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Archive for May, 2018

Opening The Door To Motorsport.

Motorsport in Australia is thriving in some areas, not so in others. There’s categories and events that many would not be aware of, yet they’re at full strength. The one make Hyundai Excel series is one, FoSC or Festival of the Sporting Car is another. State level motorsport country wide is flourishing with the champions of the next generation out there in their Formula Vee, Formula Ford, perhaps their Formula 3 or Formula 4. There’s young ladies and gentlemen campaigning in a near fifty year old Holden HQ from Barbagallo to Baskerville, and veteran drivers such as John Bowe racing in all sorts of cars at all sorts of events.Molly Taylor is driving her rally specced and prepped Subaru in rallies around the country, and of course we have just seen Perth’s Daniel Ricciardo win at the Monaco F1 GP, and Will Power creating history by being the first Australian to win the Indy 500. Underlying all of these events is one crucial component. The officials working in front and from behind the scenes.

A huge proportion of how a motor sport event is built and staffed is thanks to officials that give up their time to be a part of the world’s biggest family. The family of motorsport. I recently wrote an article for Australia’s biggest aftermarket spare parts for classic cars company,Rare Spares article , where I talked to three people at various stages of their motorsport careers. Each of the three will state unequivocally that they simply can NOT go racing without the volunteer trackside officials.Here’s some points of view from those that are the steel behind motorsport.

Carolyn: “In 1998 I won tickets to Oran Park truck races from my ISP and got bored watching so I asked the girl at pit in how she got the job. She sent me to the office who referred me to timing. It was great fun and I’ve been to many events and race/ rally locations since. Highly recommend it.”

Marcus: “I’ve been around motorsport all my life. Dad raced Speedway on Tassie when I was younger.. Dad was also a track marshal so as a young bloke in Sydney first time spent many hours at Amaroo and Oran Park playing in the dirt as you do at a young age.. In November 1987 I had my first experience on a flagpoint at Baskerville and I was hooked.Did my first Bathurst 1000 in 1988 as a 15 year old what a eye opener.. In the years since I’ve been around Australia flagging at ATCC and Supercars.. For last 10 years ago I started doing more lower key events and clubbies because there was more satisfaction.. I still do the occasional big event but love doing club events… I’ve been blessed to have many mentors in my journey, obviously my father David and my Uncle Ted that taught me basically everything.. I’m very proud to be Fire & Recovery trained on top of my flagging… I’m at peace when I’m track side.”

Evan: “I started in Newcastle as a steward in 1978 with Newcastle Sporting Car Club, later also as a scrutineer and Clerk of Course – mainly rally, khana-cross and hill-climb. After moving to Sydney in 1986 my focus changed to circuits, with a little of the others still on the side. Sydney is a totally different beast to Newcastle – however having been NSCC’s State Council Delegate enabled me to get to know the right people of the time. Joining the ARDC was also of significant benefit as well as participation in a number of State panels. Basically like so many things in life, networking and training and proving yourself to the right people reaps rewards.”Cody: “I got into motorsport through a long time friend and fellow volunteer firefighter for the NSW Rural Fire Service. We both volunteered as fire marshals, he quit and here I am here 16yrs later still officiating. After we joined came as a officials no, because our RFS training used as recognition of prior learning.”

Corey: “Always had an interest and wanted to be apart of motorsport but never had the money to drive so i choose the next best thing to be involved and now wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Teena: “ Used to work in the field & wanted to be involved again.It’s interesting to note a big part of being an official is the training aspect. CAMS, The Confederation of Australian Motor Sport, is located in offices around the country and have a solid training program for beginners through to upper echelon players. Start off with CAMS here

Circuits around the country have events where at a driver’s level, a potential official can see what it’s like to be on the tarmac. Sydney Motor Sport Park have a slightly more focused option. Called Startline, it showcases aspects of the western Sydney located track that many would not otherwise get to see. People get to meet well established officials, get a guided tour of the venue, have explanations of which roles can be available and how Australian motorsport officials have traveled to international motor sport events such as the F1 Grand Prix. It’s completely free and is highly recommended for anyone that wishes to become a trackside official. Here’s where you can get on to the Startline

Me? I’ve worked trackside at the Melbourne F1 Grand Prix as a communications marshall. This is the link between trackside and race control, the eyes and ears, that reports incidents and advises race control of the status of what’s happening. I’ve worked at Rally Australia, Barbagallo Raceway, Oran Park, Bathurst, and have been the “voice” of Sydney Motor Sport Park since 2004. And like everyone mentioned here, I started by having a door open.

Come and join our family. The motorsport family.

(A big thanks to the officials that gave of their time, surnames for privacy reason have been deleted).

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Haval H9 Ultra.

