HONDA: Some Insight in to the Accord and Accord Euro
If you like your cars like you like your men, then think of the Honda Accord Euro as the hot sporty gym type. The Accord is the handsome gent, a little older and dressed in top shelf clothes. The New Honda insight is going to be the just-out geeky nerd who is awfully clever and eager to please but looks 12 years old. Depending on your taste you might take one or more of them home for a test drive mightn’t you? You’ll poke crannies and find new uses for nooks. You’ll caress and cajole and in the morning, you’re either going to be very satisfied and gagging for more, or you’ll make a quick coffee, give them phone money for the pay phone on the corner as you shove them out the door.
When you got the hot sporty type home you get his shirt off and you find a hot body hardened by years of pumping in the gym. His rock hard chest is sexy as hell, and you just know he’ll be going all night without slowing down, and the “business end” is enough to make you smile. He’ll be good company and you’ll quickly find yourself thinking of shopping for throw pillows and a queen size sheet set for two. He is sexy and knows it.
The older man is of an age you can’t quite determine, and since you’re far too polite to ask, and you can’t count his rings, you decide it’s immaterial because you’re going to shag his brains out anyway. He’s not been to the gym in a while but he’s still on good shape. You decide to share a hot tub and find he passes the wet jock test with knobs on. He likes the nicer things in life and wants to share them with you. He wants to take you for a long hard ride. Happy Days!
The geek you find is a bit on the skinny side. He doesn’t work out much and seems just a little bit silly. He has a certain charm. Do you make him a coffee and call his mum to come get him or swallow the “I really am 18” story, and give him the benefit of your…. experience.
So you’ve gathered by now the Euro is athletic and attractive. It’s somewhere in the middle of its model life and gets a midlife freshen up very soon. It’s got reverse camera and sensors, the usual electronic watchdogs, airbags in case you get careless, and icy cold climate control and it’s all bundled up in a wedge shape that screams “fast”. The ride is fabulous mix of firmness for handling and suppleness for comfort.
Since the sad demise of the the beloved Integra, Accord Euro has taken its place. But don’t be fooled by the 4 doors. There are plenty of “4 door coupes” but most of them cost considerably more costly than the $32k starting price of the Euro. It’s all good so far. In fact the more you look the harder it is to pick fault. The interior is comfy with a slightly organic feel to the quality finishes. Disappointing is the lack of inbuilt Bluetooth and the genuine fake imitation wood trim.
Remember even your dream date has a few faults, but you can look through those.
The aftermarket Bluetooth sticks out of the “A” pillar at eye height like a huge cold sore that you just can’t ignore. I’m sure you would be better off with something a little more discrete. The cold sore is not enough to make you pass up the perfect man, and the Bluetooth is not enough to make you pass up the perfect car. The best thing is this will disappear in the midlife update in a few months and will be integrated with steering wheel buttons and inbuilt mic. All hail the mid life facelift.
Both Accords have the 2.4L engine and the same 5 speed transmission. The Euro squeezes more power out and is a smaller car so is lighter than Accord. It’s interesting that Australia is the only market to have both Accords. The Accord Euro is sold in the USA under the Accura TSX name.
Then, the more slightly older man: Accord. It too has been around a few years so by now we know, just like the Euro, that there are no flaws that need attention. Accord is marketed as the luxury version. It’s not quite as handsome as the Euro as it is an American market model. American cars either appeal to you or they don’t. The engine and transmission are the same as the Euro, but for some inexplicable reason has less power than the Euro. Go figure. From the inside, there isn’t much of a difference between them as they both have a top quality feel. The same reverse sensors and cameras, similar dials, similar console, similar gear shifter and similar trim. The Accord is bigger all round of course, after all, Americans have bigger bums don’t they? Remember the date, he hasn’t been at gym in a while but is still in good shape. Does he go or does he stay? Well he is home now so you might as well take a test ride! It’s a good thing you do because you pleasantly surprised. He handles well and you immediately feel comfortable. You feel as you’ve known him for years.
The driving dynamics are quite different to Euro. Accord isn’t quite as sporty as Euro and is meant to be driven leisurely. It has very long legs and lopes along the highway like a grand tourer. We had the 2.4L VTi L so the V6 would eat the highway K’s for breakfast. There is plenty of room for four so you can take your better half, and a couple of chums, for a weekend away with room plenty of stuff in the rear. It’s still sounding like that date isn’t it? But I digress, Accord and Accord Euro a very quiet on the highway which is a plus. A nice touch is the speed sensitive Stereo which changes volume as you speed up or slow down. There are lots of little touches like this. It’s not rocket science but rather a thoughtful little man in Japan thinking of ways to make life a bit easier, after all that’s his job. On that note, the Audio system in both is very good and a far cry from the whimpering 2 speaker jobbies we used to get. I’ve mentioned it before but I’ll say it again, the Bluetooth upgrade comes courtesy of the midlife upgrade now due.
The Accords have been well designed and beautifully built and haven’t had the curse of recalls that have hung above the necks of some car makers like the sword of Damocles. They both drive well but the Euro being more sporty is undoubtedly the pick of the Honda Range. Remember how you felt when you first saw him across the crowded bar, I mean, crowded showroom? You felt special, and lucky and a little bit horny! It’s odd that car makers spend so much making their cars sexy with advertising. Think of the dosh they would save if they just made their cars sexier. Euro doesn’t need sexing up.
Finally the youngish geek: He has a few spots, is kinda skinny and in the light looks a bit odd. Sort of cute in a strange way but you suspect his hidden talents may well be a bit on the limited side. You look at the little face beaming up at you and are struck with a spasm sisterly generosity. You give him a thorough seeing to. You cope with his inexperience but simply can’t forgive the clothes direct from Vinnies-Coture-de-Last-Year discount line.
