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Archive for February, 2011

Top Movie Cars

Unless you confine all your movie watching to fantasy movies and historical movies set in worlds or times when the motor car didn’t exist, you’ve probably seen a few cars race across the silver screen (OK, you can also see a car in the background of the chariot scene in Ben Hur if you look carefully).  Let’s face it: the car chase scene is pretty much an essential part of any good thriller – even a comedy thriller like the Rowan Atkinson James Bond take-off Johnny English where most of the chase scene involves a tow-truck and a hearse.  Some car companies even pay big dollars to have their cars appear in the movie (it’s called product placement and is a form of advertising) – I remember the way that the Mercedes logo stood out silver on black on a 4×4 during a rather exciting part of Jurassic Park II; Cars has another example, with the audience seeing that Sally, the heroine, is a Porsche Carrera, complete with a pun on Portia (name of the Shakespeare heroine who saves the day with her skills as a lawyer). But, advertising aside, what are the most recognisable silver-screen sets of wheels?

In no particular order, some of the most recognisable movie motoring marques are:

1              VW Beetle: This very popular make had several movies where the car was the star: the Herbie movies. The self-powered VW Beetle with a mind of its own starred both the original 1968 The Love Bug and its many sequels in the next couple of decades, and also in the 2008 Herbie: Fully Loaded. This is one of the few movie cars that also was as popular on the roads as it was on the big screen.

2              Aston Martin (various): The Aston Martin is as recognisable a part of the James Bond movies as 007 himself. Interestingly, in the original books, Bond, James Bond doesn’t drive an Aston Martin but a Bentley.  And the first choice of car for 007 in the movie versions was actually an E-type Jaguar, but Jaguar didn’t know about product placement and declined permission.  Oops. The most impressive of the Bond Aston Martins would have to be the DB5 in Goldfinger, Thunderball, Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies and Casino Royale, ejector seat and all.

3              DeLorean DMC-12: Not many people drive one of these cars. Not many people know much about these. But one thing that everyone knows is that the De Lorean was a time machine in the Back to the Future series.

4              Dodge Charger (1969 model): In bright orange and with the flag of the Confederate States emblazoned on the front, this was the General Lee, the wheels of the Dukes of Hazzard. This film began life as the very popular TV series in the 1970s. This car started a craze for bright orange vehicles and denim cut-off shorts.

5              GM Batmobile: Hmmm, I wonder who drove this vehicle…

6              Mini Cooper: in The Italian Job, this is the car that really steals the scenes. This thriller has plenty of hot cars (a Lamborghini Miura, an Aston Martin DB4 and a pair of E-type Jags) but it’s the Minis and their nippy handling that get the protagonists through the traffic jam, around various iconic locations, into the sewers and out into the Alps. 

7              1976 Ford Gran Torino: The wheels of Starsky & Hutch. Another garishly painted 1970s classic car and another popular car-based TV show that became a movie in the turn of the century.

8              Ford De Luxe Convertible. It’s automatic, systematic, hyyyyyydromatic; it’s GREASED LIGHTNING… Well, you probably know where this one appeared unless you have been living under a rock (and I envy those rock-livers – I can’t stand this movie with its irritatingly catchy songs and the suggestion that the way to be popular and get the guy is to turn into a chain-smoking slut). Few schools haven’t done Grease as a musical. Although an assortment of old junkers get trotted out for high school productions, the movie version starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John had the Forde De Luxe Convertible.

9              1977 Pontiac Trans Am: This was The Bandit’s form of transport in Smokey and the Bandit, complete with the “flaming chicken” decals on the front. The movie website http://www.rottentomatoes.com describes the rest of the film as “one of the wildest car chases of all time”.  

10           1968 Ford Mustang GT390 Fastback         This was driven by Steve McQueen in the movie Bullitt. You guessed it – the hard-bitten detective hero drives this in an iconic car chase scene.