Haval‘s H9 is the latest and largest entry from the Chinese based car maker. Available in two trim levels, the Lux and Ultra (aka Premium), they’re well kitted, aren’t terrible to look at either inside or out, and well priced too. The Lux starts at $41,990 and the Ultra at $45,990 with both being drive-away. The only real options look like external paint and interior colours.

Both have a turbocharged 2.0L petrol engine, eight speed auto, and weigh over 2000 kilograms. This equates to an official fuel consumption figure on the combined cycle of 10.9L of 95RON per 100 kilometres from the 80L tank. Around town the Haval H9 Ultra, weighing 2250kg plus fuel and passengers, delivered a pleasing 12.5L/100km from the 180kW/350Nm engine. Towing capacity is 2500kg.The 4826mm long machine seats seven and the rear seats are powered. Activated by toggles which much be held to have the seat go from top to bottom and reverse, it’s a slightly painstaking way to get an extra two bums on seats. There are illuminated alloy side steps shrouded in plastic, LED strip lighting inside which can be changed at the touch of a button, the doors have LED puddle lamps that cast the Haval logo in red. Up front there’s “bendy” headlights and the LED system shines a crisp white that provides plenty of safe forward looking distance.Outside it looks like a pumped up version of a early noughties X-Trail thanks to the vertical lights at the rear. At the front there are stylish hints of Toyota LandCruiser and Prado. There’s a fair size comparison too, as the H9 stands and spans 1900mm in height and width. It’s an imposing sight to see, both in a shopping centre carpark and on the road parked.The interior features acres of leather. The (heated for Ultra) steering wheel, front, middle, and rear seats are leather, the front seats are heated in the Ultra, and the rear section has its own climate control system. The Lux has manually adjusted cloth seats, the Ultra’s are powered, have memory settings and a massage function. The third row seats in the Lux are manual, and the second row in the Lux miss out on heating as well. The Ultra also gets a full length glass roof and the front section is a movable sunroof. These are operated by a dial above the driver and passenger, and seem counter-intuitive in the direction of rotation to operate the roof. It’s a pleasant place to be and the seats themselves in the Ultra were very comfortable, supportive, and the massage function worked well enough too.The cabin the Ultra had was of black and bone. It’s a nice contrast as the bone tended more towards the white shade, not the beige shade as seen elsewhere, and suited the silver the revieww car came with. However the smoky grey faux wood trim in the review car is a matter of personal preference. The dash itself is clearly laid out and easy on the eye, with a sensible design layout, a centre LCD screen with changeable information displays and red highlighting. Haval add a small strip style display about the touchscreen in the centre of the dash that displays height, barometric pressure, tilt angle, and compass direction. The audio system is from Infinity and although not fitted with DAB, the touchscreen system proffers AM/FM and some very clean sound through the ten speaker mix. Switch gear is mostly cleanly laid out however the climate control button labelled Mode doesn’t quite bring up what is expected appears to work and the Synch between driver and passenger isn’t as clear either.Being as big as it is, it’s no surprise the H9 has plenty of shoulder, leg, and head room inside. Although the wheelbase is a surprisingly shortish 2800mm, the overall width and height give plenty of head, leg, and shoulder room. All round vision is good thanks to plenty of glass making for an airy cabin and there’s plenty of forward vision thanks to the height the driver sits at.
There’s a full suite of airbags on board sans driver’s kneebag. Haval aren’t alone in this though. Safety tech is of a high level such as front and rear parking sensors, Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Assist, Blind Spot Alert, Tyre Pressure Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning, but no Autonomous Emergency Braking. The head rests in the front seat are crash programmed to move forward and cradle the heads of the front seat passengers.Out on the road that 350Nm and two plus tonnes don’t seem to promise anything other than a lumbering performance. Thankfully that’s not quite the case. A gentle push of the go pedal has the H9 move away softly and with increasing velocity nicely however a decent prod will have the big machine somewhere between “this is ok” and “wow, that’s pretty good”. The eight speed auto will drop quietly down a cog or two and having eight ratios does mean there’s better drivability when needed.

