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Archive for August, 2018

Not All Supercars Have A V8: Lotus Releases The Exige Sport 410.

Colin Chapman said: “Simplify, then add lightness.” It’s become the cornerstone of the Lotus car company philosophy and the newest addition to the Lotus family, the Exige Sport 410, certainly adheres to this. It weighs just 1054kg to start with, making it the lightest V6 Exige made. Add mumbo from a 3.5L supercharged V6, and the 305kW/420Nm engine will slingshot the Exige Sport 410 to 100km/h in just 3.3 seconds. Top speed maxes at 290km/h in the Coupe version. There’ll also be a and Roadster version and will be priced from $159,990. That includes Luxury Car Tax and GST but not government and dealer charges.Intended to be a more road aimed version than the 430 it’ll feature sports seats rather than carbon fibre buckets. Glass Fibre Reinforced Plastic replaced carbon fibre front splitter, rear diffuser, and wing blades. Air conditioning becomes standard and a lithium ion battery is replaced with a standard tech battery. Otherwise the Exige Sport 410 shares the same chassis, brakes, suspension, and drivetrain as the Exige 430. Alcantara trim is found inside.Peak power is found at 7000rpm and the peak torque is spread across a range of 4000 revs, from 3000 to 7000rpm. Aero grip comes courtesy of a reprofiled front end, with wider air intakes aiding cooling as well.Downforce is a total of 150kg, with 60kg holding down the nose and 90kg at the rear thanks to the diffuser and rear wing. Ride and comfort on the road are thanks to the three stage adjustable Nitron dampers. Fabled roll bar company Eibach comes to the party with their adjustable front and rear bars, with rubber from Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 at 285/30/18 and 215/45/17 rear and front. They clad ultra-lightweight forged alloys which are available in either silver or black. Stopping power is from AP racing with forged four piston calipers.Extra lightness is on offer from a titanium exhaust system, subtracting ten kilos at the rear of the Exige Sport 410. Carbon fibre elements such as the binnacle and roof can be added. If one is of a mind to go trackside then items such as an onboard fire suppressant system and non airbag tiller can be added. Further customisation can be added via a choice of four colours from the Interior Colour Pack. Extra items such as a Bluetooth compatible audio system can be specified. Talk to Lotus Cars Australia for more bespoke customisation options and availability.

Kia Australia Releases 2019 Cerato S, Cerato Sport, Cerato Sport+

The evergreen Kia Cerato sedan has been given a pretty solid makeover, with the hatch due for its own tickle and release later this year, plus GT versions for both are said to be on their way. There’s also been a range realignment name-wise.. We have driven the Kia Cerato S, Cerato Sport, and Cerato Sport+.

The Cerato S sedan starts from $23,790 plus on roads, as tested. The review car was in Steel Grey, a pleasing shade and a $520 option. The Sport was $25,790 plus on roads, clad in a gorgeous Horizon Blue, and the Sport+in Snow White Pearl came in at $28,290, plus on roads, and paint. Servicing costs are for a fixed amount over Kia’s class leading seven year warranty, and top out at $2,869.00. There’s a good range of colours available but only one is classified as a non-premium colour…If you’re after a manual, you’ll find it in the Cerato S only. You’ll also find only a 2.0L injected four cylinder across the range, with six speeds, in both auto and manual guise, hanging off of the side for the engine. It’s a peak twist of 192Nm and power is 112kW. Rev points are 4000rpm and 6200rpm respectively and there’s a noticeable increase of oomph once 3000rpm is seen on the dial. As we drove the autos only, they’re pretty much all good in the transmission sense. It’s the engine that needs refining and smoothing. See 4000rpm on the tacho and there’s a noticeable harshness and noise. It’s a metallic keen that, although somewhat raucous, is really only ever apparent when a heavy right foot is used, thankfully. It’s otherwise quiet, pleasant even.

