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The Fierce New Lexus IS350 – Power That’ll Move You.

January 26th, 2011

Test driven and written by Adrian Erdedi for www.AdrianErdedi.com

A Sydney Lexus dealership was kind enough to lend me a Lexus IS350 Sports Luxury for a whole week. The same car, same shape, same interior… the difference? Its got a new and improved big powerful engine.

Never being a fan of Lexus (and you’d know that from my first car review which was a Lexus), this time I’ve been convinced… And all it took was time. Like a mother with an ugly child, you eventually grow to love it. I grew to love it. My love for it grew very quickly.

They [Lexus] said, “in a week, you should be able to get a proper feeling for the car, and see how good it actually is. Trust us, you’ll become a Lexus convert”.

So what did I think?

Outside

Razor sharp and agile looks. It’s a fierce looking beast, ready to unleash. With big shiny steel rims and brilliant pearlescent exterior paint, it is just inviting me in, with doors wide open.

This car is all about the detail, nothing has passed the eyes of Lexus, there isn’t one piece of metal, plastic or glass that is unattractive.

From the side mirrors to the boot lid… The exterior of this car is just beautiful even though the shape is 5 years old. The side mirrors have the night lights to illuminate the road below, the new addition of the day time HID driving lights, the door frames, boot lid, bonnet lid and basically anything that opens or closes is built nicely and is polished.

It’s beastly. It’s flared body panels almost make the car seem like it’s breathing subtly, like a wild beast watching it’s prey.

Interior

Grabbing the door handle with the keyless entry fob in my pocket, the car unlocks opening up to an extremely refined interior.

Sumptuous leather appointed electrically controlled heated and ventilated seats with contoured comfort welcome you home. They are like a La-Z-Boy armchair. The centre console is raised between the two front passengers, giving the feeling of a wide luxury saloon. Lots of storage areas, easy to reach everything, buttons are big and easy to read, everything has been designed for the driver.

The brains of the car is in the dashboard, with the entertainment/comfort/navigation system. Control everything from music, climate, satellite navigation, Bluetooth, mobile phone and vehicle customization settings.

The back seat is tight, but good enough for kids or small adults. Without legs. Or arms.

So the whole reason I have reviewed the car is for the engine. What did I think about it?

Engine & Drive

Fierce. Absolutely fierce. As all of their TVC’s suggest, it’s power that’ll move you. A 3.5 litre, V6 engine with 233kws of power, this thing has grunt. I’ve driven the IS250 and this new and improved engine absolutely creams the IS250! The IS350 is the most powerful in the range.

The great thing about this car is that it’s whisper quiet. But the second you push your foot to the floor and the revs get up, this car sounds like a hungry beast. It sticks to the road like glue, has awesome handling – where you steer, it goes. At high speeds, jolting the wheel left and right, the car does sway a little and finds it a little bit tough finding it’s bearings. But chance of you having to do that in a dangerous situation are minimal, so you’re pretty right.

Braking is absolutely superb. Even at high speeds, the car stops in an instant, without my latte, laptop and drycleaning flying around the cabin (too much).

Likes: I pretty much love everything about this car. Style, elegance, power, performance, colour, layout, ease, feel. The features of this car are quite endless – I just love how many cool features there are, and they are all so easy to use.

Dislikes: Tight backseat, boot space is ample, but not as spacious as I would have expected for a car of it’s size. The thing I dislike most is definately the park brake – it’s the push down pedal next to the brake on the far left of the foot well. It is so stupid and uncomfortable to use – the amount of times I also forgot to use it.

Would I buy it? Absolutely. I would buy one in a heartbeat. But I’m not in my 40′s and not a Real Estate agent.

Price: $89,000 drive away for the IS350 Sports Luxury, which is the top of the range.

Final Say: I really love this car. I really, really love this car. It is the perfect package. All you need to do is get over the fact it’s Japanese and owned by Toyota, and the fact it’s $89,000 drive away and you will be blessed with many years of smooth, economical and pleasurable driving. There’s something satisfying about driving a Lexus.

Sleek And Sexy Peugeot RCZ – The Faux Super Car

December 3rd, 2010

Test driven and written by Adrian Erdedi for www.AdrianErdedi.com

As I walked out of The Riverview Hotel in Balmain after an amazing lunch, I saw the Peugeot RCZ drive past me on the street, with a halo around it’s roof and the scene in slow motion. There was an angel passing me.

One of the most stunning cars I’ve seen on the road in a long time, I couldn’t help but stare and see in real life the car that has been advertised on more billboards, magazines and newspapers then the Mitsubishi 380 when that came out a few years back. Almost impossible to escape.

A mix of the Nissan 370Z, the new Audi TT and I can even see a little bit of the Daihatsu Copen in there. The Peugeot RCZ looks like some extra terrestrial Supercar, powerful, sexy, fast and super luxurious. Till you get in it.

To the Peugeot dealership I went to discover this amazing vehicle and see what all the advertising was all about… Boy was I disappointed.

Exterior – The Great And The Not So Bad.

Approaching this outstanding car, the first thing I find on the exterior to criticise are the exhaust pipes. Two steel exhausts on the left hand side of the car. All the engineering, styling and money that goes into creating such a spectacular looking car, they have done nothing minutely different with the exhaust. Perhaps two on either side, or even one on either side, or in the middle. But I can get over it. The rear is very beautiful, you could almost mistaken it for an Audi TT at a glance. An electronic rear spoiler can be deployed manually or automatically. Once you reach 85 km/h it will raise 19 degrees. Once you reach 155km/h (which I hope you don’t?!), it raises up to 34 degrees. It is concealed neatly within the boot lid, but a little flimsy when the boot lid is lifted, the spoiler can be moved around on the sides of the lid.

The smooth and stylish lines are simply delightful. The cabin sits low and sunken in between the 4 wheels. The mirrors are gorgeous, similar to the Citroën C4. There is heaps of glass, the use of glass is phenomenal. Every single panel of this car is simply perfect.

The front of the car had this enormous badge, a massive grille which remind me of a Whale Shark, ready to scoop up and swallow anything in it’s way. The badge which and the surrounding grille is made out of plastic, but not even a good plastic. It’s flimsy, cheap and tacky. The entire front bumper and grille is completely flimsy – like a cheap little Suzuki Swift.

But the most striking feature of this car is most definately the roof. There is a double-bubble roof, that protrudes from the top of the windscreen, to the back of the roof, then the rear window is moulded to carry the convex bubble through to the base of the window. There are two aluminum arches which stand out in the most blissfully peculiar way – a vision of almost perfection.

Interior – The Not So Good And The Bad.

Pathetic. There is almost nothing in the interior that does this car justice. After having a complete eyegasm with it’s utter sex appeal on the outside, getting into the car is one of the biggest anti-climaxes I’ve ever had.

From the moment I got in, the only thing I could really say is beautiful… Are the front seats. That’s it.

The dashboard, the buttons, the stereo, the doors, centre console, the handbrake, the gears, the EVERYTHING looks like it’s come straight from a Peugeot 206. Simply boring and dull. There is nothing technologically advanced (specification wise), and nothing anywhere close to reaching the levels of luxury you’d expect when you see it from the outside.

Flimsy plastic climate control knobs. A basic stereo supplied by JBL has adequate sound, but is just a basic looking facia from one of the entry level 206′s – it just has no character. There is an analogue clock, to add a touch of ‘class’. Too bad that class was lost when they put the filthy looking numbers all over it. The clock in the Ford Fairlane’s (which are now Silver Service cabs in Sydney) from the early 2000′s even looks better!

I also don’t like the handbrake. In this day and age, an electric brake would be more suitable for this car, with a simple touch of a button to engage the park-brake. The Peugeot 3008 has it, why doesn’t the RCZ?

The biggest thing that got me was the back seat. Ok admittedly you wouldn’t really want to take people around, a car packed with 4 people, but in the occasion that you do need to, you may need to remove either their head, or their legs. One or the other. I am 184cm tall, and sitting in the back of this car was simply impossible. Yes there is leg room – but it’s the head space. My head was literally laying on my shoulder to one side just so I could fit in. The rear window comes down over the rear seat so much, it cuts off a large portion of the head room. The rear seats are cheap and tacky, just like in the Porsche Carrera’s. It’s definately a 2 seater car with a parcel shelf – which happens to have 2 seatbelts.

