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8 Jaguar E-Pace Welcome to Australian 4WD & SUV Buyers Guide. Recent announcements from the French and UK governments that petrol and diesel engines will be banned over the next 20 years or so are little more than political grandstanding, because by then the car companies themselves will have model ranges dominated by hybrid and electric vehicles. A plugin hybrid allows you to have the best attributes of electric and petrol power. Several brands now offer plug-in SUVs; Mitsubishi’s Outlander, tested on page 99, is the most affordable.Tesla’s first electric SUV, the Model X, tested on page 127, is in some ways a brilliant vehicle, but it also demonstrates that the electric-only SUV is still some way from day to day viability. I hope you enjoy the magazine and that it helps you choose the 4WD, SUV or ute that works best for you. Your comments are always welcome. Email me at Bill McKinnon, Editor


CONTENTS NEW MODEL DIARY 8 JAGUAR E-PACE Jaguar’s mid-size F-Pace has been a hit, so it’s now doubling down on SUV product with the smaller E- Pace, to take on Audi’s Q3, BMW’s X1 and the Mercedes GLA.

10 MERCEDES X CLASS Mercedes goes into the onetonner business in early 2018 with the arrival of the X Class. It’s actually a Datsun ute in a very fancy suit.

12 BMW X3 BMW’s mid-size family freighter does most things pretty well, especially when you point it at a few corners, so the new model offers more of the same.

19 IRONMAN Great value gear from one of Australia’s best 4WD accessory companies.

20 ARK PAK 14 RANGE ROVER VELAR Range Rover’s new Velar, due in early 2018, is a Jaguar F-Pace with a different badge and with more off-road capability.

LIVE THE LIFE 16 4WD or SUV? Confused about the differences between them? Here’s a complete guide to the pros and cons of each.

This is the ultimate in portable power. Just add a deep cycle battery and you’re off the grid.

21 POLARIS Looking to upgrade or retrofit your SUV’s navigation, or add a camera? Polaris has a new GPS that can do both.

22 JAYCO ADVENTURER We put Jayco’s new off-road caravan to the test.

22 Jayco Adventurer 24 CHANGING LATITUDES We travel Australia’s three major north-south touring routes: the East Coast, the West Coast, and straight through the guts on the mighty Stuart Highway.

THE SHOWROOM 34 SUV & 4WD TEST INDEX Australia’s most comprehensive guide to new 4WDs, SUVs and utes, with 100 models independently tested and rated.




In our tests on the following pages we have used symbols to give you a quick indication of the strengths of each vehicle and star ratings to indicate in more detail how each stacks up in its class. Here’s what the symbols and stars mean:

JOSHUA DOWLING Australia’s premier motoring journalist, Joshua Dowling is the National Motoring Editor of News Corp Australia and a World Car of the Year judge. Joshua is renowned for his consumer-first approach and you can also find his roadtests on, news stories on or read his regular rants on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling

Our piggybank indicates a 4WD or SUV that we think represents good value for money against the others in its class. It may not necessarily be the cheapest, but taking into account factors such as standard equipment, safety, the way it drives, resale values and quality, it shapes up as a good deal.

of five in the Federal Government’s Green Vehicle Guide. If you want to find out how the ratings are achieved, go to www. The fuel consumption and CO2 emissions figures we list for each vehicle are also from the Green Vehicle Guide, and are derived from the Australian Standard ADR81/02 A capital S indicates a vehicle test. The Federal government that scores five stars out of five stopped putting star ratings on for occupant protection in ANCAP new vehicles in the Green Vehicle crash tests. Go to Guide at the end of 2015, so au. for more information models released subsequent to that do not have a star rating. If you’re after a safe, practical wagon to carry the kids, This symbol indicates a look for this symbol. We’ve limited 4WD wagon equipped with the its use to vehicles that have an necessary hardware to go offANCAP score of at least four stars road. The basic feature it has to out of five and have six airbags plus have to qualify for this symbol is stability control as standard or a dual-range transfer case. as affordable options. We’ve also taken into account the placement A trophy indicates a 4WD or of child-restraint anchor points, a SUV that, all things considered, versatile, spacious load area and is at or near the top of its class. other parent-friendly features It’s important to note that we such as plenty of storage. don’t test vehicles against some perfect theoretical model. Features This is an internationally that are important in big 4WDs, recognised symbol for for example fuel range, are less environmentally friendly products important in, say, the compact SUV and we’ve used it to indicate cars class, where buyers are looking for that scored at least four stars out car-like dynamics.


JOHN CAREY One of Australia’s most accomplished motoring writers, John is a previous editor of Overlander, a contributor to Wheels magazine where he is a Car of the Year judge, and publications in the USA and UK. He lives in Bergamo, Italy.



BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS Byron is a complete car tragic. He claims that a dream as a toddler of driving an Austin A35 pretty much sealed his fate. Byron writes for au, The Australian and Wheels, where he is a judge on Car of the Year. In this issue, he tests the new Honda CRV and Audi Q5.

EDITOR Bill McKinnon DESIGNER Katharine McKinnon CONTRIBUTORS John Carey, Joshua Dowling, Phil King, Byron Mathioudakis, Peter McKay COPY EDITOR Michelle Segal ADVERTISING ENQUIRIES Christian Schisas (02) 9887 0393; 0405 624 329; ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Martin White

60 Honda CRV STARS The star rating for safety is from Australian ANCAP or European NCAP crash tests and the Green Vehicle Guide stars are as per the vehicle’s rating in the Green Vehicle Guide itself. Other star ratings, including the overall star rating, reflect how the vehicle rates against others in its class.

• Prices are supplied by manufacturers and do not include on-road charges, which vary from state to state. Note that advertised prices must now include all on-road costs. • The best way to get a good deal on a new car is to do your research, test drive each of your shortlisted cars, then decide exactly the make, model, specification, colour and any options you require. Then you simply get a price from a few dealers on that car. If you have a trade in, you want what is called a changeover price. • Manufacturers change prices regularly and in some cases this will have occurred after our publication deadline. Check current prices and deals at Redbook future values in each test are average wholesale prices after three years/60,000km and five years/ 100,000km for a vehicle in average condition. Go to for a valuation on your 4WD or SUV.

CHAIRMAN/CEO Prema Perera PUBLISHER Janice Williams CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER Vicky Mahadeva ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Emma Perera FINANCE & ADMINISTRATION MANAGER James Perera CIRCULATION DIRECTOR Mark Darton CREATIVE DIRECTOR Kate Podger EDITORIAL & PRODUCTION MANAGER Anastasia Casey MARKETING & ACQUISITIONS MANAGER Chelsea Peters Circulation enquiries to our Sydney head office (02) 9805 0399. Australian 4WD & SUV Buyers Guide No. 30 is published by Universal Magazines, Unit 5, 6-8 Byfield Street, North Ryde, 2113. Phone: (02) 9805 0399, Fax: (02) 9805 0714. Melbourne office, Level 1, 150 Albert Road, South Melbourne Vic 3205. Phone: (03) 9694 6444, Fax: (03) 9699 7890. Printed in Singapore by Times Printers, distributed by Gordon and Gotch, Sydney. This book is copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission. Enquiries should be addressed to the publishers. The publishers believe all the information supplied in this book to be correct at the time of printing. They are not, however, in a position to make a guarantee to this effect and accept no liability in the event of any information proving inaccurate. Prices, addresses and phone numbers were, after investigation and to the best of our knowledge and belief, up to date at the time of printing, but the shifting sands of time may change them in some cases. It is not possible for the publishers to ensure that advertisements which appear in this publication comply with the Trade Practices Act, 1974. The responsibility must therefore be on the person, company or advertising agency submitting the advertisements for publication. While every endeavour has been made to ensure complete accuracy, the publishers cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. Please pass on or recycle this magazine.

* Recommended retail price ISSN 1836-1137 Copyright © Universal Magazines MMXVII ACN 003 026 944

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E-Pace is Jaguar’s first contender in the compact premium SUV class.


aguar’s mid-size SUV, the F-Pace, tested on page 65, has been a big hit. As a result, the company is now having a crack at the compact luxury class with the E-Pace, which goes on sale here in the second quarter of 2018 to take on Audi’s Q3, the BMW X1 and Mercedes GLA. E-Pace with be available in S, SE and HSE grades, plus the blinged-up R Dynamic range topper, with similar Jaguar Land Rover “Ingenium” drivetrains to the Range Rover Evoque and new Velar. This includes 2.0-litre turbopetrol and turbodiesel engines, with a nine-speed automatic as standard. All-wheel drivetrains include Active Driveline, which operates as a front-wheel drive in normal conditions but can 8 | AUSTRALIAN 4WD & SUV BUYERS GUIDE

send torque on demand to the rear wheels, and a permanent all-wheel drivetrain on premium models. The 2.0-litre turbodiesel produces 110kW of power and 380Nm of torque in the base model S, where it averages a frugal 5.6L/100km. It will also be available with 132kW/430Nm and 177kW/500Nm. The 2.0-litre turbopetrol is available with 183kW/365Nm and 221kW and 400Nm — where it flings the E-Pace to 100km/h in a pretty rapid 6.4 seconds. EPace will be a sporty drive, with optional adaptive suspension and 21-inch alloy wheels in the Adaptive Dynamics package, plus a choice of drivetrain modes ranging from low power, short shifting, fuel-efficient Eco to aggressive Dynamic. It’s fairly heavy for a compact SUV, though,


weighing in at 1775-1926kg. The cabin features a twin cockpit layout inspired by the F-Type sports car. There’s a 10inch infotainment touchscreen, plus optional 12.3-inch virtual instruments replacing traditional analogue dials and a head-up display. You can also option up to five USB and four 12-volt sockets. Up to eight devices can stream content using E-Pace’s 4G WiFi hotspot. The boot is accessed via a power-operated tailgate, with opening via a swipe of your foot under the rear bumper, which is handy if you’ve got an armful of

kids and shopping. The boot holds 577 litres with all seats in use, which is pretty spacious by class standards. An optional waterproof wristband Activity Key allows you to lock the vehicle by tapping the number-plate surround on the tailgate. It also disables the main key, which you leave inside while you go for a swim, a run, or any other activity where you don’t want to carry a key around. Jaguar Australia says E-Pace asking prices should start at around $48,000, and top out at about $85,000.



The X Class badge is Mercedes but its DNA is Nissan.


ercedes becomes a player in the onetonner ute market in April, 2018, with the launch of the X Class range. It’s not a Mercedes from the wheels up, though. In fact, apart from the front-end styling, the dash, suspension tuning and the 3.0-litre V6 engine in the top-spec variant, X Class is a rebadged Nissan Navara. Initially, X Class will be offered only as a dual-cab pickup. Nissan’s 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel will power the volume-selling variants and will be available with 120kW in the X220d or 140kW in the X250d, 10 | AUSTRALIAN 4WD & SUV BUYERS GUIDE

with a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic. Nissan’s part-time, dualrange four-wheel drivetrain, with an optional rear diff lock, is fitted. A full-time, high-rangeonly all-wheel drivetrain will follow mid-year, with Mercedes’ 190kW/550Nm 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel/seven-speed automatic in the X350d. X Class inherits Navara’s suspension layout, including coils at the rear, so although Mercedes is claiming a payload of up to 1.042 tonnes and a maximum towing weight of 3500kg, in the real world its load-carrying and towing


hard and roll tonneau covers, plus a canopy. A 12-volt outlet is standard, as is lighting, via a third high-mounted brake light that can also be turned on and off from the dash. Mercedes hasn’t released pricing yet, but expect mid $40K start money for the Pure, rising to mid-high $60K for the 3.0-litre V6 range toppers. Which makes the X Class an overpriced Navara. Will it sell? After all, you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but…


capabilities will probably be inferior to leaf spring rivals such as the Amarok, Ranger and HiLux, just like the Navara. Ground clearance is a claimed 202mm, and disc brakes are fitted all round. Wheel sizes are 17, 18 or 19 inch, depending on the model. Three trim levels will be available: the workhorse Pure, then Progressive (pictured), then the blinged-up Power. Seven airbags are standard, while lane keeping, traffic sign recognition, trailer stability control, LED headlights and 360-degree

cameras will be available. Radar cruise and automatic emergency braking are not listed as safety features, so it looks like Mercedes has passed up on the opportunity to raise the safety bar in the one-tonner class. Inside, you’ll get Artico — artificial cow — fake leather upholstery, or the real stuff if you tick the leather option box. Progressive and Power specification includes an 8.4inch infotainment screen plus navigation. Tub accessories include a bed liner, load divider, soft, AUSTRALIAN 4WD & SUV BUYERS GUIDE | 11


BMW’s new X3 includes an M model for the first time, the M40i.


MW’s third-generation X3 mid-size SUV is due in early 2018, and if it’s able to replicate the current model, it should be one of the best-handling SUVs on the road. It introduces BMW’s first X3 to wear the M badge, in the shape of the M40i, which will top the range. Powered by a BMW signature 3.0-litre turbocharged


straight six, with 265kW of power and 500Nm of torque, the M40i will reach 100km/h in a claimed 4.8 seconds. It includes the M Aerodynamics package and M Sport exhaust, brakes, variable ratio steering, 20-inch alloys and suspension. Adaptive M suspension will be optional. Like the rest of the X3 range, the M40i has an eight-speed automatic as standard, with the

addition of launch control. Its xDrive all-wheel drive system has a more rear drive bias than other models and shift paddles are standard. Inside, sports seats, M badges and pukka dark decor distinguish the M40i from lesser X3s. These begin with the 2.0-litre turbopetrol sDrive (rear-wheel drive) 20i, with 135kW and average fuel consumption of 7.2L/100km. The same engine with all-wheel drive is offered in the xDrive 20i; in the xDrive 30i, it’s tuned for 185kW of power. Diesels include the 2.0-litre

xDrive20d, with 140kW, plus 400Nm of torque and average consumption of just 5.0L/100km, and the 3.0-litre straight six xDrive30d, with 190kW, 620Nm and 5.7L/100km. Options will includes BMW’s latest semi-autonomous driving technology, with lane keeping and self-steering, plus advanced connectivity and gesture control infotainment. No prices yet, but expect little change from the current model, which means a mid $60K start, probably reaching the high $90K region for the M40i.


4WD&SUV DIARY Range Rover’s Velar is a rebadged Jaguar F-Pace with off road ability


his shapely creature is the new Range Rover Velar, due to arrive by the end of 2017 in a mind-boggling array of specification and trim levels, with prices starting at $70,950 and rising to $136,050. It’s basically a Jaguar FPace wrapped in Range Rover sheetmetal and with upgraded off-road capability thanks to Land Rover’s Terrain Response system. Jaguar and Land Rover are part of the same group, owned by Indian conglomerate Tata.

So the Velar shares its body structure, running gear and drivetrains with the Jaguar. This means it’s powered by 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel Ingenium engines, with 132kW in the base model, then 177kW. Ingenium 2.0-litre turbopetrols produce 184kW and 221kW. The top-spec petrol model runs Jaguar’s 280kW supercharged V6 that drives it to 100km/h in 5.7 seconds. There’s also a 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel with 221kW and 700Nm of torque.

An eight-speed automatic is standard, as is permanent allwheel drive in high range only, with rear-wheel drive in normal operation and the front wheels receiving torque on demand. Terrain Response offers Eco, Comfort, Grass-Gravel-Snow, Mud Ruts, Sand and Dynamic modes, while optional Terrain Response 2 adds an Auto setting, which picks the best mode for whatever surface you’re on so you don’t have to drive yourself insane trying to work out which 14 | AUSTRALIAN 4WD & SUV BUYERS GUIDE

one to use. It’s supplemented by an off-road cruise control system, low-traction launch control and hill descent control. Coil springs and 213mm of ground clearance are standard on four-cylinder models; the sixes have air springs that can be adjusted to varying ride heights, with 251mm of clearance when fully extended. The cabin features two highdefinition 10-inch touchscreens instead of the usual mix of digital and analogue instruments.


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4WD&SUV LIVE THE LIFE Toyota’s C-HR is sold with front wheel drive or all wheel drive

4WD OR SUV? With SUVs now outselling cars in Australia, Bill McKinnon looks at what’s available


t’s official. SUVs now outsell cars on the Australian newmodel charts. If you buy a new sedan or hatchback nowadays, you’re in a minority. Soon people may think you’re a bit weird… How times change. This is probably going to start a few pub arguments, but I reckon that until the 1980s, there were no SUVs in Australia. Sure, a few car-based wagons of that decade such as Subaru’s L Series and Toyota’s Corolla SR5 had allwheel drive, but the modern SUV as we now know it didn’t really take shape until the mid1990s, when the Toyota RAV4, Honda CRV, Subaru Outback and Mercedes M Class arrived. You can now have your SUV, or 4WD, in hundreds of different flavours. The difficult part is working out the differences between them and making a decision. Here’s a guide to your options.

FAUX-WHEEL DRIVES Many people couldn’t care less, and some don’t even know, 16 | AUSTRALIAN 4WD & SUV BUYERS GUIDE

whether their SUV is front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, so some brands now offer both with the same badge. Front-wheel drives are usually base models with a sharp price because they don’t have all-wheel-drive hardware. If you do most of your driving around town, you won’t miss it, however some of the bigger, more powerful wagons, notably Mazda’s CX9 and Toyota’s Kluger, suffer from torque steer — that tugging sensation at the steering wheel under acceleration — which isn’t a problem with all-wheel drive. Where can you take them? The same places you can take a car. Go bush bashing at your peril. Top sellers Tiddlers include Suzuki Ignis, Mazda CX3, Mitsubishi ASX, Toyota C-HR, Audi Q2 and BMW X1, while mid-sizers include Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson, Nissan XTrail and Toyota RAV4. Holden Captiva, Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota Kluger are family freighters.

Subaru’s Outback uses all-wheel drive

ALL-WHEEL DRIVES These are either on-demand allwheel drive, where engine torque goes 100 per cent to the front wheels in most conditions, but some can also be sent to the rear wheels if the fronts begin to lose traction; or permanent all-wheel drive, which has the rear wheels permanently engaged and varies the distribution of engine torque according to grip, acceleration and other factors. Some models use a default 50:50 split for normal driving, others bias it to the front or rear. None of these SUVs has lowrange gearing, but most drivetrains allow you to lock in a 50:50 split in high range, via a button on

the dash, which gives you extra traction on slippery surfaces. Where can you take them? Any dirt road in reasonable condition will be fine, and they also work well in low-grip conditions such as rain, mud, ice and snow. Most on-demand systems are fairly efficient and seamless in engaging the rear wheels when required, but permanent all-wheel drive does give you an extra measure of grip and stability, especially in slippery conditions. Models such as Subaru’s Forester and Land Rover’s Discovery Sport supplement it with specific traction control modes and hill

4WD&SUV LIVE THE LIFE Luxury SUVs such as BMW’s X5 are designed for the bitumen

sloppy surfaces, though when deflated to around 20psi they are effective on sand. Owners who want to head for the scrub usually fit dual-purpose or off-road tyres with stronger sidewalls and chunkier tread. Top sellers Toyota is the big kahuna here, with the Prado and Landcruiser leading the field. Mitsubishi’s Pajero Sport and the Isuzu MU-X are the top-selling utebased wagons, while the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Range Rover Sport are the most popular luxury 4WDs.

Ford’s Ranger 4WD ute will go seriously off road

descent control for challenging terrain, but you shouldn’t get too ambitious because none of these vehicles has the ground clearance or hardware for serious off-roading. Top sellers Most of the models listed as front-wheel drives are also available with on-demand or permanent all-wheel drivetrains. Other small wagons include Subaru’s XV and the Suzuki Vitara, mid-sizers include Mitsubishi Outlander, VW’s Tiguan, Subaru Forester and Outback, Audi Q5, BMW X3/ Toyota’s 200 Series Landcruiser 4WD

X4 and Land Rover Discovery Sport. Large SUVs include Kia Sorento, Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne.

4WDS The basic qualification for a 4WD is a low-range transfer case, which accesses a much more indirect ratio for each gear, allowing the engine’s torque to be used to maximum effect at slow speeds in difficult terrain, especially when used with an off-road traction control mode that can automatically send drive to the wheels with the most grip and keep the plot rolling.

Some 4WDs also have a locking rear differential as a get out of jail card if things don’t quite go according to plan. Most heavy-duty 4WDs, such as the Toyota Landcruiser and Prado, plus 4WD wagons based on utes, such as the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport (built on a Triton chassis) and Ford Everest (Ranger), use a strong separate steel frame, which also makes them well suited to towing. Diesel is the dominant fuel, with petrol variants usually offered too. Given the size and weight of these beasts, diesel is the way to go — you’ll use up to 50 per cent less juice than a comparable petrol engine. Where can you take them? High ground clearance (at least 200mm) is required for gnarly tracks, plus robust, long-travel suspension. Some luxury models such as the Range Rover have height-adjustable air suspension. The weak link in most production 4WDs is their tyres, which are usually designed for road use, puncture easily and don’t bite deeply into loose or

UTES Most utes are available with either rear-wheel drive or 4WD. Utes have rear leaf springs, as befits their load-carrying brief of up to one tonne. Dual-cab 4WD utes basically have the same hardware and operating parameters as 4WD wagons, and they’re a boom class because they can be used for work and play. Many now have a five-star ANCAP safety rating, however the latest driver-assist safety tech, such as automatic emergency braking and blind spot monitoring, hasn’t yet made it to ute world. Where can you take them? Most places you can take a 4WD wagon. Top sellers Toyota’s Hilux was Australia’s top-selling vehicle overall in 2016. The Ford Ranger came in fourth and Mitsubishi Triton ninth. VW’s Amarok V6, with the most potent engine in the class by the length of the straight — a 180kW 3.0-litre turbodiesel — is the hot ticket among cashed-up tradies.


Toyota’s 70 Series is for many the ultimate 4WD


What are your wheels worth? Thinking of buying or selling a car? Get the right price with a RedBook Valuation report.

A RedBook Valuation report is personalised and takes into consideration kilometres travelled, the car’s condition, as well as any added factory and aftermarket options.




ustralian-owned Ironman 4x4 specialises in tough, high quality, affordable 4WD and camping accessories. It’s latest release include a new range of bullbars to suit the 2016-2017 Isuzu D-Max update, featuring improved approach angle, triple folded edges, a winch mount, high lift jacking points, spotlight and aerial mounts. The bullbars are fully ADR compliant and airbag compatible. Prices start at just $1150 for the Black Commercial bar. The Deluxe is $1380 and top of the range Protector, pictured, is $1495. Team it with a rear Protection tow bar, which suits D Max from 2012-on and is priced at $975. Ironman now also has a Protection tow bar available to suit the Holden Colorado from 2012-on, at the same price. When you’re camped out in

Boonieville, you’ll need shade. Ironman’s new Instant Awning provides just that and now features cam-lock telescopic uprights and supports, flexible nylon joints to allow for wind movement without damaging the track system and pull over clamps for quick and easy unravelling. Ironman Instant Awning is made from 280gsm rip stop poly cotton with seam sealed stitching, so it’s fully waterproof and has a UV50+ sun protection rating. An integrated LED light strip, with a dimmer and glow in the dark guy ropes are included, as is the fitting kit – with a spanner! Available in three sizes, each 2.5 metres wide, the 1.4 metre Instant Awning costs $245, the 2.0 metre is $270 and the 2.5 metre is $295. Go to for the location of your nearest Ironman stockist.





ith more people relying on power for a range of devices while touring and off grid, a reliable and multifunction power source is a necessity. Ark Corporation is an Australian company that has been servicing the recreational market for nearly 40 years. The ArkPak offers market-leading technology unmatched by any other battery box on the market and has for

many years been a convenient, versatile alternative to expensive hard-wired dual-battery systems. Now the engineers at Ark have taken its capabilities to another level and added Pure Sine Wave technology, the ultimate in consistent, reliable, portable 240V power. The new AP730P 300W Pure Sine Wave inverter means you can plug in anywhere around the country and still get the same type of power you get at your home.

Better yet, you can now run and recharge your most sensitive devices such as drones, cameras, studio gear, computers, laptops and even Bi-PAP/CPAP machines, which means you can have more freedom to be creative, stay connected and tour in safety. The ArkPak is the only battery box on the market that has a built-in AC-DC and DC-DC charger. The on-board processor recognises then regulates the input power

source to a smart-charge output that will charge most deep-cycle batteries such Lithium Iron Phosphate, AGM, Gel, Calcium and Lead Acid. The ArkPak will accept a battery up to 130 amp/hour in size. It features a USB, two 12-volt and 50-amp Anderson sockets, plus external terminals and a manual isolator switch. The charger can accept input from any 240V source, 12V from your car and even 24V from trucks. It’s completely portable: just plug in and play with no hard wiring whatsoever. The ArkPak also provides real-time data on your battery state of charge and the time of charge remaining, plus battery percentage, volts and net watts usage. Net watts is the amount of power either going into or being drawn from the battery. If the ArkPak is charging and powering a device at the same time, the net watts will display the difference in power. For example, if there is +90W charge going into the battery and the ArkPak is powering a 60W lamp, then the net watts is +30W. With the availability of real-time data, you can either adjust your power usage or add additional charge from your vehicle and even solar. Once these adjustments have been made, you can immediately see the effect on your battery, maximising its potential and time spent off grid. For more information visit




n the Australian 4WD & SUV Buyer’s Guide, we include trade-in values for every model in our Showroom section. These are provided to us by Redbook, Australia’s leading authority on used-car, 4WD and SUV values. Each model we test includes three- and five-year retained values, expressed as a percentage. These are based on what the wholesale price — i.e. the price a dealer would pay for the car — would be for a car in average condition with average kilometres for its age. 20 | AUSTRALIAN 4WD & SUV BUYERS GUIDE

You’ll find Redbook’s threeand five-year retained values in the Spex for single-page tests and at the end of the What’s Standard section in tests that run over two pages. When you’re selling your car privately, trading it in or buying a car, a Redbook valuation is money well spent. When selling your car privately, a Redbook personalised valuation will help you get a clearer understanding of what your car is worth in today’s market. It can also be particularly handy during negotiations with potential buyers,

with your list price backed up by an independent vehicle pricing authority and tailored to your vehicle’s kilometres and condition. When trading in your vehicle, a Redbook personalised valuation can help make the choice between selling privately and trading in simpler, with up-to-date market values for each sale price option displayed on your certificate. Whether you’re buying used or new, a Redbook valuation can put you in a stronger negotiating position through understanding the market value of the car you’re after at the time and even in the

future. Not only will you have peace of mind when it comes to paying the right price for your new car, you’ll also ensure you understand the potential future resale price. A Redbook valuation certificate costs $29.00 for one car. Go to for more information.




ant to head off the beaten track for an outback adventure or just to explore the great outdoors? Looking for the right gear to get you there? Trying to keep up to date with the latest gadgets and technology nowadays can be a confusing experience, especially when it comes to in-vehicle cameras and navigation. The usual vehicle set-up for a long-distance adventure often includes a dash camera, GPS with street navigation, a GPS with detailed off-road navigation and

maps, possibly a separate screen for a rear camera on the back of the vehicle and caravan camera. All these devices add complexity and clutter to your dash and can obstruct your view while driving, creating a serious safety issue. The Polaris All Road GPS, the NG7, is a new multifunction navigation/camera system that offers all-in-one convenience, safety and security. You can say goodbye to pesky suction cup brackets and the annoyance of using all your 12-volt outlets to make sure all your devices are plugged in and charged.

The Polaris NG7 is designed with a large seven-inch antiglare touch screen which is hardwired and dash-mounted to most vehicles, SUVs and motorhomes. NG7 comes with a three-year warranty. Included with the Polaris NG7 are HEMA off-road maps with more than 60 Australiawide regional maps with 1:150K topographical map coverage, and Australia-wide Tom Tom Navigation. So wherever you want to go, you have the latest mapping and navigation to get you there. Other features include a builtin high-quality DVR/crash camera

with a 16GB micro SD card so you can record any incidents and capture all your adventures. USB input allows you to play media from a USB storage device or charge your phone. Additional safety features include three camera inputs, which can be used in a multitude of ways. For example, you could have a reversing camera for the vehicle, a forward-facing camera mounted on the front, and a camera fitted on the back of the caravan or trailer to assist when reversing into tight spots or keep watch on the traffic behind your caravan. The Polaris NG7 will show you the way on your next adventure and give you peace of mind, knowing that you can explore the great outdoors with confidence and arrive home safely. For more information on the Polaris NG7, visit mypolaris. or call Polaris on 1300 555 514.




ADVENTURE READY After two years of development, the new off-roaders from Jayco have hit the mark. Brendan Batty hitches up an Adventurer


espite being Australia’s largest manufacturer of caravans and motorhomes, Jayco has always been conservative in the realm of off-road capability. Sure, it’s had the Outback upgrade available to all its vans and campers for a few decades, but there’s been one key segment that Jayco has been seemingly ignoring — the dedicated off-roader. That’s now changed with the newest addition to the Jayco stable, its range of Adventurer off-road caravans. More than just a standard van with a thicker chassis and checker-plate decorations, the four variants in the new Adventurer range are built from the ground up as trailers that can go anywhere it’s sensible to tow a caravan — and maybe even a little further if the campsite’s worth it.


Adventurer starts with a 13-foot pop-top for two that’s probably the most capable Jayco product ever produced. As compact as it is, there’s still a double east-west bed, a small dinette, combination shower and toilet and a neat little kitchenette. Add to that an impressive external kitchen that slides out from the front boot and there’s serious versatility and comfort in a small, manoeuvrable van. Next in line is a 16-foot caravan which uses the extra space to fit a full-width ensuite to the front, a slightly bigger kitchen and an L-shaped dinette. There’s still the east-west bed and external kitchen, but overall more space to spread out. The top-spec models are both 19-foot caravans although one is designed for couples and the other for families of four or five. Couples get an island bed and


full-width ensuite, while parents sleep on an east-west bed and use an ensuite that runs northsouth, opposite the kids’ bunks at the back. It’s the 19-foot couples’ van that’s expected to be the most popular and Jayco hasn’t left many stones unturned to make sure every part of it is practical and comfortable in remote and rugged touring locations. I spent three nights free-camping in one to find out just that. Behind my Isuzu D-Max, the Adventurer is well balanced and settled on-road. Big gusts of wind don’t cause much drama, although the van, with soft independent suspension and a tall centre of gravity, isn’t immune to a slight wobble from time to time. Fitted with AL-KO stability control as standard, though, it’s very unlikely to become a big issue. Off-road is what this van’s designed for, and off-road is where it really performs. On uneven and rutted roads, the Adventurer’s high clearance and cut-out rear combine with the Vehicle Components DO35 off-road hitch to fit down

plenty of tracks that caravans traditionally won’t tackle. Brush bars along the sides and rear, a strong rear bumper bar and significant under-body protection all help get the van into camp unscathed. The Adventurer’s JTECH suspension has also been specifically adapted to the Adventurer range, including the addition of a second shock absorber on each arm and a specific tune complementing the type of vanning Jayco expects Adventurer buyers to do. A lot of thought has gone into how a product like this is used during extended periods of free camping, over and above the general comforts of a premium caravan. The van comes standard with two 120-amp AGM batteries and three 150W solar panels. That is overseen by a Setec 12/240V battery management system and controlled by the J-Hub — a tablet device which controls and monitors just about everything in the van. From it you can turn on lights and pumps, check water and battery levels, and even get an estimate of how much longer you’ll be able to stay

camped without needing to plug in a generator. Jayco has also realised there’s an increasing focus on leave-no-trace camping, so as well as the two 82-litre water tanks, there’s a third for grey water. All of the underfloor plumbing is well protected, and plumbing should be largely resistant to stone damage. The living comfort of this van is clearly a highlight — rugged locations don’t have to mean rugged living. The van’s got a contemporary feel; the dinette’s covered in genuine leather, the island bed has a premium innerspring mattress, even the dunny is ceramic. Not just goodlooking, the cabinetry has been reinforced and the drawers can’t be shaken off their runners to scatter contents all through the van while being towed. What I like most, though, are small details. The van’s outdoor shower. The two rear-mounted spare wheels with spare wheel rubbish bags. There’s a folddown section for a barbecue on the external kitchen, a Weber Baby Q and an extended gas line is included. There are

12V fans around the beds so you don’t have to use the airconditioner and waste power. Even a set of Maxtrax recovery skids are a standard feature. What’s really obvious is that Jayco hasn’t just jumped on a bandwagon by finally building an off-road van. Instead, the company has taken its time, done its research and released a high-quality product that’s ideal for remote area travel — and a great Adventure.


SPEX Model: Jayco Adventurer 19.60-2 Body length: 6020mm Interior length: 5975mm Interior height: 1978mm Travel length: 8240mm Travel height: 3100mm Width: 2490mm Tare weight: 2875kg ATM: 3499kg Ball weight: 185kg Features: Independent suspension, AT tyres, external and internal kitchens, 218-litre compressor fridge, reverse-cycle air-conditioning, two 82-litre water tanks, grey water tank, 3kg washing machine, ducted gas heating, AL-KO ESC, 450W solar, two 120ah batteries. More information:



CHANGING LATITUDES In the last edition of Australian 4WD & SUV Buyers Guide, we travelled the three main east-west routes across Australia: the Savannah Way across the Top End, the Outback Way through the Red Centre, and Highway One across the Nullarbor. This time we’re exploring the wondrous possibilities of latitude on three of the country’s transcontinental north-south drives


his issue, our three great drives are the west coast, from Cape Leeuwin, the southwesterly tip of the continent up to Broome; the Stuart Highway, from Port Augusta in SA to Darwin; and Highway One, up the east coast from Eden in NSW to Cooktown in Far North Queensland. It’s not only topography that changes with the days on the road, but also, of course, the climate.

THE WEST COAST If you’re not from “The West” you have, inevitably, travelled a long way to get there. And if you have arrived from “The East” via the Nullarbor, you might be in the mood to hole up somewhere nice and ritzy for a while to rest and relax. The Margaret River region, from Cape Leeuwin in the south to Cape Naturaliste, is the perfect place to do just that before you begin 24 | AUSTRALIAN 4WD & SUV BUYERS GUIDE

the long 2550km haul north to Broome. It’s compact, easy to get around and has an endless supply of great restaurants, wineries, magnificent forests, coastal walks and gorgeous beaches. Much of the coast is encompassed by LeeuwinNaturaliste National Park, where the pick of the campgrounds for caravaners is Conto, tucked away behind the beach in a peppermint woodland, with easy access to a beautiful section of the famous Cape to Cape walk. The tiny Boranup Campground, just south of Conto in the Boranup Karri Forest, is suitable for smaller vans and camper trailers. Heading north, via the coast or Highway One, it’s easy to circumnavigate Perth if you wish. Take a short detour out to Nambung National Park, 200km north of Perth on the coast near Cervantes, to see The Pinnacles, a weird mini-desert landscape with surreal organic rock-like

4WD&SUV LIVE THE LIFE Birthday Waterhole, NT.


4WD&SUV LIVE THE LIFE Near Conto, LeeuwinNaturaliste NP, WA.

structures called thrombolites. As you continue north, you’ll soon realise that on much of the west coast drive, the caravan park operators have had their way with the local councils, which have now put up signs all along the highway, in areas where caravaners used to happily free camp, advising that the practice is now banned and warning of ruinous fines, transportation to Siberia and worse if you don’t follow their orders. Council and national park campgrounds are also conspicuously absent, so you’re forced into caravan parks in towns or at roadhouses, many of which are hopelessly overcrowded and bloody awful. There are exceptions. Ellendale Pool is a peaceful waterhole near Greenough, south of Geraldton, where you can camp for just $5 per night. Kalbarri, a sleepy seaside town north of Geraldton, has a couple of excellent caravan parks and is worth a stop for a 26 | AUSTRALIAN 4WD & SUV BUYERS GUIDE

Cape Leeuwin lighthouse, on the southwestern tip of WA

few nights to explore the coastal cliffs and nearby Kalbarri National Park, a dramatic gorge system carved out by the Murchison River. Back on the road, detours take you out to the coast, to bucket list places such as Monkey Mia and Exmouth, where between Easter and October you’ll see the WA tourism boom in full swing. Cape Range National Park, adjacent to Exmouth, has several campgrounds, but during the season they’re usually full by lunchtime. At Barradale, halfway between Carnarvon and Karratha on the highway, there’s a large free camping area on the banks of the Yannarie River with toilets. If you take the 25km drive inland to Emu Creek Station instead, via a well-made dirt road, you can camp by a beautiful waterhole adjacent to the homestead, with firewood supplied and use of a bathroom, for $20 or so.

Camped at Emu Creek Station near Karratha, WA.

4WD&SUV LIVE THE LIFE Nature’s Window, Kalbarri NP, WA.

Boranup forest campground near Margaret River, WA.

You’re now in the Pilbara and, camping wise, things are looking up because there are more national park and crown land camping grounds in remote areas, fewer people and wonderfully dramatic, arid landscapes. Many caravaners bypass the Pilbara, hell bent on getting to Broome, but if you have the time you’ll enjoy kicking back for a day or two, camping for free at The Three Mile on the banks of the Ashburton River, 36km south of Onslow. Millstream-Chichester National Park is well set up for caravaners, with a couple of spacious campgrounds, superb scenic drives and the opportunity to take a dip or three at Deep Reach in the Fortescue River. You need a robust, outback-capable caravan to get to this park, which is 150km south east of Karratha, via a dirt road. North of Port Hedland, it’s a pretty featureless 600km run to AUSTRALIAN 4WD & SUV BUYERS GUIDE | 27

4WD&SUV LIVE THE LIFE Deep in the rainforest, Conondale NP, southeast Queensland.


4WD&SUV LIVE THE LIFE The one and only Daly Waters pub, NT.

Broome, with not much en-route except the Pardoo and Sandfire roadhouses, both of which have caravan parks. There’s a large free camp on the banks of the De Grey River, adjacent to the highway, while on the coast you can also camp at Cape Keraudren Coastal Reserve, Eighty Mile Beach and several other private campgrounds closer to Broome.

THE STUART HIGHWAY They used to call it “The Track” back in the day. The Stuart Highway was only fully sealed in the 1980s and now runs straight through the Red Centre for 2711km from Port Augusta to Darwin. Almost as soon as you leave Port Augusta, you’re in some of the driest, most forbidding country in Australia. Ephemeral salt lakes shimmer white in the distance, dots in vast, treeless plains, relieved only by low jump-ups. It’s almost post-

apocalyptically harsh country, and there’s a lot of it. Your first stop will probably be Coober Pedy, the famous opal mining town 540km north of Port Augusta. There are several caravan parks. The Oasis is a good one. Don’t miss Tom and Mary’s Greek Taverna. In the culinary desert that is outback Australia, it too is an oasis. If you’re equipped for remote area travel, head west from Coober Pedy on the Anne Beadell Highway — one of Len Beadell’s famous tracks — towards Tallaringa Conservation Park, where you can camp, wherever you like, on the fringe of the Great Victoria Desert. We camped near Tallaringa Well, 150km west of town, with a friendly camel for company. North-east of Coober Pedy, via the well-made dirt road to Oodnadatta, is Arckaringa Station, where you can camp by the homestead, with cooking facilities, fire pit and bathrooms,

Coober Pedy. There’s nowhere else quite like it.

for $20 a night. It’s a 150km trip, but worth the detour. En route, you travel across the small, totally desolate Moon Desert — a great plain covered in nothing but gibbers — while adjacent to Arckaringa is the Painted Desert, with ancient, weathered hills in a beautiful palette of sand, earth and ochre tones. At sundown, it lights up as though aflame.

Back on the highway you cross the border into the Northern Territory where the country changes to deep red as you pass the turnoff to Uluru, 250km to the west. You could easily spend a couple of weeks in Alice Springs. Don’t miss the Alice Springs Desert Park, the Old Telegraph Station or Mbantua Aboriginal AUSTRALIAN 4WD & SUV BUYERS GUIDE | 29

4WD&SUV LIVE THE LIFE Nitmiluk, also known as Katherine Gorge, NT.

Art Gallery in Todd Street. Alice has many caravan parks. The Stuart Tourist Park on Larapinta Drive is probably the most pleasant, close to town, with grassy sites and lots of shade. There are also many great places to camp and spend a few days walking in the McDonnell Ranges. Try Ross River Resort and Trephina Gorge in the East Macs, about 90km from Alice via the beautifully scenic, and sealed, Ross Highway. In the West Macs, via Larapinta Drive, Birthday Waterhole or Finke Gorge National Park camp ground are recommended, though both are accessed via 4WD-only tracks. As you continue north, there’s camping at pubs and roadhouses such as Wauchope, 115km south of Tennant Creek near the Devil’s Marbles. North of Tennant Creek, the humidity begins to rise, the roadside vegetation changes from stunted scrub to more lush, varied 30 | AUSTRALIAN 4WD & SUV BUYERS GUIDE

greenery, and you start to see crocodile warning signs wherever there’s water. Welcome to the Top End. Daly Waters pub is always an entertaining overnight stop, with powered and unpowered sites and bathrooms out the back. You’re now just 600km from Darwin, but there’s so much to see on the way that it could take you another month to get there. Don’t miss Katherine Gorge. Riverview Caravan Park, on the Victoria Highway, is a good place to stay in Katherine. There’s room to move and you can walk to the hot springs just behind the park. Further west on the Victoria Highway, 125km from Katherine, you can camp in tropical, croc-infested splendour at Flora River Nature Park, with the luxury of hot showers. Further north near Pine Creek, Umbrawarra Gorge National Park, reached via a corrugated 22km dirt road, has a small, quiet campground adjacent to a

beautiful, narrow gorge, where you can safely take a dip in one of the rock pools. At Hayes Creek, 160km south of Darwin, a friendly pub/roadhouse does Top End-style meals — huge and definitely not vegetarian, except for the mountain of chips — with a pleasant caravan/ camping area down by the creek with power and bathrooms. Soon enough, you’re cruising into Darwin. That’s if you haven’t taken a detour via Kakadu. Or Litchfield National Park. Or Mary River. Whatever. You’ll get there. Eventually…

THE EAST COAST It’s easy, and common among travellers, to treat the east coast drive as something to be endured rather than enjoyed, a long transport stage from Sydney or Melbourne to the “real Australia” up north. The trick to enjoying an east coast trek is to find quiet,

uncrowded places to camp close to Highway One. This is always difficult in holiday periods and in Queensland’s May-August touring season, but at other times it’s no problem at all. The NSW South Coast from Eden to Sydney has some of the most beautiful coastal scenery in Australia, especially close to the Victorian border. Take the Tathra-Bermagui Road, where there’s caravan camping at Gillards in Mimosa Rocks National Park, or unpowered sites at Hobart Beach in Bournda National Park, south of Tathra. It’s a slow trip up the Princes Highway, which carries a lot of traffic but has very few dual-lane sections until you reach Kiama. Take the M7 to get around Sydney and you’ll soon be on the Pacific Highway, or the M1 as it’s now called, for the easy but heavilytrafficked 150km run north to Newcastle. When you cross the Hunter River at Hexham, the

4WD&SUV LIVE THE LIFE One of the most beautiful spots on the NSW north coast, South West Rocks.

Gainfully occupied doing not much. Mungo Brush, Myall Lakes NP, NSW

dual-lane freeway continues for another 240km to Port Macquarie. En route, try Mungo Brush campground in Myall Lakes National Park, near Hawks Nest, Diamond or Indian Head campgrounds in Crowdy Bay National Park, south of Laurieton, or Swans Crossing campground, deep in the Kerewong State Forest, 18km from Lorne, just south of Port Macquarie. Further north, South West Rocks Caravan Park occupies

prime real estate — on the beach, opposite the pub — while there’s also beautiful beachside camping at Arakoon, 15km from town. Brooms Head and Iluka, between Grafton and Ballina, also offer camping in small, quiet villages. Across the border into Queensland, clearing the feral traffic of the Gold Coast-Brisbane strip, you’re on the Bruce Highway, which is a dual-lane freeway to Cooroy and a two-lane road north of there.

Conondale National Park near Kenilworth has wonderful forest camping, walking and swimming, while the Kenilworth showground is a popular place for caravaners who want to be near civilisation. You need a 4WD to drive into Deepwater National Park, south of Agnes Water, where you can camp behind the beach at Middle Rock and feel like you’re a million miles from anywhere. Rockhampton has some fantastic colonial architecture,

and a night at the Great Western Hotel is recommended, especially if there’s a rodeo happening in the pub’s indoor arena. The pleasant Riverside Caravan Park is just on the other side of the Fitzroy River from town, so you can set up the van, walk across the bridge and explore Rocky. The temperature starts to rise as you head further north into the tropics, but you can escape the heat at Eungella National Park, high on the edge of the Clarke Range, 80km west of Mackay via the pretty Pioneer Valley and Finch Hatton Gorge, where a tough, steep walk is rewarded with a swim in the chilly rockpools at the top of the gorge. It’s an extremely tight, steep drive up the range; once you’re there, camp near Broken River, where the platypus come out to play in the morning and evening. Eungella Chalet, perched on the edge of the escarpment, is a great spot for lunch. Bowen has several caravan parks, the pick being Tropical Beach. Bowen itself is developing fast, but still has a small town charm and a pretty languid vibe. I can also recommend the Beachcomber Coconut Caravan AUSTRALIAN 4WD & SUV BUYERS GUIDE | 31

4WD&SUV LIVE THE LIFE World Heritage rainforest near Cape Tribulation, far north Queensland.

road van to get there, but the campground is sublime and the scenery even more so. • Cape Trib camping. Do it deluxe on this beautiful part of the coast and enjoy the World Heritage forests. • The opportunity to leave Highway One and check out the nearby national park camping sites. You could find a well-kept secret.


Mr XXXX on the Commercial Hotel, Rockhampton, Qld.

Village at South Mission Beach as a great spot to hole up out of season, when it’s a very sleepy joint. The beach itself is fringed by coconut palms, picture postcard-style, the walk to Kennedy Bay is spectacular and stinger nets are put up in summer, so you can loll about in the (very) warm water, or hire a tinnie and head across the channel to Dunk Island. Our final favourite camping spot before Cooktown is Cape Trib Camping, a wonderful beachfront campground, sheltered from the strong easterly winds that blow up here, with powered and unpowered 32 | AUSTRALIAN 4WD & SUV BUYERS GUIDE

Azure Kingfisher, Cape Tribulation NP.

That depends entirely upon which direction you’re going and when. Avoid the centre during summer — leave it to the snakes and the flies. Up north, the wet season usually starts late November/early December and continues to late March/ early April. School holidays bring the crowds to the east and west coasts, as does the peak touring season of April-August.


sites, a bar and pizza restaurant. It’s on the popular coastal road that runs north of Daintree, after you cross the river on the ferry, then up to Cape Tribulation. The coastal rainforest walks here are easy and absolutely gorgeous. North of Cape Trib, the Bloomfield River now has a flash bridge across it, so you no longer have to wait for an outgoing tide, but the Bloomfield Track still has some rough, steep dirt sections that make it unsuitable for large caravans. You can instead easily retrace your route to Mossman, then head up the Rex Range to Mount Molloy and take the sealed

225km Mulligan Highway up to Cooktown, where you have several caravan parks to choose from. The Cooktown Holiday Park (Big4) is close to town and the pick of them. You’ve done 3440km since Eden, so you’re entitled to a few days off. After that, well, if you’re keen and you’ve got the right gear, there’s always Cape York…

MUST SEE • Kalbarri, a beautiful small town on the WA coast with wonderful walks along the cliffs and in Kalbarri National Park. • Finke Gorge National Park. You need a 4WD and an off-

• All camping in national parks in Queensland now has to be prebooked and pre-paid, either online, for which you need to set up an account, by phone, at a self-service kiosk or over the counter at a national park office. You have to nominate your site at the time of booking. • On the Pacific Highway in northern NSW, between Port Macquarie and Ballina, you’ll be driving through extensive roadworks as part of the plan to upgrade the highway to duallane carriageway. Speed limits here are usually 60-80km/h. • Given the vast distances between towns in some parts of WA, the state government has established a network of roadside rest areas on the main highways, where you are allowed to stay for up to 24 hours for free. Most have toilets, some have effluent and rubbish disposal, tables and shelter.

ONLINE Western Australia Stuart Highway East Coast


Built for adventure included

7” ALL ROAD GPS To suit all vehicles

Built-in Dash Cam



Phone: 1300 55 55 14

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Buy direct or from participating Automotive Accessory outlets


New models in this issue include Audi Q5, Foton Tunland, Honda CRV, Land Rover Discovery, MG GS, Skoda Kodiaq, Subaru XV, Tesla Model X and Volvo XC60 TEST INDEX 36 Audi Q2 37 Audi Q3 38 Audi Q5 39 Audi Q7 40 Bentley Bentayga 41 BMW X1 42 BMW X3 43 BMW X6 44 BMW X5 46 Citroen Cactus 47 Dodge RAM 48 Fiat 500X 49 Ford Everest 50 Ford Ranger 52 Ford Ecosport 53 Ford Escape 54 Foton Tunland 55 Holden Trax 56 Holden Captiva 57 Holden Trailblazer 58 Holden Colorado


59 Honda HRV

85 Mazda CX-3

60 Honda CRV

86 Mazda CX-5

61 Hyundai Tucson

87 Mazda CX-9

62 Hyundai Santa Fe

88 Mercedes-Benz GLA Class

63 Isuzu D-Max

89 Mercedes-Benz GLC Class

64 Isuzu MU-X

90 Mercedes-Benz GLE Class

65 Jaguar F-Pace

91 Mercedes-Benz GLS Class

66 Jeep Cherokee

92 Mercedes-Benz G Class

68 Jeep Grand Cherokee

93 MG GS

70 Jeep Wrangler

94 Mini Countryman

73 Jeep Renegade

95 Mitsubishi ASX

74 Kia Sportage

96 Mitsubishi Triton

75 Kia Sorento

98 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport

76 Land Rover Discovery Sport

99 Mitsubishi Outlander

77 Land Rover Discovery

100 Mitsubishi Pajero

78 Lexus NX 79 Lexus RX 80 Lexus LX 81 Maserati Levante 82 Mazda BT50

102 Nissan Navara

114 Range Rover Sport

123 Subaru Outback

130 Toyota Prado

103 Nissan Juke

116 Range Rover

124 Suzuki Ignis

132 Toyota RAV4

104 Nissan Qashqai

118 Renault Captur

125 Suzuki Vitara

133 Toyota Kluger

105 Nissan PathďŹ nder

119 Renault Koleos

126 Suzuki Grand Vitara

134 Toyota 70 Series

106 Nissan Patrol

120 Skoda Kodiaq

127 Tesla Model X


108 Nissan X-Trail

121 Subaru XV

128 Toyota HiLux

136 Toyota 200 Series

109 Porsche Cayenne

122 Subaru Forester

129 Toyota Fortuner


110 Porsche Macan

138 Toyota C-HR

112 Range Rover Evoque

139 Volkswagen Tiguan 140 Volkswagen Amarok 142 Volkswagen Touareg 144 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack 145 Volvo XC60 146 Volvo XC90

Telstra Model X; P127


AUDI Q2 FROM $41,100


he Audi Q2 already looks awfully close to becoming Australia’s most desirable premium small SUV. Like it says on the tin, the Q2 is one size smaller than Audi’s already-popular Q3, being engineered on the VW Polo/ Audi A1 small car platform. The new Audi SUV isn’t cheap, with a starting price of $41,100 for the base Q2 1.4 TFSI. This model has a 110kW turbocharged petrol four-cylinder engine, driving the front wheels via a seven-speed double-clutch automatic. It’s a great little engine, with cylinder-on-demand technology that automatically and imperceptibly shuts down two cylinders under light throttle loads to save fuel. Consumption is a claimed 5.2L/100km. A Q2 2.0 TDI quattro with 110kW turbodiesel four, sevenspeed double-clutch auto and Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system, is priced at $47,900. A range-topper, the Q2 2.0 TFSI quattro with 140kW of power, will arrive shortly. As we went to

press, Audi was still to release Australian pricing for this model. The Q2’s drivetrains mimic the best-selling versions of the Q3, so performance is similar, but the smaller Audi is a much more persuasive package. “Polygonal Design” is the name invented for the Q2’s creased and chamfered exterior style. Compared to the blobby and anonymous Q3 it has more character and, to most eyes, much greater visual appeal. However, those good looks don’t compromise the Q2’s practicality. Although 20cm shorter than the Q3 overall, the wheelbase of the Q2 is only 5mm less. So there’s little difference in passenger compartment space. What’s more, the Q2’s bigger and better-shaped rear doors offer easier access to the rear seats. Where the Q2 does lose is in cargo space; there’s around 50 litres less room behind the rear seat. The Q2 is one of the more entertaining small SUVs to drive. Audi’s engineers have given it nice direct, electric-assisted

steering and it feels agile from behind the wheel. Both the 110kW engines deliver strong performance by class standards. Keen drivers will find the front-drive 1.4 TFSI sometimes scrabbles for grip accelerating out of tighter corners. Still, despite having a simpler and cheaper twist-beam rear suspension, it’s a slightly better drive than the more costly 2.0 TDI. The turbodiesel engine isn’t as quiet or elastically responsive as the smaller turbopetrol. And while the 2.0 TDI’s standard quattro system enhances traction, the costly multilink rear suspension that comes with it doesn’t appreciably improve handling. Tyre noise, however, was a little more obvious in the 1.4 TFSI. The interior of the Q2 is typical Audi, which means the best quality in the business. The Design (1.4 TFSI) and Sport (2.0 TDI and 2.0 TFSI) interior trim themes add both colour and personalisation options to an already very

impressive environment. The Q2 doesn’t lack for tech. Autonomous emergency braking and a high-grade infotainment system are standard. Other advanced safety, driveraid and entertainment systems, including Audi’s brilliant Virtual Cockpit instrument display, Audi Connect with Google search functionality, radar cruise control with automatic stop and go and lane keeping, are mostly listed as optional extras, and as is usually the case with Audi, you can easily empty your wallet on the vast options list. But even without costly options, the Q2 stands out in an increasingly crowded compact SUV field. As it should, given the premium prices being asked. It’s worth noting that VW will have its own compact SUV in production by 2018, based on the T-Roc concept and with much of the same engineering as the Q2, but at much cheaper prices.


By John Carey

THINGS WE LIKE  Doesn’t look like a box  Interior space, quality and technology  Agile handling  Base-model 1.4-litre turbopetrol engine

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  Expensive for a small SUV  It’s VW Group engineering, so potential reliability issues  Diesel sound  Tyre noise  Options prices

SPEX (1.4 TFSi)  



Safety ANCAP Performance Handling Quality and reliability

Made in Germany 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol/ seven-speed S Tronic/front-wheel drive 110kW of power at 5000rpm/250Nm of torque from 1500–3500rpm 0–100km/h in 8.5 seconds (claimed) Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres 4.6L/100km highway; 6.3L/100km city; 95 octane premium; CO2 emissions are 119g/km Standard: Stability control, six airbags, Pre-Sense with pedestrian detection, automatic low-speed emergency braking, MMI infotainment, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, navigation, Bluetooth, voice control Redbook future values: 3yr: 59%; 5yr: 45%

Comfort and refinement Value for money

compare with ...


Fiat 500X, Honda HRV, Mazda CX3, Renault Captur, Toyota C-HR


AUDI Q3 FROM $42,900



he Audi Q3 range opens with the 110kW 1.4-litre turbopetrol TFSi, with a sixspeed twin-clutch S-Tronic transmission and front-wheel drive, priced at $42,900. Quattro all-wheel-drive models start with the 110kW 2.0-litre turbodiesel/seven-speed S-Tronic TDi at $48,500. The high-performance 2.0-litre turbodiesel, with 135kW, is priced at $57,500. The Q3’s 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine is the successor to the EA189 that got VW into such a mess. It is not subject to any legality issues. The 132kW 2.0-litre turbopetrol TFSi seven-speed S-Tronic quattro is $52,900. The 280kW 2.5-litre fivecylinder turbopetrol RS Q3 tops

STARS Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement

the range at $81,510. It takes on the Mercedes AMG GLA45. The numbers suggest that you’re not that much better off if you choose the more powerful version of the 2.0-litre turbodiesel, particularly in real-world driving. It’s got a sizeable power advantage but this is at pretty high revs, where you rarely go in a turbodiesel. Its 60Nm torque advantage (380Nm vs 320Nm) can be felt more readily in the midrange, but the base engine is impressively tractable. The 135kW engine develops a smooth, sweet, free-revving nature from 3000–5000rpm and S-Tronic is more responsive, though in Sport mode it often holds a selected lower gear for too long. That said, having driven at least 50 VW Group cars with the six- and seven-speed dual-clutch

transmissions, each one seems to have its own idiosyncrasies. Call it character. Ride comfort is fine on standard 17-inch wheels. A second test car, on optional 19s, was terrible. The ride was lumpy around town and occasionally crashy and harsh, causing body shake on particularly severe bumps. The electric steering offers no road feel, has a vague, disconnected character and is prone to constant, annoying kickback on rough surfaces. The dash features Audi’s MMI media interface, here with the optional navigation system and a pop-up screen. It’s not the fastest navigation system in the world and you can sometimes actually be past your turn before an instruction is given. Moving around the MMI

system with the rotary cursor knob, which is located here in a vertical position on the dash rather than on the flat centre console between the front seats, is also quite counterintuitive. The back seat has a firm, flat, comfortable cushion that suits child restraints.Two conventional anchors can be found on the seat back and two sets of Isofix mounts are also provided. Legroom is on the tight side but most adults will be able to travel comfortably. The Q3’s coupe-like rear styling compromises boot volume, so although the floor is reasonably large, you can’t carry that much stuff and in extended mode it’s not flat. The Q3 is expensive, especially when you consider that the same engineering DNA with a VW Tiguan badge — and a larger, next-generation platform and body — can be had for less. The next Q3, underpinned by this architecture, is due in the first half of 2018.


THINGS WE LIKE  Class-leading quality and a beautifully assembled interior  All four engines are excellent in performance and economy  High resale values

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Expensive Vague, remote-control steering Steering kickback on rough roads Too many expensive options Hard ride on optional 19-inch wheels High servicing costs and some reliability issues

SPEX (2.0TDI quattro S-Tronic) Made in Spain 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel/ seven-speed automated manual/ all-wheel drive 135kW of power at 3500rpm/380Nm of torque from 1800–3250rpm 0–100km/h in 7.9 seconds (claimed) 4.7L/100km highway; 6.5L/100km city; CO2 emissions are 141g/km Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres The 135kW 2.0TDi quattro includes stability control, six airbags, 18-inch alloy wheels, parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, roof rails, dual-zone air, Bluetoooth with audio streaming, fake and real leather upholstery Redbook future values: 3yr: 57%; 5yr: 43%

Value for money

compare with ...


