Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Top 5: big speed, little money

Did you know that there is one other place outside of Germany's autobahns where you can legally drive your car as fast as you want? That place is right here in Australia, a 276km stretch of the Stuart Highway in the Northern Territory (NT) which has had its speed limit lifted since 2014. And this got me thinking, can you buy a car that can crack 250km/h for under $10000? If you fancy a really long road trip here are 5 cars that'll do exactly that in the NT.

Toyota Soarer

Toyota Soarer
Let's start with the car most likely to actually get you to the middle of Australia, the 90's Japanese super coupe with a reputation for never breaking. Available with 3 engines between 1991 and 2000 the Soarer you'll need to track down to break the 250km/h barrier is the 2.5 litre twin turbo straight 6. In standard form it could do the 0-100km/h sprint in 6.9sec before surging onto 260km/h, here's one I found earlier for a bargain $4,800.
Toyota Soarer for sale

Nissan 300ZX

Nissan 300zx
My second choice is another Japanese super coupe, complete with a couple of turbo's, the Nissan 300ZX. Again don't buy the wrong car in your search for speed, the one you need is the V6 twin turbo, The thing was so fast Nissan limited it to 249km/h from the factory although period road tests saw the car top out at 267. However with the limiter removed some reckon the 300 is good for 290km/h plus. Here's a garish yellow one I found in WA for $7,000.
Nissan 300zx for sale


BMW 540i E39

BMW 540i
4.4 litres of naturally aspirated V8, that's all the E39 5 series needs to take it to a electronically limited top speed of 250km/h. Remove the limiter and you might see another 10 to 20km/h out of one. Besides the rather ballistic turn of speed though, these cars offer a whole lot more and are staggering value for money nowadays. Released in 1996 the early ones can now be picked up for under $7000 and come with all the bells and whistles you'd expect of German luxury sedan; heated leather pews, cruise control, climate control, some even came with a very 90's car phone and inbuilt TV! Here's a loevly looking face lifted 1999 540i Sport I found for just $8,000.
BMW 540i for sale
 


Audi A8 V8 D2

Audi A8 V8

Audi A8 V8 long wheelbase interior
In much the same vain as the BMW above, only larger, Audi's A8 is a no holds bared full on luxury limo. The first gen D2 car is also a bit of a rarity, arriving in the mid 90's just before Audi's popularity started to take off. It's relative unknown existence means prices are very reasonable for a car with a 4.2 litre V8, famous Quattro AWD and self leveling suspension. Again the top speed is electronically limited to the magic 250km/h but the car is capable of more. This long wheel base version, offering back seats passengers the option to fully recline can be had for just $8,500.
Audi A8 V8 long wheelbase for sale
   

HSV Clubsport 15th Anniversary

HSV Clubsport
I couldn't write something about an outback Aussie road without including a proper Aussie hero capable of 264km/h could I? I give you the VX Holden Commodore in fettled with HSV form. With a 5.7 litre LS1 V8 up front the Clubsport is a proper muscle car. Straight line speed  and a bellowing bent 8 exhaust note makes it an ideal candidate for a top speed run. They're relatively abundant and cheap too, this ones a bit rough around the edges and can be had for $6,500
HSV Clubsport for sale


A few words of advice before you go out a buy one of these cars though. The stretch of road in question is a 31 hour drive from Sydney and 26 hours from Melbourne, that's a commitment already. Secondly there are no local amenities once your past Alice Springs and importantly no petrol stations, so best bring a Tim Tam and a jerry can. Thirdly seriously consider if your bargain performance car is reliable enough to get there, do 250km/h without exploding and get you home again, these cars are good but some are pushing 20 years old. Lastly the road surface on the Stuart isn't flawless, it dips and undulates so mashing the go faster pedal isn't all you need to do, it will take concentration and skill to vmax your motor up the highway. With all that in mind though it's still hard to disagree that these 5 cars offer some serious oomph for very little dollar. All cars found on carsales.com.au

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Mountune package makes fast Fords even faster

I love a good bit of modifying, for a car enthusiast nothing quite beats making your car go faster and look better than everyone else's. Trouble is modifying is largely seen as a young persons past time, once you get older boring stuff like warranties and resale values start to influence your car buying brain and suddenly modifying just seems like a waste of money. However imagine if a car company allowed you to buy a box full of go faster parts direct from them? Not only that, they would fit the parts and still happily cover your car with their warranty. Well Ford Australia are offering exactly that.
Mountune package for fast Fords will make them even faster
 

