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Archive for February, 2018

Driven To Distraction

OK, so they’re cracking down on people using cellphones in cars as well as cracking down on high speeds and breaking the speed limit.  Here, you’ve got to admit that there’s some justification for doing this.  After all, if someone’s got their eyes and fingers all over the phone, he or she is paying less attention to the road ahead and what their vehicle’s doing.

On the surface, it seems so simple.  The thinking works something like this: although vehicles and roads are being designed to be safer, crash rates aren’t improving and we’re still seeing heaps of fatal and serious accidents on our roads.  At the same time, mobile phones – to say nothing of smartphones – have stopped being the plaything of rich businesspeople and are now essentials for everybody over the age of 13 or so.  People can’t seem to leave their phones alone and we’ve all seen people driving badly while talking on the phone. (Mr Grey Toyota  who didn’t give way to me while coming out of the supermarket carpark, forcing me to jam on the brakes to avoid hitting you when I had the right of way, I’m thinking about you!  I saw you with your phone on your ear the whole time.)

However, maybe it’s not quite so simple as merely having people trying to do two things at once and pay attention to a conversation while driving.  After all, people have talked to other people while driving without having accidents for ages.  Receiving messages from the dispatchers and other patrol cars via radio has never made the police bad drivers – just think of all the telecommunication gadgetry they’ve had in their vehicles for decades.  Truckies and bus drivers have also had a long history of using CB radios to chat while driving – I’m sure we’ve all got memories of riding in a bus where the driver spent most of the time talking into a handset and somehow making sense of what sounded like “worple smooshle burble wop ha ha ha” from the passenger seats.  When you stop to think about it, there isn’t really any difference between someone talking on a mobile phone and someone talking on a CB radio handset.  So why weren’t/aren’t they considered to be safety hazards?

“Oh, it’s younger drivers and those young people on their phones.” Not necessarily.  If you look around you, you can see as many older folk chatting on the phone while driving, so it’s not just a case of Kids These Days.  (Mr Grey Toyota, I’m still thinking about you.)

“But modern smartphones make you take your eyes off the road.” This is certainly true.  Anything that gets your eyes off the road is going to make you less aware of what’s going on around you.  However, even this isn’t anything new.  Before we all had navigation systems built into our cars or Google Maps on our phones, we had paper-based maps.  In fact, I’ve still got them, and it can be fun to see who gets there first: the navigator with the paper map or the other navigator in the back seat with the phone.  Paper maps, whether they came in the form of specially printed books or a scribble on the back of an envelope with a few landmarks and road names noted, were often read or glanced at by drivers while in transit.  This usually involved spreading said map out on the steering wheel, glancing down, looking up again and so on.  Nobody really blamed them for crashes the way they blame cellphones.

Even real live people called passengers having a conversation can be distracting.  One of the things that most of us parents have had to teach our kids is that Mummy/Daddy can’t look at the picture you did at school right now because he/she is driving.  It can be a hard concept for a kid to grasp but they do get it – eventually.

If you listen hard enough to the safety gurus, if you do anything other than keep your mind on your driving, keep both hands on the wheel and keep your eyes on the road ahead, you’re guaranteed to crash.  Now, they do have a point.  We do need to focus on what we’re doing and concentrate on driving.  However, we all know that continually concentrating on one thing and one thing only for long periods is extremely draining and increases fatigue.  And we’re all human and notice things in and outside the car.  This, dear friends, is why advertising companies spend heaps on roadside billboards.  They know that you’ll read them while driving.

On the topic of losing concentration and advertising billboards, there have been a few studies into the effect of billboards on road safety.  It seems that yes, those advertising hoardings are distracting drivers and contributing to advertisements.  The worst offenders, it seems, are big billboards, digital billboards that display different messages every few seconds, and billboards featuring sexy models.  There have been a number of cases from around the world, mostly to do with lingerie ads, where big billboards featuring airbrushed models in lacy knickers and bras have had to be taken down because of a noticeable increase in traffic accidents happening after the billboard goes up.  This is another argument, alongside public decency, sexualisation and objectification of women, for not having sexy billboards all over the show.  But we don’t seem to have people complaining about that as much as they do about cellphones in cars.

Now that you’ve all pulled your minds out of the gutter and stopped feeling disappointed that I didn’t provide an example (I actually want you to read this article and I’m against sexploitation)… back to the debate over whether cellphones contribute to accidents.

There is a side to cellphones, smartphones, mobile phones – whatever you want to call them – that you didn’t get with other forms of distraction, which is an argument in favour of switching them off when you’re driving and being tough on them.  This is the effect of conditioning.  Like Pavlov’s dog, we’re trained to respond instantly, almost without thinking, when we hear our ringtones or alerts or notifications going off.  It rings – we reach for it.  Trying to ignore it sometimes makes us feel anxious – it could be important!  It could be a message from my son/daughter/mum/dad/wife/husband etc. saying they’re in trouble and need help now.  Nine times out of ten, it isn’t urgent, but we still react instantly just in case.  And it’s a hard habit to break.  We just HAVE to see who’s calling or texting.  And that’s where the problem for road safety kicks in.  We reach for the phone (distraction #1) and see who it is (distraction #2) then read the text (distraction #3).  By the time we’ve done all that, anything could have happened on the road.  It’s this sort of distraction that seems to be the only explanation behind a nasty accident I witnessed recently, when a Mini crossed the centre line on a perfectly straight open road and went into a campervan.

It’s this last factor that makes the difference, in my opinion.  You can ignore the paper map (or pull over to memorize it, then focus on the road), you can use the CB radio with one hand while keeping eyes fully on the road and you can tell insensitively talkative passengers to shut up.  But because we’ve become conditioned to respond instantly to ringing phones, they’re harder to ignore.  Responding has become something of an instinct.

