As seen on:

SMH Logo News Logo

Call 1300 303 181

Home-Grown Zero-Carbon Hydrogen Technology

CSIRO’s Toyota Mirai HFC vehicle (image from CSIRO)

There are three possibilities when it comes to finding an alternative to the standard fossil fuels used in the majority of vehicles on the road.  The first is a switch to biofuels (biodiesel, ethanol, etc.), the second is to go electric (the sexy new technology that’s mushrooming) and the third is hydrogen fuel cells or HFCs.

Click Here to Read More

BMW 3 Series Gets Makeover.

BMW‘s evergreen 3 Series has been given a substantial makeover for its impending release. The seventh generation of the car, first released in 1975, will come to Australia for a March 2019, on sale date. There’s a two model range on offer, with the 320d priced from $67,900 plus on roads (includes GST and LCT), and the 330i from $70,900. An xDrive M340i M performance model will hit our shores later in 2019.The 3 Series stays with a 50:50 weight distribution with the additional benefit of a weight loss of up to 55kg. Body rigidity has gone up by 25% to 50% which helps handling, along with the wider front and rear tracks for extra grip. A revamped suspension also comes into play, with a redesigned front end having more camber, and variable damper ratings allowing for 20% stiffer spring rates.

BMW’s Adaptive M suspension system is here, with electronically-controlled dampers. This system offers comfort- and sport-focused modes that are changeable in-cockpit. It combines the 10mm lower ride height and geometries of the M sport suspension standard in the 320d. M Sport brakes with blue callipers are standard on the 330i and have four pistons up front, and one piston rears. Handling can be further improved by opting for the M Sport differential with variable torque distribution.An exterior redesign has a one piece grille and the LED adaptive twin headlights up front, a redesigned and sharper look to the iconic Hofmeister kink, and reprofiled taillights with a smoky glaze. The diesel will have a choice of 18 inch diameter alloys, with the petrol fed version having 19s.BMW have bitten the bullet on the options list too. The M Sport Package is standard and the Luxury Line package is an option at zero cost. BMW says the M Sport Package brings the following elements to the 3 Series:  BMW Individual High-gloss Shadow Line, with black window frames and air breather surrounds, M Aerodynamics Package with aerodynamic front and rear bumper sections and side sills,  BMW Individual interior Headliner in Anthracite, M Leather steering wheel with multifunction buttons, Interior trim finishers in Aluminium Tetragon, 18-inch M light alloy wheels in bicolour, double-spoke design (320d), 19-inch M light alloy wheels in bicolour, double-spoke design (330i), and M Sport Brakes (330i).Choose the Luxury Line pack and there are: Leather Vernasca upholstery, Interior trim finishers in fine-wood, high-gloss ash grey, Sport leather steering wheel, Instrument panel in sensatec, Sport seat for driver and front passenger, 18-inch light alloy wheels in bicolour, multi-spoke design (320d), and 19-inch BMW Individual light alloy wheels in bicolour, double-spoke design (330i).

Click Here to Read More

A Legend Returns: Toyota Supra Is Back.

One of the automotive world’s worst kept secrets was finally let into the public domain today. The Toyota Supra is back in the automotive spotlight and harks back to history with its classic straight six engine up front driving the rear wheels. Dubbed the GR Supra, it’s due to land in Australia in late 2019.The fifth generation platform packs a 250kW/500Nm, twin-scroll turbocharged, six cylinder engine of 3.0L capacity. Power hits the tarmac via Toyota’s eight speed automatic gearbox. Toyota’s Gazoo Racing section has been brought in to work on the cars which are all to be built in Graz, Austria. Testing was held at the Nürburgring Nordschleife and included a session with Toyota’s own president, Akio Toyoda. Launch Control sees a zero to one hundred time of 4.3 seconds.The driver can take control of gear changes using paddle shifts on the steering wheel and can select Normal or Sport driving modes to suit their preference and the conditions. The vehicle stability control has a special “track” setting that can be selected, reducing the level of system intervention so the driver has greater control of the vehicle’s dynamic performance.Design cues from Toyota’s heritage are evident in the sheetmetal. The S2000‘s long bonnet inside a compact body shape, with the distinctive “double bubble” roof is complemented by the fourth generation’s broad rear flanks and rear spoiler. Toyota’s penchant for pet names is here, with chief designer Nobuo Nakamura giving his team a simple brief around the concept of “Condensed Extreme“, ensuring they were free to express their vision of a pure and individual sports car in a truly original design.

