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Archive for September, 2018

Ford Eyes Off A New Level Of Focus.

The all-new 2019 Ford Focus range has been developed from the ground up to provide the most confidence-inspiring, intuitive, rewarding, driving and occupant experience for Australian customers. The all-new Focus has AEB or Autonomous Emergency Braking as standard across the range. Also known as Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection technology, the system can detect people in or near the road ahead, or who may cross the vehicle’s path. In addition, Focus goes even further with the system’s capability to detect cyclists as well as function in the dark using light from the headlamps.

Ford has also engineered a new-generation, highly efficient 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine and 8-speed paddleshift automatic transmission. They are standard on every new Focus. With significant improvements in fuel economy, thanks to advanced materials and weight reduction, the new powertrain also ensures drivability with greater power and torque. An integrated exhaust manifold that improves fuel-efficiency by helping the engine reach optimal temperatures faster, and delivers torque more rapidly by minimising the distance exhaust gasses travel between the cylinders and turbocharger. Power is rated at 134kW, with torque 240Nm at a very useable 1600rpm.

Inside there is the brilliant voice-activated SYNC 3 with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Again this will be standard in every new Focus, with a full-colour 8.0-inch SYNC 3 touchscreen bringing voice-activated features including the standard built-in satnav and a full colour 180-degree reversing camera. All new models will have a laser-welded body.

The entry level Trend will roll on 16 inch wheels, and comes with a slippery 0.27 drag coefficient. An active front grille shutter system helps in that figure. A voice recognition systems in getting things done whilst on the go, such as changing climate control settings. Audio comes from Bluetooth streaming and DAB via a six speaker system.

Focus ST-Line adds a wagon variant. 1653 litres of storage space comes with the wagon along with a two tier cargo floor. ST-Line specific body additions such as rear bumper and spoiler complement ST-Line specific items inside.

Focus Titanium is the model with premium features including the most comprehensive Driver-Assist Technology suite ever offered on a Focus. In addition to Ford’s Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection, Focus Titanium brings Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop&Go, Speed Sign Recognition and Lane-Centring and Evasive Steer Assist helps the vehicle maintain a comfortable driving distance from vehicles ahead; helps reduce stress during long road trips by helping keep the vehicle centred in its lane. Respectively, these two features are designed to provide continuous hands-on steering support to guide the vehicle and keep it centred in the lane and gives an appropriate level of steering torque to help the driver to help avoid a collision. That is, it can make the steering lighter if the customer steers too slowly or makes the steering heavier if the customer steers too aggressively. Titanium has 18 inch wheels.

Pricing will start at $25,990 plus ORC, with the ST-Line wagon coming in at $30,990 plus ORC. The Titanium tops out at $34,490 plus ORC. Prestige paint will be a $550 option for the Trend and ST-Line, while safety packs such as the Driver assistance package will be$1250 for the lower two, with the Titanium having them as standard. Deliveries for the 2019 Ford Focus are due to start in December 2018.

Hyundai Gets Fastback For The i30 N

Hyundai has revealed the new 2019 i30 Fastback N in Europe. The sophisticated five-door Fastback N is the second high-performance model from Hyundai’s N Performance division, following on from its sibling the i30 N hot-hatch, which arrived in Australia in March to critical acclaim. The Hyundai i30 Fastback N incorporates many of the design signatures of its hatchback sibling. The elegant i30 Fastback shape has been merged with the dynamic features of the i30 N five-door, such as the dynamic-looking N Grille, and N front and rear bumpers, both highlighted by a red character line. A blacked-out side sill further underscores the model’s sportiness.The new 2019 i30 N Features the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine first introduced in the i30 N hatchback. Like the i30 hot-hatch, the Fastback N is offered in Europe in both Standard and Performance iterations. The Standard Package engine delivers 184kW and uses 7.0L/100km on the official combined cycle. The Performance Package engine generates a maximum power of 202kW and uses 7.1L/100km on the official combined cycle.

The engine delivers a maximum torque of 353 Nm in both specifications. An overboost function further increases torque up to 378Nm and is activated when the maximum torque threshold is reached. The European i30 Fastback N with Standard Package accelerates from rest to 100 km/h in 6.4 seconds and the i30 Fastback N Performance Package version accelerates from 0-100km/h in 6.1 seconds. The i30 Fastback N is capable of a maximum speed of 250 km/h. The i30 Fastback N’s rear visual features a twin-muffler exhaust and a cohesive rear spoiler that flows neatly into the line of the liftback. A glossy black accent is inserted to highlight the spoiler and further develop the N performance theme.The horizontal design theme of the i30 Fastback N instrument panel conveys an elegant impression and is offered in Europe with a choice of two infotainment systems. There is a Display audio system with an eight-inch capacitive LCD touchscreen, an integrated rear-view camera and Bluetooth connectivity.

