Friday, 11 August 2017

Car of the Week: Lexus IS200

I'm going to say something controversial; I think Alan Partridge might have been wrong when he called Lexus the Japanese Mercedes. Instead consider this, Lexus, particularly my car of the week is more the Japanese BMW. Ladies and gents I give you the Lexus IS200.
Lexus IS200


It's all in the DNA of the IS200 that I reach my conclusion, attractive 3 box sedan, straight 6 up front, the option of a manual gearbox in the middle and power going exclusively to the rear wheels. All traditional BMW ingredients but wrapped up in a Lexus package the IS is cruelly overlooked, let me share with you it's merits.
Lexus IS200

Posh Toyota

First off we have excellent build quality, remember people Lexus is just a posh Toyota, makers of those "unbreakable" Hilux's and god forsaken Camry's. I harp on about European cars being reliable if you look after them, but with Toyota underpinnings a Lexus will probably just keep running in spite of you. And whereas a BMW might start to show some electrical niggles like dead switches by its 17th birthday you can bet an IS's rear passenger electric window button will just keep on going. Again not wanting to sound to hypocritical, I do believe in the affordable Euros, but a Lexus part is likely to cost you less come fixing time than a European one.
Lexus IS200 interior

Plastic fantastic (not)

Where the Lexus might not shine so greatly is the way the interior has aged, cheap feeling plastics and faux aluminium trim are a far cry form the quality of a contemporary E46 3 Series but a leather sports wheel and luxuries like duel zone climate control, cruise control and electrically adjustable everything might help lessen the blow. One thing you cannot escape though is the Lexus style rear lights, yup, the IS started the whole damn craze that still lingers in the modified car world to this day, they are dated and utterly naff, but at least you can have some sort of claim to fame.            

Lexus IS200

Its all about the 6

Driver appeal and genuine race car potential are more reasons to look the 200's way. It all comes back to that drive train, smooth revvy 6 cylinder up front and rear drive makes for a excellent base. And when mated to a 6 speed manual the deal is surely only sweetened. With direct steering, a composed, balanced ride and decent brakes the IS200 only gets better. With the inline 6 only displacing 2 litres the 200 is no rocket ship, making do with 114kw, revving it out is the only way to make real progress, no hardship of course, the VVTI likes a stretch. But if you do find it a little slow don't worry as being of Japanese origin means the IS is open to a whole range of modifications to make it faster. Watch here to see CarThrottle turn one into a track car and just listen to how good that engine sounds with an exhaust!
Lexus IS200 straight 6

Go get one 

I do like rarity in a car, being unique for me is part of the appeal and surprisingly a manual IS200 is rarer than an equivalent BMW E46 while still costing the same amount of coin. Prices range from $3000 for a rough high kilometer car to $10k for a modified one. Personally I'd go somewhere in the middle and a buy stock or just slightly modified example to give myself a blank canvas. The car I've chosen below is a good example and also happens to be the Sport LE version with a subtle body kit. Overlooked and underrated the IS200 is a hidden gem in Lexus's back catalogue, with an engaging nature and a drivetrain copied straight from the boys in Munich the 200 might just be the dynamic sedan you never knew you needed.

Lexus IS200 for sale

Friday, 2 June 2017

Shit cars that one day we'll all want: Vol 1

The Volkswagen Kombi, the Volkswagen Beetle, the Ford Escort and the Holden Gemini. These are just a mere few of the cars from our motoring past which were once so common people couldn't give them away. However nowadays they command such ludicrous prices it borders on insanity. As to the reason why? It certainly isn't because they were good cars. The Vdubs asthmatic aircooled lumps couldn't peel the skin of a bowl of custard, the Ford rusted in places no one ever thought possible and the Gemini TE looked dated the second it left the showroom floor.


This beard definitely wants a Kombi 
The reason of course is our fickle sentimentality that screams out for us to relive a misspent youth. Or in the case of the VW's a culture dictating that owning these cars makes you cooler than the most overtly bearded hipsters out there. And of course bulging bank accounts of that one time youth help too, willing to pay whatever for a memory. Now don't chastise me for these comments, I too would own many a shit box from my teens; bloated sorry excuse for a GTI that was the MK4 Golf anyone? Pick me! This nostalgia got me to thinking though, what recent cars, that we currently view as awful throw away items will we one day throw piles of money at to own? Here are 4 to get you thinking.

