ASTON MARTIN DB11 AMR

Aston Martin Racing initials denote sharper responses and more sporting character for 12-cylinder DB11.

A five per cent power increase tells only five per cent of the story of the new DB11 AMR. Extra punch sees it surge to 100km/h in just 3.7 seconds to keep pace with the lighter Vantage but without crowding the flagship 715bhp DBS with which the DB11 shares its aluminium platform. They’ve turned up the soundtrack, too, so full-noise...

Aston Martin Racing initials denote sharper responses and more sporting character for 12-cylinder DB11.

JAGUAR XE P300 HSE

The fleet-footed XE has scored a substantial mid-life refresh. Can it make waves in our SUV-obsessed premium market?

When it was launched in 2015, the XE impressed as a very precise driver’s car but with looks that made it appear less distinctive than other Jaguars. To some eyes, the baby Jag had taken on a Teutonic conservatism and ended up looking too much like a scaled-down XF, both inside and out.The facelift for 2020 Model Year cars corrects that, as...

The fleet-footed XE has scored a substantial mid-life refresh. Can it make waves in our SUV-obsessed premium market?

FERRARI F8 SPIDER

Ferrari’s core mid-engined supercars promise greater on-road compliance and extra on-track agility.

The new F8 Tributo and Spider captivate at a standstill. The mid-engined berlinetta and drop-top introduce a new design language that emphasises Ferrari’s key characteristics of high performance and extreme aerodynamic efficiency. The emotive in-house designs see the return of four round tail lights and the most curvaceous flanks since the...

Ferrari’s core mid-engined supercars promise greater on-road compliance and extra on-track agility.

BMW Z4 M40i

Canvas-hooded Z4 has more character and stronger sporting credentials than before, and a sky-high equipment level.

The new Z4 roadster is based on a platform developed in tandem with Toyota over several years, and it’s even built at the same Austrian plant as the new Toyota Supra. The overall design, characterised by some dominant lines through the flanks and softer secondary lines, is not a straightforward evolution of previous Z4s. The stacked,...

Canvas-hooded Z4 has more character and stronger sporting credentials than before, and a sky-high equipment level.

ASTON MARTIN VANTAGE

Extended stint in highly-optioned car shows why the Vantage is winning over new and existing Aston Martin customers.

Not for the first time, white is the new black when it comes to car exteriors. And if you’re keen on white for your new Vantage, you'll have three versions to choose from, at varying price points. Stratus White (from the Contemporary palette) is the colour of this factory demonstrator that boasts a compelling list of equipment and shows off...

Extended stint in highly-optioned car shows why the Vantage is winning over new and existing Aston Martin customers.

JAGUAR F-PACE SVR

Supercharged V8 broadcasts a stirring soundtrack in a double agent turned out by Special Vehicle Operations.

One of the best things about top-performing SUVs is that the two-cars-in-one formula simplifies the lives of many motorists. Where once an enthusiast would fill the garage with a premium four-door and a brawny sportscar, now you can consolidate the best attributes of both in a fire-breathing SUV like the Jaguar F-Pace SVR. It is comfortable to...

Supercharged V8 broadcasts a stirring soundtrack in a double agent turned out by Special Vehicle Operations.

McLAREN 600LT SPIDER

Thoroughly reworked Sports Series flyer is pared back for the track but offers great driver involvement on the right roads.

In this game, where access to the best machinery is remarkably good, it would be easy to fall into the trap of taking press demonstrators for granted. There was no risk of that happening when a McLaren 600LT Spider – fresh out of the box, with a handful of delivery kilometres – arrived for a Kiwi-first trial. The only regret was not...

Thoroughly reworked Sports Series flyer is pared back for the track but offers great driver involvement on the right roads.

AUDI E-TRON 55 QUATTRO

Time for some South Island glide time in Audi’s limo-like electric SUV with its ultra-modern blueprint.

Audi’s long-awaited e-tron has enjoyed a long gestation period, the benefits of which are immediately felt in this classy, limo-like SUV with its ultra-modern blueprint. Overall size is a little shy of Audi’s biggest SUVs, the Q7 and Q8, while a lower, sleeker roofline hints at a stronger blend of sportiness and efficiency.And the...

Time for some South Island glide time in Audi’s limo-like electric SUV with its ultra-modern blueprint.

TOYOTA GR SUPRA

The Supra for the 21st century is the first car to be developed by in-house performance division, Gazoo Racing.

The long-awaited Toyota Supra follows four models produced between the 1970s and 1990s and features the initials GR in its full model name to reflect the development work of in-house performance division, Gazoo Racing.The initials BMW also feature in the full background story because Toyota and BMW have shared resources to good effect in creating...

The Supra for the 21st century is the first car to be developed by in-house performance division, Gazoo Racing.

RANGE ROVER EVOQUE P250

Classy evolution of original compact luxury SUV ramps up refinement and capability in a First Edition special.

The Evoque remains as fashionable today as it was when it became a style-led benchmark back in 2011. The big news for this all-new (the only carry-over items are door hinges) version of the baby Range Rover is how well it has bridged the gap to its much bigger brothers without bulking up. It has been modernised in every detail and broadly refined...

Classy evolution of original compact luxury SUV ramps up refinement and capability in a First Edition special.

HOLDEN COLORADO ROX

Hardcore Holden ute ventures into tough terrain and proves as capable as its imposing looks suggest.

