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Archive for December, 2015

Private Fleet Car Review: 2016 Kia Sorento Platinum

Kia’s had a good 2015 in the Australia car market, with both the Carnival and Sorento winning gongs from and Behind The Wheel, plus the Sorento was awarded a prize in the Good Design‘s “Transportation” category.
A Wheel Thing back to backed two Kia diesels, the family perfect Carnival and the impressive Sorento Platinum, both powered by the grunty 2.2L diesel.

The test vehicle provided was covered in the optional (and pretty) Snow White Pearl. At $595 it’s not a deal breaker, on top of the RRP of $55990. The exterior recently copped a makeover, softening some of the harder edges and, in A Wheel Thing’s opinion, makes it more feminine friendly, as the previous look definitely had a masculine attraction. It still manages to take up a reasonable amount of real estate, with a length of 4790 mm, 1890 in width and a surprising 1690 mm in height. Surprising, as it looks taller.2016 Kia Sorento Platinum diesel profileDonk wise, the 2.2L diesel provides 441 Nm between 1750 to 2750 rpm, with the somewhat annoying lightswitch “bam” onces it reaches around 1600. Although the Platinum is an AWD version, it’s predominantly FWD oriented with a lock mode for some off-roading, meaning the front will grip and then send torque through to the rear, with the accompanying slamming back into the seats of the passengers if launched moderately hard. Under gentle prodding, it’s a smooth and quiet progression.2016 Kia Sorento Platinum diesel engine

Kia quotes economy as as 7.8L per 100 on a combined cycle, with the natural habitat seeing 10.1L per 100 klicks. Considering it’s lugging a dry weight of around 2000 kg, it’s reasonable from a 71 litre tank. Should Sir and Madam decide on a highway trip,there’s something in the order of 6.4L for every one hundred or, theoretically, somewhere over 1000 kilometres.

That’s helped by that smoother, more svelte looking exterior. The headlights have a less eagle eyed sharpness to them, with the top edge rolling into the bonnet, with the lower bumper exhibiting a more aerodynamic look, sporting a rolled off crease above the driving lights and flowing air more efficiently along the side. 2016 Kia Sorento Platinum diesel frontThere’s also a somewhat more bluff and vertical look to the nose plus the traditional “tiger nose” grille looks to be enlarged. The profile is much the same whereas the rear has a strong resemblance, thanks to the lights, to the Carnival. The review vehicle came fitted with a towbar, with the Sorento able to tow up to 2000 kilograms.2016 Kia Sorento Platinum diesel rear 22016 Kia Sorento Platinum diesel rear 1

Inside, A Wheel Thing suspects that Kia’s design team has taken inspiration from a certain British luxury and sports car brand. There’s a gloriously sweeping arch atop the dash, joining the driver’s and passenger side doors, with finely embossed, almost stitched leather look plastic. 2016 Kia Sorento Platinum diesel front seatsGrey wood grained plastic complements the stone coloured upper level trim and black leather seating and the (heated) steering wheel has the same off centre pivot as found in cars from the U.K. brand.

The dash and tilt/reach adjustable steering wheel interact with information shown on the logically laid out dash screen, which is accessible via tabs on the tiller. Fuel usage on the fly, average fuel, trip meter and more, all in clean and easy to read fonts. Blutooth streaming is on board, allowing great sounds via the ten speaker Infinity sound system. The tiller itself is of a good heft, however there were occasions when the plastic inlay came to hand and hand grip was minimised.2016 Kia Sorento Platinum diesel dash

Tech wise there’s a glass roof, Hill Start Assist, Blind Spot Detection and Lane Change Assist, plus Lane Departure Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, auto levelling headlights, park assist sensors and rear view camera plus tyre pressure monitoring. All standard in the Platinum.2016 Kia Sorento Platinum diesel sunroof

Being a seven seater, there’s aircon controls in the rear, but oddly in the rearmost section, not where the more logical passengers would be seated, in the middle row. The stored seats are devilishly simple to operate, with a simple pull strap mechanism doing the work. The middle row are the immensely usable tilt and fold style, (with cargo going from 320L to 2066L) with the fronts naturally electrically operated, with heating and venting.2016 Kia Sorento Platinum diesel rear aircon

Should one need somepower for items such as a mobile phone or a fridge, there’s three 12V sockets, with two being handily placed in the front section. There’s also 2 USB charger ports along with an Auxiliary for extra sound input.2016 Kia Sorento Platinum diesel console

Kia’s six speed auto is a delight to use; Sports mode or manual shift was rarely used but does make gear changes just that touch crisper. There’s no real need to use it during normal driving as it simply works as expected; smooth, fast, quietly. There’s a locking centre diff should one desire to try the 235/55/19 off road…highly unlikely, however.2016 Kia Sorento Platinum diesel wheel

On road, the Sorento is well mannered, with a measure of understeer in some circumstances. Under brakes (which were, quite frankly, in dire need of of a pedal that gave feel as soon as you touched it, not an inch down in travel) there was a distinct lack of confidence in hauling up the two tonnes plus. Ride quality, however, made up for it, being just soft enough to flatten out most lumps comfortably.2016 Kia Sorento Platinum diesel aircon

It’s chuckable enough to have fun with as well, with a nimbleness at odds with its apparent bulk. There’s more than enough grunt to get it under way rapidly and when punted hard, will move with surprising alacrity. Tip in in to a turn and yes, there is that understeer but easily controlled into a touch of oversteer with a deftpiece of footwork.

The Wrap.
Kia is one of the Australian automotive markets hidden secrets; there’s the astonishingly underrated Kia Pro_ceed GT, the funky Soul and the immensely family friendly Carnival (diesel is the pick). The Sorento is a class act and worthy of the awards it has won. As far as A Wheel Thing is concerned, it’s as family usable as the Carnival with the added attraction of being soft road capable, if that’s your wont. And at under $60K, with a huge standard feature list, it takes the fight to the Europeans and is well equipped to do so.
There’s Kia’s standard seven year warranty, capped price servicing ($400 for the first service at 15000 kilometres or 12months)
For details and brochure downloads: Kia Sorento range and info

Eight Christmas Wishes For Drivers Everywhere

I told you we had to follow the star - this camel might have great 4x4 ability but it hasn't got GPS.

I told you we had to follow the star – this camel might have great 4×4 ability but it hasn’t got GPS.

Well, this is the last post from me for 2015, as I’m going to be getting some well-earned R&R time with the family over the Christmas & New Year period.  I hope all Private Fleet’s readers will be doing the same.  It can be a bit hectic in the lead-up to the silly season, so here’s to beating stress on the road and off it, and to a great Christmas for all of us.

