The modern traditionalist

Welcome to the wagon with no delusions of getting its boots dirty

ASH WESTERMAN

Our Garage

Thatí an expensive gesture

The fixed panoramic glass roof is a nice inclusion, especially for passengers in the back, as it does make the rear of the cabin feel way more airy and spacious. But if it was my money, Ií not sure Ií be willing to part with the $3560 the roof costs. And Ií definitely pass on the socalled gesture roof blindí which costs $1440. Whenever use it feel very smug, like Ií beckoning my personal butler, but pressing a button really isní hardship.

HEREíS the hypothetical scenario: choose one vehicle from the current Jaguar/Land Rover line-up. Feel free to add options, but donít exceed around $120,000 before on-roads. What do you choose? We can pause if you need to dive into the Showroom section, but in simple terms, it means you only have to exclude the XJ limo-sedan (which no-one buys anyway) and the Range Rover. Everything else, from mid-size XE, to the E-Pace, F-Pace, F-Type, Velar, Evoque, Disco and Rangie Sport, is up for grabs.

NEW ARRIV AL

FULLY SLICK Black veneer trim inserts and alloy wheel options will relieve you of nearly $5K but, damn...

Which do you pick? Sales evidence suggests itís unlikely youíd have jumped the direction in which I did: into an Jaguar XF Sportbrake. Iím also tipping many of you SUV-lovers are throwing down this magazine in disgust and declaring me a royal arse-clown. But hear me out, even if it is a familiar refrain: I have no need for a vehicle capable of going off-road. If that scenario does arise, Iíll beg, borrow, barter or hire a vehicle that can. Iím not anti-SUV, but for my needs, off-road ability feels a bit like doing a tarmac fun-run in hiking boots. What I do need is a generous load space, a reasonably well-endowed engine and keen, rewarding dynamics.

Now go back to the JLR line-up and youíll see that an XF Sportbrake is not just a logical choice, itís the only choice (the smaller XE would serve me fine, but is not produced as a wagon).

My petrol XF sits smack between the other two engine choices in the three-strong Sportbrake range: the entry-level 2.0-litre diesel (132kW/430Nm) and the 30d S, running a 3.0-litre V6 oiler good for 221kW/700Nm.

The latter was tempting, but over budget at $123,450 before options.

So again, I go from seemingly in the land of over-choice to the choice really being made for me. At this first-impression stage Iím quite happy Ė the Ingenium 2.0-litre may only be in mid-strength spec here with 184kW/365Nm (itís offered in the XF sedan as a Lite, with 147kW/320Nm, or a Stout, with 221kW/400Nm) but so far it seems ample, tied to the excellent ZF eight-speed auto, even if the Sportbrake weighs in at a pudgy 1705kg. Okay, this engine tune does seem a bit thin on character Ė thereís not much by way of rorty exhaust note to involve you Ė but it is smooth and lag-free.

Iíll go into more powertrain detail in the coming months, but before that we need to cover how this car lists at $91,400, but leaps $28,600 to $120,000 via some exuberant boxticking. Not all of it is my fault, I swear.

Most expensive is the $4360 Active Safety Pack, which includes blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and driver condition monitor. Yep, you could argue that this stuff should be standard; weíll look at how the Jagís spec compares with German rivals at a later date. The glass roof and gesture control (see sidebar above) is the next costliest addition at $5000 combined. Then there are the matte-finished carbonfibre interior trim inlays, which are rich indeed at $3470. Better value is the pro navigation pack and sound system from Brit specialist Meridian, which adds $2690. The red metallic paint, as well as the black-pack finish on the grille and side vents, plus the 19-inch wheels, combine to soak up $4860. Another dozen or so items relating to comfort (heated seats, privacy glass, etc), convenience (360-degree parking aid) and storage (rails in the cargo compartment) quickly account for another $7000.

Youíd think that with that lot, thereíd be precisely nothing missing, right? But dude, whereís my head-up display? Er, still on the options list, apparently, along with the climate control for rear-seat occupants.

Yes, shopping in this large-executive segment is not for the faint-hearted or thin-walleted. But look at it: isnít it a proud, purposeful bit of gear? It looks confident and able, ready to be loaded to the gunwales with all my crap and go on adventures. Okay, not muddy, rocky, off-road adventures, but thatís what I have a mountain bike for. Weíll stay on piste and have a blast, Iím sure.

ASH WESTERMAN

Momentary maps of reason

The Jagí all-TFT instrument panel can be configured into one of four different display styles; my current favourite is Torchí which only illuminates the numbers of the tacho and speedo relevant to the sweep of the needles. But given that the numerical speedo display is the easiest to read at a glance, Ií unsure why really need the gauge. More useful is the option to have the navigation map filling the whole screen, with speed and fuel level miniaturised.

