Archive for July, 2013
I recently read a post on Facebook that read “Pleasing everybody is impossible but pissing everybody off is a piece of cake.” Now, most of us try to be good drivers and to keep everybody else on the road happy – especially that white Holden with a few extra antennae and lights that you strongly suspect to be an unmarked cop car. Plenty has been written about good driving etiquette and how to be a nice courteous driver. But instead of inflicting yet another one of these on you, let’s work out how to really annoy other drivers.
When deciding on the best methods to induce road rage in others, remember the old safety first rule. You don’t want to drive on the wrong side of the road or play chicken with a B-train. Randomly rear-ending people in traffic is also out – no point denting the emblem sitting proudly on the nose of your new Audi, after all. And remember to keep your door closed when some red-faced person with swinging fists comes up to your car.
Ten ways to lose friends and irritate your fellow road users:
- Go round and round a roundabout several times, making everybody else give way to you.
- Overtake someone right at the end of a double lane and cut in front of them as the traffic merges. Then pull over abruptly to the left onto the shoulder of the road to take a phone call that requires your hands.
- Do all of the actions in Point 2 with minimal use of the indicators.
- Wait until the very last minute before dipping your lights for an oncoming driver when driving at night.
- Drive well below the speed limit (i.e. more than 10 km/h below the limit) and sit right out in the middle of the lane. See how long a line you can get building up behind you.
- Throw rubbish out the window where it will fly backwards and narrowly miss the driver behind you. Bonus points if the rubbish is old chewing gum or a cigarette butt and it hits the person in question. Double points if the person behind you is a motorcyclist or a bike rider.
- Slow down in front of other people if there is no passing lane and the road rules have turned into Gandalf on the Bridge of Khazad-dum (“You! Shall! Not! Pass!”). Then speed up when passing is possible.
- If you are held up in any way possible even for half a second, lean heavily on the horn.
- If you’re the person behind, get as close as you possibly can to the car in front so you can overtake at the next possible opportunity. Even if you make the other car jam on the brakes when you’ve completed the manoeuvre because you didn’t quite have enough space to overtake the three cars in front of you.
- Use the bike-only lane as a left-turning lane and get into it early. Cyclists are safe to irritate because they will go out of their way to avoid a collision.
Although it has yet to be put to the proper decision makers, Kevin Rudd’s proposed changes to the Fringe Benefit Tax have already affected companies that would normally be purchasing cars for their fleet customers. Unfortunately, there’s a human cost too, with Fleetcare having to stand down around twenty staff as their orders have dropped to virtually zero. Another company, based in Perth, Fleet Network, have also removed twenty staff whilst South Melbourne based salary packaging group, NLC, have shed seventy five people and McMillan Shakespeare, a major salary sacrificing has also placed on hold a core aspect of its business.
Part of the issue is the proposal to backdate the changes, causing companies to pause their fleet purchases, such as a major Sydney based university has been forced to do. It also adds to the parlous state of affairs the local car makers have; with 35% of fleet cars made locally, the current situation has the potential to potentially hasten Holden’s local manufacturing closure whilst it negotiates for more funding to keep its manufacturing operations underway.
Automotive industry leaders have called upon Mr Rudd to withdraw the plan and discuss better options. With so many jobs at stake, it would make sense to do so.
When the traffic safety boffins talk about driver distraction, they’re usually talking about the perils of texting while driving. And they’re pretty much right. I guess we’ve all seen people having near misses because they’ve had their eyes on the phone rather than on the road. Saw one on a main road the other day just about crossing the centre line and frantically correcting before having a close encounter with an oncoming car.
However, I had done something similar a few days previously. Not because I was trying to text and drive, though. I got distracted (and nearly crossed the centre line, etc.) thanks to suddenly spotting a spider that looked like one of the nasty ones crawling around on the sweatshirt sitting on top of the centre console beside me and I was trying to squash it. Now, they may be able to outlaw texting while driving but that’s one thing that they can’t outlaw easily (“Excuse me, madam; we’ve just got to check your car for deadly spiders.”)