BMW X1, Mazda CX-5, Mercedes GLA, Mini Countryman, VW Tiguan



AUDI Q5 FROM $65,900

worth paying an extra $4000 for air suspension, which allows you to dial up an exceptionally comfortable ride. Gripes include the high cost of desirable options, the lack of manual gearbox availability, no full-size spare and … that’s about it. So this latest Q5 is a fiercely capable, car-like luxury medium SUV that — with the right extras — pushes class boundaries. Don’t buy a BMW X3, Jaguar F Pace or Mercedes GLC before driving this first. If only Audi’s designers were as bold as its visionary engineers.


oday’s Audi Q5 might seem barely changed since the original in 2009, but there’s exciting new stuff underneath its almost the same skin. Kicking off from $65,900 for the 2.0-litre TDI diesel quattro and $73,211 for the 2.0-litre TFSI petrol quattro Sport, the secondgeneration Q5 has switched to the Volkswagen Group luxury brand’s high-tech MLB modular transverse architecture, also underpinning the latest A4. The upshot is a significantly lighter yet stronger body than before, the adoption of sophisticated five-link independent suspension (with optional air springs for a smooth, supple ride — something the previous Q5 struggled with) and enough driver-assist safety to make a Volvo engineer blush. Clean surfaces, obsessive quality, precision shutlines — all are expected Audi hallmarks, yet the Q5 ups the ante anyway with a spacious and airy cabin boasting designer textures, exquisite materials, cocooning silence and exceptional tactility. Thankfully there is actual depth behind the dazzle, as

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revealed by supportive seating, thoughtful ergonomics (once the time is taken to learn the fiddly steering-wheel controls), superb ventilation and properly familyfriendly practicality. Function is on equal footing with form in the back seat too, with ample room, shapely cushions and individual climate controls. However, the absence of sliding/reclining rear backrests is an oversight, though that’s part of a $2500 Comfort pack that also boosts the sumptuously finished cargo area’s capacity by 60 litres to 610 litres. Air-suspended models introduce a ‘kneel down’ function that drops the body for easier loading. It also raises the body for extra ground clearance when the terrain becomes (slightly) more challenging. However, it is the Q5’s car-like ability to traverse regular roads that is most remarkable, starting with the 185kW/370Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol Sport, as tested, priced at $73,500. Eager off the mark and hungry for revs, this Teflon-smooth powertrain is a pure and punchy delight, defined by instant and broad throttle responses. Paired


to a quick-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, it’s also frugal to boot, helped out by stop/start as well as Audi’s standard fuel-saving ‘quattro ultra’ all-wheel-drive system; it decouples whichever axle isn’t required to maximise efficiency. Even greater economy is possible by opting for the 140kW/400Nm 2.0-litre four-pot turbo-diesel, priced at $70,700, that’s capable of 5.5L/100km. If performance is a priority, the flagship $99,611 SQ5’s 260kW/560Nm 3.0L turbo V6 petrol launches it to 100km/h in just 5.4 seconds. The Q5 is one of the besthandling SUVs on the road, delivering controlled, agile dynamics combined with rocksolid roadholding. While more feel would be welcome, the steering remains beautifully alert. The driver can alter its weighting via the Drive Mode selector that also adjusts the suspension’s dampers to comfort or sport. If you select a Sport-grade Q5, with 20-inch wheels, adaptive cruise, LED headlights, racier seats and Audi’s showy digital ‘Virtual Cockpit’ instrumentation among other goodies, it’s also

By Byron Mathioudakis

THINGS WE LIKE  Sporty, agile handling  Muscular performance with low fuel consumption  Exceptional interior design and presentation  Luxury ride with air suspension option  Practical cargo area

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Expensive options Previous model had reliability issues Firm ride without air suspension Adjustable rear bench should be standard No full-sized spare

SPEX (2.0 TFSi) Made in Mexico 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol/ seven-speed auto/all-wheel drive 185kW of power from 5000-600rpm/370Nm of torque from 1600-4500rpm 0-100km in 7.3 seconds (claimed) 6.4L/100km highway; 8.8L/100km city; 95 octane premium; CO² emissions are 167g/km; fuel tank is 70 litres Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres Max towing weight: 2400kg Standard: Eight airbags, stability control, AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking), cross traffic assist, blind spot monitoring, rear camera, parking sensors, Virtual Cockpit, leather, navigation, threezone air, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Bluetooth, voice control, WiFi hotspot, digital radio, tyre-pressure monitoring, adaptive dampers, power tailgate, 18-inch alloy wheels, collapsible space-saver spare Redbook future values: 3yr: 59%; 5yr: 44%

Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall


compare with ... BMW X3, Jaguar F-Pace, Land Rover Discovery Sport, MercedesBenz GLC, Porsche Macan, Range Rover Velar, Volvo XC60

AUDI Q7 FROM $96,855


adjustable fore and aft, while the outboard sections have a fold-andflip feature that makes getting to the rear seats easier. Split 50:50, the reasonably roomy third-row seat is electrically operated, as is the tailgate. All rear seats have Isofix child restraint anchors. The dash is elegant and logical and the front seats are supportive and comfortable. A 360-degree helicopter camera-view display on the centre screen, Audi’s latest selfparking system and warnings for cross traffic when reversing out of a parking space are just some of the highlights of the Q7’s standard equipment list. However, the options list is long and nothing on it is cheap. This is nothing new, but what has changed with this second-generation Q7 is that it’s impossible to ignore if you’re shopping in the seven-seater luxury SUV class.


By John Carey


udi’s second-generation Q7 is a huge improvement over the first. That model’s whalelike scale made it a daunting vehicle to drive in the city and its high weight meant it had the handling agility of a humpback. The new Q7 is only slightly shorter and a fraction narrower, but Audi’s engineers found ways to shed around 300kg without affecting strength or compromising occupant safety. The Q7 is now among the more pleasant large, premium SUVs to drive. There’s little steering feel, a trait common to the breed, but the Audi copes gracefully with corners, ride comfort is very good and noise levels are low. The Q7 — in this guise at least — doesn’t pretend to be a sportster and this is to its credit. Audi’s engineers

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offer the 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel with 160kW/500Nm, priced at $96,855, or 200kW/600Nm, priced at $104,855, and the engine complies with the Euro 6 emissions standard. This means the Q7 has a 12L tank for AdBlue fluid, a urea solution. This is periodically squirted into the exhaust to neutralise oxides of nitrogen, a pollutant produced by the diesel combustion process. The AdBlue reservoir will need infrequent replenishment, typically at service time. If too much grunt is never enough, the SQ7, at $153,616, offers a twin turbo 4.0-litre V8 diesel with 320kW of power and an earth-shaking 900Nm of torque.

The 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel is hardly underdone, though. It’s smooth, muscular and quiet, a perfect blend of everyday attributes for a big SUV. Rapid acceleration and remarkably low consumption are similarly impressive and the entire drivetrain, including the eight-speed auto and updated quattro all-wheel-drive system, is quite classy engineering. The Q7 is available only in seven-seat form. This gives the Audi an advantage over the BMW X5 with its optional, and very squeezy, third row, and the Mercedes-Benz GLE, a five-seater. The centre row is split 35:30:35, with each section individually

THINGS WE LIKE  Seven seats standard  Interior quality and versatility  Strong, refined, frugal drivetrain  New-found agility and poise


It’s still a huge thing to manoeuvre Ho-hum exterior styling Painful options prices Potential reliability issues

SPEX (200kW version) Made in Slovakia 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel/eight-speed automatic/all-wheel drive 200kW of power from 3250–4250rpm/600Nm of torque from 1500–3000rpm 0–100km/h in 6.5 seconds (claimed) Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres Max towing weight 3500kg 5.6L/100km highway; 6.4L/100km city; CO2 emissions are 153g/km. Fuel tank 75 litres. Standard: Six airbags, stability control, 19-inch alloy wheels, tyre pressure indicator, 360-degree top-view camera, automatic parking, cross traffic alert, leather, power tailgate, dual-zone air, drive select, MMI infotainment with Bluetooth, digital radio, smartphone integration and navigation. Redbook future values: 3yr: 52%; 5yr: 38%

compare with ... BMW X5, Land Rover Discovery Mercedes M and GL Class, Volvo XC90




f you need proof the world has gone mad for SUVs, look no further. The Bentley Bentayga is, for now, the most extreme and expensive mutation of the breed. The Bentayga is based on the Audi Q7, with Bentley acquired by Germany’s Volkswagen-Audi Group in 1998. The 4.0-litre twin turbodiesel V8 Bentayga, with 320kW of power and 900Nm of torque, costs $335,000. The Q7 with the same drivetrain costs less than half that. Unique to Bentayga is a 447kW/900Nm, 6.0-litre twin turbopetrol W12, priced at $427,300. Bentayga also has the dubious honour of having the world’s most expensive option. A Breitling clock on the dash costs close to an extra $300,000. There is already a digital clock in the car’s instrument display. Bentley claims Breitling can only build four of these particular in-car clocks each year. Maybe they’re still learning … Other options include a $55,000 picnic hamper, a $10,000

STARS Safety Not yet tested Performance

leather-lined child seat and $6500 for a dog cage in the back. You can design your own colour scheme for your Bentayga, with exterior satin paint, in any colour your like, adding just $70,293. Radar cruise control is part of a $17,057 “touring” pack, while shag pile floor mats are $1066. A cigarette lighter is $1269. It’s all a bit ridiculous, really. You can order your Bentayga as a four- or five-seater. Either way, you get the full London gentleman’s club lounge treatment with quilted leather upholstery — the finest bull hides, apparently, sourced only from cool climates (no sweat stains …), naturally tanned and never overprinted. It also includes 22-way adjustable front seats with a six-mode massage system, highly polished metal on the dash, centre console and doors, and your choice of seven different timber veneers. The twin-turbo 6.0-litre W12 uses two V6s mounted back to

back in the shape of a W rather than a V. Paired with an eightspeed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, it’s one of the key reasons Bentley can move 2.4 tonnes rather quickly. Bentayga has a claimed top speed of 301km/h, making it the world’s fastest SUV. For now … We tested Bentley’s claimed 0 to 100km/h time of 4.1 seconds and were gobsmacked when our timing equipment flashed up with 4.2 seconds. That’s comparable with the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S. Funny thing is, the Bentayga does not feel particularly fast. Layers of sound-deadening make the whole experience almost hush quiet, and the smoothness of the engine means the power doesn’t build like a crescendo; it’s instantaneous. The next surprise that defies the senses is the Bentayga’s razor-sharp cornering ability — for a 2.4-tonne SUV, that is. The massive 22-inch wheels

wrapped in sticky Pirelli P Zero tyres work wonders, as does the well-sorted air suspension. Downsides? There is still a question mark about reliability on any vehicle made by Volkswagen which, in the end, this is. Our test car, a pre-production model, had an error warning light for the suspension but we were assured nothing was wrong and it drove OK. If it’s any consolation, customers get free business-class travel to their destination if the car breaks down under warranty. I went into the Bentley Bentayga with low expectations and came away dumbfounded by its breadth of capability — with the exception of actually taking it off-road. It only has a space-saver spare. For all its merits, however, you can’t rationalise such an insane price. And as for the options, well, if you have so much money that the concept of value is entirely meaningless, go right ahead.


By Joshua Dowling

THINGS WE LIKE  Agile handling for such a huge beast  Awesome acceleration  Luxurious massage seats with cooling and heating




Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money $$$$ Overall $


The price is absurd No full-size spare Stodgy, old-school design It’s a VW, so reliability could be iffy


Made in England 6.0-litre twin turbopetrol W12/eightspeed automatic/all-wheel drive 447kW of power at 5250rpm/900Nm of torque from 1250–4500rpm 0–100km/h in 4.1 seconds (claimed) 9.6L/100km highway; 19.0L/100km city; 98 octane premium; CO2 emissions are 296g/km; fuel tank 85 litres Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres Max towing weight 3500kg Standard: Stability control, six airbags, blind spot monitoring, 21-inch alloys, heated and cooled seats with massage function, leather, sunroof, Bluetooth, navigation, tri-zone air Redbook future values: 3yr: 55%; 5yr: 40%

compare with ... Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Range Rover Autobiography

BMW X1 FROM $50,600


particularly in the front-wheeldrive versions. The taller body rolls more, the steering is less tactile and the front driver isn’t quite as well balanced either. The optional Dynamic Damper Control system fitted to the test car was very soft in Comfort mode — perhaps too soft for comfort on poor-quality country roads in Australia. Selecting Sport brought an improvement in discipline and tautness while maintaining excellent ride comfort. If the lesser models in the new X1 range are as good as the topspec xDrive 25i, the premium compact SUV class is now a very close call indeed. Drive this, the Mercedes GLA, Mini Countryman and VW Tiguan before making your final decision.



he second-generation BMW X1 shares much of its core technology, including its basic structure, with the latest versions of the Mini (a brand that is owned by BMW) as well as BMW’s 2 Series Active Tourer. The range opens with the sDrive 18d at $50,600. The sDrive20i is $53,600 and the xDrive25i is $60,700. Popular sDrive versions are front-wheel drive instead of rearwheel drive. xDrive variants use an all-wheel drivetrain. So the latest X1 may be technically heretical in the eyes of long-term BMW loyalists, but it’s likely that compact SUV buyers will embrace it. The advantages of the new direction are plain to see, especially inside the car. Penned by young, Sydneyborn designer Calvin Luk, the second-generation X1 is better proportioned and with the space-efficient crossways engine/front-wheel-drive layout,

STARS Safety ANCAP Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall

BMW’s smallest SUV now has a much more comfortable, bright and spacious interior than the previous model did. As in the 2 Series Active Tourer, the tall body means high seating and ample headroom in all five positions. Raising the seats has also benefited legroom. The standard 40:20:40 split bench in the rear is very spacious, even for tall adults. At the same time, the X1’s cargo bay has a little more than 500 litres behind its second-row seat, so the new BMW has much more space than both its natural rivals, the Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA. Power is provided by turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol and diesel fours from BMW’s new family of modular engines. The front-drive sDrive 18d and 20i have 110kW turbodiesel and 141kW turbopetrol engines respectively. The all-wheeldrive xDrive 20d and 25i get 140kW turbodiesel and 170kW

turbopetrol power respectively. All engines are teamed exclusively with an eight-speed automatic. At the international launch of the new X1 in Europe, there was only one version relevant to the Australian market, the xDrive 25i, so that’s what we’ll focus on here. Although a little grumbly at low revs, the top-spec 2.0-litre turbopetrol four is eager to please, with a pleasantly raspy note when pushed. At the top end, it doesn’t quite feel like the full 170kW worth but it is exceptionally frugal. The eight-speed auto cooperates well with the engine, shifting slickly and at the right time. The BMW’s handling in allwheel-drive models is pleasantly predictable and the electricassist steering guides the X1 with precision. Drive goes to the front wheels, with the rears engaged only when required. Outright dynamic ability, especially in tighter corners, isn’t quite up to the very high standard of the previous model,

By John Carey

THINGS WE LIKE  Nicely proportioned exterior design  Heaps of interior space  Good materials, fit and finish quality  Secure, predictable handling  Strong performance of 25i

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  No more rear-wheel-drive option  Less fun and profit on a winding road  Some work needed on optional adjustable dampers  Has lost some steering feel

SPEX (xDrive 25i) Made in Germany 2.0-litre turbopetrol four-cylinder/ eight-speed automatic/all-wheel drive 170kW of power at 5000–6000rpm/350Nm of torque from 1250–4500rpm 0–100km/h in 6.5 seconds (claimed) Weight 1615kg; max towing weight 2000kg (only 80kg max towball download, though) Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres 5.8L/100km highway; 7.8L/100km city; 95 octane premium; CO2 emissions are 152g/km Standard: Six airbags, stability control, dual zone air, automatic emergency braking, camera, rear parking sensors, rain sensing wipers, iDrive with 8.8-inch display, navigation, Bluetooth and voice activation, smartphone connectivity, leather, head-up display, 18-inch alloy wheels. Redbook future values: 3yr: 55%; 5yr: 42%

compare with ... Audi Q3, Mini Countryman, Mercedes GLA, Range Rover Evoque, VW Tiguan


BMW X3 FROM $63,800


MW’s X3, introduced in early 2011, is due for replacement in early 2018 by an all-new model. The current X3 lineup opens with the xDrive 20i, priced at $63,800. It runs BMW’s 2.0-litre directinjection turbopetrol four-cylinder with a standard eight-speed automatic. The engine produces 135kW of power, 270Nm of torque and averages 7.5L/100km. The xDrive20d is priced at $67,800. As is often the case with BMW, it’s this model that looks like the pick of the range. It runs a 2.0-litre turbodiesel with 140kW and 400Nm. Average fuel consumption is just 5.4L/100km and it will reach the 100km/h mark in a claimed time of 8.1 seconds. The xDrive30d, at $81,000, runs the 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbodiesel with 190kW and 560Nm. It’s the quickest variant, taking just 6.2 seconds to 100km/h, while fuel consumption averages 6.0L/100km.

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The X4, pictured below, has a high riding coupe-style body on X3 architecture. So you lose a bit of cargo volume and rear seat headroom and prices are considerably higher, though you do get more standard equipment in the X4, plus the option of six-cylinder turbopetrol power from BMW’s lovely 3.0-litre stright six. X4 prices start at $72,900 for the xDrive20i. The xDrive 20d is $77,000, the 230kW 3.0-litre xDrive 35d is $91,200 and the xDrive35i, with the 225kW 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbopetrol, exclusive to the X4, is also priced at $91,200. BMW’s Efficient Dynamics technologies contribute to the excellent fuel efficiency across all models. Automatic stop/start is standard while brake energy regeneration and electric power steering also help save fuel. The base suspension delivers agile handling and excellent body control. BMW also offers optional adjustable dampers, variable

power distribution to individual wheels and variable ratio steering as options, all of which are of questionable value. BMW claims the largest load area in the class, but with the back seats up or folded flat, there’s nothing in it between the X3 and Audi’s Q5. While the 28i and 30d certainly give you more bang for your bucks, the base 20i turbopetrol and 20d turbodiesel deliver all the performance you can use on a daily basis, in large part because the eight-speed automatic is so efficient. The 20i has remarkable low-down pulling power for a petrol engine, with its maximum torque produced at a diesellike 1250rpm. It’s smooth, economical and responsive. However, the automatic stop/ start system on the test car was very abrupt and intrusive. Each time the car restarted, it did so with an almighty jolt. It’s the most agricultural auto stop/start

system I’ve experienced in any car. You can turn it off, but that’s hardly the point. The X3 has always been a great handler and this model is, too. Runflat tyres, though, make the X3’s ride harsh around town, where Audi’s Q5 is much more comfortable. Interior fit and finish quality is comparable with the X5 but the leather is fake, not real. Rear seat space is OK for most people and the flat cushion and backrest offer good support for child restraints. The boot is a large, versatile space with a power tailgate and low floor that’s easy to load and extendable in a 40/20/40 configuration. The current X3 remains a competitive player in this class, but at comparable prices you now have a raft of newer rivals to test drive as well, before you make a decision. These include Audi’s Q5, Land Rover’s Discovery Sport, Jaguar’s F-Pace and the Mercedes GLC, while Skoda’s Kodiaq and its VW Tiguan twin are also great value in this company.


THINGS WE LIKE Base 2.0-litre models are excellent value Spacious, versatile interior Great handling for an SUV Well equipped

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Automatic stop/start needs a lot of work Runflat tyres murder ride comfort Adults sit a bit knees-up in the back

SPEX (20i) Made in the USA 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol/eight-speed automatic/all-wheel drive 135kW of power from 5000–6250rpm/270Nm of torque from 1250–4500rpm 0–100km/h in 8.6 seconds (claimed) 6.7L/100km highway; 8.9L/100km city; 95 octane premium; CO2 emissions are 175g/km Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres Standard: Six airbags, stability control, fake leather upholstery, Bluetooth, USB port, iPod connectivity, navigation, rear-view camera, 18-inch alloys, dual zone air, front and rear parking sensors Redbook future values: 3yr: 56%; 5yr: 40%

Comfort and refinement Value for money

compare with ...


Audi Q5, Jaguar F Pace, M-B GLC, Volkswagen Tiguan, Volvo XC60


BMW X6 FROM $122,200


ince 2008, BMW’s controversially styled X6 has set class standards in performance and handling. What it loses out to the closely related X5 in space and practicality, the divisive design icon makes up for in attitude and individuality. The cheapest X6 is the $122,200 xDrive30d, powered by a 190kW 3.0-litre turbodiesel driving all four wheels — like the rest of the range — via an eightspeed automatic transmission. Priced from $133,800, the xDrive40d produces 230kW from its 3.0-litre twin-turbo sixcylinder diesel. The $156,100 xDrive50i features a 330kW 4.4-litre twinturbopetrol V8, with the $162,200 M50d extracting 280kW (and a remarkable 740Nm) from a triple-turbo iteration of the 3.0-litre diesel unit. Top of the heap is the $198,200 M Coupe, with the 4.4-litre twin turbo V8 tuned for a berserk 423kW and 750Nm. This BMW’s ability to iron out

STARS Safety Not yet tested Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement

mountains could make Flat Earth believers out of all of us. Diesels first. The base xDrive30d 3.0-litre straight-six turbodiesel is matched to what may be the greatest automatic transmission available today, ZF’s creamy-smooth eight-speeder. Together, they miraculously overcome the hunchbacked Bimmer’s nearly 2.1-tonne mass to move it off the line with rabid rapidness. The velocity ferocity steps up with even greater urgency as each extra turbo is wedded seamlessly to that ferociously flexible 3.0-litre diesel, culminating in the explosively instant overtaking capability of the 740Nm triple turbo M50d monster. Such split-second acceleration gratification might render the petrol X6s redundant, except for the fact that the richly melodic turbo-V8 xDrive50i feels almost too breakneck in its ability to reel in the scenery so forcefully, with a Porsche 911-rivalling sprint time of 4.8 seconds.

And if you’re exceptionally time-poor and asset-rich, the X6 M will clip the 0–100km/h ticket in just 4.2 seconds. Nobody will confuse the X6 for a Golf GTI, but the standard Servotronic electric-power steering offers surprising levels of feel and feedback, making for an enjoyable, predictable and greathandling vehicle. Of more mundane but ultimately frustrating concern is the jittery ride quality on all but the very smoothest of roads. Throw in ever-present tyre/road drone and you might wish for a bit more peace and quiet. The relaxed driving position afforded by the superbly comfortable seats and thoughtfully laid-out controls is further enhanced by the BMW-first multiconfigurable instrumentation dials. Ventilation is excellent, storage is sufficient, the audio and phonestreaming multimedia system is simple to understand and operate, and — almost a decade and a half after its debut — BMW’s once-

derided iDrive screen controller works with intuitive efficiency. As that sloping roof suggests, an average-sized adult will need to duck before entering and exiting the rear seat. Our test car had a few persistent rattles combined with unsightly door trim imperfections. In the longer term, that hard ride wouldn’t do a less-than-perfect fit and finish any favours either. If you’re looking for maximum load capacity, buy the X5 instead. The X6’s cargo bay floor is small and high. Rivals? If you’re after a coupestyle body like this, you options are limited. Mercedes offers the GLE Coupe, and its ballistic AMG GLE 63S, with a 430kW 5.5-litre turbopetrol V8, is the M Coupe’s main competitor.


By Byron Mathioudakis

THINGS WE LIKE Muscular performance in every model Commanding dynamic capabilities Generous standard specification Impressive fuel economy in diesels iDrive works now

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Iffy build quality Firm to hard ride on all variants driven Limited rear-seat headroom Some road-noise intrusion

SPEX (30D) Made in the USA 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbodiesel/ eight-speed automatic/all-wheel drive 190kW of power at 4000rpm/560Nm of torque from 1500–3000rpm 0–100km/h in 6.7 seconds (claimed) 5.6L/100km highway; 6.8L/100km city; CO2 emissions are 159g/km Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres Fuel tank capacity: 85 litres Maximum towing weight: 2700kg Standard: Stability control, six airbags, surround-view camera, head-up display, adaptive LED headlights, lane departure warning, collision warning, pedestrian warning, autonomous emergency braking, leather upholstery, navigation, parking sensors, dual-zone air, 20GB harddrive storage, Bluetooth, voice, and a built-in SIM card that will automatically activate an emergency services call with GPS location. Redbook future values: 3yr: 55%; 5yr: 39%

Value for money

compare with ...


Porsche Cayenne, Range Rover Sport, Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe



FROM $89,200

BMW recently added a plug-in petrol/electric hybrid to the X5 range, which continues to top the sales charts against strong competition from A-grade rivals such as Audi’s Q7, Range Rover Sport, the Mercedes GLE, Porsche’s Cayenne and the Volvo XC90. It’s a tough decision. HOW MUCH? The rear-wheel-drive X5 sDrive25d four-cylinder turbodiesel costs $89,200. The 3.0-litre xDrive30d turbodiesel costs $108,000, the 40d twin turbodiesel is $124,200 and the 4.4-litre twin turbopetrol V8 50i is $138,900. The xDrive40e petrol/electric hybrid is also priced at $124,200.


The xDrive M50d, with a 3.0-litre triple turbodiesel, is priced at $152,000. The X5M, with the 4.4-litre turbopetrol V8 tuned for 423kW and 750Nm, is $189,300.


Performance Handling 

Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall



Safety EuroNCAP Green Vehicle Guide

The X5 is made in the USA. The 2.0-litre four cylinder turbodiesel in the 25d produces 160kW at 4400rpm and 450Nm from 1500–2500rpm. The 30d’s 3.0-litre turbodiesel straight-six produces 190kW of power at 4000rpm and 560Nm of torque from 1500–3000rpm. Its twin-turbo counterpart in the 40d Sport produces 230kW at 4400rpm and 630Nm from 1500–2000rpm. The 40e hybrid uses a 2.0-litre four cylinder turbopetrol engine/83kW electric motor and 9kWh lithium ion battery. It can travel up to 31km on battery power alone; its official combined fuel consumption figure on hybrid power is 3.4L/100km, on 98 octane premium.

The 4.4-litre twin-turbo petrol V8 in the 50i Sport produces 330kW at 6000rpm and 650Nm from 2000–4500rpm. The X5M version produces 423kW at 6000rpm and 750Nm from 2200–5000rpm. The 3.0-litre triple-turbodiesel six in the M50d produces 280kW at 4000rpm and 740Nm from 2000–3000rpm. All X5s come with an eightspeed automatic transmission.

BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system provides full-time 4WD in high range only, with up to 100 per cent available at either end if necessary depending on surface conditions. Front suspension uses double wishbones while the rear is four-link independent. An antiroll system is optional. Runflat tyres are supplemented with tyre-pressure monitoring and a temporary spare (which

S THE INSIDE STORY The X5 features BMW’s typically sleek, slimline dash and a firm, long-travel driver’s seat. BMW’s iDrive system is unbeatable for ease of use, clarity and the depth of its functionality. It features a huge tablet-style screen and internet connectivity via your smartphone. There’s plenty of legroom in the 40/20/40 rear bench, which is shaped for two and also luxuriously comfortable. The optional rear seats are too small and legroom is too tight for anyone bar small children.


you lose if you take the sevenseat option). Kerb weight ranges from 2070–2265kg. The X5 will tow up to 2700kg (25d) or 3500kg (other models.) Fuel tank capacity is 75 litres (25d) or 85 litres (other models).

HOW DOES IT GO? Given its considerable price advantage over the 3.0-litre petrol and turbodiesel sixes and its outstanding fuel efficiency, you would certainly want to test drive the four before committing to a six. The rear-wheel-drive variant in particular should be most attractive as a drive and a deal. In day-to-day driving, the single turbo 3.0d works beautifully and with a claimed time of 6.9 seconds from 0–100km/h, it’s hardly a slug. That said, the sheer strength and relentless pulling power of the 40d engine is immediately noticeable. It hits 100km/h in 5.9 seconds, which is more than half a

second quicker than the 3.0-litre turbopetrol 35i, now dropped from the range. The xDrive40e hybrid is no slouch either, reaching 100km/h in 6.8 seconds. As for the triple-turbodiesel M50d, words don’t really do it justice. It feels, sounds and goes like a V8 musclecar engine but it uses about half as much fuel. The 0–100km/h trip takes 5.3 seconds. BMW’s 4.4-litre V8 is wonderfully smooth and responsive right across the rev range. It needs more of a note, though, because it sounds tame compared with the M50d. The 50i reaches 100km/h in 5.0 seconds. The X5M hits the same mark in an astounding 4.2 seconds.


The sDrive 25d averages 5.2L/100km on the highway and 6.8L/100 km in the city. CO2 emissions are 152g/km.

The 3.0d averages 5.7L/100km on the highway and 7.0L/100 km in the city. CO2 emissions are 162g/km. The 40d averages 5.8L/100km highway, 7.1L/100km city and 164g/km. The M50d averages 6.2L/100km, 7.6L/100km and 177g/km. The 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 in the 50i returns 8.3L/100km highway, 14.1L/100km city and CO2 emissions of 244g/km. In X5M it averages 9.0L/100km, 14.7L/100km and 258g/km. The xDrive 40e hybrid averages 3.4L/100km combined and 78g/ km, on 98 octane premium.

There’s ample floor space, extendable to nearly 1.9 metres. A pair of tracks with four sliding lugs, a load cover with roll-out protective mesh barrier and 12-volt outlet are fitted, while the top half of the horizontally-split tailgate is power operated.


DOES IT HANDLE, STEER AND STOP? The X5 is remarkably agile and very stable for a two-tonne wagon, but like its rivals it relies on an array of sensors feeding the stability control system to control its hefty mass and keep the laws of physics from turning things very ugly very quickly when you push it in tight corners. Whether you stick with the standard, non-adjustable suspension or choose the optional adaptive Comfort, Dynamic, Professional or M suspension upgrades, the X5 is very enjoyable to drive. Sure, it’s no sportster, but it’s no barely controlled barge either. However, the steering’s lack of feel and feedback are disappointing. On the F15, BMW attempted to improve ride comfort without detracting from the X5’s dynamic ability. This is difficult with runflat tyres, which produce a relatively harsh ride compared with conventional tyres in town and on rough country roads.

Standard equipment in the X5 30d includes six airbags, stability control, 20-inch alloy wheels, a space saver spare, head-up display, lane departure and collision warning, 360-degree cameras, Data Dot security, roof rails, leather upholstery, front and rear parking sensors, navigation, Bluetooth phone/audio, USB port and bi-xenon headlights. Warranty: Three years/ unlimited kilometres. Redbook future values (30d): 3yr: 56%; 5yr: 41%.


THINGS WE LIKE  Outstanding turbodiesel performance and economy  Outstanding dynamics  Works well as a five-seater, with heaps of load space  Beautiful interior and plenty of space

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  Optional back seats are expensive and useless for people with legs  Remote control steering  You wouldn’t leave town without a real spare  Round-town and rough road ride can be sharp on runflats  Curtain airbags don’t extend to the last row of seats

compare with ... Mercedes GLE, Porsche Cayenne, Range Rover Sport, Volvo XC90




itroen seems to have rediscovered its flair for the bizarre with the C4 Cactus — a strikingly styled high-riding small-car crossover that has taken Europe by storm. For Australia, it is pitched as a generously equipped small SUV, either as a manual petrol or semi-automatic diesel. Both are front-drive only. The base Exclusive model, priced from $26,990, is powered by a 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbopetrol engine, driving the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox. The $29,990 Exclusive HDi runs a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel mated to a six-speed automated manual gearbox with paddle shifters. Dubbed the EGS in Citroen-speak, it basically works like a regular auto but is a bit slower with the ratio changes, and there is no ‘P’ for Park setting — just an ‘N’ for Neutral. The distinctive “Airbumps” along the sides of the Cactus are made of plastic and are designed to withstand small knocks and scrapes incurred in car parks. Citroen engineered the Cactus to be as light and efficient as


possible and that is reflected in how it performs. If you don’t mind changing gears, the 1.2-litre three-pot turbo petrol is the pick, since it provides surprisingly strong off-the-line acceleration and enough midrange pick-up to feel lively, punchy and refined, even when loaded with four adults. A six-speed automatic trsnmission option was due to arrive as we went to press. The 1.6-litre HDi with the EGS semi-auto transmission works seamlessly out on the open road since a sizeable amount of torque means the gearbox does not have to keep shuffling between ratios. But around town the diesel/ EGS combo seems reluctant to get going, and is frustratingly slow changing between gears. If hurried, the shift quality can also become jerky. Key to its driver appeal is beautifully modulated steering, providing confident and controlled fun. And while the body does tend to lean a little if cornered too enthusiastically, roadholding and braking levels

are outstanding so overall stability and security are never called into question. The Cactus has a pliant and absorbent ride, especially on rougher rural roads. It reels in distances with fluency and comfort. Packaging is a real Cactus forte, with enough space for five adults, while the relatively upright turret, deep windows and high seating provide commanding views out from the interior, even from the back seat. The front seats are deeply padded and very comfortable, in typical Citroen fashion. Smart design and textures abound, within a purposely plain dash layout that manages to elevate the Cactus in terms of quality and ambience. Simple digital instruments, a tabletstyle central touchscreen (including a reverse camera), and an airliner-like park brake handle on the diesel are typically Citroen futuristic, while leather strap door pulls, decorative seat coverings and a massive shelfstyle glovebox are meant to evoke vintage elements.

However, there are curious omissions, like steering-wheel reach variability that, combined with an odd tilt-only driver’s seat height adjuster, means an optimal driving position won’t be available for everybody. Don’t go looking for a tachometer or a driver’s-side auto up/down window switch either. The rear bench, while comfy and wide enough for three people, lacks the sort of amenities most take for granted nowadays, like overhead grab handles, cup holders, map pockets and ceiling lighting. And the pop-open windows are no substitute for wind-down items. The Cactus has a decent 358-litre boot, helped out by a low loading lip and a deep, wide floor, which can be extended by folding the 60/40-split rear-seat backrests. The spare is a 15-inch steel space-saver.


By Byron Mathioudakis

THINGS WE LIKE  Space-efficient packaging  It doesn’t look like everything else  High level of standard features  Lively yet frugal powertrain choices  Excellent chassis dynamics  Long warranty


SPEX (1.6 HDi)  



Safety Performance Handling Quality and reliability

Overpriced Sluggish, jerky diesel auto Awkward driving position No wind-down rear windows No advanced driver assist safety tech

Made in Spain 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel/ six-speed automated manual/ front-wheel drive 68kW of power at 4000rpm/230Nm of torque at 1750rpm 0–100km/h in 11.4 seconds (claimed) 3.5L/100km highway; 3.9L/100km city; CO2 emissions are 94g/km; fuel tank 50 litres Warranty: six years/unlimited kilometres Standard: Six airbags, stability control, tyre pressure monitoring, touchscreen, camera, rear sensors, navigation, automatic air, digital radio, Bluetooth, auto lights, rain-sensing wipers, two ISOFIX rear-seat anchors, roof bars and 17-inch alloy wheels Redbook future values: 3yr: 51%; 5yr: 37%

Comfort and refinement Value for money  Overall 


compare with ... Fiat 500X, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX3, Renault Captur, Suzuki Ignis



uper-sized American “pickups” have made a comeback on Australian roads in the form of the Dodge Ram Laramie, with a local right-hand drive conversion done by American Special Vehicles. The Ram Laramie 2500 is $139,500 and the Ram Laramie 3500 is $146,500. Both are powered by a 6.7-litre straight-six Cummins turbodiesel engine with a six-speed automatic and parttime, dual-range 4WD. American Special Vehicles is a joint venture between Walkinshaw Automotive Group (which owns Holden Special Vehicles) and veteran distributor Neville Crichton of Ateco. ASV has the factory backing of Dodge Ram USA and the vehicles are shipped with Australian radios and navigation already built in. ASV Rams are fitted with a moulded dash by the same company that made the Toyota

STARS Safety Not yet tested Green Vehicle Guide

Camry dash in Australia. The right-hand-drive steering assembly is made by the same US company that builds the lefthand-drive units. Engineering work was headed by a team of former Holden Special Vehicles engineers; the conversion assembly line is in a building adjacent to where HSV are made, at Clayton in Melbourne. The model I tested, the Ram 2500, can be driven on the same regular car licence that allows you to drive a Toyota Yaris. Both Ram models are identical in size and appearance (and turning circle), but the heavy-duty suspension on the flagship 3500 deems it a truck in the eyes of the law. The irony is that the Ram 2500 can tow a massive 6.9 tonnes (when a gooseneck is fitted), while Ram 3500 can “only” tow 6.17 tonnes. The 3500 can also carry 1.7 tonnes in the tray — so you need a light truck licence to drive

it because its GVM is 5.3 tonnes — versus 913kg for the 2500. The 3500 is also offered with revised suspension and a lighter 894kg payload capacity, allowing it to be driven on a car licence. This variant costs $143,900. A set of "RamBox" storage compartments in the 2500's tub is a $3500 option. Climbing aboard, it’s easy to see why customers like these types of vehicles. Aside from their epic towing capacity, you sit high above the traffic with a commanding view of the road ahead. The dash is squeak free and the massive 6.7-litre in-line six-cylinder Cummins turbodiesel engine seems eerily quiet, possibly due to the extra insulation fitted by ASV in Clayton. Peak power of 276kW is impressive enough, but what really gets your attention, especially on the road, is the Cummins’ 1084Nm of torque.

Believe me, there’s hardly any need for more grunt and whatever size caravan you want to tow will present no problems at all. After 660km, fuel consumption ranged from 10–11L/100km on the freeway and 13.5L/100km in a mix of city and open-road driving. Downsides? There aren’t many. The foot-operated park brake and the column shift gear lever are to the right of the driver (I was used to it after a couple of days) and you need to allow a little extra room to pull 3.5 tonnes of monster truck to a stop. The ASV Ram is a good thing, and if you want maximum towing capacity, with the ability to haul something like a fifth wheeler with ridiculous ease, then it's your best option. The Australian conversion is very well done and you get a whole lot of truck for your money


By Joshua Dowling

THINGS WE LIKE  Has a factory-made feel even though it’s converted locally  Massive grunt from the Cummins turbodiesel  Luxury features and plenty of cabin space  The price is reasonable and resale values are high  Effortless towing of heavy trailers

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  Needs a wide-view mirror for the driver’s side  3.5 tonnes of truck takes a bit of room to pull up  Trying to find a big enough parking spot

SPEX (Ram 2500) G G




Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money $$ Overall $


Made in Mexico 6.7-litre six-cylinder turbodiesel/ six-speed automatic/part-time, dual-range 4WD 276kW of power at 2800rpm/1084Nm of torque at 1600rpm 0–100km/h N/A Fuel consumption: No Australian Standard figures are yet available; fuel tank 117 litres Max towing weight: 6942kg (with gooseneck), 4500kg (with 70mm ball), 3500kg (with 50mm ball) Warranty: Three years/100,000km Standard: Six airbags, stability control, two rear-view cameras (one for the tray bed, one with turning guidelines for parking), touchscreen, Bluetooth, USB connection, USB, 12V and 240V power, heated and cooled leather seats, Alpine sound system. Redbook future values: 3yr: 60%; 5yr: 46%

compare with ... No direct competitors



FIAT 500X FROM $26,000


iat’s 500X is a longwheelbase, five-door version of its cute-as, retrolook 500 small car. Prices start at $26,000 for the 103kW 1.4-litre turbopetrol/sixspeed manual front-wheel-drive Pop. A six-speed dual-clutch automated manual adds $2000; in Pop Star specification, priced at $32,000, it’s standard. The same engine, with 125kW of power, a nine-speed automatic and all-wheel drive are featured in the Lounge, priced at $37,000, and the Cross Plus, at $38,000. These prices are ambitious for what is a pretty mediocre compact SUV. The 1.4-litre engine, in both states of tune, has reasonable torque but also a fair bit of turbo lag, so it takes a while to wind up and get busy, even in Sport mode. The 125kW version’s cause is not helped by the overactive, indecisive nine-speed automatic. Perhaps with so many ratios it’s never going to be happy hanging onto one for very long. This transmission has also caused owners

STARS Safety ANCAP Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money  Overall 


problems in the Jeep Renegade, which shares architecture and mechanicals with the 500X. Dynamics are nothing special either. The 500X is relatively softly suspended and top heavy, so it leans a bit in corners and is obviously engineered for comfort rather than speed, much like the average $20,000 small hatchback. That said, it’s fine in most situations and there is little point spending the extra money for all-wheel drive, which confers no real benefit. The base Pop models also ride a little more comfortably on their 16-inch wheels and taller tyres. All-wheel-drive models with 18inch wheels and sportier tyres are more bouncy, harsh and unsettled on a rough road. The brakes on the Fiat are weak, have little pedal feel and also feature a quite grabby, inconsistent operation. The driver sits high on a fairly shapeless seat with a flat

cushion in the base models. The Lounge’s seat is more generously padded and supportive, though still with insufficient bolstering on the back rest. Leather-faced upholstery is optional. Vision around the car is fine, though with adults in the back seat you won’t see much out of the rear window. The cabin is beautifully styled as only the Italians know how and, really, this is what you pay for in the Fiat. In the base models, the exterior colour is continued inside on the dash and trim. It looks great and the dash itself is all soft curves, stylish trim and pretty shapes. Instruments have bright, legible dials and a big digital speedo. Touchscreens in both specifications are close to hand and responsive, with clear graphics and large icons. Fiat’s Uconnect system features Bluetooth with audio streaming,

USB and SD ports and voice control. Navigation is standard from Pop Star upwards and a BeatsAudio system is standard in Lounge and Cross Plus. Advanced driver assistance features such as collision and lane keeping/departure warning, blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert are standard in Lounge and Cross Plus. Back seat space is OK for a small SUV and the flat seat cushion has two Isofix child restraint anchors. Boot space isn’t bad either and the low floor is easy to load. The back seat is split 60/40 and both sides flip forward to extend capacity. A temporary spare is under the floor. Fiat’s 500X isn’t a great drive but it’s a feelgood car thanks to its expressive, engaging design. It’s expensive, but it’s Italian. Enough said.


THINGS WE LIKE  It’s beautiful  You feel good driving it  Works nicely in town and has good fuel economy  Reasonable interior space  Comfortable driving position  Comfortable ride in base models

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Expensive for a small SUV Weak resale values Turbo lag in the 1.4 and hyperactive nine-speed automatic Weak brakes Upspec models don’t like rough roads Fiat’s patchy reliability reputation

SPEX (Pop DDCT) Made in Italy 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol/ six-speed dual clutch automated manual/front-wheel drive 103kW of power at 5000rpm/230Nm of torque at 1750rpm 0–100km/h N/A 4.9L/100km highway; 7.2L/100km city; premium unleaded; CO2 emissions are 133g/km; fuel tank 48 litres Warranty: Three years/150,000km Standard: Seven airbags, stability control, rear camera, 5.0-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, USB port, voice activation, steering wheel paddles, 16-inch alloy wheels Redbook future values: 3yr: 36%; 5yr: 28%

compare with ... Citroen Cactus, Peugeot 2008, Renault Captur, Subaru XV, Toyota CH-R



he Ford Everest is basically a reskinned workhorse one-tonner ute, in this case the Ford Ranger. The Ranger is a good thing in the one-tonner context, but it’s difficult to disguise the primitive chassis engineering and workhorse origins of any one-tonner-based wagon — a breed that includes Toyota's Fortuner and the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport — and therefore they come with some tradeoffs. Before we get to those, though, there is the vexed issue of price. Most of the Ford Everest’s rivals can be had for less than $45,000 drive away. The Everest starts at an ambitious $47,990 plus on-road costs for the base rear-wheel drive, five-seater Ambiente. The Trend seven-seater is $53,990 and the Titanium 4x4 seven-seater is a pretty breathtaking $74,990. It's clear from the disappointing sales numbers that Everest is too expensive.



Like Ranger, Everest was designed and engineered by Ford Australia. Both models are built in Thailand. The Ranger’s… sorry, Everest’s … 3.2-litre fivecylinder turbodiesel/six-speed auto dual-range drivetrain is a beauty. Absolutely no problems there, apart from the usual excessive one-tonner ute thirst. The 3.2-litre loses 4kW in the translation but that’s irrelevant. This thing has plenty of grunt. But some things even engineers cannot change and that includes the fundamentals of physics. As with other one-tonner-based 4x4 wagons, including the Prado, Everest’s body is attached via big rubber blocks to a simple steel ladder chassis, which, in turn, is attached to the suspension. It all rides on tall, baggy 4WD tyres, so you can see why “taut” is an adjective not often used to describe the dynamics of these vehicles. Ford bravely describes the Everest as “agile”.

Ford has tuned the Everest’s suspension for comfort. The softer setup, with coils rather than Ranger’s leaf springs at the rear, is fine in a straight line but the Everest leans in corners, wobbles around a bit on a bumpy road and dives under brakes. The Everest has a smartly designed interior but you don’t have to look hard to find plastics that feel cheap to the touch. It includes Ford's SYNC3 infotainment system, with an eight-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration. The electric power steering is too light at times, while the steering wheel has no reach adjustment — another example of Everest’s one-tonner DNA. Trend includes lane keeping, radar cruise and forward collision alert. Titanium adds blind spot monitoring. Three noise-cancellation microphones in the roof lining monitor cabin noise and offset it

via the Everest’s audio speakers in an attempt to mask the oiler’s vocals. There is no doubt you’re still driving a diesel 4WD. The second-row seats slide and tilt forward for access to the back row and there is curtain airbag coverage for all three rows of seats. Load space is generous, and a power operated tailgate is standard on Trend and Titanium. If you will never engage low range and tackle extreme offroad terrain, you're better off in a lighter, unitary construction SUV such as the Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento or VW Touareg, all of which can be had for Everest money or less. So can its seven-seater onetonner-based 4x4 wagon rivals, including the Toyota Fortuner and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport. Everest is a nice truck, but the price still ain't quite right.


By Joshua Dowling

THINGS WE LIKE  Looks good inside and out  Genuine off-road ability  Tonnes of grunt from the 3.2  Relatively quiet for a diesel

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  Pricey  Despite the promise, it still drives like a 4WD  Hard interior plastics  Loose, ponderous handling  Thirsty

SPEX (Trend)  



Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling 

Quality and reliability

Made in Thailand 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbodiesel/ six-speed automatic/four-wheel drive 143kW of power at 3000rpm/470Nm of torque from 1750–2500rpm 0–100km/h N/A 7.0L/100km highway; 11.2L/100km city; CO2 emissions are 224g/km; fuel tank 80 litres Warranty: Three years/100,000 km Max towing weight: 3000kg Standard: Seven airbags, stability control, 18-inch alloys, SYNC3 touchscreen infotainment with voice activation, rear camera, Bluetooth, USB connection, 3 x 12V and 230V power outlets. Titanium includes leather, 20-inch alloys, sunroof and power operated rear seats Redbook future values: 3yr: 58%; 5yr: 44%

Comfort and refinement Value for money  Overall 

compare with ... Izuzu MU-X, Holden Trailblazer, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Toyota Fortuner and Lancruiser Prado



FROM $39,065

Although HiLux was Australia's top selling vehicle overall in 2016, in the 4x4 onetonner class Ford's Ranger almost toppled the Toyota. Ranger Wildtrak is a great work and play truck, but VW's new 165kW 3.0-litre V6 Amarok is the best on-road drive. HOW MUCH? The Ranger 4x4 lineup opens with the 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel XL six-speed manual single cab-chassis at $39,090. The 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbodiesel XL manual cab-chassis is $41,590. XL Plus is $46,790. Double cab-chassis models start with the 2.2-litre XL manual at $43,590. 3.2-litre XL manual is $46,090 and XL Plus is $52,290. Single-cab pickups start with the 3.2-litre Super XL manual at $45,590. Double-cab pickups include the 2.2 XL at $45,090, the 3.2 XL at


$47,590, XL Plus at $53,290, the XLS at $48,890, the XLT at $55,490 and the Wildtrak at $59,590. A six-speed auto adds $2200 to all models except XL 2.2 cab-chassis, XL Plus and 3.2 XL Super cab pick-up.



Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall



Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide

The Ranger is built in Thailand. The 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel produces 118kW of power at 3700rpm and 385Nm of torque from 1500–2500rpm. The 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbodiesel produces 147kW at 3000rpm and 470Nm from 1750–2750rpm. The six-speed automatic has Normal and Performance modes plus specific low-range mapping for throttle response. Construction is body on steelframe chassis. The Super cab model features two rear-hinged access panels that mate with the conventional front doors. You have to have the front doors open to also open the rear doors. The 4x4 drivetrain features high- and low-range capability along with an electronically controlled transfer case.

A traction-control system operates on each wheel to control spin and apportion engine torque to the wheel(s) with greatest traction. An electronically controlled locking rear differential is also standard on XLS, XLT and Wildtrak models. Suspension is double-wishbone front/live axle leaf-spring rear. Steering is electrically-assisted rack-and-pinion. Brakes are discs front/drums rear. ABS and stability control are standard, as are a camera and rear parking sensors.


Kerb weights/max payloads range from 1843kg/1355kg (XL 2.2 cab-chassis) to 2289kg/907kg (Wildtrak 3.2). GVM on all 4x4 models is 3200kg. Maximum fording depth is a class-leading 800mm and clearance is 232mm. Fuel tank capacity is 80 litres. Maximum towing weight in 4x4 models is 3500kg. Maximum GCM is 5950kg.

HOW DOES IT GO? I haven't driven the 2.2-litre four-cylinder engine in the Ranger. However, I’ve driven it

S in Land Rover’s old Freelander2 and the Peugeot 4007 and it’s worth your while giving the 2.2 a try because with 375Nm of torque, it’s hardly underdone in the grunt department. It’s also impressively smooth in those vehicles and costs considerably less than the 3.2-litre equivalent in the Ranger model lineup. On the demerit side, it actually uses more fuel than the 3.2 in most automatic variants, presumably because it has to work harder to shift the Ranger’s hefty mass. It’s also difficult to argue with the 3.2’s 470Nm of torque from just 1500rpm. When they coined the expression “pulls like a train”, this engine was the one they had in mind. The Ford donk has an olde-worlde tractor engine feel to it. It hauls from the basement with ridiculous ease, albeit with a touch of turbo lag, and while it's acceptably refined you're never in doubt that it's a diesel. It’s less reponsive at the pedal than the 2.8-litre engine in the HiLux, and top-end performance is a non-event. Still, that’s hardly the point. Torque is what counts and this thing certainly has more than enough. The automatic is terrific with smooth, timely shifts. The fact that the engine has grunt in spades allows it to hang onto the higher gears, avoid hunting and maximise fuel economy.

Braking performance is also better than most in this class, but that’s not saying much. Fade will be an issue in some situations. Off-road, Ranger is wellcredentialled. High clearance, useful underbody protection, tyre pressure monitoring, 800mm fording depth and a standard locking rear diff give it respectable off-road ability straight out of the box. Trailer sway control is integrated into the stability control system and a 3500kg maximum towing weight is comparable with LandCruiser. A front pintle hook is rated to 6000kg.


The 2.2-litre double cab XL automatic averages 7.9L/100km on the highway, 12.1L/100km in town and produces 251g/km of CO2. The 3.2-litre double-cab XLT automatic averages 7.8L/100km on the highway, 11.8L/100km in town and produces 246g/km of CO2.

DOES IT HANDLE, STEER AND STOP? The Ranger is a b-i-g truck and there is no disguising that fact. However, within that context its dynamics are pretty good. The suspension is relatively firm so there’s reasonable control over body movement, it doesn’t roll excessively into corners and ride comfort is fine. I also gave it a try with 750kg of ballast in the back and found that the ride actually improved.

There’s reasonable space up front for most drivers in the Ranger; however, big blokes will want more seat travel and a reach-adjustable steering wheel. You sit very high, with a forward view compromised in tighter corners by thick front pillars. The fact that you can’t see the end of the bonnet at all also makes extreme off-road manoeuvring something of an adventure. The driver’s seat is sized and shaped for big blokes. It’s comfortable and supportive, albeit with wide backrest angle increments. The dash is functional and chunky with big, clear fonts and large buttons for old blokes. There’s also plenty of clever stuff in XLT and Wildtrak, including Ford's best-in-class SYNC3 infotainment system with an eight-inch touchscreen, navigation with traffic alerts,

digital radio, WiFi hotspot and automatic emergency 000 connectivity via your smartphone. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also included on SYNC3. Wildtrak also gets the best safety spec in the one-tonner class with radar cruise, forward collision alert, automatic high beam, lane departure warning and lane keep assist as standard. Storage includes a lockable glovebox that will take a fullsize laptop. A 230 volt inverter/ plug is also included on double cabs. However, some of the handy storage provided on the first model, such as bins under the back seats, has been deleted for this update. Rear-seat legroom is generous, partly because front-seat travel is somewhat limited. The seat is firm, comfortable, and the backrest angle isn’t too upright. Six airbags are provided in double-cab models and the Ranger has a five-star ANCAP rating so you can carry your family around with confidence.

IN THE BOOT Ford claims the Ranger’s tub (in the double-cab models) is the deepest in the class. The doublecab’s tub is 1.54 metres long and a smidgin wider. It has a 12-volt outlet, load lugs and, on the Wildtrak, a lockable sliding cover and rear light.


XL double-cab includes stability control, six airbags, 16-inch steel wheels, Bluetooth with voice control,

USB connectivity and cruise control and a 230V inverter. XL Plus includes a six-speed auto, 17-inch steel wheels, 265/65 all-terrain tyres, extended wiring harness to cater for radios, driving lights and light bars and an 80AH deep cycle gel auxiliary battery. XLT includes SYNC3, 17-inch alloys, towbar, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone air, rearparking sensors, a tub bedliner with 12-volt outlet, chilled centre console box and tinted glass. Wildtrak adds 18-inch alloys, front parking sensors, rear camera, leather/cloth upholstery, heated front seats and a lockable tub cover. Warranty: Three years / 100,000km. Redbook future values: (XLT double cab 3.2 auto): 3yr: 63%; 5yr: 48%.


THINGS WE LIKE  Strong resale values  Super-torquey 3.2 turbodiesel works nicely with six-speed auto  Loaded with practical features  Excellent ride/handling compromise  Serious off-road ability  Big tub

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  Limited driver’s seat travel and no steering wheel reach adjustment  Front pillars and high, long bonnet compromise forward vision  Reversing camera not standard  Thirsty

compare with ... Holden Colorado, Isuzu DMax, Mazda BT50, Toyota HiLux, VW Amarok




he compact SUV class isn’t new but in the last couple of years or so it has taken off with a boatload of new models. Many of them — from the Ford EcoSport to the Holden Trax, Peugeot 2008, Nissan Juke and Suzuki S-Cross — spring from their respective Fiesta, Barina, 208, Micra and Swift hatchback siblings. The Ford EcoSport kicks off from $20,790 for the 1.5-litre petrol Ambiente manual. Other variants include the mid-range Trend (from $22,290) and rangetopping Titanium (from $27,790). Like others in the class, the front-wheel-drive EcoSport has no off-road pretensions at all, though it should be pretty handy on most dirt roads with 200mm ground clearance (allowing a 550mm wading depth) and 4x4-style tailgate-mounted full-size spare. Two petrol engines are available: Ford’s high-tech


1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost turbo, delivering 92kW of power at 6000rpm and 190Nm of torque between 1400 and 4500rpm, and a 1.5-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated Duratec unit with 82kW at 6300rpm and 140Nm at 4400rpm. Belying its tiny capacity, and famously compact enough to sit within an A4-sized piece of paper, the sophisticated, refined 1.0-litre turbo is a multiple International Engine of the Year winner. Paired only to a slick-shifting five-speed manual (an auto is at least a year away), it provides spirited step-off acceleration backed up by a wide spread of torque for excellent response when required. In contrast, the 1.5-litre engine is lethargic, particularly as tested with Ford’s six-speed dual-clutch Powershift auto, which adds $2000 to Ambiente's price tag and is standard on Trend and Titanium, which are priced at $24,290 and $27,790 respectively.

It's slow off the mark and noisy when pushed. Avoid the bigger engine anyway because the 1.0-litre better exploits the tight, agile and controllable Fiesta chassis, offering crisp steering, reassuring roadholding and a comfortable ride. It also averages around 0.8L/100km less fuel than the 1.5-litre engine. Engineered in Brazil and built in India, the EcoSport boasts a deceptively spacious five-seater interior, thanks in part to a wellshaped rear bench designed to take three (skinny) adults. Fiesta owners will probably recognise the fussy, buttonsplattered dash, which features clear dials, excellent ventilation and a phalanx of controls as part of Ford’s standard SYNC voicecontrolled infotainment system, incorporating Bluetooth and audio streaming. Perched up high, the driver enjoys excellent forward vision, though there is no reversing

camera available, while closer scrutiny will reveal some rough finishes and cheapo plastics. That back-door-mounted spare has allowed the engineers to provide a low, flat floor with useful cargo space, easily extended when in two-seater wagon mode. The Ford EcoSport's appeal is underpinned by value pricing, excellent packaging and — in the award-winning 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine’s case — truly outstanding fuel efficiency. So if you're after a city SUV, put the Ford EcoSport on your test drive list, along with Honda's HRV, Mazda CX-3, the Renault Captur, Subaru XV and Suzuki Ignis. If you have never driven a car with such a small engine before, you’ll be surprised at how good the 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost turbo is.