Insight, the subject of a flurry of advertising on stage, screen and print, was the subject of much anticipation. Inevitable comparisons to Toyota’s indomitable Prius aside, Insight had a lot to live up to. Looks aside (you either like them or not), the inside looked decidedly entry level. I realise it was intended to be a shoe in to the world of batteries and toy dashboards, but for $33,000 I expected a bit less Target bargain basement and a little more David Jones Half Yearly Clearance. There are a few little must-haves like power windows and MP3 audio system with Aux input but the overall feeling is of a much lower price car. It’s just a bit disappointing.
It’s just a feeling, but Prius feels much nicer. It has a nicer inside and better performance. Some say Insight drives better than Prius, but I’m just not convinced. Imagine getting your slightly spotty youth home and finding that he is a tea total virgin and you’ll be close to how I felt when I read the specs on Insight to find the rear brakes on Insight are drum, that’s right, drum brakes. Honda told me it was to save on weight and besides they work just as well, just as well as Fred Flintstone’s feet maybe! It has got to be a money thing surely. Jazz manages with discs on the rear and has almost the same fuel consumption and is an altogether better package.
If you absolutely have to have an economical cheap car, buy Jazz, which if you buy the base model is just a smidgen over half the price of Insight and frankly drives as well as if not better than the Insight. It’s cute and nippy and uses almost no petrol and unbelievable value in the quality for money stakes. The difference in price is about $16,000 between the base Jazz and Insight which will run the Jazz for its entire life and probably another one as well? It is delightful and not surprisingly their best seller. I sat back and had a long think about Insight and in the end, the biggest problem I had was price. At $20,000 it would be a starter. I wonder if this is why Honda have sold far fewer of them than they thought they would.
I’m afraid to say the spotty youth is the only boy from this particular bar that just doesn’t do it for me. He might just have to come back for another go when he grows up a bit.
On a serious note, Both Accords are stunning vehicles and are brilliant value. They both drive well and are incredibly comfy with bells and whistles galore. The Euro is the one for me though as it’s just that bit better in every way for my tastes. In fact if you look at the rest of Hondas range, Insight is the only one that looks out of place, and is all about price, because it looks and feels like a $20,000 (the price charged in the USA) automobile. Again, If you have to spend $33,000, spend it on the delectable Euro, or better still buy the Jazz and have a month’s boozy holiday on Hamilton Island with some friends. And don’t forget my invite!
|Model||Engine||cyls||Fuel||Fuel consL/100k||Torque||Power||Co2||Trans type||0-100||Price as tested|
|Euro||2.4 L||4||Unleaded (RON 95)||8.9||230Nm||148kW||211||5 sp auto||$42,990|
|Accord||2.4 L||4||Unleaded (RON 95)||8.8||222Nm||133kW||209||5sp auto||$42,990|
*Assisted by 9.7 kw electric motor
City Cars, what makes sense and what makes you nauseous: Are they CRAP or credible?
Most of us live and work in cities. Peak hour traffic jams can be a bore but living in cities makes traffic an ugly fact of life. If you could sprinkle fairy dust and transport yourself from place to place, you wouldn’t need to worry about petrol and parking and road rules, but since you can’t, here are a selection of cars for under 7L/100k in a series of mini tests.
Barina Spark $14490 drive away, 5l/100k avg
Holden bases their teensy bug eyed super-mini on the Daewoo Matiz. Love it or hate it, it is very cheap and very small with a tiny engine and a meagre appetite for petrol. It’s all plastic inside (including the seating) is made to a price but if you can fold yourself into the tiny seats your pocket will thank you. A taller person has to hold their inner thighs close together in order to get their feet to the pedals, so the car is aimed at a crowd with smaller bums and shorter legs. If you keep the revs up you won’t notice that you don’t have a lot of power at your disposal which is only an issue if you need to get out of a spot of bother. This brings us neatly to the cars biggest drawback and that is there is only a manual on offer can you believe it? If you only have an auto licence you’ll have to keep on looking.
It drives ok for a super mini, but bumps in corners have you jumping all over the place which can be very unsettling. Importantly, you have an acceptable sound system with inputs for your mp3 player but no bluetooth. There is also plenty of safety gear to make sure you don’t hurt yourself if you are suddenly stopped by a brick wall. There are 5 safety stars worth of ABS (not abs silly), cornering and traction controls and lots of airbags. For the money, a smaller person is going to think this option isn’t too bad.
Does anyone else think the lights were off a bigger car?
Toyota Prius. $43,900 drive away. For the base model 4.9l/100k avg
Toyota Camry Hybrid $43,000 drive away for the top model 7l/100k avg
Don’t moan just because I say the word “Prius”. Say the word hybrid and you think of Toyota and it’s eco poster-queen, the Prius. The Prius and Camry hybrid both use electric and petrol engines together or individually to propel you along at an Olympic rate but use mere sips of petrol. There is a boot full of batteries that charge from the petrol motor so the only limit on how far you can drive is the amount of fuel you can buy. They both have a fabulous keyless entry and start system which means rotting around in your pocket of small change for a key that is inevitably in another pocket is a thing of the past. Just walk right up to the door and open it, get in, sit down, and start the car (and lock it by pressing a button on the outside door handle). When you press the start button nothing happens until you release the brake and put it in drive. I won’t bore you with the whiz-bangery that keeps it all going, but suffice to say the petrol motor is only on when it’s needed. The Prius gets 3.6 and the Camry 7 l/100k. The star-trek-like interior will appeal in the Prius whereas the Camry is conventional inside and just a little diagram on the dashboard to indicates it’s running on batteries. The whole system is mindblowingly complex and only a genius knows how it works or how to fix it if it all goes tits-up.
The cloth interior of the pov model Prius is actually my preference as the leather can be cold on the buns on a winter’s day and stinking hot when scorched for a few hours in the unforgiving summer sun. The odd shape screams “I’m a Prius. Look at me look at me, I’m a hybrid and I care”. Hollywood celebs are buying them by the bucket load and to date over 2 million have been sold. The Camry feels similar to the Prius to drive but is a much bigger car. They both soak up the bumps and comer smoothly with the electric steering feeling slightly like porridge at times. It’s not sporty by any means but not so horrible that either, just odd. There is a little too much insulation from the road for my liking. There is no feeling through the steering wheel and the suspension has an eerie disjointed sensation. You just have to have the confidence that the wheels will go where you steer them and of course they do.
