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Van Review: 2017 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 313 Transfer Minibus

Private Fleet offers a huge thanks to Blake at Mercedes-Benz Vans Australia as we take a look at a light commercial passenger vehicle. The first vehicle to be reviewed is the 2017 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 313 Transfer Minibus.The Sprinter Transfer Minibus is, well, a Minibus variant of the Sprinter van and it is, visually, one big unit. Available with a low (as the review vehicle had) or high roof, at 2524 mm or 2818 mm, it’s lonnnng at 5926 mm. Width? 1993 mm or 2426 mm with the (heated) mirrors included. Seating capacity is twelve, with driver and two up front, and two/three/four mix behind, with all seats fitted with belts and there’s a fire extinguisher and emergency escape panel as well. Even the wheelbase is huge, nearly as long as some small cars are at a total length of 3665 mm. There’s a sense of irony for the uninitiated when M-B state that this is a medium wheelbase model…The heart and soul of the Mercedes-Benz van range is the engine and transmission combination. The Sprinter 313 Transfer is no exception, with a seemingly small Euro 5 compliant 2.2L diesel and seven speed auto driveline. Peak power comes in at 3800 rpm with 120 kW on offer, with peak torque just 360 Nm between 1400 to 2400 rpm. Bear in mind, though, it’s a seven speed auto and at 110 kph, the tacho is sitting on 2200 revs, smack bang in the peak torque figure.

The transmission is a superb unit. Gear changes are physically imperceptible, with only the engine note, a restrained yet noticeable diesel thrum, and the flick of the tacho needle, giving away the ratio has swapped. On the go on the highway and freeway, it’s an effortless cruiser and it was a delight to drive.

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Tesla Car Australia Expands The Network Range.

A concern for owners and drivers of purely electrically powered cars is what’s called “range anxiety”. Much like a conventional car, range will vary depending on driving style, with spirited and exuberant driving draining charge quicker.

Tesla Cars Australia recently updated the list of charging stations available, with its 300th charge point being added at the Yarra Valley De Bortoli estate at Dixon’s Creek in Victoria. Over that, Tesla have added 100 charger stations in just six months and announced a global doubling of stations, demonstrating their committment to making having a Tesla car as convenient as possible.

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Private Fleet Car Review: Mitsubishi Pajero Sport GLS

