Archive for December, 2016
As the year approaches an end, several contentious issues appear set to spill over into 2017. Notwithstanding the farewell to Ford and Holden’s contributions to the manufacturing scene, the ACCC played a central role this quarter in defining a future framework applicable for all industry stakeholders.
A sad juncture was reached in the local auto manufacturing scene, with Ford and Holden both drawing a line under production operations. The former closed its manufacturing facilities after 91 years of operation within Australia, while Holden closed the nation’s last remaining engine plant – it remains on track to conclude its production of vehicles in November 2017. A small consolation, Brisbane saw the opening of a manufacturing workshop intended to be a hub for producing solar electric vehicles.
Safety and Environment
In response to the ACCC’s issues paper released a few months ago, the AAA commenced testing local vehicles to gauge their performance against specified fuel and emissions numbers. Among the body’s early findings, real-world performance in these areas far under-performs the results achieved within lab conditions. While deceptive conduct has been ruled out, the extent of the discrepancies is leading to calls for vehicles to be tested within an on-road environment.
As a side issue, and one that will no doubt generate much interest in the coming months, the Federal Government is mulling whether to amend fuel efficiency standards to reduce emission levels. The risk to motorists however, is that regular unleaded fuel could be scrapped and they would be forced to pay more at the pump every time.
Lastly, Volkswagen Australia added another 35,000 vehicles to its recall and rectification program for local vehicles affected by the well-known Dieselgate saga.
Driverless vehicles took a step closer to their eventual roll-out within Australia, with a slew of initiatives and rumours from manufacturers like Audi, Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, Apple and Google. In Victoria, Bosch, VicRoads and TAC unveiled their own prototype for Australia’s first autonomous car. Across a wider scale, government ministers have agreed to facilitate testing of self driving vehicles within Australia over the next few years
The momentum behind alternative energy vehicles also continues to surge. The Adelaide government announced plans for 40 electric charging stations across the city in 2017. Meanwhile, the ACT intend to increase electric vehicle uptake within the public sector as part of a broader goal for zero emissions by 2050. Meanwhile, Toyota launched a local trial of the world’s first mass-produced hydrogen fuel-cell car, the Mirai.
Abroad, and the future of diesel powered vehicles could be set for a review, with Volkswagen one of the auto-makers weighing up the lifespan of the technology within the US market – often a forerunner for other markets. Petrol and diesel vehicles could be banned within Germany by 2030, with a resolution passing the German upper house back in October – precipitating a move towards hydrogen powered vehicles.
Other technological highlights included:
- Vodafone’s plans to allow vehicles to communicate with one another and avoid accidents
- Supercapacitors could soon be used in place of batteries to charge electric vehicles in seconds
- The SA Government investing $10m towards R&D plus testing for connected and autonomous vehicles
The ACCC was heavily active this quarter, most emphatically with its issues paper for the new retail car market. The watchdog highlighted numerous issues it proposes to examine, including warranties, consumer rights, fuel and emissions practices, repair and service info, and much more.
Also within its sights, the ACCC focused on Tesla’s claims surrounding its vehicles’ self-driving capabilities – wary that the wording used by the auto-maker could frame consumers’ expectations. Rounding out the local scene, a pay per km scheme reared its head again, with the government now conducting an investigation into the proposal raised earlier this year.
Christmas and New Year are just around the corner, which means that the summer holiday season is finally upon us. This doesn’t just mean that this will be my last post here for 25016 (not sure what my fellow Private Fleet bloggers will be doing, though!). It also means that a lot of us are thinking about the big summer road trip. A lot of us take our annual vacation at this time of year, and still more of us travel to stay with the relatives for Christmas – I know my in-laws are on the road heading towards my place as I write this. The main intercity and interstate roads get a lot busier as people start doing a Chris Rea (i.e. driving home for Christmas) and as others head off for a getaway.
OK, there’s all the usual road safety things to be aware of, such as fatigue, irritability after being cooped up in a car with hot, grumpy kids for hours on end, increased police presence on the road as they clamp down on speed, etc. and ping you for being just the teeniest bit over the limit and slapping you with a hefty fine right before Christmas, etc. etc. I’m sure I’ve written about this in the blogs of Christmas past.
However, in order to have a safe and relatively happy road trip, you need to prepare the vehicle as well as packing your bags. The last thing you want is for a holiday to be ruined or for plans to be put out by an unscheduled stop somewhere thanks to a breakdown or your car giving up the ghost. OK, in the case of a holiday road trip, this may mean you end up discovering a wonderful new little place to stay that you wouldn’t have discovered if your car hadn’t blown something in the middle of nowhere, but if you’re trying to get to the rellies in time for Christmas, breaking down is a pain.
To avoid unnecessary hassles, it’s wisest to give your car a bit of a once-over before you start out. What exactly do you check? The following will be a good start:
Tyres. Have you got enough tread on all tyres, including the spare? Is the spare in good condition or is it just sitting in its place in sad condition, forgotten after the last time you had to change a flat?
Lights. What with the cops all trying to make up for having to work over the Christmas period by playing Let’s See How Many People We Can Book, it’s best not to give them an excuse. It’s also best not to have something malfunctioning on a car that could lead to a nasty situation. Check that all your lights are working – all of them. It might also be a wise idea to make sure that you’ve got some spare bulbs for your particular vehicle stashed away in the glovebox (and maybe a fuse or two). You never know when a light’s going to go on you and leave you stuck at the relatives’ place with all the mechanics closed and the one that is open on Boxing Day not having something suitable for your model. I’m not making this last one up, as it happened to some of our tribe when they were staying at our place a few years back. And it was pouring with rain for days and they had lots of kids but couldn’t get a spare light for the Mitsubishi Grandis … (thank goodness for the local swimming pool!).
Cooling system. Come on, you know that it gets hot here in summer. Very hot. Make sure that all the fluids are topped up in your vehicle before you set out.
Windscreen wipers. Make sure that the blades are in good nick so they can actually get the windows properly wiped, whether you’re driving through a patch of rain or whether you need to get the smashed moths and pollen off the windscreen. Don’t forget to top up the window washing fluid while you’re at it. The insides of windows can also be a problem, so stash some wipes in the glovebox – you’ll find that you use these for more than just cleaning the insides of the windows, too.
