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Archive for July, 2017

BMW Goes Back To The Future With M4 CS.

BMW Australia has released details of the forthcoming M4 CS. With a whopping 338 kilowatt engine and packing a torque punch of 600 Nm, the hot two door will start from $211,610.00 with an expected release date of late 2017.
It’ll sit at the top of a refreshed M4 range, comprising the M4, M4 Pure, M4 Competition and also sources elements from the limited edition M4 GTS.The CS also harkens back to the 1960s, with the CS nomenclature first seen on the beautiful 3200 CS of 1962. It swapped to the 2000 CS in 1965, and the evocative 1971 E9 Series 3.0 CS. The current version uses BMW’s legendary straight six powerplant, with a 3.0L capacity. There’s two mono-scroll turbos strapped to the engine, which features a rigid closed-deck cylinder block, forged crankshaft and arc-sprayed cylinder walls, the six-cylinder is light and strong with minimal friction loss and outstanding high-rev capability, all the way to a 7,600rpm red-line.The turbos dump unwanted air via a dual-branch sports exhaust system with quad 80mm tailpipes which adds an aggressive acoustic while keeping back pressure as low as possible. Electronically-controlled exhaust flaps further contribute to exhaust volume and gas flow depending on the vehicle’s load state and selected drive mode.

Changes in the engine’s electronic management system leads to a 7kW power increase over the M4 Competition, with 338kW available at 6,250rpm. Vitally, peak torque is improved by 50Nm to a round 600Nm, a match for the legendary M4 GTS. According to the BMW M dynamometer charts, the M4 CS peak torque figure is generated from 4,000rpm to 5,380rpm.There’s a specific chassis tune for the M4 CS, with the aluminuim based structure allowing a driver to choose from Comfort, Sport, and Sport+. Up front is a lightweight double-joint spring strut layout, with the five-link axle featured at the rear. All suspension links and wheel carriers are made from forged aluminium. The M4 CS will ride on 10 spoke forged alloy wheels, with the front being 9 x 19 inches and weighing just 9 kilos, whilst the rears will weigh just under ten kilos and be 10 x 20 inches in size. Brakes are four piston fronts and twin pistons at the rear.The whole car weights under 1600 kilos thanks to lightweight carbon-fibre and carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP), with an exposed carbon fibre diffuser that is specific to the CS and helps to substantially reduce front axle ‘lift’. The twin headlights are LEDs, the bonnet is CFRP, as is the roof and weighs six kilos lighter than a steel roof. The rear diffuser is also CFRP and is borrowed from the M4 GTS as is the exclusive Organic LED rear lighting system.It’s more track and sports focused inside than a regular M4, but there’s still plenty of luxury, with Alcantara trim on the door armrests, passenger side dash tim which includes an etched CS designation, on the centre console and mixed in with leather on the seats. A leather wrapped tiller is available as a no-cost option.

There’ll be a Head Up Display with M specific content, BMW’s Connected Drive Services, hands free Bluetooth, digital radio and parking distance control for the front and rear sensors. Two metallic paint options – Black Sapphire and San Marino Blue – are available as standard equipment, while the non-metallic Alpine White is a no-cost option.In addition, two special BMW Individual paint finishes are available for $4,400*, the bespoke Lime Rock Grey and the Frozen Dark Blue II.

M Carbon Ceramic brakes, roller rear sunblind, sun protection glazing, a headlight washer system, TV function and Apple Car Play integration are also optionally available.

For more information head to BMW Australia and you can follow BMW here: BMW Group on Facebook

(With thanks to BMW Australia for information and images.)

Van Review: 2017 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 313 Transfer Minibus

Private Fleet offers a huge thanks to Blake at Mercedes-Benz Vans Australia as we take a look at a light commercial passenger vehicle. The first vehicle to be reviewed is the 2017 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 313 Transfer Minibus.The Sprinter Transfer Minibus is, well, a Minibus variant of the Sprinter van and it is, visually, one big unit. Available with a low (as the review vehicle had) or high roof, at 2524 mm or 2818 mm, it’s lonnnng at 5926 mm. Width? 1993 mm or 2426 mm with the (heated) mirrors included. Seating capacity is twelve, with driver and two up front, and two/three/four mix behind, with all seats fitted with belts and there’s a fire extinguisher and emergency escape panel as well. Even the wheelbase is huge, nearly as long as some small cars are at a total length of 3665 mm. There’s a sense of irony for the uninitiated when M-B state that this is a medium wheelbase model…The heart and soul of the Mercedes-Benz van range is the engine and transmission combination. The Sprinter 313 Transfer is no exception, with a seemingly small Euro 5 compliant 2.2L diesel and seven speed auto driveline. Peak power comes in at 3800 rpm with 120 kW on offer, with peak torque just 360 Nm between 1400 to 2400 rpm. Bear in mind, though, it’s a seven speed auto and at 110 kph, the tacho is sitting on 2200 revs, smack bang in the peak torque figure.

The transmission is a superb unit. Gear changes are physically imperceptible, with only the engine note, a restrained yet noticeable diesel thrum, and the flick of the tacho needle, giving away the ratio has swapped. On the go on the highway and freeway, it’s an effortless cruiser and it was a delight to drive.

