Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

April 1st, 2012 by Tim Grimley

An open letter to the motorists of New Zealand on behalf of the motoring press.

Dear Drivers,
It has come to our attention that some of you may have got the impression that those of us who make up the motoring press in New Zealand are not exactly massive champions of your collective abilities behind the wheel of a car.

Apparently because barely a week goes by without one periodical or another providing a sharp and critical focus on your recurring habits of reversing over children, squashing cyclists, failing to obey the road codes or just turning yourselves into temporary and bloody modifications to the scenery, people are beginning to think that we, in some way, have been seriously hitting the haterade when it comes to your perceived motoring proficiency.

We may have been wrong about you after all. Maybe.

And we accept that it just might have been possible to interpret from these articles that our overriding opinion is that the average Kiwi has vehicular control skills somewhere between that of a rock and a musk ox.

But after the changing of the ‘Give Way’ rules last week failed to bring about auto-Armageddon, we are more than happy to set the record straight. While we may have hinted that the only thing more dangerous than attempting to enforce a revision of the road code on New Zealanders would be giving every sheep on South Island its own nuclear warhead and that the affect on the nations insurers would have had them fondly reminiscing about the Christchurch earthquakes, we are happy to tell the world that this is not true in the slightest. New Zealanders are in fact excellent drivers who have taken to the new rules like a duck to water and have even started to get their heads around the Victoria Park tunnel by way of an afterthought.

We sincerely apologise for any upset or stress that misinterpretation of our comments may have caused to any Kiwi drivers and would like to take this opportunity to invite motorists the world over to come to New Zealand and witness our population of talented wheelsmiths as they display their excellence in such diverse matters as using passing lanes correctly, driving to the conditions and resisting the urge to rubberneck.

Best regards,

The Motoring Press.

P.S. If a couple of you could perhaps be witless enough to cause multiple shunts on SH1 next week and delay our journeys to work, it would cheer us up no end to know that in fact we weren’t wrong about you after all.

Romance Is Pure Van-tasy

January 14th, 2012 by Tim Grimley

Due to the appearance of a wedding on the very, very distant horizon, the womenfolk of my office have been bitten hard by the rose-tinted bug of romance. It is an uncommon hour that now passes by without a conversation springing up that centres around dresses, rings or idiotic parents of the future husband who want to clog the horribly expensive reception up with their hitherto unknown friends from church.

But the one aspect of the whole shindig guaranteed to instigate the greatest outbreak of oestrogen-fuelled gushing is the honeymoon. And while I have no problems getting enthused about the prospect of a fortnight lying on a beach somewhere very tropical, with a ready supply of bikini clad ladies and cold beer, I cannot grasp the obsessive link that has been made between romance and Paris in the brains of those with a second ‘X’ chromosome.

Not Romantic

Thanks, I suspect, to the influence of too many girly movies with impossible happy endings, the merest mention of the capital of the gastropod guzzlers is enough to send ladies into an amorous rapture. The style, the grace, the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Élysées, the champagne; what could possibly be more conducive to creating the ultimate atmosphere of ardour?

Well, I can tell you – pretty much anything. On my own particular list of romance Paris falls somewhere between flatulence and gastric bypass surgery. To start with any city that once deemed it necessary to employ special motorcycle units equipped with giant vacuum cleaners for dealing with the horrific amounts of merde produced by the canine population is not somewhere I’d choose for a liaison of love. Then there is the prolific graffiti, ludicrous prices, fog of Gauloises smoke outside every café and some of the most unpleasant ghetto suburbs to be found in Europe.

Despite what the movies may tell you, choosing Paris as a destination for a honeymoon is less appropriate than showing up for an All Blacks match in an Australia shirt. With Quade Cooper’s name on the back. But that still makes it a million times more suitable than New Zealand is for a camper van holiday.

Back in the day when New Zealand was genuinely a strange little backwater, stuck out at the arse end of the world, setting out from the relative civilisation of Auckland could have been a daunting prospect. Given the general lack of infrastructure, having your own bed, stash of food and basic sanitary facilities would have been a necessity if travel plans weren’t set in stone. Bygone New Zealand could have been considered a genuine frontier adventure and the fact your dilapidated hippy wagon couldn’t do more than 45kph uphill was neither here nor there, as you would only encounter a handful of cars a day.

Now, thanks to the myriad of well equipped camp sites and the general evolution of small-town New Zealand, every gap year student undertaking the venture will probably only break new ground when they have to wash clothing for the first time without the assistance of their parents. And only the most slow-witted could fail to notice how quickly a train of furious drivers now forms when a Ford Econovan with an engine from a sewing machine is trying to pull its way up to the Desert Road.

