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Archive for April, 2017

2017 Toyota C-HR Koba: A Private Fleet Car Review.

Toyota is responsible, some say to blame, for the SUV “craze”, after releasing the RAV4 in the mid 1990s. Just over twenty years later, Toyota has released what could be seen as the spiritual successor to the RAV4 if that car was to be released as a brand new car. A Wheel Thing looks at the edgy and funky Toyota C-HR.

C-HR stands for Coupe-High Rider. In profile there’s a distinct look of coupe, with a blunt nose, lonnnng headlights (950 mm thank you muchly), a steep arc to both front and rear glass, and a hidden rear door handle just visible. There’s a specific design ethos to the C-HR also, that of a diamond motif. There’s two massive crease lines that join front and rear, plunging sharply from the front and rear wheel arches, joining as a single line towards the bottom of the doors, and mirroring the angles seen from windscreen to roof to rear window. There’s black polyurethane at door’s bottom which echoes the roof line as well. It’s edgy, unusual, and in the eyes of the beholder for whether it works. It’s at the rear that you’ll see just who the C-HR is targeted at, if the name wasn’t enough to give it away. There’s more than a resemblance to a same segment vehicle from another Japanese maker, down to the hard, flat edged, tail light design. It’s busy, fussy, and with the strongly defined C shaped tail light design, just somewhat overdone and hides the supposed diamond look to the point it’s invisible. It also somehow manages to make the overall 1795 mm width look lost.What’s also lost is luggage space. With the rear seats up there’s a single person’s 377 litres, however that climbs to 1112L with flat rear seats. the rear seat passengers also have a compromided position; look left or right and you’re looking at the inside of the sharply angled rear door line. The seats are perched gher than the front’s by a considerable margin, leaving rear seat passengers looking over the shoulders of the front seats.

The Koba sits at the top of the five step C-HR range, which kicks off with a manual transmission and front wheel drive, 1.2L turbo four, and a price of $26990. Want a CVT? Add $2k. Want AWD? Add another two large. There’s also a 6.1 inch touchscreen, sans Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, active cruise control, and cloth seats. But wait, there’s more, with the Koba gettinging push button start, 18 inch alloys, heated (but no ventilation for the) front seats, cool looking LED front and rear lights, and a nifty aircon system Toyota calls Nano-E, which injects a bit of moisture into the air to stop skin drying out….

Inside it’s a move away from what could be seen as typical Toyota. Of note for A Wheel Thing is the dash design, a rarity in that there’s a hint of dash flowing into the doors rather than two ninety degree angles at each end. Fingerprint attracting piano black plastic contrasts with tactile charcoal grey plastics, a curvaceous and organic styling pleases a somewhat jaded eye and there’s plenty of all round vision. The Koba AWD also features leather appointed seats which are comfortable enough, supportive enough, and featured colour coded stitching in the trim. There’s reasonable room as well, considering the 4360 mm overall length. Above both driver and passenger is diamond motifs embossed into the material.Motorvation comes from a turbo four, a weensie 1.2L engine, and produces 85 kilowatts between 5200 to 5600 revs. It’s a good torque spread, between 1500 to 400, with 185 torques on tap. Acceleration? Leisurely is a word used often and perhaps overused but it applies perfectly here, especially with a car with a gross vehicle mass under two tonne.It’s also hamstrung somewhat by a CVT. No, it’s not a shocker, but no, it’s not responsive enough either. Off the line and punched hard, it’s typical CVT in that it feels like it’s not grabbing all of the drive on tap. It’s better when a gentle right foot is used and perhaps equal when under way and used for gentle, not rapid, overtaking.The transmission is fitted with seven “steps” which make only minimal difference when used in manual mode. There is also, naturally, a torque split system that’ll vary between front to all four on demand at up to fifty percent of the drive. That, at least, is seamless and unnoticeable.What does come out of this combo is pretty decent fuel economy. From the fifty litre tank, A Wheel Thing extracted nothing worse than 7.5L/100 on an urban cycle, just beating Toyota’s claim of 8.0L/100km. Around the highways and freeways there was 6.0L/100 km, not quite reaching the 5.6L/100 km Toyota says. Backing up that economy is a better than expected ride quality and handling package. The steering is well weighted, progressive in its transfer from straight to tightening radius to curves and twisty corners. It’s also en pointe in the city, with responsive levels from minimal input, making the C-HR quite manouevrable.Get the petite five door onto the freeway and there’s only tyre noise to hear and that’s dependent on the surface. Punt it into a normal corner and experience flatness, with even speedy cornering most unfazing the C-HR. It’s really only in slower corners, when torque is at the front, where a hint of understeer may be experienced and even with a delightfully progressive brake, there’s barely a hint of dive. All this means the C-HR delivers a good balance between supple, comfort, and sport.

Safety is a full package on the Koba; pre-tensioning seatbelts, blind spot alert, seven airbags, cross traffic alert, and hill start assist. That’s in addition to the three year or one hundred thousand kilometre warranty, with servicing every twelve months or fifteen thousand klicks. Want more? There’s also an impressive $195 per year for five years capped price service scheme.

At The End Of The Drive.
It’s an eyecatching design, to say the least. You can specify a black or white roof with selected colours at $450, and it’s not unattractive inside. It’s the 1.2L engine and CVT mix that pulls the package back and dulls the edge of the driving appeal. But it depends on the application of the right foot as to how the overall driving experience works for you. Toyota Australia website will tell you more and it’s worth booking a test drive if you think this is in your target to buy.

Ford Mondeo Gets Freshened Up For 2017.

Ford Australia‘s large mid sizer, the Mondeo, gets a tickle for 2017, bringing fresh looks including a funky new colour, improved safety, and more tech. Let’s take a look at the car that saw a sales increase, year upon year, of 47% in 2016.

The top of the ladder Titanium will be fitted with nineteen inch alloys, up from the eighteens fitted previously. They’ll be shod with Continental 235/40 rubber, providing a more sporting and assertive look to go along with the increaed ride and handling capabilities.
“An increase in wheel size provides Mondeo a sure-footed dynamic stance that matches the chassis’ outstanding roadholding,” said Todd Willing, the Ford Asia-Pacific Design Director. “The new wheels not only help the visual balance of Mondeo, but work in conjunction with the body’s elegant lines for a premium yet sporty appearance. It’s a slick combination.”