JAGUAR XF 25t SPORTBRAKE

Date acquired: July 2018

Price as tested: $120,000

This month: 1219km @ 6.6L/100km

Overall: 1219km @ 6.6L/100km

A preaching from the converted

The pro-SUV crowd welcomes another member to the movement

PEUGEOT 3008 GT-LINE

Date acquired: April 2018

Price as tested: $49,680

This month: 585km @ 9.0L/100km

Overall: 2693km @ 9.5L/100km

Everyoneí a bloody critic

Reactions to the 3008í appearance have been mixed. Ií admit Ií undecided about its frontend styling, but Ií a big fan of the rear threequarter angle. The bodyí overall proportions, rising shoulder line, and taillights that integrate with the glass of the hatch and the blacked out rear pillar are highlights. just doní know about those wheels...

WITH EVERY passing day of 3008 ownership the closer I creep toward SUV advocacy. I never thought Iíd say it, but maybe the Australian buying public is onto something.

My second love after cars is cycling, and though itís not often I need to move one of my bikes in a vehicle, this month I did. This can be a colossal nuisance depending on whatís available to drive, but hereís how it went down with the Peugeot.

Step one, wheel bike to back of car. Step two, hope nobody is watching and wave leg under rear bumper, then wait for motorised hatch to open. Step three, flip seatbacks down using remote levers. Step four, insert bike. Provided thereís nothing in the way, the boot floor will be flat, and thereís enough length in a 3008 that even a large bike will fit as-is, both wheels attached. Thatís all there is to it.

Itís this kind of ease of use that would make me buy a new SUV. Sure, you can achieve a similar thing with some wagons (the kind of car I always thought would be my familyís first) but my wife simply will not go back to that combination of low hip point and short roofline for as long as we have to lift a baby into and out of a car seat. The 3008 won a supporter there long ago.

STYLE AND SUBSTANCE

Plucky Pug picks up practicality points for bike-swallowing feat

I also need to eat humble pie, because I judged too hastily. In earlier nit-picking I criticised the 3008ís thirst for fuel, but with more mileage on the dial and less time spent in peak hour traffic, its efficiency has improved significantly to a whisker less than 9.0L/100km, down from the 11.0L/100km at the time I cried foul. With an official claim of 7.3L/100km Iíll be sure to mention it if the trend continues.

Otherwise, the past month of driving has been largely unremarkable, and I say that in a good way. The 3008 hasnít left me wanting. The only annoying thing has been the discovery that if I were to receive this car now, it would have a panoramic sunroof.

Since taking delivery of my 3008 earlier in the year, Peugeotís local distributor has rationalised its list of optional extras and bundled the leather trim with an opening glass lid for the same $4000 that the seats alone used to cost. Good for you, bummer for me. If youíre reading that and scoffing (as I know some of you will), know that the black on black on black interior, from carpet to roof-liner, can feel a little gloomy. A bit of sunlight wouldnít hurt.

A more positive discovery was the unearthing of a workaround for the 3008ís lack of a one-touch wiper function. A single dip of the wiper stalk only activates or deactivates the auto mode, but a quick enough squeeze of the lever will trigger the washer function and do the job with a single flip of the blades, sans suds. Now, if anybody knows how to make the gear selector quicker to respond...

The Pugís odometer is now approaching the 4000km mark, which means weíve passed the point where a typical 3008 owner would have been back to the service centre for an early (and free) progress check. So, next month Iím venturing to the dealership to see what Iíve missed out on.

RYAN LEWIS

Value judgment

Enright wonders whether he landed the right Stinger

Send in the Michelin man

You may know weí been treating the Continental ContiSport Contact5 tyres on our long-term Stinger GT with kid gloves given how quickly they wear when driven hard. Kia has now taken the decision to replace the Contis with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber. A Kia spokesman claimed that the more durable French tyre would be better suited to Australian conditions and driving styles. All new Stinger GTs are being shipped with the updated boots.

KIA STINGER GT

Date acquired: April 2018

Price as tested: $60,685

This month: 1484km @ 11.2L/100km

Overall: 6929km @ 11.3L/100km

THE LAW of diminishing returns is something a Kia Stinger GT owner soon becomes intimately acquainted with. I was minded of this fact on a recent drive of Mercedes-AMGís ballistic C63 S in Germany. Itís a mightily impressive thing, but that 375kW sedan will set you back about $165K. Each kilowatt would therefore cost you $440. Compare that to this 272kW Stinger where one kilowatt is priced at pretty much half that: a bargain basement $221. The Civic Type-R, recent winner of sister title MOTORís Bang For Your Bucks, will set you back a sniff more at $223/kW. Even a Suzuki Swift Sportís nags are pricier at $247 a pop.

