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Archive for November, 2017

Moving On: Toyota Unveils First Non Aussie Built Camry For Decades

Just weeks after Toyota Australia finalised manufacturing operations in Australia, the Japanese goliath has unveiled the vehicle that will delight cardigan wearing lawn bowlers everywhere. Yes, it’s the new for 2018, and beyond, Toyota Camry.Toyota says the chassis has been overhauled for better ride and handling characteristics, with a fifty mm longer wheelbase that hides a lower and shorter body overall. There’s new safety tech, and an overhauled engine and transmission range. It’s the first sedan from the company to adopt Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA) which changes the process in design, engineering, and packaged inside and out. There’s 30% more structural rigidity, the hip points for the seats have been lowered and moved rearward for more legroom, whilst the body itself is made using a hot-stamping process and laser screw welding.Engine wise there’s a return, for the Camry nameplate, to a V6 engine with direct injection and a new eight speed automatic, plus a direct injection four cylinder engine for the hybrid models and a new selectable drive mode system. Underneath there’s 19 inch wheels (SX), a fully independent rear, electric parking brake, whilst inside there’s pre-collision safety systems with autonomous braking, adaptive cruise control across the range, a ten inch head up display system and a new panoramic roof whilst the front end gets both a redesign and LED headlights.There’s been some name changing too: Ascent, Ascent Sport, SX, and SL. The first two will be four cylinder or hybrid powered, the SX a four or six, whilst the range topping SL will option all three engines. The six cylinder now offers a maximum power of 222 kilowatts and offers both an Atkinson cycle and Otto cycle combustion process, producing 362 Nm of torque at 4700 rpm. The 2.5L four offers two slightly different engine tunes, with the Ascent weighing fifteen to sixty five kilos less that the SX and SL getting 133 kW versus 135 and torque is different too, with 231 Nm vs 235 Nm. Transmission here will be a six speed. The hybrid cops a combined 160 kW setup that runs in series and parallel.Naturally fuel economy figures should be better and Toyota say the hybrid should be the best, with the Ascents under five litres per one hundred across the board bar the SL on an urban cycle at just 5.2L/100. The SX and SL with the V6 are quoted as 8.9L and 8.7L per 100 for the combined cycle however the urban cycle, its natural home, may be a bit of a concern for some at 12.7L and 12.5L per 100 km.Pricing for the new Camry:

Four-cylinder petrol

GRADE PRICE DIFFERENCE
Ascent $27,690 $1,200
Ascent Sport $29,990 -$200
SX $33,290 -$200
SL $39,990 $2,550

Hybrid

GRADE PRICE DIFFERENCE
Ascent $29,990 -$500
Ascent Sport $31,990 -$1,200
SL $40,990 $550

V6

GRADE PRICE DIFFERENCE
SX $37,290 -$6,700
SL $43,990 -$6,450

Options:
All grades: premium paint $450
SX: panoramic roof $1,950

A Wee Rant About Road Works

I’ll slow down… if there really are road works ahead.

Yes, yes, I know that roads need to be repaired regularly so they stay safe to drive on.  I also know that we need to keep the guys and girls working on the roads safe and that we shouldn’t just roar through road works at our usual speed.  However, there are times when seeing those “road works ahead” signs up ahead really makes me see red.

I particularly see red when I’m on my pushbike and the road works people have decided the bike lane is the best place to put out their warning signs, forcing me to either nip into the main stream of the traffic or onto the footpath.  However, there are times that even when I’m behind the wheel of a car that those road works signs arouse my ire.

Not that I’m complaining about the road works themselves.  I don’t mind slowing down when something’s actually going on or there really is something I need to take care with – lots of busy people, a single lane or stacks of loose gravel.  If there’s one of those traffic controllers with a stop/go sign on a pole, I’ll give them a friendly smile and wave, or even say hello if I’m close enough – after all, traffic controlling work is one of the most mind-bogglingly boring jobs out there, although it’s probably better than it was 25 years ago, seeing as one could now probably listen to a podcast or audiobook on the smartphone through one ear.  And I’d much rather see a real human employed for traffic control duty than one of those temporary traffic lights that keeps going at night and will hold up a huge line of cars for no reason whatsoever thanks to its internal programming.

The problem happens when the road works warning signs are the only type of road works out there.

You know how this scenario goes.  You’re travelling along and you see one of those temporary warning signs on the road up ahead of you, so you slow down. However, as you get closer to where the signs are, what do you see?  Do you see bulldozers and bitumen mixers?  Do you see sweaty guys in high-viz with power tools jackhammering the road surface open?  Is there a massive hole in the road or similar amusements?

Nope.  The only thing that you can see is maybe a single road cone marking where the road works have been… and beside that sits a tiny little patch of loose gravel over where they’ve repaired a pothole. Alternatively, all you can see is a few spraypainted marks where they’re going to repair something.  Or possibly, there’s a half-done kerb on the side of the road that they’re going to finish off when it’s stopped raining or when the weekend is over.  Or the road works are taking place on a side road that intersects with the road you’re driving on (but don’t affect the road you’re driving on, except indirectly).