Acceleration is reasonable, with entering a highway from a standstill requiring a bit of planning and some driver skill. What this means is having an understanding of the ability and limitations of a vehicle that is good but not great at getting off the line. One simply shouldn’t expect that they can pull into traffic and do so in front of oncoming vehicles.

Braking is a delight, with a feel that wouldn’t be out of place in a family sedan and betters many of the passenger oriented cars a driver can buy. There’s real, genuine, feedback at the slightest pressure and a beautifully weighted feel from start to finish, enabling you to haul up the 2.5 tonne plus cargo easily and faultlessly.The sheer size of the Sprinter is also something a driver needs to consider in the handling aspect. It’s beautifully car like and the driver sits behind the front wheels but turning the steering wheel has the feeling of sitting directly above them, such is the agility of the Sprinter. For someone not accustomed to driving something of both the wheelbase and length, turns and corners need to be taken just that little bit wider and that little bit slower.Overall though, the Sprinter 313 Transfer delights in its ability to make a driver feel as if they are actually driving something smaller, lighter, more wrapped around them. This translates into a tight 13.6 metre turning circle, barely larger than passengers cars can deliver. Even the wheels are passenger car in size, with 16 inch diameter steelies wrapped in 235/65 rubber. However, there’s exterior safety lights fitted in the flanks which reminds you that you’re driving a Minibus, not a car. Access to the interior is via the front doors, with a step up and handle at the top of the door that’s integrated into a carry shelf; barn style rear doors, and a sliding door on the left flank with a step that comes out and retreats automatically when opening and closing the door. The sliding door requires a little extra effort to ensure it closes properly however, but opens up to over 1500 mm to ensure totally easy access for anyone. The rear doors also open lightly, and there’s a step fitted at the rear. Interior height maxes out at 1820 mm so there’s plenty of headroom for just about any person.The driver’s position is close to a metre above the tarmac, with the aforementioned step and handle easing access. Once seated in the tartan style cloth covered seat, there’s plenty of forward and side vision, with the wing mirrors giving a wide angle of view. In contrast, the interior rear view mirror is almost useless with such a narrow field of view. Somewhat surprisingly, there’s no rear view camera nor rear (or front) parking sensors. What there is a dash that’s clean, mostly uncluttered, designed for commercial use with cup holders up near the window, a storage locker in upper centre that’s almost large enough to fit an LP record, deepset pockets in the doors and removable panels underneath for extra storage. The sunshades have a clip that ensures they sit fastened tightly and are part of the same structure that provides some upper area shelf space.The centre section of the dash houses both the aircon controls and the audio system which is linked to controls on the smooth looking tiller. There’s Bluetooth compatibility, an easy to read 5.6 inch non touchscreen and a most clean layout. On the right hand side is a keypad, exactly the same as found on a telephone and this is the only section that makes it look somewhat untidy. The tiller also is home to tabs for information on a display screen between the speedo and tacho, presenting a range of information including what ultimately proved to be a final fuel consumption figure of 9.4L/100 km. What was interesting during the drive was watching the range figure change in an upwards trajectory in cruise mode. A starting range of 520 kilometres on pickup had, after an 80 km drive to base camp, over 900 km available.The aircon itself is reasonably easy to use, with the dial for air direction being quirky by not being as easily understandable as the rest. Airflow was powerful when the dial was wound up, plus there’s a aircon unit on the roof that feeds into a set of vents in the rear of the 9.0 cubic metre capacity cabin. Safety, when underway, is taken care of by a suite of car-like electronic aids, such as traction control, brake assist, brake force distribution, electronic stability control and a pair of airbags up front. Finally, there’s the standard three year or two hundred thousand kilometre warranty, 24/7 roadside assist and a specialised service plan including a 12 month or thirty thousand kilometre service interval.At The End Of the Drive.
Aside from the much vaunted passenger car range that Mercedes-Benz has built its well deserved reputation upon, their light commercial range also has much respect. With this particular people mover sitting at around $66K driveaway, it’s much cheaper than expected and cheaper than quite a few SUVs. Yes, it’s not the answer to everyone’s people mover question but with car like handling, plenty of room, an engine and transmission combination that works just so well, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 313 Transfer Minibus makes for a tempting alternative when it comes to looking for something to ship the family (and kids for weekend sports) around.This link will take you to more information about the Minibus and from there you can navigate to the rest of the range: 2017 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 313 Transfer Minibus
Once again, a big thanks to Blake at Mercedes-Benz Vans Australia.

Tesla Car Australia Expands The Network Range.

A concern for owners and drivers of purely electrically powered cars is what’s called “range anxiety”. Much like a conventional car, range will vary depending on driving style, with spirited and exuberant driving draining charge quicker.

Tesla Cars Australia recently updated the list of charging stations available, with its 300th charge point being added at the Yarra Valley De Bortoli estate at Dixon’s Creek in Victoria. Over that, Tesla have added 100 charger stations in just six months and announced a global doubling of stations, demonstrating their committment to making having a Tesla car as convenient as possible.

With locations identified across South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland, once completed and installed Tesla owners will be able to drive from Adelaide’s city centre to Gympie in North Queensland completely emissions-free.