In this time, there are a few things that I hope, pray and wish that we all have as we drive from A to B, whether it’s doing the Christmas shopping, ferrying a bunch of kids dressed up in dressing gowns to the church for the Nativity play or heading off to the beach or for a holiday:

  1. Patience in busy traffic. People are whizzing here, there and everywhere. It’s probably unrealistic to hope that we all have free-flowing traffic all of the time. Even if we live in rural areas and do a lot of shopping online, we’re still going to have to go out somewhere sometime, and we’re going to be crawling along behind a queue. Or caught in those last-minute road works as the crews try to get all those jobs wrapped up before they get time off over Christmas. It’s going to be inevitable, so this is where you need to know how to chill a bit and be patient. If we were all more patient in the car and realised that everyone else is in the same situation, there’s be less on-road rudeness.
  2. Good parking spaces. By a “good” parking space, I don’t mean one that’s just outside where you want to go. I mean one that’s easy to get in and out of, and is within walking distance of where you need to be. I also mean one where the driver in the space next to you isn’t going to dent your door.
  3. Sober drivers. In your car and in the cars around you. I certainly won’t be saying no to a nice cool cider on the rocks over these holidays but I know better than to hop in the car and drive afterwards. Have a plan for taking turns at being the sober driver and learn some good recipes for non-alcoholic cocktails. And no excuses for taking a risk, thinking you’re OK and hopping behind the wheel with a bit too much ink in you. None at all.
  4. No speeding tickets. There’s something about this time of year that tends to bring the boys and girls in blue out in force. On the surface, they’re trying to make sure that we don’t have heaps of accidents and road fatalities during the holiday period. On the other hand, the difference between what happens in a crash at the speed limit of 100 km/h and 102 km/h is academic. But guess what you’re going to get double demerit points for over the holidays for (in NSW at least).  I’m all for traffic safety and common sense, but it’s starting to get a bit ridiculous and you can feel like a target for not having your eyes glued to the speedo the whole time. It gets particularly tricky if you’re in an unfamiliar town and miss a speed limit sign.  However, be vigilant, keep the right foot lightly on the pedal and remember that it’s better to be a bit late to your destination than to have a big bill over this period that’s a financial stress on everyone.
  5. Keeping cool in the car on hot days. Air con is one of the world’s best inventions. So are chilled storage compartments, cotton clothing, automatic windows and refrigerators. If you can’t find shade to park in, buy or make one of those windscreen shade things to stop the inside of your car becoming an oven while parked. Alternatively, cut down on your power bill by using the hot interior of the car to soften the butter to go into the Christmas cake and melt the chocolate you’re going to get fancy with.
  6. funny-christmas-card-ideasNo breakdowns. It’s probably a smart idea to deal with those little problems before they become big problems in the middle of your holiday. I’ve had more than one holiday modified (I won’t say ruined) by something going wrong with the car. Like the time that our old Ford Fairmont  got a hole in some obscure pipe, forcing us into an unscheduled stay in one little country town. At least the camping ground had a swimming pool and a great trampoline to fill in the time while the nice mechanic got the pipe fixed the next morning.
  7. Enough fuel. Fill up your tank on Christmas Eve if you know that you’re going to be driving to Grandma’s for Christmas dinner three hours away. The chances of finding a fuel outlet that’s open on Christmas day are slim, as petrol pump attendants probably want the day off, too.
  8. A sense of humour. This will get you through a lot of sticky situations, in the car and out of it. Laugh at yourself and other drivers, and see the funny side of everything. It’s better than getting mad by a long chalk.

Safe and happy driving, as well as a great Christmas,


Private Fleet Car Review: 2016 Jaguar F-Type S Coupe Manual

Some car brands evoke emotional responses in people. That brand will say that’s exactly what they’re looking for as it’s a major consideration in the purchase of a car. There’s also a loyalty factor to consider and then there’s the sheer want or lust… Jaguar’s F-Type, released two years ago in Australia, in convertible and automatic gearbox form only, is one of those cars.2016 Jaguar F-Type S manual badge

A Wheel Thing was fortunate enough to attend the launch in late 2013 and sample the three variants, being the two supercharged V6 engines and the brawny V8. Recently, Jaguar released the manual gearbox version for the V6 powerplants and Jaguar Australia lobbed the keys of a Stormtrooper white and black 280 kW rear wheel drive F-Type S coupe into the A Wheel Thing office.

Of immediate note is the size; the F-Type is battleship wide from the rear quarters yet somehow seems to look smaller from most other angles. That’s until you park near a mid 1980’s XJ6/Daimler that then allows you then get an appreciation for its true measurements. It looks longer than the spec sheet says, at 4470 mm and it’s not tall, standing just 1311mm above the tarmac. Did I mention it’s wide? Try 2042 mm or 1923 with/without mirrors.2016 Jaguar F-Type S manual vs 1985 Daimler V12 Doors, wheels, even the overall length are either considerably larger or close to the venerable old lady but the glasshouse is noticeably smaller. Wheelbase is a not inconsiderable, given the overall length, 2622 mm, yet it’s a tight 10.7 metres for a turning circle. It’s reasonably trim,with a starting weight of 1567 kg for the manual, too…. There’s the familiar Jaguar bonnet power bulge and, for F-Type, a pair of engine vents in the lightweight bonnet, bisecting the LED driving lights in the feline snout. 2016 Jaguar F-Type S manual night front There’s a choice of two supercharged V6 engines, at 250 kW and 280 kW, a blown 5.0L V8 and either rear or all paw platforms. Peak power arrives at 6500 rpm for the V6 engines, however there’s just ten metres of Mr Newton’s best torques in difference between the two, on tap from 3500 to 5000 rpm. They’re hooked to a six speed manual, in this case, which is good for a sprint time of 5.7 seconds to 100 kilometres per hour.2016 Jaguar F-Type S manual engineBecause it is what it is, only 98 RON unleaded is recommended and it’ll give the 70 litre tank a fair belting at 13.5 litres per 100 kilometres distance in the urban cycle. That drops by nearly half, to 7.6, for the freeway and 9.8L/100 km on a combined drive. Access to the engine, by the way, is via Jaguar’s traditional flip front engine cover. Not that you’d know there’s an engine underneath the hectare of plastic covering it…

Inside the F-Type, the cabin is strictly a two seater, with a cargo space behind your ears capable of a maximum 407 litres of space, if the parcel tray is removed. There’s a smattering of storage spaces, including one just behind the driver’s left ear and a small one just ahead of the gear selector. Although it’s wide, the seats abut the doors, with seat adjustment built into the door trim, including air powered, adjustable bolsters.2016 Jaguar F-Type S manual power seat switches

The overall intention of the cabin is of quality, as you’d expect, yet the steering wheel is the same as you’d find in the $100,000 less XE. There’s an odd and out of place air conditioning button, right next to the touchscreen, which coulda/shoulda been incorporated into the dials or the tabs underneath the dials. The sliding sunroof screen on the inside of the F-Type (it’s a solid glass roof) has a metal handle which picks up heat rather quickly, resulting in some singed fingertips.2016 Jaguar F-Type S manual centre dash

There’s a four quarter layout to the touch screen’s home screen, usable but not exactly intuitive but that’s forgotton once the excellent Meridian audio system is fired up. There’s depth, clarity, separation, stage presence almost unheard of for a car’s sound system, with plenty of low end kick when needed, balanced by the clear and delicate highs.

On start up (via the red pulsating Start button in the lower console), there’s a quick whir of the starter motor, a burble from the exhaust as the engine settles into its rhythm and a rising of the uperr centre air vents. It’s all very majestic and theatrical but it gets better once a button is pressed. That button brings the active exhaust to life, providing a thoatier, deeper, more rorty note. Idle away, slotting the six speed into second, third, and it’ll give no hint of its nature. Find a good piece of road and the ears are belted by the glorious soundtrack.2016 Jaguar F-Type S manual engine 2

There’s the whine, subtle yet purposeful, from the supercharger, the intoxicating snap crackle and pop from the exhaust as you lift off the accelerator. When pressed in anger, there’s a serious bark that changes into a growl, a snarl, that rises in pitch as the revs climb. There’s grip, oh there’s grip aplenty from the wide track and superglue sticky Pirelli tyres and a ride that isn’t spine shattering in its initial compliance. What the Jaguar F-Type does miss is a front end with adjustable height, as the plastic chin scrapes easily coming of some driveways.

