Archive for February, 2015
Small car. Torquey diesel. Scintillating performance. I get personal with the 2015 Volvo V40 diesel.
It’s “just” two litres in size yet manages to twist out 400 torques, from 1750 revs to 2500. Peak power is 140 kilowatts, at 4250 rpm. Sipping from a 62 litre tank at just 4.5L/100 km (claimed, combined). From a standing start (the V40 also has Stop/Start technology), there’s a momentary hesitation before the engine comes on boost and slingshots the car away.
It’s front wheel drive, meaning that there’s torque steer, it feels heavy initially before lightening up. There’s the characteristic diesel chatter but it’s muted, unobtrusive and the Stop/Start is finely controlled by bare changes of foot pressure on the brake to have the engine ready to go instantly or ready to go inside a second.
All of that grunt is transmitted to the tarmac via a slick shifting, intelligent eight speed auto with Sports Mode, part of Volvo’s “Drive-E” marketing push, offering better fuel economy and driveability by upping the torque, power and gearbox ratios.
The V40 is compact to look at; it’s low (1420 mm) not particularly wide (1559 mm) and appropriate for its class, length wise, at just 4369 mm. The wheelbase isn’t massive, as a result, at 2647 mm and rolls on 17 inch diameter alloys, wrapped in Michelin 225/45 rubber.
Being low and comparatively long to look at, it has a slinky appearance in profile. Bi xenon teardrop shaped headlights (with a leveling feature and Active Bending Lights) feed into the fenders whilst a stylish look for the LED daytime running lights is added by having them set low and in a slimline case. The front end clip has Volvo’s family “inverse arrow head” look with a strong horizontal presence bracketed by inside out arrow points.
The hatch back rear appears to bend through over 45 degrees from the bumper, leaning forward at the top, whilst the tailgate itself has a medium height loading lip. A scallop draws the eye from front to rear in a pleasing line at the lower portion of the door.
On The Inside.
Being a compact body, it’s a touch cosy in the back and almost just right for the driver and passenger. There’s small storage trays at either extremity for the back seat occupants, which does take up a few vital inches. Front seats are supportive, comfortable and the driver’s seat gets three (!) memory positions.
The V40’s option list extends to heated seating at $375 (would love cooling as well for black leather during summer in Australia), plus a Driver’s Pack valued at $5k which is full of safety, bringing home Blind Spot Alert, Cross Traffic Alert, Adaptive Cruise Control/Collision Warning/Auto Brake and more.
Volvo’s much vaunted driver’s display with a choice of three visual settings provides personalisation, accessed via the indicator stalk (left hand side in Australia); it’s super crisp and clear across all driving conditions. Housed in the same tasteful binnacle is a display screen for radio and navigation, in high contrast black and white. Info is accessed by the messy array of buttons situated in the floating centre console. It’s ergonomically messy and largely user unfriendly, plus the chrome surrounds on the textured black plastic and gunmetal console (and around the aircon vents) reflect sunlight very easily, sometimes directly into the driving position.
There’s the now common tech such as Bluetooth streaming, Auxiliary/USB inputs plus voice control for the navigation, web access via smartphone tether, a thumping 8 speaker audio system and heated wing mirrors.
In the rear, there’s a simple yet smart touch; what looks like the 324L cargo bay floor is a lift up section that split folds to give extra room and support for items.
On The Drive.
That torque provides an ongoing wave of acceleration, seemingly unending as the push in the back is unrelenting from standstill to bye bye license velocities. There’s the typical turbo hesitancy off the line, forgotten in seconds as the speedo says nasty things with a decent right foot pressure. Even light throttle has the diesel, quietly chattering away, hauling the V40 away decently well. The eight speed auto shifts almost imperceptibly, with a barely registering flick of the tacho needle to say it’s changed.
Steering is precise, intuitive and well weighted; it’s enough heft to give an idea of where the front is and light enough to not feel disassociated from the tracking. Torque steer is apparent when the go pedal is used in anger, less so when asked gently.
Ride quality is biased towards, unsurprisingly, comfort however there is enough firmness to impart a sense of control when cornering. Body roll is minimal and the suspension is well and truly tuned for Aussie roads, with even the bigger rubber based speedbumps being reasonably flattened out.
Float, pitch and dive under brakes (good brakes too!) are also minimal, with a undulating freeway section throwing up barely a hiccup.
When the biggest complaint one can find is purely to do with a perceived lack of internal room, knowing full well it’s because of a car’s compact dimensions, it says something about how well sorted the overall package is. Ergonomically, it’s almost spot on, however the centre console section with buttons and aircon controls is….not intuitive, politely.
The starting price of $46490 + ORC’s and options gets you into true European quality motoring at a very affordable price.
Information on the V40 range and offers are here: http://www.volvocars.com/au/all-cars/volvo-v40/page
Volvo has stayed with forced induction for the T-5, it’s also downsized to a four cylinder of two litres capacity. Peak power, a not inconsiderable 180 kW, is seen at 5500 revs whilst torque, all 350 Nm of it, is mesa flat from 1500 through to 4800 revs. Again, it’s the eight speed auto that’s fitted, in keeping with Volvo’s commitment to increasing economy and decreasing emissions. It’s quiet, refined and claims 6.1L of gogo juice consumed per 100 klicks on a combined cycle.
The test car came clad in the same distinctive blue paint that covers their top of the range S60 sedan, the Polestar. It highlights the low, slinky shape the V40 has plus showcases the satin black, diamond cut, alloy wheels fitted (clad in grippy Michelin 225/40 ZR rated tyres), named Ixion 2 R-Design. They really do look sensational and make a pleasing contrast with the Volvo blue.
Compared to the Luxury spec, there’s not too much in real exterior difference, with perhaps the most notable being a different location for the LED DRL’s, being pushed out to the corners and vertically laid in. There’s a slightly different rear valance and a glass roof to complete the picture.
On the Inside.