But I need to stop being so negative. I should discuss the great things about the interior.

Back to the front seats – stunning. They are absolutely beautiful, from any angle you look at them. They are embossed with the Peugeot logo. They are sumptuous and supportive.

Oh, there’s also a rather large boot which I was quite impressed with, at 384 litres. But how? There is no spare tyre. No, they aren’t run-flats either. There is simply no spare type – full size or space saver. You get a little can of glue to patch up a hole long enough to get you to a service station. Ridiculous!

That’s it.

Engine & Drive – The Fairly Alright And The Bad.

Using the common style key to start the car was the first of my criticisms. Again, a stunning car which should have technological advancements such as keyless entry and start. Nothing more pleasurable then starting your faux-Supercar with a START/STOP button if you ask me.

But that aside, this is about the engine and the drive.

Handling is sublime. Absolutely excellent as expected. It glues itself to the road. Push it as hard as you can, and still it sticks to the road with each and very little fuss.

The Australian range has three variants. A 6-speed manual 1.6-litre, 147 kW petrol turbo; A 6-speed automatic 1.6 litre, 115kW or the 6-speed manual 2.0 litre Hdi turbo-diesel. They are all fairly good engines, but the way of choosing basically comes down to preference. What you would prefer to drive. It’s no super-car. It’s no powerhouse of muscle and torque, but it’s definately got guts and can definately be pushed without it sounding like it’s struggling.

Gear changing is easy and guided – again it comes down to it not being a pure-bred sports car, where you put your heart and soul through the gear stick and drive it the way it was made… This is smooth and guided. It’s just a normal road car at the end of the day.

Safety – The Good.

The safety bar has been set high. There are two front airbags as well as two side airbags. Electronic Stability Program (ESP) is by Bosch, ASR, EBD, ABS, EBA and Hill Assist. A heap of letters that mean one thing – crashing this car is pretty damn hard!

An interesting feature is the active bonnet system. It assists with minimising physical impact to pedestrians in case of an accident by raising the bonnet 55mm, avoiding hard contact with engine components.

Likes: Not too many of them. But the obvious one is the exterior styling. Second to none. The front leather seats, both comfort and styling. The leather clad dashboard and stitching. Handling. Drive. Smooth. Clean. Fun. Price.

Dislikes: The entire interior styling. Everything from the centre console lid/armrest to the instrument cluster and the ugly small screen at the top center of the dashboard. Rear seating and head space. The flooring carpet is atrocious – something you’d expect in a 1990 Mitsubishi Nimbus.

Would I buy it? If I could swap the interior for an Audi TT or BMW Z4, and also change the bubble roof from aluminium to glass, I would buy it in a heartbeat. It needs to have a stylish cockpit – with inclusions such as satellite navigation, touch screen functions, a superior branded stereo (like Bose did with Mazda or Bang & Olufsen did with Audi – even Marcel Wanders!).

Price: From $55,000. There is a Special Edition coming out this month with prices starting from $62,490.

Final say: What a stunning car from the outside. The inside is very disappointing. I guess the price of the car coincides with the level of luxury and the technological features. You are basically paying for superb exterior styling with the interior level of a 206, with beautiful front seats.

Test Driving The High End Of The Low End Nissan Murano

October 15th, 2010

The somewhat robotic looking Nissan Ti sits with each if it’s corners perched out over it’s wheels in a chunky, but smoothly defined stance in the Nissan showroom.

The beautiful pearlescent exterior and stunning tan interior lured me in, a very inviting 4WD with a very warm presence.

Opening the door, you are hit with the beautiful interior which has a red carpet rolling out taking you into a seductive embrace.

The Murano has everything you’d expect from a $150,000 luxury European 4WD, yet it’s less than half the price.

Exterior

Apart from looking great and having a defined presence on the road, it’s actually a tough and robust vehicle with some serious off-road capabilities. A real 4WD with buttons inside to alter your off-road experience. Because it is a test drive, I am unable to take it off-road, but having owned a Nissan X-Trail Ti myself, it’s off-road capabilities are outstanding. It does and goes where you want it to… And you worry less about damaging it because it’s cheaper!

The dual tail pipes, 18″ wheels and rear spoiler make it look more aggressive. Features like rain-sensing wipers and auto-sensing headlights help with the elements.

You either love it or you hate it – the exterior styling isn’t for everyone. This new refined model is definately more beautiful then the last model.

Interior

This car does everything plus a little more. Extra little refinements you wouldn’t expect for a Japanese brand that makes cars which are also affordable.

It’s the little buttons from the driver seat which I liked playing with. The electronically adjustable steering column, the electronic folding rear 2nd row seats, the keyless start/stop button, dual moonroof with electronic blinds, electronic tailgate, rear air-conditioning in the pillars between front and rear doors, satellite navigation, rear parking camera and many other small luxuries which make life that little bit easier and add a little bit of fun in the mix. The Bose sound system is wicked – 11 speakers plus 2 subwoofers! It’s crazy! Although – when it’s up loud… there are little rattles here and there which are annoying.

There is plenty of space for all passengers. The boot space is good, although the boot floor is a little high which limits the cargo area.

Driver comfort is almost flawless. Footwell is spacious, although I really don’t like the foot activated parking brake. I feel it should have been an electronic push button brake. The driver seat is electric and has 3 memory function. Satellite Navigation is easy to use, as well as all the other controls on the dash. I found everything to be in easy reach and the dash is attractive to look at.

Engine

Using the same 3.5 litre V6, 191kW engine as the Nissan Maxima, the Murano has a good amount of power behind it, even being such a large car.

If you’re after quick acceleration, top speeds and a fun quick shift engine,  maybe try elsewhere. The tiptronic works well, but just didn’t do it for me…  Just keep it in auto and enjoy the smooth ride.

The thing I didn’t like (well… miss rather) is the sound of the engine. When  I drive a big chunky 4×4, I want to hear the high pitch ringing noise that  European luxury 4×4′s have under heavy acceleration. I think it’s a Euro  thing – like the heavy thud of the solid doors. I guess the Japanese will catch  up one day.

Safety

Outside safety includes the sharp white Xenon headlights and rear LED lights which are bright and quick.

Again this car has all the European car safety features, 2 front, 2 side and 2 curtain airbags, traction control, electronic brake distribution (EBD), ABS and all the other features that make this car super safe and perfect for the young family.

Braking is good, but doesn’t have that strong solid feel as the Audi Q5 I test drove recently. It has a very Japanese feeling once again… Slightly tinny.

Likes: I love the little touches here and there – like the electronic folding rear seats, moonroof blind and start button for the price range. Also Nissan finally make a good looking key!

Dislikes: The typical Japanese feel – not the solid ‘real’ thud of the door feeling. It has the fake solid thud by adding extra rubber seals.

Would I buy it: Absolutely! Well… yes and no. If I wanted a real luxury car, but didn’t quite have the cash to purchase a European one, I would buy it. If I wasn’t fussy about brands, I’d definately would. A Nissan wouldn’t ever be on my consideration list otherwise.

Price: $62,000 driveaway! This is for the top of the range Murano Ti.

Final say: Great car, great package, luxurious, comfortable, intelligent, stylish, alot of fun with strong presence on the roads. BUT as I’ve said many times about other cars, it depends on the colour combination. If you get a dull colour, you’ll have a dull car! Spec up and choose your colours wisely.


Like A Shotgun Off The Lights – The Audi Q5

September 28th, 2010

I was handed over the key to my black Audi Q5, with the disclaiming words… “Becareful, it’s fast.”

I thought to myself… “Thankyou. A) I know how to drive a fast car and B) I’ve driven cars like the Jaguar XKR and Mercedes C63, so don’t tell me how to drive!”

As I left the car park, I drove slowly out to the street, till I got to the lights. They turned green and the roads were clear. I floored it expecting nothing too exciting. Then BANG! after a 1 second delay (the car goes into neutral when you are stopped and apply the brake), the car shot like a gun, hitting 60 before I could even look down. My head was literally thrown back into the black leather headrest.