Alternatively, there is a Navigation system featuring an eight-inch capacitive touch screen and a seven-year free subscription to LIVE services. Both infotainment units feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which provide a seamless on-screen interface to users’ smartphones for the control of music, telephone or navigation functions. A specific N mode screen menu offers customisable settings for the engine, rev-matching, exhaust sound and Performance Package settings.The 2019 i30 Fastback N features Hyundai SmartSense active safety and driving assistance technologies, including Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Driver-Attention Warning, Lane-Keeping Assist, High-Beam Assist and Intelligent Speed-Limit Warning. Inspired by motor sport, the Hyundai N range was derived from the company’s successful participation in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) and the Touring Car Racing (TCR) International series. The N line-up was born in Namyang, Korea, at Hyundai’s global R&D Centre, developed and tested at Germany’s infamous Nürburgring and honed to suit Australia’s uniquely challenging roads and driving conditions by the Hyundai Motor Company Australia engineering and development team.

Complete Australian pricing and specifications will be available closer to the local launch of the Hyundai i30 Fastback N in the first quarter of 2019.

2019 MG ZS Essence SUV

A new brand for our review section  is MG. MG itself is Morris Garages, once a name held in the same regard as Lotus and Caterham thanks to its sporty range of little two seater sports cars. However that link to the British history is about all that is left. The company is now owned by Chinese conglomerate SAIC and the brand’s range itself is a long way from the sporty little two seaters that made the company a household name. There are four models available, the MG6 sedan, MG3 SUV, MG GS SUV, and the range topping MG ZS SUV, with two trim levels. We drive the 2019 MG ZS Essence, complete with panoramic “Stargazer” glass roof, six speed DCT, and a 1.0L turbocharged three cylinder.The pair starts with the 1.5L four speed Excite, and at the time of writing was on a special drive-away price of $22,990. The Essence is currently on $25,990. The three potter has that familiar thrum peculiar to three cylinder engines, and delivers 82kW @ 5200rpm, and 160Nm between 1800 to 4700rpm. Although that’s a great spread of revs it’s got to pull, via the front wheels, a 1245kg machine, plus fuel, plus passengers. This immediately puts the ZS on the back foot in overall driveability, with performance noticeably blunted with four aboard, compared to a single passenger. The engine comes paired with a six speed DCT, or dual clutch transmission, and makes a good fist of it here. It’s mostly smooth, bar the typical DCT stutters between Reverse and Drive, and at speed was quiet and almost seamless in changing.

The weight and lack of torque is dealt with by judicious use of the accelerator. Rather than punching the go pedal, a firm and progressive squeeze yields better results from a standing start. Revs climb willingly, the cogs shift appropriately, and the economy hovers around 8.0L/100km. MG quotes a combined cycle of 6.7L/100km and a city cycle of 8.4L/100km. In a purely city based environment that in itself sounds good but the ZS has just 48L in the tank, and after just shy of 500 kilometres of travel the tank needed a quick top up on the way back to its home base. MG also specify 95RON too, which makes for slightly more expensive attack on the hip pocket.

