Archive for July, 2011
Travelling by car is easy most of the time. Carry some passengers and luggage along with you,
and space suddenly is something that you have to go searching for. A lot of the modern vehicles offer plenty of
ingenious storage space. But what can
you do to enhance the luggage carrying capacity of your vehicle when, all of a
sudden, that cavernous boot is looking very full, and tight for space?
How much storage space you’ll need is something worth
thinking about when purchasing a new car.
Sure… if it’s just you and your other half getting away for the weekend
in a Honda S2000 or BMW Z4, then you’re not going to need the world’s biggest
boot. However, if you are looking to
take your family and enough gear for the long weekend away with you, then these
little roadsters won’t cut the mustard.
Be sure to have, on hand, a vehicle that will provide plenty
of boot space, and/or enough horses under the bonnet to tow a small trailer to
your destination. This is an easy way of
getting all the bodies and their essential baggage to where you need to go. Car specifications will often provide
information on the volume of a cars boot space.
A sedan with at least 500 litres of boot space is starting to become
useful for the small family weekend away.
This, naturally, almost doubles when a station wagon or 4WD is the
Obviously, fitting your car with a towbar will give you the
option of taking a small trailer away on holiday. Space grows magnificently; however the fuel
costs for the trip will increase as the trailer adds to the drag on the car’s aerodynamics,
not to mention rolling resistance.
As mentioned above, many of the new vehicles on the market
offer storage space. Depending on the
car, you’ll find it under the boot floor, under the back seats, under the front
seats inside a central console, in a glove box, up in the roof space and a
number of other places, too. The storage
spaces zoned around the passengers are great places for putting eats, drinks,
gloves and hats, games, sun-block, emergency kits and the like.
Here is a useful tip for when the luggage piled up beside
the car looks like a small mountain. When
it’s as big as this, we often wonder how the heck we will get all the stuff
into the car. When I’m really pushed for
space, things like boxes and large square containers are the first to go. It’s much easier to fit the same amount of
stuff into soft bags. These bags with
all the bits and pieces you are taking inside fit snugly up to each other, lessening
the amount of unused air space in your fully loaded boot.
If there is no way round it and you do need to take a large
box, esky or suitcase, pack these at the base of the boot space, leaving the
softer things like blankets, sleeping bags and jackets etc. to sit on top and
around the hard containers to squish down and compact nicely, allowing you to
take more things, if you need to. Try
it – you’ll be surprised.
There’s nothing quite like exploring a new track or even
getting down and dirty and tackling a real bit of off-roading terrain. Heading down to the beach or getting up to
where the track really ends requires the services of a 4WD vehicle. These are vehicles that offer premium
traction and plenty of comfortable space for occupants and luggage. If you find yourself dreaming of the wild
yonder, and you would really like the right vehicle to get you there, then what
are some of the best new 4WD vehicles that deliver the goods off-road while
remaining frugal on the gas? I’ve
considered a number of vehicles that you might like to think about. These vehicles promise reasonable-to-excellent
go-anywhere ability while remaining reasonably cost effective on the fuel.
Priced at $62,200, Audi offers the Q5 2.0 TDI Quattro with a
bit of AWD ability. Very classy, seating
for five, reasonable luggage space, 350 Nm and a combined fuel economy figure
of just 6.8 litres/100 km gives this vehicle the nod. Also an Audi, the $88,614 Q7 3.0 TDI offers
seven seats, more space, 550 Nm of torque, a capable bit of traction off-road,
plenty of luxury and a combined fuel economy figure of 7.8 litres/100 km.
Sticking with the Germans, but looking at BMW. We have spied the BMW X1. Now the X1 hasn’t got loads of space, but it
will do the small family picnic with ease.
Off-road, the X1 has some useful traction, although ground clearance and
wheel articulation is a bit limited. Flat
greasy paddocks and the odd forest track, the beach and the like, is no
problems for the BMW X1 line-up. The
most frugal BMW X1s are the diesel models, with all diesels boasting a combined
fuel economy figure of below 6.3 litres/100 km – which is very good,
indeed. Even the petrol X1 sDrive18i
manages 8.2 litres/100 km.
