30 December 2006

Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs

Which Supermodel do you want to take home?

We polled the luxury car industry experts to see which exoticars were firing imaginations.

Mercedes-Benz CLK63 AMG: Deutsche Deluxe

James Dutton, Dutton Direct: “Mercedes-Benz have been marketing their new models very aggressively and they seem to be getting the attention they deserve. I think the new CLKs best represent the new look Mercedes-Benz. They’re a beautiful car, don’t you think?”

Nuts and Bolts: The whole CLK-Class was refreshed in 2005 with a front makeover and all new V6 engines and the evergreen coupes and cabriolets have contributed to recent record Mercedes-Benz sales results. The new range-topping CLK 63 AMG utilises the all new AMG 6.3-litre V8 engine and produces a startling 354 kW of power.

Pricing: $199,100 (CLK63 AMG)

Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT: Four Door Flagship

Bobby Zagame, Zagame Automotive Group: “The new Pininfarina-designed Maserati Quattroporte is what most people are asking to see when they walk through the door – or what they end up looking at regardless. Maserati and Pininfarina have recreated that essential Italian styling in a 4-door and people are certainly responding.”

Nuts and Bolts: Beneath the smooth, understated lines lurks an all alloy 4.2l Quad Cam V8 capable of 300kW. Maserati is one of the few Italian sporting marques to produce a four door saloon, a tradition that goes back to 1963. This, the fifth incarnation, and the first Pininfarina-designed Quattroporte completely refreshes this proud flagship.

Pricing: $258,000

Aston Martin DBS: Licence to Thrill


Keith McArdle, Trivett Classic: “The new James Bond movie had brought some very excited people into the showroom. Even though we may not be selling the 007 DBS until 2008, it hasn’t stopped us from accepting several deposits. In the meantime, the brand new V8 Vantage and current DB9 are satisfying those who want to own an Aston sooner.”

Nut and Bolts: Unless you saw the new V8 Vantage head-on, you’d do a double take. Unlike any other Aston Martin, the two-seater is pure sports coupe and unusually compact and lithe for this macho marque. The all alloy quad-cam 32-valve 4.3 litre V8 engine is no slouch and delivers 283 kW - good for 175 mph.  

Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano: Red Mist


Tony Graziani, Italia Motori: “Of course, everybody knows Ferrari. As a brand, it speaks for itself and they almost sell themselves too. In terms of numbers, we’re selling the F430 in both Coupé and Spider equally, but it’s the new V12 599 GTB Fiorano that is getting all the attention at the moment. Just look at!”

Nuts and Bolts: Even by Ferrari standards, the new V12 599 GTB Fiorano is being described as the ultimate supercar. Despite the incredible 456kW on tap the 599 is apparently “docile and easy to drive”. With a top speed of 330km/h “docile” is the last word that comes to mind.

Pricing: A$574,000 (manual) A$600,000 (F1 Superfast)

BMW M6 Coupe: Ten into Six Goes!

Erik Bellendir, Canterbury BMW: “Because the M6s are available by order only, we don’t have one in the showroom very often. But on the occasions we do, it’s quite an event. People are drawn to it like a magnet and always want to see the V10 under the aluminium bonnet. Unfortunately we have to decline the many requests for a test drive!”

Nuts and Bolts: The brawny Bavarian M6 BMWs are more than just a hot ticket. The F1 inspired 373kW V10 is selling faster than Lowenbrau at Oktoberfest, propelling the evocative two-doors into the BMW record books. Capable of a remarkable 8250rpm, the V10 has won international awards and will soon be seen in a convertible.

Pricing: $275,400

Lexus GS450h: Mean and Green

Jason Plato, Fifth Gear on Five; “Lexus's long-awaited hybrid GS is a PR officer's dream. "A"-list celebrities are queuing up to buy them, likely trading in a Prius to do so, in the hope that some of the Lexus's green respectability will rub off on them. Enough to offset the guilt of the private jet, anyway.”

Nuts and Bolts: This startling sports saloon is the first true performance car to use the new Lexus Hybrid Drive. Part high performance 3.5l V6, part high torque 650V electric motor, the power duties are intelligently shared to deliver an encouraging blood rush while sipping juice at the rate of a modest four cylinder sedan.

Pricing: $121,990

Honda Legend: Penny Rocket

John Simister, The Independent, UK; “With this new and technically remarkable Legend, Honda isn't even going to try to curry corporate-buyer favour. Instead, it gently ridicules the status-affirmation of the BMW 5-series-driving "corporate conformist" and seeks to engage the "respected individualist", who is more likely to own a business than merely execute in one.”

Nut and Bolts: An often underrated prestige car, the new Legend packs a 217kw SOHC V6 that is officially most powerful road-going Honda engine ever. Released last September, this new Legend comes in all-wheel-drive with every luxury feature standard. Bargain!

Pricing: A$74,500

Audi S8: GR8!

Angus MacKenzie, MotorTrend Magazine; “You see, the S8 is a selfish pleasure. Nail the gas and that direct-injection, 5.2-liter V-10 emits a deep, velvety growl and gives a satisfying shove between the shoulder blades.”