Holden New Zealand has taken a no-holds-barred approach to this ambitious, one-off Colorado concept. Built in conjunction with Auckland-based customiser Retro Vehicle Enhancement, the high-rise super-truck will spark the imagination of utility buyers as it showcases the potential of Holden’s hard-working Colorado range. After making an...

Hardcore Holden ute ventures into tough terrain and proves as capable as its imposing looks suggest.

RENAULT MEGANE R.S. (pt 2)

We hit the road in RenaultSport’s hardest-hitting hatch days after it reclaimed the front-drive Nurburgring record.

It’s 15 years since the first bustle-backed Megane RS delighted enthusiasts and about 15 days since it regained a much-publicised Nurburgring record from Honda. As previously described, the RS engine’s output is a very healthy 206kW from 1.8 litres (previously 2.0 litres) and peak torque rises to 390Nm when the slick-shifting EDC...

We hit the road in RenaultSport’s hardest-hitting hatch days after it reclaimed the front-drive Nurburgring record.

JAGUAR I-PACE (pt 2)

The I-Pace is not just the first full-sized premium Euro BEV, it’s the 2019 European and World Car of the Year.

With a real-world range of 400km and seating for five adults, this isn’t an EV for the hobbyist, it’s a serious proposition for any business user or busy family. Not surprisingly, the accolades have been flowing for the ground-breaking I-Pace, the most significant Jaguar family car in decades and one of the most successful creations...

The I-Pace is not just the first full-sized premium Euro BEV, it’s the 2019 European and World Car of the Year.

MAZDA MX-5 RF GT

Agile drop-top proves endlessly entertaining in RF manual guise with the clever retractable hardtop.

Engagement is the key to any MX-5 experience. Spread across four generations and 30 years, these diminutive but energetic sportscars are forever in tune with a driver’s mood. Factor in the low weight, low centre of gravity and 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution of the current-shape ND and you have a sensational platform from which to...

Agile drop-top proves endlessly entertaining in RF manual guise with the clever retractable hardtop.

ALFA ROMEO STELVIO QUADRIFOGLIO

Rampant Quadrifoglio hits 100km/h in under four seconds and quickly proves it’s no one-trick performance pony.

Perhaps Alfa’s main achievement with the Stelvio QV is that it’s so fast, feelsome and well balanced that it can easily fool you into forgetting it’s an SUV. That’s how absorbing it is to drive quickly on any remotely interesting stretch of road.Like the Giulia Quadrifoglio saloon with which it shares its potent powertrain,...

Rampant Quadrifoglio hits 100km/h in under four seconds and quickly proves it’s no one-trick performance pony.

HOLDEN EXPEDITION

Five-car convoy connects the KiwiGarage crew with the characters and coastal wonders of Chatham Island.

Holden New Zealand has been in operation for 65 years now, connecting several generations of Kiwis via every roadway in the country. The current HNZ team is a far-sighted bunch who value their heritage, so 65 years of toil was cause for a proper celebration rather than an excuse to cash in the KiwiSaver account.To go one further than any other car...

Five-car convoy connects the KiwiGarage crew with the characters and coastal wonders of Chatham Island.

JAGUAR I-PACE (pt 1)

If you had to choose between an Urus or an I-Pace for 400km of holiday weekend motoring, which would you go for?

That was the decision we faced before Easter but it was scarcely a dilemma. In fact, the decision proved an easy one to make with the I-Pace earning a World Car of the Year award to go with its European Car of the Year and World Car Design crowns.The initial beauty of the I-Pace lies in an Ian Callum design that is Polar-blast fresh yet superbly...

If you had to choose between an Urus or an I-Pace for 400km of holiday weekend motoring, which would you go for?

BMW M850i COUPE (pt 3)

BMW’s new flagship coupe references past sporting greats and may have the ingredients of a future classic.

This M850i xDrive Coupe (to give the car its full title) is not the first BMW to wear an 850 badge. The original 8-Series, widely regarded as a technological tour de force, enjoyed a decade-long production run from 1989 and the 850i was the top-ranking variant, with a 5.6-litre V12.Rewind to the 1970s and BMW enjoyed terrific sales and touring...

BMW’s new flagship coupe references past sporting greats and may have the ingredients of a future classic.

BMW M850i COUPE (pt 2)

For a second impression of the M850i, we find a good, keen racing driver whose business involves training BMW drivers.

“The first thing you notice,” Mike Eady comments, seconds after step-off, “is that it’s got such a smooth, well-balanced ride. This car has the latest electronic damping. Comfort mode is very comfortable that’s for sure, but it still turns beautifully into the corners. Quite often BMWs have been criticised for a bumpy...

For a second impression of the M850i, we find a good, keen racing driver whose business involves training BMW drivers.

BMW 330i SALOON

A weekend romp to the Beach Hop festival lets the 330i reveal its touring strengths and open-road potential.

First up, the familiar SH1 slog that kicks off the two-hour dash from Auckland to Whangamata. In the new 3-Series, this stretch highlights smooth, hushed motorway progress confirming useful overall refinement gains. There’s very little in the way of mechanical noise unless you demand plenty from the engine in kickdown and the 41mm wheelbase...

A weekend romp to the Beach Hop festival lets the 330i reveal its touring strengths and open-road potential.

LEXUS UX250h

Wondering whether the UX is well worth the wait? In hybrid Limited form, the answer is a resounding yes.

A latecomer to the busy premium crossover scene, the new UX stands out with its ‘cuts and creases’ design, sumptuous cabin and pleasing tactility of controls. It’s a true cross between a five-door hatchback and a compact SUV, with 4WD as an option.The profile is unusually sleek and you sit up front in a semi-command position with...