Not a huge difference from the Luxury; the centre console and dash have a different look, with a chrome/alloy strip on the driver’s side, different coverings on the seats (velour or alcantara) mixed in with the leather and the centre dash mounted display screen lights up with the same colours chosen for the dash display “Themes”….and Elegance is different, too, going cool blue instead of green.
Safety, as you can expect, is a huge factor in the V40. There’s the innovative Pedestrian Airbag System (found across the V40 range, video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wH6iNQUUI8; Corner Traction Control which is a torque vectoring system, it helps the driver avoid understeer by applying just the right amount of brake force to the inner wheels while powering the outer wheels when accelerating out of a corner; Ready Alert Brakes which move the pads closer to the discs if the car’s safety computers feel something may be about to happen that will need quick brake application; Roll Over Protection System and full length curtain airbags and more. For the category and class the V40 R-Design is in, just over $50K gets some pretty decent technology.
Then there’s the options fitted to this vehicle; the full length glass roof ($2650), heated front seats ($375) and the Driver Support Pack (Blind Spot Information System and Cross Traffic Alert, Driver Alert and Adaptive Cruise Control with Collision Alert plus Parking Assist System) to take the retail price up to $58425.
You’ll also get as standard the awesome sound system, with one of the best balanced mixes I’ve heard in a car.
On The Road.
Although there’s almost the same amount of peak torque as the D4 Luxury (350 Nms vs 400 from the diesel) and starts 250 revs lower (1500 vs 1750), there’s not the same neck snapping burst of acceleration off the line. There’s a touch of driveline vibration, no feeling of lacking any motivation, just not the same OMFG when the slipper is sunk. However, rolling acceleration is fantastic, with that 350 torques available at your beck and call over a 3000 rpm range, giving an educated driver plenty of safety factor. Once under way there’s a feeling of solid confidence, the electronics playing handsies with each other to keep the V40 R-Design on the tarmac, a gentle nudge of the tiller as the system reads the car moving towards a white line and centreing the car. The LCD dash will also show a red light where white would be, indicating the white lines either side of the car.
The forward collision alarm is almost perfect, but will sense, sometimes, cars or obstacles not in its direct path and will flash a warning red light from its vantage point on the top of the dash.
There’s a seat of the pants sensation of torque steer, the computers quickly dial that out and the R-Design remains surefooted and purposeful; the slightly harder, sports oriented suspension is never teeth shattering as well, giving a combination of balls and all power driving and subtly reinforcing the driver’s ability.
The eight speed auto has the Sports mode; again, in my eyes, almost superfluous, such is the smoothness and ability of the programming.
Physically, the V40 will be ok for a family of four, but the R-Design, for me, is best suited for a single or couple. The level of tech it has, the driveability and the look of it in that glorious Polestar blue…..thankfully it’s in no danger of being bought by those that think a $25K hatch is too much moolah.
Should you be reasonably well cashed up and not needing a “big” car, the V40 R-Design is for you.
Pricing and tech details can be accessed here: http://www.volvocars.com/au/all-cars/volvo-v40/pages/default.aspx
Charlie Cox is often remembered as the voice of the latter part of the Super Touring era of the BTCC. Starring alongside Murray Walker in 1997 and John Watson between 1998 and 2001, Cox had a magnificent blend of excitement, drama and inimitable wit behind the microphone. However, it was not just behind the microphone that Cox made a name for himself. It was behind the wheel of his independent Mondeo in 1995 that Cox etched his entry into the evocative history of the BTCC.
The 1995 BTCC season was a landmark year for the championship; it was the first time that aero packages were completely legal on all the cars following the Alfa Romeo debacle from the previous year. Despite that, 1995 also became the year that an independent got a top 5 finish while the championship witnessed one of its most horrific accidents. You may have already guessed it, but it was indeed the Australian Charlie Cox who achieved not one, but both of these.
The first incredible feat came at the first of the two rounds held at the Brands Hatch Indy circuit. As the cars took their places on the grid, the typical Kentish weather began to play her dastardly game. The wet conditions baffled those on the grid; were they to put on intermediate or full wet tyres? As race time approached the rain appeared to lessen, prompting the majority of the field to opt for the intermediates. Cox was one of the few who decided to run with full wet tyres, and what a good decision it turned out to be. As the race began, the heavens truly opened upon the tarmac. For those on intermediate tyres they had to creep their way around the track.
For Cox however, he had chosen the correct tyres and was flying around the Indy circuit, carving his way through the timid field. As cars flew off left, right and centre (including the champion to be Cleland) Cox powered his way towards the front, even setting the fastest lap of the race. I can only imagine that the dizzying heights of his high position got to him a bit as he did manage to lose control on the entrance to Clearways. His pace and performance were definitely apparent as he managed to power past a BMW while recovering from his little lapse of concentration. He would finish the race in 5th place, just behind the two WORKS Ford cars. If it wasn’t for his spin, I think he would have managed a podium finish.
Here it is, in all its 1995 VHS style quality:
Sadly when the championship reached Thruxton, Charlie’s luck well and truly ran out. As the race began and the field were streaming around, the cameras catch a glimpse of a car from the back barrel rolling its way off the circuit in a truly horrific way. Cox lost the car, which sent him into a spin and then numerous rolls that ruined the car and any chance of Cox escaping uninjured. He was treated for concussion and cracked ribs. The crash itself would rule Cox out for most of the ’95 season, returning only to complete the last few rounds. The car he did return in, the Ford Mondeo (instead of the Mondeo Ghia) turned out to be the first hatchback to enter the BTCC.
Instead of just reading about it, here is what is most likely the scariest crash the BTCC has ever witnessed:
When Charlie Cox returned to the championship in 1997 it was alongside the legendary Murray Walker in the commentary box. Until 2001, Charlie Cox blessed our ear sockets with his charismatic commentary style, complimented by the cool analytical vocals of John Watson (from 98-01).
His character building first and only year in the BTCC will without doubt go into the history books for all manner of reasons.
So, in the immortal words of Murray Walker, this one goes out to ‘the amazing Charlie Cox!’
Keep up with all my motorsport antics on Twitter @lewisglynn69
Keep Driving People!