Nuts and Bolts: Fresh off the boat from Germany, the new S8 is the latest high end offering from this technologically obsessed Teutonic marque. Inside the aluminium body is a 5.2l 331kW Lamborghini-inspired Quad Cam V10 hooked up to the legendary quattro system. 

Pricing: $259,900

Jaguar XK: Yeah Baby!

Top Gear's US editor Jamie Kitman said: "This is not only the best Jaguar in 40 years, it is a real Jaguar - one knows it in seconds. Jaguar has thoroughly demonstrated with the XK that it is an utterly serious modern engineering entity with a priceless institutional memory of that which made Jaguars great."”

Nut and Bolts: Introduced in 2005, the XK has certainly put the pounce back in the pussy. In a show parochial solidarity, the top-rating BBC car program, Top Gear awarded the XK 'Car of the Year' and 'GT of the Year'. The naturally aspirated 4.2-litre V8 engine produces 224kW and develops maximum torque of 420Nm at 4100rpm. Be-have!

Pricing: A$199,900 (Coupé)

Porsche Cayman S: Dial 911

Walter Rohrl, Porsche test driver; “the mid-engined Cayman S is more nimble to change direction, delivers higher cornering speeds and is more forgiving at the limit of adhesion than the (rear-engined) 911. All the Cayman really needs is a limited-slip differential, then it would be perfect.”

Nuts and Bolts: The new Cayman is Porsche’s conundrum coupe. Is it a cheap 911 or an expensive Boxster? The critics are divided and Porsche maintain it is a whole new car, but one thing is certain, the Cayman S delivers 911 thrills at $50k less. The 3.4 litre boxer 6 might deliver a modest 217kW, but it’s all put to very good use.

Pricing: $148,500

Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione: Conceptual Reality

David Stone, General Manager for Alfa Romeo in Australia: “The Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione we unveiled at last year’s Sydney Motor Show is the production car, a real super car, available for a lucky few to buy. One thing hasn’t changed though, the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione is the epitome of everything Alfa Romeo. It is born from a genuine sporting heritage, designed with a passion for style and engineered with an obsession for performance.”

Nuts and Bolts: First glimpsed in 2003 as a concept at Frankfurt , the 8C is now reality, complete with its 4.7 litre 336kW V8. But 8C is not some arbitrary nomenclature; it harks back to the halcyon days of the 1930s and ‘40s when the Milan marque swept all before it in Formula One and Sports Car racing.

Pricing: $270,000

06 December 2006

Sippity Zoom Car


Test Vehicle: Mazda6 Diesel

2.0 SOHC 4-cyl Turbo Diesel
6 Speed Manual Transmission
3 Year/unlimited km Warranty
$38,090 as tested

Car reviewers get more cranked up over a new pop-up toaster than a die-cut 4-Cylinder Japanese sedan. So what’s so exciting about the latest 5-door Mazda?

Step back from the new Mazda6 and you’re looking at a perfectly neat, unobtrusive medium sized car with sweet, clean lines and a mildly sporty profile. So what? I hear you ask. Well, the cleverest things about the new Mazda6 Diesel are below the surface.

Firstly, you’re looking at a minor moment in history. Yes, this is the only Japanese manufacturer to currently offer a diesel passenger car in a market increasingly obsessed with fuel prices and consumption. You have to go back a quarter century to the Isuzu-powered Gemini, a practical but overwhelmingly uninspiring vehicle. This situation will change when other manufacturers inevitably follow suit, but full marks to Mazda for playing the first card in what will become a vigorous game when all Japanese manufacturers attempt to counter the European dominance in small diesel engines.

Already a proven hit with petrol car buyers, the svelte Mazda6 is not a styling gamble. Behind the wheel, it drives for all the world like a delightful little car should. Perky, performance from the MZR-CD 2.0-litre common-rail turbo diesel sees 100kmh in less than 10 secs and with a hefty 360Nm of torque at just 2000 rpm (a standard Falcon has 380Nm), you can choof along confidently without a lead foot.

The modest little diesel incorporates many state-of-the-art features for this “born gain” engine type including common rail injection, a variable-geometry turbocharger and ceramic fuel filters. With fuel economy in all conditions well under 6 litres/100kms, you can drive from Sydney to Brisbane on a single 64 litre tank. Emissions, well below EU standards, are almost negligible, so any fears trailing smokescreens can be quickly dismissed.

Other features include a very respectable 6-stacker CD system, six airbags and anti-lock four-wheel ventilated disc brakes. The 6-speed manual transmission will appeal to some and deter others and it may be twelve months before an automatic version is available.


Available in both hatchback and the slightly cheaper wagon, Mazda is not overstating their sales potential, setting a target of just fifty vehicles per month of which thirty, they say, will be the hatch.

We liked:

  • Staggering economy
  • Silent, smooth drive train
  • Elegant styling
  • Confident handling
  • Build quality

Not so keen on:

  • Manual only transmission option (for now)

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