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Archive for September, 2018

Electric Vehicles: What Will Happen With The Fuel Taxes?

I think we all know by now that electric cars and hybrids are much more common on the roads than they used to be.  It’s 20 years since the original Toyota Prius  – the groundbreaking first hybrid vehicle – hit the roads, which means that if you’ve got your eyes open, you can score a second-hand hybrid.  They’re getting better and better with extended range and more body types coming with hybrid and even all-electric versions.

One of the reasons put forward for why you should switch to an electric or hybrid vehicle – and you hear this one more often with pure electrics – is that electricity is cheaper than petrol or diesel, so it’s cheaper to fill up.  You’re not paying all that tax.

Ah yes – the tax.  Can anyone else spot the potential problem here?  What will happen if a large proportion of us switched to purely electric vehicles?  This means that one particular source of government income is going to drop dramatically.  Can we see the government smiling happily about this and how we’re polluting so much less, etc. and just carrying on without the tax coming from fuel?  Maybe they could take a cut in their salaries or spend less on frivolous projects and fancy-pants conferences.  Ooh look – a flying pig.  Better get out your manure-proof umbrella.

OK, if we take a less cynical view and make the charitable assumption that the fuel taxes get used to keep the roads in good order.  If we don’t want our roads to deteriorate if loads of people switch to electric vehicles, that money has got to come from somewhere.  But where?  What are the options?

The first option would be to hike up the fuel tax to cover the shortfall.  There are two problems with this one.  The first is that even though there are some second-hand hybrids knocking about and even though we do our best here at Private Fleet to get you the best deals on a new car, pure electric vehicles still tend to be at the newer end of the spectrum and are beyond the budget of a low-income family (especially if said family needs a larger vehicle than the little hatchbacks that early examples of hybrids tended to be).  This leads to a vicious cycle: they can’t afford to upgrade to an electric with the higher petrol prices, which means they have to keep on using the expensive fuel, etc. or switch to using public transport if they live in towns.

The other people who will get hit hard by this hypothetical hike in fuel taxes are those in rural communities.  Although range of electrics is getting better, it’s not quite where it needs to be for those out the back of beyond: the park rangers, the tour guides in the Outback and the district nurses and midwives.  Going electric isn’t really an option for them – and the sort of vehicles needed by your park rangers and tour guides (i.e. big 4 x4s) don’t usually come in electric (although that’s starting to change).  What’s more, the big rigs and farm tractors don’t come in electric versions either (electric tractors exist but they’re puny), so they’ll keep on needing diesel.  This means that their costs will go up with a hypothetical fuel tax hike, which probably means that farmers and trucking companies will go out of business or else they’ll pass the costs along and we’ll all have higher food prices.  It’s like the old army wisdom about not pissing off the person who cooks: you don’t ever brush off the farming community as unimportant, because they are the ones who produce your food and most of us like to eat.

OK, so the knock-on consequences to rural communities and a lot of Australia’s industries would throw our economy into chaos (just think of all the diesel-powered machines involved in the mining industry, for example – although there are some rugged electric utes that have been specifically designed for the mining industry).  The Powers That Be hopefully aren’t that stupid and they are more likely to find a fairer way of getting the tax money than simply increasing the existing tax.  What’s much more likely is that they’ll create a new tax.  Any guesses as to what that new tax is likely to be?  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if people are using electricity instead of using petrol and diesel and thus avoiding the fuel tax, the obvious thing to slap a tax on is the electricity…

You read it here first, folks.  Although at the moment, using electric vehicles will save you at the plug (rather than the pump), it’s only going to be a matter of time until a tax appears, especially as electric vehicles become more common.  Yes, there are other advantages to using electric vehicles such as the reduced pollution and how they don’t depend on a finite resource (biofuels aside), but the advantage of not paying a fuel tax won’t last forever.

Enjoy it while you can!

Mercedes-Benz EQC Unveiled and Mitsubishi ASX Updates.