Ride and handling are a mixed bag. The steering is light, but not a featherweight in feel. The ZS changes direction quickly and without effort. But some of that comes from the suspension setup. Initially it’s hard, harsh, and picks up smaller road objects such as the reflective “cat’s eye” markers too easily, and it’s tiresome very quickly. That same setup has the chassis move around on the road, and with sweeping turns pocked with expansion joints, the ZS skips around noticeably. Over bigger lumps the dampers soften and absorb bigger obstacles such as the speed restricting bumps in school zones well.The MG ZS fits well in the compact SUV segment. There’s an overall length of 4314mm, a width of 1809mm that includes the mirrors, which makes interior shoulder room a mite snug. It stands just 1644mm tall and packs a 359L cargo area, in a low set design, inside the 2585mm wheelbase. Fold the rear seats and that cargo jumps to 1166L. On its own the low set cargo floor helps in loading and removing the weekly shopping. Getting in and out of the ZS was also easy thanks to the wide opening doors. Build quality was pretty good, with only a few squeaks, and one of the cargo cover pins refusing to stay plugged in noticed. The trim level itself is a pleasing blend of faux carbon fibre, flat and piano black plastic, and black man made leather seats. Unfortunately there is no venting in the seats and, on the sunny days experienced during the review period, were uncomfortably hot.Entertainment comes from an eight inch colour touchscreen. Apple CarPlay is embedded, Android Auto is not. FM sound quality was fine but if you want DAB you’ll have to stream it via a smartphone as that isn’t featured either. Interestingly, there is a Yamaha sound field program for the audio, which although making an audible difference between a single versus multi-person choice, is of questionable value. There didn’t appear to be RDS or Radio Data Service either, which gives you station ID and song information.The driver has a simple binnacle to deal with, sporting a pair of dials and a truly out of date LCD screen. This is a design that has the thin LCD line style of display and in an era of full colour screens with a better layout, this stands out as an anachronism. The tiller holds the tabs to scroll through the info available on a horizontal basis but didn’t seem to load anything using the up/down arrows. Attached to the manually operated steering column is the cruise control stalk, with a speed limiter alert fitted. Again there didn’t appear to be a simple method of disengaging this as it would produce an irritating chime with a buzz note when the legal speed limit was reached.Outside the MG ZS has styling hints from Hyundai and Mazda, not entirely a bad thing here. There’s good looking LED driving lights in what they call the “London Eye” up front, a Hyundai ix35 style crease at the rear, and a bluntish nose not unlike Mazda’s CX-5. However, the 17 inch wheels (with 215/50 rubber from Maxxis) look too small, especially in the rear wheel well arches. They’re too wide to provide the right proportional look for them.

When it comes to safety the MG ZS Essence is well equipped but misses out on Autonomous Emergency Braking. There are six airbags, not a driver’s kneebag, the basic emergency driver aids but no Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Detection, and the like.

At The End Of The Drive.
The 2019 MG ZS Essence is neither a bad car nor a good car. It does what it’s asked to do but offers no more than that. It drives well enough but needs a 1.5L or 1.6L engine with a turbo to overcome the performance issue. It’s comfortable enough but venting in the seats would be nice. The ride is ok but the jittery part of it, which is most of the time, would quickly become tiresome. The dash looks ok except for the 1980s style info screen. Here is where you can find out more.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Toyota Kluger Grande and GXL.

In a previous life, I attended the Perth launch of a newcomer to the Toyota family. Called Kluger, it was a squarish, slightly blocky, petrol only, mid-sized SUV. Fifteen plus years later the Kluger remains petrol only, still has a squarish and blocky design, and not far off in size of the Land Cruiser. AWT spent a week with the top of the range Grande and mid-level GXL, with the Grande seeing the countryside whilst the GXL did what it’s designed for. The urban lifestyle run. There’s a big price difference though, with the GXL in the mid $50K range and a huge $10K less than the Grande.The standard engine is a 3.5L V6, producing 218kW, and a surprising 350 torques. Surprising because, in context, it’s the same amount as that produced by a turbo-charged 2.0L petrol engine. As a result, urban fuel economy is less that inviting, with the GXL not seeing a figure below 11.0L per 100km at any stage. The Grande is a different story; the dash display didn’t appear to show a consumption figure however we managed a reasonable half tank from the lower Blue Mountains to Cooma. This consumption stayed consistent from Cooma to Bega, back to Cooma, and then Sydney.Sole transmission option is an eight speed auto. In the GXL this drives the front wheels and the Grande is an AWD system, driving the fronts but splits torque rearward on demand. The driver’s dash screen shows this in a graphic, and it’s kinda interesting to watch from the eye’s corner when starting forward, be it a hard or soft launch. The Grande suffers in comparison to the GXL in this area. When punched the GXL will move with a decent measure of alacrity and will chirp the front tyres. The GXL around town also has a slightly better ride, with a more supple appeal thanks to the slightly higher sidewalls. The Grande is sluggish off the line, with a feeling of needing more effort to have both front and rear wheels gripping. The eight speed auto in both is…..adequate, to be polite. Cold they were indecisive off the line, and when warmed up were somewhat archaic in their change feel. Think the early four or five speed autos when one cog was finished and there was a yawning gap until the next one engaged. An exaggeration of sorts, yes, but needed to paint the picture.The weapon of choice for the six hour country drive was the Grande over the Holden Calais Tourer. According to the junior team members of the review team it was the roof mounted blu-ray player (complete with SD card input) that won the contest. There are four wireless headphones and they sound fantastic. The screen itself, naturally, isn’t blu-ray quality but the fact Toyota offers that kind of playback is a bonus. Having rear aircon and the controls at the rear of the centre console is also a bonus as the controls are both fan speed and temperature independent of the front seats. The middle seat rows are tilt and fold which allows access to the simple pull-strap operated third row seats. Or one could enter via the power operated tailgate. The Grande has an extra family friendly feature for those that use wireless charging smartphones too. Adding to the family persuasion is a plethora of cup and bottle holders throughout the cabin plus a DAB or digital audio broadcast tuner. The latter had an oddity in that it would pick up signal in areas some other cars don’t but when it lost signal it was almost painfully slow to regain it.