Trailers and caravans. Yes, it’s time for the caravan’s annual outing, so it may have been a while since you gave it some mechanical attention. Make sure it’s road legal and that it’s got a spare tyre in good condition as well. Don’t forget to make sure that the drawbar is properly lubed up.
Tow rope. I have lost count of the times that the other half has decided to do a little off-roading to find a good picnic spot but has ended up getting stuck. Off-roading when we owned an Isuzu Bighorn was all very well, but wasn’t quite so good when it happened in the Ford Fairmont . We’d have never got that car out of the sand without a good rope (thanks to some passers-by who did have a 4×4), or at least it would have been a long and difficult process of shoving sticks down and pushing and… but that’s another story. Make sure you have a good tow rope stowed in the car. You never know – you might be the one who has to tow or rescue someone else.
Most importantly of all, don’t forget to relax and enjoy the trip as much as the destination.
Many car companies offer buyers of their products a driving school experience. Jaguar is no different in that respect. Where this fabled British car company does differ is that…well….you get to drive Jaguars. Sydney Motorsport Park is the venue in NSW and I recently had an opportunity to do a session with the Jaguar Drive Experience.The afternoon session kicks off with a catered lunch, before an introduction to the team and instructors. There’s no doubt as to the qualifications of the drivers, with V8 Supercar driver Tony D’Alberto and GT driver Nathan Antunes amongst them.
Each session is planned to be timed down to the second; that includes a video presentation, a rundown of the history of Jaguar, and splitting attendees into teams and being identified into numerical order for the driving sessions. The cars on display give a good insight into what Jaguar is all about: a choice of supercharged V6 and V8 hardtop F-Types, the supercharged V6 XE, and the limousine with a machine gun, the supercharged 5.0L V8 XJ.
For many, this will be their first time on a dedicated race track’s surface. The people are all Jaguar owners with many of them new to the brand. The car park is full of Jaguars belonging to the drivers that have, as a result of their purchase, been invited by Jaguar to find out just how their cars can be driven. At speed. Safely.
There’s a couple of sighting laps for each team, but before that, some basics. Seating position (low and with arms and legs bent, not straight.) Why? In a full frontal impact the kinetic energy is directed through the chassis and will be transmitted along straight lengths, like arms and legs, and terminate in the hard spots, like shoulders and pelvis. A high incidence of injuries are of these types due to people being seated too far from the seats and having their legs ramrod straight. Position of hands on the tiller? Nine and three, thank you, not ten and two. It makes it easier to reach those funny sticks that make ticky noises and causes lights to flash on the car’s corners or to engage the wipers when that strange wet stuff comes from the sky. Oh, and it’s also where the companies that use “flappy paddles” tend to put them, too.
Being driven in the cossetting surrounds of a top spec XJ, with narration from your instructor as he points out marker cones where you’re looking to line your car up when it’s your turn to drive, interspersed with terms such as double apex and off camber curves, is an unusual feeling. Now, it’s time to drive. First up? The sweeting looking and brutally powerful F-Type V8. It’s a snug fit, especially when wearing the mandatory helmet. My instructor, Andrew, ensures that the helmet is correctly fastened before covering off some points about the car and, more importantly, emphasises the safety factor the sessions are intended to further imbue Jaguar drivers with. It’s also pointed out that the rear vision mirror inside is pointed towards his position in the passenger seat. Why? So for the…more conservative driver…he can see following traffic and advise said conservative driver to clear the racing line.
The starter button is prodded, an instinctive check for traffic and D is selected. There’s an intoxicating burble from the four exhaust tips as the revs climb, a crackle from the pipes as brakes are applied in corners, a nicely weighted steering wheel responds to input as cones on apexes are lined up and…two laps later, the first run is done.The other three drivers, including Melissa from Penrith, who had taken delivery of her first Jaguar, an XE, earlier in the year, and had the widest smile possible, take their turns. If it were possible to have a smile that encircled the entire head, she’d have it.
Next up, the biiiiiiiig XJ R-Sport. It’s a long car at over five metres in length, and with a wheelbase close to three metres it offers leg room enough to please a giraffe. Andrew explains that a different driving style is required due to the sheer size of the vehicle, yet, being largely constructed of aluminuim, tips the scales at under 2000 kilograms. This has the effect of making the XJ surprisingly nimble and easy to easy to punt around the fast and fluid Sydney Motorsport Park circuit. There’s a subtle yet noticeable difference in the exhaust note, a subconscious recognition of the extra space behind you and the fact that the car does indeed handle like a smaller car.It’s the back to back comparisons that make doing such a course so utterly important in the greater scheme of safety on the roads. One of the factors here is the instruction to look ahead, to plan your entry and exit. What this does is have the driver look at where they can get their car to go but, crucially, where to go in the event of an issue further ahead. It’s human nature to pick out an object and the brain momentarily focuses on that. But, in an emergency situation, what a driver should be looking out for is the road out, not the tree, the sole tree, next to that exit, as all too often single occupant fatalities have been caused by the car hitting the only object around, such as a tree or pole.
The other part of using a race circuit to conduct driver education is showing how a fluid and smooth movement is safer than a sudden sideways wrench of the wheel. Far too often a car has rolled simply because of drivers suddenly veering left or right, primarily becuase of inattention and suddenly realisied the truck in front is a whole lot closer than expected. Indicator stalks are placed at fingertip’s end and designed to move at a soft touch as the wheel is turned gently when changing lanes. The instructors are at pains to point out that a smooth and fluid handling car responds to smooth and fluid drivers far better than those that are not. The end result? A safer driver and safer journey.The final session covered off two distinctly different driving examples. The first was the XE V6 for our group and our last car. Andrew points out the flashing red Start/Stop button and mentions off handedly that it’s a heartbeat, the timing of the flashes. That heartbeat is 66 times per minute. Why? It’s the heartbeat of a jaguar, at rest…
Both in this and inside the XJ we were given three laps and it was here that a stretch of the legs was really undertaken. The subtle wail of the supercharger bolted atop the V6, the imperceptible change of the auto’s gears, and seeing the speedo hit 160 kilometres per hour in a legal environment is one thing. By now there’s more familiaraity with the track and the laps feel quicker, the braking points become more instinctive, the apexes get closer and the points between acceleration and braking become shorter. Being taken for hot laps by the instructor? Another thing entirely.