From the middle of this year, conveniently around the time Ford will stop manufacturing locally, the blue oval is to offer a Mountune upgrade package for both it's Fiesta ST and Focus ST hot hatches in a bid to boost sales of it's already profitable performance car range. These packages sold under the Ford Licensed Accessory Programme will see buyers able to seriously up the performance of their hatch with full factory backing. And don't think Mountune is just some buzz word marketing lingo dreamt up to sell Ford customers a remap, no, Mountune is a bona fide company that's been tuning Fords for 30 years, these upgrade packages are the real deal.

For an extra $2328 and 1 hours labour Fiesta ST buyers get; a new airbox, high performance air filter, a new air feed pipe, engine remap and a Mountune badge on the boot. In power terms this equates to 158kw, that's over 20kw more than standard. A decent return on the initial investment in my book and one that can only make the already epic Fiesta ST that bit more rewarding to drive. Ford Focus ST buyers on the other hand can opt for the $4135 MP275 package which takes 2 hours to fit, this includes a new intercooler, air filter and remap to boost power from 184kw to 202kw. Again an impressive power hike that not only makes the car faster but makes it even more engaging to drive at the limit. The final benefit of the packages is that being a factory option available from any Ford dealer they shouldn't affect the resale/trade in price should you ever have to part ways with your hot hatch. If anything a Mountune package might make your car even more desirable to it's next owner.
A load of go faster bits for the Fiesta ST

Focus ST gets an new intercooler and air filter amongst other parts

So if you buy a fast Ford and are concerned about the disapproving reaction your boring middle aged friends will give the moment you want to make it faster, fear no more. Ford Australia will happily help you modify it and won't kick you to the kerb should anything go wrong. Peace of mind and modifying, two things that rarely go hand in hand.  

       

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

New Peugeot 308 GTI: 5 things you need to know

The last time a mid size hatchback Peugeot wore a GTI badge in Australia was 2001. That's a long absence from sportiness for a company that used to be one of the major players when it came to the letters G T I. However the wait is now finally over, Peugeot has launched not one but two range topping 308 GTI's, here are the top 5 things you need to know about them.
New Peugeot 308 GTI


1. It will only come with a 6 speed manual! Yes, car guys the world over rejoice, much like Fords hot hatches of late Peugeot will not be offering an auto option. So if it's some cushy no clutch, flappy paddle action your after best look elsewhere. Good job Peugeot.
New Peugeot 308 GTI


2. Power comes from a tiny 1.6 litre turbo, in an era where downsizing is king Peugeot has been leading the way, this engine has already been doing the business in the RCZ-R coupe since 2014. The 308's 1.6 will come with either 184kw or 200kw.


3. Yes what I said above is true, you can buy a 308 GTI in 2 states of tune, however quite why is unclear. Peugeot says the less powerful GTI 250 is for the daily driver, whereas the GTI 270 is for the enthusiast. Shouldn't everyone who wants a GTI be an enthusiast? Honestly save up that bit more and order the 270, there might only be a difference of 16kw between the 2 cars but when your buying a hot hatch more is always better. GTI 270's also come with a much better specification; you get upgraded brakes, a limited slip diff, 19 inch wheels, the option of garish 2 tone paint and a 0-100km/h time of 6 seconds, that's 0.2 seconds quicker than the 250, doesn't sound like much but it gives you infinite more man points.
New Peugeot 308 GTI

New Peugeot 308 GTI

New Peugeot 308 GTI

4. It looks fast too, but in a subtle Germanic way. That is provided you don't tick the option for, I quote "The Coupe Franche separation-line design exclusive to the 308 GTi 270 contrasting the new, explosive Ultimate Red with Pearlescent Nera Black". Yes leave this option off and what you get is a sophisticated looking hatch that sits 11mm lower than standard on a nice set of wheels with twin pipes out the back and ever so slightly redesigned bumpers. The only obvious clue to it's sportiness being a GTI badge on the boot. The interiors a pretty nice place too, with go faster bucket seats and red detailing letting passengers know this ain't no hum drum 308.
3 Pedals!

New Peugeot 308 GTI
   

5. Price, probably the most important thing to tell you about. Well if for some reason you want less power and a slower car $44,990 buys you a GTI 250 (that's the black car in the pics). Save up $49,990 though and you can drive away with the GTI 270, plus on road costs of course.