That peak torque is on tap between 1800 to 4500 however that weight counts heavily (no pun intended). This is where a petrol only range needs support from a diesel and with most two litre diesels hovering around the 400Nm mark, it’s perhaps something Haval should be looking at sooner than later. However it’s more likely a hybrid drivetrain would be fitted than an oiler. It’s not all roses and silk though.The eight speed transmission is frustrating in its inconsistency. Gears are selected via an Audi style rocker item and Park is a button on the top.The transmission will not engage unless the seat belts are plugged in which is great, but the variances in between when the transmission engages is another. It’s erratic in that it will sometimes grab first smoothly, sometimes not. There’s some instant engagement, there’s sometimes a delay before lurching forward. The engine is in need of more refinement as there’s a coarse feeling to the way it spins. The auto, once warmed up, is as smooth as a modern eight speed with European ties should be and it was rare that a gear change was physically felt. It’s designed for off-road as well, the H9, as there’s a switch in the centre console for the AWD and has a locking rear diff, Low Range (where Neutral must be selected to engage), Snow, Sport, Sand, Auto, and Mud. It’s simple to use and although the Haval H9 is capable of off roading, it’s a safer soft roader. On a dedicated 4WD track, the Haval’s capabilities were tested and found to be suitable for soft-roading to mild off-roading. A 200mm ground clearance is where the H9 is let down and a conversation with a protruding piece of granite had the driver’s side sidestep shrouding broken and pushed back a couple of inches. The clearance means the 18 inch alloys and 265/60 rubber look undersized in the wheel wells. Approach and departure angles are 28 and 23 degrees respectively, and the H9 will crawl sideways at 23 degrees as well.

The H9 has a strange steering mix. On centre it feels rubbery yet the chassis will respond to the slightest touch. Left and right movement is virtually instant and allows for adept and confident handling on road. Road manners themselves for the Haval H9, bearing in mind its 1926mm width and 1900mm height, are decently good for such a large machine. The H9 is suspended on double wishbones up front and a supple multi-link rear, allowing for a slightly taut initial ride before quickly transitioning into a beautiful level of comfort.

Haval Australia has a five year warranty, five year 24/7 roadside assistance, but just 100,000 kilometres.

At The End Of The Drive.
The 2018 Haval H9 is a wonderful example of what feedback to a company can achieve. It’s a more refined vehicle, competent on road and to a measure of off road, provides plenty of room and comfort, and certainly fits the bill in the battle for the wallet. With a range now spanning four models, Haval’s becoming something to watch on the radar. Head here for more H9 info: 2018 Haval H9

Car Sales Top 10

New car sales are still buoyant in Australia, with many buyers happily spending on an upgrade.  According to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), the total vehicles sold in April, including passenger cars, SUVs, light and heavy commercial vehicles and the national government fleet was 82,930 units.  Of these units the Toyota Hilux re-claimed first place as the top-selling vehicle, with 3596 sales in April.  How much of the car sales pie do Electric Vehicles take out?  Let’s have a look at Australia’s top 10 models sold in April 2017:

  1. Toyota HiLux (3,596 units)
  2. Toyota Corolla (2,979 units)
  3. Ford Ranger (2,796 units)
  4. Mazda3 (2,261 units)
  5. Toyota Land Cruiser (2,018 units)
  6. Hyundai i30 (1,903 units)
  7. Hyundai Tucson (1,816 units)
  8. Mazda CX5 (1,725 units)
  9. Mitsubishi ASX (1,706 units)
  10. Toyota Prado (1,699 units)

 

Across the Tasman, our New Zealand friends are seeing that their Top 10 car sales list is weighted toward the ute, and it looks more like this:

  1. Ford Ranger (2,360 units)
  2. Toyota Hilux (2,251 units)
  3. Toyota Corolla (1,501 units)
  4. Holden Colorado (1,164 units)
  5. Mitsubishi Triton (1,068 units)
  6. Nissan Navara (980 units)
  7. Toyota Rav4 (893 units)
  8. Mazda CX-5 (883 units)
  9. Suzuki Swift (825 units)
  10. Kia Sportage (795 units)

 

I couldn’t stop myself and I had to check out how Australia’s top selling models compared to the top ten models sold in the UK for April 2018.  Our UK friends are opting to buy smaller cars, I guess to cater for more congestion and greater intensities of city driving.  And this is how it looks for the UK top 10 models:

  1. Ford Fiesta (40,619 units)
  2. Volkswagen Golf (26,685 units)
  3. Nissan Qashqai (21,171 units)
  4. Ford Focus (19,344 units)
  5. Vauxhall Corsa (17,995 units)
  6. Ford Kuga (15,865 units)
  7. Mercedes A-Class (14,849 units)
  8. MINI (14,297 units)
  9. Vauxhall Mokka X (13,579 units)
  10. Mercedes C-Class (13,495 units)

And just for another take on car sales I decided to take a look at how the new car sales are tracking in ‘The Land Of The Free’.  Over in the States “Big is still better”, so the top 10 selling cars for the USA in March 2018 were:

  1. Ford F-Series (87,011 units)
  2. Chevrolet Silverado (52,547 units)
  3. Nissan Rogue (42,151 units)
  4. Ram Pick-up ( 41,307 units)
  5. Toyota RAV4 (34,937 units)
  6. Toyota Camry (35,264 units)
  7. Chevrolet Equinox (31,940 units)
  8. Honda Civic (32,584 units)
  9. Honda CR-V (31,868 units)
  10. Toyota Corolla (31,392 units)

It’s a funny thing considering people’s perceptions on what the best car might be to buy new.  In Australia we have a need for the 4×4, particularly when heading Outback.