Andrew checks the helmets straps and nods towards the V6 F-Type. They call the hot laps “The Instructor’s Revenge” and is mainly because of the people that see themselves as a better driver than they really are. Going quick in a straight line? Sure. Hitting the apexes whilst experiencing a car for the first time? Well done sir. But here’s the reality check.
Fire and brimstone, lightning and thunder, Thor’s hammer meets the awesome power of Superman. That’s just the basic 250 kilowatt V6 F-Type. Bump it up to 280 kW for the F-Type S or go full metal jacket for the bellowing 404 kilowatt 5.0L V8. Torque? “Just” 680 of them. We’re in the F-Type S, with the 280 kW V6 and 460 torques from 3500 revs. There’s noise, a sweet sound to a Jaguar fan, of a restrained and angry machine wanting to pick a fight with an ill educated driver but Andrew controls the beast.
There’s moments of sensing the car about to lose contact with the track as the F-Type goes sideways but it’s a controlled movement, a pucker moment here and there as the chassis squirms around under power. The traction control kicks in and out, obeying the commands of the computer which itself is obeying the commands of the organic computer sitting a couple of feet above the seat cushion. Snarls from the front, a surge as the accelerator is pressed, the snap of the exhaust as spent dinosaur juice is expelled.
There’s flicks of the wheel, left, right, but never are they a sudden movement in response to panic or fear. Andrew holds the F-Type in his grip and the car fights back but recognises who its master is. And that master is what we’re and they’re to get a glimpse of: a properly educated driver that understands what a car can do and just how much can be extracted from the car in the right hands. It also shows just how undertrained and woefully dangerous other drivers are as the chief instruction is left ringing in our ears when the sessions wrap up.
“You’ve had your brain recalibrated. Remember that when you leave.”
We’ve spent the last few hours travelling, in a safe and legal environment, at speeds that just a few hundred metres away would be deemed dangerous and illegal and license losing, and it’s here that the great safety conundrum again rears its head.
On my way to the circuit, I passed a clearly marked police car. It was on my left and nestled in one of those little spaces roadside. Ostensibly they’re there for safety and we’re told they scan numberplates for stolen or unregistered cars. Scarcely two hundred metres away, on the opposite side of the freeway, there was a four car nose to tail pileup. This incident was inside a line of single lane traffic waiting to enter a congested road, were some distance away from the traffic light controlled intersection and it would have been impossible, absolutely impossible, for those crashes to have occured at anything more than sixty kilometres per hour. You should be able to appreciate the irony here.
It’s fact that most nose to tail crashes happen at or below the posted speed limit and are a massive contributor to insurance and hospital costs. Yet we have speed cameras in odd locations and they have simply failed to have an impact on saving lives, irrespective of the propaganda governments would have you believe. A solid indicator of that failure is the simple and sheer amount of revenue these devices deliver to governments. They’d tell you that they’d be happy to have no revenue from these devices, inferring that no speed, no pay. This ignores the fact that if they weren’t also revenue raising devices then the government wouldn’t attach a revenue raising amount to them along with the demerit point system.
It’s also a fact that at the velocities we were travelling didn’t kill us. The cynical would say it was because we were on a race track. This overlooks the fact that race drivers, the most highly trained and experienced drivers on earth and who regularly travel at illegal road speeds (on the race circuit), have a death rate, world wide, of a miniscule fraction of one per cent of those Australia has per year on the roads. The cynical would say it’s because we’re on a race track and not surrounded by other drivers. Again, race drivers are at higher velocities and surrounded by drivers doing similar high speeds.
The Jaguar Driving Experience has shown that it’s possible to travel at high speeds but, vitally, it’s shown how to travel at high speeds and corner properly, SAFELY. And that is the crux of any driver training and the crucial part that isn’t seen as essenially worthwhile by governments.
(With thanks to the Jaguar Driving Experience and The Formula Company.)
When we think of the best time to purchase a new car, there’s often a lot spoken about the end of financial year sales – even with their own acronym celebrated in various TV jingles. But there’s also another period consumers should watch closely – the end of the calendar year.
That’s right, soft toys, socks and jocks aren’t the only things on sale, with most dealers and auto-makers keen to offer discounts in an effort to clear out their vehicles from the current year. In fact, the cars that aren’t sold by the end of the calendar year will often enter the New Year with discounted prices. This is because dealers are reluctant to hold stock for a vehicle that in the eyes of buyers may been seen as superseded – particularly as months go by, and the vehicle still carries the tag of being last year’s model.
One of the factors that often spurs this late rush to clear stock is the fact that models brought in from abroad can take several months to reach our shores. Therefore, they may carry a build plate that differs from the period the vehicle is being sold. Before the vehicle itself is available for sale, it requires certification and approval. Upon approval the vehicle is designated a compliance date, which can vary considerably against the build plate when all the above is considered. Therefore, as the end of year approaches, the leeway becomes finer and finer. Dealers may be left with a couple weeks to clear a vehicle that has actually been held as stock on consignment for a period of months.
So then, what about the particular differences between cars with a different build year? Are you necessarily missing out on anything by purchasing last year’s model, or a model that is about to be replaced? When one considers the downside of purchasing an end-of-year clearance vehicle, the most prominent shortfall is often tied to the depreciation of the car and its resale value. These are both aligned to the year of the vehicle as opposed to the month it was from.
Secondary to that, differences vary depending on the manufacturer. In many instances, changes might be limited to cosmetics – differences in colour, interior styles, trims, etc. The changes could be functional, such as better sat-nav, electronic configurations, and so forth. Alternatively, differences could be more profound in nature. Such examples would include things like improved fuel efficiency, engine tweaks, adjustments to the ride and suspension of the vehicle, extra airbags, etc.
With the above in mind, it becomes important that you do your homework to establish the build date of the vehicle in question (usually found under the hood), as well as the specific trade-offs between an end-of-year model, and the forthcoming replacement. The most notable changes tend to occur in cycles, so the timing of your purchase could be the most influential factor.
And if you are opting to be one of the first to drive away in next year’s model, you’d better submit that order now so that you’re at the top of the list. All in all, it makes for an exciting time of year to be purchasing a new vehicle!