But the talking point about this car is that’s not a self shifter, it needs the organic component to be involved and…’s not without faults. There’s no lock out for Reverse, which is left and up, nor does it genuinely liked to be hurried, with incorrect gears selected just that one too many times to dismiss it as an aberration. When used at a normal pace, it slots in nicely, but sports shifting is not its forte. The short throw is ideal, as is the feel of the material itself.2016 Jaguar F-Type S manual front quarter

The pickup point for the clutch, on the other hand, is nigh on perfect, as is the pressure on the clutch’s travel itself. It’s an ideal mix of being light enough to be useable by almost everyone nor hard enough to stress a left knee. Mixed with the short throw (when it isn’t going to second instead of fourth from sixth), it’s a delight, allowing the driver to set the car up for a powerful run out of a corner.

Flex the right foot and the haunches squat down, the nose rises imperceptibly and it launches, hard, from low gears and smoothly without fuss from further up the cog choice range. The built in spoiler raises and lowers at speed (reducing lift by up to 120 kilograms of force) and can be moved at the touch of a button in the cabin. There’s Dynamic mode that changes the dash’s screen (with mechanical dials, not LCD screen based) to a lurid red, changes the engine’s mapping (and shift points for the Auto) and feels as if the suspension tightens up. 2016 Jaguar F-Type S manual dash dialsBut for all of that torque, it’ll still stutter, like any manual, if revs drop too low for the wrong gear. The solution is easy and always immensely enjoyable.

On road manners are impeccable; there’s a lightning fast steering rack, with under two and a half turns side to side, with plenty of communication between tarmac and driver. There’s minimal bump/thump and a ripple following ride, with each corner rolling over undulations with aplomb. Put that down to the aluminuiom body, with higher torsional strength,natch, than the convertible.

Brake feel is sensational, with bite at the top of the pedal and without any grabbing suddenly, with a beautifully progressive travel and stopping power. The accelerator is the same, with instant response from the moment it senses pressure.2016 Jaguar F-Type S manual rear

It’s also a car that has the enviable record of having the most eyes on it during A Wheel Thing’s tenure; from courier drivers to the high school lad that rode past it three times, from the open admiration of one of the blue’s finest to a long term member of the Jaguar Driver’s Club being gobsmacked in awe, it garnerned more attention and acclaim in one week than all other cars combined.

The signature Jaguar hip line, the beautifully balanced proportions, the menacing look at the front in that classic monochrome pairing and the clear heritage from the C-X75 concept car, the simplicity of the powered hatchback and those wonderfully broad rear quarters, beautifully lit at night by the LED tail lights combine to deliver a truly worthy successor in the looks department to the fabled E-Type, the car that none other than Enzo Ferrari said was the most beautiful car in the world.2016 Jaguar F-Type S manual night rear

At around $168K driveaway in NSW, with something close to $35K in taxes and charges included, it’s up against Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Audi. It’s up against something even more important: a buyer that needs to be tempted away from the continentals. If you’re a follower of the leaping cat brand, it’s a no brainer. That loyalty, the emotional connection to Jaguar , will see you inside the dealership poring over the options list and wondering which shade of paint Sir would like his new “cat” coated in. 2015-jaguar-f-type-coupe-overhead-view

The F-Type provokes plenty of emotional responses; the gaping jaws and whistles from school kids is evidence enough. But the F-Type is so much more than simply a button pusher for emotions, it’s a damned good car and, as highlighted in an episode of a popular but now defunct English tv motoring show, a fantastic example of what a legendary car company and British knowhow can do when it all just comes together.

This link: Jaguar F-Type brochure will give you nearly all of the info you need. For pricing and more detailed enquiries, click here: Jaguar Australia 2016 range


It's Christmas Time, There's No Need To Be Afraid….

Yep, a great line from a mega hit of the 1980’s. It’s also valid for you as you consider the fact that the Christmas holidays are upon us and it’s looking like a  drive for a holiday is on the cards. But you’re hesitant, nervous, maybe even a bit afraid of taking the chariot out. Here’s a small checklist that may help you get through the Christmas yips…

Tyres: these round, rubbery, bits are oft neglected and to use a Bush-ism, misunderestimated in how important they are. There’s two crucial factors at play when it comes to tyres and they’re interlinked: tyre pressure and tyre age. On the side of your tyre will be numbers that will look something like: 225/55/17. These numbers indicate the size of the tyre and the wheel to which it’s fitted. Each tyre will need to be inflated to a proper pressure to ensure that the 225 (width of the tyre) is gripping as much of the road surface, wet or dry or gravelly, as possible. That correct tyre pressure also means that the 55 (height of the tyre’s sidewall in relation to its width) can flex properly and work with the width of the tread.Tyre profile

By having the right tyre pressure, you’ll minimise the stress on the rubber from being under or over inflated and, to a point, this is where the age factor comes in. Again, this info is built into the sidewall and there’s schools of thought that say that after a certain period, tyres should be replaced, regardless, due to the rubber deteriorating to a point where a lesser impact than a new tyre can handle will fracture it. There’s also the grip factor to consider, where a newer and more flexible tyre will hang on more than an older, dried out rubber construction. Bridgestone provided this link:

Fluids: It’s absolute vital for we humans to have water and it’s the same for our cars, they need fluids too and not just for the radiator. Engine oil, wiper fluid, gearbox and possibly even differential fluid need to be at certain levels for your car to be at its best. Apart from the radiator, which uses a series of vanes to exchange heat for cooler air, engine oil is probably as important for not just lubricating the internals (like a good vino) but assists in heat management by doing so. lifetime-engine-oil-1Metal on metal inside an engine is not a good thing and with lower than specified oil levels, there’s less oil being spread around to do the job that a normal level will do. Therefore there’s more change of higher levels of friction and heat.

Wiper fluid is important in keeping the front view as unobscured as possible. Daily driving exposes the screen to dirt, soot, moisture and more and a proper mix of wiper fluid will assist in keeping your windscreen as clean as possible and will help in reducing glare and light scatter. Gearboxes and “diffs” tend to be sealed units nowadays, with no real scope for self maintenance. However, if you do have a car that has access, it doesn’t hurt to get these levels checked, for the same reason as the engine.

Interior: Keeping the interior clean not only extends the life of the materials inside, it also stops items like cans or cups rolling around and possibly becoming stuck under the brake or accelerator pedal. Washing the Car InteriorIf you’re a smoker, be aware that the smoke will settle on the dash and coat the inside of the windscreen, which can also obscure your forward vision. There’s plenty of products that will help clean the glass and there’s nothing wrong with a scented air freshener to give the car (and you!) some extra pep.