Ok… I should rewind back to the beginning. When I first saw the Audi Q5, I thought it was boring, drab and about as exciting to look at as the new Nissan Dualis. But then I saw one on the road which I hadn’t seen before. Black metallic paint, dark tinted windows, polished chrome trimmings, chrome side steps and enormous 22″ wheels. I did the double take. Then a squint of my eyes to see what it was – it was the Q5 to my suprise.

Off to Audi I went, with the expectation of being disappointed because the S5 Cabriolet disappointed me so much. But I test drove the Q5 and boy I was hooked.

So let’s fast forward back to where I was. This car has balls! Massive ones at that. For a 2.0 litre SUV, it has get up and go! The gearbox works away at ease, with the 7 speed steptronic transmission making gear changing, whether you’re in automatic or manual a silky ride. There are paddles behind the steering wheel if you choose not to change the gears at the centre console.

Exterior

Bold, agile and charismatic. If this car were a person, it would be Daniel Craig as James Bond. Smooth and fast. Functional and easy. Fun but also sensible. Beautiful lines. A toned body. And a big wide…. grille.

But it just depends on the model you get and how you customise it. Most of the Q5′s I’ve seen on the road look terrible. They have small wheels, terrible colour combinations and are the basic model, which looks like some sort of basic model Honda.

To make this car stand out – it needs to have a little more cash thrown at it and customised to make it look rough and sexy.

Interior

Opening the door, the height is perfect for me to glide in and out of, but with the feeling of sitting a little bit over everyone else. The leather seats are comfortable for short and long periods of driving whether it be traffic or freeway. My arms always have a place to rest with the adjustable sliding middle armrest, which is the lid to the centre console.

Infront of the centre console is a little feature I quite admire – the cooling and heating cup holders. Unlike you’re regular cooling or heating cup holders which just have a vent from the airconditioning, these ones actually have a heating element, and a refrigeration system in them, which gets super hot, and really cold!

The gears are easy to change if you are keeping it in automatic, but if you change it to steptronic and change the gears manually, it can get confusing as you naturally expect pushing the gear towards the dashboard would go up a gear, infact it goes down.

I found this same issue being on the infotainment system built into the dashboard with the large LCD screen. When you are selecting anything from radio, to iPod, the air conditioning or the telephone, the knob works the opposite way. This could have something to do with the changing of driving side perhaps for Australian roads. You’d expect to turn things down by turning the knob to the left, infact, it also works the opposite way. The steering wheel controls are very simple and clear to use, although anything on the steering wheel is to be viewed on the small screen between the speedo and tacho. So I sometimes forget which screen to look at.

Using the iPod/iPhone docking station in the glove compartment is a little stressful – you simply plug it in, that’s the easy part.You then control your music from the main LCD screen on the dash. As much as I loved this feature, that’s the hard part. The standard sound system is phenomenal! But if you opt for the Bang & Olufsen premium system, you are in for a special treat. This is one monster sound system. When you hear your favourite songs, it’s like hearing them brand new all over again. Amazing.

The airconditioning is easy to use, once you get used to it. Instead of just pressing one button to change fan speed or temperature, you need to select what you’d like to change, then change with the knob. So there’s 2 steps to doing a simple task – making you take your eyes off the road.

Rear seating is a little cramped, but is sufficient for a vehicle of it’s size. There is a fold down armrest with pop out cup holders which actually work!

Safety

Braking in this car is excellent. It’s stops as quickly as it took to take off. Airbags everywhere, warning lights and chimes to tell you to put your seatbelt on, service the car, and do all the bits and pieces most other cars tell you to do.

Front and rear parking sensors (optional), great internal and external lighting and a strong push button electronic parking brake, this car has the features most of it’s dearer contenders carry.

On and off road

On road it’s smooth and carries itself well. In a straight line.

But in an emergency where you may need to do tricky maneuvering with the steering wheel – goodluck. It lacks response and the “you point it and it will go” feeling. Over steer and unbalanced traction when accelerating heavily makes it feel a little unstable.

Off road, it’s simply not high enough to clear rough terrain. The simple gravel driveways, corrugated dirt roads and paddocks will be tackled easily, but anything more, and it will struggle.

Likes: It’s very pleasing to look at, if you have spent extra to customise it. The heated/cooled cupholders. The sound system. The looks you get once you’ve spent that extra money to make it look amazing – you get that look from people who are puzzled, it looks amazing, but what is it?

It’s very fuel economical. It’s only a 2.0 litre and the tank goes on and on. The sound of the engine when revved.

Great visibility from all angles. Comfortable steering wheel.

Dislikes: To do simple things like change the radio, temperature, fan, choose music – it takes several steps and takes your eyes off the road too much. The over-steer/under-steer and strange under/over traction.

Would I buy it? Of course! I love it. Make sure you get it with the panoramic glass roof, huge wheels and a gorgeous colour combination, and you will have a couple of years looking at it and still appreciating it’s sexiness.

Price: My one was Audi Q5 2.0L TFSI Quattro which was $71,500 after addition of wheels and a few extras.

Final say: I’m an Audi convert. I’m also an SUV convert. Being a convertible guy, I’ve easily slipped into the SUV club and I like it. You get just as many envious looks as you would in a convertible.

The Sexiest Little Baby On The Road – Fiat 500 Convertible

August 6th, 2010

With a history spanning over more then 50 years, the Fiat 500 came back and took the European car market by storm a few years back. It was then introduced into Australia around 18 months ago and wasn’t welcomed as warmly as it was in Europe – mainly because of price.

But now because of lower pricing and new models, they have become a little more attractive to the Australian market.

Now you’re probably wondering why the hell I have stepped foot inside a car like this, when I am test-driving cars like Jaguars, Range Rover’s and BMW’s. But it is the celebrity influence that has sucked me into test-driving the Fiat 500, which is undoubtedly one of the cutest little teeny weeny cars on the road. It’s the likes of Elle MacPherson and Paris Hilton that got me onto the car. Yes – I was sucked in the way Fiat intended – brilliant marketing!

Now where do I start with this little toy car? I start with changing my mind set and not be so critical, the way I am when I get into $200,000 cars.

No navigation, no heated seats, no leather seats, no 12 airbags and definitely no super charged engine. A big YES to pure, Italian joy! Once the sardine-tin folding roof of the Fiat 500 Convertible was completely opened back onto the rear parcel shelf, I felt like a child again waiting to get on the roller-coaster at Australia’s Wonderland. It’s a weird feeling. In a way you feel like you have left all masculinity in the showroom, but you feel slightly glamorous because of all the heads that turn when you drive this cutie around. What those people are thinking is probably what I think when I have seen them around… “How embarrassing”.

Smooth lines, bubbly charisma, with high class looking touches, this car is so irresistible. When I get in the car, I feel like I’m driving a men’s version of the Citroen Pluriel. Well, as manly as a man’s Fiat 500C can get with the flamboyantly standout white interior, steering wheel and instrument cluster. I think the thing that makes this car attractive is the colour combinations available. You can get great interior and exterior colours, and customise it like a Mini Cooper. You can get decals for the exterior and personalise the inside. I particularly love the Funk white interior, Pearlescent white exterior and Ruby Red roof. Sexy!

Getting in the car, the door is slightly tinny, but that’s expected for a car of it’s class. The seats are comfortable and supportive, but look abit big for the car. The head rests bother me, they look like they were a last minute addition. They are hard and uncomfortable.

The car feels solid for a tiny thing that weighs only 940kgs. It’s quiet and smooth. For a 1.4 litre petrol engine, it has guts. But I’d hate to have more then one person in the car, I think it would lag a little with a full car. But in saying that, there are other cars on the market that have similar engines and drive a lot worse with just 1 passenger, so this engine isn’t too bad at all. I drove the Dualogic transmission, which has 5 gears which can be changed with a tap of the cute gear stick. Dressed with enormous 16” wheels, ABS and Electronic Brake Distribution, the car stops much faster then it takes off! Much to my suprise, it also has Stability Control, 7 airbags and Traction Control… Which leads me to the drive…

Although the car feels solid, it’s a little bit bouncy and loose driving around corners and over bumps. You feel almost certain that you won’t leave the road, but you still have a slight inkling that it may just not stay on the road because of it’s weight around tight corners at speed.

