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Australian Motor Show opening day part 2

"Range Rover V6 Turbo Diesel Engine" by robad0b is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Alfa Romeo stepped up straight after the Peugeot unveiling of a woman, I mean a car. A 207 apparently.

Alfa is known for being kinda sexy. It’s ye olde Spider was always as phallic as the best Italian automobile, but the stakes were pretty high.

Alfa Romeo wanted us to know the marque is more than just sexy. This Italian temptress was classy – like young guys pulling sophisticated old birds kinda classy. How do we know? The Graduate. No. Opera. While most car makers kicked off their sets with rock music, Alfa went traditional with a live Italian opera singer.

She swanned out in an evening gown, singing some of the most heartfelt noise that was lost on 99 per cent of attendees. It helped she was flanked by equally gorgeous models wearing evening gowns and ear to ear sultry smiles for all the hot journos dribbling. Certainly she was brilliant, but I couldn’t help trying to convince myself that Jet really was a credible rock band.

Not that many of the press pack was watching the opera singer. Alfa was unfortunately positioned opposite Mitsubishi, whose models stood high on the platform overlooking the crowd and the crowd overlooked right back.

In fact Alfa was like the unwanted salad in a flesh sandwich with Mitsubishi on one side and Peugeot’s naked babe on the other – who by now was swamped by ferals wanting a grope in the guise of a photograph. And that was just the journalists.

Somewhere in the chaos Alfa managed to say that the 159 line up would be available in petrol and diesel as well as six speed auto and manual by February 2007. A 1.9 litre diesel was also being added to the 159 to broaden the audience for people with sport car ambitions.

But Alfa’s big launch was the debut of its new convertible Spider, which was the result of a design collaboration by Pininfarina and Giugiaro.

While it’s mostly based on the stonkingly cool new Brera Coupe, the Spider is decidedly a roofless two-door.

Two versions of the new Alfa Spider are available, starting at $77,000, with a choice of either a 2.2 litre JTS 136 kW four cylinder engine, or a 3.2 litre JTS 191 kW V6.

The finale for Alfa was the 8C Competizione, which is an exclusive Gran Turismo limited to 500 worldwide.

It’s questionable that people think this is a good thing. Sure the exclusive factor makes it unique. The ‘ooh look at me with my 1 in 500 car’. But what happens when something goes wrong? There is nothing soothing about air sucked through the teeth of a mechanic, followed by the words "I’ve gotta order it in special. It’ll cost ya."

An Alfa Romeo suit said the 8C design was indicative of all future Alfa’s. And frankly it’s refreshing that design cues are rooted in physiology. Who could tire of long, throbbing, rounded cars.

President of the chess club

When it comes to throbbing, few could argue with the power of Subaru. Whether it’s a WRX Impreza or a Liberty GT, Subaru is like the really ugly car maker who’s a brainiac.

Having no taste whatsoever, this writer must confess to being a bit of a sube tragic. The WRX for my money offers the kind of performance you get in expensive cars, and I don’t care that after a while the sunvisor creaks and the doors rattle a bit, or that my partner thinks it’s a joke car driven by morons and wants something more respectable.

The Sube stand had a drive train to check out and frankly it looks better without the body and interior. That said, the Subaru interiors get so much better with each model and the reason they aren’t a patch on great euro’s from Audi or VW, is because by skimping on trimmings you get a car as good as Porsche. Yuh, I’ll say it. Go me.

The Peugeot girl was still naked and still being photographed by grinning gibberers, and the Subaru stand was right next to it. Still, with Mitsubishi opposite and doing a fine job of reminding us that cars and models go hand in oily hand, it was up to Subaru to up the ante.

It’s big pressure for Subaru sure, but they’ve been fighting off the RalliArt Evo for years, and even though a STi WRX is not as good as an Evo 9, it’s cheaper.

And so was Subaru’s stand. After Jet and a naked girl, then a hot opera singer, Subaru wheels out a visiting Japanese executive to deliver a monotone speech that was as welcome as a cold shower.

The Tribeca SUV was Subaru’s big launch and it’s called a luxury SUV.

You can always take the use of the word “luxury” in relation to any Subaru vehicle with a grain of salt. In fact, you could take that grain of salt, belt it with a sledgehammer and use a microscope to isolate a particle of salt dust, and take that instead of the whole grain.

But if Subaru is positioning the Tribeca as a “luxury SUV”, then we applaud the sense of aspiration.

What you can never argue with when it comes to Sube is safety smarts.

The Tribeca gets a maximum five star ANCAP safety rating for occupant safety and goes on sale next month starting at $54,000.

The Land Rover stand was next to make some noise and any hope of reviving the press pack from Subaru’s flatlining was wishful at best.

They revealed an orange Freelander II. You’re either excited by that or not.