Actual fit and finish in the Klugers is starting to lack visual appeal. The dash design is somewhat chaotic with blocks rather than an organic look. Somehow, after a while, it seems to work. Of note is the centre of driver’s binnacle info screen. In typical Toyota fashion it’s initially a little confusing to look at, but once a few flicks of the tabs on the tiller have been performed, the info such as which safety aids are being used or how much traction is being apportioned, becomes easily accessible instinctively. Powered seats make finding the right seating position to read the screen easy, and in the Grande they’re both heated and vented via a pair of utterly simple to use roller dials. They’re coloured red and blue left and right of the centre point and have three settings to choose from. The GXL ditches the venting and goes to slightly less attractive roller dials to activate the heating side.The actual driving position is comfortable in the seats but the tiller felt a bit narrow to the fingers. All round view is very good and with broad side mirrors the Blind Spot Alert system was almost not needed. Almost. On the highway heading east from Cooma to Bega, some of the roads narrow and there are opportunities for a lack of safety of this form to lead to issues thanks to drivers that believe themselves to be better than they are. Suffice to say the Blind Sport Alert system can be a life saver. Safety wise there’s really not a lot between the Grande and GXL, with Toyota‘s Safety Sense. Pedestrian friendly collision warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Lane Departure Alert, and seven airbags are aboard.The Grande turned out to be a decent country tourer. Under way and at cruising speed, it ticks over at the freeway speed at close to 2,000rpm. Toyo supplies the (specially supplied for Kluger Grande) Open Country 245/55/19 rubber on the Grande and Michelin the 245/60/18s for the GXL. Both exhibit a sometimes uncomfortable measure of road noise, especially on the coarser chip surfaces south of Canberra. The dearth of torque at low revs was always apparent though. That peak amount is at 4700rpm, and it was enough at times to feel the gearbox move to seventh to eighth to seventh in order to try and utilise what was available. It was also noticeable when uphill runs or an overtake were required, with a steady drop through the ratios. On the road the steering was never comfortable though, with a somewhat numb on-centre feel and with more weight than expected. However it doesn’t tax the body and with a stop every two hours or so, a driver can exit the car feeling a bare minimum of driving fatigue.The exterior design is also starting to look out of date in comparison to both Toyota’s own design ethos and in respect to the opposition. It’s still a squarish, angular look, which at least matches the dash. The front features an inverted triangular motif and isn’t overly chromed. Eagle-eye headlights with LED driving lights balance a similar look at the rear. Alongside the latest from Korea the Klugers look heavy, tired, and nowhere as slippery.The Klugers also come with just a three year or 100,000 kilometre warranty, another area that other companies are rapidly changing. Roadside assistance is a 24/7 owner service, however.

At The End Of The Drive.
Quite simply the Toyota Kluger GXL is the better value bet. There really is simply not enough between the Grande and GXL to justify the extra ten thousand, blu-ray and all wheel drive system included. Neither will see any dirt action apart from the front lawn either. The styling is fading, inside and out, however it’s fair to presume, having seen the new Camry and Corolla, that a redesign is on the boards at Toyota HQ.

Having no diesel option, unlike the Sorento or Santa Fe, leaves people looking at the HiLux or Fortuner, Toyota’s almost invisible machine. Or there are Mitsubishi’s Pajero Sport, Holden’s Trailblazer, Ford’s Everest, to consider, or offerings from Volvo, Audi, VW…Take it for a test drive yourself and check out the range here

SUV, Hatch or Wagon?

SUVs like the Volvo XC40 look really cool!

 

The ever popular Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Station Wagons like the new Ford Focus are brilliant.

