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2018 Kia Rio SLi: Car Review.

Kia‘s evergreen slightly bigger than small car, the Rio, has had a mild revamp inside and out for 2018. LED DRLs, digital radio, a reprofiled front bar are the obvious changes. And priced from $22,990 RRP plus $520 for premium paint, it’s not a bank buster either.It’s the solid, trusty, dependable 1.4L MPI petrol engine we’ve come to know and….love is far too strong a word. Like sounds fair. There’s 74kW of peak power and 133Nm of torque at 4000 rpm. On their own, they’re reasonable numbers from a non forced induction 1.4L. However there’s also the same four speed auto that continues to hold back the Rio. Surely by now there’d be something in the Kia/Hyundai parts bin to change to a five or preferably six speed auto. The fall-off between gears is just that little bit too much for a car in the late part of the 21st century’s second decade. In shorter words, it’s time to modernise.Although the engine itself is a willing revver, spinning easily through the range in Neutral, third and fourth showcase just how much they hold the 1.4L back, and also just how much more economy could be wrung out of it. Kia’s figures say 6.2L per 100 km from the 45L tank on regular ULP. With 110 km/h seeing 3000rpm on the tacho, those extra mid range cogs would could see the ratio in the final drive changed and drop the revs to a potentially more usable and frugal number, especially given the kerb weight of 1162kg for the auto. The auto will also tow up to 800 kilograms.That said it’s a lovely little driver with slightly heavy steering, a somewhat softish road ride which may have been down to the 195/55/16 Kumho rubber, however it’s stable enough in its handling. Freeway conditions have the petite 4065mm using its 2580mm wheelbase absorbing most of the irregularities and the well damped McPherson strut front is more than capable of dealing with anything that causes bump steer. But neither is it a sports car, and the slowish steering rack reflects that.The interior sees the information and entertainment seven inch touchscreen move from an integrated into the dash location to a standalone unit mounted high in the dash itself, much like the new Stinger. Charging for phones etc comes courtesy of a pair of 12V sockets up front, a USB port, and one for the rear seat passengers. There’s a sunroof , UV protected glass for the front passengers, alloy sports pedals, cloth covered seats with a higher grade material (man made leather with perforations) than the S and Si, and what Kia calls a “super vision instrument cluster”. Nup, neither do I.Dash plastics and trim are a blended mix of soft touch plastics and a gunmetal hue to the dashboard strips. If anything, it misses out on the current design ethos of a sweeping arch that brings the door trims into the dash as one curve. Bottle holders number four, one in each door, the touchscreen in the Si and SLi has DAB and satnav as standard, plus both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard across the three trim levels. Bluetooth is, of course, standard and there’s address book and media streaming capability.There’s plenty of room inside, with Kia’s typically efficient packaging providing space for four comfortably, enough front leg room for people up to six feet tall, however the rear seat leg room becomes tight when the seats are pushed back.Outside it’s a redesign for the front and rear, with the tail light cluster bringing in the neon light look. The front has a solid bar framed in chrome in the Schreyer nose grille, reprofiled headlights with circulat LED driving lights, globes in the lower corners, and the roofline has been flattened for a sharper look. The hatch door is more upright and allows access to a 325L or 980L cargo space with the rear 60/40 split fold seats down. The SLI has 16 inch wheels, with the S and Si rolling on 15s. The test car was clad in Signal Red, with Clear White, Silky Silver, Platinum Graphite, Aurora Black Pearl, Smoke Blue, and Mighty Yellow available.There’s Kia’s standard seven year warranty which is bolstered by a high standard of safety across the range. Hill Start Assist, reverse parking guidelines, and six airbags are standard but there’s no autonomous emergency braking or a driver’s kneebag. Kia also supply a space saver spare, not a full sizer.