It’d be fair to say that Tesla has been seen as an innovator when it comes to the fully battery powered car. Their Model X is a beautiful example of practicality, being a large and roomy people mover, with no challengers. Until now. Mercedes-Benz, an originator of the electric car, first put forward a concept of a people mover powered by electricity at the Paris Motor Show. That concept has now been released as a working version under a new branding, EQ. Known as the EQC, this SUV styled machine is powered by a pair of motors, one each for the front and rear combining to produce 300kW. Consumption is rated at 22.2 kiloWatt hours per 100 kilometres driven.Peak torque is quoted as 765Nm, and top speed is limited to 180km/h. Range is said to be 450 kilometres which of course will depend on driving conditions. It’ll be a hefty beast though, with a kerb weight of 2425 kilos for the 4761mm long machine. Gross Vehicle Mass for the 1884mm (sans mirrors) wide and 1624mm high EQC is 2930 kilos, with the battery pack making up 650 kilograms of that. However there’s enough oomph to get the EQC to 100km/h in a breath over five seconds.

Charging is courtesy of an on-board charger that is capable of delivering 7.4kW, making it AC home charging compatible. Using a M-B supplied “Wallbox” increases that by up to three times, with up to 110kW, and in forty minutes from nearly empty up to eighty percent.Styling is a mix of standard high riding SUV, a sloping rear roofline to add a bit of coupe, and a standout front panel in black. This encloses the headlights and a grille like structure. There’s an LED strip that borders the top of the panel that draws a line between the headlights. Design highlights inside have a ribbed edge to the instrument panel that resembles the heat exchange vanes from a music amplifier. Mercedes-Benz have ensured that the EQC will feel like a driver’s car by designing a cockpit-like feel to the cabin. Charging information can be found via the MBUX, or the Mercedes Benz User Experience. Charging current and switch off times can also be set here. MBUX will have its own tile on the screen to access EQ functions.

One of those is a form of pre-journey climate control, where the system can be activated to a certain present temperature before the vehicle is called into use for a drive. The satnav system will constantly calculate the best route based on charge time and usage plus aid in finding the best charging station on a distance basis. Pricing and release dates are yet to be confirmed.Another SUV is on its way however this is an update from an established vehicle. Mitsubishi‘s ASX has been given a freshen up and a surprising decision embedded in the update. There will be no diesels in the three model range, with a 2.0L petrol fed power plant as standard instead. Another surprising change is the move away from an AWD option to a purely front wheel driven system. Only one option will have a manual and that’s the entry level ASX ES at $23,490 RRP and a CVT equipped version at $25,490 RRP. The ES can also be specced with the ADAS option.Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Lane Change Assist (LCA) and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Forward Collision Mitigation (FCM), along with reversing sensors, dusk sensing headlamps and rain sensing wipers. Exterior features include front fog lamps and door mirrors with side turn lamps. The ASX ES optioned with Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) will have a recommended retail pricing of $26,990. The LS is $27,990 RRP with the top level Exceed well priced at just $30,990 RRP.

All vehicles will have DAB audio, seven airbags, smartphone compatibility, a minimum of two USB ports, reverse camera, and two ISOFIX child seat mounts. The LS adds Forward Collision Mitigation, two tone alloys, auto high beam, leather accented seats, and auto headlights & wipers. The Exceed takes this list further with heated front seats, six speaker sound system, the ADAS as standard, plus a glass roof.Check with your local Mitsubishi dealer for availability.