South Australia and Western Australia will see their first Supercharger locations, whilst the other additions in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland will allow for Tesla owners to visit popular holiday locations. Tesla’s milestone 300th Destination Charger is situated approximately 50 kilometres north-east of Melbourne near the towns of Yarra Glen and Healesville and is famous for producing some of the finest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Australia.

The winery is well suited as a Destination Charging site, which is designed to be installed at locations where owners of the award winning Model S and Model X will spend a few hours to recharge. Most Destination Charging sites are found at wineries, shopping centres, hotels, resorts and secure parking locations, utilising the same infrastructure as owners use at home.

Tesla Destination Charging stations are designed to enable Tesla owners to drive to key locations where Tesla owners frequent for longer stops with the knowledge they have a charging solution. Destination Charging stations use the same unit as the Wall Connector used at home and charge at a rate of 40km every hour on 32amp or up to 81 km per hour with 3 phase. All charging is dependent on a site’s power output. This style of charging is a replication of the convenience Tesla owners receive when charging at home.

(With thanks to Tesla Car Australia).

Private Fleet Car Review: Mitsubishi Pajero Sport GLS

It’s a hearty welcome back to Mitsubishi for Private Fleet and it was straight into the top level. The Pajero Sport, formerly known as Challenger, comes in a three trim level range. You can choose from the GLX, GLS, and Exceed. Private Fleet goes one on one with the 2017 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport GLS.Mitsubishi have loaded the Pajero Sport with a grunty 2.4L diesel and eight speed auto. Off road driving is catered for with the Super Select 2 four wheel drive system and the GLS cops a rear differential lock. Up front, that diesel delivers a handy 133 kilowatts at 3500 revs, backing up the more than decent 430 torques one thousand revs lower. Mitsubishi quote a combined fuel efficiency for the two tonne plus behemoth of 8.0L/100 km from the 68 litre tank, a figure we more or less matched.It’s a super smooth combo, the eight speeder and diesel. It’s slick, smooth to a fault, with barely perceptible changes at almost any throttle setting. Manual gear changes are available via the gear selector or metal paddles on the steering column. The diesel is a old school chatterer, however, with plenty of ratta-tatta under any form of load. It’s noisy, yes, but lends the Pajero Sport a sense of extra character.Some would say the exterior design of the Pajero Sport has character and you’d have to study their face to see if they’re serious. The front is what Mitsubishi calls its “shield” design and it’s handsome enough. Chrome plates blend with the angular headlights and it flows nicely. In profile, there’s a sense of a hunch in the windowline at the rear, combined with a deep set crease over the rear wheel arches. It’s from the rear that the Pajero Sport’s design has raised the most eyebrows since it was launched, with tail lights that look as if heat has been applied and they’ve melted from top to bottom. Beauty in the eye of the beholder and all that…There’s some big numbers for the Pajero Sport; length is 4785 mm long and it stands 1815 mm tall, taller than most. Front leg room is good at 1087 mm whilst the rear seats may seem a little tight for taller people, with 880 mm leg room on display. Towing capacity tips the three tonne mark, at 3100 kilograms, meaning caravanners will be delighted. There’s plenty of grip to do so from the Bridgestone Dueller 265/60 rubber on 18 inch 12 spoked alloys.Inside it’s typical Mitsubishi, with spot on ergonomics, leather seats in the GLS (sans heating and cooling), auto headlights, rear diff lock and towing braking package as well. Front and centre for the driver is Mitsubishi’s Eco messenger display in colour, with a five leaf clover indicating the economic efficiency (or lack there-of) of your driving skills. The display is a typical Mitsubishi highlight, with little to no eye strain and beautifully clean in layout making it easy to read at a glance.The six speaker sound system in the GLS (eight in the Exceed) comes with DAB and the digital sound is superb in the Pajero Sport. The seven inch touchscreen also allows access to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, adding some up to date technology to the field of play. The dash is a mix of glossy piano black, charcoal matt textured black and aluminuim look highlights that run down into the console and splashes on the doors As expected in a family oriented SUV there’s storage pockets aplenty and the underfloor storage provides some extra security. Although the seats aren’t heated and cooled, they’re comfortable and supportive enough, with quicker turns on road having minimal human body movement. You arrive at a distant destination feeling refreshed enough and being set high, you’ve got both great all round vision and easy entry and exiting. You need to be refreshed as the dynamics of the Pajero Sport aren’t exactly razor sharp. Although it’s got a big footprint, with a 2800 mm long wheelbase, front track of 1520 mm and rear at 1515 mm, it’s unwieldy on the road thanks largely to the perhaps too soft suspension, a mix of double wishbone & coil springs up front and 3 link coil spring & stabiliser bar rear. If you’ve never driven a vehicle such as this you feel as if you’d need to slow to a crawl to turn corners, such is the sensation of body roll.It’s not a point and shoot style car, for sure, however by sitting up high as one does in such a vehicle, anything other than a straight and flat road transmits a feeling of slight uneasiness as to whether the Pajero Sport will go where you tell it. It’ll understeer easily even at moderate speeds but that’s a handling setup issue as the tyres give no indication at all of losing grip. Eventually, and quickly, it must be pointed out, you adapt quickly to the handling and roll foibles, and start exploiting the ability, not agility, of the thing.Being fitted with a proper transfer case for high and low range driving, plus the aforementioned diff lock, is an example of that ability. Low range 4WD has the Pajero Sport head down and bum up as it crawls over rocks, through mud, over gravel and brings back the ability to instill confidence in its ability. There’s a 45 degree climb angle, approach and departure angles of 30 and 24.5 degrees, and will swim through water safely at up to 700 mm in depth. Throttle control is en pointe, with bare flexes of the ankle seeing and feeling response straight away. Unfortunately the same can’t be said of the brakes. For such a large vehicle and with the mass it has, the brakes simply aren’t good enough. There’s absolutely no feel with an initial press and a lacklustre feel when the pads start to bite from far too much pressure being required on the pedal. Too often it felt like the Pajero Sport wouldn’t pull up in time and an emergency brake press was needed in order for an appropriate bite to work.