GT IS NO GEE-UP

Kiaís twin-turbo V6 is offered in three Stinger spec levels, but weíre glad we landed a GT

Should you delve a little further down the Stinger V6 line up, the equation becomes even sweeter, the $48,990 330S delivering sterling value at $180 per kilowatt. This seems to represent the most attractive 200kW+ performance bargain available to Aussie buyers, but does piling it high and selling it cheap necessarily make it a good buy or should you fork out for the pricier GT?

The answer to this question, like so many others, is Ďit dependsí. The narrower 225mmwide rear tyres of the 330S means it canít get its power to the bitumen quite like the 255mm-shod GT, blunting its pace off the line. The steel-sprung 330S also lacks the GTís adaptive dampers, although opinion is divided on whether the adaptive units are blessing or blunder. For what itís worth, I prefer the passive damper set-up.

The optimum solution could well be a model running the passive suspension tune with the wider rear tyres. Such a car does exist. The Stinger 330Si is priced at $55,990 but hardly anybody buys this apparent ĎGoldilocksí model, largely because the GT ladles on a load of extra kit for a mere $4K premium.

Aside from the adaptive dampers, it gets a 360-degree camera, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, automatic high beam, headlights that turn as you do, a powered front passenger seat, adaptive bolsters and memory function for the driverís seat, heating and cooling for both front chairs, dark chrome exterior bits, a powered sunroof, a head-up display, a 7.0-inch LCD supervision cluster, wireless phone charging, aluminium interior finishes, and a 15-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, among other things.

There are a few items in that list that, a few months in, I wouldnít really want to be without. Whatís more, the Stinger GT offers all that gear for 80 percent of the price of one optional AMG carbon-ceramic brake disc. Itís hard to argue with a deal like that. Diminishing returns be damned.

ANDY ENRIGHT

Fast goodbye

COTY winner bids farvšl by chasing a Ferrari 812 Superfast

Fun and frugal

City driving is where the T8 powertrainí benefits are felt most, with the battery pack providing just shy of 40km of real-world petrol-free driving. Skewing my fuel numbers slightly is the fact caní charge the T8 at home, with weekends and the final 10km of my commute requiring the 2.0-litre four pot. Even so, some tanks have returned readings in the low 5.0L/100km range meaning low 4s or even a high 3 are possible with greater plug access.

Building blocks

There are a few must-have options for anyone considering an XC60. First and foremost is air suspension which is core to ensuring your Volvo rides properly. On its own ití set you back $2490, but it can be packaged into the $7500 Premium Pack that bundles other desirable goodies like brilliant Bowers & Wilkins audio, panoramic sunroof (standard on T8) and heated seats front and rear.

VOLVO XC60 T8

Date acquired: January 2018

Price as tested: $105,340

This month: 1461km @ 6.3L/100km

Overall: 11,914km @ 7.0L/100km

IT LOOKS, it has to be said, slightly ridiculous, and just a little perilous. The wide white rump of the XC60 hustles left, then right, as Wheels deputy editor Andy Enright hurls it up the twisting mountain road at ten tenths, body roll and squealing Pirellis doing little to slow his rate of progress.

Iím following closely behind in a Ferrari 812 Superfast, watching in amused silence as next to me, photographer Nathan Jacobs asks in a puzzled voice, ďThat is a family SUV, right?Ē

Welcome to the corkscrew-esque piece of tarmac that runs up from the Thomson Dam reservoir in Gippsland, Vic, and to a glimpse into next monthís feature drive of the 812SF.

The Volvo is along as the support car, partly because it has sublimely comfy seats and a big boot to lug camera gear about, but mostly because I wanted to give my trusty long- termer one final drive; a balls-out farewell on some of Victoriaís best driving roads before it heads back to Volvo HQ. Thatís right; having occupied these pages for seven serene, incident-free months, this is the last time youíll read about DQC55W. Iím more than a bit sad about that.

Itís the intangibles that separate the great cars from the merely very good. The fact my XC60 has proven to be a triumph of comfort, packaging and efficiency is no real surprise.

It is our reigning COTY after all. Whatís set it apart during its stint in the Wheels garage are the things that are harder to measure.

The sense of quality imbued by the cabin, for instance, not just from the materials and how well itís screwed together, but by the beautiful and uniquely Scandinavian design.

Itís also extremely well insulated. Road and tyre noise are nicely suppressed and in EV mode, it verges on tranquil, the silence and comfort rarely troubled by poor road surfaces despite enormous 21-inch wheels (providing you tick the $2500 option for air suspension).

In many ways it feels the antithesis of its German competitor set. Where a BMW or Audi can feel brash or austere, the XC60 is warm, textural and to my eyes, a deeply attractive SUV, inside and out.

