Wheels March 2021

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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6 Issues

in this issue

3 min

ON FRIDAY AFTERNOON, October 2, 2020, I got the phone call from the new owners of Wheels – who took control on that very day – to ‘make Car of the Year go ahead, whatever it takes’. Prior to that call, we had, for the first time since 1963, resigned ourselves to the glum fact there was not going to be any Wheels Car of the Year (COTY) testing within that year. Just as there was no Australian Grand Prix, no Olympics, and no motor shows, we had also made public our plans not to do COTY. There’d be too great a risk of disruptions, last-second cancellation, border closures, or worse. There was the somewhat major hurdle, also, that the bulk of the Wheels team continued to live under Victoria’s brutal 112-day…

7 min
woking’s ‘woke’ moment

NO DISRESPECT to any sports car brand,” said Ron Dennis in 2008 as he revealed McLaren was about to get into the business of building road cars, “but few can list 20 World Championships, and wins at Le Mans.” Few? Dennis was being generous. There was really only one. “I’d love to aspire to be Ferrari,” he said in answer to the obvious question. Fast-forward to 2021. Ron Dennis no longer has any involvement at McLaren, but the car he was announcing – then code-named P11 but launched as the MP4-12C – has since spawned a 14-model lineup. Bold, brave hypercars like the Speedtail and the brutalist Senna have earned the McLaren name plenty of street cred. But those Ferrari aspirations? They’re still a work in progress. Enter the McLaren Artura. The Artura…

4 min
whincup: the new great dane

AS ROLAND DANE prepares to step down as Triple Eight team principal in 2022, Supercars’ winningest driver is readying himself to step up to the top job. Jamie Whincup announced he’s retiring from full-time driving at the end of the 2021 season, coinciding with Dane’s announcement, along with the addition of businessman and racer Tony Quinn as major shareholder in the team. While Whincup still appears to have some years of properly competitive driving left in him, Wheels asked JW: why now? “I like racing. I want to [be involved in] racing for a long time to come… and you can’t drive the race car forever,” Whincup says. “In some regard you can’t do any role [for] too long because you lose your spark for it. I’ve enjoyed my driving career and…

2 min
hsv’s secret 2000s plan to conquer detroit

HOLDEN SPECIAL VEHICLES was set to become General Motor’s global performance car division at the start of the millennium. Wheels can now reveal details of a top-secret plan where HSV’s parent company, TWR, was set to expand its footprint across the Pacific and repeat the successful model it had established with Holden in Australia to create a range of high-performance models for global GM brands such as Chevrolet and Cadillac. In an exclusive interview for a feature story in this issue (p54), former HSV Chairman John Crennan confirms that in 2002 he was in the final round of negotiations with GM heavyweights, including then-GM North American Chairman Bob Lutz, to relocate to Detroit and manage the proposed US-based division. “The plan was to set-up an off-line facility in Detroit and work closely with…

1 min
fpv had a secret plan, too

JOHN CRENNAN’S CROSS-TOWN compatriot at Ford Performance Vehicles, David Flint, also now reveals he had unfinished business in his top drawer around the time of his retirement from the top job in 2006. “I wanted a third limb on our business,” Flint now admits. “I wanted to create Ford Performance Parts – a catalogue that allowed owners to customise their vehicle beyond our boundaries. And that never eventuated because I couldn’t get agreement from my partner at Ford. That would have taken us closer to where John and HSV were.” What about a GTHO? “GTHO didn’t come very close at all,” Flint now concedes. “When it came time to do the analysis of the chassis, we weren’t confident we could put that much power through it without significant cost. We didn’t think it…

1 min

DUE Q2 MERCEDES-BENZ S-CLASS Mercedes’ luxo limo is known for pioneering tech developments that trickle down, and this generation should be no different. Safety advances include front-facing airbags for rear occupants, while mega-powerful computing manages its semi-autonomous driving capability. Later in the year, a PHEV S580e will lob, with a claimed 100km EV range. DUE Q2 MAZDA MX-30 Mazda says the ‘MX’ prefix is reserved for the models which step out of the ‘normal’, and the ‘30’ does seem to fit that description. The SUV coupe, with rear-hinged ‘freestyle’ rear doors, will come here both as a hybrid and EV, the latter powered by a front-mounted electric motor producing 107kW/271Nm. DUE Q2 HYUNDAI i20 N Having already pre-sold a batch of its baby hot hatch online, Hyundai will soon land the i20 N to fight the Fiesta ST…