There we have it, 5 things you need to know about Peugeots welcome return to the land of hot hatches, let's hope it can live up to the hype.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Volvo XC90 D5: The Video Review

Volvo XC90 D5 Video review
Remember way back in January I brought you my review of Volvo's all new XC90? If not here's a link to it so you can familiarise yourself. Well now it is time to give you my video review, filmed after my week with the car ended I can only apologise that it has taken so long to get this uploaded! As you'll see I'm no Steven Spielberg when it comes to films so the editing might be slightly awful, but hopefully it will give you a greater sense of what Volvo's new flagship is like both inside and out.

Friday, 12 February 2016

4 Alternative Budget Hot Hatches

Hot hatches, what's not to love about them? They combine practicality and performance, usually for very little financial outlay. Trouble is some of the worlds best are harder to find than unicorn poo in Australia or depressingly never made it here in the first place, I'm taking about Peugeot 205 GTI's, early Golf GTI's, Renault 5 Turbo's and Ford's XRI range of hatches. So what Aussie alternatives are out there for the budget hot hatch connoisseur? Let me share with you 4 of my favourites.

Ford Laser TX3 Turbo

Based on a Mazda 323 the Laser range was a massive sales success for Ford in Australia over 5 generations. And naturally at the height of the 80's hot hatch war Ford couldn't resist strapping on a Turbo, some all wheel drive hardware and an X badge. Available in a sportier 3 door body style with obligatory rear spoiler, skirts and alloy wheels the TX3 actually has more than a passing resemblance to Ford of Europe's Mk3 Escort. With a turbo charged 117kw 1.8 litre and a kerb weight of just 1180kg the TX3 was good for 0-100km/h in 8.4seconds. The 4 wheel drive also meant the Laser was that little bit more sure footed than it's rivals on the twisty stuff. A truly forgotten hot hatch hero if ever there was one that you can pick up now for less than $3000, a future classic perhaps?
Ford Laser TX3 Turbo 4WD

Ford Laser TX3 Turbo 4WD

Read it and weep, Turbo and 4x4


Toyota Corolla GTI

Twin cam's, 16 valves and the engine code 4A-GE, 3 phrases that should raise the heart rate of any die hard car guy. Unfortunately though if you were brought up in the last 20 years the words Toyota Corolla are more likely to put you to sleep than set your heart racing. But imagine a time when all those words were thrown together! What appeared was a Corolla that deservedly wore a GTI badge on its boot. 100kw of naturally aspirated 1.6 litre goodness teamed to a light body and willing chassis saw the early 90's Corolla do a rather good job of being an every day performance car. 0-100km/h took a little under 10 seconds so although it wasn't blistering it had just enough fun factor to distract you from what was at best bland styling, the AE93 Corolla GTI is a rare gem which can be had for as little as $1500 nowadays, if you don't mind fixing one up like the car in the pics.
Toyota Corolla GTI AE93


Holden Barina GSI

Holden's European cousins Opel/Vauxhall thought it was a good idea in the mid 90's to tune the engine they put in they're tiniest car and give it a set of 3 spoke alloys, what they created was the Corsa GSI, a car which thankfully Holden imported and sold here as the Barina. The Barina measures a mere 3.7 meters and has a dry weight of less than 1000kg, these figures are good from a handling point of view and when you slot in a 1.6 litre 16 valve engine which loves to rev, your left with a recipe for the perfect winding road warrior. The lady in the picture is certainly happy with hers.
Holden Barina GSI, although this ones an Opel

Suzuki Swift GTI

My last choice makes do with just 1.3 litres and 74kw but it is arguably the most back to basics hot hatch on this list. With a willingness to rev, some period body modifications and a set of bucket seats the Swift GTI really isn't a whole lot more. And the great thing is it doesn't need to be, I've been passenger in a basic Swift (GLX if you want to get technical) which was driven briskly and can honestly say without sounding too clich├ęd it lives up to the name! A surprisingly balanced car that with a shot of GTI'ness makes it all the better. You can get one for under $3000 and I cant recommend one enough.  
Suzuki Swift GTI
       