It’s here that the auto shines. Seamless shifting when left to its own devices, it delights in its smooth and unhurried nature. Tilt the gear selector right, it goes into Sport mode, and when rocked forward and back, the changes are sharp and crisp. Acceleration in all three is enhanced by using Sport mode as the changes suit the characteristics of the engine’s tune. That engine tune helps in economy too. Kia says it’s 7.4L per 100L from the 50L tank for a combined cycle and a still too high 10.2L/100km for the urban cycle. Driven in a mainly urban environment with engines all under 3000km of age, we averaged under 7.0L/100km across the three.Road handling from the three was similar yet in one car somewhat oddly different to the others. The Sport+ rides on the same tyre and rim size as the Sport. 225/45/17 is what’s bolted to each corner and the alloys look sensational. The S has steel wheels at 16 inches, with 205/55 rubber. The S and Sport are more akin in they ride than the Sport+, with the McPherson strut front and coupled torsion bar rear feeling tighter, tauter, and less composed in the Sport+. Long sweepers with minor corrugations had the rear step out, whereas the S and Sport were less inclined to deviate. In a straight line all three sat comfortably but the Sport+ was more the princess in the bed with the pea. Minor irregularities were magnified and enhanced in the Sport+, with just that little bit more unwanted pucker factor whilst sitting on its leather clad pews. Freeway rides are tied down, there’s little to no float, and road noise is minimal thanks to extra noise reduction materials plus NVH reduction engineering. Get funky in the tighter corners in the mountain roads and handling is predictable with steering nicely weighted. Boot it out of a corner and the steering loads up and there’s no tending towards lift-off understeer.The S and Sport have cloth seats, manual adjustment, and no heating. The Sport+ has heating, no venting, and no powered front seats, an odd omission for a top of the range car. In fact, there’s really not a whole lot of difference between the three in some areas. All have the drive mode choice of Eco/Comfort/Smart with Sport engaged as mentioned. All have AEB with Forward Collision Warning – Car Avoidance, with the Sport+ getting Pedestrian and Cyclist on top plus adaptive cruise. All three have Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, voice activation, and Digital radio via the eight inch screen, with the Sport+ having the same dropout issues as experienced in the Sorento. Climate control is in the Sport+, with “standard” aircon in the other two. The driver sees info via steering wheel mounted tabs on a 3.5 inch TFT screen between two standard analogue dials. Perhaps here a LCD screen for the dials would help add cachet and differentiate the the Sport+ further.All three have Blind Spot Detection as an option, as do they have Rear Cross Traffic Alert as an option. These are part of two safety packs available at a $1000 or $500 price point. All other safety systems such as Hill Start Assist are common. The Sport+ gets an electro-chromatic (dimming) rear vision mirror, LED daytime lights, push button start, centre console armrest that slides, and folding wing mirrors. It’s also the only one with an external boot release on the car. That sounds like nothing important but when you’re used to pressing a rubber tab on the boot and not using the key fob, it’s not a smart choice.What is a smart choice is the redesign outside and in. Kia’s gone with the Euro style touchscreen that stands proud of the centre dash and it looks good. There’s turbine style airvents and the Sport+ has more brightwork around these and in the cabin than the Sport and S. There’s a pair of 12V and USB ports up front, with one dedicated to charging and the other for the auxiliary audio access via the smartphone apps. Although the front screen has been moved backwards, there’s no decrease in head, shoulder, and leg room for the 4.6m long sedan. Boot space is, ahem, adequate, at 434L with a long and quite deep design, and the spare is a full sizer, albeit steel fabricated unit.Outside there’s been a major re-skin; the front screen has been moved by nearly twelve centimetres and the bonnet line has been raised. The headlight clusters flow backwards at the top into the guards, with a nod towards the Stinger in styling here. At the right angle, somewhere from the rear quarter, there’s more than a hint of a certain Japanese luxury brand too. Sport+ has LED driving lights in a Stinger like quad design around the main headlight. There’s angular vents at each front corner that house the indicators and the Sport and S have a pair of globe lit driving lights between. Rear end design has been revamped and there’s beautiful styling to the tail lights, flanks, rear window line, and an integrated lip in the boot lid itself. Reverse lights have been moved to a triangular housing in the lower corners, echoing the front and again harken to a Japanese brand. It’s a handsome and well balanced look overall.Warranty is Kia’s standard seven years and there is 24/7 roadside assistance available as well.

At The End Of The Drive.

Kia’s growth curve is strong. Its building vehicles with a good feature set, with high quality, and quietly doing so with gusto. The Cerato sedan, the latest in a range of cars that DOESN’T include a four wheel drive capable ute, is commendable for both its very good looking sheetmetal and high levels of standard equipment. What initially looks like oversights in some areas is potentially a pointer towards what will come in the Kia Cerato GT. As it stands, though, a weak link is the engine. It doesn’t feel smooth, slick, and quiet enough at revs, and for a naturally aspirated 2.0L petrol engine nowadays, a peak power of 112kW really isn’t advertising friendly. It’d be nice if the torque was available at a lower figure or if there was more of it, but for the average buyer, the main concern would be the rare occasion they’d venture into plus 3000rpm territory.

Frugal is the word that stands out here too. So bundle a good looking sedan with good petrol usage in with sharp sub $30K pricing and that feature set, and Kia is kicking goals. Kia Australia’s Cerato for 2019 is available now.

F1 2018 Movements And News In The Mid-season.

The mid season break is heading towards its end and there’s been plenty happening. The latest news has been expected yet still of sadness for F1 followers. Fernando Alonso, at the age of 37, has announced his retirement effective at the end of the 2018 season. It will also be the conclusion of his 17th competitive season in F1.
The rumours that swirled through the F1 paddock in the first half of the season all pointed towards a confirmation to be made. However it’s also a surprise as Alonso says: “”I made this decision some months ago and it was a firm one. There are still several grands prix to go this season, and I will take part in them with more commitment and passion than ever.”

Alonso has alluded to 2019 being a year of new challenges, which potentially could be again rumours being confirmed that he will make the move to IndyCar racing on a permanent basis.
Alonso started with the now defunct Minardi team at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix. He’s a double F1 championship winner, having taken the crown in 2005 and 2006. He’s placed second in the championship three times and has 32 wins, 22 pole positions, and has stood upon the podium 97 times so far.

Daniel Ricciardo’s move to Renault in 2018 is still clouded with acrimony. Part of this comes from within the team he’s signed with for the next two years, with team principal Cyril Abitetoul admitting that their own engine development hasn’t been as successful as it should have been.
“I believe indeed that we underestimated the potential of the current engine regulations, let’s put it this way,” Abiteboul said. “We are now four years into this engine regulation and after four years you would expect that you would see the flattening out of the development curve.”