At The End Of The Drive.
The Rio really is a car with pootential but that four speed auto is an anchor. With other manufacturers using a CVT or changing to a turbocharged three cylinder with a broader range of torque, the Rio, as good a car as it is, is in danger of being left behind. The update outside and in do refresh the Rio into a handsome looker however a savvy driver will overlook this. Details of Kia’s updated Rio are here: 2018 Kia Rio range

Race Weekend

Australian GT Racing

It’s a grand weekend of motorsport in Australia this weekend when the 2018 Formula 1 season kicks off at Albert Park’s Rolex Australian Grand Prix.  There will be loads to see and enjoy, with new racing machinery to get the heart rate up.

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2018 Holden Equinox LT and LS+: Car Reviews.

Private Fleet Holden Equinox LTZ-V review
I was fortunate enough to back to back to back three distinct different yet obviously similar versions of the new Equinox. The above link is solely for the top of the range LTZ-V, with this addendum looking at the mid range LT and LS+.The interior and dash look of the LT isn’t far different from the LTZ-V, with a little less bling, cloth seats that are clad in a comfortable grey hued weave, and a distinct feeling of volume seller. The dash screens light up with the same flickering blue motifs, whereas the LS+ shares the same seats but has a more obvious price point feel in the plastics, screens (generic General Motors in look) and even the sill plates are simple plastic with no real appeal visually.

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Chrysler, BMW and Kia Join The Police Fleet

BMW 530d – confirmed as part of the Victoria Police fleet.

I don’t know if they were actually putting bets on it anywhere (although I wouldn’t be surprised) but when Holden and Ford Australia closed their factory doors, the big question for a lot of us who are interested in motoring and car news was what the cops were going to drive for their regular patrol and pursuit cars.  You see, up until the closure of Ford and Holden’s factories on these shores, the cops, being a wing of the government and hence keen on supporting local industry, drove Ford Falcons and Holden Commodores, to the point that wary drivers who like to push the limits a wee bit went on high alert at the mere sight of a white Dunny-Door (aka Commodore) in the distance.  As a matter of fact, the boys and girls in blue were required to drive locally built vehicles.

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2018 Holden ZB Commodore RS: Private Fleet Car Review.

In November 1948 a car was unveiled in Australia by the then Prime Minister, Ben Chifley, in front of 400 guests. Called the 48-215, marketed simply as the “Holden”, and popularly known as the “FX” the car had a 45kW 2171cc straight six and had a design from America’s Chevrolet. Thirty years later, in October 1978, Holden showed off for the first time the Opel Rekord and Opel Senator based VB Commodore. It’s now a nameplate that’s firmly entrenched in the annals of Australian automotive manufacturing history. In late 2017 Holden ceased manufacturing and unveiled its Opel sourced new Commodore. With a nod to history, its designation is ZB.It’s fair to say that it’s a car that has divided followers of the Holden brand, primarily due to a change in platform. It’s no longer available in rear wheel drive, now being front and all wheel drive. There’s no ute, nor is there a V8. There’s a turbocharged four cylinder petrol and diesel engine, turbocharged V6 engine, nine speed automatic transmissions, a slightly smaller body, and it’s a hatchback. Yes, a wagon, known now as the Tourer, stays. And our familiar designations have largely disappeared. It’s also highly likely that the ZB will be, in effect, a stand alone model in the history of Commodore, as Opel was bought by Groupe PSA in 2017 and with a mooted change to the platforms used by that organisation.

I, with a decades long personal association with Holden going back to the early 1970s and a HT Kingswood, became possibly the first fully independent car reviewer to drive the ZB Commodore, in second level RS sedan/liftback trim. Priced at $37,290 RRP it’s available at a driveaway price on promotion at just $38,990 for the liftback. The V6 AWD platform and front suspension are also available as an option at $42,490 driveaway. It’s fitted with the turbo four cylinder petrol, with 191kW of peak power and 350Nm of peak torque between 3000 and 4000 rpm. The nine speed auto is the first time such a transmission has been seen for Commodore and it’s a pearler. Combined with a instantly responsive throttle, it switches between gears as cleanly and as smoothly as one could wish for. In fact it’s so smooth as to be forgotten that it’s there. Holden’s engineering team have spent a great deal of time calibrating the two and it shows. There’s no indecision, no dithering, it’s always in the right gear for the rev range.