The Mondeo Trend also receives its own bold new five-spoke alloy, tuned to compliment the Mondeo’s highly praised dynamics. These fresh alloys are 18-inches in diameter, replacing the Mondeo Trend’s previous 17-inch versions, and are fitted with a lower profile tyre measuring 235/45 on 8.0-inch wide wheels.

Buyers of the Mondeo Ambiente aren’t left out of the Mondeo makeover, with the Ambiente hatch now fitted with 17-inch alloy wheels as standard, to match the Ambiente wagon. Previously, the Ambiente hatch used 16-inch alloy wheels, an inch smaller in diameter than the Ambiente wagon, and with the upgrade for the hatch comes with the benefit of a 20mm-wider tyre, measuring 235mm, for a greater overall footprint. Said Willing: “This means that the Ambiente hatch hits that sweet-spot of being even better looking, yet with a wider tread area, sees an increase in roadholding for improved safety and drivability. It’s win-win.”

Colour my world: Mondeo’s new hue
The 2017 Ford Mondeo also brings consumers a new colour choice, Metalicious. Bolstering the bold new alloy wheel combinations, the expansion of the Mondeo’s colour palette underlines the premium design language that envelops the craftsmanship and practicality for Australian consumers.

“The new shade, ‘Metalicious,’ is a warm tinted clear-coat silver with a high degree of colour flip and sophistication that accentuates the beautiful forms of Mondeo,” said Willing. It brings the array of Mondeo colours available to consumers to nine, providing a strong spectrum from athletic to elegant, flattering the Mondeo’s lines while matching individual lifestyles and tastes of Australian consumers.

SYNC® 3is standard across the 2017 Ford Mondeo range. “Our customers are connected outside their vehicles, and Ford SYNC® 3will help them stay better connected while continuing to drive with their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road,” said Graeme Whickman Ford Australia’s President and CEO, . “Our leading local R&D investment also helps us stay better connected to Australian consumer needs, including SYNC® 3’s voice-recognition technology that understands Australian accents.”

SYNC® 3– Ford’s communications and entertainment system – features faster performance, conversational voice recognition with Australian accent-specific calibration, intuitive smartphone-like touchscreen and easier-to-understand graphical interface.

With a focus on technology, safety, craftsmanship and design, the 2017 Ford Mondeo uses sophisticated materials and production techniques to deliver greater strength and improved safety with reduced weight and enhanced sustainability.

An industry-first application of hydro-formed High Strength Steel is used to produce the A-pillars, B-pillars, and roof rails. A magnesium inner tailgate structure for the four- and five-door models delivers a weight-saving of approximately 40 percent compared to a traditional steel equivalent.

The Mondeo body structure features 61 percent high strength steel. Bake-hardened steel is used in the roof structure to reduce weight by a further 0.5kg. Further structural developments include:

  • An anti-roll bar uniquely designed to limit transmission travel in a frontal impact, minimising steering rack movement
  • Sill rocker panels made of martensitic boron steel for improved side impact protection
  • Bumper crash cans optimised for energy absorption and harmonised with chassis rail characteristics
  • A flanged front cowl design that allows for flex under impact to increase energy absorption
  • An integrated rear underbody wheel-arch-to-rail connector that increases torsional stiffness by up to 25 percent compared with a traditional design.

Keep an eye on Ford Australia’s website

French Flavour

France is, perhaps, best known for the Tour de France, fine wines, cheeses, romance and nice comfortable, stylish cars.  Did you know that French cars are hugely popular in Europe and are a major player in France’s economy?  Producing around 1 million vehicles each year, France’s car manufacturing businesses employ over 75,000 people.  The French know how to make cars with a unique and distinctive style.  Many design awards have been given to both Peugeot and Citroen cars.

Citroen has a number of very classy vehicles.  Providing both passenger vehicles and vans, Citroen has a model for most market segments.  Kicking it all off is the Citroen DS3, a performance hatch with hot looks and a great engine.  Featuring direct petrol injection and a turbocharger, the e-THP 160 motor develops a maximum power of 121 kW at 6000 rpm and 240 Nm of torque between 1400-and-4000 rpm.  This is a similar size to a new Mini, providing loads of style inside and out, while being quite cheap to run and enjoyable to drive via a slick six-speed gearbox.

Citroen DS3

Citroen C4 models are elegant (although calling the C4 Cactus elegant would be doubtful) and cover the mid-size hatch, people mover and cross over vehicle segments.  These are roomy, comfortable vehicles that are extremely efficient and provide both diesel and petrol versions.  The Grand C4 Picasso is one of the best people movers in the medium people moving segment.  Very luxurious, stylish and safe, it’s a great way to travel in small groups.

Citroen C4 Picasso

Citroen C5 models are the large hatchback models that have standout exterior and interior design.  Always good to look at, comfortable to drive and very well equipped, the Citroen C5 and C5 Tourer (station wagon version) are a dream to drive – particularly over the long haul.

Citroen C5

Peugeot cars are probably the better known French car down under.  Like Citroen, Peugeot cars are highly successful with their entries in the WRC championship, and with repeated victories at Dakar, Pikes Peak and Le Mans, Peugeot cars are engineered for high performance.  Offered in the new line-up of Peugeot cars on sale in Australia are some very quick and agile cars that come in the form of the 208 GTi, and 308 GTi.   The 200 kW power output for the 308 GTi comes from a high-pressure 1.6-litre turbo engine that delivers 330 Nm of torque.  Limited slip-differential and adjustable suspension settings make for a very accurate and fast car over any road.

Peugeot 308 GTi

There are some other striking new Peugeot cars on sale in Australia and these include the: other versions of the smallest new Peugeot 208 and the slightly larger Peugeot 308.  SUV options are available in the form of the Peugeot 2008 and 4008.  Big touring prowess comes from the very nice looking, roomy Peugeot 508 and Peugeot 508 Touring models.  These cars are refined at high speed and very comfortable and modern inside the cabin.

Peugeot 4008

Peugeot 508 Touring

Very close to arriving in Australia is the big SUV known as the Peugeot 5008 with a panoramic sunroof, loads of luxury and technology, and good handling.  Private Fleet love selling cars and we’ve had a long affinity with selling Peugeot cars to new car buyers.