New Zealander’s obviously love the ute – often with 4×4 capability.  The ute does give a flexibility to motoring that you just can’t find anywhere else on the car sales yard.

In the UK, owning a car that has an ability to park in tight spaces and remain frugal on a commute seems to stay at the forefront of why certain cars are purchased over others.

America continues to love their big rigs, and that’s why we still see the awesome Ford F-Series truck, Chevrolet Silverado and the Ram Pick-up in the top 4 buys.

For Australia in 2017 just 0.09% of the total new cars sold were Electric Vehicles.  For the USA in 2017 just 1.18% of the total new cars sold were Electric Vehicles.  UK figures show that in 2017 Electric Vehicles made up 1.9% of all new cars sold in the UK.  Across the ditch, Kiwis purchased 546 fully electric cars in New Zealand 2017, and this equates to 0.16% of the total new cars bought.    Electric Vehicles and their attributes have a ways to go before changing a car buyer’s mind-set to buy ‘plug-in’ over ‘combustion’.  The ball has started to roll, however, and we are seeing more plug-in stations becoming available in main Australian cities.

The Green Hell.

Every country has a racetrack that is loved, respected, and wanted to be raced upon by anyone from armchair console players to professional drivers. Australia has Mount Panorama, The US perhaps Laguna Seca as the pick. Britain has a few including Silverstone, and then there’s Germany’s Nürburgring.The location is steeped in history and can trace its origin back to the 1920s. Races were held on the roads and run under the auspices of the ADAC (Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club e.V). The Eifelrenen was an annual race that started in 1922. Held on 33 kilometres of public roads the mounting toll of damage and fatalities from this and other forms or racing lead to the founding of the original Nürburgring in 1927.

The original circuit had 187 bends and a distance of 28.265 kilometres. Bugatti driver Louis Chiron managed the quickest time and averaged 112.3 kilometres per hour. However, due to ongoing safety concerns, in 1929 it was decided to race only on the 22.8 kilometre Nordschleife for major races such as Grands Prix. The Südschleife, or South Ring, would host motorcycle and minor races on its separate 7.747 kilometre surface.

World War 2 intervened but racing recommenced in 1947. The Nordschleife would play host to the German Grand Prix. Names such as Alberto Ascari, Stirling Moss, Jim Clark, Juan Manuel Fangio, Jacky Ickx, Jacky Stewart, and John Surtees were soon made famous and took over the mantle of Ringmeister, a title given to drivers of pre WW2.
In the 1961 German Grand Prix practice sessions, Phil Hill became the first driver to slide under the nine minute mark and had a speed of 153.4 km/h. But by 1967 safety concerns had again been raised and modifications to the circuit were put in place. Regardless, the changes weren’t enough to placate the driving fraternity, with Scotsman Stewart dubbing the circuit “The Green Hell” after a rain soaked 1968 German Grand Prix, which, incidentally, Stewart won.More changes were made however the Nordschleife gained immortal notoriety in 1976. Although a decision had been made to make the 1976 GP the final one raced on the circuit, Austrian Niki lauda had tried to raise his co-drivers to a boycott level. The race went ahead in rainy conditions, and Lauda lost control of his Ferrari, crashing into the wall. Lauda was trapped and the ensuing fire nearly claimed his life.

Further track work reduced the overall length and in 1981 a new circuit was built which happened to incorporate part of the old circuits pit complex. Even this circuit called GP-Strecke was modified, extending the length from 4.5 km to 5.2 km. The circuit also has the distinction of becoming just the second circuit to name a turn after a driver, in this case turns 8 and 9 becoming the Schumacher S.

