Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: 2017 Toyota Aurion Sportivo

There aren't many cars that have me in two minds as much as this final farewell from Toyota Australia. Closing in October this year, Toyota is leaving behind a legacy of dependable ordinariness that started in 1958. 

The most normcore of all normcore brands, in this instance, has turned its back on its heritage and blasted off for an impromtu weekend away. Not a civilised winery tour mind you. More like a roll in the grass topped off with a red bull and two minibar sized bottles of vodka.

Normally I would stroll past an AT-X base model Aurion with little interest, but this slightly unnerving family sedan grabs you firmly by the eye lids with it's retina searing "Cherry" red paint. 

The insectoid eyes seem black and dead, as if they pay you no heed, and the black multi-spoke 18 inch wheels speak of an intent long departed from the brand.
Aesthetics at least, warm some cockles even if it ain't pretty. 

The design style is hard edged when viewed in the Queensland sun. Panning around the car does create interest if you are willing to pay attention, with different angles bringing different turrets and structures to the fore. 

I certainly didn't expect to be kneeling down at each corner tracing the straight lines from the square hip across the subtle tail. 

Therein lies the attraction for me. I prize the ability of a product to defy expectations. 

Admittedly, expectations from a "sporty" V6 Camry (which is essentially what the Aurion is) had been formed by wheel time in a Presara some years ago. They include benign steering through an under-tyred front end, and, suspension that is competent but about as interesting as last weeks TV guide. 

Again, this Sportivo points out the folly of my prejudice. On the road, it's pointy and responsive. The 200kw V6 is putting down everything it can through a pair of willing 225/45 R18 boots. There's too much to handle, but you get to actually respond to torque steer, as if the nanny has had a few G&Ts and has left you to your own devices for a little while. 

I am a big fan of the 2GR-FE motor because normally aspirated V6s still give that little bit of extra aural pleasure that you just can't get from many turboed 4s. It's a personal preference and it's beyond mere figures but there is more to life than winning a drag race. This motor delivers with impressive day to day tractability and a willingness to rev. Drive one before you settle for less.

Suspension tune of this sedan is borderline harsh and makes everything feel agile but with a sense of heft and effort. It's rewarding to get right, but awkward when you get it wrong, just like driving a car should be. Rear end holds on well enough to give your neck muscles  a workout.

Inside, the Australian built Aurion is par for last years course, with old materials, plasticky controls and [ugh] a foot operated park brake. The seats are decent, though should be deeper for a sporty number. 

Ergonomics are good, and, controls are ultimately purposeful and intuitive. Dash trim is not a high mark but everything goes together well enough.

It's few saving graces inside are the DAB+ radio thumping through a JBL 10 speaker stereo, and a retractable screen which can be raised to keep the sun off the rear parcel shelf. It can also serve as a figurative flipping of the bird to be raised for anyone who may be tailgating you.

Everything else feels like it's ready to be put out to pasture, but in reality, they are built with durability in mind, rather than touch feeliness (AKA haptics). 

There is one metric where this Aurion continues to shine: interior space. Rear seat head room is about best on the market. Not just the domestic market either. It reveals many Euro options as embarrassingly cramped.

Properly spacious, you can see why the Aurion/Camry twins are popular Taxis. In the real world, it's an ideal size to quell complaints from the second row.

When the final bell tolls for the Aurion, not many will shed a tear aside from those who built them. Aurions are on the lots right now and you'll see discounts in the thousands for the last hurrah of one of Australias longest serving and most trusted manufacturers.

That's bad news for dealers, but good news for buyers looking to sneak something a little unhinged into the "responsible adult" slot in their garage.

Price: $43,990 listed (but expect to knock off about 5k for the right deal!)
Engine: 200kw@6200rpm/336nm@4700rpm 2GR-FE 3.5V6
Fuel Economy: 13.3/7/9.3l/100kms City/Hwy/Combined

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Review: Kia Sorento Platinum vs Kia Carnival SLi

To SUV or Not to SUV

Kia Sorento vs Kia Carnival Review #Piercebrosvan vs #KiaVanLyfe 

18 December 2016

It’s a battle as old as… er, well ok, it’s not that old. How much practicality to do you need, and how much does an SUV deliver? Do you really need AWD? Do you really want to live with a diesel?

