Driving Torque

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Archive for the tag “Toyota”

Honda CR-V 2.2 i-DTEC SR – Driven and Reviewed

Honda CRV front sideWay back in October 2012, Driving Torque went on a first date. It was set on the beautiful shores of Loch Lomond with the dramatic peaks of the Trossachs providing a backdrop and the prospective partner in question was Honda‘s new CR-V. All went well, both parties seemed to get on and looked forward to meeting again. Last week, we did.

The venue this time was the, only slightly less pretty town of Macclesfield, complete with its very own forest. This was never going to be a holiday, however, both the CR-V and I were going to see how much we’d blossom under the strains of real life, kids ‘n all.

This 4th Generation CR-V was, by its very nature, always going to be best suited to a more torquey Diesel engine than a petrol and the particular model we have on test here is sporting Honda’s i-DTEC – it just makes more sense. This 2.2l unit may well become a rare sight on our roads though, as Honda start rolling the CR-V out, equipped with their much-lauded 1.6 lump under the bonnet. This superb little engine is tasked with pushing the relatively hefty CR-V’s CO2 emissions under 120g/km and subsequently its owner’s tax and fuel bills down a notch or two, whilst still serving up a delicious 300NM torque.

Honda CR-V rear sideAll that’s in the future however, so back to the future as they say. One thing that’s unlikely to change when the new engine’s available is the CR-V’s appearance, and personally, I think that’s a good thing. I was quite taken with it on launch and the more of them I see on the roads, the more I feel Honda’s styling department deserve a pat on the back for their rather gutsy approach.

Honda CRV headlightThe most eye-catching detail on the CR-V is undoubtedly that shiny grill and the way it cleverly morphs into those over-size, eagle-eye headlights. Subtle it ain’t and I can understand how that whole nose section may spoil the rest of the car for some as it is a rather Marmite feature, but I’m inclined to feel that it offers just enough shoutiness for the stereotypical SUV owner, without going over the top. The CR-V has been the victim of some relatively unpleasant criticism regarding it’s looks but look at the competition; the Qashqai is suddenly looking dated, Toyota‘s styling department have all been fired if the new RAV4 is anything to go by and if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Hyundai are extremely complimentary with their  Santa Fe.

Honda CR-V eco lights

It’s actually pretty easy, being green

The cabin on our SR spec test car reeks of quality on an almost Germanic level, it’s such a step up from previous generations in terms of feel and ergonomics that it deserves special mention. Features such as the 3-D, stepped nature of the instrument binnacle and its ‘floating’ speedometer needle really reflect on the effort that’s obviously been put into updating the CR-V’s interior.  It may be a little plain, but it’s difficult to argue with an all black approach rather than the half cream effect that’s also available, especially with some tasteful swathes of brushed aluminium to add a touch of class. The half leather, half Alcantara seats did take quite a bit of fiddling with to get into an optimum position but, once there, they’re comfortable enough, if a little flat.

Honda CRV top viewWhere the CR-V’s interior really shines, though, is towards the rear. Whilst ferrying some friends to the airport, the 589 litre boot happily swallowed all of their luggage due to it’s rather helpful, unobtrusive shape, whilst the rear seats have enough head and leg room to keep even the tallest passengers happy. I showed the CR-V to the owner of a Nissan X-Trail and the owner of a Volvo XC60 and they agreed in unison that they could only dream of such a roomy living space – high praise indeed.

If the upcoming 1.6 litre engine aspires to knock its big brother off it’s perch, one thing it’s got to be is quiet. Honda’s Diesel engines of the past had a reputation for a lack of refinement and subtlety – not this one. Even when cold, this 150ps unit melts into the background admirably on the exterior and is almost inaudible inside the cabin. On the go, the story’s very similar and a smattering of Diesel rattle is only detectable if you push really hard.

On the road, the CR-V is so compliant and easy to drive that you get a general impression that it’s trying to be helpful. The manual gearbox in our test car probably isn’t the sportiest ‘box you’ll ever use but it’s feather light and slips between ratios effortlessly. I sampled a CR-V with an auto ‘box on it’s launch and, unless it’s absolutely essential, I’d opt for a third pedal and changing gear oneself every time.

Having 350Nm torque on tap is always going to prove helpful and it really shows in everyday life, noticeably minimising the requirement to slip down a gear. The usability of this engine proved itself undeniably whilst cruising along the motorway in sixth gear, the traffic temporarily slowed down to 40mph and when things started moving again, the CR-V pulled all the way back up to 70mph without so much as a stutter. Very reassuring.