It also got me thinking about other things that can distract drivers but can’t be cracked down on in the same way that using phones and texting can. I mean, anything can pull a driver’s attention away at a crucial moment. Here are my top five driver distractors (that don’t include things you choose to do like check makeup or eat):
- Children in the car. Some children just do not grasp the idea that even though Mummy is sitting down and looking relaxed when she is driving, she cannot look at the lovely picture you drew, open your drink bottle or put your shoe back on. Babies are the worst offenders because they don’t understand and can start to scream, especially if Mummy is nowhere to be seen. The safety experts who say that children nine months old (the age where they go through major separation anxiety) should be in the back seat facing backwards need a reality check – a distressed child makes for a stressed driver.
- Sound systems. Steering wheel-mounted audio controls for advancing, repeating and adjusting the volume are all very well. However, fine-tuning the balance between bass, treble, left and right and so forth is a bit more fiddly. Changing CD doubly so.
- Advertisements. They say it’s more of a guy thing, but those ads showing bikini babes that are designed to catch the attention are put beside the road where people driving will see them. Tell me, guys, which would you rather look at? The road in front of you or a seriously photoshopped woman without a lot of clothing? Bit of a no-brainer in more ways than one.
- Anything that insists on giving you instructions while you’re negotiating tricky traffic. This can include a navigation system or a passenger with a map. At least you can tell the passenger to shut up while keeping your hands on the wheel.
- Any type of animal in the car, especially the smaller ones that have more than four legs and bite, such as wasps, spiders, bees and mosquitos. They might be able to come in the window but can they find their way out again?
They have come up with devices in some new safety conscious cars (such as the new Volvos that shut down the radio and the phone when the car detects that you’re driving a bit more hectically and possibly need the distractions to a minimum. If only they could do something about the Top Five as well – although a good set of lungs can deal with #1: “SHUT UP! It’s busy here and I can’t pay attention right now, OK???!!”
Disclaimer: this is not intended to be taken as financial or taxation advice. Please see your accountant.
As if Australia’s flailing car industry didn’t have enough to worry about, the Labor Government’s proposed changes to Fringe Benefit Tax and the Carbon Tax have sent a chill wind through their offices as figures show that a potential extra cost of around $1400 per year per vehicle could stop the car lease industry in its tracks.
PM Rudd announced on July 16 that a reversion to a emissions trading scheme would replace the carbon tax, with part of this change involving a $1.8 billion AU cut in FBT concessions. Under current measuring methods, FBT is calculated at 20 percent of a vehicles cost, regardless of whether used for private or business use or private use via salary sacrifice, with the assumption that the car is being used for predominantly business use anyway. The change will require a comprehensive log book keeping of the vehicle’s use. The Government Minister for Transport, Joe Albanese says: “There’s a lot of people clearly fiddling the system. Those people who are salary sacrificing who use their car less than 20 per cent but claim the 20 per cent offset – less than one kilometre in every five they actually use for work – the chances are it’s not a Holden Commodore, it’s a BMW.”
Federal Climate Change Minister Mark Butler said recent technology made it possible to get a far more accurate idea of work-related car use and the Government had considered the FBT changes very carefully.
“It’s not the same as it was in the 1980s. You can download these very easy apps that use GPS systems to do the work all for you,” he said.
“You effectively just press the button, let it go and after you’ve finished marking that travel or recording that travel over the 12-week period every five years it can be automatically sent to your employer or your tax agent.”
The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries has responded with CEO Tony Weber claiming: “The changes undermine the long-term certainty the FCAI and its members have called for from government and threatened to affect around one-third of new car sales in Australia.
“The effects will flow right through the industry, including to dealerships and service centres,” Weber said.
He said he doubted whether the government truly understood the consequences of its decision, and questioned why the industry was not consulted on such a significant change. I fear what this means for domestic manufacturing and I am urgently seeking meetings with the government to encourage them to reconsider this decision,” he said.