By Byron Mathioudakis

THINGS WE LIKE  Value pricing  1.0-litre turbo power, economy and refinement  Best-in-class handling  Roomy interior  Full-size spare

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  Listless, noisy 1.5-litre  Both engines need premium unleaded  No auto option yet with 1.0-litre  Cheap dash plastics and some rough edges  No reversing camera  Some road noise on coarse bitumen

SPEX (Trend 1.0-litre EcoBoost)     


Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money  Overall 


Made in India 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbopetrol / five-speed manual/front-wheel drive 92kW of power at 6000rpm, 190Nm of torque from 1400–4500rpm 0–100km/h in 12.7 seconds (claimed) 5.1L/100km highway; 6.7L/1000km city: 95 octane premium. CO2 emissions are 131g/km Warranty: Three years/100,000km Standard: Seven airbags, stability control, voice-activated Bluetooth with audio streaming, 15-inch steel wheels.Trend adds 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, glovebox cooler. Titanium adds roof rails, leather upholstery, automatic air, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, automatic wipers and headlights and rear parking sensors Redbook future values: 3yr: 41%; 5yr: 30%

compare with ... Honda HRV, Mazda CX-3, Renault Captur, Subaru XV, Suzuki Ignis



ord’s Kuga was recently renamed the Escape, the badge it carries in most other world markets. The 2017 range opens with the 110kW 1.5-litre turbopetrol/six-speed manual/ front-wheel-drive Ambiente, priced at $28,490. The six-speed auto is $29,990. All-wheel-drive models begin with the 134kW 1.5-litre turbopetrol Ambiente, with a sixspeed automatic, at $32,990. Trend specification opens with the 110kW 1.5-litre/six-speed auto/front-wheel-drive variant at $32,990. A 178kW 2.0-litre turbopetrol/six-speed auto/ all-wheel drive is $35,990, and a 132kW 2.0-litre turbodiesel/ six-speed dual-clutch automated manual is $38,490. Top-of-the-range Titanium is available with the same 2.0-litre drivetrains and is priced at $44,990 and $47,490.


Escape brings a European design and drive to a segment dominated by Japanese and Korean brands. It’s certainly something different. The fuel-efficient 1.5-litre turbopetrol engine, in both 110kW and 134kW tunes, produces the same 240Nm of torque. Its performance is entirely adequate and fuel efficiency is excellent on regular unleaded. The base front-wheel-drive model also has lightness on its side, so at the entry-level pricepoint it’s quite good value. The 178kW 2.0-litre turbopetrol engine has no problems providing rapid, responsive performance, albeit with a serious thirst if you're a bit willing with your right foot. With 400Nm available from 2000rpm, the 2.0-litre turbodiesel is a strong engine across the lower end of the rev

range, smooth and quiet by fourcylinder oiler standards. The Escape is at the front end of the class as far as dynamic ability is concerned, especially in tighter corners where balance and body control are excellent. The ride may be too firm and sharp for some, especially on Titanium’s 19-inch wheels and low-profile tyres. The smaller wheels/taller rubber on Trend and Ambiente absorb bumps better, but occupants can still be jostled around on a rough road. All models in the range feature Ford’s SYNC3 infotainment system with an eight-inch touchscreen, navigation, a rear camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, voice control, digital radio, in-car connectivity with voice control and automatic 000 contact in a crash via a compatible, paired smartphone. A camera is also standard.

You sit low, tightly wrapped in a twin cockpit-style cabin. Some will love this pseudo-sporty driving position, others will feel it compromises vision around the car. Supportive, well-bolstered driver’s seats on all models are the most comfortable you’ll find in a small SUV. An optional Technology Pack on Trend and Titanium adds automatic low-speed braking, blind spot information, lane keeping and a range of other safety features. Titanium’s power tailgate (also an option on Trend) can be opened and closed by simply flicking your foot under the rear bumper — handy when you’ve got two-and-a-half armfuls of kids and shopping. The back seat is narrow and shaped for two, with reasonable legroom. The boot is small. Escape is one of the more engaging drives in this class. Its safety credentials are excellent and it’s also well priced. As a drive, if not quite in space or practicality, it’s now up there with Mazda’s CX-5, VW’s Tiguan and the Subaru Forester at the front of this class.


THINGS WE LIKE  One of the best-handling SUVs  Comfortable, supportive driver’s seat  Torquey, refined diesel  2.0-litre turbopetrol goes hard  Titanium is loaded


SPEX (2.0-litre Trend)    

STARS Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide


Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money  Overall 

Overly firm ride Dated, tizzy dash design Smallish boot and narrow back seat Weak resale values

Made in Spain 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol/ six-speed automatic/all-wheel drive 178kW of power at 5500rpm/345Nm of torque from 2000–4500rpm 0–100km/h N/A 7.1L/100km highway; 11.8L/100km city: 95 octane premium; CO2 emissions are 204g/km Warranty: Three years/100,000km Standard: Seven airbags, stability control, 18-inch alloys, SYNC3 incar connectivity with voice control, Bluetooth, digital radio, navigation, emergency 000 assistance, rear camera, sports seats with leather inserts, dual-zone air, automatic headlights and wipers Redbook future values: (Trend) 3yr: 41%; 5yr: 26%

compare with ... Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Subaru Forester, VW Tiguan




oton Tunland? Sounds like the name of a camera store in an obscure Nordic country. It is, in fact, a Chinese-brand ute. Prices start at $22,490 for the single-cab rear-wheel-drive pickup. The top-spec dual-cab Tunland 4x4, tested here, is priced at $30,990. The Tunland seems smaller than most 2017 dual cabs, but although it’s 20mm shorter overall than a HiLux dual cab, its wheelbase is fractionally longer and it’s also slightly wider. Foton has built a conventional one-tonner steel frame chassis for the Tunland, with double wishbone front/leaf spring rear suspension and hydraulic steering, then looked to other highly regarded, established manufacturers to supply the dualrange, part-time 4x4 drivetrain. The engine, a 2.8-litre turbodiesel, is made in China under a joint venture with US manufacturer Cummins. German transmission maker Getrag supplies the five-speed

manual gearbox. There’s no automatic option. Borg Warner and Dana, American specialist drivetrain component makers, respectively provide the dualrange transfer case and limited slip rear differential. Front disc/ rear drum brakes, with ABS, are standard. The current model has no traction or stability control. An updated Tunland, due shortly, will add stability control but a rear camera, side and curtain airbags remain off the equipment list. Foton hasn’t yet discovered the infotainment screen, smartphone integration or voice control. Sound quality is excruciatingly tinny and radio reception is poor. Ample open and covered storage is provided. Air-conditioning needs to be turned on and reset every time you start the engine. Tall drivers will miss reach adjustment for the wheel and the driver’s seat is flat and unsupportive. So is the rear bench, which is a touch tight for

legroom and has you in a slightly knees-up position. It folds up to create a useful cargo bay behind the front seats. A tub/tailgate liner is standard on the 4x4, which has a maximum payload of 1025kg and can tow up to 2500kg. The engine struggles off boost below 1500rpm and it’s geared tall, so around town the gear lever is your friend. Peak torque arrives at 1800rpm, from where you’ve got fairly responsive performance underfoot, though the Tunland is at the back of the ute grid in terms of outright acceleration. The Getrag gearbox has a light, smooth action and the lever occasionally gets lost between gates. The steering is heavy and the Tunland is hard work to park. The test car used 9-10L/100km around town, which is pretty good for a turbodiesel ute. On the highway, it averages 6-7L/100km. Cruise control doesn’t hold a set speed properly, disengages with a

jerk and can often overaccelerate. The Tunland feels strong and solid, steers accurately enough, doesn’t wallow in corners and is reasonably secure on rough bitumen and dirt, but with no traction or stability control and so-so tyres, great caution is required on wet or loose surfaces, and the weak, wooden brakes need serious pedal pressure to get a result. Though firm, ride comfort is acceptable and body movement is well controlled. The Tunland dual-cab 4x4 is certainly cheap, however for just $2000 or so more, in one of its regularly advertised discount drive-away deals, Mitsubishi will sell you a Triton GLX with most of the safety and infotainment tech you don’t get in the Tunland, plus a 133kW/430Nm 2.4-litre turbodiesel, 3100kg claimed maximum towing and a five-year warranty.


THINGS WE LIKE  Quality mechanicals in a simple, solid and well-made package  Good fuel economy  Tidy handling and reasonable ride comfort by one-tonner standards

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  No stability control, camera or side/curtain airbags is ridiculous  You wouldn’t want to have a crash in it  Infotainment is a decade out of date. Tinny audio  Unsupportive seats  It’s very slow  Weak brakes  Cruise control doesn’t work properly




Safety Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money $$ Overall $$



Made in China 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel/ five-speed manual/4x4 120kW of power at 3600rpm/360Nm of torque from 1800-3000rpm 0-100km/h N/A Combined average 8.3L/100km; CO² emissions are 219g/km Max towing weight: 2500kg Warranty: Three years/100,000km Standard: Two airbags, ABS brakes, leather-faced seats, leatherwrapped steering wheel, 17-inch alloy wheels, full-size spare, tyre pressure monitoring, keyless entry, remote side windows up and down, rear parking sensors, side steps, cruise control, Bluetooth Redbook future values: 3yr: 47%; 5yr: 36%

compare with ... Isuzu D-Max, Mitsubishi Triton, Nissan Navara



olden’s Trax is a small SUV based on the Barina hatchback. It’s only available as a front-wheel drive, so think of it as an interesting take on the compact hatch with an SUV’s easy access and high, comfortable seating position. The base LS 1.8-litre, fivespeed manual is $23,990. The 1.4-litre turbopetrol six-speed auto 1.4T LS is $26,490. LT 1.4T is $28,890 and LTZ 1.4T is $30,490. GM’s 103kW/175Nm 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine is an ageing slugger but in this application it’s OK, offering reasonable mid-range pulling power (assisted by quite short gearing), reasonable fuel economy on regular unleaded and greater refinement than expected. The 103kW/200Nm 1.4-litre turbopetrol is a sweet little engine, much more refined, tractable and responsive than the

STARS Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money  Overall 


1.8, but it’s also thirsty in town and requires premium unleaded. The six-speed automatic does the job smoothly enough, with a wider ratio spread for more economical top-gear cruising. Holden’s chassis engineers have given the Trax the treatment and for a short, tall box it handles predictably and confidently, with a secure feel on the road. Body roll in corners is minimal and quality Continental tyres are sticky and quiet. The ride is quite firm and on the LTZ’s 18-inch alloys/55aspect ratio rubber it could become a little harsh on rough NSW and Queensland roads. The 16-inch alloys with 70-aspect ratio tyres on the LS model offer a far more comfortable and absorbent combination. The steering is feather light and lifeless, with little on-centre

feel. Brakes are OK, though the brake/clutch pedals in the manual are very close together. The interior has been given an overhaul for 2017, with a more attractive dash design, improved infotainment and higher quality materials. There’s ample driving position adjustability but the A pillars in the Trax do block some of your forward/side vision in corners, especially right-handers. Holden’s MyLink system has a seven-inch touchscreen and offers Siri Eyes Free mode for compatible devices like the iPhone, plus supported apps such as Pandora and Stitcher. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatiblity are standard, along with rear parking sensors and a camera. LS also includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel. LT adds a sunroof, push button

start, digital radio and 18-inch alloys, while the top-spec LTZ includes leather-faced seats, heated at the front, rain sensing wipers and a couple of driver assist safety tecnologies that are very useful, especially in traffic: blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert. The driver’s seat is supportive and comfortable, as is the rear bench, which has two Isofix mounts plus conventional childrestraint anchors. The boot’s not huge — volume with all seats in use is slightly less than a Golf — but it’s practical enough, with a 60/40 rear-seat extension and four bag hooks. A 240-volt electrical socket with power supplied by an onboard inverter is unique to this class and allows you to power or recharge items like a portable fridge, cameras or laptops. Trax is honest enough but ambitously priced against rivals such as Honda’s HRV, the Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-3, Toyota CH-R and the Suzuki Vitara.


THINGS WE LIKE  Big practicality in a small package  Comfortable seats  Reasonable performance and fuel economy  Tidy handling  MyLink features and connectivity

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Ride could be a bit rugged on 18-inch-wheel LTZ model Front pillars block some vision Remote-control steering 1.8 is old tech and the 1.4 turbo likes a drink in town

SPEX (LS auto) Made in South Korea 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol/ six-speed automatic/front-wheel drive 103kW of power at 4900rpm/200Nm of torque at 1850rpm 0–100km/h N/A 5.6L/100km highway; 9.1L/100km city; 95 octane. CO2 emissions are 160g/km Warranty: Three years/100,000km Standard: Six airbags, stability control, hill start assist, 16-inch alloy wheels, rear camera and parking sensors, MyLink, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, leather-wrapped steering wheel Redbook future values: 3yr: 45%; 5yr: 32%

compare with ... Honda HRV, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-3, Suzuki Vitara, Toyota CH-R


HOLDEN CAPTIVA FROM $26,490 unit so performance is sedate. Avoid the chronically unreliable 2.2-litre turbodiesel. The ride on 17-inch wheels is OK, but on the LTZ’s 19-inchers it’s awful, with the car pitching and bouncing so much your kids might complain about feeling sick. Or worse ... The cabin is industrial grade GM, with little design fl air and cheap materials, but space efficiency is excellent. Two individual back seats in the seven-seater fold into the floor so you can raise one and use the adjacent space for gear. They’re more spacious, supportive and comfortable than most rivals and suitable for kids up to teen age, while boot space is pretty generous too. Captiva is honest enough, and you can argue with its discount deals, but Kia’s Sorento, Hyundai’s Santa Fe and Mazda’s CX9 are better seven-seaters.




he South Korean-built Captiva’s success is based on the fact that it’s a good-value family SUV, especially the seven-seaters. Regularly advertised drive-away offers further strengthen its appeal. The fi ve-seater Captiva 5 LS with front-wheel drive is available with a 2.4-litre fourcylinder petrol engine, with 123kW of power and 230Nm of torque. Transmission choices are six-speed manual at $26,490 or automatic at $28,690. The Captiva 5 also offers a 2.2-litre turbodiesel option with

STARS Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling Quality and reliability

135kW and 400Nm, only with the automatic all-wheel drivetrain, priced at $31,690 for LS. Both of these engines, plus the 3.0-litre direct-injection petrol V6 as used in the Commodore, are also offered in the sevenseater Captiva 7. The base Captiva 7 LS is front-wheel drive with either the 2.4-litre petrol ($30,490) or 2.2-litre turbodiesel ($33,490), both with the six-speed automatic. That’s very sharp pricing for a seven-seater SUV. The 3.0-litre V6 produces 190kW

of power and 288Nm of torque. It averages 10.1L/100km. It’s available in the Captiva 7 LT all-wheel drive — only with the automatic — at $37,490. So is the 2.2-litre turbodiesel, which costs $38,490. Both of these drivetrains are also offered in the Captiva 7 LTZ, priced at $40,490 and $41,490 respectively. The two petrol engines are adequate, though the 3.0-litre V6 lacks torque. The 2.4-litre four works pretty well with the six-speed auto, but the Captiva is a hefty

 Mid-spec LT is value for money  The 2.4-litre petrol engine isn’t too bad  Efficient, versatile interior packaging  Well equipped

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Nausea-inducing ride on the LTZ 3.0 V6 lacks torque and chews juice while the 2.2 turbodiesel is a dog Quality and reliability aren’t great

SPEX (2.2 LT 4WD) Made in South Korea 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel/ six-speed automatic/on-demand all-wheel drive 135kW of power at 3800rpm/400Nm of torque at 2000rpm 0–100km/h: N/A Warranty: Three years/100,000km 7.0L/100km highway; 10.6L/100km city; CO2 emissions are 220g/km Standard: LS includes six airbags, stability control, rear-parking sensors, camera, Bluetooth, self levelling rear suspension and 17-inch alloy wheels LT adds 18-inch alloys, automatic air and roof rails LTZ includes 19-inch alloys, navigation, leather-faced seat upholstery/steering wheel, poweradjustable and heated driver’s seat, front parking sensors Redbook future values: 3yr: 47%; 5yr: 33%

Comfort and refinement Value for money  Overall 


compare with ... Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan X-Trail




olden’s Trailblazer is a seven-seater wagon built on the Colorado one-tonner chassis. It also shares its frame, body and chassis with the Isuzu MU-X. The Trailblazer LT costs $47,990. The LT-Z, tested here, with the same mechanicals and more equipment, is $52,490. Up front in the LT-Z, it’s all Colorado Z71, including the antichic, industrial-look dash, MyLink infotainment system with eightinch colour touchscreen and leather-faced, heated front seats. So similar pluses and minuses apply. The driving position, for example, is cramped and uncomfortable for taller people because there’s no reach adjustment for the steering wheel. Access is also quite tight for those with long legs. MyLink has played up on a few Holdens I’ve tested, occasionally requiring rebooting the system from the Settings menu.

STARS Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement

Our car had other issues. Holding the lock button on the remote will also automatically close the windows. Except the driver’s side rear window. Sometimes. The front windows automatically open a few centimetres when you open the door, supposedly to alleviate cabin pressure when you close the door again. Then they close. Sometimes. Trailblazer’s comfortable middle bench has ample legroom, though the cabin is narrow so it’s a tad squeezy for three. Split 60/40, each side tumbles forward with no effort required for easy access to the two rear seats, which on shorter trips are tolerably roomy. Air-conditioning roof vents are provided for rows two and three and belt reminders for all seats. With both rows folded flat, you have almost two metres between

the front seats and the tailgate. In five-seater mode, space is still generous but the floor is high, which compromises overall volume and makes it difficult to lift heavy objects into the cargo bay. Smooth and quiet in cruise mode, the 2.8 delivers strong rolling acceleration and is a great engine for towing. Tall, heavy, one-tonner-based 4x4 wagons don’t handle, steer or stop like cars. Trailblazer is typical of the breed and caution is required. It can get a little loose on choppy bitumen and in tight corners, where the Bridgestone Duelers start squealing and sliding early. Despite discs replacing Colorado’s drums at the rear, our test Trailblazer’s brakes felt considerably weaker overall. The ride is reasonably comfortable, though hardly plush, at highway speeds.

The bitumen-treaded Duelers are less than grippy on dirt, too, prompting frequent, effective intervention from the stability control. Low range 4x4 has crawler gearing in first and second, plus hill start assist and descent control, so Trailblazer is a handy mountaineer. No locking rear diff is fitted, wading depth is a shallow 600mm and underbody protection is minimal. Trailblazer is sharply-priced, roomy and the torque-rich 2.8 can pull a road train, but it’s also unrefined, uncomfortable and devoid of design flair, with a $20,000 interior and, on the evidence of the test car, considerable potential for problems you don’t need and shouldn’t have to put up with. Mitsubishi’s Pajero Sport, the Toyota Fortuner and Ford’s Everest are much better sevenseater 4x4s.


THINGS WE LIKE  Torquey turbodiesel works nicely with six-speed automatic  Spacious, safe and well equipped  Will tow strongly

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  Seats on load floor arrangement doesn’t work  Cheap interior  Non stick tyres  Uncomfortable driving position  B grade quality and reliability

SPEX (LTZ) Trailblazer is made in Thailand 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel/ six-speed automatic/four-wheel drive 147kW of power at 3600rpm/500Nm of torque at 2000rpm 0–100km/h N/A 7.2L/100km highway; 11.1L/100km city. CO emissions are 228g/km. ² Fuel capacity is 76 litres Weight is 2203kg Max towing weight: 3000kg Standard: Seven airbags, stability control, trailer sway control, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, digital radio, voice control, navigation, USB port, four 12V outlets, parking sensors, remote power windows and starting, rear camera, 18-inch alloys including the spare, heated, leather-faced front seats, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, tyre pressure monitoring. Redbook future values: 3yr: 52%; 5yr: 39%

Value for money

compare with ...


Ford Everest, Isuzu MU-X, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Toyota Fortuner




olden’s 4x4 Colorado range opens with the 2.8-litre fourcylinder turbodiesel/six-speed manual LS single cab chassis, priced at $37,490. LS Space cab chassis is $40,990, Crew cab chassis is $43,490 and Crew cab pickup is priced at $44,990. LT Crew cab pickup is $46,990 and LTZ is $50,490. LTZ Space cab pickup is $48,990. Z71 Crew cab chassis is $54,490. A sixspeed automatic adds $2200 to all models. Holden overhauled the Colorado in 2016 with a facelift, upgraded infotainment and safety systems, drivetrain and suspension revisions aimed at improving refinement, handling and comfort. It still shares its frame, body and chassis with Isuzu’s D-Max. The VM Motori 2.8-litre turbodiesel is one of the strongest engines in the class, producing 147kW at 3800rpm and 440Nm of torque from 1600–2800rpm. Take the six-speed auto option — a good idea — and you get 500Nm from 2000–2200rpm.

STARS Safety Performance

(double cab)

Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall


That’s 30Nm more than the Ford Ranger and beaten only by the new Amarok 3.0-litre V6’s 550Nm. The Colorado will tow up to 3.5 tonnes and trailer sway control is standard. Maximum payload ranges from a neat 1000kg in the Z71 Crew cab manual pickup to 1387kg in the single cab chassis automatic, but like all one tonners, the GCM becomes impossibly problematic if you max out the payload and towing weights. The long-stroke 2.8 is a sweet engine with outstanding bottomend and midrange pulling power, a relatively refined character and strong acceleration when required. It’s smoother than Ford’s fivecylinder 3.2 in the Ranger (and the Mazda BT50), in part due to balance shafts being fitted, but it pulls with a similarly gentle, effortless quality on a light throttle. The manual is OK but the sixspeed automatic is worth the extra $2200. It’s busy, smooth and efficient, keeping the 2.8

working at its optimum level and maximising fuel-efficiency. Drive goes to the rear wheels on dry surfaces. A dual-range transfer case is fitted and a helical limited slip diff, but no rear locker. In low range the transmission is smooth and quiet and the accelerator easy to modulate. A steel bash plate protects the sump, but the transfer case and electric motor selector on it are vulnerable to damage. Colorado steers with greater precision than most rivals, has decent brakes (disc front/drum rear) and is a pretty tidy handler by one-tonner standards. However, it’s still not quite in the Ranger or Amarok class for stability at speed on rough roads, and despite the changes to the suspension, neither is ride comfort. The cabin is spacious and comfortable with a firm but not particularly supportive driver’s seat in the LTZ. There’s ample seat travel but no reach adjustment for the wheel, so tall blokes can be

S cramped for legroom. Back-seat space is generous, though you do sit slightly knees-up. The dash features Holden’s MyLink infotainment system with an eight-inch colour touchscreen in LTZ, navigation, digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone functionality, voice recognition and seven-speaker audio. It’s a clean, easy-to-use layout, though MyLink can be a bit temperamental. Remote power window operation via the keyfob is a useful feature in hot weather. There’s no radar cruise as in Ranger, but LTZ does get forward collision alert, lane departure warning and tyre pressure monitoring. A rear-view camera is standard in all models, as is a full-size spare. Colorado is a big, strong truck with a great engine, and Holden regularly offers sharp value-added deals in this supercompetitive one-tonner market.


THINGS WE LIKE  Good-value drive-away deals  One of the best engines in the class  Plenty of space  Tidy handling  Lifetime capped-price servicing

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  No reach adjustment for the wheel and a cramped driving position  No locking rear diff  Potential quality and reliability issues  Can get a bit lumpy and jumpy on a rough road

SPEX (LTZ) Made in Thailand 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel/ six-speed auto/dual range 4x4 147kW of power at 3800rpm/500Nm of torque from 2000–2200rpm 0–100km/h N/A 7.6L/100km highway; 11.9L/100km city; CO2 emissions are 245g/km; fuel tank 76 litres Max towing weight 3500kg Standard: Seven airbags, stability control, trailer sway control, camera, MyLink with eight-inch touchscreen, Apply CarPlay, Android Auto, digital radio, Bluetooth, voice recognition, remote-power windows, 18-inch alloys, front and rear parking sensors, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, tyre pressure monitoring, soft tonneau cover, rain-sensing wipers Redbook future values: 3yr: 58%; 5yr: 43%

compare with ... Ford Ranger, Isuzu D-Max, Mazda BT50, Mitsubishi Triton, Toyota HiLux, VW Amarok




onda’s HRV, a compact five-door SUV, combines extraordinary interior flexibility with a punchy drivetrain and handsome styling inside and out. The base 1.8-litre petrol/ continuously variable automatic (CVT) VTi model costs $24,990. Then it’s the same drivetrain with more fruit as you move up to the VTi-S (from $27,990), followed by the VT-L (from $33,340) and then the VTi-L with ADAS flagship (from $34.340). The latter is Honda-speak for Advanced Driver Assist System and brings brand-first forward collision and lane-departure warning technology as well as an automatic high-beam headlight dipping system. While the 1799cc single-cam i-VTEC unit has seen dependable service in the Civic for years, its pairing with the latestgeneration CVT has given the 1.8 a fresh lease on life. The HR-V is unexpectedly perky off the line and will


maintain its eager acceleration right up to the 6600rpm redline (and a bit beyond). The CVT, meanwhile, is quite atypical in that it is not prone to droning. In most driving situations, it is as fast and responsive as the best autos out there. All in all, then, the HR-V offers one of the livelier and more refined drivetrain choices in its ever-growing class. If you approach a turn too fast, the HRV will ultimately run wide into understeer, of course, but the bottom line is this compact SUV’s dynamics are safe, secure and more car-like than its high-riding stance suggests. Subaru’s XV and Ford’s EcoSport are still the best handlers in this class. After the horror of discovering that its Jazz sibling has devolved into using drum rather than disc rear brakes, the HR-V boasts the latter, for precise and incisive stopping power. Honda’s engineers are also proud of their crossover’s rigid yet lightweight structure, which may

explain the agreeably supple ride quality on the standard 16-inch wheel and tyre package. The larger 17-inch alternatives do sacrifice some ride comfort for better handling poise, while they are also more susceptible to transmitting road noise inside the HR-V’s appealingly presented cabin. For an inexpensive entrylevel variant, the base VTi looks and feels a step above most of its equivalently priced competitors, giving the HR-V a real showroom edge. Being Jazz-derived, one of the interior’s biggest strengths is its feeling of space and airiness, highlighted by the relatively deep side windows (despite the upsweep design) and high, commanding seating positions. The clean and uncluttered dash is a very modern piece of kit, dominated by a large central touch screen containing a host of vehicle settings, multimedia, Bluetooth phone and rear-camera displays. It is a very user-friendly example of technology working with, rather than against, the operator.

The rear seat has an abundance of knee and legroom (comparable to many medium SUVs) combined with a comfortably angled backrest. The inclusion of Jazz-style “Magic Seats” means the whole split rear seat can nestle down low, deep into the cavity where the fuel tank lives in other vehicles, allowing for an exceptionally large extended cargo bay. The cushion can also be tilted upwards for transporting tall narrow objects like a pair of bikes (with their front wheels removed of course). Topping things off in the HR-V’s tail is a large tailgate and easy-to-load lip height. In this compact SUV class, the HRV is one of the front runners along with Mazda’s CX3, Kia Sportage, Suzuki Vitara and Toyota C-HR. Add it to your test drive list.


By Byron Mathioudakis

THINGS WE LIKE  Class-leading space efficiency  Well equipped  Advanced driver assist technology  Strong and smooth performance  Responsive steering and VTi’s supple ride

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  Front-wheel drive only  Flimsy rear luggage cover  Some engine noise intrusion at speed



Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling 

Quality and reliability

Made in Thailand 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol/CVT/ front-wheel drive 105kW of power at 6500rpm/172Nm of torque at 4300rpm 0–100km/h N/A 5.6L/100km highway; 8.5L/100km city; 91 octane regular; CO2 emissions are 155g/km Warranty: Five years/unlimited km Fuel tank capacity 50 litres Maximum towing weight 800kg Standard: Six airbags, stability control, tyre pressure monitoring, camera, Bluetooth audio and phone streaming and 16-inch alloy wheels. VTi-S includes automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring and 17-inch alloys. VTi-L includes leather trim, sunroof, front and rear parking sensors and paddle shifters. Redbook future values: 3yr:53%; 5yr: 42%

Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall

compare with ... Ford EcoSport, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-3, Renault Captur, Subaru XV, Suzuki Vitara, Toyota C-HR




onda’S CR-V, the world’s top-selling SUV, lost its way for a while but is now back in serious contention with the fifth generation since 1997. Priced from $30,690 for the VTi frontdrive auto, the latest version has expanded its repertoire with seven-seat availability as part of a range that also includes all-wheel drive but no more diesel option. Beneath the contemporary styling is Honda’s latest ‘Earth Dreams’ architecture — a sophisticated low-centre-ofgravity platform plus a fourcylinder turbo petrol engine, multi-link rear suspension and a clever fuel-saving all-wheel-drive system that cuts in and out only when required. This CRV is pleasingly spacious, easy to drive, comfortable, quiet, powerful, economical and agile. So it shares many of the attributes of its better competitors. Let’s take the packaging. This is a true five-seater with heaps of space up front in all directions. Cushy yet supportive seats perched up high, superb

STARS Safety Note yet tested Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money  Overall


all-round vision, a nicely finished dash featuring a huge central touchscreen that’s simple to operate, clear instrumentation, ample ventilation and almost endless storage all prove that Honda has studied SUV buyers’ requirements intensively. That’s confirmed in the back. Rear legroom is exceptional, the split backrests recline and there are face-level air vents, while two USB ports should sustain attention-diverting electronics for hours. The two back seats in the VTi-L are tight and suitable for young kids only, which is usual in this class. If you want seven full-size seats, you need a Mazda CX9. A long, flat luggage area is accessed on all but the base variant by an electrically operated tailgate. A full-sized alloy spare is fitted to all variants. The 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol powering all models provides a healthy dose of acceleration for quick and seamless getaways, assisted by a smooth and unexpectedly responsive CVT continuously

variable transmission. It’s also pretty frugal, at least according to the official figures. Handling is at the front end of the class thanks to quick steering and very assured roadholding. Honda’s engineers seem to have dialled in just the right amount of effort and feedback. And though there is an underlying firmness to the ride, with nothing like the cushiness of the outstanding Forester, there’s still sufficient suppleness to ably deal with most road irregularities. Quietness is another virtue. Finally there’s the question of value — once a Honda bugbear but no longer. The base VTi frontwheel drive includes a 7.0-inch touchscreen, reverse camera, automatic air, keyless entry and start with walkaway locking, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity and alloys. VTi-S, from $33,290, adds a power tailgate, navigation, parking sensors and passengerside blind-spot monitoring — but not driver’s side. The all-wheeldrive VTi-S is $35,490. VTi-L,

with front-wheel drive, seven seats, leather and a sunroof is $38,990. However Autonomous Emergency Braking is only available on the top-line VTi-LX AWD, priced from $44,290, which is poor form and gives the CRV a markedly inferior safety specification to Mazda’s CX5, Subaru’s Forester and the VW Tiguan. It will be standardised across the range sometime during 2018, packaged with radar cruise, lane keeping, automatic high beam and forward-collision warning. The fifth-generation CR-V is a roomy, practical, sophisticated SUV. It’s back up there with the segment’s best as a drive, but if safety is a priority, the Mazda, Subaru and VW are better choices.


By Byron Mathioudakis

THINGS WE LIKE  Strong, refined 1.5-litre turbo  Sporty handling  Spacious cargo area  Powered tailgate  Easy and logical control layout  Long warranty

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Way off the pace with safety features In five-seater models the middlecentre seatbelt is mounted on the roof Seven seats are only offered on the $38,990 VTi-L

SPEX (VTi-S) Made in Thailand 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol/ seven-speed automatic/frontwheel drive 140kW of power at 5600rpm/240Nm of torque from 2000-5000rpm 0-100km in 9.9 seconds (claimed) 6.2L/100km highway; 9.2L/100km city; 91 octane; CO² emissions are 166g/km. Fuel tank is 57 litres Warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres Max towing weight: 1000kg Six airbags, stability control, parking sensors, navigation, camera, Lane Watch offside camera, power tailgate, automatic air, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Bluetooth, auto on/off lights, walkaway auto locking, AUX/USB port, tyre-pressure monitoring, 18-inch alloy wheels, full-size spare Redbook future values: 3yr: 58%; 5yr: 46%

compare with ... Mitsubishi Outlander, Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, Volkswagen Tiguan


HYUNDAI TUCSON FROM $28,590 comfortable cushion and adjustable backrest angle. Three will fit, but the centre belt is housed in the roof and fiddly to use, and no vents are provided. Three Australian standard and two ISOFIX mounts are fitted. The big boot has a low floor, high-opening tailgate, 12-volt outlet, bag hook, net and cargo blind. It’s easily extended by folding forward the 60/40 split-fold rearseat backs. A full-size spare on an alloy wheel is under the floor. Tucson is a well-made, capable SUV that would be easy to live with as a family wagon, but compared with Mazda CX-5, Subaru Forester and VW Tiguan it misses out on important safety features across the range, doesn’t drive as nicely and, apart from ActiveX, is overpriced.


yundai’s Tucson mid-size SUV range opens with the 121kW/203Nm 2.0-litre fourcylinder direct-injection petrol/ six-speed manual front-wheeldrive Active at $28,590. With a six-speed auto, it’s $31,090. Tucson ActiveX is priced at $31,150 and $33,650 with the automatic, as tested here. Front-wheel drive Elite is $36,250. All-wheel-drive variants kick off with the 130kW/265Nm 1.6-litre turbopetrol/seven-speed dual-clutch-automated manual Elite at $39,250. In top-of-therange Highlander specification, it’s $45,450. The 135kW/400Nm 2.0-litre turbodiesel/six-speed automatic all-wheel-drive Active is $35,090. Elite is $41,250 and Highlander is $47,450. Hyundai is pitching Tucson ActiveX as the value-for-money variant, with 18-inch alloy wheels, leather-faced seats, dynamic parking guidelines

on the rear camera and a big touchscreen infotainment system. Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto compatibility are standard across the range. Hyundai’s five years/unlimitedkilometres warranty is another value-add on ActiveX. However, it misses out on high-tech safety gear. Automatic emergency braking, lanedeparture warning and blindspot detection are only available on the Highlander. The 2.0-litre direct-injection engine’s relatively low peak torque figure is produced at a very high 4700rpm, so performance is leisurely, especially with a full load of kids. Eco, Normal and Sport modes give you the option of trading off performance for fuel economy via different transmission shift points. Hyundai’s local suspensiontuning expertise, underpinned

by a strong, rigid body, delivers great roadholding and control on rough surfaces with a firm, comfortable ride and precise steering. Tucson ActiveX pushes the front end and gets a bit messy in tight corners — like every other front-wheel-drive SUV — while the brakes, though powerful, are wooden in feel. The stark, functional dash, swathed in textured grey plastic, features bright, illuminated instruments, a clear, easy-tonavigate, responsive touchscreen and two 12-volt outlets. There’s ample driving position adjustability, unimpeded vision all round, a comfortable driver’s seat and plenty of storage. It’s hardly a premium cabin but it’s quiet and fit and finish quality are fine. I’ve heard tinnier sound systems in much more expensive cars, too. Tucson’s back seat has reasonable legroom, a firm,


THINGS WE LIKE  Plenty of space  Well equipped  Secure handling and comfortable ride  Easy to drive  Excellent quality and reliability plus a long warranty

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  2.0-litre engine lacks torque  Rivals at this price point have allwheel drive  Cabin is a bit grey, plasticky and downmarket  Only the top-spec model gets the high-tech safety gear  No 12-volt outlet or vents in back seat

SPEX (ActiveX automatic)      

STARS Safety ANCAP Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall

Made in South Korea and the Czech Republic 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol/sixspeed automatic/front-wheel drive 121kW of power at 6200rpm/203Nm of torque at 4700rpm 0–100km/h N/A Warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres 6.1L/100km highway; 11.0L/100km city; regular unleaded, CO2 emissions are 185g/km. Fuel tank: 62 litres Standard: Six airbags, stability control, 18-inch alloy wheels, rear camera and parking sensors, automatic headlights, leatherfaced seats, 7-inch touchscreen infotainment with Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay, heated, folding side mirrors, roof rails Redbook future values: 3yr: 56%; 5yr: 43%

compare with ... Ford Escape, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail, Subaru Forester, VW Tiguan



S Automatic reverse and parallel parking are also standard on Highlander. The middle row is (just) wide enough for three, split 60/40 and has plenty of legroom. The two individual row-three seats are easily raised into position, but the second row folding system is clumsy and rear-seat access is difficult. In five-seat mode the floor is long, low and easy to load via the roof-hinged tailgate, power operated on Elite and Highlander. A full-size spare on an alloy wheel is included. The Santa Fe 2.2 turbodiesel is one of the best seven-seater SUVs on the market. The Highlander is as loaded as a six-figure luxury Euro SUV but it comes with a better warranty and lower running costs. Compare with the Skoda Kodiaq, Mazda’s CX-9 and the Kia Sorento.


he Hyundai Santa Fe Series II features seven seats in all models. The lineup opens with the front-wheel-drive 199kW 3.3-litre V6 petrol/six-speed automatic Active X at $40,990. Active, with a 138kW 2.4-litre petrol four/six-speed auto/allwheel drivetrain, is $41,850. The 147kW 2.2-litre turbodiesel/six-speed automatic/ all-wheel drive Active is $44,850. Elite 2.2 turbodiesel automatic is $51,990, Highlander is $57,090. The 2.2 turbodiesel produces hefty outputs for its size, especially its impressive 440Nm of torque from 1750–2750rpm. The same engine is also used in the Santa Fe’s twin under the skin, the Kia Sorento. Its numbers are superior to any Japanese rival, including Toyota’s new 2.8-litre


turbodiesel in the LandCruiser, Prado and Fortuner. The Hyundai pulls easily from low revs, is exceptionally smooth and strong in the midrange and pulls hard across the top end to well past 4500rpm. The manual’s action is fine and the gearing is appropriate, but the automatic is a more efficient match with the engine. Santa Fe packs some sophisticated chassis technology, including torque vectoring and steering assistance in the stability control system. Dynamics, a weak point on the original model, are much improved on Series II thanks to some local suspension tuning. Santa Fe is now controlled, secure and well-balanced at highway

speeds and on poor road surfaces. Ride comfort and steering precision are fine as well. Santa Fe’s cabin is bright, open, spacious and nicely finished in quality plastics. Infotainment includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility across the range. Elite and Highlander have navigation and a larger touchscreen. A-grade safety tech was made standard across the Santa Fe range in mid-2017. Hyundai’s Smart Sense safety system includes radar/camera cruise, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, automatic traffic crawling, blind spot detection, lane change assist and rear cross-traffic alert.


THINGS WE LIKE  The 2.2 turbodiesel is the best engine in this class  A grade safety across the range  Loaded with equipment  Excellent quality  Long warranty and high resale values

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  Difficult access to the back seats  The base model 3.3-litre V6 is a thirsty engine

SPEX (Elite auto)  



Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling Quality and reliability

Made in South Korea 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel/six-speed manual/ six-speed automatic/on-demand all-wheel drive 147kW of power at 3800rpm/440Nm of torque from 1800–2500rpm 0–100km/h in 10 seconds Warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres 6.4L/100km highway; 10.0L/100km city. CO2 emissions are 203g/km. Fuel tank: 64 litres Max towing weight: 2000kg Standard: Stability control, seven airbags, active fronthead restraints, 18-inch alloys, Bluetooth with audio streaming, USB, rear camera, leather-wrapped wheel, chilled glovebox, power tailgate, touchscreen navigation with SUNA traffic updates Redbook future values: 3yr: 61%; 5yr: 47%

Comfort and refinement Value for money  Overall 


compare with ... Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Skoda Kodiaq


ISUZU D-MAX FROM $34,800 both heavy-duty hauling and comfort, so Isuzu has some homework to do here. The steering is on the heavy side at a time when other brands have switched to lighter electric power steering. Most tradies won’t mind the bounciness of the suspension — especially if they’ve not experienced anything else — but fellas, trust us, it doesn’t need to be this way. Isuzu says it has added sound deadening to all models, but the upgraded engine still has a noticeable swirling noise below 2500rpm before the typical diesel ratt-a-tatt starts to come into play. The extra grunt is most noticeable in freeway driving, where the engine is ticking over closer to the maximum torque range. But it’s still no slingshot. After all, it is a workhorse, not a racehorse.



he Isuzu DMax 4x4 range opens with the single cabchassis EX at $34,800. Doublecab pickups start at $43,900 for the Hi Ride SX, with the top-of-the-range LS-T priced at $54,200. All models run a 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel with 130kW of power and 430Nm of torque. A six-speed manual is standard; a six-speed automatic adds $2100 to most variants; it’s standard on LS-T. While these outputs are still less than most rivals, they’re comparable with the Toyota HiLux, which has 130kW of power and 420Nm (manual) and 450Nm (auto) from its 2.8-litre turbodiesel. Isuzu says the D-Max’s power and torque numbers are conservative by industry standards and are the maximum after the engine uses its energy to run other ancillaries. The same engine is also used in a

STARS Safety Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall

4.5-tonne Isuzu truck and its reliability is well proven. The truck heritage is one of the reasons the D-Max is popular with tradies, former truck drivers and older blokes, says Isuzu. The target buyers are also a bit old school when it comes to grunt, and they want a big engine rather than a smaller engine that promises big outputs. Inside the 2017 model, Isuzu has fitted a new seven-inch touchscreen to the bottom two grades and an eight-inch touchscreen to the highest two grades, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not available. All variants come with three USB ports (two up front and one in the rear) plus two 12V power sockets. There is a new digital screen between the instruments, but it only displays fuel and other basic information. A digital speed

readout would be welcome given our strict speed enforcement. A rear-view camera is standard on most variants but still an optional extra ($430) on the base models. This anomaly puts the D-Max out of step with the Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi Triton and Holden Colorado, which now have a rear camera as standard on all models except the cab-chassis variants. As with some rivals, the steering still has reach adjustment only, making it difficult for blokes of many shapes and sizes to get comfortable. The D-Max is still the most truck-like of the utes on sale, jiggling over seemingly small bumps in the road. Isuzu says that’s the trade-off for heavyduty load-carrying, towing and off-road ability. However, Toyota, Volkswagen and Ford can deliver

By Joshua Dowling

THINGS WE LIKE One of the biggest diesel donks in the class Reliable and durable Excellent resale values Five-year warranty Strong off-road credentials

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE No rear-view camera on base model Still drives like a truck Rivals are more comfortable A digital speedometer and bigger door pockets would be welcome Off the pace for safety technology

SPEX (LS-T) Made in Thailand 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel/ six-speed automatic/dual-range 4WD 130kW of power at 3600rpm/430Nm of torque from 2000–2200rpm 6.9L/100km highway; 9.5L/100km city; CO2 emissions are 209g/km Fuel tank is 76 litres Weight 2026kg; GVM 2950kg Maximum towing weight 3500kg Warranty: Five years/130,000km Standard: Six airbags, stability control, hill descent control, camera, side steps, 17-inch alloy wheels, full-size spare, dual-zone air, keyless entry, eight-inch touchscreen, navigation, Bluetooth, 3 x USB ports, leatherwrapped steering wheel Redbook future values: 3yr: 59%; 5yr: 51%

compare with ... Ford Ranger, Holden Colorado, Mazda BT50, Mitsubishi Triton, Toyota HiLux




ride is firm but not too truck-like, with acceptable comfort and compliance on rough roads. The dash is as per the D-Max, so the top-spec LS-T presents more like a $30,000 ute than a $50,000 wagon, but to Isuzu’s credit the cabin stayed squeakand rattle-free on test. The middle seat is high, comfortable and has reasonable legroom. The back stalls also have more legroom and easier access than most, and the side curtain airbags run the full length of the cabin. In five-seater mode, MU-X’s boot floor is high and angled, which compromises ease of loading and safety. As part of a 2017 upgrade, Isuzu added new infotainment touchscreens, including an eightinch screen with navigation on LS-U and LS-T. Driver assist safety tech such as blind spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking are still conspicuously absent.



suzu’s MU-X seven-seater wagon uses the same body-onladder chassis construction as the D-Max ute but the wheelbase is shortened by 250mm, the ute’s rear leaf springs are replaced by coils, and discs replace drums at the rear. It’s also a twin under the skin with the Holden Trailblazer, apart from different drivetrains. All variants run a 130kW 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel with six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. The range opens with the rear-wheel-drive LS-M auto at $42,800; the LS-U auto is $45,100 and LS-T is $48,800.


4x4 models, all with a dual-range transfer case and selectable four-wheel drive, start at $48,000 for the LS-M manual, with the auto at $50,100. LS-U specification costs $50,300/$52,400 and the top-ofthe-range LS-T auto is $56,100. Acceleration in the MU-X is leisurely no matter how deeply you press the accelerator. That said, with 430Nm of torque on tap from just 1700rpm, it’s got exactly the type of lazy, strong grunt that a vehicle like this needs, especially for towing. Dynamics are par for the course on a wagon of this type. Which is a polite way of saying that we’re dealing with a primitive, onetonner-based chassis, which is

about as far from sporty handling territory as it’s possible to get. That said, MU-X is also a heavy-duty off-roader so it has a breadth of go-anywhere ability that no SUV can match. It’s not as intimidating to drive and park as the super-size wagons either. From the driver’s seat it feels smaller than it is, in part because vision around the car is clear. A tight turning circle is another welcome attraction. Off-road, there’s a useful 230mm of clearance and solid bash plates protecting the underbody. A locking rear diff option would be nice. The suspension is quite firm and control over body movement is reasonable. The

THINGS WE LIKE  Spacious seven-seater cabin with lots of storage  Reliable, tractable 3.0-litre turbodiesel  Genuine off-road ability  Long warranty  Easy to drive for a big wagon


SPEX (LS-T 4x4 auto)  




ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling 

Quality and reliability

Drives like a truck No 21st century safety tech No reach adjustment for the wheel High, angled boot floor Made in Thailand 3.0-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel/ six-speed automatic/four-wheel drive 130kW of power at 3600rpm/430Nm of torque from 2000–2200rpm 0–100km/h N/A 7.1L/100km highway; 9.9L/100km city; CO2 emissions are 214g/km; fuel tank is 65 litres Warranty: Five years/130,000km Max towing capacity 3000kg LS-T has six airbags, stability control, 17-inch alloys, Bluetooth with audio streaming, touchscreen infotainment, navigation, rear-seat DVD, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, leatherfaced seats and roof rails. Redbook future values: (LS-T auto) 3yr: 58%; 5yr: 45%.

Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall


compare with ... Ford Everest, Holden Trailblazer, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Toyota Fortuner



aguar’s F-Pace is the firstever SUV to wear the leaping cat badge. Its mostly aluminium body draws on the basic elements of Jaguar’s XE and XF sedans. Size-wise, the F-Pace is something of an in-betweenie. It’s larger than a BMW X3, for example, but not as big as an X5. It’s certainly spacious enough to be a very useful family wagon. The 650-litre cargo compartment is a whopper and the rear seat, which features a three-piece folding backrest, is roomy. Considering its size and equipment, F-Pace prices aren’t outrageous. They begin at $72,510 for the 132kW 2.0-litre turbodiesel four Prestige, with rear-wheel drive. The 221kW 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel all-wheel drive range opens at $86,445 for the Prestige. Petrol models open with the 184kW 2.0-litre rear-wheel drive Prestige, at $73,252. The supercharged 250kW 3.0-litre V6 all-wheel drive is priced from $85,437 for the Prestige, topping out at $104,827 for the S, with 280kW of power.


When compared to the smaller but more expensive Porsche Macan, a natural rival, Jaguar’s first SUV looks priced for success. Though bulkier than other middleweight premium SUVs, the F-Pace has been skilfully styled. It’s a very good-looking SUV indeed. At least from the outside. Inside, the F-Pace is less persuasive. The instrument panel, which features a broad landscape-oriented touchscreen for its infotainment system, is plain to look at and lacks the visual quality provided by its mostly German opposition. F-Pace’s party trick is the optional Activity Key, a waterproof wristband with an integrated transponder that allows you to leave your keys securely in the vehicle when you don’t want to take them with you — if you’re going for a swim or a surf, for example. The transponder locks the vehicle and temporarily disables the key fob, so until

you return it can’t be started. To drive, the F-Pace is among the best in class. Suspension set-up varies according to model grade; softer for basic Prestige and posh Portfolio, firmer for the R-Sport and high-power S. All blend ride comfort and handling agility with rare skill. The direct and well-weighted electric power steering is especially good. For the Australian market, all F-Pace models come standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Jaguar collaborated with sister company Land Rover on the AWD set-up and although its drivetrain is high range only, the F-Pace has a decent degree of off-road ability, arguably more than its German rivals. The 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol engine is the same unit used in the F-Type sports car and XE and XF sedans. In either tune, it endows the F-Pace with serious go forward.

The 280kW variant accelerates from 0–100km/h in just 5.5 seconds, which is at the pointy end of the SUV spectrum. Many buyers will ignore the heavy drinking petrol engines and head straight for the more efficient diesels, which are both excellent. The V6 is smooth, quiet and muscular. While the four isn’t as suave, it delivers perfectly adequate performance, superior economy and, because it weighs less, slightly better handling. The F-Pace’s list of active and passive safety features is long and includes standard autonomous emergency braking in all equipment grades. Jaguar is owned by the same Indian conglomerate as Land Rover, and the F-Pace is also available with a Range Rover badge in the shape of the new Velar, due as we went to press.


By John Carey

THINGS WE LIKE  Comfortable ride and tidy handling  Muscular, frugal turbodiesels  Potent supercharged petrol V6  Rear seat and cargo space  Solid and well built  Sharply priced, especially Prestige variants


SPEX (3.0d Prestige)     


Safety Not yet tested Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement

Dull, plain dash styling Limited front-seat knee room High, hard rear seat centre position Supercharged petrol V6 is thirsty

Made in England 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel/eight-speed automatic/all-wheel drive 221kW of power at 4000rpm/700Nm of torque at 2000rpm 0–100km/h in 6.2 seconds (claimed) 5.6L/100km highway; 6.9L/100km city; CO2 emissions are 159g/km; fuel tank is 66 litres Max towing weight 2400kg Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres Standard: Six airbags, stability control, 19-inch alloy wheels, partial leather upholstery, Meridian audio, eight-inch touch screen, parking sensors, Bluetooth with voice control, navigation, power tailgate, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, tyre pressure monitoring, camera, space saver spare Redbook future values: 3yr: 57%; 5yr: 43%

Value for money

compare with ...


Audi Q5, BMW X3/X4, Lexus RX, Mercedes GLC, Porsche Macan



FROM $35,950

Jeep is struggling in the Australian market, a consequence of corporate ineptitude and the factory’s inability to deliver acceptable quality and reliability. It’s a shame, because vehicles such as the Cherokee are among the class leaders to drive, and excellent value against their rivals. HOW MUCH? The Cherokee range starts at $35,950 for the front-wheeldrive (FWD) 2.4-litre fourcylinder petrol Sport. At $41,450, the Longitude (called Latitude in northern hemisphere markets), swaps the four-cylinder for a 3.2-litre V6 petrol and adds four-wheel drive.

The Limited variant shares the Longitude’s drivetrain and weighs in at $45,950. The off-roadfocused Trailhawk is $49,950. All models are equipped with a nine-speed auto transmission.


STARS Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide

Performance Handling Quality and reliability

Comfort and refinement Value for money



Cherokee is made in the USA. It sits on a version of the lightweight CUS-wide platform shared with its Fiat Chrysler stablemate, the Alfa Romeo Giulietta hatchback. The all-alloy Tigershark 2.4-litre petrol four-cylinder, powering the entry-level Sport, develops 130kW of power at 6400rpm and 229Nm of torque at 4600rpm. The 3.2-litre Pentastar alloy petrol V6 develops 200kW of power at 6500rpm and 315Nm of torque at 4400rpm. The nine-speed auto is based on a ZF design. 4WD models are equipped with three drive configurations.

Active Drive I on the Longitude and Limited models is fully automatic, the drivetrain seamlessly shifting between two- and four-wheel drive according to demand. This

rear-axle disconnect function increases fuel efficiency. Active Drive II adds a dual range transfer case, and the Trailhawk also features ‘Active Drive Lock’ with a


locking rear differential for serious off-road ability. Suspension is by MacPherson struts at the front and four independent links at the rear. Brakes are disc all around, ventilated at the front and with solid discs at the rear. V6 variants are upgraded with dual (up from single) piston calipers and larger front rotors. Kerb weight ranges from 1669–1862kg. The fuel tank holds 60 litres. The 2.4-litre Sport will tow 1800kg and the 3.2-litre 4WD 2200kg. On the Sport and Longitude, 17-inch alloy wheels are shod with 225/60 tyres. Limited is fitted with 18-inch alloy rims and 225/55 rubber, while the Trailhawk features unique 17inch alloys with specific offsets, shod with 245/65 Yokohama Geolander all-terrain tyres.

HOW DOES IT GO? Despite the fact maximum torque doesn’t arrive until 4600rpm, the 2.4-litre FWD Sport eats up openroad kays happily, with plenty in reserve for overtaking and more than adequate squirt for the urban cut and thrust. A low first gear helps get the Jeep smartly away from the lights. The 3.2-litre V6 is smooth and supremely quiet, with the nine-speed auto keeping it working efficiently. The ninespeed transmission has had reported problems with harsh, delayed shifting on some examples. The transmission on our test car was fine. The Selec-Terrain system in 4WD models, switchable through Auto, Sport, Snow, Sand/ Mud, and (Trailhawk only) Rock settings, also works to deliver confidence-inspiring drive and grip off-road. The V6’s 316Nm of torque helps with low-speed lugging uphill and the Trailhawk’s hill ascent and descent control takes the guesswork out of even the most challenging sections.


The 2.4-litre petrol four in the Sport averages 6.3L/100km on the highway and 11.6L/100km in the city, on 91 octane regular, and produces 269g/km of C02. The 3.2-litre petrol V6 averages 7.7L/100km,

13.9L/100km and 322g/km, also on regular unleaded.

DOES IT HANDLE, STEER AND STOP? In both FWD and 4WD form, the Cherokee is a civilised and impressively quiet cruiser and one of the better handling wagons in the class. Thanks to their 17-inch wheels running comfy 60-profile rubber, the base 4x2 Sport and 4x4 Longitude deliver aboveaverage SUV ride quality, even on dirt roads. Frequency-sensitive shock-absorbers, claimed to automatically adjust to input from the road, also play their part. The step up to 18s on the Limited makes for a slightly firmer ride but there’s not much in it. More than 65 per cent of the body structure is made from high- and ultra-highstrength steel, improving the Cherokee’s torsional stiffness. Despite its tall stance the Cherokee remains composed and balanced in corners. The electrically assisted, speedsensitive rack and pinion steering is sharp, with quick turn-in response in cornering.

THE INSIDE STORY The cabin works well ergonomically and aesthetically, with the centre dash panel dominated by an 8.8cm TFT (Thin Film Transistor) infotainment display in the Sport and Longitude, and an all-singingand-dancing 17.7cm colour screen in the Limited and Trailhawk. Displays and menus are logical and intuitive. Nappa leather upholstery is included as standard in the Limited

and Trailhawk. The seats are supportive yet comfortable, there’s storage just about everywhere (including under the front passenger seat), and handy 12-volt power outlets in the dash, console bin and cargo compartment. A rare feature is the fore/aft adjustability and recline function of the split-folding second row seat. The front seat folds flat for maximum load flexibility. Ambient LED interior lighting adds an air of sophistication and air-conditioning (including rear outlets) is standard, with Longitude and above featuring dual-zone auto climate control. Bluetooth streaming audio, USB ports and hands-free phone connectivity are standard.

IN THE BOOT The Cherokee features a Jeepexclusive system using a fixed rail in the cargo area to attach a variety of optional accessory packs, including an off-road kit (tow rope, gloves etc), collapsible cargo bin, cooler bag and firstaid/emergency kit. Cherokee’s cargo volume with rear seats up is 700 litres, increasing to 1555 litres with rear seats folded flat. In practical terms the load area is very small and most rivals give you more space. On our test car, the power tailgate also refused at times to close and latch properly.


Sport includes stability control, seven airbags,17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, USB and a rear-view camera. Longitude adds the V6 engine and 4WD, as well as the Selec-Terrain multi-mode


drive system, dual-zone air, rain-sensing wipers, electric adjustment (including lumbar control) on the driver’s seat and a power rear tailgate. Limited adds leather seats (heated in the front), bi-xenon headlights, 18-inch alloys, 17.7cm display screen, Uconnect radio and navigation with USB port, front and rear parking sensors and Alpine sound. Trailhawk adds unique front and rear panels that increase approach and departure angles, tow hooks, 25mm of additional ground clearance, skid plates, heavy-duty engine cooling and an auxiliary transmission oil cooler, Active Drive Lock with low range and locking rear axle, plus 17-inch alloys and allterrain rubber. Warranty: Five years/100,000km. Redbook future values (Limited): 3yr 55%; 5yr: 44%.


THINGS WE LIKE  Value for money  Secure, confident handling and a comfortable ride  Aggressively modern design will polarise opinion but we like it  Trailhawk’s 4x4 ability

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  The optional ‘CommandView’ dualpane panoramic sunroof (available on Limited and Trailhawk) ruins rear headroom.  While steering response is sharp on turn-in, road feel is average  Colour matching of some interior plastics is patchy  Jeep’s poor reliability record

compare with ... Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Subaru Forester, Suzuki Grand Vitara, VW Tiguan



Jeep’s Grand Cherokee range was recently updated with a new Trailhawk model offering greater off-road capability, plus a raft of improvements. Jeep Australia also claims it’s turned over a new leaf and is now looking after customers with problems rather than telling them to go away. HOW MUCH? The Grand Cherokee Laredo 3.6-litre V6 petrol, offered with rear-wheel drive as a base model, is $47,500. The 3.6-litre V6 Laredo 4x4 is $52,500 and the Limited is $62,500. The 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel Laredo 4x4 is $59,000, Blackhawk is $61,000, Limited is $69,000, Trailhawk is $74,000 and Overland is $80,000.

The 6.4-litre Hemi V8 SRT-8 monster is $91,000. An eight-speed automatic is standard.


STARS Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide 

Performance (3.0T/D; SRT-8: Handling


Quality and reliability

Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall


The Grand Cherokee is made in the USA. The WK body is unitary construction. Chrysler claims it’s stiffer than the BMW X5. It is also used in the current Mercedes-Benz GLE Class as it was developed during parent Chrysler’s time under Daimler ownership. The brand has since been sold and is now controlled by Fiat. Laredo’s 3.6-litre V6 Pentastar petrol engine produces 213kW of power at 6350rpm and 347Nm of torque at 4300rpm. The 3.0-litre Fiat V6 turbodiesel produces 184kW at 4000rpm and 570Nm at 2000rpm. The 6.4-litre Hemi V8 in the SRT-8 produces 344kW at 6250 rpm and 624Nm at 4100rpm. SRT-8 also has a high-rangeonly all-wheel drivetrain.