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2019 Lamborghini Urus Unveiled For Australia.

Lamborghini‘s long awaited SSUV or Super Sport Utility Vehicle, the Urus, was unveiled to media in Sydney’s Barangaroo district today (March 13, 2018). For the Australian market it will be priced from $390,000 (with GST and LCT included) plus on road costs. Weighing less than 2250kg, it will boast a V8 of 4.0L capacity, twin turbos which will give the engine 478kW and 850Nm of peak torque at 2250rpm, all wheel steer, and should see the ton in 3.6 seconds on its way to a top speed of 305 km/h.Lamborghini video 1 Lamborghini video 2

As expected, it’s a technological showcase. The DOHC engine features cylinder deactivation, twin scroll turbos, and is bolted to an eight speed automatic transmission. A all wheel drive system is capable of splittling torque from up to 70% to the front wheels to 87% to the back wheels. In normal driving it’s 40/60 front to rear. Torque vectoring is built in and works with the selectable driving modes to apportion torque where and as needed. Operated via a smart looking “tamburo” selector switch, there’s Strada, Terra (off-road), Neve (snow), Sabbia (sand), Sport, and Corsa.Depending on which driving mode is selected, the vectoring system on the 3003mm wheelbase will reduce or add grip, provide more or less oversteer as required, and cpmbines with the rear wheel steering system to provide sporting or agile driving experiences. The rear itself will move at + or – three degrees and will have all four wheels pointing in the same or opposite directions (in-phase or counter-phase) depending on speed.Lamborghini’s DNA shines through in smaller uet as important details, such as the exhaust note. Again it’s speed and drive mode dependent. In Strada it’s quiet, almost a background thrum. In Corsa it’ll be a more sonorous and guttural note emitted through the bespoke outlet system.The “tamburo” (or drum) selector dial allows a progressive move through the various modes and cycles through top to bottom before returning to the top as the selector lever is moved. It’s joined with the air suspension system to have each mode lift or lower the ride height to suit. It’s an adjustable system that can be left in Anima or automatic mode. Or the driver can select Ego to adjust manually.Underneath its angular, aerodynamically tuned, exterior is a mix of steel and aluminuim for the chassis. The cross members are light weight, as are the door frames, plus the front axle is bolted to an aluminuim subframe. The rear is a mix of aluminuim and steel in a cell structure, with all four corners rolling on 21 to 23 inch forged aluminuim with a choice of season suiting tyres. Inside are Carbon Ceramic brakes at 440 x 40 mm at the front, and 370 x 30 mm at the rear.The interior is beautifully appointed and includes a pair of super clear touchscreens, a four channel eight speaker sound system, with a 1700 watt B&O system and 21 speakers an option, aluminuim framed seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth media streaming, and a DVD player. A DAB tuner and TV tuner are optional extras.Exterior design reflects the DNA of Lamborghini. It has short overhangs, a muscular stance, broad rear haunches, and a roof line that slides down into the LED tail lights. Up front is a deep set spoiler with air-inlets that almost but not quite dominate the view. Also up front is that powerplant, the first front engined Lamborghini for quite some time. From above, the lines draw the eye towards the somewhat piched waistline before spreading out to highlight the tail lights and and rear panels.Orders for the Lamborghini Urus are being taken now for deliveries in late 2018 or early 2019.

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2018 Haval H2: Private Fleet Car Review.