You have to ask yourself sometimes: are the warning signs the first things that they put up before beginning a job and the last things they take away?  Honestly, I’m convinced that the road signs go up as soon as they’ve decided to fix something on the road and stay there until they’ve finished the paperwork to sign the job off after it’s done.

And then they wonder why people don’t like to slow down when they see those signs.  Haven’t they all heard the fable of the boy who cried wolf?  You’d think that they’re trying to condition us to ignore the road signs. I know for one that my reaction upon seeing those road signs is “What road works where?” I’m probably not the only one who gets into the very bad habit of not quite slowing down to the temporary speed limit when seeing these signs.

Dear road workers, us drivers appreciate all your hard work, we really do, and we don’t want to put you in danger.  However, you guys need to do your bit.  Let’s do a deal: you put the warning signs up when you’re actually working on the road, not three weeks beforehand, take them down when you’re finished and maybe even lay them facedown during the weekend if the road isn’t actually hazardous.  It can’t take you that long to put them up and take them down. In return, we’ll pay much more attention to the signs and really will slow down to 80, 50 or 30 as the case may be, and we’ll probably be nicer to you when we drive past.

Particularly annoying road works signs I have seen over the years (with specific locations removed) include:

  • The ones on a large chunk of main road that could only be fixed on a sunny day… and the road signs went out in the rainy season when sunny days were few and far between. They stayed there for at least three weeks with no sign of action on the roads before the work began.  I’m not sure when they came down, because by that stage, I’d found an alternate route on a minor road.
  • The traffic control light that stopped a major highway for ten minutes (I was counting) just so they could set up a line of road cones. Honestly, after having waited that long, I was expecting to see something major going on!  Couldn’t they have maybe set them out in small batches rather than letting a long line of traffic build up?
  • Not quite so annoying this time: the sign warning that road marking was going on ahead. We’d kind of guessed, as the tank of yellow paint had sprung a leak and there was a thin trail of yellow in the middle of the lane near some very new, very white centre lines.

Right, that’s my rant over.  Now it’s your turn.  What’s your worst experience with road works and pointless signs?  Have a good old grizzle in the comments and let us sympathise with you.

Tesla Gets A Semi And Updated Roadster.

It’s been hinted at, guessed about, and now it’s for real. Tesla has given us a semi. 2019 is the year that is currently scheduled for first delivery and reservations are currently being taken in the US for just five thousand American dollars.Tesla has unveiled the new truck at a lavish event and simply stated, the design and specifications are stunning.

  • Zero to 60 mph in five seconds, unladen,
  • Zero to 60 mph in twenty seconds with an 80000 pound (over 36200 kilos) load,
  • Will climb a five degree slope at a steady 65 mph,
  • No shifting and clutching mechanism, regenerative braking recovers 98% of energy and no moving engine parts reduces maintenance, costs, and wear,
  • New megachargers add 400 miles range in thirty minutes,
  • Enhanced Autopilot, the Tesla Semi features Automatic Emergency Braking, Automatic Lane Keeping, Lane Departure Warning, and event recording,
  • Has an autonomous convoy mode, where a lead truck can control following trucks. Tesla has also changed the way we view a semi, with the cabin designed to be driver-centric, and with stairs to allow better entry and exit from the cabin. The cabin itself will allow standing room and for the driver two touchscreens for ease of use and providing extra information at a glance.

Tesla has also revealed a throwback to their origins, with a revamped Roadster. It’s also some numbers that, if proven, are truly startling. Consider a 0-100 kph time of 1.9 seconds, a standing 400 metre time of 8.8 seconds, 0 – 160 kph of just 4.2 seconds, over 250 miles per hour top speed and a range of over 600 miles. It’ll be all wheel drive, a four seater, have a removable glass roof, and will start at a current mooted price of US$200000.

More information can be found via The Tesla website

Information provided courtesy of Tesla.

 

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander LS PHEV

PHEV. It’s short, sharp, sounds like an ex AFL player but with vastly more substance. It stands for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle. In layman’s terms, it’s an electrically powered car that you can plug in to your home power system to charge a battery inside the car. What it doesn’t tell you is that the petrol engine that’s also fitted can be used as a generator and that the brakes can be used to harvest the kinetic energy generated and recharge the battery on the go. Private Fleet trundles the Mitsubishi Outlander LS PHEV from the lower Blue Mountains to Temora, in the central west of NSW, via Bathurst, and home via Yass and Goulburn. It’s readily identifiable as a PHEV thanks to the three subtle (ahem) badges on the rear door and front flanks.Oh, there’s a Tesla style fast charge port so you achieve approximately 80 percent full charge from empty in just half an hour, as long as you have the appropriate equipment, including the transformer the PHEV comes with for the everyday single phase household which is best left overnight to really give the “tank” a full charge. Hence the Plug-in part of the name.Mitsubishi currently only have the Outlander as a hybrid vehicle and it’s a kinda cool one with three distinct hybrid modes, EV, Series, and Parallel modes. When the EV Mode is chosen you’re driving purely on battery power alone. You can also drive with the 2.0L petrol engine as a charging unit or as a paired situation where the petrol engine kicks in as required. Transmission is a single or fixed speed transaxle unit.