 

Why do most women like the SUV, wagon or hatchback shape?  These are the preferred vehicles that women are driving.  SUVs definitely offer that extra status not to mention size.  It seems too that Teal coloured cars are the ones that most excite the ladies.

SUVs are hitting our road on mass, thanks to the buyers, female and male, preferring their practicality, safety and room.  You can buy FWD only SUVs, which if you never go in search of the wide open spaces outside of Suburbia then these types of vehicle will do all your townie jobs nicely, and often with plenty of room to spare.  AWD equivalent SUVs are more expensive anyway!

SUVs are bigger than anything else on the road besides trucks and buses, so anyone will likely be attracted to the safety aspect of owning an SUV.  Many guys will like the fact that their special other half drives a big safe SUV, which often ends up carrying the kids too.  Having a higher ride height does give you a commanding view of the road ahead, and generally speaking, the extra ground clearance works wonders should you be into off-roading.

SUVs are easier to get in-and-out of, and for loading child seats, child accessories, and library book and shopping bags.  Generally speaking you step inside an SUV, rather than sink down into them- like in a hatchback.  When it comes loading cargo into the boot the space is usually large, higher and easier to access.  That said, there are some nicely designed station wagons and hatchbacks that are very practical.

Downsides to owning an SUV are that they cost more to feed; cost more to maintain, and they generally need more wizardry and expensive technology to defy the laws of physics should you want to drive them quickly around corners.  Still, manufacturers are beginning to build a wide variety of SUVs to suit your tastes.  You can even buy convertible SUVs or 2-door coupe SUVs – which pushes the contemporary envelope somewhat.

So if you are a lady on the lookout for a nice new SUV – perhaps Teal coloured or close to it, that is competitively priced then there are some models you may consider.  OK, you men could consider this as well – though you’ll probably prefer a silver, black or white colour (though flaming orange and buttercup yellow is said to get a guy’s heartrate up).  So, how about a Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, BMW X3, Ford Ecosport, Ford Escape, Ford Everest, Foton Sauvana, Haval H2, Hyundai Sant Fe or Kona, Jeep, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-3 or CX-5, MG GS, Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross or Outlander, Nissan Qashqai, Peugeot 3008, Renault Koleos, Skoda Kodiaq, Subaru Forester or XV, Suzuki Vitara, VW Tiguan, or any of the Volvo XC models?  Modern, safe and great multipurpose vehicles, this list is a good mix to get you thinking.

But if you don’t go the SUV way, there’s plenty of savings to be had by sticking to a hatchback or station wagon instead.  If you spend most of your time travelling within the confines of Suburbia then the SUV size might not make so much sense if a Station wagon or Hatchback will do.  And even at their most practical, an SUV is a bit more difficult to park in the tiny city car parks – unless you have an SUV with all the self-parking aids.

If you think that a good small hatch or station wagon will suit your needs just as well, you will enjoy the benefits of this type of vehicle being cheaper to buy, cheaper to maintain, more fun to drive and, thanks to the swelling tide of SUVs on the road, you’ll be bucking the trend and looking pretty cool.

Here’s some wagons or hatchbacks you might like to consider: Volvo V60, VW Golf wagon or hatch, your good old Toyota Corolla wagon or hatch, Subaru Forester or Impreza or Liberty, Skoda Octavia Wagon, Renault Megane, Proton Preve, loads of Peugeots, Nissan LEAF (Electric Vehicle), Mitsubishi ASX, a Mini, MG3, Mercedes Benz B-Class or C-Class, a Mazda 3 or 6, Kia Cerato or Soul, Hyundai i40 or i30, Honda Civic, Holden Astra, Ford Focus or Mondeo, Citroen C4 or C5, BMW 3 or 5 Series wagon, Audi A3 or A4, and Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

Audi Unveils The e-Tron

Audi has unveiled the e-Tron in a webcast from California. Focusing on the design element, price, and the extensive charging network that Audi and its business partners have and will invest in, the e-Tron, Audi’s Tesla challenger, is available now to order online in the US. Audi have also partnered with global retail giant Amazon in what is currently a unique move, allowing one stop at home charging via the Amazon Alexa smart-home device.An energy recuperation system is expected to harvest up to 90% of the battery’s usable capacity to power the vehicles twin electric engines. Quick charging for the 95 kW/h battery provides up to 150kW or 80% from empty in around thirty minutes. A zero to 60mph time of the 5.5 second mark has been quoted also. Driving range won’t be an issue although Audi didn’t confirm expected range. With a raft of charging stations available throughout the US on major roads, connecting and recharging from the west to east coast won’t be an issue. With the immediate competition offering figures between 240 to 295 miles of range, an extensive network will alleviate range anxiety.

The e-Tron is based on the Q series of AWD vehicles, features the signature Audi grille which will have a platinum hue to signify Audi’s electric intentions, and will start in the USD$74K range. It also means that visually they are immediately more relatable, in an electric car sense, to buyers familiar with the Audi styling. Interior styling should be “standard” Audi with the multi-media and virtual cockpit fitments. There will be a pair of large screens for the centre section of the dash, with a 10 inch and 8.6 inch screen for satnav/entertainment, and climate control usage. With the driver having the Virtual Cockpit it means most conventional tabs and buttons have been removed. Autonomous driving will be on board but to a level that still requires human input. A Comfort and Sport mode is programmed to have the semi-autonomous factor as well. A panoramic roof and four zone climate control are standard. The much talked about digital mirrors will come later.Audi have provided the e-Tron with a signature look up front. Alongside the stylish grille are new four bar LED driving lights that blend well into the overall Audi styling. And the rear is standard Audi as well, with a clean and uncluttered design.

The entry level e-Tron will have twenty inch diameter wheels, a 360 degree camera, and a pounding B&O sound system. Vented and heated seats will be standard. Spend a little more and the Prestige at USD$81K offers a HUD or Head Up Display, massaging front seats, and dual pane acoustic (noise reduction) windows. Then there is the First Edition, a limited run numbers version. USD$86,700 has Daytona Grey paint, 21 inch wheels, and just 999 will be available in the US.
The car is due for deliveries in the US in the first quarter of 2019.

A Danger In Safety.

Evolution is a part of our lives and nowhere more evident than in the growth and change to the humble horseless carriage. From an open cabin with a tiny horsepower or two, to nimble sports cars and big four wheel drives, there’s been plenty of changes to witness.

Steam power came and went, electricity is back in vogue, and the fuel we use is still dinosaur based but fed to the engine under pressure, not sucked in by the sweep of a crankshaft.

We’ve seen the development of disc brakes, improvements in chassis design, changes to the structure of the glass in the windows. Parking sensors, rear view pointing cameras, even the pedals in the driver’s footwell can be directed away from the feet, and then there are bonnets that pop up to help minimise impact on a pedestrian busy looking at something in their hand that has roots in a 1960s sci-fi show.

Lighting technology has changed too. Candles in a lantern being waved by someone walking in front of a slow moving horseless carriage have given way to halogen gas filled lamps. They have, in turn, given way to three letters that mean little to the greater populace. LED or Light Emitting Diode tech gives us a brighter, whiter, purer light, and can be seen in any colour of the spectrum.

This technology is now evolving our headlights and what is called DRL, or Daytime Running Light. But it’s here that the safety factor becomes dangerous.

In all cars is a switch, be it mounted on a stalk coming from the steering column, or a dial near the driver’s knee. This switch activates the headlights fitted to the vehicle. But not all vehicles are equal. Some have the letters “Auto”, some do not. Those with Auto do tend to have the option of Off.

Why is this crucial? Simple. Auto means the headlights will light by themselves once a sensor determines light levels have fallen far enough to make seeing forward clearly difficult. Those that do not have Auto are left to the vagaries of humanity and therefore what they deem to be dark enough to activate the lights.But it’s also here that LED technology, along with the DRL situation, that raises the danger level. Let’s take the example of a vehicle with a strip of LED DRLs above each headlight and also has globe lit driving lights in the bottom left and right corner of the front bumper.

Invariably these cars either do not have an Auto headlight function OR they have a driver that is ignorant of one small but vitally important fact. The D in DRL means DAYTIME. They’re not intended to be used as a headlight substitute. Therefore their penetration and forward spread is nowhere near that of the headlights designed and fitted. Some cars also don’t light the tail lights even when Auto is on.

What this means is the driver sees something of the road ahead but drivers behind may not clearly see the vehicle in front. This then means that safety is compromised and drivers are putting themselves and others at extra risk. So a combination of believing that LED technology in the DRLs and providing the option of Off when cars have Auto headlights is a dangerous safety measure.

2019 Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport 2.0L

The Toyota Corolla‘s recent update provides an option of a hybrid drivetrain featuring a 1.8L petrol engine and battery power, or a non-assisted 2.0L petrol engine. The range is fitted with a revamped CVT with launch gear (2.0L engine only), and it’s the 2.0L engine that makes a better fist of this combination. The engine is available across the new three model range and it’s that inside the Ascent Sport that we’ve has tested.The CVT has a feature called Direct Shift, a mechanical ratio that assists greatly, in the case of the 2.0L, in getting the Corolla off the line swiftly. Compared the the hesitancy that the 1.8L/battery system has the 2.0L is a far better proposition. There’s instant response, and forward motion is rapid to say the least. There’s no excess in economy either, with a constant 4.9L to 5.2L per 100km being seen on the econometer. That’s better than the quoted combined figure from Toyota of 6.0L/100km. The CVT feels more alive, more connected, and engages the driver on a higher level than the hybrid. Having better power and torque goes a long way to helping that. 125kW versus 72kW. 200Nm versus 142Nm.Handling is, oddly, also seat of the pants better even with a smaller wheel. They’re 205/55/16s on the Ascent Sport, with the roundy bits from Dunlop’s Enasave range. There’s occasional chirping from the tyres when pushed hard but otherwise there’s a real sense of fun and verve in the way the whole chassis holds together on road. There’s a touch of understeer when pushed hard yet it’s otherwise tenacious in every way. Straight line ride quality is subtly more comfortable, with less than flat roads made to feel pancake like.

The interior is closer to the SX too, with cloth seats, a slightly less visually appealing look and feel to the plastics, but still not without a decent comfort level though. DAB audio features and the tuner is better than that found in the Kia Cerato recently reviewed for sensitivity. There’s a good level of standard kit including driver aids and safety equipment including Toyota’s Lane Trace Assist and Lane Departure Alert with steering assist.Like the ZR and SX as tested and reviewed recently, the exterior has also been given a make over. The front end has been sharpened with a harder edged style to each side of the headlights, with the rear mirroring that. The outer edge swoops down at the front while the rear has a more heavily defined crease line forming something akin to an “X” look, drawing a line from a bumper crease through to an extended inwards tail light motif. The rear window is laid forward by an extra fourteen degrees and the triangular rear pillar is gone, replaced by a more traditional arch look. It’s a distinctive look that builds upon the revamp from a couple of years ago.

At The End Of The Drive.
The 2019 Toyota Ascent Sport without the Hybrid drivetrain is a better car for it. The package is economical, effective, and simply more enjoyable. At mid $20K for a driveaway price (check with your dealer) it’s a bit more expensive than some of the opposition but the loyal following the car has will overcome that. As technologically oriented as the Hybrid package is, the non-hybrid version brings back something the hybrid doesn’t have.

Fun.

Here is where you can find out everything you need to know.

Yes, Virginia (Fanpetals), There Is A New Biofuel Feedstock On The Block

Sida hermaphrodita or Virginia Fanpetals: a new player in the biofuel game.

When it comes to biofuels, especially the sort of biofuel that gets used for ethanol, there’s always a bit of an issue.  You see, it kind of defeats the purpose of having a sustainable fuel source if you have to pour on truckloads of fertiliser (a lot of which can come from petrochemicals as well) and tons of water.  It’s also rather frowned on if the crop in question takes away land from something that could be used for growing crops that people are going to eat directly (as vegetables, flour, cooking oil, sugar, etc.) or indirectly (after a fodder crop has been fed to animals that produce milk, meat or eggs).

Now, we’re not doing too badly over here in Australia on the biofuel ethanol front, as we’ve got the sugarcane industry. Using residues from other crops is a tried and true means of sourcing ethanol feedstocks, with sugarcane residues being particularly good at it.  In fact, Brazil, which has a bigger sugarcane industry than we do, is a tad further ahead when it comes to using ethanol for everyday driving.  Other sources include residues from wood processing and residues from the alcohol industry (they’re doing this in the UK).  Apparently, the trick is to find the right methods and the right bacteria, etc. that will break your feedstocks down so it can be turned into ethanol.

However, the search is on around the world for novel feedstock crops for biofuels of all types (this includes the crops that can produce oils for turning into biodiesel as well as the ones that have suitable stems or whatever for turning into ethanol).  The ideal crop is something that grows easily with minimal input needed in the form of fertiliser and pesticides, doesn’t need people poking around with tractors much except during harvest, doesn’t demand water like a camel that’s been for a week in the desert and produces the three Fs: Food (for humans), Fodder (for animals) and Fuel.

One of the new players on the biofuel crop front is a plant that looks a bit like a common weed known as Virginia fanpetals, Virginia Mallow or Sida (its Latin name is Sida hermaphrodita). This is a native of the US but for some reason, it’s getting a fair amount of interest from a team in Eastern Europe because it doesn’t demand the same amount of water as elephant grass (Miscanthus), which is another easy-growing biofuel feedstock.  What’s more, they’ve found that it’s a triple-F plant if you want to get technical.  The plant has lots of flowers that are very attractive to honeybees, so the Food part of the equation comes in the form of the honey produced that way.  The leaves, when they’re green, are pretty nutritious for animals.  And when the plant is dry, the whole lot, stems and leaves, are great for biofuel (and they also burn cleanly in incinerators, making them an alternative to coal for generating electricity).

Sida is also tough as old boots, as it grows very happily on sandy soils and can handle drought and frost perfectly well.  It also has a feature that would make it a right pain if it established itself in your garden: if you cut it back to ground level, it comes back again next spring and will do so for 15–20 years.  This is what’s getting those researchers rubbing their hands with glee: no ploughing, harrowing or sowing.  Just a bit of fertiliser a couple of times a year and you get a crop year after year.  And it grows on the sort of ground and in the sort of conditions that are useless for, say, potatoes, wheat and carrots.  In other words, it looks like it could be a bit of a winner.  Can we grow it over here and make even more of our own biofuel?

However, finding out about this got me thinking.  Now, we all know that we’ve got unique plant life knocking around in the Outback that’s used to really harsh conditions.  Are they any good for biofuels?  Is there something sitting out there that could be the next big thing?  I really, really hope that there’s a nice CSIRO research team poking around to see if there are any native plants that could do the trick.

Closer to home, however, I also can’t help but notice all the weeds in the garden and the way that the lawn is starting to grow like crazy in the springtime.  And let’s take a look in our rubbish bins at all the banana skins and apple cores.  Couldn’t this be used as a bioethanol feedstock as well?  Once you start looking around and getting this sort of mindset, all sorts of possibilities open up (especially when you’re on a long drive).  Maybe we’d clear up some of the rubbish problem while we’re at it…

Bioethanol isn’t the only way forward, of course.  It’s one of three possible lanes on the sustainable motoring highway, with the other two being electricity and biodiesel.  And we shouldn’t forget the biofuels while we get all excited – rightly – about the new electric vehicles.  After all, classic car drivers, tradies, tractor drivers, truckies and the owners of hybrids all need something to put in the fuel tank!

Holden Confirms Camaro Is Coming

The long talked about will they-won’t they car from GM is confirmed. The Camaro is coming but there’s a catch. Of course. Ford US is building the Mustang in both left and right hand forms and therefore is able to amortise the cost. Here in Australia that lands in 5.0L form at somewhere north of $60K. Holden has confirmed the Camaro, to be imported and converted to right hand drive, at $85,990 recommended retail. THEN there are government charges to be added so it’s a fair bet to say it’ll be over $90K. It effectively has the legendary nameplate of Mustang at something like $20K LESS than the car GM brought out in the mid 1960s to compete against the “pony car”.However there are one or two tempters. The Mustang has a four cylinder or a 5.0L V8. The Camaro will be fitted with a V8 only and at 6.2L is over a litre bigger in capacity. That will translate to a potentially better driving experience for some, as the torque output is 617Nm, a full 61Nm better than the Ford product. Peak power is the same, apparently, at 339kW but of course you’ll need to drive around at something like 6000rpm to take advantage of those. The sole transmission choice is an eight speed auto, complete with paddle shifts. Specification will be the GM speak “2SS” and metallics only will be the paint choice. Bose audio will feature inside, as will a heated tiller.

Thankfully there will be vented leather seats, an under-rated part of the equipment list for Australian spec cars that come with leather seats in the Australian heat. There will be an eight inch touchscreen for sound and controls, whilst outside the Camaro will roll on twenty inch diameter alloys wrapping Brembo stoppers. Rubber will come from Goodyear and will be their Eagle tyres, and at a hefty 245/40 front and 275/35 rear combination grip levels shouldn’t be a problem.

Current first year delivery figures are expected to be between just five hundred to six hundred. This is purely down to Holden Special Vehicles getting a handle on the conversion process. “Our business model has always been to provide a niche offering with strong connection and support to our customers and, with just 550 available in our first model year, we are excited to get the product in customers’ hands.” says HSV managing director, Tim Jackson.

Expected deliveries are due to start in the next few weeks.