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Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Subaru Forester 2.5-i

Subaru‘s recently revamped Forester range has four trim levels. There is the 2.5i, 2.5i-L, the Premium recently reviewed, and the top of the range 2.5i-S. Subaru is on a winner with the revamp due to the room inside, the station wagon looks, and the excellent stand list of equipment. We reviewed the entry level 2.5-i version, priced at just over $38K drive-away, directly after the Premium.Mechanically the Foresters are identical. Subaru’s much vaunted Symmetrical All Wheel Drive partners with a 90% new 2.5-L petrol engine. Gone is the diesel and at the time of writing there is a hint of late 2019 for anything hybrid. All transmissions are CVTs and come with a very well sorted seven step Lineartronic programming. The engines are all the same and the 2.5-i was driven in a more urban based environment compared to the Premium. Consumption was never over 8.0L/100km with the final figure ticking off 7.9L/100km of standard unleaded from the 63L tank.The X-Mode drive system is standard throughout the range. The X-Mode is a system that acts directly on engine power, all-wheel drive, torque sharing at each wheel and on the brakes.With X-Mode activated, traction control becomes more sensitive. The computer will then react faster in the event that a wheel loses adhesion. It will look at which wheel it will be best to transfer the power of the engine to get out of the most difficult situations. The downhill grip control (HDC) analyzes the situation and manages braking below a speed of 20 km / h. By applying wheel-to-wheel braking, the system will allow the driver to release the brake pedal and focus only on the best direction to take.All Foresters ride on a well proven combination of McPherson struts and coil springs up front, with an independent double wishbone rear. The entry level 2.5-i felt slightly softer in tune than the Premium, with a sense of momentarily slower rebound and an ever so slightly plusher ride. But only marginally. The Tyre Pressure Monitoring System that is standard across the range also indicated the rears to be slightly less inflated that the front, oddly enough. The ride feel may have been down to the slightly different wheel and tyre combination, with 225/60/17s.Around town the Forester turned out to need a bit more of a poke of the fly-by-wire throttle to get going. In comparison to the country driven Premium, the low end of the rev range was found wanting, This contributed to the higher fuel consumption, as it does for any car driven purely in a suburban environment. There’s a sense of lag, almost like waiting for a large, single, turbo to spool up, before the CVT bites and gets the Forester underway.In traffic it’s a well balanced machine, with steering light but not fingertip twirly. It’s weighted just enough to need a small measure of push/pull, body roll in lane changing is minimal, but the tyres chosen from Bridgestone didn’t feel as if their wet weather grip was really up to the task either.Each of the corners have an independent braking sensor, and the pedal is instantly responsive to the touch. It’s a confident and positive system, pulling up the Forester straight and true consistently. In conjunction with the EyeSight forward monitoring safety system and pedestrian calibrated Autonomous Emergency Braking, it’s a very safe feeling the Forester provides.

Naturally there are the mandated safety systems such as Brakeforce Distribution and Brake Assist, Traction Control and the Active Torque Vectoring. Subaru has fitted Swivelling Headlights to all models and that can be disabled. That’s part of the Vision Assist package which includes Blind Spot Monitor, Lane Change Assist, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.Instrumentation isn’t that different, being largely confined to the smaller 6.3 inch touchscreen in the dash, which is surrounded by high gloss piano black, and missing out on the Driver Monitoring System that the other three receive. That’s an infra-red scanner mounted in the upper centre dash binnacle that scans the driver’s face, looking for signs of inattention and tiredness.Interior trim is a bit more subdued than the Premium.There is less brightwork in the cabin but that’s balanced by the lighter shade of material used for the roof lining. It’s a shade somewhere between bone and cream, and enhances the otherwise austere look of the varying textures of black plastic. The seats are fully cloth covered, and have a interesting logo style pattern in the weave.The extra interior room comes courtesy of the subtle pulling and stretching of the chassis and sheet metal. The boot opening has been increased by 134mm, cargo by 78L, and floor width by 58mm. Exterior styling also loses a bit of brightwork, particularly in the lower bumper surrounds for the driving lights. The tail gate is manually operated and houses Euro style “C” shaped lights previously embedded in the outer cluster. Polyurethane wheel arch covers and sill coverings provide both extra protection and a neutral colour to contrast the sheetmetal. Up front Subaru has given the Forester a bluffer, more upright, nose.