Then there is the BMW X3.
Space expands a bit over the X1 models, so that’s a real asset. A nice drive, and comfortable, the BMW X3 is
similar off-road to the X1. Economy is
very good in a BMW X3 xDrive20d and xDrive30d.
Like the BMW X1 there is no lack of traction, however wheel articulation
and ground clearance is left wanting.
Roomier and very powerful, the BMW X5 xDrive30d commendably manages
plenty of off-road terrain. This will be
a great vehicle that is comfortable, roomy and quick. An X5 looks great, and the 30d manages a very
good combined fuel economy figure of 7.4 litres/100 km – and that’s with 540 Nm
Next is Ford. You’ll
find the Ford Territory is handy for light off-road duties. It has AWD which gives a degree of traction,
but the underpinnings are not seriously designed for bush bashing so it’s best
for a picnic across the paddock rather than an overnight at the hut at the back
of the farm across the creek, up the muddy goat track… if you get my
drift. Room and a nicely laid out
interior make this SUV very easy to live with.
The AWD Territory TDCI models have a combined fuel economy figure of a
bit over 8 litres/100 km. So all in all
it’s a nice roomy drive for around $45k.
Similar to a Ford Territory, the Holden Captiva can offer up
to seven seats and is great for a run over flat sand, or down to the swimming
hole – as long as there is nothing too strenuous for the light AWD
chassis. It’s very much a
soft-roader. Combined fuel economy
figures of 8.5 litres/100 km for the 2.2-litre Turbo-diesel isn’t too bad,
either. All in all a nice drive for
around $35 to $40k.
Hyundai has two well priced vehicles that are surprisingly
handy off the road. Their traction is
good, and the drive is pleasant. The
stylish Hyundai ix35 has a six-speed auto AWD, a very smart and comfortable
cabin and a combined fuel economy figure of 7.5 litres/100 km. With 2.0 litre turbo-diesel technology, the
$34,990 price tag for the Elite model is a great buy.
Looking now at the Hyundai Santa Fe models – and all of them
boast a very grunty 2.2-litre diesel with a combined fuel economy figure of 6.7
or 7.5 litres/100 km. The six-speed
manual boasts the lower economy figure.
With over 420 Nm of torque this is a class-leader. There is plenty of room inside for seven, and
there is loads of luxury kit. The price
for a new one is between $37 – $49k, depending on the model of choice. It’s surprising where you can get to in one
of these. Reasonable ground clearance,
some mud suitable tyres and, hey presto, you’ll get a few places in a Hyundai Santa
The Jeep Patriot 2.4 Sport
five-speed manual is priced at under $30k.
This is a highly recommended machine for going some serious places
off-road. So if the great outdoors
beckons the Jeep Patriot is a must see.
Nicely planted on the road, and very capable off it, the Jeep Patriot
2.4 Sport is a petrol fed model that returns a combined fuel economy figure of
8.4 litres/100 km.
A Jeep Wrangler is well priced, too. And with the 2.8 turbo-diesel versions, the
average fuel economy figure is an excellent 8.2 litres/100 km for the six-speed
manual Sport model. It’s a little rugged
on-road, however few can match it off the road.
You pay around $36k for one of these.
Jeep Cherokee models are a bit thirsty, but they are a nice drive and
highly capable on the rough stuff – as well as off it. All Jeeps are great adventure packed
This takes us to Kia.
And Kia has two models that will impress with their level of refinement
and style. The new Kia Sportage has
plenty of room in the rear for adults.
It’s a five seater, and has a good wallop of space in the boot,
too. AWD and ready for light-off-road
duties sees the $38k Platinum model boast a 7.5 litres/100 km average fuel
Spend in the high thirties up to $48k, and you could have
yourself one of the excellent Kia Sorento models. Their top diesel engines provide superior
economy, and the roomy interiors offer luxury aplenty. Eye-catching on the outside, you’ll get to
your picnic over some reasonably challenging terrain – if you need too. As with any vehicle, tyre pattern will determine
your level of traction.
