Quick Drive: BMW E34 520i
Jan14

Quick Drive: BMW E34 520i

By James Wong

BMW. Three letters that evoke strong imagery, perhaps not all pleasant, of sporty rear-wheel drive cars and young cocky drivers. How far back does this fascination of the automobile from Munich stretch? Very far it seems, as we review the E34 5 Series from the 1990s. While the 3 Series has always been the favourite of young people awash with money, the 5 Series carried slightly more maturity about itself, appealing more towards the middle-aged man who thinks he still has a little lead in his pencils.

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Quick Drive: Renaultsport Megane RS250 Cup
Jan14

Quick Drive: Renaultsport Megane RS250 Cup

By James Wong

It’s a good thing I’ve had a few weeks since I drove the 250 Cup to really put it into perspective. Getting behind the wheel of many cars since then, the treasure of unforgettable memories of the Renault remain etched in the cerebral, with precious little being able to unseat it. Such is the breadth of talents of the car – it is probably one of the most drivable Renaultsport cars to date, and yet it also holds the distinction of being one of the very best.

Perhaps one of the defining aspects of the car is that it really means business. Unlike the leather-clad Recaros of some of its rivals, Renault went all out to offer a proper spine-clinging, body-hugging two-piece cloth Recaro that would definitely draw more than a few complaints from the parents. The luscious coupe profile also doesn’t look out of place with striking yellow or red colours, a good thing considering that the car really looks outstanding in those hues. The suspension also makes no apologies about its purpose, although even in a Cup chassis it is quite acceptable. You don’t really notice how harsh it is until the road gets pretty rough. Perhaps thanks in part to the Michelin PS3 tyres, the car is also amazingly quiet considering what its engine is capable of; idle is nearly undetectable and the engine is as smooth as the best inline-4s in the business. Perhaps quite atypically of French cars, the 250 really does feel very well engineered and polished inside and out, something that contributes to the wholesome appeal of the car. No quirky French bits here; it is a true Renaultsport in every way.

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Time Travellers:  MkII GTI vs. MKV GTI
Dec21

Time Travellers: MkII GTI vs. MKV GTI

By James Wong

The favoured of the children, the teacher’s pets in class, the yardstick for performance hatches. Meet the MkII and MkV GTI – 20 years set them apart but did age really change anything? I drive both to step back in time – and fast forward to the future – to give you an answer.

There are many hatches out there which might give you ideas that you are driving a cool car. Take the Alfas for example – the new Giulietta no exception – they have such sex appeal that makes you just foolish enough to sign on the dotted line for one. Those ideas quickly dissipate, however, when your Alfa suddenly springs a squeaky door handle or flashes a phantom light on the dashboard that comes out to play only when the mechanic is away. Of course, sex appeal does count for something – after all, we cannot deny that looks do play a part in perception, no matter how small – which is why the GTI is quite a bit of a car. It is not outwardly sexy, but it is very appealing in the sort of way that you can count on it when everybody’s walking cold outside and you’ve got the heater working in a car that is 20 years old. It is with some amazement that things work at all in a car that is almost as old as me. The GTI too is widely known as a classless car, which means that even if you are the fruit seller from down the street or an investment banker from the City, you wouldn’t look out of place driving one. Now if that isn’t cool, I don’t know what is.

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Porsche Sport Driving School: Mt Cotton, Australia (Part I)
Aug26

Porsche Sport Driving School: Mt Cotton, Australia (Part I)

By James Wong

The state of Queensland in Australia is famously known as ‘The Sunshine State’. It is said to possess the best weather conditions of Australia and, perhaps, the world; it is also home to the Great Barrier Reef and the Gold Coast, where the imaginary worlds of fantasy and fairy tales come to life. However, few people would suspect that Queensland is also home to the Porsche Sport Driving School (PSDS), the only one in the whole of Australia. Located in the Mount Cotton Training Centre that is a short 40-minute drive from the capital city of Brisbane, Porsche leases a part of the facility for a few times every year to open its doors to locals and foreigners alike for the PSDS. Being isolated and dedicating the whole day to driving is a rare and wonderful experience that anybody who loves cars should try; you don’t feel any undue pressure or stress about the outside world and people around you. You put aside your work, concerns and worries and just devote yourself to driving and learning how to do it properly. Certainly a few hours worth spending on.

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Impressions: F10 523i vs. W212 E250 CGI
Aug16

Impressions: F10 523i vs. W212 E250 CGI

By James Wong

The rising middle class in the world, particularly in Asia, can only mean one thing – the mid-size executive luxury saloon market will continue to balloon as aspiring newly wealthy people search for the best car for which to part their money with. They wouldn’t buy an S-Class or a 7 Series, because that is what their boss would drive, but they wouldn’t want to be seen in a C-Class or 3 Series either, which might imply that they are getting a paycheck that isn’t as big as they would want. They would go for the segment of the Audi A6, Jaguar XF, BMW 5 Series and the like, and the two frontrunners of this hotly contested group is undoubtedly the E-Class and the 5 Series, both of which are the biggest players in the Singaporean market.

Readers of Autosavant from North America might be unfamiliar to the F10 523i and W212 E250 CGI, as the base models for the North American market are usually the bigger capacity 6-cylinder models. In Asia however (I cannot pinpoint exactly the reason for it to be so), the base models, which are also the volume sellers, are usually much smaller in displacement than what you might have in the US. For instance, the 523i mentioned in this article has a 2.5-litre inline-6 engine that is good for 204bhp and 250Nm of torque. This 523i is not be confused with the 523i offered in Europe, which actually has a detuned 3.0-litre engine that puts out roughly similar output levels as the smaller displacement I6. The E250 CGI on the other hand goes a step further in downsizing by being equipped with a 4-cylinder 1.8-litre turbocharged engine that is good for 204bhp and 310Nm of torque.

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