Trafikjournalen (Review: Lazurus DTX)

REPRINT FROM #17 1975
REVIEW OF ROSEWOOD BOVINUS

WHEN CULTURES CLASH


The Rosewood Bovinus does not scream “USA” when you first look at it. Rosewood has avoid the temptation to go for the “Brougham” look that now is so popular, and the car has clean, almost European styling.

In the United States, the Rosewood Bovinus is seen as a reasonable, sensible family sedan, sold at a reasonable, sensible price. In fact, its dimensions means that it is classed as a “compact” over there. In Sweden, things are different. It is sized somewhere between large family cars and luxury barges, seen from an european standpoint, and combined with the V8 engine, it means that it has to fight some of the top contenders on the market. So, our mission is now to see - does it stand a chance at all?

DRIVING CHARACTERISTICS
No, it does not convince us. As American as it is, it is still using relatively simple technology with a solid rear axle, albeit with a somewhat sophisticated coil sprung arrangement, and not the leaf springs still used by some manufacturers. The handling characteristics are unpredictable, with the car switching between under- and oversteering in a less than desirable manner - a relatively light tail end, heavy rear axle and powerful engine does not help, we guess. In fact, the torquey V8, combined with the weight distribution and fuel saver tyres means that taking off might be hard without spinning the rear wheels.

Brake distances are at least fair - here is where the americans has been improving lately. 41.7 metres from 100 km/h is not a bad number at all, we saw no tendency for the rear wheels to lock up before the front, however, when driven hard, we noticed a tendency for the rear drum brakes to fade - during normal conditions they should be more than enough, though.

Maneuvering in city traffic could of course not be compared to a smaller car, but power steering is standard and offers an adequate compromise between road feel and driveability.

VERDICT: **

PERFORMANCE
The fire breathing muscle cars from a few years back are dead - but nobody could accuse the Rosewood for being slow. Despite the automatic transmission eating some of the power coming from the 233 hp V8, 0-100 is done in 7.99 seconds, 80-120 in 4.8 seconds, the quartermile in 16.02 seconds and it tops out at 222 km/h. More than adequate for most people indeed.

VERDICT: ****

COMFORT
Calling the Rosewood uncomfortable would be a stretch - but it really isn’t something special either. Springs are actually a bit more firm than you would expect on a car like this, which by no means equals a harsh ride, it’s just not great. Seating comfort is rather average too - but it has bucket seats up front, at least. It could not be accused for being noisy either - we would say that it is about average on that level.

VERDICT: ***


From this angle, you could almost spot some similarities with a well known German brand, but what it does not have is the trunk space of that German.

ROOMINESS AND PRACTICALITY
The Rosewood is roomy for its passengers, which is expected for a car this size, it seats 5 without any problems. The trunk space, however, is another chapter, it is more comparable to many small cars, and with a maximum payload of 300 kg, the luggage better has to be light too.

VERDICT: ***

EQUIPMENT AND INTERIOR
As we stated earlier, this is no luxury car. You get power steering and a radio with 8 track player as the only gizmos over what could be considered standard today. Driver’s ergonomics are OK, maybe the steering wheel is placed a bit low for some drivers, decreasing the kneeroom and making for a somewhat tiresome driving position, but that’s fairly individual. It has modern steering wheel stalks for most controls instead of buttons scattered all over the dash, and the fit and finish are up to modern standards, with a molded plastic dash that is colour keyed to the rest, and cloth upholstery that seems to be of a reasonable quality.

VERDICT: ***


The recessed heater controls may be fiddly, especially when wearing gloves in the wintertime, but generally both design and finish on the inside are up to modern standards.

ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN
A 6.3 litre V8 is highly questionable now after the oil crisis, but sure, it gives the car frisky performance. Other than that, there is nothing exciting about it. It does its job, without too many drawbacks, and the torque curve is nice and flat, but that’s only expected.

What’s a positive surprise, though, is the 4 speed automatic transmission when most competitors have 3. It works well and the gearing seems to suit the car.

