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Archive for November, 2013

Alphabetical History Repeats: Jaguar’s F-Type Coupe.

AUS2013112001582_PRVEasily one of the most anticipated cars of recent times was the F-Type convertible from Jaguar. Released to thunderous acclaim, it’s re-entered Jaguar back into the realm of sports cars and the public eye. Jaguar Australia’s own management admitted it was a heartstarter for the brand here with sales steady but hurting from a lack of public recognition or memory. With a broad track and wheelbase underpinning what surely is one of the most beautiful looking bodies on wheels, motivated by a cracking trio of engines including the ripsnorting, firebreathing supercharged 5.0L V8, growling out 364kW and 635 torques, the soft top version drew worldwide attention immediately. But something was missing….unlike its famous predecessor, the E-Type, this one was only available with a easily removed soft top.

On the 19th of November , just before 8pm Pacific Standard Time, the dreams of Jaguarphiles were realised, with the unveiling of the stunningly gorgeous F-Type Coupe. Immediately comparisons were made with its famous brethren, with the aggressive styling at the front running into the smooth, lithe curves of the hard top, a profile so akin to the E-Type. However, much like a supermodel with an IQ of 200, there’s much more than fantastic curves….the all aluminuim construction shaves weight while adding rigidity, especially to the rear of the car. Having no B pillars, AUS2013112041769_PRVtechnology came to the rescue with a hydro-formed aluminuim alloy beam that runs almost the length of the coupe’s immensely strong and rigid body. Adding to the strength are the side panels; they’re single pieces, cold pressed from one sheet of aluminuim, which also eliminates join lines and potential weak spots from bolts and screws; Jaguar is also highly green with up to 50% of the construction sourced from recycled material. With the engineering prowess on display, the F-Type Coupe has a torsional rigidity reading of 33000 Newton metres per degree, a figure unchanged if you specify the glass top roof option instead of a total sheet of metal.

At the pointy end Jaguar has given the five litre a dose of Viagra; power is upped to 404kW and 680 Newton metres in the F-Type R whilst the F-TYPE S Coupé and F-TYPE Coupé are powered by Jaguar’s 3.0-litre V6 supercharged petrol engines in 280kW/460Nm and 250Kw/450Nm AUS2013112081462_PRVforms respectively, giving 0-100k/h in 4.9/5.3-seconds and top speeds of 275/260km/h.All through power through Jaguar’s lauded eight speed automatic transmission, operable both from the centre console lever or steering column mounted paddle shifts. Hauling up the beast are optional Carbon Ceramic Matrix (CCM) brakes. Vivid yellow monoblock calipers – six-piston at the front and four-piston at the rear – grip 398mm front and 380mm rear brake discs made from a matrix of carbon fibre and ceramic, which is extremely hard and highly resistant to wear.

The cabin is a workspace you’d be hard pressed to leave, with ultra supportive and comfortable leather seats, with the R also getting inflatable side bolsters for extra bodily support. Acclaimed British audio manufacturer Meridian also supply a choice of two high powered, multi speaker audio systems with 10 or 12 speakers pumping either 380W or 770W respectively, not that you’d want to listen to anything other than that superbly tailored exhaust. On the road there’s plenty of safety systems in place in case the driver gets too (understandably) exuberant, including powerful AUS2013112001771_PRVABS brakes, multiple airbags and the F-Type’s aerobrake. Nestled in the shapely rear of the car is a wing that rises out of the metalwork at 110 kmh and drops back in once under 80, keeping the rump firmly planted.

Sadly for Australia, the F-Type Coupe won’t be available until after July of 2014 and pricing is yet to be confirmed at time of writing. For me, it’s a car I’d have, in all variations, parked in my garage.

Toddlers, Tantrums and Car Seats

Waaaah!  I don’t wanna get in the car!!!!  I wanna play on the roundabout again! I don’t wanna get in the car!!! Don’t wanna!  No! No! No! Waaaaaah!

If you are a parent, you probably recognise that sort of conversation and your heart sinks.  Because in spite of what your toddler thinks, he or she is going to have to get into the car. And you can’t just pick them up bodily and plonk them on the back seat like what used to happen in the past when the typical passenger car didn’t have rear seatbelts.  Oh no.  It’s got to be the car seat, securely buckled in.

If you have a four-door sedan, hatch or station wagon, you are in luck.  The job of getting a stroppy toddler throwing a tantrum into a car seat will only be moderately difficult.  Now you know why big Ford Falcons and Holden Commodores are such popular family cars in Australia.  The difficulty level goes up a notch if you have an MPV or a 4×4 with seven seats and the car seat is right in the back row or in on the driver’s side… with a van-style door on the passenger side.  As for a three-door hatch or a two-door sedan or coupé – boy, you’ve got problems. Anything that can be clung onto in an attempt to resist being put in the car seat will be.  Toddlers have surprisingly strong grip and the door pillar (aka B pillar) in, say, a 3-door Suzuki Swift  is just the right size to be grabbed.  And then you have the issue of folding down any seats in the way with a screaming, wriggling little body in your arms.

Next, you have to actually wrestle the toddler into the car seat, and get all arms and legs into the right place so you can do up the harness… which children between 6 months and 4 years have to have.  This is definitely a two-hand job, so sling whatever you can onto the driver’s seat to keep it safe.  It can be tempting to hold a stroppy kid in place with a strategically placed knee, especially with those harnesses that require two hands to do up.  This does not look good, although in extreme cases, it can be done very gently and lightly.  What makes this wrestling job worse is that the person you’re trying to get into the seat is likely to be kicking and hitting at you – and even a two-year-old is capable of hitting you quite hard in the vulnerable areas that tend to be exposed when bending over to do up a car seat harness.