Not Suited To New Zealand

We have a proliferation of amazing bed and breakfasts, farm stays and home stays where legendary Kiwi hospitality can be enjoyed in conjunction with such luxuries as reticulated electricity and plumbing. Given the fact that you can travel between these places at the legal speed limit in a car that would allow you to enjoy every twist and turn of the road, the conclusion has to be drawn that camper vans really only look like a good idea in the publicity photos.

And yet still they come. Droves of future bank managers and accountants, all determined to spend some time being alternative and edgy through compromising their personal hygiene and irritating the road users of Godzone as they trundle around in their wheezing misery boxes. New Zealand has taken hook, line and sinker those with an inexorable desire to forsake civilisation for six months in favour of travelling everywhere at 70kph and crapping in a bucket.

Although at least when they come around to getting married, it should make the honeymoon in Paris feel like luxury.

London Calling?

December 12th, 2011 by Tim Grimley

Curmudgeonly English comedian Jack Dee once said that he disliked the term ‘Old Aged Pensioner’ because it was essentially telling them the same thing three times and it’s fair to say he had a point. Any single word from that terminology could accurately be used in isolation to describe a person of SuperGold Card holding vintage, which means that utilising either of the other two is essentially wasting your breath.

The same could also be said of KEA – Kiwi Expats Abroad – who for the sake of a snappier acronym decided it was necessary to point out that the place for ex-patriot New Zealanders to be found was beyond the shores of Aotearoa. But to dwell on such a point would be a case of extreme pedantry, particularly when KEA has just published the results of its five yearly ‘Every Kiwi Counts’ survey which has revealed a startling piece of information.

46% of Kiwi’s living and working overseas earn in excess of $100,000 per year.

Rather predictably – and it must be said, against the logic of the people at KEA who sagely regard our overseas-based populace as a valuable resource for both current investment and the future – the national media jumped on this as ‘evidence’ of the brain drain the nation is suffering from. Pictures of London’s skyline were emblazoned on the front of The NZ Herald, with the headline “Goodbye NZ, Hello $100,000” almost mocking those of us still slogging away in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

And I’m the first to admit that a $100,000 salary sounds like a lovely thing indeed, but before you start digging out the visa application forms let me add a dose of realism to the matter.

Would you like to take $100,000......

Firstly, as anyone who has tried to live a comfortable life in London will tell you $100,000 doesn’t really go that far. Not if you have aspirations of living in anything bigger than a shoe box, without the need to flat share with a group of alcoholic students with broken body clocks. Yes, there are lots of interesting old buildings to look at, but finding a day when the sky isn’t leaking so you can properly enjoy them can be a challenge.

And don’t even mention Australia. You’ll need all of $100,000 just to keep the air conditioning running in summer and the family dosed up on anti-venom when they bump into the local wildlife. And it’s full of bloody Australian’s anyway.

Although I’m not about to go all gooey and proclaim NZ the capital of all that is awesome, because I’m fully aware that for any given thing you care to mention someone, somewhere will do it better. The Italian’s have better food, the Swiss better scenery, the American’s better entertainment, the British a better health service; the list could go on for ever.

But crucially, there is absolutely nothing that we do badly. Our beaches are great, our cities cool, the mountains of the Southern Alps are stunning, the people are friendly and if we’re being brutally honest, the wages aren’t at sweat shop levels either. Sure there may be politicians and newspaper editors trying to cause ructions by playing to the financial avarice inherent in all of us, but take every last thing into consideration and you’ll realise that while the base salaries may not be the flashest, the whole package is nigh on unbeatable.

And the good news is that most people seem to realise it too – they must do, because the Mazda MX-5 continues to sell for Africa.

Much like Kiwi salaries, the figures associated with the MX-5 are not much to write home about. While the days of the asthmatic 1.6 variant have gone, there are still plenty of family cars that will make it look rather foolish in a straight line and there isn’t a neighbour in the world who will get badge envy over one of Fuchú’s finest.

......or consider an alternative package?

I’m not going to pretend that the styling overly excites me either. Yes, the MK 1’s Lotus Elan inspired looks had a certain olde worlde charm, but subsequent revisions certainly haven’t been what you would call head turners.

But crucially, neither of the above things are a let down. Performance is brisk and there’s certainly nothing offensive about the little Mazda from whichever angle you look at it. And the absolute best way to look at it is from behind the steering wheel, because when you get an MX-5 – any MX-5 – on a winding back road, it simply comes alive.

