Volkswagen Passat – it has a big boot

It has a big boot. That’s about all you can say about this car. It’s an unusual way to start a car review but if you have any interest in cars, please stop reading now. Driving the Passat is like death of a thousand paper cuts via your accountant. It’s beige inextremis. In other words it’s deathly boring. I was driving this car by default as it’s what was on offer at Hertz Montreal. Given I only needed a car for the day to drive from Montreal to Quebec it was no big deal. It had a big boot (trunk if you’re American) and took all our luggage. I mean it took 2 full size suit cases and fairly large cabin bags effortlessly. With what it costs to rent cars here, that will have to do. Clearly this is not a German built Passat. While it looks like it was hewn from solid stone from the outside, inside the plastics feel a little sub par. This car has 60,000 on the clock and the door skin was feeling a bit flimsy. So fit and finish isn’t great. It just feels a little bit cheap. The seats weren’t exactly rock hard like other Euro Volksys either which is a bit strange. So these Mexican built cars really aren’t as solid as their Seth Efrican or Euro forebears. When it comes to the driving it’s uninvolving to say the least. It’s gutless when putting along in city traffic. Sure it cruises at highway speeds well enough. But the noise levels with winter tyres was at times unbearable. Worse still the noise...

Driving from Montreal to Quebec

Us Aussies have a lot to take for granted when it comes to driving. For better or for worse drive right hand drive cars. Driving on they go left takes a little getting used to but touch wood I find it no big deal. This drive in the Canadian spring though proved a little interesting. They have the arrow straight highways we have in Australia that hypnotise you with their repetitiveness and mundane 100 kph speed limits. While this is a journey worth making (train rides are for the lame), I thought I’d share with you a few learnings. The fun didn’t start at the rental lot either. Getting a rental car in French Canada is about as interesting as going nightie shopping with your mum. The metallic charcoal coloured Volkswagen Passat on offer was about as good as the Montreal rental lot got. The exciting upgrade option was some mincing Dodge mini SUV, which we passed on. Once we hit the highway, It’s winter tyres rumbled along the highway so loudly, I thought we had an industrial boiler in the boot! It was expensive too. About $180 CAD will get you a regular sized car for the day insured. Be warned it’s not cheap! There’s two main routes you can take to Quebec. We took highway 40 which takes about 3.5 hours because it’s more scenic. It passes through a few pretty little towns. My only advice to you is if the weather is as bad as what we had, then don’t bother with the scenic route. You won’t see anything through the blinding rain anyway. I think...

Football, meat pies, kangaroos and apartheid.

A bit of car nostalgia is a good thing. If you think the Monaro and the VE Commodore getting sent stateside was awesome, Holden’s exports in the seventies were far more impressive. The Kingswood and Statesman weren’t just sent to New Zealand and Oceania. Some models made it all over Asia:  Malaysia, Japan, Thailand, you name it!  This collection of Holden brochures on FlickR alone will keep me up for a few hours heart palpating.  But I found something the other day that truly amazed me. Not only was the HQ Holden Statesman marketed in South Africa as the Chevrolet Kommando, they saved a quid by copying the Australian ‘football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars‘ ad. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Just adapt the lyrics to the Afrikaaners and put it on the telly. Job done! The problem was in the early seventies there was no TV in South Africa. Here I was wondering why some idiot put still images up on YouTube. They didn’t. It was taken from a radio ad. They had to. TV was the peril of apartheid. They feared not that TV would give delusions of emancipation to the vast majority of South Africans who were black and coloured. Oh it was far more rational than that. According to Time Magazine, god fearing Afrikaner folk (well men frankly) feared the raping and pillaging of the wife if TV penetrated the sanctum of their middle class houses. You know, when cleaning up after the entitled elites all day everyday, one glimpse of seventies Farah Fawcett on the silver screen would’ve given black and coloured servants such an...