Once you get used to the stop/start of the petrol engine, both hybrids, though a little dull, are very good cars. The only down side is that there is a lot of computer gear that can go wrong and would be hideously expensive to repair if out of warranty. Similarly the batteries, just like in your remote controls at home, need replacing at $3,000. This will happen after about 8 years because Toyota guarantees them for that amount of time. Both boots are on the tight side because of the need to have a million kilos of rechargeable batteries in them. You still get fold down seats and for the most part you don’t have to compromise on space just to be green. The only annoying thing was the leather clad seats in the Camry made my bum numb after an hour on the road. I can’t imagine what it would be like driving it any further. Over all though, I was surprised at how nice the experience was and I would have no doubts in saying they both are ideal city cars. It’s also where they are going to get the best fuel consumption. Beware, you will get looks from strangers at the lights when they think your motor has conked out and there are only the dulcet tones of Kylie for company. The stereos, by the way, are fantastic.
Holden Cruze CDX diesel Auto 29,900 drive away 7.5 l/100avg
This is the last of the 4 cars this week. It’s another Holden made in the Daewoo factory and was chosen for the fresh look and the fact that it is a diesel. Holden’s engine is mighty rowdy and does intrude into the cabin and gets raucous under hard acceleration. You can both feel and hear in the cabin but not enough to annoy you if you don’t mind a tractor sound from the front of the car. For under 30k you don’t get too many extras but this is a big car for the class. It feels roomier than its opposition such as the corolla, and is a much better drive. There is good old fashioned feeling that reaches you through the steering and lets you know what the wheels are doing. It feels very safe and assured in the corners but the little blast of energy from the Turbo can be a bit of a shock if you’re not expecting, it especially at the traffic lights. She can really lifts her skirts when the light goes green after the merest hint of hesitation. Like the other cars tested, there is a host of air bags and electronic driver aids and although they keep you safe, can also interfere with your driving as they apply brakes and throttle to control the grip on the road, or more particularly, the lack of grip on the road..
We had the top model which has leather but the seats, like in the Camry, were a bit firm. As in all cars, the top model will give you MP3 and AUX inputs for your radio and better air conditioning. As far as the looks go, it’s not too bad and there is an Australian made hatchback following shortly. Rumour has it that the suspension is even better than in the sedan so time will tell. So it’s nice to drive and not bad too look at. It is cheap to run and doesn’t need fresh batteries after 8 years. It has plenty of get up and go in traffic so makes a perfect city car. The omission of Bluetooth in this day and age is just unforgivable.
We can’t possibly compare the 4 cars in anything but fuel consumption. The Prius claims 3.6 l/100k while the Camry and the Cruze are around 7 l/100k and the Spark a little less than that. They range in size from the tiny spark to the full sized Camry with the Cruze and Prius in between.
If you have a small bum than you can consider the Spark but taller folk just won’t be comfortable. My inner thighs ached for days after driving it, and not in a good way, so it just isn’t meant for someone tall. The other 3 would all make good cars for around town. The price varied as did the equipment levels, but the reversing camera of the Camry was a stroke of brilliance and should, Bluetooth, be in every new car. It would end touch parking in a single blow. Leather always makes me think of the inside of an S&M bar minus the drinks, but most people like it though you’ll change your mind on hot days. In most vehicles the leather is almost always black for some reason and gets so hot you could fry an egg on it. All of the cars had a shed load of air bags and too many electronic safety aids to mention, so picking a favourite just can’t be done. If pressed, it would be the Cruze, and, I can’t believe I am saying this, the Camry. Toyota Bluetooth is devilishly hard to use but the manual sorts all that out.
Finally, just a few words on buying cars generally. Never sign until you have had a really long test drive. By long, I don’t mean a 10 minute dawdle around the block. Car sales people rely on getting as many people to sign on the dotted line as they can, after all that’s how they are paid. Always insist on several opinions especially if you have a trade in. Don’t believe the “someone else is coming in to buy it this afternoon,” line. Take your time, it’s your money, you earned it and you can spend it however you like. You don’t need their permission to shop around for the best price and you might even save yourself a few thousand. Ask for a full tank of fuel and extras when it’s time to sign up because they want your dollar. They need you, you don’t need them!
Bye for now.
Holden Commodore berlina 3.0L V6, SSv 6.0L V8, Calaise 6.0L V8, Caprice 6.0L V8 and SV6 3.6L V6
Most little boys, and a number of little girls, grow up with Motor sports and like it or not, we are Ford or Holden people, Commodore or Falcon? Even if we don’t watch it, everyone knows what and where Bathurst is.
We’ve spent the last 5 weeks trawling the streets and highways of Australia to bring you the brand new (well 6 months old now) Holden big-boys-toys line up. It was hard but someone had to do it. We had the sexy-as-hell Berlina Sportswagon, the drop dead gorgeous Commodore SSv and SV6, the super elegant top drawer Calaise Redline and the range topping Caprice V for those who think size counts, which let’s face, is all of us.
IQ is now standard kit for all big Holdens. It’s very very clever and once you operate one, you can operate the whole range. How very Airbus of them! Base models still get Bluetooth and on-screen info including programming the infotainment system. Bluetooth is a snap and it only takes a few moments to pair your instrument. Boys don’t read manuals so it must be easy right? It’s fully handsfree and supports voice dial if your phone has it. Your address book is displayed in the screen but this is the only bit I didn’t like. It is far too slow and clunky. Much easier to touch the button and speak, though she has a habit of getting it wrong. Even my other half who is technically challenged found it a breeze with not the slightest sign of a hissy-fit. The best thing is you don’t have to plug your iPhone in because the tunes will stream via Bluetooth. If you plug in via USB you’ll have full iPod control via the IQ. If you can put up with the wrong songs, it will play with voice selection but I rather felt like that call centre ad on TV where no matter what I said it played something else or nothing at all. Too clever by half!