VERDICT: ***

QUALITY AND RELIABILITY
Simple technology means that the Rosewood will probably hold up, and we didn’t see too much of sloppy workmanship in the car. It is by no means a bank vault, but seems to be reasonably well built. A galvanized ladder chassis will probably keep structural rust away for the whole lifecycle of the car, too.

VERDICT: ****

ECONOMY
At $17200 it is fairly cheap for what you get, but of course the large V8 takes its toll when it comes to fuel economy, 17.8 litres per 100 km. At least it runs on cheap regular fuel. Service costs are about average, $791.6 AMU. Sort of a mixed bag here, really, but it does not have to be a disaster if you don’t do too many miles per year.

VERDICT: **

SAFETY
The size of the car, combined with the american safety regulations being rather strict, means that there is a decent level of safety. Don’t expect much more than that, though. It is missing some of the latest safety equipment and has nothing more than you expect from a car today, and the primitive ladder chassis means that the crumple zones probably are less than optimal.

VERDICT: ***

FINAL VERDICT: 27/45
The Rosewood is a rather average car, and our question is, who needs this one? In the US, it still makes perfect sense, but as we said, a V8 car this size is considered a luxury in our market. Then it needs to be better than this. Which would also mean more expensive. On the other hand, most people on a tight budget will not consider the Rosewood anyway.

But if you want a decently roomy family sedan, don’t want to pay more than necessary and values performance above everything else, then…sure.

We’re just not sure how many of you that actually exists.


Thanks to @SheikhMansour for the car!

5 Likes

Is there a waiting list for submissions?

Not really. It might be if I get too many of them.

By the way, not a requirement, but still a suggestion:
The Swedish plates that now is available as a mod is way too modern for everything except the very latest cars. I would appreciate if (at least pre-2018) cars sent in would have an euro sized plate with a plain white colour as the material, which makes it easy for me to make somewhat realistic Swedish plates for that model year, to get the most authentic pictures. Thanks!

REPRINT OF #19 2020
REVIEW OF MARA XENIA 1.2 LX

RESPECTING ITS HERITAGE


We’re careful at judging cars by their looks, but most people will probably not see the plain and somewhat blobby Mara as the winner of any beauty contests. On the other hand, why should it be?

For people that values bang-for-the-buck over brand snobbery, Mara has been the choice for many years. The Archanan company simply have nailed the right formula in how to save on the less necessary stuff to still make a competent package, for a surprisingly cheap price, time after time. The Xenia is the latest of models in a lineage that started with the classic Irena in the 60s. It is far from new, though, as you may know the model has been on the market for six years now, and was facelifted two years ago. Since it could be interesting to see if it still holds up, and gives you the traditional Mara experience of getting lots of car for your money, we decided to take a Xenia in its 1.2 litre hatchback form for a spin.

DRIVING CHARACTERISTICS
The Xenia has decently safe handling, and won’t surprise you as a driver. It may start plowing with the front end on its skinny Archanan budget tyres relatively easy, but that’s predictable, and often easily solved with stepping off the gas. With that said, “exciting” is far from the word that should be used about its dynamics, and there is a fair amount of body roll. We’re not impressed by the brakes that shows some fading, but stopping distances are adequately short at exactly 40 metres from 100 km. Part of its less exciting behaviour is probably the primitive chassis technology. A torsion beam rear axle combined with struts up front, and not even disc brakes all around. But in this price class it could be seen as adequate.

The compact outer dimensions suggests that it is more a joy in crowded city traffic than on a windy mountain road. Partly true and only slightly questionable because of the all around vision that is a bit hampered like most cars with this bodyshape, and the fact that getting anything else than a manual still costs extra. But the electric power steering is light even if the feedback from the road is limited.

VERDICT: **


Drive too fast through a corner and this happens. Looks dramatic but it should be kept in mind that the Mara is at its limits and with the ESC turned off here.

PERFORMANCE
By the standards of today, the Mara is a bit sluggish indeed, though not dangerously slow. 0-100 takes 13.1 seconds, the 80-120 sprint taking 10.4 seconds means that overtaking needs some planning, while the top speed is 196 km/h. Quartermile is done in 19.02 seconds. Far from a rocket, but that was not expected at this price either.