AU Ford Falcon (98-02)

Hard to comprehend that one day the droopy frog faced excuse of the big Aussie sedan might one day be collectable isn't it? But I bet your parents or grandparents thought the same of 1969's XW generation and try finding a decent one of them for under $20k now. Just today I spotted a dozen AU's and only one was mint, the others resembled rolling ash trays with the occasional miss matched chromey and sun burnt paint. Give it 10 more years and all the AU's you can buy for loose change will be gone, it definitely isn't the prettiest Falcon but is it worth playing the long game and buying one now? Time will tell.
AU Ford Falcon
A face only a mother could love

Hyundai Excel X3 (94-00)

Nope, I've not lost my mind, I really do wonder if the Koreans first big hit might be a future classic. Could it be Hyundai's Beetle? With woeful build quality and interior plastics similar in feel to those tubs you buy mushrooms in from the supermarket the Excel really wasn't that great, however generous standard equipment and a bargain basement price when new saw some 200,000 sold Down Under. So not surprisingly, Excels are everywhere providing cheap mobility to at least 2 generations of P plater's and budget conscious motorists from Broome to Byron Bay. I'd bet their attrition rate is probably at an all time high right now. Much like the Beetle does now for the middle age generation will we one day long for a mint Excel GX 3 door that reminds us of times gone by?

Hyundai Excel
Check out that spoiler, phwoar! 

Holden Cruze (09-16)

The rebadged Korean Chevy is similar in many ways to the Excel above, it's popularity can be largely put down to it's heavily discounted price when new, rather than it's actual abilities as a car. Deeply flawed when compared to European designed rivals like the Golf, Focus, 308 and even Holden's own Astra I cant help but feel the Cruze's of this world will drop and drop in price and numbers until there are very few left. If you've recently bought one of the last production run, keep it for a few decades and you might have an oddball collectors item on your hands.

Holden Cruze

Mazda 323 (98-03)

Blander than Tofu dunked in soy milk the 323 was thoroughly surpassed in all areas by its Mazda 3 successor in 2003. Does that mean they will disappear into the "also ran" category of our motoring history? I have a feeling that they might. Which is a shame given the SP20 variant was a semi decent steer. We might not know it now but the Mazda 323 SP20 could be the Escort RS2000 of the 2000's. Best hold onto one just in case.
Mazda 323

Tell me how wrong I am...

Yes this whole article has been wild speculation, so if you feel like adding your own cars to the list feel free. Lets all check back in 40 years and see if my predictions came true, in the meantime I suspect there are many more volumes in this series so I'll get to compiling another list.

photo credit

Monday, 15 May 2017

Buying new has never been cheaper

Inflation calculator Did you know that right now the Australian car buying public have never had it better? Not only is the choice of new cars simply staggering, ranging from a $13k Suzuki Celerio to a million dollar McLaren 675LT, but the price you pay is actually the lowest its every been. Comparatively speaking if you look at the performance, safety and standard equipment packed into cars today, you'll wonder how manufactures ever managed to sell cars in the 1990's. Let me share with you some like for like examples, with the 20 year currency inflation taken into account.

Let's begin with a Munich legend, a performance hero, the BMW M3. Back in 1997 an E36 generation car was yours to the tune of $131,750. Readjusted for inflation that works out at just under $215,000. Compare that to the cost of a brand new M3 today, roughly $150,000 and the legend begins to look almost like a bargain. Yes you still get a chassis tweaked by the geniuses at M division but now you also get 2 turbos, an extra 100kw of power and driver aids that can both make you go faster and stop you from having a crash. It's also going to be less temperamental and more reliable than 20 years ago. The fact BMW can do all this for less money than it has ever cost is astonishing. Jury's still out on whether it's owner will no what an indicator is though....
BMW E36 M3