There’s a big silver EV button in the centre console or two buttons either side of the jet fighter Drive selector (no gears as such) marked Save or CHRG. Save turns off the electric option and runs purely on the petrol powerplant, the other is self explanatory.When fully charged, the battery indicator shows a range of around fifty kilometres. If you accelerate ssssllllooooowwwwllllyyyyy it will stay on battery only but give it a reasonable prod and the petrol engine cuts in. On battery it’s an eerie almost silence, with a barely audible whir as the PHEV wafts away. The petrol engine is isolated, muted, and there’s hardly a vibration in the body to alert you to it being engaged. The computer programing is seamless, as is the actual switching between modes, and the whole system is intuitive.Fuel consumption is still…..well, a concern. Mitsubishi’s refinement to the overall system now rate consumption as 1.7L of 91RON per 100 kilometres. That’s certainly achievable on virtually purely electric runs that cover no more than maybe fifteen kilometres or so. A Wheel Thing finished, after a week and well over 1000 kilometres, closer to 9.5L/100 kilometres. That’s from a 45L tank. Overall power is rated at 120 kW and that’s for the two electric motors fitted, one for the rear and one for the front wheels, which out put a total of 120 kW and 332 Nm. Mitsubishi says 6.5 hours for a full charge to the battery using the charger on a standard household supply.

The petrol engine is rated for a fairly measley 87 kW, but a better torque figure is usable at 186 Nm @ 4500 rpm. It’s also worth noting that you can effectively have the PHEV as an AWD or All Wheel Drive vehicle by the simple expedient of pushing a clearly marked 4WD button in the centre console.The drive west from the lower Blue Mountains sees the westbound highway rise by some five hundred metres vertically over a horizontal distance of perhaps eighty kilometres, before dropping drastically at the western edge to the Hartley Valley from Mt Victoria via one of the most picturesque yet narrow roads around. It’s here that you can tip the drive selector into B3 or B5, two different braking modes to harvest the kinetic energy, and add extra range back into the battery system. The brake pedal itself is slightly numb also but not so enough to isolate feedback to your foot when generating energy on a downhill run where the braking modes don’t slow the car enough.

There’s a couple of steepish climbs before entering Lithgow, the home of famed Australian runner Marjorie Jackson, before a reasonably flat run to Bathurst, and from here to the WW2 prison town of Cowra, where a number of Japanese prisoners staged a breakout. The roads were flat, surprisingly smooth, allowing the PHEV to build up speed slowly in order to not punch a hole in the range availability. The PHEV was also predisposed to understeer, not uncontrollable, but easier where safe to allow the nose to run wide and follow its own path. The steering itself was numb to the point of disconnection on centre, with an artificial feel to the travel either side.

On the more rough tarmac surfaces in the central west of NSW there was noticeable road noise from the 225/55/18 Toyo A25 rubber, which also didn’t look as if they’d fit the wheel well, with plenty of room between the lining and the rubber. The suspension itself is tuned somewhere between taut and not quite so taut, with initial give before firming up rapidly. Adding to the ride query is an overly short front suspension travel, a trait found in some other cars where riding over a school lane speed hump at exactly the legal speed has a crash thump that sounds as if the struts are about to pull out from the body mounts. It’s disconcerting and at odds with the mooted soft road ability the Outlander is marketed with. On the upside directional changes are dealt with well, on smooth roads, with a centre of gravity well below the driver’s seat meaning body roll is minimal.Economy here varied between 4.0L/100 km where the Charge tab was engaged, as once underway the drain on the system isn’t aware as much (naturally) as accelerating constantly. There’s a centre of dash display, as is standard in all Outlanders, in this case showing the range from purely battery and both battery and fuel. In Temora itself, the car was charged up overnight. The purpose of visiting Temora was to watch their Remembrance Day airshow, as Temora is a former working WW2 airforce base and home to aircraft such as a Gloster Meteor, Spitfire, Hudson, and more. The show itself was a quickish 3.5 hours but wrapped with the tarmac being opened for visitors being able to meet the pilots including Red Bull Air Race and former RAAF pilot, Matt Hall.An overnight charge has the battery in the PHEV topped up and Sunday’s return trip via the township of Harden (seriously), via Yass and along the monumentally boring Hume Highway past Goulburn. The roads here were again most straight and corners rated between 75 to 95 kmh meaning that most of them were well within the abilities of the drivetrain to gently ease off and gently accelerate up.