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The Right Car For Your Dog Part One: The Legal Bits

Come on, fellow pet owners: admit it.  You’ve sometimes considered the needs of your furry friends (who you might refer to as your fur-kids) when purchasing a car.  I’ve done it myself.  I’ve said no to some lovely little numbers in the past simple because they weren’t compatible with our doggo.  I haven’t gone so far as to sell a vehicle I already owned because it wasn’t dog-friendly – although I did do this for my children.

OK, now we’ve got that out in the open, so let’s talk about it.  There you are: the time has come for a new set of wheels for whatever reason and you’re looking for a new car.  You want to make sure that all of the family is happy, and this includes the four-legged members of the family.  Meaning the dog, that is.  Cats don’t always take too well to riding in cars – some do and some don’t, but dogs usually enjoy riding in cars.  So what do you have to think of when choosing a car that’s compatible with your dog?

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Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Subaru Forester Premium

Subaru’s Forester is now up to its fourth generation and still manages to be a small to medium SUV that has the uncanny knack of not looking like a small to medium SUV. With a powertrain that is now exclusively a 2.5L petrol fed engine and Constantly Variable Transmission, spread over a four trim level range, the 2019 Forester starts at $33,490 plus on road costs for the 2.5i. The Premium tested is $38,490 plus on roads (Subaru is doing a driveaway price of $43,300 at the time of writing) and it’s shaping up to be a hidden bargain in a crowded landscape full of SUVs. The 2019 range has been given an extensive makeover inside and out, with even the engine 90% new. A Wheel Thing drives the new for 2019 Subaru Forester Premium.Subaru has loaded the Forester range with a good list of standard equipment across the range, and the Premium really lacks for little in this area. There are the standard electronic drivers aids, a few acronyms such as AVH, and a surprisingly possibly useful feature for those that do long country drives. By the way, AVH is Auto Vehicle Hold.

Power comes from a 2.5L petrol, as mentioned, as Subaru has dropped the diesel. However there are no current plans for a hybrid system. 136kW and 239Nm are the numbers for power and torque, with the rev points being 5800rpm and 4400rpm. The CVT from Subaru is one of the better sorted versions found and rarely did it feel out of sorts. A gentle throttle has the Premium moving away quietly and confidently. There’s then a more traditional auto feel as the CVT moves its way through the seven programmed rations, which are available for manual shifting via the gear selector or column paddles.Heavier pressure on the alloy pedal send a signal through the fly by wire throttle and the Premium responds accordingly. There is a more typical CVT whir up the rev range, getting to around 3500rpm before settling momentarily. As the foot lifts or the sensors read that speed is where it needs to be, the revs drop off. The only time the CVT seems a bit off is coming up to a stop and throttle feedback seems to raise a shudder on the downshifts. It also gets uncertain, when cold, shifting between Park and Reverse, Park and Drive, or Reverse and Drive. In pretty much all driving situations otherwise, the combination of quietly throbbing 2.5L boxer four and a truly fine CVT does the job.

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Doors Opening For New Racers Through Race Academy International

Fangio. Brabham. Schumacher. Senna. Webber. Johnson. Brock. Recognise a few names? They all have one thing in common and no, it’s not the massive talent they displayed in their prime. Each and every driver had training, and lots of it. Some race drivers try and try and try and get nowhere because their talent, as good as it may be, may not be good enough. The few, the lucky few, that do, have that extra special percent that has the right door open.