Fuel: This one’s not always as clear cut as it could be. Certain car engines are engineered and tuned to run on a particular type of unleaded for maximum performance and economy. Let’s say you’ve got a car that has, on the fuel lid flap, 98RON only. RON or Research Octane Number indicates the level of resistance to “detonation”.  The higher the number, the more finely tuned an engine can be to take advantage of the chemical makeup of that fuel, especially with today’s computer controlled ignition systems. Click here for more information:

Many cars, like Holden’s Commodore, will be able to utilise petrol from anywhere from 91 to 98. A car tuned to run on 98 and fed only 91 will not be able to produce the amount of kilowatts and torque it should and will struggle to deliver a driving experience without detonation or pinging or knocking as it’s also known. Your vehicle’s handbook will also have this information. Diesel cars are generally easier to deal with as, for most production cars, there’s only one kind of diesel to worry about. However, some cars may require a diesel with a specified sulphur level; this is to do with the emissions system the vehicle has, and by using the specified diesel, will not only not clog your car’s system, it will reduce emissions.

Young female driverAnd as for you, dear driver, you can assist in making your journey as trouble free as possible by doing a few simple things too. Drive to the conditions, use indicators and headlights (check these before starting any trip, as well), take breaks and make use of the Driver Survivor stops. Drink plenty of water (staying hydrated helps keep a driver’s alertness level up), give other traffic plenty of room and always do a visual check on your car before commencing any journey. Oh, and absolutely do NOT drink and drive, nor is it wise to consider a long drive if you’ve had a “big night”.

Have a safe Christmas drive and, remember, there’s no need to be afraid.

Driving Home For Christmas (And Surviving)

chris-rea-driving-home-for-christmas-1Driving Home For Christmas (And Surviving)

“Driving in my car, driving home for Christmas…” Hands up if you’ve had this one piped at you recently on the radio or through the store sound system. At least it’s one of the least toe-curlingly cringe-worthy Christmas ditties that get hauled onto the playlist at this time of year (unlike “Let It Snow”, “It’s Lovely Weather For A Sleigh Ride Together With You” and other tracks that are singularly inappropriate when it’s sweltering and the streets are full of sweaty people in sunnies; just don’t get me started… rant over). At least this one raises a point and talks about a bit of what really goes on – long-haul driving to visit the rellies and crowded roads where you’re “top to toe in tailbacks” and get “red lights on the run”.

It can be a bit of a nightmare, trying to load the kids in the car and head off on a long drive interstate to the home of whoever is hosting the family Christmas this year. Haven’t we all been there and done that, either when we were kids or when we got kids of our own.

To make sure that you arrive in one peace and reasonably sane, it pays to plan ahead. To help you with this process, here’s a few handy hints that will get you through that 8+-hour haul.

  1. Be prepared to take the trip in two bites. If the trip requires more than 12 hours of driving, it could be wisest for everybody’s safety and sanity to spread it over two days. This may mean a stopover at a camping ground or motor inn unit in some obscure little town so everybody can sleep. Attempting to have the entire family sleeping in the car is probably not going to work unless you have a small family and a large car. The only time that I’ve managed to get a decent sleep in the car when accompanied by the family was when (a) both the children were under 10, (b) we owned a van and (c) my husband slept underneath the van.  If your trip is going to take three or more days of travel, consider flying instead of driving unless you’re really keen on driving and have a very tolerant family.
  2. Allow for breaks. And we don’t just mean a quick whip into the dunny when you’re stopping to refuel. It’s better for your back and for your alertness (and will tire the kids out more quickly) if you actually get out and move around a bit.
  3. Share the driving. If you have more than one driver in the family, then make sure that everyone gets a turn. This includes the L-plater, who could probably do with the experience of driving at night. Don’t forget to pack the L plate and/or the P plate if applicable.
  4. Audiobooks are a wonderful way of passing the time – possibly better than music in some circumstances (might not be the best in very busy traffic, as they may distract the driver, especially if you’ve got to the big showdown between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort  just as you negotiate that spaghetti junction). On the whole, children’s stories are a lot easier for adults to tolerate than cheesy children’s songs. If the worst comes to the worst and you really can’t agree on the book or the music, get separate devices and headphones for individuals – but not all the time. Learning to share and tolerate each other’s tastes is an important life lesson.  You may want a session where you pre-load your MP3 player, iPod or phone with a playlist for the journey where every family member makes a contribution.
  5. Have some time when the music isn’t playing and use this for old-fashioned “quality time” conversation, telling Dad jokes and playing silly story-telling games. Or singing.
  6. Choose food and drink wisely. It’s best to be flexible here and pick food that can be eaten in the car if needed or taken out as picnic food – it’s all very well to plan a nice picnic where you make your own filled rolls from the ingredients in the esky but this is horribly fiddly and messy if a heavy downpour coincides with your planned lunch break. Beware of too many drive-through takeaways, as all the additives, caffeine and sugar in the soft drinks and/or food, as these will make everyone more frazzled and energetic. They also get pretty pricey if you do it every time. Bring your own in lunchboxes or have a “supermarket special challenge” where you set a dollar limit and see what you can find in the nearest supermarket.  Stick to water for the kids (and possibly for the driver), as this doesn’t make your upholstery sticky when it gets spilled. Freezing a bottle of water the night before helps the water stay cold; adding a splash of herbal tea (e.g. peppermint or one of the fruity ones) makes it a bit “special” for the kids. Don’t overdo the water or you’ll have billions of toilet stops, but don’t underdo it either.
  7. Swap positions around. This means the passengers as well as the drivers. This is more feasible if your children are in the booster seat stage or older but is a bit of a hassle in the case of a more substantial baby or toddler seat. Possibly have some sort of competition (which the parents rig to ensure that everyone gets a turn at winning) with the winner getting the most coveted seat.

Aagh, now I’ve got an ear worm and can’t get that Chris Rea song  out of my head.

Safe and happy driving,


Private Fleet Car Review: 2016 Volvo XC 90 Inscription versus 2016 Audi Q7 Quattro

A Wheel Thing was fortunate enough to have the stars align and be given the keys to two new range toppers: from Sweden comes the 2016 spec Volvo XC90 Inscription and from Germany the 2016 Audi Q7 Quattro. Similarly priced, similarly sized and similarly specced, it’ll come down to personal preference for a potential buyer and certainly the end decision as to which A Wheel Thing would keep is a personal choice.2016 Audi Q7 diesel profile2016 Volvo XC90 Inscription profileWhat’s on offer are two very well kitted out SUV’s, ostensibly with off road ability, luxury trimmings and plenty of room. Yet, at their heart, two totally different approaches on how some basics are delivered…

Up front is how these two get their get up and go. The Volvo goes slimline with a turbocharged four cylinder petrol whilst the Audi squares its shoulders with a brawny V6 diesel. Capacities are different; two litres vs three and the end power/torque numbers tell the story. Volvo offers up 235 kilowatts at 5700 revs, with 400 torques on tap across a plateau flat 2200 to 5400 rpm.2016 Volvo XC90 Inscription engine2016 Audi Q7 diesel engine

Being a one litre bigger, naturally torquey V6, Audi says you can have 200 kW from 3250 to 4250 revs but if you insist on out twisting a tornado, Sir says thank you for 600 Nm from 1500 to 3000 revs. Both get self shifters with eight ratios; Audi’s gear selector is a super easy to use rocker lever style with Park selected by pressing a button embedded in the back of the lever.

Consumption from the oiler? Audi says around six litres per one hundred klicks on a combined cycle. The big Swede drinks a little more heavily, at 8.5L/100 km. Even the dirty stuff has the Audi cleaner, with 163 grams of CO2 per kilometre versus the petrol’s 199.