Straight line stability in the Outlander is wonderful, lateral stability not so, with both front and rear, time and again, skipping left and right on rutted and broken surfaces. There’s an instant feeling of uncertainty before either corner cocks a leg and then there’s the sideways movement. A quick lift of the right foot, the chassis regathers its thoughts, and it’s business as usual. In the greater scheme of things it’s a minor annoyance but shows that underneath it’s not quite as settled compared to some of its rivals.Final consumption figures are a long way from the claimed 1.7L/100 km which would be spot on for short distance, flat road, driving. But along the way you can enjoy the decently velour covered comfortable seats, the DAB equipped sound system, with plenty of punch and clarity. Being a largish SUV (call it 4.8 metres in length) means plenty of head (1030 mm), leg (1039 mm for the front), shoulder (1437 mm), and cargo space, with the five seater allowing 477 litres. There’s a parcel shelf that covers the spare and has a small locker for the charge cable. However the dash and overall cabin presence is dating and needs a makeover to bring it up to the perceived level of quality as seen in the Korean and European rivals. Outside it’s no different, apart from the badging, to the currently design ethos of Mitsubishi, with the broad and chromed “Shield” nose, curvaceous body that would shame some super models, and a rounded in profile but square from the rear…rear.You’ll not want for safety in the form of airbags, hill start assist, and the basic traction control systems, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and something called an Ultrasonic Misacceleration Mitigation System….what you don’t get is satnav, as the seven inch touchscreen interface has apps for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, has GPS, but not a navigation facility.At The End Of The Drive.
At the time of writing Mitsubishi didn’t list a price for the PHEV on their website, stating it was “Price on application”. Given the standard Outlander range starts at $27990 and goes up to $47990 for the Exceed version (also available as a PHEV) it’d be fair to say somewhere in the mid $30K bracket for the LS. It’s different in that you get a petrol power generator and a back up driver unit at that, with the main focus being that it’s a plug in unit and less reliant on the petrol engine. The fact that it’s a SUV is also different, with very, very few other companies offering anything similar and bear in mind the Outlander isn’t aimed at the luxury car market.

Unfortunately that shows up mostly in the interior, and on road the unsettled feeling it exhibits just a little too often. Measured up, on these two standards, against the Santa Fe, Sorento, Fortuner, and the Euros such as the Tiguan, its lagging. Where it scores the brownie points is in the drive tech, so click here: 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV for specific information and contact your local dealer for pricing.

 

Car Of The Year Awards Surprise From News Corp.

As we head towards the end of 2017 the awards season for cars gets under way and some of Australia’s biggest media groups roll out their list of contenders for the gongs in various categories. News Corporation, the company behind CarsGuide, has released their list of finalists for their COTY awards and there’s no surprises in that the two Korean brands feature two of the more newsworthy cars of recent weeks. It’s no surprise that no Australian built cars feature but it is a surprise that there’s just two European brands in the mix…bear in mind that this is the view of this news group and it’s worth looking out for the lists from the other news groups.From Korea comes the monster killing Hyundai i30 with the comments of: Loads of standard equipment, confident roadholding and a five-year warranty. There’s also the Kia Picanto, the good looking small hatch with: value-for-money hatchback that’s well equipped and suited to city living. Kia also lobs out the polarising (to Holden and Ford fans) Stinger: Old-school, rear-wheel-drive sports sedan with room for five and a twin-turbo V6.

Audi is one of the two European entries, with News Corp choosing the new Q5: German precision engineering matched to a frugal diesel engine and cutting edge safety. Japan is the country of  origin for the rest of the finalists and it’s an eclectic mix, starting with Suzuki‘s Swift, a fun and funky and frugal little car with New Corp saying: Fun to drive turbo three-cylinder with strong safety package. Next up is Subaru‘s resurgent Impreza, recently tested by Private Fleet’s Dave: Quality cabin and crash-avoidance tech usually reserved for luxury cars.The Japanese onslaught continues with Honda‘s completely revamped Integra range including the fire snorting Type R: Explosive hot hatch with in-your-face styling and a punchy turbo engine. Mazda is in there as well with their mid range CX5: Well priced, stylish cabin design and surprisingly agile for a softroader. Honda throws in another SUV with the CR-V: Spacious, versatile interior, quality finishes and hi-tech feel. Skoda‘s brilliant new Kodiaq is the other European sourced finalist with: clever touches in the cabin, zippy turbo engine and a generous warranty.

The final word goes to Richard Blackburn, motoring editor: “Every year, it’s getting more difficult to separate the best from the rest. Brands that buyers once turned their backs on are now every bit as good as the established players, while safety technology usually reserved for expensive luxury cars is increasingly available on cheap hatchbacks.”

 

Which Bond Car Was The Best?