Should something go awry, you can rely on the front/side/curtain/driver’s knee airbags to come to play, along with Active Stability and Traction Control, Emergency Brake Assist, Hill Start Assist and Smart Brake. The seatbelts have pretensioning and of course there’s Mitsubishi’s RISE (Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution) body. Going backwards is covered by a reverse camera, standard across the range.

The range starts at $47500 driveaway (at the time of writing, check with your dealer for pricing) for the GLX five seater and metallic paint is a cheapish $590 option. Mitsubishi also offer an extensive range of options to help you personalise the Pajero Sport just the way you like.

At The End Of The Drive.
The Triton based Challenger/Pajero Sport has always been a solid, if not sparkling, performer on road and certainly works well enough off. It’s dynamically not as sharp as some of its competition, retains the charm of an old school oiler with the chatter, but backs up with modern tech, a great transmission, and the bulletproof reliability that Mitsubishi’s off road heritage brings to the Pajero nameplate. For now, it’s also the best five or seven seater off road capable vehicle Mitsubishi has. Head here for more information and a look at the options list as well: 2017 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport range

Car Recall Over Dodgy Airbags

It’s good to get important safety information out there, particularly when some of the cars on our roads could be really quite unsafe.  Recently, there has been a Takata airbags recall due to some faulty airbag systems placed in certain modern cars of specific makes and models.

A US authority investigated for underlying faults present in airbag systems.  They had information that certain airbags had had a problem with the airbag inflators.  In order to confirm the fault was at large, they had a research and engineering firm Battelle perform testing on some airbags by test airbag inflators in their lab.  The results were quite alarming and showed that in Takata airbags there were airbag inflators that had deteriorated with age and, when they were deployed, the inflators exploded and shattered the casing material.  If there did happen to be an occupant behind one of these airbags in a car accident, then the hurtling material, set off like a grenade, would strike the seat occupants head and chest areas causing severe injury and in some cases death.

The airbag inflators contain ammonium nitrate propellants which can become volatile as they age when exposed to changing temperatures, humidity and moisture.  This volatility can cause them to explode and thrust shrapnel into both drivers and passengers inside the vehicle.  The flying debris has been known to puncture people’s eyes, face, neck and chest.  Faulty Takata airbags have also been linked to 18 deaths globally.

The results in the testing drove the car manufacturers (who had used Takata airbag systems in their cars) to reacall the vehicles to fix the problem.  This has been the biggest car recall in history, and there has been a waiting list for the replacement airbag.  A further investigation has also shown that some of the manufacturers have replaced the old airbag systems with similar systems that will end up with the same problem as they age, so the new device might not be a permanent fix. Not a very bright thing to do!

Choice investigators have said that millions of cars still have faulty airbags, and they want the car industry to do more to raise public awareness.  They also state that a number of car manufacturers — including BMW, Toyota, Mazda, Lexus and Subaru —have been replacing the airbags with like-for-like devices as a temporary fix – ultimately not fixing the problem.

Tom Godfrey, a spokesman for Choice, said that “Refitting vehicles with the same dangerous airbags still leaves people driving ticking time-bombs.”

If you think your car could be one of the 2.1 million Australian vehicles recalled, Product Safety Australia says that you should contact your local dealership or your manufacturer and find out if your car needs to have the airbags replaced.

At the time of writing, the list below names the makes and models of the known cars to be at risk of the fault.  This list is updated as new makes and models are recalled, so you can look up for further details.