You don’t have to go far before the Sat Nav models drive you quite mad. One of the features is camera and school zone warnings. The warning “bing” is an annoying tone that will have you ripping every hair out by the roots, especially in the city where is bings every 20 metres or so. It’s funny the first 10 times but then you will want to throw yourself off the gap if you think you can’t turn it off. That’s the second stroke of genius, Holden know boys like a thoroughly good fiddle with a knob, so the security, locking, lights and bing bing functions can be personalised. For the record, the bloody binging racket can be put to bed via the satnav menu. With the ignition on, you flick through the small central LCD screen between the tacho and speedo for other menu items. You decide if you want the doors to lock or unlock if the key is moved or the gear lever is moved, or the car moves. Do you want only the driver’s door unlocked, or all of them? And how about those lights front and back? Do you fancy your path to be gently lit so you don’t go tits-up in a puddle and night? No problem. On electric seat models, you have the option of the passengers mirror dipping when you select reverse. Just imagine how that will save your precious alloys! You select the ‘on” by pressing the mem button on the driver’s seat. Move the mirror to where you want it after selecting reverse, then select park and press “mem” again and bobs-your-uncle. From then on selecting reverse will dip the mirror to your saved position. Brilliant! Other brands have it for sure, but just try programming it. The satnav models also have a reverse camera. As you all know, I think no car should be without one. There isn’t one among us who hasn’t hit, or nearly hit something or someone while backing up. It gives you the most awful fright. It happened to me once and I nearly dropped my gin!
Mostly the trim is the same in all models. There is cowhide or cloth but other than that everything looks the same. The sporty SSV and SV6 get different dash vents but that’s about it. It’s not a problem for the 6 pot models but the V8’s drink like a drag queen if you’re not careful. Holden have a clever little gadget that tells you if you’re in 4 cylinder mode and how much petrol is being sucked down. Surprisingly, especially on cruise control, the V8 will stay in 4 cylinder mode for much of the time. Did I mention the computer will cut out 4 cylinders when the power isn’t needed? It’s odd though that at idle, all 8 cylinders are drinking down duel at an Olympic rate. Funnily enough, the V8’s get about the same fuel figures as our ancient SAAB 9000 which is a wheezing old 4 cylinder. There is no doubt that most V8 buyers won’t be forking out for their own fuel, but the rest will pay anything for the thrill of being pinned back by 270 hairy chested kilowatts of brute force. With a huge 512 NM of torque, a mere caress of the go pedal will stick your face to the back window. Once you’re going, you can drive around all like a tweed suited, carpet bag carrying granny, but stick the stiletto to the floor and you release an angry fire breathing Norse god complete with Hammer and horns, and the sound is glorious. There is no need of special damping or clever membranes in the exhaust, this is genuine GGGGRRROOOWWWLLLL. Sadly even the sports models are far too quiet at gentle speeds. Frankly if I was paying for the petrol, I would want noise, and lots of it. Best of all, Holden has made the range Bio-Fuel compatible. Use E10 or E85 without risking a piston through your bonnet.
Berlina International 3.0L v6 VE series II
The sports wagons must have been conceived over a pitcher or margaritas. Imagine the Holden designers full as state school port racks scribbling furiously on their coasters then passing out. Now picture first thing in the morning, the sun comes out, a few blokes surface feeling shitty as hell from the night before, glaring incredulously at their drunken musings. Their tongues feel like the bottoms of cockies cages, but they can’t believe the thing of true undiluted beauty before them. A few excited calls later, the big man at Holden jumps for joy, and oh what a feeling, the Sportswagon is born. As it turns out, Sportswagon is the only local wagon. Ford only has the massive territory SUV and all the rest are imports. Holden must have been wringing their hands with glee and the sales spoke volumes as the most popular car in the country got even more popular. The series 2 Commodores all got upgraded interiors and tweaked exteriors. It’s a very classy package with supple ride and first class handling, and is a bunch of fun.
The interiors are more or less common to all models of Commodore. The 3.0L is Bio fuel compatible in line with Holden’s view that switching to alternate fuels now is a good thing. I think they are missing a trick by not have a diesel option, but the petrol engines are fabulous. Although there is 190KW in the 3.0L V6, I can’t help but feel the Berlina International would definitely be better with the 3.6L 210KW unit from the SV6. It was made the wagon feel a touch heavy. The international scores a few extra goodies over the base Omega and is well worth the money. Wagons come in handy for the sales rep or camper or for the dogs. If you are the outdoorsy type, you’ll love the extra room which could be used as one big flat area with the seats down. If you love being uncomfortable and having none of life’s little luxuries, you could throw some camping gear in the back and head for a frolic in the woods with the better half. Frankly I would rather put my eyes out, nonetheless, the Sportswagon wonderfully versatile.
SV6 VE series II 3.6L
The man from Holden handed me the keys to the SV6 and out I went to see the magnificent fire engine red SV6 just begging to be swept up and taken away in my arms. But I do go on! The 18inch wheels look hot and the effect was as melting as the super-hot guy across the bar that looks over and sees only you, and you feel like the only person on the planet, and you want to take him home and….. Well funnily enough the SV6 can drive you home as well, so there are a lot of similarities really aren’t there?
It screams “look at me” and I guess that’s why they have been so popular. The IQ is sans SatNav but who cares, I’ll use my iPhone. All Commodores and caprices share the same steering wheel controls for phone, radio and menu so drive one and you drive them all in that respect, again, not unlike the cute guy at the bar. Unlike the cute guy, there is absolutely 0% chance of disappointment with no performance issues regardless of the time of day. The same 6 speed auto across the range is super smooth with none of that hunting endlessly for the right gear nonsense. The ride is just a little firmer than the base models and you have to really misbehave before you look like getting into strife. Even in the wet, the electronic nannies sort out most of your miscalculations. Despite the fact that the SV6 is a very popular model, you get lots of looks, and not just from bogans in riced 20 year old Nissan Silvias.