However, there is a new race door opening and it’s one that will still require talent. Race Academy International is a new operation and staffed by people that, collectively, have more racing experience in the blood than many of us can ever comprehend. Key to its success is the sheer spread of the instructors brought on board to help interested drivers open one of the four doors RAI has available. It’s a genuine, and real, driver’s academy, where scores are weighed up by the instructors after each applicant is put through a stringent series of tests.Door one is just $990 and the Freshman level will look at car setup, feedback to the instructors, reviewing and interpreting data, plus a full half day session at Sydney Motorsport Park which includes two 15 minute trackwork tests. Just to add extra spice, a problem solving session with an engineer during a data review will be conducted.

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BMW Reveals New Models And Updates.

BMW’s popular X1 sports Activity Vehicle and X2 Sports Activity Coupe have received value added updates for the 2019 model year. Apple CarPlay has been added across all models in the X1 range, along with Navigation Plus and Head Up Display. An 8.8 inch touchscreen allows access to an app look interface, plus there is a voice interface called Natural Voice recognition. The X2 range also receives the Head Up Display and the Navigation System Plus. As with the X1, the X2 gets the Apple CarPlay interface as standard across all trim levels. To visually identify the entry level X2, 19 inch diameter wheels, up from 18s, are fitted.Like any company that does an update in such a broad reach, pencils have been sharpened too. The entry level BMW X1 sDrive18i is $45,900 plus on-roads (price includes GST and where applicable the LCT). The rest of the range is BMW X1 sDrive18d $49,900, BMW X1 sDrive20i $50,900, and BMW X1 xDrive25i $60,900. The X2 also gets the calculator waved over the top. The three trim level range now looks like this: BMW X2 sDrive18i $46,900 (includes GST and LCT where applicable plus on-roads), BMW X2 sDrive20i $55,900, and BMW X2 xDrive20d $59,900.The new M2 and M5 Competition models have also been released. The M2 has the grunty straight six from the M3 and M4. The twin turbo powerplant develops 550Nm between 2350rpm and 5200rpm, meaning throttle response is almost instant and brings great driveability. The peak power of 305kW comes in straight after that and runs until 7000rpm. The soundtrack is backed up by a twin exhaust system and electronic flap control. The whole package sees the M2 reach highway speeds in 4.2 or 4.4 seconds, depending on the M-DCT or six speed manual transmission chosen. Top speed is controlled to 250km/h, or 280km/h if the M Driver’s package is added. The price to pay for this is reasonable, with consumption rated at around 9.0L/100km on the combined cycle.

If the M-DCT is optioned in the M2, switches on the centre console provide control of drive characteristics for the engine, steering, and BMW’s Drivelogic functions. Personalisation is the key, allowing the driver to save customised settings.

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Toyota Hybridises The RAV4 And Ditches Diesel.

Toyota‘s RAV4 has been given a hefty whack with the overhaul stick. A hybrid drivetrain, new AWD systems, and a revamp of the exterior, will see the 2019 RAV4 head twoards the third decade of the 21st century with the same verve it brought when first launched a quarter of a century ago.

Currently scheduled to hit Aussie showroom floors in the second quarter of 2019, the Recreational Active Vehicle 4 wheel drive will have both hybrid and non-hybrid drivetrains, new engines, and a new eight speed auto. Engine capacities will be either 2.0L or 2.5L, with the smaller engine producing 127kW and 203Nm. Pick the bigger donk and there is 152kW and 243Nm. The hybrid package is slated to produce 155kW and a as yet unannounced amount of torque. The battery system will be located under the rear seat so no loss of storage space will occur. However, there will be no diesel engine to be made available as Toyota moves across to a hybrid SUV future.