Mercedes-AMG GT S Roadster

Mercedes-Benz and AMG continue their strong family relationship with the release of the Mercedes-AMG GT S Roadster. This takes the AMG range to an even twelve in number.
The newest addition features a hand-built alloy 4.0 litre V8 and packs twin turbos. This means a peak horsepower output of 515 hp, and peak torque of 494 lb-ft. This should have the aluminium chassised machine seeing 60mph in just 3.7 seconds whilst on its way to a top whack of 192mph. That torque is available through 1900 to 5000 rpm, and powers the rear wheels via a seven speed transaxle.
To squeeze the engine into a relatively compact engine bay, AMG have engineered the engine to locate the turbos in the V between the cylinder heads. Because they’re close to the exhaust headers this aids in lowering emissions. There’s a dry sump system onboard which allows the engine to be located lower, helping handling by having a lower centre of gravity. Weight distribution is 47/53 percent front to rear.
The double wishbone suspension holds adjustable adaptive damping and big wheels & rubber. Nineteen inches up front and twenty at the rear, the footprint is massive at 265/35 and 295/30. Inside those big wheels are composite brakes with plenty of stopping power thanks to a 15.4 and 14.2 inch diameter front at rear, with a six piston/single piston combination. The suspension is controlled via a dial in the sumptuously appointed cabin, with Comfort, Sports, and Sports+ available at the twist of a finger.
This is complemented by a five mode drive system, including the aforementioned three plus Race and Individual. These modes tweak the ESP, the position of the exhaust flaps, the steering and suspension.
Inside it’s the bespoke Silver Chrome Interior package. AMG fit high visibility silver highlights to areas such as the center console, steering wheel, and airvent bezels which complement the standard MB-Tex man made leather look material and DINAMICA micro-fiber trim. AMG allow a buyer plenty of leeway to personalise the GT S with a range of trim color options such as two tone Nappa leather or Nappa leather and DINAMICA.
If Silver is not the preference then AMG can install their Piano Black Lacquer. A superb high quality high gloss black replaces the silver element and further complements the black trim options. There’s even more customization available with matt silver fiber glass, gloss or matt carbon fiber elements.
Being an open top car, Mercedes and AMG offer the AMG performance seats and AIRSCARF heating system. Designed and engineered to blow warm air through vents in the headrest , the AIRSCARF system provides comfort in elegant surroundings whilst driving in cooler environments.
But if all of this sounds like it’s not enough, AMG add more. Their DYNAMIC PLUS package offers an enhanced suspension setup, a broader range of peak horsepower, increased levels of interior appointments and revised engine/transmission mounts.
The exterior isn’t overlooked with AMG’s Carbon-Fiber and Exterior Night packages. The front spiltter, mirror housings, front bumper inlet housings and more can be ordered in either style.
Due for release in the United States in 2018, pricing for the Mercedes-AMG GT S Roadster will be released closer to the expected launch date.

EV Ponderings

EV Networking

With all the fuss and excitement of electric vehicles paving the way of the future it’s worth pondering what sort of new electric-vehicle technology could be part of our automotive future.  Interesting current discussion regarding what sort of electric-vehicle (EV) fuel stations, networking and technology Australia might employ is necessary for keeping the Australian EV fleet ready for the road.  Plenty of excellent EV and EV-infrastructure planning and  management has to happen now for us to get the best EV product rolled out for our country.

EVs need a simple and accessible recharging station that’s always handy – whether it be at home or on the move.  If we have too few power-up stations available, then the incentive to buy an EV becomes less appealing to the public.  At present the best EV technology manages to get some of the EV cars travelling around 300-to-400 km in ideal conditions before they require a recharge of their batteries.  Many cars, in real life, can hardly make it to 200 km before they require a top-up.  This makes country folk who travel large distances unlikely to want to buy a new EV – particularly if there is no handy recharge stations on-route.

Is it feasible to place powering-up stations every 100 km – or so – along a main arterial route between cities?  The answer is yes, and it is happening in places like Germany where German carmakers hope a network of high-power charging stations they are rolling out with Ford will set an industry standard for plugs and protocols that will give them the edge over other electric car rivals and manufacturers.  This competition is encouraging EV charging stations to be put in quickly across some of their main roads, making it easier to top-up the batteries on longer drives.  EV station points are slowly growing inside Australia’s main cities, but little is being done with regards to connecting the main centres with additional intercity recharging stations.  The sooner this is done, then the sooner we’ll see a big growth in Australian EV sales.

Connecting the EV power stations to the main grid is relatively straight forward.  However, it would be even better to have isolated EV micro grids where each EV power station can generate its own power for recharging vehicles so that any looming main-grid power outages are isolated from the micro grids.  When everybody and every-business in Australia switches to buying themselves a new EV, then it would seem a great doorway to causing nationwide havoc if some unseemly group takes out the major power stations across Australia!  Having a micro-grid that sources Australia’s abundant solar and wind energy could also tick the right boxes.

An interesting EV progression in Sweden is the creation of an electrified road (the world’s first) that can charge EVs as they drive along, potentially helping to cut the high cost of electric cars.  An electrified rail embedded in the tarmac of the 2 km road charges an EV truck automatically as it travels above it.  A movable arm attached to the truck detects the rail’s location in the road, and charging stops when the vehicle is overtaking or coming to a halt.  The system also calculates the vehicle’s energy consumption, which enables electricity costs to be debited per vehicle and per user.  Could Australia embrace this type of innovation and join Sweden in leading the way forward, allowing electric cars to be even cheaper than fossil fuel ones?