Mahindra is not a name known to many car drivers in Australia and for those that are aware of the brand, the mention of it elicits a range of responses, with most of them not entirely positive. That suggests the brand has a lot to do to both be more visible here and to overcome the negativity surrounding that. The company manufactures a number of different vehicles, predominantly of a workhourse utility style. However, there is an SUV in the range, called the XUV500, and until recently available only with a manual transmission, limiting its appeal somewhat.To that end, Mahindra has fitted a six speed auto, sourced from leading Japanese transmission maker, Aisin. Now available as a four level range, with 2WD and AWD for the manual and auto, the Mahindra XUV500 starts at $29900 and tops out at a reasonable $34900, with which Private Fleet spent the week.Tagged the W8, there’s a 2.2L diesel up front, with a rated fuel economy of 7.4L per 100 km on a combined cycle. Powerwise it delivers 103 kilowatts and a healthy 330 torques between 1600 to 2800 revs. The Aisin six speed has a good spread of ratios and is definitely worth the investment. It’s smooth in its shifting, with no discernable hesitation between ratios and also doesn’t hold a gear unneccesarily on descents. However, off the line the ratios also don’t do that torque any justice, as acceleration is not the car’s strong point. The 1915 kilogram kerb weight is no doubt a major contributor and also explains the plus ten litres per hundred consumption for the urban cycle.
The transmission itself has a manual change option and it’s here the list of “umm, why” for this car starts. Rather than offering a paddle shift setup, or a rocker motion for the selector, there’s a small rocker switch fitted to the selector’s knob. Although admittedly it’s not difficult to use, it’s counter intuitive and doesn’t exactly feel comfortable. Does it make the XUV500 any quicker? More on that, later. Another niggle is the shift from Drive back to Park, with the usual slide through the gate (it’s a jagged, not straight gateway here), requiring a momentary pause at Neutral in order to then go through Reverse to Park. Again, not a deal breaker but an ultimately pointless thing in the frustration it brings.On tarmac the XUV500 is reasonably tied down. The rear is softer, though, with more rebound than expected and it certainly doesn’t match the more taut feeling up front. Being a seven seater, perhaps Mahindra have gone a little too soft in the expectation there’ll be seven aboard every time the car goes out. Also, the steering is heavily weighted whilst under way but there’s a noticeable feeling of slackness, a sense of disconnection between the wheel and the mechanism itself. Tyres are from Bridgestone and are 235/65 on nicely styled 17 inch alloys. There’s more than a hint of tyre squeal from this lot, with a blocky, all road/all weather tread pattern and that high sidewall profile working together to create that.Inside, the Mahindra delights with a comfortable set of seats, albeit manual only at the front, and some interesting design cues. Of note, and one that won’t please all, is the decision to use a font not unlike that seen in the banner for the movie “Lethal Weapon” on the tabs. It’s somewhat out of place and frankly the size is too small. Otherwise, it’s cleanly laid out, has double redundancy (controls are duplicated on the touchscreen) and have a soft touch with just a hint of click underneath. The same applies to the audio controls on the steerer; soft with a bit of click. Rear leg room is surprisingly spacious and would be suitable for almost all styles of passengers.The dash plastic has a print style many would be unaccustomed to; again, not unattractive, just different. There’s a pair of gloveboxes in front of the passenger seat, with one looking as if it’s a cooler box. The level of the door was a few millimetres higher than the surrounds, but this was the only apparent misalignment of material inside. Being a seven seater, Mahindra has gone to great pains to simplify what some other makers make difficult: raising and lowering the rear seats. A simple lever action mechanism on the back of the seat is all it takes and is brilliant in its simplicity.Tech wise you get satnav, a seven inch touchscreen (as mentioned, but there’s a picture rather than a blankness as a background), curtain and side airbags, super bright LED interior lighting, door mounted safety lights, plus an AWD system that’s engaged at the push of a button. However, there’s no noticeable difference on tarmac and the only indication you get is a tiny glowing backlight on the tab itself. You do, however, get Hill Descent Control.Externally, the Mahindra design crew have taken inspiration from other companies. There’s hints of Mitsubishi Pajero, a touch of Toyota RAV4 and older Mitsubishi Outlander. There’s oversized wheel arch extensions that head north and intrude into the panels. At the rear the tail lights curl upwards into the rear quarters, meeting the swage line from the front. The headlights have a sinuous S-Curve embedded into the design and mirror the similar look embedded in the driving light structure. They bracket Mahindra’s signature grille design, which will not appeal to all, being a rather toothsome look. Also, you’ll get an unusual look for the door handles. Not unpleasant, just different.Back to that manual switch for changing gears; short answer is yes but it’s a qualified yes. There is a subtle but noticeable change in how the ‘box changes but it’d require a camera and someone with a stopwatch to accurately determine if acceleration is actually any quicker. There’s a seat of the pants feeling that it is, but…At The End Of the Drive.
First up, A Wheel Thing must say thank you to James Halliwell at Mahindra Automotive Australia for the opportunity to review the XUV500.
Looks wise, it’s a standout because of its unusual styling. It’s certainly not to everyone’s taste and perhaps it could be seen as a case of trying too hard to look different in order to be seen as different. Personally, a name change would be in order, as it’s a generic and also Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote Acme naming.
Where the car works is on road, as it should. This may read as stating the blindingly obvious, Sybil, however as an unknown, people will have certain expectations to be met. There’s little to question in the way the car rides; it’s compliant enough, needs a tightening at the rear to match the front but is predictable in its handling.
A diet wouldn’t be a bad idea, as people have an expectation that a diesel is economical.
Inside, it’s reasonable enough but could do with a lift in regards to the general presence. The font and size of that, as mentioned, for starters. A move towards a “traditional” manual option for the transmission in having a rocker motion for the lever, not a switch, is another. Electric seats are almost mandatory for a top of the range vehicle yet not seen here.
The touchscreen itself was easy to use but, again, the use of something such as a picture, which looked like a field of flowers, just didn’t quite gel with the overall presentation.
Outside, well here it’s a matter of personal choice and A Wheel Thing would like to see a scaling back of the overt attempt to make the XUV500 stand out. Again, it’s not unattractive, it’s just a little too different for comfort.
Where the car does win is in the price. 35K isn’t a bad ask and seems to adequately reflect the perception many stated of the vehicle.