But you can break that habit.  It is possible.  You can even train yourself when you’re not driving.  Try counting to ten or twenty before picking up if you hear a notification go off.  Nobody’s going to die if you want a few seconds.  You won’t get fired and you won’t miss out.  In fact, if we refuse to do things Right Now Instantly, we’d probably make steps towards reducing stress levels as well as helping make the roads a safer place.

Come on – do your bit and put the phone down when you’re driving – including you, Mr Grey Toyota!

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Holden Equinox LTZ-V

As Holden transitions from a builder to an importer, an important part of the plan to do so successfully is to increase and improve its model range. The new Commodore is being rolled out, the new Astra sedan and hatch is in showrooms and the long serving Captiva is slowly being wound back as the new nameplate for the mid sized SUV takes over. Here is the 2018 Holden Equinox LTZ-V.The five model range starts with the LS. With the manual it kicks off the range at $27990 RRP (plus ORC). It’s $2000 for the auto. The LS+ is a $3000 premium over the LS and the first of the LT range at $36990. The LTZ/LTZ-V are $39990 and $46290 respectively. The AWD option on the LTZ is an extra $4300 however it’s standard on the LTZ-V and selected via a button in the front centre console.It’s a choice of two engines available. Both have a turbo and are a 1.5L or 2.0L capacity. A diesel is due later in 2018. The 1.5L will be found in the LS and LS+ with the 2.0L servicing the LT range. The LTs come with a nine speed auto as standard with the LS getting a six speed manual and auto.The auto has no paddle shifters nor side movement for manual changing. The selector in the LTZ-V has a + and – rocker switch on the top of the rather long throw selector. Holden say the Equinox should see the ton in around seven seconds. It’s slick and smooth under most driving situations however was caught out sometimes from start, with hesitant, jerking, unsure decisions initially.

The 2.0L produces 188kW and 353 torques with that peak torque on tap between 2500 – 4500 rpm. The 1.5L isn’t far off with 127kW and 275Nm. The preferred tipple of the 2.0L is 95RON. Combined fuel consumption is quoted as 8.4L/100km from the 59L tank in the LTZ-V. It’s 55L in the others. Economy finished at 9.0L/100 km.The LTZ-V gets plenty of high level tech and comes well loaded with standard equipment. However there’s really not that much to differentiate between it and the other LT models. A full length glass roof is one obvious difference. Driver friendly Advanced Park Assist in the LTZ and V is another. Auto levelling LED headlamps, LED tail lights, remote engine start (all LT models) and chrome roofrails complete that. The roof itself is moved via two tabs and they don’t have the same edge feel to know when you’ve got hold of them.The interior of the LTZ-V is a nice place with heating AND venting for both leather front seats. They look a little slabby but aren’t noticeable in lacking support. Surprisingly, gratefully, they’re there for the rear leather clad seats too with rear seat passengers getting a pair of USB ports, a 12V socket, rear air vents and a 230V socket. It’s of a different configuration than the Aussie 240V sockets so a converter for anything like a portable fridge will be needed.Full colour LCD screens greet the driver and passengers in the LTZ-V and light up in vivid blue. It’s a dash mounted eight inch touchscreen with Holden’s MyLink system on board for apps and entertainment, including a Bose speaker system to complement the DAB audio and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. The layout is clean and usage is largely intuitive. The sound itself is as expected from Bose and the sensitivity of the DAB tuner is better than that found in Kia’s Stinger. The upper dash is also Euro influenced, with the sweeping arc that runs from door to door and stitched soft material look and feel. There’s even a notch in the front console for wireless smartphone charging for compatible handsets.

The smaller screen for the driver has info made available via the rubberised arrows on the right hand spoke of the heated steering well. It’s not as easy to navigate as the same found in say a Mitsubishi or Kia but does the job well enough.All four windows are auto down, however just the driver gets auto up, which in a top of the range vehicle is an odd decision. The tail gate is power operated and can be opened and closed from afar via the remote plus there’s a tailgate height dial in the driver’s door near the bottle holder. Foot operating openin is available however is intended for use when your hands are full. There’s 848L or cargo space, a hidden storage locker between the main floor and space saving spare, and increases to 1796L with the rear seats folded.

Safety levels are high across the range with Autonomous Braking from the LS+ upwards, Lane Keep Assist and Lane Departure Warning. Following Distance Indicator and Forward Collision Alert with Head Up Alert (flashing red lights) and a vibrating seat cushion that gets input from the parking sensors is there as well. There’s no driver’s kneebag however. It’s this level of tech and features that has a slightly confused feel for AWT about the range structure.Outside it’s a mix of corporate GM and hints at the Astra sedan as being the base sheetmetal, especially at the rear. The noticeable Vee shaped nose and grille structure leads to a bonnet with deep scallops either side, a crease line from the top of the front wheel arch which joins the door handles front and rear to the tail lights. There’s a difference at the rear windowline, much like Ford’s Territory, in that the thicker part of the rear window is the C pillar, where the rear door meets the end of the car, rather than above the tail lights.Ride and handling from the McPherson strut front and four link independent rear is on the slightly taut side. It was never harsh but noticeable in that smaller bumps transmitted more into the cabin. The steering has a weighty feel, with minimal understeer at speed, but somehow the steering translates into a wider than expected turning circle which makes parking and three point turns not as easy as expected. It’ll shift lanes well enough though and do so with minimal fuss.

Being a predominantly front wheel drive car there were also occasional chirps from the front tyres when launched. Corners at speed were despatched with indifference, straight line stability is spot on, and that taut suspension pays for itself when dealing with the varying surfaces of the roads travelled, with dips, wallows, undulations, almost unfelt.The rolling stock is a decent size, with 19 inch alloys wrapped in 235/50 Ventus Prime rubber from Hankook. Although city oriented they did a credible job getting through and over enough rock, sand, gravel, and mud to show some off road cred. With AWD selected, the gear selector moved into L, and Hill Descent mode engaged, the LTZ-V, although not a dedicated off roader, managed some parts of AWT’s test track with only a few moments of will it/won’t it.Warranty is starting to lag, with just three years or 100,000 kilometres on offer. There is however a choice of extended warranty, for 12/24/36 months. There’s also free roadside assist for the first year with another two for free if you get your car serviced by Holden.

At The End Of The Drive.
Holden is still in a period of shaking down what it will deliver to Australian car buyers. With the LT and LS+ to be reviewed separately, the Holden Equinox LTZ-V has made a solid enough impression. It’s the similarity of features in the LT level that may not though have many people opting for the V spec with the glass roof and AWD systems as standard. With over $7000 difference between the two these two features on their own may be seen as unnecessary enough for many to not spend that extra.

There’s no doubt though that the 2.0L engine, the transmission, and the general fit and finish is high enough to wipe away any lingering doubts. Certainly, compared to a Japanese brand that will be also reviewed separately, it’s far ahead of what that car has and in LT form will more than likely have both the features and price point that will meed customer expectations.
Here’s where to find more: 2018 Holden Equinox

2018 Kia Stinger Si V6 and GT-Line Turbo Four: Car Review

There’s been few cars released into the automotive market that have divided opinions as much as the new 2018 Kia Stinger. Available in three trim levels and with a choice of two engines mated to the single transmission offered, an eight speed auto, the Stinger spent a fortnight with me, in V6 twin turbo Si and top of the range GT-Line turbo four.The Si sits in the middle of the V6 range and is priced at $55990 plus on roads and options. The GT-Line with the turbo four is the same price and came clad in a gorgeous $695 option Snow White Pearl paint. There’s the standard seven year warranty and capped price servicing over the seven years, with the V6 being a total of $221 over the turbo 4.The V6 is the driver’s pick and backing up the four straight after sees it suffer in comparison. The 3.3L capacity V6 has a peak power figure of 272 kW at 6000 rpm and a monstrous 510 Nm of torque from 1300 to 4500. The four in comparison is 182 kW at 6200 rpm, and maxes out a torque figure of 353 Nm between 1400 to 4000 rpm. Although the V6 has a tare weight of 1780 kilos versus the four’s 1693 kg, it gets away cleaner and quicker, overtakes quicker, and will comfortably beat the four to the ton. Surprisingly, the required fuel is standard ULP and comes from a 60L tank.

Consumption is quoted for the V6 as 10.2L/14.9L/7.5L per hundred for the combined/urban/highway. The four isn’t much better, at 8.8L/12.7L/6.5L. AWT’s final figure for the six was 11.6L/100 km and for the four a slightly more reasonable 9.3L. These figures are slightly disturbing, in all honesty, as they’re more or less line-ball with the V8 engine seen in Holden’s VF Commodore and over the slightly bigger naturally aspirated 3.6L V6.There is a trade-off for that consumption and in the case of the V6 it’s the extraordinary driveability it offers. Off the line, and bear in mind it does offer Launch Control, it’ll see the 100 kmh mark in a quoted 4.9 seconds. There’s absolutely no doubt in that claim apart from a possibility it’s conservative. On a 48 hour trip to Dubbo in the central west of New South Wales, those 510 torques were so very useable in overtaking, with times to get up and pass and doing so safely compressed thanks to that torque.By having such an amount available through so many revs makes general, every day, driving unbelievably easy, with such a docile nature it’ll happily potter around the suburbs as easily as it will stretch its legs out in the country. The throttle setup is responsive to a thought, and there’s a real sense of urgency in how it all happens. There’s a bi-modal exhaust and this cracks a valve in the rear pipes allowing a genuine crackle and snarl from over 2500. Otherwise it’s a vacuum cleaner like woofle that can become wearying very quickly.The four, as mentioned, suffers in comparison, lacking the outright flexibility the bigger engine has. Note: “in comparison”. On its own the 2.0L turbo four, as found in the Optima GT and the sibling Sonata from Hyundai, is a belter. Paired against the big brother 330 it is slightly slower, slightly less able, slightly less quick to get going from a good prod of the go pedal as it waits for the turbo to spool up. Overseas markets do get a diesel and this is potentially the engine that Kia should replace the petrol four with. As long, as long, as it offers comparable performance to the V6.

The eight speed auto in both cars is a simple joy to use. All of the words that mean slick and smooth can be used here. Changes are largely unfelt, rarely does the backside feel anything other than forward motion as the ratios change. And naturally there’s different drive modes. Comfort is the default with Eco, Sports, Custom (GT-Line) and Smart the others and accessed via a dial in the console. However, somewhat confusingly, you can access a menu via the seven or eight inch (trim level dependent) touchscreen and set the steering to Sports, engine/transmission to Sport, and suspension to Sport yet have the driver’s display show Comfort from the dial setting.In Sport, the transmission doesn’t change any more cleanly but will hold revs longer and feels as if the shift points themselves change. There’s no manual shift mode as such; what this means is that the gear selector doesn’t have a side push or buttons to do a manual change. There are paddle shifts and once used doesn’t stay in manual mode but reverts quickly back to auto. What this means for the driver is simple piece of mind and not having to worry which mode the transmission is still in.Roadholding and handling from both was nigh on nearly impeccable. BUT, and it’s an odd one, the V6’s mechanical limited slip differential rear had more of a propensity for skipping sideways even on flat and relatively settled surfaces. A slight bump, a ripple, and the rear would move just enough to alert you of it. The Stinger has a big footprint though, with a 2905mm wheelbase inside the 4830mm overall length.Track front and rear also helps at over 1650mm minimum, as do the offset tyres of 225/40 & 255/35 on 19s for the Si and GT-Line six and GT-Line four. The others have 225/45/18s. And it’s McPherson struts front matching the Aussie tuned multilink rear that provide the superb roadholding the Stinger exhibits. The steering is precise, well weighted, en pointe, and tells you exactly how the road is feeling.There’s Launch Control on board as well and it’s a fairly simple matter to engage. Traction control gets turned off, the car must be in Sports mode, AND the computer must be happy with the engine temperature. It’ll also limit the amounts of attempts. Brakes in the V6 come courtesy of Brembo, however seats of the pants says the brakes in the four cylinder equipped Stinger are just as able.Design wise the Stinger foreshadows and continues a coupe like look for a five door sedan or four door hatchback. It’s a long, flat, E-Type-ish bonnet that has two faux vents. Apart from aesthetic reasons they’re pointless. Why? Because there’s vents in the front bumber into the wheelwell and from the rear of the wheelwell that exits from vents in the front doors. The roofline tapers back in a gentle curve before terminating in a rear that’s a cross between an Audi A5 and Maserati. The rear lights themselves are Maserati and LED lit front and rear in the GT-Line. Inside there’s plenty of legroom in the rear, a slightly compromised cargo space at 406L due to the hatchback style, a power gate for the GT-Line, and a stylishly trimmed interior. Plastics, for the most part, look high quality, and the overall presence echoes something from Europe, perhaps Jaguar, in this case. The central upper dash mounted seven inch touchscreen that looks as if it rises and falls, ala Audi, for example. It’s mostly intuitive, clean to read and use, but sensitivity needs to be upped as sometimes two or three taps were required to activate a menu. There’s DAB radio and here there’s a minor hiccup.With other brands tested with a DAB tuner, in comparison the one used in the Stinger also lacked the sensitivity found in others, with dropouts in more areas in comparison. There’s Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, plus voice recognition, with the middle and top range Stingers having nine or fifteen speakers with under front seat subwoofers. Harman Kardon is the feature brand in the GT-Line. As an overall presentation is pretty damned good, yet there’s still a sense of, in the top of the range GT-Line especially, that it lacks a knockout punch, and doesn’t seem to visually say this is a premium vehicle.The menu system on the touchscreen includes safety options such as voice warning for school zones, merging lanes and such like. Although an eminently worthwhile feature it became tiresome very quickly. Thankfully the voice presentation can be deactivated. Extra safety comes in the form of a forward camera and 360 degree camera depending on the model. The 360 degree version superimposes a Stinger top down view into the picture on one side of the screen and shows whichever camera view selected in the other. It’s super clear and immensely handy for parking. Another Euro feature is the rocker and Park button design for the gear selector. Foot on brake, press a tab on the selector, rock forward for Reverse or back for Drive. Inexplicably, the GT-Line had more issues correctly selecting Reverse or Drive.Only the driver’s seat is electrically powered however both front seats are vented but only in the GT-Line (for the Australian market, this is a must) and heated. A slight redesign has these operated via simple console mounted rocker switch that lights blue for venting, red for heating. Across the range they’re supportive, comfortable, and do the job well enough, along with the ride quality, that you can do a good country drive and feel reasonably good at the break. The GT-Line also features two position memory seating and a pad for smartphone wireless charging for compatible smartphones. It’s a leather clad tiller and the GT-Line gets a flat bottomed one but the material felt cheap, as did the buttons under the three central airvents in comparison to the good looking interior design.Even the base model is well equipped for safety; there’s seven airbags for all models, front seatbelt pretensioning, pedestrian friendly AHLS or Active Hood Lift System before moving to Lane Keeping Assist and Advanced Smart Cruise Control (with forward collision alert and autonomous braking) in the V6 Si. The GT-Line gets Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, High Beam Assist, and Dynamic Bending Headlights.Naturally there’s Kia’s class leading seven year warranty and the fixed priced servicing. The turbo four is cheaper from start to finish, with a gap of just three dollars for the first, two for the second, before the third service opens it to fifty. The final service sits at $785 for the V6 and $696 for the four.

At The End Of The Drive.
The easiest way to consider this is that, as a first attempt, Kia have just about nailed it. Just about. It’s a big car, seats four beautifully, rides as good as one should expect, goes like a scared rabbit in the V6 and a not quite so scared rabbit in the turbo four, is well equipped, and is utterly competitive for the features on price. Its biggest sticking point is one that’s completely inescapable and has already caused derision and division. It’s this: KIA.

Far too many people have locked themselves into the thought process that says Korea can’t built a competitor for the outgoing Commodore or the fading from memory Falcon. Ironically, as many have pointed out, detractors will have typed their sneering comments on a Korean built phone or have a Korean built TV. It’s also not unexpected that those slinging arrows from afar wouldn’t avail themselves of the opportunity to test drive. More fool them.

However, for a first attempt, like any first attempt, there’s room for improvement. A lift in presence to say more how the car should be perceived is one, and fuel efficiency needing a VAST improvement is another. The last one is something both Kia’s marketing gurus and Australia’s luddites need to work on. That’s that a Kia CAN be this damned good. The 2018 Kia Stinger is that damned good car.

Is The Speed Limit Outdated?

It’s been argued that because today’s cars and today’s roads are better and safer than they used to be, the old speed limits ought to be raised to reflect this.  After all, they’ve got a limit of 130 km/h in some bits of Northern Territory (which, incidentally, came in about 10 years ago after having no speed restriction at all – road safety was cited as the reason for introducing limits).  Why shouldn’t the rest of the country get a higher speed limit?

We’ve probably all experienced the situation when road signs seem hopelessly out of date when approaching a corner that has one of those advisory speed limits.  You know the ones – those yellow signs with a number that usually accompany a curvy arrow indicating a bend in the road ahead.  The number is supposed to be the speed at which you can safely go around the corner.  However, in practice, we know that you don’t really actually HAVE to go at 55 km/h around a corner that’s marked 55.  If your tires are in good nick and if there isn’t anything nasty on the roads (oil, water, gravel, ice, etc.) and if your car has reasonably good handling, then you can go around the corner at a somewhat higher speed.  Not the full open road limit, of course – if you kept sailing around the corner at 100 km/h, you probably would come to grief and end up in the ditch.  But you don’t need to slow down to 55 km/h.

A lot of us treat those advisory speed signs as a sort of index giving an idea of how tight the corner coming up, kind of like a stationary rally navigator. A recommendation of 65 or 55 (on the open road where the speed limit’s 100 km/h) means that it’s a reasonably gentle bend, 45 means it’s a bit sharper, and so on all the way down to advisory signs reading 25 or even 15, which means you need to get ready for a hairpin turn and certainly need to slow down to negotiate it (but probably not all the way to 15 km/h).  After all, the camber of the road and the car features like stability control, traction control and the like all help to keep the car on the road.  Cars and roads are designed better these days.

We all know the recommended speeds for corners with advisory signs (known as “design speeds”) are well below the actual speed you can get around said corners comfortably and safely.  Are the open road speeds similarly outdated?

We’ve come a long way since these days – but do we need to go further?

The only trouble with the proposal to increase the open road speed limit to reflect the capabilities of new cars is that not every car on the road is a nice shiny new Mercedes  or Volvo  with all the latest safety features.  There are plenty of people driving beloved old classics, people driving ancient old bangers for budget reasons and those driving cars that aren’t in the category of old bangers but are still over 10 years old and don’t have all the latest whizz-but-not-bang active safety features.  The open road speed limit still applies to these drivers as well as to those with new cars.  And these older cars may not be able to handle the corners the way that newer ones can.

What’s more, some road users aren’t cars.  Trucks, bikes, motorbikes, farm tractors and horses are legitimate road users that one encounters out in the countryside.  You’re not going to find a pushbike, a horse or a farm tractor going anywhere near even the existing road speed limit, and the greater the mismatch between the speed of your car and the (lack of) speed of what’s in front of you leads to greater frustration, increased impatience and an increased likelihood of taking stupid risks.  And we know that although higher speeds are fine when everybody does what they’re supposed to, if things go wrong, they make the consequences worse.

We also need to remember that the cornering design speeds and the like are often designed with heavy trucks (including road trains) in mind.  These need more space and a lower speed to negotiate corners for obvious reasons.  Because these vehicles are very important for trade and the economy, all the government-funded researchers into road design, etc. spend quite a lot of time considering the needs of trucks.

The other thing is that even with a higher speed limit, you still need to slow down to go around a corner.  If they do decide to put up the speed limit, I doubt they’ll go and fix all the advisory signs to reflect the new speed limits for cost reasons.  They probably won’t add new ones either.  (Possibly it’s this cost factor (plus the fact that they could lose out on some speeding fines) that stops The Powers That Be from raising the speed limit.)  This means that if you’re cruising along at 130 km/h and spot a sign telling you that there’s a bend with a rating of 55 (OK, a design speed of 55 km/h), you’ve got less time to slow down to the right speed, which means that you have to brake harder… and that’s probably going to be tougher on your car and/or create a few extra risks.  You do know that you’re supposed to brake on the straight approaching the corner, don’t you?

The other issue is that the speed limit (and the speed at which we all go around corners) is safe when conditions are good, i.e. when the light, road surface, traffic conditions, vehicle conditions and road surface.  If it’s rainy, if it’s dark, if the sun’s at a horrible angle shining right in your eyes, if there’s gravel on the road, if bitumen has bled onto the road surface thanks to a bout of extra hot weather, if there’s ice on the road… it’s not safe to go full speed.  To paraphrase The Stig, if the road surface is shiny for any reason, slow down.

There’s one other argument against raising the speed limit: what I’ll have to call the larrikin factor.  No matter what the speed limit is, having any limit whatsoever will irritate a certain type of driver who doesn’t want to be told what to do.  She/he (I’m going to stick my neck out here and make the generalization that it’s more likely to be “he”) doesn’t want their freedom curtailed at all, and any speed limit – even if it was 150 km/h – feels like an imposition.  There will always be those who push the limits, no matter what those limits are.  It’s a bit like the drinking age or age limits at night clubs: no matter what the age barrier is, we all know that there will be people sneaking in underage… and nobody really wants 13-year-olds in the nightclub, so it’s best to keep the age limit at 18 so the underage sneakers-in are going to be 16 or 17.  The same goes for the speed limit.  Some speeds really are stupid on public roads and places where the unexpected can happen, and if you raise the speed limit, there will still be idiots who go at these ludicrous speeds.  And if you raised the limit to 120 km/h, there would be people who whinged about this being too slow and how it ought to be 140…  Where are you going to stop?

So what’s the answer?  Should we raise the speed limit?  Here’s my personal take on the topic:

  • Definitely raise the speed limit on long straight stretches of open road. I’ve driven along these being good and going at the legal limit, and it felt like crawling.
  • Keep the limit on the rest of the open roads where it is. However, there should be tolerance so the cops don’t jump all over you if you stray 5–10 km/h over the limit.  After all, we don’t all have cruise control, and we are supposed to keep our eyes on the road rather than glued to the speedo.
  • Remember that the speed limit is a limit, not a target. If the conditions don’t permit it, don’t try to go at the full limit.

As for roads around town – well, that’s another story!

Speed Doesn’t Kill People; People Kill People (aka There Are No Bad Speeds, Just Bad Driving)

In the past fortnight, I’ve seen the results of two smashes on the open road, one at least of which left a driver with serious injuries.  In one, a late-model SUV had been driving in a downpour and had rolled completely onto its side, collecting another vehicle in the process.  In another – the more serious of the two, where I and my family were some of the first people on the scene and hung around with a bunch of others to help before the emergency services arrived – a fairly new Mini (probably a JCW Clubman ) had drifted across the centre line on the open road and gone straight into an older Mitsubishi campervan.  Both cars were a real mess, although the driver of the campervan was in better shape and was able to walk away from the accident, albeit with a nasty bruise on the leg that made her limp and a few cuts from broken glass (I know this because I was the one who did the first aid check on her).  The driver of the Mini was trapped under a caved-in windscreen and was screaming her head off (we found out later she had a badly broken arm and possibly some internal injuries).  The campervan was in pieces and there was diesel (thank heavens it wasn’t the more inflammable petrol!) all over the road.  It was traumatic enough for me and my family, who had been setting off for a quiet weekend away.  It was worse for the two drivers concerned and their passengers.

How do we get the road toll down?  Is the answer to reduce the speed limit?

It’s a tough and controversial question.  On the one hand, we’ve got all the cops and the safety experts telling us to keep our speed down, and spending tons of taxpayer money to get the message out there (as if we haven’t heard it since goodness knows when). On the other hand, we have better roads and cars with better safely systems, so is it really realistic to insist on a speed limit that was set back when you were lucky if a car had seatbelts in the rear seat?

Of course, the more cynical type of driver is going to note that the speed of a vehicle is something that is very easily detected by speed cameras and radar traps, and fining drivers in the name of safety is an easy way for the government to pick up a bit of extra money… which they will spend on marketing campaigns to tell us to slow down, etc. Of course they’re not going to change the speed limit when keeping us to it is such a good cash cow.

However, let’s leave the issue of fines and money aside and look at the actual issue.

The main reason why the powers that be focus on speed is not just because it’s something that’s easy to measure. It’s because of the physics.  Anything travelling at a high speed will have a lot of kinetic energy that requires a lot of force to maintain in the face of friction, and when that object travelling at high speed stops, that energy has to go somewhere. In the case of a deliberate slow-down, friction will take up a lot of the energy (and, in the case of regenerative braking, turn it into electrical potential energy). In the case of a fast and unintended stop (i.e. a crash), all that energy is transferred all at once into not just the vehicle itself, what it’s hit and the road, but also what’s inside that vehicle.

If all is going well, the raw speed of a car is not a problem.  If it were speed per se that killed, you’d expect that the German authorities would have noticed this by now and changed the rules about the limitless autobahns.  According to a news report from last year, fatal accidents on German roads had reached an all-time low since it kicked itself back into gear after the war in the late 1950s.  The number of accidents, however, has increased.  The rate of fatal accidents has dropped dramatically since the 1970s in Germany, and they say that it’s thanks to better car safety design (the rivalry between German makers like Mercedes and Swedish companies like Volvo as to who’s got the best safety systems seems pretty intense), as well as things like insisting on seatbelts and motorbike helmets.  A lower legal limit for blood alcohol also helped curb road deaths.  The fact that cars have got faster and more powerful over this time and roared along the autobahns at 250 km/h as often as possible doesn’t seem to have played a role.

If things do go wrong, however, then the speed of a vehicle makes the consequences a lot worse.  It’s a situation like you get with guns and pitbulls.  A gun used responsibly in the right way by the right people is fun and is a useful device for removing pests or putting meat on the table.  However, if someone loses their temper and goes on the rampage, a gun will do worse damage in the hands of a maniac than, say, a knife, chainsaw or wooden club.  Pitbulls, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and Rottweilers can be soppy, affectionate and obedient animals when well trained, but if you mistrain or mistreat one (or make the mistake of attacking its owner), then they’ll do a lot more damage than a Chihuahua or a Labrador (which, in fact, are a lot more likely to bite people – they just don’t make headlines when they do, as they don’t cause much carnage).  The same goes for speed.  Staying in your lane and going along a deserted bit of open road at 120 km/hr or even higher is not going to be a problem.  However, if you go around the corner way too fast for the conditions, try to do this sort of speed in heavy traffic, drift out of your lane into an oncoming vehicle, go over a patch of gravel or ice, or hit a roo (or any combination of the above), then the results are going to be a lot worse than if you had been going at, say, 50 km/h.

Those protesting gun control will argue that it’s not guns that kill people; it’s people who kill people.  Similarly, owners of Rotties, Pibbles and Staffies will protest breed-related legislation by arguing that there are no bad dogs; there are only bad owners.  It’s just the same with speed limits.  It’s not speed that kills; it’s bad driving that kills. Bad driving, notice, not bad drivers.  Even The Stig, Mario Andretti, Peter Brock and Mark Skaife have off moments, as they’re only human.

So what’s the answer to the problem of getting the road toll down?  How are we going to prevent people getting injured the way that Mini driver was injured?  There are no easy answers – it’s definitely not as simple as just saying that we need to keep the speed down.  In fact, I’m going to have to devote more than one post to this topic and analysing all the factors.  With the help of your comments, perhaps we’ll find the answers.

Air, Apparent.

A band called “The Hollies” released a song in the mid 1970s called “(All I Need Is)The Air That I Breathe“. We humans breathe air. It’s made up of 78% nitrogen which is an inert (doesn’t react with anything) gas, oxygen at 21%, 0.93% argon and various other gases. CO2 or carbon dioxide is measured to be around 0.04%. It’s the oxygen and CO2 that we carbon based lifeforms worry about the most. But what does it mean when it comes to those other living, breathing things called cars?

Bugger all actually. Cars breathe in air via intakes or through air filters in pre- fuel injected cars via carbies. At the other end comes out CO2 and a smattering of other gases, and that’s the cycle of life. BUT, have you ever tried to push a car with a flat tyre? Yup, air inside comes out and makes rolling a car near nigh impossible. So we fill them with air and away we go.Air, I hear you ask? But that nice man at the service and tyre shop said I should get nitrogen in my tyres, right? Well, in a way, by using air you’ve already got nitrogen. 80%, remember?
But he said it’ll reduce wear and tear on my tyres? Well, no. The biggest cause of wear and tear on tyres is how we drive the cars that use them. If we also don’t check the pressures, so if the tyres are over or under inflated, either of these contributes to wear and tear. When air goes in (80% nitrogen, remember) and the pressures are right, then wear and tear should only be dependent on how you drive.

He also said that nitrogen improves ride quality? Ride quality is dependent on tyre pressure, springs and shocks working properly, road surfaces…you get the picture. So if your air filled tyres are at the right pressure, then ride quality remains the same irrespective of 80 or 100 percent nitrogen.

I’m sensing a pattern here. He also said that by using nitrogen it’ll make the tyre run cooler? Hmm, a toughie….ah…nup. It’s the moisture content of the air, so in fact, if you use dry normal compressed air, it’ll also run cooler., as long as, again, it’s at the correct pressure and the tyre isn’t overloaded.

So, the bottom line, if I’m charged five or ten bucks per tyre to get nitrogen in, I’m just wasting money? In a nitrogen filled nutshell, yep. Don’t waste your money and say no to nitrogen.

Hyundai Santa Fe Unveiled For 2018

Hyundai have released some details of its new for 2018 Santa Fe. Notable changes include a restyled front end, linking the big SUV to its slightly newer and smaller brethren, the Kona. There’s the upper level LED driving lights, mid level headlights that are in a separate cluster and set deep into their own scalloped section on the extremeties of the bumper. A restyled “Cascading Grille” is also featured. At 4770mm in length, a breadth of 1890mm, and an increased wheelbase, the Santa fe stamps itself firmly as the leader of Hyundai cars.

Inside it’s a complete makeover, with a sweeping line to the upper dash section, air vent designs not unlike those found in upper level European luxury cars. The dash and console are broader in look, with a more concise and intense look to the centre touchscreen and climate control section.

Safety details in full haven’t yet been released, however it is known that Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist is on board. It will recognise oncoming traffic from the side and wil automatically apply brakes if required.

More details will be released by Hyundai closer to its expected launch in late February and is due in Australia in mid 2018.

Peugeot and Citroën Australia Introduce Five-Year Warranty

Peugeot and Citroën Australia (PCA) will introduce a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty with five-year roadside assist for all Peugeot and Citroën passenger vehicles. That warranty applies from the date of the first registration of the vehicle. Even better, it’s transferable should an owner decide to move their new car on to a new owner. The new warranty will commence immediately and be retrospectively applied to any MY18 vehicles already sold.

The Managing Director of Peugeot and Citroën Australia, Anouk Poelmann, said that the new warranty gives Australian’s confidence in purchasing a Peugeot or Citroën and reinforces the commitment both PCA and Groupe PSA in France have for the Australian market.

“When Peugeot and Citroën arrived in Australia – almost 80 and 100 years ago respectively, reliability and durability was the key to the brand’s early success and today that focus has not changed. From design to engineering and manufacture, efforts at all levels of the business have focused on quality, durability and reliability – and this new five-year warranty underscores our confidence in the new-generation of Peugeot and Citroën product.

Peugeot 5008

Peugeot and Citroën are some of the oldest and most storied marques in Australia and we at PCA and Groupe PSA are determined to make the next chapter one full of confidence and growth,” said Poelmann.

The program will bring together warranty, roadside assist and servicing plans under the PEUGEOT PRESTIGETM banner, while naming of the Citroën program will be launched at a later date.

Ford Ranger Raptor Ready To Strike.

Long talked about…well, since the new look Ranger was released a couple of years ago, a performance version has been released. Taking an already assertive machine and making it look even more angry is not always easy yet somehow the Ford designers and engineers have done so. Here’s a brief look at the 2018 Ford Ranger Raptor.Engine.
A 2.0L diesel has been massaged to produce an astonishing 500Nm of torque, with a peak power output of 157kW. The twin turbo beat was tested to its limits, with a non-stop run of 200 hours. A small HP (High Pressure) turbo kicks off before a larger LP (Low Pressure) turbo takes over. A new ten speed auto, designed and built by Ford in-house, along with revamped electronics, has quicker, crisper, shifts, and promises even better economy. There’s two on road modes, Normal and Sport, plus Grass/Gravel/Snow, Mud/Sand, Rock, and Baja. It’s that last one that has eyebrows and corners of mouths raised. Ford says: Vehicle responsiveness is tuned for high-speed off-road performance, just like drivers need in the famous Baja Desert Rally. In this mode, vehicle systems like Traction Control are pared back in terms of intervention to allow spirited off-road driving without fighting the vehicle’s on-board systems. Gear selection is optimized for maximum performance, and the mapping will hold gears longer and downshift more aggressively.Looks.
A bespoke Ford logo grille now sits front and centre. It sits atop a frame mounted bumper, which houses new LED fog lamps and air-curtain ducts to help reduce aire resistance at speed. The front fenders are made of a composite material, and are oversized to deal with off road excursions and suspension travel. It’s an impressive size; it stands 1873mm high, spans 2180mm in width and is an impressive 5398mm in length. Ground clearance is 283 mm, with approach and departure angles of 32.5 and 24 degrees enabling superior off road accessibility.

There’s solid looking side steps, specially designed and engineered to help stop rocks being sprayed backwards from the front tyres and are cut to allow water drainage.Made from an aluminuim alloy, they’re durable and tough. These also were tested hard, with loads of 100 kilograms being applied 84,000 times to simulate a decade’s worth of exposure to usage. They’re powder-coated before a grit paint for extra durability is applied.

The rear bumper has been modified to include a towbar and two recovery hooks which will hold 3.8 tonnes. Parking sensors are flush in the bumper, which backs a tray of 1560mm x 1743mm. Exterior colours are: Lightning Blue, Race Red, Shadow Black, Frozen White, as well as a unique Hero color for the Ranger Raptor, Conquer Grey. Contrasting Dyno Grey accents helps to accentuate the vehicle’s look even further.Inside.
This has been overhauled with a smooth and refined look, coming under the umbrella of Ford Performance DNA. The seats are the starting point, with a redesign and change of material being tested in long distance rallies. They’re tailored for high speed work in an off-road environment. The material inside is of a dual layer hardness, providing both comfort and support in their intended environments.
The dash and steering wheel have been redesigned, with the Driver Assistance features being easily read in the binnacle and magnesium paddles for the driver’s column. There’s a touch of high speed assistance in one key area; a red stripe has been applied to the leather bound wheel, intended to confirm for the driver that the steering is “On Centre”.Underneath.
The off-road racing pedigree is evident in a chassis made from various grades of high-strength low-alloy (HSLA) steel and designed for that purpose. There’s coilover rear shocks, a Watt’s Link rear and solid rear axle. The chassis side rails are also HSLA. There’s a redesigned front end to deal with the strengthened higher profile shock towers. At the front, twin-piston calipers have been increased by 9.5mm in diameter, while the ventilated rotors are an impressive 332 x 32mm in size. At the rear, Ranger Raptor comes with disc brakes with a brake actuation master cylinder and booster to increase braking performance. The 332 x 24mm rear rotor is ventilated and coupled with a new 54mm caliper. These are housed inside new for Raptor BF Goodrich 285/70R17 rubber.It’s not yet known when exactly in 2018 the Ford Ranger Raptor will be available although it’s fair to surmise it’ll be within the first half of 2018.

Peugeot 5008 Released In Australia For 2018.

Peugeot‘s continued revamp sees a new from the ground up 5008 released to the Australian market in January 2018. It’s built on the PSA Groups award winning EMP2 (Efficient Modular Platform 2) that underpins the 308 and 3008 vehicles. The Peugeot 5008 is available from a recommended retail price of $42,990 for the Allure, $46,990 for GT Line and $52,990 for the flagship GT. It’s a solid, bluff, no nonsense look to the 5008, and brings the bigger SUV into line with the family look of the 2008 and 3008. As has been the choice from the design team, there’s a distinct look of difference between the Allure models, GT Line and GT models which feature sporty design elements including: Peugeot equaliser grille, bespoke front bumper and lights, sporty amplified engine note, exclusive interior trim and steering wheel, red instrument illumination, and exclusive GT-Line or GT badging.

There’s a choice of two engines; the grunty 1.6L petrol engine for Allure and GT-Line, and the torquey 2.0L diesel for the GT. The turbo petrol offers an impressive 240 Nm at 1600 rpm, with the diesel an even more resounding 400 Nm at 2000 rpm. Both power down via a six speed auto and are good for a zero to one hundred time of just over ten seconds. It’s reasonable but not great for the 1473 kilo (dry) Allure/GT-Line and 1575 kilo (dry) GT. Economy figures look good too, with the petrol engine quoted as 7.0 to 7.3L per 100 km, and the diesel at 4.8L/100 km from a 56L tank. That petrol figure is Grip Control dependent, with that system being the drive modes available including Mud, Snow, Sand, Normal, and ESC Off.There’s plenty of standard features starting with the Allure, including dual zone and rear seat climate control, Driver Attention Alert, Distance Alert, Autonomous Emergency Braking, LED interior lighting, DAB, wireless charging for smartphone, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, ISOFIX mounting points in the second and third row seats, tray tables on the seat backs, and Auto headlights. The GT-Line and GT naturally go up a notch with Automatic Engine Braking, Active Blind Spot Warning and Lane Departure Warning, High Beam Assist, foot operated tailgate, and more.The interior is completely revamped and is built around the i-Cockpit theme seen in the 2008 and 3008. There’s also a new setup, the i-Cockpit Amplify. A button push brings in a change to light intensity and screen colour, releases scents, activates a seat massage program, and changes audio settings. There’s two settings, Relax, and Boost.

Tyres and wheels vary slightly; it’s 225/55/18 on board for the Allure/GT-Line and 235/50/19s for the GT. As standard. If the Grip Control system is optioned, it’s the smaller combo with Mud and Snow tyres. All three trim levels will ride on a suspension of pseudo MacPherson struts and coil springs up front and a “twist beam” rear axle. This is housed inside a 4641 mm long body and a 2840 mm wheelbase. Height is a decent 1646 mm and the 5008 spans 1844 mm.The 2018 Peugeot 5008 is available now. Head to Peugeot Australia to enquire directly.