Wondering whether the UX is well worth the wait? In hybrid Limited form, the answer is a resounding yes.

BMW M850i COUPE (pt 1)

The best sporting GTs all offer blockbuster performance but few are as well-rounded as the new BMW 8-Series.

Some sporting grand tourers are more compromised than others as daily drivers and striking the right balance is hugely challenging. If they’re pared back for outright handling and performance, they might be great on a track, but too harsh and tiresome on our roads once the novelty of the whirlwind acceleration wears off. And if the focus is...

The best sporting GTs all offer blockbuster performance but few are as well-rounded as the new BMW 8-Series.

HOLDEN COMMODORE VXR

Makeover puts the spotlight back on a bargain large car that acquits itself well on a high-speed track experience.

In keeping with its Black Edition moniker, Holden has applied plenty of gloss black trim and inserts to a tasty batch of special-edition Commodores. And it’s done so to good effect, lifting the overall appearance of an already handsome design. The Black treatment can be applied to RS-V or VXR models as a no-cost option, making it hard to turn...

Makeover puts the spotlight back on a bargain large car that acquits itself well on a high-speed track experience.

BMW 3-SERIES SALOON

More upmarket Three sheds weight, not size, and is noticeably sharper and more refined to drive.

12 MAR 2019: The traditional core of the BMW range, the 3-Series has now entered its seventh generation and good, keen drivers have plenty of reasons to celebrate. The looks are evolutionary (they get a pass mark for elegance), but what matters more is how successfully the Three fulfils its dynamic exec brief and how widespread improvements combine...

More upmarket Three sheds weight, not size, and is noticeably sharper and more refined to drive.

AUDI RS5 SPORTBACK

Five doors give the RS5 genuine GT functionality. It strikes a clever balance between super-sporty and cocooning.

10 MAR 2019: The RS5 is a staple in the Audi Sport line-up with captivating mix of looks, road presence and performance. The 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 was co-developed with Porsche. As is now the norm with sporting Audi V6s and V8s, the turbos are mounted at a 90-degree angle to the cylinder banks, enabling both a compact design, efficient combustion...

Five doors give the RS5 genuine GT functionality. It strikes a clever balance between super-sporty and cocooning.

JAGUAR F-TYPE P300

Leaner F-Type convertible escapes Jaguar enclosure and exhibits more agility for a lower outlay.

5 MAR 2019: We’ve recently driven a very different car with this turbocharged four-cylinder engine on board: the Range Rover P400e. The Ingenium unit makes a very different impression in the nose of JLR’s sports-convertible that continues to offer (scorching) V6 and (riotous) V8 options. There's a horse jockey’s difference in...

Leaner F-Type convertible escapes Jaguar enclosure and exhibits more agility for a lower outlay.

RENAULT MEGANE R.S.

Hardcore Renault hatch fills a front-drive performance niche and brings plenty of trick engineering to the party.

2 MAR 2019: The 205kW Megane RS is a go-to option for those who like their hot hatches genuinely hot and very involving. There’s pedigree in the mix, too; it’s 15 years since the first bustle-backed Megane RS delighted enthusiasts. New model output is a very healthy 205kW from 1.8 litres (previously 2.0 litres) and if you go for the EDC...

Hardcore Renault hatch fills a front-drive performance niche and brings plenty of trick engineering to the party.

MERCEDES-BENZ C300 COUPE

Convincing all-round package whets appetite but leaves good, keen drivers craving more theatrics.

26 FEB 2019: Another month, another tech-heavy two-door Benz with a fluid, wind-cheating shape that never fails to turn heads. Before you ask, this car’s Selenite Grey metallic is from the standard C-Class colour palette. On the equipment front, the leather-upholstered sports seats, COMAND infotainment and 19-inch AMG alloys are all standard...

Convincing all-round package whets appetite but leaves good, keen drivers craving more theatrics.

JAGUAR I-PACE EV400

First track drive of twin-motored EV confirms the momentum of an electrified era at Jaguar.

23 FEB 2019: The Jaguar I-Pace is the first stand-alone electric SUV to emerge from a European maker and it signifies the beginning of a new era for Jaguar. The very broad, high-hipped body sits on a long wheelbase and looks sleek yet SUV-practical. A bold departure from traditional Jag design, the I-Pace impresses for still being recognisably a...

First track drive of twin-motored EV confirms the momentum of an electrified era at Jaguar.

RANGE ROVER P400e

First hybrid Range Rover boosts terrific sense of luxury without denting vast breadth of ability.

22 FEB 2019: There’s a lot to be said for silent start-ups and manoeuvring when you’re piloting a vehicle as large and luxurious as a Range Rover. Even better is being able to run purely on electric power for up to 50km, a range that will cover most commuters’ daily driving. Superb insulation and double-glazing reinforce a feeling...

First hybrid Range Rover boosts terrific sense of luxury without denting vast breadth of ability.

BMW X5 M50d (part 2)

A night time return from a motorsport festival highlights why this model will appeal to enthusiast drivers.

19 FEB 2019: Bored with holiday traffic processions and inspired by a weekend of motorsport action, we sought to at least dip into the M50d’s performance potential on a night-time drive home and enjoy the extensive M Sport tweaks.We covered the towering strength of the engine in an earlier M50d post. What soon came to the fore on quick, clear...

A night time return from a motorsport festival highlights why this model will appeal to enthusiast drivers.

BENTLEY CONTINENTAL GT (part 2)

Big GT is still a revelation to drive at sedate speeds and the sense of occasion is heightened by liberal option choices.