So what are you going to do?  Here are a handful of ideas that might work for you and your child:

  • Bribery and corruption.  Offer a treat as a reward once the car seat is done up.  Might work once or twice but this sets up the idea that once a tantrum is thrown, a reward is given in order to stop it… so another tantrum is started next time to get the reward for stopping.
  • “The cops will be very cross with you and me if you don’t have your seatbelt on.”  It’s probably not the best to use cops as a sort of bogeyman who will Get You if you don’t behave, as this does create a bad image of cops as bad guys later on, but can work.  Even more effective if a cop is nearby and can be inveigled into telling the child to wear the seatbelt or else.
  • “You need to be safe in the car in case we crash.”  Won’t work.  Crashes are an abstract concept for little kids who have never been in one.  Explaining and reasoning with someone who thinks a tantrum is the best solution to a problem never works.
  • Hold the child on your lap, or put him/her in a safe place until the tantrum finishes. Then put your child – who will probably be exhausted by now – into the car seat. Requires patience.  In a supermarket car park, the back seat of the car is a good safe place for the tantrum to take place.  If you sit in the car and do nothing, eventually your toddler will decide that being buckled in and going somewhere is a lot more fun than screaming and throwing a wobbly in the back seat of a stationary car.
  • Distraction.  Works for tantrums in a lot of situations. Requires a sense of humour and the willingness to look silly in a car park.  You could try making the car “throw a tantrum too if you don’t let me put your seatbelt on” and then see what you can do with hazard lights, horns and/or car alarms. Alternatively try “Can you do a louder scream than that?” or “I can see another scream coming – have a look and see it in the car mirror?  What about in this mirror? Does it look the same?  What about in the other wing mirror?” Or mimic your child by going “Waaaah! Don’t wanna!” back at them or in synch with them.
If only it was this easy...

If only it was this easy…

If tantrums about getting in the car are a common problem, then allow yourself a bit of extra travel time margin for them to take place. This takes the stress off you slightly.

Hang in there.  They do grow out of the tantrum stage eventually.  Later on, you’ll get the “Can I borrow the car keys?” issue, but that’s another story.

A MINI Problem

I have mentioned previously that I am not a native to Australian shores. Alas, my origins are much more British in their nature. But I see this as nothing but a good thing. This gives me the opportunity to bring together two wonderful worlds in a colourful explosion of thought and opinion. Now, I spend many an hour scrolling through the underbelly of the Internet looking for the latest news from the automotive universe; every now and again something catches my eye that is just perfect. News has reached my ears regarding the spread of MINI in Australia. It would appear that MINi are struggling to sell the MINI Paceman.

The Mini Paceman

The Mini Paceman

Within the first 7 months that the model was on show to the public, only 93 were sold. In fact, overall MINI seems to not be doing too well in its introduction to Australia. This did get me thinking; what is going on here? Is there any explanation? 

Traditionally, the Mini is a very British invention. In fact, not only does it characterise what it meant to be involved in British culture, but  the Mini Cooper was a fully fledged film star. ‘The Italian Job’ is one of THE most successful British films of all time, gaining worldwide success. Here is a fun fact:

Due to the Italian filming location for the film and various funding sources, the cars for the film were originally going to be Fiats. Fiat was the most popular everyday car in Italy throughout the mid-20th century after all. But the film makers put their foot down and it was confirmed that the Mini would be the car used in the film.

Original Theatrical Trailer for ‘The Italian Job’ (1969)

The Stars of the Show - 'The Italian Job' (1969)

The Stars of the Show – ‘The Italian Job’ (1969)

However, in more recent years, MINI was taken over and transformed, when the name was bought by BMW. And so began the modernisation of the Mini. At first, the relaunch of the MINI Cooper brought back the entire Cooper-craze across the world. The Mini even found fame in the USA with the absolutely terrible re-make of the Italian Job, made bearable only by Charlize Theron if I am truly honest.

One of my personal confusions with this new Mini was the fact that it was well, massive. I can assume it was some sort of symbolic oxymoronic construction having a rather large car being called Mini, but still. The old Mini was small, zippy, plucky and full of character. This new one however, although definitely an individual sexy little so and so, had lost some of that original character, mainly down to the fact that it was no longer that small.

Everything was going so well… It may not have been the old Mini but it was definitely a positive step… It was all going well…

Too well…

The new MINI - It went through various forms after the initial relaunch

The new MINI – It went through various forms after the initial relaunch

As with so many of the great things that exist upon this fair planet, everything took a sudden downhill tumble. It would appear the BMW owners decided they wanted to squeeze as much life as possible out of the MINI name. I am sure there are a few good ways to use the MINI name to bring out some new cars. I always thought a MINI GT or Supercar would have been wonderful. They may have looked a little on the strange side, but I liked the idea behind the Coupe, Convertible and Roadster. It was making the MINI into a fully fledged road going brand. The only thing I would have definitely said should be avoided was the spacious 4×4 route. I mean who would be stupid enough to start introducing a 4×4 edition of the MINI onto the market. Only a complete idiot would do something like tha-

*phone rings* “…hello? You’re joking right? They didn’t did they? a 4×4 MI- well thank you for telling me”

Well this is a little awkward. It turns out that is what MINI actually decided to do. At first they thought the best thing to do would be to elongate the Cooper into the Clubman. Horrifically enough, this then ‘inspired’ them to construct the ClubVAN. I mean seriously guys, what is going on? The best way to describe them is taking a the front end of a MINI and adding the back end of a Ford Transit onto its behind. Words fail me. Literally fail me.

And then came the turn of the Countryman and the Paceman. The SUV/4×4 style MINI that was meant to give the customer the perfect MINI for when ‘they ran out of road”. The problem with introducing a 4×4 MINI is that MINI is owned by BMW. And BMW are not exactly known for manufacturing the best off road machines known to man. I mean the BMW X5 failed both on road and off road.

The MINI range. Notice the size… Bigger and Bigger… Uglier and Uglier...

The MINI range. Notice the size… Bigger and Bigger… Uglier and Uglier…

And so we have returned to the original subject matter. Why is it that the new MINI range is failing in Australia? I would like to think that the fault lies in the range itself. The designers at BMW/MINI did not really think of how the new cars could fit into the market. They do not seem to have a certain audience. If I was to be totally honest I thought that the new MINI models were meant as a bit of a gimmick or a joke, either that or the designers happen to get bored and decided to see what was the most ridiculous thing they could come up with was.

Maybe MINI should scrap everything and start again. The MINI brand did have some pace and power initially, but with this new ridiculous output it has lost a lot of trust and excitement. If MINI were to introduce a dedicated sports range I think they would gain a lot more success.