Other notable movie cars include the 1958 Plymouth Fury (evil car in Christine), the Lamborghini Countach (The Cannonball Run), the Lotus Esprit (goes underwater in The Spy Who Loved Me), the Paragon Panther (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), the Chevrolet Camaro (Bumblebee in Transformers), the Model T Ford (in The Absent-Minded Professor but not in the disastrous re-make Flubber) and the Plymouth Valiant (takes on a big rig in Duel).   Plus all the cars in Cars.

Green Cars Steal the Show in Washington

The Washington Auto Show ran from January 28 to February 6, and showcased (as usual) a range of exciting new cars, both the wild, wacky and innovative concept cars, and the more down-to-earth production cars that were unveiled for the first time.  And down to earth is the word, as many of the feature cars were “green”.  Green seemed to be the focus of the show, especially after President Barack Obama announced a vision in his State of the Union Address to the House of Representatives for making the USA the first country to have over a million electric cars on the road by 2015 (he may mean hybrid cars rather than pure electric cars, but those count!).

The real show-stopper in this respect was the “world’s fastest electric car”. This was the Venturi Buckeye Bullet, built at the Ohio State University. This car isn’t exactly scheduled for imminent release on the roads as a production vehicle, but it is capable of getting up to 307.7 miles per hour (on those salt flats in Utah where all the land speed records tend to get set) thanks to a 600 kilowatt electric engine.

However, not all the green cars were concept cars striving to prove that electric vehicles are capable of matching the oomph of petrol vehicles. One new production car that was launched at the Washington Auto Show 2011 was the hybrid Dodge Ram ute put out by Chrysler. This hybrid ute combines a 5.7 litre V8 engine with a potent electrical motor with a 20 mile range. A test fleet of 140 vehicles is due to hit the roads in the USA thanks to a government grant. However, the car that scooped the Green Car Vision Award was the Ford Focus Electric, which is an all-electric car rather than a hybrid. This vehicle is due for general release in the USA in late 2011, and with any luck, we’ll get it over here in Australia.

The “” was the section of the show that showcased the environmentally friendly cars and technology, and exhibitors in this section included BMW, Chrysler, Honda (with the CR-Z hybrid and a range of other hybrids), Fiat, Mazda (with the RX-8 Hydrogen RE), Nissan and a host of other well-known names and some lesser-known ones who are part of developing new technologies in the area of sustainable fuels and petrol-saving technologies.

According to The Atlantic news service, the coolest green cars (electrics, hybrids and otherwise) on display at the Washington Auto Show 2011 were:

  • Honda FCX Fuel Cell
  • Honda Civic Natural Gas Vehicle (hey –we’ve had LPG powered vehicles for ages!)
  • Honda CR-Z Sport Hybrid
  • Dodge Ram 1500 Crew Plug-in Hybrid (the one mentioned above)
  • Fiat 500 Sport (petrol-powered but very, very small and frugal)
  • Li-Ion Inizio (don’t hold your breath to see this one in Australia, but it looks very hot)
  • Li-Ion Wave
  • Lexus CT 200h (due in Australia March 2011)
  • Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid
  • Toyota RAV4 Electric Vehicle
  • Toyota Camry Hybrid
  • Volkswagen Jetta Clean Diesel
  • Volkswagen Supercharged Hybrid Touareg
  • Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
  • Cadillac Escalade Hybrid
  • Chevy Silverado Hybrid
  • Chevy Volt (named Car of the Year by Motor Trend magazine)
  • Nissan Leaf
  • BMW Efficient Dynamics X5
  • BMW Active Hybrid X6

Of course, all this was in the USA. It still remains to be seen which of the showcased green cars will make it over here – certainly, some of them will and some already have – but it’s quite encouraging to see that electric and hybrid cars are not just the domain of a few tree-huggers but are respectable vehicles worthy of consideration by everybody.

Women Passengers

Riccardo Patrese was a top Formula One race car driver. He was working on a corporate test day for Honda at the Jerez racing circuit in Spain when he invited his wife to accompany him for a lap.

He put a camera on the dash board and recorded her reaction.

It’s very funny, and the film clip has raced around the world with over 3 million hits in just a few months.

Click this link to see it.