Apart from the colour, the sexy body and the luscious interior, things that you can see, only a drive will show how good the SV6 really is. Costing in the mid 40’s, it is great value for a full sized, 4 door sports car. The VE has been out for a few years now but hasn’t aged a day and this midlife make over hardly touched more than the headlights but the interior spruce-up has been a real shot in the arm. The one thing I hate, and it is being a nit-picker, is the hideous hand brake. It’s hard to use and if not adjusted properly needs two hands to release, and when you do, you are very likely to snag a finger in the vice-like jaws formed by the odd design. It looks good though…
SSV VE series II 6.0L V8
I could hardly contain myself when I drove the Sunburst Yellow SSV out of the Holden Dealer. Not used to the ever-so-touchy accelerator, I gently dabbed the throttle to find I had launched myself several hours into the future. I used the catch-up time to have a coffee and gather my thoughts. I had read the specs before collecting the SSV, but nothing prepares you for the brute force of that massive hunk of pig iron (well alloy actually) up front. The performance figures are eye as watering as the fuel consumption. But driven with just a smidgen of finesse and the fuel use improves no end (12.9l/100k average). A Holden-aphile will spot the SSV Badge which means more stuff inside and the chromed quad exhaust to get as much out the 6 litres of symphonic mastery as possible, and of course 19” wheels, YUM! To be honest, 2 valves per cylinder and pushrods seems a bit last millennium. But one drive fixes all that. (Keep in mind that Lexus IFS which we are testing in a few weeks, gets 310 KW out of its 5.0L V8).
The inside is pretty much the same as the SV6 but you get SatNav/reverse camera and a few extra dials in the instruments. These are common to all V8 Commodore/Caprice.Is it worth the money? Hell yes! Both the SV6 and SS models get a honking great boot spoiler which does nothing but look HUGE, but I couldn’t option if off. You get used to it after a while. The leather is a nice quality and very comfortable even in the heat of summer.
I’m only going to describe the handling as superb. Fabulous ride on both 6 and 8 cylinder cars with light and responsive steering should be legendary. Again, on both models, the sound proofing is amazing. How far we have come since the almost prehistoric VB HDT commodore of 1978.
Calaise V Redline. 6.0L V8
Without the brashness of the SSV, even with the same engine, the Calaise looks very mild mannered and subdued. In fact you can get it as untidy as the ferocious SSV. If you were of a mind, you could shred your tyres and ruin the neighbour’s sleep with very little effort. Although fun, it’s a touch undignified in the full-on luxury Commodore. You notice the Calaise no longer wears the Commodore name, but take off the business shirt and scratch at the singlet and you’ll find the same hairy chest as the SSV. It still breathes fire, but the more subtle outside is mirror by an altogether more grown up inside. Boy racer has been banished by the merchant banker who has more sense than to spend 3 times as much on a Merc or BMW. Can a humble Holden really compete against German marketing? The answer is, if a car makes you feel special, if it makes you smile, if after 10,000 k’s of motoring you still love it more than iPod, than yes Holden can compete. The simple fact is Audi, Mercedes, BMW and even the delectable Jaguar can’t do this price. It’s not as sophistacted I hear you say, and you’re right. But at the end of the day, you get in and drive from one place to another then get out and go about your business. The real test is how do you feel when asked what you’re driving? Are you proud to say Holden Calaise when the other guy says Mercedes Benz or do you feel a pang when you’re in a pissing contest? Only you know….
The Calaise shares the beautiffuly chiselled body of the Commodore, but you get a bit of tarting-up for your money. The leather is nicer, the wheels are nicer, and the options list is very short because they have piled the range topping redline chock full of stuff. The special leather and rear camera are obvious, but the Brembo brakes are really just showing off, but they work awfully well. And yet, surrounded by well appointed luxury, there is the same boy racer thrill when you gently push your Gucci moccasin (yes you’re just a bit daggy) into the carpet and the monster is unleased. You hear the utterly fabulous chorus front up front but the limited slip diff, traction control, ABS, EBD and ECS tame the beast if you forget yourself. It’s really a better equipped SSV without the gaudy paint, massive spoiler and firm suspension. If you’re the kind of person who has decision issues, don’t test drive both.
For most of us, the Statesman Caprice is a slightly clapped out series 1 WB Silver Service taxi with a little man at the wheel is sweating profusely and swearing at all the other drivers and telling you how awful the traffic is and how bad the work has been today. The V6 is shagged, the diff is a bit past it and the gearbox sounds like it’s full of shrapnel. Everything works, but the speedo is on its 5th spin and frankly you wonder if you’re going to get to your hot date.
Rest assured the limo didn’t start out that way. When Holden did the same makeover on the Statesman Caprice, they ditched the “Statesman” bit. I think this is a mistake as I was fond of statesman going back to the first model of the 70’s. It always looked super elegant built on the Kingswood station wagon platform with a boot the size of Queensland. The people driving in it always looked posh and smiled from inside their cocoon. It turns out they knew something I didn’t.
Our final car is the king of the Holden pile which is known at the dealerships as “the beast”. The leather is softer, the suspension somehow wafts along making hardly a noise or movement and somehow it corners like its smaller sister, the Calaise. There is no hiding the fact that it’s a very big chunk of metal, but as a driver it honestly feels no bigger than a commodore. It’s helped mainly by the massive engine. You find yourself nipping in and out of traffic and trying to get into places that are just a tad too tight, but you get in anyway, much like that date! You have parking sensors front and back, the reverse camera of course, and the test car had a towing pack so should you accidentally touch park…..
The sunroof had a rather clever dial rather than a switch. You could dial your preferred possie and the roof opened without you doing anything else. I was slightly annoyed at not being able to leave it open without the key in the ignition. As soon as you take it out the bloody roof shuts. Of course it goes without saying that even a tall person such as I could sit in the back with my legs fully out and still have room. Capacious just isn’t sufficient to describe the space. There are controls for the audio and rear mounted DVD, plus wireless headsets and a remote! Joy of joys there is also a knob to twiddle should you happen to be a despot in need of extra cooling because if the front is set to tri-zone, you are able to control your own air temp. How is that for smarts? And, I’m not sure if it was my imagination, but the back seemed to have an even smoother ride than the front. Perhaps I should become a despot, though some say I already am.