The interior is FUN! No fancy LCD’s, no technical paddles, levers, buttons and pretty lights. But even without all the technical bits that I love, the interior is still FUN! One feature I love is the fascia on the dash, it’s a whiteboard! You can write all over it with whiteboard markers and rub it off! I love that. The car has all the little features you’d expect, climate control, CD player, USB/MP3 input on centre console, chrome bits and pieces, rear-parking sensors, Bluetooth and leather steering wheel with audio and Bluetooth controls (and one of the best looking steering wheels I’ve ever seen in white!!).

Likes: It’s looks, it’s beautiful. One of the cutest and aesthetically pleasing cars on the road. No it’s not a Porsche or a high priced performance car, but WOW, this car has prominence on the roads. It’s just divine. It’s a joyous car to drive. It is a cheap small convertible, but for some reason doesn’t have the tackiness of similar cars like the Mitsubishi Colt CC or the Citroen Pluriel.

I love the roof and how it works, the whiteboard dashboard is super cool and I LOVE the white steering wheel and colour combinations available.

Dislikes: I’ll be honest – I really couldn’t fault this car. It’s a small in size, small engine, mid-priced, non-serious fun car. You would buy it knowing this. You would buy it knowing you’re spending a little bit of extra cash on a car that turns heads, but isn’t for space, performance – or anything really?!

Would I buy it? Good question. Probably not. If it were given to me I’d drive it, but as a guy, I wouldn’t buy it. Just over 500,000 have been sold since 2007 and 70% of those owners are women. So I’m more then likely not going to buy it. But I do have to admit, I’m in love with this car.

Price: The Dualogic (Automatic) that I drove is $35,990 drive away! Not bad.

Final say: This car is just great. It makes you feel great, it’s bright, light and free. The only annoying thing is every time you drive it, you want to trade the landscape of Parramatta Road for an Italian village with cobble stone lane ways, little Italian bakeries, cafes and deli’s. A little poochie on the front seat, a beret and organic groceries on the backseat. Bliss. Absolute pure bliss.

The Audi S5 Cabriolet. A Damn Shame…

July 28th, 2010

It’s got a hefty stance, it’s got bold but subtle lines. This is the Audi S5 Cabriolet.

Audi have always made fairly basic looking cars, with a few exceptions – like the R8, TT and Q7. But they have now got the lastest collection of S5 vehicles which includes a Cabriolet, Coupe and four door Sportsback.

I took the S5 Cabriolet out for a spin, which I was a little excited about because I am quite fond of the car when I’ve seen it on the road. But did it excite me when it came to driving it?

Walking towards the car, I looked over it thinking it’s a big, heavy and luxurious cabriolet, which is going to be one of the most exhilerating drives I’ve had in a long time. The dealer began to tell me how he has worked for Mercedes and BMW and no other car can compete with the drive, quality and build of an Audi. We’ll see about that…

Opening the door was soft and quiet, no thumps, creaks or thuds. Really smooth, solid and quiet. It was from that moment I got a rush! It can only get better from here, right?

Wrong. Sitting on the firm leather seats didn’t make me feel welcome. Lifting my legs into the car is easy, but storing them in the foot well not so. It’s narrow and tight, with this huge protruding wall on the left hand side under the dashboard. There is only enough space for two feet at the end – that I do not like. I want space. Looking at the passenger side foot well, they have all the space you could possibly need!

I plugged the key into the dashboard and pressed the start button. On came the smooth and rather refined engine. All the little lights and screens turned on, but nothing stood out at me. The dash is plastic, everything was cheap plastic. Tapping the top of the dash with my nail, it was hollow and noisey. The mouldings around the LCD screen and the instrument cluster are flimsy and bendy, again made of plastic. Plastic, plastic everywhere. For a car of it’s calibre, I would expect a leather cladded dashboard, I mean if a $65,000 Peugeot convertible can do it, I’m sure Audi can too. The gear shifter looked like something a Ford would have, and the steering wheel looked like it was taken out of a base model Audi A3 hatch. I felt like I was driving a VW Golf. Boring and bland. It is a good layout, but nothing spectacular. I said this to the dealer, his reply was that I have to wait and see how it drives again – thats the big selling point. So I took his advice and onto the road we went.

The 3.0 litre petrol engine with 245 kW carried the car well, but didn’t accelerate as well as I thought it might have. I would have expected it to be a little punchier. Exceptional braking, and handling is good and composed itself well for a convertible of it’s size, considering alot of them tremble and shake around the windscreen over bumps.

I really don’t have much else to say about the drive. It was flat and boring. It wasn’t exhilerating, it wasn’t fun. I should have taken a Mitsubishi Colt CC for a spin instead – At least I would have got more looks.

The body is neutral to look at, but doesn’t have any type of particular look. It’s not sporty or agile like a BMW, and it’s not classy or a classic like a Bentley. It just floats safely inbetween.

Likes: It’s a cabriolet. The satellite navigation system is easy and practical to use. I’m wrecking my brain trying to think. Good sound system and ample boot space. Good colour combinations for the 2-tone leather interior, roof canvas and exterior paint. One exterior feature I like is the brushed chrome windscreen frame. There is a range of engines and equipment levels to choose from, including a super quiet diesel engine.

Dislikes: Styling, interior, footwell space for driver, too much plastic, poorly finished seats – where the leather is out of eyesight it turns into Kia style fabric, tacky cup holders, no point of difference.

Would I buy it? I don’t think I need to answer that question. I think it’s obvious.

Price: I drove the 3.0 litre petrol, which has the sat nav option – $122,000. Prices start from $99,000.

Final say: Throwing on a set of low profile tyres and LED lights doesn’t make a car ‘sporty’. It’s the kind of car you’d buy, then in about 3 months, you’d get sick of looking at because it’s just a car that has a roof that comes off – there’s nothing that draws you to the car time and time again.

Adrenalin, Heart Pumping & Pure Exhilaration With Rally Car Experience

July 23rd, 2010

A few weeks back I got experience something I always wanted to do. Rally Car driving.

Since a kid, I have been obsessed with cars and car racing, all types of cars. One of my favourite types of racing is in Rally cars. They are exhilarating, dirty, fast, the scenery is amazing and there’s heaps of accidents which I love to see!

Thanks to www.RedBalloon.com.au, I got to fulfill my dream of getting driven around in a rally car.

It was one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve had in a long long time! From the second I arrived at the dusty race track, the sound of the cars excited me, the brutal engines roaring around the race track.

After popping on a hairnet and helmet, it was my turn to hop into the Mitsubishi Lancer EVO and hold on for dear life.

No smooth take off here – it was pedal to the metal. My head thrown back and glued to the seat, till the first corner. Holding onto my seat so tight, I had the feeling of the car rolling over around the first hairpin. But it’s amazing, no matter how tight the turn, or how corrugated the track is, the car is glued to the road.

Speeding up again, hitting speeds that I couldn’t even turn my head to see on the speedo, it’s between the tree’s and through more turns and straights – my internal organs being smooshed up inside. But all I could do was smile. My heart was beating as fast as the car was going, adrenalin pumping through my body. This was everything I expected it to be.

After a few hot laps, it came to an end. But the racing heart and pumping adrenalin didn’t stop for while after. The only problem is once you get back into your car, you want to drive it like a rally car – so best someone else drive home!

Check out all the awesome packages by typing ‘Rally’ in the search function on www.RedBalloon.com.au

Pure Exhileration And Joy To Drive – BMW Z4 Roadster

June 30th, 2010

My heart skipped a beat.

Opening the razor sharp door of the BMW Z4 SDRIVE30l was intense. A feeling of elation was bubbling inside me and I was eager to get this 4.2m long Roadster on the road.

I’ve never been a fan of the Z4 Roadsters. Till now. The love for them began with first look of the current model. Refined. Charismatic. Stunning.