VERDICT: **

COMFORT
Not much to mention here. The Mara is small, on a rather short wheelbase, and the suspension is a bit firm (but not harsh). Seating comfort is fair, but not more than that, and both the engine- and road noise is at average levels. Once again, this shows that it can be hard to find the right compromise between comfort and handling with a torsion beam axle on a FWD car. But then again, the Mara is far from a torture chamber.

VERDICT: **

ROOMINESS AND PRACTICALITY
For its size, the 5 door version of the Mara is incredibly roomy both for passengers and luggage. Also, the liftback bodystyle means that the car is flexible. Need more practicality still? Buy the wagon. Can do with a little less? Buy the smaller 3 door version. We appreciate the choice but also we see the 5 door as a great compromise.

VERDICT: ****

EQUIPMENT AND INTERIOR

The interior of the Mara is minimalistic and mostly upholstered in black vinyl/plastic and black cloth (of reasonable quality). Some people complained that the steering wheel was too far from the seat, in relation to the pedals, which should be kept in mind, since it is highly individual if it will work for you or not. But overall it looks decent, especially for a budget car. It does not offer much in the way of gizmos, though. At least it has a bluetooth/CD stereo with a not too tinny sound. Seeing steel wheels on a car today is almost getting rare, but hey, they are round and you can mount tyres on them, so what’s wrong?

VERDICT: **

ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN
We were honestly a bit surprised to see a turbo on the 1.2 litre engine, considering that it only cranks out 80 hp. Sure, it is tuned for effiency but we still question if the extra complexity of a turbocharged engine was really necessary in this case. But it should be said that it also means that the flexibility is great, it has lots of torque in the whole rev range. It’s also quiet - but a bit harsh and unrefined as the 3-cylinder it is. It also has clean emissions.

The gearbox is a 5 speed manual, and well…it is what it is. Maybe a 6 speed would have allowed for both more overdrive and a closer gearing with this little engine - but we can think of worse ways of cutting corners.

VERDICT: **

QUALITY AND RELIABILITY
At a first glance, you might not recognize the Mara as some kind of quality car. But fact is, the car has been out for some years now, and the verdict from the owners? Excellent, never any problems! The safety inspection says the same thing, Xenias often pass them with flying colours. Rust? Yeah, not as excellent there, but it is mainly found on early examples with high mileage and lacking care. We could not think of many cars in any price class that offers such a trouble free experience.

VERDICT: *****

ECONOMY
$19900 AMU for a car today - excellent. At 5.6 litres per 100 km, the fuel economy is decent too, and at $619.1 AMU, servicing is unbelievably cheap. If there is a cheaper way to get into a new car than this, we want to see it.

VERDICT: *****

SAFETY
The Mara will never come out as a champion in an Euro-NCAP test since it lacks a lot of the latest gizmos. With that said, for most people it will probably be an alternative to an older car that doesn’t have them either. On top of that, being a small and light car in an era of SUVs is probably not doing it any favours safety wise. With that said, it has most of the passive safety systems one might expect today, like 8 airbags and seatbelts with pretensioners and load limiters on all places. So, if you’re confident that you can steer and brake yourself, it’s probably not too bad. Unless your opponent carries an “Innis” or “Deer & Hunt” badge.

VERDICT: **

FINAL VERDICT: 25/45
This would have been seen as a great car in the 90s, fact is that it feels a lot like a throwback to the 90s, for the better and for the worse. On the other hand, people were driving back then, too, without too much struggle. Competitiors are sharper at everything, sure, but at what cost?

Once again, Mara proves that they can build decent cars for almost hilariously low prices. But maybe the cars are lagging a little bit more behind now than the Irena or Zvizda were back in the days. That might of course be understandable, considering all the bells and whistles in the cars of today.

But we would like to see what other car that would be better than this for an equally low price. We bet that won’t happen anytime soon.