Do you even care? Do just want lots of space? Well while you’ve been thinking about that, I’ve driven three versions of the Kia Sorento and compared it to the left field option of the Kia Carnival. 
Different products that go about family life in very different ways.
Choose your weapons!
Who wins? Well a rental version that I drove in Melbourne but you need the context so watch the vid :-P

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Music: I’m gonna make you mine [Joos Moog Mix] – Yeshua Murillo (Fabric 62) 
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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Review: Hyundai i40 1.7D Sportwagon

Korea Driven: Hyundai i40 Diesel Wagonlove

See the pics the SunnyCoastFeatureCars new Instagram Account: #KOREADRIVEN 

Find out more at HYUNDAI.COM.AU

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Land Rover Discovery Sport: A Modern Adventurer

Living on the Sunshine Coast, we often forget that there are other parts of the country worth visiting. A family trip to Victorian high country revealed a little bit of natural beauty and the latest offering from Land Rover, the Discovery Sport

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the name “Land Rover”, I have very specific memories that come to mind, and none of them are of anything remotely civilised.

Sometime in the late 80s, we had a County 110 which was a rattly bag of bones. Hardly the stuff of legend that always seems to surround the Land Rover name, but as with all icons, they are most appreciated when employed in context.

More appropriate then, is the memory of seeing the Camel Trophy teams roll into Darwin way back in 1986. These were from the days of proper wild safaris with no satcom, no GPS, just guts and toughness. It was an image that not even the wobbly old County 110 could shake from me.

Times, however, do change and so to do the requirements of contemporary adventurers. Thankfully this also changes the number of compromises that need to be endured.

The Land Rover Discovery Sport is a thoroughly modern piece of equipment and doesn’t leave modern adventurers wanting for comfort. Heated seats are provided front and rear. So too are power sockets and USB points for essential survival equipment (read: IPods and Sony Xperia smart phones).
Evident in the interior detail is an unfussy design complimented by a cohesive finish. It’s class without sass.

The full length glass roof allows for navigating by the stars (if you can’t work out the GPS) and the white leather seats ensured that we arrived at our destination, well rested and toasty warm. The latter being most important when you have a car load of Queenslanders and you’re approaching snow country.

Fortunately for us, when we did have to leave the comfort of the Discovery Sport, we were welcomed by the open arms of family. Whom even more fortunately own Silver Top Cottages, a set of three Cottages loaded with country hospitality, spa baths and double coated tim tams.

Even without the tim tams, the hugs were warm enough.

After hiring snow gear to head up to Mount St Gwinear the following day, including the compulsory to carry snow chains, we barely even tested the limits of capability, but in reality, we were in more danger of slipping over in our boots than slipping on the snow field access roads.

Rather it was the Head Up Display (oft times I’ve found somewhat superfluous) that saved the day as we rounded a corner. As I noted the displayed speed on the windscreen, tree branches strewn across the road from the previous days snow fall, came in to my field of view.

The speed that I was able to refocus, identify and negotiate the hazard means I will never again discredit HUD.

Of course the Disco Sport has plenty of other features that ease any concerns, so that you can get on with the job of enjoying a family adventure. To cover them all would extend this review another dozen pages so you can find them at the end on the Land Rover Technology Link. 

For me, however, the features provided for peace of mind for everyday motorists, also appeal to my inner automotive enthusiast: Adaptive Dynamics and Torque Vectoring.

Without going too far into the details of how it works, instead let me tell you the end result. This is the first time I’ve driven an SUV like I would, a car. More than that, driven like a car I have owned and spent months gaining trust in. Constantly adaptive dampers provide minimised body roll, maximised grip and plenty of thrills. The tyres, never troubled enough to make so much as a squeal, dug deep and pointed true.

To put it in perspective, I was driving... a little faster than the speed at which my wife usually elbows me in the ribs, with no punitive recompense. Clearly it was more comfortable for both of us.

There are a few down sides. Both the GPS and “Ingenium” engine are both less than ideal when it comes to communication. The GPS sometimes give you directions just moments before the required turn and the turbo diesel despite masses of torque, can end up dawdling off the line if the 9 speed transmission has decided you wanted to coast.

Most modern vehicles are laden with technology. The Land Rover Discovery Sport is no different, and is complemented by an extensive list of options. Starting at around $56k you may find yourself well into 70k before you get exactly what you want. Included in that list is surprising value in pre purchased services and extended warranties.

I bring that last point up because warranties and services are priced on risk. That is, the lower the risk of warranty work, the lower the price imposed by manufacturers. Therefore, a low extended warranty cost is a demonstration that a marque is confident in the reliability of their product.

