Thursday, 7 July 2016

COLUMN – July 2016

Here is another chance to see my column from the July editions of The Local Herald and The Clitheroe Local. Another busy month sees me feature a quick word on the Mitsubishi L200, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Subaru Levorg GT and Subaru WRX STi. All four have AWD, although that's as far as you can take the comparisons in many respects. An interesing month though, so I hope you enjoy the column. As always full write-ups can be found via the Reviews page.

A few months ago I reviewed the Mitsubishi L200. I wanted to see if the new model would likely retain its crown as the most popular pick-up in the UK, and I can certainly see that being the case. I did however end that review with a desire to try out the manual gearbox; wondering if it would be more economical in the real world.

I have now driven the 6-speed manual, and can happily report that it’s rather good. The fuel consumption is much better than the 5-speed automatic; I saw 42.1mpg on a motorway run. With the manual also cheaper that the auto it certainly makes a lot of sense, and adds another string to the L200’s rather hefty bow.

Another popular Mitsubishi is the Outlander PHEV: currently the best-selling hybrid in the UK. After testing the facelifted model for a week it’s easy to see why. The cosmetic changes were timely and have kept the Outlander looking fresh; almost space-age at the front. This is backed up by a proven drivetrain which combines a 2.0-litre petrol engine with twin electric motors. It offers around 30 miles on full-electric mode, and 156mpg combined using the hybrid mode.

But impressive economy figures aside, the PHEV boasts an equally-impressive equipment list. I particularly like the 360-degree parking camera, which is as good a parking aid as I have seen. There’s a widescreen multimedia system which handles everything from the satellite navigation to the hybrid information screen. Keyless entry, heated leather seats, a heated steering wheel and LED daytime running lights are just some of the features on the GX4hs model I tested.

Next up is the Subaru Levorg. This a new model, replacing the Legacy in the UK. It looks rather good as well. The front end is very similar to the WRX STi, including the sculpted headlights and large bonnet scoop. The two-tone 18-inch alloy wheels boost the side profile, whilst a subtle rear spoiler and twin exhausts complete the look. On the inside the cabin feels very premium, full of leather with blue stitching and silver plastic trims to contrast.

The engine in the Levorg is also new. It’s a 1.6-litre direct-injection turbocharged boxer engine, which means you get that familiar Subaru burble. The engine is mated to a lineartronic CVT gearbox, which has merits and faults. Best of all, motorway cruising is delightful, with the Levorg barely ticking over at 70mph.

The symmetrical AWD system gives some reassurance to the drive, and for an estate car the Levorg takes on corners rather well. Unfortunately the gearbox is a little numb even when you switch to paddleshift mode, and the 170PS offered feels like it could do with being a little bit more at times. That being said, for a family wagon the Levorg is an excellent, and different, choice.

I shall end this month with the iconic Subaru WRX STi. IT costs £28,995 plus £500 for World Rally Blue Mica paint (it is a Subaru after all). For that you get a high-performance saloon- 300PS and 407Nm if torque- that’s capable of dashing from 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds and will go on to a top speed of 159mph.

It has a wonderful AWD system, with adjustable centre differential and selectable drive modes. Put it in Sports-sharp and it tightens everything, becoming a snarling monster. Yet in Intelligent mode acceleration is progressive and it’s all very civilised. You get a decent-sized boot, plenty of cabin room and the large real spoiler doesn’t even obscure rear visibility. If you can get over the fuel consumption- and that’s hard- then the WRX STi is still a good choice.

Dan

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