It’s a hearty welcome back to Mitsubishi for Private Fleet and it was straight into the top level. The Pajero Sport, formerly known as Challenger, comes in a three trim level range. You can choose from the GLX, GLS, and Exceed. Private Fleet goes one on one with the 2017 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport GLS.Mitsubishi have loaded the Pajero Sport with a grunty 2.4L diesel and eight speed auto. Off road driving is catered for with the Super Select 2 four wheel drive system and the GLS cops a rear differential lock. Up front, that diesel delivers a handy 133 kilowatts at 3500 revs, backing up the more than decent 430 torques one thousand revs lower. Mitsubishi quote a combined fuel efficiency for the two tonne plus behemoth of 8.0L/100 km from the 68 litre tank, a figure we more or less matched.It’s a super smooth combo, the eight speeder and diesel. It’s slick, smooth to a fault, with barely perceptible changes at almost any throttle setting. Manual gear changes are available via the gear selector or metal paddles on the steering column. The diesel is a old school chatterer, however, with plenty of ratta-tatta under any form of load. It’s noisy, yes, but lends the Pajero Sport a sense of extra character.Some would say the exterior design of the Pajero Sport has character and you’d have to study their face to see if they’re serious. The front is what Mitsubishi calls its “shield” design and it’s handsome enough. Chrome plates blend with the angular headlights and it flows nicely. In profile, there’s a sense of a hunch in the windowline at the rear, combined with a deep set crease over the rear wheel arches. It’s from the rear that the Pajero Sport’s design has raised the most eyebrows since it was launched, with tail lights that look as if heat has been applied and they’ve melted from top to bottom. Beauty in the eye of the beholder and all that…There’s some big numbers for the Pajero Sport; length is 4785 mm long and it stands 1815 mm tall, taller than most. Front leg room is good at 1087 mm whilst the rear seats may seem a little tight for taller people, with 880 mm leg room on display. Towing capacity tips the three tonne mark, at 3100 kilograms, meaning caravanners will be delighted. There’s plenty of grip to do so from the Bridgestone Dueller 265/60 rubber on 18 inch 12 spoked alloys.Inside it’s typical Mitsubishi, with spot on ergonomics, leather seats in the GLS (sans heating and cooling), auto headlights, rear diff lock and towing braking package as well. Front and centre for the driver is Mitsubishi’s Eco messenger display in colour, with a five leaf clover indicating the economic efficiency (or lack there-of) of your driving skills. The display is a typical Mitsubishi highlight, with little to no eye strain and beautifully clean in layout making it easy to read at a glance.The six speaker sound system in the GLS (eight in the Exceed) comes with DAB and the digital sound is superb in the Pajero Sport. The seven inch touchscreen also allows access to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, adding some up to date technology to the field of play. The dash is a mix of glossy piano black, charcoal matt textured black and aluminuim look highlights that run down into the console and splashes on the doors As expected in a family oriented SUV there’s storage pockets aplenty and the underfloor storage provides some extra security. Although the seats aren’t heated and cooled, they’re comfortable and supportive enough, with quicker turns on road having minimal human body movement. You arrive at a distant destination feeling refreshed enough and being set high, you’ve got both great all round vision and easy entry and exiting. You need to be refreshed as the dynamics of the Pajero Sport aren’t exactly razor sharp. Although it’s got a big footprint, with a 2800 mm long wheelbase, front track of 1520 mm and rear at 1515 mm, it’s unwieldy on the road thanks largely to the perhaps too soft suspension, a mix of double wishbone & coil springs up front and 3 link coil spring & stabiliser bar rear. If you’ve never driven a vehicle such as this you feel as if you’d need to slow to a crawl to turn corners, such is the sensation of body roll.It’s not a point and shoot style car, for sure, however by sitting up high as one does in such a vehicle, anything other than a straight and flat road transmits a feeling of slight uneasiness as to whether the Pajero Sport will go where you tell it. It’ll understeer easily even at moderate speeds but that’s a handling setup issue as the tyres give no indication at all of losing grip. Eventually, and quickly, it must be pointed out, you adapt quickly to the handling and roll foibles, and start exploiting the ability, not agility, of the thing.Being fitted with a proper transfer case for high and low range driving, plus the aforementioned diff lock, is an example of that ability. Low range 4WD has the Pajero Sport head down and bum up as it crawls over rocks, through mud, over gravel and brings back the ability to instill confidence in its ability. There’s a 45 degree climb angle, approach and departure angles of 30 and 24.5 degrees, and will swim through water safely at up to 700 mm in depth. Throttle control is en pointe, with bare flexes of the ankle seeing and feeling response straight away. Unfortunately the same can’t be said of the brakes. For such a large vehicle and with the mass it has, the brakes simply aren’t good enough. There’s absolutely no feel with an initial press and a lacklustre feel when the pads start to bite from far too much pressure being required on the pedal. Too often it felt like the Pajero Sport wouldn’t pull up in time and an emergency brake press was needed in order for an appropriate bite to work.

Should something go awry, you can rely on the front/side/curtain/driver’s knee airbags to come to play, along with Active Stability and Traction Control, Emergency Brake Assist, Hill Start Assist and Smart Brake. The seatbelts have pretensioning and of course there’s Mitsubishi’s RISE (Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution) body. Going backwards is covered by a reverse camera, standard across the range.

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Car Recall Over Dodgy Airbags

It’s good to get important safety information out there, particularly when some of the cars on our roads could be really quite unsafe.  Recently, there has been a Takata airbags recall due to some faulty airbag systems placed in certain modern cars of specific makes and models.

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Really Keen Young Drivers!

One of my brothers, when aged around 5, found the keys in the ignition of Dad and Mum’s car and proceeded to start the car up and drive off.  That’s what you do with cars, isn’t it?  Dad and Mum were having a rest in the house when this occurred, and thankfully Dad heard the engine and rushed outside to stop him before he got away!

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Mercedes-Benz Provides A Ute With The X Factor.

Mercedes-Benz Vans announced the new X-Class ute will launch in Europe in November 2017 with Australia and South Africa to follow early in 2018, as well as Argentina and Brazil at the beginning of 2019.

Diane Tarr, the Managing Director of Mercedes-Benz Vans Australia and New Zealand, said: “The high level of interest and anticipation in the lead up to revealing the new X-Class has been a reflection of just how engrained dual cab utes are in both the Australian and New Zealand culture. The fact is we love utes and we are showing a desire to incorporate this type of vehicle into our lives in more ways than we did in the past. Not just for work, but also increasingly for private use.

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Jaguar Electrifies London With E-Pace.

Jaguar’s relentless onslaught with new models continues, with the forthcoming E-Pace giving an electrifying performance during its world premiere unveiling. Driven by professional stunt driver Terry Grant, the car was driven inside London’s ExCel building, one of a handful of venues big enough to accomodate the run up and structure that lead to the E-Pace being driven through a barrel roll. The incredible vision can be found here: Jaguar E-Pace barrel roll

E-Pace takes the Jaguar design philosophy of the “Art of Performance” to the next level with this world record setting drive. It also finalised over two years of testing across four continents to ensure the E-Pace would fit snugly into the Jaguar family.Powered almost exclusively by 2.0L diesels, with two different power outputs available at the top end from the 2.0L petrol engine, the E-Pace slots into the growing small SUV with an overall length of 4395 mm, stands 1649 mm tall, and will have a total width (including mirrors) of 2088 mm. The wheelbase will be 2681 mm, maximising interior room for the five seater vehicle. The differing power outputs will have the variants see 0-100 kph times from 10.1 seconds down to sub six seconds.

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Private Fleet Car Review: 2017 Suzuki Swift GL Navigator

When a car company has a car that becomes an icon, any update or redesign has the company at risk of stuffing that up. Suzuki is such a company; the Swift has etched itself into history and for the model update released in 2017, the exterior redesign has raised a few eyebrows. However, it’s what’s under the skin that counts and Private Fleet finds, after well over 1200 kilometres of driving, including a forty eight hour trip to the heart of astronomy in Australia, that the Suzuki Swift GL Navigator, at least, should be welcomed with open arms.The range opens with the GL, then the GL Navigator. The next steps are the GL Navigator with Safety Pack and the top of the range GLX Turbo. AWT briefly sampled the GLX Turbo and found its main attraction is the lusty turbocharged three cylinder engine. A downside is the overly hard ride. There was also a lot more road noise than expected.
The GL Navigator comes with a CVT and 1.25 litre DualJet four. Peak power is just 66 kilowatts at 6000 revs, with peak torque of 120 Nm coming in at 4400. The auto has a Sports mode which proved to be an ideal addition on the longer country straight roads.The 2017 Swift is as compact a small car as you can get; overall length is just 3840 mm, with height topping out at 1495 mm. Breadth is a total of 1735 mm including mirrors and in the back there’s just 242 litres of cargo space with the rear seats up. Wheels are 16 inch alloys, with 185/55 Ecopia rubber. In between the front and rear is a wheelbase of 2450 mm, meaning overhang is minimal. Crammed inside is a fueltank, some would say a fuel thimble, of 37 litres. Suzuki Australia‘s website only quotes consumption for the six speed manual as found in the GL, however we finished on 5.7L/100 with a best of 5.5L/100 km seen. Bear in mind this was with two adults, two children between seven and eleven, and with a couple of good sized overnight bags.

The Big Drive.
A last minute change of circumstances had me free for the weekend. In need of a destination, Australia’s dark sky capital, Coonabarabran, was selected, with a visit to Siding Spring, Australia’s home of astronomy, scheduled. The route? West to Lithgow, then north to Mudgee, Dunedoo and a more direct route north from there rather than the tourist drive to Gilgandra. What became immediately noticeable about the Swift was how well sorted the CVT is. Compared to the average CVT in the Ignis, this car had almost immediate response, if lacking in outright acceleration.Sports mode is selected via a toggle switch on the transmission lever and works when the revs are above 3000. On long stretches, this aided immensely in overtaking slower and bigger vehicles such as caravanners or B-Doubles. Because of the relative lack of oomph, careful planning is required. Having the easy to read satnav on board (hence the GL Navigator name) provided plenty of forewarning of the straights needed. The CVT itself is well and truly one of the best of its kind available, with quicker response to the throttle and a distinct lack of lag compared to the CVT in sister car, Ignis.By no means is it a neck snapper, however. Even with one aboard, acceleration is…leisurely. It takes time to do almost everything from a standing start, however once the three and three zeroes on the tacho are reached the little engine that can becomes a different beast. Even without the electronic kick given by Sports mode, it’s zippy, peppy, and reacts even more to the right foot. Between Lithgow and Dunedoo, on the flatter and straight roads, this shows the ability of the 1.2L.What was a standout was the ride quality. For such a small car, it told the roads to “suck it up, buttercup”. It was only on the joins between tarmac and the concrete for bridge surfaces where the suspension would crash to the bump stops, otherwise it simply bounced through the travel once and settled back to flat and taut. On undulating roads it was unflustered, coposed, and again would setlle to a flat ride as soon as it could. Even on a rutted and ripped gravel road (yes, a gravel road) it was relatively chop free and surprisingly noise free.The razor sharp steering rack backs up the chassis perfectly. It reacts to the softest touch and is ratioed so at speed it won’t go beserk, it’ll move gently, but will also tighten up quickly at slow speeds for easy car parking and manouvreability.It’s the long drive that shows what a well sorted chassis can do but that’d come to naught if the interior of the car also doesn’t play ball. The cloth covered seats were near nigh spot on, with support where needed, and resulted in stepping out of the pocket car with no sense of weariness. Bearing in mind, too, that the Swift was driven in a cold environment and the seats aren’t heated. Speaking of heating, the interior of the Swift GL Navigator features old school style dials and slide for fresh/recirculate. It warms up the interior quickly but did seem to not push air through to the feet efficiently enough when that mode was dialled up. This is vital when you exit a hotel room to see ice, not frost, on a Swift roof.Around “Coona”, as it’s called locally, the Swift works well as a city car….well, a town car. Coonabarabran has a population of under 4000, and takes just a few minutes to travel through. There’s life in the place yet, however signs of decay, such as a collapsing car wash, are tell tale signs of a town teetering on the edge.Want scenery? It’s this, and Siding Spring Observatory, overlooking the volcanic remains that form the Warrambungles Range, that bring people to the region. The climb up to the observatory is a four kilometre hike on some fairly steep and narrow roads, with the added attraction of passing some planetary markers. By using the observatory as the centre of the solar system, you’re able to gauge just how far apart planets are once you pass the asteroid belt and how close they are inside. The CVT is so well sorted that it never struggles to haul the car and four aboard upwards.A tour of the venue is a must, as it climaxes with a visit to the uppermost point of the mountain the observatory complex (there’s over fifty separate telescopes) sits upon and gives a breathtaking vista in a full 360 degrees, including the picturesque Warrumbungles themselves. On the way down the transmission exhibits yet another welcome quirk; there’s a selectable Low gear that helps brake the Swift without always aiming for the stop pedal. The brakes themselves, disc up front and drum rear in all but the GLX, are a mixed bag. There’s too much initial pressure required to get bite but once they do they’re measured, positive, confident in the retardation. You can judge to an nth the amount of pressure required to haul up the Swift time and time again.The exterior design of the Swift has also changed and, for A Wheel Thing, it’s not a change that sits well. Taking a few moments to look at it at various stops highlight the now blunter front end, the somewhat out of place headlight design, the protuberant tail light cluster aka Baleno, and the now embedded in the C pillar door handle. From Private Fleet’s point of view, it’s no longer the sleek and attractively well rounded machine it was, it’s now looking visually heavier and not as aerodynamically attractive.Inside is a different story. It’s comfortable, as stated, plus has a real look of being updated and modern. There’s the familiar four quarter touchscreen (with no DAB available at this level) with the typically clean interface Suzuki has endowed its screens with of recent times. Ergonomically, it’s a treat with everything cleanly laid out, easy to use and read with the added virtue of the main air vents being as basic yet efficient as they get. Where the Swift falls down, and sadly its not alone with this, is the lack of truly useable sunshades. They’re too short, lacking extending inserts, and not deep enough, as when moved to block sunlight throught the windows, simply don’t come down far enough to be of any real use.
What was useful was the overall driveability of the Swift Navigator. The aforementioned climb up to the Siding Spring Observatory, complete with breathtaking views but few opportunities to stop in true safety, tested the ability of the little hatch for both driving and handling. Tick the box for “Pass with Flying Colours”. Pootle around town? Too easy. Stretch the legs on the highway? Natch.The voyage home (to pinch a Star Trek title) was via the barely hanging on hamlet of Binnaway (yes, true name), with a stop at the site of the Black Stump, then east to Merriwa, before heading south east for lunch in Denman. All through here, with varying road surfaces, bends, straights, dips and hollows, hill climbs and descents, the Swift simply blinked and carried on. The final part of the return trip was via the sublime Putty Road, complete with turns and curves that work so well for lovers of the two wheeled transport variety. Even though ostensibly not a sport chassis, the Swift acted as if it had one, with the MacPherson strut front and torsion beam coil sprung rear providing tenacious grip. Again, there’s plenty of point & squirt driveability when the revs were around 3000 rpm. Being one of the more user friendly CVTs revs were between 1700 to 2000 when in cruise mode, easily flicking up to 4500 when needed and so responsive even the lightest pressure on the accelerator would see corresponding movement on the tacho.One thing that really stood out over the two days or so was the sheer amount of dead kangaroos and foxes roadside. One red devil had a luck escape, dashing out in front with barely inches between he and the front wheels as we passed but the visual carnage suggests that far too many were just that little bit too slow. With the size of some of the grey bodies, it was cause to be thankful for the six airbags on board, as no variants have a driver’s kneebag.
At the End Of The Drive.

I had to admit to reservations about the capability of the Swift to deal with such a drive prior to departure. Now, the Swift can be highly recommended as a long distance tourer for a family of four for a couple of days away. Luggage space curtails anything longer but would be ideal for a couple as the rear seats folded offer up the extra space needed for more luggage.
What one will get for the well spent money ( Pricing is sharp: the GL will kick off at $15990, the Navigators will be $17990 and $18990, and the top of the range GLX is $22990) is a car that’s thoroughly capable of a long drive to the country, a car with the goods needed to provide a wonderful drive experience and the economy required to not break the bank whilst away. Here’s the link for more info: 2017 Suzuki Swift Range information
A huge thanks to Suzuki Cars Australia.

5 Innovative Technologies to Keep an Eye on

While all the attention at the moment is being given to autonomous vehicles and the next generation of fuel technology, numerous auto makers, manufacturers and technology companies are working on other plans. Some of these developments have even made it into our vehicles already, although they are yet to progress to a mainstream level of adoption. We take a look at 5 innovative technologies to keep an eye on.

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2015 Corolla vs 1998 Corolla

2015 Corolla vs 1998 Corolla

ANCAP crash testing has been around for some time, but every now and then a picture tells more than a thousand words.  When a new car crashes into an old car, what will the outcome be?  At the crash lab in West Sydney, two Toyota Corollas went head-to-head just to see what would happen.  The difference between the two Corollas was that one was a 2015 model and the other a 1998 version.  My goodness, what a mess, what a noise and what a telling story!

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