BMW F90 M3

The same can be said for the M3's biggest rival, the Mercedes AMG C63. Back in the late 90's the C43 AMG was the halo car of the C-Class range and it was a rare beast, not a lot of Aussies shelled out the $155,000 to buy one, which when you consider that in today's money it works out at over $250,000 you can see why. Right now however Mercedes will sell you a brand new C63 for exactly the same as the C43 cost 20 years ago, not the inflation corrected price. The years might have passed but the price hasn't crept up with them. And whereas in the 90's you were lucky to get heated seats and a CD player today the C63 comes loaded with active safety tech, connectivity and enough performance to absolutely annihilate its grandfather in the traffic light grand prix.
Mercedes Benz AMG C43

Mercedes Benz C63 AMG

It is not just luxury manufacturers pulling off this trick of engineering far superior cars and selling them for less money. Take the humble Honda Civic, now in it's 10th generation and injected with some of the mojo it lost over the past few generations, a new VTI-S can be yours for a drive away just shy of $28,000. Roll the clock back and a new VTI sedan with an auto would have cost you $32,900 in 1997 (that is over $50k in today's money). Yes some dealers would have given you a saving, but ultimately today's Civic is substantially cheaper to buy and certainly a lot less likely to make people think you perform in the Sunday church choir.
Honda Civic sedan EK

Honda Civic VTI-S FC

Even at the budget end of the market new car buyers have it good, take the Suzuki Swift. In 97 around $12,000 got you behind the wheel. That's roughly $21,000 adjusted for inflation. Still not an unreasonable sum for a new city car today by any means. However when you consider the Swift of old had 3 items on its standard equipment list, those being a radio cassette, body coloured bumpers and a remote boot release, the drive away pricing right now on a 2017 Swift GL is looks like an absolute steal. With keyless entry, cruise control, bluetooth, and a 5 star safety rating for $15,990, millennials look like their getting a much much better deal.
Suzuki Swift
Check out those body coloured bumpers...

Suzuki Swift

Now in no way am I trying to butter up any manufacturers here, the 4 cars listed are totally random. In fact most car makers probably still get away with charging too much for some cars in their lineups. I do think however that time has been kind, the advancement in technologies and manufacturing techniques over the last 20 years means that today you get far more car for your money than ever before. It really couldn't be a better time to be alive when it comes to new cars!

Oh and on a final note, if like me you want to spend far too much time seeing how inflation can change the price of something head over to the Reserve Bank of Australia's calculator.             

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Trio of Mazda RX-7's go to auction

Originality is a lovely thing, it gets nerds like me all hot under the collar. So imagine the excitement when I heard not one but three early Mazda RX-7's are to be auctioned at Shannon's May 8th Sale.
Trio of Mazda RX-7's going up for auction

Aussie delivered

The cars are not just early but run in sequential model order too, Series 1, Series 2 and 3. To top it all off the cars will be offered with no reserve. Here are some details, firstly all three are manual and have low kilometres, they were also Australian delivered as new, no JDM importing here, this makes me even hotter under the collar!
Series 1 Mazda RX-7 up for auction
Series 1 RX-7


It gets better though, all three cars have come from the same private collection, so despite having had little use they have been meticulously well looked after and ultimately kept locked up away from modifying hands. Yes that's right, all three have their Wankles intact with  not a hint of LS motor in sight! They even sit on their original alloy wheels. Inside the interiors are time warp, with factory spec'ed A/C and no sunroofs, not only does that make them that bit stiffer it's also one less place the RX-7's can rust from.
Series 2 Mazda RX-7 up for auction
Series 2 RX-7


Increasing collectable an early RX-7 is a good place to put some money, despite their lack of reserve the cars are likely to fetch strong money. Shannon's predict the silver Series 1 will go for $20-26k while the Series 2 and 3 are expected to fetch $14-18k each. Pricey but still a darn sight cheaper than many a European coupe of the same condition and vintage. If you want one get to Shannon's Melbourne Autumn Auction on the 8th of May, and should the Japanese coupes not take your fancy there are many other cars up for grabs too.
Series 3 Mazda RX-7 up for auction
Series 3 RX-7


Friday, 24 March 2017

Car of the week: Porsche Cayenne

It might be uglier than a bottom feeder fish that has been hit in the face with a frying pan but did you know that the Porsche Cayenne is now 15 years old? And nowadays they represent a rather good second hand buy, I mean you cant argue that you get a lot of excellent engineering for your money.