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2019 Mitsubishi Triton Is On The Way

Mitsubishi have released details of the forthcoming Triton. Largely unchanged mechanically, the Triton has been given an extensive external makeover. Front and centre is the addition of the “Shield” design, the deletion of the forward angled tail light design in favour of a more conventional design, and a signature crease from front to rear. Also gone is the arcg between the rear doors and tray, replaced by a straighter angled line from side step to tray top.
It must be said that the front bumper’s design does bear a similarity to that sported by Toyota’s HiLux, with a rectangular look to the extremities that house globe lit driving lights. However the overall design is closely related to the Pajero Sport, itself based on the Triton.
Power comes from a 94kW/194Nm 2.4L petrol four or the diesel with 133kW/430Nm. The entry level GLX still comes with a manual, a dying breed of transmission choice. Manuals are five or six coggers, and Mitsubishi adds a new six speed auto, replacing the archaic five speed. Staying with six is a choice that on the face of it seems to be behind some of the Triton’s opposition, such as Ranger.But where the Triton will stand tall amongst its peers will be in safety. Autonomous Emergency Braking with variable speed speed recognition levels will be fitted, and it will use camera and laser sensors.

Surround view cameras are becoming more common and the Triton will have these. Blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert will also feature. One unique safety system is also looking be be onboard. Called Ultrasonic Misacceleration Mitigation, it’s designed to read forward and reverse hard acceleration and act appropriately by momentarily cutting engine power. How this works with deliberate hard acceleration in a safe environment is yet to be seen. Ride and handling has also been fettled with 4WD versions of the Trion now getting a drive system selector so off-road work can be better utilised and enjoyed.
Interior trim levels have been lifted. Soft touch materials, slightly darker in tone, complement higher grade looking silver accents. Rear seat passengers now have a USB socket for charging and there are now aircon vents for the rear, and the upper level models now have smartphone mirroring apps. Hill descent control has also been added, along with sensors front and rear.

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BabyDrive: Everything You Wanted To Know About Kids In Cars In One Handy Place

If you’re about to become a parent for the first time – or if you’re revisiting parenthood after a long break (it happens) – then you might be wondering what sort of car is right for your new family.  It’s not a stupid question.  Once upon a time, it might have been all right to sling the carry cot across the back seat and make the older siblings share a seatbelt and/or ride in the boot, but you’d get in major trouble if you tried that today.  They’re serious about car seats for children these days and the law says that children under the age of seven can’t wear an adult seatbelt – and even then, this depends on their size and height and some children may need a booster seat until they’re 12 or so.  (As an aside, I’m kind of glad that they didn’t specify a particular height or weight for using a booster seat – some petite adult women, such as my 18-year-old daughter, may not meet these and who wants to sit their license while sitting in a booster seat?).

Anyway, if you’re a parent-to-be, you mind may be buzzing with questions about what sort of car you need to get.  And if it isn’t, it should be!  A lot of first-time parents fall into the trap of putting a lot of thought and care into the birth plan and how they want the birth of their new baby to go.  While this is all very well, what they don’t tell you (and what I wish I had known all those years ago) is that labour and birth only last (at most) one day.  All the other bits about parenthood and life with a small child go on for months – years!  So if you haven’t started thinking about what sort of car you need as a new parent, it’s time to give it some thought.

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Car Review: 2019 Kia Sportage SLi Petrol & GT-Line Diesel