Peugeot 5008

New Renault cars are very safe and comfortable cars to drive.  You can buy a new Megane Hatch for a competitive price and enjoy the car’s responsive and efficient engines, comfortable seats and five-star safety.

Renault Megane Hatch

Check out the new Renault Koleos design and be impressed with the upmarket design, large interior (especially in the rear seats) and strong engine and dynamics.  Both 4×2 and 4×4 versions are available for the new SUV, and it will handle Australia roads very well.

Renault Koleos

On the lookout for a nice small car to run around in, then the Renault Clio is a zippy, comfortable drive.

Renault Clio

Master, Trafic and Kangoo are names given to a fine range of Renault vans built for work.  The Renault Master is one of the best drives on the market with a huge load carrying capacity and modern array of technological features.

Renault Master

Renault Megane R.S models are the best hot hatches around.  These are very quick cars in a straight line and around corners making them hugely entertaining cars to drive.  Engine output is around 200 kW and 360 Nm of torque.

Renault Megane R.S

Keep your eyes and hears on alert for the new range Renault Z.E electric vehicles.  The small Renault Zoe is the top selling electric model, and global sales of the electric city car achieved 50,000 units in June 2016.  The Renault Fluence Z.E is a nice, sporty looking electric vehicle that might prove appealing to the driving enthusiast.

Renault Zoe Z.E

Renault Fluence ZE

Renault’s involvement with Nissan is a good thing and the combined efforts has benefited both parties very well.  Most new Renaults come with a comprehensive 5 year/unlimited km warranty on new vehicles.

The French love the better things in life, and maybe a French drive might add something more to your daily drive…

2017 Tesla Model X: A Private Fleet Car Review.

Being an independent reviewer and supplying content means relying on the good graces of companies to allow their cars to be reviewed. Tesla Australia is one of the companies that works with independent reviewers and I was privileged to spend a too quick 30 hours with the new Model X. It’s jampacked with technology and comes with a pricetag to suit.An immediately noticeable feature of the Model X is the strong family resemblance to the Model S. There’s a similarity to the profile, with the A pillar and window line providing a clear lineage. However, a major talking point of the Tesla Model X is the pair of upwards folding rear doors, known as “Falcon Wing”. What hasn’t been noised about is the tech that allows the doors to open in tight parking points. There’s sensors and cameras that will read the surrounding environment, with the cameras mounted discretely next to the rear wheels. The system works holistically and, when the doors begin their opening motions, will keep the doors from opening too wide or high. Maximum opening width is just twelve inches.The doors themselves are roof hinged, in the centre and have smoked glass, and will open outwardly slightly before commencing their vertical travel. The tailgate is powered, however the front doors, unexpectedly, are also powered. It’s here a surprise and delight feature comes into play. When walking up to the car (and ensuring the sedan shaped key fob is on you) the driver’s door will open in greeting. On a wet day this could be a godsend. The fob itself has a hidden button or two, on top and at the rear, which will open/close the tailgate and open/close all five doors. There’s even a spoiler that raises and lowers, ala Bugatti Veyron, hidden in the rear deck.Inside, the cabin is dominated by a touchscreen almost big enough to double as a TV. Sitting in a portrait orientation, this screen is the control centre of any Tesla car, offering information, accessing over the air updates (as was the case during the brief time it was with A Wheel Thing), accessing apps and the radio system and providing startling clarity when using Google Maps. Although given a demonstration by one of the wonderful staff at Tesla’s main Sydney location, the amount of info and how it all operates is somewhat overwhelming, even for a fairly technically literate person. The radio itself is only FM, no DAB, but has TuneIn to compensate. There’s something just a little bit awesome about being able to listen to bluegrass from Georgia in the U.S. or a dedicated Beatles station in Sweden. Audio quality itself is excellent, with the Mark Levinson speakers delivering real clarity, superb low down punch, and vocals that are clean and crisp.There’s a couple of nice touches to the interior. The seats are powered for rear and forward motion at the front, however the middle rows are also powered and have a setting which allows for them to power forward to a certain point to allow access to the second row rear seats. It’s diabolically simple in opertaion and makes utilising both the seats and the door access unbelievably simple. There’s also a huge sloping windscreen which provides a huge amount of forward and upward vision. Fear not, dear driver, you won’t fry like a piece of fresh bacon, for Tesla have embedded enough tint to block UV without losing the wondrous panoramic view. There’s even some tasteful looking carbon fibre trim added in.At the rear left quarter is the housing for the charging cable. Tesla provide an adaptor to suit standard household plugs along with, of course, those that choose to get a supercharger installed at home. Again, it’s just a touch fiddly to get the small hinged flap to open but the actual process of hooking up the cable and seeing a hidden LED glow green to indicate charging is relatively simple of itself.

It’s the drive that sells the Model S and the test car was fitted with the 100 kW/h dual engine package. Yes, “Ludicrous” Mode is on board, accessed via the touchscreen inside the car’s settings, and will help propel the Model S to 100 kph in just 3.8 seconds. There’s also sensational in gear acceleration, with a real punch and license losing potential from 70 kph upwards. It’s literally a feeling of being pushed back into the seat and watching the outside become a blur and allegedly will see the sprint from 70 to 105 in just 1.5 seconds. Yes. It’s that quick.