Honda CRV off roadOff the motorway and onto the twisty stuff, the CR-V belies its height and weight well. The chassis may not be quite up to the awesome standards set by Ford’s Kuga but the difference isn’t startling. If pushed, the CR-V is fairly planted with little body roll – no mean feat when the nature of a SUV is to achieve ground clearance and comfort. Our SR spec CR-V came equipped with some eye-catching 18” alloys but the pay-off for these wheels is when the surface becomes less than perfect and the ride can become a little skittish. I can’t emphasise enough that if you cherish comfort over looks, insist on your CR-V being equipped with 17” rims – it may only be an inch but it is noticeable!

So, after a whole week together, did the initial spark survive? Did Driving Torque and CR-V get on? Absolutely! This car does many things well and does very little wrong, especially for those with an active lifestyle and even more active offspring. This SR spec car with its more luxurious touched, could prove a little expensive at £28k though, and unless you’re in a huge rush, it may be worth waiting for this great all-rounder to be equipped with Honda’s new 1.6l Diesel.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Honda CR-V 2.2l i-DTEC SR, Transmission – manual, Layout – Front engine, 4wd, Power – 150ps @ 4000rpm, Torque – 350Nm @ 2000rpm, Emissions – 149g/km CO2, Economy – 50.4 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 118mph, Acceleration – 9.7s 0-62mph, Price – £28,540 OTR

All-New Ford Ranger Wildtrak – Driven and Reviewed

Ford Ranger Wildtrak front

All-New Ford Ranger Wildtrak

Since Mr and Mrs Farmer/Builder/Gardener discovered procreation and their faithful pick-ups became redundant due to having only one row of seats, the ‘double-cab’ has become a regular sight on our roads. In the UK, the charge was probably led by the ultra-capable Mitsubishi L200, with other Japanese manufacturers – Isuzu, Nissan and Toyota following close behind. Possibly feeling like they’ve missed the boat a tad, the Westerners are now eager to grab a sizeable slice of the pie. Volkswagen have recently launched their Amarok with considerable success and Ford have waded in with their All-new Ranger which Driving Torque have been trying out for size in this range-topping Wildtrak guise.

Talking of size, that’s generally the thing that grabs you when you first come across the Ranger. It’s massive. By their very nature, double-cabs are always on the large side due to the need to combine a large enough cargo area with comfortable living space for five occupants inside. Scrimp on any of these factors and the result will undoubtedly be a vehicle that fails in every department – too little room for either luggage or passengers and the owner may aswell have bought a regular car or a more practical van.

Mitsubishi L200 Trojan Red Front view

Mitsubishi L200 Trojan

Just to put things into perspective, Driving Torque recently reviewed the Mitsubishi L200 Trojan and I can confidently say, that  never once felt small. This Ranger is 174mm longer, 35mm wider, 68mm higher and boasts a 220mm longer wheelbase than the L200 – that may not sound like a vast difference but, when combined with the Ranger’s high bonnet and shoulder-line, and chunky styling, the two seem worlds apart, both from the outside and in. When you drive past an Audi Q7 and mutter ‘it’s not that big’, you know you’re in something sizeable.

This particular Ranger is in range-topping Wildtrak guise which includes 18” wheels and various smatterings of spoilers and chrome to add to the imposing and rugged visual effect. On the inside, there’s part-leather heated seats and Ford’s previous generation infotainment system with Sat-Nav and a Bluetooth enabled media interface; not a bad unit per se – I’ve experienced worse, but not a patch on the new Ford Sync system developed with Microsoft.

Ford Ranger Wildtrak interior

This Interior is about as car-like as a pick-up gets

The Wildtrak’s appearance is deliberately striking and it certainly grabs attention wherever it goes. Combine its sheer size with  visual highlights including its metallic ‘Wildtrak Orange’ paint and disappearing in a crowd is rendered virtually impossible. 99% of comments from onlookers were positive with only a few not appreciative of the particular hue that our test car was shod in.

On the road, the Ranger’s ride is incredibly compliant and comfortable, as you’d expect from a vehicle with such a large wheelbase and amount of suspension travel. The rear leaf-sprung suspension on the Ranger harks slightly back to its industrial roots and it can make handling a little jumpy, especially when negotiating a corner on a stereotypically bumpy, weather-beaten British country road. All the controls have been designed with a familiar car-like feeling in mind and this is where the Ranger really belies it’s size and weight. The steering is precise and direct and even the automatic gear-selector is finger-light – Ford have gone to great efforts to make this pick-up as civilised and user-friendly as possible.