The new BMW i3 and i3s, Hyundai IONIQ, Jaguar I-PACE, Nissan LEAF and Renault Kangoo ZE are some of the latest EVs arriving in Australia.  I would encourage Australia to think outside the square and get onto the EV and power station new wave of technology for powering our nations new fleet of EVs.  Australia could even create their own unique plug-in technology and high-output stations for the best environmentally-friendly Australian EV system.

Are you an EV driver?  If you are, or even if you are taken by this new breed of vehicle, are there any items and processes you would like to see put in place so as we can all enjoy a premium Australia EV network?

EV Networking

Private Fleet Car Review: Tesla Model S P100 D & Model X P100D

They’re potentially expensive. They’re controversial. They’re cracking good drives. And totally fully electric. The Tesla range consisting of the Model S variants and Model X variants has been with us in Australia for a few years now and the Model S remains the most visible. The P100D name means the car is an all wheel drive machine, with a pair (the D stands for dual) of electric motors powering each corner. The 100, by the way, means the kilowatt hours the engines produce and it’s through the range the numbers tell the output. Body wise the Model S rocks a five door coupe shape in a smooth and svelte design, the Model X a more pumped roof.Pricing structure within Australia varies state by state for the Tesla cars. Tesla Model S pricing and Tesla Model X pricing are the links for your location, however starting prices are $113,200 for the Model S 75D and $120, 200 for the Model X 75D. The top of the range gets the “P” designation, with Ludicrous mode, top end interior, and Premium Upgrade package standard. That’s the zero to goodbye license in 2.9 seconds for the Model S and 3.1 seconds for the Model X. Passing speeds are also eyeball smashing with the sprint from 75 to 105 km/h lasting a mere 1.2 seconds.Interior trim is full machine made leather or as Tesla calls it, an ecologocally sustainable material, alcantara roof and pillar lining, a massive 17 inch touchscreen that controls virtually every aspect of the Tesla, and a key fob shaped like a car that has to be on you if you want to get in. There is an app that can go on your smartphone that will open and close doors, start the car, and even pre-start air-conditioning. However the corresponding service has to be enabled via the touchscreen for the mobile app to work. Should the key fob be mislaid the app can also be used to get you underway.The powered and heated seats are comfortable to a fault, the steering column is easily adjusted via an electric toggle, and it’s a pretty simple office to be in and a good one to look at.There’s carbon fibre inlays to complement the black plastic, leather, and alcantara, and looks a treat. Cup holders are on board but no door has storage in the Model S. None. The Model X, being aimed more at the family, comes with a customisable seating configuration of five, six, or seven seats, and the doors do get holders. The doors, by the way on the Model X are powered and opened via buttons on the fob. Individual doors can be opened or closed or all of them, including the gull wing rear passenger doors at the same time. The car and fob communicate wirelessly so when walking to or away from the P100D Model S the door handles slide out or in. It’s secure and safe and it’s a switchable option from the touchscreen, meaning it can be deactivated.

A talking point about Tesla vehicles is the autonomous driving factor. In a basic form it’s here however there’s some caveats and they’re pretty strong ones. Hidden in the B pillar and front guards are tiny cameras that link to software on board. If these cameras can see white roadside markings then the full LCD dash will display a grey steering wheel icon. This tells the driver that autonomous mode can be used. A small lever on the bottom left of the steering column needs to be pulled twice and this engages the software. BUT it also warns you to have your hands on the wheel and if there’s no lines, no auto steer. So what this means is that as a fully autonomous driving system, no, it’s not. As an Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) yes but the human factor is crucially important, still.