Make Year
BMW 3 Series E46 1999 – 2006
BMW 5 Series E39, 3 Series E46, X5 E53 2002 – 2005
BMW 5 series E39, 3 Series E46, X5 E53 Check PRA No.
Chrysler 300(LE/LX) 2005 – 2012
Chrysler 300C 2005 – 2010
Dodge RAM 2004 – 2010
Ferrari 458, California, FF 2008 – 2011
Ford Mustang 2006 – 2014
Honda Accord/CRV 2001 – 2002
Honda Civic 2001
Honda Accord 2001 – 2002
Honda Civic, CR-V, Jazz 2001 – 2003
Honda Jazz 2004
Honda Accord, CR-V, Civic, Jazz 2003 – 2004
Honda Accord Euro, CR-V, Civic, Jazz 2002 – 2009
Honda Jazz, CR-V 2005 – 2007
Honda MDX, Accord 2001 – 2006
Honda City, CR-V, Insight, Jazz 2006 – 2012
Honda City, CR-V, Insight, Jazz 2011 – 2014
Honda Civic, Legend, Jazz 2006 – 2012
Honda Accord Euro, City, CR-V, Jazz, Insight 2007 – 2011
Honda Legend, Odyssey, Accord, MDX 2003 – 2011
Honda Civic, Accord 2006 – 2011
Jeep Wrangler JK 2007 – 2012
Lexus SC430 2000 – 2003
Lexus IS 250, IS 250C, 350, IS F 2005 – 2011
Lexus IS 250, IS 350, IS 250C, IS-F, LFA 2011 – 2012
Mazda 2, B Series, BT-50 2006 – 2011
Mazda 2, RX-8 2003 – 2014
Mazda 6 2002 – 2003
Mazda 6, RX-8 2002 – 2004
Mazda 6 2002 – 2004
Mazda 6 2006 – 2009
Mazda 6, RX-8, B2500 ute/cab chassis, B2600 ute/cab chassis, BT-50 2002 – 2011
Mitsubishi GA & GB i-MiEV 2010 – 2011
Mitsubishi Lancer 2003 – 2008
Mitsubishi ML & MN Triton 2007 – 2014
Mitsubishi Pajero NS, NT, NW, NX 2007 – 2016
Mitsubishi Pajero NS & NT 2006 – 2009
Nissan N16 Pulsar, Y61 Patrol 2001
Nissan N16 Pulsar, Y61 Patrol Check PRA No.
Nissan N16 Pulsar, Y61 Patrol, D22 Navara, T30 X-Trail 2000 – 2004
Nissan N16 Pulsar, D22 Navara, Y61 Patrol, T30 X-Trail, A33 maxima 2001 – 2003
Nissan N16 Pulsar, D22 Navara, Y61 Patrol, T30 X-Trail, J31 maxima 2003
Nissan N16 Pulsar, D22 Navara, Y61 Patrol, T30 X-Trail, J31 maxima 2004 – 2007
Nissan D22 Navara, T30 X-Trail, J31 Maxima 2007 – 2008
Nissan D22 Navara, Y61 Patrol 2009 – 2012
Nissan D40 Navara 2008 – 2014
Nissan Tiida 2006 – 2012
Peformax Silverado, Sierra, Mustang 2007 – 2008
Subaru Impreza 2004 – 2007
Subaru Impreza, Forester 2008 – 2009
Subaru Tribeca, Liberty, Outback 2004 – 2009
Toyota Corolla, Avensis Verso 2000 – 2004
Toyota Echo, Rav 4 2002 – 2003
Toyota Corolla, Avensis Verso, Yaris 2003 – 2007
Toyota Corolla, Yaris, Avensis Verso 2006 – 2011
Toyota Corolla, Yaris & Rukus 2010 – 2012
Toyota Avensis Verso, Yaris 2007 – 2008
Toyota Echo, Rav 4 2003 – 2005
Toyota Echo, Rav 4 2002 – 2003

Really Keen Young Drivers!

One of my brothers, when aged around 5, found the keys in the ignition of Dad and Mum’s car and proceeded to start the car up and drive off.  That’s what you do with cars, isn’t it?  Dad and Mum were having a rest in the house when this occurred, and thankfully Dad heard the engine and rushed outside to stop him before he got away!

But he’s not the only one.  Just recently, in America (Where else!), two brothers aged five and two took off in their mother’s 2005 Ford Focus and headed off to their Grandfather’s place.  Life at home must have been a little dull at the time.  Putnam County Sheriff deputies believe the toddlers might have teamed up to work the pedals and steer the steering wheel.  The end result was a crash in the ditch, quite a distance away from home.  The car was wrecked almost 5 km down the road, the boys unhurt.  Prior to the jaunt, the boys were playing outside the home when they found the car keys under the mat.

Another child (8 years old), and in America, recently drove his sister to McDonalds to buy some food from the drive through lane – paying for the food with his own piggy bank money.  The police officer’s, family friends and grandparents then stopped him from driving any further.

A good reminder, if you own a car, is to keep the car locked up and the keys in a safe place out of reach of little fingers!  If you don’t mind the kids playing in the car, then make sure the keys are hidden away.

If your kids love cars, give them a pedal car or electric car (kids size) to let their imaginations lead to healthy and safe outcomes.  Another thing you can enjoy with young kids who like to drive is to take them off the road in a car and let them steer with you in control and in the driver’s seat.  Who hasn’t let their kids drive up the driveway or around a paddock under supervision while seated on your knees in the driver’s seat?

Have any of you  been in a situation where you (when under 10), your siblings or your own children have sought to drive off in your parent’s car when aged well under the driving age?  Do share!  These days, Google helps to teach us to drive, and I suppose any bright kid can learn off Google!

Mercedes-Benz Provides A Ute With The X Factor.

Mercedes-Benz Vans announced the new X-Class ute will launch in Europe in November 2017 with Australia and South Africa to follow early in 2018, as well as Argentina and Brazil at the beginning of 2019.

Diane Tarr, the Managing Director of Mercedes-Benz Vans Australia and New Zealand, said: “The high level of interest and anticipation in the lead up to revealing the new X-Class has been a reflection of just how engrained dual cab utes are in both the Australian and New Zealand culture. The fact is we love utes and we are showing a desire to incorporate this type of vehicle into our lives in more ways than we did in the past. Not just for work, but also increasingly for private use.