For more information and to look at booking yourself a test drive, go here: Mahindra XUV500 SUV
Take Hyundai’s 1.6 litre turbo four and wedge it under the slinky bonnet of the sweet looking Elantra, then allow the engineers to “play” with the suspension and you have the Hyundai Elantra SR Turbo. There’s a manual at $28990 and the auto at $31290, with both plus ORCs.A recent facelift has the Elantra looking lower and sportier than before, complete with longer looking rectangular styled HID Bi-xenon headlights backed up by a coupe style rear that hides a bigger than expected boot at 458 litres (seats up). There’s 17 inch wheels which look oddly too small for the Elantra even though the wheel wells are filled. The tail lights have the inserts now familiar to buyers of the brand and its sibling, Kia. There’s subtly integrated side skirts, extra chrome in the front bumper and handsome ten spoke alloys with 225/45 rubber to complete the picture. All up, it’s possibly the prettiest car in the Hyundai fleet.Inside, it’s a mix of “do like” and “badly needs an update”. Hyundai persists with the quaint and outdated notion that radio listeners don’t need extra information and, as a result, there’s no RDS or Radio Data Service available. Neither is DAB, nor has the seven inch screen been updated to a more modern look when on the radio screen, and now looks woefully outdated compared to the opposition. There’s also no satnav, to compound the situation further and just the driver’s window, instead of all four, is one touch up and down. The rest of the dash and console design are familiarly Hyundai and here an extra splash of colour or black chrome would not have gone astray. Nor does the grey coloured faux carbon fibre sit entirely comfortably in the cabin.However, Hyundai have added a sports style tiller with a flat botton, well integrated audio and information controls, a subtle red stripe at the bottom of the wheel, paddle shifters and red stitching in the leather, with red leather available as a $295 option and sunroof. Ancilliary controls such as those for the climate control are clearly laid out, easy to use and to read. To offset the perceived lack of what might be seen as basics in a chart topping car, such as adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking, there’s front and rear sensors, blind spot detection with visual and audible warnings, cross traffic alert and lane change assist plus a knee airbag along with the other six.Although the screen looks bland and there’s no DAB, there are Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to be had. The seats are electric, supple and comfortable, supportive and gripping the body well, a necessity due to the European handling prowess of the Elantra SR Turbo sedan. The rear seats are less so, to a point, but there’s no shortage of rear leg room, thanks to the 2700 mm wheelbase. There’s 906 mm on offer, backing up the more than handy 1073 mm at the front.The Gamma 1.6L engine has a twin scroll turbo, outputting 150 kilowatts at 6000 rpm but the strength of the engine is the 265 Nm available between 1500 – 4500 rpm. The test car was fitted with a seven speed DCT or Dual Clutch Transmission, and a manual is also available. The auto exhibits many of the traits that mark a DCT, being creep just off idle, a slight hesitation from standstill before engagement and an exhilarating bang/bang/bang through the gears when the engine’s ability is exploited. Exploit, if you will, but consider around town Hyundai says 9.5L per 100 kilometres from the fifty litre tank for consumption.
Under light throttle, the seven speed auto sometimes dithers, with characteristic DCT prevaricating; press a little harder and the changes sharpen up, with a quicker response. Harder still and changes are slick, more urgent, virtally unnoticed to those inside apart from a flick of the tacho and a crisp “phut, phut” from the twin tip exhaust. There’s an instant answer to any question the right foot asks when underway and that 3000 rpm rev range of torque makes magic on the road.
There’s also magic underneath, with perhaps one of the best handling packages going in the class and price point Hyundai have positioned the Elantra SR Turbo in. It’s taut and crisp, yet forgiving. Tight, yes, yet an astounding amount of compliance without any feeling of isolating the driver from the feedback the chassis offers is felt. You could run over a five cent piece and be able to read what year it was made, such is the tactility of the system. Hit a car park speedbump and the rebound is instant and instantly damped out.On long sweeping corners, the SR Turbo is flat, composed, but will wiggle sideways momentarily when a rippled or broken surface is crossed. That 458 litres of boot space is only slightly compromised by the shift to a proper independent rear end, instead of the normal torsion beam rear, with a space saver spare instead of a full sizer. It’s matched by a well weighted and surprisingly not over assisted steering system, fettled by Australian engineers. There’s plenty of feedback and response from the front, with a direct response to driver input. It’s only in tightening radius corners where a hint of understeer creeps in.Warranty wise, Hyundai have given the Elantra SR Turbo the standard five years/unlimited kilometre coverage and if you get your vehicle serviced by Hyundai you’ll be rewarded with ten years free road side assist. The car is also covered by a lifetime capped-price service campaign, with maintenance due every 12 months or 10,000 kilometres, whichever occurs first. The average cost per visit over 60 months/50,000km is just $295.
At The End Of The Drive.
Hyundai has a true winner here thanks to the dashing good looks and Euro style handling the Elantra SR Turbo’s been given. The punch of the engine and the fluidity of the DCT make driving a delight, but they’d come to nought if it weren’t for the Aussie fettled suspension. It’s a looker outside, needs a freshen up inside, has just enough tech to entice and isn’t uncomfortably priced. Check out the link and book yourself a test drive here: 2017 Hyundai Elantra SR Turbo
So why do we drive the cars we drive? There’s always a reason behind our purchase. Even an impulse buy evolves from some previous conception in our mind as to why we should buy it. Maybe the car just looks incredible or maybe the sale price is just too good to miss. Perhaps we have a budget or our old car just “gave up the ghost”. There are so many wonderful cars on the market to choose from, so what is the reason we own the car we do?
According to a J.D Power survey taken last year, the top reason for owning a particular car was the car’s reliability record. Given that vehicle reliability is cited by half of all new car buyers as one of the most important reasons, perhaps this is why we tend to see more Toyota, Honda and Mazda cars driven on our roads than, perhaps, Fiat, Volkswagen and Peugeot. I’m really only taking a stab in the dark for the last three models mentioned (I’ve seen plenty of good ones on the roads out there); however, I do know that the Japanese cars mentioned here are usually more reliable. When you read some of the reliability ratings for new cars, remember that in the last five to ten years, the level of new electronics on-board a new car has increased dramatically. A malfunctioning touch screen or voice control unit, though frustrating, is less critical than a malfunctioning mechanical component or engine failure! The tendency for reliability ratings to draw more commonly on fiddly interior-related electronic failures can give a clouded view of a how reliable a car might actually be for getting you from A to B.