How much?

What sort of money am I talking? $20,000 will get you behind the wheel of a well serviced, cherished example. Meaning that this side of a 986 Boxster the Cayenne is the cheapest modern era Porsche you can buy. And its important to point out that the Cayenne isn't a hulking great whale in Porsche clothing either, the companies first SUV stunned the world by actually driving like a Porsche too, so your not just buying a badge.


Performance ranged from brisk in the base V6 engined Cayenne to properly absurd in the Turbo S. I'm talking a 0-100km/h of just over 7 seconds in the V6, not bad for something weighing over 2 tonnes. While the updated Turbo S cracked the same sprint in 4.7 seconds! In the twisties it was impossible for Porsche to totally disguise the cars bulk but direct steering, stiff suspension and all wheel drive grip do their bit to deliver a entertaining steer. Both manual and auto where available, although I'd bet almost everyone chose the latter when they splashed out the $130,000+ for a new one back in the day.


Inside things are suitably Porsche, with a familiar instrument cluster, steering wheel and lashings of leather. All finished to the very highest standards, it is a bit of a button frenzy inside though, as was the theme in the mid noughties.


Now the burning question, I bet your all asking. Won't a 15 year old used Porsche just break? I argue that no, with proper regular maintenance the Cayenne is more reliable than you might imagine. From the outset the Cayenne was over engineered. And as a company Porsche regularly top reliability charts across the globe. Sure when something does go bang the repair costs will be high, but buy sensibly and you could get yourself a performance luxury bargain. For some proof check out the Everyday Driver Youtube channel, one of their hosts has been doing a video diary on his experience of used Cayenne ownership and concludes that it isn't too terrifying.

That whole gag of once your inside you don't have to see it definitely applies to the first generation Cayenne, I doubt even the very judgemental internet will argue with me there. However, if you are in the market for a luxury SUV for less coin than a new Korean hatchback please take one for a spin. Get inside past the bottom feeder face and revel in what is quite an achievement from a one time niche sports car maker.

2003 Porsche Cayenne S: $17,990

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Super Cheap Euro's: Vol 3

If you haven't read my previous super cheap euro pieces then let me give you a quick run down. I'm convinced that European cars need not be expensive things to own or at the very least buy in this country. This means that every so often I search online for a bunch of bargain euro's to give you guys out there some inspiration. A European car for under $2000, here are an eclectic mix I found earlier, what could possibly go wrong?

Fiat Regata

Do you want to own something that literally no one will have ever heard off? Coming complete with a slice of slab sided but oddly stylish 1980's Italian design flair I give you the Fiat Regata. As far as I can figure out Fiat did actually sell the Regata down under and I can only speculate they did not sell many. Making this car a rare survivor, especially given it's outstanding condition and the fact it's only recently run out of rego. For $1000 (if I was closer) I'd have it bought.
1987 Fiat Regata; $1000

Peugeot 306 Cab

From an Italian car to one that was designed by one of the countries finest design studios. The regular 306 is pretty thanks to the Pininfarina styling, but chopping its roof off only makes it better. Roof down, leather seats poking out the 306 convertible reminds me of a gorgeous Riva speedboat, only with the useful ability to drive on land and of course cost a fraction of the price. There are both phase 1 and 2 examples available, with the phase 1 just a little bit more angular in appearance. The car I've chosen is a phase 2, painted gold, because if your impersonating a luxury speedboat, why not?
1998 Peugeot 306 Cabriolet; $1800 

BMW 3 Series

Want to be part of BMW history for not a lot of money? Then the 3 Series is your answer. With over 10 million made you could buy into that staggering statistic. Of course they are popular for good reason. For years only BMW offered buyers the combination of luxury and driver involvement, wrapped up in a solid Teutonic looking package. With so many around it's no real surprise they are cheap however, it also means there is choice galore. I've picked a manual, it is a drivers car after all.
1993 BMW 318i; $1500

