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t happens, as these things usually do, on the first corner attacked in anger of the day. As die official 'incorporating Driver' part of the AMI Autocar COTY judging, I naturally had , the Driver honour to uphold, and it hadn't started well. I was drastically late to the start, and after a quick briefing from Editor and COTY Camp Mother, Kyle Cassidy ('Here's a map, you're in the Skoda, we get off the motorway at Ridge Road..."), we hit the road heading towards Taupo.

Managing to follow what instructions I had got, when Ridge Road appeared, we duly turned off. Right, now we are into it. Free from the mindless drudgery of the motorway, I throw the Skoda Superb into the first corner - a tigh: righthander - with some enthusiasm. As it turns out, the grip of the front tyres on the road is about as tenuous as my grip at times is on reality. They howl in indignant protest before relinquishing all hope, and the Superb lurches straight ahead towards the scenery in a most ungainly fashion. Idiot. Disaster is ultimately avoided, however, but this was not the best of starts. I make a quick mental note to try and think of a credible excuse if anyone makes mention of it later on.

Whipping this kind of road into submission is not really in the Superb's curriculum vitae, but keep it smooth, and the Superb is surprisingly capable, running through corners at a very respectable rate for such a large and supremely comfortable car. The smoothly compliant ride that I have decided to blame for my first-corner brain-fade comes into its owrn as the road opens out and high-speed sweeping corners become the order of the day as we head down past Glen Murray and towards Waingaro. Mid-corner irregularities mean very litde to the Superb, and it is on roads like this that the Skoda really starts living up to its name.

The first stop of the day is to change vehicles before we turn off to Raglan The meticulously planned progression of

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Now that I've dispersed the crowd the BMW is mine subscribe online at wv/w.mags4gifls.co.nz/autocar new Zealand autocar 53

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car swaps is immediately discarded by the good Dr Louisson's utter disregard for such things. As he howls off down the road in the Polo, Editor Cassidy asks no one in particular, 'Was that Peter?', all the while knowing the answer. I can see from the look in his eyes that he can feel order and structure slipping away as the little blue Polo disappears into the distance, so I decide to cast my vote for anarchy, and make a dash for the nearby Impreza WRX.

This wasn't a random action. The road that links Waingaro to Raglan is a swooping, winding and diving wonder that is perfect for a weapon like the WRX - and what-a weapon it is! Raw, mechanical aggression is filtered through a surprisingly comfortable ride to produce something quite remarkable: supercar performance combined with everyday usability. Oh sure, lots of cars claim that, but there's always a compromise. Except not with the WRX.

Well OK, maybe the gearbox. Actually, even that's not really a compromise; more of an oversight. There is nothing particularly wrong with the tactile, mechanical transmission - the problem comes with its lack of a sixth cog. After a couple

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