to Palmerston North planned, and drove all the way from a stop in Wellington in one go, 110km. I did this entire run in Eco Mode, and managed to save 9km in fuel, so roughly 10%. That’s not too bad.

While Sport mode gives you a ball of a time, it can be a little jerky too – trying to drive around town in Sport mode is tricky, if you want to drive smooth. Not that you’d drive around town in Sport mode anyway, but it does show a un-BMW side of the car. Actually, this jerkiness was found in the other modes too. It’s not bad, but it was unexpected. It’s got to be said many dual-clutch automatic transmissions are like this, not just BMW.

The transmission itself is as good as ever, 7-speed and perfect changes every time. I did miss having paddle shifters, and also found that if I wanted to use the shifter itself in Manual mode, it was an uncomfortable reach over to use it, as it moves left (and away from the driver) in Manual mode. No doubt great for countries where it’s left-hand drive, not so much in New Zealand. Those with longer arms than me would be fine.

Enough of the engine – not that I could ever get enough of it – what about everything else? Cruise control? No adaptive cruise in this model, such shame. But it does retain the ‘one touch on’ feature which is the only way to go.

The ride on this model is well above what it should be, for a small, semi-light SUV. It rides very well indeed, and the ride is quiet too. There’s almost no tyre noise on the motorway, although as always, coarse chip seal will bring some out. Wind noise is minimal at all speeds.

Flooring it on a wet road will see a reasonable amount of axle tramp, since there’s 220 Newton-metres of torque through those front wheels. To be expected.

There’s no leather or Alcantara in this base model, instead you get Sensatec seats – BMW’s version of vinyl. These actually feel like and look like leather, so no real problems in that area. I did have a small issue with the seats though, it felt like the electric lumbar adjust was on and pushing on my back all the time. I often hit the button to move it back, until I remembered that it was as far back as it would go. It meant that a trip to Palmerston North in the X2 was fine, but around town it was not the best. Not uncomfortable, but not ideal.

It’s interesting what you find with a car when you spend a little more time with it. I found that the digital speedo in the Driver’s Information Display (DID) was too small, and also it’s at the bottom of the cluster – it would have been much better at the top – still between the speedo and rev counter – where it was closer to your vision when you are driving. Again, not the end of the world but with so much Police/NZTA emphasis on speed and no heads-up display, I thought that would be a better spot for it.

At least when you set the cruise control, the speed is shown with a little marker on the speedo itself, almost as good as showing the actual speed you have set somewhere.

There’s built-in SatNav on the X2, and it works a treat. Again, one thing I noticed is that while it’s great having the turn-by-turn instructions in the DID, it’s at the bottom of the screen. Up higher would have been more usable for me.

I said I was going to tell you about two specific things when we started out. One was the engine, the other is BMW Connected Services. I expect when some people read our reviews and see things like ‘Connected Services’ in The Range part of the review, they wonder what on earth that is. I’m going to tell you, and let you know how I used it.

Under Connected Drive on the central display, I can access Local Wiki, which shows you things like schools and landmarks in the area where you are, and then information about them. But there’s more than just that. Connected Drive is a range of things, like Concierge Services, RealTime Traffic Information, Intelligent Emergency Call, Roadside Assist, Weather, News, Online Search, Flickr, and BMW Messages.

This review, I decided to test out Concierge Services every time I went out in the car. Every time. I did it for you, people.

The first day I was stuck in a traffic jam. I knew the area, and I knew I couldn’t get where I was going any quicker, but thought I’d ask. So using the iDrive Controller, I went to Concierge Services and let it ring. Jonathan answered me, and I gave him the address of where I was going, and that I was in a traffic jam. He went off and confirmed that sorry, couldn’t help you this time sir. He did have an alternative route, but it would take longer. Worth a crack.

The next day, I was going to a rest home, so while in the driveway, I called them up and gave them the name of the Rest Home. In less than a minute they had the address and had pushed it through to ‘my’ X2’s GPS system, ready to go. I didn’t need to touch anything – it was in the SatNav and ready to get my there. Nice.

Each other day, I’d do something similar and some very helpful person on the other side of the world would help me out. Apparently they can even find a hotel for you and book it as well. It’s like an automotive butler. You could do worse, and I think it’s one of those features that if you use it, you’d wonder how you did without it.

There’s an electric tailgate on this base model X2, and you can open it via the key fob, on the driver’s door or using your foot under the rear bumper.

I lied earlier on – I said there were two things I wanted to talk about, but really there’s another.