Ford Ranger engine badge

The Wildtrak spec is only available with Ford’s 3.2l Duratorq engine

In Wildtrak format, the Ranger is only available with Ford’s 3.2l Diesel Duratorq engine. Sporting 200ps and an impressive 470nm of torque, this relatively quiet unit also contributes towards transforming sluggish workhorse into, well, slightly nippier workhorse. It’s still not exactly rapid but being able to transport over 2 tonnes of 4×4 from 0-62mph in 10 seconds is no mean feat. A word of caution though; in 2wd mode and with hardly any weight over the rear axle, this hugely torquey engine is easily capable of fish-tailing the Wildtrak when pulling too enthusiastically out of a junction, even on a dry road. Now there’s an experience that leaves a mark.

Although some of the interior plastics are a little scratchy, with its driver aides and multitude of electric motors to assist almost every aspect of operator use, it’s very easy to forget that you’re ultimately piloting a semi-industrial vehicle. That is, until it comes down to parking. Sometimes the laws of physics just have to be adhered to and this means that parking the Wildtrak in your run-of-the-mill parking space can get a little tricky. The Ranger may not have the clever rear electric window of the L200 which was a huge help when reversing but it’s got an even neater trick. It sports a rear view camera, the image of which is displayed on a section of the rear view mirror. This may not sound like much but I found it really made a difference as the driver’s gaze is still relatively upright, not staring down at a screen on the dashboard. I’d say rear parking sensors are a must on a car of this size, although I sometimes found myself wishing it had front parking sensors too, as gauging where the very front of a bonnet of this size and shape is, can be something of a guessing game.

Ford Ranger Wildtrak uphill

Wildtrak comes with selectable 4WD and low ratio gearbox for all your off-roading needs

In a strange sort of way, I couldn’t help feel that the biggest problem with this Ranger was also what made it so attractive; the Wildtrak element. Yes, it looks great and has many, many useful extras (although, strangely, not a load cover which I’d say is essential), but for some reason, as I stated previously, Ford have decreed that if you want the Wildtrak extras, you must also have the 3.2 litre Duratorq engine. The sensation of driving a particularly fast block of flats is unquestionably good fun and if you really need 470nm of torque, the 3.2 is the engine for you. I’m inclined to think, however, that for the majority of Ranger buyers, the 2.2l Duratorq engine with its 375 nm of torque would more than suffice and would be far mor satisfying in the vitally important running cost stakes. Whilst I’m on the subject, the 6 speed automatic ‘box that our engine was mated too is impressively smooth but I felt that it regularly held on to a low gear for too long; a fact I started to resent as the fuel tank rapidly emptied itself of its contents.

Ford Ranger Wildtrak rearIn conclusion then, overall I found the Ranger a hugely user-friendly beast with Hollywood looks, previously unseen in this segment. For my money though, I’d stay away from the Wildtrak, save myself a couple of grand and opt for its little brother – the Limited. It may not be quite as visually dramatic or make as much of a statement, but it wins where it matters – in the wallet.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Ford Ranger Wildtrak Double Cab Auto, Price – £30,353 inc VAT, Engine – 3.2l TDCI, Layout – Front engine,  4WDPower – 200bhp, Acceleration – 0-62mph – 10.4s, Maximum Speed – 109mph, Economy – 26.7mpg combined, Emissions – 274g/km CO2

New Honda CR-V – First Drive

2013 Honda CRV front side

Honda’s New CR-V

Let there be no confusion at all here regarding the importance of this new CR-V to Honda. If you are under any illusion, just count how many of them you see on your next car journey, they really are everywhere. Since it’s launch in 1995, its accumulated sales of over 5 million, over 3 generations and, being a Honda, most of them are still on the road today.

Having won over 140 awards worldwide during it’s career, one could say that this 4th gen CR-V is under a certain amount of pressure to perform and, from the offset, it seems to handle it very capably. A reduction in CO2 emissions of 12% across the range is always a good place to start these days and, although it may not set the pulse racing, it’s this fact that will probably prove to be a huge attraction to many potential buyers. The fact that the CR-V continues to be assembled right here on home soil, as it has since 2000, can only add to it’s pulling power as it adds a sense of patriotism to the mix, albeit with a Japanese twist.

The CR-V is offered with the familiar 2.2 i-DTEC Diesel and 2.0 i-VTEC petrol engines from launch but by providing stop-start technology, engine optimisation and coupling them to a choice of five-speed auto or the excellent six speed manual ‘box, emissions have been cut to a potential 149g/km and 168g/km respectively.

Honda CR-V 3 gens

The CR-V through the ages

One feature that’s available for the first time on the CR-V is permanent 2wd which historically has proven to be very popular on ‘soft roaders’ in this country. It’s only available on the petrol engined variant from launch which is somewhat surprising but if the demand was sufficient for the 2wd to be mated to the torquey 2.2 Diesel, surely this model could come into fruition?

Visually, this 4th gen model is full of clean angles and lines. The most prominent of which is the line starting at the front three-bar grille, following the headlights, running smoothly with the belt-line and rising to a point at the D-pillar before joining the roof line. Losing the ‘lantern-jaw with moustache’ look of the 3rd gen CR-V has resulted in a far prettier face and overall, it’s a combination of ruggedness and charm that’s fresh and appealing.

2013 Honda CR-V interior

CR-V interior – well thought out and attractive

The story continues on the inside of the car with much work obviously undertaken to keep the CR-V feeling innovative and modern. Everything is thoughtfully laid out and within easy reach, with ‘less is more’ being the order of the day. Honda have kept the switch-gear to a minimum which cleverly sidesteps that sensation of being overwhelmed by buttons. One button that is hugely enticing is the ‘Eco’ mode – it not only activates the essential ‘stop-start’ facility, but illuminates two boomerang shaped lights around the centrally positioned speedometer. I had pondered initially whether these lights would prove too ‘nanny state’ and result in my rapidly deactivating ‘Eco’ mode but far from it. I actually found the lights quite attractive and the game of keeping revs low and green lights lit is surprisingly addictive.

Honda CR-V eco lights

It’s actually pretty easy, being green

The interior quality is usual Honda fare but one huge improvement is the grade of material used. If leather seats are your thing, there’s no, near-ruched, cow-hide present anymore, it’s high-grade all the way. Visibility is excellent as you’d expect from a car with such a large glasshouse, the D-pillar is quite wide but the oversized nature of the door mirrors seems to combat this issue.

Space in the rear of the CR-V is excellent and it passed the ‘six-footer behind six-footer’ challenge with flying colours – at no point did I feel cramped when I sat behind my own driver’s seat. The relatively low belt-line would mean any children travelling in the rear should have a great view of outside and thus hopefully avoid any feelings of travel-sickness. The story continues in the boot of the CR-V where it’s actually class leading with a 589 litre capacity, easily beating the likes of Toyota‘s Rav4 and Volvo’s XC60.

With prices starting at £21,395 for the 2wd i-VTEC S model and rising to £32,650 for the range topping i-DTEC EX auto, we tested three models in varying guises and specs to gain a true perspective of the CR-V.

Honda are confident that petrol engines remain relevant in SUVs, a fact compounded by their reluctance to offer 2wd as an option on their Diesel variant. If petrol is resolutely your fuel of choice, the free-revving 2.0 i-VTEC on offer here does very little wrong. It’s smooth, quiet and will potentially propel its occupants from 0-62mph in just ten seconds. One area where the petrol engine does suffer is an apparent lack of torque and I found myself having to work the manual gearbox quite vigorously to maintain momentum. This can of course be avoided by opting for an automatic ‘box on 4wd variants. Doing this however, will not only make the CR-V more sluggish, but the economy, emissions and driving experience as a whole suffer to a point where the petrol engine is increasingly difficult to justify

2013 Honda CR-V frontHaving driven both, the 2.2 Diesel engine would undoubtedly by my engine of choice. Although only available as 4wd, the emissions and economy are still impressive and with the latest generation of Honda Diesel engines proving to be nearly as quiet and responsive as their petrols, it all just makes sense. The absence of Diesel rattle both in and outside the CR-V is almost eery, this coupled to some useful low-down grunt means the CR-V suits the i-DTEC engine perfectly.

If changing gear oneself isn’t your preference and you usually require an auto, I’d still give the manual a chance to shine before making a final decision. The automatic can feel lazy and sluggish in comparison and somehow doesn’t do justice to the rest of the mechanical components. When the 2.2 Diesel engine offers such impressive levels of torque, changing gear to suit a situation sometimes just isn’t required and the car will pull on through regardless.

Honda have evidently put a lot of effort into the ride quality of the new CR-V in order to achieve a more car-like quality from an SUV. They’ve utilised McPherson struts on the front and on the rear it’s multi-link suspension. I tested the ride on a particularly challenging stretch of road that runs the length of Loch Long near Glasgow. It incorporates rapid changes in camber, direction and height – oh, and it was raining too. The CR-V felt surefooted at all times, inspiring confidence. No, it’s not going to get from point to point as rapidly as, say, an Impreza but then, no-one ever said it was.  To eliminate body roll as well as Honda have here whilst maintaining comfort is quite admirable.

2013 Honda CR-V

2013 Honda CR-V

When considering which spec to kit your CR-V out in, there are four levels to choose from – S, SE, SR and EX, with EX representing the top of the range. With features such as dual zone climate control and vehicle stability assist provided as standard across the range, there really isn’t a requirement to overspend here. As pleasant as heated, electric leather seats can be, I found the SE spec to be the perfect compromise of kit versus cost, especially when any higher spec incorporates upgrading from 17” to 18” wheels. Doesn’t sound like much, I know but I felt that that extra inch had a negative effect on an otherwise compliant ride.

Overall, I’d say that this 4th gen CR-V represents a huge step forward for Honda in terms of desirability that should continue the model’s enduring popularity. If you’re in the market for an SUV but find Toyota’s new Rav4 anonymous and the Freelander’s reputation for unreliability worrying, the CR-V ticks many, many boxes.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; 2.0l i-VTEC S, Layout – Front engine, fwd, Power – 155ps @ 6500rpm, Torque – 192Nm @ 4300rpm, Emissions – 168g/km CO2, Economy – 39.2mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 118mph, Acceleration – 10.0s 0-62mph, Price – £21,395 OTR

2.0l i-VTEC EX, Transmission –  manual, Layout – Front Engine, 4wd, Power – 155ps @ 6500rpm, Torque – 192Nm @ 5300rpm, Emissions – 177g/km CO2, Economy – 37.2 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 118mph, Acceleration – 10.2s 0-62mph, Price – £28,900 OTR

OUR CHOICE  2.2l i-DTEC SE, Transmission – manual, Layout – 4wd, Power – 150ps @ 4000rpm, Torque – 350Nm @ 2000rpm, Emissions – 149g/km CO2, Economy – 50.4 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 118mph, Acceleration – 9.7s 0-62mph, Price – £26,105 OTR

Toyota GT86 Automatic – Driven and Reviewed

Scion FRS

The Scion FR-S as seen at the 2011 New York Motorshow

Way back in 2011, Toyota created much hype at the New York Motorshow by displaying their all new model, the Scion FR-S. The strategy was simple, it was to be a rear-driven, 2+2 sports car whose sole mission was to bring fun, affordable driving back to the masses. Being a joint venture with Subaru, it was to be powered by a flat four, boxer engine to provide a low centre of gravity, similar to the one found in that proven provider of smiles – the Impreza. Unlike Subaru’s old favourite, however, the FR-S was to be sold sans turbo.

Toyota GT86 Three quarter view

The resulting model – Toyota’s GT86

The final result is the Toyota GT86 and Driving Torque recently spent some time in the company of one equipped with an automatic gearbox. Could it live up to its own hype? Is it really THAT good? Here’s what we thought.

First Impression

They say that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, in the case of the GT86, this doesn’t provide too much of an issue. Whichever angle you look at it from, it’s visually startling. Some may say it’s not an especially pretty car but it’s virtually impossible to ignore. I took great pleasure in gauging reactions from all walks of society and 99% of them were dropped jaws. From the gangs of teenagers, unashamedly pointing and whooping, to the knowing nod of appreciation from a helmet-clad biker, people enjoy seeing this car – I’ll take that as a huge tick in the ‘plus’ box.

Toyota GT86 SilverIt’s a rarity in automotive terms for a car to make it through the many filters it encounters from concept to production without being watered down to the point of almost anonymity but I think the GT86 has got through pretty much unscathed. It’s laden with interesting little angles and features. From its jutting, angular jaw-line, equipped with aggressive, demonic teeth, to the bulges on the roof, cleverly highlighted by our test car’s optional stripes, to a boot spoiler which would be relatively subtle, were it not for the two skyward facing end sections, giving the impression of a forked-tail. Toyota have obviously shown resolute determination in their quest to produce an original piece of design and allow it to see the light of day. All credit to them for this.

Inside the GT86

Toyota GT86 Side viewThe focus on design stretches into the GT86’s cabin with some neat little touches such as the blood-red stitching adding to the impression of fun and mischievousness. The soft-touch plastics and general ergonomics of the cabin are a step up on most offerings from previous Toyotas although if one were to be completely unaware of the car’s origins, there is one little feature that spills the beans – the clock. Yet again, all that hard work that’s been put into making the GT86’s cabin a pleasurable environment with some clever visual treats is undone by that ubiquitous digital clock found in Asian cars. Surely it wouldn’t add too much to the car’s R+D budget to come up with a decent alternative, would it?

The occupants of the front seats in a GT86 are fairly well catered for with ample leg and head room and all controls are thoughtfully positioned and in easy reach. If it’s rear passenger or boot space you’re after though, the GT86 may represent too much of a compromise. This is a true 2+2, in every sense. Our test car had Isofix child seat anchors in the rear which are very helpful but anything larger than a child’s first car seat would struggle to be accommodated. Any adult under 6ft CAN squeeze in but, with the transmission tunnel adding to the issue, they would welcome their freedom after a short journey. After a small argument involving the boot and a standard Maclaren buggy, we proved that transport for any children onboard will just about fit in. Anything bulkier than a lightweight buggy may prove a bridge too far though.

Although quite low down as you’d imagine, visibility is generally very good. The humps atop the wheel arches provide a point of reference which is very reassuring with the GT86’s relatively long bonnet. The large C pillars do result in some slight guesswork when reverse-parking although Toyota have very kindly provided some slightly oversized door mirrors to try to alleviate any visibility issues.

6 Speed Automatic Gearbox

Toyota GT86 outside cat and fiddle

The GT86 outside the Cat and Fiddle pub on the infamous road of the same name

Our test car sported the 6 speed automatic gearbox, complete with paddle shifts and various driving modes to suit differing moods and conditions. Slip the ‘box into drive and it’s more than happy to effortlessly waft around with the minimum of driver input and hassle, seamlessly changing into the appropriate gear. There are sport and snow options available which will either allow the engine to rev all the way into the sweet 6-7k rev range before changing up or, in snow mode, will start off in second gear to avoid wheel spin.

For real driver involvement however, the gear lever should be slid across into manual mode, thus activating the steering wheel mounted paddle shifts. I’ve never been the world’s biggest fan of paddle shifts, always preferring the smooth, predictable feeling of a ‘proper’ gear-stick. This GT86 felt different though. No matter whereabouts in the rev range I was or however hard I was accelerating, this ‘box changed between ratios seamlessly and smoothly, not once feeling jerky or forced. The ‘Nanny State‘ attitude that some sequential gearboxes can adopt, changing up or down against your will, wasn’t overly present in the GT86 either. There were literally a couple of occasions when the ‘box decided I was wrong and overruled me and, in hindsight, it was probably a good job.

Just next to the centrally positioned rev-counter is a little LED, displaying the selected gear. This also incorporates two arrows, one pointing up, one down. They are essentially change-up or down lights and show which direction is available at that specific moment. These two little arrows may not sound like much but they prove to be a very welcome feature that can become addictive.

Ride and Handling

Toyota GT86 piston badge

GT86 wing-mounted badge. Note the two horizontally mounted pistons.

One attraction which the GT86 proudly boasts are it’s rear-driven wheels. It would have been far cheaper and easier for Toyota to opt for safe, predictable front wheel drive but this is where the car really shines. With all the standard safety modes selected, the deliberately skinny rubber will allow for a certain amount of slide and oversteer when pushed but it quickly reels the rear end back in before exuberance outweighs talent. Select ‘sport’ handling and the fun really starts; a warning light appears, informing the driver that the traction control is off but this isn’t entirely true. It simply allows more of a degree of sideways action before calling a halt to proceedings, inspiring levels of driver confidence that, although possibly a touch artificial, are hugely satisfying anyway. There is an option to turn all driver aids off completely but, given the fun-factor already available, I wouldn’t recommend doing this unless your self-confidence isn’t even slightly over-inflated or you’re driving on a track.

To achieve the direct, precise handling of the GT86, the suspension is obviously set up in quite a focused manner to minimise body roll and drifting. The ride is one aspect of the car that is non-adjustable, whether this is the right decision is obviously down to each individual’s point of view. Personally, I found the car just about forgiving enough, even on cobbled roads and over potholes. To add adjustable suspension to the GT86 would have taken the price up and would possibly have diluted it’s modus operandi. If it’s a softer ride you’re after, this car may just not be for you. I, for one, am all for this determined attitude.

Quiet Exhaust Note

Toyota GT86 Rear view

Large-bore exhausts could do with being a little louder

Protruding from the F1 style, Venturi effect rear splitter are two purposeful looking exhausts. As is usually the way with Japanese cars however, there seems to have been a certain reluctance to allow the decibels produced  match their visual impact. Quite contrarily, the engine noise has more of an impact from the cabin than the rear as this is one of the new breed of cars to pipe a growly tune directly into its occupants. The lack of exhaust note  represents little concern though as it’s surely the easiest of easy fixes. Toyota’s own in-house tuning wing, TRD are already offering upgrades for the GT86 which will possibly make it even more appealing for the UK market.