Land Rover is the epitome of off-roading ability. All models will get you out into the back
blocks and beyond. Economy is best found
in the diesel variants. A Freelander is
compact and will cost you around the $45k to 50k mark. And the TD4 boasts 400 Nm and 6.6 to
The Land Rover Discovery is very roomy and brilliant
off-road. It’s also nice on the road,
too. The 3.0-litre TDV6 impresses with
as much as 600 Nm and a reasonable 9.6 litres/100 km. For what you get, it’s quite awesome.
You fork out a bit for a new Range Rover TDV6, however the
ride is awesome, off-road ability incredible, and the fuel economy slightly
better than in the Discovery. If you can
afford it, the Vogue TDV8 with 9.4 litres/100 km smacks out a huge 700 Nm and
as much again in luxury items!
This takes us to the Lexus marque. These are top of the range Toyotas, and so
you’ll find the build quality and reliability are stunning. Do look at the Lexus RX 450h. Yes, it will cost you close to $90k for the
Prestige model, $97k for the Sports model and $109k for the Sports Luxury model. You’ll find these hybrid machines are
powerful and quiet. Sipping, on average,
7.8 litres/100 km of fuel they are refreshingly thrifty on the fuel. Grunt comes from a V6 3.5-litre petrol motor,
and it feels quick, remaining athletic on the road. Off-road the Lexus RX does have great ground
clearance and a capable drive train. If
you are into long holidays, then this is a relaxing vehicle for the task.
AWD SUVs don’t come much smarter than the Mazda CX-7 and
CX-9 models. I’ll harp on about the
Mazda CX-7 because the fuel economy is much better in this one. Mazda offer the Mazda CX-7 with the very good
2.2-litre turbo-diesel motor. Expect a
combined economy run of 7.6 litres/100 km.
Five seats and a big boot make the Mazda CX-7 a comfortable SUV to
travel in. Surprisingly handy off-road,
you can definitely find yourself a hideaway for a picnic in the sun. You can’t go nuts in the CX-7, but if you
want a little off-roading for that track off to the side or the run over the
hilly paddock, the Mazda CX-7 will do the job just fine. As far as on the road handling goes, the
Mazda is probably one of the best SUVs in this area. It’s a joy to drive and well equipped – and
at $45k it’s a highly recommended.
Mercs are a bit thirsty, so Mitsubishi is next in line. Two models, in particular, come to mind. Make sure you have a look at the
Challenger. You’ll find that the diesel
engine is very smooth and gutsy, and in manual form will return a bit over 8
litres/100 km. It’s a premium
off-roader. So if you want to get to the
difficult out-of-the-way places then this is the machine that will get you
there. The Dual range gearbox and
serious off-roading traction and ground clearance make this a great buy for
between $40k and $50k. It has a massive
boot space and seats five people comfortably.
Also, the Challenger is a well equipped vehicle with plenty of high tech
Another proper off-roader, the Mitsubishi Pajero, is big,
roomy and luxurious. Go-anywhere potential
makes the Pajero 3.2-litre diesel versions, linked with a five-speed manual,
the top economy buy. Like the
Challenger, the diesel version should return a bit over 8 litres/100 km. Expect to pay around $50k to $60k.
If you’re after something that has some light 4WD appeal,
then you might like to consider the Mitsubishi ASX and Outlander models. They are not quite as roomy as the bigger,
serious Mitsubishi off-roaders, but they are comfy, pleasing vehicles to
drive. I reckon my choice would be the
ASX 1.8 TD models, as their small 1.8-litre modern diesel design is impressive. What you have is a torquey, incredibly
thrifty drive. On average, the ASX L4TD
motor has a combined economy run of only 5.9 litres/100 km.
Nissan has always had their hand in off-roading models. Take a look at the X-Trail, the Pathfinder
and the Patrol. A quick warning though:
the Patrol is phenomenal on and off the road, but it is very thirsty. A Nissan Pathfinder could well be the good
middle ground. The 2.5-litre
turbo-diesel provides 8.5 litres/100 km economy, is roomy, can seat up to
seven, costs around $50k to $60k, has superior 450 Nm torque, serious
off-roading potential and is very well equipped with luxury items. The Nissan X-Trail offers a great economical
2.0-litre turbo-diesel that delivers 7.4 litres/100 km, top off-roading
potential for the adventurer, good boot space, a nice level of equipment and
reliability. It costs around $35 to $45k
Peugeot offers the very stylish 4007. Looking good from every angle, the Peugeot
4007 is roomy enough, very good on fuel (7.0 – 7.3 litres/100 km), luxurious and
comfortable. Reliability is also improved
– as the Peugeot 4007 is essentially a Mitsubishi Outlander.