Peace and Love!
Do you get fed up with the multitude of traffic signs and signals that constantly bombard you as you drive around town? Have you ever missed a turn-off or some vital piece of information (like a speed limit sign) because it’s just another sign amid hundreds? Or, to take another tack, do sometimes wonder if the people who put up signs think that you’re an idiot (e.g. the sign saying “Caution: Flooding” smack in the middle of a temporary lake caused by heavy rain… as if you hadn’t noticed that there was six inches of water covering the road)?
Perhaps it’s time that the authorities gave us all a bit of credit for having at least a modicum of common sense. No driver wants to hit another driver, a cyclist or a pedestrian, after all. This was the view taken by the authorities in the town of Bohmte, a town in western Germany that had been struggling with a bit of a traffic problem.
The traffic authorities of Bohmte had tried everything to stop motorists doing dumb things that endangered the lives of pedestrians and cyclists in the middle of the town. Speed traps, carefully designed crossings and all the usual measures just weren’t working. So they tried something completely different. Instead of sticking up more signs and more signals, they ripped them all out. They also took out the cycle lanes and the pavements (what our American friends call sidewalks). Only three rules were in place for this special “shared zone”: (1) everybody – including pedestrians, wheelchairs, skateboards and heavy trucks – has to give way to anything coming at you from the right at an intersection, (2) don’t park your car smack in the middle of the road and (3) you had to keep to the speed limit of 30 mph. (That’s about 50 km/h and the usual urban speed limit in Germany – it’s only on the Autobahns that the no speed limit thing applies. A German hitchhiker we once offered a sofa to tells us that the no limits rule on the Autobahn is only fun if you have a big Mercedes or Audi – if you’re puttering along in a tiny wee Fiat hatchback, you want to cringe as they all sweep past you… but I’m getting off topic.)
The authorities were nervous. What was going to happen? Were motorists going to continue to barge ahead and cause at least 50 accidents a year in this particular section?
The thinking behind this “shared space” concept was that if the usual familiar signs weren’t there, motorists would get a bit nervous and would become more alert to what was going on around them. When the traffic lights are green, you usually just surge on ahead, confident that nothing’s going to be in your way… until some idiot running the red light T-bones you. The fact that you weren’t at fault is small compensation for a spell in hospital and a broken bone or two. It’s even less consolation if you were a cyclist or a pedestrian. But if there’s nothing at the intersection to give you the green light, then what would you do? You’d slow down and check that there was nothing coming, kind of like pedestrians and cyclists have to do all the time (oh, yes you do have to check all the time if you’re a cyclist – cyclists are legitimate road users in the eyes of the law but not in the eyes of a lot of motorists.)
The idea first cropped up in the 1970s courtesy of a Dutch traffic engineer named Hans Monderman, who challenged the conventional thinking that people become safer drivers with more signs, speed humps, etc. Instead, he took the view that road users aren’t stupid and they don’t want to crash, so if you took away the things that say “if you don’t have a motor, get out of the way,” drivers would stop taking the road and their right of way for granted. To quote Monderman, “We’re losing our capacity for socially responsible behaviour…The greater the number of prescriptions, the more people’s sense of personal responsibility dwindles.”
And the concept seems to be working. What’s more, the idea is spreading. It’s even made it all the way over here to Australia. There’s a shared zone in Bendigo, Victoria, where there are no sidewalks/pavements for pedestrians and there’s a reduced speed limit in the city centre. Similar designs have cropped up in towns in Sweden (where traffic lights and pedestrian crossings were replaced with fountains and park benches), the Netherlands (where they took out the lane markings), Florida, the UK and New Zealand.
Shared zones usually have a bit of a different look to them. A lack of pavements and traffic lights is only the start. Usually, there’s something a touch more decorative on the road surface – interesting patterns of brick or stone, for example. There may be a bit more street furniture and other pretty things. It’s all supposed to scream “space designed for human beings not just machines”.
The idea does have some downsides. The biggest criticism comes from organisations for the blind, on the grounds that with a proper pavement, a blind person knows that he/she is safe from traffic. A blind person can’t see the traffic they’re supposed to give way to. The other criticism has come from a few cycling organisations, especially in the Netherlands, who have reported that some drivers have a tendency to bully cyclists, refusing to give way when they ought to yield to the cyclist on the grounds that if it came to a car-on-bike conflict, the bike always loses. Mind you, this sort of thing happens all the time even with all the traffic lights, lanes and Give Way signs in the world, as any cyclist will tell you.
But on the whole – I think it’s a great idea!
Safe and happy driving,
This plan has been in the making since the beginning of time itself. Everywhere you look they have been there, slowly creeping into the collective consciousness. From the basic foodstuff that animals feast upon for survival, to the fruit that tempted Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, to the falling realisation that gave Newton his idea for gravity, to the making of computers and phones, Apple have been gathering their strength. Their latest venture is to enter the car industry with their own Apple car. This does beg the question, are Apple slowly trying to take over?
Before you get too worried, I have not forgotten that this is indeed an automotive blog. The content of this blog will therefore fall on around the concept of the Apple car. The rumours surrounding Apple moving into the car industry has been swirling for quite some time now, and to this day remains nothing more than speculation. However, it has reared its fascinating head once again with the latest news that Apple have reportedly been poaching employees from both Tesla and A123 systems (battery makers) to name but a few, which has landed Apple in a bit of a sticky wicket of a situation. And by sticky wicket I mean lawsuit against Apple by A123 accusing them of stealing workers from them. I would be stupid to try and get involved with that, so I shall stick to what I know and focus on their car.
This latest news from the front has given another slice of tantalizing information regarding the release of an Apple-mobile. The attempts to convert employees from companies like Tesla and A123 point to one thing, an electric car. Unless this is some strange double bluff and Apple are in fact going to release a petrol-guzzling planet killing super car with the capability of going 1,000,000 mph, and in which case I will quite literally eat my shorts.
