Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Nation's top 10 rides of 2007

The Nation's top 10 rides of 2007

Chevrolet Captiva 2-litre diesel

Published on January 2, 2008

If there is one SUV out there that you can call good-looking, it's the Captiva. The male macho appeal is exaggerated with the grilles on the side. Then come additional goodies like seven seats, hill descent control, electronic stability programme and "self-levelling" suspension.

The Captiva also comes with a 2.4-litre petrol engine, but our pick is the 2-litre diesel engine, which is full of torque, has fairly good fuel economy and is the only version that comes with all the goodies. The Captiva rides like an SUV on tracks and the brakes are responsive too.

Nissan Navara

The Navara is Nissan's bread and butter, and the new pickup is definitely a worthy competitor in the Thai pickup market. The 403Nm of torque produced by the engine is the highest in the pickup segment and the six-speed gearbox is a first in Thailand.

With all that, together with boxy yet beautiful looks and a spacious interior, even for rear passengers, the sales figures show that the Navara is already a success in Thailand. While acceleration is more than impressive, we found the Navara a little too jumpy in the city.

Toyota Prius

Althought the Prius is not officially available here, Toyota Motor Thailand has imported a few units to promote the green movement being showcased by the company around the world.

The Prius comes with a 1.5-litre petrol engine coupled with an electric motor that helps the vehicle accelerate and doubles as an electricity generator while braking.

It is a great car to drive in the city, where we achieved fuel economy of almost 20 kilometres per litre. It's also a pleasure to watch the on-board screen changing as the energy flow passes from one point in the vehicle to another. However, on the highway the Prius suffers because of its handling and makes a clear statement about its love for the city.

Lamborghini Superleggera

Are you thinking that the average Gallardo is not extreme enough for you? Then take a look at the Gallardo Superleggera, Lamborghini's idea of a track version of the Gallardo that you can drive back and forth from work every day. The 5-litre V10 engine produces 530bhp, which is enough to get you from 0 to 100kph in 3.8 seconds.

What is perhaps most impressive about the Superleggera is its very stringent stability programme that can make any amateur driver look like a professional. In terms of design, there are also signs that this is no ordinary Lamborghini - if there is such a thing. The Scorpio wheels, the carbon-fibre rear spoiler and the side stickers are the most obvious give-aways.

Honda Accord

The Accord is the latest addition to Honda's product offensive. Trying to outdo its competition, the Toyota Camry and Nissan Teana, the Accord is bigger in width, height and length and has adopted a more premium design.

It comes with 3.5-litre, 2.4-litre and 2-litre engine choices, but the 2.4-litre engine seems to be the most suitable.

The car has been improved in terms of driving performance as well as comfort, thanks to the bigger cabin. Despite the larger size, the car still handles nicely, while the wind noise has also been lowered significantly.

The Accord also comes with an optional satellite navigation system, which makes life easier for the driver.

MTM (Motoren Technik Mayer) RS4

Based on the Audi RS4 but beefed up even further, the MTM RS4 is what we would call the ideal supercar for Thailand. It comes with a long list of special treatments over the standard RS4, making it a real cracker.

It's got four doors, five seats and gets around Bangkok comfortably without getting stuck in department store parking lots. But underneath the bonnet is a humungous 4.2-litre V8 engine that pumps out a massive 420 horsepower, allowing it to accelerate from 0 to 100kph in 4.8 seconds and reach a top speed of 282kph, putting it in the same league as Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Porsches.

Alfa Romeo 159

The Italians always have a passion for what they do, and the Alfa Romeo 159 is no exception. It's one of the most beautiful cars on the road, and when you open the door, prepare to be stunned by the red leather seats.

The interior is full of dials (even the air vents are round) and the aluminium trim looks wonderful. Performance from the 2.2-litre engine mated to the Selespeed transmission is on a par with its German rivals, but what the Germans don't have is the style that comes with an Alfa.

Mercedes-Benz CLS500

If you think that driving a Mercedes-Benz is boring, think again. The CLS can be regarded as either the weirdest-looking Benz around or the coolest.

The low roofline, bucket seats and sporty console give the CLS a sporty appeal. Perhaps young movie stars should pay special attention to this car, because it rocks!

The V8 engine and suspension has been tuned to offer sports car performance. The car accelerates like there's no end to a limited top speed of 250kph, while the suspension can be adjusted via controls in the cockpit, or left in automatic mode. You also get all the safety features offered in any large Mercedes-Benz as well as the comfort features.

Subaru Impreza WRX STi

It's a pity that the Impreza Sti has just been replaced by a new model, which looks like a hatchback suitable for a family rather than a muscle car.

The outgoing Sti is probably the better-looking car, while giving a very high level of driver appeal as well as driving enjoyment. The beefy 2.5-litre turbocharged boxer engine pumps out 280hp and 392Nm of torque, and is mated to a quick-shifting 6-speed manual gearbox to offer eye-popping acceleration.

Power is delivered via all four wheels, but you can also adjust the power distribution between the front and rear wheels to achieve different driving characteristics.

If there are any of these left for sale, grab one as soon as possible.

Lexus LS460

At last, Lexus has matched and even bettered the European brands in building a luxury car.

The 380-horsepower V8 engine is silky smooth and quiet, and has enough torque to get the LS460 from 0 to 100kph in 5.7 seconds and to a top speed of 250kph.

Although there is still a lot of work to be done to the rather sloppy LS460 in terms of vehicle dynamics in order for it to beat the BMW 7 Series or Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the Lexus is by far the most comfortable car in which to ride.

Have it chauffeur-driven and two rear passengers can sink into a dream world with the adjustable seats pampering them with a relaxing shiatsu massage. The rear seats are divided by a central console that houses controls for various systems, including the entertainment system from high-end manufacturer Mark Levinson and climate control, and there is also a cool box for storing drinks.

The Nation

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