And then thereís its ability to surprise. With Enright turfed out, I climb in for a final blast along the jinking test route, the drive mode switched to Power, this monthís fuel number thrown to the wind. Itís brutally proficient when pedalled hard. Push it right to the edge and thereís no escaping its 2174kg heft, or its breath of bodyroll as the weight transfers, but the steering is accurate (if remote), and its roadholding steadfast. The way it obliterates mid-corner bumps is enormously impressive too, the suspension simply pounding them into submission without upsetting the balance or knocking you off line.

There is an underlying sense that itís a car you admire more than you enjoy at tentenths, but what you lose in ultimate dynamic connection you more than make up in everyday usability and comfort.

Itís an imposingly well-rounded package, this XC60, though no car is perfect. At this juncture itís normal practise for a Wheels journalist to don their product planning hat and to wax lyrical about what theyíd change on their long-termer to improve it.

My only question mark surrounds the value proposition of the T8 powertrain. Thereís no doubting its efficiency (see breakout, above left), or the ease and intuition with which it combines a turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-litre four with an eight-speed automatic and a 10.4kWh battery-powered motor.

But is it really worth the $16K premium over a similarly specced T6 R-Design, which uses the same high-output four-pot, sans the electric gubbins? Even if the T6 uses twice the fuel, itíd take more than six years to recoup the initial outlay at the bowser. As much as Iíve enjoyed the battery packís thriftiness and effortless muscle, if it was my money, Iím not sure Iíd spring for the range topper.

Still, seven months with our reigning COTY has done nothing to undermine the argument that Volvo has created the best premium mid-size SUV you can buy. If anything, itís galvanised it.

ALEX INWOOD

FAST BOX XC60 is a sleek thing to behold thanks to raked A-pillars, cab back profile, and deftly creased bodywork

Not always a star at traction

Boosty Suzie sometimes struggles to lay power to pavement

Screen scratcher

Rock-hard plastics are a light car staple, we get it. These cars have to be kept cheap somehow, right? But if thereí single surface on the Swift that could definitely do with being softer than granite, ití the centre console tray. Plonk your phone on it and it slides around relentlessly, gently exfoliating your screen. Suzuki Australia will sell you a rubbery insert to fix this (at additional cost), but it really should be built in from the beginning.

SUZUKI SWIFT SPORT

Date acquired: April 2018

Price as tested: $25,600

This month: 898km @ 6.9L/100km

Overall: 5262km @ 6.5L/100km

MY FIRST experience of forced induction front-wheel drive didnít come in the form of a Golf GTI, Saab 900 Turbo or even a Renaultsport Megane. No, that initial taste of a boosted bum-dragger was supplied by a fairly unlikely candidate: my friendís SV11 Camry, which was supercharged in the most ghetto way imaginable.

LITTLE GRUNTER

Engine delivers the torque; itís the hardware underneath that sometimes struggles to know what to do with it

A crude bracket fixed an Eaton M90 to the side of the head, the belt tensioned by a length of twisted rope. For some added spice the superchargerís electric clutch was hooked up to the windscreen wiper relay, so if it was raining you not only had to deal with diabolically sketchy traction, but you had to do so with a screen full of water as well.

Its greatest party trick was also one of its last. A particularly spirited burnout managed to generate so much heat inside the differential that it welded the spider gears solid, locking both axles together. No longer a single-pegger, the Camry could now lay down a ferocious figure-eleven indefinitely or, as it turned out, until a tyre exploded.

Why am I telling you this? Because that poor, tortured Camry taught me two things: that forced induction was the Horny Goat Weed that turned mild-mannered metal into íroided-up tyre shredders, and that high-powered front-drivers are always better when both wheels can lay the power down.

The Swift Sport is far more civilised than that Camry Ė I donít have to choose between boost or windscreen wipers, for example Ė but even so thereís clearly a bit of animal in its power delivery. Itís not old-school laggy, which is no surprise given its engine is a very lightly warmed-over version of the Vitara Turbo unit, but even so it easily spins an inside wheel in a corner when the turbo spools up, and generates plenty of bushingbashing axle tramp on a hard launch.

As I found out last month itís nevertheless surprisingly quick around a race track, but even on the road the absence of a limited slip differential can be felt. The more time I spend at the wheel, the more strongly I feel that an LSD would allow the Swift Sport to put its best foot forward Ė quite literally. Fordís allnew Fiesta ST is coming early next year and for our market a mechanical LSD is standard. Iíve driven it in Europe both with the tricky diff and without, and the Fiesta is a proper weapon when itís got the right hardware between its front wheels.

For the Swift to have any hope of keeping up with its Blue Oval rival next year, itíd need a similar treatment.

TONY OíKANE