Preparing my luxuriously appointed and stunningly styled beige leather electric contoured seat got me into a comfortable driving position. But what really got me excited about this car is the long front end over the car. You almost have to squint your eyes to see the end of the bonnet. I love it. A true roadster has a cabin that sits towards the back of the car, with a short rear end. The excitement is overwhelming now. I dropped the electric hard-top roof, which folds up in 20 seconds and conceals itself into the top of the miniature boot. The car has very distinct features, with resemblance to that of the 6 Series. The refined styling has completely excited a new type of buyer. Me.

That’s it. I’m ready to go. Pushing the start button released the beast up front – 258 beasts to be exact with a smooth and focused start-up of 6 cylinder, 3.0-litre engine. It was with acceleration that brought on the beastly grunt. With the roof down, and being so close to the exhaust, the sound was thunderous. The anger and fury that was firing through the twin exhausts was… Sexual.

With solidity, up pops the iDrive LCD screen with complete composure on the top of dashboard and all the pretty lights, screens and knobs light up. I’m in technology and performance vehicle heaven. The driver and passenger area is spacious, with room to spread, yet also have the feeling of a tight and punchy roadster.

The dashboard is so pleasing to look at, the colour combination is beautiful, everything about the interior makes me feel at home. I drove the automatic, which the gear shifter is both beautiful and easy to use, although complicated looking. The electromechanical park brake and iDrive knob sit within easy reach of my seating position.

Out of the showroom onto a main, open and traffic free road (I test drove at a dealership out of Sydney for this exact reason). Adding a little bit of pressure to the accelerator makes the thousands of little explosions under the hood sound effortless. Speeding from 40km/hr to a 90 zone was such a thrill… Although it only lasted a couple of seconds because it got there so quickly. Then from 90 to 110. Going 110 (or maybe a little more!) with the roof down was so liberating. Without the weight of an extra two seats behind, the lag of a huge boot, and sitting back far from the front, I can understand why the demand for this model has been so great. I could compare it to driving a Donzi – in both driving position, sound, weight distribution and exhilaration.

This car has all the features I want – Bi-Xenon lights, heated seats, Bluetooth technology, Park Distance Control, dual climate controlled aircon and so on. Safety is also second to none – front and side airbags, traction control, electronic stability control, cruise control with brake function, run flat tyres and genius bits and pieces.

Glued to the road, the rear-wheel drive is a weapon. It remains firmly glued to the road, no matter what speed you are going or hard hard I was tackling the corners. It’s quick, it’s responsive, it’s a dream to drive. I haven’t yet found a fault with the car. It’s sharp, clean and distinctive. You are the Master in this case, and the Z4 is begging to be dominated and treated like meat – it can handle it.

Likes: Styling, power, drive, traction, rear-wheel drive, weight distribution, the seats are beautiful, the interior layout and design, the sound of the engine, the seating position, the long bonnet, the short boot, the 6 Series similarities, the razor like doors and pretty much everything about it.

Dislikes: Tiny boot when the roof is down – but that’s expected… Ummm… I can’t think of anything else?

Would I buy it? Hell yes! BUT to suit my lifestyle, I would much prefer a 4 seater convertible. I also think it’s well priced, so for the SDRIVE30i Automatic that I drove, it was $102,000. I would suggest looking at a demonstrator, they have lots of little extras and you can easily save around $10,000.

Final say: I love this car. Love love love it. It treated me well, it kept me feeling safe, happy and had my heart beating non-stop. It had heads turning and it had everything I’d want in a lower priced roadster.

www.bmw.com.au

My Teenage Dream Car – Range Rover Sport TDV8

June 17th, 2010

When the Range Rover Sport first came out about 5 or more years ago, I was set on the fact that it was my dream 4WD. It’s now 2010 and is it still my dream 4WD? You’ll just have to read on to find out.

The big black Range Rover Sport TDV8 Luxury sits in the glossy showroom, with it’s suspension lowered so I can easily climb in at a normal height. I opened the door, it’s tall and narrow, I expected there to be more door considering the car sits big and chunky. But the door is quite compact and reminds me somewhat of the Mercedes Benz B-Class. Closing the door, it shut nicely and solidly. Once it’s shut, I’m completely surrounded by a dark interior of buttons, knobs, screens and leather.

Sitting in the drivers seat, I felt in control of everything – the dash, the seating, the passenger seating, the view and the vision by turning my head and through the mirrors. I felt like I had complete control of everything happening around me both inside and outside the cabin.

The dash. Heavily angled from windscreen down toward the centre console, it seems almost aircraft like, but with complete symmetry. Unfortunately, the main LCD screen which controls navigation, music, video and vehicle configurations is like it’s made for the rear-middle passenger to use. It faces on an angle up towards the sunroof, and positioned facing the middle of the two front seats. I found it had to access easily, and found that I had to stretch my arm to reach for it. I also found that the anti-glare screen was hard to see because of the way it was positioned, reflecting light straight off it. I also don’t like the way it is buried between the two air-conditioning vents on either side of it.

Once you get past that issue of visibility, and you actually use the navigation via the touch screen and knobs below the screen, it’s quite good to use. Simple, clean and quick. There is no delay like many other cars I’ve driven. But again, I’ve had to stretch over to use the buttons on the far left of the cluster.

Air-conditioning is easy to use and it’s not incorporated into the main screen thankfully, which means I can do what I need to do immediately. It’s also dual-climate which is great.

All the usual functions like the compartments, gears and electronic brake are all easy to use and in easy reach.

Between the two seats, below the electronic brake sits the function for the vehicle handling, suspension and terrain settings. Here you can adjust the height of the car, you can choose how you want the car to perform both on and off road and you can choose how you want it to perform and tackle specific terrains. I found it fairly easy to use, but if I owned it, I would probably read the book to understand it and take full advantage of it.

The instrument cluster is also good and informative, with another screen showing the car’s dynamics and all the other little bits of information. The car has computers constantly monitoring it, and this info is all produced on this screen.

The seats. Comfortable, supportive and easily adjusted to suit my seating position. Unfortunately, I feel like the car punishes tall people, not by making it uncomfortable, but by making it hard to use the dashboard because of the angle it’s on. The further back you need to sit, the harder it is to use. But the seats are superb otherwise – in the front. It’s a different story sitting in the back. The seats in the back are for two normal sized adults and one 5 year old. The mechanical bits and pieces, like the hinges and rails are all visible, which makes it feel a little sub-standard.

The doors. As mentioned above, they are tall and narrow, not necessarily a design flaw, but possibly a little tough for much larger people. That aside, and I don’t envisage it to be a common problem, the only annoying thing I found about the doors was the location of the electric window buttons. They sit as far away from easy reach as possible. Again, having to reach as far forward as possible, towards the side wing mirrors. Also in the unlikely event that you leave your window open and water comes in, those buttons will be the first thing to get damaged. In a bid to do things differently, I don’t see a reason to change it and it’s not made it any easy for the driver, or any other passengers as all the buttons front and back are in the same positions.

All the doors are otherwise luxuriously covered in leather with wood grain inserts.

The body. It’s one big illusion, it sits wide and sits long, but it’s not really wide or long. It’s sporty, it’s rugged, it’s agile, it’s sexy, it’s hefty and it means business. Big 20” wheels and wide tyres add to the illusion of it being a massive vehicle. But be careful which colour you choose inside and out, it can change the look of the car dramatically.

The drive. Vicious. Ferocious. Aggressive. Easy.

The Turbocharged Diesel is excellent. Being a 3.6 litre V8 (being replaced by a 4 litre later this year), with 200kW, this thing flies. It’s not the quickest car to accelerate, but look how much weight it’s carrying! But in terms of power, geez this thing goes. It sounds great too. It’s got that vicious beastly sound, which is prepared to flatten any contenders. Towing a boat or horses wouldn’t be too much of a struggle for it either, but I think considerable weight, up-hill in a diesel will possibly struggle a bit.

The interior ride is smooth, quiet and enjoyable. The interior is bright and light because of the high seating position and lots of glass, the air suspension makes bumps smooth and soft and the visibility is great. Parking is easy, with the aid of front and rear sensors and camera.

The thing that astonished me the most, was the way it drives and how it feels when you drive it. It’s like driving a mid-sized car – this is where the whole ‘illusion’ of it being a big car comes into it. The best way to describe it would be like driving a Mercedes C-Class, it’s just a mid-sized 4 door sedan. Nothing complex about it. Driving the Range Rover Sport was much the same. Effortless and manageable.

