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Archive for November, 2017

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 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 DBS 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 DBS: 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 DBS: 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.

Plastic Bags To Fuel: It’s For Real

If your Facebook feed is anything like mine, you may have seen a few posts by various environmental groups kicking up a big stink about the amount of plastic that’s floating around in our oceans – and justifiably so. You might have seen a few pictures of the notorious Great Pacific Garbage Patch (floating around in the North Pacific somewhere between Japan and the USA). A lot of it is in the form of polyethelene, which is not biodegradable – the only thing that breaks it down is sunlight, which is why we deal with it by burying it in landfills underground where the sun can’t get at it. There are literally mountains and islands of it out there.

At the same time, folk are looking around at the existing crude oil supplies and realising that they aint gonna last forever.  This, as well as the pollution issue, is one of the spurs driving the push towards hybrid vehicles, electric vehicles and biofuels.

Plastic is, however, another petroleum-based product.  In other words, once upon a time, the lid of your coffee cup, your chip packet and your polar fleece top came from the same stuff that you put in your car to get to work this morning.  What if this process could be reversed?  What if you could un-refine the plastic and turn it back into oil that could then be refined the other way and used to keep our cars (and trucks and trains and ships and aeroplanes) running?

Well, they can do it.  A few teams around the world have come up with ways to take all that waste plastic and convert it into something that can be used as a fuel feedstock – for diesel.  I’m not a chemical engineer, so don’t ask me why most of the fun new technologies for producing greener fuel end up producing diesel rather than petrol (with the exception of ethanol, which plays nicely with petrol, as we’ve known for years here in Australia). Although one Aussie company called Foyson  Resources (aren’t you proud?) has come up with a way to get petrol out of plastic.

The technology for converting plastic back into some form of oil has been around for at least 10 years, with companies in Japan, China, India, the Philippines and the US all having a go at it.

The process they use is called pyrolysis.  Those of you with a smattering of Greek may recognise the “pyro” bit, which indicates that heat is involved.  Literally, the process means “separating by heat”.  It’s been described as a sped-up version of how oil fields and fossil fuels came to be in the first place.  Basically, the long polymer strings made up of lots of carbon, oxygen and carbon atoms  get split apart into shorter bits about 18 carbon molecules long.

OK, let’s ditch the chemistry and describe it simply.

1: Appropriate plastics are fed into the machine, usually after being shredded or chipped. Suitable plastics usually include polyethylene, polypropylene and a few others – but not PET (Recycling #1), which is easier to recycle.

  1. The shredded plastic is heated slowly and turns to a gaseous form. The exact temperature at which this happens can be anywhere from 250°C through to 400°C, depending on the pyrolysis plant in question.
  2. The gas is cooled to a liquid: crude oil. Bingo!
  3. Other gases keep going and have to go somewhere. With some pyrolysis plant designs, the gas is captured and used to heat the pyrolysis chamber. However, some of the gases can be a bit nasty, which is why the kibosh was put on a Canberra plastic-to-fuel plant last year.
  4. Leftover solids come in the form of “carbon black”. This can be used as a construction material or just like old-fashioned coal, which it’s practically identical to.

It seems to be early days still for the plastic-to-oil process in Australia, with the Foy Group (the ones who have got the grant to start a plant in Hume, Canberra) facing a few hurdles thanks to the possible emissions. However, given (a) the amount of plastic waste we all churn out and (b) the need to find good supplies of the crude for our petrol and diesel, I’m sure these hurdles can be cleared.  I’m picking plastic-to-petrol as The Next Big Thing for greener motoring – and it won’t require any changes to our existing vehicle fleet.

If you’re really, really keen, it is apparently possible to do the plastic pyrolysis thing at home and make your own diesel. This probably comes with a heavy cost in the form of the energy input needed to heat a home-built plant, with the result that all the oil you produce will then be used to run the generator or powerplant used to heat the pyrolysis plant used to produce the oil and round it goes. At least it gets rid of plastic bags…

I personally would not try this at home and prefer to either cut down on the plastic bags I use or send them to the recycling depot.  However, if you are keen and want to try, this page tells you how.   No guarantees and do it at your own risk!