Here’s why: there’s a 375 kW engine driving the rear wheels, a 193 kW driving the front, which combine to produce a staggering 967 torques. Even though the Model X weighs a more than heft 2500 plus kilos, that torque is on tap instantly. Oh. That Ludicrous mode has an extra bite; press and hold the Ludicrous mode tab on the touchscreen and you’ll be rewarded with a Ludicrous+. BUT you’ll also only save maybe a tenth or two, because, you know, a sub four second 0-100 time that beats supercars like Lamborghini’s Huracan is so passe’….Here we’ll pause for a moment and consider the battery options available. The 75 kWh powertrain will offer (with all battery packs under ideal conditions) up to 417 kilometres. The 90 kWh set will look at489 km. Punch it up to the 100D and Tesla quote a more than reasonable 565 kilometres. Order the supreme pizza, garlic bread, soft drink and free delivery for the P100D and that drops slightly to 542 kilometres. Then there’s seating. In standard trim, the Model X comes as a five seater. Six and seven seater configs are options.You’ll also get a surprisingly nimble, for the mass, vehicle. Being all wheel drive is one thing, but that means zippo if the vehicle doesn’t handle. There’s no problem here, even with those massive 22 inch finned alloys and low profile 255/35 Goodyear rubber hiding red painted and Tesla embossed brake calipers. It does help that the chassis has most of its mass down low, housing the batteries, yet the air suspension is tuned just finely enough to provide a ride that is both comfortable and compliant yet, somehow, imbues the weighty Model X with a sportiness that will appeal to any driver with an idea of how to utilise such a set up. The massive footprint thanks to the tyres and having them pushed out to each corner spreads the mass and really does make the Model X a genuine delight to drive. Oh, that air suspension? yes, it does raise and lower the vehicle, which at a standstill prompted some wide eyes and pointed fingers at traffic lights when trying it (showing off).The steering does lack a measure of feedback straight ahead but does have a tight rack ratio meaning input by the driver is felt straight away and has the Model X responding rapidly. Combined with a gear selector that looks great and requires minimal physical effort to move, it makes getting underway and enjoying the capabilities of the vehicle a doddle.Storage? Glad you asked. Being a design that couples the engines to the wheels directly, it allows the Tesla engineers to build in, somewhat like the read engined Volkswagens, frontal luggage space in what Tesla call a “frunk” or front trunk. There’s plenty behind the rear seats in a compartment and, of course, bottle and cup holders as well.

At The End Of The Drive.
It’s now time for the faint hearted to take a pill, find a nice quiet room, turn off the lights, and start singing “Soft Kitty”.
The driveaway price of the Tesla Model X as tested was $305809.00.
Why? Here’s why. The starting price is $201100, with that all wheel drive system included. The gorgeous blue metallic paint is $1450. The massive aero 22 inch wheels are a tear inducing $8000. The superb and super comfy black leather seats in a six seater configuration are, combined, $7950. No, that’s not a typo.
The carbon fibre trim inlay seems cheap in comparison at $1450. Thankfully the deck spoiler, Ludicrous mode, and the Tesla calipers come as part of the package. That awesome audio I mentioned? $3600. Air ride? Included. Hi amp charger upgrade? Hmmm….$2200. Even the autopilot upgrade system was a staggering $7300. With those and a couple of other inclusions (such as the Premium Equipment pack that self opens the door on approach) it came out at $242100 with GST inclusive.

Now here’s where some muttering and grumbling about taxes will be heard, and rightly so. GST applies here, so from that $242K price, there’s $22K in GST. BUT, on top of that, the Australian Government slugs a LCT or luxury car tax. How much? I’m glad you asked. Let’s say, for the sake of fact, $49972. Then there’s ANOTHER tax called stamp duty, a mere snip at $13705.
The end, drive away, price?

For a driving enthusiast with that kind of coin, it’s a no brainer. You’d have an electric supercar in your driveway in a blink of an eye. For the rest of us? Lotto.
Go here 2017 Tesla Model X information to wish and dream.

Hyundai Australia Reveals Pricing For Reinvented i30.

Whilst their Korean based brethren, Kia, get some eyeballs cast over the Stinger, Hyundai have quietly launched a revamped i30, with a striking Euro inspired exterior and reinvented interior. With a starting price of $20950, $500 LESS than the outgoing model, the Hyundai i30 range is both priced and packed with added value enough to really appeal to keen eyed buyers.The range will consist of five models; the entry level Active, SR, Elite, SR Premium and Premium. The Active will offer a choice of two engines, a 2.0L petrol with manual or auto transmissions and a punchy 1.6L diesel with the same engine combination.

The SR and SR Premium will be powered by a turbo petrol 1.6L with the Elite and Premium getting the 1.6L. Power and torque are thus: the 1.6L turbo petrol offers 150 kilowatts and 265 Nm of torque for both transmissions. The diesel gives 100 kW, 280 Nm for the manual and slightly more for the seven speed dual clutch auto, at 300 Nm. The standard 2.0L petrol presents 120 kW/203 Nm, with fuel economy almost lineball with the smaller petrol turbo at 7.3L/100 km & 7.4L/100 km (manual/auto), 7.5L/100 km for the 1.6L turbo and a country kilometre eating 4.5L & 4.7L per 100 km for the diesel manual and auto.Pricing starts as mentioned, with the Active manual at $20950 (auto is $23250). What you’ll get for your dosh above the outgoing model is: dusk sensing headlights, LED running lights, 16 inch alloys, satnav on a eight inch screen, and more. The diesel versions come in at $23450 and $25950 for manual and self shifter.

Moving up into the SR and SR Premium duo, you will pay $25950/$28950 (SR manual and auto) and $33950 for the SR Premium with auto only. The Elite and Premium round out the field with pricing of $28950 and $33950 for the diesel and auto combo. There’s $5000 of extra value in the SR and SR Premium, for just a small increase overall.The SR will add in above the outgoing model: a multi-link rear suspension, Hyundai’s SmartSense safety package which includes (and will be available for the Active by year’s end) Emergency Braking/Driver Attention Alert/Lane Keep Assist and Smart Cruise Control (auto only), Blind Spot Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, wireless phone charging on the Qi standard, eight inch satnav screen, Hill Start Assist, Tyre Pressure Monitoring 18 inch alloys wrapping around larger brakes discs, and an Electronic Parking Brake for the DCT. SR Premium sees LED headlights and indicators as well, along with (at last!) heating AND venting for the front seats, as does the Premium. The Elite gets leather trim, whilst SR gets a Sports Leather trim setup with metallic red trim inserts, red stitching and piping, and black headlining.The eight inch touchscreen will be both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible, with a DAB+ tuner, whilst safety comes up trumps with seven airbags and a maximum ANCAP five star rating. Apart from the Active, Smart Key entry is standard. Plus Hyundai will offer this: “With Hyundai iCare, the joy of buying a Hyundai will stretch well beyond the showroom. This leading customer care program offers a comprehensive suite of owner benefits including; Lifetime Service Plan, 5 Year Unlimited Km Warranty, complimentary Roadside Assist for 12 months on new vehicles, 1,500km complimentary first service, a dedicated Customer Care Centre, and myHyundai – an exclusive owner website. When servicing with Hyundai, customers will also receive a 10 Year Sat Nav Update Plan, a Roadside Support Plan for up to 10 years and more.”For further details, and to book a test drive, contact Hyundai Australia.