She also said: “The new X-Class finds the perfect balance between the stylish design expected of a Mercedes-Benz and the uncompromising robustness and functionality demanded of the category. As a result, with the X-Class, we can effectively provide a solution for trade and fleet customers, and we will find out just how far this category can evolve for private customers who need the vehicle to support their lifestyle.”

Mercedes-Benz X-Klasse – Exterieur, Kabaraschwarz metallic, Ausstattungslinie PURE // Mercedes-Benz X-Class – Exterior, kabara black metallic, design and equipment line PURE

The Mercedes-Benz X-Class has been specifically developed for the changing requirements of the ute market in mind. The demand for midsize utes with typical passenger car characteristics and comfort features has been steadily on the rise for years. At the same time, the number of utes for private use is increasing. They are no longer viewed purely as “workhorses”.

There are three design and equipment variants to choose from as well as four or six-cylinder engines, rear-wheel drive and engageable or permanent all-wheel drive, a six-speed manual transmission and a seven-speed automatic transmission. It consists of a ladder-type frame, rear multi-link solid axle, front independent wheel suspension and coil springs on both axles. There’s also vented discs front and rear.

Mercedes-Benz X-Klasse – Exterieur, Limonitgelb metallic, Ausstattungslinie PROGRESSIVE // Mercedes-Benz X-Class – Exterior, limonite yellow metallic, design and equipment line PROGRESSIVE

Built on this platform, the distinctive X-Class design is available in three model variants to suit different lifestyles and work environments. Named “Pure”, “Power”, and “Progressive” The Pure is aimed at the more workhouse style environment, whilst the Progressive is more upmarket and mixes a touch of luxury and family oriented usage along with the ruggedness of the Pure. The Power will aim at the high end driver and market, where style and performance along with comfort are of high importance.

Mercedes-Benz X-Klasse – Exterieur, Beringweiß metallic, Ausstattungslinie POWER // Mercedes-Benz X-Class – Exterior, bering white metallic, design and equipment line POWER

There’ll be tech in the form of Lane Keeping Assist, Traffic Sign Assist, and Active Brake Assist, plus M-B’s me Connect which allows owners to use their smartphones to track the vehicle’s location and even measure the fuel capacity without being in the vehicle.

Engines wise, select markets will see a 122 kilowatt petrol, a 2.2L diesel with 120 kW and a 2.5L diesel with 140 kW. Mercedes-Benz says there will be a 2.5L V6 diesel available in 2018 with 190 kilowatts.

Mercedes-Benz X-Klasse – Exterieur, Beringweiß metallic, Ausstattungslinie POWER, Hardtop und Side Bar (Mercedes-Benz Zubehör) // Mercedes-Benz X-Class – Exterior, bering white metallic, design and equipment line POWER, canopy and side bar (Mercedes-Benz accessories)

Deliveries to Australia are expected to start at the beginning of 2018 and pricing is yet to be confirmed.

With thanks to Mercedes-Benz for content.

Jaguar Electrifies London With E-Pace.

Jaguar’s relentless onslaught with new models continues, with the forthcoming E-Pace giving an electrifying performance during its world premiere unveiling. Driven by professional stunt driver Terry Grant, the car was driven inside London’s ExCel building, one of a handful of venues big enough to accomodate the run up and structure that lead to the E-Pace being driven through a barrel roll. The incredible vision can be found here: Jaguar E-Pace barrel roll

E-Pace takes the Jaguar design philosophy of the “Art of Performance” to the next level with this world record setting drive. It also finalised over two years of testing across four continents to ensure the E-Pace would fit snugly into the Jaguar family.Powered almost exclusively by 2.0L diesels, with two different power outputs available at the top end from the 2.0L petrol engine, the E-Pace slots into the growing small SUV with an overall length of 4395 mm, stands 1649 mm tall, and will have a total width (including mirrors) of 2088 mm. The wheelbase will be 2681 mm, maximising interior room for the five seater vehicle. The differing power outputs will have the variants see 0-100 kph times from 10.1 seconds down to sub six seconds.

Jaguar’s also added some pretty handy tech. A 4G wireless system allows up to eight devices to connect, the TouchPro system on the 12.3 inch screen is packed with apps,  a Heads Up Display provides info and safety, torque vectoring and all wheel drive make for a great driving experience.

Jaguar also says: “Configurable Dynamics gives the driver even more control with individual settings for the throttle, automatic transmission, steering, and, where fitted, the Adaptive Dynamics suspension system. Adaptive Dynamics senses driver input, body and wheel movements and pre-emptively loads the suspension and chassis and adjusts the damping for improved roll control and agility in all conditions.