I know I gush when I drive a car or cars that I really like, but the makeover for series II addressed all those little niggles I had about the VE. If the VE II is this good, where does that leave Holden for their next range?
I’ve driven lots of cars over the years but I kid you not when I say the Caprice V made me feel like a queen.
|model||cyl||Cap litres||trans||Co2 gms||Power kw||Torque nm||Fuel cusumpt||0-100||Price*|
|Caprice V||8||6.0L||6 sp Auto||292||260kw||517nm||12.3 comb||$69,990|
|Calaise V redline||8||6.0L||6 sp Auto||292||240kw||517nm||12.3 comb||$61,990|
|SSV||8||6.0L||6 sp Auto||292||260kw||517nm||12.3 comb||$57,290|
|SV6||6||3.6L||6 sp Auto||234||210kw||350nm||9.8 comb||$43,790|
|Berlina sportswagon||6||3.9L||6 sp Auto||216||190kw||290nm||9.1 comb||$38,990|
Panty-Wettingly Sensational, the VW Golf GTd (around $39,900 plus on roads)
I have been waiting an age to get my mitts on this tasty little morsel and I was not going to waste a second of precious time with it. The GTd is the newest of the Golf Mark 6 models. The 2.0l Turbo Diesel gives a decent 125 kw of power and huge 350 nm of torque. I couldn’t wait to jump onboard and go for a really long thrash, errr, a calm and gentle road trip from Sydney to Brisbane. The GTi has long been the favourite of sports car lovers so the diesel could have gone horribly wrong, but VW must have done their homework because the GTd is every bit as much a star as the stunning GTi.
The huge 17” wheels have the merest smear of rubber so it sits very low especially at the front. The diesel model is lower than the petrol sister and the grille doesn’t have the red highlights but other than that, there is little difference. It has a solid look of quality with good panel fit and faultless paint. The side mirrors have enormous LED blinker lamps in them which can be seen from the moon when flashing. It is a very handsome 5 door hatch (in the test car but is also available with 3 doors). VW have avoided my pet hate of having headlamps the size of a small suns wandering half way up the bonnet. It looks ghastly. Instead Golf has a neat set of headlamps, including an awesome set of high beams and daytime running lights with clear lenses round back on the tail lights. To sum up the outside, it HOT!
As with the outside, there is a feeling of quality. And in a nod to GT Golfs of the past, there are touches of chrome and aluminium on the pedals and dashboard and black and white tartan on the seats. The instruments are clear and easy to read and everything is well laid out and easy to use. I always think if you can jump into a car and drive it without having to read the user guide, which usually looks like “War and Peace”, it’s a well designed piece of engineering. I did miss the phone interface which these days is more of a safety issue than a luxury. The cruise control was super easy as was the touch screen radio/media interface. The dual zone climate control was a simple set-and-forget affair with no need for endless phaffing about. I have to mention the seating. When you say “racing seats”, you think of the back breaking no-give-hard-as-nails seats that leave your kidneys battered and your discs ruptured. Not in this car where loads of thought went into the different types of bums that they will have to accommodate. 2 hour rest breaks don’t seem necessary (but take them anyway). They hug firmly so that should you pull 3 g’s in a corner you won’t finish up with your face smeared on the side windows. They are covered in the GT tartan and the whole cabin is a melange of muted monotones in greys and black with only a smidge of red on the dials and radio screen.
There are auxiliary buttons on the steering wheel and column mounted stalks for some functions which mean no taking your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road. Everything is in full sight and is easily read, so no need to consult the oracle when you want to crank up the volume or change the multi function display. With everything squared off and the fun red trim, there is a slight retro thing going on which just adds to the ambience. I love it.
The Drive, a Road trip Syd-Bris
Diesels have come a long way since the gutless, rattly, soot-belching suet puddings of 20 years ago. Apart from a little extra noise under the bonnet, there is little to give the game away until you’re refilling at the pump. On the 2,000 k round trip, the whole package performed faultlessly and was a joy to behold and we easily achieved the claimed 5.5 l/100k so went 1,000 k’s on a single tank. Not too shabby eh?
The test car had the super-slick 6 speed manual which was a bunch of fun especially in the mountains but the DSG semi auto is also very good. Although the clutch took a bit of getting used to, it was very rewarding with each change lifting the nose slightly. The clutch, like the steering, has an odd vague feel but takes only a jiff to master. You might find that you snuff the life out of the motor until you do master the feel, so make sure you turn the key all the way off before you try and restart or you might find yourself on the harbour bridge in peak hour feeling like a bit of a knob because you can’t fire the old girl up. The electric steering, although hugely responsive and direct, provides bugger all road feel. But, once you trust the engineering, the car goes exactly where you point it every time, even when driving a little too enthusiastically on deserted mountain roads.
The real surprise was the engine itself. Under hard acceleration, there was a pleasing growl right up to the bit where all diesel engines reach the ‘flat spot”. At red line, it simply stops accelerating and you think you have broken something. It’s off putting at first, but jump a cog and she is good to go. It feels very much faster than the 8.2 seconds to 100 kph, but maybe that’s just the rosey glasses which I refused to leave at home.
Corners come up fast but the fat tyres stick like glue and the electronics make sure you don’t go spearing off into the underbrush every five minutes. I remember riding in a Peugeot GTi 180 that nearly broke my back in several places. The good handling was achieved by making the ride so hard there was little give in the suspension or the seats. The only cushioning was in your back, but in contrast, the Golf ride is more like a luxury sedan. It is supple and soft yet in corners is firm and reassuring and just gagging for more. Bumps and potholes were soaked up and even roughest sections of the goat track (the Pacific Highway) felt more like a gentle massage from a nubile wench.