15 FEB 2019: The process of customising a Continental can be quite straightforward, despite the myriad options available. To speed the process, it pays to brush up on your knowledge of fluting, knurling, venting and quilting. Otherwise the jargon could have your head spinning like the rotating centre display ($13,431.89, if you please) that moves...

Big GT is still a revelation to drive at sedate speeds and the sense of occasion is heightened by liberal option choices.

MASERATI LEVANTE S GRANSPORT

Sonorous GranSport is as uplifting as your first sip of chilled Prosecco. It boosts the appeal of a range on the rise.

13 FEB 2019: This high-spec Levante SUV initially asserts itself through imposing design: the fluid shape, dynamic roofline, muscular rear haunches and ornate, emotive detailing. Contrasting with beautifully textured Bianco Alpi paint on our car are a gloss-black grille and 21-inch alloys. Open the door and the interior makes an equally big...

Sonorous GranSport is as uplifting as your first sip of chilled Prosecco. It boosts the appeal of a range on the rise.

ASTON MARTIN VANTAGE (pt2)

It’s brimful with firepower, more athletic and responsive than before, and seems enjoyable on any road at any speed.

11 FEB 2019: The pronounced differences between the Vantage and DB11 - in looks, dimensions and demeanour - mean that few buyers will be caught between the two models. The DB11 V12 driven earlier felt effortlessly quick and surprisingly agile on the road, like a 2018 Mustang but 50 per cent better across the board. Enter the new Vantage and...

It’s brimful with firepower, more athletic and responsive than before, and seems enjoyable on any road at any speed.

BMW X5 M50d (part 1)

Quad-turbo M50d is the star performer in new X5 range until M Division unleashes an eight-cylinder X5 M.

08 FEB 2019: The question we asked while romping down to an annual motorsport festival was do you really need more performance in your two-ton-plus high-rider than the new M50d musters?The straight-six engine is sensible in its capacity but extravagant with the turbochargers. The previous model had three but this one has four of the things....

Quad-turbo M50d is the star performer in new X5 range until M Division unleashes an eight-cylinder X5 M.

LEXUS GS-F F10 ANNIVERSARY

Special-edition GS-F joins limited-run RC-F in celebrating 10 years of high-performance models.

04 FEB 2019: It looks like a clenched fist in a decorative glove and wears its special matte-grey paint and gloss-black alloys well. In these eyes, the air of menace is well judged and in keeping with the stonking V8 performance and outrageous Lexus grille. It doesn’t take too many revs for the V8 growl to fill the cabin. Free-revving and...

Special-edition GS-F joins limited-run RC-F in celebrating 10 years of high-performance models.

MERCEDES-BENZ S350d

Traditional standard bearer for luxury and comfort introduces new straight-six diesel engine.

01 FEB 2019: Despite being the entry-level S-Class, the new S350d is such a class act that it leaves you wondering what more you could really need in a big luxury saloon. Its distinct limo look has evolved gently in recent years but the adoption of new technology under that suave skin has been more dramatic. The new twin-turbo straight-six is a...

Traditional standard bearer for luxury and comfort introduces new straight-six diesel engine.

BENTLEY CONTINENTAL GT

Fifteen years on from the debut of the first Continental GT, this third-gen W12 emphatically extends the sporting luxury brief.

There are cruise missiles and then there are Crewe missiles, in this case a twin-turbo W12 GT that will eventually be joined by V8 and GTC convertible models. A familiar formula, then, but one that integrates fresh looks and new dimensions in performance and refinement. It’s not immediately obvious from a stint behind the wheel but the...

Fifteen years on from the debut of the first Continental GT, this third-gen W12 emphatically extends the sporting luxury brief.

ROLLS-ROYCE CULLINAN (part 2)

Exclusivity is guaranteed regardless of whether you opt for Individual or (five-seat) Lounge configuration.

Depending on the level of customisation required, buyers can expect to wait 12 months for their pride and joy to be delivered. Each Cullinan generally takes a month to build, despite Rolls-Royce being better positioned than ever in terms of its manufacturing facilities. Rolls-Royce customers are obviously not afraid of ostentation. But while the...

Exclusivity is guaranteed regardless of whether you opt for Individual or (five-seat) Lounge configuration.

AUDI Q8 50TDI QUATTRO

Audi’s flagship Q-car is a fully-loaded sophisticate with real poise and serious road presence.

Yet another striking five-seat SUV from Ingolstadt, the luxurious Q8 is initially badged 50 TDI and introduces a new 210kW V6 diesel. The car is a bit shorter and lower than a Q7 but has wider tracks and standard sports-tuned air suspension that support its more sporting brief. First acquaintance highlighted both engine strength and a smoothness...

Audi’s flagship Q-car is a fully-loaded sophisticate with real poise and serious road presence.

ASTON MARTIN VANTAGE (part 1)

Harder-edged entry car puts mischief on your mind, and speaks volumes about brand’s intentions going forward.

The mood at Aston Martin has never been more bullish. The new Vantage certainly reflects this confidence. It follows on from the excellent DB11 and incorporates the AMG-sourced V8 that now also powers the bigger GT car. Overall commonality with the DB11 includes the bonded aluminium structure but only totals 30 per cent, hence the very distinct...

Harder-edged entry car puts mischief on your mind, and speaks volumes about brand’s intentions going forward.

McLAREN SENNA

Track-focused hypercar adopts legendary name and aggressive appearance befitting the most extreme McLaren road car.