Some of the fun things about the James Bond movies (and the books) are the spy gadgets.  This is especially apt, given that the author, Ian Fleming, and his brother Peter were both British intelligence agents and probably had plenty of their own real encounters with all kinds of cunning stuff. However, the gadget in the films that sticks out the most would have to be the cars.  Even the James Bond rip-offs like the Johnny English films feature at least one car with plenty of bells and whistles.

The car marque that springs to mind first in a discussion of Bond cars is, naturally, Aston Martin, with various incarnations of the DB5 and DBS being used in the films. This product placement has been the making of the luxury marque, as it’s hard to think of Aston Martin without thinking of James Bond and vice versa.

However, the Aston Martin DB5 is by no means the only type of car ever driven by Agent 007 and Aston Martin isn’t the only marque that ever won the honour of product placement in the shape of being a Bond car.  The very first Bond car was a Sunbeam Alpine (in Dr No), and over the many decades of Bond, the super-spy has driven a Bentley (From Russia With Love), a Toyota 2000 GT (You Only Live Twice – they had to modify this to an open-top version so tall Scotsman Sean Connery could fit into this little Japanese supercar), a Ford Mustang (Diamonds Are Forever), a handful of Lotuses, a Rolls-Royce (A View To A Kill) and several BMWs.

OK, so out of all the Bond cars, which one was the coolest and most fun?  We’ll rule out the rather tame Sunbeam right away.  Here’s my pick for the top contenders in roughly chronological order.

  1. 1963 Aston Martin DB5: Goldfinger and Thunderball. This was the first Bond car to get cool gadgets as well as being the debut of the Aston Martin. It featured an ejector seat, a smoke screen, guns and tyre slashers.
  2. Lotus Esprit: The Spy Who Loved Me. Nicknamed “Wet Nellie”, this one could famously go underwater like a submarine as well as being able to dish out torpedoes and cover its escape by squirting out ink like a squid.  Trivia time: the original that’s used in the movie is owned by Elon Musk of Tesla (and PayPal and SpaceX and…)
  3. 1985 Aston Martin V8: The Living Daylights: Missiles with a heads-up guidance display system, a rocket propulsion system, tyre spikes and the ability to listen in to all police radio frequencies.
  4. 1963 Aston Martin DB5: Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies: Outruns a Ferrari Spider 355 and has a chiller compartment for champagne.
  5. BMW Z3: Goldeneye: Although it’s got a parachute braking system, missile launchers, radar and an ejector seat, plus hints of other gadgetry, we don’t get to see them in operation in the movie. You don’t get them in real BMW Z3s either.
  6. BMW 750iL: Tomorrow Never Dies. This one can be driven by remote control operated by Bond’s mobile phone and also dispenses tear gas by remote control. Door handles that deliver electric shocks, wire cutters, caltrop dispensers, reinflating tyres and, of course, missile launchers complete the package.  Again, don’t look for these in your standard 7-series BMW.
  7. BMW Z8: The World Is Not Enough: Another remote-controlled BMW for Bond. This one has the missile guidance system housed in the steering wheel. As well as all the usual guns and missiles, this one can also generate an EMP shock that wipes out any electronics in its vicinity.
  8. Aston Martin V12 Vanquish: Die Another Day. This one’s nicknamed the Vanish thanks to its invisibility cloak.  It’s also got old favourites like ejector seats and guns galore.  It goes head-to-head with the villain’s equally tricked-out Jag that has a thermal imaging display.

OK, people, it’s voting time.  Which of these Bond Cars was the best?  Are there any other hot contenders?  And what gadgets would you like to see on a Bond car if they ever make another movie in the series?  Leave a comment and let us know!

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Subaru WRX STi R-Spec.