Porsche do offer an impressive array of Cayenne models to
meet the true adventurer who likes a fast drive, too. The best of the Cayenne models are the
3.0-litre turbo-diesel versions.
Offering 7.4 litres/100 km, on average, these engines know how to soak
up the miles with style, speed and agility.
Good space in the rear makes for good load carrying ability, while the
seats and cabin are extremely well crafted and comfortable. At $105k they aren’t cheap, but they are very
capable off-road, and can take you many places beyond the tarmac.
Back to Korea, and we find that a large portion of the line-up
from Ssangyong are well equipped for tackling the rough. Pricing for the new Korando, Actyon, Kyron
and Rexton are impressive. And you’ll
find the diesel engines are very quiet, gutsy and frugal machines. A great level of do-dads inside their comfy
interior make these a tantalising proposition.
Only the Rexton 2.7 Xdi SPR is priced over $40k, so you’re in for a
smart buy here.
Subaru are masters of the AWD system. Frugal adventure comes in the form of the
nicely designed Subaru Forester 2.0D models.
At 6.4 litres/100 km, they poke along nicely, feeling stable on any given
road surface. They are spacious, well
priced and have a nice level of comfort, style and equipment. You can tackle off-road conditions in one of
these machines. The ground clearance and
entry/exit angles are the limiting factors.
A Forester is great for heading off to the Mt Buller or Thredbo slopes
for a winter getaway.
Suzuki always have a go-anywhere vehicle in there modern,
good looking line-up. You’ll find the
Suzuki Grand Vitara has the goods to tough it in the wild. Real off-road ability, and plenty of room
make it a contender for being one of the best economical adventure vehicles. These are nice to drive, comfortable for the
long haul, and they are very well priced for what you get. Again, the diesel model is the more frugal model
at 7.6 litres/100 km. However, the
petrol fed 2.4-litre models in five-speed manual guise can return around 9.0
Unfortunately, the smart-looking Toyota Rav4 isn’t as
economical as I thought it to be. Being
big and grunty, the Toyota Prado is excellent in the toughest terrain – so too
the Land Cruiser. Buy diesel if you want
economy, because the petrol versions are thirsty. Practical, comfortable and ever reliable
these will impress off-road. The
downside is some of the models aren’t as cheap as they once were.
Volkswagen are producing a range of 4WD vehicles that are
capable, practical and very well built – the best being, perhaps, the
Tiguan. It’s roomy, refined and handles
well. Both the petrol and diesel options
are efficient and impress with the way they can economically cover the
ground. You can take them off-road, and
they will handle some hard going pretty well.
Also, do look at the price. It’s
one of the most reasonable 4WD vehicles you can buy with European origin. Superb off road, the Volkswagen Amarok is a
dual-cab with diesel efficiency and refined, stylish interiors.
Volvo know how to create a beautifully crafted SUV-type vehicle. The Diesel XC60, XC70 and XC90 models are
roomy, very comfortable and superbly safe.
Loaded with a ton of torque, they perform nicely and handle well on and
off the road. Clever AWD technology
means that these can venture a long way off-road – as far as is necessary for
most people, at least. Even the lusty T5
petrol XC60 returns 8.7 litres/100 km.
The D5 XC60 drops the fuel consumption down to the mid sevens.
Sumptuous and roomy, the Volvo XC70 provides a special treat
for the adventurer. Tackling tough
terrain is easy with the clever AWD system, though ground clearance, entry and
departure angles, are limited at times.
The biggest of the Swedes is the Volvo XC90, and with the volume
comes impressive load carrying capacity.
A bigger mass does tell a little on the economy figures, though you
should be able to get a little over 9.0 litres/100 km out of the D5. Very comfortable seats and high equipment
levels makes the XC90 extremely relaxing.