Red Bull then seems to have potentially dodged the proverbial bullet with its decision to source powerplants from Honda. The current reliability issues and uncertainty about Renault’s engine development then hover over some of the Perth born driver’s decision to leave Red Bull. However Honda’s engines also haven’t been perfect so there’s question marks aplenty for both the team and the exiting driver.


Force India’s financial woes have been assuaged thanks to a buy-out lead by Lawrence Stroll (above) the father of F1 Williams team driver Lance Stroll. A consortium, and a powerhouse one at that, signed off on the buy-out in early August. Thankfully this also has resulted in over four hundred employees not losing the ir job, and all creditors are reported to have been fully paid out. This means the Silverstone, UK, based team, will be back out on track at the resumption of the season at the Belgian F1 GP at the end of August.

BMW Has Competition For The M2.

BMW Australia has announced another model for their brilliant M2. Powered by a 302kW/550Nm straight six, the BMW M2 Competition starts at $99,900 (plus on-roads) with a M2 Competition Pure starting from $104,900 (plus on-roads). There’s a seven speed DCT, or dual clutch transmission that will take the M2 to 100 km/h in 4.2 seconds. For those that prefer an old style manual, a six speed manual is offered as a no-cost option.That peak power is from 5,250 to 7000 rpm, with that V8 eating torque across nearly three thousand revs, at 2,350 to 5,200 rpm. This backs up the M2’s intent to be a track day weapon, as there is a 1.5 kilogram strut brace and it’s a similar design to that seen in the M3 and M4. The suspension has ball joints that are engineered to have zero excess movement, and elastomer bands that transmit lateral movement to the torque struts in the suspension.

BMW’s M-differential is on board, with the design and engineering allowing a “lock-up” with an amount of zero to one hundred percent allowing precise control through virtually every driving condition. Strength and rigidity comes from a new forged alloy which is employed for suspension components and parts of the five link suspension. Stopping isn’t an issue thanks to the 400mm front and 380mm rears with six pot callipers that are an option. Standard stoppers are 380mm and 370mm.

Rolling stock are 19 inches in diameter and are 9×19 up front, 10×19 for the rear. Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber wraps these, with 245/35/19 and 265/35/19 front and rear. These are super lightweight alloys and feature a Y shaped design coated in a light sheen or black. To take advantage of these there are three driving modes, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+, operated via a dial in the cabin. There’s settings available via a toggle switch on the leather bound steering wheel.An exterior update has been fitted with a deeper front skirt for better cooling and airflow. High gloss black coats the grilles and the quad exhaust is also painted black. Wing mirrors are a double arm design that aids in airflow, a M hallmark. And specifically for the Australian market the Competition Pure also gains M Sports seats with Illuminated Headrests and Lumbar Support, front Park Distance Control and the M Seatbelts over the predecessor model.

Compared to the M2 Competition, the Competition Pure rides on the 19-inch light alloy wheels familiar to the outgoing M2, though the Michelin Pilot Super Sports retain the same dimensions as the M2 Competition specification (245/35 R 19 front, 265/35 R 19 rear). The new design wheels are optionally available.Other specification adjustments include a HiFi Loudspeaker system, manually-adjustable M Sport Seats, Bi-LED Headlights and remote central locking (in place of Comfort Access).

BMW says the cars should be available from early 2019.

How Long Does It Take To Charge An EV?

I guess we’ve all noticed by now that EVs (either hybrids or full-time electric vehicles) are getting common on the roads.  Maybe you’re considering getting one for your next car.  Charging stations for EVs are popping up left, right and centre.  This is because the battery in an EV, just like the battery in any other device powered by electricity, needs to be recharged.  It’s kind of like charging your phone or your laptop.

Most, if not all, of us have had some experience with charging up things with batteries and know that it can take some time.  This raises a rather important question about EVs: how long does it take to charge one?  We’ve mostly become familiar with how to fuel up an internal combustion engine (ICE) car: you pull up to the bowser, you open the fuel cap, you fill up with the liquid fuel of your choice, then you nip in and pay for it, possibly picking up a packet of peanuts or a coffee while you’re at it.  It doesn’t take too long – maybe 10 mins max, depending on how long the queue at the checkout is, how big your fuel tank is and how empty it was when you started.  But what about an EV?  There’s nothing physical going into the tank and we all know that it can take a while for a battery to recharge (I usually give my rechargeable AA batteries about 4 hours, the laptop takes 2 hours and the amount of time for the phone varies depending on who else needs the charger and whether I need the phone!).

The good news is that on average, it takes 20–30 mins to get to 80% when charging an EV, especially if you’re using one of the public charge points around town.  This means that most of us might have to plan a charging session into our days – during lunchtime, maybe, or while picking up groceries.

There’s a certain strategy to ensuring that your EV has the charge it needs to keep ticking on around town.  I’m assuming here that you are based in the city and do most of your driving in the city.  If you’re in a rural area and do a lot of open road running, things will be a bit different and given the range of what’s currently on the EV market, you might either consider sticking with an ICE vehicle or at least a hybrid, or you’ll have to try another strategy.  Anyway, for the typical suburban driver, the best strategy is to use the public charging points around town for top-up charging, and you do the full charge to 100% overnight at home if possible.