So, to conclude, the failure of the new MINI models is down to the cars themselves and their lack of direction and place in the current market. Dearest BMW owners, you have heard my views, and you have heard my suggestions. I will leave the rest up to you.

Keep Driving People!

Follow me on Twitter: @lewisglynn69

Peace and Love!

Petrol into Diesel; Diesel into Petrol

old-petrol-pump

If you’ve ever put the wrong sort of fuel in your car, you are not alone.  When one member of my family (who will remain nameless*) filled a diesel-powered work ute with petrol the other afternoon, the local garage said that it was the second time it had happened that day.

What happens if you put the wrong sort of fuel in your car?  If you drive a diesel and have put petrol in the tank, you’re in real trouble.  Petrol acts as a solvent and reduces the amount of lubrication that diesel can do to the engine parts – and diesel engines need that lubrication.  The sooner that you realise that you’ve put in the wrong fuel, the better.  If you’re still at the bowser when you realise what a nitwit you’ve been, don’t start your engine.  The petrol can be drained from the fuel tank (along with everything else in the tank) and the wretched stuff won’t get into your engine and ruin it.  If you start the engine – well, there goes your engine!  They say that if petrol does get into the workings and start chugging around inside, a whole new motor is going to be cheaper than an attempt to repair it.  If the car is on the older side, a whole new car might be in order.

What about the reverse?  What if you put diesel into a petrol engine?  This is less of a disaster and you won’t kill your engine if you switch the ignition on.  What will happen when you switch the ignition on is… not a lot.  You see, diesel engines have a lot more compression than petrol engines to get the air hot enough to ignite the fuel.  Petrol engines just don’t have what it takes.  This is a very short description and there’s a fair bit of science going on here, but let’s stick to the point.  Again, you’ll have to get towed away so your car can have its tank pumped out but if a bit of diesel’s got into the system, it isn’t the end of the world.  But prepare for some rough running.

Manufacturers of cars and of bowsers have sensibly made the diesel and the petrol nozzles, and the holes they go into, different sizes.  Diesel needs a bigger nozzle, so the chances that you’ll shove diesel into a petrol is slim, unless you have an older vehicle.  This won’t help you if you try to put petrol into a diesel, as you can fit a small nozzle in a big hole.  However, the way the nozzle wobbles around should tip you off.

The expense, hassle and humiliation of having to get a full tank of gas pumped out of your vehicle and chucked away can be avoided by either (a) not going on autopilot when at the bowser if you have two cars with different fuels or (b) getting one of the petrol pump attendants to do it for you.  If they make a mistake, it’s their expense and hassle.  Besides, you get to talk to a real human being (great after a day behind a computer or making endless phone calls) and ensure that your local garage keeps employing teenagers who would otherwise be making trouble.

DieselFuel_195121818*No, this person was not me. I know about this event because I got the call and had to head out with my big Ford Fairlane to tow this person to the mechanics so their car could have its stomach pumped.  Family member is getting enough leg-pulls from everyone else so there’s no need to preserve their name for eternity online.

Asleep at the Wheel: Has F1 become boring?

After yet another commanding season, Sebastian Vettel was crowned world champion. Again. ‘Red Bull’ have proven that they have the best car on the grid. Again. Formula One is meant to be the crown jewels sitting proudly upon the crown that is motor sport. Formula One is meant to be THE example of just how great racing can be. Formula One is meant to be the guiding light that may shine forward into a new future of automotive sport.

…so why have I spent such a long time now being bored out of my skin? 

The weird part of this whole situation is that I really want to love Formula One. The sport contains so many things that I love about life – fast cars, speed, glamour, theatre, the works. In many ways I can compare F1 to the James Bond film ‘Quantum of Solace’; that film has every aspect that should make any Bond film amazing, yet the whole thing appeared to be a bit of a laborious disaster. And I feel much the same about the apparent ‘greatest motor sport in the world’.

To examine the array of issues that are buzzing around my head, let me propose some questions:

Question One: Is it not exciting watching the rise of a new legend of the sport in Sebastian Vettel?

Formula One has been lucky enough to watch the rise of some of the greatest racing drivers known to man kind: Senna, Prost, Hunt, Fangio, Stewart… the list goes on. Throughout the 90s and early 00s we also saw Michael Schumacher. He won 7 world championships and became one of most loved drivers of the modern sport. Following this German take over, did any of us really think we would see another one? And then Vettel came along and proved us all wrong.

Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel

However this time, it seems a lot of people are not so impressed. The problem is that everything he has achieved has essentially been handed to him on a plate. He inherited a place on the best F1 team on the grid and has gone and started winning EVERYTHING. The difference between him and all the other legends of the sport is that he doesn’t appear to have worked for what he has gained. For some time I said exactly the same thing about Hamilton, but now he has moved to Mercedes and is proving his worth by being amazingly competitive in a car that everyone else thought would be mid-pack at best this year. Not only that, but since his initial success there has been a great deal of bias in the Red Bull team. In many ways I am not surprised that Mark Webber decided to retire having spent the last few years getting second rate equipment and playing Robin to Vettel’s Batman.

When Vettel keeps winning, it is now no longer surprising, it is just tiringly predictable. I seem to be spending most of my time hoping for a mechanical failure, a crash or a mistake. I really hate thinking that stuff but the problem is, it is the only way I can make it exciting in my head anymore.

Question Two: Technologically advanced cars racing at 200mph, what is not to love about that? 

Formula One is meant to be the pinnacle of modern motor sport. The racing should be hard, fast, close and spectacular. And yet, it is not. When you sit and watch your average race these days, the commentary team seem to have some form of auto-gasm when there is an overtake. It is one overtake, guys. In one race there will be a small handful of overtakes, and this is treated like proof of sporting perfection. The fact that cars have to be fitted with an ‘overtake’ button and additional aids to make overtaking even possible says a lot if you ask me. I have said it a multitude of times before, but look at any Touring Car series; the British Touring Cars or the V8 Supercars. That is what hard racing should be.