The main screen covers everything from driving modes, to a swipe to open or close the sunroof fitted to the review car. Battery usage, air-conditioning, radio apps like TuneIn and Spotify (no DAB, as a result) are all accessed at a touch, even down to an onboard user manual. The driver’s screen has information accessed via two roller switches on the steering wheel itself, such as navigation, fan speed, battery discharge rates, and more. The audio itself is wonderful and comes with Dolby Surround. The dash of the Model X has something akin to a soundbar mounted directly at the base of the windscreen too.The centre console is spacious, comes with one 12V and USB port, and prefitted with a charge point for Apple phones that have a Lightning port. If you’re an Android user, you have to make do with the USB port and cable. Having said that, the cars use Google maps for their mapping system. The rear camera provides a high resolution image which is great as the rear vision mirror wouldn’t look out of place in a 1960s car. There’s even a bio-weapons style defense mode, says Tesla, when it comes to the air-conditioning system, blocking pollen, viruses, and bacteria. A cold weather package is also available as an option for non P cars, which give touchscreen access to heating seats and steering wheel. Updates? Over the air with wifi.Outside the Model S is slinky, lit with LED at either end with a neon look, and at around the five metre mark in length covers some real estate. The Model X looks like it’s slightly shorter however the higher roof-line may have something to do with that visually as both cars share the same chassis. There’s no grille on either, an optional carbon fibre spoiler for the Model S and a fixed wing on the Model X (fitted on the test car), and with an engine up front, storage is restricted to a small “frunk” in the S, a slightly larger version in the X. That’s Tesla speak for a front trunk. And yes, you can only open this via the touchscreen. The charge port is on the left rear quarter and will open at a push or via the touchscreen as well.The rear cargo section in both is huge (up to 2492 litres for Model X in five seater configuration) and there’s a hidden compartment under the rearmost section to add even more space. And for all but the tallest of people, the front and rear seat space is more than adequate. There’s even a bio-weapons defense mode, says Tesla, when it comes to the air-conditioning system, blocking pollen, viruses, and bacteria.To say the pair are quick is a massive understatement. There genuinely is nothing like it on four wheels. That all wheel drive system and the nature of electrical motors where max torque is at zero means eyeballs become pancakes at the back of the brain pan. Ludicrous mode is simply unbelievable if you’ve never experienced it. Overtaking is a doddle and slowing not only is super quick, it feeds energy back into the batteries. That recharge energy is also a switchable option as to how “hard” the braking system hauls down off acceleration. With a time of three seconds to 100 km/h a driver needs to be ready to deal with that acceletation otherwise issues, politely, could arise. And it all happens with no engine noise at all.

Getting underway is simple. As long as the key fob is with you, it’s a matter of foot on the brake, pull a small (and cheapish looking) lever on the right of the steering column down, and go. The onboard GPS has a memory where it can raise and lower the car’s airbag suspension as you travel a previously driven and stored route. Parking is a press of a button at the end and that engages a parking brake. Around thirty seconds after exit, the door handles retract on the Model S and the car goes to sleep.Ride quality is superb if using the standard suspension setting. It will go lower and hunkers down at speed by itself, but raise the car and it crashes and bangs. The bedamned speed restrictors in shopping centres are ignored, there’s simply no body movement yet it never once feels like it’s going to shake, rattle, and roll. Considering the massive 20, 21, or 22 inch turbine style wheels and rubber, the overall ride is very enjoyable.

The steering is precise and that’s crucial with such an astounding drivetrain. There’s no freeplay, no wasted turning, although the turning circle itself would be shamed by an American aircraft carrier. It’s superbly weighted too, with the standard mode almost indiscernible from the Sports mode.Range is, naturally, dependent on how the P100D is driven. In day to day traffic usage a good 600+ kilometres should be expected and with the charging network in Australia expanding, finding a place to plug in shouldn’t be too hard. The Google maps included allow a listing of charging points to be easily located. An online version of Tesla recharge points helps too. Naturally, just like a petrol or diesel vehicle, that expected range is subject to driving habits and conditions.

On that point, Tesla include a charging cable system that allows the cars to hook into your home energy system. If you have a solar/battery combination that will ease the small load on the normal home setup however Tesla do offer a supercharger style package that works directly from a three phase output, meaning quicker charging.

Warranty wise Tesla offer a comprehensive 8 year, infinite battery and drive-train warranty plus a standard 8 year limited warranty for all other components.

At The End Of The Drive.
The Tesla Model X as tested was $290,310 on road, with a starting price of $205,700. The metallic silver paint was a $1400 option, the 22 inch Black Onyx wheels $7600. The Enhanced Autopilot system was a further $6900 and the six seater configuration with centre console came to $8300. That’s before GST, luxury car tax and other government charges. Included are items such as the Premium Interior, Subzero Heating package, and Smart Air Suspension. The Model S starting point was $198,100. On top apart from the aforementioned government charges were $2100 for the frankly gorgeous metallic red paint, $6200 for the 21 inch turbine style wheels, $6900 for the autopilot system, which took the sedan to $267,650.

These put the pair up in the high end Mercedes-Benz/Audi/BMW/Jaguar price point…BUT, no more fuel costs, fast charging at selected sites to give around 400 kilometres of range in around a half hour (time to pause and enjoy that coffee and cake)…and then there’s that breathtaking acceleration and virtually incomparable ride quality, huge touchscreen, and that eerie cabin silence as you quietly whoosh away.

Are they worth it? The old saying that goes something like “you get what you pay for” says yes. Compared to those high end cars the cabin does lack ambience, appeal, cachet even. If wood trim or rocker gear selectors are your thing, that’s fine. If you’re a driver and technologically inclined, there’s still plenty of options. None of those options currently offer the sheer driving exhilaration of a Tesla. And for the driver, that’s enough.

Holden’s Equinox Goes Oily.