Towards Zero: The Dream And Why It Won't Work.

Every government around the world will tell you that they would love to see a zero road death toll. Anyone that has lost a friend or family member in a car crash will more than likely tell you the same thing. In early 2017, the state government of New South Wales launched a new safety on roads initiative called Towards Zero. Here’s a quote from the website: “Initiatives to ensure safer roads, speeds, people and vehicles need to be implemented together so the road system not only keeps us moving, but safe and protected.”

The idea is admirable. Make our roads safer so that no one will die. Great idea. A wonderful idea, especially when you read: “People are human and sometimes make mistakes – a simple mistake shouldn’t cost anyone their life.” and “Roads, roadsides and vehicles need to be designed to minimise crashes or reduce forces if a crash happens.”

Leaving aside the lack of an Oxford comma in quite a few parts of the website, the idea of a zero road toll, using the two of the three opening statements listed, really appeal and make it look that it isn’t as far fetched as their dream would seem to be. But it’s here where this dream is seen as fanciful and unrealistic: “Road safety is a shared responsibility – everyone needs to make safe decisions on and around the road to prioritise safety.”

Governments in Australia have a huge focus on road safety and quite rightly. However that focus is narrow, myopic, and singular. Each and every government will sit down with you and with a look of utter sincerity tell you that speed kills. They’ll also shake your hand slowly and tell you that the only cause of fatal crashes on our roads is speeding. Then they’ll burp and remind you of fatigue being a cause also. Fair call there.

Let’s look at the numbers as prepared by the NSW Bureau of Statistics and provided to the NSW Transport Department. In the twelve month period that ended on March 31st, 2017, there were 373 fatalities in NSW. That’s 373 people per 100,000 people of the population. Per 10000 vehicles it’s just 0.7. The rate per one hundred million vehicle kilometres? 0.5. Yes. 0.5 per one hundred million vehicle kilometres travelled.

Using the month of March (as the most recent month completed) over the last decade, it sees an average of 28 fatalities per month. That’s just shy of one per day. From a population of over five million alone in Sydney. In March of 2017, 15 of the 29 deaths were driver related. That’s down three from 2016. It’s also eleven down from the previous year’s three months ending March and the third lowest January to March total since 1945.

The ages of those killed tell a startling story. 5 drivers were between the ages of 17 and 20, whilst 17 were between 30 and 59. Read that again: 17 drivers died that were between the ages of 30 and 59. This is the age group range that, theoretically, SHOULD be the safer driver’s age range. Somewhat unsurprisingly, 22 of the 29 were male. Locations varied also; seven were in the area classified as Sydney, and six in the southern region. The Hunter Valley and Western regions shared five apiece. Given the population of NSW at the end of September 2016 was an estimated 7,757,800, the 22 deaths outside of Sydney in March of 2017 represent a disproportionate amount.

Strikingly, NONE of the 22 were on a road classified as a freeway. 9 were on state highways whilst 11 were on roads classified as Main/Secondary/Tourist with a further 9 on roads classified as…unclassified. In areas classified as metropolitan areas, only Sydney saw a number of fatalities, compared to Wollongong and Newcastle. But virtually half, 14, were seen as being listed under “Country, non urban, greater than 80 kilometres per hour”. It’s here a cynic might claim that speed kills…

Of those 29, 17 were in cars. That’s four less than March 2016. Five were light trucks. 13 less than the same time last year. Even fatalities for heavy truck crashes were down, 11 less than before. Now for some good news. Although the NSW government would have us believe that we’re in a real spot of bother when it comes to fatalities, it’s a consistent DOWNWARD trend since 1989, where somewhere in the order of 1000 people lost their lives. There’s been a couple of gradual rises and a spike or two, noticeably in 2006 and 2010, but the trend is most definitely on the way down.

NOW: some better news in the battle against some things we’re told are the causes of fatal crashes. Please note those two words: fatal crashes. A recent analysis of 340 serious casualty crashes in Victoria and NSW between 2000 and 2011, using data gleaned from forensic examination of crash scenes and anonymous interviews with drivers has found that in 0.9 per cent of crashes the driver was using a mobile phone.  0.9%. As the information source says: “If using mobile phones is significantly dangerous then we could expect to see a dramatic increase in traffic accidents in the last decade.  In fact, the reverse is true. “Between 1997 and 2011 seven fatalities were recorded in which using a hand-held mobile phone was a possible contributing factor. However, it is not known to what extent other factors such as alcohol, speed and fatigue also contributed to these fatal crashes.

The study from the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) found that intoxicated drivers caused 13.5 per cent of crashes, drivers falling asleep resulted in 11.8 per cent of crashes and 3.2 per cent of crashes were caused by passenger interactions. Here’s a list of causes:

13.5% Intoxication
11.8% Fell asleep
10.9% Fatigued
3.2% Failed to look
3.2% Passenger interaction
2.6% Felt ill
2.6% Blacked out
1.8% Feeling stressed
1.5% Looked but failed to see
1.4% Animal or insect in vehicle
0.9%  Using a mobile phone
0.9% Changing CD/cassette/radio
0.9% Adjusting vehicle systems
0.9% Looking at vehicle systems
0.3% Searching for object

Note something? Not one mention of speeding aka excess velocity for the posted limit. That’s why you’ll hear the pithy line of “almost 40% of fatal crashes had speed as a factor” because the car was in motion at the time. The reverse is: “over 60% of fatal crashes DIDN’T have speed as a factor.” What is hard to find is the posted limit in which this excess speed factor was a factor.

Another factor is, which to Toward’s Zero’s credit, they address, is road design, which includes traffic light timing. In NSW there’s a peculiar leaning towards having traffic coming off a freeway being given a green light only to be heading towards a red light, which aids traffic flow not at all. In peak periods some roads that badly need more green light time see drivers, utterly frustrated with five seconds, break the law and run the red light in oreder to save minutes of waiting. Then there’s the adsurbity of Sydney’s freeway designs, where two major inbound lanes merge within just a couple of hundred metres which causes gridlock every morning and afternoon.