F1 2013 at Monaco

F1 2013 at Monaco

Furthermore, F1 cars seem so fragile that ANY SLIGHT contact seems to result in race ruining damage that renders a car near-useless. Yes, I am aware that motor sport should never focus on collisions, but it is natural that there will be some coming together across the span of a race. Why not sacrifice some of the speed and make for a more exciting sport? Is it really that much to ask?

Finally, racing should be about well, RACING. What it should never be about is tyre and pit strategy. They are two elements that can make a race exciting. But when the focus is placed more upon them than on the racing itself, then something has gone horribly wrong. Listening to the eternal discussion about wings, tyres and pit strategy during a race makes me want to find the nearest bridge and hurl myself off of it. Murray Walker would never have wasted his breath talking about that.

Maybe it is just me, but processional racing is not what I love.

Question Three: There are new tracks being designed and built all the time, is that not exciting?

There are some things that I cannot even try to defend. And the lifeless, soulless and emotionless race tracks designed by Hermann ‘no imagination’ Tilke are definitely one of these things. The tracks are usually a mix of LONG STRAIGHT followed by TECHNICAL SECTION OVERLOAD, LONG STRAIGHT, MORE TECHNICAL… you get the idea. These tracks seem endless and lack the passion and soul of the classics such as Spa or Silverstone. Speaking of which, what on this holy earth have they done to Silverstone? The home of British motor sport has become an arena of boredom. What is happening?

Circuit of the Americas

Circuit of the Americas

While I am on this point, Mr Tilke really needs to get some imagination. If you want to design tracks that are so health and safety perfect meaning that run off areas are so large that cars do not lose out from them then that is one thing. But do you then have to rip off all the other great tracks in the process. The new USA GP circuit in Texas seems to have borrowed corners from already existing tracks. America is already full of amazing race tracks, do we really need another one?

In conclusion…

The answer is simple. Change. Call it revolution if you must but please, something needs to happen. The sport has become a painfully predictable game of chess played out on lifeless race tracks across the globe, doing nothing but serving the egos of the leaders of the F1 teams (well, mainly Christian Horner but still).

Where is the passion? Where is the raw animalism? Where is the soul?

In the new F1 video games, why else do you think that they are placing more emphasis on driving the classic cars?  Could it maybe be because the modern sport is nothing compared to the titans of the past.

New is not always better. Sometimes we need to look to the past to find the answers for the future.

Keep Driving People!

Follow me on Twitter: @lewisglynn69

Peace and Love!

Why Australian Love Cars

There’s no denying it – Australians love cars and travel. As a population, we are engaging with personal transport in a way seldom seen in any other part of the world in the last half a century. It’s defining the way we live, and it’s also transforming how we work and play in parts of the world deeply suited to jumping headfirst into one of the best road trips of your life…

There is a certain sense of history about it – Australia’s road network has inevitably been borne out of its sheer size. It caters to personal transport and the car like nowhere else – US style highways look like country lanes in comparison to the roads you’d be able to find out here…and the population density in some areas is so low even in the towns that a subsidised public transport system physically wouldn’t be viable.

According to this article in the Guardian, there are 53% more cars in Sydney alone than there were in 1976. Often, in large cities the establishment would rather build more roads than they would railways or bus lanes.

You see, the Australian’s sense of freedom is why the car is so entrenched. Personal freedom – the freedom of where to travel, when to go and how to get there – it’s quite fairly deep-rooted into the psyche, and naturally, the car seems the only sensible option. There is a sense of indulgence, and honestly, when you are surrounded with so much space, what else would you want to do but put your foot down?

I’m sure this is familiar, but just to impress the point as to how much we like our cars follow this link

Why Australians Love Cars

The car industry in Australia might be in a state of flux, but the popularity of the racing scene here and the speed at which people are taking to the road is increasing every year. There is no doubt the car will continue to build on Australia’s foundations, and offer an increasing amount of variety and options of where to travel for locals and visitors alike. As Oliver Milman says, the bracing liberation and the cult of the car is deeply entrenched.

For more information about and car ownership, contact us today.

Why not connect with us on Twitter, Facebook or Google +

 

Powering Into History: HSV ClubSport R8 Enhanced

A certain car magazine recently bemoaned what drivers will miss out on in coming years, with the change to more technological features in our chosen chariots. Ripping up a handbrake lever to drop a skid on the tarmac or dirt, for example, or fiddling around with cassettes whilst hanging onto the steering wheel with one hand and a ciggie perched between the lips. But there’s more that we’ll miss out on. I’ll explain later as I look at the last of a breed: Holden Special Vehicle’s ClubSport R8 Enhanced. (http://www.hsv.com.au/Gen-F/See/ClubSport-R8/)