2016 Audi Q7 diesel front2016 Audi Q7 diesel rearStood side by side, there’s bugger all between them. Volvo: 4950 mm in length whilst the the German heavyweight goes 5052. Width? Sir can choose 2140 mm (including mirrors) for the blue and yellow flagged entrant or 2212 mm for the Audi. Height wise it’s 1776 mm for the Volvo vs 1740 mm. Interior room, as a result, is within cooee; Volvo says 1465 mm for front shoulder room, Audi 1512 mm. Wheelbase comes into play as well, with the Q7 just under 3 metres at 2994 mm whilst the XC90 is almost lineball at 2984 mm.2016 Volvo XC90 Inscription profile dealershipIn profile they’re almost identical, with the Volvo having a slightly larger area for the rearmost window and a touch more upright in the nose. It’s at the front that the XC90’s dramatic makeover gets shown off. Think two pick axe shaped LED inserts, laid T outwards in the headlights. Sun bright when looked at head on, they provide a high level of safety during the day by providing oncoming drivers a clear signal the Volvo is on its way. Hidden away at the bottom corners of the front bar are normal globe lit lights, almost redundant they are.

Audi have LED lit headlights and a similar but less intense design philosophy for the driving lights. The massive hexagonal grille dominates the front and both, leaving the Volvo’s grille feeling diminutive in comparison. Both cars come with forward collision alert and cameras hidden within the front ends, with rear reverse parking and sensors an/or cameras for lane avoidance, blind spot alert and cross traffic.The all-new Volvo XC90 R-Design The all-new Volvo XC90 R-Design

There’s power tail gates, folding third row seats and LED lighting for both at the rear, with both exhibiting an evolution of the previous design in regards to looks and lights, with the Volvo’s looking more streamline and lithe than before. Inside, mid and rear seat passengers get aircon controls, with Audi allowing four zones of climate control, controlled from the front.2016 Audi Q7 diesel rear aircon controls 22016 Volvo XC90 Inscription third row seats 2016 Volvo XC90 Inscription sliding rear seats 2016 Volvo XC90 Inscription rear seats

Staying inside, there’s two noticeable things: both have classy looking trim, featuring wood, carpet, slide and folding mid row seats, easy to flip & fold rears and high end audio with Bose for Audi and B&W (Bowers and Wilkins) for the Volvo. For the front seat passengers, here’s the divergence: Volvo’s gone with a large, almost laptop sized touch screen for the control system, whilst Audi has eschewed that tech, staying with touch sensitive flip buttons for the aircon and their proprietary push button/jog dial system for car/audio/drive settings.2016 Audi Q7 diesel rear seats 2016 Audi Q7 diesel rear cabin2016 Audi Q7 diesel folding rear seats

The Volvo system immediately presented a conundrum: at the top of the screen was a warning note about one of the parking system options. This note covered a little touch tab which allows the driver to access the Settings tab….but without clearing that warning and not knowing it hid the tab, access to items such as changing the driver’s display screen was blocked. By staying with their system, Audi’s was straight up easier to use. A simple thing, yes, but for people that may not be of a technological bent, it’s a speed hump.2016 Audi Q7 diesel dash 2016 Audi Q7 diesel cabin2016 Volvo XC90 Inscription front seats

The multi-function display or MFD isn’t as intuitive as other Volvos but info on how to use it can be found here: Volvo XC90 user manual
The issue A Wheel Thing found wasn’t huge, in the greater scheme of things, but hints at the needless complication of what’s intended to be simple. The centre console screen is now the main home for things such as changing the look of the driver’s dash screen.

So a whole wealth of information hidden by an ultimately unneccessary warning message which could have been fixed by simply including the Settings and manual on the Applications section of the appropriate screen….Simplicity, overlooked. The Audi’s system, although not perfect, is simpler to use in its “click, twirl, push to select”.2016 Volvo XC90 Inscription folding rear seats2016 Audi Q7 diesel rear aircon controls

Also, in the Volvo, the electrically assisted steering does feel too light and the lane keeping assistance is perhaps a little too violent in its helping for the more dour driver in one setting. It tugs, not gently, to tell you you’re off line. Audi’s system had the driver feeling almost as if autonomous steering was on board; there’s four external cameras on the side of the car, tracking the white lines and was mostly bang on, with the occasional exception of when the cameras lost sight of the lines of the lines faded. Couple that with the forward collision avoidance system (which both have and sometimes set off false positives) when cruise control is engaged, and it’s almost drive by itself ready.

Speaking of driving; there’s a substantial difference in how they get under way, with the diesel’s low end thump matched nicely by the turbo four once under way. Getting under way is the difference, with the turbo suddenly coming on song versus the diesel’s more linear delivery. Although the Volvo offers less torque, it’s across a more useable, in real terms, rev range. Acceleration, once the throttle has been feathered to avoid the lightswitch, is decently rapid as to be almost frightening in its pace. On road manners, regardless, were impeccable for both.

The Audi, with more torque but a slightly lesser range, does feel as if it runs out of serious urge whilst the Volvo is still ready to strap on the gloves. When the torque rolls off from the Volvo, it runs straight into the peak power and lends the Volvo a feeling of near unstoppability. The diesel’s rev range simply doesn’t allow it to continue the wave to the extent the Volvo does. Having said that, the Volvo feels almost dainty in its presence, ladylike, compared to the Audi’s broad shouldered, axe swinging assertiveness.

Both cars were taken onto some flat, compacted, gravel roads to test their off road traction, acceleration and braking. The Q7 had Pirelli Scorpion rubber, at a relatively low 255/55/19 size. Volvo went bigger at 20 inch wheels, with massive 275/45 Michelin rubber. For both, on road grip was stupendous, as expected and offroad, in the situation used, held on nicely, with the Volvo perhaps a touch, a touch, skatier. Braking pulled both of the cars up in similar distances, with the ABS and traction systems audible as they did so.

The Audi’s variable drive system also involves airbag suspension, so to select the off road mode you can feel and see the car rising and lowering itself. Volvo also offers variable drive modes such as Comfort and Eco. Air suspension is available as an option. One thing the Volvo had and, in A Wheel Thing’s opinion, should be more widespread, is a HUD, a Head Up Display.

Volvo YouTube interior of XC90

Looking through and ahead from the driver’s position, the display is intuitive but, more importantly, utterly non distracting. It’s adjustable for info, height and brightness, via the central touchscreen. It’s surprising just how unobtrusive a HUD is yet how useful it becomes without realising.

Soundwise, there’s little between the B&W system versus the Bose, with perhaps the Volvo’s system displaying a touch more separation in the notes, a sense of airiness and clarity to the ears.