In Conclusion

Toyota GT86 rear badgeIn conclusion, the GT86 represents the sportiest, most adventurous model from Toyota for a long time and long may it continue. More than this though, I feel that the GT86 is a perfect reflection of the global attitude as a whole; yes, we’re in recession, no, we haven’t got the expendable income we once had but that doesn’t mean that we’re content with misery and gloom all the time. We still want to have fun and thrills, they’ve just got to be cheap thrills.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Toyota GT86, Price –  from £24,995, Engine –  2.0l Boxer 4cyl, Layout – Front engine,  RWD, Power –  200bhp, Acceleration – 0-60mph 7.7s, Maximum Speed –  140 mph, Economy – 44mpg combined.

Huge thanks to Oakmere Toyota, Northwich, Cheshire.

You can’t kid a kidder, even with a fancy car!

Here’s my somewhat early entry into 2012’s ‘stating the bleeding obvious competition’: ‘Cars are no longer simply a means of transport, they are an expression of our character’. There you go, a winner if ever I saw one, but it is true or at least partially. You see, I’m becoming increasingly convinced that the gap between the reflection our cars give of our actual lives and how they reflect our idealised lives is widening to astronomical levels.


Rover P6

Until fairly recent times, a car was bought primarily to suit our needs best. If you were young and footloose, you bought a two-seater sports car before the impending requirements of family life hit. Once family had arrived, more doors and a larger boot were deemed necessary so you’d pop down to your local Ford dealership and buy whatever sensible model they were producing at that time, be it the Cortina, Sierra or Mondeo. If you required yet more space, various estate cars were available or you could buy a van. This carried on until old age, upon which time you could treat yourself to either a Rover or a Jaguar, dependent on how financially prudent you’d been in the previous 65 years.

These days however, armed with niche markets appearing in existing niche markets and an almost desperate desire to express ourselves, we can live out our fantasy lifestyles through the cars we buy and most people are.

Littering is without doubt one of my greatest pet-hates, seeing ignorance of this level has the ability to catapult me to hereto unseen levels of annoyance. Recently however, I witnessed some extraordinary discarding of waste that got me thinking about how much we are attempting to pull the wool over each other’s eyes, just with the mode of transport we use. What really got my attention about the moronic, selfish, lout desecrating our streets was the fact that he had wound down the window on his Toyota Prius to do it. That’s right folks, the driver of a car that comes equipped with its own soap box for impromptu ‘I’m helping save the world’ speeches, purposefully ejected his litter onto the street. He thinks that by buying a Prius, he could be mistaken for Leo Dicaprio arriving at his latest premier but the truth is he couldn’t care less about the environment, he’s just tight and wants to save a few quid on petrol.


Land Rover Discovery

When you think about it, this type of masquerading is commonplace on our roads today. The much highlighted abuse of 4x4s is an easy target. Once the reserve of farmers and the Queen, today, no mother could possibly expect to survive the perils of a modern day school run without permanent 4wd, a limited slip diff and bullet-proof glass all-round. In truth, any large hatchback could easily replace 90% of 4x4s on the road but, and here’s the sticking point, they wouldn’t portray the horsey, rough and tumble image that is deemed so desirable.

Sports car owners are just as guilty. You count the amount of young, attractive men equipped with a full head of real hair that you see driving a Porsche Boxster or a BMW Z4. Now tot up the drivers of these cars who want you to think they’re youthful and virile yet in reality smell slightly of wee and swear by sanatogen and cod liver oil. This can partially be blamed on the economy or insurance premiums but no-one forces pensioners to buy two-seater convertibles.


Rod and his Enzo

The examples are numerous and widespread; ‘Hells Angels’ Harley riders who are actually merchant bankers and would cry if they got dirt under their recently manicured nails. New Mini drivers, clinging desperately to their youth whilst simultaneously subjecting their teenage children to years of physiotherapy caused by being shoe-horned into the back seats alongside the weekly shop as the boot is the same capacity as a Samsonite briefcase.

I think the point I’m trying to make here is that we are increasingly putting vanity ahead of practicality which is fine when buying say, a t-shirt, a car should primarily fit your needs and everything else comes second. We need to realise that it might not be cool, but it’s ok to be ‘Mondeo man’. (I wouldn’t have one though – far too boring!)

By Ben Harrington


The all new Peugeot 208

Peugeot have released details and, perhaps more importantly pictures of the upcoming replacement for the 207, the imaginatively titled 208 (One wonders what they’re going to call the replacement for the 209?) I was lucky enough to own a particularly good 205 Gti when I was 18 so this story caught my eye immediately, especially when the Peugeot press office took the bull by the horns and pre-empted that burning question- will they build a Gti that’s fit to wear the badge? They’ve cut kerb weight dramatically in a bid to capture the essence of the 205’s driving ability and have already released details of the all important Gti which will come in two guises, the really hot version being powered by a turbo charged, four cylinder engine producing 204 bhp.