However, there is one factor that is a constant, a factor that will always be part of the reason “Towards Zero” is doomed to fail. Some call it the OVI, the Organic Vehicle Interface. Others call it the nut holding the wheel. Quite  a few call it “that f**king useless idiot”. It’s the driver that believes they have a sovereign right to not indicate, to tail gate, to drive at night or in rain without headlights on, to run red lights (such as: Ran red light for food), to not stop safely for amber lights, to have trailers not connected properly, to not reach highway and freeway merge speeds, to not react at the appropriate speed when given a green light, to drive at the wrong speed in a lane other than the left, to listen to headphones whilst in a vehicle with a perfectly serviceable audio system, to comb their hair or read a book or eat breakfast or just act, as James May might say, like a complete cock.

The bottom line is this: we’ve been fed a diet of lies, obfuscation, misdirection, when it comes to why people die on our roads. We’re effectively told that a blanket reason for fatal crashes is excess speed. What I haven’t included here, simply, is the sheer outright cost to the community when it comes to crashes that aren’t fatal. The costs of hospitalisation, insurance, road and property repairs, but is a fair bet that they’ll be of huge numbers and, again, not strictly speed related. Driver training seems, nowadays, to not impart anything more than “Hop in, turn on, select D, go” and that also is a reason why we won’t see a zero road toll. No engagement in driving means real awareness of what it means to be a DRIVER will always not be a part of the driving experience. And in a nutshell that’s why Towards Zero will fail.

Information sourced from,,

Opinion is that of the author and not neccessarily that of the site owner.

Italy's Finest

What do Abarth, Alfa Romeo and Fiat have in common?  Cars from these manufacturers come from Italy, of course.  Maserati, Ferrari and Lamborghini are the exotic sports cars from Italy.  Italians are capable of producing some really eye-catching cars that ooze style and performance.  What are some new cars on offer from these Italian manufacturers (just in case you’re wanting one of these) and what’s on the near horizon?  Let’s take a look.

Abarth is Fiat’s sporty wing that produces exciting and affordable Italian cars.  These guys could get you into a brand new 124 Spider – a really fun and exciting roadster.  The Abarth 124 Spider is Italian’s version of a Mazda MX-5.  Amazing road holding, lovely lines and a small Turbo engine means that this little open-top sports car can fly, and fly efficiently.

Abarth 124 Spider

Want to go as small as possible and still be able to keep up with the big boys?  The new and cute Abarth 595 and 595C get power from a 1.4-litre Turbo T-Jet engine with a peak power of 103 kW and a maximum torque of 206 Nm.  With a top speed of 204 km/h and an acceleration of 7.9 seconds to reach 100 km/h from a standstill are sensational for such a cute little sports car.

Abarth 595C

Fiat also provides some great everyday drives.  One of the new standout cars is the cleverly packaged Fiat 500X.  The raised ride height and bigger curves of the new 500X make the standard 500 somewhat dwarfed.  AWD traction, Multijet Turbo performance and modern, unique interiors enable you to travel in style and tackle some of the less travelled back roads or city curbs.

Fiat 500X

Fiats new Doblo and Ducato vans are really efficient and practical load carriers.

Fiat Doblo


Fiat Ducato

New Alfa Romeo cars are some of my favourites.  Who wants a practical car with loads of style and performance?  The Giulia is a direct rival for the BMW 3, 4 and 5 Series models.  The Giulietta is the hatch with style and practicality, while the brand new Stelvio is Italy’s answer to the sporty SUV.

Alfa Romeo Giulia


Alfa Romeo Giulietta


Alfa Romeo Stelvio

Rare in Australia are the Maserati range of cars.  If you’re on the lookout for something really special, the Maserati range is truly exotic and covers sporty coupes, sedans, SUVs and cabriolets.  A choice of two twin turbo V6 petrol engines and a 3 litre V6 Turbo diesel engine are available for the new Ghibli.  Gorgeous lines are matched with the car’s sport leather interior.

Maserati Ghibli

If you’re in the know, Ferrari and Lamborghini supercars scare the pants off the Germans!  They are very good at going very fast, and look the goods time-and -time again.

The new Ferrari FF with 495 kW and 683 Nm is an AWD V12 powerhouse.

Ferrari FF

The new Lamborghini Huracan with V10 power and 600 Nm.

Lamborghini Huracan

Italy is a cool country not just because of its ability to make gorgeous cars but also the country’s land mass is shaped like a boot.  Little wonder that Italians are excellent shoe designers, too!

Mitsubishi Fast Charges The Outlander PHEV.

Mitsubishi Motors’ new Outlander PHEV has arrived in Australia with a revised design, new technology, increased refinement and additional fast charging flexibility.

In a comprehensive update to the best-selling EV in the Australian market, the new Outlander PHEV has adopted the styling changes from the Model Year 2017 Outlander range while introducing new technology and increased convenience.The Outlander PHEV was developed from the ground up to be driven by either an internal combustion engine or hybrid technology and as a result there are no compromises in terms of packaging, practicality or driving dynamics.

Available in two specification grades, LS and Exceed, both come with new features such as; Mitsubishi’s Smartphone Link Display Audio with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto2 integration, and Digital Radio (DAB+), electric folding and heated exterior mirrors, LED headlamps with auto levelling and an electronically controlled park brake with Auto Hold function and a DC fast charging socket.

New safety features available as standard on Exceed include, Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Mitigation with human detection, Multi Around Monitor, Auto High Beam, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Monitor, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and an Ultrasonic Mis-acceleration Mitigation System.

For 2017 Mitsubishi introduces a new EV Priority Mode across all variants. The new EV switch is located below the 4WD button and once activated, it allows the driver to operate the vehicle in EV mode without the engine starting, provided there is sufficient charge in the batteries.

The electronic parking brake’s auto hold button function which, when activated, holds the vehicle in traffic or on an incline the same way a handbrake would, allows the driver to release the footbrake.
Its stylish and functional interior includes a redesigned steering wheel, new accent trim, improved seating comfort with premium finishes and materials to give the cabin a more sophisticated feel.The new Outlander PHEV delivers a smooth, more responsive on-road performance with improvements to noise levels, ride, handling and throttle response.

Ride quality and comfort have been enhanced with increased structural rigidity in the body, revised suspension design, new Electric Power Steering calibration and reduced noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) throughout the vehicle.