Selec-Terrain, available with the Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II dual-range drivetrains, is a push-button traction control system, similar to the one used in the Land Rover Discovery, that co-ordinates the drivetrain, brakes and suspension to maximise traction on different

surfaces, including rocks (in low range only), snow and sand/mud. Suspension is independent, with a rear multilink arrangement. Air suspension, optional on Limited and Lareado, standard on Trailhawk and Overland, has five different manually and automatically adjustable


FROM $47,500 


height settings, from extreme off-road (approximately 260mm clearance) to high-speed Aero (approximately 190mm). Steering is electric rack-andpinion. Brakes have twin-piston front calipers and ABS. Fuel tank capacity is 93.5 litres. The Laredo V6 4x4 petrol weighs 2084kg and will tow up to 2812kg. The 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel, which weighs 2267kg, will tow up to 3500kg. The SRT8, which weighs 2289kg, will pull up to 2949kg.

HOW DOES IT GO? The Pentastar V6 doesn’t have a lot of punch below 3000rpm and it lacks the effortless, economical grunt of a 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine. You wouldn’t pick it for towing. When you put your foot down to overtake, the eight-speed kicks back to a middle ratio to tap the engine’s sweet zone, which starts at around 3500rpm and runs to 6500rpm. Here, it runs very smoothly and strongly, but the 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel mounts an unarguable case in the Grand Cherokee. It’s extremely powerful, pulls from idle with complete ease and the eight-speed helps it to return outstanding fuel efficiency. Another magazine’s road test did report overheating issues when towing a heavy caravan on hot days, though, and the Grand Cherokee has been recalled many times since it went on sale. Owners have also reported problems with electrics, brakes and suspension, and in 2015 the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission warned Jeep Australia to take their issues seriously. If you have always lusted after a Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S, you should have a drive of the SRT8 because you’ll get a similar performance package plus more than $100,000 change. That V8 is a beautiful thing and extremely quick, hitting 100km/h in 5.3 seconds. Given the performance on offer, the Grand Cherokee SRT-8 is an absolute bargain.


The Laredo 3.6-litre V6 petrol averages 7.7L/100km on the highway, 13.4L/100km in town and CO2 emissions of 229g/km.

The Laredo 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel averages 6.5L/ 100km on the highway, 9.3L/ 100km in town and 198g/km. The SRT8 averages 10.1L/100km, 20.7L/100km and 327g/km. 91 octane is recommended for the V6, 95 octane for the V8.

DOES IT HANDLE, STEER AND STOP? The Grand Cherokee simply is not up there in the on-road handling stakes with BMW’s X5 but, then again, the BMW won’t take you anywhere interesting off-road either. The air suspension and 20-inch alloy-wheel-equipped Overland’s ride is characteristically firm but well controlled and compliant on smoother roads. There’s a bit of steering shake on rough surfaces and the ride may be a touch hard for some. The Laredo, with conventional suspension, 18-inch wheels and slightly higher-aspect-ratio tyres, is not only the best-value model but also the best one to drive on patchy local roads because it’s more comfortable and you lose virtually no handling ability. Off-road, though, the Grand Cherokee’s relatively short travel and firm suspension, in either standard or air-assisted form, can see it get pretty jostly and uncomfortable in the cabin. It also restricts the Jeep’s ability to tackle deep ruts and ledges where long suspension travel is required. Quadra Drive II in Trailhawk and Overland includes a rear electronic limited slip differential.

The brakes are up to the task with good pedal feel and progression.

THE INSIDE STORY The stylish, well organised dash features an easy-to-use touchscreen Bluetooth/media system with voice activation and clear graphics. Digital radio is standard, but navigation is not included on Laredo. The deep dash cowl and low seating position mean you can’t see the bonnet and the front end feels like it’s 10km away. The thick front pillars also block a lot of your forward vision. Threading the Jeep down a tight, twisting off-road track could be a bit fraught because it will be hard to see the ground immediately in front of you. A rear camera with dynamic grid lines is standard, while collision warning and radar cruise are also available on Overland and SRT-8. Rear-seat legroom is fine, though tall adults sit slightly knees-up and it can get a little tight with a tall driver up front. The 60/40 split-fold seat is similarly firm, the backrest angle is adjustable and you get vents, front-seat back nets and bottle holders in the doors.

IN THE BOOT The long floor is easily extended in a 60/40 split to a flat 1.8m. A temporary spare is underneath.


Laredo includes stability control, automatic emergency braking,


seven airbags, dual-zone air, bi-xenon headlights, Bluetooth, heated front seats, alarm, roof rails, 18-inch alloys, parking sensors and a camera. Limited includes leather, 20inch alloys, power tailgate, navigation, dual pane sunroof, Nappa leather upholstery and Alpine sound. Trailhawk adds skid plates, all-terrain tyres, air suspension and Quadra Drive II. Overland and SRT8 include cooled front seats, adaptive cruise and blind spot monitoring. SRT gets Brembo brakes, adaptive dampers and launch control. Warranty: Five years/100,000km. Redbook future values (Laredo 3.0TD): 3yr: 59%; 5yr: 48%.


THINGS WE LIKE  SRT-8 is a steal when you compare it with a BMW X5M or AMG GLE 63 S  Competent on-road handling with useful off-road ability  Refined, torque-laden turbodiesel  Spacious, comfortable interior

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  Limited and Overland have a pretty firm ride. The temporary spare is also ridiculous on a 4x4  Thick front pillars restrict vision and you can’t see the bonnet  Jeep’s quality and reliability record isn’t wonderful and the Grand Cherokee has been recalled too many times  Limited suspension travel compromises off-road ability

compare with ... Land Rover Discovery, Ford Everest, Toyota Prado and Fortuner



As a relic from the days of old school 4x4s, the Wrangler is a primitive device but highly capable off road and, in soft-top form, a cool fun in the sunmobile too. There’s nothing else quite like it, simply because other makes and models have moved on in design and technology. HOW MUCH? The Sport 3.6 V6 petrol two-door soft-top costs $38,990 with a sixspeed manual or $40,990 with a five-speed automatic.


(on road) (off road)

Safety ANCAP 3.6V6 two door only Green Vehicle Guide (2.8 CRD) (3.6 V6) Performance

The Overland two-door hardtop, with the auto transmission as standard, is $49,990. Unlimited four-door Sport soft-top 3.6 V6 and 2.8 fourcylinder turbodiesel CRD, both with the auto, cost $44,990 and $49,990 respectively. The 3.6 V6 Unlimited Overland hardtop is $53,990, as is the Unlimited Rubicon soft-top.


Handling (on road) Quality and reliability


Comfort and refinement

Value for money Overall (on-road)



The Wrangler is built on a separate steel chassis in short and long wheelbase (Unlimited) configurations. It’s made in the USA. The 3.6-litre V6 petrol engine produces 209kW of power at 6350rpm and 347Nm of torque at 4300rpm. The 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel is a VM Motori

engine that produces 147kW at 3600rpm and 410Nm between 2200 and 2600 revs when matched with the manual gearbox, and 460Nm at the same revs with the auto. Wrangler comes with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard. The manual turbodiesel also has stop/start, which improves fuel efficiency. The Command-Trac 4WD system is part-time, with shift on the fly as well as high and low ranges, the latter using a 2.72:1 reduction ratio. Neutral allows you to flat tow the Jeep. Rubicon has the Rock-Trak two-speed transfer case with a 4:1 reduction ratio, front and rear locking differentials and Goodyear 225/75 AT tyres. Suspension at both ends is live axle coil spring/five-link.


Steering is recirculating ball. Four-wheel disc ABS brakes, stability and traction control are fitted. Rubicon axles are heavyduty Dana 44 units and the stabiliser bars can be decoupled. All models get 17-inch alloy wheels with 245/75 tyres. The Wrangler weighs 1741– 2173kg. Fuel tank capacity is 67 litres on 2.8 CRD Sport and 70 litres on 3.6 V6 Sport. It’s 85 litres on Unlimited. The two-door Sport models will tow up to 1000kg and the Unlimited will tow 2300kg.

HOW DOES IT GO? Both engines have good low-down performance yet are reasonably happy to rev, especially the 3.6-litre V6 petrol, which I haven’t driven

FROM $38,990

plenty of time to put the top back on again if you see rain clouds in the distance; it’s not the simplest of operations. For real open-air motoring it is relatively easy to pull off the doors and fold down the windscreen. Then you get a buggy-style platform that really makes you one with the surrounding landscape. There is a substantial, wellpadded roll cage to keep you safe if things go awfully wrong. The driver’s seat is a good size but on the flat side and really not all that supportive. The steering column only adjusts for tilt, so tall drivers may find legroom a bit cramped, but it’s not too hard for most people to find a comfortable driving position. Ergonomics are good, with no real stretch required to reach any of the controls. Getting in and out of the back seat isn’t too difficult despite the narrow opening, but legroom is pretty tight. in the Wrangler but have tested in the Grand Cherokee. The 2.8-litre turbodiesel engine is tractable, responsive and acceptably refined. It’s now only available in one four-door Unlimited Sport soft-top model. The manual gearbox is on the slow and clunky side but works well enough, and there’s no doubt which gear you are selecting. The automatic transmission is reasonably smooth and seamless. It works more harmoniously with the diesel than with the petrol engine. As you can see from the fuel figures below, the 3.6 V6 petrol/automatic transmission Wranglers are still thirsty beasts.



The 3.6 V6 automatic Sport averages 8.8L/100km on the highway, 15.6L/100km in town and produces CO2 emissions of 263g/km. 91 octane is recommended. The 2.8 turbodiesel auto Sport averages 7.7L/100km, 10.2L/100km and emits 227g/km of CO2.

DOES IT HANDLE, STEER AND STOP? Keep in mind that this is a serious off-road vehicle and you can forgive the rather vague steering, relatively harsh ride and persistent understeer.

If you’re only buying one of these Jeeps for the macho image they provide but expect Lexustype smoothness and refinement, you are on the wrong track. Both vehicles offer the opportunity to explore areas that are out of reach to the vast majority of alleged 4WD vehicles. Jeep’s tough Wrangler can tackle narrow bush tracks, rocky outcrops and wet and dry, soft sand in an exemplary manner. An optional off-road pack, which includes an electronically controlled rear diff lock, 3.73 reduction ratio and an electronic front sway bar decouple device, gives it even more ability in mountain goat territory. The short wheelbase Sport model would be our vehicle of choice in rugged conditions, while the longer wheelbase on the four-door Wrangler Unlimited provides a more comfortable ride on bitumen.

THE INSIDE STORY The shape looks (and is) boxy and uncompromising. It also looks like there should be plenty of room inside but that’s not the case. Space efficiency is poor. Wrangler is available with the choice of soft and hard tops, the latter in three separate sections. Removal of either top is a fully manual operation — no pushbuttons here — so give yourself

IN THE BOOT The boot is average in volume for this class and simple to load thanks to its square shape, relatively low floor and tall roof. The rear glass is hinged up separately and can be left open while travelling.


The Sport includes stability control, two airbags, airconditioning, cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, tyre-pressure monitoring, bash plates and a single CD player. Warranty: Five years / 100,000km. Redbook future values (Unlimited Sport soft-top 2.8DT): 3yr: 59%; 5yr: 49%.


THINGS WE LIKE  Looks like it means business  Unique off-road ability with opentop body style  Low-down grunt from both engines  Rubicon really will go anywhere

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  Vague steering and awful handling  Below-average build quality, a similarly patchy reliability record and a very cramped, uncomfortable cabin  Side-hinged tailgate

compare with ... No direct rivals





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he Renegade, Jeep’s smallest SUV, is made in Italy and shares architecture and many components with the Fiat 500X. Entry point is the $26,290 Sport, powered by the 81kW/152Nm 1.6-litre ‘E-TorQ’ four used in numerous Fiat models, matched with a fivespeed manual gearbox driving the front wheels only. Sport is also available with a 103kW/230Nm 1.4-litre ‘MultiAir’ turbopetrol four and a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox, priced at $28,990. The same drivetrain in Longitude specification is $32,390. That’s followed by the Limited, packing the same 1.4-litre engine and a more premium fitout, at $36,290. This leaves the 4x4 Trailhawk at the top of the heap, equipped with the 130kW/230Nm 2.4-litre, naturally aspirated ‘MultiAir2 Tigershark’ four with a ninespeed auto as standard. It’s priced at $40,290. Weighing in around 1.4 tonnes and with a feeble 81kW on tap

STARS Safety Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money (Estimate) Overall


from the 1.6-litre engine, the Sport isn’t a bitumen burner. The 103kW 1.4-litre turbopetrol in Sport, Longitude and Limited is much more lively and responsive, and the pick of the range for performance and fuel efficiency. The 4x4 Trailhawk’s all-alloy, 2.4-litre atmo four is hampered by an obese 1621kg overall weight, so performance is sedate and it’s thirsty, despite the nine-speed auto’s top four ratios being overdriven in order to maximise fuel efficiency. The Renegade is more nimble and refined than any compact SUV has a right to be. Dynamics are also well above average for the class, as is ride comfort. The only niggle is the dualpurpose rubber (on all models), which compromises cornering grip — never to an alarming degree, but it could be better. The top-shelf 4WD Trailhawk clambers up steep off-highway climbs, tip-toes delicately downhill

and pushes through water, mud, rocks and sand as well as or better than its larger Jeep stablemates. The big contributor here is the nine-speed’s 20:1 crawl ratio and the standard ‘SelecTerrain’ system, switchable through five modes (Auto, Snow, Sand, Mud and Rock), as well as generous approach, ramp-over and departure angles. Despite compact exterior dimensions, there’s plenty of room inside. The centre touchscreen surround is stamped with “Since 1941”, acknowledging the brand’s WWII origins, as does the jerry caninspired cross element used in the rear lights, roof and other points around the exterior. The standard instruments are all clean and clear. The chunky steering wheel houses audio, phone, cruise control and driver info functions, and the overall standard of fit and finish is impressive.

Load space is generous, especially for such a compact unit, offering 525 litres with rear seats upright and 1440 litres with the second row folded. A choice of 60/40 or 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat configurations is available. There’s some capable hardware on offer in the compact SUV class, including the Honda HRV, Hyundai Tucson, Renault Captur, Mazda CX-3, Nissan Qashqai and Subaru XV. Front-wheel-drive Renegade models have no clear advantage against these rivals and although Jeep cut prices shortly after launch because nobody was buying, they are still ambitious in a class where there is plenty of value to be had. A Jeep that uses a lot of Fiat bits does seem a terrifying combination in terms of potential reliability issues, too, however the Renegade Trailhawk is in a class of its own if you’re after a compact wagon with genuine off-road ability.


THINGS WE LIKE Distinctive design inside and out Trailhawk has genuine off-road ability. Its rivals don’t. Impressive standard of fit and finish Excellent ride and handling

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Sport and Trailhawk aren’t quick Trailhawk is overweight and thirsty Rear seat lacks support Dual-purpose rubber lacks grip Jeep’s and Fiat’s less-thanimpeccable reliability record

SPEX (Trailhawk) Made in Italy 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol/ninespeed automatic/four-wheel drive 130kW of power at 6400rpm/230Nm of torque at 3900rpm 0–100km/h N/A 9.7L/100km highway; 13.5L/100km city; 91 octane; CO2 emissions N/A Warranty: Three years/100,000km Standard: Seven airbags, stability control, touchscreen infotainment, Bluetooth, digital radio, smartphone integration, rear camera, tyre pressure monitoring, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 220mm ground clearance, bash plates, tow hooks, 900kg towing, 17-inch alloy wheels, 215/65 Goodyear Wrangler tyres. Redbook future values: 3yr: 53%; 5yr: 41%

compare with ... Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-3, Mitsubishi ASX, Nissan Qashqai, Subaru XV, Suzuki Vitara



S The reliability and durability of Kia vehicles is now among the best in the business. Kia’s industry-leading sevenyear warranty and seven-year roadside assist are indicative of the marque’s faith in its offerings and helps justify fairly hefty recommended price tags. Seven-year capped-price servicing is a further attraction that adds value to the deal. The smartly styled Sportage should be on your test-drive list, together with Mazda’s CX-5, the Subaru Forester and VW’s Tiguan. In several key ways — quality, refinement, dynamics, reliability and styling — it’s a leader in the competitive compact/mid-size SUV segment.


By Peter McKay


ia’s Sportage SUV, which shares architecture with Hyundai’s Tucson and, sizewise, bridges the gap between compact and medium wagons, starts at $28,990 for the Si front-wheel drive. This model is powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine with a modest 114kW of power and an even more modest 192Nm of torque. The base drivetrain is also offered in the SLi, priced at $34,690. A 2.0-litre turbodiesel (with 136kW and 400Nm) with on-demand all-wheel drive is available across all grades at $33,990 for the Si, $39,690 for the SLi and $45,990 for the GT Line, while a 2.4-litre petrol (with 135kW and 237Nm) all-wheel drivetrain is available only in the top-end GT Line at $43,490. A six-speed auto is standard. The attraction of the 2.0-litre turbodiesel is impossible to dismiss. It is relatively quiet and pulls effortlessly from low in the revs right through the mid-

STARS Safety ANCAP Performance Handling Quality and reliability

range. Buyers who rack up plenty of kilometres will appreciate the attractive fuel economy, officially rated at 6.8L/100km, and good for close to 7.0L/100km in mixed real-world motoring. The carry-over 2.0 petrol in the FWD versions is adquate in everyday use and is flattered by the six-speed auto. The 2.4 petrol is livelier but also lacks the instant response of the diesel, particularly when overtaking or climbing. All engines cooperate easily with the smooth, fastacting auto transmission. Driving aids extend to blind-spot detection, lane-change assist, lane-departure warning, forwardcollision warning, autonomous emergency braking and (for the less confident) smart parking assist, but only in GT Line. Sportage’s Australianised suspension tune manages an agreeable blend of ride comfort (even on the GT’s 19-inch wheels and low-profile tyres) and cornering poise. It turns into

corners accurately and feels agile, with minimal body roll and no loss of poise or tyre grip. An integrated Drive Mode system has Eco, Normal and Sport modes, each influencing throttle and transmission responses and steering weighting. The brake pedal has a handy amount of feel and pulls up the Sportage without undue body pitching. Overall, the cabin suggests quality and a touch of class, especially in higher-spec versions. The two-tone leather is a grabber, the standard 7-inch touchscreen responds swiftly to inputs and is easy to use and read. Thick windscreen pillars and the high dash cowl slightly impede forward vision. Seats in all variants offer good support, helped by multiple adjustments including power lumbar in SLi and GT. Rear seats are well shaped with handy knee room and recline but the load area is quite small. Kia provides a full-size alloy spare.

THINGS WE LIKE Excellent quality and industryleading warranty Ride/handling compromise tuned for Australian roads Strong 2.0-litre turbodiesel Classy, comfortable cabin Platinum’s safety features

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE At the pricey end of the class No navigation in Si GT’s safety features should be optional on Si and SLi Thick front pillars

SPEX (Si 2.0) Made in South Korea 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol/sixspeed automatic/front-wheel drive 114kW of power at 6200rpm/192Nm of torque at 4000rpm 0–100km/h N/A 6.1L/100km highway; 10.9L/100km city; regular unleaded; CO2 emissions are 182g/km; fuel tank is 62 litres Warranty: Seven years/unlimited kilometres Standard: Six airbags, stability control, camera with dynamic parking guidelines, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth, rain-sensing wipers, 17-inch alloy wheels, alarm. SLi includes 18-inch alloys, navigation, front parking sensors and leather. GT includes wireless phone charging, sunroof, power tailgate, automatic emergency braking, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, automatic parking Redbook future values: 3yr: 57%; 5yr: 46%

Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall


compare with ... Ford Kuga, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Qashqai, Subaru Forester, VW Tiguan



ia’s Sorento is comparable in size with Toyota’s Kluger and the Nissan Pathfinder, with vast interior space for seven. Petrol-powered models are front-wheel drive. The range opens with the 199kW 3.3-litre V6/six-speed automatic Si at $40,990; SLi petrol is $45,990. Sorento’s 147kW 2.2-litre turbodiesel is a superb engine, as strong, frugal and refined as any German equivalent. It’s also matched with a sixspeed automatic. The all-wheel drivetrain includes a lockable centre differential. Prices start at $44,490 for the Si, tested here. SLi is $49,490 and Platinum, with a suite of driver aids including lane departure warning, radar cruise control and blind spot detection, is priced at $56,590. Top of the range GT Line, at $58,490, adds automatic

STARS Safety Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling Quality and reliability


emergency braking and a bunch of bling. Sorento’s 2.2-litre turbodiesel is so refined it can be hard to pick as a diesel because it is so smooth and quiet. It’s also frugal, returning 7–8L/100km on the highway and 10–11L/100km in town. Not bad for a big, heavy seven-seater. Eco, Normal and Sport modes adjust the six-speed’s shift points but it never has to work the engine hard. Kia’s local suspension tuning program pays dividends here in Sorento’s excellent ride/ handling compromise, tailormade for our poor roads. It’s not pretending to be a sports car so the emphasis is on comfort, compliance and quietness, and in this regard Sorento Si, which rolls on 17-inch wheels with 235/65 tyres, is absolutely luxurious. Handling is secure and predictable, though less taut than Hyundai’s much improved Santa Fe. The electric steering is pretty

lifeless and imprecise at the straight ahead. Sport mode adds heft to the wheel. Sorento’s claimed maximum towing capacity is 2000kg. Its maximum towball download, though, is only 100kg, so most caravans aren’t viable because you’re effectively limited to a 1000kg trailer. The driver faces a bulky, high dash. Illuminated instruments are clear and informative and generous storage includes a huge centre console box. Touchscreen infotainment, navigation, a camera, seatbelt warning chimes for all seats, parking sensors at both ends and tyre pressure monitoring are standard. The base Si driver’s seat, though, has a saggy and uncomfortable cushion, inadequate lumbar support and imprecise manual adjustment. Row two is a firm, supportive 60/40 split-fold bench on sliding tracks so legroom is adjustable,

as are backrest angles. Air vents, USB and 12-volt sockets are provided, plus two Isofix and three Australian Standard restraint anchor points. Access to the two fold-up rear seats is tight and via the passenger’s side only. Legroom is reasonable but the cushions are almost on the floor. Still, they’re OK for small kids and there’s a vent plus adjustable fan speed control on the right side. Curtain airbags extend to the rear seats. With all seats in use, there’s enough space in the Sorento for a couple of school bags and a bit of shopping. Five-seater mode gives you a big space and you can move house with the row two seats folded forward. Whether you call it an SUV or a people mover, the Kia Sorento Si 2.2 turbodiesel is an A-grade family wagon and excellent value for money. A seven-years/ unlimited kilometres warranty — the best in the business — is the icing on the deal.


THINGS WE LIKE Good value One of the best turbodiesels around Spacious cabin Comfortable ride and secure handling Market-leading warranty Strong resale values

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Uncomfortable driver’s seat Tight rear-seat access Remote-control steering Can tow only a light trailer

SPEX (Si CRD) Made in South Korea 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel/ six-speed automatic/all-wheel drive 147kW of power at 3800rpm/441Nm of torque from 1750-2750rpm 0–100km/h N/A Warranty: Seven years/unlimited kilometres Max towing weight: 2000kg 6.4L/100km highway; 10.1L/100km city; CO2 emissions are 169g/km; fuel tank is 71 litres Standard: Six airbags, stability control, rear camera, navigation, tyre pressure monitoring, front and rear parking sensors, Bluetooth, 17-inch alloy wheels, alarm, three 12-volt and two USB sockets, fullsize spare Redbook future values: 3yr: 59%; 5yr: 45%

Comfort and refinement Value for money

compare with ...


Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda CX9, Skoda Kodiaq, Toyota Kluger




and Rover’s Discovery Sport is a premium-priced mid-size SUV that goes up against the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes GLC. A new 2.0-litre Ingenium turbodiesel, in two states of tune, was fitted in mid-2016, with a nine-speed automatic standard in all variants. It’s priced to tempt buyers away from its German rivals. The range opens with the TD4 150 (as in horsepower, or 110kW) SE at $56,355. The TD4 150 HSE is priced at $61,000. TD4 180 (as in 132kW) models open with the SE at $59,995. The HSE is $64,635 and the HSE Luxury is $70,690. The sole petrol variant, the 177kW 2.0-litre turbopetrol Si4 SE, is $59,990. Despite the name, there’s no relationship between Land Rover’s latest and the larger Discovery. The Discovery Sport has monocoque construction and shares drivetrains and

STARS Safety (ANCAP) Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling Quality and reliability

front-end structure with the Range Rover Evoque, but is built on a longer floorplan. This makes space for an optional third row of seats, something only one rival, the Skoda Kodiaq, offers. The pair of foldaway seats, designed for sixto 14-year-olds, costs $2050. Be warned: choosing them rules out fitment of some other options. The interior is flexible, with the comfortable 60/40 splitfolding second-row seat sliding fore and aft. Driver and front passenger face an attractive, chunky-looking instrument panel. While the infotainment system’s 8-inch central touchscreen is simple to use, the layout of buttons and switches isn’t as logical as it should be. The Discovery Sport’s electricassist steering creates a real sense of connection with the road and the firm suspension setup makes it more agile than average while retaining a decent level of

ride comfort. That said, it’s up against great-handling rivals in the GLC, X3 and Q5, so it has to be good — and it is. The Land Rover is also well prepared for mild off-roading. It has better ground clearance than usual and the clever software of the four-mode Terrain Response system extracts the most from its simple on-demand all-wheeldrive hardware. The 2.0-litre Ingenium turbodiesel is also fitted to the Range Rover Evoque and Jaguar XF luxury sedan. It’s a remarkably smooth, quiet engine compared with its German rivals, with excellent responsiveness and flexibility. While 132kW is obviously more useful than 110kW, there’s no compelling case for the more powerful TD4 180 variants. Respective torque outputs are 380Nm and 430Nm, both at 1750rpm, while the more powerful variant somehow manages to


record exactly the same fuel consumption numbers. According to official tests, that is ... While the nine-speed auto contributes to frugal consumption, this transmission can dither over which of its many gears to choose. Safety is a strong point. As well as a five-star rating from Euro NCAP, the Discovery Sport range has a reversing camera and automatic emergency braking. Land Rover is working to overcome its reputation for unreliability. Even so, it’s still a tailender in surveys, so the Discovery Sport ownership experience may not be entirely trouble-free. Reliability questions aside, there’s no doubt this Land Rover is a serious contender. Its exterior style, practical interior, seven-seat option, allroad capability, high safety levels, sharp pricing and neat handling are all persuasive reasons to add it to your test-drive list.


By John Carey

THINGS WE LIKE  Exterior design  Seven-seat option  Great steering and handling  Strong resale values

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  Nine-speed automatic indecisiveness  Dated instrument panel layout  Is Land Rover really there yet with reliability? No.

SPEX (TD4 150) Made in England 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel/ nine-speed automatic/all-wheel drive 110kW of power at 4000rpm/380Nm of torque at 1750rpm 0–100km/h in 10.3 seconds (claimed) Max towing weight 2200kg 4.7L/100km highway; 6.3L/100km city; CO2 emissions are 139g/km; fuel tank is 54 litres Warranty: Three years/100,000km Standard: Stability control, automatic emergency braking, eight airbags, alarm, trailer stability control, automatic xenon headlights, 19in alloy wheels with a full-size spare, partial leather upholstery, camera, front and rear parking sensors, dual-zone air, Bluetooth with audio streaming, navigation, power tailgate Redbook future values: 3yr: 60%; 5yr: 46%

Comfort and refinement Value for money

compare with ...


Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes GLC, Skoda Kodiaq, Volvo XC60





n its sophistication, comfort, refinement, efficiency and dynamics, the fifth Discovery has moved closer to luxury German SUVs such as the X5 and Audi’s Q7. Yet it also extends the unique Land Rover off-road envelope, with optional Terrain Response 2 now able to tweak each wheel’s grip and slip coefficient every 100 milliseconds. There’s 500mm of articulation at each wheel, 283mm of ground clearance with the suspension fully extended, plus a wading depth of 900mm. Climb every mountain, ford every stream? Just about. Four specification levels — S, SE, HSE and HSE Luxury — are each available with three turbodiesel drivetrains and a bewildering array of expensive options. Prices kick off at $65,960 for the S TD4, with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel that produces 132kW of power and 430Nm of torque, matched to an eight-speed automatic. It’s basic in specification, with a high-range only transmission, steel spring suspension, no navigation and cloth trim.

STARS Safety Performance Handling Quality and reliability

SD4 is the same 2.0-litre with two turbos, 177kW and 500Nm. Packaged with a dualrange transfer case and air suspension, plus leather and navigation, the value sweet spot is the SD4 SE, at $83,450. Although this Discovery is up to 480kg lighter than its bulldozerlike predecessor, two and a bit tonnes is still a hefty mass for four cylinders to shift. The SD4 has plenty of accessible torque, but the eight-speed can dither about on downshifts, amplifying turbo lag and delaying decent acceleration. The TD4’s claimed 0-100km/h time of 10.5 seconds puts it in the plodder class. Stronger bottom end and midrange muscle with superior transmission responsiveness is delivered by the 3.0-litre TDV6, with 190kW, 600Nm and a claimed 0-100 time of 8.1 seconds. Prices start at $78,271 for the TDV6 S, rising to $114,061 — and 40 cents — for the HSE Luxury. Up front, you’re seated in a comfortable, supportive captain’s chair, facing olde-worlde

analogue instruments and a large touchscreen. Five seats are standard; two manuallyoperated rear seats, which will accommodate adults but require the dexterity of Houdini to climb into, are optional. You can also option up to nine USB charge points, six 12-volt sockets, an in-car WiFi hotspot for up to eight devices and a rearseat entertainment system, so it’s possible to carry six connected, happily headphoned kids around in this thing in complete silence. Did I hear you say “Sold?” Discovery has many other practical, family-friendly inclusions, such as four Isofix anchors in the seven-seater, a spacious, comfortable 60/40-split-fold row two-bench seat with adjustable legroom and backrest angle, storage nooks and crannies all over the place and a voluminous boot. An optional waterproof wristband Activity Key allows you to lock the vehicle by tapping the D in the rear Discovery badge. It also disables the main key,

which you leave inside while you go for a swim, a run, or any other activity where you don’t want to carry a key around. Safety features include curtain airbags that extend to the third row, automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning, but radar cruise, blindspot monitoring and surround cameras are optional. Land Rover’s quality and reliability performance in industry benchmark JD Power owner surveys in the US has improved recently and it has lifted itself several places higher in the brand table than its usual position of stone, motherless last. However, it’s fair to say the potential for grief in a Land Rover remains a significant consideration. Hopefully it’s optional, not standard.


THINGS WE LIKE Unique combination of on-road luxury and off-road ability Family-friendly design and technology everywhere you look Spacious, comfortable, versatile interior 3.0-litre V6 is smooth and strong SD4 SE is good value and resale values are strong

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Land Rovers can be temperamental Some safety options should be standard Rear-seat access is difficult Official fuel consumption numbers are a fairy tale Eight-speed can be a bit slow to respond So can the TD4

SPEX (SD4 SE) Made in England 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel/ eight-speed automatic/four-wheel drive 177kW of power at 4000rpm/500Nm of torque from 1500-2500rpm 0-100km/h in 8.3 seconds (claimed) 5.6L/100km highway; 7.7L/100km city; CO² emissions are 168g/km. Fuel tank is 77 litres Maximum towing weight: 3500kg Warranty: Three years/100,000km Standard: Six airbags, stability control, low speed automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, parking sensors, camera, navigation, Bluetooth, 19-inch alloy wheels, fullsize spare, automatic LED headlights, leather, dual-zone air, alarm Redbook future values: 3yr: 61%; 5yr: 48%

Comfort and refinement Value for money

compare with ...


Ford Everest, Nissan Patrol, Toyota LandCruiser, VW Touareg





he NX is Lexus’ smallest SUV yet and like many modern SUVs it targets urban buyers. Entry models are front-wheel drive rather than all-wheel drive because, according to research, many buyers really don’t know or care which wheels put the power to the road. NX’s aggressive, exaggerated proportions suggest an attempt to appeal to younger buyers — and there are pleasing details in its lights and garnish — but the result seems too tall for its width and too big for its wheels. In official sales charts, NX sits in the compact SUV category alongside the BMW X1, Audi Q3 and Mercedes GLA. However, at 4.6m long, it’s actually a whole size larger and a more realistic rival for the Audi Q5, BMW X3/X4, Jaguar F-Pace, Mercedes GLC and the Range Rover Evoque. Pricing starts towards the bottom of this pack at $53,550 for the front-wheel-drive NX200t

STARS Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement

Luxury model. The AWD Luxury is $58,140, F Sport is $64,390 and Sports Luxury is $73,270. The NX200t features Lexus’ first turbocharged engine, a 2.0-litre petrol four with a handy 175kW of power and 350Nm of torque. It’s a sprightly, willing device. The Lexus NX300h, as tested here, runs a hybrid driveline comprising a 2.5-litre fourcylinder engine supplemented by an electric motor. It drives the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and draws its power from nickel hydride batteries. NX300h opens at $56,100 for the front-wheel-drive Luxury variant. All-wheel-drive versions start at $60,690. F Sport is $67,320 and Sports Luxury is $76,500. AWD adds another 50kW electric motor at the rear axle. It comes into play at launch, through corners and in slippery conditions. The complex software controlling all this means power

(147kW) and torque (270Nm) are the same with or without the rear motor. Zero to 100km/h takes 9.2 seconds. That’s leisurely by modern standards and one reason is weight. The NX300h is heavy compared to its rivals at almost two tonnes. The NX200t is around 100kg lighter and more powerful. The hybrid drivetrain sounds as though it’s straining at times, too. CVTs hold the most favourable revs and adjust their internal ratios. The result here is a loud, unremitting note that doesn’t rise and fall in the familiar way. It’s far from luxurious. Tall and top-heavy also sums up the NX’s dynamics. Despite a firmness to the suspension that’s designed to counter body roll, it handles like it looks. There’s little here to reward a driver and this is compounded by controls that are distant and lack feedback. The steering is slow and lifeless while the brakes have the uneven, wooden quality typical of

regenerative hybrid systems.The interior presents as spacious, comfortable, modern and premium with stitched surfaces, touch-sensitive switches and up-to-the-minute options, such as a wireless recharging pad for phones. Fit and finish is always a Lexus strongpoint. However, most of what looks like leather isn’t and its rivals have better-quality plastics. Chief among the cabin drawbacks is a control screen that can be hard to read and even harder to navigate using a touchpad to move a cursor. It’s frustrating to use and inferior to any of its rivals. A slow power tailgate accesses a high load floor with a temporary spare underneath. Lexus claims a load capacity of 475 litres but in practical terms it looks a little less accommodating. As Lexus’ first attempt at a compact SUV, the NX arrives late and too underdone compared with a long list of much more accomplished European rivals.


By Phil King

THINGS WE LIKE  Lexus quality and reliability  Well equipped  Comfortable seats  Adequate cabin space

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Transmission noise Sluggish performance Frustrating control system Out-of-proportion design Unrealistic fuel economy figure High cargo floor

SPEX (NX300H) Made in Japan 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol/ electric hybrid/CVT/front- or allwheel drive Combined system outputs: 147kW of power and 270Nm of torque 0–100km/h in 9.2 seconds (claimed) Max towing weight 1000kg Warranty: Four years/100,000km 5.5–5.6L/100km highway; 5.8L/100km city; 91 octane unleaded; CO2 emissions are 131–133g/km; fuel tank is 56 litres Standard: Stability control, eight airbags, navigation, camera, front and rear parking sensors, power tailgate, 18in alloys, dual USB, DAB+, Bluetooth, tyre pressure warning, leather-faced seats Redbook future values: 3yr: 59%; 5yr: 46%

Value for money

compare with ...


Audi Q5, BMW X3, Jaguar F-Pace, Mercedes GLC, VW Tiguan




he Lexus RX range opens with the 2.0-litre turbopetrol four-cylinder/six-speed automatic/front-wheel-drive RX200t, priced at $74,540. F Sport is $86,840 and Sports Luxury is $92,990. The RX350, with a 221kW 3.5-litre V6 petrol/eight-speed auto and all-wheel drive, costs $81,710 in Luxury specification, $94,010 for F Sport and $100,160 for Sports Luxury. RX450h petrol/electric hybrid, with a combined 230kW system output from its 3.5-litre V6/twin electric motor/Ni-MH battery/CVT all-wheel drivetrain, costs an extra $8450 over its RX350 counterparts in the same three model grades. RX is a much smaller wagon than its ostensible (according to industry statistician VFACTS) Q7/X5/GLE rivals. Its wheelbase is actually shorter than the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes GLC mid-sizers, all of which are five seaters, like the Lexus,

STARS Safety Not yet tested Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement

with comparably-sized cargo bays. These are RX’s closest competitors, along with the Jaguar F-Pace and the Land Rover Discovery Sport. An inevitable front runner in industry benchmark owner surveys — such as JD Powers in the US — which measure initial quality, long-term reliability and owner satisfaction, Lexus is also ranked the most reliable automotive brand in the US by Consumer Reports. Even at base-model level, RX is loaded. It includes 10-way power adjustable, big blokesized armchairs up front, heated, cooled and with supple leather facings. Rear-seat passengers sit quite low and the 60/40 split seat can be adjusted for legroom, of which there’s plenty. The tapered roof kills cargo-bay volume and you can carry more

in most rivals. The power tailgate can require a few jabs at the remote before you get action and you can check your emails while waiting for it to open or close. You’re protected by a fullhouse safety hand with 10 airbags, a rear camera and audible proximity warning, automatic emergency braking, radar cruise, blind spot and rear cross traffic alerts, lane keeping and vehicle sway warning. A mouse-style pad on the centre console requires the prehensile dexterity of a neurosurgeon to operate. It’s so fiddly that you have to look closely at the screen for extended periods just to place the cursor in the correct position. While doing this, you’re not actually in control of the car. Instead, you’re creating havoc and potential carnage among your fellow motorists.

The 2.0-litre gets interested when you put the boot in, but this is a heavy (1890kg) frontwheel-drive wagon and there’s a touch of turbo lag, so it takes a while to get going and acceleration isn’t brisk. Engine vibration under power, especially in the initial stages of acceleration in the lower gears, is excessive. The force-fed 2.0-litre isn’t particularly frugal either. RX is safe and predictable but ponderous in tighter corners, with lots of body roll and twitchiness on rough roads at speed. Electric steering is lifeless and imprecise while the brakes are powerful, if rather touchy. Ride comfort, fine in town, deteriorates as speeds rise and the bitumen crumbles. The Lexus RX200t would certainly be an easy, set and forget, grief-free SUV to own. Compared with its European rivals, though, the Lexus RX range as a whole is expensive and much less enjoyable and capable as a drive, despite the fact that its sporty styling makes strong assertions to the contrary.


THINGS WE LIKE  Lexus quality and reliability  Lexus customer service  Stylish cabin  Well equipped

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  Too expensive Weak resale values Silly infotainment control system 2.0t is a bit thirsty

SPEX (RX200t) Made in Japan 2.0-litre four cylinder turbopetrol/ six-speed automatic/front-wheel drive 175kW of power at 4800rpm/350Nm of torque from 1650- 4000rpm 0–100km/h in 9.2 seconds 7.0L/100km highway; 10.0L/100km city; 95 octane premium; CO2 emissions are 189g/km Warranty: Four years/100,000km Standard: Stability control, 10 airbags, leather, dual-zone air, navigation, reversing camera, digital radio, Bluetooth, alarm, power-operated tailgate, 20-inch alloy wheels, wireless phone charging, LED headlights, automatic emergency braking, lane keeping,blind spot warning Redbook future values: 3yr: 52%; 5yr: 39%

Value for money Overall

compare with ... Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes GLC


LEXUS LX 570 FROM $143,030


he LX 570, which is a rebadged Toyota 200 Series LandCruiser with a bespoke V8 and air suspension, costs $143,030. Its 5.7-litre long-stroke V8 engine produces 270kW of power — 43kW more than the 4.6-litre engine in the LandCruiser — at 5600rpm and 530Nm of torque — 91Nm more than the 4.6 in the LandCruiser — at 3200rpm. Given that it’s shifting more than 2.7 tonnes, the V8 does pretty well to get the LX to 100km/h in a claimed 7.7 seconds. Even with an eight-speed automatic, it’s hideously thirsty, with a claimed combined average of 14.4L/100km. In real-world driving, expect 12–13L/100km on the highway and 20-plus L/100km in town. The eight-speed is a sweet match with the V8 and on steeper highway hills it can get busy as

STARS Safety Not yet tested Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling Quality and reliability

it goes for the middle ratios to maintain momentum. Compared with luxury rivals like the Range Rover and Mercedes GL, the LX is a ponderous, uncertain handler from the old 4WD school. There’s selectable Sport and even Sport+ modes for the drivetrain and suspension, which only goes to show that automotive engineers can do irony too. You proceed with great caution in the LX. Particular care is required on bumpy roads, which can cause instability at the rear end, a typical feature of live rearaxle suspensions. On any suspension setting, though, ride comfort is luxurious. Off-road, the LX’s long-travel, height-adjustable suspension, locking centre diff and an array of traction aids make it very competent in any terrain. The self-levelling suspension and adjustable damping also

come into their own when towing, and the LX is untroubled by a heavy load. The brakes are just adequate, which is par for the course with a big 4x4. You sit in a big, leatherwrapped armchair that’s lightly bolstered and generously padded. It’s power-adjustable in every direction. Lexus’ oversensitive, distracting cursor system is used to access menus on the huge infotainment screen. The middle row is positioned quite low so you sit slightly knees-up on a rather unsupportive cushion. Poweradjustable travel is provided. Kids will love the dual DVD system while parents will love LX’s safety credentials, which extend to radar cruise (or normal cruise, if you prefer) with automatic emergency braking, a blind spot monitor, lane departure warning, head-up

display, auto high beam switching and tyre pressure monitoring. Each row-three seat folds down (or up) from the side at the push of a button. Access is easy via a doublefolding 60/40-split row two and there is more space and comfort than most rear seats. The single-piece, roof-hinged power tailgate replaces the 200 Series’ horizontally-split item. The load floor can be extended to 1.52 metres by tumble-folding one or both sides of the row-two seats, but the old-world strap to secure it in place, and the fact that it takes up a lot of space in itself, is less space efficient than most designs today. You can get into a Nissan Patrol Ti-L, with a 298kW 5.6-litre V8, comparable off-road ability, seven seats and all the fruit, for $86,990.Drive it and you’ll wonder why the Lexus is so expensive.


THINGS WE LIKE  Quality and customer service are Lexus hallmarks  Loaded with gear  Will go further off-road than most luxury 4WDs  Adaptive suspension works well for towing

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  Handling can become unstable on rough surfaces  Fuel bills  Cursor operation for infotainment system is distracting and potentially dangerous  It’s not worth $27,000-plus over the LandCruiser Sahara or $55,000plus over the Nissan Patrol Ti-L

SPEX Made in Japan 5.7-litre V8 petrol/eight-speed automatic/all-wheel drive 270kW of power at 5600rpm/530Nm of torque at 3200rpm 0–100km/h in 7.7 seconds Max towing weight: 3500kg Warranty: Four years/100,000 kilometres 10.0L/100km highway, 20.2L/100km city; 95 octane premium; 138-litre tank. CO2 emissions are 334g/km Standard: Ten airbags, stability control, Bluetooth, USB, rear seat entertainment, leather, surround camera, front and rear parking sensors and 20-inch alloys Redbook future values: 3yr: 58%; 5yr: 43%

Comfort and refinement Value for money

compare with ...


Mercedes GLS, Nissan Y62 Patrol, Range Rover, Toyota 200 Series




ntil the Levante, no SUV had ever worn the trident badge of Maserati. But you would never guess from the way this weighty Italian drives. Equipped as standard with air springs and variable dampers, the Levante is more agile on a curvy road than a high-riding 2.2-tonne five-seater has any right to be. The Maserati also has a very comfortable, bump-blotting ride and, thanks to a little help from Jeep, more offroad ability than any customer is ever likely to exploit. Maserati’s starting point for development was the Ghibli sedan, and the new SUV’s overall length and wheelbase are almost the same. Major changes for the Levante include suspension hardware designed to deliver greater wheel travel, plus the adoption of standard pneumatic suspension that can hoist the vehicle up to 40mm higher for off-road work or lower it by up to 35mm for improved high-speed stability and fuel efficiency. Mindful of the brand’s reputation for

handling, Maserati’s engineers chose an aluminium-rich mix for the Levante’s body and suspension, just as they did for the Ghibli and Quattroporte limo. While the Levante isn’t light, its weight is at least in the right places. The company claims the SUV has perfect 50:50 front-to-rear weight distribution and a lower centre of gravity than any competitor. These physics-friendly fundamentals are a firm foundation for the Levante’s driving dynamics. The Levante is powered by the 202kW/600Nm 3.0-litre turbodiesel Maserati buys from Italian diesel specialists VM Motori. Three models are available here, differing only in equipment. The base Levante is $139,990 while Sport and Luxury are both priced at $159,990. The VM Motori V6 is a very good turbodiesel. It’s refined, smooth and has oodles of

torque. But it does lack the snappy responsiveness and aural drama that are an integral part of the Maserati brand promise. It’s teamed with a smooth, smart eight-speed automatic transmission. As we went to press, the Levante S was due to arrive, with an engine more befitting the Maserati badge: a 3.0-litre, twinturbo petrol V6, built by Ferrari. It produces 316kW of power and 580Nm of torque, with the 0-100km/h trip taking 5.2 seconds. A price had not been announced, but expect it to be well north of $150,000. The Levante’s exterior manages to look sleek for an SUV without going totally pseudo-coupe like, say, BMW’s X6. But the big Maserati, from some angles, does look like a small hatchback that’s been put on a photocopier and blown up to 150 per cent.

The interior is more appealing. The cabin is luxuriously Italian, with a decently spacious rear seat and a useful 680-litre cargo compartment. This is also the first Maserati to come equipped with a suite of infotainment and driver-aid technologies to rival the Germans. Levante Diesel’s $139,990 starting price is a reasonable $10,000-or-so more than a Ghibli with the same engine. What isn’t so reasonable is that Audi’s superb seven-seat Q7 3.0 TDI Quattro, with a 200kW V6 turbodiesel, costs about $35,000 less, even with optional adaptive air suspension added to bring it to technical parity with the Levante Diesel. You can also get into Porsche’s 193kW 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel Cayenne (with the same engine as the Audi) and pocket a similarly substantial saving. Is a Maserati badge worth the extra money? That’s your call.


By John Carey

THINGS WE LIKE  Ride and handling on standard air suspension  Turbodiesel’s torque and refinement  Classy interior design and fit-out  Decent cargo space

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  Looks a bit stodgy  Only five seats  Radar cruise, lane departure and collision warning are options  Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q7 are equally competent and better value



STARS Safety Not yet tested Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money $$$ Overall $$


Made in Italy 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel/eight-speed automatic/all-wheel drive 202kW of power at 4000rpm/600Nm of torque from 2000-2600rpm 0–100km/h in 6.9 seconds (claimed) 6.6L/100km highway; 8.2L/100km city; CO2 emissions are 189g/km; fuel tank is 80 litres Max towing weight 2700kg Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres Standard: Six airbags, stability control, leather upholstery, power tailgate, 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment, digital radio, Bluetooth, navigation, dual zone air, blind spot and rear cross traffic alert, 19-inch alloys with 265/50 tyres Redbook future values: 3yr: 54%; 5yr: 40%

compare with ... Audi Q7, BMW X5, Mercedes GLE, Porsche Cayenne, Range Rover Sport



FROM $36,850

Mazda’s BT50 is the same truck as the Ford Ranger, but at a significantly lower price. It misses out on some of the Ford’s high tech infotainment and safety features, plus the Ford’s recent drivetrain upgrade, but it’s still good value for money and a very capable one tonner. HOW MUCH? The BT50 4×4 range, powered exclusively by a 3.2-litre fivecylinder turbodiesel, opens with the single-cab chassis XT six-speed manual (with no auto option) at $36,850. The Freestyle XT cab chassis, in manual only with a rearhinged back door arrangement,


is $40,815 and the Dual Cab XT, also manual only, is $42,815. Pickup bodies include XT Dual Cab at $44,615, XTR Freestyle at $47,675, XTR Dual Cab (as tested) at $49,700, and the top-of-the-range GT Dual Cab at $51,790. A six-speed automatic is a $2000 option on pickups.


Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide Performance

Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall


The Mazda BT50 is made in Thailand in the same plant as Ford’s Ranger. It’s a conventional body on a steel frame chassis design. The 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbodiesel engine produces 147kW of power at 3000rpm and 470Nm of torque from 1750–2500rpm. A 110kW/375Nm 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel is also available but only in BT50 4×2 variants. Ford offers this engine on base XL singlecab chassis, XL double-cab

chassis and XL double-cab pickup 4×4 Ranger models. The six-speed auto has Normal and Performance modes plus adaptive programming and manual shifting. The 4×4 drivetrain has a dualrange transfer case plus electronically controlled shifton-the-fly capability between 2H and 4H. An electronic

locking rear differential is standard on all 4×4 models. Four-wheel drive is not suitable for use on hard, dry surfaces. Stability control is standard. The system also includes hillstart assist, hill-descent control and trailer sway control. Suspension is independent double wishbone front/live axle rear.





Steering is rack-and-pinion. Brakes are discs front/ drums rear. The fuel tank holds 80 litres. XT dual cab has 16-inch alloy wheels with 255/70 tyres. XTR and GT have 17s with 265/65 tyres. Spares are steel. Weights range from 1789kg to 2112kg. GVM in the popular XTR dual cab auto is 3200kg. Payloads range from 1343kg in Freestyle Cab Chassis to 1088kg in GT automatic. Towing capacity is 3500kg. Ground clearance (unladen) is 232–237mm.

HOW DOES IT GO? Just like the Ranger, obviously, which means shed-loads of torque from idle with the full 470Nm available from just 1500rpm. It’s a bit agricultural, though, given the fact that it’s a brand-new engine. There’s a gravelly feel and note to it at idle, under acceleration and when grinding along in traffic. It’s completely effortless and there’s absolutely no point in revving it hard. It pulls the higher gears easily, so you can get great economy if you drive it with a light right foot. Once you get up to cruising speed it loafs along. Sixth in the manual is tall for economy, so you need to be doing 90km/h or so to get it working properly. At 100km/h in sixth, the engine is ticking over at 2000rpm. The 3.2 is also a great towing engine, though you would be pushing your luck hooking up the claimed 3500kg maximum weight and expecting it to pull that. I suspect the dual mass flywheel and clutch mightn’t last too long — don’t forget that if you’re towing you’ll probably have a fight on your hands getting it fixed under warranty — while

the cooling system would also struggle on climbs. However, it pulled one-and-abit tonnes without any problem at all, averaging about 12L/ 100km. The six-speed manual is an old-world truck box with a slow, light action.


The 3.2 manual averages 7.4L/100km on the highway and 11.5L/100km in town, with CO2 emissions of 235g/km. The automatic averages 7.8L/100km, 11.8L/100km and 246g/km.

DOES IT HANDLE, STEER AND STOP? The Mazda has been criticised for having suspension that’s too hard, giving it a harsh, uncomfortable ride and causing it to bounce and jump around on bumps, especially at low speed in full-on off-road 4WD mode. Sure, it’s a bit firmer than the Ranger, but I found the Mazda’s suspension tuning to be pretty well suited to its brief. It’s a one-tonner after all, so handling and ride both improve with a few hundred kilos in the back, while the robust rear end also suits

towing. The back shocks did fade pretty quickly, though, even though they had only one-and-abit tonnes of trailer to cope with. The Mazda doesn’t get kicked around at the rear as much as more softly suspended onetonners and, while it’s a big, boofy truck, its dynamics are close to the front of the class — up there with VW’s Amarok, the Ranger and Mitsubishi’s Triton. The steering is less rubbery and remote than usual for a onetonner and the brakes are (also as usual) underdone when you have a load or a trailer involved.

The dash features a large navigation/audio screen (on XTR and GT) and the standard navigation system can be supplemented with HEMA maps as an option. You have to reach forward and around the steering wheel to the instrument panel to scroll through the trip computer. The driver’s seat is comfortable enough but a bit saggy and has only basic adjustments. There’s ample storage, including a split-level centre console box where the USB and Aux jacks live. Bluetooth is also a standard inclusion. A comfortable back seat has the best legroom in the class and you can fit three blokes in there without a fight breaking out, on short journeys at least. There’s a 12-volt outlet, door bins and front-seat-back pockets so it works as a kid-carrier too.

IN THE BOOT As with the Ranger, the claim is class-leading tub capacity. It’s a deep tub — 1.54 metres long on double cabs and 1.85 metres on the Freestyle cab. There’s no bedliner or 12-volt outlet as standard; Ranger XLT has both.

THE INSIDE STORY The interior is a more stylish, contemporary design than the Ranger, but for some bizarre reason Mazda and Ford still don’t provide a properly adjustable driving position. There’s no reach adjustment for the steering wheel, so you can’t use much seat travel. As a result, vision around the BT50 is compromised. It’s a big beast and you have no idea where its extremities are. Still, the rear camera on XTR and GT makes parking easy. It’s a snap to back up to a trailer and the big side mirrors are great.


All models have stability control, Bluetooth and air. XTR double-cab includes six airbags, a camera, 17-inch alloys, dual-zone air and navigation. GT adds automatic headlights, power driver’s seat, autodimming rear mirror, rainsensing wipers and leather. Warranty: Three years / 100,000km. Redbook future values: (XTR auto) 3yr: 61%; 5yr: 52%.


THINGS WE LIKE  Lazy, super-torquey 3.2  Tidy dynamics for a one-tonner  Generous rear-seat space  Big tub  Capable off-road  Strong resale values


No reach adjustment for the wheel Rear camera not standard 3500kg towing? Reliably? The front-end styling’s an acquired taste

compare with ... Ford Ranger, Holden Colorado, Mitsubishi Triton, Toyota HiLux




he CX-3 gives Mazda an offering in the hotly contested compact SUV segment. With a choice of two fourcylinder engines — 77kW/250Nm 1.5-litre turbodiesel or 109kW/ 192Nm 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol — the CX-3 is up against more than 20 contenders including Honda’s HRV, Nissan’s Qashqai and the Renault Captur. Depending on spec, the CX-3 also offers the option of front- or all-wheel drive (the latter being a true rarity at this end of the market), as well as the choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions. There are four spec levels — base Neo, next-step Maxx, premium sTouring and top-shelf Akari. As expected, pricing is sharp, with the entry-point of $19,990 (Neo petrol FWD manual) running across a close-to-$18K spread up to the top-spec Akari diesel AWD auto at $37,890.

STARS Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling Quality, reliability Comfort and refinement

MAZDA CX-3 FROM $19,990

On Maxx grade and up, blindspot monitoring, rear crosstraffic alert and automatic low-speed emergency braking in forward and reverse are standard. On the demerit side, a rear camera is not included as standard on base Neo. Interior space is generous by class standards, with more than adequate rear leg and head room for two full-size adults. Three back there is tight in the extreme, but the CX-3 is unashamedly pitched at young singles and pre-child couples, so that rear-room-for-three issue — and a relatively modest cargo volume of 264 litres with rear seats up, growing to 1174 litres with the (60/40 split-fold) second row folded — is bang on brief. Mazda says special attention has been paid to the interior design, right down to the choice of materials and finishes, to deliver a clean, premium feel.

There’s no doubt that objective has been achieved, but the lack of a centre armrest and ventilation outlets for rear-seat passengers are clear signs of cost consciousness. That said, there is better-than-average storage space around the cabin, including clever oddment trays in the front console, big bottle bins in the doors (front and rear) plus large seat pockets. The seating position has been designed to hit the sweet spot between the commanding vision of a traditional, high-riding SUV and the impressive handling dynamics of a hatch with a lower centre of gravity. The CX-3 design team has hit the target: the car combines great visibility with agile dynamics and a firmly planted road feel. Mazda’s naturally aspirated, high-compression Skyactiv petrol engines are certainly fuel efficient but performance is not a strong

point. Neither engine offered in the CX-3 is a powerhouse and more grunt would definitely be welcome, but the payoff is excellent fuel efficiency, with the FWD diesel recording just 4.1L/100km for the combined cycle and the front-drive petrol auto chipping in with 6.1L/100km — on regular unleaded, too. Driving several spec, engine and drivetrain variants, we were especially impressed by the diesel’s refinement and low noise levels but found petrol AWD models to be the pick of the bunch, with slightly less weight over the front axle delivering more nimble handling and drive to the rear, resulting in greater composure from the chassis when cornering. Keenly priced, beautifully designed, thoroughly engineered and dynamically excellent, the CX-3 is one of the front runners in compact SUVs. Test drive it with Toyota’s C-HR, Subaru’s XV and the Kia Sportage.


THINGS WE LIKE  Outstanding quality  Comfortable, stylish interior  Outstanding fuel efficiency  Excellent value for money

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Both engines are a bit gutless 18-inch alloys on top-spec models compromise ride comfort No rear camera in base Neo No rear-seat air vents

SPEX (2.0 Neo auto)) Made in Japan 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol/sixspeed manual/front-wheel drive 109kW of power at 6000rpm and 192Nm of torque at 2800rpm 0–100km/h in 10.0 seconds (est.) Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres Max towing weight: 1200kg 5.2L/100km highway; 7.6L/100km city; 91 octane. CO2 emissions are 146g/km; fuel tank is 48 litres Standard: Six airbags, stability control, Bluetooth with audio streaming, USB port, rear parking sensors, 16-inch steel wheels Maxx adds 16-inch alloys, low speed emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, navigation, touch screen and a camera. sTouring adds 18-inch alloys while Akari includes leather trim and a sunroof Redbook future values: 3yr: 57%; 5yr: 47%

Value for money

compare with ...