Since I didn’t have adaptive cruise control, I decided I would embrace the technology of the Speed Limiter. We often get test cars with these feature – I’m guessing at least half, if not much more. But the thing is, I don’t normally use it. I’m not sure why, but it’s one of those things that sits there, and is ignored (by me, anyway).

Not this time. I used the speed limiter around town and on the motorway, to see if I would keep using it forever more. I must say, the BMW version is pretty good. It will recognise speed signs via cameras, so even in road works the speed limit (that is shown always in the DID, thank you BMW) changes in the display. A small tap on the thumbwheel would raise or lower it by 1km/h, and a hard push by 5km/h.

A bonus for this means that if you are using the speed limiter and the limit changes, the car recognises this and shows the new speed in the DID, with an up arrow if it’s gone up, or down arrow if the speed limit has reduced. Want to adjust the speed limiter to the new speed? Just tap the cruise control speed adjuster up or down (depending on the arrow) and your speed automatically is now limited to the set limit shown. BMW call this Limit Assist.

It’s one of those simple features that can mean quite a lot. I see more and more manufacturers doing this with their own speed limiter feature (Mazda and Holden spring to mind), and it’s a welcome safety feature.

Audio quality, in this base model? Better than you’d expect, with nice clarity and even the bass isn’t too bad. It’s great that the X2 remembers that you were using Bluetooth for your audio when you got out of the car, and then flicks straight back to it when you get back in. But our test car did get confused sometimes, and wouldn’t play the previous playlist, or would show ‘unknown track’ on the display, and then not play anything. Only restarting the car would fix it. It only did this a few times, and who knows, it could have been my iPhone doing it.

Fuel economy is not the X2’s strong point. You’d think with only three cylinders, it be pretty darn frugal, but with the eagerness of that engine, you do want to push it along some. Over 700km, including a 300km round trip on the open road, I managed to get 7.8/100km. BMW say the combined rating is 5.4.

The Competition

Brand/Model Engine Power/Torque Fuel, L/100km Seats Boot space, litres (3rd row down where fitted) Towing capacity, Kg (unbraked/braked) Price – High to Low
Mercedes-Benz GLA180 (FWD) 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol 90kW/200Nm 5.7 5 421 695/1200 $61,400
BMW X2 sDrive18i (FWD) 1.5-litre, 3-cylinder turbo petrol 103kW/220Nm 5.4 5 470 N/A $60,900
Volvo XC40 Momentum (FWD) 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol 140kW/300Nm 6.8 5 460 n/a $59,990
Audi Q2 TFSI Sport (FWD) 1.4-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol 110kW/250Nm 5.2 5 405 670/1500 $55,900
Infiniti Q30 GT (FWD) 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder turbo petrol 115kW/250Nm 6.0 5 430 730/1400 $48,990

The Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
  • Electric tailgate standard
  • Engine performance, sound
  • Transmission
  • Ride
  • Design
  • Overall quality
  • Limit Assist system
  • Fuel economy
  • Some jerkiness at low speeds
  • Seat comfort

What do we think of it?

This car is a cracker – that engine/transmission combo is fantastic. The engine sound alone when you crank that motor along is a joy.

Overall, it’s pretty hard to fault the sDrive18i. The jerkiness at low speeds did get almost annoying, but I also forgot it was there after a few weeks. What else? Not much.

Before I picked up the sDrive18i I thought anyone would be crazy to buy it – just pay the ten grand extra and go straight to the sDrive20i.

Now, I’m not convinced. If you are looking at a small SUV in this price range, the X2 sDrive18i simply has to be on your must-drive list. You’re welcome.

drivelife car review chevrons four and half




2018 BMW X2 sDrive18i

4.5 Chevrons


Vehicle Type 5-door, small FWD SUV
Starting Price $60,900
Price as Tested $65,890
Engine 1.5-litre, 3-cylinder, turbo petrol
Power, Torque 103kW/220Nm
Transmission 7-speed sports automatic
0-100km/h, seconds 9.7
Spare Wheel Run-flat tyres
Kerb Weight, Kg 1415
Length x Width x Height, mm 4369x2098x1526
Cargo Capacity, litres 470
Fuel capacity, litres 61
Fuel Efficiency Advertised Spec – combined –  5.4L/100km

Real World Test – combined –  7.8L/100km

Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+

Towing Capacity

Kg, unbraked/braked

Turning circle, metres n/a

Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+

Warranty 5 years warranty

3 years free servicing

5 years Roadside Assist

ANCAP Safety Ratings 5 Star


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