Off-road they’ll manage plenty of tricks, and if you crash you’re in one
of the safest SUV cabins around.
It’s great to see Sydney on the ball with
offering Australia’s first public on-street electric vehicle charging station
in Derby Place, Glebe. What a great
advancement. And I’m sure that this will
be the first of many you’ll find around Australia in years to come. The idea of cheap transport and no emissions
has to be a good one. Any new car buyers
in Sydney now have an opportunity to look at making use of this charging
station. One way of doing this might be
by buying a new electric powered vehicle or hybrid. Certainly, the electric cars are becoming more
populous amongst the new car lists at the back of good car mags. We really are entering a whole new world of
On the topic of electric transportation,
electric trains and electric buses have been around for a little while now, and
I notice that General Motors has found a viable option for plug-in public
transport buses. Investments into this
form of electric transport have already been made – approximately $30 million
US. The EcoRide BE-35 battery electric bus,
made by Proterra, needs as little as 10 minutes to charge. I wish my AAA battery recharger was as
efficient as this! With a 65-kilometre
range for the fast charge option, this is a bus that could easily replace
diesel powered buses for any typical transit and shuttle services around a city.
The bonus of running public electric transport
and private electric transport, particularly in a city environment, is that would
be a very big reduction in smog, greenhouse gas pollution, congestion and noise
inside the city boundaries. As long as
the production of the electricity at the primary stage is clean, then we’re in
a win-win situation. It’s not so cool if
the production of the electricity for running the electric vehicles has been
performed by employing belching coal stations or nuclear reactors! If this was the case, then the electric form
of transport isn’t so clean – and definitely not such a hot trend, after
A greater demand for electricity would
create greater emissions from a coal powered station. If your source of power is coming from
hydro-power stations or wind or solar energy, then the greater demand for
electricity has nil effect on the environment – in fact, it would be better
because you’re reducing emissions into the atmosphere by taking the petrol and
diesel powered options off the road as people turn to electric vehicles for
getting from A to B.
With Sydney now getting in on the
charging stations, they have joined other cities such as Amsterdam, San
Francisco, Philadelphia, Detroit, Houston, Vancouver and London who have
installed a charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.
Do you think it’s timely to buy an
electric vehicle, yet? Or do you think
we should hold fire and see if time will tell whether electricity will continue
to be a feasible means of clean green transport?
Groan! She wants to go to Harrods- the iconic department store in Knightsbridge. Well, that’s not on your itinery, is it? Until now, that is.
“Yes, dear, I’d be happy to take you to Harrods. You go and shop and I’ll just wait for you outside”. Brownie points galore, but there’s a hidden agenda.
Just around the corner there’s the Berkely Hotel.
Yes, that’s where Ferrari have just opened up their stunning new London showroom (or ‘Atelier’ as they prefer to call it in Ferrari speak). Currently displayed are a Ferrari 458 Italia, a Ferrari California and a rather special racing Ferrari 512S from 1970.
Absorb yourself for an hour or so before flitting back to Harrods for some more brownie points.
Lately, there has been a number of interesting lap times set at the famous Nürburgring circuit. I’ll let you in on a few of these. I’m guessing you know where the Nürburgring is, so I won’t diverge onto whereabouts it is and onto its interesting history info. Google it if you’re not sure.
One of the quickest everyday production cars to have completed the Nürburgring has been the 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI prototype. In the hands of the rally legend Tommi Mäkinen, the WRX was flung around the circuit in a very slick 7 minutes and 55 seconds. This was, at the time, the quickest production sedan to date. Who did it beat? Subaru was able to edge out the mighty quick Porsche Panamera Turbo, which clocked a (still unofficial) 7 minutes and 56 second lap time.
So who is the quickest at ‘The Ring’? The car comes from the USA, and is none other than the very potent 2012 Corvette ZR1 prototype. What I like about this car is that it is not a jazzed up race car, per se. As it is a production going car, the
phenomenally quick lap time of 7 minutes and 19 seconds is incredible.
Not far off the Corvette’s pace is the Nissan GTR.
