#Roadtest: Zenshi Pike 4.8 GT
Mmmm. Another SUV. Oh my. Although I really shouldn’t be carrying the sentiments of the person who created me, I can’t help but feel that SUVs are becoming far too prominent for their own good. Perhaps this one will convince me otherwise: it’s the Zenshi Pike. More specifically, the face lifted version. It looks way better than the previous version, and this trim comes with a 444 hp V8. Mmmmm!
Inside, the Pike is just as practical as ever; they’ve squeezed 7 seats in here, yet it’s still incredibly spacious. I’m not sure it’s nice enough in here for that $66k pricetag, but it’s plush, that’s for sure. The real star of the show of this interior though has to be the Nakamichi sound system; for those who don’t know, Nakamichi are one of the audiophile companies, and this gorgeous custom setup is delightful. The sounds is wondrous and crisp, much like the styling. And with excellent soundproofing, it makes it all the better to listen to music in here.
The rear-passenger entertainment system is also very nice, and will certainly keep the kids entertained. Getting to the back 2 seats is a little tricky due to high body, but that’s to be expected of cars like this, and the space back here is fantastic so I can’t complain. You even get you’re own speakers just for these seats; that I like. Other neat little features include the power retractable sidesteps (which I spent way too long playing around with) and the great 360 degrees viewing camera. It’s certainly got enough to keep you entertained, that’s for sure. And of course, it’s got a split tail gate, which as anyone with a Range Rover will tell you, is just about the most useful thing you could ever ask for on an SUV.
Time to get on the road and seat what this thing is like. And immediatley, there’s a problem; there’s an electronic limiter on the engine. Not just on top speed, but on revs. Its redline is at 6400 rpm - what? Is that for reliability or something? All it does is limit the car significantly. No flat, usable power band. It’s not terrible, but it doesn’t feel right and I couldn’t shake the feeling that this car was being restricted.
And that’s a shame, because other than that, the engine is lovely. It’s a very nice 4.8l V8, which is smooth enough to be comfortable but still has enough rumble to be a joy to rev. It carries a superb feel of prominence and power when on the road, and I like that. I just wish it could be allowed to be free.
The transmission is a classic 6 speed DCT unit with dual E-LSDs and AWD. It feels smooth and has been really well geared, and will get you from 0-60 in 5.7 seconds - very nice indeed. And then, there’s the handling.
This thing has 50/50 weight distribution. Can you believe it! And with that active suspension keeping the weight in check, it’s a delight in the corners. Obviously, it can’t hide that it is a big car, but then again, it doesn’t exactly feel like one. Rather, they’ve managed to make it feel sharp enough to engaging without trying to make it too sharp and not accounting for the weight. It’s rewarding and enjoyable, far better than many other SUVs. The brakes are good too, though I do feel they could be sharper at the front just to deal with the lurch forward you get when you slow down.
What’s more, that active suspension works well everywhere. It comes with all the usual settings - offroad, cruise etc - and always, always carries itself brilliantly. Ignoring the odd redline limiting, the feel of this car is really nice, and will certainly please anyone who enjoys driving.
That said, all that power and weight does make it fairly inefficient, averaging a paltry 17.4 mpg UK. Obviously, cheaper trims will be better at this, but even then, it’s still low for a $60 grand SUV. Plus, the wheels are surprisingly skinny, and I reckon that it could do with wider rims to make the most of the suspension setup. It’s only a minor qualm though.
Plus, if there’s one thing that is nice about this SUV, it’s the lack of badge; not that Zenshi aren’t a very respectable marque, it’s just that you don’t feel as though you’re parading around your wealth or status when you’re driving one of these, and I like that. It’s one of the better choices if you’re looking for an inconspicuous off-roader.
So then, it seems that the Pike might be an SUV that I actually like. It’s certainly impressed me in this test.
I really liked the suspension and feel of the car - it’s very rewarding - plus it’s incredibly practical, very well equipped, and I can never not praise a split tailgate.
But, that stupid redline limiter does get annoying after a while at speed, and the interior isn’t as high quality as it ought to be for this price. Plus, the economy is a bit naff too.
Overall though, it’s worth looking at if you want a premium full size SUV. I’d be in mind to go for one of the smaller engined models if you can survive without that 0-60 time and want to save yourself money in the long run, but aside from that it’s an incredibly well rounded car.
#Roadtest: Zenshi Nimessa Newman R
Ok, ok, I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I was incredibly excited to drive this car. I fell in love with it the moment I first saw it, and better still, the test car is the in the colour I’d want one in. The Nimessa Newman R is the tuned version of Zenshi’s compact, this one in sedan form with a massive rear wing, chunky wheels and carbon cer- wait, carbon ceramic brakes?