How a car looks parked up the drive does hold great value in the minds of current new car buyers. More and more, the exterior design needs to look striking in the eyes of the purchaser before the cash is handed over. I wonder if this is the reason why Hyundai and Volvo sales are up?
There are those who just love to buy the next new model in the range of car that they’ve been driving for the past 25 years. If you’ve had a happy experience with your old car, the chances are high that you’ll want to buy into the brand again via the newer model on offer. This is a common reason for owners to buy and drive the car they do.
Next common reason is how the car drives. How the car steers, corners, accelerates and rides does have a strong influence on the purchase. You need to be happy with your car in this respect, as, more often than not, you’ll be driving it for another few years yet.
People have a budget, and it’s only sensible to buy within your means. A vehicle’s price or the monthly payment is one of the main reasons that buyers will end up choosing a specific make and model of vehicle.
It was interesting to note that safety and fuel economy were both next on the list of reasons (and lower down) of why people buy the car they do. With all the new safety features that new cars place in their models to keep up with stringent crash testing, maybe new car buyers are starting to expect their latest buy to be safe anyway. Do keep in mind, however, that the laws of physics still exist and a smaller, lighter car will come off second best in a crash with a larger, heavier vehicle of a similar safety rating of, say, 5 stars.
Also, it’s really important to mention that collision avoidance systems are amazingly effective, so make sure that the new car you buy has these features as standard. Sadly, the number of distracted drivers on our roads has been on the increase.
As far as economy goes, hybrids seem to be the way to go to get the best low running costs over time. The purchase price for a hybrid still demands a higher price tag than more conventional models, so I guess if you’re going to hold onto the car for over five years, the maths starts to look better and better with buying a new hybrid. That said, aerodynamic design, new fuel-saving technologies such as automatic engine stop/start and cylinder deactivation, transmissions with up to 8 or 9 gears, and lighter vehicle structures made out of high-strength steel have all contributed to much better fuel efficiency for any type of car – hybrid or not.
The last two popular reasons people are driving the cars they do are less popular than the reasons mentioned above but still are worth noting. Firstly, a car’s workmanship or perceived build quality does still factor into the purchasing decision-making process for a new car buyer. It’s great to be able to note here that most new cars are bolted together pretty well, and so it’s less likely to see things disintegrating or falling off a brand new car – regardless of who made it.
Secondly, people want to buy a new car with AWD or an SUV shape more commonly now than they used to. This has been an increasingly evident phenomenon on our roads, and the likelihood of seeing more SUVs and AWD vehicles on our roads continues to grow.
I’d love you to comment on anything I might have missed here. Maybe you see things differently?
Holden’s manufacturing will cease in 2017 and to ease into the transition period Holden will increase the number of cars it will import. One of those is a true bahn stormer, the potent and stylish (Opel) Holden Insignia VXR V6 turbo, released in 2015.
It’s an eyecatcher, the Insignia VXR. Lithe, curvy, assertive, bigger than it looks at 4830 mm in length, with flanks that have a distinctive scallop and with the test colour coated in a metallic grey-green, it would reflect light at different angles. There’s huge 20 inch diameter grey painted alloys wrapped in Pirelli P-Zero rubber that provide superglue road holding and an outstanding all wheel drive system that transfers torque on demand to where it’s needed and a sophisticated electronic limited slip diff at the rear. All of these are mated to a sensational twin scroll turbo V6. It’s “just” 2.8L in capacity however delivers 239 kilowatts and an outstanding 435 torques. Both come at 5250 but the engine delivers somewhere around 90 percent of that peak from around 2000. It’s tractable, flexible, unbelievably potent and sees triple digits from a standing start in under six seconds.Adding to the firepower is the three mode drive system. You can choose from Touring, Sports, or VXR. Think a small ham and pineapple pizza, a large Supreme, and a family meal with free drinks and delivery thrown in. Touring has a slightly softer ride quality although you’re not left in any doubts as to the potential underneath. Sports firms up the FlexRide suspension and changes the settings in the gearbox, holding gears a little longer and allowing the driver to further explore the ability of the engine. Even the steering firms up, feeling tighter and requiring more effort to move the wheel.
Under normal driving the transmission is fluid if sometimes reticent to change when you feel it should. Stoke the fire and it becomes a totally different beast. Crisp, sharp changes are on tap, matching the rasp from the exhaust as the electronic tacho rises and falls in unison. Select Sport or VXR and the eight inch LCD screen also changes, offering up a range of information and a somewhat gimmicky looking g-force display. You do, though, get a screen where that is minimised and housed inside a silver themed speedomoeter. It’s visually impressive and sharp looking.Inside the Insignia is a welcoming and snug set of seats for the driver and front passenger. You have to lower yourself down into them but once in they’re supportive and wrap around the body. The rear seats are less so and are somewhat compromised in regards to leg room. Thankfully, Opel has fitted the seats with eight way power adjustment and both heating and venting, a godsend in Sydney’s late year variable weather. There’s some chromed trim in the front, which does add some visual class but unfortunately also reflected sunlight directly into the driver’s eyes.The dash design itself mirrors that found in Jaguar, with a swooping curve from door to door and around the base of the windscreen. The door grabhandles mirror that design, to a point, but feel somewhat too far back in the door ergonomically. The tiller has a chunky feel to it, with a soft touch texture and houses all of the now commonplace controls, plus has a pair of paddles fitted to the rear. Sadly, the texture here is of a lesser quality than the rest of the cabin. Also a touch questionable is the touch required to adjust the aircon temperature, requiring sometimes a stab or three in order for a finger to register, meaning the eyes aren’t focused on the road. The General’s MyLink system is on board, with DAB radio (bliss) and housed in a clean and uncluttered console. There’s Pandora and phone projection via Apple CarPlay. The voice command system makes for a high technology presence and for safer driving.When the Insignia VXR is on the road and everything is warmed up and ready to play, one can be assured assured that a most excellent driving experience is waiting to be delivered. Rolling acceleration is stupendous, ride quality of the 2737 mm wheelbase only jiggly on the most unsettled of surfaces such as the gravel ring road surrounding Sydney Motorsport Park, belying the 35 series profile of the tyres. Otherwise it’s well damped, following undulations and curves as if glued to the road and imparting a feeling of real confidence as you punch out of corners. All this while the electronics work faithfully and unnoticed in the background. What isn’t unnoticed is that powerplant and exhaust. Built in Australia, there’s a leonine roar when pushed, a rumble with a fine metallic edge on idle. You’ll pay at the pump though, with a 70 litre tank only swallowing 98 RON and consumption equivalent to a dockside pub full of workers after Friday knockoff.