Silent Band

There seems to be a whole heap of interesting car ads being released at the moment. The latest is from Capetown featuring a silent band. As you’ll see, the car that is being advertised is not even shown – now there’s confidence for you!

125th Anniversary Splash

Mercedes launched its 125th Anniversay celebrations by putting a new ad on the Superbowl Final last weekend. Yes, it’s a fabulous ad, and so it should be, because the commercial cost an estimated $5m for 60secs on Superbowl alone, without any other airplays! We are not sure if it will be going to air over here, so if not here it is.

Spectacular Highways

We’ve heard of some spectacular highways around the World, but none like the link we received the other day. It’s in Norway and is quite amazing for its construction and beauty. Click here to have a look and let us know of anything that can compete with it.

It certainly makes a massive contrast to the blog we posted a while ago with the most dangerous road in the world.

Big cars with small appetites.

It’s curious to note the impressive improvements – all of a sudden –- by car manufacturers to ensure that their cars are super-efficient and green.  Now company cars are becoming much more fuel efficient and emission conscious than ever before.  But what’s it like for the potential new car buyer on the lookout for a large family vehicle that can carry the luggage and occupants with space to burn?  Oh…and it might need to, actually, be capable of towing a good sized trailer or caravan now and then.  What new large car are we going to find in early 2011 that is going to fit this job prescription – and is actually going to keep the fuel bill down or improve it? 

With the help of Australia’s Ecocar magazine (www.ecocarmagazine.com.au), let’s take a look.

The Germans always have a trick up their sleeves.  And in early 2011, we find Audi offering the reasonably roomy A6 with three excellent diesel power plants to power the luxury sedan.  The 2.0 TDI (5.8 litres/100 km), 2.7 TDI (6.4 litres/100 km) and 3.0 TDI (7.1 litres/100 km) engines are effortless, quiet and, most importantly, fuel efficient.  If you don’t mind the 103k price tag for the Audi A6 Allroad (7.1 litres/100 km), then the extra load carrying ability of the crossover stationwagon design has got to be a drawcard. 

 Smooth Audi A6

Bigger and even more luxurious, BMW offer the beautiful 730d.  You are not going to find a sedan much more spacious and comfortable than this one.  And with a 7.2 litres/100 km combined efficiency figure, this has to be one of the most desirable big motorcars that will offer the room with the economy – and the style.  With 540 Nm of torque available from just 1750 rpm, towing the yacht is not going to be much of an ordeal.

 Striking 730d

Citroen has the spacious C5.  Always a comfortable drive, the C5 is also very big on safety and flair.  Attach a 6.8 litres/100 km fuel consumption figure, and the diesel Citroen C5 models look decidedly charming.

 Nice looking C5

Sadly, Ford hasn’t really got an option for space and economy, yet.  The big LPG Falcons put up a reasonable standing.  But do keep your eye out for the four cylinder petrol Falcons, due shortly.  Also the diesel powered Territory models are worth the wait.

The sensible large car icon

Holden has their range of LPG Commodores.  But you might like to consider the Epica CDX and CDXi.  These are roomysedans with diesel engines providing 7.5 litres/100 km.  At just over 40k, they aren’t going to send you broke in a hurry, either.

The Epica: smarter than you think

Have you thought about the Hyundai Grandeur CRDi?  The Grandeur is a classy tourer with room and luxury that foots it with some of the high end vehicles from Europe.  At 7.9 litres/100km, it is still reasonably frugal for such a big sedan.  It’s only 41k, too!  Hyundai’s Santa Fe is a great buy, and the diesel donks are superb motors.  The Santa Fe SLX CRDi boasts a 6.7 litres/100 km fuel economy figure.

 Elegant large Hyundai

Jaguar is next on the list.  And what awesome cars these are.  If money wasn’t a concern, then the Jaguar XF 3.0 D S and the Jaguar XJ 3.0 D models are as good as it gets for a complete combination of grace, pace and economy.

 Quick and graceful

Kia’s Sorento Si is a great possibility.  An under 40k price tag, 6.7 litres/100 km from the diesel donk and reasonable room makes it a very sensible option.  Don’t forget that this SUV comes with a 5 year/ unlimited kilometre warranty.