There are three distinct elements to the GR Supra’s look: a short wheelbase, large wheels and wide stance; a taut, two-seat cabin; and a long bonnet with a compact body that reflects the drivetrain combination of in-line six engine and rear-wheel drive. All are embodied by the “Condensed Extreme” ethos. And although bigger than the two door 86 coupe, it’s a shorter wheelbase and rolls on bigger rubber.The driver and passenger are facing a distinctively designed cabin with a cockpit taking cues from a single seat race car. The seats themselves are race influenced, with thick bolsters for extra side support, holding the driver and passenger snugly. The dashboard is a low slung affair, allowing excellent forward vision, with the asymmetric centre console marking a clear division between the enveloping driver’s cockpit and the more open passenger side of the Toyota GR Supra’s cabin.Toyota’s engineering teams have worked to give the GR Supra a superlative ride and handling package. Structural rigidity is said to be higher than the Lexus LFA supercar, with a centre of gravity lower than the 86 and a 50:50 weight distribution, with the movement of the engine rearwards to achieve that figure, contributing to the end result.A newly designed suspension frame has a five-link rear end matched by a double-joint spring MacPherson front. Unsprung weight is helped by using aluminuim for the control arms and swivel bearings. Each corner has 19 inch forged alloys wrapping high-performance stoppers. Every Supra that will be sold in Australia will have an active differential for even better handling.

Click Here to Read More

Hydrogen Fuel Cells – The Basic Facts

One of the more exciting vehicles that’s scheduled to come to Australia at some unspecified date in 2019 is the Hyundai Nexo – one of the vehicles recently awarded the Best in Class for all-round safety by Euro NCAP.  This vehicle combines regular batteries with hydrogen fuel cell technology. Three vehicles made by major marques have been designed to run on HFCs: the aforementioned Hyundai Nexo, the Toyota  Mirai and the Honda  Clarity.

Toyota Mirai concept car

Click Here to Read More

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 MY Isuzu MU-X LS-U Seven Seater

This Car Review Is About:
The 2018 model year MU-X from Isuzu. It’s a diesel fed engine range only, comes with seven seats, and two or four wheel drive across three trim levels. The vehicle tested was the near top of the range seven seater with four wheel drive called LS-U. Prices start at $50,200 plus on road costs for the entry level MU-X LS-M, $50,400 for the LS-U, and $56,200 for the top of the range LS-T.Under The Bonnet Is:
A low revving 3.0L diesel that produces 130kW at 3600rpm, and delivers 430Nm of torque between 2000 to 2200rpm. There is 300Nm on tap at just 1500rpm. Isuzu quote the engine as consuming, on a combined cycle, 7.9L to 8.1L per 100km, depending on trim level. The review vehicle was with us for just under three weeks, with a majority of country running (close to 2000km being covered), and generally with four aboard plus cargo. We finished on 8.5L/100km, decent considering the 2750kg gross vehicle mass (GVM). It’s rated as Euro5 for emissions and for up to 3.0 tonnes for towing. Fuel capacity is 65 litres.It’s a key start, not push button. A simple turn, the engine fires up almost immediately. The engine itself has a variable geometry turbo which is designed to alter the flow of engine exhaust in an effort to overcome the phenomenon known as turbo lag. It’s mostly well sorted here, however there were more than a few occasions where the engine felt like it was switched off, and they were invariably coming into a stop zone, and then being able to continue fairly quickly. The response was as if the turbo had stopped and needed a reboot to start spinning again.