As promised by Holden, a new diesel engine option has been made available for its Equinox range.
Available across the range, the 1.6-litre turbo diesel boasts an impressive fuel economy from just 5.6L/100km, while retaining strong power and torque of 100kW and 320Nm respectively.

The third engine to be introduced in the Equinox range, the new 1.6-litre turbo diesel engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and available in front-wheel-drive or all-wheel drive. Introduced in late 2017, the all-new Equinox now adds longer-range driving and improved fuel economy to an already impressive list of high-tech features including wireless phone charging and heated and ventilated front seats.

The family friendly, mid-size SUV is also practical, creating a life of ease with its built in hands-free power tailgate† and advanced park assist technology. Equinox also boasts a segment first safety alert driver’s seat which gives drivers a small vibration to alert them of potential hazards. This is not intended to replace the expected driver’s attention levels.

Holden’s Executive Director – Marketing, Kristian Aquilina said: “The new 1.6-litre turbo diesel engine boasts leading efficiency while remaining so smooth and refined, you forget you’re driving a diesel. The turbo diesel joins the 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre turbo petrol engines currently sold in the range, meaning we’ve got an Equinox to suit every taste, and with our extended seven-year warranty, now is a great time to buy.”

Diesel Equinox will be available at Holden dealers nationwide from 4 May 2018 and offered with a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty plus seven years roadside assist.
The Holden Equinox LS+ kicks off the range at $35,990 with the LT at $39,990. The LTZ and LTZ-V are $47,290 and $49,290 respectively, with all pricing a Manufacturers Recommended Retail Price.

Ford Australia Extends Warranty.

Ford Australia joins the growing band of manufacturers to provide a longer than three years warranty by offering customers a five-year unlimited kilometre Ford Express New Vehicle Warranty, as standard on all new vehicles, including Ford’s highly acclaimed commercial vehicle range. The warranty applies to all new vehicles delivered from May 1, 2018 and replaces Ford’s three year 100,000 kilometre offering.

It’s not restricted to passenger vehicles either, with commercial vehicles such as Ranger and Transit included. This makes Ranger a class leader in its segment.The five year, unlimited kilometre warranty extends Ford Australia’s comprehensive after-sales care package, which already includes satnav updates including Sync3 systems for up to seven years & Sync2 through to September 2014, Auto Club Membership with Roadside Assistance, loan car and their Service Price Promise.

Graeme Whickman, the CEO of Ford Australia, said: ““We’re transforming our dealerships, our products, our customer service and ownership experience, and today we’re introducing a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty to offer even more value for our customers. As Australians continue to pivot towards commercial vehicles, and with more buyer types choosing these vehicles for commercial and daily use, Ford is pleased to include its commercial vehicle range in the new warranty offering.”

For further information, speak to your local Ford dealership.

AMG: It’s All Four The Coupe.

It’s rare that Mercedes-Benz and AMG make lots of noise about a new model so when they do it’s clearly something special. And so it is with the AMG four door coupe called, logically, the AMG GT 4 Door Coupe. However there’s more being offered to commemorate the release. The Edition 1 will feature bespoke interior and exterior enhancements.

There will be 21 inch forged alloy wheels in black, a Graphite Grey Magno paint scheme, a bluff nose that links to a longs and slinky coupe body. Aerodynamically there’s a larger front bar and integrated air intakes, a larger rear diffuser, and a stand out rear wing. It’s fixed to the metalwork however the wing itself can be adjusted by the driver whilst on the move, with the whole body package dropping the drag co-efficient and increasing downforce.

AMG fit their Performance seats with memory placement inside and they’re a gorgeous mix of Magma Grey Nappa leather with black highlights, highlighted by contrasting yellow cross-stitching. The cabin is further enhanced by matt toned carbon fibre and a Performance enhanced steering wheel with micro-fiber and yellow stitching, plus the seat belts are complementary yellow. The door panels are trimmed in Magma Grey as are the armrests and center console. The air-conditioning is also supplied with a new, bespoke, AMG #63 fragrance.

AMG engines are known for their ferociousness and to celebrate their first four door coupe, a hand-built 4.0L twin turbo V8 is shoehorned into the engine bay. Power and torque are indecently decent at 630 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of twist between 2,500 to 4,500 rpm. This results in a zero to sixty mph time of 3.1 seconds as it gets on its way to a top speed of 195 mph.
The powerplant is bolted to the Performance 4Matic + all wheel drive system. Electronically there’s variable torque distribution, Drift Mode, and works hand in hand with the AMG Speedshift nine speed auto.


Pricing hasn’t yet been released but the car will be showcased at the Nurburgring during the ADAC Zurich 24 Hour race over the weekend of 12/13 May, and will be available for the US market in early 2019. A GT 53 model will be made available for later in the year.