I now understand why all the Eastern Suburbs yummy mummy’s drive one to drop the kids off at school.

Likes: Big car looks, mid-sized car feel. Powerful diesel engine. Seating comfort for front occupants. Extensive interior and exterior options for colour and wheels. Sexy and agile looks. Looks great, and will look great for a long time to come. Easy to drive, a practical car with all the attributes of a performance vehicle.

Dislikes: I’m sure I made these clear above. But it’s got to be the access to simple things like navigation, electric window buttons and knobs on the dash. The fairly unattractive rear seats that look like something out of a Tarago. The small boot, the boot space in most other 4WD’s of its kind are much longer and deeper.

Would I buy it? I know those issues above annoyed the hell out of me, but yes I would still buy it. I have loved the car for a long time, so would have to fulfil my strong desire to own it.

Price: The Range Rover Sport TDV8 – $149,990

Final say:
I really enjoyed this car, it’s got presence on the road and I love the feeling and sound of power under the big hood. I would definitely buy one, but I would have to spend a fortune customising it to look original as there are so many of them on the roads and they all look so generic. It’s like buying a Mini Cooper (hardtop).

The Purr Of The Giant Cat – Jaguar XFR

May 6th, 2010

I get to drive some pretty amazing cars, whether they are sports cars, convertibles, saloons or 4WD’s. Not yet have I driven a 5-seater sedan quite as breathtaking as this.

Approaching the enormous Jaguar XFR, I’m a little undecided. Am I an old conservative man or am I a young energetic man?

Naturally I’m a young energetic man, but have the idea that Jaguar’s are for old conservative men who wear driving hats and gloves – like MG drivers. But I was assured by the fabulous Jennifer at Jaguar that I was in for a treat.

After a brief discussion about the differences in the model range and the engine sizes, Jennifer was just too enthusiastic about the Jaguar XFR, desperate to show me how the car works. A Jag is a Jag right? You turn it on, it does what all the other cars do and that’s that right?

WRONG!

We took the lift down to the private super-dooper extra special, extra powerful, extra spectacular Jaguar XF sitting in a class of it’s own between all the other cheaper and less spectacular Jag’s.

Approaching the car, the enormous polished chrome grille stares at me, sitting infront of the huge 5 litre V8 Supercharged engine, with such anger – ready to pounce on me like an animal in the wild.

Opening the door, I’m greeted with illuminated Jaguar scuff plates, which welcome me into the sumptuous cockpit of a car that is about to perform for me.

Perform for me? What am I on about? The car is literally about to perform a performance like no other. If cars went to acting school, the XF would have passed all it’s classes with super high distinctions. Turning this car on is like a theatrical performance.

The keyless engine start button is located on the centre console, right next to this big round polished chrome dial which changes the gear. But it’s so weird – how on earth do you use it? Well that’s the performance that’s about to unravel before you.

I held down the START/STOP button for the engine. The  ENORMOUS engine turns on with such grunt. I wish I could make the noise for you as you read this. I actually got goosebumps turning this car on. The first part of it’s performance is how it made me feel. Turned on.

Part two of the grand performance is the centre console. After the enormous grunt of the V8 before you, popping up out of the console is the dial for the gears. A round knob that controls the gears. One of the most spectacular gear-sticks I’ve ever seen.

Part three of the starting of the car performance is the coolest bit of all… The air conditioning vents. When the car is off, the dashboard looks like it has no vents for aircon, till you turn it on and they all electrically spin around and turn into air vents. Sounds minute, but when you see it, it’s pretty damn cool!

Don’t think it’s over yet, part four is the lighting in the car. Blue LED strip lighting surrounds all the buttons, knobs, dials, on the console and dash. LED lighting also beams down from the roof over the dash, illuminating it all. But lighting doesn’t stop there. The doors have the strip lighting inside it, as well as the foot wells and rear area.

This is one show that’s definately about to hit the road.

The deep and sexy purr of the V8 has told me it’s warm and ready to hit the road. A push of the handbrake button and we are out of there. The car is constantly monitoring obstacles around it, it’s checking everything the car is doing.

A press of a button on the steering wheel simplifies everything for me – voice activation. PLAY CD 2. On comes CD number 2. Pretty much speak anything and the car could probably do it.

That CD 2 I just asked for can’t just be played through normal speakers. Naturally it will be played through the Bowers & Wilkins system which is the creme de la creme of car audio.

The brain of the car is the LCD screen which pretty much does everything you want. Feel like watching Analogue or digital TV? How about a DVD? Or how about directions to your holiday house in Bowral? Whatever you want, this thing will do.

Change settings on how the car turns on, runs and turns off? You do it here. It’s incredible how easy it is to use and how genious the system is.

A feature I loved was the Valet feature. When you leave your car with Valet, you give them the key to the car and type in your pin number into the LCD screen. This automatically locks the boot and console compartments in the car so no one can access it. Speaking of compartments – the glove box! So simple yet such a great feature. Semi-hidden on the amazing timber dash is a tiny silver dot. What is this dot for? Well of course it’s to electrically open the glove box so there’s no handles or levers to pull. Such a great feature!

I could seariously go on for hours about this car and it’s features… They seem to be endless and the car just seems to impress me more and more by the minute. It’s flawless – almost.

But I think the easiest way to rate the car is by summing it up like this:

Likes: EVERYTHING. The styling, the engine, the fuel efficiency, the interior, styling, features, lighting… Honestly, there is nothing I could possibly say that’s negative about this car. It is just amazing, right down to the trimmings at the bottom of the seats. Everything is just made with quality products and finished perfectly – by far better then the BMW’s and Mercedes I’ve seen. The leather used is from fence-less farms, the dash is leather covered and the roof is even lined with a faux suede which looks amazing. Also, the air-conditioned seats – they are not just ventilated, they are conditioned! Heaps of excellent cup-holders that actually work!!!!

Dislikes: Hmmm… Ummm… Ohhh… Ummm… Are there any? There’s got to be something? Thinking. Thinking. Thinking. Actually, there is one thing. The rear seating. For a car of it’s class, it could offer more. It could offer personal entertainment like screens in the headrest, controls in the middle seat armrest or even reclining seats. Other then that, this car has no dislikes. Oh, there is no option for a panoramic glass roof – only a sunroof is available.

Would I buy it? Hell yes. The closest comparison would be the Mercedes C63 AMG. Similar performing vehicles, but both uniquely styled. The Jag will maintain it’s sophistication, class and dynamics for alot longer then the C63 which will look daggy in only a couple of years. So not a conservative car for an old man – it has WOW factor, even for the young!

Price: You’re looking at around $205,000-$215,000 for the XFR, including sunroof, extra huge wheels, and all the other little options which complete the vehicle I drove.

Final say: WOW! WOW! WOW! I love cars. I love all cars. I love super cars, sports cars, 4WD’s, convertibles and family cars. But not often does a car excite me and perform for me in the way that this theatrical pussy-cat did for me. This is by far a car that will be hard to beat.

At least until I drive a Bentley I guess!

Speak to Jennifer McCarron – (02) 8338 2133 – Trivett Jaguar, Alexandria.

Sydney Slickers Sleek Rides… Part 4

April 29th, 2010

Elsa is on her way home after taking her Mini Cooper out for a roadtrip to Port Stephens to visit family. A beautiful Autumn afternoon in Sydney to speed down the alley ways of Erskineville.

Name: Elsa Ratalino

Job: Media Sales Account Manager

Car: Mini Cooper S in British Racing Green

What is the best thing about your Mini Cooper S? It’s fast, zippy and fits everywhere. I love the instrument cluster with the big round speedo and all the little flick switches.

Why did you choose the Mini Cooper S? I loved the flexibility of the roof, I can use it as a sunroof or as a convertible.

One Of The Best Coupés On Our Roads – Mercedes E-Class Coupé

April 21st, 2010

Seeing quite a few of them on the roads, I had to take a closer look.

The Mercedes E-Class Coupé. The epitome of style. Class. Sophistication.

Approaching the monumental Coupé which sits big and proud, I felt a sense of urgency. Urgency to get in the car and turn it on.