Thanks to @AndiD for the car!

4 Likes

Many thanks - and just in time for the Xenia’s rallying cousin to come second place in its debut: Tom Henks Racing Series [Season 1 - Round 1, first race results] - #37 by TheTom

Same shell (but 3-door), and same engine block!

Mara is not without a rich motorsport pedigree, indeed.

REPRINT FROM #17 1991
REVIEW OF VV ATHENA

GOOD THINGS IN A SMALL PACKAGE


The styling of the Athena is futuristic, still without being too quirky for mr Average to accept.

The VV Athena is an interesting newcomer on the market. At a first glance it might be a little bit surprising. Size-wise, at 425 cm of length it could be compared to, for example, IP:s new Warbler. Yet it is fair more expensive than even the top model of said car. The reason is that this French compact is packed with advanced technology. Worth the premium, or a waste of money?

DRIVING CHARACTERISTICS
The chassis of the Athena is very advanced, with independent suspension all around and hydropneumatic suspension. That should translate into good handling, right? Well, generally, yes. It feels nimble and quick in its reactions at lower speeds. Push it hard, though, and you get reminded of the front wheel drive by some front end plow, nothing that is remarkably bad though. Maybe it shows some more body lean than some people would like, too. The power steering is of the variable type and works reasonably well. ABS and a traction control system increases the safety in slippery conditions. At the small skidpad we managed to get values of 0.91 G, on the large one 0.87.

Brakes are very good with a short stopping distance from 100 of 39.1 metres. They are easy to dose and shows almost no fading at all.

VERDICT: ****

PERFORMANCE
At 120 hp, the Athena is no rocket, but it has a relatively low weight at 1207 kg, and does the 0-100 sprint in 9.9 seconds. A top speed of 216 km/h, a relatively low 80-120 time of 6.84 seconds and quartermile times of 17.23 seconds also feels reasonable. We would say that for regular driving, the performance figures are more than adequate.

VERDICT: ***

COMFORT
Thanks to the hydropneumatic suspension, with a comfort oriented tuning, probably unbeatable in this class. Seating comfort are wonderful in nicely contoured, high quality velour upholstered seats. The already quiet engine is almost hard to notice in the well insulated passenger area, as well as the tyre- and wind noise. If any compact car is suitable for long trips, it is this one. It gives much larger cars a run for their money.

VERDICT: *****

ROOMINESS AND PRACTICALITY
Despite having relatively restrained outer dimensions, the Athena feels roomy. The 5 door liftback body offers great practicality and flexibility, even if there is liftbacks offering more luggage space than this (to be fair, some offers less too). For most people’s needs, the Athena should be more than adequate. Maybe we could have asked for a little bit higher payload. 343 kg is not overly much.

VERDICT: ****

EQUIPMENT AND INTERIOR
The Athena is relatively well equipped, with a well appointed interior. It has a decent sound system, electric windows, air conditioning, central locking, cruise control, velour upholstery, traction control, ABS and much more. What costs extra, however, is alloy wheels. The futuristic looking saucers are only plastic hubcaps.

VERDICT: ****

ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN
A 120 hp 2 litre 4-cylinder does not sound like something impressive, but fact is that VV has succeeded with this one. Balance shafts means that it runs silk smooth, it is quiet and has lots of other interesting tech, like VVT, EFI and a 16 valve DOHC head. The pistons are of a modern low-friction type that is supposed to increase fuel economy. Maybe, if we should complain about something, the low end grunt is somewhat lacking, it needs some revs to wake up.

It is mated to a 5 speed manual transmission, the most common choice in this class, which works well and has a quite reasonable gearing.

VERDICT: ****

QUALITY AND RELIABILITY
Advanced technology most often means questionable reliability, but VVs are better than their reputation. Reliability is no worse than for an average car. The standards of build quality are at a high level, and the finish on the bodywork and its metallic silver paint on our test car was a positive surprise. We found no rattles or squeaks, and it is very well protected against rust. If you don’t dare to buy a VV because of fear for a troublesome ownership, it is time to rethink your old beliefs.

VERDICT: ****

ECONOMY
$ 30 000 AMU is not overly cheap for a car in this class, but as stated earlier, you get a lot for your money. And don’t believe what you hear about service costs, $876.50 AMU is by no means worse than average. Also, the fuel economy is impressive at 7.7 litres per 100 km. So, if you can afford a somewhat high purchase price, the VV will offer a decently economical ownership.

VERDICT: ***


The crumple zones aren’t overly large, but safety is still top notch.

SAFETY
A strong bodyshell combined with all the latest safety equipment means that you will struggle with finding a safer car in its class. Of course, a car this size will be somewhat challenged against a land barge, but VV has done everything they can to make sure the passengers are as protected as possible. There are for example twin airbags, side impact intrusion beams, headrests and 3-point belts in the rear seat, seatbelt pretensioners and a fuel cutoff switch. We doubt that much more than this can be done today.

VERDICT: ****

FINAL VERDICT: 35/45
We are very impressed with the Athena, fact is that it could be seen as one of our favourites on the market at the moment. It is simply one of the best allrounders there is, if you’re in the market for a daily driver, and it is very hard to find any overly weak points. As stated earlier, yes, for a compact car it is not overly cheap, but on the other hand, with interior room, comfort and safety on this level, do you really need a larger car?


Thanks to @conan and @z2bbgr for the car!

6 Likes

I love your work! I especially love how it actually reads like a proper journalistic car review.
Thank you for this glowing review as well. :smile:

3 Likes

A little question:
What is your stance (or that of Trafikjournalen) towards taking a look at one-off homebrew vehicles?

I’m not against it, but then I want LOTS of info about the car from the inside and out so I know what I am writing about.

2 Likes

REPRINT FROM #16 1997
REVIEW OF LAZURUS DTX 4000E

FASHION WITH FLAWS


On the road, the DTX shows some less than desirable behaviour…

Offroaders is a category that lately has undergone a bizarre transformation. From being crude workhorses to becoming an alternative as the main mode of transportation for families looking to replace their station wagons. Of course, it is kind of questionable if that is a rational decision, but sure, in a country that in some parts have snow and ice on the ground for half a year, why not?

One of the offroaders aimed at that market is the Lazurus DTX 4000E. It has been on the market since 1993, but since we actually didn’t test it when it came out, and since the market has been changing in the last 4 years, making cars like this more interesting, we decided to take a look if it still holds up.

DRIVING CHARACTERISTICS
Four words: Thank god for ESC. And that is nothing that Lazurus should be proud of in this case. Because with the ESC turned on, you can feel it grip in as soon as you try to push the vehicle the slightest. With the ESC turned off, the car was more or less a disaster on our handling course, if you have to swerve and are lucky enough to not tip this high center of gravity vehicle over, chances are that you will be sliding tail first into something. The electric power steering system, being more “dead” in its feeling and giving less road feedback than a traditional hydraulic system is absolutely not helping a lot here.

If the handling is terrible, the brakes are almost even worse. A 48.8 metre stopping distance from 100 is kind of long by modern standards, but even worse is the bad brake balance that would lock up the rear wheels immediately if it wasn’t for the ABS, not to mention that they aren’t up to the task at all with a fully loaded car.

In city traffic the car may feel clumsy to start with, but that’s actually mostly tricks played by the imagination. Fact is that it is about the same size as many regular family cars, and the high seating position, square shape and large glass areas is something you will learn to appreciate after a while.

It is clear that this is made for a completely different element - where the road ends. The four wheel drive with a real low range transfer case and the knobby tyres means that there is always grip even in the most harsh of conditions - and you can even lock the differentials manually if you still get in trouble. Ground clearance is high enough to pass most obstacles. And this is what saves it from a totally disastrous rating - yet, it should not be this way. We don’t expect an offroader to behave like a sports car - but good offroad capability should not equal downright dangerous behaviour on the road.

VERDICT: *


…that somewhat changes when the car is in its right element - which most of them probably will never ever see.

PERFORMANCE
The large, 279 hp V8 means that this heavy car is still a good performer - being faster than anyone will ever need a car like this to be. Top speed is 230 km/h, 0-100 is done in 8.47 seconds, 80-120 in 5.28 seconds and the quartermile in 16.15 seconds. For this brick, that’s more than acceptable indeed.

VERDICT: ****

COMFORT
Despite air suspension and a luxurious interior, it shows that an offroader is a compromise. The aggressive tyre thread means that there is large amounts of road noise, and the suspension is bouncier than one would expect, the heavy solid rear axle does not help at all. Now, we are not implying that the Lazurus is a torture chamber - but there is regular family cars that offers better comfort, for a lower price.

VERDICT: ***

ROOMINESS AND PRACTICALITY
A box is a box, and it shows in this case. Five passengers can ride in great comfort and there is still loads of room for luggage. Also, the maximum allowed payload is impressive, you should never worry to bottom out the suspension on this, and the air suspension means that the car is always kept level.

VERDICT: *****

EQUIPMENT AND INTERIOR
First, if you can name a single gizmo, chances are that the Lazurus has it. Leather interior, wood/leather steering wheel, navigation, a very good sound system with CD player, electronic climate control, electric windows all around, cruise control, trip computer…we’re not missing anything.

The interior feels modern and pleasant to look at, maybe with the exception for the shifter for the automatic transmission that could as well belong to a car from the 70s. Our test vehicle had an elegant tan colour on its leather, with dark wood as a contrast, looking exclusive and easy on the eyes without feeling tacky. Also, driver’s ergonomics are superb, everything is where you want it to be.

VERDICT: *****


Forget the vinyl clad benches and steel dashboards of the past. This is what an offroader looks like nowadays.

ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN
The 4 litre V8 is relatively up to date, with one single camshaft per cylinder bank and 3 valves per cylinder. It runs smooth and quiet and seems to be well suited for the car, but maybe without the low end grunt you would expect from a V8 - it needs some revs to really wake up. Multi point injection and 3-way cat means that emissions are still kept on a sane level.

The gearbox is a 5 speed computer controlled automatic, that works well and has a reasonable gearing for what this car is supposed to be.

All in all, a harmonic, if not exciting or exceptional drivetrain.

VERDICT: ****

QUALITY AND RELIABILITY
The feeling of build quality is fair, but not exceptional. With the model being some years old, we could say that this holds true too. It has mediocre, but not terrible, reliability ratings. Though it seems to resist rust better than the average car, which it should have some credit for.

VERDICT: ***

ECONOMY
$36900 AMU for a car is of course a large amount of money - but not remarkably expensive, considering the market the Lazurus is aimed at. Service costs are high, but not insane, at $1104.4 AMU. A thirsty V8 in a big boxy car means that fuel economy takes a hit - so also here. 17 litres per 100 km, ouch!

VERDICT: *

SAFETY
It has a primitive body on frame construction which is always a compromise. On the other hand, it is not lacking any modern safety equipment, there is dual airbags, all seats have headrests and 3-point safety belts, the doors are reinforced, the seatbelts has pretensioners. Also, the sheer mass means that you are kind of protected per se - that is, until you hit something even bigger, of course.

VERDICT: ****

FINAL VERDICT: 30/45
We have mixed feelings about the Lazurus. Yes, it is very practical. Yes, it offers luxuries for a not too bloody price. Yes, it is decently fast, comfortable and safe.

The question is, who needs the compromises that comes with an offroader in this case? There are regular cars that offers all of this, without sacrificing things like fuel economy and handling. If it wasn’t for the ESC, despite the high rating, we would actually not recommend this due to the unsafe handling. Now, it somehow saves the situation. And yes, offroad capacity is better than the characteristics on the road, but on the other hand, we guess that people looking for offroad capabilities will aim for something more simple and robust.

So, this car is actually suited for a very narrow niche. Then, probably lots of people would buy it anyway, because they believe that it is what suits them.

Sometimes being hip is a struggle.


Thanks to @BannedByAndroid for the car!

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