It’s a fairly quiet unit, especially when off-load pedal wise. Hard acceleration brings out the typical diesel clatter and chatter but it’s surprisingly quiet otherwise. A good analogy is being in an aircraft coming into land, where the engine noise drops and becomes a background sound.

Click Here to Read More

Toyota Takes Five, Warranty Wise.

Just days after Subaru announced they will be offering a five year and/or unlimited kilometre warranty, Toyota has joined the party. They’ve announced the introduction of the Toyota Warranty Advantage – a standard five-year manufacturer warranty for all new Toyota vehicles sold from January 1, 2019. For private buyers there’s an unlimited kilometres warranty, with commercial vehicles getting 160,000 kilometres.

Toyota also offers a 60 buy-back scheme. Owners of new vehicles are entitled to a full refund for any failure that prevents the vehicle being driveable within 60 days of collecting their new vehicles, and this 60-day money-back guarantee also applies where there have been multiple unsuccessful attempts to repair a vehicle. There is an added bonus; Toyota dealers will cover the cost of a loan vehicle and towing, if required, if a vehicle requires a warranty repair and is deemed as undriveable.

Click Here to Read More

The Fine Art of Waving

Well, I hope that 2019 has started well for you.  If you are reading this while still out on a road trip, good for you!

I also covered a few miles over the holiday season, driving to visit relatives as well as to get a bit of R & R.  While toddling around the place and occasionally zooming around the place, it came to my attention that when you’re driving in rural areas, it seems to be the done thing to wave to other drivers… but not if the traffic’s heavy.  There seems to be some sort of unwritten code about waving at other drivers.  Well, it’s about time that this code got written down!

Click Here to Read More

Subaru High Fives! The Warranty, That Is.

Subaru has joined the extended warranty club, with five years and unlimited kilometres warranty now being made standard. As an added benefit, Subaru will extend the warranty of three years to five.

As Subaru’s website says: If you purchased your new Subaru before 1 January 2019 and during a campaign period which included an offer of a 2 year manufacturer’s extended warranty, your standard Subaru Warranty of 3 Years/Unlimited Kilometres will automatically have been extended to 5 Years/Unlimited Kilometres.