It’s been a long time coming. It’s rigid and squared body, strong bold lines and enormous louvered grille.

I opened the heavy door, and sat easily into the Coupé. Infront of me was a creation of excellence in engineering and cutting edge design and technology. A powerhouse of beauty. I am instantly in love with this car. The sense of urgency is immediately diminished. It is now pleasure.

The seats are simply stunning, looking very much like the seats in a Bentley, the Coupé has created a refined seating sensation. They look great, feel great and power adjustable to suit you. They also have air chambers inside, which can be changed to suit your driving or passenger experience. The option of heating and ventilation is available.

The intelligence of this car is astounding. A car that can sensor sunlight, air quality and humidity externally to keep the cabin at a constant temperature? A multimedia system with CD and DVD, navigation, audio and telephone functions – all voice activated? A car that has ultrasonic sensors which evaluate how you should park it – giving you directions on where to turn, reverse and go forward? A gearbox that can skip gears? These are only a minuscule of the features this car has.

Right, it’s time for my favourite part. Turning it on and getting it on the road! The petrol V6 with 215kW of power was an arousing moment. I felt like I needed a moment to myself, to hear, see and feel everything unfold around me. Out onto the road, where I could have a play with this baby! Oh boy, did this baby want to play. The effortless power that comes from the huge engine upfront is breathtaking. Being able to hear the engine through the wide open panoramic glass roof was just irresistible. This car just gets better and better.

Handling, superb!

Braking, superb!

Acceleration, remarkably superb!

Ride, superb!

Overall? SUPERB.

Such a small touch, but something that was obviously thought about, the rear quarter window. The back seat occupant have one large window that opens, but they also have one very small one tucked in the corner, which suprisingly adds so much character and style to the car. Who would have thought a small window could further excite me?

Another exterior feature that send me a little wild, the LED daytime driving lights which are one of the first things you’ll notice as an unfortunate bystander. They are shaped like a hockey stick. I love that they have strayed away from the straight lines Audi and Holden have used with their daytime LED’s.

This car is just pure exhileration. Pleasure and oozes sex appeal. With elements of Bentley and Maybach, this car is almost Mercedes perfection.

Likes: Standard seating comfort and aesthetics, panoramic glass roof and extra glass panel for rear occupants, small rear glass panel, raised centre console, extensive colour and combination options, looks big – drives small, the way it makes me feel.

Dislikes: The rear centre console is a little uneventful. There should be buttons for something – it needs something to play with.  Not much else… this car is almost perfect.

Would I buy it? Hell yes! As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a convertible person. I had peek at the convertible and it didn’t excite me as much as the Coupé did – suprisingly! If I were going to buy it, I’d go for the E500, it has every option and is like looking at Jennifer Hawkins – AMAZING.

Price: For the smallest and most standard model in the range, the E 250 CGI, you’re looking at around $103,000. For the top of the range E500, expect to fork out $187,000. It is worth it.

Just to re-cap, what are my overall thoughts? SUPERB.

Sydney Slickers Sleek Rides… Part 3

April 16th, 2010

Adam takes his stunning Maserati out for a spin after a photo shoot in the City. Here he is pictured in his convertible in Centennial Park on a beautiful Autumn afternoon soaking up the sun.

Name: Adam Sutherland

Job: Creative Director

Car: 4.2L V8 Maserati Spyder Cambiocorsa 2005

What is the best thing about your Maserati? It’s the sound of the V8 engine and exhaust.

Why did you choose the Maserati? Mid-life crisis!

Photos by Adrian Erdedi

Passat CC – The Under $100,000′s Have A Strong Contender

April 14th, 2010

I’m not the biggest fan of the current range of Volkswagens, especially that hideous Tiguan. The range of cars seem to lack any form of classic styling, and don’t seem to step ahead in technology for other cars in the same price range.

With all of this in the back of my head, I felt obliged to accept the invitation by VW to come in and test drive the new Passat CC.

I had seen the Passat CC many times on the road, and thought it was just a copy of the Mercedes CLS (still remains one of the most attractive Mercs ever made), but cheaper. I thought VW was jumping on the 4 door, 4 seater saloon bandwagon. But how could a VW Passat CC possibly compare to that of the CLS, Audi S5 Sportsback and Porsche Panamera? Well they can’t, considering the Passat CC is under $100,000, and the others are over. But does price matter?

As I approached the Passat CC, it gave me special tingles. There was something about it that just gave me an urge. Sitting in the showroom, in silver, black tinted windows, black interior and huge wheels, it sat there like a coporate fat cat leaning back in his leather office chair with a cigar. It made all the other little cars around it quiver in their boots.

It’s big. It’s wide. It’s long. It’s chunky. It’s beautiful.

I opened the door, and the window electronically dropped down, which is what most convertibles and the Mercedes CLS do. First sign that they aren’t just pretending to be part of the 4 door, 4 seater Saloon pack. The sexy thin and small windows make this look like a performance vehicle – very similar to the CLS and the Chrysler 300c.

I climbed in, slammed the door shut and instantly felt at ease. The first 5 seconds of sitting in the car, I said I loved it. I hadn’t even turned it on yet. I felt safe, snug, secure. The dash was attractive, somehow looking nothing like the Passat sedan. It didn’t resemble a Golf, Polo, Tiguan or Touareg. It sat in a styling class of its own. Was I impressed? I sure was.

Turning on the largest engine in the range of VW vehicles, the V6, 220kW petrol engine felt liberting. Like I just threw my bra on a fire. (Or not?!) There is a diesel option available too, with 125kW of power and alot more fuel efficiency. The diesel lags abit for it’s size and weight.

It did a quick roar, then quietened down to a purr. All the pretty lights, screens and buttons illuminated. I had a play with my 12-way electrically adjustable seat functions. The sumptuous leather seats are heated and also ventilated, which I liked. The rear seats are also heated with dials in the back for the passengers. The giant glass roof slid open and I put down electric sunblind in the rear window, letting the Autumn sun soak the interior.

Lots of little touch compartments pop open, with storage for silly things. The dual climate controlled air conditioning is easy to use, and looks good. It doesn’t feel flimsy and cheap, like a Golf. The steering wheel needs a little bit of refining, but I couldn’t complain for the price. It is still functional and feels good.

The center console is also good looking, the gear shifter is odd looking, but not hard on the eyes. The center console is a little boring, with just a big box. There is a slide open compartment infront of the console, which is fairly basic too. The glove box is chilled when the air con is on. The sales person thought that feature would impress me – if that’s all he had to impress me, was it all down hill from there?

Driving out of the show room, I loved the feeling of the large engine as I accelerated. It sounded a little like a Donzi. It was asking me to push it hard. I pushed it hard and it packed a good punch. It’s not afraid to go when you want it to. It’s loved stopping too. One thing I will give VW, 9/10 on braking.

The ride was gentle, smooth and refined. Suspension is soft and supple.

It has all the comforts of a decent luxury car; optical parking system, satellite navigation, reverse camera, bluetooth and so on…

I like the car very much, and really enjoyed my test drive.

Likes: Seating comfort, glass roof, high specification for price, neat and tidy boot mechanism, tan leather option, diesel option is $10,000 cheaper then the petrol. Petrol is all wheel drive.

Dislikes: Rear centre console should be appointed differently – perhaps add something electrical. It looks bare and empty. You may as well put another seat in it’s place. Steering wheel could be a little more refined. Diesel engine is a little small for a car of it’s size and weight. The car only seems to look beautiful, depending on the colour combination you get. I have seen some on the road that look boring, but only because of the colour combinations. The two-tone leather interior option is not available in Australia.

Would I buy it? Thats hard to answer. If I was going to spend around $75,000 on a four door car, I’d be looking elsewhere. The reason you’d buy this car is for the seating configuration. If I wanted a four seater, with the comfort of four doors, then yes. But if I was prepared to pay more for the same style, I would definately go for the Mercedes CLS.

Price: Petrol engine – $71,000 on road. Diesel engine – $61,000 on road. The car I test drove was the diesel with the glass roof and satellite navigation package, on road cost is $76,000.

www.volkswagen.com.au

Sydney Slickers Sleek Rides… Part 2

April 9th, 2010

The distinct and professional Jason lets his hair down in his black BMW 120i Convertible on Macleay Street in Potts Point.