With a production run limited to 500, we’re lucky to have several examples of the track-focused Senna hypercar bound for New Zealand. In bald terms, the Senna matches the P1 (McLaren’s first Ultimate Series effort) for acceleration, but is significantly lighter and an even greater tour de force on the active aero front. The 4.0-litre...

Track-focused hypercar adopts legendary name and aggressive appearance befitting the most extreme McLaren road car.

FERRARI 812 SUPERFAST

Ferrari has worked hard at cultivating daily-driver utility in its production cars but the 812 Superfast still excels on a track.

You quickly become comfortable using the majority of the Superfast’s whirlwind performance - as long as you’re on a on a fast and open racing circuit. Fortunately the Hampton Downs track was party to our brief introduction. After two or three laps we noticed a tendency for the car to ‘wander’ on the long straight at...

Ferrari has worked hard at cultivating daily-driver utility in its production cars but the 812 Superfast still excels on a track.

FORD MUSTANG V8 GT

MY18 refresh for bruising GT is evident in more aggressive styling and greater stability when exploring added performance.

Overview: Mid-life facelift is wide-ranging but most obvious at the reworked business end of this muscle-bound brute. A hint more drama in the looks is matched by more desirable cabin tech and finishing. And there’s a noticeable difference in the V8 GT’s ability to impress on open roads, too, thanks to useful surge in power from the big...

MY18 refresh for bruising GT is evident in more aggressive styling and greater stability when exploring added performance.

ROLLS-ROYCE CULLINAN

Imperious high-roller introduces new dimensions in luxury for those wishing to drive an adventurous extra mile.

OVERVIEW Cullinan is named after the world’s largest raw diamond, which hints at the maker’s uncompromising approach to its first-ever 4X4. Based on advanced aluminium spaceframe introduced on latest Phantom limousine. This is bespoke R-R architecture as opposed to (parent company) BMW-derived.  DESIGN Very tall, high-riding,...

Imperious high-roller introduces new dimensions in luxury for those wishing to drive an adventurous extra mile.

VOLKSWAGEN POLO GTI

Broad range of talents makes the hot Polo a strong value proposition in junior performance stakes.

The fourth-gen Polo GTI is the most impressive by some margin. It benefits from a costly new platform and is bigger in size (extra width is most noticeable) and engine capacity, having adopted a version of the Golf GTI’s 2.0-litre turbo. The Polo performance spectrum has stretched accordingly and its demeanour is now more in tune with that of...

Broad range of talents makes the hot Polo a strong value proposition in junior performance stakes.

JAGUAR XJR 575 (pt 2)

Supercharged V8 with 423kW makes limited edition flagship the most potent XJ ever and a likely future classic.

Start-up: No disguising the fact that an absolute powerhouse has sprung to life and it rumbles threateningly before the tone eventually settles. That supercharger slices the best part of a second from the sprint time to 100km/h, which now stands at 4.4 secs. Cruise: Involvement is most welcome in steering feel. It’s a communicative,...

Supercharged V8 with 423kW makes limited edition flagship the most potent XJ ever and a likely future classic.

AUDI RS4 AVANT

Delivers unrivalled blend of speed, stability and utility with such ease that it seems a ridiculously effective tool.

Only available as a square-backed Avant, the new RS4 looks and feels bigger than its billing as a compact executive wagon. Length is getting up there at 4.8m and width is enhanced by 30mm wider arches than standard. They’re necessary to accommodate 275/30 rubber front and rear.This B9 is the fourth-gen RS4 with an engine downsized from a V8...

Delivers unrivalled blend of speed, stability and utility with such ease that it seems a ridiculously effective tool.

MERCEDES-BENZ CLS 450

Advanced new mild hybrid powertrain turns swish four-door into fast and effortless grand tourer.

The third generation of Mercedes’ four-door coupe introduces 48v electrics, a new straight-six engine and clever new driver assistance tech. Better cabin packaging means it now seats five and a dynamic cabin design with bespoke seats means the interior is possibly more eye-catching than the exterior. The long bonnet, raked screens and low,...

Advanced new mild hybrid powertrain turns swish four-door into fast and effortless grand tourer.

AUDI A8 L 55TFSI

Stretched A8 is a technological status symbol that offers new dimensions in refinement and road presence.

Overview: Audi adopts a different strategy with new luxury flagship, launching LWB A8L as its standard car before introducing overtly sporting S8, for a two-model range. A8L sets luxury standard with vast space, standard air suspension and a 48-volt electrical subsystem. It’s geared for Level 3 unsupervised autonomous driving and was voted...

Stretched A8 is a technological status symbol that offers new dimensions in refinement and road presence.

MERCEDES-BENZ S560 COUPE (pt 2)

Big Merc coupes are renowned for their lasting appeal and you need a long drive to experience all of the S560’s attributes.

Start-up: Abrupt bellow broadcasts V8 brawn under the bonnet. S560 badge actually signals entry point in this rarefied rank, and means the 4.0-litre V8 is modestly blown. Cruise: Default Comfort settings and long wheelbase result in cosseting ride but preserve steering feel. Despite the size, it’s a car that quickly feels effortlessly smooth...

Big Merc coupes are renowned for their lasting appeal and you need a long drive to experience all of the S560’s attributes.

JAGUAR XJR 575

Halo model blends exclusivity and savage performance to delight (and possibly scare) RWD purists.

Overview: Flying flagship gets a five per cent power boost (thanks to ECU fettling) to give ‘R’ badge even more clout in limited-run, standard wheelbase car. A maximum of 10 are destined for NZ. Design: Unquestionably another large Jaguar with enduring design appeal that suits low ride height and overtly sporting treatment. Unique...