Honda HRV, Kia Sportage, Nissan Qashqai, Subaru XV, Suzuki Vitara


MAZDA CX-5 FROM $28,690


volution is the name of the game for Australia’s most popular SUV. Starting from $28,690, the front-wheel drive Mazda CX-5 Maxx has the best safety specification of any base model in this class, with autonomous emergency braking front and rear as standard, plus rear crosstraffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, LED headlights, reversing camera and rear-parking sensors. Some luxury SUVs at twice the price don’t have this much safety technology. Maxx Sport from $34,390 is also front-wheel drive. Touring specification, from $38,990, offers an all-wheel drivetrain, as does GT, from $44,390, which puts you into luxury equipment territory with a powered tailgate, sunroof, 19-inch alloys, adaptive front headlights (that “see” through corners), heated and powered front seats with driver’s-side memory, leather, a Bose audio upgrade and a head-up display. Finally, the flagship Akera, from $46,990, adds adaptive cruise control, adaptive auto high-beam headlights, lane departure alert,

STARS Safety Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall


a lane-keep assist system and a side-view camera. Only the Maxx and Maxx Sport are front-wheel drive, powered by a 114kW/200Nm 2.0-litre fourcylinder petrol engine, with either six-speed manual (Maxx only) or six-speed auto transmissions. The 2.0-litre engine is a bit gutless. It’s not especially quick off the line, works pretty hard and makes a bit of noise as a result of frequently having to rely on lots of revs. It’s worth the extra $3000 in Maxx and Maxx Sport for the all-wheel drive, 140kW/251Nm 2.5-litre petrol drivetrain, standard from Touring upwards. From Maxx Sport up, another $3000 buys a 129kW/420Nm 2.2-litre turbo-diesel, with a sixspeed auto and all-wheel drive. Slick and refined, yet with a sporty edge that suits the Mazda’s character, the larger petrol engine brings brisk acceleration across a broad rev range, especially at higher speeds, and returns impressive fuel economy figures to boot. There’s an appealing exhaust edge to it as well.

It’s not as frugal as the punchy diesel, however, which is also one of the smoothest and quietest of its type, while providing exceptional turbo thrust once the inevitable lag is overcome. Both powertrains work harmoniously with the standard automatic. Mazda says the key priorities during development of this second-generation CX-5 were to improve comfort and refinement and, in both instances, the CX-5 has gone from disappointment to delight. Engine and road noise has been quelled, addressing one of the preceding model’s biggest issues. More sound-deadening material, superior door seals, extra carpeting and better aerodynamics have transformed the Mazda to near-premium levels. The rear backrests now recline in two positions while from Maxx Sport up, rear air vents and a rear USB port make the back seat a happier, more comfortable place for kids. Throw in deeper windows, thinner pillars and a lower-set dash, and the overall ambience inside is now one of

S more lightness and space, even though dimensionally hardly anything’s changed. CX-5 is smaller than CRV, Forester and RAV4, more comparable in size to Hyundai’s Tucson, Ford’s Escape and the VW Tiguan. None of the previous version’s surefooted roadholding qualities have been compromised by the refinement focus. A keen driver will still revel in the Mazda’s ability to corner with confidence and control. Overall, then, the 2017 CX-5 builds on its predecessors’ positives, to create one of the most rounded and enjoyable medium SUVs on the market. Test drive it with the Tiguan, Escape and Forester.


By Byron Mathioudakis

THINGS WE LIKE  Quieter, more comfortable interior  Strong performance from 2.5 and 2.2 diesel  Composed handling  Quality and reliability  High safety equipment  Strong resale values

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE 2.0-litre base engine lacks torque, makes a lot of noise and auto can be reluctant to kick down Slow steering No auxiliary digital speedo on lower-spec models

SPEX (Maxx Sport 2.5 AWD) Made in Japan 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol/sixspeed automatic/all-wheel drive 140kW of power at 6000rpm/251Nm of torque at 4000rpm 0–100km in 7.8 seconds (US model) 6.4L/100km highway, 9.5L/100km city; 91 octane; CO2 emissions are 175g/km (approx) Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres Standard: Six airbags, stability control, traction control, Autonomous Emergency Braking front and rear, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, LED headlights, camera, digital radio, rear parking sensors, keyless start, navigation, dual-zone air, multimedia touchscreen, Bluetooth, auto on/off lights, rainsensing wipers, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 17-inch alloy wheels, and a temporary spare Redbook future values: 3yr: 59%; 5yr: 49%

compare with ... Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, Volkswagen Tiguan



azda’s CX-9 range starts at $42,490 for the 170kW 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol/six-speed automatic/ front-wheel-drive Sport. CX9 Touring, with the same drivetrain, is $48,490. All-wheel-drive models include the GT at $61,390 and the Azami at $63,390. We’re testing the base-model CX-9 Sport. It’s hardly what you would call loaded, but Mazda has thought about what parents really want and delivered it. Safety is the obvious priority and here the Mazda excels, with five-star ANCAP, a rear camera, low-speed (below 30km/h) obstacle detection/ automatic emergency braking that also works in reverse (at driveway speeds of 2–8km/h), rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, full-length curtain airbags, four Australian Standard/two Isofix restraint anchors and seat belt indicators for all positions. The spacious, comfortable 60/40-split middle seat slides

STARS Safety Performance Handling Quality, reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall

MAZDA CX-9 FROM $42,490

on either side to adjust legroom or let kids into the back. It’s elevated and with low window sills kids can watch the world pass by and be happy. Back-seat access isn’t quite as easy as Mazda claims. Even the single middle seat on the kerb side is fairly heavy to slide fore and aft, and really requires two hands plus a bit of muscle to operate. Back seats are fine for preteens but they’re close to the floor so older kids and adults squat rather than sit. The base CX-9 also has practical, smart stuff that makes life easy and comfortable for everybody, such as tri-zone air with independent controls for the second row, back seats that fold into the floor and require no effort to raise or lower, and a useful-sized boot even with all seats in use. Particularly impressive is the quality of materials, fit and finish in the CX-9’s cabin, which is superb

for a base model.Mazda’s 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol/sixspeed auto drivetrain is tuned to suit its load-lugging purpose, with strong performance off the line, easy pulling power at low revs and turbodiesel-like torque, so there’s never any need for you to thrash it. In fact, it’s a bit too easy to break traction at the front of the CX-9 if you’re vigorous on the accelerator. The kids will think you’re a star when this happens, but it could cause potentially nasty problems in the wet. Traction control needs to kick in earlier and with greater finesse. The CX-9 also suffers excessive torque steer; where the wheel tugs in your hands under acceleration, the car won’t hold a straight line and control is compromised. This isn’t fun in wet conditions. Mazda claims the CX-9 is the most fuel-efficient seven-seater petrol SUV in its class. I averaged 12–13L/100km in town, unladen — frugal for a wagon of this size,

weight and power. It also runs on regular unleaded, an unexpected bonus in a turbopetrol, most of which require premium. It’s quick, too, clocking 7.4 seconds for the 0–100km/h sprint. The CX-9 handles securely and predictably on country roads as long as you appreciate its limitations and don’t take the “Sport” spin literally. It’s a capable tourer with a compliant, if not quite supple ride on tall tyres and 18-inch alloys. Excessive tyre noise, a problem on some other Mazdas, isn’t an issue here. Mazda’s 2.5-litre turbopetrol delivers that elusive combination of performance and economy in a big SUV. CX-9 Sport also offers blue-chip quality and big-dollar safety features you won’t find in most rivals at the price, and all in a spacious and practical package.


THINGS WE LIKE  Refined, torquey, frugal engine  Premium safety in base model  Outstanding quality  Easy-to-use infotainment  Spacious, versatile, comfortable cabin

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Could be a handful in the wet Traction control needs work Excessive torque steer Back-seat access requires effort Expensive servicing Short warranty

SPEX (base Sport) Made in Japan 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol/six-speed automatic/ front-wheel drive 170kW of power at 5000rpm/420Nm of torque at 2000rpm 0–100km/h in 7.4 seconds 6.9L/100km highway; 11.0L/100km city; regular unleaded; CO2 emissions are 197g/km; fuel tank is 72 litres Max towing capacity 2000kg Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres Standard: Six airbags, stability control, 18-inch alloy wheels, trizone air, Smart City Brake Support, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, rear camera and parking sensors, cloth upholstery, seven-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, internet radio, navigation, voice control, keyless entry and start, two USB ports Redbook future values: 3yr: 55%; 5yr: 40%

compare with ... Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Nissan Skoda Kodiaq, Toyota Kluger





he Mercedes GLA SUV range starts at $43,900 for the 90kW 1.6-litre turbopetrol front-wheel-drive GLA180. The 100kW 2.1-litre turbodiesel front-wheel-drive GLA220d is $51,200. Opt for the sportier performance and all-wheeldrive grip of the 155kW 2.0-litre turbopetrol GLA250 and the price rises to $60,700. The 280kW 2.0-litre turbopetrol allwheel-drive GLA45 AMG hotrod costs $89,500. The performance spread ranges from sedate to sensational. The diesel-powered GLA220 reaches triple figures in a claimed 7.7 seconds, so it’s quicker than BMW’s X1 18d and Audi’s Q3 2.0 TDI and, officially at least, more frugal too. The GLA 250 clips the 0–100km/ h ticket in 7.1 seconds. It is an impressive number put into perspective by responsive idle to redline real-world performance.

STARS Safety Euro NCAP Green Vehicle Guide Performance: (GLA200); (GLA250); (GLA45) Handling Quality and reliability

The GLA45 AMG hits 100km/h just 4.8 seconds after take-off — the same claimed time as the ferocious ML63 AMG — but it is the always-there roll-on acceleration and accompanying snap and crackle from the exhaust that marks this as one of the most enjoyable, potent performance SUVs around. Transmission is a sevenspeed dual-clutch automatic with standard Eco, Sports and Manual modes. All-wheel-drive (4Matic in Mercedes-speak) models use an on-demand allwheel-drive system that drives the front wheels in normal, dry conditions and can transfer up to 50 per cent of torque to the rear wheels when required. The GLA250 features an off-road mode that adjusts the throttle, gear changes and traction/stability control system for driving on loose surfaces. It also has a “Downhill Speed Regulation” switch to manually set and control speed when descending.

Comfort suspension in the nonAMG models is as well modulated as any Mercedes sedan, delivering a great balance between ride comfort and handling. Stabiliser bars help contain, though not eliminate, body gyrations around corners and the steering is typically Mercedes — indirect just off centre before transitioning into immediate, precise response from the front wheels. The lower, tauter GLA45 AMG sports suspension absorbs rather than absolves small road irregularities. It’s a welcome trade-off/trait in a vehicle with this much cornering capacity and operates in concert with speedsensitive steering that transfers details on road camber and condition directly into your hands. If you’ve seen inside an A-Class or CLA sedan, the GLA will hold no surprises beyond the fact that the sit-down-and-in seating position in those cars is changed in favour of a higher hip-point SUV-style driving

position, well-sculpted seats and relatively spacious rear legroom, making it a comfortable cruiser for four adults. Above the waistline the GLA looks, feels and is finished like a Benz, but the plastics on the lower front fascia and between the seats don’t exude the quality look and feel found in more prestigious Benz models, while Mercedes’ infotainment system lacks the functionality, clarity and depth of BMW’s iDrive. Open the powered tailgate and the low, wide floor can hold plenty of cargo. The rear seat folds forward in a 60/40 split to extend capacity further. Mercedes came late to the compact SUV party, but in the GLA it has a winner. BMW’s X1 is more spacious, though, as is VW’s Tiguan, which is a bargain in comparison to both of them.


THINGS WE LIKE  Taut, responsive chassis  Outstanding turbopetrol engines  Roomy, comfortable cabin  Excellent ride/handling compromise  Strong resale values

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Diesel noise under acceleration Some cheap interior plastics Restricted rear vision Dated infotainment system

SPEX (GLA250) 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol/ seven-speed automatic/allwheel drive 155kW of power at 5500rpm/350Nm of torque from 1200–4000rpm. 0–100km/h in 7.1 seconds (claimed) 5.5L/100km highway; 8.2L/100km city; 95 octane premium; CO2 emissions are 151g/km Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres Standard: Nine airbags, stability control, 18-inch alloy wheels, bixenon headlamps, active parking assist, Bluetooth, blind spot assist, reversing camera and artificial leather upholstery. GLA250 adds 19-inch wheels, directional lighting and a sunroof. GLA45 AMG adds sports seats and replaces the steering column-mounted transmission lever with a squaretopped shifter residing in its rightful place in the centre console Redbook future values: 3yr: 61%; 5yr: 47%.

Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall


compare with ... Audi Q3, BMW X1, Ford Kuga, Mini Countryman, Toyota C-HR,, VW Tiguan

 S



ercedes-Benz was the last mainstream German maker to join the booming medium-sized luxury SUV segment. As the last in, it needs to be best dressed. The GLC, so named because it is based on the Mercedes-Benz C Class sedan (which is made in South Africa; the GLC is made in Germany) is available with Mercedes’ 2.1-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel in two states of tune: the base model 220d with 125kW of power and 400Nm of torque, priced at $67,500, and the rangetopping 250d with 150kW and 500Nm, priced at $73,200. The GLC250, priced at $70,900, runs a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol engine with 155kW and 350Nm. The twin-turbopetrol 3.0-litre V6 AMG GLC43, with 270kW/520Nm, is $102,400. Coupes include the 220d at $78,500, the 250 at $81,500, the 250d at $83,500 and the GLC43 at $109,900. All variants have a nine-speed automatic transmission with

permanent all-wheel drive in high range only. At the time of writing, the starting price of the GLC 220d was a few thousand dollars more than the base model BMW X3 and Audi Q5 2.0-litre turbodiesels. However, the Mercedes is loaded to the hilt with thousands of dollars worth of extra equipment either not standard or not yet available on its German rivals. Standard fare across all models includes seven airbags, automatic emergency braking, a 360-degree view camera, LED headlights and tail lights and blind spot monitoring. The GLC 250 petrol also comes with radar cruise control, lane-keeping steering, and rear cross-traffic alert (optional on other models). The 220d is obviously a little lethargic when compared to the more powerful 250d version of the exact same engine but both are refined, tractable and extremely well suited to openroad work. Mercedes simply

tunes the engines slightly differently using electronics. Unless you do a lot of highway driving, though, the 2.0-litre turbopetrol would be the better pick, especially if most of your driving is around town, where the petrol engine is hardly any thirstier, if at all, thanks to the stop-start system that switches it off when you stop in traffic and restarts it when you release the brake pedal. The petrol engine is also smoother, quieter and more responsive. As with most European engines it requires 95 octane premium unleaded. Service intervals are listed as 12 months/25,000 kilometres; I’d be halving that distance between services to be on the safe side, especially as far as oil changes go. Inside, the GLC looks just as upmarket and, well, genuine Mercedes as a C-Class, although the dash design itself is bespoke. There’s plenty of headroom front and rear and the cargo area is massive. Front and back seats

are comfortable, with the back bench splitting 40/20/40. On the road the GLC is comfortable and composed. It leans a little more in corners than a C Class sedan but no more than an SUV of this size and mass should. Visibility all around is good thanks to the large window area and the 360-degree camera view. Convex mirrors on both sides make it easy to spot cars and motorcycles when you are changing lanes. While Audi’s Q5 and BMW’s X3 are a couple of the better SUVs around, the Mercedes GLC is superior. If you’re not wedded to a German badge, try the Land Rover Discovery Sport, Jaguar F-Pace and the new Volvo XC60 too.


By Joshua Dowling

THINGS WE LIKE  The class leader  Good value  Best-in-the-business safety  Refined and comfortable to drive  Ample space for people and cargo  Petrol engine is the sweet spot

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  No spare tyre (runflats standard)  Sun visors don’t extend long enough to block glare through the side glass  No capped-price servicing scheme  Service intervals of 25,000km seem ambitious

SPEX (GLC250)  



Safety Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling 

Quality and reliability

Made in Germany 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol/ nine-speed automatic/all-wheel drive 155kW of power at 5500rpm/350Nm of torque from 1200-4000rpm 0–100km/h in 7.3 seconds (claimed) Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres Weight 1735kg; max towing weight 2400kg Fuel consumption 6.4L/100km highway; 8.6L/100km city; premium unleaded; CO2 emissions are 168g/km; fuel tank is 66 litres Standard: Seven airbags, stability control, 18-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth, navigation, smartphone connectivity, seven-inch infotainment screen, dual-zone air, auto emergency braking, 360-degree view camera, blindspot monitoring, LED lights Redbook future values: 3yr: 59%; 5yr: 44%

Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall

compare with ... Audi Q5, BMW X3, Jaguar F-Pace, Land Rover Discovery Sport, Volvo XC60




ather than a new MercedesBenz, what we have here is a new Mercedes-Benz name. There’s little more than a simple badge swap involved in the transition from M Class to GLE. The basic virtues of the line-up — comfort, capable handling, formidable safety credentials and strong drivetrains — remain unchanged. The two

STARS Safety Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall


diesel models get a nine-speed automatic in place of the sevenspeed still used in the petrolpowered versions. While the $92,900 150kW 2.1-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol GLE 250d has all the performance and equipment most buyers will ever need, a majority of Australian customers, for some strange reason, instead choose the $108,900 190kW 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel GLE 350d. Next in line is the $129,500 GLE 500 Hybrid, followed by the 270kW 3.0-litre twin turbopetrol AMG GLE43 at $134,700. Topping the range is the $193,500 Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S, with its 430kW twin-turbo 5.5-litre V8. Mercedes also introduces its tardy answer to BMW’s X6 as part of the GLE range. The five-seat Coupe models are more expensive than their nearest wagon equivalents, by up to $10,000, which doesn’t really add up as a deal.

The GLE Coupe line-up consists of the $125,500 350d, the $144,800 AMG GLE43 and the $202,200 63 S. Engineers laboured to make the GLE Coupe a sporty drive. It has, for instance, more direct steering than the wagon, larger wheels and tyres, and standard Airmatic suspension with adaptive damping. But all the technology in the world can’t disguise the simple fact that the GLE Coupe is tall and weighs two-plus tonnes. The 63 S is very, very fast, but its handling lacks the finesse of AMG’s lower, lighter sedans and only the deeply deluded would call it sporty. Like the X5, the GLE Coupe also has some practical problems, the inevitable result of grafting a pseudo-coupe body onto a large SUV platform. Luggage space is reduced compared with the wagon, rearward vision isn’t as good and the Coupe’s design makes it hard to judge where this wide vehicle’s front corners are. It’s hard to understand the appeal … This isn’t the case with the GLE wagon. Driving a 350d at the international launch in Europe, the nine-speeder was smooth and very well behaved. You’re seldom aware of what gear is being used at any time but it doesn’t really matter as it’s almost always the right one. Together with the fine turbodiesel V6 and 4matic allwheel-drive system, this is a very classy drivetrain.


The chassis is set up for calmness and comfort, a welcome contrast with the stiffer sportiness of a BMW X5. Mercedes used the launch to remind the world that its large SUV can be made into a better off-roader than its premium competitors. Mercedes’ optional Airmatic air suspension and Off-Road Engineering package increases ground clearance on demand and adds a crawler gear for steep tracks. What Mercedes cannot offer is seating to match its logical competitors. The new Audi Q7, Land Rover Discovery and Volvo XC90 are seven seaters and BMW has a third-row option for the X5. The GLE is a five seater only; if you want seven seats and a Mercedes badge you have to go to the gargantuan GLS wagon. A new-from-the-wheels-up GLE, which will almost certainly rectify this oversight, is at least two years away.


By John Carey

THINGS WE LIKE  Emphasis on comfort  Fuel efficiency of diesels  Well equipped  As safe as they come

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  No seven-seat option  Handling is the opposite of sporty  AMG is an unguided missile

SPEX (GLE 250d)  


Made in the USA 2.1-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel/ nine speed automatic/all-wheel drive 150kW of power at 3800rpm/500Nm of torque from 1600–1800rpm 0–100km/h in 9 seconds (claimed) Weight 2291kg; max towing weight 2950kg Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres 5.6L/100km highway; 6.7L/100km city; CO2 emissions are 159g/km; fuel tank is 93 litres Standard: Nine airbags, stability control, 19-inch alloys, fake leather upholstery, power tailgate, navigation, Bluetooth, voice control, dual-zone air, auto emergency braking, radar cruise, lane keeping, blind spot assist, adaptive LED headlights, trailer stabilisation Redbook future values: 3yr: 60%; 5yr: 44%

compare with ... Audi Q7, BMW X5, Porsche Cayenne, VW Touareg, Volvo XC90


he Mercedes GLS Class is an often overlooked and underrated luxury 4WD. It’s a well-designed, spacious sevenseater and unlike BMW’s X5 and Audi’s Q7, the GL is also equipped to go off-road. Think of it as Germany’s answer to the Range Rover. The 190kW 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel GLS 350d costs $117,950, or $136,950 for the very optimistically named Sport. The 335kW 4.7-litre V8 twin turbopetrol GLS 500 costs $163,950 and the AMG GLS 63, with a 430kW 5.5-litre twin turbopetrol V8, is $219,950. Mercedes’ 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel in the GLS350 is a smooth, quiet engine which returns excellent fuel numbers in the real world. It’s slightly dulled here by the GLS’s mass but we are at the Brobdignagian end of the automotive spectrum and its 0–100km/h time of 7.8 seconds is actually pretty quick in context.

STARS Safety Not yet tested Green Vehicle Guide


The 2016 update, which saw a name change from GL to GLS, also replaced the seven-speed automatic with a nine-speed on GLS350 and GLS500. The GLS demands respect and appropriate caution, but treat the Sport suspension setting as the default and you get disciplined control over body movement plus the ability to remain tidy and balanced even when pushed quite hard. The steering is a bit languid, but that’s understandable in a vehicle of this size and weight. It’s accurate and free of kickback. The ride has a slightly sharp edge, which is characteristic of air suspension and exacerbated by low-profile tyres, but Comfort mode is still a pretty accurate description of what you get. Braking performance is fine. You have to push quite hard to get serious stopping power from highway speeds.

The Off-Road Engineering option package, available only on GLS350, includes low-range gearing, a manual centre diff lock, bash plates and six different preset, selectable drive modes, including one for use with a trailer or caravan. It is capable and effective, with the GLS’s major limitation off road being the standard highway tyres and space-saver spare. Mercedes has also fitted a raft of useful technologies to the GLS, including 360-degree helicopter view cameras, blind spot assist and its state-of-the-art Distronic Plus cruise control —a radarbased system which will keep a gap between you and the car in front and, in an emergency, work with the BAS Plus autonomous braking system to actually bring you to a stop if necessary. The GLS’s high and mighty driving position is adjustable to suit any physique. The GLS350 driver’s

seat is firm and flat, so although you’re comfortable it offers relatively little upper body support. The middle row of seats is generously padded and comfortable, especially the two outboard seats which provide good support. There’s enough legroom for anyone. The GLS’s two individual power-operated back stalls, accessed via double-folding the 60/40-split middle seat, offer decent comfort, space and support. You wouldn’t want to go too far but they’re luxurious compared with the squeezy back seats in most big SUVs. Child-restraint anchor points are fitted to all five rear seats while rear air-conditioning and air vents along each side of the roof are also fitted. Open the power tailgate and you have 1.2 metres of floor length and more than a metre of width to fill. Even in seven-seater mode there’s useful capacity.


THINGS WE LIKE  A genuine seven-seater  Diesel refinement and fuel efficiency  Secure handling for such a big beast  The power tailgate  Loaded with safety features  You can equip it to go off-road

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  It’s like driving the Titanic in town  GLS350 driver’s seat is a bit of a plank  Needs a full-size spare

SPEX (GLS350)       

Performance Handling 

Quality and reliability

Made in Germany 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel/nine-speed automatic/all-wheel drive 190kW of power at 3400rpm/620Nm of torque from 1600-2400rpm 0–100km/h in 7.9 seconds Weight 2455kg; max towing weight 3500kg Warranty: three years/unlimited kilometres 7.2L/100km highway; 8.2L/100km city; CO2 emissions are 199g/km; fuel tank is 100 litres Standard: Stability control, nine airbags, 20-inch alloy wheels, leather-faced upholstery, navigation, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, voice recognition, 360-degree camera, a power tailgate and heated front seats. Redbook future values: 3yr: 57%; 5yr: 40%

Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall

compare with ... Audi Q7, Land Rover Discovery, Range Rover Sport, Toyota 200 Series ‘Cruiser




he Mercedes G Class, range opens with the G-Professional cab-chassis, priced at $119,900, with a 135kW 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel/ five speed automatic transmission. That is truly bizarre money for a ute that is really no more capable that a Toyota 70 Series Landcruiser. Three wagons are available. The 180kW 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel G350 Bluetec, tested here, is $163,615. The 420kW 5.5-litre supercharged V8 G63 AMG is priced at $233,615. As we went to press, a G-Professional wagon was due for launch. Go to au for pricing details. The G Class is a serious bit of off-road gear. Drive goes to four

wheels in high and low range. Three locking differentials are standard inclusions along with adaptive traction control, crawler low-range first ratio and elevated drivetrain breathers. Live axles with coil springs are also fitted at both ends. Mercedes’ 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel is a perfect fit in the G Glass. It’s loaded with smooth, accessible torque, so it shifts the 2.5-tonne G350 easily (albeit in no great hurry) and most of the time you can hardly feel the sevenspeed automatic at work. The G63 is completely mad and more than a bit scary. Fabulous entertainment in a straight line, the terror starts when you approach a corner, which always seems to happen much too quickly.

The G might carry a luxury price tag but its utilitarian, primitive chassis is more closely related to Toyota’s workhorse 70 Series than to any of its ostensible luxury rivals, so its onroad dynamics are mediocre. You can find a rhythm in the G but there’s a lot of front-end bounce on undulating surfaces. It’s also top-heavy, so a sudden swerve and avoid manoeuvre, even with stability control, could get very ugly very fast. Although the G Class has the usual swag of luxury 4WD features, there’s no mistaking its old-world design in the cabin. Some features hark back to the W124 E Class of the 1980s. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but compared with, say, a Range

Rover or even the GL Class, the G wagon feels like an antique. You get wonderful vision around the vehicle, particularly over the bonnet, making it easy to pick your way along a tight or steep track. The driver’s seat is a big, firm, supportive chair with good bolstering and power lumbar. The back seat is shaped as three individual seats, which are amply padded and quite comfortable. However, small door openings make access tedious and legroom isn’t overly generous. The G’s rear door opens sideways towards the kerb, which isn’t ideal, and with the full-size spare on it’s also fairly heavy. The load area opening isn’t full width either. The floor, though, is low and vast and you can extend it by tumble-folding the 60/40 splitfold rear seat. It’s a shame G Class prices are so high. You’ll save heaps and get a much more comfortable wagon, with arguably greater off-road ability, with the Toyota 200 Series ‘Cruiser Sahara V8 turbodiesel, a Range Rover or a Land Rover Discovery.


THINGS WE LIKE  Spectacularly good off-road  Smooth, refined turbodiesel  Insane V8  Comfortable seats

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  Very ordinary handling, steering and braking  Limited legroom throughout  Spectacularly overpriced  Tailgate design is cumbersome

SPEX (G350)    

STARS Safety Not yet tested Green Vehicle Guide


Performance Handling 

Quality and reliability

Made in Austria 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel/sevenspeed auto/all-wheel drive 180kW of power at 3600rpm/600Nm of torque from 1600–2400rpm 0–100km/h 8.8 seconds (claimed) Warranty: Three years/100,000km Max towing weight: 3175kg 9.1L/100km highway;11.1L/100km city. CO2 emissions are 261g/km; fuel tank is 96 litres Standard: Six airbags, stability control, Bluetooth, navigation, heated front seats, leather upholstery, bi-xenon headlights, camera, tyre pressure monitoring Redbook future values: 3yr: 52%; 5yr: 36%

Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall


compare with ... Land Rover Discovery, Range Rover, Toyota 200 Series LandCruiser

MG GS FROM $23,990


he MG GS compact SUV is built in China by that country’s largest car manufacturer, the state-owned Shanghai Automobile Industry Corporation, which rescued the MG brand from oblivion when its British parent went belly-up in 2005. Pricing kicks off at $23,990 for the 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol/six-speed manual/ front-wheel-drive Vivid, with 17inch alloys, Bluetooth, reverse parking sensors, automatic headlights and an electric parking brake. MG GS Core, at $25,990, adds a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission, rear camera, hill holder, dualzone air with rear vents, Arkamys audio, leather-wrapped wheel, with infotainment controls and a cooled storage box. The Soul variant, with 18-inch wheels, more supportive front seats, leather upholstery and lumbar adjustment, an eight-inch touch screen, navigation, fog lights and automatic wipers, is $28,990.

STARS Safety Performance Handling Quality and reliability

It’s then a big jump to the $34,990 MG GS Essence X, which runs a 2.0-litre turbopetrol four/ six-speed dual-clutch/all-wheel drivetrain, and adds paddle shifters, auto-levelling headlights, extended stability control functions to include rollover protection, hill descent control and a sunroof. Sheetmetal that’s more interesting and attractive than your typical Euro-box SUV does not, unfortunately, carry over into the cabin. It’s an uninspiring place, with dated, unimaginative design, dull, unresponsive touch-screen infotainment and instrument displays and no voice control, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, digital radio or driver assist safety tech in any variant. There’s ample space for four, with plenty of driving position adjustability, comfortable, supportive front seats, reasonable rear-seat legroom (albeit with adults sitting slightly knees up on a low bench) and a spacious boot. The MG’s 1.5-litre turbo/sevenspeed drivetrain is its biggest

attraction. A smooth, sweet, tractable little engine, with strong numbers (119kW of power and 250Nm of torque), the 1.5 works nicely with the seven-speed transmission, which also delivers more responsive, efficient goforward than the CVTs and automatics in most rival SUVs. Premium unleaded is required. Most naturally aspirated rivals run on regular. Move up to the 2.0-litre Essence X and you get 162kW of power and 350Nm of torque, but on the road it feels as though 40kW or so has gone missing in action. The larger engine is also a less-than-happy match with the six-speed transmission, faltering and lagging occasionally at low revs, buzzing excessively at the top end and generating reverberation in the cabin, amplified on coarse bitumen by tyre roar. Essence X operates as a frontwheel drive until slip is detected, when up to 50 per cent of drive can be sent to the rear wheels.

Drive can be locked in a 50:50 split for low traction surfaces. Dynamics also favour 1.5-litre models, which enjoy a 182-222kg weight advantage over the heavy (1642kg), cumbersome Essence X. They’re firmly suspended and agile, with reasonable balance and sharp, well-weighted steering. A firm, slightly agitated ride, especially for rear-seat passengers, will become trying on rough roads. As with any bit player brand, you’re taking a leap of faith if you put your money down on an MG GS. Resale values are weak, reliability is unproven and, in the GS, 21st-century safety and infotainment technology are conspicuously absent. At these prices, MG GS is a tough sell when similar money will put you into a no-risk, blue-chip Toyota C-HR, Mazda CX3 or Suzuki Vitara.


THINGS WE LIKE 1.5-litre turbopetrol/seven-speed auto drivetrain is one of the class leaders Plenty of space in the cabin and boot Tidy front-wheel drive dynamics More interesting styling than most Long warranty

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE A new brand, with unproven reliability Overpriced Safety and infotainment systems are off the pace All-wheel-drive model is heavy and its 2.0-litre turbopetrol engine is lethargic and unrefined Fussy ride Weak resale values

SPEX (Core) Made in China 1.5-litre turbopetrol/seven-speed automatic/front-wheel drive 119kW of power at 5600rpm/350Nm of torque 0-100km/h N/A 6.1L/100km highway; 9.7L/100km city; 95 octane premium; CO² emissions are 172gkm Warranty: Six years/unlimited kilometres Standard: Six airbags, stability control, 17-inch alloys, Bluetooth, reverse-parking sensors, automatic headlights, electric parking brake, rear camera, hill holder, dual-zone air with rear vents, Arkamys audio, leather-wrapped wheel, cooled storage box Redbook future values: 3yr: 45%; 5yr: 36%

Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall

compare with ... Honda HRV, Mazda CX3, Nissan Qashqai, Subaru XV, Suzuki Vitara, Toyota C-HR





ini’s SUV range, powered by BMW drivetrains, opens with the 1.5-litre threecylinder turbopetrol/six-speed automatic/front-wheel-drive Countryman, priced at $40,500. The 2.0-litre turbodiesel/eightspeed automatic/all-wheel-drive Cooper D is $44,500, the 2.0-litre turbopetrol/eight-speed auto Cooper S is $47,200, and the 2.0-litre turbodiesel/eight-speed automatic/all-wheel-drive Cooper SD is $52,300. The all-wheel drive John Cooper Works model, the performance variant with a 170kW 2.0-litre turbopetrol engine, costs $57,900 with a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic. Self-appointed experts gave the original Countryman a hostile reception when it was launched in 2010. Too big to wear a Mini badge, they huffed. Too long. Too many doors. Customers couldn’t have cared less. The Countryman at times has accounted for more than 20 per cent of Mini’s Australian sales.

STARS Safety ANCAP Performance Handling Quality and reliability

The Countryman was the first family-size Mini. It won new customers and retained owners who otherwise would have had to desert the brand during their breeding years. With Countryman II, Mini’s aim is simple: more of the same. Despite the growth spurt, the fivedoor’s overall proportions are very similar. Inside, the changes are more obvious. The 40/20/40 split rear seat is spacious. Larger rear doors make accessing it easier, too. And the cargo compartment has grown by 100 litres to a quite useful 450 litres. While extra space adds to the new Countryman’s practical appeal and makes it much more viable as a family wagon, Mini’s distinctive interior design themes remain. The huge circular housing in the centre of the dash and the switchgear mimic features from original Minis of the ’50s and ’60s, for example. It’s not a look that will please everyone, and the layout isn’t as user-friendly as some non-retro competitors.

Radar cruise and automatic emergency braking, with pedestrian detection, are standard, as is navigation, Bluetooth, digital radio, stylish cloth/leather upholstery and sports front seats. Countryman’s technical essentials are familiar. Mini is owned by the BMW Group, and the SUV’s engines, transmissions, all-wheel-drive system, suspension, steering, brakes and more are shared with small models from the Bavarian brand. It’s most closely related to the X1 and is manufactured in the same factory in the Netherlands. BMW’s charming 100kW 1.5-litre turbopetrol triple, working with a six-speed automatic, powers the basic front-drive Cooper Countryman. Stepping up to the Cooper S grade buys a more powerful 141kW 2.0-litre turbopetrol four and an eight-speed automatic. Mini’s All4 all-wheel-drive is available only in the Cooper D and Cooper SD. Both have the same 2.0-litre turbo diesel four, but it’s tuned for extra power (140kW, up from 110kW) in

the case of the SD. The eightspeed auto is standard in both. A six-speed manual is a no-cost option in every Countryman. The smooth and quiet turbopetrol four of the Cooper S is a perky performer. In slimy mud Mini’s All4 system is effective. And, from behind the wheel, the Countryman is more agile than the average small SUV. Firm suspension will do that (and it’s Mini’s established style), but also means ride comfort suffers. Bumps in the road are too often clearly felt. The 2017 Countryman is expensive for its size, and you should also be aware of Mini’s less than exemplary quality and reliability record. That said, its increased size makes the new Countryman a much more practical, comfortable SUV, while, as always with Mini, it’s a fun thing to drive.


By John Carey

THINGS WE LIKE Roominess and practicality Strong, fuel-efficient suite of BMW engines Tidy, engaging handling Effective all-wheel-drive system

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Try-hard retro design, especially inside Firm ride Pricey for a small SUV Minis can be temperamental

SPEX (Cooper S) Made in the Netherlands 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol/ eight-speed automatic/front-wheel drive 141kW of power from 5000–6000rpm/280Nm of torque from 1350–4600rpm 0–100km/h in 7.4 seconds 5.4L/100km highway; 7.6L/100km city; 95 octane premium; CO2 emissions are 141g/km Fuel tank 51 litres Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres Standard: Six airbags, stability control, parking sensors, automatic parking, camera, radar cruise, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, power tailgate, swivelling LED headlights, Bluetooth, navigation, digital radio, voice control, 18-inch alloy wheels Redbook future values: 3yr: 53%; 5yr: 42%

Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall


compare with ... Audi Q2, BMW X1, Fiat 500X, Mazda CX3, Mercedes GLA, Subaru XV, Toyota C-HR



he base ASX 110kW 2.0-litre petrol/five-speed manual front-wheel-drive LS is $25,000. With a continuously variable automatic (CVT) transmission it’s $27,000, while in XLS specification it’s $31,500. The 110kW 2.2-litre turbodiesel all-wheel-drive LS, with a six-speed automatic, is $32,500. XLS is $37,000. The ASX is also available as the Peugeot 4008. They are built on the same production line in Japan. The ASX is quite light and the 2.2-litre turbodiesel has a deep well of accessible torque so responsiveness and acceleration will be pretty brisk, while its official fuel consumption numbers are excellent. I haven’t driven the 2.0-litre petrol engine/CVT

STARS Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling Quality and reliability


drivetrain in the ASX but in the Peugeot 4008 it’s as slow as a wet week. Given that it’s more like a car than an SUV in its stance, weight and suspension layout, you would expect the ASX to be a decent handler but it’s not quite as secure or confident at speed on a country road as it should be. It’s not as composed or as comfortable as a Mazda CX-3, Subaru XV or Toyota C-HR. The ASX interior was recently updated with richer materials and an Outlander-style layout. Permanently illuminated instruments are easy to read, day or night, thanks to their bright white displays. There’s a similarly legible information display between them and the wands have a chunky, high-

quality feel in operation. Easy-to-use audio and threeknob air-conditioning controls on the centre of the dash are complemented by wheelmounted switches for audio/ Bluetooth (which also has voice activation) and cruise control. Digital radio is standard. You can drive your iPod from the steering wheel and there’s also a touch screen for audio and information functions. Tall drivers can get comfortable in the ASX and there’s plenty of adjustment for the steering wheel. Big side mirrors are handy and a rear camera is standard. At the price, XLS specification is loaded. A large seven-inch touchscreen, navigation, large glass roof, automatic healights, rain sensing

wipers and heated front seats with leather facings are included. The firm driver’s seat is rather small and unsupportive for larger people and the side bolstering is completely ineffective. Rear-seat legroom is on par with a similarly sized hatchback -- OK for most adult but squeezy for tall folks. Apart from a pocket on the back of the front passenger seat there’s no other storage, so it’s not a great place to carry kids. Two child-restraint anchors are fitted to the outboard positions on the 60/40 split-fold rear seat back. Two Isofix mounts are also provided. There’s not a lot of boot space but the rear seat backs flip down for an extended floor of nearly 1.6 metres with no compromise to front-seat travel. The ASX LS turbodiesel shapes up as good value but there are better petrol alternatives around. That said, Mitsubishi regularly advertises the base ASX LS at rock- bottom drive away prices, so if you’re just after cheap, honest transport it’s worth a drive


THINGS WE LIKE The 2.2-litre turbodiesel models are excellent value for money XLS is loaded with standard features Reliable and a long warranty Easy to drive and park in town

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Dynamics are only average Seats aren’t particularly comfortable or supportive 2.0 petrol is gutless

SPEX (2.2 LS) Made in Japan 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel/ six-speed automatic/all-wheel drive 110kW of power at 3500rpm/350Nm of torque from 1500–2750rpm 0–100km/h: N/A 5.1L/100km highway; 7.1L/100km city; CO2 emissions are 153g/km; fuel tank is 63 litres Warranty: Five years/130,000km Max towing weight: 1300kg (petrol); 1400kg (diesel) Standard: Seven airbags, stability control, automatic air, digital radio, USB input, Bluetooth, rear parking sensors, rear camera, tinted glass, roof rails and 18-inch alloy wheels Redbook future values: 3yr: 53%; 5yr: 41%

Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall

compare with ... Honda HRV, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-3, Subaru XV, Suzuki Vitara, Toyota C-HR



Mitsubishi’s Triton is the best value 4x4 double cab ute on the market. It’s spacious, reliable, comfortable, safe and well-equipped, with a strong, frugal drivetrain. Discount drive away deals are at least $10,000 cheaper than most rivals, and a five-year warranty adds extra value. HOW MUCH? The Triton 4x4 range, powered by a 133kW/430Nm 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine, opens with the GLX single cab chassis six-speed manual at $32,500. The GLX Club cab chassis is $35,300. Double cabs start with the GLX at $37,000; a five-speed automatic adds $2500. GLS is $41,500 and the Sport is $45,990. The auto-only Exceed is $48,000. That’s several-thousand dollars less than the top-spec models from any of Triton’s main rivals.


STARS Safety (ANCAP) Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling Quality and reliability

Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall


The Triton is built in Thailand. It sits on the same wheelbase as the previous model, so as far as the double-cab variants go it remains one of the smaller onetonners around. However, the body is the longest in the class, with Mitsubishi claiming classleading rear-seat legroom. The 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine in the Triton produces 133kW of power at 3500rpm and 430Nm of torque at 2500rpm. The five-speed Aisin automatic, based on the Pajero transmission, is matched with a dual-range transfer case with a lower off-road reduction ratio. A lockable viscous centre coupling allows high-range four-wheeldrive operation on sealed roads. Paddle shifters are provided. A locking rear differential is standard on Exceed. Suspension is wishbone coil spring front/leaf spring live axle rear. Steering is hydraulic and Mitsubishi claims the smallest turning circle in the class at 11.8m. Brakes are discs front/ drums rear. Stability control

and trailer stability control are both standard inclusions. GLX runs on 16-inch steel wheels with 245/70 all terrain tyres. GLS and Exceed use 17inch alloys with 245/65 tyres. A full-size alloy spare is standard. The Triton will tow up to 3100kg and maximum towball download is 310kg. Kerb mass is 1965kg, GVM is 2900kg and maximum payload is 935kg (Exceed). The fuel tank capacity is 76 litres.

HOW DOES IT GO? The 2.4-litre turbodiesel is one of the best engines in this

class. While its numbers are average, it delivers them in an exceptionally smooth, quiet, flexible and responsive manner. We took an Exceed across the Simpson Desert, towing a 1.2-tonne camper trailer to Birdsville, where we left it for the desert crossing, returning to pick it up via Alice and the Plenty Highway. The Triton towed the trailer without any drama at all. However, while fuel consumption can be as low as 7.5L/100km on the highway, even a relatively light trailer such as ours sent it


FROM $32,500 up into the 12–13L/100km zone. It’s a similar story with most small-capacity four-cylinder turbodiesels — they return great fuel numbers unladen but with extra weight behind them or on them, consumption soars. In the Simpson itself, without the trailer but loaded with about 500kg of people and gear, consumption varied from about 10L/100km idling along the easier sections of the track to 15–16L/100km in tougher stuff, with the centre diff locked in high range and running in second/third gear. The Triton’s 76-litre tank is 20 litres too small for outback touring, especially when towing. It’s a similar story with most onetonner 4x4 utes. Still, the Mitsubishi engine is a beauty. Turbo lag is minimal and at higher revs it breathes freely and remains very smooth. Second gear in high range, with the centre diff locked, saw it make short work of 99 per cent of the Simpson’s 1100 dunes; the most difficult ones were tackled in low range with the rear diff lock also engaged. The five-speed auto has one less ratio than most of its rivals but doesn’t really miss it. Being able to use 4WD high on wet bitumen is a worthwhile safety advantage, especially when towing, and you can shift between 2H and 4H at up to 100km/h. In 4H, torque is split 40/60 front/rear.



In official tests the Triton auto averages 6.8L/100km on the highway and 9.0L/100km in town. CO2 emissions are 201g/km. The manual averages 6.3L/100km, 8.8L/100km and 191g/km.

DOES IT HANDLE, STEER AND STOP? Sharp, light steering, decent brakes and an agile, wellbalanced feel give the Triton respectable dynamics, and the fact that’s a bit smaller than some rivals also makes it less of a barge in traffic. The ride is typically firm and lumpy but an improvement on the previous model and reasonably comfortable. It’s relatively unaffected by a light trailer, too, with minimal rear-end sag. However, there are a few less than impressive dynamic traits as well.

The Triton is underdamped at both ends, particularly on rebound, so the rear, especially when unladen, can struggle for roadholding on corrugations or rough surfaces and can occasionally kick sideways without warning. At the front, the damping fades noticeably after a while on a rough track and the front end starts to bounce and pitch. In the Simpson, this exposed a lack of clearance. The bottom of the main radiator hangs very low and is protected only by a flimsy bash plate. After bottoming out on a few dunes, the bash plate caved in and crushed the base of the radiator. Luckily for us, the radiator didn’t crack. I should point out here that most standard one-tonner suspensions would exhibit similar characteristics under such harsh conditions, which is why aftermarket suppliers such as ARB do such good business. That said, rivals such asHiLux, Ranger/BT50 and Colorado have more robust standard suspension and better clearance. Mitsubishi advised us after the trip that a heavier-duty bash plate was being developed. The factory towbar is also a bulky structure that hangs too low at the rear and severely compromises departure angle.

for the entire 8000km Simpson trip. Dust sealing is also good. Ample storage includes a big centre console box and bottle holders in the doors. Twelve-volt outlets are on the centre console and in the box, plus a USB port.



Triton is one of the smaller double cab one-tonners, certainly compared with Ranger/BT50, Amarok and Colorado. However, its cabin is the longest in the class so the rear seat has plenty of legroom and is comfortable for two with a properly angled, supportive backrest. Three big blokes, though, won’t enjoy the same space or comfort as they will in the Triton’s rivals. Supportive, luxurious — in the one-tonner ute context at least — front seats have plenty of travel plus rake and reach adjustment for the wheel. Triton’s is one of the most car-like, adjustable-to-fit-driving positions in the class, and on long outback drives the Exceed’s seat remained comfortable all day. Jesus handles are fitted to the A-pillars on both sides. The dash, which features clear, brightly illuminated instruments, is stylish, well laid out and remained squeak- and rattle-free

The tub is class average for length and width. Fit the factory canopy at your peril. It’s styled to blend with the cabin’s roofline but as a consequence is very shallow, with useless slots instead of proper side windows so you can’t get at your gear, and a rear window that doesn’t open high enough either. I lost count of the number of times I smacked my head on these windows which, when open, also have their edges right at eye level — a potential cause of serious injury. Fit an aftermarket canopy instead and save yourself endless aggravation.



GLX includes stability control, seven airbags, camera, 16-inch steel wheels, cruise control, Bluetooth, voice control, USB port, trailer stability control, all terrain tyres and an alarm. GLS adds 17-inch alloys, side steps, bogan bar in the tub,



camera, dual-zone air, 7-inch touchscreen, DAB+ radio and six speakers. Sport adds a rear diff lock, towbar, tub liner, soft tonneau cover and black alloys. Exceed adds auto paddle shifts, keyless entry and starting, automatic headlights and wipers, leather-faced seats, power-adjustable, heated driver’s seat and seven-inch touch screen with navigation and SD slot. Warranty: Five years/100,000km. Redbook future values (Exceed): 3yr: 55%; 5yr: 41%.


THINGS WE LIKE Great value for money Lighter, more agile and manoeuvrable than larger rivals Refined, frugal 2.4 turbodiesel Comfortable, quiet, stylish interior Mitsubishi reliability, long warranty

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Underdamped at both ends Inadequate ground clearance and underbody protection Fuel tank is too small for outback touring and towing Exceed’s chromarama grille looks like it’s off a 1980s Tokyo taxi

compare with ... Ford Ranger, Holden Colorado, Isuzu D-Max, Nissan Navara, Toyota HiLux, VW Amarok





ike Toyota’s Fortuner, Mitsubishi’s Pajero Sport is built on a one-tonner ute chassis — in this case the Triton — topped with a stylish, bespoke body to create a family wagon that, unlike the SUVs that now dominate the market, also has considerable off-road ability. Prices open at $45,000 for GLX specification, making the Pajero Sport the cheapest family-sized five-seater 4WD on the market. Seven-seat GLS is $48,500 and Exceed is $53,000 — also great value for money. All models have the same drivetrain, featuring the Triton’s 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel matched with an eight-speed automatic. Pajero Sport can operate as rear-wheel drive or allwheel drive in high range on the bitumen, with a locking centre diff for slippery surfaces and a lowrange transfer case as well. Four driving modes — Gravel, Mud/Snow, Sand and Rock —

STARS Safety ANCAP Performance Handling Quality and reliability

adjust the transmission and traction control to suit the relevant situation, while a locking rear differential is also standard on GLS and Exceed. On the road, the Pajero Sport is very impressive. The 2.4, with a lot of help from the slick, responsive eight-speed auto, returns some of the best fuel numbers around (which helps compensate for the small 68-litre tank), while the engine itself is exceptionally smooth and quiet. There’s some turbo lag evident at low revs. Ride comfort is also best in class, with little of the lumpiness and incessant jostling you get in more firmly suspended 4WDs. In fact, the Pajero Sport drives more like an SUV than a one-tonnerbased wagon, with a responsive, agile feel, reasonable balance and decent brakes. The downside to this is that extended off-road driving or

towing will tax the suspension’s ability to maintain proper control. Toyota’s Fortuner is better suited to heavy-duty off-road use and towing. That said, Pajero Sport has high clearance, reasonable wheel articulation and the requisite off-road hardware to tackle all but the most extreme terrain with ease. Hydraulic power steering is light and direct, with a tight turning circle. Some steering shake is apparent on a pockmarked road. The dash, with a high centre console, is stylish and efficient, with the now-ubiquitous tabletstyle big screen to operate the infotainment system, which includes digital radio. Mitsubishi doesn’t offer navigation; rather, you connect your smartphone via Apple CarPlay or Google Android Auto and away you go. Using your data allowance, of course …

The comfortable, supportive driver’s seat is well bolstered and the wheel adjusts for both rake and reach. A camera and reverse-parking sensors are standard; Exceed also gets a blind spot warning system and surround cameras. The middle seat is comfortable with an adjustable backrest angle, two Isofix and three Australian Standard restraint anchors. The back seats fold into the floor and are suitable for young kids. Roof vents are provided for middle and back seats. The load area, accessed via a roof-hinged tailgate, is huge and can be extended by tumblefolding the 60/40 middle seat. Mitsubishi’s Pajero Sport is outstanding value, well built, safe, refined, frugal and comfortable. The fact that it’s also a fairdinkum 4x4 only adds to its appeal. Test drive it back to back with the Fortuner and take your pick. Neither will disappoint.


THINGS WE LIKE Refined, frugal 2.4/eight-speed auto drivetrain Comfortable, quiet ride Great value for money A great kid carrier Genuine off-road ability Long warranty

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Some steering shake on rough roads Some damping fade on rough tracks A bit of turbo lag at low revs

SPEX (GLS) Made in Thailand 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel/ eight-speed auto/part-time dualrange 4x4 133kW of power at 3500rpm/430Nm of torque at 2500rpm 0–100km/h N/A 7.0L/100km highway; 9.8L/100km city; CO2 emissions are 212g/km Warranty: Five years/100,000km Max towing weight: 3100kg Standard: Seven airbags, stability control, trailer stability control, camera, 18-inch alloys, smartphone connectivity, digital radio. GLS adds rear diff lock, dual zone air, leather. Exceed adds surround cameras, blind spot warning, forward collision warning, heated front seats, rearseat DVD system Redbook future values: 3yr: 56%; 5yr: 43%

Comfort and refinement Value for money

compare with ...


Ford Everest, Holden Trailblazer, Isuzu MU-X, Toyota Fortuner





he base front-wheel-drive 2.0-litre petrol/five-speed manual Outlander LS fiveseater is $28,750, while a continuously variable automatic (CVT) transmission and two extra seats adds $1750. The all-wheel-drive 2.4-litre petrol CVT LS seven-seater is $33,500. Each of these models is also available with a Safety Pack, comprising automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, radar cruise and automatic high beam. It adds $2500–$3250. It’s standard on the 2.2-litre turbodiesel AWD six-speed automatic seven-seater XLS DiD, priced at $39,500. Exceed seven-seaters cost $44,000 (2.4/CVT) and $47,500 (2.2 DiD/six-speed auto) respectively. The CVT transmission tries as hard as it can to flatter the 2.4-litre petrol engine but it’s a struggle at times. In normal drive

STARS Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling Quality and reliability

mode the Outlander is sluggish off the line and slow to reach your chosen speed unless you use a lot of revs. CVTs can be efficient and responsive — but not this one. You get a lot of noise and too little action compared with a conventional automatic. If you are fully loaded with kids and gear, you’ll probably wish you had bought the diesel, which I haven’t driven. At the relatively modest $3500 premium, I’d suggest it’s money well spent. If you’re happy enough with five seats, a five-speed manual and front-wheel drive, the base model Outlander LS works well enough around town. It is very bare bones, though, and there are more blanks on the dash than actual switches and controls, just to remind you that this really is the poverty pack. The Outlander PHEV plugin petrol/electric hybrid has a

lithium-ion battery that gives the car an electric-only range of up to 55 kilometres, travelling at up to 60km/h. It uses an electric drive motor at each end of the vehicle. Its 2.0-litre petrol engine can operate as a generator or as part of the drivetrain, giving a range of up to 880 kilometres. It’s priced at $50,490 for LS, or $55,490 for Exceed. We managed about 30 kilometres in pure EV mode with the air-con on before the battery became depleted. Switching to Series Hybrid mode, which uses the petrol engine to replenish the battery pack, for a similar distance again was enough to almost fully recharge it. So the PHEV is certainly viable as a day-to-day drive. If your commute or daily drive is relatively short, or a series of short trips, you can probably just plug it in each night and forget about petrol. However,

the petrol engine is there in case you need it. The Outlander is resolutely anti-sport but it’s light, so although it’s pretty big by class standards it doesn’t feel cumbersome. The steering itself is over-assisted and imprecise. The brakes are adequate. The seven-seater is roomy and versatile with a sliding row-two seat, easy access to row three and seats that can safely and comfortably accommodate kids up to teen age. There’s nothing seriously wrong with the Outlander but it sits well back in the very competitive mid-size SUV field. Outlander PHEV is, for the moment, in a class of its own. In five-seater wagons, Subaru’s Forester, VW’s Tiguan, Mazda’s CX-5 and the Kia Sportage are the leaders. As far as seven-seaters go you get a more accomplished, polished wagon for similar money in a Kia Sorento or a Hyundai Santa Fe.


THINGS WE LIKE Space-efficient seven-seater Safe and solid Five-year warranty A versatile kid carrier Acceptable handling and roadholding

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Sluggish performance, amplified by inefficient CVT transmission Handling is OK but Forester, Sportage and Santa Fe are much better Over-assisted, vague steering Seven-seater models are way overpriced compared with Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento

SPEX (LS AWD) Made in Japan 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol/CVT/ all-wheel drive 124kW of power at 6000rpm and 220Nm of torque at 4200rpm 0–100km/h N/A 6.2L/100km highway; 9.7L/100km city; regular unleaded; CO2 emissions are 174g/km Standard: Stability control, seven airbags, 18-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth, reverse-parking sensors, camera and an alarm. XLS adds tinted glass, touchscreen audio, navigation and dual-zone air Warranty: Five years/100,000km Redbook future values: 3yr: 48%; 5yr: 33%

Comfort and refinement Value for money

compare with ...


Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Nissan X-Trail, Subaru Forester



Mitisubishi’s Pajero is the oldest vehicle on the market, dating from 2001. So it struggles against newer 4x4 wagons such as Toyota’s Fortuner, the Ford Everest and Mitsubishi’s own Pajero Sport available at similar, or lower prices. Still, it’s as tough as old boots and discount deals keep it alive. HOW MUCH? The NT Pajero 3.2-litre fourcylinder turbodiesel range opens with the five-speed auto, sevenseat GLX for $53,990. The sevenseat auto GLS is $58,990 and the Exceed is $65,990.

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These manufacturer’s list prices are pretty meaningless. Mitsubishi regularly advertises drive-away discount deals on the Pajero to keep the old banger moving through the showrooms. GLX auto was recently offered, for example, at $54,990 drive-away.


Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling


Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall



The Pajero’s body dates from 2001 when Mitsubishi introduced a monocoque design with independent suspension at both ends. A 2008 NT upgrade focused on the 3.2-litre turbodiesel, which produces 147kW of power at 3800rpm and 441Nm of torque from 2000rpm. The Pajero’s 4WD system has a centre differential and a viscous centre coupling. High range is available in 2WD and 4WD, with the latter able to be used on dry






bitumen. Normal torque split is 33:67 front/rear, but it can be varied up to 50:50. 4WD High can also be used with the centre differential locked; it is locked when 4WD Low is selected. A rear diff lock is standard across the range, so in terms of offroad ability the Pajero is capable of pretty serious adventuring right out of the box. Suspension is MacPherson strut front, independent multilink rear. Steering is rack-and-pinion and brakes are ventilated discs. Ground clearance is 225mm and maximum fording depth is 700mm. Fuel tank capacity is 88 litres. Weight for the five-door diesel wagons is 2263–2350kg. Maximum towing weight is 3000kg; however, the maximum towball download when a load

of 2500–3000kg is attached is 180kg. Below 2500kg, maximum towball download is 250kg.

HOW DOES IT GO? I clocked the Pajero at 10.5 seconds to 100km/h — excellent for a big, heavy diesel. The defining characteristic of the 3.2 is effortless pulling power from idle and the ability to chug around all day between 2000– 3000rpm, which makes it ideally suited to towing as well. Shifts in the five-speed are very smooth and the ratios are well matched to the diesel, but shifts can be a bit slow in coming sometimes so manual mode is useful in hilly country. It’s also handy when towing. The 3.2 isn’t a refined engine. Despite Mitsubishi’s efforts at turning down the volume, it’s still fairly noisy under

acceleration and when trundling around town. It does vibrate a bit too, but not annoyingly so. That said, the new 2.4 in Triton and Pajero Sport is a much smoother, quieter engine, while the old slugger is no match for the new 2.8 in Toyota’s Fortuner or the 3.2 five-cylinder in the Ford Everest.


The 3.2 turbodiesel auto averages 8.0L/100km and 10.8L/100km, with CO² emissions of 239g/km.

DOES IT HANDLE, STEER AND STOP? The Pajero’s major advantage over its Toyota Prado rival is its superior handling on the bitumen. Its monocoque body and independent suspension give it a lower centre of gravity and help make the Mitsubishi much more agile and well balanced, more secure on bumps and with much less understeer in corners than the Toyota, which has an oldstyle separate light-truck chassis and a live rear axle. However, the Pajero’s suspension is very firm and rough roads can cause the body to flex, shake and twist. The ride, while acceptably compliant, is less absorbent and comfortable around town than in the Toyota. There’s also a fair bit of road noise and harshness in the cabin. Steering precision and feel are excellent, as are the brakes. Off the bitumen, the Pajero’s independent suspension also gives it great stability and roadholding on rough surfaces, particularly at speed. It doesn’t have the extreme axle articulation

of a Patrol or LandCruiser but the Pajero is a tough, proven design that can take a lot of punishment in the bush.