Once upon a time, the World Rally Championship or WRC was regarded as highly as the Formula 1 championship. Names were known, cars were followed, and drivers were gods. Subaru looked at its small car, the Impreza, and thought that its all wheel drive system inside its roomy yet compact body would make a solid base from which to develop a WRC entry. Subaru Technica International, the motorsport arm of the car company, along with UK based ProDrive, gave us the WRX (World Rally Cross) and an icon was born.Flash forward to 2017 and the World Rally Championship is dull in lustre, with the once broad appeal now seemingly limited to hardcore motorsport fans. Subaru enters a team in the Australian Rally Championship, the ARC, with Molly Taylor the works driver. The car? The WRX STi. In road going trim it’s known as the Subaru WRX STi R-Spec and the 2018 version is now available to buy and drive. This test car was taken from the lower Blue Mountains to the Hunter Valley for a birthday (thanks for the cards and cakes, by the way) during some of the heaviest rain seen for Sydney and surrounds for some time.It’s Subaru’s 2.5L flat four that powers the four wheels, twisting out a peak of 407 torques at 4000 rpm, and 221 kilowatts at 6000. There’s oodles of torque on tap from idle and is well and truly felt when rifling through the close ratio six speed manual via the short throw gear selector. There’s a pair of twin chrome tipped exhausts that deliver the characteristic boxer four thrum which is audible inside the cabin, even over the roar of the Yokohama Advan 235/35/19 (first time this diameter has been fitted) tyres pumping litres of water. When it was dry, the R-Spec showed exactly what it can be capable of. Tenacious grip, speed into and out of corners that frighten lesser chassised cars, the sheer ability to be put into a situation that had the Advan tyres shrugging as if to say “Is that all?”. The racing creed of slow in, fast out is put to good use as the torque slingshots the R-Spec towards lightspeed.Being an all wheel drive car is one thing, being a premium sports oriented all wheel drive car is another, and Subaru continues to offer its DCCD or Driver Controlled Centre Differential system to back that up, along with Subaru’s variable engine mapping system. Accessed via a toggle switch mounted in the centre console, the system allows the driver to tailor the proportion of drive between front and rear from 50:50 to 41:59. Under normal driving you can feel the torque tugging at the front and in circumstances such as shopping centre car parking, its a bit of an effort to move the car around. By altering the torque split you can not minimise but alleviate some of the tugging up front. It allows manual or auto adjustment, with one step in auto and up to five in manual.Thanks to the weather, exploring the outer boundaries of the performance capabilities of the STi R-Spec wasn’t a safe option, but there’s no doubt the car is more than capable under thundering skies. There’s auto headlights, auto wipers and they adjust for speed as well. Being a six speed manual the R-Spec misses out on Subaru’s fabulous Eyesight collision avoidance system however does get Lane Change Assist, Blind Spot Monitor, and gains a camera for both front and left side vision enhancement, allowing more precise monitoring for parking and hopefully not scraping the 19 inch alloys. There’s also a non DAB equipped Harman Kardon sound system and here the first quibble arose. Even with the settings wound up, the audio quality, oddly and disappointingly, still sounded like AM, with a real lack of separation, clarity, depth, and bass.Ride quality is surprising, surprising in that something so taut is also comparatively comfortable. Yes, it’s tight and jiggly from the 2650 mm wheelbase, but there’s just enough give to provide a semblance of nice. On smooth blacktop it’s a delight, toss it onto the rutted and broken rough headed tarmac surrounding Cessnock and it’s railway locomotive in that you can count how many grains of sand on a pebble yet without feeling your spine will be shaken to dust. Pop into your local Westfields, hit those damnable yellow metal speed bumps, and instead of crash thump it’s next please. It’s a suspension tune that doesn’t detract from the outright capabilities of the R-Spec nor does it overly frighten in comfort loss.You’ll not lack for comfort inside either, with grippy and supportive heated Recaro seats, Subaru’s wonderful triple screen information systems, and plenty of room in the current Impreza bodies. However, this STI R-Spec is still built around the just superceded Impreza design, meaning it’s the fiddly touchscreen, smaller centre console bin, not quite as good as now ergonomics, and a flat dash look. Outside there’s a slight change, with the front bumper relocating the globe driving lights and indicators to inside the headlight cluster, and replacing them, in the lower corners, with a vented black plastic insert. At the rear is the STi’s trademark landing pad that masquerades as a wing for the handy 460 litre boot and designed so it doesn’t obscure rear vision from inside.What the STi does do extraordinarily well, whether it’s bright daylight or blown out grey skies, is simply DRIVE. There’s plenty of torque to launch the car off the line, and you can rifle through the gears with a silky snick snick, listening to the raspy throb rise and fall, feel the body of the car bobbing around, whilst feeling that the hand and feet and part of the road underneath.The torque allows an immense amount of drive-ability in all gears bar sixth if you’re traveling at eighty kph or less, where fifth and then fourth comes into play. In gear acceleration is nothing short of stupendous and overtaking, safely, is how it should be. Done quickly, not a ludicrously ponderous move for fear of being pinged. There’s a price to pay for this exuberance, with 98RON the only tipple the car will drink, and at a figure of over fifteen litres per one hundred kilometres covered in an urban environment. Even driven with as gentle a right foot for the weather demands, the lowest was still 9.4L/100 km.The steering, although heavy, isn’t strenuous, and does an excellent job of communicating to the driver just what kind of road and the condition of the road, the car is on. It’s twitchy at times yet never hints at instability, and can be easily held with one arm, but two is better as you’ll think a direction and the nose goes there. It’s ratioed for quick response so it’s definitely not suitable for a driver that tends towards the lackadaisical in their driving style. Thankfully there’s plenty of safety equipment on board in the form of airbags, pretensioning seat belts and the like and Brembo brakes that didn’t work terribly well. Yep, that’s right. Instead of hauling up the 1532 kilo machine in a fingersnap, there was a worrying, and occasionally puckerworthy, lack of retardation in this particular car. Even good shoving of the centre pedal, needed in the wet and vision obscuring conditions of the Pacific Highway on a rainy day, offered little resistance.At The End Of The Drive.
As a driver’s car, brakes aside, the STi R-Spec delivers a joyous experience. As a piece of technology, it delivers something tactile and connectable. Even based on a now slightly outdated base, the Subaru WRX STi R-Spec commands attention and stokes the driving fires. If there’s a final question mark, it’s the value of the asking price at $57K. Balanced against newer and cheaper metal such as offerings from Ford, VW, perhaps even the new Kia Stinger GT, it’s no longer as much a value add as it once was. But when it continues to emotionally connect to you as a driver then there’s no price that can be put on that.
Web yourself to Subaru WRX/STi info to book a drive and spec up your own WRX STi R-Spec.