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Pajero Sport GLX

Once upon a time there was the Mitsubishi Triton. Then came the rise of the SUV. Enter, stage left, the Mitsubishi Challenger, a family wagon based on the Triton. Time passes, and now the Challenger is called the Pajero Sport. It’s still based on the Triton, and in GLX form it’s a basic yet comfortable machine. At the time of review it was priced in the mid $40K bracket driveaway.Power is provided by a slightly agricultural sounding diesel with a 2.4L capacity packing 133kW and 430Nm. The useable driving rev range is from 1000 rpm to 2500 rpm and off throttle it’s quiet enough. On throttle and it evokes the diesel rattle of the 1980s. The eight speed auto that’s standard across the range is slick enough however did exhibit some thumps and a jolt, a mild one yes, but a jolt when shifting between Park, Drive, Reverse. It’s not a deal breaker as it’s otherwise a good performer. There’s typical turbo lag, though, from standstill, and perhaps just a little too much of it. Packing 430Nm it’s a little less than others but it’s not all that obvious though. Punch it at highway revs and there’s plenty of torque through the auto to get the Pajero Sport up and hustling. From a standstill, and once the turbo has overcome the lag, it’ll launch well enough in 2WD, and just a little more so in 4WD high range.Mitsubishi has a great economy system. There’s the mandated urban, highway, and combined figures that the government has for all cars, but Mitsubishi is one of a very small number that shows the change of economy depending on how the car is driven, on the fly. Around town the Pajero Sport GLX hovered between ten and eleven litres per one hundred kilometres, but move to the freeway and you can see the economy rate improving, to a final figure of 7.9L/100km. The dash binnacle has a colour LCD screen with a five leaf logo, and it’s here that the driver’s indication of how “eco” they are is on display.The Pajero Sport is a big machine. In GLX form there’s plenty of rear room. Why? It’s a five seater. What this means is that you could fold up a small apartment block, whack it into the cargo area, and still have space for a Great Dane. And an elephant. There’s no skimping on head, leg, and shoulder room either, even with high set seats. Being Triton based does mean it’s a little on the thin side compared to its opposition but there’s ample space for two in the rear seat. The cloth seats are covered in a pleasant weave, are well padded, however there’s a “something” in the right side of the driver’s squab that continually pushed into the thigh when disembarking. It’s also only a manually adjustable seat, meaning that it’s fiddly to get just the right spot.It’s a simple layout for the GLX. No dual zone aircon, an uncluttered look inside, muted shades of black and grey, and a cleanly laid out seven inch touchscreen but the menu system isn’t intuitive for someone that may not be tech-savvy. Apple and Android compatibility is here, naturally, and needed as there isn’t onboard satnav. Surprisingly, also here is DAB or digital audio. It’s a pity that the sound quality was flat and compressed, even after adjusting the sound parameters. Other switch gear is generic Mitsubishi but they’ve managed to have a better look and feel than some competitors in the same market. Being the entry level means there’s spots in the dash that in higher grades have buttons, and although it’s a cost effective measure it looks a bit second rate.Nowadays the call is for USB and 12V sockets to be more available and the Pajero Sport GLX delivers here with four USBs spread between front and rear seat passengers, a 12V in the front, rear, and in the cargo section, and there’s even a three pin plug hidden away in the interior. Red back-lighting is in the tabs and buttons and it looks fab but the icons and fonts being lit tend towards the harder to read side of things. And being entry level it dips out on items like auto headlights, rain sensing wipers, and perhaps a luxury touch by no powered tail gate.It’s a well mannered beast on tarmac, but there’s an odd feeling to the steering rack. Imagine, if you will, a thick rod of lightly pliable rubber. Place either end in the hands and twist, feeling the resistance build. That’s effectively how the steering feels. There’s a full ninety degrees of turn required before there’s a semblance of directional change, meaning there’s some forward planning required for moving left or right. Forward planning is also required for the brakes. There little feel and bite for the stoppers.The Pajero Sport comes with the Terrain Select four wheel drive system. One can dial up two wheel or four wheel drive in high range, or low range with Mud, Gravel, Snow, for some decent dirty excursioning. The Blue Mountains are blessed with numerous tracks suitable for trialing a four wheel drive car, and the Pajero Sport didn’t disappoint. High range modes are swappable up to one hundred kilometres per hour but that’s not recommended at those velocities. The car must be at standstill and in Neutral for the low range options. There are also driving aids for off road work such as Hill Descent Control. This applies the brakes judiciously and for the most part is more than adequate.The GLX’s suspension tune is a compromise, by the car’s user nature, with a hard, quick reacting, feel on tarmac, but a slow and easy slide off road. Driven at velocities of no more than forty kph the ride soaks up the natural irregular surfaces without excessive transmission of those to the cabin. Hit the light reflectors on the highway at the posted speed and that change to bang bang bang is immediately noticeable.Although there’s a ride clearance of 218 mm the Pajero Sport feels like it could do with another ten to twenty. There’s ample approach, departure, wading, and break-over angles (30 degrees, 24 degrees, 700mm, and 23 degrees), and they’re of a level that would be barely explored by the vast majority of buyers. For those that do want to go hard, perhaps a different tyre to the Bridgestone Dueler 265/60/18s fitted may be an option, as they did slip a few times in some sections of the off-road track.Although it’s the bottom of the ladder version there’s still enough mandated safety features to please. Forward Collision Alert is here and it’s a mite sensitive in certain situations, throwing up a false positive and startling the driver. Reverse Camera and guidance is standard, as are parking sensors front and rear. Airbags all around plus the normal traction control features round out the safety package.There’s a limited colour choice for the Pajero Sport, with just four available. The test car was in a colour called Terra Rossa, with metallic paint a $590 option. Warranty is fives years or 100, 000 kilometres. Roadside assist is free for the first twelve months and Mitsubishi offers three years of capped-price servicing at a total cost of $1425 on a 12-month/15,000km schedule.