ClubSport SMP

The Driven Heart
ClubSport engineRecipe: take six litres of already grunty alloy block Chevrolet V8, massage and prod until it becomes 6.2, add a freer flowing exhaust and add the ingredients R8. Then massage even more, find a few extra ponies and torques then screw them up to a smooth shifting six speed manual, big 20 inch diameter black coated alloys, black highlights and that awesome bi-modal exhaust. That is what you’ll get when 340 killer Watts and 570 metres of Mr Newton’s torques appear after HSV waves their magic wand over the marvel that is a freebreathing V8 engine and uprated wheels; it adds the Enhanced part to the standard R8. It’s an engine that appeals instantly to a driver than can not merely understand, but ClubSport at Skylineappreciate, what these terms and numbers mean. It’s immensely flexible, with torque on tap from almost zero rpm which allows even fifth and sixth gears to be utilised at low revs, being able to pull away from 40 km/h in sixth is a party piece. With peak torque at 4400rpm but what feels like 99 percent of it available before then, it requires only a sneeze on the foot for the ClubSport to sprint away in lower gears. As it does so another party piece is put on show, this time an aural one. Inside the cabin, right where the window switches used to be in a VE Commodore, is a dial for the traction control and three suspension settings: Touring, Sport and Performance. The latter two engage an exhaust mode called Bi-modal, taking the already subterranean note to the earth’s core.
The gear shift is surprisingly (bad grammar alert) untight, meaning there’s not a hell of a lot of effort required to move the short throw gear lever…it slides from gear to gear with a hint of a notch as it does. the new Tremec T6060 transmission also throws up a softer, less pressure required clutch. I have a slightly arthritic left knee, courtesy of a prang as a passenger over twenty years ago and it’s come away unscathed. What this also means is that for those that whinge about manuals in Sydney’s utterly pathetic excuse for a road system that you can leave it in third or fourth in traffic and just clutch and accelerate without changing gear. The AP racing brakes are sensational, with a well modulated pressure, no fade and virtually no ABS intrusion when the anchors are thrown out from high speed.
The Office
HSVs of days gone by were sometimes a case of too much red was never enough. In the VF based ClubSport it’s more of a visually muted environment, with red highlights restricted to the headrests and squab on the seat cushion plus a tasteful alignment of fuel and temperature gauge needles with the red piping in the two main dash dials. Otherwise it’s a tasteful mix of charcoal fabric and leather accentuating black plastic. There’s also a relocation of the battery and oil pressure gauges to the empty space ahead of the gear lever, rather than on the upper dash. It’s comfortable to look at, comfortable to be in bar one thing…I’m of average height, call it 177cm. The placing of the pedals, steering column (adjustable for height and reach) and playing with the many ways adjustable electric seating still left me with my clutch leg’s thigh (the leading edge of the seat squab was pressing up and just behind the knee joint) just not feeling comfortable enough to push the pedal in all the way without feeling as if my arms were too close to my body. The support from the wings of the seat is admirable and into hard corners holds the body in tight and that’s a plus. Seats wise, I’d like to see the crocodile skin style replaced with a more suave looking suede style plastic.
Holden’s spend on new architecture has paid off; a relocation of the window switches and central locking to the ClubSport dashdriver’s door, a new touch screen setup plus HSV’s addition of the EDI (Electronic Driver Interface) which provides a ClubSport extra dialstreasure trove of info such as G forces side to side or front to rear, race track info and stopwatch information, actual kilowatts and torque figures thanks to the fly by wire interface; it’s intuitive, user friendly and supplies the kind of info a driver likes to have. There’s also the HUD, Head Up Display, providing an eye level (and height adjustable) information source including the aforementioned G forces, revs, and speed. It’s handy and well placed. Other fun stuff comes in the form of the Forward Collision Alert (FCA) and Side Blind Zone Alert (SBZA), which uss side facing sensors to warn of vehicles at the rear and side of the car that may not be clearly seen in the rear vision mirrors. There’s a reverse park camera as standard, the parking assist system (uses the sensors to measure and read a parking space) plus the hidden Hill Start Assist and Hill Hold Control (HSA/HHC) which applies a touch of brake to hold the car before moving off. Music wise there’s a Bose audio system powered and accessed via the eight inch touchscreen, with satnav and internet radio apps Pandora and Stitcher plus there’s a voice interactive setup alongside Bluetooth music streaming.
The Bodywork
ClubSport frontBody mods on the ClubSport aren’t as “in yer face” as the VE based models; a restyled front bumper locates the LED ClubSport taillightrunning lights closer to the top of the corner mounted vents, which themselves are more of a functional look and feel. The hawkeye look headlights have the internal blackout colouring and the side vent insert is a matt black, rather than the chrome on a Commodore. At the rear it’s subtle, with a smaller rear wing (a bigger one is an option), LED taillights and restyled rear apron. It’s still a matter of taste regards the look as the quad exhaust tips poke through the matt ClubSport bumperClubSport start lineblack plastic but are separated by a colour coordinated (test car was Heron white) V strip. It’s a better look than before but a subjective one. Of note is the shark’s fin radio aerial which, at speed and on a rainy day, funnels a stream of water directly down the middle of the rear window, making the rear vision mirror useless in seeing vehicles behind and there’s also no airflow to clear the side mirrors of precipitation either. The bonnet is now aluminuim and with that comes a small yet vital change; there’s only one gas strut required to keep it up. There’s a subtle restyling to the grille as well.
On The Road
The combination of a lightish clutch, a smoothish gear lever movement and more torque than a chat show means the ClubSport is a doddle to get off the line. Acceleration is pushed back in your seat rapid, with the first couple of gears snatched quicker than a wallet by a pickpocket as the ClubSport reels in the horizon. Whilst you’re peeling your eyeballs off the back of your skull, your ears are reverberating with the bass notes produced by that superb exhaust. Freeway speeds come up with indecent haste (HSV quotes 5.0 seconds to 100 km/h) but it’s the seamless delivery of torque that excites; at Bathurst’s Mt Panorama it was almost possible to climb up through the Esses in no lower than fourth. Around town in sixth it’s barely off idle and will pull away with a touch of drivetrain vibration quite comfortably with nary a hint of road noise via the Continental tyres at 255 and 275/35/20s front and rear. The ride is superb; the ClubSport comes with HSV’s MRC (Magnetic Ride Control, see here: http://www.hsv.com.au/gen-f/feel/performance-technology/) with three settings: Touring, Sport and Performance. Touring turns off the bi-modal exhaust and gives a smooth, firm and flat ride. Sport and Performance up the ante, sharpening the response of the ClubSport badgesteering, ClubSport rearfirming the ride yet without crashing through potholes or speedbumps and opens up the exhaust. One would expect the hardest setting to provide the hardest ride yet it simply ignores road imperfections. Steering is three fingers light, with the electrically assisted steering wonderfully weighted; it’s full of feedback, telling the driver exactly where they’re going whilst the grip levels from the European Continental tyres pair up with the traction control to allow a measure of spin before the fun police step in. All of this can be monitored via the EDI, it is not recommended doing so in traffic even with the front collision alarm engaged…Thankfully, at Bathurst, although a full lap wasn’t permissible due to track work, the ClubSport could be given some room to stretch its considerable legs and was not found wanting.
The Wrap
Just a few days before I picked up the V8 powered HSV ClubSport R8 Enhanced, it was announced that the new Commodore model, in a couple of years (think 2016), would more than likely not have a V8 engine in the range. It’s also been rumoured that the V8 Supercars will have a name change of sorts as they investigate other engine alternatives. Could it be that future generations will only know of and hear the thunderous soundtrack that is a bare chested, muscle flexing V8 via whatever audio and video means will be available in ten, twenty, fifty or more years? George Lucas was quoted as saying, about watching a movie, that sound was half of the experience. A well balanced surround sound system has clear highs, a defined middle range and bass that kicks you in the guts while subsonically curling hairs. The ClubSport with the bi-modal exhaust, that source of so much aural pleasure, is what we stand to lose alongside its brethren such as the GTS. That spine tingling sensation of sound along with the neck bending acceleration that a ball tearing V8 offers is in true and real danger of being a museum piece. Priced at $76285 + on roads, the R8 Enhanced delivers an almost surreal, brain altering experience; it’ll pull Superman’s cape off while being almost gentle enough for Nan to wander off to Bingo at a price that leaves Euro rivals gasping. But at well over twenty grand more than the Holden SS V Redline edition, with 517Nm and 260kW I have to ask, is it worth it? If only for that sound, then the answer is yes.