Citroen Xantia

It's not quite Fiat Regata weird but the Xantia exists in a similar "what the hell are you driving" realm. Classic wedge shape draws from it's Citroen DS ancestry, similarly the hydropneumatic suspension that debuted in the DS ensures all of our roads imperfections are ironed out. Now the car I've picked does need some work, but it is awfully cheap and has been advertised since October last year, someone buy it please.
1996 Citroen Xantia; $400

Saab 9000

To round off this eclectic mix of cars and guessing some of you may be laughing so hard at my suggestions already I thought why not include a car from a defunct manufacturer. Yes I give you the Saab 9000, however don't right the car off just because Saab does not exist anymore. The 9000 was one of the most over engineered cars of its time. Despite agreeing to platform share with Fiat/Lancia/Alfa to save money Saab engineers totally reworked their quarter of the foursome, making it stronger and re positioning things to make the 9000 one of the safest places to be should you happen to have a crash in the 1980's. The car soldiered on until 1998 however the example I've found comes from 1995. Being sold by what seems to be an honest dealer the 9000 is a trade in and has been given a mechanical once over. It's also a super rare manual car. The kms are high but that's probably why it's so cheap.
1995 Saab 9000; $1650     

Super cheap euro's volume 3, from Fiats to Saabs hopefully I have helped to showcase there really is a lot of choice for car enthusiasts in Australia.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Run Out Savings: Top 5 for 2017

In today's gadget obsessed fully connected world cars are a bit old hack. For over 100 years the basic principles of internal combustion pushing along four wheels has not changed one bit and car companies are well aware their products have nothing on the advancement of other smaller technologies; such as mobile phones. So to keep people interested the least they can do is release new models and with this comes immediate savings for buyers who are fine with a new car being "so last year bro".

With most car makers churning out thousands of cars a day, the surplus of vehicles when a model changes over is huge. So not wanting to sit on tonnes of old (yet brand new) product manufactures shift these cars at big savings to make way for shiny new fully connected, actively safe replacements. The truth of course is that the cars being replaced have been updated so much from their original release that they share much of the advancements in technology, merely wrapped up in some old sheet metal. Here are some excellent cars getting replaced this year that might incur some run out savings.

Audi A5

Do you love the Audi A4 but crave fewer doors and a sloping roofline? Then the A5 is the answer to your Teutonic coupe needs. This year will see an all new A5 hit the market, although given Audi's tendency to evolve the design of it's cars rather than totally redo them most people would be hard pushed to spot the difference. Of course this is good news if you crave a little four ringed goodness on your driveway for a reduced rate. Expect the asking price of the current 8 year old design to drop as dealers try to move their stock in preparation for the new arrival. Still available with a 2 litre turbo, quattro grip and a level of interior quality that some other car makers can still only dream of creating, the original A5 still has a lot to offer.
All new Audi A5
All new Audi A5

Old Audi A5
Spot the difference? This is the last gen A5

Old Audi A5 interior
Audi know how to do interiors

BMW 5 Series

Much like the A5 above BMW's current 5 Series has been with us for a long time and again much like the Audi the BMW's transition into its seventh generation is a gentle one. Despite being all new from first glance you'd be hard pushed to see. With that good old BMW staple of front engined rear wheel drive the old 5 Series still fly's the flag for driver involvement in the luxury sedan market. You certainly wouldn't be disappointed taking a previous generation car of the dealers hands, for a reduced rate of course.
All new BMW 5 Series
All new BMW 5 Series 

Old BMW 5 Series
A bit more spot the difference, this is the previous gen car

Land Rover Discovery

Another luxury car that's getting long in the tooth is the current Discovery 4, on sale since 2004. A newfangled Disco 5 is due later this year which might finally see prices for the current car take a hit. Despite it's age the Disco 4 holds onto value for good reason, 7 seats, Range Rover levels of comfort and genuine go anywhere off road ability. When the new one lands buying a previous gen example for a little saving won't be silly idea at all.
All new Land Rover Discovery
All new Discovery 5