Pricing is currently slated to start from just under $50K plus on roads. Jaguar Australia will confirm pricing and specifications closer to launch.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2017 Suzuki Swift GL Navigator

When a car company has a car that becomes an icon, any update or redesign has the company at risk of stuffing that up. Suzuki is such a company; the Swift has etched itself into history and for the model update released in 2017, the exterior redesign has raised a few eyebrows. However, it’s what’s under the skin that counts and Private Fleet finds, after well over 1200 kilometres of driving, including a forty eight hour trip to the heart of astronomy in Australia, that the Suzuki Swift GL Navigator, at least, should be welcomed with open arms.The range opens with the GL, then the GL Navigator. The next steps are the GL Navigator with Safety Pack and the top of the range GLX Turbo. AWT briefly sampled the GLX Turbo and found its main attraction is the lusty turbocharged three cylinder engine. A downside is the overly hard ride. There was also a lot more road noise than expected.
The GL Navigator comes with a CVT and 1.25 litre DualJet four. Peak power is just 66 kilowatts at 6000 revs, with peak torque of 120 Nm coming in at 4400. The auto has a Sports mode which proved to be an ideal addition on the longer country straight roads.The 2017 Swift is as compact a small car as you can get; overall length is just 3840 mm, with height topping out at 1495 mm. Breadth is a total of 1735 mm including mirrors and in the back there’s just 242 litres of cargo space with the rear seats up. Wheels are 16 inch alloys, with 185/55 Ecopia rubber. In between the front and rear is a wheelbase of 2450 mm, meaning overhang is minimal. Crammed inside is a fueltank, some would say a fuel thimble, of 37 litres. Suzuki Australia‘s website only quotes consumption for the six speed manual as found in the GL, however we finished on 5.7L/100 with a best of 5.5L/100 km seen. Bear in mind this was with two adults, two children between seven and eleven, and with a couple of good sized overnight bags.

The Big Drive.
A last minute change of circumstances had me free for the weekend. In need of a destination, Australia’s dark sky capital, Coonabarabran, was selected, with a visit to Siding Spring, Australia’s home of astronomy, scheduled. The route? West to Lithgow, then north to Mudgee, Dunedoo and a more direct route north from there rather than the tourist drive to Gilgandra. What became immediately noticeable about the Swift was how well sorted the CVT is. Compared to the average CVT in the Ignis, this car had almost immediate response, if lacking in outright acceleration.Sports mode is selected via a toggle switch on the transmission lever and works when the revs are above 3000. On long stretches, this aided immensely in overtaking slower and bigger vehicles such as caravanners or B-Doubles. Because of the relative lack of oomph, careful planning is required. Having the easy to read satnav on board (hence the GL Navigator name) provided plenty of forewarning of the straights needed. The CVT itself is well and truly one of the best of its kind available, with quicker response to the throttle and a distinct lack of lag compared to the CVT in sister car, Ignis.By no means is it a neck snapper, however. Even with one aboard, acceleration is…leisurely. It takes time to do almost everything from a standing start, however once the three and three zeroes on the tacho are reached the little engine that can becomes a different beast. Even without the electronic kick given by Sports mode, it’s zippy, peppy, and reacts even more to the right foot. Between Lithgow and Dunedoo, on the flatter and straight roads, this shows the ability of the 1.2L.What was a standout was the ride quality. For such a small car, it told the roads to “suck it up, buttercup”. It was only on the joins between tarmac and the concrete for bridge surfaces where the suspension would crash to the bump stops, otherwise it simply bounced through the travel once and settled back to flat and taut. On undulating roads it was unflustered, coposed, and again would setlle to a flat ride as soon as it could. Even on a rutted and ripped gravel road (yes, a gravel road) it was relatively chop free and surprisingly noise free.The razor sharp steering rack backs up the chassis perfectly. It reacts to the softest touch and is ratioed so at speed it won’t go beserk, it’ll move gently, but will also tighten up quickly at slow speeds for easy car parking and manouvreability.It’s the long drive that shows what a well sorted chassis can do but that’d come to naught if the interior of the car also doesn’t play ball. The cloth covered seats were near nigh spot on, with support where needed, and resulted in stepping out of the pocket car with no sense of weariness. Bearing in mind, too, that the Swift was driven in a cold environment and the seats aren’t heated. Speaking of heating, the interior of the Swift GL Navigator features old school style dials and slide for fresh/recirculate. It warms up the interior quickly but did seem to not push air through to the feet efficiently enough when that mode was dialled up. This is vital when you exit a hotel room to see ice, not frost, on a Swift roof.Around “Coona”, as it’s called locally, the Swift works well as a city car….well, a town car. Coonabarabran has a population of under 4000, and takes just a few minutes to travel through. There’s life in the place yet, however signs of decay, such as a collapsing car wash, are tell tale signs of a town teetering on the edge.Want scenery? It’s this, and Siding Spring Observatory, overlooking the volcanic remains that form the Warrambungles Range, that bring people to the region. The climb up to the observatory is a four kilometre hike on some fairly steep and narrow roads, with the added attraction of passing some planetary markers. By using the observatory as the centre of the solar system, you’re able to gauge just how far apart planets are once you pass the asteroid belt and how close they are inside. The CVT is so well sorted that it never struggles to haul the car and four aboard upwards.A tour of the venue is a must, as it climaxes with a visit to the uppermost point of the mountain the observatory complex (there’s over fifty separate telescopes) sits upon and gives a breathtaking vista in a full 360 degrees, including the picturesque Warrumbungles themselves. On the way down the transmission exhibits yet another welcome quirk; there’s a selectable Low gear that helps brake the Swift without always aiming for the stop pedal. The brakes themselves, disc up front and drum rear in all but the GLX, are a mixed bag. There’s too much initial pressure required to get bite but once they do they’re measured, positive, confident in the retardation. You can judge to an nth the amount of pressure required to haul up the Swift time and time again.The exterior design of the Swift has also changed and, for A Wheel Thing, it’s not a change that sits well. Taking a few moments to look at it at various stops highlight the now blunter front end, the somewhat out of place headlight design, the protuberant tail light cluster aka Baleno, and the now embedded in the C pillar door handle. From Private Fleet’s point of view, it’s no longer the sleek and attractively well rounded machine it was, it’s now looking visually heavier and not as aerodynamically attractive.Inside is a different story. It’s comfortable, as stated, plus has a real look of being updated and modern. There’s the familiar four quarter touchscreen (with no DAB available at this level) with the typically clean interface Suzuki has endowed its screens with of recent times. Ergonomically, it’s a treat with everything cleanly laid out, easy to use and read with the added virtue of the main air vents being as basic yet efficient as they get. Where the Swift falls down, and sadly its not alone with this, is the lack of truly useable sunshades. They’re too short, lacking extending inserts, and not deep enough, as when moved to block sunlight throught the windows, simply don’t come down far enough to be of any real use.
What was useful was the overall driveability of the Swift Navigator. The aforementioned climb up to the Siding Spring Observatory, complete with breathtaking views but few opportunities to stop in true safety, tested the ability of the little hatch for both driving and handling. Tick the box for “Pass with Flying Colours”. Pootle around town? Too easy. Stretch the legs on the highway? Natch.The voyage home (to pinch a Star Trek title) was via the barely hanging on hamlet of Binnaway (yes, true name), with a stop at the site of the Black Stump, then east to Merriwa, before heading south east for lunch in Denman. All through here, with varying road surfaces, bends, straights, dips and hollows, hill climbs and descents, the Swift simply blinked and carried on. The final part of the return trip was via the sublime Putty Road, complete with turns and curves that work so well for lovers of the two wheeled transport variety. Even though ostensibly not a sport chassis, the Swift acted as if it had one, with the MacPherson strut front and torsion beam coil sprung rear providing tenacious grip. Again, there’s plenty of point & squirt driveability when the revs were around 3000 rpm. Being one of the more user friendly CVTs revs were between 1700 to 2000 when in cruise mode, easily flicking up to 4500 when needed and so responsive even the lightest pressure on the accelerator would see corresponding movement on the tacho.One thing that really stood out over the two days or so was the sheer amount of dead kangaroos and foxes roadside. One red devil had a luck escape, dashing out in front with barely inches between he and the front wheels as we passed but the visual carnage suggests that far too many were just that little bit too slow. With the size of some of the grey bodies, it was cause to be thankful for the six airbags on board, as no variants have a driver’s kneebag.
At the End Of The Drive.