First impressions visually are promising with front overhang reduced dramatically, not only giving the car a more sleek profile overall but also improving handling as Peugeot are so keen to stress was their main focus. There are some neat design touches, the shoulder line incorporating the door handles and fuel cap is smart, even more so where it enters the rear light cluster and performs a U-turn to become the rear indicator. I feel that some aspects of the exterior are almost in competition with each other for your attention which can just result in a headache, I’d describe this as a ‘busy’ look. Peugeot should maybe have followed the old mantra that simplicity is best when deciding which little flicks and curves were appropriate and which should maybe have been saved for the next model.

Peugeot 208

One glaring improvement on all recently released Peugeots is the deletion of that ridiculous ‘wide mouth frog’ front end. The 208 may look a little generic overall, sharing styling cues with the Ford Fiesta and Renault Clio but I feel it’s just about recognisable in a crowd.

Subaru BRZ

In other news, Subaru have released images of their take on their joint venture withToyotato create a sports –coupe. Named the BRZ (Boxer engine, Rear drive, Zenith), it is quite expectedly similar to Toyota’s upcoming FT-86 with only the rear end being significantly different, I would say more aggressive, more Subaru. This model could really do with being a big hit for Subaru as they’ve announced a profits crash of 27%, blaming, amongst other things, the Japanese earthquake that struck earlier this year.

By Ben Harrington

Scion FR-S

It was with more than a tinge of sadness that I recently realised an unerring truth; in fact, I may have even shed a tear or two. I was always told it would happen, especially when the kids came along but I never really took any notice, perhaps this was my undoing. You see, no matter how hard I searched every nook and cranny of the old grey matter, somewhere along the line over the last few years, I’d completely lost sight of what a young boy racer aspires to own. By this, I don’t mean anything exotic from the likes of Lamborghini or Porsche, I mean a realistically obtainable automobile, a working class hero if you will.

Having looked at what’s on offer though, I’m beginning to wonder whether it is me that’s lost touch or whether today’s Friday night heroes are lost in an automotive wilderness with a distinct lack of identity. Every generation can be easily ring fenced by the objects of their desire. The ‘80s had the Golf Gti, Pug 205 Gti and the Escort XR3i. My generation, the ‘90s also had the Golfs but we’d progressed onto the rally derived rockets, typically the Imprezas and Evos, earning us the ‘Playstation generation’ tag. The ‘00s gets a little hazy but the hot hatches were still in full flow and the Japanese entries simply got more and more powerful but this is where the trail gets lost.

Correct me if I’m wrong but hot hatches appear to have lost their way a little of late. They’re mostly overpriced, the old stalwart, the Golf is bland, all Peugeots are hideous and Vauxhall’s Astra is suffering delusions of grandeur. The only manufacturer which has maintained the cheap thrills ethos is Renault but seriously, what self respecting young scally aspires to own something called a Twingo?

Similarly others have lost their way. Subaru’s last hot Impreza was so expensive that for a few quid more, you could have bought a proper performance car. They’ve just displayed the all new Impreza at the New York motor show and it is the automotive equivalent of gruel. Mind you, if you think that’s bad, Mitsubishi recently announced that their next generation Evos would be doing their utmost to save the planet. Come on! That’s like marketing a child friendly nail bomb.


Scion FR-S

All of this brings me neatly onto what I think could just be the next symbol of a generation.  Contrasting against its surroundings like a blood red stain on a brilliant white background, their was at the New York motor show  a small, cheap, attention grabbing sports car called the Scion FR-S. Scion are Toyotas youth brand, as Lexus is their OAP brand and the FR-S is their attempt to put the thrills back into affordable driving. Developed in conjunction with Subaru who supply the engines, the FR-S has a very low centre of gravity and perhaps most importantly, it’s the rear wheels that are driven. Toyota believe that this is what will tempt buyers away from cars such as VW’s Scirocco as it will have a fun factor that’s not present in most competitors. Whatever your opinion on the looks, it’s certainly not mundane, especially against the backdrop of plain cars many manufacturers are happy to force upon us today.

If this car works, I foresee a resurgence of the Japanese sports car industry, possibly with the reintroduction of greats such as the MR2 and the Supra.  The land of the rising sun appears to have had a new dawn, European manufacturers, you have been warned.

By Ben Harrington

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