Name: Jason Snaddon

Job: Property Investment

Car: BMW 120i Auto Convertible

What is the best thing about your BMW 120i Convertible? Its stylish good looks.

Why did you choose the BMW 120i Convertible? I chose the BMW because I wanted a brand new small 4 seat convertable and the BMW was in my opinion the most stylish and well equiped looking one currently available.

Volvo C30 – Do I Love It Or Hate It?

March 31st, 2010

As I floored the zippy little Volvo C30 out of the showroom, the car dealer told me to relax on the accelerator a little.

For some reason, when I got into this little terror, it made me want to thrash it, use it and abuse it. I felt like taking it off road and driving it into objects, people, cars, damaging the car and seeing how far I could push it till it came to a stop.

Could I be going insane? Possibly.

What got into me? It’s a Volvo for Christ’s sake! Volvo’s aren’t meant to be fun and exhilarating! They are meant to be boring, mundane and for accountants who wear driving gloves.

This little 2.5 litre V5 beast really took me for a good time. It’s got a decent sized engine for such a small 4 seater car. It stuck to the road, like a slot car. I drove it like the way I used to drive my remote controlled cars as a child… They too stuck to the track, like my little Volvo.

It’s an agressive looking car from the front and sides. When you get to the rear, there’s something that distresses me. It’s got this ugly butt, but at the same time, it’s got something a little sexy about it. Like I want to pinch it for being so cute… But slap it at the same time for being so ugly.

Opening the big door was comforting and secure. As you would know by now, I’m big on the feeling of opening and closing doors. Sitting in the drivers seat is comfortable. A typical Volvo thing is comfortable seats, and that they were. Nice soft and plush black leather seats. The revolutionary floating dashboard seems bare. Where are the screens? Computers? I need gadgets. My fingers are bored. Plenty of buttons, but not enough screen action for my liking. When I asked for the option to have a pop-up navigation system, first thing I was told was “Oh that’s an expensive factory option, do you really need it?”
That didn’t sit well with me. Yes I do need it. I need it because I want it. I wouldn’t be spending $43,000 on a basic Volvo for fun! Anyway, if you want the option of sat nav and all the other little bits that go with it, try adding $5,000. Ridiculous! The sales person did also give me the option of a hard-wired Garmin suction cap navigator. Um…. NO.

I’m a sunroof/convertible kind of guy. When I asked for the option of a sunroof, again I got “Oh that’s an expensive factory option, do you really need it?”
Yes I do need it. I need it because I want it. I wouldn’t be spending $43,000 on a basic Volvo for fun?! Add another $2,500 for the factory fitted sunroof.

Looking at the instrument cluster. Boring. The interior colours. Boring. Seating arrangement. Boring.

The Volvo C30… BORING.

The only thing this car is good for is driving it into the ground. Treating it like a piece of meat and driving it like a mad man because you will love it! But when it comes to getting lost, some fresh air and light through the roof, or some advanced technology to fiddle with, you’re best off going to BMW, Volkswagen or Saab for a car that has more for $50,000.

Likes: It likes to be treated rough, factory sound system, seating comfort

Dislikes: Its rear, dash, technology level, expensive options, daggy Korean car looking instrument cluster, ugly key.

Would I buy it? Absolutely not. If I could afford to buy it as a golf buggy or something to bash and race around the paddocks, then yes I’d buy it. Or if I was an accountant who thought I was super cool driving a ‘sports’ car.

The New BMW X1 – A Sneak Peek Before It Hits Our Roads

March 23rd, 2010

On Monday, I got a special guided tour of the new BMW X1 which was hidden away in a Sydney BMW showroom, which isn’t yet allowed on the streets.

As I walked towards the SUV, first thing I noticed was it’s agile grille, and the body of the car covered in this amazing pearlescent brown. I know brown sounds revolting, but this colour was just amazing. It’s a new colour by BMW.

The car is a cross between the 1 Series and X3, which has turned it into a hatchback All Wheel Drive SUV.

It’s an attractive car, from every angle. I found it hard to find a position walking around the car where I thought it looked abit weird. This car is refined. It is like BMW have smoothed out the rigid lines of the X3 and pumped abit of muscle into the 1 series, with an outstanding result. The current model of the X3 has come to the end of the BMW 7 year cycle to make way for the new X3 which comes out 2011.

Getting in the SUV was comfortable and easy, it felt light and airy in there with the colour combination – beige leather with a dark timber finish on the dash. It has all the usual standard bits and pieces that all the other models have (excluding some of the 1 Series models), including a Sport Package with firm suspension, large wheels and tires, navigation system with iDrive controller, rear-obstacle detection, rear side airbags, heated seats and steering-linked headlamps. All this with a 3 litre Diesel engine, which sounded pretty gutsy when I turned it on via the START/STOP button on the dash.

I felt comfortable, controls where all in easy reach, the small and  smooth steering wheel feels great to hold onto, visibility is great and it has a moonroof which lets an abundance of light in.

I really like this car and would totally consider it if it was the sort of car I was looking for. It definately beats it’s competitors in that same price range like the Volvo XC60 or the Land Rover Freelander 2.

The thing that suprised me most about this car was the price. You can get a decently spec’ed X1 on the road for around $65,500. I think thats pretty good, for a car that has most things that the 3 Series & X3 has, plus a little more!

The X1 will be available for test drives on the 9th of April.

Likes: Price, standard features, interior layout, visibility, spacious and great to look at.

Dislikes: The iDrive system is complicated, that’s all really!

Would I buy it? Absolutely! I would buy the one I saw, in that amazing brown colour.

The New Lexus IS250 Convertible – Sex On Wheels (Sort Of)

March 15th, 2010

When I walked towards the new Lexus IS250C, I felt timid. The front grille and headlights are agile and brawn. It’s asking to have a wild owner who isn’t afraid to use the accelerator. Or the brakes – because those brakes work!

The sexy new addition to the IS250 family is now in a hard top convertible in three models. The Prestige, Sports and Sports Luxury.

I test drove the Sports in black metallic paint with black leather interior, which is superbly appointed with all the gadgets you’d expect from Lexus.

When I opened the door, I was welcomed into the cockpit, deep soft leather seats and a high centre console, which makes it feel more like you’re in the nerve centre of a technological masterpiece. I closed the door, and heard the noise I love to hear. A deep heavy THUD.

The car has a Smart Key Card, which means there is no key. It’s a card no thicker then a credit card, which you keep in your pocket, starting the car with the ENGINE START/STOP button on the dashboard behind the steering wheel. I pressed it and out came the chilled-out roar of the 2.5 Litre V6 engine. I drove the 6-speed sequential shift, which has the paddles on the steering wheel to shift gears.

The car sticks to the road, driving into corners with the confidence of a European performance vehicle. A hard press of the brakes made me feel good about having to use them in an actual emergency. They work and they work well!

It has all the fun little gadgets to make the drive fun, safe and comfortable, Sat Nav, inbuilt bluetooth, electric seats with memory function, radar technology to monitor the road and reversing camera.

The displays, the dashboard and the buttons are all easy to use and in good reach of the driver. Everything is logical and built smart. Rear leg space isn’t too bad, and the back seats are very comfortable – they are normally forgotten about in convertibles. The roof opens and closes in 20 seconds, which is quick for when you notice a few raindrops on the windscreen at the lights.

A great range of colours and trims, accessories and standard equipment makes the Lexus IS250C Sports a great little package at around $89,656 drive away.

Likes: Standard equipment level is high, feels safe, feels strong, comfortable seats, functional and easy. Ride and handling. Lexus has great customer service when it comes to servicing and owner privileges.

Dislikes: The rear-side styling looks a little bland, bulky and awkward. Sexy car, but has something missing. A little extra power and grunt under the bonnet would be nice.

Would I buy it? Thats a hard one. It’s a great car with a great package. I’d be more inclined to look around at other brands first, and even consider a soft top for $20-$30,000 less – like the BMW 1 Series Convertible. I’d also consider the Volvo C70 Convertible.