It’s fair to say that the Chinese company Haval doesn’t have a widely known presence in Australia. There’s some advertising on TV in early 2018 to let people know of the four model range, including the H2. It’s not unhandsome to look at, not bad to be in, and is well priced and equipped. But yes, there’s a but….In profile there’s little doubt that the H2 is aiming at BMW, with an X1 or X2 presence. And this comes as no surprise as the designer is one Pierre Leclercq, the former head of design at…BMW. Inside it’s Range Rover’s tidy lidy Evoque, with a slightly overdone silver-grey plastic trim that won’t be to everyone’s taste. It’s cloth on the seats, comfortable, but set perhaps a little too high, which also brings in the high roofed resemblance to the Beemers. It’s well proportioned, and in the test car’s pearlescent white, looks good in the drive. There’s low-set LED driving lights, LED indicators, and distinctive Haval badged four bar grill, and BMW-esque tail lights in the non-powered tailgate.Motorvation is courtesy of a 1.5L turbocharged petrol engine with a rated fuel economy for the auto of 9.0L per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle. We finished at 8.5L/100km on a mainly suburban run. It does feel like it needs a bigger tank as it was on 1/4 to go with just under 400km covered. Peak power is 110kW at a typical small four 5600rpm. Peak torque is 210Nm between 2200-4500rpm. In comparison, the Holden Equinox with the same tech and capacity pumps 275Nm between 2000-4000. The Equinox tested had a six speed auto, the H2 also had a six speed auto. However there’s more to the Haval’s engine and gearbox combo than simply a comparitive dearth of torque.

It’s indecisive in its power delivery; sometimes first and second saw moving from standstill quicker than other times, particularly in a straight line move as opposed to off the line from a corner. There’s significant turbo lag at best, and a lag of urge in third or fourth in the same rev range where you’d have some pull below or above those ratios. Mash the pedal and although well within the torque band, forward motion was slower than the Titanic where she is now. Yet, at other times, the slightest touch of the pedal would see the H2 respond appropriately.

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The Pros and Cons of Driverless Cars

In any discussion of road safety and keeping crash-related deaths down, you’re always going to come back to the human factor. Most times, people doing silly things are what cause crashes, whether the silly thing is misjudging the speed to take a corner at in the wet, reading a text message while driving and not noticing that the car is drifting, or getting behind the wheel when a bit tiddly. Is the answer then to eliminate the human factor altogether and adopt driverless cars, much in the same way that aircraft have adopted autopilot systems?

What Google’s driverless car looks like.

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Nissan X-Trail ST-L Petrol 7 Seater & TL Diesel 5 Seater AWD.

Twin Peaks.
Nissan is in the midst of both a SUV driven renaissance and some healthy sales. The X-Trail is at the heart of this and leads in a updated Qashqai due soon. I spend some time with the (almost) top of the tree X-Trail ST-L seven seater with the petrol engine and X-Trail TL diesel AWD.The seven seater ST-L sits one level below the top of the ST ladder, with the ST-L 4WD at the peak. The TL diesel AWD caps the TL range. There’s a choice of 2.0L or 2.5L petrol engines depending on the trim level in the ST. The 2.5L pumps out 126kW and 226Nm, at 6000 and 4400rpm. There’s 130kW and a very decent 380Nm from the 2.0L diesel, at 3750 and 2000rpm.Transmission for both is a CVT (Continually Variable Transmission) and as usual seems to sap the energy of relatively low torque petrol engines. Nissan’s not alone in this. The diesel is better but suffers from lag from idle. Tank capacity is 60L each. Consumption for the diesel is rated at 6.1L/100 km and the 2.5L petrol at 8.3L/100 km, both for the combined cycle. AWT pretty much matched the petrol figure at 8.5L/100 km. That’s reasonable for both considering the 1534kg and 1664kg tare weights.The petrol’s acceleration is leisurely in comparison to the diesel, even allowing for the diesel’s time to spool up into its torque range. However, the petrol is more linear, being a constant ramp up as opposed to the slightly more “build then bang” of the diesel. And although both are front wheel drive oriented, with the diesel being a switchable to Auto or All Wheel Drive, there’s little to no noticeable torque steer. That’s impressive more so in the diesel given the rev point when max torque takes effect. Once on song the diesel is a cracker and pulls the TL nicely, if with a bit more chatter than expected from modern diesels.The transmission is programmed with seven ratios and is quite effective in engine braking on a downhill run, and occasionally needed a nudge into Sports mode in order to drop the revs and ratio down. However the diesel’s transmission had an odd whine and a feeling of being held back, almost as if the parking brake was engaged.