There is no single feature that the littlest Land Rover has over all other competitors.  
What makes it such a good choice, is that you can feel how well all the features work together. 

Our little adventure took us to see snow for the first time and family we don't see often enough.  The Disco proved to be good looking inside and out, and a solid performer with just enough comfort and space.

A worry free adventurer.
What’s not to love? Well, the cold. But we made it back to the Sunshine Coast, so all's well that ends well.

Much more holiday snaps on Instagram #DiscoSportRoadTrip

Check out the Camel Trophy Defenders #INSTAIconLandRover

More technology Land Rover Technology

Find your high country getaway Silvertop Cottages (Erica Victoria) -> (It's for sale!)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

#V6TECHNOCAT Review: Holden Insignia VXR 2.8 V6 Turbo AWD


This German back road tourer has plenty of grunt and plenty of tech to satisfy all but the V8 Hoonigans of the Australian Automotive landscape

 Mick McWilliams

27 April 2016

The VXR is the only model in the Holden Insignia lineup, which is rather closely related to the Opel Insignia OPC from a few years ago. This time around there is new tech in the form of the latest MyLink system and an 8 inch multi-function display which replaces most of the conventional dials and also adds Apple Carplay and Android Auto (which I didn't even play with because I was having too much fun driving!). 

There are a number of trinkets to lure tech buyers, but really this is the type of car that should attract people who like to take the long road home, or enjoy the occasional weekend away scaring the wildlife on back country tarmac. 

This is the ideal car for disillusioned Saab drivers, especially since it's basically an updated 9-3 Turbo-X! It even has all of the Generals best smart suspension tricks: HiPerStruts, Flex-ride and the 4th gen Haldex AWD system and eLSD. 

If you want to tease yourself, leave it in VXR mode. The off idle burble, stiffened magnetically controlled suspension and harder gear changes corrupt you in no time at all, just like the OPC did. 

I hope the next generation will still have a splash of this character when it rolls around sometime next year. Braaap!

Tech (adaptive Suspension, smart head lights, RADAR Cruise just to name the headliners!)
Seats (Recaro buckets with 3-memory)
Brembo Brakes
Regular Service fixed price $229! (up to 90,000 kms)
They say 57k driveaway but I bet you can get away with less than 50 

No Manual
No Wagon
Whomever engineered the Climate Control touch panel is a sociopath
Drinks Premium 98 (though not as fast as a V8)
Not as fast as a V8
No RWD hoonability......


Monday, February 1, 2016

Fun or Function? Comfort or Character? Review: Kia Rio Sport

The KIA Rio Sport manages to pack bluetooth phone connectivity and music streaming without a touch screen. In fact one it's greatest strengths, aside from the fantastic 7 year unlimited kilometre warranty, is the absence of distractions. 

That makes it a pretty good choice for a first car! But does the rest of the package stack up?

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Music: Yellow Shoes by DJ Marky and S.P.Y.
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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Quick Fang: 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander LS 2.0 2WD

Toyota, Mazda, Holden, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Ford. 

That is how the top six brands finished in sales this year for Australia (breakdown on It was a record year and each of the top brands has their own unique mix of product types.

Toyotas dominance comes from generally malaise passenger cars that do their job well, in concert with strong fleet and commercial sales.

Mazda trades on a sporty image and many of their products now pack advanced powertains (such as the Sky Activ transmission) which see them offering more than just the reliability for which Japanese products have become known.

Holden have a lot of new products coming but their current line up is aging. This sees them slip somewhat and are now getting nipped at the heels by the slow but steady rise of Hyundai. 

Hyundai, aside from an absence of a 4x4, now have a product portfolio that is broader than both Ford and Holden. From the quirky Veloster to the luxury flagship Genesis, the rising Korean is the second fully imported range in the top 5.

Then there is Mitsubishi. Without a segment leader (aside from the Mirage which leads the micro segment with <4000 sales for the year), the diamond advantage seems to be a proposition of value and features, coupled with that ever enduring Japanese reliability draw card. 

Rather than offering the best car, the Mitsubishi equation seems to be  Good Car + Best price = Great value.

Clearly it's working. Their growth (4.5%) in the market was twice that of nearest full import competitor Hyundai (2.0%).

Let's have a quick fang in the entry level Mitsubishi Outlander LS to see how much is enough. 

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Mitsubishi Motors Australia on Facebook
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