At The End Of The Drive.
The Pajero Sport suffers from an insidious disease called invisibility. With the advent of SUVs such as Hyundai’s Santa Fe and Tucson, Kia’s Sorento and Sportage, and the like, the need for a high riding, multiple passenger carrying, vehicle based on a four door ute, is declining.

Bespoke designs such as Mitsubishi’s own ASX and Outlander are seen as the preferred alternative by people whose camping lifestyle is sparkling wine and portable gas barbies, not beer cooled in a stream and snaggers cooked over an open fire. But its boofy ute based nature will suit the latter, and for that we remain thankful that cars like the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport GLX remain available.

Go here to build your 2019 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport

Private Fleet Car Review: 2019 Kia Stinger GT V6

Kia is a brand on the move and stamping itself as one to watch, especially with its big, rear wheel drive, Stinger. The 2019 Kia Stinger GT is the third Stinger we’ve driven, and the second V6. It remains an intoxicating mix of technology, comfort, driveability, and sheer exhilaration.Although not quite Euro quality inside, it’s also not far from it. There’s plenty of room, plenty of technology and safety, but there’s also, still, a lingering disdain and suspicion of anything from Korea that isn’t a smartphone or TV. More’s the pity for those that choose to ignore it simply because of the three letters on the badge.Kia have developed and delivered an absolute belter of a car. Start with an alloy block V6, strap on a pair of turbochargers, and an eight speed smart transmission. Add in electronics that adjust the suspension, steering, engine and gearbox mapping. That’s good for a peak power of 272kW, with torque up to 550Nm if you believe a dash display. Kia’s official figure is 510Nm between 1300 – 4500rpm. A folder and information selector on the not overly visually inspiring tiller will show fuel economy, drive modes, radio, a G-Force & torque usage. There is also a HUD, a Head Up Display, that needs a Holden like dial to more easily switch through the available information. It’s all very usable in this first iteration of the Stinger, it just needs tweaking and it’d be a fair bet the second Stinger will be just that little bit better inside.Driver and passenger face a well thought out dash. It’s ergonomic, easy to read, but lacks a measure of class. There’s a drive mode dial in the centre console which offers Sport, Eco, Smart, Comfort, and it’s noticeable both physically and visually as it brings up a colour coded image on the large dash screen. What’s confusing is the counter-point of drive setting options available via the menu system. The dial can be set to Sport but then suspension, steering, and more can be selected to other than Sport. However, though, the font and layout of the options are again clean and simple to read.Kia stay with simplicity by offering a rocker switch for the driver and passenger seat to both heat and vent the leather bound eight way adjustable pews. Yes, vent, an amazingly overlooked part of specification for Australia. There are two memory settings for the driver’s seat as well. Smartphone access is via USB, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. A wireless charging pad is located next to a module housing a USB port and 12V port, plus a 3.5mm socket for external music playback should the Stinger GT be in a DAB blackspot. And as good as the sound is from the fifteen speaker Harman Kardon system, the tweeters are door, not A-pillar, mounted, meaning they’re firing into both nothing and the steering column.It has a physically imposing presence, the Stinger, especially in the deep hued metallic red the test car comes clad in (Kia doesn’t list this as a dollars option). A long bonnet and coupe rear evoke cars such as E-Type, Rapide, and with styling cues taken from Maserati in the rear quarter it’s a handsome looking machine. There’s faux bonnet vents but genuine vents in the far quarters of the LED head and driving light equipped front. They flow through to distinctive outlets and a stylish scallop in the front doors. Although a fastback coupe in profile there’s no lack of rear headroom nor lack of cargo under the powered tailgate. The rear lights are LED and will flash, Euro Style, in an emergency stop situation. The GT sports LED puddle lamps and interior lighting is LED powered as well. Overall length is 4830mm, with a wheelbase of 2905mm. Cargo beneath the powered tailgate is rated as 405L which expands to 1114L with the broad rear seats folded.Safety is a priority with the Stinger. Along with fade free Brembo stoppers, there’s a 360 degree (selectable view) camera system, Autonomous Emergency Braking and Forward Collision Warning with Adaptive Cruise Control. Lane Keep Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert go hand in hand, and there’s Blind Spot Detection, a surprisingly handy feature that many drivers need. Pedestrian safety comes in the form of Active Hood Lift System, designed to move upward should the car’s sensors detect a forward impact with something not of a car’s mass. The driver has a kneebag along with front and curtain ‘bags as well.