The reason why it might not be best to try charging your EV to 100% charge at one of the public points is because charging an EV isn’t like filling up a petrol or diesel vehicle. With the ICE, you pump in the fuel at a steady constant rate and if you graphed it, it would make a straight line – as long as your grip on the pump is nice and steady.  However, the graph for charging time is more like one of those curved lines related to quadratic equations – you know, the ones we all struggled through at high school and couldn’t see the point of.  Charging starts with a hiss and a roar and you can get to 80% charge pretty quickly.  It’s the final 20% needed to get to full charge that seems to take forever.  It’s more like pumping iron at the gym than pumping gas – you do the first round of sets and reps quickly, but those last few when you’re getting tired tend to be a bit slower.  This is why charging to 100% is best left for overnight charging sessions at home.

The good news about overnight charging is that night rates for electricity are often lower than daytime rates.  This is because all the commercial users of electricity – factories, shops, heavy industry – don’t put as much demand on the power grid outside working hours, so there is plenty of power for everybody else.  Whether this will remain the case when EVs are adopted more widely is uncertain – let’s hope that lower overnight rates remain a thing.

Of course, the exact time of charging will depend on the individual EV and it also depends on the type of charger that you’re connecting your car up to.  Chargers come in three types: Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3.  Levels 1 and 2 use AC current but Level 3 uses DC current.  Level 3 DC chargers generally are only compatible with Tesla models, which is ironic, given that Nikola Tesla specialised in AC current.  Level 1 chargers just plug into a typical 10-V socket and are best kept for emergency top-ups, as they charge pretty slowly.  What you will generally come across both at home (if you install one) or around town are Level 2 chargers.  Level 2 chargers have a charging rate of 15–100 km/hr, meaning that in one hour they give your vehicle enough charge to take it 15–100 km.  The low-power Level 2s installed at home tend to be towards the 15 km/hr end and the public ones are at the other end.

The different levels are not the same as the plug types, which are known as (predictably) Types.  There are four types: Type 1 (J1772), Type 2 (Mennekes), Type 3 (Scame) and Type 4 (CHAdeMO).  Tesla, being a posh marque, has its very own type of charging plug, rather like Apple, although it’s based on the Type 2 Mennekes.  Type 3 is also pretty rare in Australia.  There’s also a combo plug (known as a Combined Charge System or CCS) that combines either the Type 1 or Type 2 (it varies depending on the marque) with a pair of DC connectors.  Charging stations generally have CHAdeMO and CCS to make thing simpler.  The different plug types are quite a lot to wrap your head, so I might have to explain all this in another post.

Anyway, in a nutshell, here’s the basics you need to know:

  • The average time needed to charge to 80% is half an hour although this depends on the level of charger.
  • Charge time isn’t linear – the first 80% is fairly quick but the final 20% is slower.
  • Full charging to 100% is best done at home overnight.
  • Around-town chargers are best kept for topping up to 80%
  • Slower chargers (Level 1 and Level 2) use AC current but the fast ones use DC.
  • Nikola Tesla, who was the pioneer of AC electricity, would be spitting mad that the cars with his name use DC current. Just as well he never got around to inventing that death ray…

 

 

Going Hard With Two Doors.

The Australian automotive industry is an oddity in the global scheme of things. A small buying population, the most brands per head of population, and innovations not seen elsewhere, make it virtually unique. Although we weren’t the first to build a car with a hardtop and two doors, we certainly made some great ones. Ford, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, and Holden all have cars that are memorable and one that stands out was the Monaro 427C.

Designed, engineered, and built in Australia, this car was intended to be a track weapon and race in the Bathurst 24 Hour. The first of these races was set to run in late 2002, meaning the development of the car, slated to run in 2003, had to be brought forward. The heartbeat of the 427C was its US sourced 7.0L or 427cid V8. With the Holden Racing Team turning down the offer of developing the machine, Garry Rogers Motorsport (GRM) took the Chevrolet Corvette C5-R engine, a Monaro body, and the responsibility of running the 427C as a race car.
The car would later be a controversial one; the race would attract cars from outside Australia such as Lamborghini’s Diablo GTR, Ferrari’s 360 N-GT, and the monstrous Chrysler Viper ACR. All of these cars would race with the same engine they would come off the production line with. However, the Monaro at the time came with Chev’s fabled 350cid or 5.7L V8, and therefore would be ineligible to run. However, the organiser of the race, which would come under the umbrella of a racing group called Procar, allowed the Monaro to be run with the bigger engine to be seen as more competitive with capacities such as the 8.0L V10 in the Viper.

As the race was going to be run under the then current GT regulations, GRM had to design a body kit to suit both the regulations and the aerodynamics of the VX Commodore based two door. Using the V8 Supercars design as a basis, GRM fitted a wider rear wing that sat below the car’s roofline, as per the regulations. A similar front air dam was fitted to the front, and underneath the 427C utilized a number of components that could be found on a Supercar. A technically minded casual observer would see a Hollinger six speed manual transmission, wheels of 18 x 11 and 18 x 13 inches, MacPherson strut front suspension and a trailing arm rear, bolted to coil springs and thick anti-roll bars. The engine was said to be good for 600 ponies (447kW) and would be bolted into the front of a car weighing 1,400 kilograms.

All up the Monaro 427C would be 4789mm in length, run a front and rear track of 1559mm/1577mm, and roll on a wheelbase of 2788mm. The aero package provided plenty of down-force and made for a stable on track racer.