Encased in the snug cockpit, slung low to the ground and with the wind in your hair the sensation of speed belies the relatively tame numbers on the dials in front of you. Once into the bends the MX-5 clings to the tarmac more tightly than a Syrian President holds onto power; the thrill of hard driving in one of these little beauties can rightly be compared with ostensibly more sporting cars costing several times as much.

And best of all when the fun is over, the MX-5 becomes a normal car again. Unlike traditional roadsters the roof doesn’t leak, with the hard top up the boot offers ample room for shopping or travel bags and it has developed an enviable reputation for reliability and longevity.

It’s little wonder that with 20 years production and over 900,000 examples behind it, the MX-5 is the best-selling two-seat convertible sports car in history. For my money it could lay a claim to being one of the great cars of all time and I could go on for hours telling you over and over how wonderful it is.

But that would be a waste of words and I wouldn’t want to make Jack any grumpier.

Pay Attention, It’s Time For A French Lesson

October 22nd, 2011 by Tim Grimley

The more – and almost certainly even the less – observant amongst you will have noticed that over the last few weeks there have been more than a few tenuous links made between rugby and motoring in this column. And as the biggest match in New Zealand rugby since 1987 is being played out in Auckland’s own theatre of dreams this weekend, it would be all too easy to find one more pretty loose tie-in between the unlikely bedfellows that are egg chasing and motoring.

And so, therefore, I will.

But rather than dwelling too heavily on the sport itself, my focus is rather more on one of the participants in Sunday night’s encounter – the French. As a previous inhabitant of the Northern shores of La Manche, I learned a long time ago that the only thing that could be expected from the French with any degree of certainty is the unexpected.

Ooh la la! Beauty........

Nowhere is this more certain than in the motoring world, where no-one could ever be sure if their next release was going to be a work of beauty, genius, madness or just plain badness. Sometimes, as was the case with the massively opinion polarising 2CV, they managed to do all four at once. Just for the sheer hell of it I suspect.
This is the nation that can give the Citroen DS with one hand – a vehicle of such unquestionable beauty that it makes you wonder why all cars cannot be styled in such a way – and then take it all back again with a monstrosity like the Renault Fuego with the other. But just to keep a sense of mystery, excitement and intrigue in the relationship, every so often they throw you a Peugeot 205 GTi. Followed rather quickly by a Renault Safrane.

Yet for all their little highs and lows, if you ever needed the ultimate proof that our garlic obsessed cousins are capable of crushing the world when it is least expected, look no further than the Bugatti Veyron. Yes, it sounds Italian and yes, a lot of the bits come from parent company VW, but hailing as it does from Molsheim in the Alsace, the Bugatti is every bit as French as impassive shrugging and baguettes. With its roots back in 2005, when the Gallic automotive output was typified by the blandest Peugeots in living memory, the Veyron was a stark reminder that when the Frenchies put their minds to it, they can not only take on the world, but simply blow it away with their effortless style. Continue reading “Pay Attention, It’s Time For A French Lesson” »

Good To The Last Drop

October 4th, 2011 by Tim Grimley

When I look at New Zealand functioning on a daily basis, it strikes me as nothing more than a minor miracle in action. There are – give or take – about 4.4 million of us knocking around the various islands that make up the nation and of this merry band about 500,000 are enjoying retirement, a further 900,000 are under working age, 285,000 are currently between jobs and 7,000 are experiencing a temporary loss of liberty at the pleasure of our judicial system.

Employing some very basic man maths, this leaves 2,708,000 people to ensure that everything requires doing in the 268,670 square kilometres of Aotearoa gets done. And the miracle is that – once Auckland’s trains are taken out of the equation – by and large, it works.

The farming community maintains a strong enough breeding programme to see we don’t fall short of milk and beef, enough people learn to wear suits to fill the corridors of Wellington, multiple generations of baristas keep Jafaland in lattés and there are still enough Kiwi grafters are left over to ensure the important stuff – cleaning streets, maintaining utilities, automotive journalism and so forth – gets done.

The countdown for petrol has begun

But there are some areas where it is always good to have a little help from time to time and one of these is Chartered Accountancy. Thanks to more people needing boxes ticked at certain times of year, the current Mrs Grimley’s firm – and I suspect others like it – fly in support staff from the various corners of the globe to pick up our bean counting shortfall.

The latest – a pair of South Africa’s finest which have been trained to answer to the names ‘Albertus’ and ‘Claire’ – arrived seven months ago and slotted rather neatly into our lives. In our short time together we’ve had numerous days out, a romantic weekend on Great Barrier Island and even managed to share the joys of the Rugby World Cup. And now they’re going.