Yep, I had to double check that, but this is a sub $50k sports car with carbon ceramic brakes. That should tell you everything you need to know about the madness going into this car. Though it’s a kind of grown-up madness; fun for the sake of good performance, not over done and thought out. That way of thinking continues with the styling. Look at those two fat exhausts at the back - they’re completed childish, but it’s balanced by the aero body work and tasteful anger in its design. It’s easily one of the best looking compacts I’ve seen in ages.
The interior is all classic Japanese sportiness. Not exactly tasteful, but it’s part of the experience. The bucket seats are great, the gearstick looks like it actually came out of my copy of Gran Turismo 4 and it has all the usual amenities of a modern Zenshi. Perfect. It’s also perfectly practical too, and you’ll happily get 3 people in the back (just), plus the boot is just as good as on the base car. It certainly meets all the hot-hatch requirements then.
Performance wise, however, it’s very un-hot hatch. A Zenshi classic, a 2.5l i6 turbo, sits under the bonnet, which sends 400 hp to all four wheels. Ooh that’s a recipe for a good car. And to make it better, it’s a 6 speed manual gearbox.
The specs speak for themselves; 0-60 in 4.1 seconds, top speed 158 mph. This thing will keep up with cars that cost twice as much, and will easily give the mid-size performance sedans a run for their money. It’s not really a hot hatch then at all, though I can’t really decide what it is. It’s in between classifications, which only makes it more special; I certainly can’t think of any other vehicle that genuinely rivals it.
By this point, my excitement is fervent. I hook up my phone and wack on Holidays In the Sun, start her up and speed out of the car park. Soon enough, we’re on the mountain roads I’ve been testing almost every other car on since I’ve been here. Time to see if it really all adds up. And…
…it does. Oh yes, it does. The acceleration is fantastic; the turbos spool up 3500 rpm and shove you back into your seat, and it delivers absolutely constant torque all the way to 6000. The braking it incredible; you know this car is stopping, it feels like the hand of god is actively slowing you down, perhaps being a little too strong at the front (though this is an FR car anyway). The weight balance is lovely; not equal, but it’s predictable, benefitting from the strengthened chassis and low overall weight.
The handling is softer than I expected, and it does understeer when you really push it, but it’s not out of control by any means. If anything, that roundness is quite welcoming. And, turn off the traction control and you can easily coax four wheel drifts out of this thing. It’s terribly good fun.
The active suspension does detract a little from the tactile feel of the rest of the car, though I’m not complaining. It allows the car to be comfortable in town and hard on these switchbacks turns. It’s setup very well; it can corner so smoothly and carries itself with absolute content. This is a car that feels professional as far as performance machines go.
But it’s the overall experience of driving this thing that really impressed. The noise is absolutely soulful - few things are quite as good as an inline six, and with the bypass valves open, this thing is the motoring equivalent Ave Maria being performed at the Teatro Alla Scala. The handling is masterful and so responsive, and you feel everything in the way you expect to feel everything in a car like this. I can’t get enough of that acceleration either, it’s absolutely addictive. I still can’t get over the fact that this thing has 400 hp to boot.
If I’m being brutally honest, there are some issues. It’s not the most comfortable thing in the world, especially at low speeds. Plus, I would like it to be more efficient, and at cruising speeds, the road noise is quite noticeable. Also, there are some who will want this car to feel sharper. Even then though, I still feel as though I could use this thing everyday quite happily.
I am smitten. Absolutely smitten. This car is magical, and conjours up feelings you only get when you know you’re driving some really, really special. Who cares if it doesn’t really fit into a category, it’s simply amazing.
I love the bold and blaring styling, the engine is a masterpiece, it was never not exciting for even a moment while I was driving it and it is amazingly fast.
That said, it could be more comfortable and more efficient, and you’ll need to adjust your expectations if you’re wanting a really precise performance tool.
But if you can look past that - I certainly can - what you have here is one of the best drivers cars in years. Easily my favorite car in ages. Driving should be exciting and engaging, and you should be able to drive something that makes you feel just that. Look no further than the Zenshi Nimessa Newman R. The tuning team have created something genuinely remarkable, and I can safely say that this is a new benchmark for a sub $50k car. Indeed, it might even become my benchmark for any car as driving enjoyment goes.
Well done Zenshi. You’ve only gone and pulled off a masterpiece.
Sidenote: I confirmed my order for one of these things the moment I got to my laptop after returning this review car. Now just to wait for it to get shipped to the UK…