To back up the performance capability, there’s Brembo brakes up front and vented & drilled discs brakes. The brakes will haul up the 1800 kilo machine time and again but there’s just a tad too much dead pedal to start with and lacks real feedback. There’s collision avoidance radar, blind spot warnings, adaptive cruise control plus auto emergency braking. Up front, there’s the standard LED driving lights but you’ll get adaptive lighting that adjusts to your speed plus auto high beam on and off. Holden offers a standard three year or 100,000 kilometre warranty plus Lifetime Capped Price Servicing to boot. Speaking of boots, there’s a capcious 500 litres available behind the 60/40 splitfold seats. To put that into perspective, that’s more than the Commodore.At The End Of The Drive.
The Holden Insignia VXR is a rare beast in that it’s a performance sedan, a big car, not a V8, offers outstanding grip levels and a beautiful ride, all wrapped in a pretty and stylish body. It’s also a car that seems to have slipped under the radar of buyers, with a low recognition level shown by the amount of swivelling heads on pedestrians. Priced at not much over $50K, it’s a hidden performance bargain and one that would be even more enjoyable if the Insignia was found to be sans a couple of hundred kilos. There’s a high level of tech onboard, unusual at the price point as well, but the real attraction for a driver that thrives on sheer back bending ability is that firecracker engine up front.
For a comprehensive look at the Holden Insignia VXR, go here: Holden Insignia Information
It’s a quirk of automotive manufacturing that makers leave their best ’til last. Ford recently unveiled their Sprint Falcons, in both turbo six and supercharged V8 guise. In late 2015, Holden released the series 2 update for the VF Commodore range. Not unexpected was the lack of any real change, with minor bodywork and some under the skin electrical modifications.
In the case of the SS-V Redline, the American sourced LS3 6.3L V8 was massaged slightly, with power bumped to 304 kilowatts at 6000 revs, while peak torque of 570 Newton metres arrives at 4400 rpm. Make no mistake, there’s plenty of urge below that number.Fuel consumption finished on 12.1L litres per 100 kilometres, with a solid combination of rural, suburban and highway driving undertaken. Driven gently and with no inclination to bury the welly (to hear that glorious V8 soundtrack), sub 12 litre figures were achieved. The bi-modal exhaust isn’t exceptionally tricky either; a light foot on the go pedal has the car gently burbling around, with a hint of what lurks underneath. Hit it hard, and the valves in the rear open up, emitting a thunder almost as if Thor’s hammer had come alive and spotted some evil it wished to vanquish. It’s deep, sonorous, gutteral and thoroughly bloody intoxicating in tunnels.
Inside, the SS-V remains unchanged, mostly, with the most notable change for trainspotters being slightly amended dash dials. There’s the charcoal coloured seats, complete with pointless fabric inserts down the centre, the same fabric covered slab of a dashboard, balanced by the off white colour of the pillars and sunroof fitted ceiling.
There’s the Holden MyLink navitainment system with Pandora and Stitcher apps, a Bose sound system with pretty decent quality (some high end audio makers just don’t sound right in some cars) and a sub menu to adjust settings, including the exhaust baffles for the bi-modal exhaust, allowing Aunty Mavis to tiptoe around town or utter a feral roar when the right slipper goes down.It’s underneath where the changes you feel but can’t see have been made. The car was fitted with 19 inch black painted alloys, with different width Bridgestone tyres front (235/40) to rear (275/35). Yes, that’s monstrous grip, but those tyres would come to naught unless the suspension worked hand in hand with them.The ride quality is superb. Low profile tyres on big wheels on an Aussie car normally spell three nights prone on a hospital bed with a sore back, however you’d be well and truly forgiven you were piloting a luxury German speed wagon.
Small bumps are flattened, larger ones smoothed, ripples and undulating roads are communicated to you with an air of indifference, as if the car has sniffed and said “I suppose I should tell you…”.
The steering ratio allows for fingertip precision and the power assistance allows for fingertip guidance, such is the balance and feedback.
The size of the car certainly helps in the spread of weight across track and wheelbase (1593/1590 mm front/rear and 2915 mm) with the fluidity and stableness of the chassis making it an absolute delight and simple enough to drive around town for anyone with a license. Yep, even Aunty Mavis could drive it.It’s helped by that silky smooth torque delivery, delivered to the ground via a paddle shift equipped six speed auto. It’s a shame that the SS-V won’t see anything like a seven or eight speed auto before local manufacturing wraps up in late 2017. Under light throttle it slips through the ratios gently and without fuss, barely noticeable in all truth. Harder going simply changes the speed at which the next ratio is seen, with the same smoothness in change, accompanied by the flick ofthe tacho needle.There’s more safety equipment than before, so Aunty Mavis can be told of oncoming traffic from behind, with blind spot monitoring. Should her attention (and car) wander, Lane Departure Warning will bring her back to the straight and narrow, and if it’s raining there’s Remote Engine Start to get things warmed up inside. She can reverse safely thanks to the standard camera, or leave it all up to the car due to the auto parking system on board.
Parking sensors front and rear will let her know if the wall is too close and if she’s of the mind to look straight ahead, the HUD (head up display) will tell her what speed she’s doing, how many revs and even how much G-Force she’s getting through the long sweeping turns or tight corners the SS-V will do without so much as a blink.Traction Control and Stability Control programs are standard, just in case Aunty Mavis wants to get a bit frisky and see if she can match the sub five second time to 100 kmh that Holden quote for the 1800+ kilo machine.