The Wrap.
Buying a car has, largely, been a matter of preference, allegiance too, such as a dedicated Holden or Ford supporter. This pair comes down, in this case, to personal preference and the Audi takes the chequered flag.
In A Wheel Thing’s opinion, touchscreen technology has its place in cars. Some minor layout tweaks and refinement for the Volvo’s would make it more user friendly and, with the presumption that the majority of buyers will have a measure of tech savvy that won’t reach the Volvo’s level of sophistication, may broaden the appeal somewhat.
The Audi’s tried and proven interface isn’t perfect, but for A Wheel Thing, it’s better.
The Audi drive modes, the feeling it’s a more capable soft roader and that torque, which in a real world driving scenario felt easier to live with, and offered to A Wheel Thing a more blokey handshake, wins the election on preference votes.
For info on the Audi Q7, click here: 2016 Audi Q7 Quattro
And for the Volvo: 2016 Volvo XC90 range
For A Wheel Thing TV:


‘Tis The Season To Avoid Drink Driving*

Merry and jolly are words that crop up in only two contexts: Christmas and indulging in a drink or two, and by “drink”, I don’t mean a cup of hot chocolate. Tis the season when work parties, sports and other club breakups and family dos are pretty thick on the ground. This usually means that wine, beer and cider will be in evidence somewhat. So will the cops with their breathalyzers.

breath testingWe’ve all heard the horror stories and seen the safety campaigns, yada, yada, so I’m not going to go on about all the reasons why you shouldn’t drink and drive. However, one question that a lot of us have is how much you can actually get away with having before you get slapped with a great hefty ticket and/or become a menace to yourself and others.

The answer is, of course, it depends. It will depend on what sort of licence you have, what you’re driving and who you are. It will also depend on what your preferred tipple is and what you’ve been eating.

The easy one to explain is the rules for L and P platers: zero. Nada. Zip. Zilch. You even have to steer clear of mouth wash and sherry trifle. Technically, you should even avoid participating in Mass/Communion/Eucharist if you belong to one of the churches that use real wine in the ceremony. However, in New South Wales at least, if you do get caught with a bit on your breath or in your bloodstream on your way home from the church, this is considered legit but you’ll still have to go to court and prove that you were actually at church that morning, etc. If your blood alcohol content (BAC) is over 0.2 mg/mL, however, you won’t get off even if the Pope himself came in to swear that you’re the altar boy.

While we’re on the subject, there have been instances where priests and vicars have ended up driving with a BAC over 0.2 mg/mL. This is because, thanks to a heap of rather dry theology we won’t go into here, they have to get rid of all the leftover communion by drinking it. Communion wine tends to be the cheap red fortified plonk that’s about 14% proof, so if the vicar’s really overestimated the amount needed, there’s a fair bit there to drink that a couple of chocolate chip biscuits and a coffee after the service aren’t going to soak up (plus see below re soaking up). Add in the amount of church services that tend to go on in the lead-up to Christmas and the chances that the cops are going to catch the vicar out get a lot higher. This is the point where Baptist ministers and Muslims look smug, as this doesn’t happen to them, given their avoidance of alcohol.

However, the vicar is unlikely to be over 0.5 mg/mL, which is the limit for those of us who aren’t driving on a P or L plate, or driving a heavy truck or a taxi. If you are in charge of a vehicle that’s over 13.9 T, handling dangerous goods or ferrying fare-paying passengers around (bus or taxi drivers), the limit is 0.2 mg/mL.

Unfortunately, it’s rather hard to calculate your own BAC. You can try keeping count of standard drinks but this is really inaccurate. For one thing, drinks don’t always come in standard sizes – I’ve got about four different sizes of wine glass sitting in my cupboards, for example, so “just one glass” can range from about 100 mL to pretty close to 125 mL. For another, you don’t always get the chance to see the label telling you how much of that particular tipple is a standard drink. Sometimes, in the case of home brew (which includes Granny’s home-made ginger ale), there is no label and no real way of telling the true alcohol content. You can’t always tell by the taste how strong it is, either. Mixing alcohol with something bubbly gets it into your bloodstream quicker, too.

How many drinks it takes to reach your BAC will depend on a lot of factors. Your weight is one thing that affects it and is the one most often talked about. Your fitness and the state of your liver will also play a role. So will your gender and even your stress levels.

It is widely held that eating will slow the rate at which the alcohol goes into your bloodstream. This is true… as long as you eat the food before having the alcohol. Attempts to “soak it up” afterwards by downing a plate of nachos are doomed to failure.

Nothing but time alone will get your BAC down if you suspect that you’ve overdone it. Coffee will not fix it. Nor will a cold shower. Nor will throwing up. Even getting some sleep won’t do much if you’ve really gone overboard, as you can still have a post-bender BAC over the limit up to 18 hours afterwards.

So what’s the answer? It’s safest if you avoid drinking alcohol altogether if you’re the driver and save your moments of indulgence for when you’re the host. However, the following rules may help you negotiate the next party safely:

  • Non-alcoholic, every last one of them.

    Non-alcoholic, every last one of them.

    Eat first. Proteins are best for slowing down the alcohol absorption rate, which explains traditions like cheese, peanuts and salami to accompany wine and beer.

  • Do your drinking early on so you’ve got time to process it.
  • Moderation. You don’t HAVE to drink alcohol all the time or at all, and there are a lot more options out there than orange juice and soft drink (I’m rather partial to a Virgin Mary).
  • Don’t be too proud to call a taxi or ask to sleep on the sofa if needed.

Volvo fans can also consider the Alcoguard, an option where you have your own little device to breathe into – and you have to breathe into it before you can start the engine. If you fail the test or don’t take it, the engine won’t start and you can’t drive. This is available on post-2008 S80s, V70s and XC70s from Europe or the US, at least at the moment. But it wouldn’t be a bad idea for us here Down Under (someone tell Volvo Australia, please?).

Safe and happy driving,


* OK, it’s not the only time of year you have to watch out for this.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2016 Hyundai Tucson Elite

2016 Hyundai Tucson Elite diesel front quarterA Wheel Thing is lucky to be part of a team that Hyundai Australia contracts to deliver a dealership model launch experience. Earlier in 2015, it was the new Tucson, a reinvigoration of the ix35, itself once called Tucson. There’s a four model range, a mix of engines and gearboxes and slightly different headlights for the top two, the Elite and Highlander. Originally booked for the top of the range Highlander, a bingle saw that car taken out for a repair break and the Elite subsequently handed over.

A new buyer has a choice of Active, Active X, Elite and Highlander, with a combination of 2.0L petrol with either multi-point or direct injection, a 1.6L petrol turbo and a brawny 400 Nm 2.0L diesel; the Elite came with the diesel. 2016 Hyundai Tucson Elite diesel engineChoosing the diesel gives you all wheel drive as well, along with a sole gearbox option, a six speed auto (the others have either a six speed manual or 7 speed dual clutch auto for the turbo petrol). The donk is a typical, low revving, load lugger, with that 400 Nm on tap from 1750 to 2750 revs.