Kia updated their Sportage range in mid 2018 and although mainly cosmetic in nature, it keeps the range fresh. The new for 2019 Kia Sportage SLi with petrol and the diesel fueled 2019 Kia Sportage GT-Line graced the driveway for a week each and both showed why they are ideally suited for their respective target markets.The GT-Line is listed at $48,210 plus on roads, the SLi at $37,310. There is a very well specified equipment list for both, including Autonomous Emergency Braking and Lane Keep Assist now standard across the range, and a suite of GPS linked voice alerts for speed cameras, narrow roads, schools, and more. Apart from the different energy sources there are two different transmissions. Kia has kept the six speed auto for the petrol with its higher rev points for power and torque, The diesel has a new eight speed, and It’s a cracker. The 2.0L diesel has 400Nm of torque and the eight ratios are well spread to take advantage of the power and torque delivery. Torque is on tap from idle with that peak available from 1750 to 2750 rev. Peak power is 136kW and that’s at 4000rpm. The SLi is a front wheel driven unit, the GT-Line an all wheel drive setup and comes with a centre diff lock for soft-roading.The Sportage is a four model range, being Si, Si Premium, SLi, and GT-Line. The first three have a choice of 2.0L petrol engine or 2.0L diesel. The GT-Line is 2.4L petrol or 2.0L diesel. The 2.0L is a nice enough performer, with 114kW and 192Nm. This comes standard with the six speed auto. The petrol is a free revving unit and its own power and torque curve has the six speed auto running slick and smooth. Power for the 2.4L petrol is virtually identical to the diesel at 135kW however that’s at 6000rpm. Torque, naturally is a lesser peak figure and higher up the rev range, with 237Nm at 4000rpm. Kia quotes 7.9L/100km for the 2.0L, 8.5L/100km for the 2.4L, and 6.4L/100km in the diesel. The SLi finished on 8.3L/100km and the diesel finishing on 7.1L/100km, with both results from a 98% urban run. All models have a 62L tank.Driving the diesel and the new auto sees a new level of refinement from Kia. There is a distinct lack of the agricultural sound, a real feeling of smoothness, and a wave upon wave surge of torque from the engine. Cogs swap swiftly, quietly, and smartly, with the throttle sensor responding instantly to both pedal movement and information from the drive system itself. Kia has stayed with the three mode drive choice which, for both, is superfluous. From a standing start the diesel pulls the 1700kg machine away with minimal effort and minimal noise. Although front drive biased, there’s a noticeable shift of torque to the rear when the go pedal is punched. The result is rocketship acceleration, with a flicker of the needle on the tacho at around 3200 revs for the change. The extra two cogs over the six add so much extra flexibility and helps get the GT-Line to 100kph rapidly. Stopping power comes from 305mm and 302mm discs.Inside the SLi the petrol’s sound is a distant thrum, barely audible, and feels smoother than silk on ice. From a standing start it’s quiet and sometimes so inaudible there’s a glance at the tacho to ensure it’s actually spinning. Punched hard enough there’s a chirp from the front, but otherwise it’s a friendly, forgiving, machine to drive, Steering on both is a delight, with a beautiful balance and heft on the pair. There’s the barest hint of torque steer from the diesel and only under load in corners.Suspension on both is tuned to suit the audience. The SLi and GT-Line share McPherson struts and a multi-link rear, but the dampers are slightly softer on the GT-Line. Rubber is different at 225/55/18s for the SLi, 245/45/19s on the GT-Line. That extra width on the GT-Line provides a more sure footed and tenacious feel on road too. Not that the SLi is any slouch. It’s a fun car to drive too. Hit it up into a tight corner and speed and it’s flat, composed, almost begging to see more numbers on the speedo as it dares the driver. Both settle even more with a week’s worth of shopping in the 466L cargo space. That increases to 1455L if the superbly comfortable pews are lowered.

There’s a modicum of extra space inside the Sportage, with an increase of wheelbase and overall length. Wheelbase is up, from 2640mm to 2670mm. Length grows by 45mm, to 4485mm but that includes a front overhang increase of 20mm to 905mm and a rear overhang decrease of 10mm to 910mm. Overall internal measurements have headroom up by 5mm to 997mm and 993mm from 977mm front and rear. Front legroom has grown by 19mm to 1129mm, and 7mm to 970mm in the rear.

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Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Holden Trailblazer LTZ