Click Here to Read More

Car Review: 2019 Renault Koleos Life

Renault’s push to gain more market share in Australia is working well if the 2019 Renault Koleos Life is any standard to judge by. Model shared with Nissan (the X-Trail), the Life is the entry level model of the Koleos range. Renault have sharpened the pencil and it’s available at a driveaway cost of $29,990.Power comes from a 2.5L petrol engine which is mated to a CVT, or Constant Variable Transmission. Peak power of 126kW comes in at 6000rpm, with peak torque on tap at 4400rpm. There are 226 torques to play with and most of them don’t come out to play until around 3000rpm. The CVT is an old school style in that it feels like a slipping clutch on a manual gearbox under full load. The tacho swings around to the 4000rpm mark before easing off. Freeway speeds sees the tacho at around the 2200rpm mark. It’s also old school in that there aren’t any pre-programmed steps for manual shifting. This also means no paddle shifts on the steering column.Renault quotes 8.1L per 100km for the 1552kg front wheel drive Koleos Life from the 60L tank. AWT saw an average of 10.1L/100km in a purely urban drive and that near enough matches Renault’s figure of 10.4L/100km. It’s fair to say that a good portion of that consumption would come from the acceleration part of the drive as the Koleos needs a reasonably heavy right foot if any rapidity for forward motion is needed. Although CVTs do tend to work best with low torque engines, in the Life it works against the engine’s characteristics by not having the “steps” more commonly found now.Where the Koleos picks up bonus points is in the ride and handling. It’s got a sweet tune to the suspension with a suppleness and confidence to the ride rarely felt in this kind of vehicle. It’s a composed setup at worst, a delight to be in at best. Rebound is controlled quickly, road intrusions are damped rapidly, and sits flat on most types of surface. The steering rack is fast in the initial twirl, but there is a sense of numbness in between. It’s light and perhaps over-assisted to boot. As a driving package, it’s not quite the whole being bigger than the sum of its parts, but it’s also not far off that. Cornering is a doddle, again thanks to the steering, and it sits nicely as it does so. The 225/65/17 rubber from Kumho contributes to the comfort and handling.The exterior is smooth, with plenty of curves front and rear. It’s a pretty car, if such a thing can be said about a mid-sized SUV. The signature part of the Koleos is the swooping LED line around each corner of the upper front end, starting with the top of the headlights, that slides down into the lower corners. The indicators are LEDs and are integrated into the overall design. It’s a stylish look, visually effective, and is an ideal counterpoint to the similar curvature designed into the rear.It’s a non-powered tailgate in the Life, not unexpectedly, but it’s an easy lift and exposes a 458L boot (seats up). That has an increase to 1690L once the seats are folded, and with a 770mm sill lift, isn’t the most difficult place to get a load into. Seating is comfortable to a fault, there is plenty of space for four, five at a pinch, and the plastics, although not soft touch, look good. It’s a “proper” key start, not a wireless fob, and unusually it’s a foot operated parking brake, an anachronism nowadays.What’s also a standout, and not always necessarily in a positive way, is where Renault place items such as audio controls and cruise control buttons. Where some companies have a stalk behind the steering wheel for cruise control, Renault has a similarly designed and placed stalk for the audio. And where some may have cruise control buttons on the steering wheel arms, Renault place the on/off switches in the centre console.The driver’s dash itself is a simple and elegant affair. A centrally placed full colour LCD screen is bracketed by two almost semi-circle dials showing temperature and fuel, whilst inside on the LCD csreen is an understated display option, with the drive modes to the left and variable info to the right. The centre stack is dominated by a large touchscreen with one interesting feature. Renault has programmed in a Distance Without Fuel Consumption display, a unique idea indeed. The overall design is balanced, uncluttered, and user friendly.Safety at this entry level is decent. A full suite starts the party, with the mandated braking and traction systems on board backed up by the Advanced Emergency Braking System. The Life misses out on front sensors but does get rear sensors. Tyre Pressure Monitoring is standard across the four level Koleos range. Life dips out on Blind Spot Warning however does get Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure Warning. It does get a five star safety rating in the EuroNCAP ratings system.

Warranty is five years and is backed by capped price serving, which gives Renault owners four years of 24/7 roadside assistance if Renault services the car.

Click Here to Read More

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Kia Optima Si

Kia’s once large sedan contender has been overshadowed by the Stinger, itself an excellent and vastly underrated vehicle. The Optima, though, remains the hidden gem in the bigger sedan family and the updated 2019 Kia Optima Si still impresses. The test car provided comes at a cost of $33,390, paint at $595 for premium paint, making the test car $33,985 plus on-roads.Power comes courtesy of a naturally aspirated 2.4L four for the Si or a turbocharged 2.0L four for the GT. Peak power is 138kW at 6000rpm, with peak torque a reasonable 241Nm. That comes in at 4000rpm, with a steady curve to there from idle. Powering the front wheels via a six speed auto that’s been slightly recalibrated for 2019, Kia quotes a combined fuel economy figure of 8.3L/100km from the 70 litre tank inside the 1540kg (dry) Optima.Rubber is from Continental, with Kia specifying their ContiPremiumContact5 at 215/55/17. It’s a grippy choice, with the front driven Optima making good use of the tyre’s adhesion. During the week’s review period, Sydney had both summer and winter driving conditions. The Continental rubber powered through both with equal levels of confidence. They also coped with the Si’s propensity to torque steer, an unusual sensation in an age where that quirk of front-wheel-drive cars is almost non-existent.Suspension is the proven combination of MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link rear. The suspension has been massaged for the 2019 Optima, with the dampers erring towards the sporting side, a choice that sporting drivers will enjoy. Others may find that a little too severe. Indeed, on Sydney’s mix of unsettled and undulating roads as opposed to the new and smooth tarmac found in roadworks, the Optima Si had no issue in equalising both into a comfortable and composed ride. The only time PF semi-wished for a softer setup was over the bedamned shopping centre and local residence speed restrictors.The setup provides a nimble and communicative chassis. Steering input is received and processed quickly, with rapid changes of direction. Body roll is minimal, and the overall feel of the body is one of connection, not isolation from the road and its varying conditions. The steering is also relatively free from bump-steer.