Bribery works big time

Volvo wanted to have a go at being sexy. In fact the Volvo suit said "sexy is the new safe-word at Volvo" and while the Swedes are known for their kinkiness, it was a revelation that safe-words are being used by the car maker.

With that, the sheets were pulled off the new C70 and the retractable hardtop did its party trick to oohs and aahs.

The two door coupe convertible is Volvo’s attempt to, well, be sexy. The C70 comes in two models, the naturally aspirated LE and T5 turbo.

My esteemed colleague Paul Pottinger, rates the C70 in a big way. You can read his wrap in the Opening Day Highlights story.

My main concern was all the talk of being sexy but not having load of models to prove it. Volvo had one girl wearing a knee length black pencil skirt and a purple stripped blouse.

The C70 is okay, but not so good that it didn’t need the girls to remind us that it’s really, really sexy (remember the safe-word). Not even Ferrari took that risk.

The girl then revealed a stonkin' 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo with the exclamation: "this is not a concept car, people. This is real."

With all due respect to Volvo, there was little chance of the question being raised. If scientists could track the thoughts of every person in that room, I’d wager that not one of them began a synapse series that even veered in the direction of asking "concept or real? I cant tell!" 

Volvo will also introduce a 2.4-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel and 2.4-litre five-cylinder petrol at the same time around April 2007.

The CARSguide photographer Gavin merely grunted that the C30 was a remake of the P1800 from The Saint.

But no journalists were about snigger smugly about Volvo’s delusions of sexiness. They were placated with free video iPods.

I’ll let that sink in for a second.

So Volvo are not only the best carmaker in the world, they are also very very sexy. And since my partner and I are expecting our first born soon, Im just grateful that we’ve found a name for our child. It will be called Volvo, because Volvo is the best thing on the planet ever. Three cheers for Volvo.

The video iPod contained all the company press releases, pdfs, videos of the cars and interviews with the suits.

I believe they would have been extraordinarily enlightening – because Volvo is tops – and if I hadn’t deleted them three seconds after unpacking it, I could better tell you just how interesting these were. Just take my word for it. Everything Volvo is good. Video iPod good.

No bribes needed

Volkswagon was next up with the much anticipated Eos turbo diesel. It’s a hardtop convertible but it’s nowhere near is good as the Volvo C 70 iPod edition. Oh iPod or not, I can’t deny the VW Eos is very cool.

Even though VW let us down with the sexy stand factor, we know the Germans have always been the filthiest behind closed doors. So it’s the Eos package inside and under the hood where the sexy-cool factor comes in to play.

Two tone leather interior, aluminium dash inserts, 17 inch alloys and the five piece convertible sliding roof with a tilt glass sunroof.

A 2-litre diesel and petrol four cylinder is available in either six speed auto or manual.

Everything Zen

Lexus was next and a suit talked tough about the future of Lexus and its most comprehensive attack on the luxury market. All the military positioning was a bit jarring in a place full of scantily clad models. Memo to Lexus: keep the hard talk to your war room. And bring on the models.

Mercifully the suit stopped talking and a parade of bizarrely dressed models emerged. When I say bizarrely dressed, I mean they looked like psychedelic fruit bearers. Fluro mini skirts with fruit…things on them…and big feathers. I don’t know. Did Mugato design these?

The IS 250 sports luxury concept was revealed and it looked the goods. A chrome car. Chrome. With black spider web rims.

It was fierce, and now quite obvious where the hardman talk was coming from. Someone at Lexus HQ was drinking a lot of guarana drinks. The ones with free LSD shots. Oh they exist.

Despite the fierce look, Lexus is forever damned by its grille. The straight fluted grille is said to epitomise all sledges against Japanese design. The Zen minimalist design is guaranteed to put you into a transcendental coma with prolonged exposure.

The real launch for Lexus at this Motor Show was the LS 460, which is billed as the most significant development project since the 400. The Lexus suit said that it "epitomises the highest expression of our design aesthetic. The craftsmanship is subliminal."

Subliminal sums up Lexus. It’s like you know there’s something there, but it’s so hard to see the fuss. But if beneath the façade of blandness beats the heart of car that stands for something, then let’s just accept that it is subliminal.

Of course Lexus tells us they do stand for something. Luxury. And to prove it, they broke out the champagne and chocolates served by Luke Mangan.

The 4.6-litre V8 is the world’s first 8-speed auto, which will come in handy, well never really, but it’s a world first and you have to admire the endeavour. The new LS 460 is available mid next year.

Symphony music signalled the beginning of Honda’s presentation, with the big strings and drumming coming to crashing end as the Sports 4 concept was revealed.

Honda’s Sports 4 concept would now drive each new car, and while some said that it looked a little ridiculous, others could like the dominating lights that look like a squinting cyborg.

Renault was next and it must have been a challenge to get the use of Moby’s music given the artist only licenses himself with the utmost exclusivity.

