Archive for August, 2014
Toyota has built its name on reliability and offering a car for the right segment. The Land Cruiser, Corolla and, lately, the 86. Some time ago it created a new market by releasing the RAV4. There’s now 4 models in Toyota’s SUV range: Land Cruiser, Prado, RAV 4 and Kluger, a range released just over ten years ago. It’s gone from being a medium sized vehicle to one almost as large, in all dimensions, as the Land Cruiser. With four distinct vehicles to choose from across quite a few variations, just WHERE does the Kluger fit in, especially the GXL AWD A Wheel Thing tested for a week? Updated and released to the Aussie market in March of 2014, it’s an evolution of the previous model yet it’d be hard pressed to be recognised as the great grandchild of the original.
Toyota have thrown a 3.5L petrol powered V6 under the acre sized bonnet of the current model Kluger. There’s 201kW and 337 Nm of torque on offer; however it’s got to move a 2020kg (sans passengers and fuel) vehicle that’s 4.8 metres long, just over 1.9 metres in total width and 1.73 metres in height. As a result, fuel economy is not great, call it 12L/100 kilometres from a 72 litre tank as an average. Around town it slurped harder than a shearer on a beer after a hard day in the paddock. The issue is not the torque, it’s WHERE that maximum figure comes in, a stupidly high 4700 revs. This means the engine is working harder at lower revs to get and keep the bulk moving. There’s no diesel offered for the Kluger either, consider that when you’re shopping for a people moving SUV…it’s mated to a six speed auto, the only transmission available, plus the GXL comes with either a two wheel drive (front driven) or, in this case, an all wheel drive setup that is part time but can be locked. There’s descent control fitted as well, which all works well enough however the Kluger seems to slot into the rarely and barely used for off roading segment. The auto is smooth, silky smooth; with low throttle applications the change is barely perceptible and it’s only by the flick of the rev counter’s needle that you know something’s changed.
Of recent times, there seems to have been a push back to blunt, vertical noses for SUVs. Although this may seem non aerodynamic (and could very well be), there’s other tricks designers and engineers apply to try and make a brick on wheels a bit more slippery. There’s some extension to the headlight and taillight structure, to divert and bend airflow. There’s a rake to the rear window line, the headlight cluster is swept back into the fenders, with a front on view giving some idea of how the aero has changed for the 2014 Kluger.The taillights flow though into the tailgate (non electrically operated in the GXL). The grille is taller than the outgoing model whilst each and and the wheel arches have tough polyurethane shrouding. The GXL came with tidy 18 inch alloys, shod with 245/60 Michelin Latitude rubber.
On The Inside.
It’s a leather look and plastic interior, setup for five seats with two hidden in the rear cargo section. The rear seats are configured for slide and tilt to give a completely flat load surface and there’s also rear seat aircon controls and vents. It’s typical Toyota ease of use and sensibility. Then we look at the dash and wonder how the styling could be so….unusual; there’s a double fold to the top of the dash with one surface coming from the passenger airbag and vent before disappearing behind the second surface, the dash binnacle, which runs across through the centre and across the audio block. Squeezed in between and not altogether harmoniously, there’s a clock whilst lower down, the plugs for the USB and auxiliary inputs are almost inaccessible and hidden from view. Front aircon controls are sensibly laid out however the touchscreen surrounds look and feel low rent. It sits above another storage section that’s deep and big enough for mobile phones and sweeps across to the passenger side air vent. Audio quality was good, with nice depth, clarity and separation. The dash dials have a standard look to them however the info screen tucked in between them seemed to lack the option to show the velocity. The tiller is comfortable to hold and has the now almost mandatory assortment of buttons for audio, Bluetooth etc. The seats themselves are reasonably comfortable, have a good measure of under thigh support and at the front they bracket a rather large storage console. It’s deep enough to hold bottles or a handbag which gives a subtle clue as to the Kluger’s target market.
Nowhere near as lumbering as its big brother, the Land Cruiser, the Kluger is quite agile, belying its size. Of immediate note, though, was the thump from the front suspension as the Kluger goes over one of the larger school sized speed humps at low velocity, sounding as if the strut towers were being pulled out. Although there’s little free play in the steering rack, it still requires a bit of turn for it to bit and send the front wheels where you want them. Once loaded up there’s some nice bite, some good feedback and tight response, with the front end going where you point and the rear follows faithfully, like a well trained pup. The suspension settings are taut initially, rolling smoothly into a good level of compliance and there’s little of concern body roll wise as it corners nice and flat. Acceleration is decent, at the cost of fuel consumption but stopping the 2000 kilo plus Kluger wasn’t always confidence inspiring. The pedal seemed long and lacked true bite, with a number of not so quick stops feeling as if the car in front was about to have a Kluger in the boot. The GXL came loaded with a locking diff and hill descent control as well but it’s not, in A Wheel Thing’s opinion, the vehicle people would use for anything other than a bit of gravel work.
It’s a crowded market that this new Kluger comes into, with SUV offerings from almost every major manufacturer. Toyota’s off road heritage is well known, its reputation almost unbreakable and they stand as the company effectively responsible (or blameworthy, in some eyes) for the SUV market. With around a half dozen Kluger variants available, in three trim levels and two or four wheel drive configurations, it covers the bases. However, its size and price points, compared to its opposition, plus its thirst and lack of a diesel variant, has A Wheel Thing questioning the relevance of the Kluger. There’s cheaper, more suitable soft and off roaders, Jeep has announced a diesel engine for one of its range, Hyundai’s Sante Fe and Kia’s Sorento offer the same seating configuration options and a better looking interior in a more compact body without sacrificing room or comfort. If you want a big, proper offroader, you buy a Land Cruiser or Patrol. If you don’t need something that big and don’t ned to go offroad there’s plenty to choose from. Then there’s the dollars. The GX 2WD starts at just shy of $41000, the GXL AWD is nearly $54K and then there’s the onroad costs… As dynamically good it is for such a big vehicle, I was left wondering which round hole this peg is meant to fill.
For info: http://www.toyota.com.au/kluger/specifications/gxl-awd-7-seat-suv?WT.ac=VH_Kluger_RangeAndSpecs_RangeBanner_GXLAWD_Specs
Car: Toyota Kluger GXL AWD.
Engine: 3.5L V6.
Fuel/Tank: Unleaded, 91 RON, 72 litres.
Power/Torque: 201kW @ 6200rpm, 337Nm @ 4700rpm.
Fuel Consumption (claimed): 10.6L/100km combined, 14.4L/100km urban, 8.4L/100km highway.
Transmission: six speed automatic.
Weight: (dry) 2020kg, (gross) 2740kg.
Towing: 2000kg (braked), 700kg (unbraked).
Warranty: 3 years/100000 kilometres, whichever occurs first.
Seating: seven, third row flush with floor, middle row 60/40 split fold.
Cargo: (all seats up) 195L, (third row folded) 529L, (all folded) 1872L
Dimensions, L x W x H (mm): 4865 x 1965 x 1730.
Wheelbase (mm): 2790.
Tyres/Wheels: 245/60 on 18 inch diameter alloys.
Off road approach/departure: 18/23.1degrees.
In a supercar world populated by names such as Lamborghini, Bentley, Pagani etc, it’s notable that the countries these wonderful car brands come from don’t include Australia. However, since 1998, there’s one bloke that’s been trying to change this; Matt Thomas. What’s important about this, though, is that Matt’s journey is not a pipedream, it’s one that’s involved people that have the highest level of experience in Formula 1, Le Mans, V8 Supercars and more. Matt, himself, has a Bachelor of Arts in Industrial Design and started his working life as an automotive design modeller. His clients include Bentley, Jaguar, Aston Martin and the Stewart Grand Prix F1 team.
The project? The JOSS JP1 Track Car. There’s some powerful specifications to go with it: 5.0L all alloy V8 engine, with the aim of extracting 420 kilowatts and 520 Newton Metres of torque plus a maximum rev limit of 8000 rpm, Albins transaxle, carbon composite body with a kerb weight of just 900kg, with an anticipated zero to one hundred kilometre per hour time of 2.8 seconds before reaching a top speed of 340 km/h. Added to the recipe are the design elements of a slippery body, mid mounted engine behind a two seat configurtion, a smaller frontal area than Bugatti’s Veyron, lesser CO2 emissions plus better fuel economy and potential G forces of 1.2G laterally. The car itself is a development of the JT1, the test “mule” from 2004. Launched to great fanfare at the Melbourne Motor Show, the accolades soon rolled in:
“There is no reason Australia can’t be competitive in Supercars.World class capability already exists in automotive design, engineering, development, testing and production. Unlike mass market vehicles, low production volumes, high labour costs, the “high dollar”, and a small domestic market are largely irrelevant.In the wake of decisions to leave Australia by the mass market automobile manufacturers, JOSS is an exciting Australian start-up with global appeal.” – Gavin Smith, President, Robert Bosch (Australia) Pty Ltd.
“The JOSS project shows innovation, engineering excellence and a true belief that Australia can compete on a global scale. We wish the team the best of luck and look forward to working with JOSS in utilising as many Australian suppliers and capability as possible.” – Richard Reilly, CEO, FAPM.
The JOSS JT1 was a 400bhp, alloy headed V8 powered vehicle, built around a steel space frame chassis and weighed 948kg. It rolled on ultra sticky and low profile 18 inch Pirelli tyres, had a Porsche five speed transaxle transmission and powered through to 100 km/h in three seconds on the way to covering the quarter mile in just 11.7 seconds. That test car has given the JOSS development team plenty to work with and the JP1 is intended to be further developed to comply with the U.K.’s small manufacturer compliance regulations; with an initial run of five vehicles to kick things off as a Track Special, (allowing the owners to sample the ability and agility of the JP1) the investments in these first five will then use the aforementioned U.K. regulations as a stepping stone to the European market.
Matt and the team are using the ever increasing in popularity crowd funding platform to complete the first JP1; the design specs and engineering parameters are locked away, it’s simply a matter of the requisite funds being found to complete the project and then further develop the JOSS JP1 into a road legal range of vehicles. A Wheel Thing is proud to be associated with this project and asks that you join this innovative Australian company on its journey to build a genuine Aussie Supercar.
For further details on the project: www.joss.com.au and to contribute to the project, click here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jossjp1/joss-jp1-supercar-a-new-innovative-performance-bra
OK, so in my last post, I mentioned how one goes about harnessing the waste heat from your car engine to cook your dinner. While just mentioning the how-tos is enough for some cooks, other folk might need more than just a bit of inspiration. Some people prefer to have it down in black in white in front of them. So, without further ado, here are a handful of recipes for cooking on your car engine. Just don’t forget the golden rules of wrapping everything very thoroughly in tinfoil and making sure that the wire you use to strap your tinfoil packets in place on your engine block doesn’t interfere with any moving parts.
I haven’t given cooking times in these recipes, as individual results will depend on (a) your car engine, (b) how fast you’re driving and (c) how hot a day it is.
Chop pieces of suitable veggies into chunks about 4 cm x 4 cm by 10 cm (but there’s no need to be too precise. Toss in a wee bit of cooking oil then sprinkle with salt and maybe a few herbs (rosemary, oregano or thyme) before wrapping in the tinfoil. Suitable veggies include pumpkin, parsnip, beetroot, onion, potato, sweet potato, swede, zucchini and carrot. You can put them in separate packets if you have too many to fit in a pack that stays together.
Long-haul pot roast
This requires a drive of 200+ km, so try this one next time you’re driving interstate. Take a decent chunk of meat (1 kg or more): beef, pork or mutton. In an ice cream container or something else that will fit your meat, combine 1 cup red wine, 2 cloves crushed garlic, a couple of sprigs of rosemary plus salt and pepper to taste. Dunk the meat in the mixture and roll it about until the meat is coated. Cover the container and leave it in the fridge overnight. Before you set off, take the meat out of the marinade and wrap it up in the tinfoil. Discard the marinade. Halfway through your drive, stop and flip the packet of meat over so it cooks evenly.
Chicken wings a la Porsche Cayenne
Get about half a dozen chicken wings and coat them lightly in oil (not too much or you risk it dripping out of the tinfoil and starting a fire that will be really hard to explain to the insurance company). Mix up a bit of cayenne pepper (or chilli powder), dried oregano, chopped garlic and salt, plus enough paprika to get enough to coat the wings. You can also use pre-prepared seasoning mixes from your local supermarket if you want to try a different flavour. Wrap up the wings, either individually or as a packet.
Got to have dessert in there somewhere! Use large, firm apples (e.g. Granny Smith). Remove the core so there’s a hollow down the middle of the apple. Combine sultanas, cinnamon and sugar. Stuff the hollow with the cinnamon, sugar and sultana mix. Wrap up really well individually in the foil. This also works with other firm pipfruit such as pears and quinces.
This BBQ favourite works best for short journeys. Leave the bananas in the skin and cut a slit in them lengthwise. Insert chocolate chips or chunks of chocolate. Possibly slip in a few marshmallows. Wrap firmly.
Dashboard Pain au Chocolat
This doesn’t involve the engine but is too good to leave out. We all know that chocolate melts if left on the dashboard in the hot sun, so make the most of it. Get some plain croissants from the bakery and heaps of dark chocolate. Chop up or grate the chocolate and add it liberally to the croissants. Wrap in clingfilm, baking paper or foil. Place on dashboard of the car and wait until the chocolate melts.
Happy driving (and cooking!)
In a recent article, David Addison described the ‘Modern era of the BTCC‘ as the best that it has ever been. He argues that the modern championship boasts packed grids, close racing and a comprehensive television package that blows away any competition from the past. The 2014 season has indeed seen a total reinvention of the championship with the new NGTC regulations coming into force, which has evolved the very nature of the BTCC. This year in particular has seen 7 past champions get behind the wheel and battle against some rising stars in the motorsport universe. Mr Addison really does make a strong case when he talks about the media coverage of the BTCC; with the exception of F1 there are very few sports that dedicate entire days of television scheduling to one event. Not only are all three races shown live on race day, but the entire BTC support package is shown to the public.
It is at this juncture that my agreement with David Addison comes to a very abrupt end. I have been a fan of the BTCC my entire life; growing up in the 1990s in the backdrop of the Super Touring era was one of the most most exciting childhoods I could ever have asked for. No other motorsport could come close to the British Touring Cars in my eyes. I have been watching the BTCC every year across the various rule changes and I am offended to hear that someone honestly believes that the modern championship is the best the BTCC has ever been. We have approached near enough the midway part of the 2014 season and I find myself rapidly losing interest in the BTCC. Considering the sport is meant to be the best its ever been, how can this be possible? Let’s break this down.
Packed Grids and Close Racing?
Considering the clear negative tone that is already in abundance in this article, I will admit that a packed 31 car grid has been somewhat exciting this year. Throughout much of the 2000s the field was even struggling to boast a field that hit double figures. My favourite was the beginning of the 2001 season where there were often as little as 6 cars taking the start line. Thrilling. With 31 cars on the track it means there is always something going on and spectators never have to stare at an empty bit of tarmac.
Next on the list is this close racing that makes the BTCC better than ever before. Maybe this is just me but the racing this year is no closer than it has ever been before. Especially when it comes to the front of the field. Last year I would often predict the top 5 finishers before the race had even happened. It was always a case of Honda Honda BMW MG Honda in some order or another. One of the perks of the NGTC was meant to be that the cars would become more equal. And yet this year nothing really has changed. Race after race it will be a selection of Honda, MG or BMW charging off into the distance and that will be the way of things.
Unrivalled Media Coverage
This does bring me on ever so fluidly to this claim that the media coverage of the BTCC is second to none. Let us remember that I do not possess the vast riches nor the free time to frequent every race meeting. Consequentially it must mean that I must watch most of the races on the traditional medium that is the television. Once more it is at this point that we hit another problem. Throughout the 90s, the television coverage would not only show the battles up the front, but the racing all the way down to the bottom places. As a result, if the modern era was the best it has ever been, then the television viewer would at the very least have this same access. That would be the logical thought anyway. In fact, if it truly was the greatest I would expect a red button style access to cameras showing every position from first down to last.
Alas, it seems this message was lost by the grand powers of ITV. In reality, all we are left with is full footage of the top five positions which is inevitably a festival of laborious boredom. The only time the top positions seem to get mixed up is in the final race when finally some other people get a shot at glory. But seriously, at the last few meetings I have had to sit through 30 minutes of processional driving with a few drivers blasting off into the distance while all the action happens behind; not that we can see any of it because apparently the cameras only care about the Hondas, BMWs and MGs.
A good anecdote here goes back to the very first meeting of the year at Brands Hatch. I was lucky enough to attend that meeting and I thoroughly enjoyed the racing. But speaking to my friends who watched it on TV, they claimed that the racing was utterly boring and processional. And they were right, considering all they were subjected to was the front of the field. The geniuses at the ITV camera department managed to miss, for example, the epic drive of touring car legend Alain Menu from the back of the grid to 17th in race 2 and then 5th in race 3. Yes Mr Addison, the media coverage is just so good it managed to miss some of the best battles this year. Just the greatest.
Better Quality of Racing?
Over the last few years, the BTCC has been slated as becoming too much of a contact sport, where places are gained through forcing the car in front off the track into the nearest wall. Of course throughout the golden years there was definitely no shortage of panel bashing, but as with alcohol consumption, everything in moderation kids! And some of the time this panel bashing was nothing more than a racing incident or the odd cheeky move. But when a driver essentially gets bored of being behind the car in front and gets past by nerfing him off the track and into the grave, that is just not right.
One solution to this problem is to introduce harsher penalties similar to that of F1. And with that the sport has started to descend into a dark chasm of sadness and despair. As some of you may know by now, my reasons for my dislike of F1 are down in the most part to the such high emphasis placed on politics and complaining. It has come to the point where the list of penalties may as well be read as a novel, with such colossal idiocy as track limits. I know the sport is trying to save money but surely not letting the cars touch the grass or the run off areas to save money on a lawnmower is a tad excessive. We appear to have gone from one annoyance extreme to another. It cannot be that difficult to find a good middle ground.
And of course we cannot forget the complaining that has befouled my ears this year. Yes Jason Plato I am looking at you. The debate surrounding RWD this year has become so predictable it borders on motorsport cliche. As much as the NGTC regulations are meant to bring everyone down to a level playing field there is always going to be some cars with certain advantages over others. In the 90s the RWD were given weight penalties and that was the end of it. Why can we not just do that now? But seemingly whatever happens as soon as the RWD cars do well people like Mr Plato begin their moaning once more.