My life has been made so much richer by my new friends that I’d simply convinced myself that they would be around forever. And the sudden, crushing realisation that this is not going to be the case is shaping to leave a hole that, until the old miracle healer Time works his magic, will be a huge scar on my landscape. Continue reading “Good To The Last Drop” »

Range Rover Evoque – NZ pricing and specs annouced

June 30th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Pricing and local specification has just been announced for Range Rover’s all new Evoque. The compact SUV is expected to arrive in New Zealand before the end of the year will be available from $79,990

The Evoque will be available with a choice of three engines, two body styles, three design themes and a range of customization options and accessories.

It will be available in two body shapes a 5-door and a 2-door Coupe with initial deliveries starting from November.

The Evoque will touch down in three design themes: Pure, Dynamic and Prestige and there will be optional equipment and styling packs. Options available include three contrasting roof treatments, seven alloy wheel designs, 16 contrasting interiors and a full sized, fixed, panoramic glass roof. Standard features will include push button start, electric park brake, rear parking aid, colour TFT information screen, 6/4 way adjustable electric seats.

All Evoques will come with a six speed automatic 4WD transmission. Manual gearbox models will only be available to specific customer order. Continue reading “Range Rover Evoque – NZ pricing and specs annouced” »

Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0 revealed – two coming to NZ

May 2nd, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Porsche has dropped the covers off its ultimate naturally aspirated 911 – the GT3 RS 4.0. Set to be the grand finale of the current 911 series, codenamed 997 this street-legal track racer will likely be the final special edition before an all-new model is unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show this September.

Limited to just 600 vehicles, there is some serious racing pedigree underpinning the GT3 RS 4.0 with the new model’s boxer engine using a crankshaft lifted straight from the 911 GT3 RSR racing car and the forged pistons’ connecting rods fashioned from titanium. It will be available exclusively with a six-speed sports manual gearbox.

The four-litre displacement sports engine, the biggest 911 model line engine ever, is also the most powerful naturally aspirated engine ever built by Porsche. Maximum power is now 368 kW (500
hp) at 8,250 rpm, that’s 92 kW of power per litre. Maximum torque is 460 Nm at 5,750 rpm.

The 911 GT3 RS 4.0 will offer some stunning performance with a recorded lap time of 7m 27s for the Nürburgring-Nordschleife. That’s 1.7 seconds faster than the Carrera GT and 6 seconds faster than the GT3 RS. So it’s a very serious machine.

In as straight line the GT3 RS 4.0 will sprint to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds and its racing-inspired gearing takes it to 200 km/h in under 12 seconds. Continue reading “Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0 revealed – two coming to NZ” »

BMW reveals new shark-faced 2012 6-Series Coupe (+video)

March 14th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

Images and info on BMW’s 2012 6-Series Coupe has been revealed ahead of its official debut at the upcoming Auto Shanghai 2011 show.

Looking more purposeful and with tighter lines than previous model the new 6-Series is designed to be the ultimate dream car. The coupe features a “shark nose” front-end with bi-xenon headlights and a large BMW signature grille. Along the flanks, the 6-Series profile boasts frameless windows, chrome accents, and a low roofline. At the rear, there’s dual exhausts, LED taillights, and a trunk lid with an integrated spoiler.

At 4,894mm long, 1894mm wide and 1,369mm tall, the 2+2 coupe is 75mm longer, 39mm wider and 5mm lower than its predecessor. It also rides on a 75mm longer wheelbase at 2,855mm, which should improve space for the rear passengers. Boot capacity stands at 460 litres.

Inside, the design is the same as on the soft-top model, with a more driver-orientated cockpit and the large display on the center console standing out. Other highlights include Dakota leather seats and a freestanding 7-inch iDrive display. Goodies on the options list include heated/ventilated seats, a panoramic sunroof, a Bang & Olufsen audio system, and GPS navigation with an upgraded 10.2-inch display.

In the safety equipment department the new 6 is advanced with a heads-up display, rear-view camera, night vision assist (with pedestrian recognition), parking assist, and a lane departure warning system all included as standard.

When the new 6-Series coupe arrives in New Zealand it will be sold with BMW’s stonking V8 engine. This twin-turbo 4.4-litre V8 engine outputs a healthy 300 kW and produces 600 Nm of torque. It allows the coupe to run from 0-100 km/h in just 4.9 seconds, before hitting a limited top speed of 250 km/h. Fuel economy is impressive as well with the 6-Series achieving 10.4 L/100km combined and emissions are 243 g/km. Continue reading “BMW reveals new shark-faced 2012 6-Series Coupe (+video)” »

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