The colour palette has two exclusively for the GT, being Aurora Black and Snow White Pearl, colours seen on the Sorento and Cerato reviewed recently. There are also Silky Silver, Ceramic Grey, Deep Chroma Blue, Panthera Metal and Hichroma Red as seen on the test car. It’s an immaculate colour, and one that caught many, many, eyes. Inside the triple turbine design air vents catch the eye in a soft touch material surrounding and sit just below the eight inch touchscreen that’s fitted with SUNA satnav.But it’s the driving ability of the V6 Stinger that wins hearts and minds here. There’s an optionable ($2300) bi-modal exhaust mode that adds extra aural excitement from start-up. The push button Start/Stop is hidden behind the tiller’s left spoke. Punch that and there’s a whirr momentarily before the V6 fires up. There’s a “woofle” from the exhaust before the engine settles into a warm-up cycle. The gear selector is a rocker style, not a linear Park through to Drive. Park itself is a push button just north of the selector.The eight speed gearbox is better when it’s warmed up; from a cold start there’s some indecision, some stuttering, but once warmed up, and recommended when wishing to use the Launch Control function, it’s slick, smooth, and sporty. Paddle shifts become largely superfluous once it’s settled, and combined with the mighty punch of the twin turbo power-plant, it can become an intimidating machine. Launch Control is on board and is a hidden procedure involving a drive mode, and traction control.The Stinger dawdles along in relative peace and quiet around town and cuts under the official urban consumption figure from 14.1L/100km down to AWT’s urban figure of 10.1L/100km from the 60L tank. But make full use of the 510 torques and horizons become blurred and closer quickly, eyeballs meet the back of the head, and inane grins cover faces. Mid-range acceleration has the driver reaching for a thesaurus and looking for words that mean stupendous. There really is a shove back into the seats when the loud pedal is punched hard, and there’s a slight squirm and squiggle from the rear. There’s a similar experience when the dial is switched to sports mode and from a standing start a seat of the pants count says something around the five second mark to reach freeway velocities.The steering rack is quick, with fingertip sensitive response from the electrically assisted variable ratio setup. Even with the big 225/40/19 rubber up front (255/35/19 rears) there’s plenty of feedback, a lack of numbness in the rack itself, and a fluid, nimble, chassis. Driven through a valley in the lower Blue Mountains with some turns marked at 15km/h, the Stinger showcases its chassis dynamics here with aplomb. However, there is a niggle, and one shared with the smaller sibling, Cerato. Drive through a sweeping curve that has the metal expansion sections at a radiating ninety degrees from the inside to the outside, and the rear end of both cars would skip. This indicates that the lateral stability isn’t being damped down, and these are at velocities of 80 km/h.The adjustable suspension settings, which are accessible via the touchscreen, take a few moments to adjust, and it’s noticeable in way the big 1780kg plus fuel and passengers machine rides. The Comfort setting flattens irregularities, where the Sport feeds more of these through without excessive comfort loss. The steering itself has different modes and it’s fair to say the differences aren’t so noticeable. Either way, however, the Stinger is a gentle giant when driven without accessing the turbo-fed dragon lurking under the long alloy bonnet.

At The End Of The Drive.
The 2019 Kia Stinger GT is a front drive, rear wheel driven, big machine. Released into the Australian market just months after Holden and Toyota had shut the doors on making cars here, the Stinger was greeted with a mix of critical acclaim and disdain. The disdain comes mainly from those that have a “thing” about Korean cars being any good. It’s fair to say that the overwhelming majority of those would be people with a phone or TV from Korea and wouldn’t be seen dead in a Korean built vehicle. More fool them.

PF and others love the Kia Stinger, that’s obvious from the reviews world wide and as a first up model, it’s a pearler, a belter. Improvements will come, in key, and not so key, areas. For now, the Kia Stinger V6 twin-turbo GT is on the “when the lotto numbers happen” list.