There is waterfall lighting in the form of little red LEDs in the over head console and handy footwall lamps. The AUX inputs for your iPhone/Ipod/MP3 player has no inbuilt controls unless you go for the full monty when you order your car then the touch screen will do the lot. I thought I would also mention that like all Euro cars, your highway Etag will only work in the little painted area at the top of your windscreen because of the stuff in the glass interferes with radio waves.
The auto lights and wipers worked very well and got a thorough workout. My only nitpicking gripe would have been the lack of GPS and Bluetooth, but my portable device sorted all that out.
Likes: There is not enough space, or time, to go into the complete list of likes so just let’s say “Everything”
Dislikes: the lack of GPS and Bluetooth but that is just nitpicking.
The conclusion surely must start with the phrase,” OMFG”. If this car was a drag queen, her name would me Miss Sue Perb. I would be ticking the boxes for park assist sensors and GPS/Bluetooth which are worth the extra money. This is, without a doubt, the best sports car under $50k and might just be the best car period for under $50k. Some of you may have seen the ad on the tellie for the standard diesel golf. For a change, the product exactly matched the advertising. It will leave a smile on your face which is worth every penny VW are asking. To buy better, would mean spending almost 3 times the money. Yes Veedubs are expensive, but think of the money you will save not needing any other form of entertainment.
If it sounds like I am a walking advert for the GTd, I apologise, DO I BUGGER! There simply is not a better drive for this price, unless of course you’re considering a Golf GTi…
Other cars in the same price bracket
Peugeot 308 Diesel, Holden Commodore, Mazda 6, Honda Accord Euro to name but a few.
General Car Buying Tips
As always we try and impart a few pearls to steer you in the right direction. The sales staff will point out the features of the vehicle so take a brochure to remember what you’ve been shown. It is always worthwhile doing a quick online search to find any known faults or other issues. Perhaps you may fall across a great deal. Importantly, know your options. Is it the car you really want? I was once told that only full sized spare tyres were safe and that steering wheel buttons set off airbags, so you have to use your nut. If something sounds like bollocks, it probably is.
SUV’s: love them or not, they are here to stay
Loved or loathed, SUV’s are here to stay. SUV is the term Americans gave to a broad range of utility vehicles in different body styles but most of which should be more accurately described as All Wheel Drive rather than 4 Wheel Drive. Is there any real difference? Yes there is. All Wheel Drive (AWD) is what you find in Subarus, Audis and Volvos whereas 4 Wheel Drive (4WD) is a proper off road vehicle with extra high ground clearance, locking hubs and high/low range gears. Such systems are used in the Land Rovers, Toyota Landcruisers and Range Rovers. The actual technical workings are beyond me and frankly all most of us care about it whether it works or not. Judging by comments on some of the previous stories, the gay driving fraternity are not much more enamoured with SUVs than the rest of the non-SUV owning public. SUV’s range from the smaller models like Toyota RAV 4 and Subaru Forester to full sized 4 wheel drives like the Range Rover and Hummer. Do vehicles such as these deserve a place on city roads chockers with big trucks, limos and tiny city cars not to mention those nuisance pedestrians and bicycles? Only kidding…..
Toyota Kluger Grande $72,000 drive away: 3.5 V6, 11.6L/100k
11.9l/100k, 201kw 337nm torque, 0/100kph 8,2 secs
The 7 seater is a favourite among the soccer-mum set. It is vast inside with the 2nd and third rows of seats folding flat in an easy 1 minute process. If you invited every friend you have, you could play twister in the back and still have room to park a small aircraft. It is truly huge. There are lashings of leather on the seats and doors along with touches of genuine fake wood on the dash and console for an extra touch of luxury. The appointments are simply too numerous to name but the electric rear door will keep you amused for hours. If you don’t want to lift the whole hatch, the glass window opens far enough to throw in a couple of David Jones bags.
On the road it is supremely smooth with oodles of power and great visibility for such a huge hunk of metal. It has a few off roader extras like hill decent and a snow setting which we were did not get a chance to try out but with no locking diff. True 4WDs have locking diffs and high/low gears. You’ll still mange muddy roads but if you try much more than this you are bound to be up to your ball joints in trouble before you can say “Toorak Tractor”. There are reverse sensors and a camera to make sure you don’t hit anything you don’t mean to. It goes without saying that there are plenty of airbags and electronic safety gadgets. You cannot drive any vehicle this size as if it was a sports car. You have to consider the size when changing lanes or parking and the high centre of gravity means you do feel it in the corners. It’s also worth noting that we didn’t quite manage the claimed fuel figures even when driving like a nana but again you can’t expect Corolla fuel consumption from something twice the size.
The Grande is the top-of-the-line and apart from being very quiet, has a load of extras. I love the keyless entry and start and am a sucker for a sunroof. There is a feeling of space, luxury and quality and I have to admit to be pleasantly surprised by the way it drove.
So f you find one parked over the lines in the local car park, be in no doubt that it was not the size of the car, but the knob behind the wheel at fault.
Volvo XC60 the Tech pack $70,000 on the road: 3.2v6, 11.2l/100k
0/100kph 9.4 secs, 179kw, 320nm torque
Once upon a time, only baggy arsed old men and women in silly hats drove Volvos. They all had a personality bypass and without exception were hopeless drivers. But something happened while we had our backs turned and Volvo transformed from the ugly duckling into a sleek modern luxury brand with a model to satisfy almost every taste. I’ve become a bit of a fan.
The most technologically advanced of our cars, the XC60 is a medium sized SUV. It drives like car and is more like the Commodore wagon than the Kluger in that respect.
The entire range consists of a single model to which you add whatever packs you want (or can afford). The tech pack includes sat nav and blue tooth with reverse camera and in this case was dealer fitted rather than factory ordered. You get a different screen on the dash which is arguably better than the Volvo model. The inside is trimmed in quality leather and of the 4 test cars seemed to have the nicest quality. Bluetooth is easy to use as are the rest of the instruments. The Satnav screen doubles as a DVD player and displays the view as you reverse. It’s worth noting we had crappy reception until the aerial was moved to where it should have been installed in the first place. Should you have rubbish reception on your satnav, question where the installers put your antenna? It should be in line-of-site with the satellite.