Raced at the 2002 Bathurst 24 Hour by a team of four drivers, being Garth Tander, Nathan Pretty, Steven Richards, and Cameron McConville, the car was also being touted as being available as a road car. The race car itself would prove to be strong, durable, and a race winner. Although suffering a flat tyre, a collision with another car, and pit lane races to see who could clear their car out to the circuit first, the car would ultimately win in its debut race by 24 laps.

As a road car, it was potentially to be motorvated by a 433kW version of the 427cid engine. But, as a business case, the numbers simply didn’t add up and would result in a mooted buy price of $215,000 being out of reach of its intended market. Just two road going cars, and just four race cars, would be built.
The Monaro 427C would go on to compete in the Australian Nations Cup Championship in 2003, and the Bathurst 24 Hour race in the same year. A second race car had been built by then. Driven by Peter Brock, Jason Bright, Todd Kelly, and Greg Murphy, the car would win by just 0.3035 of a second. Tander, driving the 2002 winning vehicle, was thwarted in a last sector charge by a yellow flag thanks to a car close to the racing line.

The 427C would race in 2004 and see a third chassis completed, before the Nations Cup category collapsed due to fiscal issues. With regulations reverting to GT Championship rules in 2005, the Monaro 427C was deemed ineligible. Of the race cars, one is with a private collector, one is in the Bathurst Motor Museum, and little if anything is known of the locations of the others.

(One photo courtesy Chris Griffiths, other source unknown)

Value Up With Mitsubishi For Best Running Costs.

Mitsubishi has come out on top in a best value study looking at running costs.

According to data issued by the RACV, the Triton GLX in two and four wheel drive configuration, the big Pajero Sport GLX,  the smart-tech Outlander PHEV LS and Mirage ES all recorded the lowest running costs per week in their respective segments. This ensures that the Mitsubishi range extends its value-for-money appeal long after a customer leaves the dealership.

In the All-Terrain SUV category, the Pajero Sport GLX achieved the best-in-class result. Running costs averaged $237 per week, with the Triton GLX suggesting owners can enjoy less work and more play. It averaged running costs at just $210.99 per week for the 4×2 and $225.95 for the 4×4 drive-train.Mitsubishi’s small car, the Mirage ES, offering the lowest average running cost of just $108.78 per week. Sitting nicely in the mid-sizer SUV segment is the Outlander PHEV LS. This comfortably led the running costs charge in the EV segment at $259.22 per week.The annual running costs study assesses the cost of ownership of more than 100 vehicles in all segments over the first five years including list price, on road costs, depreciation, fuel and servicing. Costs may vary from state-to-state. Check with your local dealership for their prices then have a chat to us here at Private Fleet.

Hypercars: Basic Fact Cheat Sheet For Sounding Like An Expert

We’ve all heard of supercars.  Now supercars can move over, as there’s a new category on the block: hypercars.  However, they won’t be on the block for long – in fact, they’ll be several blocks away almost before you can blink because these cars are seriously, seriously fast.

In a nutshell, a hypercar is defined as a road-legal production car that’s super-fast and usually super-luxurious.  They tend to be limited edition items produced by the high-end manufacturers – and are priced accordingly.  One writer has compared them to diamonds: rare, dazzling and extremely expensive.  Let’s just say that they’re probably beyond the budget of the typical Australian driver, although we can dream and drool!

Hypercars differ from Formula 1 vehicles and those things that look like rockets that scream around the salt flats of Utah trying to break the land speed record.  Firstly, all of the hypercars are actually road legal, even if it isn’t legal to drive the speeds that they’re capable of under normal driving conditions (you need to head to the track to do that).  Secondly, they tend to be a lot prettier and more comfortable than the racers and the land speed record holders.  You could easily put a hypercar on a poster – in fact, quite a lot of people do, especially teenage boys.  They’ve got the curves that are pleasing to the eye as well as reducing drag, the array of LED headlights and beautiful gleaming paint.

Hypercars tend to come in colours that have a visceral punch and tell our basic instincts that here is danger and power as well as beauty: red, yellow and black – with a combination of red and black being the most common. However, touches of dark grey and orange have crept in here, just to add a bit of variety to the calendars that feature them, I guess!

You already know the names of the classic hypercar manufacturers: Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, Aston Martin and Bugatti (sorry, Rolls-Royce, your vehicles are too sedate to be considered hypercars; Porsche and Jaguar , you’re too common!).  However, there are a number of new players on the hypercar track.  We all got rather interested back at the turn of the century or thereabouts when Swedish manufacturer Koenigsegg came onto the scene and then picked up the record for the fastest production car in 2005 with the CCR – and things have just accelerated in more ways than one from there, with Bugatti and Koenigsegg battling it out for the title fastest production car, top acceleration, etc. Another name to keep an eye on is Hennessey, which put out the Venom F5.

There is also a player in the world of hypercars: Corbellati.  Corbellati hopes that its new Missile (the prototype debuted at this year’s Geneva Motor Show) will be the one to take the title of fastest production car when it actually finishes the production process some time in 2019.  It’s certainly got the specs to make it a serious contender: a 9-L V8 biturbo that has a legion of horses under the somewhat retro-styled bonnet (1800 hp) and so much torque that I looked twice and in several places to make sure that I hadn’t missed a decimal point: 2350 Nm.  Honestly, that’s more than a very good farm tractor produces, and when this is applied to something styled for low drag and has the weight reduced thanks to aluminium, carbon fibre and titanium, we’re talking about serious speed: over 500 km/h is what it’s tipped to do. Have a good drool at the official website  if you want!