Nissan Leaf Wins Award.

Nissan‘s small electric car, Leaf, has won, at the hugely prestigious Consumer Electronics Show, CES Best of Innovation award winner for Vehicle Intelligence and Self-Driving Technology.
Each year, the Consumer Technology Association announces its CES Best of Innovation award winners as part of the buildup to the January CES in Las Vegas. Nissan and the association will put on a special display of the new Nissan LEAF at the 2018 show. As confirmation of Nissan’s leading investment in innovation, the Nissan LEAF 100 per cent electric vehicle with ProPILOT (and e-Pedal technologies also won the following honour: CES honoree for Tech for a Better World.

Daniele Schillaci, Nissan’s executive vice president for global marketing and sales, zero-emission vehicles and the battery business, and chairman of the management committee for the Japan/A&O region says: “It is a great honour to have this early and important recognition for the new Nissan LEAF. This award recognises products and technologies that benefit people and the planet, so it is fitting that the new LEAF has been honoured. It is more than just a car. It is the icon of Nissan Intelligent Mobility, our vision to move people to a better world.”

The new Nissan LEAF brings a compelling package of everyday-useful innovations and technologies to more people worldwide than any electric vehicle has done before. The car is helping make the world a better place not only through innovation, but also through accessibility to more people.
Additional capabilities such as vehicle-to-home and vehicle-to-grid integration (availability depending on market) help owners know they can waste less and give back more.

Head to The Nissan website for more information.

Hyundai Conquers The COTY Small Cars.

Winning a Car of the Year award is no small thing and drive.com.au, one of the country’s respected publications, has seen fit to award their COTY for Best Small Car of 2017 to Hyundai’s rampaging i30 SR.
After a solid week of testing against its peer group, Hyundai’s best-selling car came up trumps, showing off its refined dynamics, lively engine and new technology by beating the best from Europe and Japan.

The six-strong judging panel, comprising Drive’s editorial and road test team, put more than 50 cars through their paces at Wakefield Park Raceway to determine the class winners. Judges used the raceway to compare handling, vehicle dynamics, ride quality and braking ability, before embarking on an extensive road drive program to assess each car thoroughly in urban, rural and highway driving environments“Our finalists are the best of the best in their respective classes and the small car class is very competitive,” said Drive editor Andrew Maclean. “Hyundai i30 represents great value-for-money in that class and i30 SR is a genuine pocket rocket. Its 150kW, 265Nm, turbocharged 1.6-litre engine delivers real hot hatch performance in a sub-$30,000 car. It has fantastic dynamics and the local chassis tuning stands it apart from everything else in its class.”

Hyundai Motor Company Australia Chief Executive Officer, JW Lee, said “i30 SR’s win in the Drive Car of the Year awards just six months after its launch here is a great result. Our confidence in the new, third-generation i30 range has been bolstered by this win in one of Australia’s most prestigious Car of the Year competitions.”

“The i30 offers a comprehensive suite of technology across the range and its beautiful design – coupled with outstanding chassis dynamics and real value for money – makes our affordable premium small car a winner with Aussie customers as well,” he added.

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

One of the things that I’m sure you’ve noticed in a lot of new cars coming out these days is all the adjustable this and that in the seats, especially the driver’s seat.  You can adjust the seat angle, the seat back and how far the seat is from the steering wheel.  With a lot of seats, you can also throw in lumbar support and (oh glory – one of my favourite bells and whistles) heating and even cooling in the seats.  Then you’ve got the ability to adjust the steering wheel itself.

With the ability to adjust the seat to a position that’s just right, it’s something of an irony that a lot of us don’t really adjust the seat much at all, or not really beyond how far forward or back the seat is, plus the seat angle. And if this is all you do, you could be making a big mistake.

Believe it or not, seating position is actually a safety issue. This is for at least three reasons. Firstly, where and how you are seated affects things like how well you can see the road around you, including the mirrors and what’s over your shoulder (even if you have blind spot warning sensors on your vehicle, you still need to do a head check like your driving instructor told you to, just in case).  Secondly, the position of your legs and feet affects the speed of your reactions if you need to bang on the brake and/or the clutch – and the same applies to your hands and arms working the steering wheel. Thirdly, bad driving position also increases driver fatigue, which is a contributing factor in a lot of crashes.