Previous gen Discovery
Previous gen Discovery 4

Mazda CX-5

Australia's best selling SUV has been with us for 5 years and later this year will be bowing out to make way for an all new sharp looking newbie. However the current car is still doing the business for Mazda, providing buyers a high riding SUV which drives more like a car. The engines are efficient and the safety tech such as blind spot monitor, city brake assist and rear cross traffic alert will likely be exactly the same stuff offered on the new car. Connectivity is taken care off too with MZD Connect allowing users easy access to all their smartphone functions. Savings could be well into four figures.
All new Mazda CX-5
All new Mazda CX-5

Previous gen Mazda CX-5
Previous gen CX-5 is still Australia's best seller 

Suzuki Swift

Finally a budget car in this otherwise mostly prestige list, yes the current Swift which has been with us for 7 years gets totally rebooted later this year and with any luck yours truly might get to sample it. Now with Suzuki's already being aggressively priced compared to their competition, one can imagine that when the new Swift drops so will prices of the old car sitting on forecourts across the land. Good news, as despite it's age the current Swift represents the very ethos of what a modern small hatchback should be. It is light, nimble, nippy, big on the inside, has decent connectivity and is cheap to run. Getting a brand new one at a reduced rate merely sweetens the deal.
Current Suzuki Swift
Current Suzuki Swift

The world is changing and so are the cars we drive, although that doesn't mean you need to have the latest and greatest to fit in. If you want to save a bit of cash and still walkaway with a new car consider the run out savings you could negotiate on one of the 5 cars above. All are still excellent, it is simply that their makers want to grab your attention with something totally generation Y instead.    

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

What ever happened to 90's coupes: Holden Calibra

This year is going to be a tough transition for Holden, attempting to change it's image from an all Aussie manufacturer to full importer of vehicles; it might put buyers off. However, in reality Holden have imported many a rebadged General Motors product over the years and one stand out came in response to Japan's rather good coupes of the 90's. I am of course talking about the Holden Calibra.
Holden Calibra

Never heard of it? I don't blame you, nobody bought the darn thing, which is a real shame, let me explain why. Firstly there's the way the Calibra looks, designed in house by GM I can't help feel there's something of the Alfa Romeo SZ and BMW 840i about it, low nose, narrow slit headlights, flat rear end with some chunky light lenses all linked by a low roof line befitting of a sports coupe. The Calibra looks good especially when parked next to its far more rounded contemporaries like the Celica and Prelude.
Holden Calibra

Holden Calibra

Another plus point for the Calibra lurked under that sleek bonnet, the star motor was a 2 litre turbo 4 cylinder linked to a 6 speed manual and a four wheel drive system. The Calibra Turbo was good for 150kw and a 0-100km/h sprint of 7.3 seconds. Considerably quicker that it's Japanese rivals. Other engine choices included a silky smooth 2.5 litre V6 and freer revving 2 litre 16v non turbo engine fettled by renowned engine guru's Cosworth, the two non turbo choices were front wheel drive only.
Holden Calibra

Opal Vectra/Vauxhall Cavalier
Underneath a Calibra lurks this repmobile
Chassis wise the Calibra utilised the underpinnings of the decidedly non sporty Opel Vectra/Vauxhall Cavalier (yes the thing in the picture). However despite the under whelming image the Vectra had a reasonable suspension set up. Utilising a front sub frame holding the engine with MacPherson struts and in four wheel drive models the rear torsion beam was swapped out for a totally independent rear end also in its own sub frame. So in spite of competitors being designed from the ground up as sports cars the Calibra could actually hold its own in the twisty stuff.

Interior wise the Calibra was less inspiring unfortunately, that same Vectra/Cavalier pairing that supplied a winning chassis couldn't supply an equally winning interior. Cheap plastics, flimsy construction, a big blob of a steering wheel and zero sporting accoutrements make for a very dated interior. Sure there was an option of leather seats to smarten things up but how well these have worn is questionable.
Calibra's uninspiring interior
Decidedly bland

Now I mentioned that nobody bought a Calibra, which makes tracking one down difficult 20 years later. However if you are in the market for a 90's coupe I urge you to try and seek one out, They look good, go well, handle with composure and are rarer than things which command 6 figure asking prices! And for me the real clincher is that despite their rarity it has done nothing to push up values. As I type this there are fewer than 10 advertised online but all are for under $3000. Do your bit to save an original imported Holden before they all disappear. Here's one I found earlier: Holden Calibra