Car Review: 2018 Subaru Impreza 2.0i-S Sedan

Subaru‘s new for 2017 advertising campaign, Subaru Do, features the hatch and sedan version (starting at just under $25K) of their evergreen Impreza, in the same flaming red colour (one of eight for the 2018 Subaru Impreza range), so the prospective buyer can see the external difference between the two as they flick between them. What’s not so obvious is the refinement to the shape and certainly to the inside compared to the just superseded version. Private Fleet takes the red sedan, in 2.0i-S form, for a week after two weeks of the high riding hatch version, the XV.The interior changes are subtle; noticeable yet subtle, and it’s only when you have the previous and current version side by side that you see things such as a relocation of the armrest on the doors, the centre console storage bin (with two USB charging points), the redesign of the air-con and centre dash, even the sweep of the dash itself (with a lovely looking stitched style for the material) as it meets the windscreen glass. S spec also gets a sunroof with aircraft style overheard tabs for operation.You’ll get an eight inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, set below the info screen as is traditional with the Impreza and its siblings (XV, Impreza hatch, Levorg, WRX)some obviously plasticky buttons (a slight step back from the indecisive touch tabs on the previous system), but there’s still room for a hard copy sound in the form of a CD slot. No DAB at the top end is an oversight, given the sheer variety of stations available.The plastics have a higher quality look and feel to them and the controls on the steering wheel have been redesigned for a more obvious yet stylish look. Even the seats seem to have a different feel. The seats in the S were black machine made leather, again with no cooling, and with all doors and sunroof shut, do not make for a comfy pew to plant the backside.Outside it’s tail lights and headlights, with the 460L boot and tail end receiving the C shaped LED inserts. It’s here that a slight oddity in the design manifests, with the reversing lamp in its own little section below the other lights in the cluster. It adds an awkward and unbalanced look to what could otherwise be an otherwise slim look as the trimmer cluster design would finish off the pert backside of the sedan nicely.

The headlights have been streamlined further, with the S getting LED illumination plus a chrome strip for an extra touch of visual class. The refinements as well has the overall profile, have the sedan looking more rakish and coupe like. It’s a tighter, cleaner, look with an overall more cohesive presence, including a slight reprofiling of the shut-line for the rear doors.The 2.0L engine is a willing revver and the CVT in the sedan, much like the XV, is easy to use, easy to drive, and works well. However, this particular transmission was somewhat indecisive and juddery. However, it’s worth noting that this behaviour was more noticeable when it was cold and hadn’t been driven. Manual mode, again, seems to make little difference in speed of change.

However, when everything is in synch, the 115 kilowatts and 196 Nm work to deliver an average fuel consumption around town of 8.4L/100 kilometres from the fifty litre tank holding standard 90RON unleaded, or a combined figure of a more reasonable 6.6L/100 km. We saw those figures in the real world.Ride and handling showed the sedan’s rear end somewhat less prone to the bottoming out as experienced in the XV yet still doesn’t feel as tied down as the front. What you get is more travel at the rear and when loaded up with a standard load of groceries, it’s on the bump-stops just that little easier. The steering lightens just a little though, thankfully ensuring you’re still in contact and being told what the front wheels are doing. With no weight in the back, it’s naturally more connected, with a small measure of sponginess the further left or right you wind on lock.

The all wheel drive system that underpins Subaru is noticeable for feeling like…a rear wheel drive car at some times and a front wheel drive at others. Never does it feel as if it’s confused nor confusing for the driver. Grip isn’t compromised either, thanks to Yokohama‘s brilliant Advan rubber, in this case a 225/40/18 set on gorgeous ten spoke alloy and painted wheels.The Eyesight system fitted to CVT equipped models is a ripper; not only can it sense a vehicle’s distance ahead of yours, it’ll activate an emergency sound if you’re too close and the computers sense you haven’t touched the brake. It’ll allow distance related cruise control and will also alert if the vehicle in front, when you’ve stopped, has moved on. There’s a swag of other safety features including Blind Spot Alert, parking assistance from front and rear sensors (not fitted to all models though), Hill Hold Assist, Lane Change Assist and more.

There’s seven airbags including the driver’s knee, and load limiting pretensioning seatbelts up front. Naturally it adds up to be a safe car to be in and comes with a five star ANCAP safety rating. That’s backed by a three year/unlimited kilometre warranty, with a five year warranty an option (talk to your dealer or broker) which is available to be transferred to a new owner within the warranty period.At The End Of The Drive.
There’s really not a lot to find fault with inside the Impreza sedan in 2.0Li-S spec, including a great price (at the time of writing) of $33K driveaway. No DAB, (a first world problem), no cooling in the seats (a must for an Australian market car), and a softish ride are more than balanced by good looks, great dynamics, useful economy, and a classy style & finish to rival other Japanese, Korean, and European competitors.

In fact, with the Impreza for 2018, Subaru can put this in the middle of that group and smile broadly, in full confidence it will more than hold its own. The sales figures reflect that for 2017, with the XV variant leading the charge whilst the sedan itself is up by 163% on a Year To Date basis, with 988 new homes for it in October, plus the brand itself celebrates its 34th month in a row of increased sales.

Here’s where you can go for more info and book a drive: 2018 Subaru Impreza range

Should Motorists Complete First Aid Training?

It’s a topic that rears its head every now and then, yet continually the issue has been overlooked by authorities. We pay particular attention to the road toll, yet for some reason one of the efforts we could employ to mitigate this issue hasn’t warranted a national response. Why is first aid training not compulsory for every motorist, and should it be part of our licensing requirements?

When you put things into perspective, we spend a considerable amount of our lives driving from point A to point B. We may be lucky to escape accidents but the chances of seeing one, either take place or the result thereof, are far greater. And even though our cars have become a lot safer through technological innovation, poor driving habits and behaviours have crept into our society and created larger issues. The result has been a recent increase in the number of fatalities on our roads, although many of these fatalities have often been preventable, even after the accident.