 

Hybrid technology is the way ahead for many of the top brands.  Lexus have mastered this technology for some time now, and that is why you best take a look at the RX 450H (6.4 litres/100 km), and the GS 450H (7.9 litres/100 km).  It’s the GS that gives the BMW 730d a real run for its money.

 

Mazda’s CX7 Diesel Sports is one of the hottest looking SUVs on the market.  Five star ANCAP safety, style and plenty of room marry with a reasonable 7.6 litres/100 km fuel efficiency figure.

It’s great to see a big Mercedes Benz putting its hand up.  The S350 CDI is massive on room, massive on luxury and massive on style.  Impressively, a 7.7 litres/100 km efficiency figure  ain’t too bad for the massive 218k price tag.

 

 

 

The French also offer the Peugeot 407 sedan models that are very roomy and very safe.  You can’t beat the ST 2.0 L Hdi’s 5.7 litres/100 km, either.  If you like the SUV style and safety, then the 4007 is a must for checking out.

 

The best buy might be reserved for Ssangyong’s Actyon SUV.  Reasonable interior space, solid handling and diesel donks that provide mid-sevens for fuel efficiency make the 26k price tag of the Actyon A200 XDi look like a real steal.

 

Suzuki’s Grand Vitara can seat seven and offer tenacious off-roading prowess.  Fuel economy is excellent, and the AWD traction is going to be a bonus both on and off the tarmac.  A 7.0 litres/100 km fuel economy figure starts to look really good when you combine the Grand Vitara’s wide variety of useful skills.

 

 

Toyota’s Camry hybrid models are relatively roomy, always robust, comfortable and quite safe.  The 6.0 litres/100 km efficiency looks very good, too.

 

I’ll end with Volvo.  You’ll find the Volvo S80 D5 a satisfying drive, particularly when a 7.4 litres/100 km is a reality for the big and very safe S80 luxury sedan.  The XC60 D5 is roomy, but if you still want more, then the XC70 D5 might be the pick of the Volvos.  A very solid engine provides efficient, smooth performance for both XC variants.  Mid-sevens can be expected for average fuel consumption.

 

So, there you have it: a summary of the best large family vehicles in Australia that are going to provide you with plenty of room and excellent economy.

Is Your Car The Ideal Mum’s Taxi?

Secondary and primary schools are going back after summer, and it’s that time of year when parents get back into the grind of doing the school run (unless the kids walk, bike or take the bus, of course).  Cars that have taken the family to the beach or on holiday go back to being Mum’s Taxi (or Dad’s Taxi), if they’re appropriate.

But is your car the best possible Mum’s Taxi out there?  Take the quiz to find out:

1: How many seats does your car have?

(a ) Five
(b) Four – two bucket sports seats in the front and two very small ones in the back
(c) Seven
(d) Three, one right by the driver’s elbow where the occupant will get bumped during a gear change.

2: How many doors does your car have?

(a ) two or three (rear hatches count as doors)
(b) two
(c) Four, or else two plus a sliding panel van-style and a rear hatch.
(d) two, but if you open the passenger’s side, several tools, an old newspaper and a hat will fall out on top of the opener.

3: What comfort features does your car have?

(a) Air-con and electric windows, and the front seats can slide forward and back
(b) Dual-zone climate control, leather seats, rake-and-tilt adjustable sports steering wheel, automatically retracting hood
(c) Dual-zone (or even three-zone) climate control, filters, electronically adjustable seats, tinted glass, heated seats front and rear, anti-pinch electric windows, etc.
(d) The seats are padded and you can open the window most of the time– does that count?

4: What passive safety features does your car have?

(a) A few airbags, inertia reel or pretensioned seatbelts, child restraint preparation in the rear
(b) A roll cage and front air bags
(c) Anti-submarining seats, pretensioned seatbelts, airbags for Africa, crumple zones,
(d) Seatbelts, but you’ll have to fish around to find the bit you plug them into and use that bra-strap adjustment to get it them the right size.