The second or so that it takes to fire up the engine once the starter is pressed is disconcerting, and unusual in today’s crop of diesel engined cars, which are alive in a blink after twirling the key or hitting a stop start button. Another question mark is the lack of brake bite when the pedal is pushed. There’s no real sense of grab and it really does need a firm shove down to feel any retardation. Given there’s no less than 1622 kilograms to haul down, using 305 x 25 mm vented front discs and 302 x 10 mm solid rears, it wasn’t confidence inspiring.2016 Hyundai Tucson Elite diesel profile2016 Hyundai Tucson Elite diesel rear quarter

Of real note with the Tucson, is the overhaul of the exterior compared to the ix35. It’s physically a bigger car yet still compact at 4475 mm x 1850 mm x 1660 mm (with roof rails,) compared to 4410 x 1820 x 1690 mm for the ix35 and rolled on 17 inch diameter wheels, with 225/60 rubber. There’s some carry over in the look, with the rear window line not dissimilar to the outgoing ix35 but there’s a dramatic difference at the front.2016 Hyundai Tucson Elite diesel front

Gone is the laid back headlight cluster and solid horizontal bar in the grille, replaced by Hyundai’s new corporate look and a slimmer, dual headlight (for Elite and Highlander) cluster with LED technology, bending and self levelling tech as well.2016 Hyundai Tucson Elite diesel cabin

It’s a full five seater inside, with plenty of leg room for the driver and passenger thanks to a 2670 mm wheelbase, at 1053 to 1129 mm, whilst passengers on the rear pews get a more than decent 970 mm, sitting ahead of a 488L (1478L, seats down) cargo space. There’s LED lighting, curtain airbags, pretensioning seatbelts, ten position electric driver’s seat, dual zone aircon, satnav, Hill Start Assist but only the Highlander gets the higher safety package systems such as Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist, four sensor Front Park Assist, Lane Departure Warning and Cross Traffic Warning.2016 Hyundai Tucson Elite diesel folded rear seats

All Tucsons also miss out on an important feature; a dash and console that’s visually appealing. It’s not unattractive but there’s a distinct lack of cachet, bling, “look at moi, look at moi”. Yes, it’s clean to look at, ergonomically laid out but seriously lacking in eyeball pulling power.2016 Hyundai Tucson Elite diesel dash2016 Hyundai Tucson Elite diesel centre console Having said that, there’s two 12V sockets, power tailgate, puddle lamps in the wing mirrors and door handle lights, comfortable cloth trimmed seats,an eight inch touchscreen, rain sensing wipers, steering wheelmounted audio and phone controls and the Tucson comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and 10 years’ roadside assistance to sweeten the deal even further.2016 Hyundai Tucson Elite diesel rear cargo2016 Hyundai Tucson Elite diesel rear

On road manners are impeccable; the Australian engineering team worked hard and hand in hand with their Korean counterparts and have endowed the Elite with some of the best handling characteristics you’ll find in a mind size SUV. On a flat road, with the expected little bumps, dips and undulations, there’s nothing that appears to faze the Elite Tucson. It’s firm yet with just enough give to not rattle teeth, settles nicely from quick moves and shopping centre bumps. The steering is well weighted enough in Normal mode, as Hyundai persists in its three mode steering assault, and is best left in that mode as anything else simply enhances the feeling of unnatural feedback and response.2016 Hyundai Tucson Elite diesel

Engine response is as expected; off boost there’s hesitation; under way there’s that mountain of troque to keep the Elite bubbling along and makes overtaking a doddle. It’s reasonably quiet, with plenty of insulation keeping the noise at bay and economical enough. Hyundai quotes around 6.5L per 100 kilometres for the combined cycle but, as its natural home will be suburbia, the 8.2 to 8.9 (depending on wheel size) seems more realistic.

The Wrap.
Lack of dashboard pull aside, the Tucson Elite ticks a lot of boxes. Missing out on some of the safety features the Highlander has is neither here nor there, in A Wheel Thing’s opinion. The range covers all the bases and with the size increase moves up to compete with Mazda’s CX-3 AND 5. Toyota has just released a facelifted RAV4 and, of course, there’s the Tucson’s sister vehicle to consider as a competitor, the Sportage.

It’s a handsome looking beast, well and truly at home on tarmac, is HIGHLY unlikely to see any off road action (even with 18 cm of ground clearance), has some of the best ride and handling characteristics you’ll find in its class. The range kicks off at $27990 plus ORC’s, with the Elite well priced at $35240 to $40240 plus costs. Click here for detailed information: Hyundai Tucson range brochureprivate_fleet_logoBehind the Wheel - widget ad final

Private Fleet Car Review: 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser GXL diesel V8.

2016 Toyota Land Cruiser GXL glamour shotEvery now and then, a legend comes along. That legend may be a film, a person, a car. In this case, A Wheel Thing went one on one with the four wheel drive legend, the 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser LC 200. It really is the kind of car that will, in normal off road situations, be able to do more than what most normal drivers are able to do. This particular press car came fitted with the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, KDSS, of which more information can be found here:Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System2016 Toyota Land Cruiser GXL KDSSThere’s certainly no lack of oomph, with a 200kW diesel V8, thanks to revised injectors and engine mapping, compared to the previous iteration, with torque still a Superman twisting 650Nm. No, it’s not quick off the line, not is it indecently slow. It’s more a load lugger, a crawler, especially with the four wheel drive system engaged in low range. There’s no two wheel drive setting either, stamping the GXL V8 as a dedicated 4WD.2016 Toyota Land Cruiser GXL off road 3

On road it’s not as blunt edged as expected; it’s certainly no ballet dancer but there’s more finesse than one would think in the ride and handling departments. The steering is lighter than anticipated on tarmac, yet shows signs of old school toughness in some off road sections.

As expected, under brakes, the big boofa takes a bit of distance to haul up, but is sure-footed and confident in doing so, with a measurable amount of dive when stamped hard. Off road braking is nicely calibrated, with the drive system working smartly to pull down the near three tonne (2740 kg dry!) mass.2016 Toyota Land Cruiser GXL off road 2

There’s a muted but familiar V8 burble from the exhaust, a subdued chatter from the front under a light foot, a deep inhalation and an impression of implacable confidence when pressed hard. There’s certainly no doubt that this is a driver’s car, as in it might be a smooth shifting six speed auto, but a driver needs to be in control and aware 110% of the time.

Economy for a large engine and a large car (4990 x 1980 x 1945 mm ) with a weight of three tonnes (with passenger) was surprisingly frugal, at around 10.9L of the good stuff consumed per 100 kilometres.2016 Toyota Land Cruiser GXL KDSS demoOn A Wheel Thing’s test track in Faulconbridge, in the lower Blue Mountains, the choice of fitting the KDSS was an inspired one, with both the varying surfaces (mud, gravel, granite outcrops) providing an ideal mix to test. Throw in some rocky and sandy slopes, some judicious throttle usage (and knowing there’s more electrical backup in the form of Hill Descent Control, for example), the Land Cruiser easily exhibited more ability than most drivers would require.2016 Toyota Land Cruiser GXL off road 1

On one particular slope, the view from the cabin, and eyeballed by a walk, gave the impression that it would be a tricky one to try for a comparitively inexperienced off roader. But, simultaneously, ideal for the kinetic suspension. Low range and centre diff lock were engaged, a gentle prod of the go pedal and a minute later all aboard were wondering what the fuss was about. Yes, there was body roll and some moments where a dry cleaner may have been needed but the ‘Cruiser is more than adept in this kind of country.

It’s clear, when you step up and inside, that Toyota feels the GXL will be driven and used by people that don’t need certain fripperies. There’s no steering wheel mounted controls for audio, a basically trimmed interior, sensible rubber floor mats, a functional infotainment touchscreen, typically good ergonomic but no hint of luxury. The only apparent concession was the addition of a Reverse Parking camera. The dash itself is clean and simple, plus has extra information such as battery charge level whilst aircon controls are oldschool “Press Me, I’m a button” with clearly readable markings.2016 Toyota Land Cruiser GXL dash

2016 Toyota Land Cruiser GXL cabinAs you’d expect from a behemoth like a Land Cruiser, there’s plenty of room inside for five adults, complete with rear passenger air vents and two extra folding seats. They’re comfortable enough and supportive enough on and off road to not leave a passenger wanting for more. 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser GXL rear cabinPlastics are are good quality but it’s a functional interior, intended to be hosed out every now and then, one suspects.2016 Toyota Land Cruiser GXL rear quarter

The exterior of the LC200 has been given a mild freshen up. The tail light covers have been subtly redone, but it’s the front that’s raised an eyebrow. The design team have extended, horizontally, the chrome from the grille, through the headlights, with the front now looking uncannily like Ford’s new Ranger and Everest. LED driving lights add to the resemblance. The front bumper, guards and bonnet (noticeable for the twin ridges now) have also been updated.