With this concerning trend already in motion, it’s time we also start to prepare drivers by training them to engage in reactive behaviour in the form of being a first responder. As it currently stands, the overwhelming majority of drivers and bystanders are ill equipped to administer first aid at an accident scene. In fact, in what should be viewed as a major concern, many wouldn’t even know where to begin. Even I know, that despite my former first aid training, it’s a moment you can never be entirely prepared for as shock sets in and time stands still.

Now let me clarify, bystanders and other motorists shouldn’t be expected to fill the void of professional emergency services personnel. However, in the event of an accident, every second matters. Early treatment can be the difference between life and death. And in the moments where emergency services personnel need to fight traffic to make it to the scene of an accident, those seconds are potentially ticking away.

Even in the absence of specific treatment, a bystander with composure to secure the scene, or calm the anxieties of those involved in the incident is an invaluable asset. These are specific elements to first aid training, which every motorist should be taught as part of their licensing requirements. Whereas drivers cover a gamut of issues concerning driving technique and etiquette, there is no reason why we shouldn’t all be equipped to administer first aid as a first responder in the event of an accident.

The course would be easy to include as part of our license tests, and it could also be renewed on a periodic basis along with our licenses. Several countries in Europe already adopt this approach, and if we want to keep up with the rest of the world, it’s time we start paying attention to the issues on our roads that really matter.

Updates For Jaguar, Haval, Hyundai, and Citroen.

Heading into the 2018 market, a number of companies have released details of updates and changes to key models.

Haval.
The Chinese brand has been maligned for its safety factor in its vehicles however the H2 has been given a five star rating by ANCAP, the Australia New Car Assessment Program. Haval Australia’s Chief Marketing Officer, Tim Smith, says: ““I would like to thank each and every one of the hard-working team of engineers at HAVAL for their efforts in so quickly developing a five-star car for the global market. Customer safety is paramount for the continued development of HAVAL as a global brand and this recognition by ANCAP is just reward for the company’s efforts.We will continue to develop our safety systems, with the introduction of key features such as autonomous emergency braking and lane assist systems in the next wave of HAVAL SUVs.”

Hyundai.
A substantial makeover has been delivered to Hyundai’s big medium sizer, the Sonata. The nose is now more aligned with Hyundai’s new corporate look, with a more hexagonal looking “Cascading Grille” and the headlights have a more slimline appeal. It’s perhaps at the rear, though, that the redesign is more obvious, with a complete change of look to the structure. Underneath there’s a 180 kW/353 Nm 2.0L turbo four in the Premium with the Active retaining the familiar 2.4L four potter, and a new eight speed auto in the Premium. The range has been streamlined, with Active and Premium the two variants available.Inside there’s an uprated eight inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a wireless mobile phone charging pad in the Premium, switches have been relocated for better ergonomics and piano black plastic has been added for a more premium feel.

2018 Sonata builds on its reputation for safety by featuring a host of advanced safety systems and technologies including Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS), Brake Assist System (BAS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Hill-start Assist Control (HAC), Traction Control System (TCS) and Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), Emergency Stop Signal (ESS), Rear-view Camera with dynamic guide lines and four sensor rear Park Assist System (PAS) as standard. Premium ups that further with Blind Spot Detection, Driver Attention Alert, Lane Change Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Smart Cruise Control and four sensor front Park Assist.Pricing starts at $30990 for the Active and $45490 for the well specified Premium, with metallic paint an option at $595.

Jaguar.
The iconic British brand has unveiled a new version of its superb flagship model, the XJ, called the XJR575. Powered by the venerable 5.0L supercharged V8, the machine will see the ton in 4.4 seconds thanks to the engine’s 700 Nm and 423 kilowatts. Built on the standard wheelbase XJ, the car will come in two colours, Velocity Blue and Satin Corris Grey. Pricing has not yet been confirmed for the Australian market ahead of the car’s expected Q1 release in 2018.

The XJR575 will receive bespoke sill plates, Intaglio and diamond quilted seating in a two colour range, an enhanced body kit, and and twenty inch diameter wheels.

The XJ range itself receives a huge amount of updates, including 4G wifi, an uprated ten inch touchscreen with customisable interfaces, plus extra safety programs such as Forward Traffic Detection and Autonomous Emergency Braking. There’s also a torquey (700 Nm) 3.0L V6 diesel available, complete with an astounding 221 kW.

Citroen.
The quirky French brand has released the quirky C4 Cactus for 2018. In the same vein as the C3 Aircross and C5 Aircross variants, the Cactus, a compact five door hatchback, rides on a 2600 mm wheelbase and features 12 on-board driver assistance systems. It has unique styling also, with 3D effect tail lights, “Airbump” on the lower half of the doors, plus offers 9 external colours and four colour packs.

The C4 Cactus will also feature Citroen’s legendary hydraulic suspension, with a technology called Progressive Hydraulic Cushions and Advanced Comfort Seats. The car is due for the Australian market in late 2018.