Holden‘s 4WD ute and people mover range has had a chequered history, with the latest incarnation of a ute based people mover now known as the Trailblazer. Once known as the Colorado 7, it’s a curious choice as the front end looks like the current Colorado, the interior looks like the Colorado’s, and the profile is effectively unchanged. Perhaps to separate the two lines more effectively? The Trailblazer comes in seven colours, two and four wheel drive, three trim levels (LT, LTZ, Z71), and seats seven in relative comfort.The Trailblazer LTZ, at the time of writing, is $53,990 driveaway. Premium paint is a $550 option. There’s plenty of standard kit to come with that price, too like auto headlights front fog lights, and powered folding mirrors . Sound wise there is a DAB tuner, and smartphone connectivity via both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Holden’s MyLink is a user friendly interface on the eight inch screen. Safety is delivered in the shape of Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Alert, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert are standard on the LTZ. No Autonomous Emergency Braking though. The range also gets seven airbags including the driver’s knee ‘bag. With towing of up to 3,000 kilograms available having Trailer Sway Warning is standard too. However the large tailgate is not a powered version and that’s an item found on cars of similar or lesser value. But there is Remote Engine Start for those that like to pre-cool or pre-warm the interior.The front pews are covered in machine made leather and are heated, not vented, again an oversight for Australia’s climate. The driver’s seat is powered but really only adjustable for height and fore/aft. The dash itself is squared off and lacks in visual appeal. A flat fascia, rather than the Euro style wrap around that even the new Forester has adopted leave the Trailblazer’s design well behind. A bright spot is the vibrant and easy to use touchscreen. It responds rapidly to touch, has a sensible layout, and the DAB tuner is sensitive enough but the speakers lack real depth, with a lack of soundstage quite noticeable.A mix of dark and light greys and a lustreless alloy look trim around the gear selector and centre vents just don’t pull in the eyeballs. The front seats can see a 12V and USB socket, with the middle row getting just the single 12V. The rear seat passengers have access to cup holders on both sides and in the centre. There is a 12V socket on the left side and there is rear seat aircon as well, with roof vents and a switch in the front centre console for On/Off. The driver’s dash and switchgear are familiar GM in look, feel, and operation, with the multi-function tiller itself sporting simple to use buttons for audio and cruise control.Leg room up front is plentiful at 1045mm, as is the mid row seats, thanks to the 2845mm wheelbase. Use all seven seats and cargo space is a relatively small 205L. Use it in the more likely five seater mode and there is 878L in total. With all seats down there is up to 1830L to use. The seat are adequate for most people in size, shape, and support. The squab or the bumrest, seemed a little lacking in support for the thigh towards the front of the seat but a compromise of seat position and angle was sufficient to deal with it.Power and torque are courtesy of a 147kW/500Nm diesel of 2.8-L in capacity. Economy came in at 8.6L from the 76-L tank for every 100 suburban kilometres driven. The diesel is more agricultural sounding than others under load but off throttle it’s quiet enough. That 500Nm is rated at being available between 2000 to 2200 rpm but there is oodles on tap both below and above that up to around 3200rpm.Standard transmission is a six speed auto which means that Holden is behind the market here by not offering an eight or nine ratio ‘box. The four wheel drive models have a “shift on the fly” selection choice which is available via a centre console dial. With 500 Nm to play with a transmission able to really utilise that amount of torque would be better and just six cogs isn’t enough. Having a kerb weight of just on 2200kg matters too. The six speeder is a slick unit being mostly smooth in its changes, will hold gear nicely on downhill runs, and when the accelerator is punched it’s boom boom boom through the ratios. An eight or nine speed auto though would offer a better spread of ratios, making the Trailblazer more driveable overall, and potentially contribute to an even lower consumption figure.On road behaviour is refined enough given its ostensibly ute based origins. The LTZ tested has meaty rubber from Bridgestone at 265/60/18 and on tarmac they provide plenty of grip. It’s a coil sprung front, with a double wishbone design. The rear is a five link “live” or non-independent setup. It has the effect of the Trailblazer feeling noticeably but not unpleasantly tauter than the front. It feels a tad soft at the top of the suspension travel, which given its off-road ability is understandable. With 28 and 25 degree approach and departure angles, it provides a chance for most average drivers the ability to trial the high and low range transmission ability.

Steering on tarmac is not as tight as expected, with a slightly rubbery feel on the straight. Off centre it loads up quite well but never feels as if winding it on actually has the nose just where it feels it should be pointing. On gravel the suspension allows a little more communication to be fed through.

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