The Wrap.
The Land Cruiser LC200 GXL V8 diesel has more brawn than a chain gang, more subtle on road menace than an angry bull, enough off road ability to make a mountain goat weep and enough lack of luxury to satisfy any cocky that just wants a car to do the job. At around 90K, it’s not cheap and compared to something like a Q7, XC90 and suchlike, lacks the perceived value those cars offer.2016 Toyota Land Cruiser GXL off road 4

But they’re HIGHLY unlikely to come close to being used for what the ‘Cruiser can deliver and that’s the crucial difference to the bloke in the bush or the company in the Outback that needs a solidly built, mud mauling, no bullshit off roader. The Land Cruiser’s heritage has it standing tall for its legions of followers.

Although there’s been price rises across the range, in the order of a couple to a few thousand, this model comes in at around $89600 driveaway. Given that this particular specification level isn’t aimed at the finger lifting, latte sipping, dahling set, but good, solid, dependable farmers and such like, it’s a performance bargain, especially with that suspension system. No, not performance as in how quick down a quarter mile but how it’ll clamber up hill and down dale with more ability than a normal driver needs. Naturally you’ll get Toyota’s three year/one hundred thousand kilometre warranty as well, check with your local dealer in regards to servicing costs.
Toyota Land Cruiser GXL. Big diesel V8. Big car. Big winner.
For A Wheel Thing TV’s video review, click here: 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser GXL V8 diesel

For details on the Land Cruiser: 2016 Land Cruiser range

Private Fleet Car Review: 2016 Tesla Model S P90D

2016 Tesla P90D money shotWhat a stupendous car. A Wheel Thing could almost leave the review at that, except there are a couple of things…
Earlier in 2015, A Wheel Thing had the opportunity to spend a few hours in the Model S Tesla. Late November, an email from Heath Walker initially offered a two night stay, which became a weekend.2016 Tesla P90D Hot WheelsFriday morning, a brief with Will at Tesla’s St Leonard’s, Sydney, HQ, before being set free with the dual motored P90D, complete with V7 software, which included Tesla’s much touted “Ludicrous” mode.
Suffice to say that the claimed zero to one hundred kmh time of three seconds is truly achievable, as are speeds that will leave many, many, many cars in its wake.2016 Tesla P90D charger2016 Tesla P90D charging pointBut, in order to drive such a car, you need those batteries charged. Tesla supply buyers of their vehicles with a home supercharger unit, or there’s a charger that is household ten amp compatible.
A sidenote: driving a Tesla of this capacity (no pun intended), is akin to driving a V8 engined car. The harder it’s driven, the quicker the “tank” will empty. Tesla say their Model S cars can achieve something like 500 klicks from full charge. A Wheel Thing saw nothing that would raise any doubts about that figure, under normal driving circumstances. Punted enthusiastically, expect that range to drop quickly.2016 Tesla P90D touchscreenThe car itself is quite secure: the driver needs the keyfob in order to access the P90D, as a presence sensor reads the fun and slides out four door handles, which are buried into the doors. Walk away from the car and they will slide back in shortly after.2016 Tesla P90DconsoleOn one occasion, the key was left inside the car and the doors had locked. This is where, for A Wheel Thing, that this became a security issue; one, for the fact the car locked up and, two, for the fact the car read my presence upon approach and unlocked. Sure, the car couldn’t tell who it was that had approached, however it left the car open to anybody approaching it and gaining access. Thankfully this was at home and in the driveway.2016 Tesla P90D touchscreen 42016 Tesla P90D touchscreen 22016 Tesla P90D release notesAs you’d expect, the Tesla is packed full of technology, operated via a seventeen inch touchscreen, located centrally in the dash console. There’s an AM/FM/app audio system (no digital tuner in Aussie spec cars, oddly), access to web based applications via the built in 3G mobile sum, which begs the question of why not the latest 4G spec? The driver is greeted by a LCD screen, with push and hold buttons on the steering wheel spokes to customise the look they can see.

Navigation is via Google Maps, there’s suspension adjustment, a built in update information manual, describing the V7 update, charging and drive options including the aforementioned “Ludicrous” mode (which also flashes a warp starfield on the screen). This is a tongue in cheek nod, apparently, to the cult classic Mel Brooks film, Spaceballs.2016 Tesla P90D touchscreen 3V7 also brings parking assistance and, crucially, autonomous driving. Cameras and radar combine with the cruise control to track the car’s progress on the road, reading both the traffic ahead and roadside line markings. There’s also a form of AI on board, helping the car learn a route and lessening the time required for the car to drive itself. A grey steering wheel icon appears on the dash display and turns blue when the onboard system feels all is OK to go autonomous.2016 Tesla P90D badge2016 Tesla P90D cargo2016 Tesla P90D dash2016 Tesla P90D dash displayThere’s no Start/Stop button; once you’ve entered the car, it’s on. There’s a lever on the right hand side of the steering column which is moved to access Reverse and Drive, with Park a button on the end.
Once Drive is selected, it’s simple, press the go pedal and enjoy the serenity.
There’s a hint of whine from the twin powerplants, wind noise at speed…otherwise, nothing.2016 Tesla P90D front seats2016 Tesla P90D wheelIt’s a truly unique experience, being able to harness the full might of the 90 kilowatt-hour engines, with that robotic whine and that never ending wave of acceleration, coupled with the surefooted handling and three mode steering. Massive 21 inch diameter wheels and licorice thin rubber grip and grip hard but don’t detract from the ride quality. The brakes are superb and add to the range with adjustable regeneration of kinetic energy back into the system.

The touchscreen also provides access to the charge port, sunroof (steplessly adjustable) and the front trunk or “frunk” as it’s called stateside. Integration is one thing but sometimes a simple button, such as that provided for the glove box, would be easier.2016 Tesla P90D frunk2016 Tesla P90D frontAlthough the Model S body is big, at five metres in length, a full two metres in width and providing enough room for a full five seated configuration, plus a huge boot thanks to the battery pack being the floor, it never feels heavy, unwieldy. Rather, it’s nimble, responsive, belying the two tonnes plus weight.2016 Tesla P90D rear2016 Tesla P90D profileThe Wrap
Although the purchase price might seem excessive to some, a buyer gets a large, roomy, car, with eye watering performance. It’s not perfect, perhaps being over technologied for some simple things, but what it promises and embodies is one of two potential options for the automotive industry, the other being fuel cell powered cars.2016 Tesla P90D rear seats

It’s also quick; insanely, devastatingly, pants wettingly quick. Overtaking is a blink, acceleration a thought, and hauling in the mass a sneeze. But, is there really a need for everything to be buried in sub menus? Is there something wrong with the plain and simple, the humble button?

Is it worth the money, for Australia? A Wheel Thing says yes. For info on this truly astonishing vehicle, click here: Tesla Cars Australiaprivate_fleet_logo