There was an impressive display of acrobatic ballet with a man doing one armed military press with his dancing partner. The main reveal from Renault was a diesel Laguna which the company claimed could do 1000km on a single tank.

The second generation Laguna scored a five star safety rating by EuroNCAP and to celebrate Renault played an audio file of a Formula 1 engine revving to a piece of music the company execs assured us was brilliant.

Meanwhile Holden kept vying for attention by flying a remote controlled replica of its airship. No one said out loud it was sad. Holden are a great Aussie icon.

Seriously swift competition

Suzuki prepared to blow us away with four devastatingly hot dancers in gold lycra racing suits. That is, if racing suits were sleeveless, plunging jumpsuited hotpants. And they should be.

Kieren Perkins walked past during the routine and it’s good to see he’s not afraid of a good feed. Life is for the living.

While the girls put on an epic display of dirty dancing to a crowd of pie scoffing oglers, Suzuki had little that wasn’t well known.

The Swift Sport succeeds the GTi and is one of the most fun cars you’ll ever drive. The main reveal for Suzuki was the SX4 WRC concept, a sporty compact collaboration with Fiat.

The 5-door hatch is a 2-litre turbo, with a 4x4 system and six speed transmission and diesel engine. It’s already available in Europe and likely in Australia in the near future.

It has the best rear spoiler you’ll see all year and it’s a credit to Suzuki that when it was glued on at the wrong angle, they just made it part of the "unique look".

If we take it as given that no stand has topped the naked Peugeot girl, the Suzuki girls have come closest to giving Mitsubishi a run for its money.

MC Tim Webster was moved to comment that "the relationship between beautiful girls and cars has continued and as a male, I’m happy for it to continue."

Thought leadership rules

The Kia girls went for the kind of sophistication that only diamonte bracelets could achieve. With long figure hugging silk dresses and orange scarfs, a Kia person spoke about the carmaker as "a true pioneer, a leading global automaker." No one laughed out loud.

A company rep announced that given the problem of fuel prices, they were "thinking" about bringing out the Picanto. With that, Kia became thought leaders too and it was explained that the delay in bringing the 1.1-litre mini car was in trying to get the price under $12,000.

A Kia Sportage was announced in turbo-diesel and canned applause erupted from the speakers. I wish I was joking.

Next year a 2-litre diesel Sorrento and diesel Sportage would come to market and a Kia suit said their cars were not "cheap" they were just well-priced. "These are quality Euro A spec’d cars". Journalists actually wrote this down.

Arty farty for a technical smarty

Citroen kept the sophistication angle, but not before they reminded us of their awesome WRC victories. A hat trick of wins. There’s no denying Citroen makes rally demons and one day they might sell some street cars as soon as they give their designer a day off.

Citroen claimed the C6 was “the safest car in the world and a new meaning to the term technical tour de force”. Ordinarily someone might have pointed out that it was a phrase, not a term, but who could care when girls with big arty masks on their head were strutting out.

The C4 Picasso was the reason for the arty theme and the boss said it was a lifestyle car for people with a life. Not sure what that means but the Picasso is a 1.6-litre diesel people-mover that looks like a small SUV with a stunted bonnet.

The Citroen boss said it’s a vehicle they hoped would attract SUV buyers and would be priced from $35-50,000.

Bentley. All Bentley

On the home stretch of a day that started at 8am with non stop unveilings, Bentley was next and attracted one of the biggest crowds. They’ve sold 89 cars so far this year – up from 60 the same time last year.

The 2007 Arnege was on show, with its 6-litre turbo V8 and wait for it, 370kW and 1000nM of torque. That is not a typo.

The star of the show was a Continental GTC convertible. You think it’d be a hardtop convertible, right? You’d be wrong.

Bentley is so old school, so traditional, with such "heritage", that they don’t go for your fancy retractable hardtop gimmick. The Bentley rag top does have a leather interior roof trim.

Inside is typical Bentley beauty with cedar wood grain dash and everything else to make you feel at least 90 per cent classier than are even if you could afford it.

The Conti GTC would be available from November.

Lotus pose

Lotus had a small stand with no girls to show off its new Europa S. It’s the fastest production Lotus made going from 0-100km/h in 4.3 seconds.

The 2-litre turbo was as high as my hip and expected to sell about 30 over the next 12 months at $110,000.

Only 500 would be made globally and it’s a subtler look than the showy Elise and Exige. The lights don’t look so much like an over done eye lid lift, but are rather more horizontal. The air intake is a neat one piece mesh across the bonnet.

Daggy

The day’s unveilings ended on design house Edag, whose innovatively named Concept Car #8 would be interesting if Lotus didn’t already do production cars that looked the same.

Edag also demo’d an Audi A6 Armoured Security car, which was bullet and bomb proof. To prove it they shot it with an M-60 and threw several hand grenades only to wipe out the entire motoring press. If only.

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