Overall drive response is perhaps also not for those that aren’t of a sporting bent. The throttle response is virtually instant, with a “light-switch” feel. Tap the accelerator pedal and the engine engages instantly; go off, and it responds by damping down the revs quickly. It does take a bit of practice to get the smooth and progressive acceleration less responsive systems have. It’s a free revving engine, too, eagerly spinning around and bringing with it a steady rate of urge. It’s a tad buzzy past 4000rpm but that’s a rarity in seeing those numbers in normal driving. The transmission is a simply gorgeous piece of engineering, with invisible, seamless, changes. There’s no real sense of transition between ratios at all, with zero forward and back bodily movement as the cogs swap quietly and efficiently.Kia’s efficiency in packaging is in abundance in the Optima Si. Inside the 4855mm overall length, (yep, just 8.4 centimetres shorter than a VF Commodore) is a 2805mm wheelbase. That’s just eleven centimetres shorter than the Commodore’s. This equates to ample leg room front and rear, a luggage space of 450L (SAE measurement, 510L VDA, and complete with full sized spare), and 1475mm shoulder room up front. Rear seat passengers have 1432mm shoulder room and 904mm leg room.The Si has manually adjusted seats up front, with the driver getting a two position lumbar support seat. Cloth is the material of choice all round in the Si and all seats are comfortable enough to have passengers egress after a long drive feeling fine. Kia’s worked hard to make sure the cabin is a good place to be, and the quality of the fit and finish is testament to this. The trim is black, with a leather look texture, and there are subdued uses of an alloy hued plastic. The Optima has the almost standard arch sweep at the upper edge of the dash., joining in one fluid line both sides of the cabin.Switch-gear is typically clinical Kia in layout and look. The touchscreen in the Si is a seven inch unit, the GT gets an eight inch setup. Audio is AM/FM only with no DAB tuner fitted to both. The Si also misses out on satnav. However there is Android Auto and Apple CarPlay with voice recognition, backed by Bluetooth streaming and the usual USB/Aux inputs. There are four cup holders and four bottle holders, map pockets, and back of seat pockets. Rear seat passengers also have a pair of charging sockets and air vents.The exterior received a mild refresh in 2018. The Schreyer grille now has an almost Maserati look to it, and the lower front bumper has been reprofiled with the lower intake now more angled in towards the corners towards deep-set cornering lights. The familiar angled headlights retain their LED driving lights and commence a long, sweeping, line to join the rear non-LED lights in the Si. The GT has LEDs here. The profile is a handsome coupe style and the test car came clad in Temptation Red.Safety is naturally of a high level with a five star rating. Lane Keep Assist and Autonomous Emergency Braking are standard, with the Si not receiving Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Dusk sensing headlights are standard, as are a pair of ISOFIX seat mounts. There are six airbags and the usual mandated safety equipment levels. Parking sensors front and rear take the edge off any parking problems in those tight shopping centre carparks.The seven year warranty is standard and Kia has a seven year fixed price servicing structure, with 15,000 kilometre or one year intervals. Year one/15,000 kilometres comes in at $289, with year four the most expensive at $559.

Click Here to Read More