If the RWD cars were truly at such an advantage then surely all of them would be miles up the front. However, last time I checked it was only really Colin Turkington who was consistently in the top 3. This is Colin Turkington, a highly successful past champion of the sport. Might this just be because he is a talented driver who deserves good results? I don’t see Rob Collard, Nick Foster and Rob Austin up the front. Can we not just go back to a time where the main focus was the racing? One of the reasons I loved the BTCC so much in comparison to F1 was the lack of politics. As it stands it is becoming just as bad.
I never thought I would see the day where I am writing an article that massively criticizes my favourite motorsport. Alas I am becoming more worried that the BTCC has been trying so hard to reinvent itself and become something amazing that it has now started on a downhill slope. One of the many guidelines that shows me through life is the ‘Not Trying’ rule. The harder you try to do something, the less successful it often turns out to be. If Alan Gow and the BTCC organisers stop doing all they can to make the ultimate tin top sport and just let the BTCC evolve naturally then maybe I will finally be able to agree with Mr Addison. David Addison said that constantly looking back into the past will give you a sore neck, but I would rather have a sore neck and satisfied senses than be falling asleep at the wheel.
I am forever a child of the 90s, and to me it is still the number one era for touring cars.
Keep Driving People!
Follow me on Twitter @lewisglynn69
Peace and Love!
Car engines produce a lot of waste heat. It’s one of the basic laws of thermodynamics that energy will change from one form to another, and as not all the chemical potential energy in the petrol or diesel that you put into your tank gets turned into kinetic (motion) energy. Some becomes sound energy and some becomes heat energy. In the normal course of things, a lot of this heat energy gets wasted.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can do something useful with that heat. The most common thing that people do with this head is using it to heat the inside of the car. But you can also use that heat produced by your engine to cook a meal. They say that this is as old as the internal combustion engine, and it’s probably older than that, as I guess the drivers of steam trains probably boiled a kettle or baked spuds on the fire that boiled the water to power the train. Heck, the hordes of Genghis Khan used to shove a steak under the saddle while galloping across the steppes, meaning that it was nice and tender and ready to eat come the end of the day (but they ate raw meat).
I will have to say at the outset that I haven’t actually tried this – yet. There have certainly been moments, though, when it’s been tempting, especially on those hectic days when there’s a billion things to do and pick up, lots of driving to do and a potluck dinner to get to.
You have to pick the right sort of thing to cook. It has to be something that isn’t too big and that can be cooked adequately while wrapped up in tinfoil. Good old sausages work well. So do whole fish and corn on the cob. You could possibly give chicken drums a go, but you’d have to have a long drive to make sure that they’re cooked adequately.
You have to wrap what you’re cooking up thoroughly in tinfoil to stop any fumes getting into your food and tainting it. While some smoky flavours are delicious and desirable, petrol and diesel smoke isn’t quite so tasty. The other thing is that you don’t want the juices from your food getting into your engine and stuffing it up. So use several layers of tinfoil.
You will need to secure your tightly wrapped package to the engine block so you don’t lose your dinner when you hit a bump. Use metal wire. Don’t let your packet interfere with any moving parts.
Here’s a sample fish recipe to get you started.
- 1 medium sized fish, cleaned and scaled
- oil or butter
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 or 2 carrots, cut into rounds or julienne strips
- mushrooms (as many as you like), washed
- tabasco sauce, lemon wedges and chopped parsley to serve
Place the fish on several layers of tinfoil. Lightly coat the fish inside and out with oil or butter, then season with salt and pepper. Arrange the sliced carrots and mushrooms around and on top of the fish. Wrap very securely in the tinfoil and secure the package to the engine block.
Drive home for half an hour or so. Every time you get stuck at a busy intersection, console yourself with how the extra cooking time will make the fish beautifully tender. When you get home, remove the packet from the engine block. For goodness sake, protect your hands. Peek inside the packet and check that the flesh of the fish is white and flaky. If it is, your fish is cooked! Enjoy your dinner with all the garnishes and sauces.
There are tons of websites and books on this topic if you have a look around. Engine block cooking is bound to appeal to those pushed for time, those with a taste for survival techniques and those who have a bit of a thrifty streak to them.
Australian tv broadcast, in the mid 1970s, a program called Aunty Jack. The spoken theme song featured the lyrical lines: “Though you’re ten feet tall” and “You’re big, bold and tough”, lines appropriate for Toyota’s evergreen behemoth Land Cruiser. The Sahara sits at the top of the Land Cruiser family tree, complete with brawny 4.6L petrol V8 (or 4.5L V8 diesel), DVD player and the legendary off road capability, backed up with some hidden modern tech. Is the legend still legendary? A Wheel Thing took the beast bush to find out.
The numbers look good with 227kw @5500 rpm while max torque is 439Nm @3400. These numbers don’t: 2665 followed by kilograms. Then there’s 13.6/18.4/10.9L per 100 kilometres of travel for combined/urban/highway. Although a double over head cam and alloy head setup is in situ, sitting underneath is an old school iron block. It’s a mix of good and not so. Transmission is a six speed auto, a fluid and smooth shifter.
If one were to put the current 200 series ‘Cruiser next to the original from the ’50s, there’d be little to draw a line of resemblance from then until now, yet, throughout its evolution, Toyota’s design team has managed to keep the new model close to the one or two before. The 80 series launched the rounded, organic look to be found in the 200 series, ditching the rectangular dual headlight for a more squared off style in the 100 series and returning to a integrated dual setup plus sunbright LED DRLs as a base for the assembly in the 200. The rear of the Sahara shows off a horizontal split rear door, upper half electrically activated via the keyfob and a soft fall mechanism for the lower. It’s the edgy, somewhat protuberant, tail light extension that shows the move from the slimline and integrated set found in the 80/100 series. Front and rear, under the bumpers, can be found four tow hook mounting points. In profile, the extended, smooth wheel arches bracket a subtle crease at door’s base, highlighted by a chrome strip. There’s sidesteps, front and rear mounted cameras for parking assistance, tilting wing mirrors when reversing and chunky bumpers front and rear. Toyota have stayed with the ladder chassis for the ‘Cruiser, which goes somewhat to explaining the weight of the vehicle. Size? Huge. Call it five metres long, with cose to two metres total width and 1.9 in height. Maximum wading depth is rated at 70 cm and approach/departure angles are thirty and twenty degrees respectively
On The Inside.
Unsurprisingly, there’s more room on the inside than the TARDIS….almost. A full five seater, complete with fold out seats in the cavernous cargo section to make it an eight seater, a centre console coolbox, leather clad heated/vented front seats (via two push and twirl knobs front left of the gear lever), full rear aircon with roof vents, roof mounted DVD screen (player is in the front console), touchscreen navitainment with AM/FM/DAB, sunroof, electric steering column and memory seating. There’s a flourish from the dash LCD screen on startup with a big Land Cruiser logo coming up in stylised silver grey and blue back lit Land Cruiser logos in the front door sills.
The radio screen is somewhat busy, suffering from a messy layout and the map screen refused to stay away for more than ten seconds after the audio buton was pressed. Annoying, also, is the procedure to access audio for the DVD then have music for the non headphone wearing passengers. It’s a multistep and complicated process, plus the audio through the speakers doesn’t shut off once the vehicle’s transmission is put into Drive. Safety fail. The digital receiver provides crsip clear sound, however is still limited by the DAB broadcast range.
The third row seating is folded up to the sides, allowing plenty of floor and cargo space, but they do rattle over the slightest of bumps.
There’s a mix of woodgrain and piano black plastics at the front, a comfortable mix however the impression is anything but yelling luxury. Sure, the seats are comfortable and supportive, allowing the body to feel rested rather than exhausted after a trip, the overall ambience just doesn’t feel luxury like. As is the norm nowadays, there’s airbags everywhere, Bluetooth, USB and auxiliary inputs.
On the Road.
The Sahara rolls on 18 inch wheels, not huge, however the rubber is. 285 width and sixty profile allows for both plenty of footprint and sidewall flex, contributing to the quality ride, almost wafting along, despatching small bumps and undulations to the Do Not Care bin. Until you wish to turn, that is. Plenty of planning is required, as the steering ratio allows some latitude before the front end barges its way through a turn, feeling the sideways flex somewhat when pushed. Planning is also required for stopping; with some 3000 kilos of mass the brakes do a reasonable job in hauling up the beast, but there’s not a lot of alacrity in doing so.
Off road, well, I have to say the feel was skittish, uncertain, on the track used (in New South Wales, the track to the Glowworm Tunnel, east of Lithgow), with the surface a hard,compacted gravel/clay mix. The ‘Cruiser was prone to tramlining at moderate speed, requiring constant monitoring of the handling. I never felt 100% certain of where the car was going but, once into proper off road sections and in low range using the grunt of the engine and the technology, it all came together. Until one particular unassuming part of puddled road had the ‘Cruiser stuck on its chassis. A wait of twenty minutes until one bloke stopped, tried his snatch strap, tried his chain, neither worked. A second group showed and both used their winches. A heartfelt thank you, gents.
It’s a big vehicle and it comes with a big thirst, with an average of around 18L/100km. No wonder the primary tank is 93 litres and the auxiliary is over 40L. It’s a big cost, with over $122K (driveaway) attached to the Sahara name plate. There’s plenty of manners on road and there’s little to doubt in regards to its off road credibility. For me, the Sahara Land Cruiser is somewhat out of place; the interior isn’t particularly luxurious, the off road ability it possesses is largely shared by its lesser (and cheaper) brethren, plus they’d be more likely to be used in a dirt environment. There’s also little doubt that the Sahara does have a market, someone like the better financed farmer that needs something capable of handling a soggy paddock without a thought but doesn’t need the interior of, say, a Range Rover or a well to do family in suburbia that isn’t ostentatious, eschewing a BMW or M-B four wheel drive.
It IS, however, a nameplate that has survived over sixty years and one that Toyota is rightly proud of.
Go here: http://www.toyota.com.au/landcruiser-200#lc200-flythrough for details.
Range: Toyota Land Cruiser Sahara.
Engine: 4.6L petrol V8, 4.5L diesel V8 (option).
Power/Torque: 227kW @5500 rpm, 439Nm @ 3400rpm (petrol).
Fuel: 91RON petrol.
Tank: 93L (main), 45L (auxiliary).
Fuel Consumption: 13.6L/100km Combined, 10.9L/100km Highway, 18.4L/100km Urban.
Weight: 2665kg dry, gross vehicle mass 3300kg.
Dimensions: 4990mm x 1970mm x 1905mm (Length, width, height).
Off road specifications: wading depth 700mm, approach angle @ 30 degrees, departure angle @ 20 degrees.
Cargo volume: 1276L.
Warranty: Three years/100, 000 kms (whichever comes first).
Safety: airbags for front passengers, (front, knee and side), curtain airbags (front, mid, rear seats).
It’s a rare but welcome occasion when A Wheel Thing is able to do a “back to back” of two vehicles of the same class from the same manufacturer. Jeep’s solidly revamped Cherokee is a four model range and A Wheel Thing has backed up the entry level Sport against the top of the tree Trailhawk.
Jeep has lobbed a 2.4L four cylinder and 3.2L V6 at the Cherokee; the Sport’s alloy block four (only available in the Sport and somewhat of a misnomer calling it that) pumps 130kW and 229Nm of torque versus the 200kW and 316Nm from the Longitude/Limited/Trailhawk trio. All four get the new nine speed automatic gearbox (no manual options at all) and no paddle shift option either, except only offering a sports shift via the gear lever. Fuel economy is quoted as 8.3L/100km (combined) for the Sport and 10.0L/km (combined) for the Trailhawk. However, as very few would take advantage of the off road capabilities, it’s the urban figure that’s scary: 11.6L and 13.9L. For vehicles that weigh 1600 odd kilos and a curious (as in what adds the extra over the other two off road capable) 1936 kilos, with a nine ratio transmission, these figures are troubling.
Compared to previous Cherokees, the current models are almost unrecognisable. Take away the traditional seven bar grille and it’s going to be hard to tell it’s a Jeep. Since the vehicles were released, the big talking point has been the exterior design and, in particular, the nose. In the interests of aerodynamics and pedestrian safety, it’s a long, sleek, laid back design, punctuated by the indicator and LED daytime running lights mounted in an almost eyebrow like cluster, with the headlights reduced in size and placed mid point between bonnet (blackout decal on Trailhawk) and lower bumper. The Sport has plastic inserts where the Trailhawk has the more familiar globes for driving. The Trailhawk also has reprofiled front and rear lower bumpers to allow for better approach and departure angles (29.9 and 32.2 degrees) when offroading, plus sits 36mm higher than the other three. The Sport rides on 225/60/17s and Trailhawk on 245/65/17s.
In profile, the Cherokee has a smooth, rounded, organic look, somewhat akin to Hyundai’s Santa Fe from a couple of years ago and at the rear, that resemblance continues, with the taillight clusters of a similar rounded shape. The reverse camera for the Trailhawk is integrated into the rear door however the Sport seems to have it tacked on to the bottom of the door, almost as an afterthought. A simple yet effective touch is an exterior downlight mounted under each of the exterior wing mirrors. Under the skin the Cherokee has a redesigned body utilising high strength steel, providing a better torsional stiffness rating. Combined with new suspension and a nifty frequency sensitive shock absorber system plus speed sensitive electric steering, there’s some great hidden technology.
On The Inside.
Both the Sport and Trailhawk offer five seats, with comfortable and, importantly, supportive seating. The Sport has a mix of dark and light cloth, the Trailhawk beautifully styled leather (with a tastefully embossed Trailhawk at the top), with the addition of a storage locker underneath the front passenger’s backside. All models get soft touch, padded, leather look plastic dashes including stitching. The rear seats are tumble fold plus slide, adding to the reasonable cargo space, which also cops a cargo blind and chiller shopping bag. Ergonomically the Trailhawk is identical to the Sport, with the oddly angled, dust gathering, USB/SD card slots in the front console but at least both have the second USB in the centre console storage plus a second 12V socket. In a nice little nod to history, the blackout for the front window strip, right in the centre, has a graphic of the iconic car that started the Jeep history. Just in behind that is a storage space, ideal for a small smartphone.
Ignition is done via an electronic key, placed into the slot just to the left of the steering column and the Trailhawk has an added kick, with remote start. Two presses of a button locks the doors and fires up the V6, with the key needing to be in the slot in order to unlock the gear lever. A highlight is the electric tailgate; I’ve tested other cars with the same feature and they’ve had issues. The Trailhawk’s worked every time. Every time. There’s multiple redundancy with this, with a button in the driver’s area and one inside the cargo area as well.
The Sport has a five inch touchscreen (navigation and audio), the Trailhawk a more readable eight, with another ergonomic flaw for both. It makes sense, especially when (in the case of the Sport) there’s no steering wheel mounted controls, to have the the audio dials as close as possible to the screen (as technology has changed to using this form), not inches below that and at a level forcing the driver to lower their eyeline. Although the Trailhawk has a larger screen and fills the console more, it also has the dials lower than where sensible ergonomics should have them. Speaking of the tiller, both feature a good and chunky wheel, allowing a firm grip. The Sport, however, has a tilted wheel to an extraordinary degree, with an extended reach required to touch the top versus a compacted and somewhat uncomfortable hold for the bottom. Tech wise, the Trailhawk comes with collision avoidance, park assist, lane change and blind spot warning and more.
Ahead of the driver, the Trailhawk presents a beautiful LCD screen, with information accessed via a four arrow button setup on the tiller. It’s a metallic silver colour, with information covering oil/water temperatures, tyre pressures and more. The fuel gauge is a strip based down on the lower right hand side and looks like the old mechanical strips of the seventies. The Sport has a more restrained screen, more of a bar by bar setup, but still effective.
2.4L four cylinder, 3.2L six cylinder and nine ratio automatic transmission. Guess which combination works better? Yup, the torque of the V6 seems to be more of a match for the auto, shifting crisper and smoother more often. That’s not to say it’s without faults, however the Sport seemed less certain, more indecisive more often. Both are front wheel drive and coming off a front verge and performing a 180 degree turn (turning circles are adequate at around 11 metres) the front end of the Trailhawk seemed more under pressure than the 2WD only Sport. I could feel and hear the squirming, the protest of the drivetrain pushing against the gearbox. The Sport simply turned and made no noise.
On the road, both went about their job with a minimum of fuss, with road noise a touch more apparent in the Sport. Handling on tarmac is wonderful, with just enough initial compliance turning into a firm yet unobtrusive rebound. The Sport had a touch more lift off understeer in the curly bits yet was as easily controlled as the Trailhawk via judicious use of the throttle. On the highway, the nine speeder seems unsure at lower revs with the Sport, less so with the Trailhawk, again with the torque being sent down through the chain of command more efficiently. A hard prod on the go pedal sees a drop down through the gears, with the Sport reacting well and the Trailhawk’s dual V6 exhaust being heard for the first time, a metallic but not unpleasant raspy call. Feedback through the tiller is good, with enough conversation to keep the driver informed of what’s happening on the road.
It’s offroad, the Jeep’s genetically driven environment, where the Trailhawk’s extra goodies play harder. The Sport is simply a front wheel drive SUV, the Trailhawk is the Supreme pizza with garlic bread, soft drink and free delivery. It comes with Chrysler’s Selec-Terrain system, a fully electronic setup that switches between off road surfaces (mud, snow, gravel) via the turn of a dial, has a locking rear differential, hill crawl and low range plus, ahead of the Limited and Longitude, has an additional rock program and an extra 31 mm ride height. The Sport handled A Wheel Thing’s test track with a measure of nervousness, almost as if it was a talented child being asked to try an adult level high jump; more abrupt bumps and slopes were tackled, albeit at a slower rate and ruts were forded with less surety. The Trailhawk dealt better with these, not unexpectedly, but there was, still, some uncertainty about handling over some of the rougher levels. The hill crawl function performed as expected and all modes, including the lower ratio gearing, showed their mettle, but a short throw suspension just never quite felt like imbuing 100% confidence for the driver. Fuel economy is dubious, with closer to ten than nine litres per hundred for the Sport and somewhere in the thirteens for the Trailhawk…
The Sport has an easy question to answer: which two/front wheel drive SUV that will never see off road duties do you want? The Trailhawk has a tougher ask; better torque, a better feature set BUT, how much of it compared to the middle two models makes it cost effective? It’s nice to have the safety features like collision avoidance (something a well trained driver should have learned), remote start and electric tailgate but the extra off road program, locking rear etc, compared to the Limited and Longitude, given they cop the same engine/gearbox as the Trailhawk? Price is, then, another consideration: Trailhawk asks $47K plus and, yes, you get a finely built car with some great toys. But, is the extra cost worth the extra features, features that, in all honesty, the huge majority of people wouldn’t know how to use or desire to use? The Sport is $33500, Longitude and Limited $39000 and $44000 respectively…so, IS the Trailhawk worth the extra $3500 over the Limited or $8500 over the Longitude, given the same engine/gearbox combination?
I know I’d take the Trailhawk if it was strictly between the Sport and it because I would use the offroad programs and the remote start/electric tailgate worked for me, they’re small yet usable luxury touches. In a faceoff, the Trailhawk wins for me. head to www.jeep.com.au for all of the info.
Model Range: Cherokee Sport, Longitude, Limited, Trailhawk.
Engine: 2.4L L4, 3.2L V6.
Power/Torque: (2.4L ) 130kW/229Nm, (3.2L) 200kW/316Nm.
Transmission: 9 speed automatic (no manual).
Driven wheels: Front (4WD via Selec-Terrain on Longitude, Limited, Trailhawk)
Fuel: Unleaded (91RON).
Dimensions: Sport 4623mm (L) x 1859mm (W) 1631mm (H), Trailhawk 4626mm x 1904mm x 1686mm.
Clearance: 185mm, 221mm.
Fuel Economy: 8.3/11.6/6.3L per 100km (combined/urban/highway), Sport; 10.0/13.9/7.7L per 100km, Trailhawk.
Price: Sport @ $33500 + ORCs, Trailhawk @ $47500 + ORCs
If you take a look through the paint section of any home renovation store, you’re bound to come across those paint charts that leave you bewildered as to how many shades of white (and blue and grey and…) are possible. So in some ways, it’s a bit puzzling as to why cars tend to come in fewer colours. Look at the range of car colours available in any new model. Usually, there’ll be offerings in white, at least one grey and a red of some sort. If you’re lucky, there’ll be a few other shades: blue, green, yellow or even orange.
We tend to be more conservative with car colours when we buy, apparently. According to one source, this is because cars in a more conservative colour can be re-sold more easily. White tradie vans will be snapped up quickly, but the same sort of van – say, a Toyota Hiace – that’s in some odd colour such as metallic purple won’t go as quickly, even though might be mechanically perfect and brilliantly practical. (However, as I’ve said in other posts, this can work the other way if you’re a buyer: you might be able to pick up said purple Hiace for a song because the seller is struggling to get rid of it.)
Other colours also seem to hold their value pretty well. Dark colours like black, deep charcoal grey and very dark blue tend to be popular with luxury vehicles – and don’t forget classic British racing green in Jaguars! Think business suits and little black dresses and you’ll get the idea.
Safety plays a role in car colour choice, too. Lighter colours tend to be easier to spot on the road. This means white, yellow and possibly the lighter shades of silver are pretty good, but the luxury colours (black, dark blue and deep green) tend to be harder to pick. From experience, cars in that medium shade of grey – about the colour of the average HB pencil line or the colour of clouds threatening rain – tend to be very hard to pick during when the light is fading.
It’s possible that technology also plays a role in what looks hot for cars. Some analysts noticed that when silver computer bits and bobs were all the rage, silver cars were also sizzling, as the paint colour made the car look up to the minute. When Apple brought out their tablets and other devices in white, silver took a back seat again and white surged even further ahead. Some have also noted the increase in popularity of peacock blue and lime green, as these colours tend to be used a fair bit for lighting features and accent trims in high-tech gear.
According to Forbes magazine, the most popular colours for cars are:
- White (why are we not surprised?)
- Silver (that’s a lighter shade of metallic grey rather than completely reflective like real silver – only Justin Bieber is crass enough to have a mirror-finish car)
- Grey – everything from charcoal and pewter through to smoke and cloud
- Red. As every pre-teen boy knows, red cars go faster.
- Blue – peacock and cobalt for fun little hatchbacks, butcher’s blue for trade vans and indigo for luxury numbers.
- Brown and beige. This entry by Forbes magazine surprises me, as I haven’t seen a heap of brown cars about.
- Yellow (which also includes gold)
There is no #10, as every other colour is so rare it hardly rates, apparently.
Have you ever wondered why sometimes, when you’re just driving for a long time, some of your best daydreams seem to just bubble up out of nowhere? Or have you ever wondered why it is that talking on a hand-held phone is so distracting to a driver, even though you’ve got your eyes and the road and can steer perfectly well with one hand.
It’s all down to your brain and the fact that you are, quite literally, in two minds about everything.
OK, here’s a quick guide to the architecture of your brain without getting too technical and requiring you to understand words like “hippocampus” and “hypothalamus”. Your brain looks rather like a walnut, what with the curly knobbly bits and the two halves. It’s the two halves that are important here, as they have different jobs to do.
The left side of your brain is the Mr Spock side of your brain. It handles logic, maths and decision-making, and also contains your language centres and the music centres. The right-hand side is the Michaelangelo side of your brain: artistic, emotional and creative, but also in charge of visual perception and space (hand–eye coordination stuff). You could call them the yin and yang sides if you like. (See the illustration – taken from an ad put out by Mercedes-Benz .)
Usually, when you’re driving, the two halves of the brain can get on pretty well. The left-hand side makes the decision about where you’re going to go and why you need to go there, and keeps track of the road rules. The right-hand side monitors what’s going on around you and tells you to make all those minor adjustments on the brake, accelerator and steering wheel. If you’ve been driving a manual for a long time, the right-hand brain will also handle gear changes; if you’re new to manual gears, the left-hand brain will manage a lot of this until the movements become automatic and the right brain can do them. We call this “doing it without thinking”, which is a bit of an insult to the right brain, which thinks in a different way.
If you are driving along without much outside input – down a familiar road in moderate traffic, for example – the left side of your brain doesn’t have a lot to do and it allows your right brain to dominate. Your right brain is busy with the driving and the left brain will happily let it dominate. While it’s dominating, your right brain can also get creative and all those interesting, quirky daydreams can come bubbling up, with the left brain playing a supporting role.
However, if you’re talking on the phone, the left brain is dominating, what with having to process the words coming in and possibly making decisions at the same time. Unlike the right brain, the left brain is a bit of a bully and a drama queen, and it won’t let the right brain have much of a say if it’s busy.
So there you are, talking on the car phone and your left brain is in full command. Right brain can perceive an upcoming hazard – that slow driver who hits the brakes heaps ahead of you, for example, or a busy intersection. But the left brain, busily engaged in processing words and making decisions, tells the right brain to shut up. It’s not until the right brain starts screaming at the right brain that the left brain drops command and lets the right brain do what it needs to by managing what it can see and the spatial relationships (i.e. what’s around you and how close you are to it or if you’re on a collision course). It all happens within seconds, but that switch from left-dominated to right-dominated does slow your reaction time.
So why doesn’t somebody talking in the car to you distract you like a phone does? Simply because the other person has two sides to their brain and their own right brains telling them about how fast you’re both approaching the intersection or that slow driver ahead of you, and the emotional/relationship nous to back off from the conversation. Someone on a phone doesn’t have that right-brain input at that time, so he/she will keep yakking regardless.
A lot of modern active safety systems attempt to replicate what your right brain does: detecting upcoming problems and taking action.
This is a very simple overview of your amazing brain and the highly complex processes that go on when you’re behind the wheel. Some people are more right-brain than others; some people can switch from left to right quickly. But even this little glimpse should give you an idea of why cell phones, car phones and too many road signs are so distracting.
Kia has, at the moment, one of the most fun cars around, the Pro_ceed GT. It comes with a six speed manual transmission only, bolted to a firecracker of a 1.6L turbo engine. It’s the manual transmission that makes it such fun to drive and the incredible flexibility of the powerplant, with 265 Newton metres of torque across a rev range of nearly 3000 revs, make it superbly usable. Kia have the Cerato range, a four door sedan, five door hatch or two door coupe, with the option of both manual and auto gearboxes, plus offering, for the Koup, a choice of 2.0L naturally aspirated engine or the same engine as found in the Pro_ceed. A Wheel Thing was lobbed the key to the Abyss Blue coloured Koup ($30710 on road with metalic paint), complete with turbo engine and automatic transmission (Koup is available with optional Touring Pack). Is it as much fun with a self shifter?
The Cerato is a good looker on the outside, with soft curves replacing the previous sharp edged version. Changing to the two door styling from a sleek looking sedan adds a touch of menace to its stance, along with the chunky 225/40/18 tyres wrapping some pretty sexy alloys. The sheetmetal is smooth, curvy, with the front sporting a well balanced look. Driving lamps at each bottom corner frame a large grille, with the headlight clusters rolling back into the fenders split yet joined by a narrow grille. In profile there’s a lightly scalloped lower section while a crease line draws the eye to the angular C pillar and “neon tube” look tail lights. Folding mirrors (black on Turbo, body colour on Si) complete the front section.
The interior is a subtle mix of black, grey, faux carbon fibre, faux leather and cloth. Seats are comfortable but lack decent lateral support, the cloth is a mix of black and grey and sits in between the faux leather bolsters. Rear seat access is typically slightly tricky, with a latch on the shoulders of the seats lifted to fold and roll forward. The seatbelts run through a pivot arm which gets in the way of anyone trying to exit when the front seats have been occupied. The dash plastics are hard and there’s a mix of the matt black plastic look and faux carbon fibre strips housing the air vents. As usual the aircon controls are simple to use with a clear layout, the 5 inch touchscreen head unit and dials are easy to use and read and there’s the usual expected assortment of steering wheel mounted controls for audio and cruise control. Ahead of the gear lever is a small storage space which also houses the USB and Auxiliary inputs. The steering column is adjustable for both reach and rake (in/out and up/down). Naturally there’s plenty of safety built in, such as VSM (Vehicle Stability Management) and HSC (Hill Start Control), parking sensors front and rear, reverse camera and airbags all around. Cargo space isn’t bad considering the design, being rated at 433L capacity.
On the road the Aussie spec suspension is supple, yet firm, with the meaty tyres providing plenty of grip on both tarmac and gravel/dirt surfaces. No, it’s not its normal environment yet some backroads near Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, proved that the engineering work put into the Koup certainly pays dividends and the ride on gravel was surprisingly good. Lateral grip is great, straight line handling is direct and there’s minimal float over undulations, the suspension pulling the Koup into line quickly. Feedback through the steering is artificial with Kia’s three mode electric settings adding nothing for a natural feel. Naturally there’s paddle shifts behind the tiller.
Kia quotes 265Nm from 1750 through to 4500 revs and in the manual GT that torque really works. You can sink the slipper in any gear and it simply rockets along….in the auto, it’s diminished, muted, restrained under 3000 rpm. When the go pedal is prodded hard, it drops back a couple of gears and makes a lot of noise. Once it reaches 3000 then that urge, felt earlier in the manual, seems to make an appearance.
The question was raised at the beginning:is it as much fun with an automatic as it is (engine and gearbox combination) with a manual? No. It’s not. The auto saps the life and performance of the engine and therefore the fun. It’s also more thirsty than the manual which that was noticeable around town and oddly, the turbo weighs more than the standard engined Si 2.0L Koup…
The Cerato Koup isn’t marketed as a hot hatch, nor a warm one. The manual transmission and turbo combination works; for me, the automatic doesn’t.
For more information on the range: www.kia.com.au/vehicles/small-vehicles/cerato-koup/koup
For pricing options: www.privatefleet.com.au or www.bidmycar.com.au
Model Range: Cerato Koup, Si and Turbo.
Engines: 2.0L petrol or 1.6L turbo petrol.
Power: 129kW @6500rpm/150kW @6000rpm.
Torque: 209Nm @4700rpm/265Nm @1750-4500rpm.
Transmission: six speed manual (six speed auto optionable).
Driven wheels: Front.
LWH: 4530mm x 1780mm x 1410mm.
Wheels/Tyres: Si 17 inch, 215/45/R17. Turbo: 18 inch, 225/40/R18.
Luggage space: 433L
Consumption: 7.3L/100km 2.0L man, 7.4L/100km 2.0L auto, 7.7L/100km 1.6L man, 8.0L/100km 1.6L auto (combined).
Weight: 1284kg/2.0L man, 1307kg/2.0L auto, 1334kg/1.6L man, 1360kg/1.6L auto.
Price: RRP $30190 Koup Turbo, metallic paint $520, as tested $30710.
Warranty: Five year, unlimited kilometre.
Safety rating: ANCAP five star.