Halo model blends exclusivity and savage performance to delight (and possibly scare) RWD purists.

BMW i8 ROADSTER (pt 2)

Roadster design has been brilliantly conceived and executed but open-air experience raises price above $300k.

Start-up: Prodding the button on the near side of the centre console results in a silent and uneventful beginning that offers no hint of the i8’s performance potential. The transmission lever is surprisingly regular; engage Drive and there’s a faint whine as the electric motor drives the front wheels to get things underway. Cruise:...

Roadster design has been brilliantly conceived and executed but open-air experience raises price above $300k.

ALFA ROMEO GIULIA QV (pt 2)

Much hinges on the Giulia’s success for Alfa Romeo. The tarmac-shredding Quadrifoglio certainly exceeds expectations.

The recipe for the brand’s first rear-wheel drive car since the 1980s is a goodie with Ferrari engineering influence in the flagship Quadrifoglio’s lithe chassis and scintillating engine. The all-aluminium twin-turbo V6 bears a mild relationship to the Ferrari California T’s V8. The Giulia feels quite unlike its Euro rivals in...

Much hinges on the Giulia’s success for Alfa Romeo. The tarmac-shredding Quadrifoglio certainly exceeds expectations.

MERCEDES-BENZ S560 COUPE

Imposing, sharp-suited coupe cuts a fine silhouette and puts on a touring masterclass.

Overview: Five metres plus of pure class with all the tech and refinements of an S-Class limo. Seats four adults in comfort with relatively quick and easy access. Now partnered by S-Class cabriolet range. First-up fact: This car features active hydraulic suspension under the imaginative label ‘Magic Body Control’. Mercedes says the...

Imposing, sharp-suited coupe cuts a fine silhouette and puts on a touring masterclass.

BMW i8 ROADSTER

Dramatic-looking drop-top complements plug-in i8 coupe and caps BMW’s far-sighted i-car range.

Design: Roadster benefits from updates applied to revised coupe, now in its fourth year of production. Few cars at any price channel air with such stylish aerodynamic solutions. Most adventurous is the heavily buttressed rear that looks to sport a pair of butterfly wings atop an abdomen that conceals a modest three-pot petrol. Scissor-effect doors...

Dramatic-looking drop-top complements plug-in i8 coupe and caps BMW’s far-sighted i-car range.

AUDI RS3 SEDAN

Now offered as both a mega-hatch and saloon, the RS3 packs a bigger punch to go with its broader repertoire.

Under the bonnet is the all-new five-cylinder turbo that first debuted in the TT-RS. Its output is up by 24kW on the previous RS3 engine (itself a multiple winner of its Engine of the Year category) while its weight has dropped by 26kg, thanks mostly to a lighter alloy block and a magnesium sump. It also features a two-phase injection system,...

Now offered as both a mega-hatch and saloon, the RS3 packs a bigger punch to go with its broader repertoire.

BMW i3s 94Ah

Sporty, all-electric version of the ground-breaking BMW is practical, genuinely quick and genuinely fun to drive.

Design: Open a door and the carbonfibre structure is clear to see. Rear coach doors are interlocked with those in front and the arrangement allows good access to any seat. Lower-case ‘s’ badging signifies sporty treatment, with lower (by 10mm) stiffened suspension, wider (by 40mm) tracks, retuned steering, and extra rubber. Gloss black...

Sporty, all-electric version of the ground-breaking BMW is practical, genuinely quick and genuinely fun to drive.

ALFA ROMEO GIULIA QV

After a painfully long gestation period, patience is rewarded by this hero model, the no-expense-spared Quadrifoglio.

Design: Priorities are driver appeal and more driver appeal with a carefully tuned chassis and an exceptional power to weight ratio. Its low-slung and lighter on its feet than most rivals, while the turbocharged V6 is mounted longways and drives the rear axle. There’s an abundance of aluminium throughout the structure and the bonnet and roof...

After a painfully long gestation period, patience is rewarded by this hero model, the no-expense-spared Quadrifoglio.

AUDI RS5 (pt 2)

It might be a low-volume player in the growing Audi Sport stable but for the design-conscious, the RS5 is the jewel in the crown.

Co-developed with Porsche, Audi’s new all-aluminium V6 has both turbos installed within the 90-degree angle of its cylinder banks. As the exhaust side of the cylinder heads are on the inside of the vee and the intakes on the outside, the short pathways ensure minimal flow losses. We’ve come to expect double-clutch autos to make light...

It might be a low-volume player in the growing Audi Sport stable but for the design-conscious, the RS5 is the jewel in the crown.

FERRARI GTC4 LUSSO (pt 2)

Beautifully executed GTC4 is straightforward to operate and doesn’t need a V12 to play both grand tourer and sportscar.

Yes, there are many sophisticated electronic systems at work with technical initialisms that are too numerous to remember and effects that are hard to fathom in isolation but all boil down to remarkable levels of traction and stability. And they’re present from the outset, allowing buyers to reserve their ticks for tactile treats on the...

Beautifully executed GTC4 is straightforward to operate and doesn’t need a V12 to play both grand tourer and sportscar.

BMW M2 DCT

Tearaway M2 picks up junior ‘M’ car mantle from bulging, limited-run 1M and introduces 'junior M4' looks.

Design: Looks every bit a pint-sized ball of muscle but pumped arches and tall flanks disguise true dimensions. These translate into four-seater practicality and decent boot space. Lacks the M4’s graceful looks that come from extra length and width. Driver’s Seat: 1-series derived cabin offers familiar BMW character and is sporting but...