I had to admit to reservations about the capability of the Swift to deal with such a drive prior to departure. Now, the Swift can be highly recommended as a long distance tourer for a family of four for a couple of days away. Luggage space curtails anything longer but would be ideal for a couple as the rear seats folded offer up the extra space needed for more luggage.
What one will get for the well spent money ( Pricing is sharp: the GL will kick off at $15990, the Navigators will be $17990 and $18990, and the top of the range GLX is $22990) is a car that’s thoroughly capable of a long drive to the country, a car with the goods needed to provide a wonderful drive experience and the economy required to not break the bank whilst away. Here’s the link for more info: 2017 Suzuki Swift Range information
A huge thanks to Suzuki Cars Australia.

2015 Corolla vs 1998 Corolla

2015 Corolla vs 1998 Corolla

ANCAP crash testing has been around for some time, but every now and then a picture tells more than a thousand words.  When a new car crashes into an old car, what will the outcome be?  At the crash lab in West Sydney, two Toyota Corollas went head-to-head just to see what would happen.  The difference between the two Corollas was that one was a 2015 model and the other a 1998 version.  My goodness, what a mess, what a noise and what a telling story!

Usually a crash test involves a standardised honeycomb barrier and a car being catapulted into the stationery barrier in an offset impact.  What was carried out recently at the ANCAP testing centre was at one end a 1998 Toyota Corolla was linked to a 2015 Toyota Corolla at the other end.  They travelled towards each other at 64 km/h in a simulated off-set head on position, and after the flying mess, noise and smell settled after impact, there was a hush, a complete silence.  People were shocked at the way the 1998 Corolla deformed so easily, while the 2015 Corolla absorbed the impact but kept its shape and integrity well – particularly around the A-pillar zone.

Had there been a driver in each vehicle, the one in the older Corolla would have had serious injuries that would be life threatening.  The driver of the newer Corolla would likely have walked away with minor injuries.

Safety standards in modern cars has improved so much over recent years with the addition of multiple airbags at the front of the car, curtain airbags down the side of the car, pre-tensioning seat belts, stronger safety cages for occupants, accident avoidance systems and building the cars with newer types of metals and steel that are stronger.  The design that goes into the modern cars for redistributing the forces of the impact in a crash around the cabin to protect those inside is an ever evolving entity.  These modern additions to new cars hugely improve the chances occupants have in a high impact crash – just like what these two Corolla cars were put through.

There are still numerous older vehicles on our roads; maybe it’s a good time to think about upgrading your car to one that has more safety credentials.  Making safety a priority and buying the safest car that you can afford might be a good place to start.

You can see the crash test here: