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Archive for March, 2018

Driverless Car Causes Fatal Accident In Arizona

Photo courtesy of Reuters

On 18th March – that’s just over a week ago – driverless car technology received a major blow.  The horrible truth is that the blow struck to the technology by this particular vehicle being road-tested by the Uber taxi service wasn’t as nasty as the blow it delivered to a 49-year-old Arizona woman named Elaine Herzberg who was crossing the road one evening, like you do.  The car hit her and killed her.  Dashcam on the autonomous car captured the moment before the car ran her down.  I’ve decided not to embed it in this post in case you’ve got autoplay or something on, because it’s decidedly disturbing.  Find it online yourself if you must, but personally, I’d rather not watch the tragic and completely avoidable death of a woman about my age who probably has a partner and children and friends who thought she was great fun – someone just like me and you.

The reaction has been exactly what you would expect: Arizona has called a halt to on-road real-life testing of autonomous cars, Uber and a few other companies like Toyota have stopped all testing in North America, and shares in companies that have been investing heavily into driverless car technology such as Tesla have dropped.  In addition, Ms Herzberg’s family have been coping with the shock and loss of losing a mother, daughter, sister, wife, cousin…  There’s also one Uber driver who trusted the technology to take care of things the way they told her it would who is going to live with a lifetime of questions and guilt, and who is probably in the hands of a good therapist right now – or at least ought to be.

We can ask the same questions as that Uber driver and the Herzberg family are probably asking over and over again: why did this happen? What went wrong? Aren’t driverless cars supposed to get rid of the human error factor that is responsible for the majority of fatal accidents?

Without actually looking at the chilling dashcam footage personally and based on other people’s reports, it appears that what happened was this.  The Uber vehicle was cruising along a road on a normal spring night in Tempe, Arizona, on a Sunday night.  It was dark and the driver, who was probably on a tight schedule and having to manage half a billion things at once – like you do – looked away from the road for about five seconds.  The car was in autonomous mode and it had the full fleet of sensors that are available in even regular cars that aren’t driverless cars, such as automatic braking, pedestrian detection, cross-traffic detection and collision avoidance mode.  The driver thought that all would be well – after all, the car was supposed to take care of itself most of the time, wasn’t it?

Then along came Ms Herzberg, wheeling her bicycle.  Probably she was a bit too careless and didn’t pick a big enough gap in the traffic to cross in – but haven’t we all done that when trying to cross a busy road when there’s no pedestrian crossing or traffic lights in sight?  Most of us take it for granted that the humans behind the wheels don’t want to hit us and they’ll slow down a fraction if we’re cutting it a bit fine (this is something that I don’t assume – call me paranoid but maybe it’s an assumption we need to start questioning).  To make matters worse, Ms Herzberg was wearing black at night, which would have made her hard to see even if the driver hadn’t looked away.

The sensors and the system didn’t see or recognize Ms Herzberg, so the collision avoidance systems weren’t triggered.  The vehicle kept going straight ahead at normal road speeds.  The driver, trusting the autonomous system, didn’t see her either until the last moment when the car ploughed full-speed into her and there was no time for the human driver to do anything to stop it.  Ms Herzberg died later that night in hospital.

This is the first time that a driverless car has been involved in a fatal accident involving a pedestrian – hang on, let’s call a spade a spade.  The car wasn’t just “involved”: it knocked her down and killed her.

Naturally, all the tech companies and car manufacturers involved are properly horrified and are wondering what on earth went wrong.  The sensors were supposed to work without being “distracted” like a human driver could be.  They were supposed to be able to see in the dark, so to speak, and therefore be better than a human driver would be.  Autonomous systems are supposed to be so much safer because they don’t get drunk, tired or distracted, but stay focussed and on the job all the time. So what went wrong?  Why didn’t the car see Ms. Herzberg and brake in time?

Naturally, as the questions are still being answered and the accident only happened about a week ago, they don’t have answers yet.  A few fingers are being pointed, especially as different companies make different bits of the tech.  Did the Lidar sensor plus artificial intelligence system fail to distinguish the pedestrian with a bicycle from a power pole or a bush? (These systems do have trouble with this – in Australia, they have real trouble recognizing how close kangaroos on the road actually are, because the jumping motion of a roo fools the sensor into thinking that there’s more road between the car and the roo than there really is.)  Robotic systems and computers follow the rules and keep to the rules no matter what – and something unexpected that’s out of the box and not included in the rules really throws them.  Possibly, someone crossing the road with a bike without looking properly or allowing a big enough gap is a novel concept for them.

I guess that at this early stage, there are a few lessons that all of us can learn from this tragedy:

  • Driver assistance packages and sensors are there to help you be a better driver, not do it all for you. As a driver, you need to stay alert and do the job of driving at all times, whether you’ve got a back-to-basics trade vehicle like a Great Wall , or a luxury sedan or SUV with all the safety gadgets like a Mercedes  or Volvo .
  • A lot can happen in a few seconds, so keep your eyes on the road as much as possible. No checking texts, changing the radio station or fiddling with the air con.
  • Be careful when crossing the road. These days, you can’t assume that drivers are looking ahead of them because there are idiots who insist on checking their phones while driving, and in the future, you might not even be able to assume that there’s a human with a heart in control of the wheel.  The stop, look and listen rule still applies – so take those headphones out of your ear.
  • Wearing black at night when crossing the road always has been and still is a dumb idea.
  • People are unpredictable, so keep your eyes open for them when you’re driving.

And I hope we do learn these lessons.  After all, nobody really grieves for a car that gets written off.  However, real live humans have friends and families who will always miss them if they die – and that’s something that a computer or robot system can’t fully understand or experience.

Narva’s L.E.D.s Light The Way Offroad.

Aftermarket lighting supplier Narva introduced the Ultima 215 LED driving lights in 2017. An important feature of the Ultima 215 is that it meets the stringent requirements of CISPR 25 which is part of the ECE Regulation 10 for EMC, a feature that is sadly not evident in many other lamps on the market. By the way, CISPR is Comité International Spécial des Perturbations Radioélectriques or International Special Committee on Radio Interference.

Narva Marketing Manager, Jake Smith, said the company knew the lights would be popular but had not fully anticipated the spectacular market uptake. “Throughout the lamps development we were extremely excited about the lights’ performance and the potential impact they would have on the market. The 215 L.E.D lamps provide the latest technology, outstanding light output and the reliability and toughness Narva lights are known for and these qualities, coupled with a reasonable price point has struck accord with customers. The strength of our research, development and testing meant that the lamp was compliant with CISPR 25 on release, further broadening the appeal of the lamps, especially for emergency services applications where the avoidance of radio interference is critical.”The units have proved popular with the 4WD and travel industries. Former motorbike racer, Daryl Beattie, has turned his hand to running a travel company. One of his vehicles is a tough and sturdy IVECO 4×4 support truck which now sports two pairs of the 215s. Covering the rugged Canning stock route, the Simpson Desert, and routes that go to Cape York, Beattie says of the Narva 215 units: “They produce a staggering white light that’s easy on the eye and fills in the shadows way down the road ahead – they are the best spotties I’ve ever owned.” Daryl added:“After using the Ultima 215s, I can safely say they are the only L.E.D driving lights that I’ll be using on my adventures.”

The Ultima 215 L.E.Ds feature a class-leading hybrid beam pattern that combines volume for off-road use and long range performance for on highway transport applications. Each light is equipped with 33 x 5W (165W) XP-G2 Cree L.E.Ds that develop a pure white output (5700°K) and a penetrating light of 10,500 raw Lumens. As a pair, the lamps provide an impressive 1 Lux of brightness at 900 metres.

As well as using powerful Cree L.E.Ds, the performance is aided by the lights’ highly polished, aluminium, metallised reflectors which feature precisely scalloped parabolas for superior control and performance. The lamps feature die cast aluminium housing, ‘Active Thermal Management System’ allowing the lights to run harder for longer, while also incorporating a nitro breather vent and integrated DT connector, and are fully sealed against water and dust ingress to IP66 and IP67. Other benefits of the lamps include an L.E.D front position light to improve daytime driving visibility, virtually unbreakable polycarbonate lens and see-through lens protector.

Naturally there’s a bespoke mounting harness and a five year warranty to back everything up. Narva is an Australian owned company and products can be found at reputable 4wd and offroad equipment stores.

Lamborghini Huracán Performante Goes Topless.

$532,635 Australian dollars, including taxes, excluding on the road costs. That how much the new Huracan Performante will cost. The what?
Here’s what it is.The Performante Syder will see a 0-100 km/h time of just 3.1 seconds thanks to its 5.2 l V10 naturally-aspirated engine. A permanent all wheel drive system helps it go further, with 0-200 km/h (0-124 mph) in 9.3 seconds A top speed of 325 km/h matches its coupé stablemate. Braking from 100-0 km/h is mastered in 31.5 m.

Like the Performante coupé, the Spyder outputs 640 hp (470 kW) at 8,000 rpm, producing 600 Nm of torque at 6,500 rpm, and with more than 70% of torque already available at 1,000 rpm. Stefano Domenicali, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Automobili Lamborghini says: ““The Huracán Performante Spyder takes the zenith of Huracán developments, combined with the enhanced emotion of driving a convertible.”With a total dry weight of just 1,507 kg, the Spyder returns a weight-to-power ratio of 2.35 kg/hp, with weight distribution front/rear of 43/57%. Domenicali also said: “The Huracán Performante already provides the most heightened feedback and emotion from road and track, and the Huracán Performante Spyder puts the driver even closer to asphalt and air, as well as the unique resonance of a naturally-aspirated Lamborghini engine.”

2018 Kia Rio SLi: Car Review.

Kia‘s evergreen slightly bigger than small car, the Rio, has had a mild revamp inside and out for 2018. LED DRLs, digital radio, a reprofiled front bar are the obvious changes. And priced from $22,990 RRP plus $520 for premium paint, it’s not a bank buster either.It’s the solid, trusty, dependable 1.4L MPI petrol engine we’ve come to know and….love is far too strong a word. Like sounds fair. There’s 74kW of peak power and 133Nm of torque at 4000 rpm. On their own, they’re reasonable numbers from a non forced induction 1.4L. However there’s also the same four speed auto that continues to hold back the Rio. Surely by now there’d be something in the Kia/Hyundai parts bin to change to a five or preferably six speed auto. The fall-off between gears is just that little bit too much for a car in the late part of the 21st century’s second decade. In shorter words, it’s time to modernise.Although the engine itself is a willing revver, spinning easily through the range in Neutral, third and fourth showcase just how much they hold the 1.4L back, and also just how much more economy could be wrung out of it. Kia’s figures say 6.2L per 100 km from the 45L tank on regular ULP. With 110 km/h seeing 3000rpm on the tacho, those extra mid range cogs would could see the ratio in the final drive changed and drop the revs to a potentially more usable and frugal number, especially given the kerb weight of 1162kg for the auto. The auto will also tow up to 800 kilograms.That said it’s a lovely little driver with slightly heavy steering, a somewhat softish road ride which may have been down to the 195/55/16 Kumho rubber, however it’s stable enough in its handling. Freeway conditions have the petite 4065mm using its 2580mm wheelbase absorbing most of the irregularities and the well damped McPherson strut front is more than capable of dealing with anything that causes bump steer. But neither is it a sports car, and the slowish steering rack reflects that.The interior sees the information and entertainment seven inch touchscreen move from an integrated into the dash location to a standalone unit mounted high in the dash itself, much like the new Stinger. Charging for phones etc comes courtesy of a pair of 12V sockets up front, a USB port, and one for the rear seat passengers. There’s a sunroof , UV protected glass for the front passengers, alloy sports pedals, cloth covered seats with a higher grade material (man made leather with perforations) than the S and Si, and what Kia calls a “super vision instrument cluster”. Nup, neither do I.Dash plastics and trim are a blended mix of soft touch plastics and a gunmetal hue to the dashboard strips. If anything, it misses out on the current design ethos of a sweeping arch that brings the door trims into the dash as one curve. Bottle holders number four, one in each door, the touchscreen in the Si and SLi has DAB and satnav as standard, plus both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard across the three trim levels. Bluetooth is, of course, standard and there’s address book and media streaming capability.There’s plenty of room inside, with Kia’s typically efficient packaging providing space for four comfortably, enough front leg room for people up to six feet tall, however the rear seat leg room becomes tight when the seats are pushed back.Outside it’s a redesign for the front and rear, with the tail light cluster bringing in the neon light look. The front has a solid bar framed in chrome in the Schreyer nose grille, reprofiled headlights with circulat LED driving lights, globes in the lower corners, and the roofline has been flattened for a sharper look. The hatch door is more upright and allows access to a 325L or 980L cargo space with the rear 60/40 split fold seats down. The SLI has 16 inch wheels, with the S and Si rolling on 15s. The test car was clad in Signal Red, with Clear White, Silky Silver, Platinum Graphite, Aurora Black Pearl, Smoke Blue, and Mighty Yellow available.There’s Kia’s standard seven year warranty which is bolstered by a high standard of safety across the range. Hill Start Assist, reverse parking guidelines, and six airbags are standard but there’s no autonomous emergency braking or a driver’s kneebag. Kia also supply a space saver spare, not a full sizer.

At The End Of The Drive.
The Rio really is a car with pootential but that four speed auto is an anchor. With other manufacturers using a CVT or changing to a turbocharged three cylinder with a broader range of torque, the Rio, as good a car as it is, is in danger of being left behind. The update outside and in do refresh the Rio into a handsome looker however a savvy driver will overlook this. Details of Kia’s updated Rio are here: 2018 Kia Rio range

Race Weekend

Australian GT Racing

It’s a grand weekend of motorsport in Australia this weekend when the 2018 Formula 1 season kicks off at Albert Park’s Rolex Australian Grand Prix.  There will be loads to see and enjoy, with new racing machinery to get the heart rate up.

The Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli Asia Pacific Series starts off at Albert Park this weekend.  Thirty-three beautiful Ferrari 488 racing cars will be battling it out in an international series that spans three continents: Europe, North America, Asia Pacific.  These Ferraris are powered by a 3.9-litre turbo-charged V8 and quicker times are promised with this new fleet of race cars which replace the outgoing Ferrari 458 models.

Ferrari 488 Challenge Race Car

Also at Albert Park this weekend the Porsche Wilson Security Carrera Cup Australia returns to Melbourne.  A new generation of Porsche 911s will be racing with the new rear-mounted 4.0-litre naturally aspirated engines packing 375 kW of power and 480 Nm of torque.  This is always a great series to watch with super competitive racing always on the cards.

The Coates Hire Supercars Melbourne 400 starts its races as well, where a 13-lap, 30-minute Supercar battle commences.  It’s going to be anybody’s guess as to who will take the race, but Shane van Gisbergen has to be front runner.

One race series that has plenty of exciting race cars to watch will be the new Australian GT series, boasting a festivity of expensive exotic flavour, with the likes of Mercedes-AMG, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, McLaren, Audi and more fighting for that coveted spot on the podium.  With a group value of around $30-million this race will be automotive toffee for those lucky enough to see the race unfold.

The final day of the four-day Rolex F1 festival starts with a historic parade featuring classic racers from Brabham, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Austin Healey, Allard, McLaren and several other Australian specialist vehicles.   There will be a Legends Lane area located behind the main straight Fangio stand where you can look at them close-up and personal.

Other amazing stuff to experience at the weekend will be Lamborghini and Ferrari parades, an Ultimate Speed Comparison test, Aston Martin hot laps, an RAAF Roulettes show and the stunning F/A18 jet display.  Albert Park will be the place to be this weekend – just giving you the heads-up!

F/A18 Jet

2018 Holden Equinox LT and LS+: Car Reviews.

Private Fleet Holden Equinox LTZ-V review
I was fortunate enough to back to back to back three distinct different yet obviously similar versions of the new Equinox. The above link is solely for the top of the range LTZ-V, with this addendum looking at the mid range LT and LS+.The interior and dash look of the LT isn’t far different from the LTZ-V, with a little less bling, cloth seats that are clad in a comfortable grey hued weave, and a distinct feeling of volume seller. The dash screens light up with the same flickering blue motifs, whereas the LS+ shares the same seats but has a more obvious price point feel in the plastics, screens (generic General Motors in look) and even the sill plates are simple plastic with no real appeal visually.

The LS and LS+ (Holden have changed this to LS Plus) share a turbocharged 1.5L petrol engine and six speed auto. Unfortunately they also share the same non switchable Stop/Start system. Peak power is 127kW and torque is 275Nm across 2000 to 4000. The 4652mm long machine weighs 1514 kilograms plus fuel and passengers and there’s a definable difference between the two powerplants. There’s naturally plenty of mid range squirt in the 2.0L, with the smaller engine dulled more both off the line and in overall driveability. Compared to the zippy off the line 2.0L the 1.5L needs a harder and heavier right foot, more planning for overtaking, but otherwise cruises along well enough once steam has built up.Ride and handling is on par with the LTZ-V, with both feeling tight in the suspension. The LS+ feels perhaps a little more floaty but that can be put down to the higher sidewalls in the Continental 225/65/17 rubber as opposed to the LT’s 225/60/18s. There’s a definite sensation of more absorption, more comfort and plushness but nor does it lose that slightly taut and always in contact with the ground feeling.

At The End Of The Drive.
From AWT’s point of view the LT should be the volume seller. It has pretty much everything the average driver needs, including a more useable driveline package. I raise this simply because people, and fairly, will buy the LS/LS+ on price and to load it up with Mum/Dad/three kids, however under that load the 1.5L will suffer further and economy will skyrocket.Go to 2018 Holden Equinox range to enquire, download a brochure, and book a test drive.

Chrysler, BMW and Kia Join The Police Fleet

BMW 530d – confirmed as part of the Victoria Police fleet.

I don’t know if they were actually putting bets on it anywhere (although I wouldn’t be surprised) but when Holden and Ford Australia closed their factory doors, the big question for a lot of us who are interested in motoring and car news was what the cops were going to drive for their regular patrol and pursuit cars.  You see, up until the closure of Ford and Holden’s factories on these shores, the cops, being a wing of the government and hence keen on supporting local industry, drove Ford Falcons and Holden Commodores, to the point that wary drivers who like to push the limits a wee bit went on high alert at the mere sight of a white Dunny-Door (aka Commodore) in the distance.  As a matter of fact, the boys and girls in blue were required to drive locally built vehicles.

But the rule that says the cops had to drive locally built vehicles was scrapped.  Then the fun of the guessing game started.  There were all sorts of speculations going on.  Would we get the hot-looking new Kia Stinger on the roads in police livery?  The more obscure Genesis G8 from Korea?  Or something else?

The speculations have now ended, and the police departments of various states have made their choices.  Here’s the list of vehicles that will be a welcome sight if you’ve picked up the phone to report a burglary… or an unwelcome sight in the rear view mirror if it’s got the disco lights going and you know you’ve been driving naughtily.

Chrysler 300 SRT: OK, one of the reasons why they picked this one is possibly because it’s made by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Australia, which still has a humming factory.  The other reasons are because it’s got a feisty 6.4-L naturally aspirated V8 engine (350 kW and 637 Nm) with a very snappy 0–100 sprint time (4.5 seconds).  It’s also a nice, big sedan with lots of room for all the gear that cops need (and space for arrested suspects in the rear where they can’t kick the driver through the back of the seat).  The NSW Police announced in December 2017 that they’d be kitting out a bunch of these (the exact number is unknown but it’s probably got three digits) as patrol and pursuit vehicles.  The downside is that it’s a thirsty brute.

BMW 530d: The Victorian Police confirmed that they’d be getting at least some examples of the diesel-powered German mid-sized sedans for the highway patrol fleet, with 80 confirmed for about now.  While the Beemer is a shade less powerful than the Chrysler (we need a nickname for Chrysler – any suggestions?), it’s possible to get these straight from the factory with the police pack ready installed.  Cops all through Europe drive the 5-series sedan so it’s proved its worth in fighting crime.  In fact, BMW is one of the few manufacturers that actually have vehicles rolling off the factory lines ready to go on patrol duty.  Apparently, they take out some of the luxurious bells and whistles that you get in the everyday civilian versions and replace them with the gadgets that a modern police force needs.  The BMW 530d – at least the civilian version – is powered by a 3-litre V6 turbodiesel delivering 195 kW of power and 620 Nm.

Kia Sorento: South Australia Police confirmed in January that they’d be getting some of these popular Korean SUVs and giving them a try-out.  Apparently, the safety record of the Sorento was one of the more appealing features motivating this choice, as the Sorento came through crash testing with very high marks.  The seven-seater’s got lots of room (great for K-9 teams) although it’s not as peppy as the Chrysler and the Beemer, with the 2.2-litre 4 cylinder turbodiesel delivering 147 kW and 441 Nm.  They say that the brakes are going to get an upgrade for patrol purposes because the cops are pretty hard on the old braking systems.

Kia Stinger: The very hot-looking new sedan has been spotted in the livery of the Queensland Police force.  Apparently, it wasn’t just the nippy 2-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged engine (182 kW and 353 Nm) that made it attractive: it’s also great braking and cooling systems that passed the rather punishing tests that the Powers That Be put them through (a Ford Mustang from overseas failed these tests and was bumped off the shortlist).  The fact that the Stinger looks great and is a newly unveiled model is also likely to help with police liaison activities with schools and the like.

It’s still early days and some of the vehicles are just being trialled for active duty in various states, and there are a few others that might be used, such as overseas-built Commodores.  However, out of the list of what’s been confirmed, which of these vehicles would be the one that gets your heart racing the most, whether it’s the vehicle that appeals most to your inner small kid who hero-worships the cops, or the one you’d least like to see bearing down on you with the disco lights going?

2018 Holden ZB Commodore RS: Private Fleet Car Review.

In November 1948 a car was unveiled in Australia by the then Prime Minister, Ben Chifley, in front of 400 guests. Called the 48-215, marketed simply as the “Holden”, and popularly known as the “FX” the car had a 45kW 2171cc straight six and had a design from America’s Chevrolet. Thirty years later, in October 1978, Holden showed off for the first time the Opel Rekord and Opel Senator based VB Commodore. It’s now a nameplate that’s firmly entrenched in the annals of Australian automotive manufacturing history. In late 2017 Holden ceased manufacturing and unveiled its Opel sourced new Commodore. With a nod to history, its designation is ZB.It’s fair to say that it’s a car that has divided followers of the Holden brand, primarily due to a change in platform. It’s no longer available in rear wheel drive, now being front and all wheel drive. There’s no ute, nor is there a V8. There’s a turbocharged four cylinder petrol and diesel engine, turbocharged V6 engine, nine speed automatic transmissions, a slightly smaller body, and it’s a hatchback. Yes, a wagon, known now as the Tourer, stays. And our familiar designations have largely disappeared. It’s also highly likely that the ZB will be, in effect, a stand alone model in the history of Commodore, as Opel was bought by Groupe PSA in 2017 and with a mooted change to the platforms used by that organisation.

I, with a decades long personal association with Holden going back to the early 1970s and a HT Kingswood, became possibly the first fully independent car reviewer to drive the ZB Commodore, in second level RS sedan/liftback trim. Priced at $37,290 RRP it’s available at a driveaway price on promotion at just $38,990 for the liftback. The V6 AWD platform and front suspension are also available as an option at $42,490 driveaway. It’s fitted with the turbo four cylinder petrol, with 191kW of peak power and 350Nm of peak torque between 3000 and 4000 rpm. The nine speed auto is the first time such a transmission has been seen for Commodore and it’s a pearler. Combined with a instantly responsive throttle, it switches between gears as cleanly and as smoothly as one could wish for. In fact it’s so smooth as to be forgotten that it’s there. Holden’s engineering team have spent a great deal of time calibrating the two and it shows. There’s no indecision, no dithering, it’s always in the right gear for the rev range.

The engine fires into life at the push of a button, and is also able to be remotely started via the key fob. It’s smooth, quiet from both inside and outside the cabin, and sips 95RON unleaded at a quoted figure of 7.9L/100 km for the combined figure. AWT matched that quoted figure. Although it’s now a front wheel drive vehicle, the car tested was only barely perceptible in most driving conditions to be feel as such. Seat of the pants 0-100 km/h times, without testing, feel sub eight seconds. And although peak torque starts at 3000rpm, there’s more than enough on tap below that to take advantage of the extra gear range.The ZB body shape is one familiar, in a way, to Aussie buyers thanks to other brands having similar profiles, but it’s not once seen in a Commodore until now. The RS in sedan form has a slightly more sporting look than the entry level LT. There’s a reprofiled front bumper, a grille that’s possibly overdone for Aussie tastes, 18 inch alloys (wrapped in grippy Continental rubber) instead of 17s, and of course, that liftback in a very coupe’ style. Coated in Mineral Black, with red metallic flecks that pick up the sun at certain angles, it highlights a slippery shape.Compared to the superceded VF11, the ZB is measurably smaller. Compared to the Vf it’s 74mm shorter at a still long 4899mm. The height is 1455mm, width is 1863mm (excluding mirrors) as opposed to 1899mm. The wheelbase is 86mm shorter at 2829mm however kneeroom stays the same and headroom is only 13mm less. Cargo room is also only slightly less, five litres down at 490L in total with the seats up. However the 60/40 folding seats do offer up extra space over the VF11 when flat.It’s identifiably corporate GM inside yet familiar at the same time. Climate control has the same light aqua hued LEDs inside dials that are inset in their own nook under the audio controls, the driver’s info screen is instantly recognisable in its monochrome presentation with ino accessed via dial and button on the indicator stalk. There’s a single USB port in there and a pair at the end of the centre console for rear seat passengers. The gear selector is framed in chrome whic catchs the sun and reflects directly into the driver’s eyes. Audio wise there’s Bluetooth streaming but you’ll need to go up to the VXR, RS-V, and Calais to get a DAB tuner and satnav. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard though. Features such as wireless smartphone charging for compatible smartphones and Head Up Display are found further up the chain. The touchscreen is a seven inch unit, down an inch available in the previously mentioned spec levels. But although the driver’s seat is electrically powered, the passenger seat gets only fore and aft, and seat back tilt, adjustment. Nope, no height adjustment, and as the seats are low anyway, passengers have already commented about how they’re not able to see clearly forward.Actual interior trim is pretty good, as is fit and finish, however the glovebox’s clasp on the left hand side doesn’t close as clean;y, requiring an extra push to seat it firmly. There’s no noticeable switch inside to release the hatch, with anyone wishing to open it needing the fob to press on the Holden logo at the rear. The Tourer (wagon) models have a foot operated opening process with a sensor embedded underneath with an added extra. A light shines the Holden logo downwards so there’s no mistaking where the foot should be waved.Where the 100,000 plus kilometres of testing have really paid off is in the ride quality. Knowing the ZB would be greeted with varying degrees of (lack of) enthusiam, it’s a hugely important part of the equation. Simply put, the ride is as good as you can get in competence, comfort, sporting, absorbption, feedback, dynamics. It’s a lighter steering feel, understandably, compared to the VF2 with the 3.6L V6 weighing more than new turbo four, but its so well calibrated that it’s almost instinctive.Throttle induced torque steer is virtually eradicated and it really needs a heavy foot from standstill to feel anything like it. Slow speed twirling has the nose follow as if laser tracked, freeway speeds (with 100 km/h turning the engine over at just 1250 or so) requires less steering input to move around. Damping from the McPherson strut/four link suspension is superb, especially over the more unsettled tarmac sections of Sydney’s road system. Float is non-existent nor will the ZB follow ruts or feel as if it’ll snap back. It’s possibly, in ZB four cylinder trim, as good a chassis for a off-shore developed but locally fettled car as we can get.In a technical sense there’s plenty to like. Stop/Start is standard, and unlike the recently tested Equinox, can be deactivated. Forward Collision Alert, Lane Keep Assist, Low Speed Autonomous Emergency Braking is standard, as are Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Front/Rear Parking Assist. Add in items like Pedestrian Alert, Side Blind Zone Alert, and Following Distance Indicator and it’s clear that the ZB Commodore is taking the name to a higher level.

With an introductory driveaway price (March 2018) of $38,990 Holden are also enticing new buyers with a seven year warranty and roadside assistance package.

At The End Of The Drive.
There’s absolutely no doubt that this is possibly the most important car in Australian motoring in decades. It needs to be right and here’s why. As part of an interview I did with Holden’s former head of PR, Sean Poppitt, one of the questions asked was, naturally, why stay with the Commodore nameplate. Poppitt’s response? “There wasn’t one single thing that drove that decision…there’s a number of different factors we considered…one of the first ones was this: we went out and talked to Commodore owners. We went and talked to non-Commodore owners, and we did a really extensive market research piece, sitting down with customers and non-customers and asking that question. The overwhelming response we got was to keep the name.”

And to some, therein lies the rub. Holden conducted exclusive and extensive product reviews, inviting those that were Commodore owners to drive sessions. Feedback was asked for, weighed, used. Many, many, many detractors of keeping the name would, ore than likely either not have driven the ZB nor, likely, would take up an offer to do so. Quite simply. More’s the pity, and more fool them. Admittedly, AWT’s exposure has been solely to the ZB RS four cylinder sedan, however if this as an entry level car can impress so well….Holden, you know where to find me to provide more review cars.

Here’s where you can go to find and more and, importantly, book a test drive: 2018 Holden ZB Commodore sedan information

2019 Lamborghini Urus Unveiled For Australia.

Lamborghini‘s long awaited SSUV or Super Sport Utility Vehicle, the Urus, was unveiled to media in Sydney’s Barangaroo district today (March 13, 2018). For the Australian market it will be priced from $390,000 (with GST and LCT included) plus on road costs. Weighing less than 2250kg, it will boast a V8 of 4.0L capacity, twin turbos which will give the engine 478kW and 850Nm of peak torque at 2250rpm, all wheel steer, and should see the ton in 3.6 seconds on its way to a top speed of 305 km/h.Lamborghini video 1 Lamborghini video 2

As expected, it’s a technological showcase. The DOHC engine features cylinder deactivation, twin scroll turbos, and is bolted to an eight speed automatic transmission. A all wheel drive system is capable of splittling torque from up to 70% to the front wheels to 87% to the back wheels. In normal driving it’s 40/60 front to rear. Torque vectoring is built in and works with the selectable driving modes to apportion torque where and as needed. Operated via a smart looking “tamburo” selector switch, there’s Strada, Terra (off-road), Neve (snow), Sabbia (sand), Sport, and Corsa.Depending on which driving mode is selected, the vectoring system on the 3003mm wheelbase will reduce or add grip, provide more or less oversteer as required, and cpmbines with the rear wheel steering system to provide sporting or agile driving experiences. The rear itself will move at + or – three degrees and will have all four wheels pointing in the same or opposite directions (in-phase or counter-phase) depending on speed.Lamborghini’s DNA shines through in smaller uet as important details, such as the exhaust note. Again it’s speed and drive mode dependent. In Strada it’s quiet, almost a background thrum. In Corsa it’ll be a more sonorous and guttural note emitted through the bespoke outlet system.The “tamburo” (or drum) selector dial allows a progressive move through the various modes and cycles through top to bottom before returning to the top as the selector lever is moved. It’s joined with the air suspension system to have each mode lift or lower the ride height to suit. It’s an adjustable system that can be left in Anima or automatic mode. Or the driver can select Ego to adjust manually.Underneath its angular, aerodynamically tuned, exterior is a mix of steel and aluminuim for the chassis. The cross members are light weight, as are the door frames, plus the front axle is bolted to an aluminuim subframe. The rear is a mix of aluminuim and steel in a cell structure, with all four corners rolling on 21 to 23 inch forged aluminuim with a choice of season suiting tyres. Inside are Carbon Ceramic brakes at 440 x 40 mm at the front, and 370 x 30 mm at the rear.The interior is beautifully appointed and includes a pair of super clear touchscreens, a four channel eight speaker sound system, with a 1700 watt B&O system and 21 speakers an option, aluminuim framed seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth media streaming, and a DVD player. A DAB tuner and TV tuner are optional extras.Exterior design reflects the DNA of Lamborghini. It has short overhangs, a muscular stance, broad rear haunches, and a roof line that slides down into the LED tail lights. Up front is a deep set spoiler with air-inlets that almost but not quite dominate the view. Also up front is that powerplant, the first front engined Lamborghini for quite some time. From above, the lines draw the eye towards the somewhat piched waistline before spreading out to highlight the tail lights and and rear panels.Orders for the Lamborghini Urus are being taken now for deliveries in late 2018 or early 2019.

With thanks to Origin Agency and Lamborghini Australia.

2018 Haval H2: Private Fleet Car Review.

It’s fair to say that the Chinese company Haval doesn’t have a widely known presence in Australia. There’s some advertising on TV in early 2018 to let people know of the four model range, including the H2. It’s not unhandsome to look at, not bad to be in, and is well priced and equipped. But yes, there’s a but….In profile there’s little doubt that the H2 is aiming at BMW, with an X1 or X2 presence. And this comes as no surprise as the designer is one Pierre Leclercq, the former head of design at…BMW. Inside it’s Range Rover’s tidy lidy Evoque, with a slightly overdone silver-grey plastic trim that won’t be to everyone’s taste. It’s cloth on the seats, comfortable, but set perhaps a little too high, which also brings in the high roofed resemblance to the Beemers. It’s well proportioned, and in the test car’s pearlescent white, looks good in the drive. There’s low-set LED driving lights, LED indicators, and distinctive Haval badged four bar grill, and BMW-esque tail lights in the non-powered tailgate.Motorvation is courtesy of a 1.5L turbocharged petrol engine with a rated fuel economy for the auto of 9.0L per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle. We finished at 8.5L/100km on a mainly suburban run. It does feel like it needs a bigger tank as it was on 1/4 to go with just under 400km covered. Peak power is 110kW at a typical small four 5600rpm. Peak torque is 210Nm between 2200-4500rpm. In comparison, the Holden Equinox with the same tech and capacity pumps 275Nm between 2000-4000. The Equinox tested had a six speed auto, the H2 also had a six speed auto. However there’s more to the Haval’s engine and gearbox combo than simply a comparitive dearth of torque.

It’s indecisive in its power delivery; sometimes first and second saw moving from standstill quicker than other times, particularly in a straight line move as opposed to off the line from a corner. There’s significant turbo lag at best, and a lag of urge in third or fourth in the same rev range where you’d have some pull below or above those ratios. Mash the pedal and although well within the torque band, forward motion was slower than the Titanic where she is now. Yet, at other times, the slightest touch of the pedal would see the H2 respond appropriately.

There was a mix of silky smoothness and jerkiness where it was once smooth. Not once at anything other than freeway cruising did it feel as if it was cohesive and capable of not confusing the driver. The auto has Snow and Sports modes, with Snow activated by a button in the centre console. Otherwise it’s a stand, reasonably well ratioed, six speed that shifts smoothly enough when it’s behaving itself.Inside, as mentioned, it’s not a bad spot. The dash dials hint strongly at Evoque, with a crystal look insert at every second speed indicator and brackets a colour 3.5 inch LCD screen that didn’t show speed but showed tyre pressure, instand and average fuel consumption, a layout that anyone with the Evoque would recognise, meaning its well laid out and easy to spot where things are. But…the CD/Bluetooth streaming/infotainment/non-DAB system is easily the worst we’ve experienced.

1. It doesn’t power off for something between five to ten minutes after the car powers off. Result? Flat battery. 2. None of the touchscreen tabs on the otherwise nice enough looking screen responded to touch until again after five to ten minutes of power on. 3. EVERY time the head unit was powered up it would go through a boot cycle of over fifteen seconds. This was irrespective of whether starting from an overnight off or whether you had JUST powered it off.

As a result it made using the whole thing harder than what it should have been. Changing stations had to be done using the toggle switch in the tiller and any sound settings had to wait until, like an old tube style radio, it had “warmed up”. Navigation wasn’t bad to look at but was largely rendered useless and actual audio quality was pleasing and clear enough. The sunroof is operated via an aircraft style dial above the driver and passengers head, with presets to open and close.Switchgear and build quality stood out as being of high quality for the most part, with an odd squeak here and there for a vehicle that had around 9850km or so and handback. There’s plenty of headroom as you’d expect from a 1814mm tall vehicle, plenty of legroom from the shorter than it looks 4335mm length and 2560mm wheelbase, and enough shoulder room for two kids in the 1695mm width.The H2 itself comes with a choice of two or four (all) wheel drive in Premium and Lux level trim. There’s really only the difference in dashboard trim here that separates the four levels, as 12V sockets, cargo blind, stainless steek door sill scuff plates, keyless entry/start/stop, a nice to the touch leather tiller (which features a small Audi-esque badge at the bottom), six airbags, tyre pressure monitoring, and traction control in its various forms are standard across the range. Cargo space is just big enough for a family’s weekly shop. When it comes to safety, the Haval H2 does come with an ANCAP five star safety rating.Where the H2 shone was in ride and drive quality. The electrically assisted steering was slightly numb on centre otherwise was solid in communicationand heft, The McPherson strut front and multi-link independent rear were beautifully tuned for a balance of comfort and absorption against a sporting enough ride when trialled through a well know one way downhill run, and had plenty of grip from the Kumho 235/55/18 Solus rubber wrapping the (optionally available) red painted brake callipers. There’s confidence in chucking it around thanks to a front and rear track of 1525mm/1520mm and confidence in stopping as the brakes respond to a light touch and retard forward progress…..progressively. It’s also lovely and quiet inside, to the point where a junior staffer asked “Is it electric?”

Haval further sweeten the deal with a standard five year/100,000 km warranty and five years roadside assistance, plus a capped price service offering.

At The End Of The Drive.
Haval’s H2 suffers from the death of a thousand paper cuts. Individually the niggles are mildly aggravating. As a package, as beautifully set up as a handler it is, those papercuts are enough to potentially not overcome, depending on your own driving preferences, the attractive starting price of $24,990 driveaway for the 4×2 Premium with auto. There’s no doubt at all that the indecisive driveline won’t be seen by some as a deal breaker but it’s also without doubt it needs more work. The infotainment unit needs hauling out and throwing away, and there’s any number of cars out there with far superior units.

If you look past the driveline and infotainment hiccups, you’ll be rewarded with a good looking, well handling, roomy enough for four, well priced SUV. PF is due to test the new Haval H9 in early April, 2018.