We drove the XC60 for 800 km in a single trip and found it very cosy and the easiest of the test cars to drive as it drove like a car but had a high driving position. This is possibly the most quoted reason for soccer mums choosing SUV’s as their mode of transport. Like the Kluger, the XC60 also had an electric tailgate to make loading easier. There are settings for different conditions such as snow and steep hills. We managed very muddy tracks easily when perhaps a two wheel drive car might have up to its hubcaps going nowhere.
Since Volvo is obsessed with safety, there is a vast array of electronic safety gizmos in addition to those found in our other test cars. There is a clever system that can see someone carelessly stepping into your path. It will hit the anchors and prepare the car for impact by making sure you are pulled back in your seat. Should the object not be a pedestrian and the Volvo thinks you are about to have a crash, it will tighten the seatbelts, close the sunroof and windows and make sure you are not locked in when the car comes to a halt. It also knows who is sitting where and only sets off those airbags. Of course some of these systems can be de-activated if you are off super smooth tarmac. You will thank the fact that you can turn off the sensors if you have to pull in to long grass. This is very handy should you run out of petrol and there is no space at the edge of the road. While on that subject there are not a whole lot of petrol stops late at night for a few hundred kilometres below Ballina on the Pacific Hwy so when the Swedes tell you that you need fuel, you really need fuel.
If you have lots of people to cart round, you can order the extra row of seats in the back (as per the Kluger). Volvos have shrugged their dowdy frocks to become a real alternative for those wanting a classy all purpose mode of transport.
Honda CRV Sports Auto 10l/100k$39,546
125kw, 218nm torque, 1/100kph N/A
The CRV has just had a midlife facelift. The small SUV segment has exploded over the last few years and new models are coming thick and fast so Honda gave one of us their latest CRV soft-roaders. The 3rd generation model has a rear hatch instead of the earlier models side opening rear door. The facelift bought a new fresh front end and interior tweaks. It has the 2.4L engine and auto trannie from the gorgeous Accord Euro which along with the AWD system gives a nice bit of grip off the mark. I wouldn’t call the performance stunning by any means but those who buy AWD wagons are not buying sports cars to be thrown around corners at speed while riding like a Ferrari. In fact you get a comfortable high driving position with plenty of room for 5 adults. The boot space isn’t huge but is about what you would expect from a wagon with relatively short overhang at the rear. I’ve always thought the front was a bit odd and the side view didn’t quite work for me.
The drive is pleasant enough and the fuel average is about the 10L/100K mark which is OK. Although the CR-V is among the smallest of the AWD wagons, it feels quite big to drive. Reversing would have been helped no end by reverse sensors or a camera. I personally think no one should buy an SUV without them. They are all very tall and the tailgate very high and you stand no chance of seeing behind you when backing up. It is little wonder people run over their kids in them while trying to reverse out of their garages.
The interior is simple and basic. There is the usual Honda quality with the bits fitting properly and no squeaks. The audio system lacks the built in Bluetooth hands free you would expect. Although hands free is an available option, it comes as an aftermarket Blue Ant add on which is wired through your speakers but is not inbuilt as with most other makes. The unit sits on the A pillar at about eye height and sticks out about 2 cms. Being 2cms by 2 cms by 10 cms, it is one of the least attractive Bluetooth options I have seen. Honda have fixed this in their up and coming models but that is no help if buying a car now. The new Legend (which we will be driving in a few weeks) is the first to have the swanky new built in system.
Honda is currently having a clearance so it is worth nothing that the CR-V is similarly priced to the Accord Euro. Our Honda comparison tests will appear in the next instalment and will feature the Accord, Accord Euro and the new Insight hybrid.
Here are 3 different vehicles. 2 were around the $70k and one at half the price. The 2 big cars have V6 engines while the Honda has a 2.4L 4 pot. The CR-V was a good entry level SUV with a ton of space and is really quite a decent drive for a very tall vehicle. It is the same price as the drop-dead-fabulous Accord Euro, but horses for courses. The Kluger was very luxurious and drove like a very big car and with 7 seats could transport a whole bunch of friends. The Volvo drove most like a car and was very solid on the road. The handling was more like a large sports wagon than a smallish SUV. Volvos have been leaders in safety for decades and the XC60 continues that trend. I thought the Volvo was the best looking but the CR-V shouldn’t be overlooked at the price. All cars had electronics for safety and loads of airbags for crash protection. There was ABS and cornering control just like in regular cars. The full range of gear is on the manufacturers websites.
Of course most of us don’t have kids to cart around, but some of us like a bit of sport or want to tow a jet ski. Perhaps we’d like to chuck some camping gear in and head into the great outdoors. Most of us however do not follow sport, nor do we go camping, well not in that way at least. Most of us are horrified at the thought of being more than a few kilometres from a David Jones and to us, roughing it is 3 people to a room at Sheraton Mirage sharing a single bathroom.
By now you might have guessed my I quite like the Volvo as it has the right balance between SUV and car. If I bought the CR-v I would always be kicking myself for not buying the Euro. The Kluger, though nice to drive, is simply too big to handle tight inner city streets and park in CBD parking stations. You might say “But that isn’t what they were designed for” and you would be right. But let’s face it, that is what we are all going to do with them. The vast majority of SUV’s will never see more than a slightly wonky unsealed road, and even they will be few and far between.
So, you want an opinion as to what car is best? They are all good in their own way. You simply can’t drive any big cars with any degree of enthusiasm or you will finish up in the Kitty Litter. Another interesting facts is that as you look at the power and performance figures, remember that a Ferrari 308GT of the ’70s had a 3.0l v8 that produced about 190kw of power so the two 6 cylinder SUV’s have better than 70’s super-car performance!
After driving these cars for nearly a month I am left with a few impressions but the main one is this: when you see a school zone packed with Paris-Hilton-sunglass wearing soccer mums, you’ll know the bad driving has nothing whatever to do with the cars!!!!!!