Anomalous Cargo: Holden’s Calais and Evoke Sportwagons

Calais V profileIn an Australian world Evoke profilewhere uncertainty about local car manufacturing reigns supreme, Holden stays true to one traditional element: the station wagon. Of the four manufacturers of recent years, Mitsubishi gave up after the final Magna, Toyota canned it with the change from Camry to Aurion and Ford said the Territory will have to do. Fondly regarded as either a rep-mobile or something to lug Mum, Dad and 2.5 kids about in something that wasn’t a SUV, the station wagon is seen as an anomaly. Overseas it’s called an Estate, Tourer, Sportbrake however Holden has gone with Sportwagon.

The Driven Heart
Evoke V6Holden’s alloy 3.0L V6 is the budget repmobile powerplant for the Evoke. Calais V V8It’s aimed at companies, a fleet purchase style and maybe, just maybe, an entrepreneurial private buyer. It’s not the torqueiest donk around, with 290 metres of Mr Newton’s finest at 2600rpm butting up against max power of 185kW at a high 6700rpm. It’s a lack noticeable off the line Evoke dashcompared to the standard 3.6L, but will still get you, thanks Calais V dashto the smooth six speed auto with some smart ratio thinking, to illegal speeds reasonably quickly. It’s relatively unstressed, quiet even as it reaches its top revline, with the transmission mostly holding up. It’s hesitant under low throttle, unsure and has the vehicle stuttering somewhat until a reasonable right foot pressure measurement comes into play. Once in its stride the engine and gearbox work well together, minimally fussed, the lack of punch noticeable but not an issue. It’s rated, economy wise, at 8.6L/100K from the 71L tank but on a seven day test was closer to 11L (combined city and highway), with that lack of torque (and moved slightly higher up the rev range compared to VE) contributing to the extra usage. It will, however, run on unleaded from E85 to E10. The Calais V has the 6.0L V8 with 260kW @5600rpm and twists out 517Nm at 4400 rpm (auto, with the manual gaining 10kW and 13Nm) with the gear rations slightly different to the manual and virtually identical in the higher gears to the Evoke. The extra torque sees less stuttering, a more surefooted approach to acceleration and, naturally, a bigger shove in the back when the go pedal is asked to say yes.
The Office
Evoke seatsIt’s certainly a sweeter looking place inside the cabin for the driver Calais V dash profileand passenger with Holden’s much vaunted revamp providing better ergonomics but, more importantly, a better electronic architecture. The redesigned dash holds a eight inch touch screen infotainment setup (MyLink) with internet radio applications, available via smartphone connection and for those using Apple phones there’s a Siri EyesFree mode, reverse park camera standard across the range, Bluetooth phone connectivity with voice control, plus a new electric park brake and information shown in monochromatic glory for the driver (Evoke) with the Calais getting a colour screen; info is selected via a button and rotary dial on the indicator stalk. The plastics for the interior still have a touch of old school look and feel, particularly for the seat supports, the key barrel for the Evoke looks tacked on like an afterthought however the Calais V is push button started and the top of the dash console has an uneasy mix of rippled plastic and faux leather covering for the instrument binnacle. A colour coordinated touch is the cloth run as a swathe across from one side to the other, with a dark grey blending with the black Calais V memory seatsplastic on the Evoke however the Calais gets a lighter colour swatch and doesn’t appear to be quite at home. The Evoke’s tiller is a solid, chunky yet comfortable piece with the Calais V sporting a slightly slimmer and leather clad version, complete with a flat curve on the bottom. The seats are comfortable enough, look fine with the black cloth or leather (apart from the same light colour Evoke cargomaterial looking as if it will dirty earlier), there’s memory and heated seats for the V and having an auto box somehow makes it just that much easier to reach the pedals compared to the layout with a manual. The rear seats are a sixty/forty split fold and provide a mammoth cargo space, 895L or 2000L with seats down.
Holden’s spend on the Commodore hasn’t been all wise though; as I’ve previously noted, placing the USB/Aux connections in the centre console bin makes no ergonomic sense at all given that there’s space to use ahead of the gear lever in the rubberised (and tacky looking) storage section and electronically would make sense to have the ports closer to the main part of the system, although it is where HSV place a dial cluster. Also, the chrome surround for the gear lever has a tendency to reflect the sun directly into the drivers eyes.
Naturally there’s a full suite of electronic stuff to play with: the aforementioned Bluetooth and touchscreen with buttons at the bottom that can too easily be rested on by a wrist, dual zone climate control aircon, plenty of airbags, cruise, electric windows all round (oddly however, not auto up on the Evoke), bottom of door mounted exit lights and the reverse parking system that reads the painted lines and car spaces then guides you in but still relies on the pilot to control the throttle. There’s also remote start for the Calais.
The Sheetmetal)
Calais V rear profileExternally, the Sportwagon is identically curved to its VE predecessor fromEvoke nose the A pillar rearwards. It’s forward that a visual difference is apparent; from the hawk eye headlight cluster above and framing the chin spoiler and re-profiled grille, to the Jaguar inspired fender vents and bonnet bulge. It has the effect of visually shortening the frontal look, handy with a vehicle just shy of five metres long (4919mm). The Calais has the addition of black chrome to the headlight inserts and LED DRLs (daytime running lights).
On The Road
Calais V wheelThe Evoke rides on 225/65 Bridgestone Turanza tyres wrapping 16 inch alloys and the Calais V is shod with 245/40/19s. The Calais has the firmer ride, not unexpectedly and a slightly heavier heft to the electrically assisted steering. Both tip into turns nicely, the Turanza tyres will scrabble for grip and squeal with protest on the Evoke but will provide front end grip and a touch of slip to the rear for the Calais; the traction control system is programmed for Aussie conditions, allowing some normal driving latitude before nanny mode cuts in.
There’s a distinct lack of wallowing over bumps, shopping centre entry bumps are dispatched with nary an afterthought and the lower profile rubber on the Calais transmits little in the way of noise and plenty in the way of what the road and car are doing. Steering is largely direct, there is a touch of vagueness on centre but the feel is of a communicative and well weighted setup. It shows some solid and sensible engineering, given the still too porky weight of the cars (including aluminuim bonnet) ranging from 1717kg to a whopping 1866kg for the Calais V.
The Wrap
Holden is Australian. It’s synonymous with our lifestyle, its cars have been developed for our conditions. Holden can also be, somewhat fairly, accused of hubris, in believing it was untouchable. Its big car line, the Commodore, is 35 years old, one of the country’s oldest continuing nameplates yet, at times, never seemed to advance hugely or be priced at a rate commensurate with its market share. It’s history now that Holden has undertaken a significant redevelopment of the aging VE platform and reduced prices in a possibly last ditch effort to stave off what many see as the inevitable. It’s worked, so far, with Commodore sales on a rise since the VF was released. The Evoke retails at $36990 + ORCs while the Calais V is down to $54990 + ORCs. In an environment where the Australian car industry is under threat yet we do make world class vehicles at a pretty decent price, these two stand out and moreso for the fact they’re wagons, a rarity in our overcrowded market and absolutely deserve a re-consideration for your drive.
http://www.holden.com.au/cars/commodore/sportwagon-range

