BMW E61 525 Review

Well I needed something a bit fit for the weekend and the best on offer was a new BMW 525 with the M sports pack. It’s only the 6, which pales to comparison to its big brother V10. But when it comes to the twisties, it’s all car! First things first, this car is bloody irritating. It took me about ten minutes to learn how to start it (key chain in hole, press it in, foot on brake, trans in park, hit ‘start’ button), ten minutes to learn how to change from HD TV to normal FM radio. Then another 5 minutes to explain to my girlfriend how to start it and the rest of the day changing my driving style to suit it! Clearly this is not my idea of fun. Inside the interior is nothing special. There’s a chrome gear level that looks like an eighties Commodore 64 joystick, very firm seats and some of the finest fake wood I’ve ever seen. The irony of which isn’t lost of BMW that have managed to convince themselves that people will pay $100K for fake wood! The firmness of the seats of matched by those run-flat tyres. Which means no longer can you just drive over bumps, you need to actively avoid them unless you’re best mates with your chiropractor. Of course being a Beamer, it well and truly steers and handles. In a straight line, Joe Commodore will keep up with you. But he will absolutely eat your dust through the twisties. The six speed auto changes super quick and never hesitates. The super sensitive steering really comes...

Saab 93x Turbo Convertible Review

Today was not a day for convertibles. Dry, dusty wind had me lusting for a big German luxo barge like an Audi A6 to thrum down the highways in, totally oblivious to the weather conditions. Sadly it wasn’t meant to be. After meandering through the rental car companies, it was down to either a Facladore or a Magna or the ever more alluring Saab convertible. Yeah sure it’s more Elton John than David Beckham, who cares! So let’s get straight to the neddies. It might have the most subtle boost gauge I’ve ever seen, but the performance is far from subtle. Saab’s four cylinder feels as bullet proof as the Falcon 4.0 straight six – a real surprise. It just doesn’t feel like a four banger. An automatic I can live with too. Sure an auto and a turbo front driver are never a good combination, but despite subtle auto indecisiveness under duress, the power delivery isn’t too shabby at all. And believe me, it doesn’t mind revving out in first gear. From a standing start it’s not so impressive thought. But floor the puppy at sixty and there’s a big rush of power. Class leading overtaking power in fact. Like the Seat we drove not long ago, there’s nothing really below two grand (call it the auto transmission with a touch of turbo lag). This thing must be purpose built for power on the autobahns and not the 60kph B-roads. Handling wise, it takes the bumps fairly smoothly. Easily one of the most comfortable cars (especially for a convertible) I’ve driven. It’s rigid with minimal body roll despite...

Seat Ibiza Review

For the past 1500 kilometres, ive been schlepping a Seat Ibiza from Central Croatia (Split) to the Istrian coast in the north. It’s been a heady mix of hair pins and B roads to autobahn style freeways with very liberal speed limits. Cut a long story short, it really is a bit meat and three veg. What you can definitely say about the Seat it is a well built car. The panel fit is superb. Inside the quality of fabrics and plastics never fails to impress. For those long journeys, the roof is high and seating position near perfect. So there is some quality and purposeful design at work here. Frankly miles more comfortable on the highway to drive than the old BA Falcon I had. As lame as it may sound, the mirror placement in the car is perfect. And that’s important at some of the speeds we’ve been doing to keep up with well heeled Croats on the highways. A trivial accolate, but what the hey! When it comes to safety and features though, the car is sadly lacking. No traction control (though it really doesn’t need it) or stability control. While it doesn’t have many buttons and knobs, there are no filled in holes in the dash where the buttons on more luxurious models would go. It makes you wonder whether they even thought of those little luxuries, even more than one cup holder, at all. Clearly not. To drive, the Volkswagen sourced 1.4 four has a lot of poke in the middle to upper range. Down low, you cant hear it rev below 2000 revs....

The XR6 Turbo Goes back

It truly is the end of an era. This Friday, i’m afraid the XR suffers a fate worse than death. No, not the knackers yard, the auction house. She’ll go under the hammer to her next owner like a lamb to the slaughter. Bugger. The two year lease has ended and I will be carless. To be completely honest, except for some initial troubles (because I believed a salesman when he told me ‘don’t worry about the 5000K service! It’s nothing!’) not a bloody thing has gone wrong. The power? Well do you really have to ask, it’s never dissapointed. The handling, for a standard family car near perfect. It’s chuckability… well lets just say it can always put a smile on your face. Torque? More than you could ever believe. Try taking off in fifth gear in your laser. Just a word of advice, that cloud of black smoke behind you is the clutch! Comfort? We’ll it wasn’t made for luxury, but the ride is sporty and it’s very well equipped without being soppy. Well was it all perfect? The best love stories never are. New owner I give you one piece of advice. Don’t look in the driver’s side rear view mirror. Because you’ll see that none of the door panels line up. So instead of this great long, perfectly machined stripe of metal, you get a rough cut outline of panels crudely thrown together. This is not the panel fit of skilled craftsmen. IPod connector for the stereo? Dear sir, you must be joking! How’s the traction control? Well crude to say the least. It shuts...

Z4 A simply awesome ride

Last time I rented a BMW the world seemed to change. All of a sudden I was driving around Toorak with a Swedish blond named Elin, searching for the Swedish Church, and that was just the 3 Series. But the 3 went back to Hertz and Elin went back to Stockholm. This time around, it’s the brand new Z4 convertible. Unfortunately the companion this time is a Shanghaiese accountant named Ian, but at least the weather’s good. And this time there’s a Melbccr unofficial cruise to Sugarloaf Dam. So we take off, this time with the mirrors firmly adjusted to the road. Mental note: next time line up girl in advance of getting new convertible. What really gets you straight away about the Z4 is how damned quickly the roof goes down. Sure you do have to be in neutral with your foot on the brake (with the sun shining over Stuttgart, facing strictly north, north east while . . . you get the idea) but if the suns up, the roof’s down in about 30 seconds with the press of a button. If only getting in was easier. It’s clearly obvious this car was designed for the steering wheel on the left hand side. The legroom cavity on the left side is noticeably wider than the right side. Which makes the SMG auto a good choice because it would be bloody difficult to clutch. Also you are sitting low. Really low. This is great except when you’re getting petrol (filler cap is on the drivers side. Bad idea), shopping or got any kind of er, hamstring injury. Maybe...