THE INSIDE STORY The centre section of the Pajero’s dash features a wide, clear trip computer/information display screen at the top with prehistoric graphics. Beneath it is a much more up-to-date infotainment touchscreen with big, bright, clear icons. You can plug an iPod or smartphone into this system as well and use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, plus Google maps navigation. Digital radio is also a standard inclusion. Some drivers might want to position the seat lower than its adjustment range permits and there is no reach adjustment for the steering wheel. The driver’s seat is firm, flat and wide, lightly bolstered, and comes with effective height and protrusion power lumbar adjustment. The Pajero’s middle row has a flat, well-padded bench seat which is split 60/40.


FROM $53,990

Adults sit a little bit kneesup but the windowsills are low so kids won’t feel like they are sitting in a cave. The centre-position childrestraint anchor point is 20cm back from the seat itself and in the floor, so it will interfere with carrying a load and rearseat access if you fit a restraint. Anchor points are provided for the two outboard positions. Row three is a small, singlepiece two-person bench that folds out of the load floor. It’s OK for young kids or very short trips for teenagers.

the extended floor is quite short at only 1.38 metres.



IN THE BOOT The boot is enormous in fiveseater mode and easy to load because the floor is so low. The side-hinged tailgate is a cumbersome annoyance. Toyota also persists with it on the Prado. Both sides of the 60/40 splitfold middle row tumble forward and can be locked into place if you need extra floor length. No compromise to front-seat travel is involved and the head restraints stay in place. However,



Pajero GLX includes six airbags, stability control, seven seats, reversing camera, Bluetooth with audio streaming and voice activation, digital radio, smartphone connectivity, USB port, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear lever knobs, automatic air, cruise control, an alarm, compass and 18-inch alloys with 265/60 tyres. GLS specification includes fake leather upholstery trim, power-adjustable front seats with heaters, touchscreen navigation, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, reverseparking sensors and 18-inch alloys with 265/60 tyres. Exceed adds a timber and leather steering wheel, leather seat facings, sunroof, auto high beam headlights and Rockford audio. Warranty: Five years/130,000km. Redbook future values (GLX auto): 3yr: 52%; 5yr: 37%.


THINGS WE LIKE  Value for money  Safe, secure handling  Quality and reliability  Long warranty  3.2 tows well

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  Body flex on rough roads  Choppy low-speed ride  Adults sit knees-up in the middle seat  Side-hinged tailgate

compare with ... Ford Everest, Isuzu MU-X, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Toyota Fortuner




he 4WD dual-cab pickup Navara range opens with the 120kW/403Nm 2.3-litre turbodiesel/six-speed manual RX at $39,990. A seven-speed automatic adds $2500 to the price tag. The SL manual, which runs the same engine with two turbochargers and 140kW/450Nm, is $43,990, the ST is $46,990 and the top-of-therange ST-X, tested here with the same drivetrain, is $51,990. The 2.3-litre twin turbo’s outputs are par for the class but it’s noisy, gravelly and a little sluggish in the initial stage of a standing start. In part, though, this is due to the low first and second in the sevenspeed box; once past those it does the job easily and with a 1.2-tonne trailer on the back, performance was unaffected. Fuel economy is outstanding, due in large part to the efficiency dividend of seven ratios. Unladen at highway speeds, the test ST-X returned 7–8L/100km; with the

STARS Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling Quality and reliability

trailer it used 10–11L/100km. Drive goes to the rear wheels and 4WD high can be selected at up to 100km/h on non-bitumen surfaces only. Low range is complemented by a locking rear diff on ST and ST-X, while an electronic LSD function also operates on each wheel. The chassis is the usual ladder frame with double wishbones up front and an unusual live axle/coil spring rear, located by five links. Nissan claims this delivers better handling and ride comfort than leaf springs without compromising payload, which is 930kg and up to 1034kg on the RX manual variant. Unladen, Navara is one of the better-handling one-tonners. The superior lateral rigidity and lighter weight of the coil-spring rear gives it better stability on rough surfaces, where the Navara doesn’t jump around and skip over corrugations like the Triton and HiLux. The ride is more compliant than most rivals too, but the steering is lifeless

and the brakes only adequate. The rear coils sag badly under a decent load and if you want to tow up to Nissan’s claimed 3500kg, which means 350kg on the towball, you need to take 410kg out of the Navara’s 2910 GVM, which gives you precious little capacity to play with given a Tare Mass (ST-X auto) of 1921kg. Even a 100kg towball download requires a 130kg reduction in GVM. Nissan responded to this by fitting heavier duty suspension in mid 2017, which it claims improves ride and handling, especially with a load or a trailer, but the improvement is only marginal and there is no increase to GVM or GCM. Navara’s interior features a comfortable driver’s seat (heated and with leather facings in STX), touchscreen infotainment, smartphone connectivity and navigation, seven airbags, LED headlights and three 12-volt sockets. Notable omissions include the absence of a camera

S on RX, no reach adjustment for the steering wheel and inadequate covered oddment storage areas, especially in a work truck context. The front driver’s side pillar also blocks too much of your vision in right turns. Big blokes squat knees-up on the back seat. There’s no centre head restraint and rivals such as Ranger and Colorado are wider. The centre section of the rear window opens so your dog can stick his head into the cabin. The tub on ST-X has a low loading height, four lug/track system, 12-volt outlet and a flat panel on top of the tailgate. The Navara isn’t a front-runner in this class where Isuzu’s D-Max and Toyota HiLux have the reliable workhorse concept nailed. Triton wins on price, Ranger/BT50 take the grunt/ features/size trifecta and Amarok is the best drive.


THINGS WE LIKE  Great fuel economy  Smooth, efficient seven-speed auto  Stable on rough roads  Comfortable ride  Well built and finished

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Coil-spring rear end compromises load carrying and towing Uncomfortable rear seat Front pillars block vision Above-average engine noise and vibration under power Slow off the mark Overpriced

SPEX (ST-X auto) Made in Thailand 2.3-litre twin turbodiesel/sevenspeed auto/four-wheel drive 140kW of power at 3750rpm/450Nm of torque from 1500–2500rpm 0–100km/h in N/A Maximum towing weight: 3500kg 5.9L/100km highway; 8.9L/100km city; CO2 emissions are 186g/km; fuel tank is 80 litres Warranty: Three years/100,000km Standard: Seven airbags, stability control, leather-faced and heated front seats, touchscreen audio, Bluetooth, smartphone connectivity, navigation, locking rear diff, 18-inch alloys with 255/60 tyres, LED headlights, dual zone air, sunroof Redbook future values: 3yr: 58%; 5 yr: 43%

Comfort and refinement Value for money  Overall 


compare with ... Ford Ranger, Holden Colorado, Isuzu D-Max, Mitsubishi Triton, Toyota HiLux, VW Amarok



he Nissan Juke range starts at $23,490 for the front-wheel-drive ST, with an 85kW 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbopetrol engine matched with a six-speed manual. A naturallyaspirated 86kW 1.6-litre petrol engine, matched with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), costs $24,490 in ST specification. Top-of-the-range Juke Ti-S, priced at $33,490 (as tested), has all-wheel drive and runs a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol, with 140kW of power and 240Nm of torque matched with a CVT transmission. The sixspeed manual/front-wheel-drive Ti-S is $29,790. Automotive technology, design and engineering move forward at a pretty rapid rate these days and it’s clear from the moment you hop into the Juke that it’s slightly

STARS Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling Quality and reliability


dated, having been launched to most markets in 2010 but not making it here until late 2013. There’s no reach adjustment for the steering wheel, for example, and the interior looks dated and contrived now, especially the silly three-driving-mode display which shows all manner of useless information in either Normal, Eco or Sport driving modes. The little 1.6 has plenty of stick once it has a few revs on board but from a standing start the turbo boost arrives in a rush at about 3000rpm, so the CVT transmission, though very smooth in operation, takes a little while to harness it and turn it into meaningful forward progress. Eco mode kills performance completely. The 1.6 turbo is quite thirsty too, returning around 9.0L/100km on the highway, which is six-cylinder

petrol territory. It also requires premium unleaded, as does the naturally aspirated engine. The Ti-S Juke has independent rear suspension; other models have a torsion beam axle. It’s firmly sprung and has sporty pretensions and for a short, tall box it gets around corners fairly tidily, assisted by decent 215/55 17 Continental tyres. Small SUVs can often feel too tall and top- heavy in tight corners but the Juke disguises this well and there is little body roll. The steering is sharp but lifeless, overassisted and prone to excessive torque steer or tugging at the wheel under acceleration, especially if you switch to frontwheel drive. The brakes are weak. Ride comfort isn’t as good as rivals such as the Holden Trax, Mazda CX-3 and Subaru XV. It’s OK

at highway speeds but around town you feel every zit in the road and the Juke can become tiresome. The driver’s seat in the Ti-S is covered in fake and real leather. The cushion is underpadded but the backrest is nicely contoured and bolstered for proper support. Vision is clear around the car. The bubble light housings on the front corners are useful references when parking, plus there’s a rear camera and large side mirrors. Rear seat space is tight, even by the fairly squeezy standards of this class. The boot is small, in part because the angled rear roofline kills available volume. A large temporary spare is underneath and the floor can be extended to a flat 1.32 metres using the 60/40 split/fold rear-seat back. It’s difficult to make a convincing case for the Juke. Most newer rivals offer greater space, practicality and a classier drive. The Nissan arrived late to the game and it feels like it.


THINGS WE LIKE  Base model is cheap  Ti-S is well equipped  1.6 turbo goes hard  CVT is smooth  Tidy handling

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Turbo and CVT lag Torque steer Choppy ride No reach adjustment for steering wheel Tight back seat and boot space

SPEX (Ti-S CVT) Made in the UK 1.6L four-cylinder turbopetrol/CVT/ front- or all-wheel drive 140kW of power at 5600rpm/240Nm of torque from 2000–5200rpm 0–100km/h N/A 6.0L/100km highway; 9.8L/100km city; 95 octane premium; CO2 emissions are 169g/km; fuel tank is 46 litres Max towing weight 1150kg Warranty: Three years/100,000km Standard: Six airbags, stability control, 17-inch alloys, Bluetooth. Ti-S adds smartphone connectivity, digital radio, surround cameras, lane departure and blind spot warnings, variable wipers, auto headlights, navigation, heated front seats and part leather upholstery Redbook future values: 3yr: 55%; 5yr: 40%

Comfort and refinement Value for money  Overall 

compare with ... Honda HRV, Mazda CX-3, Subaru XV, Renault Captur. Toyota C-HR




nthropologists know it refers to a nomadic people of Middle Eastern origin but Nissan hopes Qashqai (pronounced “kash-kai”) becomes the byword for compact SUVs in Australia. Like the successful Dualis it replaced, the five-seater crossover is designed, engineered and built in Britain. Despite sharing similar styling and engine choices with its predecessor, the Qashqai improves in key areas. For starters, it is longer and wider, with a wheelbase stretch aimed at significantly boosting rear-seat legroom and cargo space — two Dualis weaknesses. Progress is also evident in the dash design thanks to crisp and comprehensive instruments, excellent ventilation, logical and easy-to-use touchscreen switchgear and ample storage spaces. Yet the appealingly snug ambience of old has been retained despite the very welcome space increases, backed up by supportive seats and quality finishes. Qashqai is front-wheel drive all the way due to very low all-

STARS Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling Quality and reliability

wheel-drive uptake on the Dualis — a step back in our view. Petrol-powered versions retain the Dualis’ trusty old 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol unit. Now with variable valve timing and direct injection, it produces slightly more power and torque, available at lower revs for improved low-speed response. Paired to either a six-speed manual or CVT (continuously variable transmission), off-theline pick up is adequate rather than sparkling but the 2.0-litre perks up considerably as speeds rise, without the thrashy harshness found previously. Credit goes to Nissan’s latest-generation CVT since it reacts faster and more naturally to throttle inputs without the laggy, droning characteristics that blight some other similar transmissions. If the budget allows, the newer 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel is the better bet. With 96kW at 4000rpm and 320Nm at 1750rpm, and mated solely to the CVT, the Renaultsupplied direct-injection common-rail engine offers significantly stronger mid-range performance with minimal

throttle delay and virtually no clatter entering the cabin. Load the Nissan with extra people and luggage and the turbodiesel quickly comes into its own, pulling away with an effortless ease quite foreign to the petrol version. Tuned for European markets, the Qashqai’s chassis marks a sizeable step forward. Featuring a revised MacPherson strut front and multi-link independent rear suspension system, the (electrically actuated) steering responds with eager linearity, though it isn’t especially big on driver feedback. Furthermore, the Qashqai remains planted and composed when pushed hard into corners, displaying an agility that’s quite unexpected in a compact SUV. The consequence is a pretty firm ride on less than perfectly surfaced roads in the 19-inchwheeled Ti and TL variants. The Qashqai ST manual kicks off from $25,990, or $28,490 for the CVT. Standard features include six airbags, stability control, hill-start assist, cruise control, a reverse camera, ISOFIX child-seat latches, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a


leather-clad wheel, 17-inch alloys and roof bars. The $33,990 TS CVT diesel’s price premium nets it a seamless stop/start function, push-button start, rain-sensing wipers, fog lights, dual-zone air and a useful cargo-separation system among other goodies. Stepping up to the $36,990 Ti petrol/$39,990 TL diesel adds Sat-Nav, sunroof, leather, heated front seats, auto parking, a surround-view camera and new-to-series technologies including blind spot warning, lane departure warning, moving object detection and high beam assist. However, the company has copped flak for omitting the Autonomous Emergency Braking function available in Europe that can automatically slow or even stop the car to avoid an impact. Nevertheless, the Qashqai builds upon its predecessor’s strengths of style, comfort and ease with improved driveability, media connectivity and cabin space. Worth a drive.


By Byron Mathioudakis

THINGS WE LIKE Value for money Classy, inviting interior Diesel’s fuel efficiency Extended servicing intervals with capped pricing Decent dynamics

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE No all-wheel drive Petrol engine needs more oomph Diesel is a costly step up Ride is firm on Ti and TL Steering could use more feel

SPEX (ST 2.0L CVT) Made in England 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol/sixspeed CVT/front-wheel drive 106kW of power at 6000rpm/200Nm of torque at 4400rpm 0–100km/h in 10.5 seconds (claimed) 5.5L/100km highway; 9.2L/100km city; 91 octane; CO2 emissions are 159g/km Warranty: Three years/100,000 kilometres Standard: Stability control, six airbags, hill-start assist, camera, ISOFIX child-seat latches, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, 17-inch alloy wheels and roof bars. Redbook future values: 3yr: 52%; 5yr: 39%

Comfort and refinement Value for money  Overall 


compare with ... Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Honda HRV, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Subaru XV, VW Tiguan


NISSAN PATHFINDER FROM $41,990 is quite narrow so two will fit more comfortably than three and adults sit knees-up with adequate but not particularly generous legroom, even when the seat is pushed right back to the limit of its adjustment. The backrest angle is adjustable and there’s plenty of storage here, too. Either side of the row-two seat folds and slides in one easy action to provide unobstructed access to the two individual rowthree seats, which fold up out of the floor. They’re fine for kids but adults will have to squat — but by back stalls standards these are actually relatively spacious. Pathfinder’s load capacity is generous but the spare is a space-saver. If you’re taller than 180cm, you’ll also whack your head on the open tailgate.




he base Pathfinder ST frontwheel drive is $41,990, the ST-L is $53,690 and the Ti is $62,190. All-wheel drive variants are $45,490, $57,690 and $66,190 respectively. A 3.5-litre V6 petrol/ CVT (continuously variable automatic transmission) drivetrain is standard. Like its closest rivals, the Toyota Kluger and Mazda CX-9, the Pathfinder offers no turbodiesel option. Instead there’s a hybrid, in keeping with the Pathfinder’s American market brief. A 2.5-litre supercharged petrol four is mated to a small electric motor and CVT transmission. Combined outputs are 188kW and 330Nm, with a claimed fuel consumption average of 8.6L/100km for the base frontwheel-drive ST, which costs

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$44,490. The all-wheel-drive ST-L is $60,690 and Ti is $69,190. The 3.5-litre V6 has been overhauled for 2017, with a new direct injection system. We haven’t yet driven it, so hopefully it will prove to be more refined and fuel efficient than the previous version, which was hoarse, sluggish and very thirsty. It will need to work better with the CVT transmission too, which in the previous model wasted too many revs and was slow to respond when you wanted decent acceleration. Pathfinder’s suspension is tuned for American tastes, so ride comfort and refinement are outstanding but you get no feedback at all from the overassisted, imprecise steering and in tight corners the Pathfinder is a barge. That said, on rough country roads the Nissan feels

securely planted and safe. It’s also as quiet as a luxury wagon. Nissan claims to have stiffened the suspension and sharpened the steering on the 2017 update, so dynamics may have improved. The Pathfinder is one of the biggest wagons in the class. Space, comfort and versatility are its strengths. The driver in Ti sits in a leather-faced, heated and cooled seat that’s long in the cushion, very comfortable and supportive, though a few tall drivers will want more seat travel. All models have three-zone aircon with vents for all rows. ST-L and Ti now include a full suite of safety tech: automatic emergency braking, radar cruise, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and surround cameras. The 60/40 split middle row is comfortable; however, the seat

Spacious, practical, versatile interior Comfortable, quiet ride on any surface Well built and finished Ti is loaded with gear Roomy row-three stalls with easy access

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE ST-L and Ti are far too expensive Petrol V6 plus big wagon equals deep thirst CVT isn’t particularly efficient Mediocre dynamics No off-road ability

SPEX (Ti AWD) Made in the USA 3.5-litre V6 petrol/CVT/front- or all-wheel drive 202kW of power at 6400rpm/340Nm of torque at 4800rpm 0–100km/h N/A 10.1L/100km combined average; 91 octane. CO2 emissions N/A Max towing weight 2700kg Warranty: Three years/100,000km Pathfinder ST includes seven airbags, stability control, 18-inch alloys, tri-zone air, tyre pressure monitoring, automatic headlights, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth and roof rails ST-L adds heated front seats, leather seat facings and trim, front and rear sunroofs, navigation and surround cameras Ti adds heated and cooled front seats, a power tailgate, 20-inch alloy wheels, row two DVD screens and auto-levelling LED headlights Redbook future values: 3yr: 53%; 5yr: 39%

Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall

compare with ... Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda CX-9, Skoda Kodiaq, Toyota Kluger



At $69,990, Nissan’s 5.6-litre V8 petrol Patrol has its 4.6-litre V8 petrol Toyota 200 Series Landcruiser rival well and truly covered for performance, value and ability. According to Nissan, the turbodiesel variant everybody has been screaming for just ain’t going to happen. HOW MUCH?

The Y62 Patrol Ti is $69,990 and the Ti-L, tested, is $86,990. Nissan cut Patrol prices in 2015 to accommodate the Infiniti QX80, which costs $110,900 and is the same vehicle with extra bling. 


The Y62 Patrol is made in Japan.

STARS Safety Not yet tested Green Vehicle Guide

Performance Handling (Off road) Quality and reliability

Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall


It uses a separate body on steel frame chassis design but it’s much larger than the GU with a 225mm longer wheelbase (now 3075mm) and an overall length of 5140mm — so it’s the biggest 4WD on the market. Nissan’s 5.6-litre directinjection petrol V8 produces 298kW of power at 5800rpm and 560Nm of torque at 4000rpm. It’s matched with a seven-speed automatic gearbox. Nissan’s all-wheel-drive system sends drive to the rear wheels in normal conditions, with up to 50 per cent available at the front on demand via an electronically controlled multiplate clutch. It features electronically selected high- and low-range gearing, plus a limited slip/locking rear differential, hill descent control and hill start assist. Suspension is independent double wishbone at both ends. Cross-linked hydraulic

chambers counter the Nissan’s body roll in a similar manner to Toyota’s KDSS system on the 200 Series LandCruiser. Steering in the Y62 is hydraulically assisted and is also road-speed sensitive. Brakes are discs with four-


piston front calipers and switchable traction control. Eighteen-inch alloy wheels, including the spare, are shod with 265/70-18 tyres. Fuel tank capacity is 140 litres. Weight is 2645–2735kg. Max towing weight is 3500kg.

FROM $69,990 the suspension is decoupled from the anti-roll system and works through its stroke, the ride is comfortable and the Patrol crawls along in a controlled, surefooted way. With 283mm of clearance (fixed) you’re going to clear most obstacles. If things get tricky, there’s a locking rear diff as insurance.


HOW DOES IT GO? When you’ve got nearly three tonnes to shift you don’t want to be at the mercy of an underdone engine. Nissan’s V8 has no problem at all doing the job in the Patrol. It drives it to 100km/h in just 6.6 seconds, so it’s up there with rapid behemoths such as the Range Rover Vogue and Mercedes GLS500 and it whips the 4.6-litre V8/six-speed auto 200 Series ‘Cruiser. It’s a 90-degree engine so it’s as smooth as they come and almost silent in day-to-day running where you need never go above 2000rpm. Lean on the pedal and you hear only a distant rumble as it revs to 6000rpm. The seven-speed automatic also contributes to efficient, strong performance at low revs, and in high range is so smooth you don’t really register when shifts take place. Momentum is vital in a big, heavy wagon, so it goes early for the lower gears on hills and when you depress the accelerator with intent, providing exceptionally crisp, fast shifts. In low range you can select rock, snow or sand traction modes but the drivetrain isn’t quite as refined in operation. The accelerator is suitably desensitised but the auto can let the Patrol run a bit on steep descents, especially between gears in manual mode. Hill descent control is effective on extremely steep slopes. The Patrol will pull its 3.5-tonne maximum towing weight easily but fuel consumption will be horrific. The official figures are below. On the highway, unladen, I recorded 12–13 litres/100km and in Sydney, 19–20 litres/100km.

Fixed-price servicing is available but the specified intervals are short: every six months.

AT THE PUMP The 5.6-litre V8 averages 11.0L/100km on the highway and 20.6L/100km in town. 98 octane premium is recommended. CO2 emissions are 343g/km.

DOES IT HANDLE, STEER AND STOP As in the 200 Series, the Patrol’s hydraulic anti-roll system is effective and, for such a monster, it goes around corners in a remarkably flat, tidy manner. However, the absence of body roll does mask the huge forces at work. If you were to push the Patrol beyond its limits, it would turn nasty very quickly. In tight corners you can feel the start of savage understeer, though to be fair it begins no earlier than most similar wagons. The Patrol is rock solid on a rough road and doesn’t get kicked around at the back end like the live-axle ‘Cruiser. It’s ride, though never harsh, is a bit lumpy, especially around town. The overassisted steering is designed for American tastes and there’s a trace of shake at speed on bumpy roads. It’s quick, too, but the antiroll hardware minimises any adverse body reaction. As usual, the brakes are underdone for a vehicle of this size and weight, and on light applications the pedal in the Y62 is unresponsive. Off-road in low range, the Y62 is every bit as capable as Toyota’s 200 Series Cruiser. As

You feel like you’re sitting in the captain’s chair of a supertanker. Berthing the Patrol in a parking space or navigating a tight, twisting section of bush track, presents similar challenges. As a result, the surround helicopter view camera system, though less clear and broad in its field of view than similar systems from Land Rover and Mercedes, is useful, as is the blind spot warning feature. You sit in a huge, wide, wellpadded chair that lacks lateral support and has limited travel for those with long legs. Ti-L includes two memory positions, seat heating and cooling, power lumbar and leather facings. Instruments are permanently lit and clear. The overall dash design is quaint and olde worlde, with large slabs of fake tree and a mish-mash of switches and controls, many of which are a long way from where you sit. Bose audio on Ti-L delivers a rich sound and the cruise control can be used in radar adaptive or conventional modes. Storage includes a chilled centre console box and a covered compartment for your iPod. Fit and finish is okay, but on a rough road there were some squeaks, buzzes and rattles from the rear of the test car’s cabin. There’s vast legroom in row two, which features a comfortable, flat bench split 60/40 and with an adjustable backrest. Ti-L gets a second DVD plug-in for row two with a screen on the back of each front seat head restraint, headphones and a remote control. Air-conditioning vents along the roof and a separate system with controls accessible from row two ensure that all occupants will be comfortable on a hot day. Ti has, in theory, a threeperson row-three seat which folds up out of the floor. Ti-L has a two-person seat split 50/50.

Access via the 60/40 tumble forward row two is okay, but the back stalls are useless except for small kids in restraints because they are on the floor, so most people will squat rather than sit, with their knees hard up against the row-two seat backs.

IN THE BOOT The Ti-L’s power tailgate opens to a load area which has useful space when all seats are occupied. In five-seater mode you could park a small car in there, but the floor is high and angled up at the front. Double-fold row two and you also get a deep well where the seat used to be. No bag hooks or load nets are provided. You do get a 12volt outlet and a full-size spare, carried externally under the floor.


ST-L includes six airbags, stability control, Bluetooth, DVD player, 2GB music storage, dual-zone air, parking sensors at both ends, surround cameras, leather-faced seats, navigation, hydraulic anti-roll control, sunroof. Ti-L adds radar cruise, blind spot info, rear-seat entertainment, Bose audio, surround cameras, alarm, tyre pressure monitoring and power tailgate. Warranty: Three years / 100,000km. Redbook future values: (Ti-L) 3yr: 56%; 5yr: 43%.


THINGS WE LIKE  Effortless, smooth-as-silk V8  Robust, well-controlled suspension  High resale values  Surprisingly tidy handling on-road  Serious off-road ability to rival the 200 Series Cruiser  Long-range tank

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  Big thirst on pricey 98 octane premium unleaded  Short warranty  Limited driver’s seat travel  Frequent, expensive servicing schedule  Useless row-three seats  High, angled load floor  Unresponsive brakes

compare with ... Land Rover Discovery, Toyota 200 Series LandCruiser





he base Nissan X-Trail ST, at $27,990, is front-wheel drive (dubbed 2WD) and uses a 106kW 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a six-speed manual. A Continuously Variable Transmission (X Tronic in Nissan-speak) adds $2500 and is standard on all other variants. The $30,490 ST runs the gutsy 126kW 2.5-litre unit that has served the series since its 2001 inception and also powers the rest of the petrol-engined X-Trail range. An all-wheel-drive (AWD) ST is $32,490, while the mid-spec ST-L 2WD is $36,590. AWD bumps that to $38,590. Finally there’s the flagship $44,290 Ti Xtronic AWD. Seven-seater choices are limited to the ST 2WD at $31,990 and the $38,090 ST-L. The 130kW/380Nm 2.0-litre turbodiesel X-Trail range opens with the AWD TS X Tronic at $35,490. The TL is $47,290. Since the vast majority of sales are for the 2.5-litre Xtronic, that’s the one we’re concentrating on. Proven for over a dozen years

STARS Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling

as a robust and reliable engine in the two previous X-Trails, this 126kW/226Nm four-cylinder petrol unit still manages to deliver competitive performance and sufficient refinement — most of the time. Much is owed to the Xtronic CVT, which combines extraordinary smoothness with the appreciably rapid acceleration response you’d expect of a conventional torqueconverter automatic. While precious little steering feedback means you won’t mistake the X-Trail for a BMW, the helm imparts a sense of weight, linearity and control. At higher speeds, the chassis feels agile yet planted, especially driving through sweeping bends. When the turns get tighter, though, there’s no escaping the X-Trail’s high centre of gravity, with lots of body lean and plenty of extra steering effort required. Strong brakes are a bonus, as is the supple ride on the standard 17-inch wheel and tyre package. However, the Ti’s 19-inch setup — though more surefooted — makes the X-Trail feel a tad too firm over some bumps, while they can transfer quite a bit more road noise inside the cabin.

The cabin also features efficient ventilation, VW-style clear instrumentation (with a digital auxiliary speedo at last, as well as a comprehensive trip-computer display), plenty of storage options and simple, intuitive controls that help with finding a perfect driving position. Automatic emergency braking is standard, as is forward collision warning. ST-L adds rear cross traffic alert, while Ti/TL add radar cruise, lane keeping and blind spot monitoring. The elevated and comfortable rear seat, which works for people of all ages and sizes. Not only does each of the 40:20:40 backrests recline by a few degrees, they also slide forward individually as desired — great for parents who need to be within arm’s reach of their children sitting behind. Along with adequate ventilation and even more storage options, the rear seat features a pair of ISOFIX seat anchors, backed up by backrestsited child-seat tether hooks. Access to the third row (where fitted) in seven-seater models is easy, however the 50:50 split-fold bench is strictly for smaller kids only.

In five-seaters, the large boot features a “Divide-‘N-Hide” configurable multi-level arrangement; with a pair of luggage dividers, it allows for varying ways to store different things without them touching or falling over. A plastic-lined wet storage area is beneath the carpeted cargo-area floor. The Ti has a power tailgate. The previous X-Trail was one of the most versatile, family-friendly wagons around. There are better five-seaters out there now, but if you’re after an affordable sevenseater, add the X-Trail to your test-drive list.


By Byron Mathioudakis

THINGS WE LIKE  CVT’s responsiveness and efficiency  Reverse camera standard  Spacious, refined cabin  Seven-seat availability  Class-leading rear-seat and load-area versatility

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE No manual transmission with the bigger 2.5 engine Firm ride on Ti’s 18-inch wheel/ tyre package Foot-operated park brake is a 1950s throwback Some road-noise intrusion Steering could still use more feedback and feel

SPEX (ST AWD) Made in Japan 2.5L four-cylinder petrol/CVT/ all-wheel drive 126kW of power at 6000rpm/226Nm of torque at 4400rpm 0–100km/h in N/A 6.6L/100km highway; 11.3L/ 100km city; 91 octane; CO2 emissions are 192g/km Warranty: Three years/100,000km Standard: Six airbags, stability control, hill start assist, rear camera, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB connectivity, 17-inch alloy wheels. ST-L adds navigation, digital radio, surroundview monitor, leather, heated front seats, dual-zone air, roof rails and rear tinted glass. Ti adds lanedeparture warning, blind-spot monitoring, power tailgate, sunroof and 19-inch alloys Redbook future values: 3yr: 55%; 5yr: 41%

Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement

compare with ...

Value for money  Overall 

Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Mitsubishi Outlander, Subaru Forester, Skoda Kodiaq, Toyota RAV4, VW Tiguan



PORSCHE CAYENNE FROM $109,200 in just 4.1 seconds. It will set you back $289,900. New trim and a 918-inspired wheel are obvious changes to a cabin that’s at once well crafted and richly appointed, though also a distracting assault of push-button fetish. As an overall range, Porsche’s big SUVs are very-to-hyper-quick five-star family haulers that tick all the right boxes for prestige, luxury and performance pace. We would suggest benchmarking Cayenne S petrol and base turbodiesel against BMW’s X5/X6 and the Maserati Levante. If you’re after high performance, look at BMW’s X5/ X6 M, the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S and the Range Rover 5.0-litre V8 SVR. All of these go like stink, but the Cayenne Turbo also gets around corners much more elegantly than the others.


he sharper and cleaner looking 2017 Cayenne range has expanded to include base petrol and diesel versions, a high-performance S turbodiesel and GTS turbopetrol, a plug-in petrol-electric S E-Hybrid and the monstrous Turbo S flagship. The S Petrol ($144,500) runs a twin-turbo 3.6-litre V6, which is also fitted to the $157,700 GTS. The six produces 309kW and 550Nm, while in GTS tune this increases to 324kW and 600Nm. Of humbler (natural) aspiration is the base petrol model, priced at $110,100, with 220kW and 400Nm of torque from its 3.6-litre V6. It’s only marginally pricier than the most affordable, the most popular and, arguably, the pick of the stable, the base Diesel, which costs $109,200. With 193kW and 580Nm from its 3.0-litre V6 oiler, it’s no slouch

STARS Safety Not yet tested Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement

— except at the fuel pump. It averages just 6.8L/100km yet it will pull up to 3500kg. The $150,300 S Diesel offers a 4.2-litre bi-turbo V8 to the Cayenne mix, producing a whopping 850Nm and 283kW. Should be enough ... After test driving both petrol and diesel powertrain options, frankly, in my opinion the oiler is more real-world desirable. This particularly rings true for the V8 S Diesel’s palpable shove, effortless drivability and an engine note that borders on sweetness. The S E-Hybrid, at $145,500, expands buyer options further. Its supercharged (245kW) petrol V6 and (70kW) electric motor drivetrain delivers a combined system output of 306kW and

590Nm, yet offers a consumption figure of just 3.4L/100km. And at 5.9 seconds to 0–100km/h, you’d hardly call it slow. It’s a big fiscal jump to the Turbo’s $237,500 price point, but with it comes scintillating performance (0–100km/h in 4.4 seconds) from its 382kW and 750Nm twin-turbo 4.8-litre V8. Leverage the 2185kg device’s big party trick, though, and you can kiss its combined 11.5L/100km bon voyage. All Cayennes get a sharpshifting eight-speed auto and revised suspension; S, GTS and Turbo have air suspension. The tree-topping Turbo S, with 419kW and 800Nm, is the most powerful Porsche you can buy in Oz and is capable of 0–100km/h


THINGS WE LIKE  Great performance  Fine engineering and clean design  Well equipped  Comfortable and quiet  One of the best-handling big SUVs on the road

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE “Sportscar DNA?” Pull the other one Steering lacks genuine feel Cabin feels a little claustrophobic Big power equals serious thirst Space-saver spare

SPEX (S petrol) Made in Slovakia 3.6-litre twin turbopetrol V6/ eight-speed sequential automatic/ permanent all-wheel drive 309 kW of power at 6000 rpm/550Nm of torque at 1350– 4500rpm 0–100km/h in 5.5 seconds Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres Max towing weight: 3500kg 8.0L/100km highway; 13.0L/100km city; 98 octane premium; CO2 emissions are 263g/km; fuel tank is 100 litres Standard: Six airbags, stability control, front and rear parking sensors, camera, rain-sensing wipers, roof rails, alarm, navigation, air suspension, 20-inch alloys, tinted rear windows, sunroof, partial leather upholstery, dual-zone air, Bluetooth, USB input, hard disc storage, power tailgate Redbook future values: 3yr: 54%; 5yr: 38%

Value for money

compare with ...


BMW X5/X6, Maserati Levante, Mercedes GLE, Range Rover Sport



Porsche’s Macan is the best handling SUV you can buy and has been a huge hit. A new Audi-powered 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbopetrol variant now opens the range, while at the top end the Turbo Performance Package offers high end sportscar performance and dynamics. HOW MUCH? The 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol Macan costs $80,110. The 3.0-litre V6 turbodieselpowered Macan S is $95,300, the 3.0-litre V6 turbopetrol version is $95,900, the GTS is $113,700 and the Turbo is $133,500. Also new for 2017 is the Macan Turbo Performance Package, priced at $147,000.


The Macan is built in Leipzig, Germany.

STARS Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide Performance

Handling Quality and reliability 

Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall


The 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol, an Audi engine also available in the Q5, which shares structural and component engineering with Macan, produces 185kW of power from 5500–6800rpm and 370Nm of torque from 1600–4500rpm. The 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 (an engine used in Touareg and Audi’s Q5/Q7) Macan S produces 190kW at 4000–4250rpm and 580Nm from 1750–2500rpm. Both petrol engines are from Porsche. The 3.0-litre twin turbopetrol V6 produces 250kW from 5500–6500rpm and 460Nm at 1450–5000rpm. In the GTS, it’s tuned for 265kW at 6000rpm and 500Nm from 1650–4000rpm. The Macan Turbo uses a larger 3.6-litre twin turbo V6 that boasts 294kW at 6000rpm and 550Nm at 1350–4500rpm. In the Performance Package, it’s tuned for 324kW at 6000rpm and 600Nm from 1650–4500rpm. All models feature PDK sevenspeed dual-clutch automated manual transmissions, permanent all-wheel drive and

an electronically controlled multi-plate-clutch “centre” differential with variable frontrear torque split. Electronic PSM (Porsche Stability Management) is standard, as are Normal, Sport and Sport+ on-road drive modes as well as one Off-Road calibrated mode. The S models feature steel spring suspension, though adaptive, self-levelling, heightadjusting air suspension, as fitted standard to Turbo, is offered as an option on S models. All models feature six-piston monobloc front and “floating”


rear caliper brakes. The S disc size is 350mm (f) and 330mm (r) while the Turbo is fitted with 360mm (f) and 356mm (r) rotors. Suspension is “five-arm” multi-link front and trapezoidal wishbone rear, predominantly made from aluminium. Steering is electrically assisted. Launch control and an active limited-slip rear differential are available on the optional Sport Chrono Pack, which quickens acceleration on all variants by 0.2 seconds to 100km/h. S Models have 19-inch rims with 235/55 front and 255/50


FROM $80,110   

tyres. The Turbo uses 20-inch rims with 265mm/45 front and 295/40 rear tyres. Wheel/tyre sizes up to 21-inch are optional. An 18in space saver is standard. Weight is 1880–1925kg. Fuel tank capacity is 60 litres (diesel S), 65 litres (petrol S) and 70 litres (Turbo). Maximum towing weight is 2400kg.

HOW DOES IT GO? Porsche’s self-penned “sports car of the (mid-sized) SUV segment” claim is backed up by healthy numbers. For the 0–100km/h sprint, they are 6.7 seconds (2.0), 6.3 seconds (diesel S), 5.4 seconds (petrol S), 5.2 seconds (GTS) and a scintillating 4.8 seconds (Turbo). The optional Sport Chrono pack, with its launch control and more aggressive drivetrain mapping, shrinks these times by a further 0.2 seconds, while the Turbo Performance Pack blitzes it in just 4.4 seconds. The PDK transmissions perform beautifully and are intuitively mated to any of the available engines, whether you’re cruising to the shops or chasing back road enjoyment. The Turbo certainly feels very quick but the margin of pace between the all-alloy petrol V6s isn’t as wide as one might expect. Both turbopetrols are easily capable of antisocial public road velocity with little provocation, and a pace few owners might harness on a regular basis. Responsiveness and refinement are superb. The surprise sweetie is the diesel. It has 30Nm more torque than the Turbo and is extremely smooth and quiet in operation. The only complaint is the general lack of engine character, particularly in the exhaust note, across the range.


The 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel S averages 5.7L/100km on highway, 6.7L/100km around town and CO2 emissions are 159g/km. The 2.0-litre turbopetrol averages 6.6L/100km on highway, 8.6L/100km around town om 95 octane premium. CO2 emissions are 212g/km. The 3.0-litre V6 twin turbopetrol S averages 7.3L/100km, 11.3L/100km and 204g/km on 98 octane premium.

The 3.6-litre V6 Turbo averages 7.5L/100km, 11.5L/100km and 208g/km, also on 98 octane. All engines are Euro 6 compliant.

DOES IT HANDLE, STEER AND STOP? Does it ever. The only SUVlike devices on sale in Oz that come close would be Audi’s RSQ3, which is in a size-smaller compact class, and BMW’s X3/ X4/X6. And we doubt any of them could hang on to the Macan Turbo’s tyre tracks when the bitumen begins to twist and turn. A closer match-up, however, would be Macan S diesel against Audi SQ5, cars that share a similar pricepoint and, crucially, 30 per cent commonality under the skin. That said, the Macan feels nothing like an Audi and everything like a Porsche. There are really no dynamic lowlights. Macan’s adaptive AWD drivetrain and myriad sportsfocused electronic smarts conspire to produce some incredible handling traits and capabilities. The steering — a real Porsche specialty — is inspired. Grip? Incredible in Turbo, robust in either S, though there comes a point, well beyond where most owners will dare, that Macan’s hefty mass — 1880–1925kg depending on the variant — overcomes its manic roadholding and superb poise. Braking? Porsche does some of the best in the biz. And while six-piston monobloc front anchors might seem excessive for a family-moving device, the power of such engineering is duly noticed at a quick clip. But does it work as an SUV? Ride comfort-wise, absolutely. Even when exploring its more sporting drive modes and sat on 19- to-21-inch wheels, compliance is world class. Even better, how Macan strikes such an impressive ride-handling balance must be sampled to be believed. The Turbo version also gets self-levelling, height-adjustable adaptive air suspension, which can be optioned on the otherwise steel-sprung S versions. The Performance Package adds bigger brakes, a loud pipe, lowered body and Sports Chrono drivetrain mode. Switchable Off-Road electronic drivetrain modes are standard across the range, too.

THE INSIDE STORY Climb inside and the cabin feels slightly claustrophobic. That said, all the key Porsche hallmarks are included: an excellent seating position, the stacked centre console switches, centrally located tachometer, polished alloy and soft-touch surfaces in all the right places, and a neat new steering wheel design aping Porsche’s 918 Spyder. All Macans get leather trim, electric seats with between 14and 18-way adjustability, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, parking sensors with reversing camera, Bluetooth, a seven-inch touchscreen, a 40GB hard-drive system, a programmable auto lift tailgate and eight airbags as standard. It’s not the roomiest SUV out there, but what it lacks in a sense of airiness it compensates for in rich, up-market, sporty ambience. Porsche is gunning for prestige here, not volumefor-your-buck value. The Macan nails the brief supremely well.

IN THE BOOT Porsche claims that rear luggage compartment volume spreads from 500 litres with rear seats up, to 1500 litres seats stowed. Porsche clearly favoured form — namely the exterior shape and proportions of Macan — over functional boot space, but the boot is still quite useable by its segment’s standards. One neat trick is the programmable automatic tailgate, which can be preset for shorter owners so that it limits the tailgate lift to a desired angle.


All Macans get stability control, eight airbags, leather, parking sensors, camera, Bluetooth, navigation, power tailgate and 19-inch wheels. The Turbo gets adaptive air suspension, extended leather package inside, Bose 545watt sound, 18-way heated front sports seats, dynamic “cornering” headlights, larger brakes and 20-inch wheels. Warranty: Two years/unlimited kilometres. Redbook future values: (Macan S petrol) 3yr: 63%; 5yr: 49%.


THINGS WE LIKE  Proper Porsche vibe  Class-leading performance  Superb ride/handling balance  Very high resale values  Classy interior


Pricey, but you get what you pay for Slightly claustrophobic cabin Muted engine notes The usual expensive Porsche options

compare with ... Audi Q5/SQ5, BMW X3/X4, Jaguar F-Pace, Mercedes GLC



The Range Rover Evoque was about to get new Ingenium 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol and turbodiesel engines as we went to press. They include a 177kW turbodiesel and a 213kW turbopetrol. Evoque prices are high compared with its Land Rover Discovery Sport stablemate. HOW MUCH? The base five-door wagon, the TD4 Pure, with a 110kW 2.0-litre turbodiesel and a six-speed manual is $56,050.This is the only model with a manual gearbox. The Td4 150 Pure, with a ninespeed auto and all-wheel drive, is $58,627. The SE is $63,120. The Td4 180 SE, with the same engine tuned for 132kW of power and all-wheel drive, is $67,551. HSE specification is $75,089 and Dynamic is $78,881. Evoque Si4 SE, with a 177kW 2.0-litre turbopetrol and all-

wheel drive, is $68,788. HSE Dynamic is $82,526. Convertibles start at $85,343 for TD4 180 SE and HSE Dynamic is $93,195. Si4 SE is $84,948 and HSE Dynamic is $92,800 The three-door body, called the Coupe, is available in Td4 180 and Si4 HSE and Dynamic specification at the same prices as the equivalent wagon. Then you get to the option packs …


STARS Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide (Si4)

Performance Handling 

Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement

Value for money Overall 


The Evoque is made in England. It shares a platform, turbodiesel engines, chassis configuration and many other components with the Land Rover Discovery Sport and superseded Freelander 2. The 2.0-litre Ingenium turbodiesel in the TD4 Pure and Td4 150 produces 110kW of power at 4000rpm and 380Nm of torque at 1500rpm. The same engine in the Td4 180 is tuned for 132kW at 4000rpm and 430Nm at 1500rpm. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol Si4 produces 177kW of power at 5500rpm and 340Nm of torque at 1750rpm. On diesel-powered models, a centre Haldex coupling can

vary the front/rear torque split depending on traction at either end. Active Driveline, the ondemand system now available on Td4 180 and Si4, reduces drag/friction parasitic losses from the full-time drivetrain by up to 91 per cent. It decouples the rear propshaft under light loads and also replaces the conventional rear differential with an electronically controlled clutch pack on each rear axle. Land Rover claims overall improvements to fuel


consumption of up to 11.4 per cent and emissions by up to 9.5 per cent with these technologies. Evoque uses Discovery Sport’s Terrain Response system, which accesses different drivetrain and traction control maps to provide optimal traction on different surfaces, including gravel, ruts and sand. Suspension is MacPherson struts front and multilink strut rear. Steering is electrically assisted. Fuel tank capacity is 60 litres

FROM $56,050 

on the diesels and 70 litres for the Si4 petrols. The Evoque will tow up to 1800kg. Anti-sway trailer stability assist is included. Ground clearance is 215mm. Maximum fording depth is 500mm.

detect that optimum grip and stability require it.


HOW DOES IT GO? Given its relatively light weight, the Si4 Evoque with the 177kW 2.0 turbo-petrol engine is pretty quick by SUV standards, reaching 100km/h in a claimed 7.6 seconds. It needs a bit of a prod to get up on boost, but once the turbo is making a proper contribution to proceedings the 2.0-litre delivers exceptionally smooth, strong midrange performance with excellent rolling acceleration and overtaking punch. The nine-speed does indeed respond so smoothly and quickly (within 150 milliseconds) that it almost lives up to ZF’s hyperbolic claim that shifts are “beyond the threshold of perception”. Unless you’re wedded to petrol power, the Ingenium turbodiesel is the pick of the engines. We tested the Td4 180 — as in horsepower, which translates to 132kW in metrics — and it is remarkably smooth and quiet for a four-cylinder turbodiesel. It’s also exceptionally tractable and responsive, especially from a standing start, where it lunges forward at the lightest touch on the accelerator. It returns very frugal fuel numbers, identical to the lower-powered Td4 150. It complies with the latest EU6 emissions standards so requires a regular top-up of AdBlue, a urea-based additive that neutralises some harmful emissions. Average AdBlue consumption is one litre every 1600km and it’s easily topped up via a filler under the bonnet. Service intervals for the engine itself, says Land Rover, are every 34,000km, which seems a long way to drive between oil changes, or 12 months. Active Driveline defaults to all-wheel drive when you take off; as you reach about 35km/h in cruise mode, it switches to front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is seamlessly re-engaged within 300 milliseconds anytime you give the pedal a decent shove or sensors

The eD4 Pure manual averages 3.9L/100km on the highway, 5.0L/100km in town and produces 113g/km of CO2. The Td4 150 automatic averages 4.5L/100km, 6.1L/100km and 134g/km. The Td4 180 averages exactly the same. The Si4 averages 6.4L/100km, 10.3L/100km and 181g/km using 95 octane premium unleaded.

DOES IT HANDLE, STEER AND STOP? The standard suspension on the Si4 Dynamic and Td4 180 HSE examples tested is quite firm, complemented by highish-profile 235/55 Continental tyres on 19-inch wheels, an unusual but effective combination. Cornering ability is further enhanced by torque vectoring, standard on all models bar eD4, and well weighted, accurate steering. While there’s minimal body roll and a taut, agile character, ride comfort isn’t sacrificed. In fact it’s excellent, and markedly superior to rivals like BMW’s X3 or the Volvo XC60.The brakes are also powerful and progressive. Off-road, Evoque has more ability than any of its German or Swedish rivals. Terrain Response and high ground clearance allow it to get over or through some very ordinary country. However, unlike other Range Rovers you don’t get a proper spare with the Evoque — just a space saver — which is a dumb mistake.

THE INSIDE STORY You don’t sit high and mighty on a throne like you do in the big Range Rover. In fact the seating position is low and pseudosporty. The driver’s seat is firm, comfortable and supportive. The dash is chunky and purposeful with a rotary gear selector, huge steering wheel and audio/communication system with a 10.2-inch touchscreen. There’s plenty of storage, including a big glovebox and a useful centre console box. Dynamic has a sporty cabin look with textured metal highlights and a perforated leather-wrapped wheel, while

HSE is your typical luxury Range Rover with full-leather upholstery and a head-up display. The back seat (in the wagon) is low and underpadded, with high windowsills so small kids won’t be able to see out. There’s reasonable legroom and headroom, plus front-seat back nets and door bins for storage. Three child-restraint anchors are on the back of the seat. If you have kids, the Discovery Sport is a much better wagon. The convertible has a poweroperated fabric roof that can be opened in 18 seconds or closed in 21 seconds while on the move at speeds of up to 50km/h. When open, it sits flush with the rear bodywork so you still get a half-useful boot.

IN THE BOOT The low floor is easy to load and overall space is reasonable for a compact SUV. A net, 12-volt outlet and bag hooks are provided. The floor can be extended using the rear seat backs only, but it’s not completely flat.


Pure specification includes eight airbags, stability control,

17-inch alloy wheels, leather/ cloth upholstery, Bluetooth with audio streaming, parking sensors, hill-start assist, lane departure warning and automatic emergency braking. SE adds leather, 19-inch alloys and an automatic tailgate. HSE adds fine-grain leather and head-up display. Warranty: Three years / 100,000km. Redbook future values: (Si4 Dynamic wagon) 3yr: 61%; 5yr: 54%.


THINGS WE LIKE  Doesn’t look like a box  Taut handling and a comfortable ride  Strong engines  Walks away from its rivals off-road  Comfortable, supportive driver’s seat  Great resale values


Pricey and options are a gouge Space-saver spare Slow navigation Range Rovers can be temperamental Low, flat, unsupportive back seat

compare with ... Audi Q3, BMW X1, Mercedes GLA, Volkswagne Tiguan, Volvo XC60



The Range Rover Sport is good thing, but at entry level you can buy the Land Rover Discovery — the same vehicle under the skin — with greater off road ability for less money. If you want serious horsepower, though, only the Rangie offers supercharged V6 and V8 options, plus a hybrid. HOW MUCH? The 177kW 2.0-litre fourcylinder turbodiesel/eight-speed automatic SD4 S is $90,900. The 190kW 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel TDV6 SE is $103,900. The same engine, chipped for 215kW, is fitted to the SDV6 SE at $114,800, HSE at $132,000 (as tested), HSE Dynamic at $138,600 and Autobiography at $169,800. The 250kW 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol HSE

is $130,011. The 375kW 5.0-litre supercharged V8 petrol HSE Dynamic is $168,811, the Autobiography is $196,511 and the 405kW SVR is $233,211. The 250kW 4.4-litre turbodiesel V8 SDV8 HSE is $147,011 and the HSE Dynamic is $153,311. The 250kW 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6/electric Range Rover Sport Hybrid HEV Autobiography is $187,900.


STARS Safety Not yet tested Green Vehicle Guide

Performance Handling Off road: Quality and reliability

Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall


The Range Rover Sport is made in England. It has an aluminium monocoque body which is largely responsible for a weight decrease of up to 420kg over the previous steel two-piece body-on-chassis model. It’s a five-seater. Two extra rear seats are a $3700 option. The 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine produces 177kW of power and 500Nm of torque from 1500–2500rpm. The 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel produces 190kW at 4000rpm and 600Nm at 2000rpm in

TDV6 tune. The SDV6 chip increases this to 255kW and 700Nm. Both variants feature auto stop/start. The 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol engine produces 250kW at 6500rpm and 450Nm from 3500–5000rpm. The 5.0-litre supercharged V8 petrol produces 375kW from

6000–6500rpm and 625Nm from 2500–5500rpm. In the SVR, it produces 405kW and 680Nm, driving the Sport to 100km/h in just 4.7 seconds. The 4.4-litre turbodiesel V8 produces 250kW at 3500rpm and 700Nm from 1700–3000rpm. The 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6/electric hybrid drivetrain

FROM $90,900 

produces 250kW at 400rpm and 700Nm from 1500–3000rpm. The transmission is an eightspeed automatic. SD4, TDV6 and 3.0-litre petrol V6 Supercharged models have permanent all-wheel drive in high range only with a Torsen centre differential. Other Range Rover Sport models have a dual-range transfer case with a default 50:50 front:rear torque split and 100 per cent locking capability. Terrain Response features a choice of five drive modes: General, Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Ruts, Sand and Rock Crawl. Steering is variable ratio speedsensitive electrically assisted. Suspension is aluminium, with double-wishbone front and multilink rear. It features adaptive dampers and crosslinked air-assisted springs, decoupled in off-road driving, with automatic load levelling, variable ride height and classleading wheel travel. Maximum ground clearance is 278mm. Optional Wade Sensing gives you a visual display of the water level around the vehicle when fording, plus an audible warning if you’re about to drown it. Maximum wading depth is 850mm. Wheel sizes range from 19 inches to 21 inches. A full-size spare on an alloy wheel is standard, except on sevenseaters, which get a space saver. The fuel tank capacity is 80 litres. V6 and V8 supercharged petrol models have a 105-litre tank. Weights range from 2091kg to 2310kg. Maximum towing weight is 3500kg.

HOW DOES IT GO? On test, the SDV6 averaged 7–8L/100km during 800km of all types of open-road driving, which is an outstanding result in such a big wagon. The engine itself is so smooth and quiet you can’t really pick it as a diesel unless you refer to the tell-tale low redline on the tacho. Under way, there’s no sense of it working hard either — it redefines “effortless”. In D, however, the eight-speed is fixated on fuel efficiency so throttle response is pretty gentle and there can be a delay in downshifts. Sport mode gives you crisper, quicker, more timely

shifts, or you can use the paddles. For comments on the V8 Supercharged engine, see the Range Rover test over the page. There’s no need to go V8 because the supercharged 3.0-litre V6 delivers stunning idle-to-redline performance with wonderful smoothness and an engaging note. OK, so it’s not as wantonly loud as it is in the Jaguar F-Type, and you’ll use up to twice as much juice as you will in the turbodiesel, but it’s still one of the best petrol engines in any class at present and as far as real-world driving goes it basically makes the supercharged V8 redundant. Unless you simply can’t live without 405kW of power under your right foot.


The TDV6 averages 6.7L/100km on the highway, 8.3L/100km in town and CO² emissions of 194g/km. The SDV6 averages 6.8L/100km, 8.7L/100km and 199g/km. The 2.0-litre turbodiesel SD4 averages 5.5L/100km, 7.5L/100km and 164g/km. The 3.0-litre V6 Supercharged averages 8.9L/100km, 15.4L/100km and 264g/km on 95 octane premium. The 375kW 5.0-litre V8 averages 9.9L/100km, 20.6L/100km and 322g/km, also on 95 octane.

DOES IT HANDLE, STEER AND STOP? It certainly does. The crosslinked air suspension permits a little body roll when turning into a corner but then puts a stop to it and the Range Rover stays flat and tidy throughout. Control over body movement is disciplined in all conditions, even when the cross-linked system is decoupled for off-road driving. Stability is great on any surface. The electric steering is very sharp and direct — almost too much so — but like the relatively small-diameter steering wheel, this is deliberate as Land Rover is trying to back the “Sport” moniker with a responsive, precise feel in the driver’s hands. The ride isn’t quite as supple as the Range Rover Vogue but it’s always comfortable and never harsh no matter what surface you’re driving on.

Off-road, the Sport offers sophisticated traction control systems. Go for a 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel variant with lowrange gearing, fit a set of serious off-road tyres and you can go almost wherever you like.

restricted by the sloping rear roof and window line, but there’s plenty of floor acreage which can easily be extended by flipping the 60/40 split-fold rear-seat backs forward and locking them into place. A load cover, four hooks and 12-volt outlet are provided.

THE INSIDE STORY The Sport’s driving position and low-roof body style are different from its big brother. Here, you sit quite low, almost as in a sedan, in accordance with the Sport brief. This does compromise vision from the Sport somewhat. You can’t see the corners of the bonnet, the front pillars are thick enough to obstruct your vision in corners, and the view out the back is partly blocked by the rear-seat head restraints. Land Rover’s infotainment system is clumsy, inefficient, very slow and visually dated compared with those offered by the German makers. The driver’s seat, with power adjustment for lumbar and backrest bolsters, is firm and supportive. But it’s also a touch hard on the upper thighs and without heating, cooling or memory functions in TD/SDV6 SE, which is a bit mean at these prices. So is the fact that important safety features such as blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert are optional. The rear seat is two individual chairs separated by a flat middle section with a fold-down armrest/storage compartment. It’s a wonderful place for two people to travel. The test car was a five-seater so I can’t comment on space, access or comfort for the optional two rear seats. The side-curtain airbags do extend to these seats.

IN THE BOOT The large boot is accessed via a power tailgate. Its capacity is


TDV6 SE includes six airbags, stability control with trailer sway control, automatic emergency braking, 19-inch alloy wheels, leather, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, alarm, rear camera and parking sensors, dual-zone air, 10-inch touchscreen, voice activation, Bluetooth and navigation. SDV6 SE adds a dual-range transfer case, Terrain Response2, variable dampers and 20-inch alloys. Warranty: Three years / 100,000km. Redbook future values: (SDV6 SE): 3yr: 57%; 5yr: 43%.


THINGS WE LIKE  Refined, frugal, responsive turbodiesel  Outstanding on-road dynamics and off-road ability in dual-range turbodiesel models  Spacious, quiet, luxurious cabin  Smooth ride  Strong resale values

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  Standard equipment list on TD/ SDV6 SE is short for $100K-plus  Options are a gouge  Brakes lack feel  Slow, dated infotainment system  Vision’s not always clear from the driver’s seat  Land Rover’s ongoing reliability issues

compare with ... Audi Q7, BMW X5, Land Rover Discovery, Maserati Levante, Mercedes GLE, Porsche Cayenne, VW Touareg



Range Rover remains in a league of its own at the top end of the luxury class. Sure, there are faster, better handling, more powerful rivals, but none offers the Range Rover’s breadth of on and off road ability. Mercedes’ GLS is its closest competitor, along with the Toyota 200 Series Landcruiser Sahara. HOW MUCH? The 3.0-litre twin turbodiesel TDV6 Vogue is $183,300. The 3.0-litre supercharged petrol V6 Vogue is $193,211. The 4.4-litre V8 turbodiesel SDV8 Vogue is $204,011, the Vogue SE is $226,211 and the Autobiography is $244,111. The 5.0-litre supercharged petrol V8 Autobiography is $257,011 and the SV

STARS Safety

Autobiography is $315,711. Long-wheelbase variants are also available, starting at $192,700 for the TDV6 Vogue and rising to $373,611 for the 5.0-litre Supercharged V8 SV Autobiography. The SDV6 Hybrid Vogue SE is $230,900.