Coming from a era when 16 valve's, twin cam's and liberal usage of the letters S and X implied your car was better than everyone else's I hope my little run down has given you something to think about, especially if you find yourself sad at the lack of retro hot hatches Down Under. Naturally certain people might not agree with my 4 cars and for obvious reason, a least one of them looks like an utter pudding, but what lies beneath are ultimately fun and engaging cars with a liberal dosage of nostalgia. Perfect for tearing up a good road, without breaking the bank. Whack their names into Gumtree.com.au and see what I mean.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Car of The Week: Volkswagen Bora 4Motion

Car guys like myself love an oddball, particularly one from a manufacturer we adore. For me one such car is the 2.8 litre V6 4Motion Mk4 Volkswagen Golf (hears parents sigh). That's right, the 4Motion, not the full phat R32, rather its understated sibling tickles my fancy. Unfortunately though with VW never officially importing any I was disappointed by the lack of such oddballs in Australia. However a little bit of scouting around reveals the Golfs booted cousin the Bora made it down under and guess what, you could get it with that glorious 2.8 up front. Making it a perfect candidate for the long awaited return of car of the week.
Volkswagen Bora V6 4Motion

Volkswagen Bora V6 4Motion


All about the engine

It is all about that 2.8 litre V6; the sound, the power, the effortlessness of how it can devour kilometres. On paper the 4Motion seems like an unnecessary vehicle, but I for one am delighted it exists. Sold from 2001 to 2005 the 150kw V6 Bora could crack 100km/h in 7.6secs and surge onto a 240km/h top speed, 270Nm of torque and a lovely 6 speed manual also means the Bora makes light work of overtaking too. Then of course there is the sound, a gentle rumble at idle that turns to a operatic high note when you rev it out, there is not a better sound than a naturally aspirated engine doing its work. Yes it could be argued that a small sedan with 4 wheel drive and a stonking great V6 under the bonnet seems excessive, especially when a 4 cylinder Bora has the same quality fit and finish. But honestly the engine makes the car, it's the equivalent of taking a lovely Bratwurst roll and adding hot mustard, it turns every drive into an occasion.
Volkswagen Bora V6 4Motion


What's it like inside

Mk4 Golfs and cars that share their platform are very well screwed together, sound deadening is good, materials high quality and the thunk of the doors is second to none. I know this from having owned a number of them and been passenger in many more. However I can tell you that its the little things that set the booted Bora apart from normal Golfs. Quality features like illuminated air vent controls, chrome rings around the dials, wood trim (albeit a bit tacky) and wonderfully supportive sports seats in the 4Motion give the Bora an air of luxury to go with the performance.
Volkswagen Bora V6 4Motion


How does it drive

Historically Mk4 Golf based cars have been criticised in the driving department, roly poly handling and a lack of steering feel have been some of the things said of the them. I however would have to disagree, while not quite the playful puppy dog of earlier 1980's Golf's/ Golf based cars, Mk4's are never the less fun to drive, you just have to adjust your driving style. The chassis is good with the car never feeling unsettled at speed, such stability inspires confidence and with smooth steering inputs instead of jerky jabs at the wheel a Mk4 Golf/Bora can make good progress. The 4 Motions Haldex all wheel drive system adds to that stability. Not only does it provide a feeling of security when the weather turns nasty but a feeling of sure footedness when your really giving it some on a good stretch of road. The only downside of the V6 is the weight of the engine itself over the front wheels, under steer is easily induced if you go into a corner too hot, best to read the road ahead and adjust the throttle appropriately before turn in to settle the car. Here's Matt Farrah driving one to give you an idea of what I'm going on about.

Volkswagens Bora V6 4Motion; a wonderfully made, soulful sounding car that's better to drive than you might think. It's an oddball that's so much more interesting not to mention that bit rarer than its opposition and it turns every drive, no matter how mundane the destination, into an occasion.
Volkswagen Bora V6 4Motion Sport added bigger wheels, new grill and rear spoiler in 2004

Volkswagen Bora V6 4Motion Sport added bigger wheels and rear spoiler in 2004


Go get yourself one

Volkswagen Bora V6 4Motion for saleI don't know about you but I've convinced myself I need one and luckily there are a few to choose from in every state ranging from $2500 for a broken one to $8000 for decent one. Here is my pick from carsales.com.au. This 2003 car has by all accounts led a very sedate, loving life with it's second owner. Reading this offsets any worries I'd have regarding the 223,000kms and the bad points mentioned seem like very easy fixes. For $4000 this car is an absolute bargain.

2003 Volkswagen Bora V6 4Motion, $4000