5: What other bells and whistles does your car have?

(a) a CD player/radio, keyless entry, trip computer
(b) Check out my stereo and the extra-big after-market speakers in the back! If it’s to do with the sound system, I’ve got it.
(c) GPS, hands-free phone, keyless entry, follow-me-home lights, rear seat DVD, trip computer with the works…
(d) A radio that picks up AM frequencies only when you’re travelling in an east–west direction and a horn that works.

6: How big is your boot?

(a) Average
(b) How big a boot do you expect in a coupé?
(c) Massive (in a sedan), or else it varies depending on whether the rear seats fold down.
(d) The ute deck’s enormous, but I hope it doesn’t rain or your stuff’ll get wet.

7: Your car can be described as a…

(a) hatchback (e.g. Suzuki Swift), sedan (e.g. Toyota Corolla or BMW 3-series) or smaller SUV (e.g. Isuzu MU)
(b) roadster or sports coupé (e.g. BMW Z4 or Mazda MX-5))
(c) MPV (e.g. Honda Odyssey), large 4×4 (e.g. Hyundai Santa Fe) or van (e.g. Ford Transit)
(d) workhorse (e.g. Toyota Hilux)

Mostly As: Your car is a reasonable Mum’s Taxi.  It has a few drawbacks that hold it back from being the perfect car for the school run, but you’ll get there in one piece and with everyone’s sanity and temper reasonably intact.

Mostly Bs: Your car is the one the adolescent boys love to have used as Mum’s Taxi. One word of warning, though: better hide the keys once they learn to drive, or they’ll nick it to impress their mates.

Mostly Cs: Your car is the epitome of Mum’s Taxi – a perfect vehicle for taking large numbers of children and adolescents from A to B in comfort and style.  Expect to be in demand for school trips, sports club outings, Boy Scout/Girl Guide camps, etc.

Mostly Ds: You have the perfect excuse for not ferrying the kids to and from school because your car probably isn’t the best for the job – except in emergencies.

Not more funny car ads…..

When we blogged a few months back about some funny car ads doing the rounds, we had no idea how many more auto related ads have hit the spot – at least according to our readers.

Many thanks to Gavin for sending this one in. It’s an actual recording with a video ‘recreation’. Enjoy 🙂

The rise and rise of fuel prices

It may have come to your notice as it has mine; but what is with the price of fuel?

Petrol prices have moved into record territory and it seems that it is not likely to ease anytime soon. This leaves us wondering what is driving the price of petrol/fuels generally and will it ever start coming down again with Australia’s current booming dollar value?

We are now paying almost the same amount for fuel as we did in mid ’08 when our dollar was at US$0.60 and crude oil prices were $135 per barrel.

Just recently you can see that in Nov ’10 the average price of fuel at the pump was $1.24 per litre and now in Feb ’11 it is averaging $1.35 per litre. The largest difference now is the Aussie dollar and the US dollars’ are at parity and the cost of crude per barrel is only $98 per barrel.

With those statistics we should be paying $0.90-$1.00 per litre.

The question is who is making the money? Where does your hard earned money go? The Middle East and the oil companies, that’s where.

Unfortunately crude oil is only one of a string of components the push up the pump price of fuel. There are taxes (everywhere – state and federal), refining costs, marketing, distribution and the most costly factor – China.

China’s demand for fuel is so great that the old school lessons of supply and demand are applied. Add to that the rest of the world, political instability, production interruptions (refinery explosions and bad weather) and the limit of the resource itself; and you have consumer price rise.

So don’t look seeing any great price cuts in the near future even if TV tells you of decreasing crude oil prices, the fact is the cost of today’s fuel is in the hands of the few. Who said the cost of the many outweighs the cost of the few???

For the positive spin, you must remember one thing the cost of bottled water is higher than fuel…and we all buy that without whinging. My husband’s contact lens ‘water’ comes in at around $40 a litre. Surely it is easier to add a little salt to some water and bottle it than it is to refine oil into petrol. Who is making the money there!!  Maybe some perspective is in order.