ANCAP TDV6 only Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling 

Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money



The Range Rover is made in England. It uses a unitary construction, all-aluminium body. The 3.0 V6 turbodiesel, also used in the Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover Sport, produces 190kW of power at 4000rpm and 600Nm of torque at 2000rpm. The 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6/ electric hybrid drivetrain produces 250kW at 400rpm and 700Nm from 1500–3000rpm. The 4.4-litre V8 turbodiesel produces 250kW at 3500rpm and 700Nm from 1700–3000rpm. The 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol engine produces 250kW

at 6500rpm and 450Nm from 3500–5000rpm. The supercharged 5.0 V8 produces 375kW at 6000rpm and 625Nm from 2500–5500rpm. In the SV Autobiography it produces 405kW and 680Nm. An eight-speed ZF automatic transmission with adaptive programming is standard.

The Range Rover includes the dual-range Terrain Response 4WD system, double-wishbone independent suspension with cross-linked air springs and adjustable ride heights. The suspension features five different height settings, from Access to Extended Off-road, the latter providing


FROM $183,300  

303mm of clearance. Fording depth is 900mm. Weight is 2160–2330kg. The TDV6 fuel tank holds 85 litres. The tank in SDV8 and V8 Supercharged holds 105 litres. All models will tow up to 3500kg.

HOW DOES IT GO? The 5.0-litre supercharged V8 sounds absolutely terrifying on paper but in such a big, heavy vehicle it’s a gentle, quiet, predictable engine with unlimited performance available should you choose to unlock it with the accelerator pedal. In those situations where you need power in a hurry, you get it. Lean on the pedal and the Range Rover overtakes like a sports car. The penalty is terrible fuel consumption — the official figures are below. In the real world, you’ll struggle to better 14L/100km on the open road and 25L/100km in town. Unless absolute performance is a priority, the V6 and V8 turbodiesels will do the job nicely and use up to 60 per cent less fuel. The V6 has no problem shifting the similarly heavy Land Rover Discovery while the V8’s 700Nm of torque could drag the Opera House off its foundations. Very few Range Rovers go off-road now but if you fit a set of serious off-road tyres such as Coopers to complement the Rangie’s amazing wheel articulation, high ground clearance and, of course, technology smarts, you can

confidently tackle difficult terrain with ease. That is what it has been designed to do.


The 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel averages 7.0L/100km on the highway, 8.5L/100km in town, and produces 196g/km of CO2. The 4.4-litre V8 turbodiesel averages 7.6L/100km, 11.4L/100km and 229g/km. The 3.0-litre V6 Supercharged averages 9.1L/100km, 15.6L/100km and 268g/km on 95 octane premium. The 5.0-litre supercharged V8 averages 9.9L/100km, 20.6L/100km. It runs on 95 octane premium and averages 322g/km of CO2.

DOES IT HANDLE, STEER AND STOP? Two-and-a-half tonnes should be all over the place in tight corners but the Rangie is remarkably tidy. The steering is light and accurate — in this context — while the brakes bite hard and early with light pedal pressures. Air springing lacks initial compliance so the ride on Autobiography’s 22-inch wheels and 40-aspect ratio tyres is a touch fussy at low speeds in town. Vogue base models, with 20-inch wheels and taller rubber included, should be more compliant and comfortable. Terrain Response makes four-wheel driving on any surface easy. Turn the dial and away you go, basically. A full-size spare (on an alloy wheel) is a wonderful thing to have when you get a flat tyre, rather than the unecessary inconvenience and aggravation of a space saver.

THE INSIDE STORY The high and mighty seating position, a premise of the original 1970 Range Rover, is complemented by thin pillars, low windowsills and surround cameras. The back seat, shaped for two large people and a skinny one in the middle, is a luxurious place to travel and boasts a firm, supportive, well-padded cushion. Legroom is adequate in the short-wheelbase models and vast in the stretched versions, pictured here.

IN THE BOOT The boot is accessed via a power-operated horizontally spilt tailgate. A pair of tracks with anchors and a separate load divider/securing system are also provided.


The 3.0 TDV6 and SCV6 HSE include seven airbags, stability control, 19-inch alloy wheels with a full-size spare, leather, tri-zone automatic air, metallic paint, navigation, rear camera, trailer stability control, Bluetooth, voice activation, alarm. Warranty: Three years / 100,000km. Redbook future values (TDV6 Vogue): 3yr: 57%; 5yr: 46%.


THINGS WE LIKE  The absolute pinnacle of first-class luxury travel  Powerful, refined engines  Excellent on-road handling by class standards  Extreme off-road ability

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  Petrol V8s are ridiculously thirsty in large 4WD wagons, especially supercharged V8s.  Legroom in the back is only adequate  Driver’s-seat head restraint intrudes if you like the backrest upright  Iffy Land Rover quality and reliability  Overpriced

compare with ... Bentley Bentayga, Mercedes GLS Class, Toyota 200 Series Sahara





enault’s stylish Captur is arguably its most competitive model for many years, fusing a number of appealing attributes into a surprisingly spacious yet fun-todrive package. That it is also one of the least expensive compact SUVs is perhaps the French car’s strongest attribute. The Captur kicks off from $23,500 for the fi ve-speed manual TCe 90 (with a threecylinder 900cc turbopetrol engine) Expression. The 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol TCe 120 Expression, from $26,500, is equipped with a six-speed automated manual transmission (dubbed EDC in Renault-speak). So is the $30,000 TCe 120 EDC Dynamique, the range fl agship. Renault is also looking at introducing a diesel version if enough people demand one. One of the Captur’s key styling cues is its unique two-tone paintwork. With fl at paint, it adds $1000 to the price, or $1800 with metallic. Alternatively, on

STARS Safety (Euro NCAP) Green Vehicle Guide (5 for TCe 90) Performance Handling Quality and reliability

Expression only, choosing regular single-tone metallic without the contrasting roof hue costs $800. Despite its tiny capacity, the 0.9-litre turbo triple in the base Expression is a terrifically lively performer, moving off the mark with rapid determination. Renault has obviously geared it to be a zippy little traffic-gap filler and so even with a load of passengers, the slick-shifting manual Captur is an enjoyable, energetic drive. The TCe 120 with the EDC auto feels a tad lethargic at low revs, as if the turbo and gearbox are taking their time to collect their thoughts before committing to forward motion. As a result, stop/start congestion progress can be frustratingly jerky. Once on the move, however, the power comes through thick and fast with the Captur really finding its feet at open-road speeds. The fact that Captur is based on the sporty Clio’s chassis has many advantages, including beautifully weighted and responsive steering that provides ample levels of communication and feedback,

plus great control and confidence in corners and on rough bitumen. Despite the disappointment of drum brakes in the back, the Captur has no issue at all washing off speed quickly and efficiently. The TCe 90 is the suppler ride of the two, smoothing out the bumps in a manner that only French cars seem to know how to. It’s also quieter in terms of resisting road/ tyre noise intrusion. The bigger-wheeled TCe 120 EDC variants trade a very small amount of comfort and refinement for extra grip, resulting in a more composed and poised handler at higher speeds. Renault has managed to instil elegance in the Captur’s combination analogue/digital instrument display ahead of a driving position that is both comfortable and commanding. Plump seating (another oldschool French trait) and plenty of storage show that much thought has gone into creating an alluring yet habitable cabin. The compact SUV’s dual role of light minivan in some markets

springs to mind the moment you sink yourself into the unexpectedly spacious and accommodating rear bench, which slides forward and backward according to your people-to-parcel transportation ratio requirements. Controversially, Renault decided not to fit full-length curtain airbags that cover the rear-seat passengers, instead electing to use higherstrength steels in key structural protection areas. That’s not good enough, which is why we have withheld the kid carrier symbol at the top of the page for this car. The other blot on Captur’s sheet is thick windscreen pillars that impede forward vision. Boot space is reasonable and there is a multi-configurable floor with wet/dry areas as well as a temporary-use spare underneath.


By Byron Mathioudakis

THINGS WE LIKE Versatile interior packaging Exceptional fuel efficiency Turbo performance Enjoyable dynamics Long warranty

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE No rear curtain airbags Renaults can spit le dummy Thick A-pillars impede vision TCe 120 EDCs initial acceleration hesitation Pricey and weak resale values

SPEX (TCe 120) Made in Spain 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol/ six-speed automated manual/ front-wheel drive 88kW of power at 4900rpm/190Nm of torque at 2000rpm 0–100km/h in 10.9 seconds (claimed) 4.7L/100km highway; 6.6L/100km city; 95 octane premium; CO2 emissions are 125g/km Warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres Fuel tank capacity 45 litres Maximum towing weight 900kg Standard: Four airbags, stability control, cruise control with speed limiter, navigation, camera, touchscreen audio with downloadable app compatibility, Bluetooth, rain-sensing wipers, rear parking sensors and 16-inch alloy wheels Redbook future value: 3yr: 45%; 5yr: 33%

Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall


compare with ... Citroen Cactus, Fiat 500X, Honda HRV, Mazda CX3, Subaru XV, Toyota C-HR

RENAULT KOLEOS FROM $29,990 engage keener enthusiasts. There is no joy at all to be had with this car’s handling. Worse still, the suspension and 18-inch alloy wheels combo is just too bumpy and loud on anything other than smooth roads; again, this is at odds with the brand’s usual supple ride. Ultimately, then, the MkII Koleos is a mixed bag: proven mechanicals clothed in an attractive, spacious body, but with sub-par performance, ride and refinement. VW’s Tiguan and the Ford Escape are much better — and 100 per cent genuine — Euro SUVs.


By Byron Mathioudakis


rench car maker Renault is vying for the hearts and wallets of SUV-obsessed Australia with the stylish, spacious, keenly priced secondgeneration Koleos. Kicking things off is the Life 4x2 (for front-wheel drive) from $29,990, with all the usual gear like a reverse camera, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, as well as unexpected items such as climate-control air-conditioning, automatic on/off headlights and wipers, tyre-pressure monitors and a five-year warranty. Next up is the Zen (yes, they’re serious ...) CVT 4x2 from $33,990, with vinyl upholstery, heated front seats (electric adjustability for the driver), keyless entry/start, walkaway self-locking, navigation and 18-inch alloys. All-wheel drive is available for an extra $2500. Top-of-the-range Intens 4x4, from $43,490, includes a driverassistance package consisting of Lane Departure, Blind Spot and Forward Collision warnings, as well as Autonomous Emergency Braking. The last

STARS Safety Not yet tested Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall

three items are packaged as a $1400 option on Zen, but not on Life (somewhat ironically). Rivals such as the Mazda CX-5, VW Tiguan, Ford Escape and Subaru Forester offer superior safety specification, especially at base-model level. The latest Koleos is one of the most spacious SUVs in its class, offering comfy high-set seating — ground clearance is a lofty 213mm, affording excellent all-round views — and impressive rear-seat legroom. Modern, clear instruments, ample ventilation, heaps of storage, and a sizeable luggage area (from 458 litres to 1690 litres with the back seats folded) further press home the Renault’s family-friendly nature. Except for the initially confusing touchscreen interface and indicator stalk placed on the left side, there is nothing here to scare away new-toRenault prospectors. Conversely, there is nothing French beyond the badge, since the Koleos is basically a reboxed Nissan X-Trail made in South Korea. So

if you’re a happy Clio or Megane owner desiring the European SUV experience (as offered by the VW Tiguan and Ford Kuga) you might be a little bit disappointed. All versions (for now) are powered by a 126kW/226Nm 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine used in the Nissan X-Trail for yonks. In fact, along with the Nissan Qashqai, they share the same basic architecture — down to the sophisticated multi-link rear suspension. Driven in bestselling Zen 4x2 guise, the Koleos is an easy, simple and unassuming performer. The CVT automatic is tuned to make the most of the Japanese powertrain, providing lively off-the-line performance and a steady stream of acceleration response as required. Press harder on the throttle, though, and the 2.5 becomes noticeably vocal, and yet there isn’t the expected amount of power available at speed. And while the steering is light enough to make parking easy, it lacks sufficient weight and feel to ever

THINGS WE LIKE Striking design Roomy interior Generous warranty Very easy to drive Comfortable seats

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Sluggish performance Weak resale values Firm ride on 18-inch wheels Light and lifeless steering Complicated central screen functionality No high-tech driver assist safety tech availability on base model

SPEX (Zen 4x2) Made in South Korea 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol/CVT/ front-wheel drive 126kW of power at 6000rpm/226Nm of torque at 4400rpm 0–100km in 9.5 seconds (claimed) 6.7L/100km highway, 10.4L/100km city; 91 octane; CO2 emissions are 188g/km Warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres Fuel tank is 60 litres Max towing capacity 2000kg Standard: Six airbags, stability control, cruise control with speed limiter, Hill Start Assist, camera, rear parking sensors, automatic air, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, 7.0-inch multimedia screen, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, AUX ports, two USB ports, leatherwrapped steering wheel, fog lights, LED daytime running lights, 17-inch alloys, tyre-pressure monitoring, full-size spare wheel Warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres Redbook future values: 3yr: 49%; 5yr: 35%

compare with ... Ford Escape, Honda CRV, Mazda CX-5, Nissan XTrail, Subaru Forester, Volkswagen Tiguan




turbocharged engine is tuned to operate almost like a diesel, with deceptively strong shove available from low revs, using a light right foot. It works efficiently with the seven-speed transmission. With a weight advantage of at least 200kg, plus all-wheel drive, precise steering and quality Pirelli tyres, Kodiaq feels much more agile, well balanced and car-like than larger seven-seater SUVs. It will also tackle a dirt road with confidence. If you don’t need six or seven seats every day, but just want to carry a couple of extra kids from time to time, the Skoda Kodiaq could be what you’re looking for.



koda’s Kodiaq SUV is named after the largest carnivorous mammal on earth, the Kodiak bear, but as far as seven seaters go it’s light, manoeuvrable and compact. More like a koala. The Kodiaq, like other Skodas, is basically a rebadged VW — in this case the long-wheelbase, seven-seater Tiguan Allspace, due in 2018. There’s only one Kodiaq model for now, priced at $42,990. When you’re carrying kids around, you want a wagon that makes life easy and stress-free. The Kodiaq does just that with a power-operated rear tailgate, keyless entry and starting, a big boot that can be extended to almost 2m long with the 60/40-split middle seats folded flat, rear-window sunblinds, parking sensors, a rear camera with moving guidelines, electric safety locks for the back doors, and seat belt indicators for all positions. You can never have too much storage, either, and Kodiaq

has compartments all over the place, including two gloveboxes (one chilled) and a drawer under the driver’s seat. Then there’s the genius stuff, which you don’t know you want until you’ve got it. How about an umbrella and a small rubbish bag holder in each front-door pocket, plastic protectors that pop out from the edge of each door when it’s opened, preventing dings to adjacent cars, an LED torch in the boot, and two tablet holders for rear-seat passengers? Infotainment includes a big, bright eight-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, navigation, voice control that works, a USB port and two SD card slots. You sit high, with clear vision in all directions, in a firm, comfortable leather/Alcantara upholstered chair. The elevated middle row has adjustable legroom on each side and adjustable backrests too. Kids won’t feel entombed and there’s plenty of space for adults.

Restraints are secured via two Isofix mounts or three anchors. Two back seats fold up from the floor. They’re fine for young kids, but very tight for teens and adults. Folding and sliding the middle seat forward for access requires two hands and a bit of effort. Our test car was fitted with the $2500 Tech Pack option, which includes adaptive suspension. On Comfort and Normal modes, the ride is supple and quiet, even on rough country roads. Speaking of options, if you want the full safety worksburger, you need to tick the $5900 Launch Pack box, which includes the Tech Pack. It adds blindspot monitoring, surround and bird’s-eye-view cameras, lane keeping and rear cross traffic alert to the standard safety kit, which includes radar cruise, nine airbags and automatic emergency braking, though only from below 30km/h. Kodiaq is one of the best drives in the class. Although performance is solid rather than spectacular, its

THINGS WE LIKE  Seven seats in a light, compact SUV  Loaded with intelligent, familyfriendly design  Big, versatile load space  Strong and safe  Agile, confident handling and a comfortable ride  Works well on a dirt road  Refined, tractable performance  Good value and long warranty

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  The back seats aren’t exactly spacious  VW Group cars can be temperamental  Expensive servicing




STARS Safety Performance Handling 

Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall


Made in the Czech Republic 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol/ seven-speed automated manual/ all-wheel drive 132kW of power from 3900-6000rpm/320Nm of torque from 1400-3950rpm 0-100km/h in 8.2 seconds (claimed) 6.6L/100km highway; 9.3L/100km city; 95 octane premium; CO² emissions are 176gkm. Fuel tank is 60 litres Warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres Max towing weight 2000kg (80kg towball download) Standard: Nine airbags, stability control, automatic emergency braking, radar cruise, seven seats, camera, parking sensors, tyre pressure monitoring, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, voice control, navigation, leather/ Alcantara seat facings, power tailgate, side-window blinds, dualzone air, 19-inch alloys Redbook future values: 3yr: 53%; 5yr: 36%

compare with ... Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Mazda CX9, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Kluger



ubaru’s XV is the only compact SUV with all-wheel drive as standard, so it’s as capable and confident on a dirt road as it is on the bitumen. XV prices start at $27,990 for the 2.0i. The 2.0i-L is $30,340 and the Premium is $32,140. The top-spec XV 2.0i S, tested here, is $35,240. Up front, the heated, leather-upholstered driver’s seat is properly bolstered and supportive, the driving position can be adjusted to suit anybody and vision is clear around the car. Subaru persists in using three screens to display the same infotainment and vehicle information that other car makers manage with one or two, so as a layout the XV’s dash is far from user-friendly and at times difficult and distracting to operate. That said, fit, finish and materials quality is excellent and the S gets comprehensive touchscreen infotainment. There’s no digital radio, though.

STARS Safety Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money  Overall 


XV rides as comfortably and quietly as many larger wagons thanks to well-controlled, compliant, long-travel suspension and sensibly tall tyres on 18-inch wheels. A firm, supportive back seat has plenty of legroom, but no adjustable backrest, air vents or 12-volt outlet. The boot is small. As the flagship model, XV S gets Subaru’s Eyesight camerabased system with cruise control that keeps you a safe distance from the car in front, automatic emergency braking and the ability to help you stay in your lane if you get distracted, supplemented with radar/sonarbased Vision Assist, which adds automatic braking in reverse if it detects an object or person behind the car, rear-cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring. Toyota’s C-HR has most of these safety features in the

$26,990 base model, whereas the base XV 2.0i has none. XV has the same drivetrain as Impreza, with fractionally shorter final drive gearing, but it’s still a sedate performer. That said, its rivals are no rockets either, and like them XV is designed to work best in everyday driving at moderate revs with a light right foot. That it does, in a smooth, refined manner, with the bonus of a modest thirst on regular unleaded, but its continuously variable automatic — which works like a normal auto but without individual gears — can take quite a while to convert your desire for speed into the real thing, so the shift paddles, which dial up more revs in a hurry, can be useful. All-wheel drive adds extra grip and security in the wet and the inside wheels are automatically

braked in corners to help keep you on track. XVs dynamics are arguably best in class, even with the Impreza’s body raised by 90mm to deliver 220mm of ground clearance, sufficient to allow confident, easy progress on pretty rugged bush tracks. Again, XV’s ability here is hard to beat, with its X-Mode off-road system offering adjustable traction control and accelerator sensitivity for steep climbs, loose or slippery surfaces, plus effective automatic speed control that takes the terror out of steep descents. If you want big SUV comfort, safety, refinement and equipment in a compact wagon, with the ability to go adventuring with confidence, Subaru’s Impreza 20i S is the pick of the compact class. If you plan to stick to the bitumen, test drive the Mazda CX3 and Toyota C-HR as well.


THINGS WE LIKE  The only compact SUV with allwheel drive as standard  Safe and solid  Refined and comfortable  Agile, enjoyable handling  Good value across the range

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Tiny boot Expensive servicing and short warranty It ain’t quick Subarus can be temperamental Complex, inefficient control layout Space saver spare

SPEX (2.0i S) 2.0-litre four-cylinder/CVT/allwheel drive 115kW of power at 6000rpm/196Nm of torque at 4000rpm 0-100km/h N/A 6.0L/100km highway; 8.8L/100km city; 91 octane; CO² emissions are 159gkm; fuel tank is 63 litres Max towing weight: 1400kg Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres Standard: Seven airbags, stability control, camera, tyre-pressure monitoring, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, voice control, 2 x 12 volt and 3 x USB outlets, navigation, heated front seats, leather, Data Dots identification, Eyesight, Vision Assist, 18-inch alloys, sunroof Redbook future values: 3yr: 59%; 5yr: 47%

compare with ... Audi Q2, Honda HRV, Mazda CX3, Mitsubishi ASX, Suzuki Vitara, Toyota C-HR




ubaru’s Forester now has several newer rivals to contend with, but it remains a front runner in this class. The $30,240 base Forester 2.0i-L uses a 100kW 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a six-speed manual. The 126kW 2.5-litre petrol Forester 2.5i-L, starting from $33,240, has a continuously variable auto (CVT) transmission as standard. It’s also available in 2.5i-S ($39,740) specification. The 108kW 2.0-litre turbodiesel Forester 2.0D is also available with a six-speed manual in 2.0DL and 2.0D-S specification, at $33,740 and $39,740 respectively. The CVT adds $2000 to both. Forester XT uses a 177kW 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol engine with a CVT transmission, priced from $41,240, or $48,240 in Premium specification. The 2.5-litre petrol engine is

STARS Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide (2.0i and 2.5i) Green Vehicle Guide (diesel) Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money  Overall 


a better bet than the asthmatic 2.0-litre and is worth the extra $3000 which includes the CVT. This transmission works smoothly and efficiently to extract the best from the 2.5. It’s smooth, of course, because there are no shifts, and it doesn’t waste too many revs before it hooks up and drives the Forester forward with purpose. A claimed 9.3 seconds for 0–100km/h is respectable. Its numbers suggest otherwise but the Subaru diesel is weak in the lower half of its range, which isn’t helped by tall gearing in the manual and a huge gap between second and third. The CVT largely overcomes these issues, but you still have to use the accelerator more vigorously than in most 2.0-litre turbodiesel SUVs. The Forester and Mazda CX-5 have the best ride/handling compromises in this class. This Forester is a more athletic, well-balanced drive than the previous model, with no compromise to ride comfort.

The off-road X Mode system on 2.5-litre CVT models is effective within its limits and gives the Forester more off-road ability than most rivals. It managed to walk the Forester down a very steep hill without problems and is a similarly capable substitute for the low(ish) ratio that used to be standard on the manual Forester. There’s a pleasant feeling of space and light, with high seats, a low waistline, large glass area and front pillars that have been pushed forward a long way compared with the previous model. Vision is clear around the car and a camera is standard. Wide-opening doors make it easy to get in and out of the back seat, which is one of the most spacious and comfortable in the class. Three child-restraint anchors are on the back of the seat and the centre belt feeds out of the roof. Seatbelt indicator lights cover all positions. Subaru’s Eyesight system,

S which uses two cameras to monitor the road ahead and alert the driver to potential hazards, is standard on Forester S models. It features automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, lanedeparture warning, plus an audible alert if you’re stationary in traffic (checking emails, perhaps?) and the vehicle in front of you starts to move. There’s plenty of boot space. The floor is high because underneath is a full-size spare on an alloy wheel (steel where standard) and it can easily be extended, in a 60/40 configuration, using levers on either side of the boot. A power tailgate is standard on S models. Forester, Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5 and VW’s Tiguan lead this hugely popular class. It’s worth driving each before you decide.


THINGS WE LIKE  Reasonable performance from the 2.5i engine and excellent fuel efficiency from the 2.0-litre turbodiesel  Secure handling and a comfortable ride  Outstanding safety credentials and strong resale values  Spacious, comfortable, versatile cabin  Some off-road ability and a full-size spare

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE The diesel is gutless and overgeared with the manual Rear-seat centre belt in the roof Limited tailgate height

SPEX (2.5-litre S) Made in Japan 2.5-litre horizontally opposed fourcylinder petrol/CVT/all-wheel drive 126kW of power at 5800rpm and 235Nm of torque at 4100rpm 0–100km/h in 9.3 seconds (claimed) 6.8L/100km highway; 10.2L/100km city; 91 octane. CO2 emissions are 187g/km The 2.0D CVT averages 5.5L/100km, 7.5L/100km and 163g/km Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres Standard: Seven airbags, stability control, camera, Bluetooth, Siri, automatic air, Data Dot security coding. 2.5i and 2.0D S include a power tailgate, swivelling LED headlights, sunroof, Eyesight, leather and navigation Redbook future values: 3yr: 62%; 5yr: 45%

compare with ... Ford Escape, Honda CRV, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, VW Tiguan



ubaru’s Outback has always been one of the best midsized SUVs on the market, so big discounts and more equipment since this fifth generation model launched in 2015 have made it a compelling proposition, especially against several European-brand SUVs. The petrol-powered range opens with the familiar 2.5-litre four-cylinder/CVT transmission Outback 2.5i at $36,240, or in Premium specification at $42,240. Outback 3.6R, with a 3.6-litre flat six/CVT drivetrain, is $48,740. Outback diesel models use the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine. The base model six-speed manual Outback 2.0D is $35,740; with the CVT, it’s $38,740. Premium spec adds $6500. Twenty-one years after its introduction, Outback remains the SUV you should consider if you hate SUVs. You’ll find its light weight, fine balance, disciplined body control and outstanding roadholding a much more

STARS Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling Quality and reliability


satisfying, enjoyable combination than the sloppy, barge-like histrionics you have to put up with in some rival wagons. The ride is comfortable, too, on any surface. Subaru increased body rigidity, introduced torque vectoring and tightened up the suspension on the current model, to excellent effect. A back-to-back test drive with Audi’s Q5 or BMW’s X3 will give you an idea of how far the Outback has progressed. It’s a long way. The 2.5’s modest numbers (129kW of power and 235Nm of torque) and narrow powerband are flattered by the smooth, responsive CVT transmission, engine and road noise levels are low, and the car is balanced, intuitive and easy to drive. The 3.6R, which packs a hefty 191kW of power, also has that lovely linear delivery and topend kick you miss out on with turbocharged engines. Outback’s 110kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbodiesel is a strange device which suffers from a lack of low-down pulling power,

particularly apparent in the manual. As with the 2.5i petrol, the CVT almost disguises this deficiency, but you still need to be more vigorous with the go pedal than in other diesels and overall performance is sedate. On the credit side, the Subaru “boxer” engine is exceptionally smooth, quiet and frugal. Outback inherits Forester’s X-Mode system, an effective push-button substitute for lowrange gearing that adjusts the traction control and enables it to crawl down, or up, a steep slope and traverse rough or slippery terrain with ease. In concert with 213mm of ground clearance, X-Mode gives the Outback genuine — if far from extreme — ability off the bitumen. Like its predecessors, the 2017 Outback comes with a blue-chip safety CV, including Isofix child restraint anchors (plus Australian standard ones on the rear seat back), seven airbags, a reversing camera and Subaru’s Eyesight system. Eyesight uses cameras

and radar to read the road and the traffic. It incorporates a vehicle-in-front brake light alert function, plus automatic emergency braking from 50km/h or less, lane departure warning and adaptive (or conventional) cruise control. It’s standard on petrol Outbacks and the CVT turbodiesel. Premium variants and the 3.6R also include Vision Assist with blind spot monitoring, lane change assist and a rear cross-traffic alert. Outback’s spacious, formal interior features a luxurious, super-sized (read: American market) driver’s seat and Subaru’s signature precision fit and finish. A power-operated tailgate is standard on Premium variants. If you’re after a great-value mid-size SUV, the Subaru Outback should be at the top of your shortlist. It’s a superb family wagon and is highly recommended.


THINGS WE LIKE  Excellent value  Safe and solid  Agile, well-balanced handling  Spacious, comfortable interior  Works well on a dirt road

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  The diesel doesn’t pull as hard as it should  Steering lacks feel  Bridgestone Duelers aren’t the stickiest tyres around

SPEX (2.0D CVT) Made in Japan 2.0-litre four cylinder turbodiesel/ CVT/all-wheel drive 110kW of power at 3600rpm 350Nm of torque from 16002800rpm 0–100km/h N/A Max towing weight 1700kg 5.5L/100km highway; 7.7L/100km city; CO2 emissions are 165g/km; fuel tank is 60 litres Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres Standard: Stability control, seven airbags, Eyesight, camera, Bluetooth, voice control, automatic wipers, 18in alloys, Data Dot security. Premium models include leather, power tailgate, Vision Assist, navigation and a sunroof Redbook future values: 3yr: 56%; 5yr: 41%

Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall

compare with ... Audi Q5, BMW X3, Honda CRV, Skoda Kodiaq, VW Touareg/Passat Allroad, Volvo XC60


SUZUKI IGNIS FROM $15,990 Finally, despite boasting an ultra-tight turning circle, the steering requires excessive twirling and feels quite muted, which dilutes the fun factor. Plus, in mid-turn during higher cornering speeds, the wheel’s input effort switches suddenly from dull to sharp, resulting in nervous and inconsistent handling, even though roadholding and overall control remain positive. So with a less rowdy auto, comfier ride, and steadier higherspeed steering, the strikingly contemporary Ignis would be an exceptionally versatile compact crossover. But as it stands, our littlest SUV is best suited to urban frontiers only.


on’t laugh. With a generous 180mm of ground clearance, Suzuki has somehow convinced the powers-that-be that the Ignis is no longer the name of a very small car, but rather Australia’s dinkiest SUV. Kicking off from a tempting $15,990, the GL is nonetheless decently equipped, offering a tablet-style central touchscreen for the standard-fitment reverse camera, navigation and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, cruise control with a speed limiter, fog lights, and a leather-bound steering wheel. These come on top of six airbags, stability and traction control, Bluetooth phone/audio streaming, ISOFIX child-seat anchorages, power windows, remote central locking and a trip computer. Strangely, though, the driver’s seat lacks a height adjuster. For that you’ll need the $18,990 GLX, which also ushers in automatic transmission, dusksensing LED headlights, pushbutton ignition, climate control, privacy glass, and 16-inch alloys in lieu of 15-inch steelies. The

rear seat also changes, from a three-person 60/40-split backrest, to a 50/50-split sliding and reclining duo that accommodates two people only. At 3.7m long by 1.66m wide, the Ignis is dimensionally close to city cars like the Kia Picanto, though a higher-than-average roof and lofty seating help make entry/egress fairly easy work. Deep windows bring an inviting airiness as well as great forward vision. Plus there is ample space for four big adults. Squeezing three in the back will only create conflict. If it is indeed possible. Still, Suzuki has clearly designed the Ignis to appeal inside as well as out, with a simple, elegant dash layout that deftly blends style and clarity. Pleasing textures and finishes only enhance the comfortable driving position, coherent instrumentation, effective ventilation, light and logical controls, and abundant storage. And the boxy shape benefits luggage capacity, which varies from 264 to 1104 litres in two-seater mode.

At the other end is a conventional front-wheel-drive powertrain, consisting of a smooth, lively and revvy 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that feels bulletproof and pulls the featherweight (yet reassuringly solid and planted) 865kg Ignis along with impressive enthusiasm. However, more demanding motorists might prefer the sweetshifting five-speed manual GL’s uncomplicated flexibility and refinement, since the auto’s economy-focused Continuously Variable Transmission (which adds $1000 to GL and is standard on GLX) can be a little lethargic off the line, and then persists in selecting or maintaining annoyingly high engine revs for unnecessarily noisy progress. Avoiding the latter is only really possible when feathering the throttle. At least it’s frugal. The GL’s smaller wheels also promote a less pummelling ride from the disappointingly firm suspension set-up over bumpier roads, highlighting a lack of sufficient spring travel and damping finesse.


By Byron Mathioudakis

THINGS WE LIKE  Funky design inside and out  High seating means easy access  Attractive yet functional dash  Surprisingly strong, smooth engine  Sweet manual gearshift  Generous standard specification




STARS Safety Not yet tested Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money $ Overall $$


Lethargic CVT auto response Noisy engine drone with CVT too Firm to hard ride Nervous steering at speed Steering rack rattle through bumpy corners


Made in Japan 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol/fivespeed manual/front-wheel drive 66kW of power at 6000rpm/120Nm of torque at 4400rpm 0–100km in 13.5 seconds (claimed) 4.7L/100km highway, 5.6L/100km city; 91 octane; CO2 emissions are 107g/km Warranty: Three years/100,000km The fuel tank is 32 litres Maximum towing capacity N/A Standard: Six airbags, stability control, traction control, cruise control, Hill Start Assist (CVT only), navigation, camera, infotainment touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/ Android Auto, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, auto on/ off lights, radio/MP3/WMA player, four-speaker audio, power windows, remote central locking, AUX/USB port, cruise control with a speed limiter, leather-bound steering wheel, ISOFIX child-seat anchorages, trip computer, front foglights, 15-inch steel wheels and a space-saver spare wheel Redbook future values: 3yr: 48%; 5yr: 37%

compare with ... Holden Spark, Kia Picanto, Mazda 2, Mazda CX-3, Skoda Fabia



uzuki’s Vitara is a simple, affordable SUV that works nicely as transport for a young family. Think of it as a spacious, practical alternative to a small hatch such as a Toyota Corolla and you get the idea. Speaking of which, prices start at just $21,990 for the Vitara RT-S, with a 1.6-litre petrol four, six-speed manual and front-wheel drive. A sixspeed automatic (tested here) adds $2000. At this price you get plenty of standard equipment, including navigation, automatic air, 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth and seven airbags. Vitara S Turbo, with a 103kW 1.4-litre turbopetrol/six-speed automatic, is $28,990 with frontwheel drive or $32,990 with allwheel drive. All-wheel-drive RT-X, with an 88kW/320NM 1.6-litre turbodiesel/six-speed dual clutch transmission, is $35,990. The base 1.6 produces pretty humble power and torque numbers, and overall

STARS Safety ANCAP Performance Handling Quality and reliability ANCAP Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall

performance is leisurely. But the Vitara is as light as a small hatch (1075kg) and the six-speed automatic suits the engine’s long stroke characteristics, so in the daily driving context the Suzuki’s performance is adequate. Shift paddles on the wheel allow you to control gearshift timing, which can be useful on long climbs to prevent hunting between ratios. Fuel efficiency is outstanding and the 1.6 runs on regular unleaded. The 1.6 is also acceptably smooth and quiet. The Vitara’s suspension is fairly soft, so ride comfort is excellent on most surfaces. Handling is benign and secure with no nasty surprises to speak of. In tight corners the Suzuki can feel a bit top heavy — because it is — but quality Continental tyres provide good grip. The steering is perhaps a touch too direct for a tall, short-

wheelbase wagon and is also imprecise in the straight-ahead position at freeway speeds. The brakes are powerful, if rather on or off in light applications. The front-wheel-drive RT-S has no off-road pretensions at all. All-wheel-drive models have switchable modes for different surfaces, a locking centre diff and hill descent control. But with only 185mm of clearance, well-made dirt roads are about as far off the bitumen as you would want to go. Inside, the Suzuki is stylish, well finished and practical. The driver sits on a firm, comfortable seat with little lateral support and faces a simple, functional dash, the highlight of which is a bright, well-organised touchscreen infotainment system that’s a snap to use and includes a camera, voice recognition, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Google Android

Auto.There’s no covered storage apart from the glovebox. The back seat is great for kids, who sit high on a flat, firm bench with easy access via wide-opening doors. Legroom is adequate for most adults. The big load area (375 litres) is accessed via a light, roof-hinged tailgate and the low floor is very easy to load. It can be extended by folding either side of the 60/40-split rear seat back. There’s a hard load cover, extra storage and a temporary spare under the floor, a 12-volt outlet and a handy bag hook. Overall quality is fine and the Vitara feels tight and solid. The only jarring note is doors that close with a tinny clang rather than a reassuring thunk. Servicing is required every six months or 10,000km, which will be inconvenient and expensive compared with the 12 months and 15,000–20,000km intervals now mandated for most cars. The Vitara breaks no new ground in small SUVs but at just $23,990, the RT-S automatic is great value for money.


THINGS WE LIKE  Great value for money  Excellent fuel economy on regular unleaded  Comfortable ride  Spacious, practical interior  Well equipped


Leisurely acceleration Can feel a bit top heavy in corners Short service intervals Vague steering at straight ahead position

SPEX (RT-S auto) Made in Hungary 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol/sixspeed automatic/front-wheel drive 86kW of power at 6000rpm/156Nm of torque at 4400rpm 0–100km/h in 12.5 seconds (claimed) 5.1L/100km highway; 7.5L/100km city; regular unleaded; CO2 emissions are 139g/km Fuel tank capacity is 47 litres Max towing weight 1200kg Standard: Stability control, seven airbags, 17-inch alloy wheels, navigation, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Google Android Auto, voice activation, camera, USB Redbook future values: 3yr: 54%; 5yr: 42%

compare with ... Honda HRV, Hyundai Tucson, Mitsubishi ASX, Nissan Qashqai, Subaru XV, Toyota C-HR




he 2.4-litre 4x4 Grand Vitara petrol models kick off with the three-door Navigator Hardtop manual, priced at $25,990. The five-door range opens with the 2.4-litre Navigator Wagon, which drives the rear wheels only via a five-speed manual and starts at $27,490, or four-speed auto at $29,490. The 4x4 five-door Sport is $30,990. The auto, as tested, is priced at $32,990. The 2.4-litre petrol engine, hooked up to the optional fourspeed auto in our test car, is surprisingly tractable and has no problem shifting the Suzuki. It has a decent midrange, but like any four-cylinder petrol motor in this class the fact that it’s powering a hefty mass does push fuel consumption towards six-cylinder levels at times. The 2.4-litre petrol auto takes 12.7 seconds to hit 100km/h, which by class standards is pretty lethargic.

STARS Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement

Suzuki’s independent suspension, tuned for good control and compliance, works well on rough surfaces, including corrugations. Steering is also pretty good, with acceptable precision and feedback. Off-road, the 4x4 model’s ladder frame chassis, full-time four-wheel drivetrain, dual-range transfer case, locking centre differential, short wheelbase and good approach/departure angles allow the Suzuki to tackle rutted terrain and also make it well suited to outback travel. No compact high-range-only SUV can match the Suzuki offroad and no other manufacturer offers similar 4x4 ability at this sort of money. If you get a flat, there’s the security and convenience of a full-sized spare wheel. The disc/drum brakes have a progressive, tactile pedal and decent power, but the ABS is

ineffective on dirt. The ride is firmer than in most larger 4WDs but absorbent and comfortable on all surfaces. With its separate steel frame chassis construction, the Grand Vitara is also more capable than most similarly sized rivals when it comes to towing. Five-door 2.4-litre Grand Vitara models will pull 1700kg (auto) to 1850kg (manual). The simple, efficient dash features permanently illuminated instruments, an easy-to-use 4WD selector switch and plenty of oddment storage. Touchscreen navigation is a standard feature across the range, as are a reversing camera, Bluetooth connectivity and voice control. The driver’s seat has adequate travel but the steering wheel is not reach-adjustable, so tall drivers might find themselves cramped for legroom. The

driver’s seat cushion is short, flat and under-padded. Easy access to the back seat is complemented by good legroom. The seat has a flat bench and a comfortably upright backrest with wrap-over head restraints. Three lap-sash belts are provided, plus restraint anchors on the back of the seat. The single-piece, side-hinged tailgate is safely held open by a hydraulic strut. It’s a clumsy arrangement compared with a roof-hinged or horizontally-split tailgate, but it does give you easy access to the spare wheel if it’s ever required. The load compartment itself isn’t large because the floor is relatively short. However, you can double fold the 60/40 split fold rear seats to create a long, completely flat load area. Although the Grand Vitara isn’t the greatest 4x4 in the world, it does offer genuine off-road ability and acceptable on-road performance at a pretty reasonable price. The surprising thing is that in a class that’s full of soft roaders, the Suzuki has no similarly capable 4x4 rivals.


THINGS WE LIKE  Genuine off-road ability  Reasonable value for a full-on 4x4  Secure handling on bitumen and dirt roads

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  It ain’t quick  Could use an extra ratio or two in the four-speed auto to improve performance and fuel efficiency  Small load area  Cabin’s not exactly five-star luxury

SPEX (2.4 auto Sport 4x4) Made in Japan 2.4-litre petrol /four-speed automatic/dual range 4x4 122kW of power at 6000rpm/225Nm of torque at 4000rpm 0–100km/h in 12.7 seconds Warranty: Three years/100,000 kilometres 8.2L/100km highway, 12.5L/100km city; 91 octane. CO2 emissions are 234g/km; fuel tank is 66 litres Standard: Six airbags, stability control, Bluetooth, voice control, 18-inch alloys, navigation, USB and rear camera. Redbook future values: 3yr: 52%; 5yr: 44%

Value for money Overall

compare with ... Jeep Cherokee and Wrangler




esla’s Model X starts at $150,189 for the 75D. The top-spec P100D, tested here, is $261,132. Model X is a big, heavy (2497kg), electric SUV with its styling signature a pair of vertically hinged rear doors — “Falcon Wing” doors in Teslaspeak. Five seats are standard; a seven-seat option is $5800. An aluminium frame holds the liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack — a 100kW/h unit in the P100D — with an electric motor at each end providing all-wheel drive via a single-speed reduction gear. Suspension is conventional double wishbone front/multilink rear, with air springs permitting an adjustable ride height, and the steering is variable ratio electric. “Enhanced Autopilot”, Tesla’s latest semi-autonomous driving system, is a $7300 option. “Full Self Driving Capability” adds another $4400. Both are a waste of money. Tesla admits that Enhanced Autopilot is still in the Beta testing phase. As for

“Full Self-Driving Capability,” Tesla’s disclaimer states that “functionality is dependent upon extensive software validation and regulatory approval, which may vary widely by jurisdiction”. In other words, it doesn’t even exist yet. So why would you buy it? Around town, especially in traffic, Autopilot’s Autosteer function is erratic, unreliable and occasionally scary. The test car would not stay in its lane or negotiate corners in a predictable, safe manner. On the highway, Autosteer activation was often blocked because the road markings, barriers and other reference points used by its cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors were insufficient or indistinct, or the road was partly in shadow. In full-power “Ludicrous” mode, the P100D is claimed to hit 100km/h from rest in an entirely believable 3.1 seconds, comparable with a Ferrari 488. Even in normal mode, acceleration is immediate and effortless. And how’s the serenity? Sublime.

Model X is a taut, agile handler that will keep a Porsche Cayenne honest, and it rides smoothly and comfortably, but there’s some body flex on bumpy roads, it’s underbraked and, off-road, a Range Rover will leave it in the dust. Tesla claims that Model X’s 100kW/h battery provides “565 kilometres of range”. In any electric vehicle, range is dependent on several factors, particularly how you drive and ambient temperature. In ideal autumn weather I never got close to 565km. On several highway drives, the test car’s maximum achievable range was nearer to 350km, and a recharge took 40-50 minutes at one of Tesla’s supercharger stations. On a 10amp household power point, it took 48 hours. “Zero Emissions. Zero Compromises” motoring is the Model X deal, according to Tesla. The zero emissions claim only flies if you recharge from renewable sources. The Green Vehicle Guide lists the Model X P100D’s “fuel lifecycle” CO²

emissions as 212 grams per kilometre — almost three times the tailpipe emissions generated by BMW’s X5 40e petrol/electric hybrid — if the electricity it uses is generated by burning fossil fuels. “Model X is the SUV uncompromised,” proclaims Tesla. On the evidence of the test car’s misaligned panels, wide panel gaps, poorly fitted seals and trim, and general lack of attention to detail in fit and finish — which I haven’t seen since the bad old days of local manufacturing in the 1980s — I would argue that the Model X is seriously compromised. In fact, by current standards, it’s not even production-ready. It drives beautifully, but too much of Model X’s reality does not correlate with Tesla’s spin.


THINGS WE LIKE  Truly amazing performance  One of the best ride/handling compromises in large SUVs  Spacious and comfortable  Incredibly quiet  Zero emissions motoring if you recharged from renewable sources

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  Substandard build quality  Excessive body flex  Limited recharging capability outside capital cities  Self-driving technology doesn’t work  Touchscreen is distracting and inefficient  Overpriced  Weak brakes



STARS Safety Not yet tested Performance Handling Quality and reliability

Made in the USA Twin synchronous AC electric motors/100kW/h lithium-ion battery pack/single-speed automatic/all-wheel drive 397kW of power/967Nm of torque 0-100km/h in 3.1 seconds (claimed) 226Wh/km; fuel lifecycle CO² emissions are 212g/km Warranty: Four years/80,000km Max. towing weight 2250kg Standard: Eight airbags, stability control, blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning and mitigation, lane departure warning, tyre pressure monitoring, front and rear cameras, 20-inch alloy wheels, air suspension, LED headlights, Bluetooth, navigation, voice control, touchscreen infotainment, dual-zone air, heated front seats, power tailgate Redbook future values: 3yr: 54%; 5yr: 41%

Comfort and refinement Value for money

compare with ...


BMW X5 40e, Mercedes GLE 500e, Range Rover SDV6





oyota’s double-cab 4x4 HiLux pickup range opens with the 110kW/400Nm 2.4-litre turbodiesel/six-speed manual Workmate at $43,990, or $45,990 with a six-speed automatic, as tested here. SR grade, with the 130kW/450Nm 2.8-litre turbodiesel, is $46,490/$48,490 and SR5 is $54,390/$56,390. A 4.0-litre petrol V6 with 175kW/376Nm is $48,490 in SR specification and $56,390 as SR5, both with the auto as standard. In top SR5 specification, eighth-generation HiLux is thousands of dollars cheaper than its Ford Ranger and the VW Amarok equivalents, but also much pricier than the Mitsubishi Triton and Holden Colorado, both of which are regularly offered at deep drive-away discounts. While Toyota typically doesn’t over-deliver on value or technology, this HiLux has the same “can’t kill it with an axe” character that has made the

badge so bankable in the bush, as a work truck and at trade-in time. The 2.4-litre engine is a lazy, smooth, economical slugger that does its best work at low revs, with minimal turbo lag. By class standards, though, it’s short on midrange muscle. Workmate also lacks the locking rear differential standard on SR models. Eco and Power drivetrain modes are provided but I couldn’t tell the difference, and 4WD is selected electronically. An exceptionally robust frame and heavy-duty suspension tuned in Australia are designed to work best with a load. Unladen, the HiLux fidgets and shakes on a rough road, stretching grip at the rear end, which can still get lumpy and jumpy at times — a long-term HiLux trait. The ride is pretty rugged, too. Workmate 2.4 manual claims a 3200kg maximum towing capacity and 955kg payload; auto is 3000kg. SR 2.8 is rated at 3500kg (manual), 3200kg (auto) and 925kg.

Hydraulic steering and disc/ drum brakes are old tech but OK in this context. Seventeeninch steel wheels on Workmate are shod with 265/65 Dunlop Grandtreks. Trailer sway control and a hill holder are standard. Higher clearance, greater wheel articulation and improved approach and departure angles further improve HiLux’s ability off road, as do bashplates that are more solid than the usual alfoil numbers on one-tonners. There’s plenty of space in the engine bay for a second battery. The tank is only 80 litres but the 2.4 is pretty fuel-efficient so a decent range is possible. Workmate’s cabin, though industrial grade, is roomy enough for three blokes across the back seat. The back seat also has reasonable legroom and you get niceties such as reach-adjustable steering, Bluetooth with voice, seven airbags, a reversing camera, seat belt indicator lights for all seats, Isofix child-restraint anchors and headlight levelling.

The driver’s seat is supportive and comfortable, albeit with no height adjustment on Workmate. The dash is neat, clean and almost completely devoid of buttons. The touchscreen, which controls nearly everything, is bright, close to hand and a snap to use. Heaps of storage includes two gloveboxes, big bottle holders in the doors and a big centre console box. People are happy to pay over the odds for a HiLux because it delivers the Toyota gold trifecta: quality, reliability and durability. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that some of its competitors don’t. Still, Workmate 2.4 is a bit underdone and overpriced compared with its rivals. The extra $2500 on SR 2.8 is money well spent.


THINGS WE LIKE  Efficient, frugal, refined engines  Punchy, responsive 2.8 turbodiesel  Off-road, towing and payload capable straight out of the box  Toyota quality, reliability and durability  Family-friendly safety credentials  Strong resale values

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  Workmate is overpriced  Short service intervals  Fidgety ride and skittish handling on rough roads when unladen  No driver’s seat height adjustment in Workmate

SPEX (2.4 Workmate auto) G G



Safety Performance Handling G

Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall


Made in Thailand 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel/ six-speed automatic/part-time dual-range 4WD 110kW of power at 3400rpm/400Nm of torque from 1600–2000rpm 0–100km/h N/A 7.0L/100km highway; 10.6L/100km city; CO2 emissions are 219g/km Weight is 1775–2080kg Max towing weight is 3000kg Standard: Stability control, seven airbags, trailer sway control, Bluetooth, voice, USB port, 17-inch steel wheels, rear camera, vinyl flooring SR adds locking rear diff, carpets, chilled/heated storage box, seven-inch touchscreen. SR5 adds 18-inch alloys, navigation. SR5+ adds leather and power-adjustable driver’s seat Redbook future values: 3yr: 62%; 5yr: 53%

compare with ... Ford Ranger, Holden Colorado, Isuzu D-Max, Mitsubishi Triton, VW Amarok



hink of Toyota’s Fortuner as a seven-seater HiLux wagon and you’re on the money. All models run the 130kW 2.8-litre turbodiesel used in SR HiLux models, matched to sixspeed manual and automatic transmissions and a part-time, dual-range 4x4 drivetrain with a standard locking rear diff. So it’s a serious bushcapable Toyota 4x4 straight out of the box, just like the Prado and LandCruiser. Price and size-wise, Fortuner goes up against Mitsubishi’s Pajero Sport, the Holden Trailblazer, Isuzu MU-X and Ford Everest. Pricing is aggressive, kicking off at $47,990 for GX specification. GXL is $52,990 and Crusade is $59,990. The auto adds $2000. Although it sits on a HiLux chassis, Fortuner gets coil

STARS Safety ANCAP Performance Handling Quality and reliability


springs instead of leaf springs at the rear, and rear disc brakes replace the HiLux’s drums. The Fortuner will pull up to 3000kg (manual) or 2800kg (automatic), an improvement on the Prado’s 2500kg maximum. Prado’s 150-litre tanks, though, will give you nearly double the range of the Fortuner’s single 80-litre tank. Toyota’s 2.8-litre turbodiesel’s power and torque numbers are not quite as high as the Everest or Trailblazer engines, but the Toyota unit is responsive at the pedal, with solid performance and minimal turbo lag at low revs. It’s acceptably smooth, pulls the higher gears easily enough and returns close to single-figure fuel economy in town. The six-speed automatic can lunge and lurch into the lower gears occasionally and there’s a

bit of low-speed drivetrain snatch evident as well. The Prado’s full-time 4x4 drivetrain, with the same engine/transmission up front, is smoother and more refined. Handling is markedly superior to HiLux and Prado, thanks to heavy-duty dampers which deliver better control over body movement and less bouncing and pitching on rough roads. The hydraulic steering is sharp for a 4x4 but completely devoid of feel, and the ride, though pretty firm, is well-controlled. The brakes, while reasonably powerful, are slightly wooden and difficult to modulate in traffic. You face a simple dash with lit instruments and a huge central touchscreen that’s very easy to use and includes a camera. The driver’s seat, though well bolstered, is saggy in the cushion and has only basic adjustments. In

typical Toyota style there’s heaps of handy storage up front.Middlerow passengers sit high on a firm, comfortable 60/40-split bench with an adjustable backrest, great vision and plenty of legroom. Notably absent are important 21st century safety features such as automatic emergency braking and blind spot monitoring. Both sides of the seat tumble forward easily for clear access to the two back stalls, which fold down from each side of the cargo bay and are OK for short trips with young kids. There’s ample load space, with the bonus of a low floor and a roof-hinged tailgate that’s 100 per cent easier and safer to use than the Prado’s silly sidehinged rear door. Fortuner is a fair dinkum Toyota 4x4 wagon at a greatvalue price. If you’ve always fancied a LandCruiser but thought it too big and/or too expensive, the Fortuner will do just fine instead.


THINGS WE LIKE  Great value and strong resales  Genuine 4x4 capability  Toyota quality and reliability  Smooth, economical turbodiesel  Tidy handling  Spacious, versatile and safe

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Auto’s not the smoothest in traffic Neither is the drivetrain Slightly on or off brakes Remote-control steering

SPEX (Crusade) Made in Thailand 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel/ six-speed automatic/part-time, dual-range 4x4 130kW of power at 3400rpm/450Nm of torque from 1600–2400rpm 0–100km/h N/A 7.3L/100km highway; 11.0L/100km city; CO2 emissions are 228g/km Warranty: Three years/100,000km Max towing weight: 2800kg Standard: Seven airbags, stability control, rear diff lock, trailer sway control, Bluetooth, voice activation, three 12V outlets, 17-inch steel wheels. GXL adds 17-inch alloys, rear parking sensors, roof rails, auto paddle shifter. Crusade adds 18-inch alloys, leather, navigation, digital radio, power tailgate, 220volt accessory socket Redbook future values: 3yr: 58%; 5yr: 44%

Comfort and refinement Value for money

compare with ...


Ford Everest, Holden Trailblazer, Isuzu MU-X, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport



If you want to go bush on family holidays, tow a mid-size caravan, or take off around Australia, Toyota’s Prado will do the job. It has outstanding off-road ability, is spacious and bulletproof, but it’s now fairly pricey compared with the Fortuner and Mitsubishi’s great value Pajero Sport. HOW MUCH? LandCruiser Prado wagons with the 4.0-litre V6 petrol engine/sixspeed auto start with the GXL at $62,210. The VX auto is $74,170 and the Kakadu auto is $84,880. The 2.8-litre turbodiesel wagons include the GX six-speed manual at $54,050, GXL manual at $61,190, the VX auto at $75,190 and the Kakadu auto at $85,900. The six-speed auto is a $2040 option on GX and GXL. Two extra rear seats add $2500 to the price of the GX.


STARS Safety ANCAP Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall


The Prado is made in Japan. The GX wagon is a five-seater model. Other wagons are seven-seaters. The 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel produces 130kW at 3400rpm. Peak torque is 420Nm from 1400–2600rpm with the manual and 450Nm from 16002400rpm with the automatic. The 4.0-litre petrol V6 produces 207kW at 5600rpm. Torque is 381Nm at 4400rpm. Six-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions drive all four wheels in high or low range with a lockable Torsen centre differential. A lockable rear differential is standard on Kakadu and ZR grandes. CRAWL (from the 200 Series) is standard on Kakadu. It’s a feetoff low-range cruise-control system that uses the electronic throttle and the stability control to “walk” the Prado across rough, rocky terrain — a 21stcentury interpretation of the old hand throttle.

Kakadu also gets MTS — Multi Terrain Select — an idea that Toyota has pinched from Land Rover. It also uses the stability control system to vary the slip/grip mix to suit different conditions: Mud and Sand, Loose Rock, Mogul and Rock. Each specific control map is selected using a switch on the steering wheel.

Kakadu and VX also include four cameras: front, one on each side, and rear, to help with parking, seeing the track ahead on a steep crest and working out your position and clearance in tight, rough conditions. Kakadu has PCS — Pre-Crash Safety — as standard. It uses radar and the stability control system to monitor the vehicle


FROM $54,050



and, if it detects the possibility of an imminent collision (very heavy braking, for example, or extreme steering angles), it quickly tightens the front seatbelts and automatically applies the brakes with maximum force, whether you are already braking or not. Suspension is double-wishbone front/five-link live-axle rear, with longer travel and revised spring and damper rates. VX and Kakadu also have KDSS — Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System — inherited from the 200 Series, which uses hydraulic pressure to automatically increase stabiliser bar resistance when cornering at high speeds, thus minimising body roll while effectively decoupling the hydraulics in low-speed off-road conditions for maximum wheel articulation. Brakes include four-piston front calipers. Steering is rack-and-pinion. Total fuel capacity on the fivedoor is 150 litres. When the 87-litre main tank is low, fuel supply is automatically switched to the 63-litre sub tank. The Prado weighs in at 2290–2435kg. It will tow up to 2500kg. Toyota offers fixed-price servicing on the Prado, at $220 a time, on petrol and turbodiesel models for the first six services up to 60,000 kilometres. That’s a great deal because servicing costs on big 4WDs can be exorbitant.

superior performance is certainly noticeable, acceleration is still pretty leisurely. Many people tow with the Prado and the old 3.0-litre engine’s strong bottom-end performance and ability to slug it out at low revs in the higher gears earned it plenty of friends. It’s a similar story with the 2.8 engine. It produces 40Nm more torque with the automatic transmission; the extra ratio adds to its flexibility, performance and fuel efficiency. Initial acceleration is noticeably stronger, with a lower first gear and less turbo lag. The automatic goes quickly to top gear and locks up the torque convertor, but the 2.8 has the legs to pull from just 1500rpm or so in sixth without protest. It’s also noticeably smoother and quieter, with a countershaft added to the Prado version to reduce vibration. The 4.0-litre petrol engine has plenty of bottom-end grunt too, is more energetic and as long as you’re not timid with your use of the accelerator, it gets along well.


The 2.8-litre turbodiesel manual GXL averages 7.1L/100km on the highway, 9.3L/100km in town and produces 208g/km of CO2. The auto GXL averages 7.0L/100km, 9.7L/100km and 211g/km. The 4.0-litre petrol auto GXL averages 9.4L/100km, 15.5L/100km and 266g/ km. 95 octane premium is recommended.

HOW DOES IT GO? As in the HiLux and Fortuner, the new 2.8-litre turbodiesel from Toyota brings improvements to the Prado’s performance in every respect. The Prado is a bigger, heavier vehicle, though, so while the 2.8’s

DOES IT HANDLE, STEER AND STOP? The Kakadu’s adjustable suspension and the KDSS antiroll system exercise effective control over body movement and at highway speeds on rough

roads the top-spec Prado is a tidy, composed drive. The ride is also compliant and comfortable on all surfaces, albeit with some lumpiness when the suspension is adjusted to its firm settings. However, it’s a different story on the base GX and GXL, which are too softly suspended, roll excessively into corners and at times can feel very precarious. The ride is also somewhat floaty and poorly controlled. Even without the fancy electronics, features such as serious low-range gearing, the locking rear differential and plenty of clearance allow you to safely negotiate terrain that would defeat most 4WDs. And it’s a Toyota, so chances are nothing will break.

seat, so you end up with a big step in the floor.