In the world of hypercars, speed limiters do not exist.  Top speeds over 400 km/h are common.  And forget about 0–100 sprint times: some of these hypercars brag about their 0–300 km/h times: the Hennessey Venom F5 can do it in under 10 seconds.

At the time of writing, the hypercars have a tendency to make you think that concepts like “peak oil” and “carbon footprint” and “fuel economy” don’t exist or at least aren’t a problem.  However, if the trend on the racetrack is anything to do by – and if Tesla decides to go upmarket rather than downmarket from its supercars – then this will change.  Koenigsegg have a hybrid hypercar in production in the form of the Regera, and some of their models (e.g. the Trevita) have biofuel variants.

Every car enthusiast has his or her favourite hypercar, even if we will never get the chance to drive them in real life and will have to make do with computer games.  Being a sucker for Swedish cars as well as admiring their token gesture towards sustainability, I’m a fan of Koenigsegg.  However, some of those Bugatti models look pretty hot…

If you have been lucky enough to ride or even drive in a hypercar, please share your experience in the comments – we’d love to hear all about it!

2019 Kia Sorento GT-Line Petrol.

The Kia Sorento has been given a freshen up for 2019, like most of the Kia range. The changes are subtle but effective, with enhancements inside and out. I drove the 3.5L petrol drinking V6 Kia Sorento GT-Line trim, with an eight speed auto and seven seats. It’s priced at $55,490 (RRP) and came in the optional Aurora Black metallic, an extra $595.00. Peak power from the free spinning V6 is 206kW. You’ll need to drive like an F1 driver in training to use it though, as it’s on tap at 6300rpm. More sensible is the torque. There’s 336 of them but again at a high rev point, 5000rpm.

Fuel economy has been vastly improved, even though the engine is a 3.5L, up from the previously used 3.3L. The addition of a slick eight speeder helps as we finished on 8.7L/100km. What’s truly astounding is that the big car (1932kg before fuel and passengers) was driven in a predominantly urban drive loop, reflecting its intended usage. Kia quotes 14.2L/100km from the 71L tank in a urban drive and 10.0L/100km on the combined cycle.

The engine and drive-train are a well suited combination. The throttle response is instant, there’s a genuinely angry rasp from the V6 when driven hard, and the auto is 90% on song. The final two cogs, when driven at state legal urban speeds, seem unsure as to whether they were wanted or not. There’d be no real change in the engine revs however the transmission would drop or gain a gear. Smoothly, yes, but being indecisive is not a driver’s best perception for automatics.

The Sorento was also taken into an environment it normally wouldn’t see. On the mid western fringes of the Blue Mountains is Australia’s own grand canyon. There’s some great gravel roads on which to drive and the Sorento was given its head on a few of them. There’s no full time AWD system, rather a clever torque split on demand for the diesel and front wheel drive only in the petrol. There’s four drive modes to complement this too: Eco, Sports, Smart, and Comfort. Bearing mind it’s an urban warrior, the Sorento surprised with its gravel road manners.

Handling was composed, rarely skittish, and only really exhibited nervousness on some of the more broken and rutted tracks. The ABS system worked a treat on some mid-slope downhill runs, with a balanced and measured feel to the pedal itself. The steering’s weight was spot on for the light off-road style of driving, and the Comfort drive mode turned out to be the best choice for the required driving style. The Sorento is easy to drive from the throttle; back off into turns and the nose will run slightly wide, but a feather touch puts power to the front and tightens up the steering.

Tarmac driving is, naturally, the strong part of the Sorento’s presentation. It’s nippy, belying the weight it has. Although a good 4800mm in length, and packing a 2780mm wheelbase, the Sorento wraps around like a well worn glove, with only inexperienced drivers likely to feel it’s a big ‘un. There’s some serious mumbo from the V6, even with peak torque so high up the ladder rev wise. Standing start acceleration is somewhat indecent for the size and as mentioned there’s a real snarl from the V6 as it punches out in anger and the 235/55/19 rubber hooks up.

There’s little upper body movement meaning lane change stability is high. Again the steering is weighted just fine and the Sports mode is the pick for freeway driving. Eco is a touch sluggish, Comfort is an ideal mix, with Smart learning the driver’s throttle and braking inputs on the fly. Suspension tune is sportish, with a flat freeway ride, enough initial give before tightening up, and this lends itself to some good speed through tight corners and curves. Stopping isn’t a problem thanks to the 320mm front and 305mm rear vented/solid discs. There’s a niggle with the Lane Keep Assist though. It’s a little too assertive in its straightening of the wheel and was eventually disengaged.

It helps that the office space is a cool place to be in. The driver sees a combination of LCD digital and “old school” analogue instrumentation, a thoughtfully laid out dash and ancillary controls with a silver highlight, an eight inch touchscreen with DAB (more on that, shortly) and a ten year SUNA satnav update program, rear and mid row folding seats with aircon vents for both, heated mid row and front seats with venting up front, plus memory and powered seats for the front pews.

The rear seats fold flat into the floor and there is a mammoth 1662L of cargo space available. Those rear seats themselves are best suited for children or those that don’t identify as tall. The seats are highlighted with light grey stitching and there are GT-Line logos embossed into the leather. But the upper dash reflects quite visibly in the windscreen and sadly the Sorento isn’t alone on that.