Just recently Lexus powered their 24 Hr race car: the Lexus LFA around the track to keep Corvette honest. 7 minutes and 22 seconds isn’t that much slower than the time set in the production Corvette ZR1.
I guess I’ve always enjoyed seeing how my favourite cars get around the Nürburgring. If you’re interested
you might like to take a look at the Nürburgring web page.
I wonder what sort of time an FPV or HSV machine would set for getting around the Ring. In my hands
it would be a little slower, however in the right hands they would probably give a few of the top sedans a run for their money.
A great You Tube watch is Russia’s version of how Top Gear should be done. They were able to take an
automatic version of Hyundai’s rear-wheel-drive Genesis 3.8-litre V6 Coupe around the Nürburgring – and pass some quick Porsche GT3 cars along the way.
If you are keen on seeing how quick your car is, why don’t you get in touch with your local race circuit and arrange a time to smoke your wheels over their tarmac, so to speak.
They are generally more than happy to accommodate a few hot laps in a time that suits their schedule. Besides,
everyone needs to experience how to control a slide; wouldn’t you say?
No, we’re not claiming credit for this! But call it a co-incidence that our price comparison survey preceded Honda’s announcement of a considerable price cut on some of the models in its range.
The popular Honda Jazz has been reduced by between $1400 and $2000, the CR-V has been cut by $2900 to $3400 and the Odyssey people mover has been reduced by a very substantial $2890 to $3570. That’s good news for the Australian car buyer. Let’s hope others follow suit!
The Bathurst 1000 is very popular and is the place to go to see the best of Ford (OK, FPV) and Holden (HSV) in action on the track–you don’t need me to tell you that. But for two years (2003 and 2004), Mt Panorama was the site of another tough auto race – the Bathurst 24 Hour. This was Australia’s attempt at joining the ranks of the most demanding type of endurance auto race. You think it’s tough going around the Mt Panorama circuit for 1000 km (161 laps of tricky track)? Try going around it for 24 hours non-stop, which is four times, more or less, the time needed by the V8 Supercars to get around the 1000 km.
If you want to have a go at watching (or driving in!) a 24-hour auto race, you’ll have to head offshore to places where the tracks aren’t limited to the Fords and the Holdens. A number of other places in the world have these 24-hour endurance tests, and they might be worth adding to the bucket list of a motoring enthusiast.
24 Hours of Le Mans: This was the original 24-hour race, and they’ve been taking place on this very famous track since 1923. The original idea was bred in an era when other races were just trying to get faster and faster – as something new, the focus was on how long the car could keep going without breaking down. Porsche has been the dominant marque in this one.
24 Hours Nürburgring: A biggie that’s been about since the 1970s, and this year’s race was held not that long ago (25th/26th June). A Porsche 911 GT3 RSR scooped the big prize and set a new record for the number of laps completed. The winner wasn’t the only Porsche of note in the race: a Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid generated a fair bit of media interest, especially as this car shows just how fast and powerful hybrid cars have become. Some news outlets got a little disgruntled as to how this hybrid vehicle had a few restrictions placed on the design of its air intake, which reduced its performance somewhat – conspiracy theory, anybody?
Dubai 24 Hour: A newcomer to the scene that started up after the Bathurst 24 Hour collapsed. This one has a number of classes, each of which allows different types of car to race. If you want to see a car just like your mum’s Honda Jazz compete on the international circuit, you watch the A1 Class. If you like watching something bigger and more powerful, then the A5 and A6 classes for you. Other quirky classes include D1 (diesel only with up to 2000 cc displacement) and SP4 (hybrid and electric cars only). The most recent Dubai 24 Hour was won by a BMW Z4. The Dubai 24 Hour is one of the easier races to get into, as anyone can register and have a go, as long as they have a team and the dollars to do so, and the race organisers welcome amateurs, especially in the A1, A2, A3T and D1 classes (sound like you? – find out more at the official site).
2CV 24 Hour Race: The quirkiest of all the endurance races, this one is only open to these classic Citroëns. It’s held in Norfolk in England. No prizes for guessing which type of car wins these ones. The next one’s due in August 27/28, so if you’re likely to be in England at this time of the year, put it on your calendar (or at least some of it on your calendar).