Given the importance of proper seating position for road safety, you might wonder why cars don’t just come with one configuration. Fortunately, the powers that be haven’t decided that this is the best solution, mostly because even the densest pen-pushing analyst knows that you can’t have just one ideal seating configuration because humans don’t come with the ideal proportions of the Vitruvian Man, crash test dummies, Barbie, etc. etc. I’m thinking of the four drivers in my family. My son is tall and lanky to the extent that he nearly hits his head on the roof of little hatchbacks, but my daughter is petite. My husband is stocky with long arms and has long since traded his six-pack for a grown-up keg, and I’m average height but with a long torso in proportion to my legs. There is no way that a single seat configuration would suit every single member of the family and the mathematical average would end up with all of us sitting in less-than-ideal positions.

So you’re going to have to adjust your seat and make sure that you’re sitting comfortably – and properly.  Unfortunately, for a lot of people, what’s “comfortable” for them is not the best driving position. The worst of these “comfortable” positions are the two extremes: the driver (stereotypically young and male) who has the seat as back from the pedals as possible and the seat tilted back with the steering wheel low, and the driver (stereotypically older and female) who has hunches over a high steering wheel and the seat so far forward that she could just about steer it with her boobs or teeth.  These positions will be hell on your back and neck if you stay in them for a long time, and they don’t make for great road safety.

So what’s the right way to sit in the driver’s seat?

First, get yourself ready.  You want to have your back and front pockets free of house keys, wallets and cell phones (and put that phone somewhere you can’t reach it so you’re not tempted!). You also want to have footwear that plays nicely with the pedals. Footwear at both ends of the formality spectrum are unsuitable for driving, with work boots, flip-flop thongs, stiletto heels and wedge heels all being atrocious.  Even bare feet are better than those.  Flats and low heels that aren’t at the risk of coming off your feet or jamming around the pedals. Wear comfortable clothing, too. Anything that’s too tight, too baggy or itchy will distract you.

Now you can get into the car.  Firstly, let’s get the seat at the right distance from the pedals and the wheel.  Get it where you can rest your heels on the ground ready to operate your pedals and so your knees are slightly bent. Having your knees bent slightly but not too much reduces fatigue (a lot of us sleep with slightly bent knees) and also means that you can use more of your leg muscles if you need to bang on the brake hard and suddenly. Also play around with the seat height and tilt so that your hips are level with your knees.

Now for the seat back.  You want it somewhere so that you can have your elbows bent so that your wrists are straight when you hold the steering wheel correctly.  And the correct way to hold the steering wheel is the way that your driving instructor told you: 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock with your thumbs up as if you were holding wine glasses – or 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock if you want a bit of variation. What you need to avoid is 12 o’clock, or 5 o’clock and 7 o’ clock – and definitely not 6 o’clock!   The seat back should be tilted somewhere so that your shoulders can press against the back – if you have to hunch forwards, your seat is too far back. Now pull the headrest forward so it cushions your head.

Your bum should be pressed all the way back to where the seat back meets the seat of the seat.  You’ll strain your back if your bum is too far forward and there’s a big triangular gap between you and the seat back.  Lumbar support helps but your bum should still be well back.  Use cushions if you have short legs or if your car doesn’t provide you with lumbar support.

Some suggestions you see for ideal seat position go to the bother of telling you the ideal angles for this, that and the other thing. These are all very well in their way but forget that people don’t always have the proper proportions for the proper angles. I know that I don’t and if I have my seat back to the proper 100-degree angle recommended by some, I can’t bend my arms when holding the steering wheel.

Next, adjust the steering wheel.  You should be able to hold it correctly as described above. It should also not be squashed against your thighs or your stomach or any other bits. You should also get the height of the steering wheel to that happy medium where it doesn’t block your view of the windscreen or of the dashboard controls.  If you have to obscure some of the dashboard, make sure that you can see the important bits of the speedo so you can tell if you’re going over the speed limit.

Next, adjust all of your mirrors so you can see the road behind and around you. Never think that you can rely entirely on rear vision cameras and blind spot sensors.  You may also adjust the vents on the climate control system so you get a nice cooling breeze on your face or warm air to toast your chilly toes.

Lastly, put on your seatbelt so that the lap belt is resting on the top of your hip bones (or where they’d be if you could see them) and so the sash runs from shoulder to hip and doesn’t press against your neck when you lean forwards.  This is a bit of a nuisance for female drivers with bigger boobs, as the sash part of the seat belt is continually sliding up to the throat area.  The right bra helps – something that separates the girls so you can get the sash between them rather than a hoist-me-high cleavage enhancer if possible.  (Yes, I’m the wowser who says that it’s best not to drive in tight clothes that enhance your cleavage and stiletto heels – change when you get to the party!)  It’s another story again if you’re pregnant – but that’s worth a whole post of its own.

Now, are you sitting comfortably?  Good – then you can begin.