Now I have had somewhat of a fluctuating relationship with Apple, and perhaps I represent exactly what Apple are aiming for. For me it began with an outright refusal to buy into the ‘Apple’ brand name, claiming that it was an over-expensive marketing ploy just to bring in the dollar. Next thing I knew, I had downloaded iTunes because it had a more user-friendly operation than the equivalent Windows Media Player. With iTunes comes an iPod, obviously. I vowed that would be it, I would never buy the iPhone. In my defense it did take a few years for me to give into that one; when my phone at the time finally died my head started telling me that the iPhone was really the only option to do what I wanted in a phone. When it came to laptops I had already accepted my fate and thought I may as well complete the set. After all, the iCloud means I can sync all of my data and documents! Their clever marketing strategy and simple user experience make their products feel impossible to live without. The sad thing is I know there are much cheaper options out there, but I just can’t stop myself anymore. Shame really!
Apple are one of those companies that I do have a grudging respect for, mainly because their products are marketed in such a way that they seem to answer the problems you never realised you had, and fill the void you never knew existed. Furthermore, Apple are clever in their timing in releasing products in new business sectors; for example the introduction of their first iPhone into the smartphone market came at the perfect time in 2007. Although they were not the first on the market, they wait until a few models have been released, before totally eclipsing them with a superior example that places its emphasis on user experience. Based on the electric car market as it stands, this is the perfect time for Apple to do what they do best. Electric cars have reached a stage where the technology is improving by the year, but there is yet to be that ONE model that defines the brand. When it comes to a smartphone, the iPhone has become the biro or the hoover of its generation. If and when they release their car, I imagine this is what they are shooting for.
Other reports have suggested that Apple are working on a secret project named ‘Titan’ which is meant to be a minivan type vehicle, but again these exist only as heard through the gossip-vine. Do remember of course that Apple has no manufacturing abilities of its own, so even if a design was finalised a whole new infrastructure would need to be set up. Although being Apple I can’t imagine that would be too much of a struggle for them to manage. I was pondering too what they would eventually call their motorised masterpiece; the obvious suggestions would be things such as the iCar or the iDrive. The project may be called Titan, but that would be a rather different route for them to take. Unless this time it was TiTAN, or something just as ridiculous. If they did go with iDrive, I would expect the car to contain some autonomous technologies.
In order to create THE electric car for the market, Apple would probably have no choice but give the car some autonomous qualities, whether it was self-driving or advanced computer systems (all controlled by Siri of course), otherwise it wouldn’t have that ‘easy user experience’ card to play that it usually does. Imagine though this did come to fruition, as amazing as the car would be, would it suffer from the same problems as a lot of Apple products? The electric motor would probably run out in all of about 30 minutes to start with, while every now and again the whole car would freeze for an inordinate amount of time even if you were in the middle of driving. And most importantly, it would be significantly more expensive than anything else on the market, but would be advertised in such a way as a ‘luxury, trendy, must-have, easiest to use’ car that they would sell in the millions.
As the plans of Apples automotive desires come to light, one question has crossed my mind; is Apple trying to take over the world? The current projections place production to begin in 2020 for the new car, if of course Apple can set up a whole new infrastructure for production sale and distribution. The business reasoning behind this move would without doubt be ‘looking for new sectors to expand into’, but this for all we know could mean that slowly but surely we are transformed into citizens of the iPlanet, with only the small band of Microsoft rebels to liberate us. This does remind me of the film I, Robot (2004) in which the robotics company US Robotics has slowly expanded into every part of our social foundations, becoming the most powerful and influential business in the world.
Perhaps this is the plan Apple has in store for us all. Just maybe Apple have now become the same fruit that poisoned the minds of Adam and Eve through temptation. But then again, as a result of that (if any of that was even true) look at some of the amazing things that have been created. So we should be thanking them for tasting the forbidden fruit, and maybe one day we will thank Apple too.
Either way, I look forward to reading more about the updates on this fascinating new business venture for Apple.
Follow me on Twitter @lewisglynn69
Keep Driving People!
Peace and Love!
A few days ago, the Touring Car world was treated to a much anticipated announcement regarding the fate of two former champions. In a video that echoed the shock factor of last year where Alain Menu returned to the grid, Team BMR announced that both Colin Turkington and Jason Plato would join the team alongside owner Warren Scott and Aron Smith. The reactions across the BTCC community have been massive, due in no small part to Turkington and Plato being two of the most popular names on the grid. Having immersed myself within these discussions now is the time for me to set forth my opinions on this unto you all.
Team BMR may have only been in the BTCC since 2014, but to say they have made a name for themselves in somewhat of an understatement. Almost a year ago, I found myself writing a very similar article regarding the BMR announcement which named a certain Alain Menu as one of the drivers for the 2014 season. As my all-time favourite touring car driver, to hear that Menu was returning to the championship where he made his name was huge; the rest of the BTCC paddock and fans all appeared to be in certain agreement. So when it came to 2015, BMR was going to have to pull something rather special out the bag to top their previous effort. And I think it is safe to say that they have more than risen to the challenge.
The majesty of the announcement was such that it was broadcast through the official BTCC channels. As the video played, the darkness was soon brought to light; Team BMR would be providing drives for both two time champion Jason Plato and 2014 champ Colin Turkington. This ended the months of speculation surrounding the two drivers; many feared Turkington would repeat his 2010 bad luck and be left without a drive despite winning the title the year before. And of course there were the rumours of Plato’s drive for this year, which were not helped after Plato’s on-going silence and recent tweet:
“Might have a year off”
The initial reactions to the news have taken the form of ‘Plato vs Turkington: who will come out on top’. There are those groups that are devote worshippers at the altar of Plato, but on the other hand there are those that see him as the human form of Satan himself. And as the reigning champion, Turkington is definitely not short of followers. Without diving headlong into the debate, both have proved themselves worthy of two championships to their name which therefore means that both have a considerable chance of excelling with Team BMR. However, what I would like to talk about is not their abilities to score good finishes, but their ability to work well together within Team BMR itself.
The final race weekend of the 2014 season saw a direct (albeit one sided mind you) battle between Colin Turkington in the eBay BMW and Jason Plato in the KX Momentum Tesco Clubcard Fuelsave How Many More Sponsors Does A Car Need MG. Throughout the season Plato had been complaining about the performance disparity between the RWD cars (read: the conquering BMW of Turkington) and the FWD cars. Turkington took the championship in the first race, with Plato not able to finish as high up the order as he needed. Race two ended for Turkington in typical Plato-maturity where he quite obviously took Turkington out at Paddock; it was almost comical at the time but such amusement quickly turned to sourness directed at Mr ‘It Wasn’t Me’ himself. I would also like to point out that in 2012 at Knockhill Aron Smith and Jason Plato had a coming together that ended both their races. Let’s hope all is forgotten now ey?
This leads me perfectly to my theory about the inter-team politics that may dominate the BMR garage this year. First of all, I would like to postulate that what may escalate is a situation similar to that of 2001, the infamous rivalry of Plato and Yvan Muller. In 2000, Plato had to play second fiddle to Muller in the Vauxhall team, which was often shown when Plato had to wave Muller through on numerous occasions. Therefore, for the 2001 season Plato got shared number one status with Muller so they were finally able to race themselves. One race of particular note was Silverstone where Muller was slowing down on the last lap and in Plato’s attempt to pass he hit Muller which damaged his car (apparently). On the podium Muller refused to acknowledge Plato in what was a truly immature display. The best part was, it turned out Muller was already suffering with a problem, yet he used the Plato overtake as an excuse as to what caused it. Plato did eventually take the title after Muller’s car gave up on him in the final race at Brands Hatch. Of course rumours flew that Plato’s engineers had done something to Muller’s car. Since then, Plato has always had the number one status in all the teams he has competed for.
If we now fast forward back to 2015, we are in a situation where there are two double champions in the same team, both of whom will be fighting for the top. Unless Plato’s sponsorship has given him weight in the team, I cannot imagine either of them settling for being number two to the other. Even in the announcement video, although it was all big news and playfulness, I definitely got a whiff of tension already between the two. Plato knows his status in the paddock, and one may get the impression that this gifts him the opportunity to be top man in any team. I believe that the 2015 BTCC season may play out in a similar fashion to the 2014 F1 season; Plato and Turkington will replace the Hamilton and Rosberg dynamic. Will there be any underhand play? Will the different sides of the pit garage be divided? Will there be more immature behaviour? If I am honest, I can see this coming more from Plato than Turkington. Turkington is a fast, consistent driver, but he has not been playing the game for as long as Plato. It should be fascinating to watch it play out.
While all of this is going on, I believe that BMR may have a secret weapon for this year. With the media attention falling heavily on Plato and Turkington, BMR can play their underdog joker and have the potential to kill it all stone dead. Aron Smith has always been a quick driver, but when you manage to gain more race wins than Alain Menu in a season you know there is something special there. I am going to put my money where my mouth and say that I am actually willing to bet that Aron Smith will out-drive the former champions this year and will be the one to beat. There will be no need for him to get caught up in any politics going on in the team; he can just go out and score consistent results and challenge for the title.
The only factor that will determine the course of 2015 for BMR is the performance of the car. In 2014, the Volkswagen cars were fast but I do not think they had the consistency that cars such as the MG, BMW and Honda had. However, building on their 2014 success the only way can be up. Since writing this the cars have been out testing at Thruxton and have been looking stunning. There is something about an all-black livery on the VW Passats that makes them look pure evil ferocity in a car.
What are your predictions for BMR for the 2015 season?
Follow me on Twitter for more of my motorsport ramblings @lewisglynn69
Keep Driving People!
Peace and Love!
Formula One has and will probably always be the premier motorsport on the planet. However, followers of my writing will notice that it is an area I would usually avoid due to the overriding political nature of the sport, coupled with my general dissatisfaction with the its quality over the last few years. Nevertheless, sometimes something will catch my ever gazing eye, drawing me in like a middle aged man to a Porsche dealership. On this particular occasion, I have read headlines using phrases like ‘making F1 more exciting and dramatic’ and I just couldn’t resist. On top of this is the crushing inevitability of disagreement amongst the teams regarding the implementation of these changes. I think it is time to examine this in more detail.
Before I get into the nitty-gritty of this latest news story, I feel like an explanation is needed as to why I have chosen to relight my journalistic fire in the glamorous world of Formula One. For the last few years, I have held the belief that the sport was getting too repetitive, with too much of a focus on the technical aspects (tyre use, fuel consumption, general pit lane politics). While all of these make for fascinating elements of motorsport, when they begin to detract from the actual racing itself, then they start to become an issue. When the only real overtakes happen in the pits, something is clearly wrong.
Furthermore, with this new “Eco-F1” era we have entered, the cars have become too quiet. And as much as the racing itself has improved the repetitive nature of “Oh look another pole” and “Shock horror they have won” still persists, except these days ‘they’ are Mercedes instead of Red Bull. Considering all of this it comes as no surprise that when I read the plans to reinvigorate F1, my attention was instantaneously obtained.
So what are these proposed changes:
– Wider Cars (2000mm instead of the 1800mm as it is now)
– Lower Rear Wing
– Wider Rear Tyres
– An increase from 850BHP to 1000BHP
My first reaction to these proposed changes was to question the reasoning behind them. For any fan of motorsport, the increase in BHP requires no justification; as Jeremy Clarkson says so poetically, “POWER!” There are probably very few racing enthusiasts that would be against the idea of 1000BHP. It may only be 150 more than before, but there is something so dramatic and gargantuan about 1000. Even for a casual fan of cars, if I was told that there was a sport where cars were racing with 1000 BHP, I would be an instant convert.
It is with the thought of drama and excitement that the other changes have too been proposed. Having cars that are both lower and wider would return them to the aesthetics of the 90s. When Villeneuve won the world title in 1997, he was the last driver to do so when the cars had a maximum width of 2000mm. The general thinking is that returning to a look synonymous with such an iconic era of the sport will pull in new fans, new audiences and of course more money.
The modern world wishes to progress headlong into the future, yet the current trends appear to be everything ‘retro’. Whether it is your East London retro clothes stores, the recent Queen comeback and world tour or even the remake of old film franchises, it is currently considered ‘the thing’ to look to the past to be fashionable and modern. Ironic right? Essentially, the thinking behind all these new changes to F1 is to simultaneously address the current issues with the sport while also attracting new audiences. And you know what; I think this ‘historic rejuvenation’ as it were may just be what Formula One has needed. With the new engines and regulations of 2014, the sport became greener on the one hand, but also quieter, more boring (thanks to Mercedes) and magnificently less attractive.
Despite what these changes may or may not mean for Formula One, the biggest talking point is the disagreement between the teams regarding the implementation of these new regulations. Christian Horner and Red Bull believe that the changes should come into effect as of 2016, whereas Mercedes say that it should be 2017 at the earliest, coupled with the need for research to find out what the public really want. In between both of these, it is fair to say that Ferrari occupy the middle ground.
The position of these three teams is so obviously shrouded yet again in F1 politics, and can all be explained as such. Mercedes in 2014 had the far superior car and want to retain that advantage for years to come; if they can delay the introduction of these new rules they can do once again what they did for 2014 and come in with a dominant near-unbeatable machine. Mercedes have claimed that if these new rules came into effect in 2016, it would make the teams stop developing their cars and focus on the new model, but this to me smells of male bovine excrement. I very much doubt that Mercedes genuinely care too much about the public enjoyment over the substantial business and ego advantages of being the top team in the top race series in the world. And on the other hand Red Bull used to be the dominant team and is now jealous that they must play second fiddle to Mercedes, so want the changes to happen as fast as possible to equal out the playing field. Finally there is of course Ferrari who has not really been in much of a competitive position the last few years, hence their occupation of the middle ground. All quite simple really!
At the end of the day, disregarding the politics surrounding the news I have to say that I am excited by these changes. I am not usually a fan of anything ‘retro’ but I do think these changes are the missing link to this new era of Formula One. By making the cars look more like they did in the 1990s, it will remind the audiences of a time when it was all about the racing without all the political ramblings that have since taken over. In 2014, the cars were made quieter and given suggestive noses yes, but they were made more eco-friendly and faster in some respects. Upping the power and redesigning the aesthetics of the car may just be the final piece in the jigsaw to make the sport as great as it once was.
Follow me on Twitter for all my latest motorsport ramblings @lewisglynn69
Keep Driving People!
Peace and Love!
Heaps of parents heave large sighs of relief when the summer break is over and the kids go back to school. There are, however, downsides. Downside number one is that Mum’s Taxi duty kicks back in, especially if school is too far for the kids to walk to but is not so far away that you get a school bus service (as happens in rural areas). Downside number two is that the coughs and colds start coming back home, especially when the weather seems to read the school calendar and decides to turn cooler the moment term starts.
Driving with a cold is not like normal driving. You’re not sick enough to avoid driving – it’s just a sniffle, for goodness sake, so you can’t really get out of it. Take a good bit of paracetamol or aspirin and you’re OK. Sort of.
It’s a wonder that they haven’t tried to ban or warn you about the dangers of driving with a cold yet. We all know about not drinking and driving, and the hazards of taking wacky baccy or worse before getting behind the wheel. For those who wouldn’t dream of overindulging in alcohol prior to driving or getting remotely near any illegal substances, they still warn us about not driving tired, as fatigue slows reaction times and increases the risk of falling asleep behind the wheel. Driving with a cold has its own hazards and risks.
For a start off, you get that general feeling of lethargy and malaise that creeps in when you are fighting off a virus. Pain in the sinuses and/or throat (if the aspirin hasn’t quite done its duty) imposes on your consciousness, sucking your concentration. Sipping one of the traditional remedies for this particular type of misery – a decent slug of whisky or brandy in orange juice – is, of course, out of the question when there’s driving to be done.
You’ve also got the more physical visible effects of a cold. You’ve got the runny nose, the sneezing, the snot and the coughing to cope with. These are difficult to deal with when you’re driving, especially in town when the traffic’s a bit heavy. You feel that drip pouring down your nasal passages and threatening to trickle out of your schnozz. The traffic is heavy and you need to make that crucial lane change, or you’re part way around a multi-lane roundabout or you’re just coming up to the lights and expect them to turn orange. Do you go reaching for your tissues or hanky and try to deal with the offending drip? Or will this take your attention off the business of driving at a critical moment? Or is it safer to just let the drip cascade down your face (eeeeeewww!).
Sneezing is worse. As we all learned from those trivial snippets that circulate around the place, it is impossible to sneeze with your eyes open. You feel that inevitable prickle in the back of your nose, your chest expands as you draw a deep breath for the Ah, then you explode in the Choo, eyes closed and goodness knows what racing out of you at a fair clip (popular wisdom has it that a sneeze does about 160 km/h; Mythbusters puts it at 54 km/h – faster than you ought to be going in heavy traffic, anyway!). During that split second, your whole body is concentrated on the sneeze, not on the road. There’s no way you could react if someone raced across the intersection or slammed on the brakes in front of you. If you’ve covered your sneeze with the crook of your arm the way that the health boffins tell us to, you’ve only got one hand on the wheel at the time. If you haven’t, then you spray virus-laden moisture all over the steering wheel and possibly the inside of the windscreen. (Rub a bit of hand sanitizer over the wheel – something we probably all ought to do regularly anyway, when you consider how often we touch it). And let’s not even think about the thick yellow snot stage of a cold…
Coughing is probably an even worse hazard, especially if you get that dry tickly cough that just won’t go away and leaves you in uncontrollable paroxysms of hacking away again and again. Medications that control this sort of cough usually come with warnings not to drive or operate heavy machinery afterwards. However, uncontrollable coughing fits lasting a good ten seconds or more don’t exactly make you the most alert and responsive driver. Pulling over to the side of the road until your lungs have settled down might have to be the safest option.
So what’s a responsible road user to do? The obvious answer is not to drive at all when you’ve got a cold and to use this as an excuse if possible. However, we all know that there are times when you can’t plead the common cold as a way of getting out of your obligations. You have to pick up the kids from school or your friend from the airport. You have to drop off that important package. You have to get that big job finished. So you have to drive.
The best options are to take it slowly just in case, take routes that avoid high traffic if possible and keep your eyes open for handy places to pull over. Practice controlling coughs and sneezes before you have to do it in a critical situation. And keep the box of tissues on your lap for easy access.
Don’t forget to clean up the used tissues, and to disinfect the steering wheel and gear change knob when you’ve finished driving.
Safe, healthy and happy driving,
Mid sized SUV’s have corralled the Aussie car market of recent years and well in the mix are the two Korean brands, Kia and Hyundai. Hyundai’s Santa Fe started as a small mid sizer and now fits comfortably into the bigger mid sized bracket. I check out the mid range entrant, the Elite.
It’s a huffy and hairy chested 2.2L diesel four cylinder, with a mountainous torque figure of 436 Nm (auto, manual has 421) with a plateau like delivery between 1800 to 2500 revs.It’s a six speed auto with a torque split diff, lockable into full time four wheel drive.
Fuel consumption is quoted by Hyundai as being 7.3L per 100 kilometres on a combined cycle from the 64 litre tank, with urban and highway being 9.6L and 5.9L per 100L respectively. It’s enough for the auto to be able to tow 2000 kilograms.
It’s a solidly engineered look, with an upright nose housing the Hyundai corporate grille, sitting comfortably between the eagle eye headlights and LED rimmed driving lights. Crease lines down the side soften a somewhat heavy profile before finishing in a pair of protrusions at the rear. The black urethane plastic now commonly found on most SUVs, is used to frame the front and rear and joining them along the bottom of the doors.
The grille, on the Elite, is Hyundai’s corporate three bar look, chrome coated whilst the door wing mirrors house puddle lamps, which shine downwards brightly.
A power tailgate can be found at the rear and the roof is full glass plus sunroof. The Elite has 18 inch alloys, in a petal design, wrapped in grippy 235/55 Hankooks.
The overall impression is one of capability and toughness with the styling definitely setting it apart from its competition. With dimensions of 4690 x 1880 x 1690 mm it looks bigger than it is.
On The Inside.
It’s typical Hyundai; it’s ergonomically smart, good looking and practical. It’s a mix of textures on the plastics, with a crosshatch design on the dash and the common crocodile look for the rest. There’s not a lot of give in the material though, odd for a luxury oriented vehicle.
The look of the dash, from the driver and passenger seat, is somewhat busy, with lines and angles bordering contrasting shades of black and grey trim; although buttons are logically laid out and clearly legible, it’s visually overdone and a touch fatiguing.
There’s repetition in the design, with a V-shaped spoke for the steering wheel reflected in the centre dash look, starting with the LCD touch screen as a base for an inverted pyramid with the aircon fan speed dial in the apex.
It’s a seven seater, with tilt-a-fold middle row seats and simply operated folding seats in the rear, with separate aircon controls plus the system operates independently of the main aircon.
It’s a full glass roof with a curtain that rolls back at the touch of a button, plus sunroof which was great in letting out hot air from the warmer days as are the vents for heating and cooling the front seats.
There’s 4 channel ABS, with Electronic Brake Distribution, Stability Control, Traction Control, Hill Start Assist and Downward Brake Assist. High visibility LED driving lights, rear parking camera, parking sensors for Front and Rear Park Assist, Smart Parking Assist in the top of the Range Highlander, curtain airbags, a driver’s knee airbag, thorax and pelvis ‘bags plus pretensioning seatbelts provide almost everything a driver may need.
On The Drive.
The engine is a (torque drive) powerhouse; in normal drive mode there’s a hint of lag before the turbo reaches the right revs, with a lightswitch on moment as the front hooks up and launches the 2000 kilo plus Elite. Overtaking is a doddle, especially on the freeway as the gearing has the engine ticking over just below the max torque delivery starting point.
Handling is clean, predictable and with that mountain of torque, the nose will tuck in nicely when the right pedal is applied coming into a turn and sweeping corner. Ride quality (and noise quality, for that matter) is superb, with the Elite firm and flat on most surfaces, isolating noise nicely and the tyres absorbing enough of any initial jolt before the suspension takes over and disappears the rest.
Even the big speedhumps were relegated to a momentary annoyance, at any speed, whilst the dips and undulations found on the freeway barely unsettled the Elite whilst barking was superb, with just the right amount of pressure, from a light touch to a full on emergency heavy foot, having the Elite slowing or stopping in the right distances from the pressure.
Steering is mostly precise, with Hyundai’s three mode steering assist system still remaining questionable as to its worthiness and validity.
It’s (the Elite) is priced at $48490 plus options like metallic paint at $595 and on roads. It competes with it’s sister company’s offering, the Sorento and matches nicely against vehicles such as the Outlander and Cherokee Trailhawk, although the latter is a dedicated off roader.
Fit and finish are of Hyundai’s typical high quality but the cushioning of the plastics needs work; it’s a comfortable ride, inside and on road, it’s quiet with the diesel chatter hardly noticeable under load. Economy settled somewhere around 8.0L per 100, reasonable given the bulk and driving the Elite covered.
Backed by Hyundai’s five year and unlimited kilometre warranty and ten years worth of roadside assist, it’s a car for the family with piece of mind built in.
Head here: http://www.hyundai.com.au/vehicles/santa-fe/specification-range for info.
Go here for A Wheel Thing TV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1UW4YcJWUM&feature=em-upload_owner
In November of 2014, I was part of the dealer network launch team for the newest entry into the luxury sedan market, the Hyundai Genesis. Over three and a half days, the cars were showcased to members of the Hyundai dealerships. However, it wasn’t quite the chance to consciously evaluate the car for a good period of time….until now.
It’s a 397 Nm, 232 kW, 3.8L V6 between the BMW-esque front fenders. It’s a willing, smooth, but thirsty beast, even with eight automatic gears to choose from, with a Hyundai quoted 11.2L per 100 kilometres of driving being drained from the 77 litre tank (urban is quoted as 15.7L and highway at 8.6L). Part of the issue, well, two parts, are the weight of the Genesis (1890 kg dry) and the rev figure for maximum torque: a very high 5000 rpm. Peak kilowatts are produced just 1000 rpm up the range. My best was 8.5 with cruise set at 115 kph (indicated) on a Sydney freeway.
She’s a big ‘un, sitting just a centimetre shy of five metres in length, putting the Genesis into luxobarge territory and offering heaps of interior space. Width is 1890 mm and height 1480 mm on a 3080 mm wheelbase.
There’s a vast area of grille on the Genesis, with six horizontal bars inside a slightly odd looking hexagonal design. The nose is upright, with LED rimmed headlights flowing back into the fenders, whilst the rear has a mix of Japanese and German design influences. At night there’s a neon tube look to the clusters.
Rolling stock is 18 inch alloys with 245/45 rubber, providing a solid footprint on the road. It’s a full length glass roof with sunroof on top and the whole shebang is based on Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture design philosophy, version 2.0.
Front and rear are joined by two scalloped edges, breaking up the profile whilst providing a hint of slimness to the five metres of metal; a touch of luxury is added at night with the Genesis logo beamed downwards from the folding wing mirrors, which help to direct airflow along and around the sides. Underneath is a flat floor, to reduce turbulence and drag. The boot itself is cavernous (493L) and is power operated for the lid itself.
It’s here that the Genesis is showing a touch of age; the car has been available overseas for a few years and although the basic design is ergonomic and legible (for the most part), some of the plastics and ideas used need an upgrade. At least all internal lights are LEDs.
An example is the rear of the driver and passenger seats; just about every other car has a soft material, be it cloth or leather but Genesis has a hard sheet of plastic with elastic straps to pull it away from the seat back. The steering wheel buttons look as if they’ve been lifted from any other Hyundai and the dash buttons lack a premium feel.
There’s a couple of niceties, with a rear window blind and an analogue clock that automatically resets to suit a GPS provided time.
Surrounding the gear lever is a range of buttons, accessing parking sensors, the 360 degree cameras (which display as a top down graphic on screen, with a range of options), drive mode (Normal, Sports, Eco) with the same, not quite as good as they should be, buttons on the dash.
The sound system is fantastic; comprising 17 speakers spread around the cabin, Lexicon have provided a great mix of punch, clarity and channel separation, with kick drums as equally clear as the shriek of a metallic string on a guitar. A 9.2 inch touchscreen takes pride of place in the centre dash, allowing a selection of audio, navigation and the like whilst the dash itself has a four inch or so LCD screen in full colour. The rear seat has access to a set of controls, presumably with the passenger being chauffeured; there’s audio, seat cooling/heating and more.
There’s plenty of driver support in the Genesis Ultimate, which takes the level of technology you may pay more for elsewhere and combines it into one package. Naturally there’s the usual Traction Control, heaps of airbags etc, but you’ll also get Tyre Pressure monitoring, Lane Departure Warning (which beeps and shakes at the driver) Head Up Display, Smart Cruise Control (which reads the distance to the car in front and keeps Genesis at a driver selected distance behind, measured in seconds) with Autonomous Emergency Brake (which will bring the car to a halt automatically), the surprisingly simple Blind Spot Detection, which uses sensors at the rear to flash up on the HUD which side a potentially unseen vehicle is on and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, advising the driver of any vehicles they can’t see as they reverse from a tight car park.
On The Drive.
Sure, there’s a peak of nearly 400 Newton metres of torque to play with but at a hefty call of 5000 revs; there’s enough torque below that to move the two tonnes plus passengers off the line but it’s deceptive. The eight speed auto slurs its way through, there’s a sense of manual gear changing and it FEELS seat of the pants quick…until you look down and see the numbers. It FELT quicker than what it was.
A severe prod of the go pedal changes that, so the revs climb so do the other numbers and there’s a hint of anger from the front, a muted snarl that sounds just right, as the 3.8L V6 winds up. The three drive modes do change the subtleties of the Genesis, however the Normal mode is more than able to deliver.
Steering feel is conversational; there’s a faint sense of numbness on centre, but loads up nicely, especially with the meaty rubber strapped onto the alloys. Ride quality is, for the better part, superb, flattening out all but the bigger intrusions whilst isolating a decent amount of noise from the cabin as well.
Punted hard in turns you can feel the chassis tensing up, with a progressive change from throttle controlled understeer to a touch of lift off oversteer, with the 3.0 metre wheelbase providing a stable footprint. Lock to lock is about three and a half turns, giving good control for normal driving.
Driven hard, the Genesis easily sees plus fifteens for consumption, whilst a cruise controlled freeway stint saw a best of 8.4L/100 km.
It’s a three model range, with the entry level starting in the low $60k bracket and winds up at around $82k plus on roads. The full specification list can be found here: http://www.hyundai.com.au/multimediafiles/cars/genesis/pdf/hyundai_genesis_specification_and_range.pdf and, of course, head across to Hyundai Australia’s website for more.
It’s a good car, a lovely car and aimed at medium wealthy males, luxury car hire and limousine companies. It certainly fits those bills but is already, in the eyes of A Wheel Thing, needing some subtle updates to freshen the interior, to provide more of a luxury office feel with the plastics and seatback map pockets.
The exterior is a different question; the debate about having something that identifies it as a Hyundai will rage for some time but Hyundai Australia needs a hero car. Is this it?
It was parked under the grandstand at Sydney Motorsport Park during the recent V8 Supercar test weekend; comments such as “What is it?” and “Looks nice, a Hyundai? Nahhhh.” were common, as were cameras taking snaps. The styling is inoffensive but, as a result, appears to lack cut through if public feedback is used as a yardstick.