Four-Legged Passengers

In one of my previous posts, I mentioned that having animals in the car was cited by one study as being in the top ten distractions involved in car accidents. So I thought this would be a good time to explore this a bit more. After all, most of us who have animals of some sort have to transport them in the car at some stage. There’s the annual trip to the vet for jabs, at the very least. You also get animals who like to ride in the car and want to accompany you on every outing possible.  And for some of us who live in more rural areas, you might even need or want to transport medium-sized livestock in the back of a vehicle.

So how do you go about doing this job safely so that you don’t become distracted and run the risk of having an accident? And how do you ensure that your animals travel safely?

7682656-alsatian-dog-in-back-seat-of-car-pet-transportationDogs are easy to deal with.  Most dogs like to ride in the car, as this usually means they’re going somewhere fun with you – picnics, the park, the beach and so forth… although most of them can somehow figure out if you’re planning a trip to somewhere they hate like the vet or the dog groomer. You can also buy safety harnesses for dogs so you can buckle them in safely – this is actually required by law in some parts of the USA.  Harnesses for larger dogs such as Labradors, Alsatians and bull terriers (plus bigger ones) are pretty straightforward. You put on the harness, which is kind of like a dog-sled harness but without the long straps and put a regular seat belt through straps in a harness. This allows the dog to curl up on the seat if it likes, or sit up and look out the window, while remaining safely restrained.  Harnesses for smaller dogs get a bit more fiddly, as the seatbelt is quite wide in proportion to the harness because of the size of dog wearing the harness. While it is tempting to let a little dog loose in the car, they might decide that where they want to be is on your lap staring out the window. Bad idea.

If you have a car with nice leather seats, you may not want the dog sitting on them and possibly scratching the leather (or chewing it, which is a lot worse). Seat covers may have to be the answer, but you could try what worked for our household and the leather-seated cars we’ve owned over the years – a 3-series BMW, a Saab and a Toyota Cressida (the latter being quite a few years ago!).  We had a Staffy (Staffordshire Bull Terrier) who could curl up happily on the floor of the car under the feet of the passengers. He usually stayed there for most of the journey quietly enough, only emerging and trying to sit on a passenger (who usually pushed him down again) when we got near our destination. Staffies are small enough to fit in the leg space and aren’t hyperactive yappy loonies, so this was possible. For longer journeys, we also had a travelling crate that sat in the middle of the back seat, being a handy way to (a) confine the dog where he could see out the window and (b) provide a barrier between the kids so they didn’t start hitting each other.

You can also put a dog in the boot of a station wagon or SUV, especially if there’s a barrier in place that stops the dog climbing or being thrown into the main passenger compartment. Your pooch can usually see out of the rear window, which they usually like.

You sometimes see farm dogs on the back of utes, standing on the deck.  If you do this, always chain the dog up on a short leash well away from the sides of the deck so he or she can’t jump or slide over the sides.

Never leave a dog in a car unattended on a sunny day, even as a safety device.  Dogs overheat easily and being left in the car can kill them very easily.  Don’t take the dog with you if you can’t let it out at your destination. If you are caught out and have to leave the dog in the car for a short period (e.g. stopping for the loo and finding there’s a queue; popping in to pick up takeaways), wind the window down a bit (not enough to let the dog escape, of course) and shade the front and rear windows. Or let the dog out and tether him/her somewhere safe.

The House Favourite Operates Machine.Cats are more of a problem. While I dare say that if I spent the time trawling the internet for hours, I’d find someone who made car harnesses for cats, I can’t see them being popular, given the general cussedness of cats. Some cats loathe cars and consider riding in the car to be a form of torture. Others like the car and enjoy a ride – a friend of mine has a cat that likes riding in cars so much that it will sneak into their neighbours’ cars through open windows or doors when nobody’s looking, emerging part way through the journey. Both are a nuisance and I should know, as I have one car-hating cat and one car-loving cat (the car lover got into the habit because it liked the sound of the little diesel Peugeot we once had). The car-hating cat needs to be put into a crate or it will go berserk inside the car, yowling, scratching and possibly pooping into the bargain.  In the crate, it will merely yowl, and that’s irritating enough to drivers. For long journeys by car with this sort of cat, talk to your vet about sleeping pills and tranquilisers… for the cat, not you.