The new Outlander PHEV retains its predecessor’s outstanding safety and environmental performance through the use of cutting-edge four-wheel drive, passive safety technology as well as fuel-efficient engine technology.
Pure EV range extends up to a maximum of 54km, while overall fuel economy has been reduced to 1.7-litre per 100km based on the ADR 81/02 fuel economy cycle.

Mitsubishi Motors Australia Executive Director of Marketing Tony Principe said the new Outlander PHEV builds on the model success in this market.

“The Outlander PHEV is now more stylish, refined and has increased practicality with the addition of a DC fast charge socket capable of recharging the battery to 80% capacity in around 25 minutes,” said Mr Principe.
“Of course, if owners can’t find a recharging station, they don’t have to change their plans as the Outlander PHEV is not limited by the availability of recharging infrastructure.”Exterior

‘Dynamic Shield’ front design including dark chrome and silver plated grille, silver skid plate, LED headlamps, Day time Running Lamps (DRL) and fog lamps with chrome bezel complete the front design of the new Outlander PHEV.

The sharper rear styling features a new design bumper and silver skid plate. The shark fin antenna, chrome tailgate garnish with LED rear combination lamps and rear fog lamp to complement the front design.

Outlander’s new exterior design is unified overall through the use of wheel arch mouldings, silver roof rails and chrome door sill garnish. New look 18-inch black and polished alloy wheel design complete the modern exterior.


The new Outlander PHEV gets a fresh design update to the interior space incorporating stylish yet functional features.

The interior is embellished with soft touch features and premium grade materials at every contact point. A new design four spoke steering wheel features gloss black bezel and new accent trim has been applied to the doors, dash and centre console. New material headlining, subtle stitching highlights on the instrument panel and a soft centre armrest enhance the sophisticated feel of the cabin.Seating comfort has been greatly enhanced with improved lateral support and an increase in side bolster stiffness. The LS seats feature black Sports cloth trim with leather look bolsters, while the Exceed’s new style leather facings complement the new interior look.


The new Outlander PHEV boasts improved handling dynamics and greatly reduced noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) along with increased body and structural rigidity for a super quiet and composed ride.

NVH improvements have been developed in part from the application of extensive sound insulation and isolation damping materials throughout the vehicle. Engine noise, cabin boom, road and wind noise are all reduced due to noise-isolating windscreen glass, improved weather stripping, new tyres, damper tuning and modified suspension mounts.

Its low centre of gravity and excellent weight distribution make for exceptional driving dynamics, further enhanced with suspension updates. The Outlander PHEV offers an ultra-smooth driving experience, with a 2.0-litre petrol engine and a seamless transition between three driving modes (EV, series hybrid, parallel hybrid), which combine to deliver optimum performance regardless of driving conditions.

Outlander PHEV’s dynamic performance continues to be refined with a number of suspension changes to enhance overall ride comfort and stability. New shock valves advance linearity and body control, while new rear toe link bushes provide improved lateral rigidity. Lower friction front struts and larger rear shock absorbers with new damping contribute to improved steering linearity, while rear shocks have been tweaked to boost stability and ride comfort.

The Outlander PHEV is unique in offering adaptive four-wheel drive with twin electric motors driving the wheels. The front and rear axles are each equipped with their own high-output motor to deliver powerful acceleration when needed, while maintaining an incredibly responsive 4WD performance.

The Outlander PHEV maintains its five-star ANCAP safety rating thanks to its combination of active and passive safety features.

The Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution (RISE) body structure is further bolstered with a suite of active safety features.

Like all models in the Mitsubishi range, the Outlander PHEV is backed by a 5 year/100,000km warranty.
Product overview:

At the front: Electric motor + inverter (60 kW – 137 Nm), Electric generator 2.0 litre MIVEC DOHC petrol engine (89 kW – 190 Nm). Power Drive Unit In the middle, under the floor: 12 kWh, 80 cells, 300 V Lithium-Ion air-cooled battery pack plus 45 l fuel tank. At the rear: Electric motor + inverter (60 kW – 195 Nm) and Rear Motor Control Unit.

Multiple charging choice :
Automatic “on-the-go” charging, in – Series Hybrid and Parallel Hybrid Modes
Standard on-board dual plug-in charger for : Normal charging (approx 6.5 hours for 100% charge – 230V – 10 A or 3h30 with 16 A). Quick charging (approx 25 min for 80% charge )

Battery Charge Mode:Driver-activated (switch on centre console), Autonomous self-charging through ICE
Can also be activated when the vehicle is stationary and can recover 80% charge in approx 40 min.

Regenerative Braking (cannot be controlled when Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) is active.
Activated either when lifting off accelerator pedal or when braking
Degree of regeneration controlled by driver : « B » position on shifter with two selectable levels
Six incremental steps through steering wheel-mounted paddles

Additional EV features :« Battery Save Mode » :Driver-selected meant to switch automatically to « Series Hybrid Mode » or « Parallel Hybrid Mode » to save on electricity, allowing to later enter CO2-restricted city centers or quiet residential areas, or simply to enjoy nature in full silence.
Remote monitoring through dedicated WiFi smartphone app, « Acoustic Vehicle Alerting System (AVAS) to warn pedestrians. Electric hot water-powered heater. Illuminated twin charge port (regular and quick) recess behind lid – with charging indicator (on/off lamp) and energy level gauge show charging status and level. 5 m standard charging cable with heat insulation, GND OPEN detector features and safety gauge. PHEV system designed to support long-term Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) smart grid protocol and EV Priority switch – to prevent the PHEV system to switch to hybrid mode and therefore retain the full electric driving on demand.

Record Sales For Iconic British Brands.

Jaguar Land Rover, the UK’s largest manufacturer of premium luxury vehicles, today reported record retail sales of 604,009 vehicles (including sales from their China joint venture) in the financial year, up 16% compared to last year, exceeding 600,000 for the first time in the company’s history. Retail sales for the Fourth Quarter were 179,509 vehicles, up 13% on the same quarter a year ago, and March sales reached 90,838 units, up 21% on March 2016.

Retail sales for the full financial year were up year-on-year in China (32%), North America (24%), the UK (16%) and Europe (13%), whilst sales in other Overseas markets were down 6%. For the month of March, retail sales were up in Europe (21%), North America (21%), China (21%) and Overseas markets (6%) compared to March 2016. In the UK, March sales were up 26.5% to a record 31,778 vehicles.