The Shadow Minister for Transport, Joe Hockey, had this to say at a meeting with automotive groups in western Sydney: “”This is going to be like a baseball bat to the motor vehicle industry in Australia. This is poorly thought out, there was no consultation with any stakeholders.”
Mr Hockey said 75 per cent of recipients earn less than $100,000 a year.
“They are going to be hit with a tax bill of $1400 a year, every year going forward,” he said.
Both Holden and Toyota have backed the calls from the FCAI to rethink its strategy, with other automotive industry analysts suggesting the changes further indicate an “out of touch with the real world” government, with the suggestion that technology will make the log keeping easier. It ignores the fact that the costs involved to companies to process manual log book keeping will result in higher prices of vehicles, more real time paperwork and the potential to damage the 80% fleet market sales Australian car makers have. It’s already caused one major fleet vehicle purchaser to freeze their order, pending further developments.
As stated, please consult your accountant for information, as it stands.
Cars today, like most forms of modern technology, come with terms and names that can be bewildering to the casual observer. Yet a cars salesperson will rattle them of without explaining them or expecting you, the prospective buyer, to just “know” what it all means…
Something we’ve seen in cars for close to twenty years now, is this: SRS Airbag. By now we should all know what an airbag does (basically explodes a pillow from the steering wheel and other locations to provide a form of protection in an impact) however the other part of the name, SRS, is quite simple. Supplementary Restraint System; meaning it’s a backup to the two primary safety factors. One being you, the driver, being able to keep yourself out of trouble and the other is the engineering already built in.
ABS is another that’s become familiar; Anti-Lock Braking System. This is also pretty simple: when you hit the stop pedal, a combined system of hydraulics and electronics engage and disengage the brakes rapidly, preventing the brake pad from constantly gripping the brake disc and causing a skid. This aids the driver in steering the car (hopefully) out of a collision situation. Two, three, four channel sensors may be batted around and this refers to how many corners of the car are being read; for example a four channel sensor reads all four wheels whereas a three channel may read the two rear wheels separately and the front together. Many drivers interpret the pulsating of the barke pedal, from the system working, as a fault. Brake Assist is a complement to this; a computer sensor reads a potential emergency situation and automatically increases brake pedal pressure, so when a driver stabs the brake pedal at the last minute, there’s already enough pressure activated and also tries to minimise the braking distance.
TCS/ASR are for Traction Control System/Anti Slip Regulation. The most common applications are in decreasing wheel spin under acceleration, generally from stop signs and traffic lights or when the computer system connected detects lack of traction in certain road conditions. The system may reduce power or increase brake force at the wheel corner that’s losing grip. Traction control is also most often seen as an adjunct to ABS.
Torque Vectoring is one slowly creeping into the performance and four wheel/all wheel drive side; to use a standard front engined/rear wheel drive system, the rear wheels are driven by a shaft connected to the gearbox and differential (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Differential_%28mechanical_device%29) which then sends engine’s output to the left and/or right wheels. As “diffs” are a purely mechanical environment, torque vectoring needs an electronic system to vary the amount of torque between the driven wheels. In a performance application, this would add more torque to a wheel that requires more grip to help in handling and acceleration.
Collision Avoidance is another; a radar system is employed by the car to read the gap between your car and a vehicle in front and if that vehicle is read as getting closer whilst your vehicle is not braking, it then sounds an alert. As a rule, the systems also offers the driver a variety of preset distances, adjustable by the press of a button.
If you’re in the process of buying a car and the salesperson says these and you’re unsure, ask them to explain it further; you deserve that courtesy.
When it comes to new car ownership, the cost of owning the car for the first few years is a significant factor worth considering before you hand over the money. Running costs from one car to another can differ dramatically. Costs like the replacement of parts, tyres, oil filters, fuel and even registration all factor into the equation that reveals how costly it’s going to be to run your dream car over time. For 2013, Australia’s cheapest car to own and run is the new Suzuki Alto. The car looks pretty cool and, for the second year running, has come out as the clear winner in a survey of Australia’s most economical vehicles.
Obviously, if you’ve seen a Suzuki Alto, you already know the car is small. It looks cute and is powered by a zippy little 1.0-litre petrol engine. No surprises then that the Suzuki Alto finished ahead of 109 other vehicles and was found in the Light Car class.
Owners of a Holden Cruze Equipe , Volkswagen Jetta 118 TSI, Audi A4 1.8-litre Turbo, Holden VF Evoke LPG, Nissan Dualis ST , Hyundai Santa Fe Active or Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo should also be very pleased with their cars. According to the survey, these cars came up as the least expensive cars in their class to own. Now, did I notice the Toyota’s name in the list? Australia’s top seller wasn’t a feature, I’m afraid!
Interestingly, LPGs, hybrids and EVs were also included in the car survey and all vehicles were checked for their affordability during the first five years of ownership. Things like purchase price, fuel use, servicing and depreciation featured among the factors that added to the cost of owning the cars.
Now who reckons hybrids ought to be a cheap vehicle to run. Rather amusingly, the Honda Jazz Hybrid 1.3-litre was the most expensive car to own in the light car class. In the small car class, the Honda Civic Hybrid 1.5-litre was the most expensive car to own. This survey made for some hard reading if you happened to be the owner of a Mazda6 Touring (hey, that’s what my brother-in-law drives), Mercedes Benz C200 , Ford FG Falcon XT MK2 (my next-door neighbour’s latest new toy), Mazda CX-5 , Toyota Kluger or the new Nissan Patrol . These were the most expensive cars to own in their respective classes.
According to the RACQ Vehicle Running Costs survey, the hidden costs of vehicle ownership meant motorists were paying a lot more than they needed to when purchasing a brand new car. RACQ’s safety policy executive manager, Steve Spalding, said that “The real cost of owning a car is much more than just the sticker price and the wrong choice could set you back thousands. Servicing, fuel consumption, spare parts, insurance and depreciation play a major role in how much a financial burden your vehicle will be.”
Now that’s got you thinking!
Take a look at the RACQ website page if you want to know how they figured it all out: http://www.racq.com.au/motoring/cars/car_economy/vehicle_running_costs_2013
Some years ago, to say Kia and their countrymate, Hyundai, had quality cars, was stretching the truth just a tad. A succession of pretty average cars such as the Spectra and Mentor barely troubled the tallyboard and Kia was in danger of being seen as an also ran Korean supplier. Come 2008 and a stylish, reasonably well sorted car hit the market. Called Cerato, it flagged promise and delivered it. 2013 sees a revamp of the small mid-sizer; sharing its basic architecture with Hyundai’s i40, it’s immediately quite a pretty car to look at. From the curvy headlight cluster framing Kia’s corporate grille, down the lithe and subtly scalloped flanks through to the neon look taillights (SLi) and looking proportionally pretty bloody good, the question is then asked: does it go as good as it looks?
I back to backed the Si with six speed manual against the SLi with auto, both with the two litre GDI (gasoline direct injection) engine. Up front, the manual gearchange in the Si is a shocker. The clutch is light, not unexpectedly, but the gear lever in the test car had no spring pressure, leaving the feel of it as vague, indecisive, unsure and unwilling to be hurried. As a manual preferred driver, this was simply yuck. Sitting mid pack in the Cerato sedan range, the Si deserves better. The auto in the SLi supplied is well ratioed, smooth and quick changing, with the choice of sports shift via the lever or paddle shifts. Gear shift aside, both transmissions work well with the bigger engine (there’s a 1.8L MPI available) and with 129kW/239Nm @ 6500/4700 rpm on tap (roughly 10 kilos per kilowatt), the Cerato’s near 1300kg kerb weight gets hustled along pretty reasonably.
Somewhat oddly, the SLi has the more sporting ride; shod with 215/45 tyres riding on gorgeous 17 inch wheels (vs 205/55/16s), it’s a little harder, a little more grippy thanks, one can presume, to the slightly lower sidewall. Not, by any measure, is it unpleasant, quite the opposite but one would expect the middle car to be more the sport. Both turn in quickly, bumps are absorbed a touch softer in the Si and there’s no tramlining or disconcerting bumpsteer.
The interior is tidy to look at, very up to date and has a mix of material look in the plastics, from a matt finish through to a faux carbon fibre look (Si/SLi), it’s a class impression. Not so are the seats. You sit on, not in them, adding a feeling of not being connected to the car via the classic seat of the pants. Having heating in the SLi seats is one thing, at least there’s a touch more give in the cloth in the Si as opposed to the manufactured leather in the SLi. Both cars score the 4.3 inch touchscreen radio, with a larger 7 inch setup only available with a Navigation Pack. The dash on the Si gets a less colourful dot matrix look with the SLi providing a full spectrum animated screen, including a welcoming musical tone as the graphic comes to life. Another lovely SLi touch is memory seating (two position) and extra access provided for the driver by the seat sliding back on engine stop/door open and resetting when the driver sits back in. Externally, folding mirrors unfold before the car is unlocked by reading the remote keyfob (Si/SLi and push button start) and lights up under the wing mirrors and doorhandles. Class, again. All three levels cop front and rear parking sensors, the Si and SLi get auto headlights with the SLi showing off stylish LED running lights with the S dipping out on a reverse camera…which is useless after rain or condensation from a cold morning. As befits its top of the ladder status, the SLi offers open skies via a sunroof and will cool your soft drinks inside the glovebox. All three levels get Bluetooth streaming and Auxiliary/USB input via the sensibly located (ahead of the gear lever and not in the glovebox/centre console) lower central dash.
Quite simply, for 30K plus on roads, the SLi auto is the pick. Packed full of features, a great ride, a poky engine and a pretty decent auto, plus its svelte, lithe body, it ticks the boxes and the woeful manual shift (as much as I prefer manual) seriously discounts that transmission as a serious choice. With Kia making serious inroads into Australian sales and up globally by 2.6%, the once ugly duckling has grown into a serious contender for being a favoured swan.
For more info on the new Cerato sedans: http://www.kia.com.au/showroom/cerato#
A long time ago, in a musical galaxy far, far away, an Aussie singer had a minor hit with a song called “Bad Habits”, with the refrain “Can’t help myself, bad habits” becoming part of the vernacular at the time. Sitting down with a well earned cold one, after a lightning trip to motorsport’s hallowed ground, Mt Panorama, to test (show off) the new Holden VF Calais V (go buy one, it IS that good), it became impossible to not notice the major bad habits Aussie drivers.
Inside each and every vehicle are pieces of metal and plastic that are designed to help you, the so-called driver, do your best to avoid crashes and in doing so, perhaps show a bit of common courtesy to those that share the road. When you sit down behind that big, black circular thing that tells the car which direction to go, you should be able to see, left and right of the big column that holds the wheel, two sticks. One of these has the amazing power to, when moved up or down, make little amber lights flash on the left or right hand side of the car. It’s truly startling how many people don’t see it.
Most brand new cars have a short range wireless system called Bluetooth fitted. This nifty bit of kit allows a person to receive and make mobile phone calls whilst not, theoretically, touching said mobile phone. Hmmmm, another missed piece of technology, it would seem.
When traversing the roads and motorways of this big, brown land, eventually (and sometimes too often) a driver will come to a piece of road that intersects with another. Tall, strange looking poles with a rectangular box on top abound; said box hides three lights, one green, one amber, one red. Now, I’m slightly colour blind but I can tell, clearly, the difference between each. It would seem that colour blindness and a lack of reaction time have spread, virus like, throughout the brother and sisterhood of drivers, judging by the amount of cars that should have stopped safely and haven’t.
When one is in a two lane situation, occasionally one is able to move from the left lane to the right, in order to overtake a vehicle that is slower than you, for whichever reason. When one does so it’s expected that when you move right, you go faster and then pass the aforementioned slower vehicle. It’s not expected, nor is it a courteous thing, to move right and then…not pass.
Along with technology comes bad habits; tailgating, applying lipstick whilst supposedly driving, not turning on your headlights under dark skies and just being plain rude and ignorant of the road rules. Yes, there are rules that govern how our roads should be driven, believe it or not and they cover more than simply having your chosen chariot exceeding a posted limit. Having driver aids is one thing, having bad habits is another and it seems that way too many people either have bad attitude or they just can’t help themselves. The following link is a cure for insomnia but it DOES share what each and every driver in NSW (and, no doubt, the other states will have their own similar ideas) should know: HOW TO BE A BETTER DRIVER BECAUSE BETTER DRIVERS DRIVE BETTER.
What bad habits to you have and which bad habits on the road really tick you off?
When reviewers want to say that a vehicle handles well, they often mention how the designers did the testing at the Nürburgring. The “Ring” is considered to be one of the most demanding and difficult race courses in the world, and to get around the track in one piece is a sign of a good car and/or a good driver.
Not many utes have been tested at the Nürburgring. This is partly because these aren’t common vehicles over in Europe (which raises the question about what tradespeople use to haul their gear around – do they all use lorries and vans? And does every single farmer in the European Union use 4×4 motorbikes and tractors to do the rounds?). But back in February this year, when the design team at Holden were just putting the finishing touches on the new Holden VF Commodore, they decided to put the ute through its paces on the (in)famous Nürburgring.
Only two utes had been put through their paces at the Nürburgring before: the Dodge Ram SRT rigged up with the 8.0-litre V10 engine from the Viper, and the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor with a supercharged 6.2-litre V8. It was rather lucky for Holden that a VF Commodore was in Europe already when they had this bright idea: a pre-production model was undergoing a bit of testing in Spain. Time was short: this model would either have to be crushed in Spain or sent back home to Australia within six weeks.
There was no time to book a famous professional racing driver. Instead, the best driver they had on hand was Rob Trubiani, a member of the chassis design team who had been on hand for the testing in Spain, which included calibrating and fine-tuning the ESP. Trubiani was not and is not a racing driver, but he was a certified Nürburgring test driver. After all, what better way to ensure that the chassis you’ve designed works brilliantly than to see how it goes through the Nürburgring?
The team at Holden selected ANZAC Day (Australian time) as the day to put the Holden VF Commodore SS-V Redline Ute against the clock. However, they managed to get it out onto the track in the hands of Rob Trubiani before then, as the track had some of their industry pool days on (days when the track circuit is kept for manufacturers to test cars on). This nearly spelled disaster, as the Holden had a close brush with an Audi that sent the ute off the track onto the dirt at the exit. But what’s a bit of dirt to a ute? Even with this close call, the Holden still managed to do the track in under the 8 mins 40 seconds Trubiani thought it capable of doing.
ANZAC Day dawned in Australia as Trubiani lined the Holden VF Commodore Ute up ready to go. The ride is better seen than merely described, which readers can do at this link, complete with Rob Trubiani providing the commentary on his drive. He gets airborne at one part and dodges debris from a prototype Jaguar that exploded during the industry pool days, but still picks up a time of 8:19:47. And now, the Holden can proudly claim that it’s the fastest time for a ute to complete the Nürburgring. Sure, “utes, pickups and commercial vehicles” is a new category for the Ring, but a record is a record!
To quote Shakespeare, “Well roared, lion!”
The Holden Caprice V, in its new 2014 guise, is a combination of street savvy, world champion boxer melded with the smarts of a technical genius. Think Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky sitting down and talking quantum mechanics or relativity with the bushy headed wunderkind that was Alfred Einstein. Chevy’s ballsy 6.0L V8 with Holden’s US sourced electronics with some world class programming delivers what Holden has desperately needed and it’s a cracker.
