Audacious Audi A6 wins NBR Car of the Year

PLUS: SUV of the Year | Hybrid of the Year | Sports Car of the Year | PHOTOS from the awards

The National Business Review Supreme Car of the Year 2011 is the Audi A6. 

State-of-art technology is now being embraced by high-quartile buyers in a smaller footprint.

Many buyers are now saying size does not matter. Other makers offer a car of this size. Audi’s offering makes my nerve endings come to the surface.

It is available with a choice of three engines, two of them being 3 litre turbo diesels, each with a different power specification and the third a 3 litre TFSI turbocharged petrol.

The petrol engine is a massive performer but I prefer the more powerful of the two diesels for its massive 500Nm worth of torque. The A6 is lighter than its predecessor and some variants are almost 20% more fuel efficient.

Audi A6
Audacious:The new Audi A6 has finally shed its low-key styling for a much sharper, dynamic look. The front end has been given plenty of treatment, with angular headlights that give the car a distinctive look. Inside is the latest generation of Audi’s Multi Media Information system which can be tricky to get used to but is still more intuitive than BMW’s iDrive system. The A6 is available with three engines, one petrol and two diesels. The petrol engine is a 3 litre V6 with 220kW and uses 13% less fuel than the previous engine, which produced 213kW. The V6 turbodiesel engines are 3 litres in capacity but differ in power outputs. The more powerful engine produces 180kW, with a 16% improvement in fuel economy over the previous engine, while even the entry level diesel still produces 150kW and 19% less fuel than the previous model. All models in the A6 range have quattro all-wheel drive. There are plenty of options available, including front seats with ventilation and massage functions, a heads up display which projects information on to the windscreen, Audi Active Lane assist, LED headlights and adaptive air suspension with controlled damping.

Audi A6: Bill Kyle, Dane Fisher, Jamie Taylor

The NBRSUV of the Year is the BMW X3.
Everyone does SUVs and it is nearly the most popular type of car with today’s buyers.

They like the high-up driving positions and the idea that they are superior and invincible. And that little Jemima and her brother Samson are safe. Well fine, then. The Koreans do it for half the price but I am very happy to award BMW this prize.

It is an extraordinarily able vehicle that is a true four-wheel drive, not a tarmac pretender. There is a choice of 2 or 3 litre diesels, both mated to an eight-speed auto gearbox. It is just the perfect package.

An interesting threesome:The second generation of BMW’s mid-sized SUV has increased interior space, new engines, an eight-speed automatic gearbox and new suspension technology. The X3 is also the first mid-sized SUV to come with and stop/start engine technology, which shuts the engine down when the vehicle is stationary. BMW EfficientDynamics also plays a large part in the latest X3, with Brake Energy Regeneration, where electrical power is generated from slowing the vehicle down and used to charge the battery. Electrically powered steering also plays a part in reducing fuel consumption by eliminating a constantly running hydraulic power steering system.

Two engines are available, both turbodiesels. The 2 litre engine produces 135kW while the larger 3 litre engine produces 190kW. The transmission is all-wheel drive, running through an eight-speed automatic gearbox in the 2 and 3 litre models, while the 2 is also available with a six-speed manual gearbox. For those who want a more involved driving experience Damper Control and Dynamic Drive Control are options, while there is also an M Sport package available that includes sports suspension. BMW also launched a new version of its 1 Series five-door, rear wheel drive hatchback. As it only came on to our market a few weeks ago and our judging year is October to October, it waits until next year’s deliberations.

BMW X3: Ed Finn, Kelly Ewart

The NBRHybrid of the Year is the Lexus CT200h.
I liked the highly compact Lexus CT200h above anything else as a hybrid package. The entry level price is $51,500. The Limited version is $67,600 and the top shelf F Sport, which is the one we prefer, is $69,000.

It’s a five-door front drive hatch with a 1.8 litre petrol motor wedded to an electric propulsion system.

Toyota, mother of Lexus, is arguably the most experienced brand when it comes to marketing hybrid vehicles, offering the system even in large Lexus four-wheel drives. It is a fine package, which gains a market edge by being offered with a four year or 140,000km warranty, and uses about four litres of petrol per 100km for a C02 output of a very low 94 grams a kilometre.

Lexus CT200h
relationship forms: If one were contemplating whether to go hybrid, it would seem a good idea to go with a brand with more experience in commercially marketing hybrid vehicles than any other – Toyota and its Lexus division. An even better argument for going the Lexus way is the brand forms a relationship with the buyer when the car is handed over, a relationship that lasts at least four years. Four years is the duration of the warranty or 140,000km, whichever comes the soonest. The purchase package also includes a full maintenance programme at no charge during that warranty period, along with 24-hour roadside assistance. I use taxis a lot and, in Auckland, there are now a large number of Toyota Prius cars in the cab fleet. I have yet to speak to one cab driver who has had any problems with the car. Lexus has a large suite of hybrid vehicles on the market. Its entry level price is now a reasonable $51,500 for a CT200h. A more highly specified Limited version is $67,600 and the top shelf F Sport is $69,000. The CT200h package appealed because it drove competently and has major eyeball appeal but, above all, it has that guardian angel owner package.

Lexus CT200h: Peter Carleton, Debbie Pattullo, Dennis Millerchen, Roy Trimbel

The NBRSports Car of the Year is the Mazda MX-5.
It’s a true two-seater sports car available in the fifty thousand dollars range.

It comes with the choice of a fabric soft top or metal folding roof. You just can’t buy value like it if you’re a true-blue sports car fan. Five-speed manual or six-speed auto with paddles, depending on the model chosen. Well-proven 2 litre engine that is up to the job. Rear drive.

Mazda has done a fine job keeping this car up in advancing technology and down in price.

Other sports cars have come and gone but this one has been around since 1989 and has become the world’s best selling true sports car. The latest iteration is joyful to drive.

Mazda MX-5
Truly erotic drive:Mazda was smart enough to see that the British, who invented the true sports car genre, were about to lose it. The original MG and Austin Healey and Morgan, and Uncle Tom Cobley and all, were all buggered. Due to the British meltdown of 1989. But Mazda knew there was a huge audience for an MG-like sports car for an affordable price. The car has gone from a slightly underpowered 1.6 to a 1.8 and now a 2 litre. It is a great sports car. Anne and I took off in one in the middle of winter for a romantic drive. Folding metal roofs have replaced flapping canvas. Under the stars, we put on the heater and had one of the most erotic drives we have ever had. Mazda has continually worked on this car to keep it as modern as tomorrow yet truly affordable.

Mazda MX-5: Maria Tsao, Glenn Harris, Keiko Yano

BELOW: Winners gather on NBR publisher Barry Colman's yacht, M.V. Liberté IV.