Andy Goss, Jaguar Land Rover Group Sales Operations Director said: These numbers set the seal on Jaguar Land Rover’s seventh successive year of sales growth, by breaking through the 600,000 barrier. We continue to make encouraging gains in key markets such as China and North America, as well as seeing sustained customer demand for the Jaguar F-PACE, Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport. The last 12 months have seen the launch of three completely new product lines, and successful growth across many of our existing products. Jaguar sales are still increasing strongly and Jaguar is now Europe’s fastest-growing car brand.”Retail sales for Jaguar were a record 172,848 vehicles in the financial year, up 83% compared to the prior year primarily driven by the successful introduction of the F-PACE and solid sales of the XE and XF. Jaguar retails in the Fourth Quarter were 53,972 vehicles, up 81% on the same quarter last year, and 27,820 units in the month of March, up 83% compared to March 2016.

Land Rover retailed 431,161 vehicles this financial year, up 1% compared to last year, as continuing strong sales of the Discovery Sport, Evoque and Range Rover Sport were offset by the run-out of Defender and Discovery. Retail sales for Land Rover for the Fourth Quarter were 125,537 units, down 3% on quarter four last year, and retails in March were 63,018 vehicles, up 5% compared to March 2016. 

Last month Land Rover launched the Velar, a new addition to the Range Rover family, positioned between Evoque and Range Rover Sport. These numbers also come on the back of record sales in the Australian market, with Jaguar seeing a staggering 132% increase in 2016, with 3008 Jaguars finding new homes. Land Rover Australia also had an increase, up to 13597.

The Passengers That Drivers Hate Most

As we first discovered when we finally ditched the P-plates, one of the delights and duties of driving is taking passengers. Sometimes, your passengers are a joy and being their driver is a lot of fun. However, at other times, it’s more of a nightmare, especially with certain passengers.

Here is a rogue’s gallery of the passengers that you probably don’t want to provide driving services for unless you really can’t avoid it (e.g. if one’s your mother or if you’re a professional taxi driver).

#1: The Litterbug

According to a UK poll, messy passengers were among the worst type to cart about.  You know the ones – the passengers who think nothing about sprinkling the floor of your car with empty chip packets, fast food wrappers, fingernail clippings, empty drink bottles and all the rest. The litterbug seems to consider a vehicle a mobile rubbish bin and doesn’t care that you’re going to have to clean that mess out and bin it at the end of the trip. Having a rubbish bag or car tidy on hand sometimes helps curb the bad habits of the litterbug, but much of the time, you end up gritting your teeth and feeling grateful that the litterbug isn’t dropping rubbish out of the window (which is rotten for the environment and can also end up getting on your paintwork).

If, however, you are one of those drivers who also chucks wrappers and packets into the footwell, you are more likely to be annoyed by…

#2: Donkey

This clip from Shrek 2 says it all:

Yes, it’s a cliché, but asking “Are we there yet?” really does drive drivers around the bend, up the pole and stark raving bonkers.

#3: The Map Illiterate

All good rally drivers have good navigators. A good human navigator who knows his/her way around a map (paper or on-screen) beats some of the software that tells you directions (and won’t send you round the long way, as some software has been known to).

A bad navigator – well, that’s another story! You’ve got the people who can’t or won’t read maps, who are annoying but are merely useless. There are those who use every single meaning of “right” instead of keeping it for a turn to starboard and say things like “Go right through the roundabout”, leaving you uncertain about whether you’re supposed to head straight on or turn right, or answer your question of “So I turn left after the school sports grounds?” with “Right”. You’ve got those who tell you to turn at the intersection just as you’re going through it and it’s too late to brake or indicate to go around it safely, forcing you do a U-turn or go round the block (and possibly get lost). Then you’ve got those who think that they can read maps or think they know the way from A to B and give you totally mistaken directions, sending you into the middle of nowhere.

Some navigators are competent but have bad timing.  For example, they give you a screed of instructions (“Take the third intersection to the left, then second right, then go on for about a kilometre, then turn left at the roundabout, then the first driveway to the right.”) then expect you to remember it all.  Fortunately, these ones can be trained to do the job properly. With the others, there’s no hope and you’d do better to stick to the computerised navigation system.

#4 Backseat Drivers

The backseat driver know exactly what to do when.  He or she knows the right speed to go around every bend, the right time to indicate, the right speed to go at, the right lane to choose, etc. etc. ad nauseam.  You never get it right if you have a backseat driver on board. You’re either going too fast or too slow, you’re braking too hard or too late, you’re going the wrong way, you miss all the good parking spots, and you’re either far too cautious and missing perfectly good gaps or you’re reckless.

You wonder if they’ve got a secret wish to work as a driving instructor. That would certainly get the urge to tell others what to do out of their system. Or maybe it wouldn’t.

#5 The Slammer

Whether they’re happy or sad, mad or excited, the slammer only knows one way to close a car door: give it a hefty shove so it bangs closed, shaking the whole car and making you wonder if it’s possible to slam a door so hard that you’ll set off airbags (answer: no). They make you wince when you think about what this is going to do to your car.

#6 Bigfoot

Bigfoot doesn’t like having his or her feet down in the footwell. Instead, Bigfoot puts his/her feet all over the dashboard or the back of the front seats. This is bad enough if Bigfoot removes his/her footwear first, which means that your dashboard gets marked by sweat. It’s worse if Bigfoot keeps his/her shoes on, smearing mud and grit over the dash. It’s also annoying having those great big hoofs up there in the edge of your vision.

Female Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) also attempt to give themselves a pedicure or paint their toenails. Pray like anything that you don’t hit a bump at the wrong moment, because nail polish is a beast to get off your interior trim.

#7 The DJ

The DJ constantly changes the music, skipping songs and radio stations, tinkering with the graphic equaliser, changing the CD, changing the volume, plugging and unplugging things from the auxiliary input or the USB input… It’s an improvement on the backseat driver or the are-we-there-yet pest but very annoying if you’re listening to your favourite driving music but the DJ switches it in the middle.

However, on the other hand, having a DJ in the passenger seat is an improvement on a DJ in the driver’s seat, at least from a safety perspective. As long as they don’t drive you nuts by tinkering with the sound system without asking you first.

Are there any others that we’ve missed? Now’s your chance to have a bit of a gripe!