It’s wonderful that Kia offer DAB audio in some of their vehicles now, however the sensitivity of the two tested (the Cerato Sport+ also has DAB and will be reviewed separately) is frankly near useless. In areas where other brands have clear and constant signal, the Sorento’s dropped out. In the same place. Every time. Although the sound quality through the ten speaker Harman Kardon system was fine when it was picking up signal, the lack of continuity in DAB was beyond frustrating. Otherwise, Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, are available when a compatible smartphone is connected, or plug into the Auxiliary and USB points.

The Sorento range comes loaded with family features and is spot on for a family lifestyle drive. Six cupholders, two per seat row, start it off. Four bottle holders, a good sized centre console locker, map pockets, 3 12V sockets and a pair of USB chargers allow flexibility for smart devices. There’s no wireless charging point for compatible smart phones…yet.

The centre row passengers have sunshades in the door for both privacy and sunshade. Access to the rear seats is via the tilt and slide centre row or via the powered tailgate. Soft glow LED lights brighten up the black interior and beige/bone trimmed and highlight the two centre row mounted suit hooks. The alloy plate sill panels also brighten up with a red backlighting. All up though the Sorento, as comfortable as it is, does lack a real and measurable quotient inside: cachet. It’s still somewhat plasticky and not quite as eyeball grabbing as some Euro competition.

Family safety is assured thanks to the Sorento GT-Line’s extensive list. A high definition screen links to cameras placed around the Sorento’s exterior for a full 360 degree look around. Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Keep Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, and Autonomous Emergency Braking with Emergency Stop Signal are all on board. AEB is standard throughout the Sorento range.The Sorento’s exterior has been mildly massaged from the previous model, with slight changes to front and rear bumpers. There’s adaptive LED headlights in the GT-Line, with leveling and swiveling adding to night-time safety. There’s LED running and fog lights fitted, and the rear lights are also LED. The nose is bluff and smooth at the same time, with a subtle curve to the headlight’s upper edge on either side of the black & chrome grille.

Exterior colours are of a seven colour choice, with one (Snow White Pearl) being exclusive to the GT-Line. Otherwise there’s Clear White, Silky Silver, Metal Stream, Platinum Graphite, Gravity Blue, and the Aurora Black as seen on the test vehicle. There’s the standard seven year warranty and the capped price service intervals as well.

At The End Of the Drive.
Kia continues to go from strength to strength with is vehicles and the Sorento GT-Line is no different. Heaps of room, a broad range of family related features, and a family lifestyle oriented drive characteristic are big winners. The off road capability, a capability unlikely to be explored, from a front wheel drive SUV, place it ahead of its most likely competitor for moving people, Kia’s own Carnival. The better than expected fuel economy comes with a caveat: the test drive was with most one passenger, not a family and cargo.

At around the $60K drive-away point, it’s against Hyundai’s Santa Fe, Volvo’s XC40 and XC60, and models from Germany in regards to the intended buying market. Until all other makers standardise a seven year warranty then Kia will win straight away on that. As flexible as the interior is, it needs a lift visually. The DAB tuner needs a sensitivity boost whilst the lane assist service needs the opposite.

Make up your own mind by heading to Kia Australia website – Sorento to check out the 2019 Kia Sorento range.

2019 Volvo XC40 R-Design Launch Edition.

Volvo has come a long way from the boxy look of twenty years ago. Like most other brands they’ve moved into into the SUV market with gusto and their latest, the XC40, was launched here in Australia in May. We drive the top of the range R-Design with Launch Edition packaging.It’s a similar external design to its XC60 and XC90 siblings with one marked difference. There’s a sharp angle to the rear of the XC40 that kinks up from the door. Nope, it doesn’t mean rear seat headroom is compromised. A good six foot plus passenger will fit in there nicely. The R-Design offers a colour combination choice inside and out so here there can be buyer customisation. It’s a classy look in the supplied vehicles white body and black roof combination, LED driving lights in the now classic “Hammer of Thor” design that’s embedded into a LED/bending headlight combination. The signature Volvo tail light clusters are LED lit and both ends look superb at night balancing the LEDs in the doors. Embedded in the bonnet’s shut line on the driver’s side is a small rubber Swedish flag that commemorates the Launch Edition. Factor in LED downlights in the door handles and at night it’s a striking look.Power is provided by a silky smooth 2.0L turbocharged petrol engine mated to a eight speed auto. Peak power is 185kW, that’s at 5500rpm, so it’s the 350Nm of twist that makes this thing work. Yep, it’s a standard amount of torque for this size of engine, but it’s the spread over three thousand revs which really sings. It’s on tap from 1800 to 4800 and meshed with perfect ratios the XC40 R-Design is one of the most usable, driver friendly, cars around. It’s a pity that engines are hidden under a plastic shroud now.The XC40, like most cars now, is a keyless start vehicle. Open the door and the full LCD dash screen lights up, highlights a system checklist, and awaits the driver’s input. Foot on the brake, press the dash mounted starter, and the engines comes to life. Volvo have gone for a rocker gear gear selector, not a traditional gate style. Once the driver realises it’s a forward/backwards motion and the gears selected (Reverse, Neutral, Drive) show in the right hand dash dial, either a press of the electric parking brake or a gentle stab of the go pedal has the XC40 underway.There’s a Stop/Start system fitted and as effective as it is on shutdown, it’s not completely smooth on startup. Each and every time the engine kicked in the car would lurch, even with the brake pedal depressed. It’s a minor but annoying glitch. Ease away and there’s a bare whisper of engine and the faintest slur felt as the eight speeder does its thing. Plant the right hoof and the XC40’s all wheel drive system grips and slingshots the car forward. Volvo quote just 6.4 seconds for the 0-100 km/ sprint and that may be a touch conservative.