Tearaway M2 picks up junior ‘M’ car mantle from bulging, limited-run 1M and introduces 'junior M4' looks.

McLAREN 570S SPIDER (pt 2)

McLaren prides itself on precision engineering. It's clearly reflected in the clarity and detail of this car's spec sheets.

For the 570S Spider, the single-sided A4 technical sheet makes a distinction between a dry weight of 1402kg, DIN kerb weight of 1498kg (that includes fluids and 90% fuel) and a US ‘curb’ weight with a full tank (1503kg). Compare these figures with those of the equivalent 570S coupe and you’ll find an extra 46kg is the price for...

McLaren prides itself on precision engineering. It's clearly reflected in the clarity and detail of this car's spec sheets.

FERRARI GTC4 LUSSO T

The GTC4 Lusso replaces the all-wheel drive FF and offers two engine options with very different characteristics.

Lusso or Lusso T? The choice is between a traditional 6.3-litre V12 that drives both axles and will delight the purists with its noise, revs and never-ending acceleration, or this rear-driven Lusso T with its characterful 3855cc twin-turbocharged V8. As the specs panel illustrates, it delivers a monstrous mid-range with 761Nm flowing lag-free from...

The GTC4 Lusso replaces the all-wheel drive FF and offers two engine options with very different characteristics.

AUDI RS5

A big hitter in the Audi Sport line-up with captivating mix of looks, road presence and turbocharged performance.

Design: Evolution of classically handsome, beautifully proportioned coupe shape with extra muscle, curved bonnet line and very shallow glasshouse. Big air intakes, blistered arches and fat oval pipes signal intent. Four usable seats give it GT pretensions. Driver’s Seat: Cabin strikes brilliant balance between sporting and cocooning....

A big hitter in the Audi Sport line-up with captivating mix of looks, road presence and turbocharged performance.

HONDA CIVIC TYPE R (pt 2)

The new Civic Type R departed too soon, leaving us wanting to experience its attributes on a wider range of roads.

A neat solution to this problem, Honda might suggest, would be to simply buy one.What we’d be buying, we discovered, is the first Type R effort for global markets. It’s a very different proposition from the previous Civic Type R of 2015, which didn’t make it Downunder. The engine might be closely related to the previous...

The new Civic Type R departed too soon, leaving us wanting to experience its attributes on a wider range of roads.

LEXUS LC500

The LC500 is pure, old-school indulgence with front-mounted V8 and shaped-by-samurai warrior looks.

Design: Ultra-imposing from the hallmark spindle grille back. Unquestionably a strong design statement, but not the last word in elegance. Mix of steel, aluminium and carbonfibre just manages to keep kerb weight under two tonnes. Built at same plant that crafted LFA, and by the same Takumi craftsmen. Chrome mouldings along the side of the roof...

The LC500 is pure, old-school indulgence with front-mounted V8 and shaped-by-samurai warrior looks.

McLAREN 570S SPIDER

It takes a short drive to get comfortable behind the wheel and start tapping into depth of McLaren’s achievement.

Foremost are the easy access to whirlwind acceleration, the finely judged responses to all driver inputs, the relaxing ride quality, and a rare ability to make dispatching a challenging road undemanding for the driver. The 570S instantly inspires confidence to seek out the right roads for exploring some of this car’s huge...

It takes a short drive to get comfortable behind the wheel and start tapping into depth of McLaren’s achievement.

BMW X3 M40i

An ‘M’ badge adorns the X3 for the first time, bringing with it abundant performance and genuine driver appeal.

Design: New-found athleticism is matched by more sporting and sophisticated shape and a much more upmarket interior packed with latest tech and eye-catching details. Bigger, bolder radiator grille with active vanes is set higher and dominates front end. Note air breathers behind front wheels, and sculpted end plates on roof-mounted...

An ‘M’ badge adorns the X3 for the first time, bringing with it abundant performance and genuine driver appeal.

HONDA CIVIC TYPE R

Radical, rather hardcore five-door is front-drive and manual-only. Track-honed ability is underlined by Nurburgring class record.

Design: The Type R’s purpose is to perform. There’s nothing subtle about the raft of spoilers, vents and flared bodywork. It’s all functional too; the advanced aero contributes to remarkable high-speed cornering ability and a claimed top speed of 270km/h-plus. No wonder it tore up the ’Ring. Driver’s Seat: For such a...

Radical, rather hardcore five-door is front-drive and manual-only. Track-honed ability is underlined by Nurburgring class record.

VOLKSWAGEN ARTEON

Upmarket four-door fastback caps VW passenger car range. Big dimensions mean plenty of comfort and practicality.

Design: Dramatic shape with bold details lacks the simplicity of VW’s best designs. Note huge clamshell bonnet, sculpted Coke bottle flanks, sweeping roofline, and four frameless doors. Broad light designs emphasise width, and LED headlights are integrated into grille. Driver’s Seat: R-design spec means broad Nappa leather chair with...

Upmarket four-door fastback caps VW passenger car range. Big dimensions mean plenty of comfort and practicality.

AUDI TT-RS

Lighter, sharper and hugely powerful five-potter delivers performance to make supercar owners stand to attention.

There's no questioning the raw pace of the new TT-RS. But you might struggle to fathom how Audi makes it quite so fast. A big power upgrade combines with significant weight loss, such as 26kg from the engine bay thanks to a new aluminium crankcase. Even so, over 60 per cent of total weight still sits over the front axle, so the quattro system has...