Ride and handling varied between the two, with the steering in the ST-L feeling overly light, overly assisted. There’s less assistance and a more weighty feeling in the TL diesel. Actual ride comfort was almost identical, with the ST-L feeling just that SLIGHTLY less tied down, with a fraction more float and rebound. The TL diesel’s suspension is built with soft- and off-roading in mind and feels more composed and confident. The undulations found in Sydney’s freeways see both damp down quicker than other SUVs, with far less float and rebound than many other brands observed. Turn in and turning circle are better than Holden’s new Equinox, meaning shopping centre carpark living will be easier. That’s the trade off for the assistance.The exterior bears almost no resemblance to the X-Trail released in the late noughties. It features the new deep V nose cone now seen across the Nissan range, and a flowing, organic, set of sinuous curves from the front to rear. There’s angular headlight clusters, ineffective indicator lamps buried deep into the bottom corners near the grille, beautifully sculpted LED tail lights and a power tail gate in the TL. The ST-L rolls on 225/65/17 rubber encased in simple yet stylish ten spoke “tuning fork” alloys, the TL 225/55/19 with black painted machined alloys.Inside it’s a mixed reception. Overall fit and finish and trim appeal was high but visual appeal is an independent thing. Although of a rounded and mainly ergonomic design, the X-Trail’s interior from the driver’s perspective doesn’t quite feel as fresh as it could. There’s a tight gap between door trim and arm when reaching down to adjust the electric seats, the seven inch main touchscreen is a dull and uninspired design for the audio (DAB only found in ST-L and TL with Bose speakers), the driver’s info screen is a sad looking mauve and dotted affair.However, they are at least easy to read and use. The reverse camera is crisp and in both had a superimposed top-down 360 degree view. There’s a glass roof fitted in the TL. Oh, and those door arms have no grip handle where you’d expect to find them, but have a handle at a difficult fulcrum point. And there’s no wireless charging pad either…The seats themselves were spot on for support and comfort in both TL and ST-L however the rear pews in the ST-L are utterly compromised by the relative lack of useable space and can’t be recommended for anything other than short journeys. There’s heating (no venting) for the front seats in the ST-L and for front and second row in the TL. The TL’s rear space features two removeable cloth covered sections that reveal a plastic tub, one thats more user friendly for dirt work and for shopping.Capacity is 445L for the 7 seater, and the TL has 945L with the second row folded flat. The popular venting for cooling cans and bottles remains, with the centre console featuring room for two items side by side. The dash in the TL is of a more higher quality to look at, especially in the touchscreen surround, and both cars have analogue dials still for the speed and rev counter.Both review cars came fitted with a towbar ($1120 option) and the ST-L with a non-descript plastic nudge-bar (a $1200 option) at the front. The TL had a switch for trailer braking fitted in a cluster near where the driver’s right knee would be to assist in towing braking. The cluster also included an Eco on/off, stability/traction control on/off, and a switch for a heated steering wheel. There’s also a button for the rear powered tail gate.There’s plenty of standard equipment in both and across the range. Auto headlights, powered mirrors, sliding second row seats, Bluetooth streaming are common throughout teh range, with the ST-L and TL receiving Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Lane Departure Warning is standard on the TL and is somewhat sensitive, seeming to go off if you looked at the white or dotted lines.At the time of writing Nissan Australia was offering some sharp driveaway deals; the ST-L seven seater was $40817 for a 2018 model and $51192 for the diesel TL AWD. Naturally, these are subject to change so please check with your local Nissan dealer or enquire via 2017/2018 Nissan X-Trail info
Warranty is the standard three years or one hundred thousand kilometres and there’s a better than others three years roadside assistance package on offer.

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Jaguar Ups The Pace.

Get used to that word. Pace. It’s part of the Jaguar triple play. Grace, space, and pace. There’s the F-Pace, a sharp looking four door mid sized SUV, and now there’s the E-Pace and I-Pace. Both are SUVs and both showcase what modern Jaguar is all about.

It’s power to the people with the I-Pace being Jaguar’s first foray into fully electric mainstream driveability. Priced from $119000 plus on roads it showcases Jaguar’s own innovative approach as well, and here how.

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