There’s three different notes to the XC40 R-Design. A gentle throttle has the machine move along quietly, almost electric car like. Mid throttle and there’s a purr from up front. The transmission is more noticeable in its changes yet as smooth as calm water. Mode three is when the accelerator is used in anger. That purr becomes a muted snarl, a hint of real aggression comes out, and the changes are sharper, snappier, edgier. It’s an assertive feeling and one the XC40 R-Design revels in.

The XC40 is suspended on the proven combination of MacPherson strut front and multilink rear. They by themselves mean a good ride. There’s sports tuned dampers and 20 inch alloys to consider. Whoa! 20 inch alloys? And Pirelli P-Zero 245/45 rubber? Doesn’t that mean a hard and uncomfortable ride? Nej. (Swedish for no). Irrespective of road condition it’s supple, pliant, resilient. There’s no bump-thump, no suspension crash, it’s a magic carpet ride. Just ahead of the rocker gear selector is a button for the four drive modes, of which one is Off-Road. This is as likely to be used as Elvis reappearing after 41 years. Tap it though and it changes the look of the dials in the driver binnacle.Actual road noise is also negligible. There’s sufficient insulation as it is inside the XC40. A nice, and sneaky, touch, is the amount of marine grade carpet fitted to the door trims. Intended to provide some grip and support for bottles it also doubles as sound deadening. It’s indicative of the careful thought that has gone into the planning of the XC40. The actual interior handles are subtly spaced away from the door trim to allow for easier pulling. The sound stage has been improved thanks to the simple expedient of relocating some of the drivers. Even the door ‘s arm rests inside have a redesign allowing taller bottles and better ergonomic access when opening and closing.The cargo area is accessed via touch tab or a kick sensor. Normally these tend to be literally hit and miss. The XC40 R-Design’s sensor is a little more carefully calibrated and worked with a proper forward/back kicking motion, not a swipe to the left. The same kicking motion will close it up too.On-road manners are almost superb. I say almost because the steering feels over-assisted and at speed there’s a subtle feeling of twitchiness. Perhaps it’s more related to that aforementioned steering but the XC40 R-Design never truly felt 100% composed on the road. Liken the feeling to having a well trained pup that’s constantly pulling at the lead and you’ll get the idea. Having said that there’s also no lack of confidence in the grip level. There’s plenty of both long sweeping corners and tightening radius curves in which to play in, and the Pirelli rubber shows why it’s famous. The words “tenacious grip” spring to mind and coupled with that sports style suspension the XC40 R-Design can be punted fluidly and hard. Road manners are otherwise spot on. The interior is typical Volvo. That means fit, finish, feel is just right. There’s a hint of old school Cadillac to the flattish dash and Caddy tail-light inspired air vents.The R-Design throws in a smartphone wireless charging pad, a pair of USB ports for the front seats, one for the rear, and heating all around via the three screen touchscreen. That’s typical Volvo and as intuitive as they can be after a bit of familiarisation, a timer to revert to a home screen would be preferred. However there’s no complaints about the sound. the R-Design has Harman Kardon sound and there’s plenty of bass, plus a clarity and depth rarely heard in cars. There’s also a 360 degree camera setup and it looks absolute fantastic. It’s in high definition too so clarity for the driver makes for easier movement.The R-Design comes with six external colour choices including a startling Fusion Red Metallic and a sumptuous Black Stone that goes so well with the R-Design black roof. By the way, Volvo emboss R-Design into the kink and it’s a subtle yet welcome addition. There are three interior grades of trim options. There’s the pretty much standard leather style, a textile and leather, and “Lava” floor and door inserts. An aluminuim plate style inlay is a trim option for the doors and dash. It looks great if lacking in tactility. Head room (including the panoramic sunroof), leg, and shoulder room is ample for both front and back seat passengers. There’s more than enough cargo space for a family and shopping…or scooters…or golf clubs as a certain car show host calls them.Volvo built its reputation on safety and naturally the XC40 R-Design is no different. City Safety is the name Volvo gives to its pedestrian, animal, and cyclist detection system. Bang in Intellisafe which includes Adaptive Cruise Control, Pilot Assist (semi-autonomous driving) and more, PLUS features such as Blind Spot Information, Front and Rear Collision Alert, Run Off Road Alert, and a full suite of airbags and electronic aids and there’s barely time to draw breath. The semi-autonomous system is understated in how it reads the road and instead of a hefty tug it’s a grandma’s hand on the shoulder and a quiet whisper in the ear.

At The End Of The Drive.
Volvo is on a clear winner with the XC40 R-Design Launch Edition. It’s gorgeous to look at, gorgeous to drive, and full of intuition personified. At around $60K it’s a budget price for a luxury package. Buy it. Yes, it’s that good.
Here it is: The New Volvo XC40