Lighter, sharper and hugely powerful five-potter delivers performance to make supercar owners stand to attention.

MERCEDES E400 COUPE

Latest in a long line of elegant pillarless coupes inherits E-Class saloon platform for improved packaging and comfort.

Design: Fluid, wind-cheating shape features dome roof, steeply raked screens and super smooth body. Long, shallow glasshouse goes without the B-pillar, in Benz tradition, and rear seats accommodate adults in comfort. Classy if not spellbinding looks, and some may prefer shape and stance of two-door C-Class in a sporty tune. Driver’s Seat:...

Latest in a long line of elegant pillarless coupes inherits E-Class saloon platform for improved packaging and comfort.

BMW 740e

A clean-living week in BMW’s big hybrid has us enjoying great road presence and limousine comfort.

In fact, it’s a win-win scenario because not only does the 740e boast incredible economy figures but the electric motor and turbo-charged 2.0-litre pack an almighty punch when a combined effort is called for.Driving around on battery power is a serene experience and you tend to savour it because the electric-only range is often too quickly...

A clean-living week in BMW’s big hybrid has us enjoying great road presence and limousine comfort.

NISSAN 370Z NISMO

Nissan motorsport treatment gives bullish Zed coupe a harder edge and amplifies its sporting qualities.

Design: Familiar but flared compact body benefits from tasteful new spoilers, extra ducting and diffusers. Broad, lightweight wheels fill arches, signal intent. Lots of eye-catching detailing inside and out. Driver’s Seat: A superb, hip-clenching Recaro with brash cloth inserts offers great support and fine outward view. Manual seat...

Nissan motorsport treatment gives bullish Zed coupe a harder edge and amplifies its sporting qualities.

VOLKSWAGEN GOLF R

It’s quite simply the best iteration of the Golf to date with revised DSG and 4MOTION exploiting a big power hike over the GTI.

Some will argue a manual GTI Clubsport makes for a more immersive experience but the Golf R is untouchable as a belligerent all-rounder. It's surprisingly docile and comfortable around town and a joy on flowing roads as speed builds and sharp reactions come to the fore. Well weighted steering is generous with feedback, and the reward for a...

It’s quite simply the best iteration of the Golf to date with revised DSG and 4MOTION exploiting a big power hike over the GTI.

ASTON MARTIN DB11

A broad-haunched grand tourer par excellence with supercar pace in a beguiling 2+2 body.

Design: A much more modern interpretation of the Aston GT that looks fast standing still. DB11 signals a bold new era in Aston design and integrates advanced aero features. Dramatic visage includes grille that apes wing commander’s moustache, and huge, lightweight clamshell bonnet with four vents signifies V12. Wing mirrors sprout like those...

A broad-haunched grand tourer par excellence with supercar pace in a beguiling 2+2 body.

RANGE ROVER EVOQUE CABRIO

Drop-top version of trendsetting Evoque offers new dimensions in summer cruising. It’s best enjoyed in top HSE trim.

Convertible SUVs are expensive rarities with styling trumping practicality on the priority list. And this one is no exception, retailing from $118k and trailing most small hatches for luggage space and rear legroom, if not headroom.Our car was in top HSE spec. Yours will be, too, if you order one in this country. Such was the quality of HSE...

Drop-top version of trendsetting Evoque offers new dimensions in summer cruising. It’s best enjoyed in top HSE trim.

AUDI S5 COUPE

More sophisticated than the bruising V8 original, new S5 continues to attract with big presence and poise.

Design: Polished reinterpretation deviates enough from original shape to have you sit up and take notice. Strong shoulder line and domed roof remain S5 hallmarks. The bonnet line now incorporates a more pronounced curve with powerdome, there are sharper creases in panels along the flanks, and swollen arches. Driver’s Seat: Cockpit instantly...

More sophisticated than the bruising V8 original, new S5 continues to attract with big presence and poise.

BMW 540i SALOON

Fulfils dynamic exec saloon brief brilliantly and has more luxury and tech in common with flagship 7-Series.

Design: Evolutionary update of a handsome, but increasingly large machine. Broad kidney grille with active louvre elements blends with headlamps; air breathers smooth airflow behind front arches; kinked C-pillars and L-shaped tail lights remain hallmarks. Driver’s Seat: M-Sport trim means figure-clamping chair embraces you in a very broad...

Fulfils dynamic exec saloon brief brilliantly and has more luxury and tech in common with flagship 7-Series.

MERCEDES C200 CABRIOLET

Practical and beautifully executed four-seater is a light-middleweight in Merc’s growing convertible ranks.

Design: Previous E-Class cabrio was actually C-Class based, so this nicely-proportioned car has some previous form. When the hood is stowed, the frameless doors, fully retractable side windows and absence of central B-pillar allow expansive, unobstructed views. Driver’s Seat: This is no snug roadster. Familiar, spacious environment looks...

Practical and beautifully executed four-seater is a light-middleweight in Merc’s growing convertible ranks.

MAZDA MX-5 ROADSTER

Mazda’s latest drop-top proves just the ticket on a spellbinding tour of South Island beauty.

The Mazda MX-5 was not only voted 2016 World Car of the Year but also won the World Car Design award. And this 2.0-litre Limited model is arguably the definitive version of Mazda’s million-selling roadster. Factor in the low weight, low centre of gravity and 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution and you have a sensational platform from...

Mazda’s latest drop-top proves just the ticket on a spellbinding tour of South Island beauty.