Wheels January 2020

Wheels is Australia’s original motoring magazine. Launched in 1953, we’ve been trusted by generations of Australians to provide entertaining and forthright opinions on the good, the bad and the ugly of new and used cars. A world-class car mag with a formidable international reputation, Wheels covers the full gamut of cars – from sports cars to four-wheel-drives, economy to family cars – but it also covers the people, personalities and the power plays behind one of the world’s most dynamic industries.

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in this issue

4 min

FOR YEARS NOW the Holden Commodore has been on borrowed time, though that didn’t stop a ripple of shock spreading through the Wheels office when the news finally came. “Retired” was the word Holden chose; “Dead” is what we were all thinking. By now you’ve had some time to digest it. It’s possible you’ll still feel angry, though I’d wager that’s now given way to disappointment, or more tellingly, to acceptance. After all, the ZB wasn’t a real Commodore, was it? Now ask yourself this: how would you feel if Holden itself pulled up stumps? If the entire brand decided to bow out with dignity and then, months later, reinvent itself as Chevrolet or simply as GM? Angry? Disappointed? Accepting? Yeah, I reckon that’s about right. For an issue so drowned in emotion –…

4 min
raptor’s v8 heart transplant

THE TOUGH TRUCK is about to get a big hit of American muscle. Ford is secretly readying a high-performance Ranger super ute complete with V8 power. The brand that sells more 4x4 utes than any other is gearing up to shift the goalposts of load-lugging performance by replacing the four-cylinder diesel engine fitted to the Ranger Raptor with a Mustang-spec 5.0-litre V8. Rather than a global initiative, the top-secret V8 Raptor project has been sanctioned by Ford Australia and will be the result of a local engineering effort. But instead of utilising the 1000-strong local workforce that helped create the T6 architecture that underpins the Ranger and Everest, the project is being farmed out to an external engineering firm. The latest in a growing list of low-volume local engineering solutions – which include the…

1 min
gotcha! it’s the toyota yaris gr

TOYOTA WOULD REALLY prefer it if you weren’t looking at these images right now. That’s because they show the brand-new GR Yaris completly bereft of camoflauge, ahead of its official reveal at Tokyo Auto Salon later this month. The GR Yaris is a production-car tribute to the championship-winning WRC racer of the same lineage, and is another reminder that the higher-ups at Toyota are in the midst of a performance-car barrage. At the time of writing, the fine detail of what is under the two-door hatch’s skin remained mostly a mystery. What we do know is bloody exciting, though. A turbocharged four-cylinder engine, likely a 1.6-litre to mimic the WRC racer it pays homage to, is mated to an all-wheel-drive powertrain. The plumped guards aren’t for show, with the GR Yaris gaining a…

3 min
car of the year : the long list

THERE’S AN awkward truth to Car of the Year. We start with a list of around 50 vehicles and the process ensures that all but one get the boot. That results in a long list of very sore manufacturers, many of whom were all but certain that their latest and greatest was about to get the recognition it so richly deserved. So, to reiterate, to be eligible for Wheels COTY, cars must have been on for sale to the public in the 12 months prior to December 31, 2019.Vehicles that sell below a monthly rate that is equivalent to 100 per year are eligible only at the editor’s discretion. Passenger 4WDs must not have a rigid front axle (which scuppers the Suzuki Jimny’s chances). And as much fun as the McLaren…

3 min
holden’s crucial next move

QUESTIONS ARE again being raised about the viability of Holden following the announcement the Commodore would be killed off. By the end of 2020, Holden will be without a large car, something that has defined the brand since it produced the first Australian-made car in 1948. Speak to industry experts and analysts, and many quietly say it’s only a matter of time until the lion brand is killed off altogether. If it is, it would be the latest in a long list of brands shelved by parent company General Motors. They include Oldsmobile, Hummer, Pontiac, Saab and Saturn. Social commentator and the principal of The Strategy Planning Group, David Chalke, says it all comes down to product. “At the moment they don’t have anything in their range that anybody really wants,” says Chalke.…

1 min
blinkered holden took eyes off road

The death of the Commodore is the latest example of Holden misreading the market. From the outset the company was intent on ramming home why the Opel-made Commodore was better than the Aussie one that ended manufacturing in November 2017. We were told of how the optional all-wheel-drive system improved performance and handling and how the base four-cylinder was faster than the V6 it replaced. But while trying to shove the imported Commodore into an Australian hole it was never going to fit snugly into, Holden ignored the real potential: stealing sales from the Camry and using the wagon bodystyle to tempt fence-sitting families out of SUVs. The ZB Commodore was a tough sell from day one. Things only got tougher.…