Distance sensing radar, lane changing awareness, integrated internet radio, remote start from the keyfob, heads up display with multifunction info, blind spot alert, G force readout, voice to text messaging, voice control and reverse park assist add to heated seats, trailer sway control, reverse camera and Active Fuel Management from the 260kW/517Nm alloy block power source. Holden’s flagship, along with its Commodore brethren, also receives an interior redesign and electronic parking brake, doing away with the tired and unloved handle built into the centre console, that doubles up as a Hill Hold Control system.
It’s finally what Holden have promised for years, a world class luxury vehicle and I spent a wonderful week with the Caprice V, with a road trip to the mid south coast of NSW, to find out if that promise holds up.
The exterior design is virtually unchanged from the VE based WM model; now called the WN, it makes the new Caprice a real sleeper to those not inside it. The V spec has the V8 as standard mated to an uprated six speed auto with sports shift. The engine/exhaust note is muted, subtle, barely hinting at the animalistic roar the quad tipped exhaust lets loose when the go pedal is pushed in anger. It’s a free swinging engine, ticking over at just under 2000 rpm at freeway speed, revving cleaning and gutterally to 6000 as the speedo does indecent things. The potential to be a boulevarde cruiser or street brawler is well within its sphere of influence and the engine does both well. There’s no doubt at all that it likes a drink, especially when provoked, however the economy of the 6.0L comes into play with a judicious right foot (and Active Fuel Management), with over 700 kilometres provided from full to empty, including some spirited driving. The gearbox slurs through the gears, with just a hint of whine as it changes.
The ride is rarely disappointing; the bias towards comfort certainly shows, with roll and tip in towards the outside wheel noticeable. There is a skip across the road on certain bumps and with the roads still damp from (at the time of writing) the heavy rains of late June the traction control system was noticeable hauling in the near two tonne mass of the Caprice. The rear compressed hard on some of the heavier undulations but never lost grip. It’s smooth, unfussed and handles like a car smaller and lighter in the tight turns of the Kangaroo Valley Road. The interior, in its own way, is also rarely disappointing. A negative standout is the cheap feeling and cheaply fitted plastic shroud for minor storage ahead of the gear lever; the plastics would benefit from more of a suede feel throughout the cabin, including the seat supports, which still betray their low rent origins, as does the leather print plastic on the upper dash. The seats are well padded, supportive without feeling as if they crowded the thorax but the stylistic addition of a fabric strip, colour matched to the fabric on the dash, is questionable. The eight inch touch screen infotainment system and aircon layout is natural, ergonomic and much better overall than the WM/Calais in the preceding model. The view from the driver’s seat is also pleasurable, with a full colour LCD screen providing information such as fuel usage and economy, tyre pressures and more. The rear seat passengers, with heaps of rear leg room, can relax with wireless headphones to listen to the DVD playable from the centre dash mounted player but, disappointingly, USB access is from the console storage rather than from the aforementioned lower dash, whilst the same console also has, somewhat un-user friendly, a slot to put the keyfob. Unsurprisingly, there’s loads of boot space, thanks to the extra wheelbase.
Moving to the electronic system available in the US is a revelation and unlocks a bevvy of user friendly features. Collision Avoidance, for example, works on sensors reading the distance between the Caprice and the vehicle in front. Should that vehicle get closer whilst the Caprice is not braking, alarm chirps sound and the distance can be changed through a number of choices. Remote start needs the new electronic handbrake to be engaged, allowing the engine and dual zone climate control to come to life. Reverse park assist also uses sensors to judge angle and distance to help bring home the five metre behemoth to a parking space. The HUD (Head Up Display) gives speed, g force, revs and the posted speed limit, integrated with the satnav system whilst the infotainment system works on voice command. A button on the steering wheel is pressed to activate the system.
The much vaunted update to the Commodore range is more about the interior and electronics; with the flexibility and grunt of the V8 in the Caprice V with that level of intelligence, it’s well worth the mid $60K driveaway price with its mix of brawn and brains and certainly holds its own against the European competition.