After selling my M3 its been a long slog deciding what I want to replace it with. Long nights trawling trademe, lots of questions to various sellers about their cars yet nothing has really made me go “WOW, I MUST OWN THIS!”.
Today I decided to go try a few cars on the watchlist and see if I liked any of them. The lucky victims today were a VW Golf R32 MK5, a Toyota Blade Master G and a Nissan 350Z.
First was a trip to Turners, who had the Golf R32 and Blade. They also had a manual Golf GTI that I wanted to nosy at.
Registered to test drive, like usual (not my first Rodeo) and walked into the warehouse. R32 and GTI on the left, a pair of Blades on the right. First was to actually view the cars before driving them. I already knew what Golfs were like inside, so off I went to look at the Blades. First one I come to, stick my head near the open window. Ugh, stale smoke. Nope Nope Nope. Hope the other one is better.
Toyota Blade Master G
The first thing I should mention about the Blade Master G is that Toyota took their highest spec Corolla Auris (usually fitted with a 4 cylinder up to 2.4L) and shoehorned the 206kw 2GR-FE 3.5L V6 from a Camry into the front. They only came out in Automatic.
I jump in, no smokey smell here, yay. Its a 2007 Toyota Blade Master G in White. First impressions of this one is that it’s pretty low spec, no leather, no dual climate, no cruise and some awful fake woodgrain on the dash. Like a lot of imports these days it has a colour screen in dash radio, but of course being an import everything is in Japanese and it has no band expander meaning it’s restricted to lower frequencies. As mentioned this one had only single zone climate control, but one thing I did notice was how unintuitive the vent controls were. one button to cycle though and the display being on the passenger’s side of the console not the drivers. odd.
Along with the lovely woodgrain theres a helping of Alcantara in various places, like the usual seat bolsters and door cards but also strangely, on the lid of the passengers top glovebox.
Speaking of seats, comfortable but not very aggressive bolstering. Not heated in this model.
One quick note is just how awesome the name is. Blade Master G. Seriously, its like its a hiphop samurai or something.
VW Golf GTI MK5
Moving on, I cruised over to the GTI Golf. This one is manual which is uncommon, and of the MK5 vintage.
Jump in, first impression is it smells of stale smoke. Ugh. It’s a shame that a lot of imports do tend to be ex-smokers, It’s a hard smell to completely eradicate. The other impression I immediately get is how worn the car looks and feels for for 78,000km. All the touch surfaces are worn and scratched badly, the steering wheel leather is quite worn.
Once again, usual Japanese import stereo with no band expander. Just the usual base model radio. Sounds good for the one station I did get though.
The seats are well bolstered, quite aggressive but very comfortable. This model features the tartan cloth trim not leather and isn’t heated. The seats seem to wear well, its about the only thing in this car that isn’t worn.
VW Golf R32 MK5
After the GTI I popped over to the R32. First impression was that it felt nicer. Being the R32 its higher spec so has all the options ticked, including leather seats, seat heaters, metal dash trim, metal pedal and various other bits here and there.
The seats feature the same bolstering as the GTI which is a good thing, very comfortable and supportive for those high G 4motion cornering scenarios.
Like the GTI though all the touch surfaces are badly wearing and scratching. Why manufacturers started to use “soft touch” rubber coatings I will never know. Sure they look and feel nice when new, but they wear really badly. VW isn’t the only one to have this issue, a lot of Euros do.
The inside of the Golf is classy. Its a small car but feels spacious. its also typically Euro, high quality and well put together.
After standing around looking like a chump for a bit I finally flagged a staff member down and went for a spin in the cars.
I decided to flag the GTI, it wasn’t in the greatest shape and I’ve driven a GTI, albeit DSG, before so knew what they were like.
The Master of Disaster
First up to the grid was the Blade Master G. This one was different from the other two I looked at, this one was high spec. Half leather seats, cruise control, dual climate and fancy LED lights everywhere.