If she’s nervous about her speed, the Brembo brakes (four piston callipers front and rear)will haul her and the SS-V down to manageable speeds safely, smoothly, and efficiently time and again, with the brake pedal telling her she’s got bite and plenty of it as soon as she lays the slipper on it.For the fashion conscious, Holden have fitted working bonnet vents into the aluminum bonnet; which although lightweight, did flap around somewhat on certain road surfaces. There’s a decent sized rear wing, at just the right height to block out, in the rear vision mirror, any following cars ergo plates and indicators. The VF2 update gave the car reprofiled bumpers front and rear as well.At just over 60K for the manual, with an extra 2K for the slushbox, people will question that ask for “just a Commodore”, yet the SS-V really is a greater car than the sum of its parts. It’s a big car, yes, (4964 mm in length, 1898 mm wide and stands 1474 mm tall) and offers rear seat passengers 1009 mm of legroom, plus a cargo volume of 495 litres. Weight is over 1800 kilograms, making the ride quality even more amazing to consider.Bearing in mind the donor car, built and engineered to deal with a wide variety of Australian road conditions, from flat tarmac to ripped up surfaces, from gravel to turf, the end result has provided possibly the best hi-po Holden badged car Australia has seen. It’s quick, it’s comfortable, it’s poised, it has a brutal personality when pushed yet is as dainty around town as Aunty Mavis needs it to be.
At The End of The Drive.
It’ll sip like a baby from a cup or drink like a sailor on their first night of shore leave but it’s never anything less than a truly brilliant car to drive and a startlingly sad reminder of what Australian car manufacturers could deliver. The Holden Commodore SS-V Redline is a true Australian muscle car.
Factor in a nine month/15000 kilometre service cycle and capped price servicing and there’s numbers Aunty Mavis can live with.
Head to Holden SS range 2016 for details and download a brochure.
Nobody likes a backseat driver. You know it and your passengers know how irritating backseat drivers are, especially if the passengers in question are drivers themselves at times. However, there are times when your passengers would really like to speak up and say something, but they don’t, because they don’t want to be annoying. This means that at times, some things that really need to be said don’t get said.
So what might your passengers secretly be itching to tell you about your driving but swallowing out of desire not to get up your nose? Or (if they have been trying to say something) what have you been ignoring? Perhaps it’s one of the following things…
Don’t Corner So Hard
Yes, you’ve got a great car that is built to handle corners well. It’s a real driver’s car with the more rigid sport-tuned suspension that really lets you feel the road well so you can put your car through its paces around those tight bends. You like to get the most out of that stability control package while you fulfil your rally driver dreams as much as you can legally on a public road. Your passengers are probably not so keen on being chucked about from one side to the other as the car zooms around those corners. Even if the car has sports-style bucket seats in the front, you hardly ever get sports seats in the back, so every corner becomes a G-force nightmare. You, the driver, have a nice steering wheel to hold onto with both hands to keep yourself in position. You also have footrests and pedals to brace your feet against. The passengers… don’t. At most, they’ll start hanging onto the chicken handles, which give a little bit of extra stability but not anywhere as much as the steering wheel does. There also isn’t a chicken handle for the middle rear seat. Believe me, if you think it’s bad as a passenger in a sportily driven car in the front seat or by the windows, you wait until you’ve sat in the middle with somebody on both sides of you, getting squashed AND chucked around at every turn.
And if you see the passengers hanging on to the passenger grips, don’t say anything along the lines with “What’s the matter with you?” or you might tip them over the edge. Save the sporty rally driving for when you’re alone, or at least tone it down (and if your car has adjustable driving modes and tuning/suspension, set it to comfort mode, not sport mode).
I’ll Adjust The Sound System For You
You’re rather proud of the sound system in your car, whether it’s some snappy after-market job or the nice crisp one that came with the vehicle right from the factory floor. You want to get the most out of it by twisting knobs or tapping the touch screen to adjust the equalizer, the front-and-back balance, the bass-and-treble balance, etc. This is all very well and good, but do you have to do it while driving along at the legal speed limit? All too many accidents happen while the driver is fiddling around with the audio system. Steering-wheel mounted audio controls that switch mode, adjust the general volume and/or skip forward and back have made some of the job a lot safer, but a steering wheel that has all the fine tuning and balancing for the audio either isn’t available or would be just as distracting. Either get the settings right before you start, pull over or get your passenger to do it. It’s alarming to be riding as a passenger watching the driver bend down to fiddle with knobs and other controls while you just sit there, watching the car drift while you sit there helplessly…
Warn Me If It’s Getting Bumpy Or Bendy
Passengers don’t get the fun of driving, obviously. This means that they have to find other things to do during a long journey. This is why auxiliary plugs, cup holders, reading lights and sound systems have been included in cars. However, if your passenger is in in the act of adjusting the sound system, texting or taking a sip of that coffee-on-the-go when you swoop around a corner, dodge potholes or get to that uneven and bumpy bit on the road, things get messy – literally in the case of the coffee. Often, passengers aren’t concentrating on the road ahead like you are, so if they’re doing things that need a bit of fine motor control, things turn to custard if their balance and momentum are affected by the G-forces and bumping that you saw coming and they didn’t. We’ll warn you if we’re doing something that could get messy, but do warn us
Let Me Take The Wheel If You’re Tired
On a long-haul trip, it’s easy to let fatigue settle in, so sharing the driving is best. Your passenger will be able to nap while you drive so he/she can be fresh to take over the wheel. However, if you’re the sort who likes to just bash on through without any fuss and just get there, your passenger may not be able to relax enough to nap and stay fresh because he/she knows that you won’t admit you’re tired and need someone else to take over the wheel until you’re on the point of nodding off. “I need to stay awake to slap him/her awake if he/she nods off at the wheel,” could be what your passenger is thinking. The result is two tired people, none of who is fit to drive safely. It’s a lot safer (and a lot less fuss and a lot more efficient so you “just get there quickly”) if you reassure the passenger that you will indeed swap seats when you get weary, so that he/she can relax enough to put the seat back and have a snooze.
When I’ve Got To Go, I’ve Got To Go
Your passenger probably doesn’t want to nag you and remind you endlessly about the need to use the loo. He or she will probably say “I need to pee,” just the once and then expect you to find the next public loo or pull over at the next public toilet on the way (or large bush if you’re out on a rural road). If you’re concentrating on your driving and have to negotiate a stop sign or so and then forget what your passenger asked, he/she will be left bursting. He/she hasn’t forgotten that they need the loo just because a fire engine whizzed past forcing you to pull over and then you saw the Audi of your dreams in the next lane over and then…
Be extra quick to respond in the case of small children who haven’t quite got the same bladder or bowel control as adults, or in the case of a passenger who needs to throw up (see the first point about cornering). If you don’t pull over as soon as possible, then you’ve only got yourself to blame when there’s a mess on the seats.