Car loving cats are also a nuisance as they never stay put but try to explore the interior. They might be happy enough curling up on a nice sunny seat but they might also decide that the back of your neck or the top of the dashboard is the perfect place inside the car.  Even your car-loving cat will have to go into the crate. One bonus of having the car-loving cat in the crate alongside the car hater is that the presence of the unruffled car-lover will soothe and reassure the car-hater; at least that was the case for our cats, anyway.

Cats can also sneak into funny places in your car for a quiet sleep. Some have been known to sleep under wheel arches and inside the bonnet. Check your car for cats before driving. Ditto trailers.

goat-carLarger livestock (sheep and goats) can only go into the boot of a station wagon or larger SUV, or a crate on the deck of a ute. The crate on the ute is by far the better option.  Sheep poop when nervous, so if the stationwagon is your only option, put sacks down or you’ll have a horrible clean-up job.  Goats are fairly brainy and can learn to like riding in the car, especially if they learn that a trip in the car means that they’re going off on a very hot date. Experience speaking here – my folks kept a pair of female dairy goats and a wee visit in the Mitsubishi station wagon to someone with a horny billy goat was necessary from time to time so they’d produce milk.  Most small-scale dairy goat keepers will have to take the does off on trips in the car like this, as only serious goat farmers will keep a billy.  Rutting billy goats stink and this smell will cling to your doe on the way back and will rub off on the inside of your station wagon or SUV boot.  The smell will fade eventually, but a sacking lining might be a good idea. Goats can climb, so they may need to be restrained in the back or they may try jumping and climbing over the back to join you. Or just keep them occupied during the trip with a bucket of pellets.

A final warning regarding goats and cars is that you shouldn’t park the car near where the goat is tethered or she will climb all over it. Those sharp, sure-footed little hooves are hell on paintwork.

A Driverless Future?

It has come to my attention through the British press that a new scheme is beginning to take shape within the UK. A pilot scheme in the planned city of Milton Keynes is seeing the development of driverless cars that will ferry people around the city on planned trackways. It has been predicted that more and more of these will be brought into use over the next decade. Driverless cars have already been introduced at Heathrow airport for passengers in the high flying (see what I did there?) business class. This whole concept of driverless cars is fascinating, and having read up on the topic I believe the time has come for me to set forth unto the world my views on this issue.

Are driverless cars the future of the motoring world? Or are they more trouble than they are worth?

Driverless cars have been the talk of science-fiction for years; we dream of hopping into our car and being driven to where we want to go. Sometimes this has involved talking cars, Knight Rider for example, or maybe even cars that ‘have a heart’ in the form of the loveable Beetle Herbie. However, I am just going to put it out there, speaking as a driver, I am not sure I really want that. Technology is moving at such a pace these days that before we know it, the human input will have been lost altogether.

I am fully aware that the margin for error when it comes to human control is giganto-normous (another new word courtesy of me). But then again, it is not like computer technology itself is perfect. I have seen too many times a computer crashing for no apparent reason, losing me many hours of work that is not always recovered… So do not go telling me that computers are perfect and do not go wrong. Let’s be honest here, if a driverless car shuts down mid-journey, there would be nothing to do but await your fate, whereas human error in many cases is instantly correctable.

This went so well last time...

This went so well last time…

I would like to draw your attention to the example of Jurassic Park. The cars used in the park were completely driverless and controlled by computers. As pointed out, the headlights stopped responding quite early on into the tour, which should have been warning sign number one. But then, as I just said, when the entire computer system crashes, the cars are stranded by the T-Rex paddock and are then totally ripped apart by the tiny armed beast that is the T-Rex. Maybe we should take this film as a warning for the future. Maybe it is a foretelling the future of humans and our machines.

As I have previously stated, in the UK these driverless machines are already in use at Heathrow airport, but only for the select special few with the economic means to afford them. I will be the first to admit that this is a neat little idea to have tiny pod cars taking you from one place to another within a defined territory. I would love a go in one of these pods, but I would see it as nothing more than a novelty as opposed to the next step forward in motoring.

In the case of Milton Keynes, the cars will run on defined track ways across the city. This comes as part of a proposed plan to ease traffic and congestion. Similarly, in the USA Google have been given a mountain of money to investigate the effectiveness of driverless technology to explode into the public sector. One of my main concerns is not with the pods themselves, in fact it is more of a conceptual thing. If the cars are taking people from one place to another on defined track ways, surely they have stopped becoming cars and have transformed into another version of public transport. Surely they are becoming a mixture of a bus and a train. Is that really a car?

The proposed designs for the new driverless cars in the UK

The proposed designs for the new driverless cars in the UK

Furthermore, these pods appear to only hold one person at a time – will that not be of great cost to the taxpayer (I mean, who else is it going to be charged to if we are honest). Would it not make sense to have cars to fit multiple people? Or is my logic just too well thought out for the British government to think it is a good idea? My final issue with the concept of the driverless car is one of love. By this, I mean that I love driving and everything that it involves. I know humanity is on a quest for ultimate safety in all that we do, but that does take a lot of the fun out of it. I am not afraid to say that I like the fact that we are not perfect; I like the fact that we make mistakes every now and again, i like the fact we all have a chance to show our individuality. If we are all destined for a future of driverless cars, where will the imagination go? Where will the personality go? It is estimated by 2050 that all production cars will have ceased to be using the combustion engine. If we are going to lose the majesty of the V8 for example, let us at least keep the joy of driving for US not the computers.

I am all for the idea of incorporating driverless cars into society. But please, keep it in a contained context. The way it works at Heathrow is great. This proposed plan for city travel in Milton Keynes is forward thinking and quite brilliant. And I know that the motoring world is trying to keep up with the rate of change in technology but please, no more. For the future of motoring as we know it, do not be afraid to speak your mind! Let us preserve what we all love.

…after all, we do not want to be eaten by a T-Rex now do we?

Keep Driving People!

Follow me on Twitter: @lewisglynn69

Peace and Love!