I fire the car up, and for a Corolla it makes a nice hearty grumble. Annoyingly, like a typical import it has some weird JDM thing stuck on the dash which is beeping at me and a woman is yelling at me in Japanese.
Amazingly I was allowed to take the car out on my own, must have looked trustworthy today.
The 3.5L V6 in the car makes a great noise and boy does it pull down low. Its a smooth engine, and unless you’re hard on the gas its quiet and very refined (like you expect a Corolla to be).
Sadly the other major component of the car was a huge letdown… the Auto. I didn’t expect it to be amazing, its still a traditional auto but my goodness this one is bad. In Drive its OK, changes early but shifts are smooth. In Sport mode its a little harsher but still slow at shifts and now has a great desire to drop two ratios and put you on the redline if you give it a boot.
Manual mode is the worst though, the flappy paddles are useless. Give it a pull in either direction and you can expect it might change gear at some point in the near future, and when it does change its a slow, slurred change. Not sporty at all. its almost like its the standard trans from the 2.4L corolla with no fiddling done at all.
Handling was OK. Very smooth ride, no harshness and kinda what you expect from a Toyota. What its lacking though is cornering ability, it wallows a bit much and saps some fun from the cornering experience. Mind you, if it cornered any harder you would fall out of the weakly bolstered seats anyway. Steering is light, fairly direct although a little vague.
A great engine, a comfortable car but it certainly isn’t sporty and it badly let down by a rubbish transmission.
The Golf R32. A car i have always admired. Take a rather tame 5 door hatch and chuck in a 184kw 3.2L VR6 engine, a DSG automated transmission and AWD. VW really gave the engineers some free reign on this one.
The moment you turn the key, even with the standard exhaust, you know its something special. The noise from the exhaust is delicious. A throaty burble. Sadly this particular example wasn’t in the greatest shape so starting it up I was greeted with some belt squeal, a misfire and a diesel-like rattle. It was super low on gas though, so hopefully it was just that.
After I had some gas chucked in it (probably 91oct >_<) it sounded better and away I went. First impression is just how amazing the exhaust sounds, and how touchy the brakes are. its like throwing down an anchor, hauls up very quickly.
The engine as expected is super smooth and is very rapid. The DSG automated transmission is very quick through the gears and surprisingly good to use even in Drive. Change it to Manual and this is where the transmission comes into its own. Compared to the terrible auto in the Blade, the DSG is super quick and responsive when changing gears, even in full manual mode using the paddles. Shifting up is as quick as you can pull the paddle, and shifting down is all rev matching and happy days.
The interior is comfortable and with the windows up fairly quiet. Obviously not the same as the Toyota, but still very well sorted. The seats hold you well, and in this model will make your butt nice and toasty.
Steering is light, very direct and sharp. The suspension is better sorted than the Blade, it corners much flatter but the trade off is that over bumps it is a lot more harsh. Still OK for daily use, no where near as bad as “adjusties” but it thumps and bumps a bit.
The R32 Golf is one of the best cars I’ve driven in a while, powerful, responsive and comfortable. Being the R32 it gets all the goodies and gadgets too.
The Blade Master G isn’t for me. Its a nice car to drive, and would make a good daily but its not sporty. Toyota lost their way a bit whilst making that car.
You might note at the top I mentioned a Nissan 350Z but it hasn’t appeared yet. Yes, I went to look at one, no I didn’t drive it.
The moment I got into the car it was obvious I wasn’t going to like it. its a huge car, but inside feels tiny and cramped. Everything felt cheap, all the plastics were awful to touch and use. When shutting the doors you’re greeted by an awful tinny rattle and a thump. For a high end “luxury” sports car it was badly put together and felt cheap. Didn’t inspire me.
Oh, and dealers. I hate dealers. First off the guy just kept hounding me, why cant they just leave me alone? Ill ask you IF I need your help. Secondly, why do they think coating all the interior trim/surfaces in silicone makes it better? It looks and feels terrible, shiny and slimey. Just don’t.
Now to find more cars to drive.