Gen 8 Honda Civic hatch review

Well frankly I’m flabbergasted to write this. Having never been a Honda fan I never thought I’d set foot in one, let alone write about one. Honda peeps tend to the be the over emphatic types with shiny clothing and oversized baseball caps with stickers still on the brim. They have a penchant for revving, stabbing and ramming the virtues of VTEC down your throat constantly. But a sea of wannabe gang-stars couldn’t get in the way of this car’s virtues. Firstly this is the 2011 hatch back made in sunny Swindon in the UK, not the sedan made in poor old flooded Thailand. This car should actually be quite old hat but for the Fukushima earthquake somewhat soiled Honda’s replacement plans. But I’m told a new gen 9 Civic is due around May-June. Yes Honda’s had rather a hard time of it lately. So enough guff. It’s a 1.8 VTEC manual. Sadly the auto is a bit anemic. But the manual goes free up the revs a bit for a bit more power. Surprisingly it’s fairly torquey considering the number of S2000s I’ve seen revving at 9000rpm yet still doing 60kph because of a slight incline. It’s no Golf GTI but it is fun and capable.  If you hold a gear, you can zip around very nicely. Or just putter along changing gears with the frequency of a truckie and stay frugal. At 100 something kilowatt, it will do. No sir this is clearly not the Full Monty Type R. Because that doesn’t have 5 doors. After putting down some hard kays on the highways and around town,...

Is a VW Golf GTI better than a Camaro SS?

Yes it’s an utterly stupid question. Yes there is no quarter or parallel between them. They couldn’t be more distant cousins than Republicans and humans. So comment all you like, I know it’s a moot point. Fact of that matter is, after driving the mark VI Golf, this was exactly what I was asking myself. A few months ago, I was driving the big ape Camaro around Oahu in Hawaii. A place devoid of lonely highways,  straights that stretch on for hundreds of miles all with not a cop awake in sight. These roads seem not to exist; the kind of place a muscle car longs for You wanted to like it the way you want to think Aerosmith still look young. But while it still is cool, there’s a whiff of unsightly old age to this Canadian muscle car. Like Brian Adams without the Botox (actually he just sucks). Strangely though, the Golf GTI has kept with the times by barely changing at all. If there was an analogy, like The Scorpions in their leather pants could be retro cool in some ironic kind of way. So how did this come about? Someone threw me the keys to a three door Golf GTI mark VI manual. It makes you question why cars need twenty inch rims and big gaudy bulges. The smile that all six of those gears puts on your face leaves you dumbfounded. The thrumming of the engine is a noise I’d only thought Italian thoroughbreds are capable of. Clearly not. Suddenly the most important thing in life is getting past the losermobile hatchback in front...

2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS review

Only in America. A 6.2 litre V8 is a rental car, like just about every other I ‘review’. The only bad thing about it is I had the chance to drive it in Honolulu – an island you can probably drive around in 4 hours if there is no traffic. But there is loads of that. So no, this car hasn’t been driven flat knacker at 150 miles an hour. Hawaiians are just far too chilled for that! Frankly the car is gobsmackingly powerful. It spins those 20 inch hoops with extreme prejudice and absolute ease. Unlike the Mustang, it does have a smooth 6 speed manual mode for the auto, though with this much grunt who needs it. But great power brings responsibility. While in theory this car is a Holden Commodore, it feels far bigger and has way less rear visibility. It’s a massive leap of faith parking the thing as it’s fairly wide and those fat rear guards are hard to see. There’s just no getting around how big this car feels. You constantly feel like your squeezing a hallway down a hot dog! For a humble Aussie not used to big muscle cars, keeping it in its lane is a challenge – although I’m sure you’d get used to it. Again like the pony car, it’s definitely not a sports car. The handling is firm and comfortable considering those massive rims, but you wont be chasing any Lotus Elises down twisty roads. Though you might beat it to the bottom of the cliff. The front brake calipers proudly display ‘Brembo by Chevrolet’ and while they...