THE INSIDE STORY Tall drivers will use all the seat travel provided. VX and Kakadu get a very comfortable, supportive, well-bolstered driver’s seat; base models get a flatter, relatively unsupportive pew. Row two is adjustable through 130mm of travel. It has a flat cushion, adjustable backrest and plenty of legroom. Access to row three is fine. The seats themselves fold easily up from the load floor at the push of a button in VX and Kakadu. They’re suitable for nippers only, who sit knees-up, but row two can be moved forward so they’re not too cramped.

IN THE BOOT The tailgate is still a sidehinged one-piece design, which is cumbersome and can be inconvenient in tight spaces. The load floor can be extended to 1.85 metres but on GXL spec it’s not flat because the row-two slide function prevents a tumblefold feature for each side of the

GX specification includes seven airbags, stability control, active front seat head restraints, trailer sway control, 240-volt rear accessory socket, rear camera, Bluetooth, USB input and 17inch alloys. GXL also includes a seven-inch colour touchscreen, navigation, two rear seats, three-zone air and parking sensors, alarm and roof rails. Prado VX adds KDSS suspension, leather, 18-inch alloys, rainsensing wipers, HID projector headlights, power-folding rowthree seats and tinted glass. Kakadu also has CRAWL, four external cameras, radar cruise, rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, rear differential lock, adjustable suspension, MTS off-road programming, rear-seat entertainment and a refrigerated centre console box. Warranty: Three years/ 100,000km. Redbook future values (GXL 2.8 turbodiesel automatic): 3yr: 61%; 5yr: 50%


THINGS WE LIKE  Toyota quality, reliability and durability  Spacious and comfortable  A true off-roader and a good choice for the adventurous family  Outstanding resale values

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  GX and GXL don’t handle well  Kakadu and VX are overpriced  Unsupportive driver’s seat in GX and GXL  Extended load floor not flat in GXL, VX and Kakadu

compare with ... Land Rover Discovery, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport




oyota RAV4 prices start at $28,550 for the base 102kW 2.0-litre petrol/six-speed manual front-wheel-drive GX. A CVT transmission, as used in the Corolla, adds $2040. GXL with CVT is $35,390. The all-wheel-drive GX, with the Camry’s 132kW 2.5-litre petrol four/six-speed automatic, is $33,650. The AWD GXL is $38,450 and the Cruiser is $45,400. A 110kW 2.2-litre turbodiesel, standard with a six-speed manual, is priced at $36,710 for GX, $38,750 for GX auto, $43,550 for GXL auto and $50,500 for Cruiser auto. The RAV4 is one of the biggest wagons in the class and easily able to accommodate four. The 2.2-litre turbodiesel is a long-stroke engine with plenty of low-down and midrange pulling power. There’s Eco and Sport modes for the drivetrain. To be honest, I could hardly pick the

STARS Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide (2.5 auto) Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement

difference between them. The 2.5-litre petrol engine is a decent performer and a happy match with the auto. Toyota has given it a snappy launch feel so it gets away smartly from the lights and works well around town. The 2.0-litre engine in the front-wheel-drive models will struggle with a full load and/or on hills. Take the CVT option to make the most of it. Maximum towing weight for the diesel is just 1200kg; the petrol model can pull 1500kg. Toyota Australia says it’s a conservative limit due to our hot weather conditions, but most diesel rivals will tow 1500–2000kg. The RAV rolls into corners but overall it’s reasonably balanced. Electric steering is heavy at parking speeds, reasonably precise and tactile on the move. Again, Sport mode doesn’t seem

to do much. Ride comfort is excellent on all surfaces. Hill descent control, switchable traction control and a locking centre diff provide a modicum of off-road ability. A safety pack is standard on Cruiser and a $2500 option on GXL. It includes radar cruise, automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, blindspot detection, lane-departure warning and lane keeping and rear cross-traffic alert. On GX it’s $3800, but you miss out on blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. The dash features an ugly protruding edge which creates a void underneath and the arrangement of vents, buttons and switches seems haphazard and illogical. The 6.1-inch touchscreen is easy enough to operate but the USB connection is exposed. The Cruiser’s sports driver’s

S seat is comfortable and supportive, though the cushion bolsters are a tad squeezy. Backseat legroom is vast but the seat itself is quite narrow. However, it’s well shaped for two child restraints and the backrest angle is adjustable. The middle seatbelt is located in the roof. The boot is accessed via a light, roof-hinged tailgate. The low floor is easy to load and extends out to a fully flat 1.8 metres. A net, load cover and bag hooks are provided but no 12-volt outlet. RAV4 is a spacious, bulletproof family SUV, with low running costs an added attraction, but as a drive it’s unremarkable and there’s better value elsewhere too. Subaru’s Forester, which is comparably sized to RAV4, and VW’s Tiguan are superior on the road and offer better value, as do Mazda’s CX-5 and Ford’s Escape, though these are half a size smaller than the Toyota. Honda’s CRV is also worth a test drive before you make a final decision.


THINGS WE LIKE  Toyota quality, reliability and durability  Vast interior space  Now available with top-shelf safety kit  Torquey turbodiesel  Comfortable ride/handling compromise

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Dash is ugly and inefficient Pricey Some diesel noise and vibration Mazda CX-5 and Subaru Forester offer better value

SPEX (Cruiser 2.5) Made in Japan 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol/sixspeed auto/all-wheel drive 132kW of power at 6000rpm/233Nm of torque at 4100rpm 0–100km/h N/A 6.8L/100km highway; 11.4L/100km city; CO2 emissions are 198g/km Warranty: Three years/100,000km Standard: Seven airbags, stability control, 18-inch alloy wheels, camera, rain-sensing wipers, Bluetooth, dual-zone air, power tailgate, sunroof, lane departure warning, blind spot monitor, automatic emergency braking, radar cruise, lane keeping and departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert Redbook future values: 3yr: 57%; 5yr: 41%

Value for money

compare with ...


Ford Escape, Honda CRV, Mazda CX-5, Subaru Forester, VW Tiguan




he Toyota Kluger dominates its sevenseater SUV segment with a combination of pricing, packaging, performance, ease of operation and long-term peace of mind. It isn’t difficult to imagine the 2017 Series II version continuing to do so. It’s more of the same. Priced from $43,550, the entry GX, which accounts for the lion’s share of sales, includes seven airbags, stability and traction control with hill-start assist, a reverse camera, rear parking sensors, a central touchscreen featuring Bluetooth-activated connected mobility known as Toyota Link, cruise control, phone and audio streaming, front fog lights, privacy glass, and 18inch alloy wheels. Stepping up to the $53,550 GXL nets you niceties such as a larger central screen, satellite navigation, digital radio, a powered tailgate with separate flip-up glass, three-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, a powered driver’s seat, heated front seats, leather upholstery, and roof rails.

STARS Safety Not yet rated Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall

The $65,935 Grande, meanwhile, earns its flagship status with Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), Lane Departure and Blind Spot warnings, adaptive cruise control, a bird’s-eye-view monitor to help manoeuvrability, front parking sensors, auto high beam (that senses traffic ahead before dipping down so as not to dazzle other drivers), sunroof, ventilated front seats, driver’s seat memory settings, heated exterior mirrors with puddle lights, secondrow window blinds, a rear entertainment screen, Blu-ray player and 19-inch alloys. As we went to press, Kluger Series II had not been crash tested or rated by ANCAP, but its predecessor scored five stars. Few other SUVs offer an interior as functional as the Kluger’s, and not just because of its sheer spaciousness, excellent driving position, clear instrument dials, logical switchgear, superb ventilation, and seemingly endless storage. All seats are easy to access, vision out is largely unimpeded, rear-most occupants

have ceiling-mounted ventilation, and the dash has a shelf for electronics to sit securely on while being charged. Thoughtful. Another strength is the creamy, quiet powertrain, adding to the cabin’s refinement. Behind that brutish bonnet is a 218kW/350Nm 3.5-litre direct-injection V6, sending power to either the front, or all four, wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. The all-wheel drivetrain adds $4000 to GX and GXL, while in Grande it’s an extra $3971. Responsive yet pleasingly civilised, the Toyota steps off the line fairly smartly for a twotonne-plus SUV, providing more than ample performance across most driving situations. It also boasts a satisfyingly muscular exhaust note doing so. Yet, despite its significant girth and heft, the Kluger feels comparatively light and agile for its size, zipping in and around tight spaces with remarkable deftness and control. Toyota says it spent two years tuning the handling and ride

for Australian conditions, and it shows. However, keener drivers might desire a bit more steering feedback, while everybody else might notice the suspension’s propensity to feel a bit busy and unsettled over all but the smoothest surfaces. More compliance would be welcome. Still, being based on Toyota’s North American-market Avalon sedan, the Kluger is car-like in its overall characteristics. Perhaps this model’s biggest disappointment is the lack of standard AEB when key rivals like the Mazda CX-9 include it, while the Australian arm’s decision not to take the consumption and emissions-reducing stop/start system offered elsewhere doesn’t fully exploit the economy potential. See past these failings and it is easy to see why this generation Kluger has been such a crowd pleaser.


By Byron Mathioudakis

THINGS WE LIKE  Spacious, versatile interior  Easy seat access  Sweet, punchy V6 performance  Toyota’s renowned reliability  Refined and comfortable

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE V6 petrol engine’s comparative thirst Jittery ride Foot-operated park brake Short warranty No AEB except on top model

SPEX (GX Front-wheel drive) Made in the USA 3.5-litre V6 petrol/eight-speed automatic/front-wheel drive 218kW of power at 6600rpm/350Nm of torque at 4700rpm 0–100km in 8.1 seconds (claimed) 7.2L/100km highway; 12.4L/100km city; 95 octane; CO2 emissions are 212g/km Warranty: Three years/100,000km The fuel tank holds 72 litres. Maximum towing capacity is 2000kg Seven airbags, stability control, Hill Start Assist, camera, rear parking sensors, touchscreen, Bluetooth, Toyota Link, auto on/off lights, cargo tonneau cover, AUX/USB port, front fog lights, LED daytime running lights, tinted glass, 18-inch alloys and a full-sized spare wheel Redbook future values: 3yr: 59%; 5yr: 46%

compare with ... Ford Everest, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Skoda Kodiaq



Toyota’s 70 Series single cab chassis went five-star ANCAP in mid-2016 thanks to a stronger chassis, five airbags, new seats and other improvements, but they came with big price hikes and are not included on double cab chassis, wagon or Troopcarrier. HOW MUCH? The base LC79 cab-chassis Workmate costs $62,490, the GX is $64,490 and the GXL is $66,490. The double-cab-chassis Workmate is $64,990; GXL is $68,990. The four-door, fiveseater Workmate LC76 wagon is $60,990 and the GXL, tested here, is $64,990. The three-door

Workmate LC78 Troop Carrier wagon is $64,890 and the fiveseater GXL is $67,990.


STARS Safety ANCAP (single cab chassis only; other models untested) Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall 


The 70 Series is made in Japan. Wheelbases are 2730mm (wagon), 2980mm (Troopy) and 3180mm (cab-chassis). Occupational health and safety policies now dictate the purchase of five-star ANCAP-rated vehicles by many government and industry users, so in mid2016 Toyota upgraded the 79 Series single cab chassis model to five-star ANCAP standard, with a stronger ladder frame, thicker body panels, curtain and driver’s knee airbags, additional under-dash padding, new seats, a taller bonnet to reduce the potential for head injury to errant pedestrians and a relocated steering link. Double cab-chassis, troop carrier and five-door wagon

variants don’t get these updates (apart from the bonnet) and have not been tested or rated by ANCAP. Their airbag count remains at two. All models gained

stability and traction control, front seatbelt pre-tensioners, electronic brake force distribution and cruise control. The 4.5-litre, 32-valve 1VD-FTE V8 turbodiesel produces 151kW

FROM $62,490 



of power at 3400rpm and 430Nm of torque from 1200–3200rpm. Efficient piezoelectric fuel injectors, a diesel particulate filter (with a manual regeneration function) and taller second and fifth gears on the 2016 update make the V8 compliant with Euro 5 emissions regulations. The drivetrain comprises a five-speed manual gearbox, two-speed transfer case and part-time 4WD system with rear limited-slip differential and the 200 Series’ active traction control system. Front and rear diff locks are standard on GXL grade. Suspension is rigid live axle with front coils and rear leafsprings. Steering is recirculating ball and nut. Disc brakes are fitted all round. Weight is 2010–2335kg. Fuel tank capacity is 180 litres (90 main/90 sub), or 130 litres only on wagon. The 70 will tow up to 3500kg. Toyota fixed-price servicing costs $2040 over three years, for the first six services up to 60,000 kilometres.

HOW DOES IT GO? Hilux and Prado’s 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel now generates more torque than the Cruiser’s V8 (450Nm vs 430Nm) but the beautifully smooth, delightfully growly eight banger delivers it all in a leisurely surge from just 1200rpm, which corresponds to 60km/h in fifth gear. On the open road, you can just leave it there. At 100km/h, it’s pulling 2000rpm; that’s 200rpm fewer than previously, so single figure fuel numbers are doable (just) and you’ll go a long way on the 130-litre tank. It’s still a thirsty beast, though. The five-speed manual has a slow, long-throw action. The engine would easily pull a tall overdrive sixth gear and you would also get much better fuel economy on the highway. The six-speed auto used in the 200 Series Cruiser would presumably be a near bolt-on fit here, so why it’s not offered as an option is a mystery. The stubby 4WD lever usually works smoothly; other times it doesn’t want to know. In low

first, you can tackle the steepest descents with confidence. You can tow 3500kg, and carry the maximum payload of 795kg, while still complying with the maximum gross combined mass (GCM) of 6560kg.


The GXL wagon averages 9.4L/100km on the highway and 12.9L/100km in the city. CO2 emissions are 281g/km.

DOES IT HANDLE, STEER AND STOP? A tall, skinny 2.26 tonne box, sitting on rigid axles at both ends, with leaf springs at the rear, recirculating ball steering and all-terrain 265/70 Dunlop Grandtrek tyres demands caution. You don’t so much steer as point it and hope, and even with stability control now fitted you won’t be forgiven if you carry excessive speed into a tight corner. The Toyota will just fall over. The body wobbles around a bit on rough roads, but roadholding and ride comfort are surprisingly good. It’s noisy in the cabin at highway speeds, mainly due to wind turbulence generated by the snorkel on the driver’s side.

THE INSIDE STORY The cabin is a time warp, loaded with quaint, retro stuff from a world long gone, such as sliding ventilation controls, a cigarette lighter, multiple ashtrays, manually-adjustable side mirrors, plunger door locks and a flat, upright windscreen with thin pillars on either side. Air-conditioning is a $2761 option. Seriously.

Headroom is sufficient to accommodate those huge hats they wear in outback Queensland, but tall cowboys suffer because the seat, though generously padded, has limited travel and backrest adjustment, so you have to sit close to the steering wheel, just like the bad old days; getting in and out of the Cruiser is also a challenge because serious climbing is involved and the front door openings are tight. There’s reasonable legroom in the wagon’s rear seat, a flat, firm bench, with, would you believe, a lap-only belt in the centre position.

101cm compared with 139cm by our tape measure.


IN THE BOOT With one metre from floor to ceiling, you can get a year’s worth of gear for an around-Oz adventure into the 70 Series Troopy and wagon. If you spec both with five seats, the wagon’s load floor is much shorter than the Troopy’s:

Workmate gets stability control, two airbags (five in single cab chassis), cruise control, CD player with USB port, auxiliary jack, Bluetooth with voice recognition and audio streaming, plastic upholstery and trim, snorkel, 16-inch steel wheels and a driver’s bucket/ front bench seat. GXL specification adds diff locks, bucket seats, cloth trim, carpet, keyless locking, power windows and front fog lamps. GXL models, except the Troopy, also have 16-inch alloy wheels with 265/70 tyres. GXL Troop Carrier also has fiveperson seating capacity. Warranty: Three years/ 100,000km. Redbook future values (GXL wagon): 3yr: 64%; 5yr: 55%.


THINGS WE LIKE  Built like a brick dunny  Will go absolutely anywhere  High resale values  Gentle, tractable performance  Fun to drive. Slowly

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  Thirsty  Could use a 6th gear and an automatic transmission option  Bare-bones equipment list  Two airbags only on most models  Expensive  Vague steering and dislikes corners

compare with ... Mercedes G Class



Toyota’s 200 Series LandCruiser is still the ultimate machine for exploring the wide brown land, especially if it involves a big caravan in tow. Prices are high, but so are resale values. If you prefer petrol to diesel, though, Nissan’s Patrol is better value and offers much stronger performance. HOW MUCH? The LandCruiser 200 Series base 4.6-litre V8 petrol GXL eightseater costs $83,360, the eightseater VX is $94,070 and the eight-seater Sahara is $115,490. The 4.5-litre twin-turbodiesel V8 five-seater GX is $77,750, eightseater GXL is $88,460, sevenseater VX is $99,170 and sevenseater Sahara is $120,590.



The 200 Series LandCruiser is made in Japan. 

STARS Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide

Performance Handling Off road: Quality and reliability 

Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall 


The 4.5-litre direct-injection twin turbodiesel engine produces 200kW of power at 3400rpm and 650Nm of torque from 1600–2600rpm. A six-speed auto is standard. The 4.6-litre petrol V8 produces 227kW at 5500rpm. Torque is 439Nm at 3500. A six-speed automatic is also standard. High and low range are selected electronically via a switch on the dash. A Torsen centre differential varies the front/rear torque split depending on grip. Front suspension is doublewishbone/coil spring; rear suspension is live-axle/ coil spring. Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), fitted to all models bar the turbodiesel GX and GXL, uses linked hydraulic cylinders on both stabiliser bars to counteract body roll when cornering. All models have CRAWL control, an electronic engine/traction control system which allows low-speed, feet-off traversing of very rough terrain. Steering is hydraulic and brakes are discs with ABS.


All models have a 45-litre auxiliary and 93-litre main tank. 285/65-17 Dunlop Grandtrek tyres are fitted to GX and GXL; VX and Sahara get 18-inch alloys with 285/60 tyres. Ground clearance is 225mm. Kerb weight is 2555–2720kg. GVM is 3300kg. GCM is 6800kg and maximum towing capacity is 3500kg for all variants. Toyota fixed-price servicing costs $280 a time for the first six services up to 60,000 kilometres.

HOW DOES IT GO? When I needed a 4WD for a long, demanding outback trip (three weeks, five states, six deserts and nearly 9000 kilometres with a 1.2-tonne camper trailer), the GX looked like just the tool for the job. And in most respects, that’s exactly what it proved to be. The 4.5-litre twin turbodiesel/ six-speed automatic drivetrain is rated to pull up to 3500kg, so whether overtaking a road train at 120km/h on the Stuart Highway or negotiating the twists, turns and


FROM $77,750

seater models, which is a 50/50 split secured against the side of the load area. It’s one of the better back stalls — hardly luxurious, but much more spacious than most.

IN THE BOOT In five-seater mode you get a huge load space. Tumble-fold row two (which still then has to be secured with straps and hooks) and you have enough capacity to swallow enough gear for an extended odyssey. The two back seats in the eightseater take up a lot of space. The full-size spare is mounted externally under the rear. sand dunes on the Sandy Blight Junction Track in WA’s Gibson Desert, the big LandCruiser did everything asked of it smoothly, efficiently and with ridiculous ease. It has a few foibles, though. The auto’s shift programming won’t give you sixth until you’re doing 110km/h, even if you try to trick it by using manual mode. So fuel consumption on the open road is higher than it could be. Still, 15–16 litres per 100 kilometres is acceptable given the load and speeds involved. There’s no such thing as a frugal V8, especially a V8 with 650Nm of grunt. Some owners have experienced oil consumption problems with this engine. I’ve tested half a dozen examples and this is the first which has used oil: less than one litre, though, which is perfectly normal in any engine over such a long distance. The dipstick level indicator is particularly sensitive to the angle at which the ‘Cruiser sits. The 4.6-litre petrol V8 is a lovely, smooth and responsive engine but its fuel numbers are simply awful. Still, the extra $5000 for the equivalent turbodiesel model will buy you a whole lot of regular unleaded.


The 4.5 twin-turbodiesel averages 8.5L/100km on the highway, 11.2L/100km in town and produces 250g/km of CO2. 91 octane is recommended for the 4.6-litre V8 petrol engine. It averages 10.7L/100km highway, 18.0L/100km city and 309g/km of CO2.

DOES IT HANDLE, STEER AND STOP? The GX uses the same running gear as the GXL turbodiesel. The KDSS anti-roll system, standard on other models, is $1290 on GXL diesel but unavailable on GX, so in tight corners the GX’s dynamics are pretty ordinary, with prodigous body roll and understeer. The softly sprung, underdamped rear suspension can bounce excessively. On potholed or corrugated roads the back end gets nervous to the extent that it frequently kicks sideways, making the vehicle quite unstable — at times scarily so. The payoff for a supple suspension tune is a supremely comfortable ride on any surface. Toyota claims the ABS brakes have adaptive mapping for different surfaces. It’s ineffective on sand and corrugations, where the wheels are released too early and for too long between bites. On bitumen, stopping power is adequate.

THE INSIDE STORY While the GX cabin is spartan, it is also quiet and comfortable. At least you get a supportive, properly contoured and bolstered driver’s seat with power lumbar adjustment and manual cushion tilt, plus a height/reachadjustable steering wheel. The GX also includes a huge centre console storage box, efficient air-conditioning, the most legible, user-friendly instrument and control layout in the business (partly because there aren’t very many controls to worry about …) and Toyota’s usual squeak-, sizzle- and rattlefree interior fit and finish. The top-spec Sahara cabin is wrapped in leather and includes a nine-inch infotainment screen, radar cruise, automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning. Row two is a big, broad, comfortable seat split 60/40 with plenty of leg room. Both sides tumble forward without effort for access to row three in eight-


The 200 Series Cruiser GX includes stability control, seven airbags, USB port, Bluetooth, 17-inch steel wheels, a snorkel and manual air. GXL has navigation, touchscreen audio, 17-inch alloy wheels, dual zone air, tinted rear glass, alarm and a rear camera. VX specification adds 18-inch wheels, auto levelling HID lights, rear-seat side airbags, remote power windows and sunroof, leather, front and rear parking sensors. Sahara has pre-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, radar cruise, lane departure warning, blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, digital radio, rear-seat DVD, four-zone airconditioning, surround cameras, cool box, heated second-row seats and a power tailgate. Warranty: Three years / 100,000km. Redbook future values (GXL 4.5DT): 3yr: 63%; 5yr: 53%.


THINGS WE LIKE  The turbodiesel’s effortless grunt  High resale values  Very comfortable, quiet cabin  Extreme off-road ability  Toyota quality, reliability and durability

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  Six month service intervals  GX and GXL handle and steer like the Titanic

compare with ... Ford Everest, Land Rover Discovery, Mercedes G Class, Nissan Y62 Patrol




oyota came late to the compact SUV party, a growing and eclectic class where many contenders are basically just high-riding hatchbacks. You could say that about the C-HR, an allnew design from Toyota which is designed to get the brand noticed by style-conscious millennials. It’s a bold-looking machine by Toyota’s usual conservative standards, and C-HR breaks new ground under the bonnet, too, introducing a new 1.2-litre fourcylinder turbopetrol engine to a class where naturally aspirated 1.6-2.0-litre engines dominate. The range kicks off at $26,990 for the front-wheel drive, six-speed manual C-HR. A continuously variable automatic (CVT) transmission adds $2000, while all-wheel drive adds another $2000. Equipment levels are exceptionally generous by Toyota’s usual tight standards. Navigation, 17-inch alloys and dual-zone air are included, but it’s in the area of high-tech, driver-

STARS Safety ANCAP Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement

assist safety features where you get outstanding value in the C-HR. Radar cruise, automatic emergency braking, lane departure alert with steering assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, parking sensors at both ends and a camera are all standard. Many $100,000 cars still don’t offer this level of safety specification. Koba variants, available with the CVT only, are $33,290 with frontwheel drive and $35,290 with allwheel drive. Koba adds keyless entry and start, LED headlights, 18-inch alloys, heated, leatherfaced seats and extra bling. There’s plenty of room up front in a twin cockpit layout, with the driver’s half of the asymmetric dash a wraparound shape that puts all of the controls within easy reach. It’s a stylish layout, with plenty of storage, a beautiful leather-wrapped steering wheel, comfortable, supportive seat, made-in-Japan quality and responsive voice control for the

infotainment system — which is just as well because the small touch screen icons are difficult to hit on the move. Rear-seat legroom is fine for adults, but the C-HR’s coupe shape, with small windows and high sills in the back, creates a cave-like space, so kids won’t be able to see out. It also restricts boot volume and rear vision, though the blind spot monitor compensates for this. The naturally aspirated engines that dominate this class lack responsiveness and pulling power at low and midrange revs. Toyota’s refined, tractable 1.2-litre turbo has plenty of both, and it’s an excellent engine for day-to-day driving, with ample zip around town and easy, quiet cruising on the highway. It works nicely with the CVT transmission, which responds quickly and accurately to the accelerator. Outright acceleration, though, is pretty sedate because the 1.2 runs out of puff at the top end.

S Eco, Normal and Sport drivetrain modes can be selected, while the CVT can also imitate a seven-speed automatic if you use the lever to change gears. It’s a turbo, which means premium unleaded, but you won’t use very much of it. Most of C-HR’s rivals use regular. A tight body, low centre of gravity, sophisticated independent suspension at both ends and quality tyres gives the C-HR sporty-ish, well-controlled dynamics, particularly the all-wheel-drive versions. The suspension tune is suited to European tastes, which means a firm ride overall, but with good bump absorption capability, and C-HR is a comfortable, quiet, long-distance drive. As a practical kid carrier, C-HR doesn’t work, but it’s still a class front runner, along with the Honda HRV, Suzuki Vitara, Mazda CX3 and Subaru XV.


THINGS WE LIKE  Great quality and sharp design  Responsive, tractable 1.2/CVT  Agile, enjoyable handling  Comfortable seats  Best in class safety specification  Cheap servicing: $975 over five years

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Runs on premium unleaded and it ain’t quick Kids probably won’t be happy in the back seat Small boot Touch screen difficult to operate Restricted rear vision

SPEX (AWD) Made in Japan 1.2-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol/ CVT/all-wheel drive 85kW of power at 5200rpm/185Nm of torque from 1500-4000rpm 0-100km/h N/A 5.6L/100km highway; 8.0L/100km city; premium unleaded; CO² emissions are 148gkm Warranty: Three years/100,000km Standard: Seven airbags, stability control, radar cruise (on CVT models), automatic emergency braking, lane departure alert with steering assist, blind spot monitoring, parking sensors, camera, 6.1-inch touch screen infotainment, Bluetooth, Toyota Link, voice control navigation, dual-zone air, 17-inch alloys, rainsensing wipers Redbook future values: 3yr: 53%; 5yr: 41%

Value for money

compare with ...


Honda HRV, Mazda CX3, Nissan Qashqai, Subaru XV, Suzuki Vitara



VW TIGUAN FROM $31,990 their suspension is firmer. As a consequence, the ride is a touch lumpy and fussy, but big hits are absorbed with ease. You would no doubt be familiar with the baggage that the VW brand carries, and will for some time. The reliability of its vehicles is inconsistent, while governments and regulators around the world are hauling VW through the courts, on behalf of unhappy customers, over its deceptive conduct in the “Dieselgate” scandal. The extent to which these issues affect VW’s brand credibility is up to you to decide, because you are the customer VW wants. The 2017 Tiguan, though, is an undeniably formidable effort that’s worth a test drive.


olkswagen’s secondgeneration Tiguan prices start at $31,990 for the 110kW 1.4-litre turbopetrol/ six-speed manual front-wheel-drive 110TSI Trendline. A sixspeed DSG transmission adds $2500 and 110TSI Comfortline specification, with DSG and allwheel drive as standard, adds $5000 to the price tag. The 132TSi 2.0-litre turbopetrol DSG Comfortline, with a sevenspeed DSG transmission and all-wheel drive, is $41,490 and the 162TSi Highline DSG, with the same 2.0-litre turbopetrol engine as the Golf GTi, is $48,490. VW’s new 2.0-litre turbodiesel is fitted to the 110TDI, with a seven-speed DSG and all-wheel drive, priced at $42,990. The 140TDi is $49,990. The driver sits in a firm, comfortable chair, facing a dash similar to the Golf, with VW’s typically clean, efficient layout, albeit with a few quirks. Access to all seats is easy via wide opening doors. The rear seat

STARS Safety EuroNCAP Performance Handling

is comfortable and spacious, with much more legroom than previously, an adjustable backrest angle plus 180mm of fore-aft adjustment. A seven-seater Tiguan Allspace, with an extended wheelbase, is due by the end of 2017. VW claims a class leading 1655 litres of boot space with the 40/20/40 split rear seat folded forward in extended mode, easily done via remote levers in the cargo bay. With all seats in use, the 615-litre load space is generous and the low floor convenient, as is hands-free opening and closing for the tailgate. You can also program its opening height. Tiguan is now the new benchmark drive in the class. While the 132TSi and 140TDi models give you more power and torque, the base variants also deliver flexible, refined performance, helped in the front-wheel drive 110TSi by the Tiguan’s light weight for its size.

The 110TSi also deactivates cylinders two and three under light loads to save fuel. It works seamlessly and effectively. When you want more oomph, all four kick in, the 1.4 responds willingly and is exceptionally refined. That said, the extra urge of the 132TSi model is certainly noticeable. The 110TDi is a leisurely device that pulls with ease from low revs — albeit with some turbolag — and is one of the smoothest, quietest diesels around. On a long highway run, I averaged 5.1L/100km. Dynamics are outstanding, with excellent control, security and roadholding on rough surfaces. All-wheel-drive models also have an extended electronic differential lock on both axles, which helps the Tiguan get around corners with great poise. All-wheel drives are also a lot heavier than the base frontwheel drive models, and the diesels add more weight again, so


By Joshua Dowling

THINGS WE LIKE  Smooth, quiet frugal engines  Roomy cabin and boot  Excellent fit and finish inside  Secure and comfortable on the open road  Class-leading safety

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE It’s expensive VW’s attitude Space-saver spare Question marks remain on longterm reliability

SPEX (110TSi Trendline DSG) Made in Germany 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol/ six-speed DSG/front-wheel drive 110kW of power from 5000–6000rpm/250Nm of torque from 1500–3500rpm 0–100km/h in 9.2 seconds (claimed) 5.5L/100km highway; 7.4L/100km city; 95 octane premium; CO2 emissions are 140g/km; fuel tank is 58 litres Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres Standard: seven airbags, stability control, low speed automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, rear camera with multi angle views and dynamics guidelines, 17-inch alloy wheels, tyre pressure monitoring, eightinch touchscreen, Bluetooth, app-based USB smartphone connectivity, automatic headlights, automatic parking Redbook future values: 3yr: 53%; 5yr: 39%

Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement

compare with ...

Value for money  Overall 

Audi Q3, BMW X1, Ford Escape, Honda CRV, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Mercedes GLA, Subaru Forester



VW’s Amarok packs the most potent engine in its class, a 165kW/550Nm 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel, and it’s the hottest ticket in town among cashed-up tradies. The 2.0-litre Amarok Core is good value, a sweet drive and is regularly offered at sharp drive away prices. HOW MUCH? The Amarok range includes single- and double-cab utes plus single- and double-cab-chassis models. The 4x4 lineup, 4MOTION in VW-speak, opens with the 2.0-litre turbodiesel six-speed manual TDi400 (as in 400Nm of torque) dual-cab chassis Core at $41,990 and the dual-cab Core ute is $43,490. The TDi400 comes with a six-speed manual. TDi400 Core Plus dual-cab ute is $45,990. Manual Amaroks feature selectable four-wheel drive with


low-range gearing. Automatics run permanent all-wheel drive in high-range only. A mechanicallylocking rear differential is a standard inclusion. The TDi420 engine, matched exclusively with the eight-speed automatic and high-range-only all-wheel drive, costs $44,990 in Core dual-cab-chassis, $46,490 in Core dual-cab ute and $50,490 in Core Plus dual cab ute. The TDi550 3.0-litre V6/eightspeed automatic Sportline dual cab ute is $55,490; Highline is $59,990 and Ultimate is $67,990.

Performance Handling Quality and reliability 

Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall



Safety ANCAP Green Vehicle Guide

The Volkswagen Amarok is made in Argentina. The dual-cab ute is a big truck, 5.25 metres long, with a ladderframe chassis and, VW claims, the largest load capacity in the class. There’s 1.22 metres between the wheel arches in the tub. The twin turbo TDi400 produces 132kW at 4000rpm and 400Nm from 1500– 2250rpm, while the twin turbo TDi420 also produces 132kW at 4000rpm, with 420Nm of torque at 1750rpm.


The TDi550 3.0-litre V6 produces 165kW from 2500–4500rpm and 550Nm from 1500–2500rpm. The part-time 4x4 drivetrain features a dual-range transfer case and a locking rear differential. The permanent 4x4 drivetrain is high-range only, with a Torsen centre differential that can vary the drive split between axles. An electronic differential lock mimics a limited slip differential; the rear mechanical differential can also be locked. Suspension is double-wishbone front/leaf-spring rear. The nocharge Comfort springs option reduces the vehicle’s carrying capacity slightly but improves compliance. Brakes are disc front/drum rear. TDi550 has rear discs. Wheels and tyres include 17-inch alloys with 245/70 on Trendline, 18s with 255/60s on Highline and 19s with 255/55s on Ultimate. The Ultimate V6 weighs 2216kg. Amarok dual-cabs (with standard suspension) can carry 911 (V6)–1005kg. GVM is 3040kg, or 2820kg with optional Comfort suspension.


Towing capacity is 3000kg. The fuel tank holds 80 litres.

HOW DOES IT GO? The 2.0-litre turbodiesel is the Amarok’s best feature. In the TDi400 and 420 it shouldn’t pull as hard, as smoothly or as effortlessly as it does, given that it’s much smaller in capacity than the usual 2.5–3.0-litre turbodiesels in this class. It’s also more fuel-efficient than its bigger-engined rivals.

FROM $41,990 Amarok’s V6, though, is so far ahead of the competition, with unrivalled smoothness, quietness, fuel efficiency, responsiveness and performance, it’s akin to an A380 jet among a squadron of propeller-powered DC3s. When you lean on the accelerator, you get an extra 15kW of overboost for 10 seconds, and with the full 180kW/550Nm underfoot, no other one-tonner will see which way the Amarok went. It takes only 7.9 seconds to reach 100km/h from rest, again gapping the rest of the field. I averaged 7L/100km on the highway and got almost 1200km from a tank. Around town, auto stop/start can see single figure returns too, though 11–12L/100km is more realistic in traffic. The manual gearbox in 2.0-litre part time 4x4 models is a heavy, slow-shifting clunker and the clutch is also heavy and very grabby. The eight-speed auto’s shifts, on the other hand, are smooth, crisp and timely. The high-range-only drivetrain obviously has less off-road ability than the dual-range models but the electronic LSD, push-buttonlocking rear diff and hill-descent control allow it to tackle all but pretty extreme bush tracks. Reliability is critical in a working ute and in this important regard Volkswagen is an underperformer in independent quality and reliability surveys such as JD Powers.


The Amarok TDi400 manual dual-cab ute averages 7.0L/100km on the highway, 9.7L/100km in town and produces 209g/km of CO2. The TDi420 automatic averages 7.3L/100km, 10.1L/100km and 219g/km of CO2. The TDi550 automatic averages 7.3L/100km, 8.6L/100km and 204g/km of CO2.

DOES IT HANDLE, STEER AND STOP? One-tonners are close to the bottom of the pond when it comes to on-road dynamics but the Amarok is better than most. The steering is light, has a bit more precision and feedback than the average nautical one-tonner tiller, and is free of kickback.

Ride comfort in the VW Amarok is excellent. The suspension absorbs all impacts properly and without the incessant body shake, float and bounce that you have to contend with on most one-tonners.

THE INSIDE STORY Almost 70 big ones for the V6 Ultimate should buy you the most luxurious, comfortable cabin in the class. You get exactly that, but your passengers don’t. Ultimate’s sumptuous, supportive GT-style front seats wouldn’t be out of place in an AMG or BMW M. Faced in fine Nappa leather, they complement an SUV-like driving position with none of the usual one-tonner ergonomic compromises. Generous front seat travel impinges upon rear seat legroom, though, which is tight for tall adults. No curtain airbags or rear air vents also makes Amarok’s back seat a place where you may not want to put your kids or other passengers. Amarok is now rated at four stars by ANCAP, having lost its

former five-star rating due to the absence of curtain airbags when tougher new criteria were introduced by ANCAP in 2016. You’re also short-changed by the absence of important safety tech such as automatic emergency braking and blind spot monitoring, which really should be standard at the price. Clear, informative, monochrome instruments and a small infotainment touchscreen feature on the 2017 dash, which looks cool and classy until you tap the plastic and discover it’s the same hard, cheap, nasty stuff used in poverty pack models.

Four lugs are provided as well as an external light on the rear window. A 12-volt socket is fitted to Trendline and above specification.


IN THE BOOT VW claims that, with 1.22 metres between the wheel arches, the Amarok is the only onetonner ute on the market that’s capable of carrying a standard Australian-sized pallet. Of course, you can buy most rivals as a cab-chassis and fit a factory or custom tray that will be even wider, but VW says no rival dual-cab ute will allow you to drop a pallet into the tub.

Core includes four airbags, stability control, trailer stability control, cruise, Bluetooth, rubber floor coverings, air and 16-inch alloys. Core Plus adds 17-inch alloys, a full-size alloy spare and lockable tailgate. Highline includes a 6.3-inch colour touchscreen, navigation, digital radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, voice control, 4 x 12-volt outlets, parking sensors, remote power windows, camera, and 18-inch alloys. Ultimate gets 19-inch alloys, heated, leather-faced front seats, tyre pressure monitoring, and a full size alloy spare. Warranty: Three years/ unlimited kilometres. Redbook future values: (Ultimate TDi550) 3yr: 58%; 5yr: 45%.


THINGS WE LIKE  Great performance and fuel economy  Big tub  Comfortable seats  Tidy handling and a compliant, controlled ride

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  VWs can be temperamental  Tight rear seat legroom  Agricultural manual gearbox and clutch  No curtain airbags is ridiculous

compare with ... Ford Ranger, Holden Colorado, Isuzu D-Max, Nissan Navara, Toyota HiLux



VW’s Touareg offers a superb 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel/eight-speed auto drivetrain with 150kW and 180kW power outputs, plus a 250kW 4.2-litre V8 twin turbodiesel. Compared with familial rivals such as the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne, the Touareg is a bargain. HOW MUCH?


The Touareg range opens with the $68,990 150TDi. That signifies the 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel’s power output, an irrelevance in 2.2-tonne SUV territory. It also produces 450Nm of torque, which is what really counts. The $85,490 V6TDi runs the same engine, remapped and turboboosted for 180kW of power and 550Nm of torque. And if you’re after the ultimate in turbodiesel performance, the V8 TDi R-Line, with a 250kW 4.2-litre V8 twin-turbodiesel, will set you back $116,300. All models in the range come standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission.



Safety Euro NCAP Green Vehicle Guide 


Handling (V6TDi Quality and reliability


Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall


The Touareg is made in Slovakia. It uses a unitary-construction steel body. The 150TDi’s 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel produces 150kW of power at 4000rpm and 450Nm of torque from 1250–2750rpm. The high-performance version produces 180kW of power at 4000rpm and 550Nm of torque from 1750–2250rpm. This engine is also used in the Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q7. The 4.2-litre twin turbodiesel V8 produces 250kW at 4000rpm and 800Nm from 1750–2750rpm. Automatic stop/start is standard on all models. The eight-speed automatic sends power to all wheels in high range via a limited slip Torsen centre differential. Suspension is double wishbone front/multilink rear. Adjustable air suspension with adaptive dampers is standard on V6TDi. Steering is hydraulically assisted. ABS brakes include stability control, an electronic diff lock function, off-road ABS and ESP modes plus hilldescent control. The 150TDi has 18-inch wheels with 255/55 tyres. V6TDi has 20inch alloys with 275/40 tyres. The 4.2-litre V8 TDi R-Line gets 21-inch wheels with 275/40

tyres — just what you need for a bit of serious bush bashing. Weight is 2154kg (150TDi) to 2840kg (V8 TDi). The Touareg will tow up to 3500kg with a maximum towball weight of 280kg. Fuel tank capacity is 85 litres.

HOW DOES IT GO? The 150TDi is comparatively lazy off the line. Once you’re rolling it’s pleasantly tractable and punchy. The eight-speed automatic, plus automatic start/stop, makes it work with unbeatable efficiency. The 180kW/550Nm version can move continents. Off-idle response and lower midrange grunt below 2500rpm is where you most notice its superiority over the 150kW engine. Is it worth

an extra $15,000? Probably not, unless you’re going to drag 3.5 tonnes around (the Touareg’s maximum towing weight), in which case you want every Newton metre you can get. That said, Volkswagen’s less-than-impeccable quality and reliability record doesn’t lend itself to placing 3.5 tonnes worth of strain on the Touareg. Neither does the fact that it’s a unitary-construction body. Both Touareg turbodiesels I drove generated excessive drivetrain noise, a high-pitched whine that was quite intrusive. In other respects, though, the eight-speed auto works well. Shifts are impeccably smooth and timely, while the adaptive programming gets the message


FROM $68,990 quickly when you change your driving style. With the engine pulling just under 1500rpm at 100km/h in eighth gear, you’re getting amazing fuel economy for a vehicle of this size and weight of around 7–8 litres per 100km. I’ve driven the 4.2-litre V8 in the Cayenne. It’s a weapon, but what’s the point? It hits 100km/h in just 5.8 seconds. Average fuel economy in official tests is 9.2L/100km. Good luck matching that.


The 150TDi averages 6.5L/100km on the highway, 8.4L/100km in town and produces 190g/km of CO2. The 180kW TDi averages 6.7L/100km, 8.6L/100km and 196g/km. The V8 TDi averages 7.5L/100km, 12.0L/100km and 242g/km.

DOES IT HANDLE, STEER AND STOP? Adjustable air suspension (standard on V6 and V8 TDi) with adaptive damping features three damper settings (automatic, sport and comfort) plus four adjustable ride heights — from 147mm, which makes it easy to load up or hitch a trailer, to 300mm for extricating yourself from tricky situations. Thus equipped, the V6TDi Touareg’s dynamics are excellent and the ability to adjust the suspension and ride height also adds greatly to ease of towing. The standard nonadjustable suspension on the 150TDi, though, is tuned for US preferences and too soft. Body roll is excessive, the car’s stability can be compromised as it fails to deal with rough

surfaces, and there’s also a lot of road shock and noise transmitted to the cabin. The huge steering wheel is sometimes also subject to some kickback and rack shake on badly surfaced corners. There is no provision for a full-size spare wheel, only a space-saver.

THE INSIDE STORY The Touareg is unarguably a safe, practical family freighter with acres of space for the kids and their gear, nine airbags, niceties like leather and a classy, rich feel to the cabin, even in the base model. All models have a rear camera with static and dynamic parking guidance lines. Bi-xenon headlights with daytime LED running lights and 18-inch alloy wheels are standard on TDi150. Inside the cabin, there’s leather-faced upholstery, poweradjustable front seats with electropneumatically adjustable backrest bolsters, height and fore/aft adjustment for the head restraints,

and the ability to split and fold the 60/40-split-fold rear-seat backrest from the luggage compartment. The driver’s seat has vast travel, complemented by a rakeand reach-adjustable wheel. The dash is typical VW: businesslike but hardly style central. There’s a big, bright touchscreen for audio, phone and communication, clear instruments and lots of useful storage, including a big centre console box, chilled glove box, dashtop bin and covered iPod connection/storage. There’s plenty of rear-seat legroom but footroom under the front seats is tight. The adjustable backrest is firm and supportive. The seat is only 130cm wide, so three adults will be pretty squeezy. The VW is excellent value for money and at the price it’s loaded. Compare the 150 TDi or V6TDi’s specification, size and price with a BMW X5 or Mercedes GLE Class and you’ll be sold. That said, there’s good value from other rivals too, notably the Land Rover Discovery Sport, priced from $56,355, which offers seven seats, a refined and responsive 2.0-litre turbodiesel and off-road capability, plus the Jeep Grand Cherokee 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel, priced from $59,000.

IN THE BOOT The tailgate (power-operated on all models bar the 150TDi) opens to a low floor, which isn’t that big given the overall size of the Touareg. The load area is well organised, though, with a cover and mesh

barrier, bag hooks, lugs, a net and a 12-volt outlet all provided. The 60/40-split rear-seat back folds forward and locks to form a very long extended floor, albeit slightly angled.


The 150TDi includes stability control, nine airbags, 18-inch alloys, leather upholstery, front and rear parking sensors, Bluetooth with audio streaming, SD card, USB and auxiliary inputs, navigation, rear camera, dual-zone air, bixenon headlights and poweradjustable, heated front seats with pneumatic adjustable side bolstering. The 180kW TDi adds 20-inch alloys, adjustable air suspension, power tailgate, Nappa leather and heated front seats. Warranty: Three years/ unlimited kilometres. Redbook future values: (150TDi) 3yr: 57%; 5yr: 45%.


THINGS WE LIKE  150TDi is well priced  3.0 V6 turbodiesel/eight-speed auto is as fuel efficient as they come  Spacious interior  Well organised, easy-to-use dash layout  Loaded with gear

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE  VWs can have reliability issues  Servicing is also expensive  Mediocre dynamics on 150TDi  Drivetrain whine

compare with ... BMW X5, Jeep Grand Cherokee, LR Discovery, Mercedes GLE




he VW Golf Alltrack may at first appear a little plain. But lift its tailgate and the view is beautiful. Here’s a cargo compartment that makes the luggage space of most small premium SUVs look stupidly skimpy. In round figures, the rear-seat-up storage capacity of the Golf Alltrack is 40 per cent more than the Mercedes-Benz GLA, 30 per cent bigger than the Audi Q3 and 25 per cent bigger than the new, second-generation BMW X1. With the Golf wagon Volkswagen’s designers were shooting for super space, not pseudo sportiness, and the numbers show they succeeded. The Golf Alltrack’s other big advantage compared with the small SUVs from premium brands is cost. It undercuts even the least expensive front-drive versions of the Q3, X1 and GLA by thousands. The 132TSi 1.8-litre turbopetrol Alltrack is $34,490, or $38,490 in Premium specification. The 135kW 2.0-litre turbodiesel Alltrack Premium is $40,990.

STARS Safety Performance Handling Quality and reliability

As the name implies, the Golf Alltrack is equipped with all-wheel drive. Volkswagen’s 4Motion is an on-demand system, with drive going to the front wheels in normal conditions. A Haldex coupling, which can send drive to the rear wheels as well, and electronic differential locks on both axles are engineered for quick response and optimum traction in slippery conditions. A driver-selectable Offroad mode further improves the Alltrack’s grip and drive in tougher conditions, uses the brakes to control speed on steep descents and makes the accelerator less sensitive to aid smooth progress. Though the Volkswagen has only 20mm more ground clearance than an ordinary front-wheel-drive Golf wagon, it’s quite capable of tackling easy tracks. Volkswagen fits a guard to protect the engine’s vulnerable engine sump. Alltrack’s 1.8-litre turbopetrol four isn’t used in any other Golf

model but it is familiar from other Volkswagen Group cars, including the Audi A3 and Skoda Octavia. The lively and refined 132kW 1.8 TFSI has strong torque from low in the rev range and Volkswagen claims it can push the Golf Alltrack from 0–100km/h in 7.8 seconds, quickish for an SUV. A six-speed double-clutch automated manual (DSG in VW-speak) is the only transmission option. DSG teams harmoniously with the engine, shifting gears smoothly and at the right time. Fuel economy is outstanding. The 135 TDi, which we haven’t yet driven, runs a sevenspeed DSG. Cornering in the Golf Alltrack is, unsurprisingly, car-like. There’s a little more body roll, an unavoidable consequence of the increased ride height, but the Volkswagen is a neat and predictable handler with nicely consistent steering feel. Just

S like every other Golf, in fact. Ride comfort in the Alltrack is better than the small car class average, too. The Golf VII is one of the very best small cars in the world today and the Alltrack’s interior is a reminder of why it’s rated so highly. There’s quality to go with the space. As well as the jumbo cargo compartment, the wagon profile of the Golf Alltrack also brings extra rear-seat headroom. While not especially flashy, everything inside is well designed and carefully assembled. This is a jacked-up small wagon and not a purpose-designed SUV. Yet this is precisely what makes the Golf Alltrack a smart choice. For buyers looking for maximum practicality and value combined with driving pleasure, this Volkswagen beats its premium-brand Audi, BMW and Mercedes rivals.


By John Carey

THINGS WE LIKE  Good value compared with other German-brand compact SUVs  Car-like handling  Big cargo compartment  Quiet, quality interior  Able enough on dirt roads  Outstanding safety credentials

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE VWs can be temperamental No manual option

SPEX (132TSi) Made in Germany 1.8-litre four cylinder turbopetrol/ six-speed DSG/all-wheel drive 132kW of power from 4500–6200rpm/280Nm of torque from 1350–4500rpm 0–100km/h in 7.8 seconds (claimed) Weight 1491kg; max towing weight 1500kg Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres 5.9L/100km highway; 8.4L/100km city; 95 octane premium; CO2 emissions are 153g/km; fuel tank is 55 litres Standard: Seven airbags, stability control, automatic emergency braking,17-inch alloy wheels with 205/55 tyres, dual-zone air, touchscreen infotainment, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, parking sensors, camera, automatic headlights and wipers. Redbook future values: 3yr: 51%; 5yr: 37%

Comfort and refinement Value for money  Overall 


compare with ... Audi Q3, BMW X1, Lexus NX, Mazda CX-3, Mercedes GLA, Subaru XV



olvo’s second-generation XC60 adds some sophisticated Scandinavian style to the traditional Volvo virtues of safety and sensibleness. Prices and equipment for Australia had not been announced as we went to press shortly before its October 2017 launch, but they will start at around $60,000. From Volvo’s perspective, eye appeal is a very big deal. The old XC60 was the company’s global best-seller, Australia included, even in the closing years of its long, eight-year production life. Getting the look of the secondgeneration XC60 wrong would be a disaster for Volvo, and the Swedes have sidestepped the danger. This all-new model also brings increases in spaciousness, efficiency and safety. These are all baked into what Volvo’s designers and engineers call SPA, shorthand for Scalable Product Architecture. What this acronym means in material terms is a strong core structure, modern four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines (all with at least

STARS Safety (EuroNCAP) Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement Value for money Overall


one turbocharger) and a good automatic transmission, plus high-grade suspension, brake, steering and electrical systems. Though this five-seat SUV is the smallest SPA-based vehicle so far, the new XC60 is larger than the model it replaces. While extra distance between the axles brings better rear-seat legroom than before, the 505-litre cargo bay isn’t especially big. The XC60 introduces three new active safety systems to incrementally increase the life-preserving powers Volvo engineered into the SPA’s electronic network of sensors and computers. Decked out in high-grade Inscription specification, the XC60’s interior is a beautiful place. There’s a warmer, simpler feel to the ambience than in the Volvo’s rivals from Germany. Still, the XC60 does feature an equally powerful arsenal of infotainment and driver-assist

tech, much of it controlled via the large, portrait-oriented touch screen in the centre of the attractive instrument panel. This reduces button clutter to the bare Scandinavian minimum. The front seats are perfectly positioned and comfortably supportive, while the three-place second row delivers the kind of flipping and folding flexibility essential in an SUV. There will be three engines to choose from, all from Volvo’s newish Drive-E family and all teamed with an eight-speed automatic. The T8, a plug-in hybrid allwheel drive that combines a 235kW 2.0-litre petrol engine with an electric motor and lithium-ion battery that offers up to 45km of range on electricity alone, will top the line-up. It’s sure to bump the upper limit of the XC60 price list higher than ever before. The T6 will use the same engine as the T8, minus

the electric assistance and with a conventional mechanical allwheel-drive system. It’s the D5, with a 173kW 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine and all-wheel drive, that Volvo expects to be the most popular pick in the Australian line-up. This engine features clever turbo-lag reduction tech called Power Pulse, which uses puffs of compressed air from a small tank to get the turbo working sooner. The XC60 D5 in top-spec Inscription trim, like all the cars available for test at the international presentation in Spain, was equipped with the plush air suspension system likely to be an option in Australia. It’s a pleasant SUV to drive. Volvo doesn’t aim for the same kind of pseudo-sporty driving feel as some of the Germans, and is the better for it. Handling is neat and tidy and the turbodiesel engine delivers better-than-adequate performance without fuss. But it’s always obvious that there’s a fourcylinder engine under the bonnet, and this soundtrack may not align with everyone’s idea of a premium SUV driving experience.


THINGS WE LIKE  Gorgeous interior in high-grade models  Exterior style  Volvo’s safety features  Comfortable suspension  Strong, frugal T8 plug-in drivetrain

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Four-cylinder turbodiesel is pretty noisy Smallish cargo compartment The Germans are sportier handlers

SPEX (2.4 D5) Made in Sweden 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel/ eight-speed automatic/all-wheel drive 173kW of power at 4000rpm/480Nm of torque from 1750-2250rpm 0-100km/h in 7.2 seconds (claimed) 5.5L/100m combined; CO² emissions are 144gkm; fuel tank is 71 litres Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres Standard: TBA Redbook future values (2017 D5): 3yr: 48%; 5yr: 33%

compare with ... Audi Q5, BMW X3, Jaguar F-Pace, Land Rover Discovery Sport, Mercedes GLC, Range Rover Velar


VOLVO XC90 FROM $91,900


he 2017 XC90 is one of the biggest things out of Sweden since ABBA. This almost fivemetre-long and more than twometre-wide seven-seater is the first truly all-new model from Volvo since it was bought by Chinese company Geely almost five years ago. It showcases the company’s new style, engines and safety technologies. The range opens at $91,900 for the D5 in Momentum trim grade. The higher Inscription and sporty-look R-Design grades cost $97,900 and $99,900 respectively, while choosing T6 petrol power adds another $2712. Both engines are transversemounted 2.0-litre fours and Volvo has no plans to offer any engine with a greater number of cylinders. Such is life in the new world of low-emission motoring. So while you can have a 2.0-litre or nothing, there is a choice between D5 and T6 drivetrains from Volvo’s new low-consumption, Euro 6b rated Drive-E family. The first is a 165kW and 470Nm

STARS Safety ANCAP Performance Handling Quality and reliability Comfort and refinement

twin-turbocharged diesel, the second a 236kW and 400Nm supercharged and turbocharged petrol-burner. Both are teamed with an eight-speed automatic. The petrol/electric hybrid T8, with average claimed consumption of 2.1L/100km, is priced at $120,900, $122,900 in R-Design spec and $172,200 as the Excellence. The interior is this Volvo’s greatest strength. It’s a pleasant environment for driver and passengers alike. A huge 12.3-inch portraitoriented screen is the focus of attention in an instrument panel remarkable for its beautifully clean design, premium materials and absence of button clutter. The 40/20/40 split-folding second-row seat is broad and comfortable and features both a fore-and-aft slider and a built-in child booster in the centre position. Further rearward, the foldaway third-row seats are suitable for adults up to about 170cm tall and are also easy to climb into.

There’s enough space for schoolbags and shopping with all seats occupied; with the third-row seats stowed, cargo capacity becomes vast. Sensibly, the Swedes haven’t attempted to make their heavy SUV a sporty vehicle to drive. The steering delivers little feel for the road and there’s a fair amount of body roll when cornering. Still, the XC90 can be placed accurately into a corner and doesn’t grow flustered when driven on a winding road at a decent clip. It’s calm, confident and capable enough for its size and weight. Air suspension is an option but as is usually the case, it doesn’t deliver a super-smooth ride at low speed. Most buyers will likely find the standard “Touring” setup does a good enough job — and it does. Although the new XC90 is lighter than the old one, kerb weights are a hefty 2100kg and up. Still, neither engine struggles. The D5 is a very fine diesel; smooth, reasonably quiet

S and nicely responsive. The twinturbocharged T6 petrol four brings a noticeable jump in performance but its growly eagerness isn’t as sweet a match with the XC90’s laid-back character. The XC90 introduces two new Volvo-developed safety technologies. The first is a collision avoidance system that prevents it being driven across the path of an oncoming car. The second is a group of seat, seatbelt and airbag deployment features designed to reduce injuries in a run-off-the-road crash. Stylish, roomy, safe, wellpriced and pleasant to drive, the big Volvo deserves to be considered by anyone looking at an Audi Q7 or BMW X5 with the seven-seat option. It’s worth noting though that resale values for the XC90, as with most Volvos, are not strong compared with their German brand rivals.


By John Carey

THINGS WE LIKE  Beautiful interior  A true seven-seater  Fuel-efficient engines  Sensible ride/handling compromise  Super safety credentials  Well priced and loaded

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE Unappealing four-cylinder noises It’s overweight Feel-free steering

SPEX (D5 MOMENTUM) Made in Sweden 2.0-litre four-cylinder twin turbodiesel/eight-speed automatic/ all-wheel drive 165kW of power at 4250rpm/470Nm of torque from 1750–2500rpm 0–100km/h in 7.8 seconds (claimed) 5.6L/100km highway; 6.3L/100km city; CO2 emissions are 152g/km Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres Fuel tank capacity: 71 litres Maximum towing weight: 2700kg Standard: Seven airbags, stability control, 19-inch alloy wheels, child seat boosters, leather, four-zone air, lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian avoidance, radar cruise, 360-degree cameras, automatic reverse parking, parking sensors, hill descent control, automatic headlights with automatic high beam, power tailgate, Bluetooth, navigation Redbook future values: 3yr: 52%; 5yr: 36%

Value for money Overall


compare with ... Audi Q7, BMW X5, Mercedes GLS

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Australian 4WD & SUV Buyer's Guide #30  

4WD & SUV Buyer’s Guide purely focuses on the vehicles that are newly available on the Australian market. Each description identifies the ca...

Australian 4WD & SUV Buyer's Guide #30  

4WD & SUV Buyer’s Guide purely focuses on the vehicles that are newly available on the Australian market. Each description identifies the ca...